Realizing What The Gifts Are For

Everything we have and are is a total, complete gratuitous gift from God. We know this at some simple level but actually accepting and believing this at the practical and emotional level of particulars is often far more difficult.

It’s easy to see something we’ve accomplished or believe we can accomplish as something that was attainable by our own power, as something owed or deserved to us, not as something gratuitous. Sometimes we even admit that things or abilities or opportunities that have been given to us are gifts, but in a move of continuing pride we often wrongly think we know what that gift is for.

The truth is we don’t really know all that there is to know about God’s providential planning. Yes we can catch glimpses. Yes, sometimes we can see it in retrospect. But we can’t assume that we know what God wills for the gifts He places in our lives.

That’s why God often has to take away the gift in order for us to realize why He gave it to us in the first place. It’s easy to misinterpret the gift on the basis of pride as something other than the true reason that gift is in our lives. It’s easy to see the gift as something wholly in our power, something to use for our own advancement. It’s easy to to see the gift as something sufficient for our happiness, for our life, our career, our vocation.

But placed beside our ultimate final end we have to realize that all God’s gifts apart from grace, again whether they be abilities, opportunities, friendships or the like, are but means towards our continuing journey, towards disposing us to receive grace, to receiving, ultimately the theological virtues into our soul and ultimately the Beatific Vision.

If you’re still attached to pride it can be difficult to accept this. It’s easy to see the gifts as far closer to ends in themselves. It can be easy then to get attached to the gifts in themselves.

And that’s why God again often has to take them away in order for us to see beyond them (“beyond the picture through the picture” perhaps as Robert Frost might say). For the most amazing thing about God’s beneficient giving is that even our deficient relationship to His gifts often still works out to our betterment and perfection.

God giving the gift, our failing to perfectly perceive and use it, and then God’s temporarily taking it away often all work together to help show us that the gift was for some other purpose in our life than what we first assumed.

This realization in my own life was one of the most fundamentally transformative as I realized in one weekend how on all sorts of levels I had misapprehended gifts, friendships, and abilities in my own life, perceiving them wholly on my own interpretations, my own terms, and my own power alone. The gifts were all interconnected, their true purpose all staring me in my face the whole time, but it wasn’t until an incredible moment of realization that resentment growing me turned into rejoicing when I saw the larger gift of God’s working in my life through them… God had been working something in my life through my attachment to them, even though I hadn’t realized it. 

A new picture was being painted. Weird incidental meetings, events, circumstances from my past all clicked together. I realized on a certain practical level the larger story of God’s beneficient working in my life (and using me to work and affect other people’s lives).

God is a beneficient story and all the world is His story.

We say it, but we often don’t fully realize it. I don’t fully yet, and none of us fully will until the Beatific vision. But a moment of realization that the story was out there in my life being woven by God’s gifts in a way my pride had blinded me to made me realize for the frst time that I was part of this story.

And we all are part of the master Story-Teller’s story.

Thinking of everything around you as having a meaning that you don’t yet fully understand, as a gratuitous gift of God waiting for your full cooperation is (well a cliche) but a pretty nice way to live.

It’s all a gift. It’s all a gift. It’s all a gift.

Seaside Battlefield

Oh tell, dark mud, stained and dyed in rivulets of blood,
Why scream harsh tones, the ravens and crows,

Amidst the ash and hellish cries, choking skies
Bone and flesh, metal-torn, bowing to the reaper’s horn?
What saw you fading to the years,
What said you against the deafened ears,

To still their hearts to cold hard death?
What wind you stole to take their breath,
How lie you silent, reeking mid-sun,
The first is finished, the war begun.

“Silence, mortal, I am but they
Who in late years have passed this way,
They died to fall and live in me,
Someday to fall into the sea,
Forever roaring battle song
Assaulting ships and wrecking wrong.

“I saw more blood than I can hold,
To them who fell as they faded I told,
Be now at peace, no war can find you
And with new fire their forms flew on,
Kindling stars with battle-song.

The body of old falls deep to me,
Each soul goes to where he would be.
No tempest shrieking moves them now,
Before no conqueror shall they bow.
I lie here famished, glutted in death,
Waiting the tide to cleanse me again,
To send the memory of these wretched men,
To the grave, to the fish, to the birds, to their rest.”

And their memory? is it to be lost
As changing to fog flies the frost?

