Saturday, September 29, 2012

Robert Hugh Benson and The Lord of the World

Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson was and unlikely candidate for the Catholic priesthood. An Anglican priest and the son of the Archbishop of Canterbury, he converted to Catholicism on September 11, 1903.  I first read about Msgr. Benson when Paul, who comments on this blog, sent me the book Literary Converts by Joseph Pearce. 

This was the first time I had read about Msgr. Benson, but I had heard his name before, and, indeed, I owned one of his books, Come Rack! Come Rope! It was something I had picked up at a homeschool book sale because I had heard it recommended, but I had never opened it. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that because I had read the name of the book as Come Back! Come Rope!, I thought that it was about cowboys instead of what it is really about which is recusant Catholics in the time of Elizabeth I.

However, this is the main book I want to talk about today, Lord of the World. This novel was published in 1907. It is about the end of the world which, I am sorry to have to tell you, is, according to the book, upon us even now, indeed, it may have already happened,

Msgr. Benson writes in his preface:
I am perfectly aware that this is a terribly sensational book, and open to innumerable criticisms on that account, as well as on many others.
But I did not know how else to express the principles I desired (and which I passionately believe to be true) except by producing their lines to a sensational point. I have tried, however, not to scream unduly loud, and to retain, so far as possible, reverence and consideration for the opinions of other people. Whether I have succeeded in that attempt is quite another matter.
The concerns that Msgr. Benson addresses in his book are very real even though his predictions are premature. He sees Communism as an immediate threat even though the novel was written ten years before the October Revolution. The fall of Europe to Communism in the book takes place in 1917-18. There is a Prologue which consists of a conversation between three men, one of whom is very old and who is explaining the history of the 20th century. The prologue is meant, no doubt to help us approach the novel with some understanding, but I found it rather confusing because I couldn't find a place of reference.

As Advent, the first section of the novel, begins, we find Oliver Brand looking out over the city of London. He is enamored in every way with the efficient Materialistic Communist world in which he lives. He holds an important position in the government and is, at the moment concerned that there will be war with the East. There are rumors, though, about a man who may be able to bring peace between East and West, Julian Felsenburgh. Felsenburgh is an enigma. He is an American, but that is the extent of anything that can be found out about him. He has appeared on the scene very recently, but seems to have access to all the powerful of the world. Wherever he goes, people, leaders, nations seem to fall quickly in with his plans. His mere appearance is enough to convert the masses. After successfully settling the crisis in the East, he comes to London in triumph and accepts the position of President of Europe, Europe consisting of all of Europe, Russia up to the Ural Mountains, and Africa.

The only obstacle to Felsenburgh's complete domination is the Catholic Church. The sole surviving Christian church, the Catholic Church, is beleaguered, barely surviving. As people become comfortable in the materialist society, they begin to see the Faith as something they have outgrown. Lay people, priests, even bishops are defecting to the Quietistic Humanism that is acceptable in the new society with it's core belief is that Man is god.

We see the story of the Church through the eyes of Fr. Percy Frankin, who is a physical clone of Felsenburgh. It is Franklin's job to keep the Cardinal Protectorate of England informed of all that he observes of the currents within and without the Church in England. As the book progresses, he moves to Rome where he is attached to the Vatican, and oversees a new religious order, The Order of Christ Crucified. This order without "badge, habit or insignia" has for it's rule the three Evangelical Counsels, poverty, chastity and obedience, and, "...a fourth intention, namely, that of a desire to receive the crown of martyrdom and a purpose of embracing it." They go throughout the world doing whatever needs to be done for the defense of the Faith.

In the beginning of Felsenburgh's reign, there is a toleration of Catholicism, although there is a fear of persecution and Catholics are treated with scorn. They are allowed to worship on Sundays but have no say in public affairs. Felsenburgh soon initiates a new order of Divine Worhip. Four festivals will be celebrated, "...Maternity, Life, Sustenance and Paternity, celebrated on the first day of each quarter."  Attendance is mandatory, but the punishment for not attending is light--at least at first. The ritual, " based almost entirely upon that of the Masons," and presided over by an apostate Catholic priest. Soon Felsenburgh begins to acquire new titles: the Son of Man, Saviour of the World, Incarnate God. "Oh, to have a Saviour at last!" cries the Master of Ceremonies.

