David Ancell's Virtual Home

I’m Still Here

  /   Tuesday, April 27, 2021   /   Comments(0)

It has been busy around here lately, but I have not given up blogging.  In the meantime, if you’d like, you can listen to the latest version of my RCIA talk on the Church’s teaching on human life (click here for the handout).  This year, I gave all three of my talks over Zoom, but I have a new microphone that lets me connect it to my computer via USB and then run another connection into an audio recorder using an XLR cable (the standard cable for connecting microphones).  I liked it because it let me record myself but no one else.  That way, anyone who didn’t want to be recorded wasn’t going to be recorded.

Anyway, hopefully you’ll hear more from me soon.

Category: News on My Life

More Catholic Virtual Conferences

  /   Thursday, April 30, 2020   /   Comments(0)

After having made my previous post about some Catholic virtual conferences and retreats, I’ve been made aware of more events that I wanted to share.  While I do not believe that attending virtual events is a substitute for getting away to a real retreat or conference, it’s great to have these available.  Besides, there are advantages.  These conferences can reach more people, and people who would not take the time to go to a live conference may tune in and be evangelized (and then maybe go to a live conference or retreat later).

There will be a free Catholic Family Conference on May 1st and 2nd.  My wife and I plan to “attend” this conference this weekend.  They request, but do not require, a $10 per family ($5 individual) donation to help cover costs. It looks like there are some great speakers lined up.

However, from a technical and logistic standpoint, this conference is not the kind of format I’d recommend if asked by a presenter (more on this in a future post).  It appears to require a third-party app for your mobile device (update: I later found you could view in a web browser, but I still don’t like the Crowdcast tool.).  The format, from what I am seeing, is a live format, and I don’t see any word on whether the talks will be available in any form later (update: They are offering MP3 downloads for sale.).  This works fine for a live conference where the participants are at a certain venue, but it doesn’t work as well for a virtual conference.  Still, I am going to be there as it looks like a great conference!

If that isn’t enough for you, there will be a virtual Theology of the Body Conference the next weekend, May 8 – 10.  This appears to be the same format as the Virtual Catholic Conference, and that has been my favorite virtual event format so far.  Like the Virtual Catholic Conference, it is free to attend during the conference weekend, but you will need to buy a premium pass to access the conference after that.  Right now, the premium pass is available at a significant discount.  Once again, it looks like a great lineup of speakers, and it is sponsored by the Theology of the Body Institute.

I’ve also received an e-mail about a Be Not Afraid conference.  From what I’m reading, the actual conference is over but still accessible for free (but with donations accepted).  It is self-paced.  I’m not familiar with most of the speakers, but the ones that I am familiar with are ones whom I know to be good Catholic speakers.

Don’t miss these opportunities to grow in your faith during this time!

Category: Catholic, Events

Virtual Opportunities to Grow in Faith

  /   Sunday, April 19, 2020   /   Comment(1)

We’ve been through a most unusual Lent that has unfortunately extended into Easter this year.  Of all kinds of fasting that one make undertake, I never imagined I’d be fasting from the Eucharist and certainly not for this long.  Of course, with this being the case, retreats and conferences everywhere are being cancelled.  Thankfully, by the providence of God, there are some virtual opportunities available to grow in faith (most of these were discovered by my wife).  At any other time in history before now, it’s not likely we’d have these available.  While I think it’s still better we get away to a real retreat once this is over, virtual opportunities, combined with being basically stuck at home, may give you more opportunity for listening to good Catholic talks and learning more about the faith that you otherwise would have had.

Please keep in mind that some of these offerings are being given for free, at least to some extent.  However, many of these speakers make a substantial amount of their living doing speaking.  With retreats and conferences being cancelled, it’s going to have a big effect on the money they have coming in.  If you are able, please consider making a donation where accepted.  If not, then please just pray for everyone who is offering the talks (actually, pray for them even if you donate).

One great offering comes from the Carmelite sisters at Sacred Heart Retreat House in California. The Carmelites have had to close their retreat house and cancel their retreats due to COVID-19, but they still wanted to offer virtual retreats.  There was one this past weekend, and this coming weekend they are offering another one given by Fr Bryce Sibley. I went to a men’s retreat he gave a couple of years ago, and I’d highly recommend him as a retreat director.

