Monday, February 19, 2018

Lentblogging Day 6 - 10 Unintended Lessons


Blessed Holy Water gone from stoups,
but where is the traditional
Blessed Lenten Sand
this Year? 
One thing about live Lentblogging is that, if the blogger is honest, some days are going to be better than others. Sunday was pretty lousy. Poor Bear spent a lot of time in thought and prayer that night.

Funny how Saint Corbinian's Bear Lenten Companion for Bearish Humans describes the very same challenges. Religion as a near occasion of sin and legitimate disappointment in one's shepherds. Poor Bear has been dealing with this stuff since the 8th Century and still struggles.

Most of all, the Bear realizes that he foresaw what would challenge him Sunday, and yet, stupidly, he did not prepare himself in advance. For a Bear who is supposed to be Lenting smart, this was a huge oversight.

Here are 10 unintended lessons he learned Sunday. At the end is a video that inspires the Bear during Lent, although he must admit St. Benedict would not approve. One of the most important lessons is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.





10 Unintended Lessons the Bear Learned Sunday
  1. Most important is this: Usually, we are hurt more by our reaction ("the very idea!") than the actual injury. There may be a bit of ego hidden beneath the scandal (although that does not take responsibility from the one causing scandal.) A little bit of Bearish righteous indignation goes a long way.
  2. The second is we do not have to stick our heads in the sand and pretend there are no problems. That would not be honest. There are big problems. The real question, then, is narrow: How do we plan on dealing with them during this Lent? Are we stuck complaining about the same things from year to year?
  3. We must Lent smart. That means planning to meet foreseeable challenges. For example, if we know some upcoming religious event will be turned into political theater, we should decide in advance the best response. You may hear some obnoxious hobbyhorse flogged every Sunday. Where the Bear is, it's all about the interfaiths. The Devil is clever, but prefers to get under your skin in ways that have proved reliable in the past. His tactics should not surprise smart Christians and should definitely be a part of the plans for your Tower of Lent.
  4. The Bear expected some jiggery-pokery with the holy water during Lent. Yes, he thinks removing it shows confusion between a blessed sacramental and a mere symbol and is a dumb local innovation. What can he say, except, o tempera, o mores? He can use all the holy water he wants at home, or even bring it with him to church if he needs it that bad. (See 1 above.)
  5. Similarly, when it comes to Holy Scripture, the Bear knows the USCCB's NABRE has inclusive language and smartest-kid-in-the-room footnotes that appear to question the unique inspired character of the Bible. Since that bothers the Bear, he must either ignore it or pick a different approved translation.**
  6. We must expect that the Devil will hit us where it hurts the most during Lent: our religion. Knowing this going in, we should plan a sound strategy and pick ourselves up when we get knocked down anyway. For the Bear, that usually takes 24 hours: some growling, some ranting, some thinking, a quiet talk with God, and a good night's sleep. (Reading Lamentations helped put things in perspective, too.)
  7. During Lent, we should focus on prayer, fasting and alms, one day at a time. We should take each day as a lesson, just as the Bear did during his very first Lent and is still doing 1300 years later. We can learn even from our failures. Remember: experience is not what happens to you, it's what you learn from what happens to you.
  8. Whatever else is going on in the wide world beyond our homes, the actual daily practice of Christianity remains the same: (1) a consistent prayer life; (2) regular devout reading of Holy Scripture; (3) cultivating an appreciation for the presence of God in our daily lives; (4) trying to conform ourselves to the requirements of our religion; and (5) following a sensible personal rule.
  9. We are all psychologically different. Some of us meet frustration with plenty of room to back up and handle it. Others (Bears) live with their backs to the wall. We should always strive for insight into our own psychology as one ingredient to Lenting smart- and living smart. In a way, you might see your Christian life as a whole boiled down to the essentials during these 40 days.
  10. If your religion consistently robs you of the peace of Christ, you might sit down and take inventory of specific problems. Where can you humble yourself by submitting your intellect? Where are you being stubborn and self-willed? How often do you seek and find perverse enjoyment in scandal? How do you plan on dealing with the real obstacles while remaining true to your faith?
On second thought, perhaps these lessons might not have been intended by any human, but God Himself knows what the Bear needs to learn.


