March 31, 2007

Passion Sunday

One time I was out with another friar and somebody came up and, with a tone both quizzical and a little sarcastic, asked us, "what do you get out of this?"

The brother I was with gave the tone right back to him and asked, "I'm supposed to be getting something?"

That stuck with me a long time. It comes back to me today as I start to think about the celebration of the Lord's Passion this weekend. Perhaps in order to understand the Passion, I need to let go of any sense of "getting something out of" prayer, ministry, and the life of the disciple.

March 30, 2007


One of my favorite old jokes is, "how do you keep an idiot in suspense?" When the person asks how, you say, "I'll tell you tomorrow!"

I expect to receive my first assignment in the Order today, and the suspense and speculation are intense!

March 29, 2007

Pessimal Solution

My novice master once said that he felt like I was always "waiting for the other shoe to drop." That is to say that my general expectation was that things would go wrong and end up in disaster.

I guess it's true, in a way, that I have a pessimistic view of the world--but I would protest that it's based on experience. On the positive side, a pessimist is better prepared, both materially and spiritually, for actual crises and disasters when they do arise. This is the attitude that one of my high school friends used to call the theory of the "survival of defeatist."

Today is one of those days. I have to go to school because my "second reader" has promised to have the latter two chapters of my STL thesis marked up with comments and revisions. Everything has already passed through the director. So this is really the last chance for anything to go really wrong with the whole project. Hopefully her corrections will be simple fixings of awkward or overly colloquial constructions, filling out places where I have elided logical steps or committed a non sequitur, etc. and hopefully nothing that demands structural or wholesale revision and re-write.

March 28, 2007

God's Will

There is a very good discussion going on over at Historical Christian. Check it out.

The question is the specificity of God's will in discerning one's vocation in life. Does God will a specific vocation for each human life? Or does God simply wish us to be happy and loving and then gives us the freedom to decide for ourselves the best way to do it? After all, as Augustine famously put it, "love and do what you will," since, if we are loving, we can hardly stray from the will of the God who is Love.

Certainly one doesn't fuss about the will of God in little, inconsequential decisions. I doubt if God cares whether you have butter or honey with your bread, or both, as Winnie-the-Pooh famously opted. But what about the big discernments of life, like whom to marry?

I'm very grateful for the specificity of my vocation, that I find myself today as a Christian, a Roman Catholic, a consecrated religious, a Franciscan, and a (transitional) deacon. But does God insist that I do this with my life? Is it his choice, or is it mine? Or, better, in what sense is it a confluence of our two wills together? Wouldn't God be just as happy with me if I was a loving witness to Christ in the secular or married vocation? After all, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden is about my age and still unattached. Or was I theologically destined to be the friar minor I have become?

All kidding aside, these are not easy questions, and I have heard different opinions from similarly thoughtful people. Click the link and check out the discussion. But keep in mind too that these kinds of discernment questions only make sense when you are rich enough to not be concerned with keeping yourself and your children alive in the first place.


Last night I started to think about how to preach on Easter. To my surprise I felt a little bit of panic. But then I remembered something I've heard over and over from priests over the years: Easter and the easter season are the hardest time of year to preach.

I've always wondered, why should this be so? Why should the central mystery of Christian faith be hard to preach on?

I think that it might have something to do with our general style of preaching. In my experience, most homilies are moral exhortations, words of general encouragement, or explications of the general contours of the spiritual life. These are fine things, certainly, but they have no need for God the Trinity.

In other words, my critique of much of the preaching I hear is that it is functionally unitarian. There's us, and there is a God who loves us, and this is how we might respond in gratitude. That's fine, but it doesn't take note of the central mystery of Christianity: That God is somehow a manifold Spirit, a "part" of whose intentionality identifies itself with human nature in general and suffering and death in particular, but whose indestructible nature as God prevails and thus destroys death from the inside.

I opine that some of this is a symptom of a more general problem: that often we buy into the seductive philosophy of religion offered by this world. This philosophy says that we Christians are part of the genus, "people of faith," or worse, "spirituality" of which the particularities of Christian revelation are the secondary specifics.

