Michaelwclark.com

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TV and Church

Image via Tumblr

So today I finally got around to taking the wheels into the shop. We had four slow leaks.

The auto shop is pretty cool. In a grubby end of town under gentrification. The shop has been around for years, unchanged, and is pure Starsky and Hutch. The characters coming and going… I swear I could write a successful TV pilot from just a few hours there!

But I didn’t stay the whole time. I had to get away. So I walked to the downtown core, which is getting more congested every year. Felt more like Chicago or New York instead of my once modest Toronto.

After an icky visit to the Eaton Centre – don’t like it much any more – I hopped over to the newly renovated St. Michael’s Cathedral. I haven’t been to Mass for about a week and felt like a fish out of water… happily diving back into the tank after almost thirsting to death for the waters of heaven.

But it was a huge change from the auto shop.

Leaving, I noticed a brand new flatscreen monitor by the exit. It seemed strange and unnecessary. But what do I know?

I just took the picture…


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Trying to be a good Catholic – I did an experiment, here’s the results

Follow the Star by MC via Flickr

Follow the Star by MC via Flickr

Ever since I converted to Catholicism back in 2001, I found it was a two-sided experience. I had been going through a challenging time after living in India for a couple of years. The West seemed strange, and I learned what they mean by the term, reverse culture shock.

Some people take their hard shell selves with them when they travel. And they return home as if they’d just watched a nice slide show. They know a little more about the world but remain fundamentally unchanged. Not so with me. I was going through a tremendous time of transition. So I was soaking up Indian ways – and vibes – more than most.

I was very open. This openness and sensitivity is a good thing. But I needed something to get me back to my truest self. My core.

Funnily enough, as a former Protestant who never went to church growing up, I found that Catholicism was the path that brought me back to myself. Not just to my Western ego. For me, that’s necessary but secondary. No, I mean my genuine, created self. The one who stands before God in humility and full realization of his human imperfection.

So all fine and dandy, right? I found my spiritual home after years of searching. And I didn’t have to travel miles and miles to exotic lands to feel well. Catholic churches are ubiquitous. In fact, where I live, I tend to rotate among seven, all within about 15 minutes of home. A taste of heaven in 15 minutes. Not bad.

So what’s the problem? Is there a problem?

Well, yes and no.

No, if I keep rotating and don’t get too invested in any single parish. Yes, if I try to be like regular churchgoers.

Image via Tumblr

Image via Tumblr

I’m sure a mean-spirited psychiatrist would have a field day with that. “He cannot settle down in any one parish. He needs to constantly escape to feel anonymous,” etc. etc.

But it’s really not that simple. And I think some people just don’t get why I have to do Catholicism my own way.

It gets back to my sensitivity. In any parish there is good and not so good. There are nice and not so nice people. There are priests who seem en route to heaven and others who might be in for a rude surprise when they die.

And I tend to sense vibes from all of this. Not just the heavenly graces, but also the very real human stuff. It’s always a balancing act. If I frequent one parish too often, there’s a kind of build up of the same stuff. It’s like watching the same movie over and over again. But worse, you’re also picking up the same vibes ad nauseam.

So I rotate.

Sometimes I grow disenchanted or fatigued by the overall Catholic scene. Several times I’ve tried just staying away. But after a week or two, I’m always happy to get back.

It’s a funny thing, similar to a plant needing water, but not too much water. Too much and the plant drowns, just as being dehydrated can kill too. And if you always draw your water from the same well, the same assortment of trace pollutants could build up. So it’s better to draw your water from different wells.

Splash by MC via Flickr

Splash by HC via Flickr

Today I’m feeling slightly over-watered, so to speak, by the same type of water. Last week I did a little experiment. I went to the same parish every day. There were nice things, nice people and nice conversations. But toward the end of the week, the buildup was happening again. The same old vibes, the same old stuff. And the same texture of the Holy Spirit (for me, each parish differs that way too).

I don’t really know why I’m sharing this publicly. For years I’ve kept my private experience to myself or only shared with my intimate friends. But today I confess: I can’t be a perfectly conventional Catholic but at the same time, I can’t be without Catholicism.

Perhaps some of you can relate in your own way, in your own circles.