Some Wise Words on Lent from Fred & Ginger
(Unless Ginger is a Near Occasion of Sin)
from Swing Time, RKO, 1936




*As an aside, suggestions to find a traditional parish are not helpful for many who live hours from a major metropolitan area. Moreover, it's just not the style of Bears to give up their territory. Experience has taught the Bear that if he cannot live his faith in his own parish, he doubts he would be able to do better somewhere else. His instinct is to stay and adapt to harsh conditions.

**The RSV2-CE Ignatius Press Didache Bible is much better, but even it includes a disclaimer for the beginning of chapter 9 of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) about the Jewish "patriarchal society," to go with the NABRE's fancier "androcentric viewpoint." So much fuss over sound advice to men about avoiding near occasions of sin! See this EWTN page for a concise rundown of Catholic Bibles.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Lentblogging Day 5 & 6 - Religion as a Near Occasion of Sin UPDATE

The Bear's Article on Religion as a Near Occasion of Sin Was Prescient

Today, no holy water. Its absence represents the
spiritual and intellectual desert in which
poor Bear must live, he supposes.
UPDATE: Before Mass Sunday, the priest read a letter from the bishop urging stronger gun control. Then gun control was presented as a "prayer intention." (As the Pope Videos prove, "intentions" are a great way to present left-wing agitprop in religious garb.) Also, there was no holy water in the stoup. At least there was not sand or sticks.

The Bear watched every single person dipping their fingers into the dry bowl as they entered the church. It was like some Catholic Candid Camera setup.

Well, well. Here the Bear finds himself obligated by his own integrity to discuss the very sort of thing he so blithely dismissed before. It's one thing to preach in the abstract, and something else to have the very problem crammed down your throat. How can he ignore this sort of thing, even during Lent, when it is a practical challenge?

So, here are a couple of articles you might find interesting. One is a detailed article on the Church and gun control, and the other discloses the astonishing roster of Soros-connected lefties that produced the USCCB's gun-grab position.

Finally, there is an article on the forgotten Bath Township school massacre which remains the deadliest in the U.S. to date with a final death toll of 44. Forgotten, perhaps, because the killer did not use guns. See Before They Blamed Guns, They Blamed Catholics.

The homosexual child abuse scandal has reared its scaly head, again, in the background, as it seems that clients of Pope Francis were protected and promoted despite apparently credible allegations.

The implications of his encyclical Amoris Laetitia are being worked out on an ad hoc basis around the world when it comes to the propriety of divorced and remarried Catholics in the communion line.

The Bear does not know who said it, but the Catholic Church in America truly is the Democrat party at prayer. This is not the place to launch into a defense of the second amendment, which the Supreme Court has recognized as a personal right. At a minimum, however, it is one of several political issues that have polarized Americans. Perhaps, Church leaders might at least have the prudence to recognize that and not see worshippers as a captive audience for their debatable political positions.

They just can't help themselves from taking advantage of an opportunity like this, though.

Aside from politics, one can only marvel at the wrong-headedness of depriving people of an important sacramental like holy water during Lent.

So, yes, indeed, it was a prescient article for the Bear. Since this is a very practical series of articles on succeeding in Lent, the Bear thinks he ought to share good strategies for dealing with the kind of thing he experienced Sunday. His catch phrase for Catholics has always been, "Nail your foot to the floor in front of your favorite pew and die there."

What do you think? Is that good enough? Or are there no significant problems in the Catholic Church today?

Sunday before last a woman dressed up in some sort of priestess outfit conducted the service (not a Mass) because there was no priest available. Think about that for a moment.

When we are trying to attract people to the Catholic Church, as one commenter suggested, what is the best thing to tell them? Shrug and say the Church just has always had some flawed human beings in it, but is still unique in teaching the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the unchanging truth? Or just say nothing and hope they don't notice anything before we have them in the boat?

Of course, there is a good answer.

Pope Francis has suggested over and over the dismay that has divided Catholics and scandalized a large segment of the faithful who blog about the Church is simply the result of ignorance but mostly ill will. How does that answer sit with you?