There is a great deal in Lord of the World that seems ominously familiar. We aren't living in a state of complete materialism, Christians aren't quite the pariahs that they have become in this novel, but we can definitely see a trend in these directions. I mentioned shortly after I had first begun to write this post that Maclin at Light on Dark Water had written, completely coincidentally, a post about the type of world into which the Anti-Christ might come, and as I was reading it, it seemed eerily like the world that Msgr. Benson describes.

 Lord of the World isn't the world's greatest literature, but it is often compelling. The Church in the novel won't always be attractive to those of us who live in the real 21st century, but Msgr. Benson does convey the  majesty of the Church and her identity as the Body of Christ and her true role in the world. The reigning pope in the novel,
...cared, it appeared, nothing whatever for the world's opinion; his policy, so far as it could be called one, consisted in a very simple thing: he had declared in Epistle after Epistle that the object of the Church was to do glory to God by producing supernatural virtues in man, and that nothing at all was of any significance or importance except so far as it effected this object.
On a lighter note, it's interesting to see where Benson got it right and where he didn't. The characters in the book use a sort of airplane called a volor for travel, but there is no heating on the planes and the travelers must wear furs; however this inconvenience is offset by the fact that they have private compartments on the flight. The walls and floors of the homes are made from asbestos. He completely misses the feminist movement. Women seem to have no part in public life other than to accompany their husbands to events. In an interesting contrast, however, Fr. Franklin includes women in the Order of Christ Crucified. It is as though Msgr. Benson seems to think that only the Church values the contribution of women. And sadly, he sees that euthanasia will be an accepted practice.

I can't say that reading a novel in which that which we fear most has come upon us is enjoyable, but it is highly worth reading. For one thing, it helps me to get a bit of perspective about the duration of those currents in culture that seem to be coming to a head now. Long before I knew materialism existed, men were concerned about it's obvious outcomes. Our Catholic women's book club will be discussing it the week before the election. It ought to be a thought-provoking discussion.


P.S. An anonymous visitor commented that the end of Lord of the World was magnificent, and it truly is. I thought it was important enough to move that statement into the original post. I probably should have at least mention this, but I hesitate to say too much about it because I don't want to ruin it for people who might read the book. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The River

The past few years, we seem to have a year of drought followed by a year of floods. It's getting to be a fairly regular cycle. The 2011/2012 cycle has been really dramatic.

This (not the street, but the area beyond the street) is a picture of Mud Island River Park which is on a peninsula in the Mississippi River. It was taken in May of 2011 when, you may remember, there was flooding everywhere along the river. If you look right below the girder on the left, you can see a little island with tall flagpoles on it, and to the right of that a vague shape in the water.

This is a picture take from just about the same place last week. The sun was setting, so the flags are lost in the light, but you can see the pool where the odd shape was.

Here's a close up from May, 2011.

And the same area last week. Just to give you an idea of the size, and how deep the flood was, that little huddle of dark gray objects on the upper right of the pool is made up of fairly big buildings.

This is a close-up of the buildings. They are in the top right corner of the picture on the right. 

Of course, not the river has been at record lows. That break on the side of hill with the flags is about where the water line is when it's normal. I drove over a tributary of the Mississippi, the Coldwater River, the other day, and it just wasn't there. Except for one very small channel which was probably dredged out, it was completely dry. It's usually at least half a mile wide. I wish I had a picture, but I was driving on a busy expressway with no place to stop.

Lately, we've been getting a few storms, so maybe that will change soon. I hope so.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Not Likely

I was editing my "likes" on Facebook today, and I noticed that Facebook was offering me suggestions. I find this to be an extremely odd concept. They know better than I what I like?

Please don't tell me the answer to this question is yes.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Helen's Baptism

After having valiantly tried, and failed once again to complete my post about Lord of the World, I will now tell you about how Helen was baptized today for something like the 25th time, and then the 26th, 27th, and 28th. I know Catholics only baptize once, but in her case, I've had to make an exception. She isn't obdurate or anything like that, but her dollish plasticity, and lack of a soul have rendered repeated rituals ineffectual.

This is Helen. That's not the name that was given to her by my daughter, but it's the name that was chosen by the PRE class who originally christened her several years ago. Every year, or almost every year, when it's time for my class to learn about Baptism, I disinter Helen from her home in the pile of dolls in what I affectionately (heh) refer to as "the cat's bedroom," brush her off a bit, and tote her to church in the punch bowl cum baptismal font, along with other appropriate Baptismal paraphernalia that I have accumulated over the years. 

