7.15.2006

Faith. Feast. Washing Machine. TV.

FAITH

Darrell and Wendy, recent converts to Catholicism, have both been writing excellent essays on their faith. Darrell especially, citing specific passages from the bible, has taken a strong academic approach. At times, some of what he's written and the ensuing debates in the comments strain my brain like the intellectual explorations over at Rey's Bible Archive. I've always been a Catholic. I was baptized, had my first communion, was confirmed, and I was an altar boy. I studied religion each week and my parents sent me to a Catholic high school. I chose to go to a Catholic University. I've missed mass maybe five times in my life. Once we were snowed in, thrice in college I was in the middle of the woods on a camping trip, and once I was bleeding to death in the hospital. I think God might forgive that last one. Seriously though, going to church each week doesn't make me any better than people who were raised Catholic and stop going entirely, except perhaps on holidays. Many times I'm there....but I'm not there. I don't hear the gospels or the sermon. My mind drifts to trivial things like work or food or television or the internet. Suddenly, an hour that used to drag when I was a child now flies. *NAME HIDDEN* spoke of “born-intoism” on one of Darrell's posts:

”Around here, there are a lot of people who call themselves Catholic. They don't go to mass, they don't go to confession.”


One person can live his life by Jesus’ teachings and example and not go to church, while another might follow ceremony rigidly but merely be going through the motions. I fear falling into the latter trap. I've always had trouble with the academic approach, especially in high school when we studied the history of the church. History in general always bored me, and having to take two courses each trimester for a few years was worse. Maybe I was too young, or maybe I'm just weak, because I still haven't pursued it to the point where I can maintain an intelligent debate about what I believe. I believe in the holy trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. I don't kill, I (try to) honor my parents, and I remain meek and humble. I do unto others as I would have them do unto me. What? What pages are those “rules” on? Which chapter? Which author? Sadly, things fall apart and crumble a bit when faced with those questions. I can rattle off the resume of the most obscure actor, tell you the names of comic book artists and cite issue numbers in which key plot developments happened. At work I retain the code numbers of various catalogs I design and reference past issues for information with frightening accuracy. But I don't speak Latin, and I can't tell you what the numbers on the guy's sign at any random football game mean. Even watching Wedding Crashers this week, I noticed Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn's character's had a better knowledge of scripture, betting which passages will be read at a particular wedding. Of course, in their case, they simply attended so many that they had a specific knowledge of ceremony, versus someone like Rey who seems to have the book memorized.

I have my faith. I try to do good, failing at times in my humanity, and praying for forgiveness. Faith is more than the sum total of believing and trying to follow a set of rules, though. I worry when theological discussions fly so far over my head. Sects of Christianity differ far more than I realized when I was younger, and it wasn't until I had friends who took different things from the bible than I did, and when I started reading up on things on the internet, that the differences shone through, sometimes overwhelmingly. The academic approach is hard, but it's probably more important than the things I spend my energy on now. It's something I'll have to work on.


FEAST

July is always my busiest month musically, especially the 15th and 16th. I have to be in Brooklyn this afternoon to play for a few hours, well into the evening, I'll be back there early tomorrow for about seven hours, then after a 3 or 4 hour break there's another two-hour segment in the evening. I’ll probably have to attend a mass in the neighborhood on one of our breaks. If I'm unusually brief in my writing, or lacking substance, it's because I'm not going to be home much this weekend and didn't write in advance to prepare for that fact. Of course, I've already written a lot more about my faith than I expected to when I started typing, so I guess I've already written a “real” entry. Tomorrow though, expect me to be lazy and simply post a new M.C.F.A.T.


WASHING MACHINE

Does anyone know anything about adjusting a washing machine? I came home from work early yesterday, thanks to our company's Summer option to leave early on Fridays, only to find a note from my parents that the washing machine was busted. By the time I finished mowing the lawn, they had returned with new belts. I helped my dad take it apart and install them, but the large one had way too much slack. I ended up disassembling most of the motor and replacing the springs in it that are supposed to pull the larger of the two belts taut. When the machine runs however, it still won't spin and there's a smell of burning rubber. There's only one place I see to adjust the belt, by moving the pump assembly, but we have that back as far as it will go and that only tightens the smaller belt. We have a Maytag top load similar to the one in this diagram. I probably need to replace the motor mount glides as well as the springs, but couldn't get the motor pulley apart to get to those and nearly broke an Allen wrench trying to do so. The instructions that came with the belts were woefully inadequate. The machine is less than ten years old too. I guess Monday my dad will have to check with the company if the belts were the wrong size, even though they seem to match the ones we took off. I'm stumped, even after extensive research online this morning and we don't have more time the rest of this weekend to spend on the problem.


TV

The last few days my mom's television hasn't been turning on all the time, and after plugging and unplugging various devices to test the outlet, we concluded it's definitely the television, even though that too isn't that old. When it does work the remote works, so it's not the switch. My best guess is that there's a fine break inside the wire, which doesn't come off but is itself a little loose where it joins the set, and it's located in a bad spot, on the bottom in the center in the back. When you slide the television around on top of a table, the cord will experience friction as well. It should come out of the back, not the bottom, and that's poor design. Last night, jiggling it didn't even work, and my mom started hitting the top of the television, which granted worked on our old black-and-white ‘60s standing model when I was a kid, but probably isn't good for a modern set. I started taking the thing apart with a screwdriver, very conscious of all the “risk of electrical shock” warnings. I took it apart, put it back together, and jiggled the wire while pressing the cord against the set and holding the power button. Pleasantly, the familiar sound of power coming on was heard and my mom was able to watch her tape of her soap opera last night. I may be utterly useless when it comes to washing machines, but I felt better that I at least got my mom's television working. A few months back I convinced her to let me get her a new VCR when her old one perpetually devoured tapes, so maybe it's time to look into new televisions. It's only a small dresser model, and those can't cost that much these days either.

