Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tailspin: A Modern-day Jeremiad, Chapter Two

Tailspin: A Modern-day Jeremiad

Chapter Two: Introit

Introibo ad altare Dei
  Ad Deum qui laetificat, iuventutem meam.
(I will go unto the altar of my God, the God who gives joy to my youth.)
- the beginning lines of the Tridentine Latin Mass

March 2000, Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek Priory, in  the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, Eastern Oklahoma

The mist hung heavy in the mid-morning air as the men knelt in the rocky field of what was becoming a Benedictine abbey. They worked together in silence, side-by-side, literally clawing stones by hand from the rich, black soil of the field, clearing the pasture for the monks’ flocks of European sheep – sheep bred for their unusual hardiness and resistance to pests. The French sheep would need every advantage if they were going to thrive in the extremes between the humidity of the Oklahoma summer, and the frigid snows of winter.

Today, however, everywhere he looked was suddenly – almost explosively – brilliant Emerald green – so much so, that the air itself almost seemed to glow in the misty fog of the daylight. The fields, the trees -- everything was green, and it had happened overnight  – the Earth itself bursting out from the grey of winter into new life, just as it undoubtedly had thousands upon thousands of Springs before in this little patch of verdant field between the ridges of this remote Eastern Oklahoma place.

(Mostly) new friends, laymen -- not religious; the men had come together through their shared Catholic faith and preference for the Tridentine rite – commonly known as the Latin Mass. They had been coming here to help in the establishment of a Benedictine monastery devoted to the old rite -- a monastery whose establishment was meant to last a thousand years,  and to preserve the Faith in what some were calling the dawn of the New Dark Ages. It was a living example of the Benedict Option in actual practice.

The Saint John of Egypt Watering Society’s members were men who  ranged from their early 20’s to retirement age; most were married, many had large families (a sociodemographic quirk of Latin Mass Catholics who still followed the Church’s precepts against contraception), but there were here and there bachelors and young marrieds among them who had only one or two children, as he had.

They took their name from an early mystic and hermit, Saint John of Egypt, who had lived in the desert and one day heard the voice of God speaking to him.

“John” said the Deity, “I want you to water my tree.” Startled, the 2nd century hermit looked around for the source of the voice but seeing no one, instantly knew it was God speaking to him.

“What tree, Lord?”

“John, water my tree” said God.

“But Lord,” protested John, “there is no tree for we are in a deserted place where nothing grows.”

“Water my tree, John.” God commanded.

And as John turned around he spotted a forlorn stick behind him in the desert wastes, improbably sticking out of the Egyptian sands of the Sahara. It had no branches, no leaves and no flowers. It was quite dead.

But John obeyed. From that day on, Saint John of Egypt watered that stick faithfully, day in and day out, for the rest of his life.

And then, one day, John died. The tree never flowered, never grew. Nothing miraculous happened. Nothing incredible occurred, except that John, the Saint, had obeyed faithfully and his obedience endured to the very last day.

***

As he worked among his fellow Waterers there in black soil and newly-green turf, he was overcome by the beauty and fraternity and God’s benevolence. He was happy; gloriously so. Thankful and instantly aware of his great good  fortune, he smiled and began to sing, and his brothers joined in, their voices swelling confidently, lifting the ancient Latin hymn between the everlasting hills:

Salve Regina! Mater misericordia
Vita dulcedo, et spes nostra salve.
Ad te clamamus, ex sules filii Evae
Ad te suspiramus,
Gementes et flentes
In hac lacrimarum valle….

As he sang, he marveled at the experience. Here he and a dozen or so mostly fellow Oklahomans – a state where Catholics, to say nothing of Latin Mass Catholics, were decidedly outnumbered at least 10 to 1 by their Southern Baptist friends and neighbors, and yet here they were, loyal sons of those everlasting hills and plains, but alsofiercely devout members of the ancient faith nonetheless – had come together in fraternity to help rebuild the Church.

But although the SJOEWS were individually pious, they were far from prude. Their gatherings centered on eating copious amounts of rare beef and drinking Scotch while reciting occasionally ribald poems and stories. These were not Church ladies, and they were far from strait-laced. Their Baptist co-workers and friends would not have been always comfortable in their company: if their overt if not militant Catholicism and devotion to Mary were not enough to scandalize their Bible-believing neighbors, their occasional overindulgence in single-malt Scotch, fine Cuban tobacco, and loose jokes and stories surely would have.

No, these men are not your typical bible study group, he thought to himself with a smile. Thank you, Father, he added in silent prayer. I have never been so happy or blessed.

***

In his tenth year of marriage, he was 38 years old. He’d been fortunate enough to have found his way into a classical education at a private liberal arts university, and held a professional degree. Like most of his friends, he was not a cradle Catholic, but a convert. Indeed it was a running joke amongst them, the prayer “Please God, don’t let my children grow up to be cradle Catholics!” -- that inside-joke revealing a divide between these devout adherents and their generally poorly-catechized fellow parishioners.

