Tuesday, August 28, 2012

St. Augustine of Hippo~A Bit Late in the Day

We entreat you brothers, as earnestly as we are able, to have charity, not only for one another, but also for those who are outside the church. Of these some are still pagans, who have not yet made an act of faith in Christ. Others are separated, insofar as they are joined with us in professing faith in Christ, our head, but are yet divided from the unity of his body. My friends, we must grieve over these as over our brothers. Whether they like it or not, they are our brothers; and they will only cease to be so when they no longer say our Father
This is from a discourse on the psalms by St. Augustine. It is the second reading from the Office of Readings for the fourteenth Tuesday in Ordinary Time, and yet it could so easily have been written today. 

I think wrote a few days ago about how depressing it is to look at Facebook these days, or, of course, to listen to the radio. I don't watch television. There is so much anger, and so much fear, and so much disdain for those we disagree with. So much of it comes from people who love God and love the Church, and yet what I never have seen anyone saying is what Augustine says in the passage above. "My friends, we must grieve over these as over our brothers."

Further on in this passage Augustine says, 
And so, dear brothers, we entreat you on their behalf, in the name of the very source of love, by whose milk we are nourished, and whose bread is our strength, in the name of Christ our Lord and his gentle love. For it is time now for us to show them great love and abundant compassion by praying to God for them. May he one day give them a clear mind to repent and to realize that they have nothing whatever to say against the truth; they have nothing now but the sickness of their hatred, and the stronger they think they are, the weaker they become. We entreat you then to pray for them, for they are weak, given to the wisdom of the flesh, to fleshly and carnal things, but yet they are our brothers.
So, who are these people that I'm saying we need to grieve over, that we need to be praying for. Well, they are whoever pops into your mind when you read this. They might not be the same people that pop into my mind, but that's okay. I think there's plenty of grieving and praying to be done for all of us. 


By the way, as far as I can tell this is a picture of Augustine, at least many people have used it as a picture of Augustine, although I can't find out who painted it or what it's called. I used it anyway because I really like it. It looks to me to be a detail of a larger picture. If anyone recognizes the picture, I would love to know more about it.

The Conversion of St. Augustine, Fra Angelico
Thanks to my sister, Lisa, and my daughter, Lisa.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Few Things While We are Waiting for Me to Write Something

There is hope!

Of course, it's 88F at the moment, but that's ten degrees cooler than it has been for most of the month. I really shouldn't complain.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Why I like the new translation of the Mass.

Well, I can't do it and I bet you can't either. Almost every time I go to Mass, I say "...for our good and the good of all His church--holy church." And then I make the face. Our church is pie shaped and from where I sit I can see about half the congregation and I can tell all the way across the nave when somebody gives the old response because they make the face. Sometimes it's accompanied by a little shrug. 

I can look right at the text of the Creed and follow along with my finger and still not be able to read what is written there. My favorite change is, "Lord I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed," but I'm pretty sure that I've only said it correctly three times.

Now the reason why I like this is because when I say, "...church--holy church," my neighbor does not hit me over the head with a missalette; she turns to me and smiles. This is because she knows that pretty soon she will say, "It is right to give Him thanks and praise." And when the priest makes a mistake, as mine did Saturday, although I don't remember what it was because that was 30 hours ago, nobody accuses him of heresy. So, that's why I like. We are just all in there messing up together, and we all know it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

More of these big white birds, which, now that I can see them better, I know to be Great White Herons. This is fairly surprising because we used to see quite a few Great Blue Herons (which should really be called Great Gray Herons) and maybe two whites a year. I'm not sure that I've seen any blues this year at all. I suppose the Great Whites are this year's bumper crop, which is very nice. Bill took these with his much better camera. We still haven't been able to get a picture of a really big group of them, though. Sometimes we come around the corner and see about 100 herons in the area that's pictured below.