Today, there were six students present, one of them a visitor. I have mixed feelings about visitors. They are a bit lost, not having been there for previous lessons, and they sometimes take the discussion into areas where I don't particularly want to go, but the Holy Spirit blows where He wills and we just trim our sails and go along. Problem is that I don't know much about sailing.

So, I tell the children that we are going to learn about Baptism today, and the visitor chimes in, "I been baptized three times."

 "Where were you baptized?" 

"In the Catholic Church and in the Baptist Church and (someplace I don't remember)."

"Well, different churches believe different things about Baptism and we believe that you only need to be Baptized once." 

I know this isn't a great response, okay, but I'm just trying to figure out how to teach what I need to teach without making the poor kid feel bad.

So, I talk to them about how anyone can baptize someone in an emergency and I tell them how to do it. "I thought," says my guest, "that the preacher says 'Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?' and you said, "Yes," and then he says, "I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost." "Well,' says I, "that last part is the important part, and we do it the same way. That's why we believe Baptists don't have to be baptized again when they become Catholic." And then those who wished baptized Helen.

After that we had our big, formal Baptismal ceremony. "Who wants to be priest?:" Guest wants to be priest. I picture guest going home and telling his mother that at the Catholic Church today they taught him how to be a priest. Why don't we let R. (best reader) be priest? You can be the father. Then I assign the other parts and we start the ceremony. The father won't come to the font. He starts doing things to call attention to himself. He really wants to be the priest. He crawls under the table, you know, the table that has a punch bowl full of water sitting on top of it. When asked to move, he does, thank goodness. He reads the priest's part under his breath to show that he can do it better than R. Somehow or other, it manages to be quite nice anyway, and Helen gets her white garment and her candle and we wrap things up. The kids really liked the class, so I guess everything was okay.

I asked R. (who brought the guest) and the guest to stay after class for a minute and I explained that if I had let my child go to church with someone who wasn't Catholic, I would be uncomfortable with the idea of them choosing him (or her) as the pastor for something like that, and that that was the reason I hadn't let him do it. I didn't want his mother to be unhappy about anything he did in class. He said that was okay, sometimes his mother didn't care if he did bad things.


No. Don't. Disconnect.

Be with the people you're with--or alone, alone is okay.


Friday, September 21, 2012

St. Matthew the Apostle

The Calling of St. Matthew, Caravaggio

My husband loves this picture. There's a copy hanging in the hallway of a church that we often visit and he always used to stop in front of the picture and look at it intently for a while. So, I ordered him a copy and even though it turned out to be not so great, I have seen him sit and stare at it for long periods of time. He always talks about Matthew being called by Christ and not even noticing because his is so absorbed in his money. I love the man on Matthew's right, pointing to the tax collector as though he wonders if Jesus could really be calling that one.

But, of course, Matthew did respond to the call and today is his feast day. St. Bede the Venerable says in the Office of Readings:

[Jesus] saw the tax collector and, because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, he said to him: Follow me. This following meant imitating the pattern of his life—not just walking after him. Saint John tells us: Whoever says he abides in Christ ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
And [Matthew} rose and followed him.There is no reason for surprise that the tax collector abandoned earthly wealth as soon as the Lord commanded him. Nor should one be amazed that neglecting his wealth, he joined a band of men whose leader had, on Matthew’s assessment, no riches at all. Our Lord summoned Matthew by speaking to him in words. By an invisible, interior impulse flooding his mind with the light of grace, he instructed him to walk in his footsteps. In this way Matthew could understand that Christ, who was summoning him away from earthly possessions, had incorruptible treasures of heaven in his gift.
Money has never been a great temptation for me, but there are plenty of other things that consume my time and my thoughts. May we all hear that call and be flooded with that grace.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012


