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 From NASA’s NuStar Project:

Is it not amazing what we can do these days?  Seriously, pinpointing black holes in a galaxy 7 million light-years away!  It wasn’t that long ago that scientists didn’t believe black holes really existed.  Just a strange quirk in the mathematics of relativity, perhaps.  And now they’ve even caught a glimpse of the black hole at the center of our own galaxy:

I know that sounds selfish and prideful, and it certainly is if that is your prevailing attitude in life.  But sometimes it is completely necessary and beneficial.  You can’t give of yourself if you are running on empty.  And I have been running on empty.  It’s sort of like when you’re on a plane and they give you the run-down on safety matters–put your own oxygen mask on first, and then assist others.  It was years before I understood the good and logical reason behind that instruction.  You can’t very well assist anybody if you can’t breathe yourself.

And so, I have been trying to focus on myself.  Doing things that I know will be profitable to me.  I’m even taking a break from looking for Mr. Right–this is partly out of scientific curiosity; I want to test the very popular and widespread theory that “When you’re not looking, that’s when the perfect person will come along.” We shall see about that.

Among other things, I just completed an introductory computer programming course via Coursera. I took it just because I felt like learning something completely new. I wasn’t too sure whether I would be any good at it, but I did it anyway, and it turns out I am pretty good at it (so far)!  It might even lead me down a new path in my career. I’ve already signed up for some future classes in math and science.

For so many years, I was convinced that I was no good at math and science and never could be, not in a thousand years.  Now, I wish I could go back in time and give my younger self a sound shaking and say “Don’t you believe it. Don’t you dare believe it!”  Now, I am trying to make up for lost time.  The truth is, I’ve always had a natural love and fascination with science.  My mind has always worked in scientific ways.  My heart and soul have always been in it–regardless of what marks I got in school.  I always knew a truth that was far more important than anything I could learn in school: I knew that science would help me know God better.  And I know that now more than ever before.  That is my driving force.

It feels good to broaden my horizons and unfurl my sails!  Who knows where I might end up?  Adventure–I think that is what I need most of all right now.  An adventure with the One who knows me best and loves me most.

I’ll close with one of my favorite G.K. Chesterton quotations:  “All science, even the divine science, is a sublime detective story. Only it is not set to detect why a man is dead, but the darker secret of why he is alive.”

November is by far my favorite month of the year.  It’s sort of bittersweet, but that is why I like it.  The darkness lengthens, the trees turn, the air becomes chilled.  And yet there is a special light and warmth as well.  The warm hues of autumn leaves and gourds and chrysanthemums.  The golden tone of the slanting sunlight.  All the abundance and togetherness and festivities–not to mention smells and tastes–of the Thanksgiving feast.  Wearing sweaters and fleecy pajamas for the first time in months.  I appreciate and cherish these things more with each passing year!

I turned 36 this month, and that too was bittersweet.  On one hand, I feel disappointment because my life at this age is nothing like how I always hoped and anticipated.  I thought that surely by this time, I would be married and have at least a couple of children and a house all our own.  Maybe I would even be able to leave the workforce to tend to the home and educate the children.  I fully expected to be living a normal, respectable, successful life.  But things have not turned out that way.  In some ways, I feel like I have not made any progress at all from where I was ten years ago… only I’ve lost people and things that made up so much of the joy I had ten years ago.

But I’ve also gained important things: faith, maturity, and wisdom.  And the older I get, the more I cherish the important things and the less I care about unimportant things, such as what people think or say about me, or how the world measures what is normal, respectable, and successful.  The older I get, the more content (but not complacent) I become.  And that is very liberating!

Also this month was Election Day in the United States, and it included the biggest election of all, the presidential election.  I did my civic duty as a voter, and did so proudly and gratefully.  But on the whole, I don’t put too much stock in government and politics.  There is no form of worldly government that can make me entirely secure and confident.  There is no form of worldly government that can make people happy.  Happiness and security and confidence come from the heavenly kingdom and its Lord.  This is not to say that the election didn’t impact me.  It impacted me in that it revealed, yet again, how very polarized this nation is.  No matter who won the most votes, nearly half the nation was going to feel defeated and frustrated and defiant.  That’s not a good thing, and I don’t envy the president one bit.  I also don’t much envy those who put him in office, for the burden of what happens in the next four years is going to be largely upon them.