He himself had been an atheist, or at best agnostic for most of his life. No one was more surprised than he was to find himself becoming a believer – and a Catholic, of all the damned things! – in his 33rd year. Catholicism was decidedly not normal in Oklahoma. But then, neither was he.

But he was happy – gloriously so.

***

December 2001, Our Lady of the Annunciation Priory near Hulbert, Oklahoma

The morning sky was a brilliant blue against the dramatic whiteness of the snowy ridge outside the cabin door. Cloudless, perfect, so bone-chillingly cold that it seemed as if it might shatter into a million icy shards at too loud a noise.

As he stood on the porch of the log cabin guesthouse early that morning, the cold shocked him. His breath formed an icy cloud in the brilliant morning sunshine. Though the Eastern Oklahoma sunshine blazed as brightly as it had since the Earth first began to spin millions of years prior, it was still too early for the temperature to warm into even double digits. He gazed at the snowy ridges to the west and worried about the sheep flocks and how they could survive the sub-zero temperatures the last night. That’s kinda silly, he corrected himself. Obviously, they’re sheep and they’re built to endure the cold. Still …. Well at least the deer ticks that filled these wooded Ozark hills would be severely retarded come Springtime.

Just then he heard the bells from the temporary monastery tolling for Morning Prayer (Lauds) from across the fields, and he turned to re-enter the cabin and prepare for the ancient Divine Office that the monks prayed seven times daily.



                 

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Tailspin: a Modern Day Jeremiad, Chapter One

Tailspin: a Modern-day Jeremiad

Chapter One: Epiphany

Saturday January 11, 2014

Head still on his pillow, he opened his eyes and watched the snow falling through the pines. The world was hushed, cold and beautiful as the snow piled up on the balcony immediately outside his upstairs bedroom. It was almost as if he could hear the falling flakes. Could he actually hear the snow falling, he wondered? The huge, fluffy flakes replaced the sounds of the world and the city he was born in a half century ago.

Through the glass doors, the beauty of the perfectly pristine white snow against the emerald green pine boughs encroaching on the upstairs deck transfixed him as the snow began to accumulate on the wooden bannister and the pines started to bow under the weight. The morning light was transformed into something ethereal, heavenly even, as the snowfall picked up intensity.

No, he decided, it wasn’t that he could actually hear the snowfall – it was the absence of the usual sounds of a Saturday morning that was different. The snow was a perfect negative audio complement, like natural noise-cancelling headphones to the usual sounds of traffic and the normal Saturday morning din of the two-story split level home he shared with his wife and four children.

Outside, beyond the view from his pillow, the rolling horse pasture was dotted with soaring oaks that stretched to the now leaden skies – the century-old trees forming a natural cathedral at least as beautiful as any built by the 2000-plus year old Church to which he belonged and believed. Over the hill and to the north, the bell tower of St. Bernard of Clairvaux parish could just be glimpsed, modestly hiding most of itself from his gaze.

Though his neighborhood was relatively new – his 3500 square foot South Tulsa home was reminiscent of a ski chalet and would have fit in perfectly in Aspen or Snowmass or Taos -- the parish church itself had been there for nearly 90 years, having originally been constructed  as a Catholic reformatory for wayward girls, and therefore purposely located far, far from the carnal temptations of Roaring Twenties Oil-boom Tulsa.

The intervening decades had seen the city stretch itself to the south, many many miles from its original founding under the Council Oak of the Creek Indians, who settled the area in the 1870’s on a hill above where the Arkansas River bent and flowed south, and now the beautiful, tree-laden city enveloped the forested hills of South Tulsa County which had only a few decades prior seen the gentility of thoroughbred farms equal to the finest in Bluegrass Kentucky.

Though the burgeoning city now surrounded them, there were still, here and there, a picturesque barn or two where pampered and expensive equines were pastured in proximity to their equally privileged owners and the little girls whose doting parents practiced law or medicine in order to afford them. It was a wonderful world – a world full of grace, a world of ease and comfort, and of beauty.

And so he watched, never moving from his pillow – just watching and appreciating both the audio as well as visual beauty unfolding before his now fully-opened eyes. Bonum, verum, pulchrum, he thought to himself for at least the hundredth time. And for the barest, briefest scintilla of a moment, he began to smile.

But then he remembered.

She was gone.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Losing My Religion

So, I've been having a difficult year -- a "Record Year" to borrow a phrase from my favorite country artist, Eric Church.