We are trying to obtain union with God. We want to follow the words of Christ, who was loaded with reproaches and falsely accused. Can we care then about keeping our own reputation and credit intact? The aims are irreconcilable, since they are not on the same road. When we do violence to ourselves, and try in various ways to give up our rights, then the Lord comes to the soul. Some will say: 'I have nothing to give up. I never get opportunities for denying myself.' But if anyone is really determined, I do not think the Lord will let him lose this blessing. His Majesty will arrange so many ways in which he may gain virtue that he will soon have more than he wants. All hands to the task! Set to work, I mean, on some matters of little or no consequence, as I used to do when I began. Try at least to deal with a few of them. These are the straws, as I have said, and I throw them on the fire. That is all I am good for. But the Lord accepts them all. May He be blessed for ever.
St. Teresa of Avila, The Life of Saint Teresa

The saints are so counter-cultural. Of course, the Church teaches that we do have rights, but it always seems to me that while we should insist on them for everyone else, we ought to be willing to surrender our own as our Lord did when, "...though He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave...."

Not, of course, that I'm very good at this at all. I might manage to do it sometimes but at the very same time I am congratulating myself for being so humble, and thanking God that I am not like other men. Once I heard a retreat master say that the trouble with pride was that as soon as you defeat it on one front, it jumps up and knocks you down from the back.

It's very good of Our Lord to let us know that the saints had these same problems. You can be good for nothing but throwing a few straws on the fire and still end up a Doctor of the Church. May He be blessed forever.


Monday, September 17, 2012


This is what I prefer, except sometimes I'm afraid I
won't be able to stand up again when I'm through.

Father A. is African and he says, "No stories, no excuses, just accuse yourself." Okay, that's fine with me. 

When I confess to Fr. B., I confess without story or excuse and he says, "What was going on when you did thus and so?" He wants to get to the heart of the matter so I can arm myself against the temptation next time. 

Fr. C. is an old friend. He was my pastor when the kids were little. He wants to know how Bill is, how my family is doing, and what about this or that friend. He keeps me so long that I think the people in line must hate me and wonder what kind of horrible sins I have committed since last week because most of them know that I went to Confession then, too. 

Fr. D. quotes the same scripture that I was praying about privately before Mass--not something in the scriptrues for the day. Then for my penance, he tells me to pray for the group of people that I had privately offered my Mass for that morning. He's a new pastor and I was worried whether or not he would be a good confessor. This goes a long way toward reassuring me that he will.

Fr. E. is in the box. He opens the little door, listens, gives me absolution and my penance, closes the door. That's it.  

Fr. F. was a friend before he was in seminary. He sends messages to my kids. Tell so-and-so he should go to Mass. Tell her she should start a youth group in her parish.

I've never seen Fr. G. before and he makes me feel like the woman at the well. He tells me something out of the blue that is so exactly what I need to hear that it is scary. It's not something that has anything to do with anything I've confessed. How does he know?

I know that sometimes people are confused by all the different ways that priests hear confessions and the different expectations they have from the penitents--just accuse yourself/tell me what happened then. It must be especially difficult for people who don't got to Confession very often. But, I love it. I love it! It's like having a lot of different doctors to take care of all your different kinds of ills.

This list of priests may give you the idea that I run all over the place going to Confession when, in fact, I almost always go in the same parish after Saturday morning Mass. It's the priests that move around, not me. There are always two in the parish that alternate Saturdays and then I go talk to Fr. B when I need some serious direction. Unfortunately, he is going to be out of the area for three years, so I'm not sure what I'll do about that.

I started to go to Confession weekly several years ago after listening to some tapes by Fr. Thomas Dubay. He said that there were three stages in the spiritual life and that the second was getting rid of all venial sins--the second! I don't even remember what the third was because I couldn't imagine every accomplishing the second.

And then, there was this sin that I couldn't imagine stopping because I always committed it without thinking. It had to do with saying really unkind things. How was I going to stop doing something that I didn't even realize I was going to do until it was done? So, I figured that I needed to get serious, and that I needed all the grace I could get, thus weekly Confession.  After a few weeks, I began to notice that a small space seemed to open up between the time that I had the angry thought and the time I said something. It was just long enough for me to make a decision about whether or not to say it. I actually started to make some progress in this area. I was amazed because I had been praying about this for years and years and it had seemed absolutely impossible.

Later, I missed some Saturdays for different reasons, some of them good (I was sick for about 10 weeks, for example.) and some of them not. Of course, once you get out of the habit of going every week, especially when it means you have to get up early on the one day when you don't have to get up early, it's really hard to get started again. Now, I can only go about two weeks before I can really tell the difference in my willingness to resist temptation and to pray as often as I ought, and I'm pretty sure that my poor husband can tell the difference too.