But as for me, I shall continue doing what I always do and putting my trust and hope where I always put them, in my King and my God.  My citizenship and good standing in His kingdom will always come first.  Funny how folks in this country used to be suspicious of Catholics and say that Catholics could never be good Americans because they give their primary allegiance to the Vatican.  The Vatican?!  Boy, they didn’t know the half of it!  They thought much too lowly and safely and mundanely of us.  For we Catholics don’t just give our primary allegiance to another worldly kingdom, but to a completely otherworldly kingdom.  We Catholics are far more bold and radical than our fellow citizens have ever given us credit for.  The rather ironic part is that our allegiance to God and His kingdom actually entail being loyal and responsible to our earthly homes and leaders (or at least their offices). In the spirit of true charity, we love and serve our nation and respect our leaders out of love for God and Heaven. To adapt the famous last words of St. Thomas More, “I am the Republic’s good servant, but God’s first.”

November increases my tendency to wax poetic and philosophic.

For now, I am going to put aside my computer and go fix myself a nightcap of hot chocolate blended with a little tot of whiskey.

Greetings, dear readers!  It’s been so long, and I apologize for that.  Honestly, time has just gotten away from me.  I often feel like this year has only just begun.  But no!  We are now in the midst of Spring (in this hemisphere at least) and the glorious season of Easter, springtime of the soul!  So, first thing: I want to wish a joyful and blessed Easter to all of you!  :D

As usual, I have been prompted by my friends and your fellow readers that I am overdue for a blog post and an update.

Not too much has changed, but the changes there have been have been quite significant.  I am recently moved into a new apartment in a different part of town.  I also have a new relationship with a wonderful gentleman.  As you can imagine, these new circumstances have brought great joy and freshness to my life!  I feel like I have finally closed an old chapter in my story and entered into an entirely new one.

I was starting to think this would never happen.  It seemed like a wild fantasy, something impossible and out of reach.  I yearned for it so greatly, and the yearning seemed completely ineffective and futile.  I felt I would be consigned to the same place for the rest of my life.  But it did happen.  As gradually and delicately and naturally as a new bud opening in Spring it happened.  Without my realizing it, it was happening for quite some time, until the full glory of it struck me.

The natural seasons happen much the same way, don’t they?  They change over time until one day you are struck by the fact that it is Spring or Summer or Autumn or Winter.  It should come as no surprise; these changes happen every single year.  And yet each season is always new and extraordinary, even if we may only appreciate it for a moment.

Thinking of nature’s splendor brings to mind a very dear and special person–and this is another recent change to my life: the recent passing of Father Edward Mathias “Matt” Robinson, O.P., the spiritual director of my local Lay Dominican community.  He lived to the ripe old age of 97, and will always rank as one of the most knowledgeable and wise people I have ever known, learned in the natural sciences as well as theology, philosophy, and spiritual matters–much like the patron of our local priory, St. Albert the Great!  He was also known as the patriarch of the local pro-life movement.  I highly recommend his online work, Fetal Life and Abortion: Human Personhood at Conception which appeals to human reason through philosophy and natural science to demonstrate the personhood and right to life of fetuses from the moment of conception.  There is also a brief obituary posted there currently.

April has also brought the second anniversary of my father’s passing.  Grief does strange things to time.  Sometimes it feels much longer than two years, while sometimes it feels like just yesterday.  The one thing that is constant is my missing him.  I know he is still near to me, but there’s nothing to replace the sound of his voice or the warmth of his hand enclosing mine.  How lonely life is sometimes!  This too is a season that must run its natural course.  I know that’s exactly what he would tell me.

And of course, I have plenty of people and things to which to devote myself in the here and now.  In every time, we must be faithful to the present, so that is what I am trying to do!

I hope you all are doing well, and keep you in my prayers as always.  God bless you!

I was pleasantly surprised to find a nice thick blanket of snow outside this morning!  The weather forecasters were only predicting maybe an inch or two.  We’ve gotten about 6 inches where I live!  It’s beautiful.  And since snow is much easier to walk on than the ice we’ve had for the last few days, I went out for a walk.

Snowy days always have an extraordinary silence about them.  The kind of silence you can hear and feel.  Stand still, and it just envelopes you.  Even when you’re walking, the sound of the snow compressing beneath your shoes just emphasizes the quietness.  The monochrome of snow and sky reflect it.

And in that white silence, I felt closer to God than I have in a while.  Partly because He is recognizable in all beauty.  Partly because snowy days always return me a little to the joy, innocence, and wonder of childhood, when I was always so close to Him and rarely lost sight of Him.  Partly because there was no need for words, just a pure connection between my soul and Him.  It was a silence that was anything but lonely.