Interestingly, the Sacred Heart Retreat House has a registration deadline for being a part of the virtual retreat, and they e-mail the link to each talk at a certain time that they want you to listen.  I can understand that they are trying to keep a normal retreat schedule, but I’ve found that this is extremely difficult to keep to for a house with kids in it. I prefer a “listen when you can” approach.  However, you can get the talks later from their podcast.  Besides, the retreat is free, and last week’s retreat was really good.

Next on the list is the Ignited by Truth conference. My wife and I went to the live conference when we lived in the Raleigh-Durham area. Since they couldn’t hold their normal conference, they were nice enough to do a free virtual conference, with six hours of content, this past Saturday.  Oh, and they’ve kept it available for free on YouTube.  If a six-hour YouTube video is a bit intimidating, be sure to check the show notes where they’ve been nice enough to outline when in the video is each talk.  My favorite talk was the first one, but the others are well worth a listen.

Probably the first virtual conference I went to was the Virtual Catholic Conference.  It was fantastically well done, and during the weekend of April 3rd – 5th, it was free.  The free conference time has passed, but it’s still possible to buy perpetual access to the site (though it’s a bit expensive in my view). They got together about 60 speakers, including some very well known ones, to video themselves doing 20 minute talks.  On many of them, you can tell they were just in their homes recording on whatever they had, but that’s part of the charm.

On the site, you can choose what you want to listen to and when.  Most of the talks stood on their own.  I think this conference provides a good example for any parish that has a good core group of people who can teach and would like to put together their own virtual conference or retreat on YouTube or Vimeo (Note that videos can be made “unlisted” in YouTube in case a parish prefers to share with only their own parishioners.).

If you are looking for something a bit more Thomistic and intellectual, try the Thomistic Institute’s Quarantine Lectures. They are short but packed with intellectual material.  If you want to catch up on what you missed, they are posted on their YouTube channel.  You can watch them for free.

There are a number of other places to go that have been around even before the quarantine.  Ascension Presents has a number of good talks in popular style.  They also stream Fr Mike Schmitz’s Mass on Sunday mornings if you were looking for a Mass to watch.  Franciscan University of Steubenville also posts many talks from past conferences on YouTube.  Of course, the YouTube videos are free to watch, but you can also buy MP3s to download in their store if you want.  The president of the Franciscan University, Fr Dave Pivonka, is offering a Metanoia program through The Ministry of the Wild Goose.

One of my favorite places to make a retreat is Casa Maria, run by the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word.  There are a lot of talks available to listen to for free.  If you want to listen to a complete retreat, you can buy the MP3s for a reasonable price.  They have some really great speakers, and the sisters are a very faithful to the Church and very joyful people.  I hope I’ll get back down there before too long.

Unfortunately, there’s one ministry that I’d have to put in the “what not to do” category.  I won’t link to them here, nor will I mention their names.  They are otherwise doing some great work, but they put a retreat online, not for sale, but for rent on Vimeo.  It’s $50 for only 30 days of access with no option to buy perpetual access or a download.  Really, seriously?  There ain’t no way I’m going to pay that amount of money to have access for only a limited amount of time!  There’s nothing wrong with rental offerings in and of themselves, but, for example, EWTN offers video purchases but then offers rental for a lower price. If this apostolate offered a purchase option, I might even pay more than they are asking for the rental.

So, take time during this rather unusual time in our lives to grow closer to Christ.

Category: Catholic, Response

Well, The World Did Sort Of Stop

  /   Saturday, April 11, 2020   /   Comment(1)

A couple of years ago, I posted an article that I named Why Doesn’t the World Stop on this blog. I was talking about the world-changing events that we celebrate during the Easter Triduum.  It’s Holy Saturday as I write this after not having posted for a long time.  With the COVID 19 threat looming over us, I guess the world did sort of stop (except, of course, for essential businesses).  It is definitely not business as usual.  The problem is that even our churches our closed, but I plan to write more on that later.

I’m not one to claim that COVID 19 is a punishment from God.  I do not have knowledge of such things, nor will I claim to have.  However, I do think that God wants us to use this time to stop our normal busyness and hyperactivity to take the time to be able to reflect.  It may be that permanent changes in our lives for the better are going to result from this.  I, for one, am grateful to not have to waste 2 – 3 hours or more of my life commuting every day.