“What matters it now, they know who they are!
Some are remembered for the deeds they achieved,
But remember this, you hot-hearted fool,
Not Achilles would be known if not for the thousands
Who perished before him and after his wake,
Though his victims be piled and burned in red mountains,
Pain and oblivion spurting black fountains,
Leaving behind them ten thousand to grieve!

Alone man is futile, in battle or peace,
Surely ’tis true that great men may come –
Not one, I tell you, not a single one,
Has lived but for the weak who first raised him,
And if dying in violence and heat of Hell’s hate
Is action held worthy of memory and song,
Then hold still in closer the hope of each tide,
The flow of life and peace and war,
Each birth and death, every drop of rain,
Which over history cleans and renews
The ill or good fortune all nations shall choose.”

-Originally Published on

The Sculpture of Language

One of the pursuits that occupied, and continues to occupy, a large amount of my time in Virginia is that of practicing French. While I love the theory and practice of learning language, French is one that seems to come to me with little effort. It’s a far cry from the Spanish classes of my middle school days.

Back then, I tried. (really.) But it simply never worked. I always felt a bit stupid, trying to imitate my teacher, a native Brazilian and fluent speaker. She made Spanish sound nice, but the words only ever felt like chalk in my mouth. I could never roll r’s or pronounce v’s properly. I was jealous of my older sister’s Spanish, with its easy cadences and spontaneous feeling. My Spanish sounded like the way I felt when I spoke it: clipped, hesitant, forced.

Contrast that with Level I French in high school. (In New Orleans, eighth grade counts as high school). The very first day, I could hardly believe it. When I wanted to make a certain sound, out it came. Grammar was sticking. Words were practically leaping off the page to explain themselves. The throaty, nasal accent that English speakers make fun of felt smooth as a big spoonful of honey and subtle as wispy curls of smoke. I was so excited! Finally, a language that I could learn without strain, without feeling unsure or embarrassed or frustrated. It was like French and I were a match made in heaven! Or at least a match made in the Académie Française.

Spurred by the success of French, I tried to learn German in freshman year. It lasted only a few weeks. Despite my best efforts, it wasn’t clicking. The hitched, wooden feeling of Spanish had returned. I gave it up. Why? There was no David.

When asked how he managed to make a huge block of marble into his renowned David statue, Michelangelo responded along the lines of “I didn’t make a block into a statue. David was already in there. I just had to get him out.” At the risk of sounding too sentimental, I think the same thing could be said of language. If you don’t have the language in your heart, it’s never going to happen. Even if you manage to push through, it’s not going to be a sculpture that you can marvel at, truly enjoy, and display with confidence. You’ll constantly be second-guessing, noting all the little things you don’t like about it.

Spanish and German were like that for me. David wasn’t waiting to come out. Alas, they were only ever big blocks of marble. I tried chipping away at them, but no beautiful shape was forming, only a lumpy mass. Learning French, I whistle as I work, determinedly chiseling away my ignorance on the way to a masterpiece. It feels as though French is dying to come out of my heart; all it takes is consistent, joyful effort and out it will come. This summer, one of my biggest goals is to work on this sculpture. Maybe you can find one to start working on as well!



“On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur.”

We see well only with the heart.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Holy Innocents

Innumerable lives of children slain,
Upon the altar of Herod’s doubt,
And the will of Pharaoh – abandoned to Hapi,
For fear of new power, new life, to keep old,
The earth and its joys; they preyed on the mothers,
Stealing their offspring –
They saw the death of the ones who should bury them.

The earth and the river, the seas have cried out,
And call still to the Lord: “How long must we wait?
When will you make us new, cleaned of this blood?”

The waters have yet to be turned to dark red,
Bones still have not choked the rivers dry,
Nor the swarms of carrion-eaters enveloped the sky,
Hidden are the remains of the unjustly slain.

Innumerable lives forbidden to choose,
‘Ere they saw daylight their beings were sundered,
For fear of an army for the nation of God
As traitors they were dealt,
And while none could yet so much as raise
A weapon against this hell,
The bronze-edged sword and point they felt,
In battle silent fell.

. . . . . .
Amidst the cries and tumult, a soldier leaving,
Looked back on a mother grieving,
Lying in blood of her dying infant,
Mingling her tears with the innocent red,
Wishing herself to be fallen there dead,
And the warrior, sun and battle-seasoned,
Duty-sworn, wrongly obeyed, in heartbreak swayed,
And wiping his sword of twenty long years,
Cleaned it also with his remorseful tears.