Maybe the absence of holy water during Lent - where there is no tradition or rule allowing it - should just make us think about the desert in which Jesus fasted. If that line of reasoning is correct, perhaps we should go further and remove all sacramentals from our homes, too. We should not make the sign of the cross, or say the rosary, or display crucifixes during Lent. How far could you imagine such "symbolism" could go, if carried to its logical conclusion? Is there a problem with seeing holy water as a nothing more than a symbol to be manipulated at the whim of parish priests?

And, with the sole exception of abortion, it seems one must be a member of a certain political party in order to be a good American Catholic.

It would be the easiest thing in the world for the Bear to sweep his concerns under the rug during a series on Lent. That was his earlier idea. However, he suspects he is not the only person who is scandalized by their religion and whose Lenten peace and growth is challenged by the very institution to which he looks for assistance. The Bear would not feel like he was being honest if he ignored all this in a series about practical strategies for Lent.

The Bear cannot tell you what you should do when religion becomes a near occasion of sin, unless it is to convince yourself that you are the problem and be assimilated.

Or, if that does not ring true to you, perhaps the answer is just to do your best to ignore it. That might be easy for humans. It is not so easy for Bears.

________________________________________

Many times, going to church has been a near occasion of sin for the Bear. Sometimes it's all he can do to remain quiet in his pew without rising up on his hind legs and roaring in indignation.

Many Catholics  have grown increasingly confused and worried over the past few years. However, many Protestants have also found the Evangelical movement wanting and waning. It would serve no purpose to prepare charges and specifications against any religion. If you are satisfied where you are, the Bear is very happy for you. If you are not, he does not need to give you the reasons.



Wisdom from Pope Benedict XVI

But, whether it is a strange gospel of social and material equality without Christ - of "issues" - or a feel-good faith that builds self-esteem, many are turning away from such ideas and looking for the truth.

In Pope Benedict XVI's book Co-Workers of the Truth, the reading for February 17th says something we don't often hear these days:


It is a thoroughly Christian impulse to combat suffering and injustice in the world. But to imagine that men can construct a world without them by means of social reform, and the desire to do so here and now, is an error, a deep misunderstanding of human nature. For suffering does not come into the world solely because of the inequality of possessions and power. 


From: Die Situation der Kirche heute, pp. 37–38

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 64). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.


Certitude

Blaise Pascal
It seems to Bear that disaffected Christians crave intellectual certainty. In other words, they want the truth, which seems reasonable enough. Some believe they may find it in looking to the past, or to the East, or, increasingly, to the stark security of TULIP Calvinism. (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance.)

The Bear doesn't really have much to say about that. He understands. May the Holy Spirit guide you, but may you accept that you may very well go to your grave as a sheep poorly fed, if fed at all.

This Lent might be a good time to look beyond our doubts and even our disgust and accept that the kind of security we crave might never be found in having all our doctrinal ducks in a row. No, it isn't fair, and, yes, you should expect better than you are often getting from your shepherds.

Friends, the Bear respectfully invites you to wonder if your religion is getting between you and God, and what you might try to do about that. Obsessing over the latest scandal cannot be spiritually healthy, especially during Lent. 

There are ways, the Bear believes, that one may be right, but wrong.

One possible response is to turn directly to God more often through reading Scripture, through prayer, and through alms-giving and service. We cannot go far wrong in our religion if we take more responsibility for loving and serving God, and practicing charity toward our neighbor.

Another spiritual discipline for this Lent might be to just tune out. Avoid the constant grumbling, even if it is justified. Many of us must simply accept that we are unlikely to ever find rest for our souls in our religions.

This seems like a shame, but even the Bear has not changed things to his liking, no matter how clever his agitprop.

However, who knows if we might find a different kind of certitude? The brilliant mathematician Blaise Pascal recorded a mystical experience that gave him just that.



Pascal's Memorial

Monday, 23 November, feast of St. Clement, pope and martyr, and others in the martyrology. Vigil of St. Chrysogonus, martyr, and others.

From about half past ten at night until about half past midnight, 



FIRE

GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob
not of the philosophers and of the learned.
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
GOD of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
Your GOD will be my God.
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except GOD.
He is only found by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Grandeur of the human soul.
Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you.
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have departed from him:
They have forsaken me, the fount of living water.
My God, will you leave me?
Let me not be separated from him forever.
This is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and the one that you sent, Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
I left him; I fled him, renounced, crucified.
Let me never be separated from him.
He is only kept securely by the ways taught in the Gospel:
Renunciation, total and sweet.
Complete submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
Eternally in joy for a day's exercise on the earth.
May I not forget your words. Amen.


