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Advent Vinegar or Sugar?

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It is hopefully no surprise to anyone by now that the Church has entered another new year, as always beginning with the season of Advent.  It should also surprise no one when I (Orin) observe that some places have been in full-on Christmas mode since November 1, if not before.

Many of our peers in Church life, be they youth ministers, liturgists, priests, or the faithful baptized are bothered, perhaps even perturbed by the rush into the Christmas celebrations, and that by 7pm on December 25, some trees have already been kicked to the curb.  “One thing at a time,” they exclaim.  “We need more stillness, silence, waiting, expectation in our lives.  We need to remember the Lord is coming again!  We need to remember our traditions and our history.”

I suspect I can speak for Shannon too, but I certainly don’t disagree with any of that.  I am at the same time not so sure how much the angsty “Waaaaaaaah it’s still advent and also get off my lawn” sorts of statements and social media posts help.  Perhaps it’s just venting among friends, but I don’t think it’ll “convert” anyone to a certain way of seeing things, in this case the need we all have for a few weeks of advent in our lives.

A few days ago I posted this as a comment on a friend’s facebook status – a status that was more tongue-in-cheek than anything – but was still one about how Christmas had begun too soon.

Working at a Catholic shrine where a christmas drivethru of lights began a week (or sometimes more) before thanksgiving and the first thing one saw was a giant arch that said “Merry Christmas” across the top, I feel your pain. I used to be rather “vinegar” about it all; I try to be a little more “sugar” these days.

So, to that end, We at Oddwalk crafted a little video, one that is itself goofy and tongue-in-cheek, but attempts to use humor to remind folks, “Hey, don’t forget it’s still Advent around here.”  Hopefully this little bit of sugar will go further than some folks’ vinegar this time of year.  We are better evangelists when we do so with joy, after all.  So, check out what happens when you take some cheery advent songs and change them from major to minor.  Advent blessings to you all.  —Orin

 

The Joys of NCYC

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It’s that every-other-year time again: the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) is almost upon us. This is an amazing event of several great joys. Here are just a few:

1) Seeing 25,000 youth gathered in one place from all around the country (and beyond) is an amazing sign of the universality of the Church and a great witness of hope to our Church now and into the future;

2) Having even passing-in-the-hall moments to greet our peers in itinerant ministry is always a blessing;

3) This year we have the joy of ministering at 2 Masses, and partnering with the NFCYM in creating a new venue at NCYC, the Music and Message Stage. We’re very excited for this opportunity. We’re also grateful that we get to have our first moments on the MainStage in Lucas Oil Stadium – both to announce the new venue (in hopefully comedic fashion) and to offer a prayer and song of blessing over the youth ambassadors at the conference.

We’ve posted a graphic below in case you need to know where to find us at NCYC. Please some say hello and add to the joy of just a great event of faith! —Orin

A Fool for Christ

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Well, Oddwalk is pretty busy right now, gearing up for NCYC in couple weeks, and largely for the Music and Message Stage we have helped put together and will be hosting and emcees for.  That’s why this Jesus-Justice-Joy post is a day late, and relatively brief.

Part of our getting ready for these things, as it often is, is putting together a slide show we hope adds to the engagement and humor of our being in front of folks.  The slide here presented won’t make a lot of sense out of context, but we still won’t bother giving you any, because you don’t need any for it to be funny anyway.

Yes, that’s Young Orin, and no, his speech bubble is not factual.  Pretty sure, anyway.

Today’s turn in our J-J-J rotation is “Jesus” and I (Orin) am struck by, given this work we’ve just been doing, how far I’ve coming in letting myself be presented publicly as a bit foolish, or someone to be derided for.  I don’t think some years ago I would have ever let that happen, but these days, especially in the name of Jesus, it’s quite okay, perhaps even preferred.

By society’s eyes, Jesus was made a fool of during his passion and death – ridiculed and subjected to public scorn, and to a much lesser extant most of the time, that is still a part of being a Christian today – being a witness to Christ demands it, in our effort to become more like him.

So, enjoy this passing glimpse of Young Orin, and know that when this photo is on display before 25,000 young folks gathered at NCYC in a couple weeks, it’s all for the greater glory of God.

—Orin

Oddwalk Turns Thirteen!