Image result for white rose
~ White Crusader

Ad Venit

Darkness has gathered for thousands of years,
Gloom and death’s assembly summoning fears,
Of sins extinguishing the hope of God,
Crimes sharply demanding blood,
Nations driven together and temples overthrown,
Demon-gods, lashed and chained,
Burning forever on their throne.

A flaming sword, a pillar of fire,
Guarding the Tree of Life, leading God’s Nation,
Expelling and Summoning, power of the Same,
Inextinguishable Light shining o’er the darkness. . .

. . . We recall with one candle aflame.

Experience The Real

Going back to a comment made earlier on here about WCC being “only a temporary haven”: Yes it’s true, but I still don’t know how I could go back to society as it is permanently after what its been like to see “regular society” this summer.

At WCC we’re immersed in the real in a sense, what I think is about the only real expression of culture you can find anywhere. Against the division, individualism, and just plain anger that is so permeating our broader world, what we are blessed with stands in such stark contrast. Everything seems disintegrating in a world that doesn’t really even seem to believe in reality, absolutes, or really anything but self and the passions of the moment. The real is ignored, the Truth abandoned, and all else befalls “society” (in quotes because there doesn’t seem to really be enough of a society in general) from this lack of anchoring.

With the opposite, the depth of truth we await in wonder to discern, the Truth itself received and adored in a culture where we uplift each other to the same pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty, we have here at WCC the path to freedom in its truest sense. Freedom as it is found in the “life of perfect justice”, a life ordered to the Eternal, God himself, we live and have all this because we have experienced the real of God’s truth, goodness, beauty, and their unity, wisdom in the outdoors, in the insights of the Great Books, and our personal encounters with Christ in the Sacraments and prayer. And with all this, again, I just can’t imagine going back to the “society” set up seemingly to ignore the real.

That’s why I never want to leave the one place I’ve found all this, WCC, but with the aforementioned comment, I get now how it would be wrong to just stay here ignore the rest of the world, and keep the “real” to ourselves (though it is tempting). We’re in the broader world, and its our mission to bring it also to the truth. So through that thinking – how about taking what we have here and offering it to everyone to bring them also to the blessings we have? I still want to live like we do here in some sense (haven’t given that up yet even though I don’t know what that would look like) but M.R.s comment gave me the idea of a ministry (in potentiality):

Experience the Real.

  • Expand on COR and take families into the real to “experience the real”
  • Discuss and teach the basics of the amazing truths we’re just starting to understand here
  • Showcase the basic community life things like singing, dancing, and the cultureal experiences of Gymnopoetics

In unity these are the basics of the experience of the real, the experience we are in at WCC, and I think they’re the antidote, if spread, to much of our current craziness. And they’re what many are looking and hungry for, for real community, real culture, the real itself.

Even among Catholics, I think the real as we have here is solely needed, to return to reality against the insidious artificial.

I still don’t exactly know how to put all this into practice, but for now its the dream. Hope to talk to everyone about it this year. – hopefully coming soon…

A Sophomore who’s actually experienced very little of the real

Rainy Thoughts from a Cup of Tea

This is the first (and possibly last before the end of summer) time that I write on the Barnabas Project. It is also the first time that I took TIME to read through what others have already written and shared.

In browsing drearily through various photos this rainy afternoon, I came across a few things that I’d like to share. In reading them and pausing for a moment of reflection, I somehow learned something about myself – and I’m not sure if I can or should put it into words, and I’m not going to try. I will simply throw out a couple thoughts regarding them. Please do not work overhard to make sense out of the scramble. I make no claim of good organization when spewing forth thoughts.

“He who would be a man must therefore be a nonconformist.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Put in other words, you can’t bend before the winds of the influences of others merely to ‘fit in’, or let your inclinations and emotions control you. ‘Control thyself’ and let nothing dominate you, else you will not be free in mind or soul.

“God has assigned as a duty to every man the dignity of every woman.”
– Pope St. John Paul II

I have always known this and tried (tried) to act on the principle that all women are worthy of a certain level of reverence by their being who and what they are. The pope here says that it is a God-given duty penned into the nature of all men to defend the dignity of all women.