Here is a link to some photos I took while I was out.

A full solar eclipse reveals the extraordinary beauty of the sun’s corona, which in turn reveals the intricate lines of the sun’s magnetic field.  See a larger photo and read more about the solar corona here.

ht: Fr. Cory Sticha, via Plurk

I just woke from a nap and saw this out my window:

Approaching storm

And about 5 minutes later:

Approaching storm

Approaching storm

It’s starting to rain and thunder now!

I was talking with a friend at work over lunch today, a friendly and interesting chat about theology and theologians.

She had attended a lecture by a former Dominican priest who had apparently abandoned Christianity because he couldn’t believe in, or at least couldn’t worship, a God who would allow so much evil.  He noted how much natural evil there was, in addition to moral evil; he used the example of a wasp that will paralyze a moth and lay its eggs inside the moth’s body, and when the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the moth from the inside out, and the moth is still alive while it’s being eaten, etc.  Which, I agree, is pretty horrific.  So are viruses and hurricanes and other kinds of natural evil.

Now, as far as I know and have been taught, natural evil, like moral evil, is a result of the Fall and the severing of man from God’s supernatural life.  That makes sense to me.  In the fall, man chose the devil over God.  And all creation essentially turned upside down.  Why shouldn’t there be natural evil as well as moral evil in a fallen world?

The problem, which my friend was also speaking of, was that so many theologians and so many average Christians today basically believe that we moderns have outgrown the stories of Adam and Eve, the fall, original sin, and even the devil himself.  Now, if you don’t believe in any of these any more, if you discount them as myths devoid of any meaning whatsoever, then of course you won’t be able to make sense of evil.  You will come to see religion as just a generic kind of moral code, a way to live out your life, without being beholden to any real, personal God.  Or, you might reject religion completely.  You will become a practical, if not a professed, atheist.

These people let everything, their entire worldviews and belief systems, hinge on the problem of evil.

But what do they do with the problem of good? How do they account for the fact that even in this fallen world with its many various evils, there is so much good?  Good that defies all natural explanation?  Goodness that prevails in the face of sheer evil?  How do they explain miracles?  How do they explain seemingly irrational acts of self-sacrifice or heroism?  Or natural goods such as the tenderness some animals show toward their young, the exclusive monogamous bonds between mates of some species, the cycle of the seasons and the abundance of crops, the astonishing beauty of life on earth?  Where does goodness come from?  How can there still be so much of it if the world is so steeped in evil and has been since the beginning of time?  Surely evil should have long ago conquered all–and yet it hasn’t!

That’s the question that must be posed.  And it never seems to get posed.  We allow the nay-sayers to moan and groan on and on about evil!  That’s exactly the way the devil likes it.  He likes everything to be all about him.  And he especially loves it when people don’t realize that they are making everything all about him!  He laughs!  He laughs at us and He laughs at God.

So, here’s my advice to myself and to everybody.  Whenever anybody raises the problem of evil, raise the problem of good to them.  Whenever they use the problem of evil to try to discredit God and Christianity, use the problem of good to try to discredit their position.

As far as I can tell, Christianity provides answers to both problems.  Their position doesn’t provide answers to either problem.  They take the one for granted and wallow in it incessantly, while completely ignoring the other.  In all charity, we must try to get them beyond that.  Get them to face the full picture.  Challenge them to come up with answers.  Until then, I don’t see that they have any rational grounds for rejecting God or Christianity.

Cumulonimbus

That’s quite a thunderstorm brewing!  I took this photo maybe 15 minutes ago, and the cloud has continued to explode in size.  It has a very noticeable “anvil top.”  Other clouds are now bursting up around it.  Good ol’ Texas late-Spring weather!

Just earlier this afternoon as I was driving to Mass, I was looking at the clouds and thinking it’s been a while since I saw a nice huge white cumulonimbus.

I think this one’s heading right for me.  Or will come pretty close in any case.

I like my result! Chirp chirp! :D


You Are Chirping Birds


You are a very caring person. You especially feel for innocent beings, like animals and children.

You are keyed in to the world and very peaceful. You believe that everyone is connected.

You remain focused and in the moment. You are not easily distracted.

You have a good memory, especially for things that you hear. You listen carefully.

This blog is brought to you by a Lay Dominican

St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us!
(Image from a painting at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Metairie, Louisiana)

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