Then there's this guy. I'm not sure what he is.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

And then there's one more thing about the election. I'm a little worried that if Romney wins, in 2020 Paul Ryan might run for President with Rand Paul as his running mate. Now, aside from the horribleness of these two names in close proximity, there is this:

I mean, it's not like they are twins separated at birth or anything, but they just look too much alike. Lose the widow's peak and dye RP's hair black and we are getting perilously close. And if they get those matching ties like Obama and Biden . . . So, I'm just warning y'all.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now, I thought I might really write something later today, but believe it or not, this took two hours, so I would guess not. Orientation was Friday, so the worst is over, but my head is still stuffed full of who needs an academic reference and who needs three transcripts and 15, 000 details that still need to be taken care of. I have another really busy day coming up tomorrow and hopefully after that I'll get back to a more or less normal schedule.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Real Problem with This Election

I know there's a lot of really ugly campaigning going on and I can hardly bear to look at Facebook for fear of what acrimony I will find there, but really all that stuff pales before the lack of alphabetical diversity on the Republican front. I don't know how much longer I can bear a party that includes Paul Ryan, Ron Paul, and Rand Paul and talks a lot about Ayn Rand. I never thought I would be so thankful for the name Mitch, which I don't particularly care for but which doesn't contain even a single a, r, or n, or anything that approaches the name Paul. Romney, on the other hand, offends on a few fronts, but at least has a different sort of sound, although it comes perilously close to Ron.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Most Constructive Thing?

Caryll Houselander wrote this in a letter in January, 1944 in a discussion about what she saw as the necessity of reordering her life after the war to be as worthwhile as possible.
What I mean is that it is my absolute belief that Christianity alone can do any good in the world now; and when I say "do any good," I do not mean--produce economic reform, or better drains, or a fuller medical service, or brighter trade unions. I'm not meaning to belittle such reforms, etc., but whereas they have come to mean everything to a lot of thinking people, I believe that they would be the inevitable result of Christianity, but aiming at them without a very definite Christianity first is futile. What I do mean by Christianity is: 
(a) First of all what Christ taught. We can't solve half the problems asking for solutions, but He knows all the answers; and in any case a Christian state or world, built on one or two things He taught, plus a vague desire for a "better world," is nonsense.
Secondly (or "b"!): by Christianity I mean a faith which will give some coherent answer to the difficulties about suffering, the suffering of innocence in particular: that will give people comfort in suffering (in the true sense of the word "comfort," i.e. "to make strong"): that will guarantee and somehow keep fast the ideal of love, and will keep human love and [love of] the world as its first value, and which will increase life, spiritual and physical, at all times, in all circumstances.
This entire passage sounds very familiar and timely, and it seems to me that so much of what we see and hear about today from both political parties, and, indeed, from many prayerful and serious Christians is the exact opposite of what she is saying. It is her second (or "b"!) point that really strikes me. How seldom, instead of the hubris that assumes we can end suffering, do we hear someone say that we should do something that will comfort (make strong) people in their suffering. Can you imagine the response to a politician, or even a religious leader, who recommended that? I think that this was very much the ministry of Mother Teresa, and I think that this was part of the reason why some people hated her so much. 
It would take too long to enlarge on what a blessing to mankind other things in our Faith are, such as sorrow for sin, for instance. But what I want to explain is that I think myself that the most constructive thing one can do in this world is to make the Christian Faith known to English people. I have been absolutely astonished during this war to find how very few of the people who talk about a better world based on Christianity have even a rough idea of what Christ taught--other than a very vague idea that it is "love"; and I have met more than one who thinks the "love" means the same thing as a slap and tickle on Hampstead Heath!
The most constructive thing, she says is to make the Christian Faith known. And really, for most of us it is the most obvious thing we can do. We can live in such a way that our faith is visible, and we can learn what the Church teaches (and this is a never-ending process) so that when the opportunity arises we can explain what we believe. And the opportunity will arise. Sometimes, it's just a matter of not doing what everybody else is doing--of making yourself the center of attention when you really would rather just sink into the floor. Sometimes it comes in an adversarial way and you have to really focus on that hidden Christ in the person you are talking to to be able remain non-adversarial yourself. And sometimes, it's surprisingly easy, the words just seem to come of their own volition.

One thing that I do along these lines is teach PRE in my parish. I have to tell you that many years, I just really do not want to do it, and even during the years when I want to do it, there are many Sundays when I don't want to. It takes time and energy that I would like to use for other things. It requires me to be there week after week when I would sometimes like to go away for a weekend. It's expensive. The only way I can teach is by using way more stuff than I would expect the parish to pay for. But now, after several years of teaching the First Communion class, I sit in Mass and watch the children go up to receive, and I've taught lots of them, and I know that they have at least heard what the Church teaches about the Eucharist and many other things even though I don't know for sure if they remember.