Christian society has always recognized the reverence owed to women by men as not ‘just’ a being created in the image and likeness of God (as men are) but also a tabernacle if you will, a holy sanctuary wherein new life and eternally-existing souls destined to see God are conceived; as one sharing in the form and nature of the holiest of all creatures, the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God. (And oh, the list of ‘reasons’ could continue on…)

In relatively recent years this has largely disintegrated, because the world in great part forgot about the existence of dignity, piety, humility. Men and women lost sight of principles practiced for centuries by all decent society in light of Charity, and in one generation it was so swept away that it is rare to find anyone who understands the principles behind such virtues as chivalry, fortitude, purity in all its beautiful facets. . . Or that they exist as more than societal standards of their grandparents.
I have begun many times a project of tracing this. It has always, since I was 12, found the more immediate causes within the repercussions of the First World War . . . though the root is in Adam’s sin.

The extreme feminism of the last century – many actions of which were fully planned by Freemason leaders – was at its core, anti-woman and determined to destroy her holy image and vocation. (“Take the mother from the home, and we will destroy society” one wrote in a letter to his partner-in-crime.)
And as we can see, it worked quite nicely – all under the guise of freeing women from the unjust acts of Protestant ideals. . . because nations lost the faith.

Hm, maybe I will write more on THIS ‘thought’ later.


Wrong season I know, but just LOOK at it!
Way far up north it’s true there lies, 
All beauty one can have in sight;
A land of skies that are alive,
Which starts at dawn and goes through night.
So bright the day begins anew
As from the east the sun does come.
The birds do sing to days bright hues;
To pink and blue does dark succumb.
Throughout the day the sky abounds
From north to south, from west to east.
The stretched horizon all around,
So big and welcome, eyes do feast.
The clouds that make the blue sky white,
So big and soft from down below.
To lay beneath does not take might,
For mind is taken with them so.
The sun that sets itself down west, 
In full shades, vibrant, light and rich.
In pink and orange it goes to rest,
As all with sight it does bewitch.
The big and dark blue evening sky
With stars that shine and glow in night;
Amidst the darkened eve do fly
The green and bright blue northern lights.
In day and night the heavens lie
So grand and big, this worlds great dome.
This is the land of living skies.
It is the land I call my home.

Tragedy to Conversion

Our family attended one of the summer “Holy Family Fests” at Catholic Familyland, a former seminary and now retreat center near Steubenville, Ohio, hosted by the Apostolate for Family Consecration, a Catholic evangelization organization.

Like the many times we’ve gone in the past the family camp/retreat was an amazing faith renewal experience, especially with speaker Justin Fatica with his Hard as Nails ministry speaking to youth.

But then this happened Wednesday night as everyone was preparing to attend a rosary campfire:

Five year old Hannah O’Leary one of ten children from one of the hundred or so families attending was hit by a car. Unconscious, she was revived just long enough for two priests to administer Confirmation and Extreme Unction as first an ambulance and then a helicopter was brought in to try to treat her.

The driver, shocked, fainted as well when he realized what had happened as everyone spontaneously assembled to pray numerous rosaries as they attempted to treat her sever injuries.

The campfire rosary was postponed and replaced by an hour of adoration for everyone instead as the teens were already scheduled to have adoration for the rest of the night, but it was not until near midnight that it was announced that the girl had died.

The first death to have occured over decades of these “Holy Family Fests” operating was horrendous not only for how/what had happened but for the both families involved. As I walked over to join the main body and find out what had happened (I had been in another building and prayed a rosary with a smaller group immediately) we could hear the screams of a sibling as he realized what had happened, how everyone had to jump back when a rescue helicopter arrived, or Fr. Jude, a chapalin from a local hospital near us we had invited walking back with the family of Hannah.

For both families, an uplifting experience of joy and faith had turned into terror, regret, and guilt as the families of both involved were bedecked with self-inflicted blame.

The tone changed dramatically for the remaining day and a half as the death was officially announced before the morning Mass the next day. The homily by Fr. Wolfgang of the Canons Regular – Opus Angelorum focused on the situation and how we in our mortal lives “cannot see beyond the veil” that is God’s will, cannot see the effects only God can see.

Letters to the Families involved

Good can be brought out of tragedy.

This theme was repeated by Justin Fatica who spoke again to the youth encouraging them to use what had happened as an inspiration for personal conversion. We wrote letters like the above to both families to show how what they were going through was affecting others and for them to not give up hope.