And the Bear said Amen.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Lentblogging Day 4 - Holy Selfishness

St. Corbinian and a rather pitifully small Bear.


Saint Corbinian's Priorities

Here's a very interesting thing about St. Corbinian the Bear found while doing research for his Lenten Companion for Bearish Humans. It is just like they tell you on the airplane.
Though indefatigable in his apostolic functions, he was careful not to overlay himself with more business than he could bear, lest he should forget what he owed to his own soul. He always performed the divine office with great leisure, and reserved to himself every day set hours for holy meditations, in older to recruit and improve the spiritual vigor of his soul, and to cast up his accounts before God, gathering constantly resolution of more vigilance in all his actions.

Butler, A. (1903). The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints (Vol. 3, pp. 624–625). New York: P. J. Kenedy.


Busy Bear

The Bear keeps very busy with daily ephemeris articles, writing novels and other books, the crazy-making work surrounding their publishing, researching the faith, and doing narration for short features. (The Pillars of Creation is wonderful, but the next one is epic in comparison.)

Today, Bear woke up, got out of bed, and prayed a sleepy Lauds. So far so good. (He always prays for his readers, too, especially those using his new Lenten Companion right now. The prayer goes, God, please don't let anything Bear has written cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble. Please make up for any stupid Bear things.)

Bear did not say his midday prayers. That's not all he didn't do.

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.” (Luke 10:41)


Bear is Derelict in his Duties

He had his Liturgy of the Hours for Benedictine Oblates all ready. He had his Bible for lectio divina and his Rule of Saint Benedict for today's reading. He even had his rosary. But as Vespers approached, poor Bear had not found the time for doing any of it.

Bear realizes he puts in so much time helping his friends he often leaves little time to care for his own soul. That's not a boast; it's the sort of clear-sighted realization we wait for during Lent. The problem is, he realizes, you can't give to others what you do not have yourself. 

Saint Corbinian realized the soul for whom he was most responsible was his own.


Are You Too Busy Doing Good to Take Care of Your Own Soul?

Bear knows people who are very busy with their jobs and families or school. Sometimes, doing good things can leave little time for our own relationship with God. 

What would it take to put God first in your life this Lent? Regular Daily Habits is a wonderful foundation for a Tower of Lent. Do you include in your Lenten strategy firm commitments to take care of your own soul, even if you must postpone or limit your business on behalf of others?

If St. Corbinian thought reserving time for his own religious practices was necessary even for a saint, it is even more important for Bears and you.

It's like they tell you on the airplane. When the oxygen masks drop, first put yours on, and only then help anyone else with theirs.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Lentblogging Day 3 - The Crook Who Was Admired by Jesus

Jesus: "Be like this crook."
We are careful in matters of the world, practical and full of plans. That's good. Prudence is a virtue.

And, yet, when it comes to our faith, we tend to bumble along from one disaster to another like Rowan Atkinson's good-natured comic character, Mr. Bean.

That's because we don't Lent smart.

Instead of being practical and full of plans to give ourselves a fighting chance, we see growth as a product of our own effort. Will power. Instead of identifying one vice to root out or one virtue to  cultivate, and drawing up a practical plan, we stumble along with a vague intention of being better people. 

Somehow, the very practical religion of Christianity has gotten separated from common sense and floats in a separate "spiritual" sphere we don't engage with our brains.

Remember the Tower of Lent? (Luke 14:25-30) Jesus was always talking about hard-nosed practicality. His parables use everyday situations to illustrate his teachings. No one was more practical than Jesus. In fact, his very first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding after his mom noticed they were running out.

He even found something to admire in a clever embezzler.

Read Luke 16:1-9. A rich man had a crooked steward - business agent - who got caught lining his own pockets with the boss's money. He was ordered to wrap things up and hit the road. The steward was horrified at the thought of having to make an honest living, so he devised a cunning plan.

He went to everyone who owed his boss money and settled their accounts as favorably as 50 cents on the dollar. Perhaps many of these debtors were delinquent, because, when the steward brought back a large sum of money, the boss was not angry, but admired his cleverness.