So, I didn't have any intention when I started writing this post to end with a pitch for religious education teachers, but it seems to be where I've ended up. I know that you don't want to do it. You probably think that you can't it, I know that I thought that. But if you know your faith and you have the least ability to teach, I hope you will consider it, because it's almost a given that your parish is begging for teachers. It's also almost a given that many of the people who are teaching have never been taught themselves, and they could use some help. If we want to have mature Christians who know their faith and better liturgy and enough priests, and for that matter, economic reforms and better drains and fuller medical service, somebody has got to get in their and teach those children.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mary Ann

Just before Christmas of 1996, I fell and crushed my elbow while trying to buy a Christmas tree. I was in a cast for three weeks before and three weeks after the surgery to remove the crushed bone. For some reason, either from the pain medication that I was given at the hospital or just from a chemical reaction caused by the break, I was in a terrible depression for the whole first three weeks. It wasn't that I was depressed about anything, because I wasn't. I just could not imagine ever being happy again or bear the intolerable weight of being alive. 

One of the few things that helped was sitting outside and saying the rosary. I couldn't do it for long, because it was very cold outside. So, one day my husband drove me to our church down the street where there was an adoration chapel.  

When I got there, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. Then, I saw that my friend Mary Ann was there praying. After her friendly, smiling face, the first thing you noticed about Mary Ann was that the joints in her hands were very swollen and twisted from something, arthritis I guess. As I walked into the chapel, my sweater fell off my shoulder and she got up and put the sweater back over my shoulder and buttoned it with those poor hands. I don't think that I can remember another time in my life when I felt so much like God was showing me His love through another person.

And the thing is that I'm sure that Mary Ann never knew how much this meant to me, and I'm also sure that she did many, many other little things for other people that touched them in ways that she never knew about. And I'm also pretty sure that all of us through some impulse of grace have helped others in ways that we will never know about, and that is one of the things that is so incredibly wonderful about the Body of Christ.

I haven't seen Mary Ann much since we moved to Mississippi, and Sunday a friend posted a link to her obituary on Facebook. She had died on Tuesday, August 9, at home with her family. I'm sure that they and all her friends will miss her very much.

May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.


Bozo Texino and His Friends

I was talking to a friend the other night about the hours and hours my family has spent sitting at intersections, waiting for trains to go by. We only lived about half a block from the tracks, so this was virtually a daily occurrence. We used to watch for the little chalk pictures on the sides of the boxcars.You really had to keep your eyes open if you didn't want to miss them. My favorite was Bozo Texino, in fact, I called them "Bozos," and from looking around the internet, it looks like I wasn't the only one that really liked him. In fact, you can even get a hat with his picture on it.

And there's a film about him.

There were, of course, many more of these "hobo markings," and you can see a lot of them in this video. Warning: Some of them are a bit rude.

I think you may have to click on the Watch on YouTube, but that's not really too hard to do. For some reason, there doesn't seem to be a "Hobo Markings on Trains 1" video. This bothers me.

Nowadays, I rarely get stopped by a train, unless I am trying to get to vigil Mass for a Holy Day, but even on the infrequent occasions when I do, I never see any of these little chalk images. They've been replaced by the same large, gaudy, spray-painted words and symbols that you see everywhere. I suppose that before too long they will pass from living memory. Even 20 years ago when I used to see at least one on every train, I hardly ever found anyone else that noticed them, and the one person that was really familiar with them worked in the train yard.

I really need to get myself one of those hats.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Maybe Not Worth a Thousand Words ...

But all we have time for today.

What the cranes do on Sunday.

Apparently, they do not forsake the gathering of themselves together. Once more, this leaves me longing for a better camera than the one on my phone, but you have to take into account that we were stopped on the side of I-55 (right next to the 50 yard drop) with lots of cars whizzing by.

This was in the parking lot when I left the eye doctor after 2 hours yesterday evening.

I'm not sure that it will look like anything to anybody else, but I liked it, although it didn't quite make up for the fact that it was at about this time that I realized I wasn't going to make it to the vigil Mass.

I got home after dark and when I opened the door of the car, I heard something buzzing around. I knew what it was because last week when I opened the door, one of them flew into the car and I had to get Bill to get it out. They must have a nest or whatever it is they have somewhere around where I park. I closed the door as quickly as possible in the hope that it wouldn't get in the car, but about the time I pulled out of the driveway at 5:15 a.m. to get to Mass, I discovered it was a wan hope.  I don't know what this is really, but if you got a better look at it, you would know that it probably stings or bites, and, anyway, I didn't want to find out for sure. But, I was driving down two-lane roads with no light and no shoulder and if I ever did find some dark place to stop, it would have made me late for Mass. I could see it crawling around on the window and when it got almost in front of me, I stopped in the middle of the road and took a notebook and whacked it, at which time it disappeared. I wasn't quite sure it was dead, but it wasn't buzzing, so I went on my way, and found it when I got to church. In case you are interested, it's sitting on Caryll Houselander's Letters. I was taking pictures while I was in the drive-thru line at Taco Bell.