Beginning last year about this time, I started really struggling with severe depression and a host of health problems. Last October I wound up in the hospital with a severe staph infection that nearly cost me my leg, and eventually *did* cost me my law practice. From October 31st to now, I underwent a massive health crisis -- losing about a hundred pounds and ending up a shadow of my former 261-pound self.

I still struggle with all these things and more that I'll leave unmentioned except to say that I've been unemployed for all this time and struggling very hard to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads.

Needless to say, since being released from St. John Medical Center on December 11, 2015, I've applied for hundreds and hundreds of jobs of all types. I am really hoping to go back to project management, but with so long a hiatus as an attorney, it's been difficult to get these recruiter firms to stop and take a serious look at me.

Along the way, I've tried and mostly been successful at staying close to God and keeping my religion together -- indeed, the experience initally solidified my faith through the great group of doctors and staff at SJMC and the pastoral staff there as well.

But as the months have dragged on I've become increasingly shrill in my pleading for God's protection and favor. Unfortunately, to absolutely zero avail. I don't hear anything from Him. I don't feel His presence. In fact, I increasingly feel abandoned by God. It is so bad now that I'm beginning to question His very existence.

I'm literally losing my religion.



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wow.

Has my life changed since I last posted!

Health collapse. Business collapse. Personal and professional collapse. It's been challenging, to say the least.
But I'm recovering. I'm still here, still breathing and still believing. Love my family, love my God, love this beautiful Earth.

Would like to connect and reflect with others here on Alcinous' Banquet, so I'm going to begin posting again.

If you'd like to join me, I'd love to.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Mass365: Redux

Fr. Timothy Davison celebrates Mass
January 4, 2013 with Craig Boyne and his son
serving. Father, father and son serving Christ.
January 7, 2013 - Feast of St. Raymond Pennafort

OK, so I'm back, swinging for the fences.

After a multi-year hiatus from the original attempt, I'm resurrecting my Mass365 Project. In short, it's daily Mass, eventually at each one of the many parishes or places where Mass is celebrated within the Diocese of Tulsa.

Along the way, I'm planning to include pictures and commentary about each of the parish churches, along with interviews or two with parish priests and others who make these holy sites work for God's greater glory (AMDG).

We recently left our parish home of many years at the Latin Mass Parish of St. Peter and moved to the Parish of Sts. Peter and Paul, where we attend the Latin Mass in that diocesan parish. Words cannot describe how grateful and happy we are to join Fr. Timothy Davison's parish.

In addition to the 1 p.m. High Latin Mass, Sts. Peter and Paul also offers an English Novus Ordo Mass on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. (one of the few N.O. Masses celebrated ad orientem) and a Spanish language Mass at 5 pm as well. The congregation is mixed between Anglos and Hispanics, with Fr. Davison serving as a bridge between all three somewhat distinct congregations.

The parish move followed (or perhaps slightly preceded) the demise of the Parish of St. Peter with the withdrawal of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP in French). Many hard feelings, many hurt people were left behind.

On a happier note, however, Fr. Davison opened his Christ-like arms wide and welcomed the Latin Mass refugees into his similarly-named parish -- also on Tulsa's north side. In charity and justice, I must add thanks to Fr. Angelo Van der Putten, FSSP who helped Fr. Davison learn the Tridentine Rite and was therefore crucial to our refuge at Sts. Peter & Paul. Thanks also to His Excellency Bp. Edward Slattery who has long supported the Latin Mass community in Tulsa. Without our good and holy bishop, it would never have happened.

Anyway, I look forward to the journey this year and I hope many will join me -- if not in person (which you're more than welcome and invited to do) then at least by following this blog series.

AMDG

Ben Callicoat
Tulsa, OK




Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Hermeneutic of Discontinuity: Life as a Traditional Catholic in a Post-Christian World

Having survived -- so far as I can tell -- The Rapture this weekend, I'm struck by a couple of things I experienced.

The first was a discussion with an old friend who does not attend the Latin Mass, but who is increasingly dissatisfied with what passes for suburban post-modern Catholicism of the "I'm-OK-You're-OK-Anything-Goes--Except-Pre-Vatican-II-Catholicism" variety.

He's less than satisfied with the atrocious level of Catholic teaching at his parish, and pretty much most parishes he's visited. I happened to speak with his wife in a separate conversation, and she echoed the same sentiment about the lack of Catholics who seem to practice Catholicism. Specifically she was complaining about the lack of decency in dress at Sunday Mass -- halter tops and short-shorts and the like. When she wondered aloud whether there were any parishes where such things were not occurring, I responded "Well that doesn't happen in our [Latin Mass] parish." "But we're freaks, of course," I quickly added.