When we don't have specific goals, when we don't make practical plans, when we don't pray for God's help, in short, when we rely on our own white knuckled efforts to "be a better person," we fail. Instead, we should focus on a few specific problems and devise a cunning plan that specifically addresses them. 

If you are following these 40 days of lentblogging, you may recall the Bear has for a goal Regular Daily Habits. It is the foundation of his Tower of Lent. On one, he followed his plan - all one step of it. He woke up at the right time, but then he got on his computer instead of getting out of bed.

A reader gave some very practical advice: keep your computer somewhere else.

Now, that's what the Bear is talking about!

Lentblogging Day 2 - Irony

There must be a Department of Irony in Hell.

Bears have a highly developed sense of irony. They see it everywhere and enjoy satire. They know there will be no irony in Heaven, so they try to enjoy it as much as they can here.

Irony is a type of joyless humor - bitters for the soul. A good Sicilian digestivo like Amaro dell'Etna to help life in this fallen world go down. (Red Death thinks it tastes like cough syrup, but she doesn't even like the exquisite nectar of Jaegermeister).

This Lent is full of irony, because the Bear, with his Lenten Companion just out, struggles to follow his own (excellent, by the way) advice.

Just yesterday, he was thinking about the plan for his Tower of Lent (Luke 14:25-30). It may sound trivial, but regular daily habits are the foundation for for any kind of sound construction in our lives. It is very Benedictine. After all, the life of a Benedictine monk - and, to a lesser extent, oblate - revolves around the Liturgy of the Hours.

Ora et labora.

So, the Bear asked the woman who lives in the can on his nightstand to set an alarm for 8 a.m. Since he is an Owl, not a Lark, that would allow the Bear to get some good sleep and wake up in plenty of time for his ora, his lectio divina, then hit the screen for his labora.

Indeed, on the first day of Lent, yesterday, his faithful bedside companion awakened him with a pleasant sound. Step 1 of the Regular Daily Habits phase of his Master Plan worked! He flipped open his laptop in bed, just to take care of any new book orders and make sure advance buyers had received their PDFs to tide them over until he got the paperbacks to autograph and ship.

It is really a matter of putting God first- literally. The Bear would offer to God the first fruits of his day. There are all sorts of ways of putting God first. Saying Lauds first thing sanctifies time.

Three hours later...

Technically, it was still morning when he did Lauds. Even in his time zone. Nonetheless, he realizes he must add another step.

Step 2 - Get Out of Bed at Once.

It is hard for Bears to exchange bad, old habits for good, new ones. Could his very computer, his lifeline, his office, be used by the demon Neerciazhun of Sin? Construction delay on Bear's Tower of Lent. But, now, his plan has two steps: (1) Wake Up at 8 a.m. and (2) Get Out of Bed at Once. Maybe Bear should think about writing down a step after that. What could it be?

Oh, well, two steps is one more step than Bears usually think of. No sense in going crazy with this whole Lent thing.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Lentblogging Day 1 - The Plan

As a trial lawyer, the Bear would write his closing arguments backwards.

That way, from the beginning, he thought about what he wanted in the minds of the jurors at the end.

Today is Ash Wednesday. You are probably thinking about getting your ashes, adopting a suitably penitential attitude, and what you've given up for Lent. Maybe you're worried about finding sand or sticks or motor oil or something else symbolic instead of holy water in the stoup.

The Bear will be thinking about the end of Lent. Not just being better, or holier, or whatever. He will be counting his resources and carefully planning the construction of the tower he wishes to have after 40 days. Now, even Bears know that building a tower costs much salmon and takes a lot of planning beforehand. Having some vague notion that you want it tall, or strong, or have really cool-looking crenelations on top isn't enough.

Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ 

Luke 14:28-30 (NABRE).

The Bear will be making a short list of specific things he wants to be different about himself by the other side of Easter. Not many. That would be a mistake, at least for a Bear. But, two or three of the most important. He won't  be stopping there.

Along with this secret list, he will use all of his cunning to devise practical, real-life strategies to help him succeed. He's going to write those down, too. "Being nicer" is a lousy Lenten resolution, and "being a better Christian" isn't much better. 

You know the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. This time Bear is going to Lent different. Lent smart.

He's going to be a Bear With a Plan, so people won't laugh at his stupid fallen-down towers anymore.