And finally:


Admittedly, there is a lot more to being seventeen than this, but this definitely looks quintessentially seventeen to me.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Talking Over the Busy Signal

Did you ever?

I'm pretty sure that I remember this correctly, but maybe not because it's been over 45 years since it happened. One night, I was calling the local top 40 radio station to ask them to play a song. It was probably a Beatles song, and I wonder now why I wanted to hear it on the radio since I had all their records and could easily have just played it myself, but I guess that was just something we did. I probably thought it would be thrilling to talk to the DJ. Well, the line was busy, as it always was, but before I hung up, I realized that I could hear someone yelling, "Hello!" over the busy signal. So, I answered and we started talking, and I found out that there were people who talked over the signal all the time.

Sometimes I would talk to boys and give them my phone number and they would call me. I would never have called them. I don't remember ever meeting any of them though. For a while, I did this fairly frequently, I think, but I'm not sure for how long, or why I stopped. I guess it just lost it's novelty. I'm also not sure if my friends did it, too, but I'm pretty sure they did, and I'm almost positive that my sister did.

I guess that this is a social media that has gone by the wayside. People listen to music in a different way now, and teenagers don't use land lines. Of course, they have Facebook and Twitter and texting and a billion ways to communicate, but this was something different because it was sort of esoteric--something behind the scenes that not everybody knew about.

The radio station I usually called was 680, WMPS.The DJs used to call themselves the WMPS Good Guys and when the Rolling Stones came to town, they had a contest where people made signs that said, "The WMPS Good Guys Welcome the Rolling Stones."  A couple of girls from our high school entered and won the contest. Some years later, the T-shirt they made ended up on the front of Sargent Peppers Lonely Heart's Club Band. You've probably seen it.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Life is a Blessing: A Biography of Jerome Lejeune

A friend posted the picture below on Facebook, and it reminded me of this book. It has been several years since I read it, so I'm a little hazy on the details, but I clearly remember how much I loved the man whose life it relates. It's the biography of Jerome Lejeune, the man who discovered that the cause of Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) is an extra 21st chromosome. It is the story of an excellent geneticist and doctor, but more importantly, it is the story of an exemplary Catholic man. 

The book is written by his daughter, Clara Lejeune-Gaymard, and it is immediately evident that Dr. Lejeune was an excellent and beloved husband and father. He also cared very deeply about his patients as people and hoped that his research would help them to live better lives. Unfortunately, he began to see that the knowledge that he had discovered would soon be used to destroy the lives of these children instead of improve them, and he began to speak out against abortion which kept him from advancing in his career, probably caused him to lose the Nobel prize, and even endangered his life.

His work was recognized in another quarter, though, and in 1994, Pope John Paul II chose Lejeune as the first president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Sadly, Lejeune was already suffering from cancer at that time and died shortly afterward. His cause for beatification is in its early stages.

I think that it's a good idea for us read about people like this, who did what was right in the certain knowledge that they were going to suffer for steadfastness. It may be that some of us will have to make the kind of decisions that he was called upon to make, and it's probably best to make them now in a time of peace. And we should be praying for fortitude and perseverance.

You can read more about Jerome Lejeune here.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Couple of Things

A follow-up on yesterday--C. S. Lewis on the Hidden Christ:
The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour's glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.  All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations....There are no ordinary people....And our charity must be a real an costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner--no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat--the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.
 And from Teresa of Avila:
[The soul] must find its consolation in trials, undergone for the sake of Him who lived a life of trials; and these it must endure, remaining calm in times of dryness, though it may grieve at having to suffer them. But they should not cause the disquietude and distress that are felt by some who, if they are not always working with their intellect and stimulating feelings of devotion, think that all is lost, as if their efforts merited some great blessing....we should not worry our selves to death even if we cannot think a single good thought. We are unprofitable servants. So what do we suppose we can do?
But it is Our Lord's will that we shall know this, and be like the little donkeys that work the water-wheel I have mentioned. Though their eyes are blinkered and they have no idea what they are doing, they water more than the gardener can with all his efforts. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Hidden Christ