If you haven’t done much reflecting, this Holy Saturday is a perfect time to do so.  Even if we weren’t under the coronavirus threat, there wouldn’t be a Mass to go to right at this moment (at least not until the Easter Vigil).  The Eucharist can only be given as viaticum, and no other Sacraments may be celebrated except Penance and Anointing of the Sick (Yes, Confessions may be heard during the Triduum.).  On Holy Saturday, we remember when Jesus was in the tomb.  Fasting, though not required, is recommended.  Certainly the early Easter celebrations and the attending of venues of entertainment are out of character for this day.

This year, needless to say, is different in that the faithful will not be able to participate in a public celebration of Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday Mass.  In a sense, we will be waiting at the tomb and doing our own kind of penance.  However, with this comes some opportunities that we might not otherwise have.  I remember hearing on one podcast that we all said we needed more family time, and now that we have it, we have decided our old schedule was just fine.

For those of you who have families, this is a great time to strengthen your relationships.  For all of us, it should be a time to spend alone with God.  We can reach out to each other through all of the technology we have.  The fact is that it’s here for a reason even though our current crisis will definitely highlight how it is not enough.  At this point, it’s what we have.  Instead of longing to go back to the way things were before, we can take this time to think of how we want our lives to change and grow closer to God.  This isn’t going to be easy, and who knows when it will end.  Let’s pray for each other and for an end to this crisis, and let’s trust that God will bring good out of all of this.

Category: Catholic, Spirituality

The Four Last Things in RCIA

  /   Sunday, March 31, 2019   /   Comments(0)

Last Monday, once again I got to speak to the RCIA.  This time the talk was about the Four Last Things – death, judgment, Heaven, and Hell.  I also included Purgatory even though it technically isn’t one of the last things because it won’t exist for all eternity.  I have been wanting to get to do this one for years and finally got the chance!

This time, I tried to record the live talk, but some of it was lost due to a technical difficulty.  I re-recorded that part and included it in its place in the link below.

Click here to download the talk in MP3 format.

Click here to download the handout in PDF format.

In an effort to make some extra resources easier to access, here are clickable links to the resources mentioned in the handout (and a couple that aren’t there):

Let Us Make Good Use of Time – this is the opening meditation we used before the talk

Grace: What It Is and What It Does

CDF document on burial and cremation

Recommended book – A Map of Life by Frank Sheed (not just about the Four Last Things, but an excellent book)

Previous posts of mine:

Please Don’t Say This When I Die

The Weight of Sin and the Truth of Purgatory

Category: Catholic

Doing Some Teaching

  /   Wednesday, January 16, 2019   /   Comments(0)

I have always enjoyed teaching, especially teaching the Catholic Faith. I did a few talks years ago and have had the opportunity to do a couple this month for those in the RCIA at my parish.  I’ll do another one in March.  I did not record the live talks that I did, but in an effort to prepare, I recorded a practice round of each talk and decided to make it available for download as an MP3 if anyone is interested.

Dignity of the Human Person and Sanctity of Human Life
Although I didn’t get a handout made in time for the talk, I made one with my references that i used.  It’s available here.

Catholic Social Teaching
The handout for this one is here.  After giving this practice round, I realized a missed some important points that I added to my notes before I gave the talk.  They are:

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these talks.  I look forward to doing one more teaching in March on the Four Last Things (Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell) and also Purgatory (which isn’t a last thing because it won’t exist for all eternity).  I’ve been wanting to do that one for years, and I finally have the opportunity!

Category: Catholic

The Depth of the Scandal

  /   Sunday, August 26, 2018   /   Comments(0)

I first started blogging right around the time the news of the sexual abuse scandal hit in 2002. You can go back in the archives and see my perspective back then as a single man in his late 20s with no children. In light of recent news stories, here I am now taking this topic up again as a 40-something with a wife and children.

I am hoping I can convey what I want to say without making it look like I am downplaying the absolutely heinous nature of the crimes committed against the victims of the scandal. These things should not be tolerated in the Church, and I think what Fr Dwight Longenecker wrote is a good example of how the problem needs to be handled. I’m especially disgusted at how someone like Archbishop McCarrick could be promoted the way he has been despite his conduct, and there really needs to be an investigation into who knew what and when and what they did about it. However, what needs to be understood is that, as demonic as the sexual abuse is, there is more to the problem in the Church than sexual abuse.