For both sides, that is now the biggest threat, despair and continues to need prayers even as Justin’s call brought a positive of sorts to many.


While we assume given the age that Hannah is now truly with Christ, please pray for both families to resist despair and themselves find hope.

May her death not be in vain and as Fr. Wolfgang and Justin hoped be an inspiration to interior conversion.

Why Alice Didn’t Get Gypped

Being a peasant, I wanted to talk about farming. More specifically, how Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy depicts a positive view of gender roles through farm life. It’s one of my favorite books, and I looked forward to re-reading it this summer.

From the beginning of the book, gender roles are obvious and seemingly rigid. Here’s a few quotes to illustrate this.

Almanzo did not go into the house. He gave the dinner-pail to Alice, and he went to the barns with Royal. (“Winter Night,” pg 14)

The kitchen was full of hoopskirts, balancing and swirling. Eliza Jane and Alice were hurrying to dish up supper. (“Winter Night,” pgs 23-24)

[Alice] thought it wasn’t fair that she had to go to school while Almanzo gathered sap and ate wintergreen berries. She said: “Boys have all the fun.” (“The Turn of the Year,” pg 113)

Reading these, it’s clear who does what. The girls stay in the home with their mother, cleaning and cooking and weaving and sewing. The boys go to the fields with their father to do the more “fun” work, like breaking calves, filling the ice-house, and shearing sheep. Most feminists, and even many people who aren’t feminist, might find this limiting and stifling. The girls have to stay in the home? What if they don’t want to? Are they really sentenced to a life of baking pies, patching pants, and washing dishes while their brothers and husbands and sons get to have fun adventures on the farm?

Well, continuing to read into the spring and summer of the story, I came to believe that Mrs. Wilder, Eliza Jane, and Alice got the long end of the stick. It’s true that the work Almanzo and Royal did with Mr. Wilder is enchanting to the modern urban reader, but much of it was difficult and potentially dangerous. Almanzo nearly fell into freezing water when it was time to saw ice (pgs. 68-69), had to figure out how to train his calves on his own (pg. 53), and got hit by a falling log when trying to load his bobsled with logs from the timber (pgs. 334-335). The life of a farmer boy was clearly no picnic, despite all the fun. Plus, far more of the boys’ work was done independently; Almanzo learned how to be a man because he had to learn to think for himself, persevere, and be resourceful. By getting to stay home, girls didn’t have to deal with that nearly as much, since making candles or maple sugar just isn’t as dangerous as hauling wood and requires more direct teaching. At first glance, this might make girls seem weak and secluded, confirming postmodern expectations.

However, I think the tin-peddler and butter-buyer’s visits and planting-time showed best how the 19th-century homemakers and farmer girls defy the very stereotypes feminists claim they were trapped by. In “The Tin-Peddler,” Mrs. Wilder shrewdly bested Mr. Brown in bartering for the tinware she wanted (pg.138-139). This shows that homemakers weren’t just sheltered cooks; they were every bit as smart as men. Also, “Early Harvest” shows that fathers weren’t the only ones who made money for the family. When the butter-buyer came, he paid Mrs. Wilder $250 for her top-quality butter, the same price as half of Mr. Wilder’s potato harvest. But the most important point of all this blethering about farming is found in “Springtime.”

Almanzo asked [Alice] if she didn’t want to be a boy. She said yes, she did. Then she said no, she didn’t…

…”Well, I like to make butter and I like to patch quilts. And cook, and sew, and spin. Boys can’t do that. But even if a be a girl, I can drop potatoes and sow carrots and drive horses as well as you can.” (pg. 130)

Alice succinctly states what it’s taken me a whole lot of words beating around the bush to say: the girls and women of the 19th century didn’t find their role limiting or stifling. They didn’t think less of themselves in overseeing the home. Alice, Eliza Jane, and their mother knew that they were strong, skilled, smart women who didn’t need to be like men to contribute to the family. And they did it all while wearing hoopskirts and bonnets, which is rather impressive in itself.

Same with Almanzo. He and Royal and Mr. Wilder didn’t think of Mrs. Wilder and the girls as being inferior to them, even if they didn’t do barn chores or plant corn or butcher hogs. The men respected the women’s role, and vice versa. How much simpler and happier could relations between the sexes be than this? Each gives the other what is due and minds his or her own business. Sounds pretty just to me.

-The Scottish Peasant