But it's not as if we have faith in some abstract "God" whom we then come to believe in as Trinity. It's that our humanity is taken up into the humanity of Christ, and we come to experience the faithfulness of Christ as the existential experience of faith. We are people of faith because of the faithfulness of Christ, through the Spirit that is praying in us to the Father.

March 27, 2007

Book Review: Envy

Believe it or not, I'm still working through the Seven Deadly Sins. Joseph Epstein's Envy is a short and light treatment in a style that combines literary history and autobiographical reflection. It lacks some of the philosophical history and theological exploration that I enjoyed in some of the other volumes, but is a pleasant book nonetheless. The final paragraph is particularly good:
If theological thinking is unavailable to you, if the very notion of "sin," original or unoriginal, as damning simply makes no sense to you, I would invite you instead to consider envy less as a sin than as very poor mental hygiene. It blocks out clarity, both about oneself and the people one envies, and it ends by giving one a poor opinion of oneself. No one can see clearly anything that he or she envies. Envy clouds thought, clobbers generosity, precludes any hope of serenity, and ends in shriveling the heart--reasons enough to fight free of it with all one's natural strength.


After morning prayer one of the brothers looked out the window and announced that the orange cat had been run over. He's one of our neighbors. We all looked, and there he was, lying there flattened on the street. The gray tabby, another neighbor, was sniffing and poking at him.

We discussed what to do, and decided we ought to go scoop him up and dispose of the corpse. But when I went outside, I discovered that it wasn't a cat at all. It looked like some kind of orange ferret. Another brother came out with a shovel and when we had scooped it up, despite being flattened, it showed no sign of injury.

So we couldn't decide if it was real or not. Finally we agreed that it was some kind of furry creature that had long since been slaughtered and turned into a scarf or some other fashion accessory. Then we threw it out.

It was still kind of sad, to think of this bright orange ferret-looking thing being killed to become somebody's tacky decoration, only to end up flattened and wet in the middle of the street, being inspected by confused cats and friars.

Images and Copyright

I make every effort to make sure that any images I display on this blog are not under copyright, and that I have the freedom to use them. Most are either my own or from Wikimedia Commons.

March 26, 2007


For me, the collect for today sums up the good news of the feast so well:
God, who willed that your true Word
take up human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary,
grant, we ask, that we who confess our Redeemer
as both God and man might also be sharers in his divine nature.
(my translation)

The good news of the human conception of the Word of God is that, through his unity with our human nature, we might, in turn, enter in the inner life of the Blessed Trinity. It's the well-worn Patristic dictum that God became a human being that human beings might become divine.

March 23, 2007


I'm going on a little adventure today, off to New York for the weekend to help with a Lenten day of recollection in one of our parishes there. The day is going to center around Francis's prayer before the crucifix:
Most High, glorious God,
illumine the darkness of my heart
and give me right faith,
certain hope and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge, Lord,
that I might do your holy and true command.

March 22, 2007


Poor Knut the baby German polar bear. His mother didn't want him and the animal "rights" folks wanted to put him down.


I have been reading Tobias Dantzig's Number, which I picked up because I thought it was funny how it had an endorsement on the cover from none other than Albert Einstein: "This is beyond doubt the most interesting book on the evolution of mathematics which has ever fallen into my hands."

I'm up to the section on Pythagoras and his eponymous theorem: in any right triangle in which the legs of the right angle are a and b, and the remaining side is c, then the square of c equals the sum of the squares of a and b. We all remember that one from school. Dantzig says that Pythagoras was so overwhelmed by the elegance of this that he went and sacrificed an ox to the gods.

But it turned out to lead to something worse: the incommensurability of the diagonal of a square with the sides. A square is just 2 right triangles slapped together, right? So given a unit square, that is, in which the length of the sides is 1, then, according to the Pythagorean theorem, the diagonal has the length of the square root of 2. And the square root of 2 is a very inelegant number indeed. This was very troubling to the Pythagoreans, who wanted everything to be beautiful and perfect. Legend has it that the one who discovered this problem was eventually assassinated.

Dantzig writes of what ensued:
Less than a century passed, and the Pythagorean secret became the property of all thinking men. The unutterable had been spoken, the unthinkable clothed in words, the unrevealable presented to the eyes of the uninitiated. Man had tasted of the forbidden fruit of knowledge and was condemned to be banished forever from the Pythagorean number paradise.