When I have heard people say that the Church doesn’t have a higher incidence of sexual abuse than the rest of society, it underscores the problem for me. The problem is that those who were supposed to be preaching the Gospel followed what our society was doing rather than led it. The light of the world was hidden under a bushel basket. When I hear people complaining about the teachings of the Church in light of the abuse scandal, I know that the real problem was that the teachings on human sexuality weren’t really taught or insisted upon and were sometimes disregarded by those in authority.

One definite component of the problem is enforcement. This article by Phil Lawler from 2002 said something that I had noticed but often wasn’t sure how to articulate. This is more evident when you take a look around the Church and see what else was allowed to slide.

Dissenters against the Faith were allowed to continue to use our own forums as a platform for dissent against established teachings. Our Catholic schools and universities largely sold out to the secular world, and nothing was really done about it. The celebration of Mass in many parishes became filled with saccharine instead of true beauty.

Resources and programs for formation in the Faith were lame at best. Just imagine trying to explain to someone wanting to learn the Catholic Faith that you can’t rely on the official parish or diocesan program to tell you what you really need to know. That was often the case then and is probably still the case now in a number of places. With all of this going on, how surprising was it that even criminal misconduct got swept under the rug?

With all of this said, the problem, and therefore the solution, is something deeper than mere enforcement of rules or the lack thereof. The problem is a lack of faith. There are plenty who will write suggesting “reforms” that are essentially changes to the Church to make her more like the secular world. This is not what we need.

All of us, from our Pope and our bishops to the laity, need to have an authentic faith in what has been revealed by God. Our shepherds need to insist that the faith be lived by those who wish to be called faithful, and the faithful need to insist that our shepherds proclaim the Catholic Faith as it is. Any action taken must address the problem in it’s entirely and must be taken with the salvation of souls in mind. We don’t need statements made and committees formed as though we were a spineless and soulless corporation. We are the Church that Christ founded, and we need to act like it. We will all be held accountable by God himself.

Category: News, Response

You Can’t Just Pray It Away

  /   Tuesday, June 12, 2018   /   Comments(0)

Articles about depression and suicide are coming across my news feeds in the wake of the recent, tragic suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. To be honest, I’m not that familiar with either of them, but it’s my long-standing habit to say a prayer for the soul of anyone whose death I hear about. It’s difficult for me to imagine what must be going through anyone’s mind to decide that taking his or her own life is the best way out. The old saying that kept coming up on the TV ads when I was growing up was that “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” However, someone with a mental or emotional problem is going to have a hard time seeing it that way.

We may not want to simply follow the whims of the media, but this is a great time to examine our attitudes as Catholics towards people with emotional or mental disorders. It seems that there are a number of devout Catholics who will over-spiritualize mental disorders. I have even heard a priest talk about how one doesn’t need a counselor but need only say the Rosary. There exists a misconception that the feelings that accompany mental illness are in and of themselves sinful or are purely caused by sin or some other spiritual fault. Someone with anxiety is assumed to not be trusting in God enough; maybe the person with depression isn’t praying enough.

Another form of this extreme is to attribute all mental illness to some activity of demons or even of the Devil himself. Someone who believes this may simply tell someone to pray, go to some deliverance ministry, or even undergo an exorcism. While genuine diabolical activity does exist and may mimic a mental health disorder, making such an assumption without a proper evaluation can be downright dangerous.

The fact is that being a faithful Catholic is not automatic insulation from mental or emotional health problems. Even if it were, how many of us live out our faith so perfectly that we can avoid every problem? Genuine problems can occur with people’s minds, and these problems will require not just prayer, Sacraments, and spiritual direction (though all of these should be used) but also professional mental health treatment. As Catholics it’s our job to support our brothers and sisters who are experiencing these problems and not be dismissive of them.