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This Tuesday, October 24, Oddwalk turns thirteen years old. Happy Oddiversary to us! We expect to celebrate our jump into these adolescent years by staring at our phones while someone is speaking to us, gushing about our favorite YouTuber, and rolling our eyes at Mom’s “oldies” radio station as it pumps out ancient hits by…

Living The Justice of the Sunday Scriptures

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Hi all. Shannon and Orin both are contributors at anygivensundayproject.org once or twice and year, and in fact have back-to-back reflections on the Sunday scriptures there right now. Orin wrote a bit about yesterday’s challenging Gospel passage, and Shannon wrote about this coming Sunday’s readings. We’ve posted theme here as well. But, keep visiting anygivensundayproject.org…

Sir We Would See Jesus

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I started writing songs in 1995, when I was twenty years-old. I truly had no idea what I was doing, of course. I knew I liked the challenge of creating something new, but lacked any real knowledge of poetry and/or music theory. In those days, I would simply write the best song I could and…

Are You God?

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School is back in session at the parish where I, Orin, am music director. Sometime near the beginning of each school year, we gather the entire student body, PreK-8th Grade, in the Church to go over some music that we’ll be using at some upcoming Masses; that day this year was this past Thursday afternoon,…

Guest Blogger: A Christian Astronomer Reflects on the Total Solar Eclipse

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Andy Pucket, PhD

(This article was written to be published this coming Monday, August 21, but we decided to post it a few days early due to the tremendous interest in the upcoming total solar eclipse.)

My name is Andy Puckett, and I’m a professional astronomer. When I look at the world around me, I tend to see the big picture. The Sun “rises and sets” because the Earth rotates. Seasons change due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis. The position and phase of the Moon are based on the predictable motions of the Moon and the Earth. And all of these are based on the physical laws of the universe: motion, gravitation, acceleration.

I am also a Christian, so I see God’s hand in all of this. I know that He doesn’t move the moons and planets capriciously. I see the order and predictability of their motions. And I believe that God wrote the underlying laws of motion, and that he also gave me the curiosity to try to understand them.

Today (August 21st), many of you may get to see a total eclipse of the Sun. That’s when the Moon gets directly between the Earth and the Sun, and you find yourself in the darkest part of the Moon’s shadow. The Moon is 400 times smaller than the Sun but also 400 times closer, which is the happy “coincidence” that makes this amazing event possible. But the Moon’s orbital plane doesn’t line up perfectly with the Earth’s, which is what prevents solar eclipses from being regular monthly events.

It’s very rare that a total solar eclipse passes within driving distance of your house, and even rarer for one to pass directly over where you live. If you do happen to be within the 70-mile wide “path of totality” today, you’re in for a treat!  For up to 2 minutes 40 seconds, it will become as dark as night; the wind will get cooler and change direction; the solar corona will pop into view; and everyone around you will know that they’ve experienced something extraordinary.

Total Solar Eclipse

I’m a scientist, and there’s great science to be done during an eclipse, but that’s not my plan for today. I’ve been looking forward to this eclipse for 20 years, so I’m going to just take it all in. And I’m going to make sure my family gets to experience it safely, including my brother-in-law Shannon and all of our kids. I hope to help them see the big picture, and God’s hand in all of it.

A note from Shannon about this week’s article:

Andy Puckett is my brother-in-law and the Assistant Professor of Astrophysics at Columbus State University in Columbus, GA. Andy is also a practicing Catholic and is perhaps more excited than anyone else I know about the much-anticipated Total Solar Eclipse, set to dazzle us this Monday. For this article, Orin and I asked Andy to do an eclipse-related followup to Orin’s joy-themed article from a few weeks ago, entitled “Ongoing Creation”.  In that article, Orin asked the question: “What is it that you are doing these days, using the creative gifts given you, at the service of God and the Church?”  In our view, through the witness of his Catholic faith and the joyful enthusiasm with which he shares his knowledge of our physical universe, Andy is daily answering God’s call to glorify God with his life.  We thank Andy for taking the time to write this for us.

We’re writing a book!

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Hey everyone! Shannon and Orin are excited to announce that… wait for it… we’re writing a book! If you had not guessed from the title of this post, seeing some news on social media that led you here, or from this super-cool graphic, we’ll say it again – we’re writing a book!