The beauty of spiritual realities is seductive. But if we just worship the beauty, and not the Spirit, the messiness of life and the complexities that are beyond us will always leave us frustrated.


Some years ago I was at a party where I was introduced to a banker. We had a conversation that has haunted me ever since.

I had asked him about a study I read that said that minorities have a harder time getting services at banks than white folks. His response shocked me. He said that it wasn't true, but that he knew what they were talking about, and that it was the people's fault and not the bankers. He went on to "explain" how, "when white people come to the bank they have everything they need: ID cards, bank books, tax records, etc. When black people come they never have the right card or the right form, and then they get mad and make a scene as soon as they have to wait. It's their own fault."

I was taken aback by his coarseness and his racism.

Nevertheless, I know what he meant. In religious life I have spent a lot of time working in social relief services; indeed this is a lot of what we do, either performing social services or trying to get someone else (i.e. the civil authorities) to provide them. But often it's hard for poor folks to take advantage of the services that are there because they lack the basic skills needed to use them.

So at times I've shocked myself by questioning the liberal/social service/social justice model I've been brought up in both in my family and my religious order.

I wonder if the whole idea of "social services" or the idea of using them is in itself a bourgeois idea; to take advantage of a social service, whether it be a bank or a food pantry or the unemployment office, requires a very bourgeois skill set: being able to take care of an ID card, not losing your papers, waiting patiently for your turn, being polite in order to smooth over stressful and awkward interactions.

These are skills that good middle class children are taught from an early age, but either because the misery and fatigue of poverty have robbed people of them or because they are not part of the culture of poverty in the first place, often the poor lack these things. And then the problem ceases to be a lack of services for social welfare, but the inability of people, culturally, to take advantage of them.

This reflection really bothers me, to be honest, and I'm not sure what the implications are.

March 21, 2007


I was thinking yesterday of one of those great moments in what God has revealed to me. When I was first in the Church I used to wonder strongly over the Eucharist--of how bread and wine could become the Body and Blood of the Lord. I was punching at the cloud of the mystery, as the author of the Cloud might say.

Then one day when I was on retreat and sitting before the Blessed Sacrament, the opposite (and to my more beautiful) side of the mystery suddenly came to me: instead of reflecting on how the bread could become the Son of God, I began to wonder at how the glorious and almighty God was willing to become our bread.

Later on I found this same meditation in Francis's Letter to the Entire Order:
O sublime humility
O humble sublimity
That the Lord of the universe,
God and the Son of God,
so humbles Himself that for our salvation
he hides Himself under the little form of bread!

March 20, 2007


Here in the eastern United States, spring arrives later on this evening.

This means first of all that Easter is near, coming as it does (more or less) on the Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox.

The vernal equinox also means it's time for the feast of the Annunciation--the conception of the Lord--when the Light begins to grow and the darkness starts to fade away. When the Light is reborn anew nine months later at the winter solstice, then it will be time for Christmas.

Exactly opposite Christmas in the liturgical calendar is the nativity of John the Baptist, arriving at the summer solstice, when the light begins to give way to the night. As John said, "he must increase and I must decrease."

Oddly enough, even though it's a big deal in Luke, the conception of John the Baptist doesn't show up as a feast day in what would be its place, around the autumnal equinox. Was this ever a feast day? Or is it in other calendars? Maybe somebody knows. Not that there aren't feast days around the fall equinox: St. Matthew, the Exaltation of the Cross, and, of course, the Stigmata of Francis.

March 19, 2007


I know there are still revisions to be done, corrections to be made, and meetings with directors and readers to be scheduled, but this morning, the manuscript for my STL thesis is done.

Feast of St. Joseph

I spent a lot of time trying to come up with the confirmation name/saint who would be just right. I thought about Justin Martyr because I was a philosophy student at the time. I thought about Francis because he was already beginning to make a critical impression on me. In the end I settled on St. Joseph--I was fascinated by the way he lived an extraordinary discipleship in a quiet, hidden way.