We must also be careful not to view the problem from a completely secular perspective and to disregard the spiritual component of the problem that may exist (though some disorders may in fact be mostly if not completely biological). This is shown when someone is merely put on medication with no effort to look at the person’s life and behavior. Prayer and the Sacraments end up playing no part in treatment because they are simply viewed as not relevant. No consideration is given to the idea that there may be some sin involved because that would be a form of “blaming the victim.” I am not trying to condone making a quick, armchair diagnosis here but to say that we need to consider all aspects here. Christ does have real power to heal and will use it.

We have body, mind, and spirit all working together, and problems that arise can easily have more than one dimension. If we fail to address part of the problem, we will unnecessarily limit the healing that someone can experience. I think I can safely say that, no matter what the cause, we want people to experience healing. They have to want it, too, but our own approach can be instrumental in bringing this about.

Category: Catholic, Response, Uncategorized

Why Doesn’t the World Stop?

  /   Saturday, March 31, 2018   /   Comments(0)

I haven’t been writing for a while, and this Easter Triduum, I had felt inspired to write something that has gone through my mind for years. The Triduum is the most holy time of year. We are celebrating the events of our redemption. Yes, we are talking about the very events that allow us to be united with God himself, the entire purpose of our life. This is shown very well in the solemn liturgies of these three days.

When I was single, I remember driving to and from the church in the evening on Germantown Parkway, a busy six lane road in Memphis. It seemed to me that people around me were just carrying on life as normal. Maybe they were headed to watch a movie or for a night out somewhere. Everything felt so odd considering what was going on.

I couldn’t help but wonder – how can people carry on business as usual? Why doesn’t the world stop? Even when I went to church, and the liturgy would call for a silent departure, people would start their conversations right away as they were leaving. Could they not just wait five minutes and let there be silence to reflect on what we are remembering this day?

The events of Good Friday are a good reminder that this is how we treat Our Lord. The people of this day were met by God in human flesh, and they crucified him. Today, indifference towards him is a huge problem. Jesus endured the most painful, humiliating method of execution to show how much he really loves us and, of course, to bring about our redemption. Yet, it is difficult to find a place in our everyday society where he is honored.

We are now at Holy Saturday. This is a very silent time in the Church. We know about the service on Good Friday not being a Mass, but on Holy Saturday, there is no service of any kind at all until Easter Vigil. It’s a time of waiting, fasting, and prayer. It’s recommended, though not required, to continue fasting until Easter Vigil.

Maybe you could think of Holy Saturday as a time of mourning as we are meditating on Christ in the tomb. However, we know how the story ends. The disciples of Jesus’ day would have heard Jesus say that he would rise from the dead, but we already know that it did, in fact, happen. We have only to await the time to celebrate it once again with great joy. Let’s not waste this special opportunity to reflect on the great love shown to us by God so that we can share it with the world that does not know him.

Category: Uncategorized

My Tech Updates – Banktivity 6 and Things 3

  /   Wednesday, October 25, 2017   /   Comments(0)

I’m shifting gears with today’s blog and talking about the technology that I use. Although I have a Catholic focus to what I write and produce, I like to add some other topics in my life, especially technology. I’ve bought updates to a couple of software programs in the past year, Banktivity 6 (formerly iBank) (Amazon purchase link here) and Things 3, and I’d like to review them. Banktivity is a personal finance app, and we use it as our electronic check book and to record and reconcile all our credit card transactions. Things is a to do list app.

I have used Banktivity (formerly iBank) 4 and later 5 for years. To be honest, I hated Banktivity 5. There just wasn’t anything better for me to use for Mac. Quicken for Mac was known for being expensive and far inferior to the Windows version. Other software options didn’t appear to have a large following, so it was hard to say how viable they would be long-term.

There was one main feature of Banktivity that has really helped us manage money in our house – envelope budgeting. If IGG software ever takes this out, I’m not buying their software! It allows me to take my paycheck and allocate it to each budget item. If we overspend, we can move money from another area. If we have money left, we can roll it over for next month or move it somewhere else. The money stays where you put it until you move it or spend it. The budget is then based on money that actually came in. When we bought something on a credit card, we entered in the transaction, and the amount was immediately deducted from our budget. We knew what we had spent before the credit card bills showed up. Oh, and for the record, my wife and I completely disagree with Dave Ramsey on credit card use, and recording every transaction like we do is one way to keep from overdoing it on the credit cards.