It will be published next July by Twenty-Third Publications, a division of Bayard which specializes in books and devotionals for nourishing your spirituality and celebrating the liturgical year, as well as the newest resources to help you lead and guide your parish community.

Our book has a working title of “Praying and Living the Faith Through the Year” and is a collection of twenty interactive prayer services on various Church themes and celebrations as well as other special times during a school year. Each service has suggested music, prayers, scripture, and interactive, prayerful activities to help bring faith to life. While the “target audience” for this book is middle-school-aged youth and those that minister to them, this collection should also be useful for other ages, as well as other situations, like youth ministry and family units.

Here’s the rundown (for now) on “chapters” the resource will have:

• Welcome to Teachers/Staff/Students (Community)
• For Grandparents (Generations, Wisdom)
• At a time of tragedy (Consolation)
• All Saints (Communion of Saints)
• All Souls (Deceased Family and Friends, Tradition)
• Thanksgiving (Gratitude to God)
• Christ the King (Dominion, Sovereignty)
• Advent (Waiting in Joyful Hope)
• Immaculate Conception / Guadalupe (Mary, Dignity)
• Christmas (Incarnation)
• Discipleship (Learning, Following)
• Before an Exam (Peace, Assurance)
• Ash Wednesday (Repentance)
• Lent (Returning to God, Conversion)
• Holy Week (Suffering, Obedience, Cross)
• Easter (Resurrection, New Life)
• Mercy (Divine Mercy)
• Ascension (Church and Our Mission)
• Pentecost (Holy Sprit, Gifts of the Spirit)
• At Graduation (Transitions)

Each chapter will also include some introductory material from us, for those putting together each service.

We feel this resource will pull together strongly many aspects of Oddwalk’s varied ministries – storytelling, humor, prayer, music, retreats – and hopefully be a welcome and successful resource for many folks helping to lead the young Church on their journeys to and with God.

Watch this space for more updates, especially as the project gets closer to completion! We can’t be more excited to be working with 23rd, and can’t wait for you to be able to hold this book in your hands – and use it!

Joy at NPM

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Hi all, Orin here, continuing his usual busy summer of acronyms: a couple weeks ago was YSP, this week is the annual convention for NPM, National Association of Pastoral Musicians.  (Next week is another YNIA which Shannon and I will do together, Shannon already told you about one of those.) Anyway, yesterday was travel day, which is why this Jesus-Justice-Joy post is a day later than usual.

Just as YSP brought me a certain joy (which a tired me told you a tiny bit about in a video), every year NPM brings me a joy as well. While of course I am a church music director in addition to my Oddwalk fun, I’m here this week also as a composer of music for the Church as well.

Here’s a photo from the exhibit hall last night of a book from GIA that both Shannon and I have songs published in, called Crossgeneration.

 

Knowing it’s selfish mostly, it does bring me a bit of joy to see that music that I and Shannon have written in print – but beyond my own ego, part of that joy is it being still available to the wider Church to help them pray in song. (I hope to sneak photos of other octavos in print with WLP and OCP later today!)

Another joy this week is being able to reconnect in person with so many other composers I have gotten to know over recent years. There is a certain fellowship and camaraderie in that particular group of people, with a particular ministry to and for the Church.  Here are a few of us out to dinner last night, photo credit to Kate Basi.

 

Sharp eyes will see my wife Erin in the photo. Another joy is being able to spend a chunk of this week with her, taking a little personal time here and there to just be us, away from home and most of the responsibilities and worries there.

All of these joys are rooted in Christ and my faith in him.  It is Christ who gathers, who forms community, and gives us talents to praise him in song.  St. Augustine purportedly once said that “The one who sings prays twice.”  If so – and I think that’s right – there’s a whole lotta prayin’ goin’ on in Cincinnati this week at NPM.  Thanks for reading!  —Orin

That’s Extraordinary!

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In case you forgot…

You know what ordinal numbers are, right? Well, you probably do even if you don’t know that’s what they’re called. Ordinal numbers are the ones we put st, nd, and rd behind: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. They’re the ones that describe the position of something, usually in a list.