For whatever reason that I've long since forgot, I've always prayed for the intercession of St. Joseph for safe travel and for "the grace of working" as the Rule puts it. I don't know if I got this prayer from somewhere or if I made it up or if it's a little of both. I say it whenever I go somewhere, adding the part in brackets if I'm going to work:

St. Joseph, by your diligent care you safely brought the Holy Family back and forth to Egypt and saved the child Jesus from the danger which threatened his life. By your prayers to God today, bring me safely on this journey. [And pray for me, St. Joseph, that I may work honestly and diligently, in imitation of you.] Pray for me St. Joseph, my patron, for safe travel [and for honest work] in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.

March 17, 2007

St. Patrick's Day

One of my fondest memories is St. Patrick's day 1993, when I was a student at University College Galway, on the west coast of Ireland. It was a grand time, as they would say, and though I was alleged to be studying St. Thomas and Hegel I spent most of my time hanging around in bars and playing snooker.

Of course there was no school that day, and the first thing we did was go down to Galway Cathedral, where they had brought out this ancient priest to say Mass in Irish. Then it was just a big festival in the whole town, with bands in the street, several different parades, and lots of good beer. It was, as they say, the craic.

March 16, 2007


I find today's gospel, from Mark 12, to be one of the most precious traditions recorded in the New Testament. So much of the New Testament is told from with the background of conflict, either conflict with empire or from the separation of Christianity from Second Temple Judaism. And yet today Mark gives us an utterly amicable exchange between Jesus and one of the usually difficult scribes:
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
He is One and there is no other than he.
And to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him,
“You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

The scribe tests Jesus, Jesus passes the test, and then Jesus affirms and compliments the scribe.

Usually the scribes are fighting with Jesus. To see such a positive exchange is a pleasant surprise. It reminds me of how much I concentrate on the negative: on the faults and foibles of others, allowing myself to be tricked into not noticing the things that make them lovable and heroic disciples of the Lord.

March 15, 2007

In the Bubble

This morning it seemed rather dark out, and when I went to put out the garbage I noticed the quiet rain. It's what they called in Galway a "soft morning."

Sometimes when it rains I think about the image of the world from the beginning of Genesis: the bubble of order called by God out of the chaotic waters. The earth sits on top of water, and the dome of the sky separates us from the waters above. Sometimes the sky opens up a little, and the rain comes down, a persistent image of the generosity of God.

Sometimes I think it's an image of what the heart can be; a bubble of peace and order amidst all of the chaos of work and stress and relationships and the demands made upon us.

March 14, 2007

I'm Counter-Cultural

I'm proud to say that, of the 100 worst reviewed movies ever reviewed on the Rotten Tomatoes website, I have only even seen four: Lost Souls, Ultraviolet, Jawbreaker, and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.

Aiming Low

Sometimes during Lent I like to look back at journals from past Lents, to see how I was doing. It's mostly just a symptom of my maladaptive tendency to look at the spiritual life as an agonistic effort rather than a chance to be reminded of what God is up to. Anyhow, I found this depressing little gem of a reflection:

"If I ought to be ashamed of myself, and, indeed I am, in fact, ashamed of myself, well, at least that's the virtue of responsibility."

Big day today. I have a translation exam, then a meeting with Fr. thesis director to turn in chapter four, a lunch date, and my always entertaining Canon Law of marriage class.

March 13, 2007


The other day a friend related to me her discouragement in prayer. She said that she had been praying that the troops come home from Iraq. Since they were still there and still in danger, she concluded that her prayer was not heard.

I tried to encourage her by saying that perhaps there were soldiers alive today because of her prayers, or maybe there were Iraqi mothers whose children were safe thanks to her prayers.

Prayer is not our work. How would we even know how to pray, since nobody has ever seen God or been able to say anything coherent about him? Prayer is only the prayer of Christ. By the power of the Spirit the humanity of Christ prays to the Father from within our humanity.

The life of the world, the re-creation of the world depends on this prayer, this dynamic. We don't do it as if it were a task, but have only to surrender our hearts to it. And if enough of us surrender to the prayer that is at the heart of the world, and if we work to make our surrender more perfect, we permit God to save the world. Iraq included.