____________________


UPDATE: Just surprised to find audiobook of JUDGING ANGELS available! Very pleased with the narrator, who did a fantastic job interpreting it, instead of just reading it. It’s a Christian thriller about marriage with a high body count.

Information about the new book, Saint Corbinian's Bear Lenten Companion for Bearish Humans:

Price for ebook is $9.99. Paperback is $18.99. The ebook is available at Amazon The paperback will be available in a couple of weeks.

If you want an autographed copy, but also want to accompany the Bear from day one of Lent, use the PayPal (DONATE) link in the sidebar to send $18.99. Be sure to provide instructions about how you would like it autographed. When the Bear receives his copies (10-15 days from Ash Wednesday) he will mail them to advance buyers and even cover the cost of shipping single copies in the U.S.

Advance buyers of the paperback will get all front matter and beginning chapters in a PDF format upon receipt of payment. The Bear will make sure you are taken care of until you have the paperback in your hands.

Bears are all about having their cake and eating it to, even during Lent, so you can have your autographed copy and not miss a single day of ursine accompaniment.

Please consider it part of your Lenten discipline to read one chapter per day, and only one. Not only does it follow the rhythms of Lent, but it is a story, after all, and you don't want to spoil it.

Q & A on Bear Lent Book

Active bloggers may request review copies direct from Bear at st.corbinians.bear@gmail.com. (Please include your link.)

NOTE: If you have made an advance purchase through PayPal as of 8 p.m. CST February 12, and have NOT received your file, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Please let Bear know in that case.

UPDATE: Price for ebook is $9.99. Paperback is $18.99. The ebook is available right now at Amazon. The paperback will be printed on Ash Wednesday. (Bears aren't known for planning ahead.)

If you want an autographed copy, but also want to accompany the Bear from day one of Lent, use the PayPal (DONATE) link in the sidebar to send $18.99. Be sure to provide instructions about how you would like it autographed. When the Bear receives his copies (10-15 days from today) he will mail them to advance buyers and even cover the cost of shipping single copies in the U.S.

All advance buyers of the paperback will get all front matter and beginning chapters in a PDF format upon receipt of payment. The Bear will make sure you are taken care of until you have the paperback in your hands.

Bears are all about having their cake and eating it too, so you can have your autographed copy and not miss a single day of ursine accompaniment through Lent.

Please consider it part of your Lenten discipline to read one chapter per day, and only one. Not only does it follow the rhythms of Lent, but it is a story, after all, and you don't want to spoil it.

Q: I don't have time to read a bunch of Bear guff. What's the bottom line?

If you like the Bear, you'll enjoy the book. 

Most of the Lent stories that have appeared here have had a very positive reaction. (If you remember some darker and more dramatic ones, don't worry. Those aren't included.)

The short chapters are written in a simple style meant to be entertaining and memorable. You could even read them to children. (Possibly not, however, to a little girl with the complete My Pretty Pony collection.) It might be fun to entertain them with stories about a funny talking bear, then discuss things like prayer and making Jesus happy on their level. Young adults ought to be able to get value from it on their own. 

The 40 chapters form a single continuous arc describing a Lenten adventure as the Bear learns one lesson after another with the help of Father Corbinian. The authors hope you can resist gulping it down in one evening because the Bear wants to accompany you on each day of Lent. For example, at the midway point, the Bear panics because Lent is halfway done and he's still a Bear. That is one of the things that makes this Lenten Companion unique.

Consider limiting your reading to a chapter a day part of your Lenten discipline.

There are study questions at the end of each chapter. Most of them are open, designed with the cunning of a trial lawyer on cross-examination to force you to confront yourself honestly. Others provide additional relevant information.


Ragan and Kathryn
Q: Why didn't you write it on your own?

Kathryn (whom the Bear calls "Red Death, his driver, bodyguard and factotum," or "the Shepherdess") collaborated because she is far more virtuous than the first-named author.

Ragan is a working commercial artist better at drawing bears.



Q:  Why did you write it for "all Christians" instead of just Catholics?

There were several reasons. For one, it is more true than not to answer there aren't any "just Catholics" anymore. It would serve no purpose to stir up controversy by elaborating.