Ordinal numbers are the reason that the upcoming 6 month stretch of the Church year is called Ordinary Time — you know, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time and all that. Now, Ordinary Time following Pentecost does start with the celebrations of the Holy Trinity and the Most Holy Body and Blood, but it’s still Ordinary Time.

The point is, it’s not Ordinary Time, as in something commonplace or normal; it’s not Ordinary Time because it’s not Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter; it *is* Ordinary Time because the Sundays and weeks are counted. That’s all.

Yet, I knew one priest years ago who insisted on calling it “Extraordinary Time.” He didn’t get into all the mumbo-jumbo about ordinal numbers, he simply referenced what is indeed true about all these coming Sundays, particularly the Gospel passages we will hear at those Masses. The Gospels are always about what Jesus said and did in this world; these upcoming Ordinary Time Gospels are all about Jesus teaching us to be disciples. That’s why this particular priest liked the expression “Extraordinary Time.” It’s a 6 month length of time where, if we pay attention and are open, Jesus teaches us still today what it means to be his follower and his witness in a modern world.

I don’t know that I personally like the expression, but I appreciate the motivation behind it. How will this summer be extraordinary for you, as a person of faith, as we count our way through many weeks of Ordinary Time? I suggest by really focusing on what Jesus teaches his faithful Sunday after Sunday, and living it each week to the best of our abilities. Happy Summer everyone!

—Orin

Apostle to the Apostles

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Icon of Mary Magdalene and the Apostles

Easter greetings everyone. While pondering recently what to write about today, I noticed several pieces on social media, as we celebrate these early days of Eastertide, raising Mary Magdalene up as an important part of our faith owing to her role in life of Christ.

The first rightly observes that, without her preaching the risen Lord to the Apostles, Easter Day would have been, and would be, very different. She is often called “The First Apostle” or “Apostle to the Apostles” with good reason.

 

 

 

 

Seen retweeted a few times…

The second suggests at least a darker possibility: that because such an important role in the resurrection story fell to a woman, some unnamed unknown men of the Church attempted to devalue her worth by conflating her with adulterous women found elsewhere in the Gospels – a practice that lately has been found without merit.

So today, as our weekly articles turn their attention to Justice, let us turn our attention to women of the Church. I don’t wish to enter the fray at this moment as to the roles of women in the Church – liturgically or otherwise. I do wish to point out that, as such discussions occur, we should all be mindful to not devalue someone – anyone – by seeing them in such a limited capacity: that one’s worth is defined only by something amazing they did on their best day or by something horrible done on their worst day; that one’s worth is defined only by their capacity to give birth or their inability to; that one’s worth is defined merely by things we discern with our human senses.

Our value, our Christian dignity, comes from our creation by God in God’s image and likeness, and that God comes to dwell in us: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor. 6:19) Notably, the scripture doesn’t delineate here based on gender or any other divisions.

This worth comes with two other important attributes. First, it can’t be taken away from us unless we so permit that to happen. As long as we remember who we are in God’s eyes, the opinions, the labels, the divisions that humanity creates matter far less, if they matter at all. Second, once we train ourselves to know this worth both in ourselves and in one other, the world becomes a very different place – a place of justice, love, and peace.

Continued Easter blessings, Oddwalkia. Celebrate the risen lord with joy and gladness in your hearts!

–Orin

Almost There!

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We’re sure all of you will be excited to learn that our website is nearing the 60,000 visitor threshold.  We’ll wait for you to stop shouting for joy…

…seriously, you’re embarrassing yourself…

…better? Good.

To celebrate this milestone, we are planning to write a song about the 60,000th visitor.  We will then post a video of that song for the world to see.  In writing the song, we’ll take a few facts about the visitor-in-question and then make up the rest.  If you need this in your life, be sure to pay attention to the stat counter towards the bottom of the left-hand column on our website, http://oddwalkministries.com/oddblog

It looks like this:

 

Once we determine the winner, we will try and contact that person about their…um…prize.

Happy clicking!

Don’t let the word get out, but…

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I’ve always been uncomfortable with – and also not so good at – self-promotion.  Whether it’s the various ministries Oddwalk offers, or perhaps a piece of music I’ve written for the Church, or most anything else, it’s difficult for me to be too forthcoming about it.  For me, it’s a number of factors that come…