March 12, 2007

You Never Know

It's encouraging to think that the Spirit of God often uses us without our knowing anything about it. This story that someone told me once is my favorite example:

A woman went on her first retreat. As she arrived at the retreat house she was very nervous; she wanted to "do it right" and "work hard" on her retreat. Soon she went to the first silent meal with the rest of the anonymous retreatants.

She liked the supper and wanted to help herself to a little extra, but worried that to do so was unspiritual. She saw a man there who ate a little bit and then quickly got up and left. She thought, "I should be like that guy; he's so spiritual that he eats only a little and then gets up and leaves, presumably to get back to prayer."

So she accused herself of gluttony and sensuality and of even thinking of ruining her retreat when it had hardly started. She left the dining room and began to walk to the chapel. On her way she looked outside and saw the man who had left the dining room before her--he was outside, smoking a cigarette.

Seeing this, she was able to laugh at herself: "Here I was accusing myself of sin because I thought this guy was so spiritual, and there he is, smoking." He hadn't left the dining room because of any holy motive; he had left for a smoke. At this she was able to get over herself, let go of the idea that the retreat depended on her, and begin to relax in the Lord.

For me, I love the story because the man never had any idea what the Spirit had done through him. He probably saved this woman's first retreat experience. Thus we might always remember that in spite of all of our tortured reflections and doubts, God is probably making use of us in ways we will never know on earth.

March 9, 2007


Today my house is going on a "day of recollection." A piece of jargon, perhaps, for a one day retreat. But it's a word I like.

To re-collect, to recall, to re-member. That's always the trick of the spiritual life. To remember who you really are in yourself, in the world, in reference to God. And hopefully to get a glimpse of how God sees you.

We dis-member ourselves through our distractions and sins. Taking time to re-member is critical.

March 8, 2007


Old friend Scott brings up an important critique of yesterday's post, in which I was writing about the spiritual values of freedom, love, and truth:
From a different perspective, I feel like I have been bombarded with concepts like love, freedom, and truth since day one. Unfortunately there is usually an agenda behind each one: love is for selling products, freedom can be reconciled with torture, and truth is whatever justifies our side and demonizes the other side. For me, I have seen more damage due to the perversion of the concepts than the exclusion of them.
The world around us always co-opts our spiritual language and uses it for its own purposes, even up to and including the utterance, "God." As one of my teachers put it, it's a real challenge to preach the good news in a world where "Coca-cola is 'life' and 'infiniti' is a car."

I don't think we're quite at the Orwellian limit of things, i.e., "War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength," but we're not far from it either. That's why you always need to apply a very suspicious and critical hermeneutic to anyone who tries to preach to you about love, freedom, or truth, even if it's a "religious" person, and especially if it's a politician or the media.

We all know in our hearts that what we call love easily becomes possessiveness and control, what we call freedom is often simply just being able to do whatever selfish thing we want without interference, and truth is whatever opinion serves our particular interests best. So it should be no surprise that these inner distortions break out into the wars and madness of the world.

But a reflective heart knows that behind all of the sinister spin of this world, there are such things as love, truth, and freedom.

March 7, 2007

Fundamentalist Atheist, Continued

I've still got this fundamentalist preacher turned atheist on my mind, especially after Antonina's comment:
That's what you get when you take away the beauty of the mysticism of Christ and the Church (eg. the Sacraments) and reduce it to a diagramatic science, a set of beliefs. When one diagram seems better presented or more believable than another, you can easily switch sides.

Often I think that the trouble with a/theism in our culture is that a lot of people (on both sides) have an image or idea of God that is unbelievable in the first place. The divinity they think they are supposed to believe in is less like the dynamic mystery of the Trinity and more like Zeus, Santa Claus, or the Great Pumpkin.

To make matters worse, we are taught to disbelieve in spiritual realities from an early age. Simple, ordinary spiritual things like numbers are "just concepts." Sublime spiritual realities like love, freedom, and truth aren't "actually real." And yet people everywhere make the most important decisions of their lives in the pursuit of love and truth. People routinely die for the sake of freedom. It's quite an accomplishment, to have folks organize their lives around you, and even die for you, without being "real."