So, I've had to really struggle to get back into that habit again. Every Saturday, it's a pitched battle. Even sometimes on Friday night I start thinking that maybe I will just sleep in the next day. I have to basically lie to myself to make myself get out of bed. "Oh just get up and eat," I say, "and then if you're still tired you can go back to bed." If I can sell myself that, I've got it made because I never do go back to bed. And then when I get to Mass I wonder why I ever considered not going.

Now the reason I've said all this is not to say that I think everybody needs to go to Confession every week. I have no idea what's best for anybody else, and I think that you and the Lord can figure that out by yourselves. What I really want to say is that the confessional is not just someplace where you go to leave something behind--your sins--and get forgiven. It's also a place where you to go to take something away, something that strengthens your soul in a way that nothing else can.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Our Lady of Sorrows

Truly, O blessed Mother, a sword has pierced your heart. For only by passing through your heart could the sword enter the flesh of your Son. Indeed, after your Jesus—who belongs to everyone, but is especially yours—gave up his life, the cruel spear, which was not withheld from his lifeless body, tore open his side. Clearly it did not touch his soul and could not harm him, but it did pierce your heart. For surely his soul was no longer there, but yours could not be torn away. Thus the violence of sorrow has cut through your heart, and we rightly call you more than martyr, since the effect of compassion in you has gone beyond the endurance of physical suffering.

Or were those words, Woman, behold your Son, not more than a word to you, truly piercing your heart, cutting through to the division between soul and spirit? What an exchange! John is given to you in place of Jesus, the servant in place of the Lord, the disciple in place of the master; the son of Zebedee replaces the Son of God, a mere man replaces God himself. How could these words not pierce your most loving heart, when the mere remembrance of them breaks ours, hearts of iron and stone though they are! 

 Do not be surprised, brothers, that Mary is said to be a martyr in spirit. Let him be surprised who does not remember the words of Paul, that one of the greatest crimes of the Gentiles was that they were without love. That was far from the heart of Mary; let it be far from her servants. 

 Perhaps someone will say: “Had she not known before that he would not die?” Undoubtedly. “Did she not expect him to rise again at once?” Surely. “And still she grieved over her crucified Son?” Intensely. Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.

St. Bernard , Abbot, from the Office of Readings for the Day

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

From the time I was about four until the end of the sixth grade I lived in Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, so this was where my most important Catholic formation took place. My grandparents and my aunt and uncle with their eight children also lived in the parish, so it in my mind, it's intricately interwoven with my family. 

Oddly enough, though, I don't remember ever really thinking about what the name Our Lady of Sorrows meant. I don't remember anyone ever explaining it, nor do I remember our taking any special notice of her feast day, although we may have. 

The first thing that pops into my mind when I hear the name Our Lady of Sorrows is a gold medallion of the above image that my grandmother used to wear all the time. It was about an inch in diameter and was very nice. I've never seen another one like it. I looked on eBay and in Google images just now and didn't see anything like it. When she died, I was the only one who cared anything about it, so it came to me and I wore it all the time. By that time I was in my mid-thirties, and was familiar with the devotion. I don't have it anymore, but that's another story and it's not a sad story, so I think it's where it belongs.

There are a lot of beautiful images of Our Lady in this video. I don't find all of them appealing, but I love seeing her through the eyes of all these artists.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Sometimes Procrastination and Wastefulness Can Be a Good Thing

Last Saturday, I went to Kroger and bought among other things a cantaloupe. I brought it home and put it on the kitchen table. Bill kept saying that I should cut it up. The reason he didn't do it himself is because I am a cantaloupe cutting-up expert--really. But I am also lazy. So, there it sat, and after a while I noticed that it was not looking very nice and I threw it away.

This evening, I got an automated call from Kroger saying that I "might" have bought a cantaloupe at Kroger between August 29 and September 8 that has been recalled. They knew this because I am a loyal Kroger customer and used my Kroger card when I purchased the item (that I "might" have purchased). I'm a procrastinator and wasteful, but at least I am loyal.

I'm wondering about the people who bought their cantaloupes on August 29. Did they get salmonella? Do some of them still have their two-week old cantaloupes moldering in the drawer of their refrigerator? Do people eat two-week old cantaloupes? 