And then today on the way to Mass (across town to the ghetto where they keep us Traditional freaks -- for reasons unknown, it's pretty standard that the Latin Masses are relegated to the worst-possible areas of town all across America) we passed one of the local parishes, where I noticed several parishioners doing yard work around the parish sign, apparently oblivious of the 3rd Commandment's strictures against menial or servile physical labor on the Sabbath day. (Yes, I know they were undoubtedly well-intentioned, but couldn't someone have proposed doing this work on a Saturday instead?)

Everywhere you look, it seems that Catholicism is observed more in the breach than in actuality.

I really try to refrain from this sort of fuddy-duddy harumph-harumphing. Really I do. For one thing, there are seemingly no end of faults of my own to concentrate upon (Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.)

But it's getting more and more difficult to view Catholicism as it's preached and practiced in the Novus Ordo Missae (New Order of the Mass - the Ordinary Form) and as it's preached and practiced in the Traditionalist parishes and chapels around the country and pretend that the two versions are really one and the same Church.

In the one, you have a complete breakdown of traditional practices and devotions like Friday abstinence and the sacrament of Penance ("Confession"), and pathetically weak homilies about being nice. In the other, you have homilies about reality of Hell, and the need for sacrifice and penance from the laity, and reinforcement of the age-old Catholic teachings against contraception and divorce and the Commandments.

Don't know what to do about it, other than the old ever-necessary tools of prayer and penance. In today's homily my priest was railing about the need to be bold examples of the Church Militant in the world, rather than meekly observing the political-correctness which requires us to hide our Catholicism from the world.

I'll guess we should try both prayer-penance and militancy. Jesus does not require that we be successful, but He does require that we preach the Good News to all the world -- which would I suppose include the Catholics at the parish down the street, as well as the non-Catholics and the rest of the world.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Apple Customer Service Rocks!

I've been reading about the importance of customer service lately. Patricia Seybold makes the case in "The Customer Service Revolution" that we're currently undergoing a business revolution that is more profound and long-lasting than even the rise of ubiquitous internet access, and this is the rising influence of the customer on businesses. 

In these days of instant world-wide communication using Twitter and Facebook, one customer's bad experience suddenly becomes known by millions of people around the world. Last year United Airlines experienced the bite of bad customer service when its baggage handlers broke a passenger's $3000 Taylor guitar, and United arrogantly refused to replace. (Google "United Breaks Guitars" for the YouTube video record of United customer service nightmare.) Estimates of the cost of United's customer service FAIL are in the hundred's a millions of dollars. All over a $3000 guitar that their employees smashed.

Despite decades of corporate blowhards telling us how customer service is "job one", now it really is becoming true. I'm currently reading "Flip the Funnel" by e-marketing whizkid Joseph Jaffe (http://www.amazon.com/Flip-Funnel-Existing-Customers-Gain/dp/0470487852). In it, Jaffe makes the point that companies have been doing marketing "wrong" for years -- instead of sweeping in mass quantities of consumers by making them aware of your product, they ought to be using those who have actually used the product to market it for them to their friends, relatives and associates. 

Which brings me to Apple and my iPhone. I think Apple has been on to this marketing secret for years. Over the past several years, their market share has grown steadily from people who first bought an iPod, then moved on to bigger and more expensive products like the iPhone and now iPad. Apple's customers almost invariably become "Apple fanboys" or fanatically supportive of the company and its products.

I oughta know, since prior to the purchase of my first iPod I'd never owned anything made by Apple -- despite being an avid technology buff and a former IT professional. My first iPod Shuffle, led to my buying an Apple Mini, followed closely by an Apple MacBook and finally last Christmas, the iPhone 3GS. Within the space of just about 3 or 4 years, I've moved from someone who was completely indifferent to Apple's products, to a fanatic. I love the company and I love their products. 

Today, I dropped my beloved iPhone. (Really -- these things are the greatest inventions I've ever used. No kidding.) Although I didn't notice it right away, later I noticed that the touch screen was making an almost imperceptible click when I pressed it. A closer inspection revealed that the case had separated just slightly from the phone's bezel.

Stricken, I immediately called my local Apple Store and made an appointment to have them look at my phone -- within the hour. Upon arriving, the Apple Genius (that's what they call their support staff) looked at it and said, "I can try to put it back together, or I can replace it. Which would you prefer?" Honestly, I hadn't even considered that they might replace the thing. Having quickly realized that my phone was backed up only 3 hours earlier, I chose the "replacement" option. Literally 5 minutes later, I walked out of the Apple Store with a brand-spankin' new iPhone 32 GB 3GS phone. Cost: zero. Took it home, plugged it in to my MacBook and restored the entire phone -- apps, music, settings and all. No problem.

As a gadget nerd, I have to say that I've seen the HTC Droid Incredible phone (the latest in a long string of putative "iPhone-killers") and it's nice. Shiny, even. But customer service is the reason that these "iPhone-killers" will never succeed.

Apple, you definitely rock!

Posted via email from fbcallicoat's posterous