March 6, 2007

Fundamentalist Atheist

The other night I caught a bit on the national news about some atheists who were protesting on behalf of the separation of church and state. Of course when folks like them protest, what they want isn't exactly the separation of church and state, but for public policy and discourse to be free of any religious influence, which is quite a different thing.

One man they interviewed was a former fundamentalist preacher turned activist atheist. At the time I just laughed and didn't think much of it, but he's stayed on my mind. It seems to me like all he did was convert from one dogmatic and rigid point of view to another. It seems like a complete change, but maybe it was the rigidity and dogmatism that was closest to his heart. From that perspective, he's hardly changed at all.

March 5, 2007


After proclaiming Luke's account of the Transfiguration a couple of times yesterday, I realized that the critical moment is the conversation of Jesus with Moses and Elijah. They were discussing the "exodus" that Jesus would accomplish in Jerusalem.

For Luke, of course, Jerusalem is everything. The Gospel up to the Passion leads there, and then the Spirit proceeds out from Jerusalem to the whole world.

As the Israel of history passed through the Red Sea to the new life of the promised land, so Jesus Christ, the Israel of God, passes through his suffering and death to the new life of the Resurrection.

And he does it through the humanity he takes from us! So if only we allow ourselves to be fully human, to have our own humanity be Christo-formed, as it were, we will be caught up into this Exodus. And then we will have left behind the shadow of death that hangs over this world.

March 3, 2007

Incarnation and Transfiguration

I have this weekend off from preaching, which is great as a break, but it's a bummer because the readings are so great.

First we have the sacrifice of Abraham where he cuts the animals in half. Then, when a flaming pot from heaven passes between the pieces, God contracts a covenant with Abraham. To me, it's a bloody and visceral prefiguring of the grace of the Incarnation: Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, passes through our humanity--right through the sins and divisions in our own hearts, through our experiences, right through our guts. And by this, we are caught up, precisely in our humanity, into the life of the Blessed Trinity. That's the new and everlasting covenant. Beautiful and mystical.

In the Gospel we have Luke's account of the Transfiguration. Again, I love the mystery of the Transfiguration because it shows that the Resurrection is not a historical event, but belongs only to eternity. In the Transfiguration Jesus' closest disciples get a glimpse of the Resurrection before it happens--before the Passion even. Note that all this contains the good news that the Resurrection is just an near to us as it was to Mary Magdalene on that first Easter morning.

March 2, 2007


Last night I watched a little bit of the "History" channel, and there was this program, which explained that the world will end on December 21, 2012. A lot of people seem to agree on this, from the Mayans and the I Ching right down to some maverick contemporary astronomers.

I'm so glad that revelation delivers us from this stuff. Jesus himself says that nobody knows when the world will end, and once he says that even he doesn't know. The book of Revelation itself, which "end of the world" people always love, makes it seem like these things have already happened: "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!"

Besides, we know that the Resurrection is the end of the world, so long as we deliver ourselves from a narrow, linear sense of "end." The Resurrection is the linear end of time, yes, but it is also the end in the sense of goal and purpose. And these are folded together in Christ.

In any case, if the world wants to end on 12.21.12, it's fine with me. My bags are packed.

March 1, 2007

Pharaoh's Heart

Over and over, though he wants his people to be free, God hardens Pharaoh's heart so that he won't let them go. In the same way, the Spirit of God so arranges things that our own efforts at holiness and freedom from sin are frustrated, until we learn to rely on God alone.

God does not invite us to leave the slavery of Egypt; we are commanded to do so! But it's not a project that God gives us to do by ourselves. We have no army, no force of our own. And God will see to it that any human effort to save ourselves will come to naught.

When God commands us to leave our slavery behind, it is not exactly a task to be accomplished. The task is to accept the liberation that only God gives, to allow ourselves to be caught up in the salvation that God is working.

So if we spend our time trying to get Pharaoh to let us go, we're doomed. Salvation is for the glory of God. And God is jealous of his glory, and will never let Pharaoh get any credit for our salvation.

Lent is, in part, the time to prepare ourselves for the renewal of our baptismal vows at the great Vigil. To pass again through the Red Sea and out of the slavery of Egypt. But this is always God's work, not ours.

Grace might be free, but it ain't cheap.