So, I'm not sure what kind of lessons we can draw from this, but I am grateful that I won't be spending the weekend in the hospital. I think I might pass on the cantaloupe for the rest of this season anyway. Not only is there a salmonella recall but they've recalled some for listeria, too. They say that listeria is dangerous for "older adults" and I do so wish they would say exactly what they mean by "older." 


The Triumph of the Cross

Basilica of San Clemente

Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified.
Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree.
And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing.
The legal bond of our sin would not be cancelled,
we should not have attained our freedom, 
we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life
and the gates of paradise would not stand open.
Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled.
St. Andrew of Crete from the Office of Reading for the day


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Trouble Commenting?

I have had several people tell me that they have had trouble commenting, so I thought I'd post something that might help.

When you click on the comments at the bottom of the post, a window should open that looks like this:

Of course, it won't have my name, but it will have yours if you are a Google blogger, in which case, you will probably not need this tutorial. I'm assuming that people who have accounts with LiveJournal or WordPress or whatever will know what to do.

The easiest thing for anyone else to do is to click on Name/URL. Then you will get this window:

You just put your name, whatever you may want to call yourself. You don't have to put your whole name or your real name if that makes you uncomfortable. The person who calls herself Grumpy Ex Pat, for example, well, that's not her real name. You can leave the URL space blank unless you have a webpage you want to share.

If that doesn't work, let me know.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Who Says a Watched Pot Never Boils

I finally finished the book I plan to write about, but since the book is about the Anti-Christ, which is pretty serious, and since my last post was so serious, I thought I would give y'all a break. If you just really can't wait to read something about the Anti-Christ, you can go to Light on Dark Water where Maclin has written a bit about him.

Well, I know that you are dying to know what today's topic is and I hate to tell you but it is a series of mysteries that I don't necessarily even recommend. It is the sort of series in which the title of the first book has a word that begins with an A, in this case Alpine Advocate and then progresses on through the alphabet for years and years until we finally reach Z.

The first Alpine mystery that I read was Alpine Legacy. Reading a series out of order like this offends my sense of harmony in the universe, indeed it makes me feel as if I might begin to disintegrate at any moment, but I wasn't planning to read any others. I was in the library a few minutes before closing time and I just grabbed something that I thought might be mildly entertaining without exercising my little gray cells at all. It was okay-ish. It didn't have a lot of bad language or explicit sex scenes. There was nothing in it to keep me awake.

Normally, I would have taken the book back to the library, hopefully before it was overdue, and never thought about Alpine murder again, but there was something about the book that intrigued me. Emma Lord, the detective in these books (Well, she's a small newspaper owner who gets involved in a lot of murders.) is a Catholic. Now this in itself isn't particularly unusual, but she talks about it frequently and the further I get into the series, the more she talks about it. She's always talking about how she has to get to Mass because it's a Holy Day, or where she is going to go to Mass on Sunday when she is out of town. Her brother is a priest. In Alpine Icon which is the last one that I read, her son, Adam, decides to become a priest. Alpine Legacy takes place during Advent and she describes her tradition of adding one figurine to her crêche each day of Advent.There is a strong pro-life message in Alpine Legacy, and in Icon, there is a running discussion of the conflict in the parish school between the Catholic parents and the newcomers to the town who are more interested in their kids getting a progressive education.

And not only is Emma Catholic, but her former lover is also Catholic Yes, the married-to-someone-else father of her 20-something year-old son is Catholic, too, and so he won't divorce his wife, who had a baby about the same time as Adam was born, even though she is an awful person and certifiably crazy to boot. Now, Emma and Tom didn't see each other at all during the years when Adam was growing up, but they do get together briefly a couple of times in the first part of the alphabet and they don't seem to have any reservations about getting out of bed and going straight to Mass. In fact, they have a little laugh together about what the people at church would think if they knew what Tom and Emma had been doing.

So, this is the thing that really fascinates me--this huge disconnect between Emma's love for her faith, and her failure to live by what the Faith teaches in this one area. And it is in just this one area. In every other way, she seems to live a pretty faithful life. Of course, we see this around us every day, but that doesn't make it any more understandable.