Caryll Houselander wrote frequently of the Christ within. In a letter to a friend, Elizabeth Billaux, she wrote in 1935:
  ... as I understand it, the doctrine is this: that in every baptized Christian (which means anyone baptized at all, not only those baptized by a Catholic priest, and includes those who have the baptism of desire and of blood)--in the soul of every baptized Christian, Christ lives. He is, as it were, a germ of Christ in them, or a seed of Christ. This seed of Christ grows and flowers in them as they correspond to grace and the whole object of a Christian is to become "another Christ....
And a bit further on:
...it is clear that in some people the seed of Christ withers and even dies, and though He is potentially in them ... none the less, so long as they remain in sin, Christ is not alive in them, and other people cannot see Him or His spirit manifested in them.
Therefore we cannot after all look complacently about us, see Christ in all men and make an end of war. What we can do, however, is strive to make the life of Christ visible in us, to make it a reality in our own souls. 
In other places, she talks about always being conscious of Christ being present there in the other person, and loving that hidden Christ even when He is only sleeping there or even dead. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and trying to at least be aware of this fact as much as possible, although in the rush of the day, and at night when I am exhausted, it is all too easy to forget.Unfortunately, sometimes I find myself most negligent in loving Him in those who have the greatest claim on my love.

One place where I have had some fairly consistent success is in trying to remember that He is there in the people who come to my office to talk about admissions. This is only a peripheral aspect of my job and in a department of three, I am only called on when the other two are busy or away. I always feel as if this is a big interruption to my real work and I would like to rush through the interview and get back to my papers, but I've gotten to where I can pull myself together and say, "Okay, this is Jesus, so I can't be disappointed that He's come to see me." And really, I've ended up having some pretty amazing talks with people. 

I would like to say that now I'm really happy when the receptionist calls me and tells me someone is here to talk about admissions, but unfortunately, I have the same sinking feeling that I've always had when I get that call. Maybe someday that will change, and maybe it won't. In the meantime, I'll try to keep looking for Him in other places. 


Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Beauty That Saves the World

Today, my friend Toby tagged me in a Facebook comment about a review of Gregory Wolfe's new book, Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age. In the review, written by Elias Crim, I found this:
[Wolfe]  notes the late Welsh poet David Jones’s observation—in the latter’s “Art and Sacrament”—that the Eucharist, the preeminent Christian sacrament, consists of bread and wine, not wheat and grapes. “In other words, the gifts offered to God at the altar are not the untouched products of the earth but artifacts, transformed through human hands through an art.”
Well, I suppose there is some sort of art to making bread that doesn't resemble bread at all, but that's another story. What really struck me, of course, is the fact that Jesus didn't just use some natural and easily available food to confect the Sacrament, but chose something that we would have to make, chose specifically two things that would have to be crushed. I know I've heard sermons about the crushing aspect before, but the fact that the Eucharistic required human work has never crossed my mind.

This reminds me of two of the reasons why we pray and why we suffer--why Paul says in Colossians that we make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. It's so we can participate in His redemptive act.  I know that many times we all think, "Well, I could do without that," but in truth, we can't. If we want to be part of the Body of Christ, we have to be part of the Body of Christ, which, of course, is the beauty that will save the world--already has saved it.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Blog Star

Remember this guy? I think he must have been really excited about being featured on this blog because when he saw my car coming, he ran straight up to the window, stopped to pose, and then went on his way. Maybe all of his friends thought his first appearance was a fluke and he wanted to prove them wrong. Who knows what glories await him after this? Maybe he was on his way to Memphis to pose for a Chik-Fil-A ad. 

I would really like to write some more, but I've spent at least half an hour staring at the screen with my fingers on the keys and it's not working. Oh, I know. I'll show you a picture I stole from my daughter.

What my grandsons' dinosaurs do when they think no one is looking.

It must have been one funny joke!

Also, I did finally figure out why the search for "bed bug eggs" will lead you to my blog. I've also started getting a lot of ads for bed bug killer on the side of my Facebook page. MAYBE the people who sell bed bug killer will pay me to put an ad in the sidebar of my blog! Maybe I will be offered a regular bed bug column on the NCR blog!

You might want to check out my friend Steve's new blog, ...and the rabbits sat quietly until we threw holy water on them.  It's off to a great start.