However, Banktivity 5 was very slow and clunky. Syncing with mobile devices or cloud sync took forever. Also, they forced us to use cloud sync rather than continuing to support wifi sync on a local network, and I didn’t care for that. When reconciling accounts, the hard drive cranked every time I clicked on an item to show that it was cleared, slowing everything down. Keep in mind that this is something that had to be done repeatedly, so it could take quite a bit of time. The program also seemed a little less than reliable and would sometimes lock up, causing me to have to restart it.

Now, I’ve upgraded to Banktivity 6. I’m enjoying using Banktivity again. The look and feel of the software is worlds better. There’s a new screen for entering transactions that is much nicer to navigate. Reconciling an account is much faster as the hard drive no longer cranks when I click an item. As for syncing, well, wifi sync is gone forever, but the cloud sync is lightning fast. Envelope budgeting is still there and works just fine. In fact, I think it works better than before. There may be a bunch of other features that Banktivity has, but just the performance and aesthetic improvements are a real breath of fresh air.

Now, if only they’d make similar improvements to their mobile apps. I had been hanging on to the original version of iBank for iOS because of the wifi syncing, and it was so much more efficient to use. With my upgrade to iOS 11, the original app no longer worked. The new version of Banktivity for iPhone (iPad app is separate, and I don’t use it enough to review.) is mind-numbingly slow. It takes a long time to load your file once you boot up the app, and it is also slow to open up the entry screen when you click the button. Once you do click it, the data entry screen that pops up at first is missing several options, making you go to another screen if you need to use them. The strange part is that it syncs with the cloud service when you open the app, but not after entering a transaction unless you manually request it to do so. This means that you either have to remember to do it, or your transactions will be a little out of sync. I really hope IGG will make significant improvements to the mobile apps just like they did for the MacOS app. It’s usable, but it could be so much better.

Now, let’s move on to Things 3. When I first bought the upgrade for my iPhone and my iPad (They are separate apps.) and installed them, I wondered what was going on. It seemed like a downgrade to my workflow. Then, I read this article on Cultured Code’s web site. The things that I needed (no pun intended) were still there. They were just a little different.

I really liked the way Things 2 worked. Once I entered a to do item, I would enter the due date and then tell the app how many days before that date to show in the section of the app named “Today.” This meant that I could cause items to appear in that list when I wanted to start thinking about them again. I thought this was gone in Things 3, and I hated it. However, it turns out that it was replaced by something better. Now, you set a “Jump Start” date that will be the day that the item appears on your Today list. You can still set a deadline, but that’s another step. The beauty of this is that you can set a date to start working on something but not set a deadline if you wish. Oh, and you can now set a reminder to pop up at a certain time, but only on the Jump Start date, and you can’t make it a repeating reminder.

The app has some new look and feel improvements also. It has long allowed you to create a project with multiple to do items under it. Now, you can create headings within the project to allow you to organize the to do items better. You can also make sub-items under any to do item that you create. I haven’t used this feature much, but there will be times when I need it.

It’s not perfect, though. I’d like a way to view all of my to dos on one scrolling screen. Currently, Today items are on a separate screen from items that will be started later, and you have to flip back and forth to see everything. I always like to minimize flipping around. Also, the Upcoming items are shown by date, and often there are empty days showing that require you to scroll down further to see a future item on your list. If you are looking a week out, you could easily miss something because you didn’t scroll down far enough. Anything with no date on it is on yet another screen. I think it’s fine to have these separate screens, but I’d like an “Everything” screen to be available.

Finally, the app is quite expensive. I still haven’t bought the MacOS app yet, and at $50, I’m not sure that I will. The iPhone app is $10, and the iPad app is $20. However, they provide a free syncing service that allows you to sync the Mac, iPhone and iPad app. Still, this app has really helped me get things done that I had been forgetting about for months, and now that I understand how it works, the upgrade is definitely an improvement.

I’ve got a few more things that I’m doing that I plan to post when I get the chance. I’m working on podcasts, doing another vlog and mini-review on YouTube, and hope to write more blogs on some different topics. Although this blog has a Catholic focus, I do think that including some more day to day practical life things is helpful as they can be tools in fulfilling our God-given vocation.

Category: Technology

            Older posts

David's Pages

RSS Feed
Atom Feed