“Are you still sure you still want to buy a house?” joked my mom, in light of the day’s challenges. There’s an old saying that God never gives us more than we can handle. Sometimes tasks unexpectedly fall in our laps. Other times, there’s a more gradual increase. The older we get, the more we have to do, and we adapt to whatever comes. When I was in elementary school, it was tough and I had no idea how I would pass middle school. In middle school I worried about high school, and in high school I worried about college. In college I worried about finding and keeping a job. Worry does no good, and in hindsight we see that we’ve survived everything that has come before. Sometimes you just have to turn off your brain, and go to work.

5 Comments:

Blogger Wendy said...

MCF, Darrell makes my head hurt sometimes when he argues religion. In fact, I shy away from the topic because it's not something I feel comfortable talking about.

Oh, and your mom has great taste in soap operas.

7/15/2006 7:42 PM  
Blogger Kev said...

"I have my faith. I try to do good, failing at times in my humanity, and praying for forgiveness"
Just remember that you don't -can't- earn your way to Heaven. All you have to do is believe God sent Jesus to pay your way.

7/15/2006 8:53 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

It's the only daytime soap she's ever watched, except for a few years when she watched something called "Ryan's Hope" that I think was just a half hour of Irish people in a bar...don't think that's on anymore.

Fun fact: What hooked her was having the television on while I was in the crib and noticing Erica's current beau had the same name as my dad. I can safely share that because it doesn't exactly narrow down names. :)

I know I can't earn my way into heaven. Some Catholics fall into the trap of donating money versus real stewardship, even though the church does in fact encourage volunteer work. It presents a bad image of us to the rest of the world. We know you can't bribe God. I'm not worried so much about earning a reward as I am about being deserving of that reward, which is different. I'm also worried about not incurring eternal punishment. I've had a few "I'm going to hell" moments in my life that I'm not proud of, and I hope He forgives me when my time comes...

And that's all I'm going to say about that.

7/15/2006 9:33 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

History in general always bored me

I was really shocked to read that. I don't know why, but I just always presumed that you were, like me, a mid-level history geek. I'll define my history geekness this way: I don't go searching for history books to read, the topic I tend to focus on out of pure fascination is theology. However, I've read quite a few books about one historical episode or another, and in general I'd rather read history than fiction, biographies, or Chicken Soup For The Soul type feel-good stuff.

I'm flattered to hear you use the word "academic" to describe my approach to defending and promoting my new-born Catholic faith. I'm afraid sometimes that the more appropriate words would be "pushy," or "over the top" or "arrogant."

I fear falling into the latter trap.

Don't presume that. For whatever it's worth, you've never written anything that's given me a reason to believe you're a Cafeteria Catholic. I think you're one of the good guys. I do suggest, however, that you read at least one book on the solid theology behind Catholicism so you can defend the Church if you ever need to. If I might be so bold, I'd suggest this one.

Here's the thing about being a Cradle Catholic... and please believe me that I'm saying this with humility... being a Cradle Catholic is, in a way, like being born wealthy. You might not appreciate the amazing wealth you have because you might assume, on some subconscious level, that everyone else is as wealthy as you are. Being a Catholic Convert is like having had to drag yourself out of the gutter and, in my case, get past a lot of lies and hatred about Catholicism that I'd been taught all my life. Now that I see the truth about Catholicism, that it is, in fact, the one source for the fullness of Christianity, I'm sometimes over-exuberant about it. Plus, my new struggle is to get past the bitterness I feel at those who taught me all those lies growing up. I don't think they intended to lie to me... they believed the things they were telling me because they'd been taught the same lies. Which makes it all the more tragic, in a way.

I guess if there's one advantage that Converts have over Cradle Catholics, it's that we realize how wonderful and beautiful Catholicism is on a different level. We don't take it for granted because we had to work hard to get it. And, we want to get other people to "come home" to Rome with us, and sometimes we try to get them to come with us kicking and screaming. Of course, it doesn't work that way.

Anyway, I enjoyed your post. You don't talk about your faith and your religious practice often, so it was nice to read this.

7/16/2006 3:44 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

I think it's the way history was presented, at least in my high school. It didn't feel as "real" as the fiction I read in English class or the comics I read on my own. It consisted of memorizing a bunch of names, dates, and geographical locations in a giant text book that weighed down my bookbag when I got chased by public school kids trying to make it to the train station. There was a serious disconnect too in that Freshman year was Asian history, sophomore year was European History, and Junior and Senior year covered American history. So I didn't always connect that something I studied as a Freshman might have been happening concurrently with stuff I studied as a senior. And at the end of each year when we had our three hour Comprehensive Exam, I had this 800 page book to skim and memorize the night before in addition to whatever other subject I had that day--usually history and math were the same day and math required less studying since I was more of a natural and breezed through with a 98 or so. I never got below an 80 in history, maybe averaged an 83, but that was like a B- in my school and more importantly, all the stuff I crammed in my brain for short term memory probably didn't stick.

Meanwhile, I'll always know the story of the Spartans holding off superior numbers at Thermopylae because Frank Miller incorporated it into the Big Fat Kill and had his characters use an alleyway the way the Spartans used the geography of the cliffs. Maybe history should be taught in comic book form instead of thick volumes of text. That kind of stuff interests me too, and I have read some of Sun Tzu's Art of War. Thanks for the book recommendation, btw.

7/16/2006 4:47 PM  

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