It's the middle of the week — are you feeling down on your job? Well, chances are your employment hasn't been determined to be the worst ever, as a website recently called Kerry Trotter's husband's chosen field. Chin up, folks. You could be a newspaper reporter. Today, Trotter invokes the intercession of St. Joseph the Worker, whose feast day we celebrate, to bring some perspective to the daily grind.
Last week, website CareerCast.com ranked 200 jobs available in this country from best to worst.
If you have any friends in the fields of journalism or actuary science, you probably saw some rumblings about this on Facebook.
Using an incomprehensible algorithm that measures salary, job outlook, and the likelihood of being crushed by a falling object while on the clock, they crowned “actuary” as the best job one could have. “Newspaper reporter” came in dead last.
(Let’s assume here that the results were real, and not just a masterful PR grab by a little-known job search service … always a distinct possibility.)
Either way, those are some sobering words to digest when your husband’s field occupies the No. 200 spot...
Our Word On Fire music critic and expert, Father Damian Ference, tries on a new genre for size today: Christian music. Yet when it comes to the art of Matt Maher, this is one singer/songwriter who is not to be pigeonholed. As Fr. Damian put it, "Maher does not impose his Catholic faith on anyone, but he proposes it to everyone." Who can argue with that? Amen indeed.
Now that we’re at the halfway mark of the Year of Faith, I thought that the time might be right to introduce Word on Fire readers to an artist who incarnates the Year of Faith both in his art and in his person: Matt Maher. If you’ve never heard of him, I’d be willing to bet that you’ve at least heard his music, either on the radio or at Mass – “Your Grace is Enough” is a pseudo-classic and his settings for the new translation of the Roman Missal are sung in parishes every weekend.
Many folks want to categorize Maher as a Christian artist, but in the spirit of Flannery O’Connor, I want to say that such a description is inadequate and inaccurate. Maher is an unapologetic Catholic Christian, but he is also an exceptional artist, and the title “Christian Artist” often calls into question, intentionally or not, the quality of the art. O’Connor liked to say that she was an artist who was Catholic. I’d like to say the same about Maher.
Last week Maher released “All The People Said Amen,” a collection of thirteen songs – some old and some new, some live and some in-studio – that in an a little over an hour’s time will have you clapping your hands, pumping your fist, bowing your head, stomping your feet, belting out epic choruses, and whispering humble prayers. Drivers beware.
The album opens with the title track, which works as an invitation and offers understanding and hope to the listener: “You are not alone, if you are lonely/ When you’re afraid, you’re not the only/ We’re all the same, in need of mercy/ To be forgiven and be free.” The chorus is big and fun, and it’s hard not to sing along, especially with the “Woah-oh-ohs.” Maher brings the song home with a very cool and convicted rendering of the Beatitudes...
"In a few days I will be dead. No." She put up her hand. "I don't want you to say a thing. I'm not afraid. When you live as long as I've lived you lose that, too. I never liked lobster in my life, and mainly because I'd never tried it. On my eightieth birthday I tried it. I can't say I'm greatly excited over lobster still, but I have no doubt as to its taste now, and I don't fear it. I dare say death will be a lobster, too, and I can come to terms with it."
Death will be a lobster, too…
In the above paragraph from Ray Bradbury’s classic novel, Dandelion Wine, Helen Loomis comes to terms with the inevitability of aging and death by comparing the phenomenon to eating a lobster. She conquers her fear of the ultimate unknown in a mundane and shoulder-shrug sort of way, by routinely relegating this experience to just another necessary, fanfare-free “to-do.” Lobster? Check. Death? Meh. Does it come with melted butter on the side?
This excerpt immediately came to mind last Tuesday when, on my thirtieth birthday, I serendipitously received the gift of… a live lobster.
In the mail.
On the precise day of my trip over the hill.
An enormous, antennae all over the place, pinchers-pinching, cooler full of some-assembly-required seafood straight from Maine’s “Lobster Man” to me, courtesy of some incredibly thoughtful friends in Texas… who knew nothing about this literary association between death and the crustacean family.
After all of the sly comments about how I wasn’t in my twenties anymore, about how I should be wearing purple, about how it was all downhill from here, could someone actually be making an obviously not-funny joke about the proximity of 30 to the capital-E End by sending me a grim reaper lobster?...
What's the danger in being a half-hearted Christian? Word On Fire blog contributor Fr. Michael Cummins tells us precisely. In light of the recent Good Shepherd Sunday, an inauthentic approach to an authentic relationship with Christ can be just as damaging as no relationship at all. Here he explains.
Pope emeritus Benedict often remarked that he thought it was not so much atheists who damage the Christian faith as it is the "practical atheists" who do the real damage. The "practical atheists" are those who profess themselves Christians but who then live as if God does not exist. At the heart of this practical atheism, which is very present in our day and also very easy to fall into, is an inauthenticity of relationship. We say one thing yet we do another and we convince ourselves that no one is the wiser; including God.
I believe that Good Shepherd Sunday, which we just celebrated last Sunday, calls us to reflect on authenticity of relationship. This last Sunday we proclaimed the truth that the risen Lord is indeed the good and beautiful shepherd who came to seek out and save the lost. But here is the rub: we cannot reflect and proclaim the Lord as “Good Shepherd” and ourselves remain inauthentic in relation to him. To proclaim Christ as the Good Shepherd demands an authenticity of relationship on our part. This authenticity of relationship is witnessed to us in Sunday's gospel (Jn. 10:27-30) - the relationship of us and the Lord and the relationship of the Son and the Father.
Jesus said: "My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me..." The movement of authentic relationship begins with our Lord. When we were lost in the darkness of sin and death, God came to us. God became incarnate and took on the full weakness and suffering of humanity. God took on everything except sin. "I know them...", says the Lord. Christ can authentically say this because it is true.
"My sheep hear my voice ... and they follow me ..." There are two parts for authenticity of relationship on our part. One, we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and two, we follow. To say we hear the voice and then live as if the voice does not matter is not authentic. To proclaim Christ as the Good Shepherd means we must continually "tune" our ears to the voice of the Good Shepherd, we must trust and we must follow...