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A deep inner beauty


When I tell people that I like to go to catholic mass I often sense some kind of inner reservation from the other person. I’m not surprised. I know why. Or I have a pretty good idea. The Inquisitions, the child abuse, the corruption. Or maybe just the regimentation. Not to forget the sexism.

I know all about that stuff but regardless, still feel the Holy Spirit active in the Mass. Some folks give me a blank or hard look when I say that. To me, that just tells me something about where they are. Many people think they are open minded but imo are just as narrow and regimented in their thinking as any hardcore Catholic.

Myself, I just go on what I feel. And that leaves me open to a whole new vista that I didn’t even know existed, prior to recognizing the call.


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After the fall

When I went to Mass yesterday (I tend to go almost every day) there was a sign on the Church door saying that the pastor had passed away on Saturday. He was quite young and it was an unexpected shock. A very nice, gentle priest, I sat through the Mass feeling the emotions beginning to surface. He was not the priest who converted me to Catholicism, but he did head the parish where I converted (priests relocate every few years). So it’s pretty sad. But on the plus side, afterward it seemed like I could feel his presence a bit as I went about my day, like an angel with his personality stamp watching over me. That’s what it felt like, anyhow.

But what I really want to write about is the photographs I took a few days back. Turns out Father might have actually passed on Friday night (November 1). A friend told me that he was scheduled for a Saturday morning Mass but didn’t show. That’s when some other priests discovered him. He’d already left us by that time. So quite possibly Friday Nov. 1st was his last day on Earth.

Earlier on Nov. 1st I attended Mass at his parish and soon after went outdoors for the photo shoot. I was in super good spirits, just having been to Mass. It felt like God was with me big time during that shoot.

Now, I recall while posting my photos here, thinking it a bit strange that I was captioning one of them with a poem about dying (Joy Will Find a Way). I mean, as far as I know, I’m not ill and I wasn’t aware of anyone else being unwell either. I also called another photo “Ready to Fall.” That photo was of a red maple leaf about to fall off a branch. The red maple leaf is a strong Canadian symbol (central to our flag) and this priest was a very proud Canadian. He never failed to sing Canada’s praises on Canada day (some priests entirely overlook it).

So I’m wondering if on some intuitive, artistic level I was picking up that Father was about to leave us. (A similar mystery occurred when I wrote a rather foreboding poem about “death in the skies” a couple of years before 9/11.) Anyhow, I’m not sure, and quite possibly I was just thinking about Remembrance Day, which is coming soon. But I might also have been subconsciously sensing that these photos were taken on the last day of Father’s walk on Earth.

So I dedicate both of these photos to him. A very nice, intelligent but, above all, humble priest.


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1st Peter 3:18-4:6

Soufrière Catholic Church

Soufrière Catholic Church (Photo credit: waywuwei)

The other day I got an interesting volunteer question at allexperts.com. I was super busy so wasn’t able to answer it until the wee hours of the morning. Even then I only answered it partially, partly because I read the question one way, and then later on, read it another way. When I realized the second way was the right way, I added some more to my answer.

The question was about the New Testament passage, 1 Peter 3:18-4:6. Who was Jesus speaking to? Is there more than one answer? My reply shows how Catholics are able to debate matters of biblical interpretation that are related to non-dogmatic topics.

Read the full question and answer here: http://en.allexperts.com/q/Catholics-955/2013/4/1st-peter-3-18.htm


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I don’t have any kids but if I did…

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I’d probably be asking the same kinds of questions that the questioner asks re one of my more recent volunteer answers at allexperts.com. Myself, I was an Anglican who never went to church as a kid, except for a tiny bit of Sunday school when I was very young, and the usual weddings and funerals.

Having converted to Catholicism in 2001 for spiritual reasons (certainly not for political reasons or to become a member of some kind of jumped up social club), I would really wonder, if I had kids, whether to send to them to a Catholic or a public school.

Read the full question and my answer here: http://en.allexperts.com/q/Catholics-955/2013/4/catholic-school-education.htm


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fortune city

fortune city by earthpages
fortune city, a photo by earthpages on Flickr.

I’ve discovered a new parish that has Mass at 5:15 p.m. every weekday. One of the greatest secrets to my success is regular Mass attendance. Some may think that’s incongruous with the freewheeling, open-minded style that I portray. But actually, as one guy once said to me… “Jesus was the first hippie.”

Anyhow, here’s the view on my way to that parish. Took this last night just after sunset.