One of the spiritual dangers Christians face today is a loss of confidence in the institutions of the faith. One of the unique aspects of this book is that while we don't explain the challenges of our time, we wrote with an awareness of them. Let's be honest. Appeals to authority are not as helpful they once were for reasons most readers of this blog will know.

Also, as we worked on it, we found ourselves expressing the spiritual style with which we were familiar as Benedictine oblates. You can be a Benedictine oblate without being Catholic. We saw no reason to set ourselves up as superior to our model and tinker with it.

Benedictine spirituality works for any Christian for the simple fact that it is wise, doable and has centuries of experience behind it. For example, there are five duties of oblates. We work those into the book. They are bedrock Christianity, to be distinguished from the watered-down Catholicism one sometimes sees today. We did not compromise on the truth, but neither did we set out to include all of it in a book with a very specific purpose.

Finally, we were motivated by a sincere desire to help as many people as we could become better Christians. There is plenty of common ground to explore apart from our unfortunate differences. We took a similar approach as C.S. Lewis did in The Screwtape Letters and his other writings. 

We believe unseen spiritual realities are objective facts.


Q: It sounds like you are just being ecumenical and afraid to hurt anyone's feelings. Hasn't the Bear made fun of that sort of thing hundreds of times?

Do you really think the Bear would lend his splendi'frous name to that? We could have played it safe and made a narrow audience happy. We took the risk of including some things that might not appeal to everyone. The beauty of it is that readers may draw their own lessons from the 40 stories featuring the Bear. Most of the study questions are open. They are designed to challenge readers to confront themselves, not to hammer home the lessons of the stories. Many have no right or wrong answer.

Readers of this blog may nonetheless find a few sly Bear winks at some very timely issues. (One chapter is titled "The Use and Abuse of Mercy.") We were not afraid to acknowledge times have changed. Nonetheless, again, it is based on bedrock Christianity, and does not preach a watered-down Catholicism. 


Q: So this is a sort of handbook of Benedictine spirituality?

Not really. We are Benedictine oblates, though. It is natural we wanted to share things we have found valuable. It seemed sensible not to try to come up with something original. The originality is in the presentation.


Q: What else is different about it, besides a talking Bear?

We believe too often Lent is "all about me." My discipline, my sins, my relationship to God. Although these things are important, we have tried to continually help the reader think about Lent as a time of growing in love toward others. Part of the bona opera of Lent should be turning outward toward those around us.


Q: That all sounds great, but I've read the Bear's ephemeris for years. He doesn't seem very holy.

He isn't. That's why we didn't base it on ideas and practices we invented. We should not have to say it, but, the Bear and the first-named author are about as far from saints as you can get. We decided that did not disqualify us from presenting timeless truths in an original way, with an eye to what is happening right now. 

You know, it is very humbling to write a book like this. The first-named author, at any rate, is feeling like a fraud at the moment for the very reason you bring up. He couldn't avoid realizing his own failures with every lesson. However, it is those failures - or Bearishness, if you will - that made the exercise possible. One of the chapter titles is "A Season of Failure."

It has been a wonderful exercise. Perhaps we'll try harder to cooperate with the grace of God, now. It sounds corny, but we'll be including readers in our own prayer intentions. Especially that we cause no harm.

We won't make a video, though. 

Probably.


One again, excerpts from the description written for the back cover:


Maybe you’re not learned. Maybe you’re not holy. Maybe you’re not even entirely human. That’s okay. A 1300-year-old talking bear is here to be your daily companion during Lent.

Saint Corbinian was moved to share Lent with the Bear- perhaps to protect the local pony population. In 40 stories that follow the authors’ own Lenten experiences and rhythms, the sincere, but simple Bear learns one lesson after another. Sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, but always memorable, together they form a grand adventure.

A Bear begins Lent, but what kind of creature shall see its end?

The authors draw in part upon their experience as Benedictine oblates to transmit timeless truths for all Christians in this charming story. The tales are told with deceptive simplicity. After each chapter, the authors ask questions designed to help you think about the lessons the Bear has learned. They are not always the right ones. Bears sometimes serve best as bad examples. 

You may be surprised to find much of yourself in the Bear. But that’s okay. If a Bear can make it through Lent and learn a thing or two, you can, too.

This is a Lenten Companion unlike any other, designed for even the most Bearish Humans.

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