Still, I'm interested to see where Emma goes from here. I have to at least catch up to the place where I started, so that leaves me with Journey and Kindred before the world is once again safe for the alphabetically inclined. I'm not sure, though, if I will read all the way to Alpine Xanadu, which will be released in January or Alpine Z...........


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11, 2002

On September 11, 1973, a friend of mine gave birth to her first born son, Ricky. We were delighted and he was delightful, one of the first of the babies born to the group of friends that I had hung around with in college. Soon, of course, there were babies everywhere Ricky's mother and I and our other friends spent a lot of time together playing bridge while the babies crawled around on the floor, and in the evenings we all got together with our husbands.

Later, we were in a prayer group together, and then an intentional community, so we were around all throughout Ricky's childhood and that of his brother Chris. Later, the group drifted apart and we would only see each other at wedding and funerals and on other special occasions. 

On September 11, 2002, when the rest of the country was thinking about the first anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, I got a call from Ricky's mother saying that they had found him dead. They weren't sure exactly what it was, but some combination of drugs and alcohol. Sometime between her call and the funeral one of my daughters called to tell me about the death of one of her friends. 

Ricky's funeral was held in the parish in which we had lived for 24 years, and where our children had gone to school before we began to homeschool. As I looked around the church, I saw the parents of all those babies that had brought us so much joy, and other friends who we had met over the years, and there was not one family there who did not have at least one child that had been through some of the terrible things that young people do go through. I was so angry. I don't remember another time when I felt such grief. I could barely make it up to receive Communion, but then, I had to because that was my only hope.

In the next couple of months, I heard of similar deaths of two other men in their late twenties who I knew slightly. One was the son of a homeschooling friend of mine; the other had just married a young woman whose family had been very close to ours when our children were in school. It made me a little nervous about answering the phone.

There's no great epiphany coming here--no moment when everything was suddenly all right. Long before any of this happened, I knew where to take grief like that, and I took it there, and slowly things got back to normal. My children are all delightful now and they won't ever be teenagers again, so that helps.

So on September 11 every year, this is what I think about. I pray for those families, and for that young bride, and that those young men will find the peace that eluded them here. If you have a minute, you might say a prayer for them too.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

This Disturbs Me

Every day on my way to work, I pass this mailbox, and I ask myself what on earth this poor cow could possibly have done to deserve decapitation. It's even more disturbing to think that every day the mailman cooperates with this evil by consenting to insert mail into the actual site of the mutilation.

What I've been doing 

On September 1, I started working on a post about a book that I read 10 years ago and about halfway through it became evident that I really was going to have to read the book straight through before I could finish the post. Since then I have been reading whenever I had free time, which hasn't been often, but I'm almost finished. 

I've also spent most of the weekend working on materials for my PRE class. Every year, these classes start while I am completely buried under the preparations for the new semester, so by the time I am free to really work on lesson plans, I'm several weeks behind. Thank goodness, I'm almost caught up. Now, I hope I can get a couple of weeks ahead.

So, hopefully, I will be able to finish my post in progress and write at least one other post this week. Now I'm off to the C. S. Lewis Society to talk about Miracles, and it will be one if I can talk about it since I haven't read it.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Dearest Freshness Deep Down Things

Goodness, Truth, and Beauty; a bit of Nature red in tooth and claw (but not much); and a kingfisher that isn't catching fire, but is fairly gorgeous anyway.

Thanks to my son for linking to this on Facebook.


A Poem for All Who are Seared and Bleared and Smeared with the Election Rhetoric


The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for tall this, nature is never spent,
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

---Gerard Manley Hopkins   

You really need to read and listen to at least twice as much stuff like this as you read and listen to political stuff. If you don't, it will make you spiritually ill.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Finally, Something I Could Do Well

I truly believe that the best way to benefit humanity is to make faces in the bus--slightly mad faces, or puttings out of the tongue suddenly at the person opposite. Think of the thrill that gives to countless uneventful lives to whom nothing ever happens. They can tell everyone for weeks that they saw a mad woman on the bus, and they can exaggerate this to almost any extent. This form of charity can be practiced on the way to work.
Caryll Houselander in a letter to Archie Campbell-Murdoch

Of course, nobody but my husband sees me on the way to work, and he might not find it very pleasant.

It reminds me a little bit of the fat girl in the doctor's office in Flannery O'Connor's Revelation, except that she wasn't so entertaining. Revelation is a bit more painful.