Category Archives: Credo

Matters of faith and/or morals.

Pockets of Freedom

I finally, after months, decided to read a blog of two today.  This article was first, and it came at just the right time.

I never thought of God like that…

Lucy: “If God was made of glass, and had a thing in his back so you could wind Him up, like a wind-up bunny, then he could go up to the sky and come back down from the sky.”

And later in the same car ride…

Craig: “Have you ever tried to talk to Jesus?”

Lucy: “No, I’m too shy of him.”

A Community

Ah, it’s time again for me to write about something of substance.  Or something.

We talk often about trying, someday in the future, to live in an intentional (Christian) community.  We liked what we had at the Tulane Catholic Center, we’ve had retreat/camp experiences that were short term communities, and we liked it, so we’d like to do something similar full time.

Funnily enough, Craig’s parents already practically have this.  We borrowed their house over the 4th of July weekend while they went on a vacation to Boston.  Here is how our weekend went.

We drove in on Saturday afternoon and set up shop.  Before we could decide what we would do for dinner, Miss Mary Lou and Mr. Bob next door invited us over for ham, corn on the cob, and potato chips.  This, of course, led to an evening of conversation, running children, and general fun.  It was a good way to start the holiday.

On Sunday, we went to Mass (after which the youth group help sparklers to liven the spirits of those exiting the church – Fr. Tom’s idea, not ours!) and then spent a long time talking over donuts with Rusty (who we found out lives two blocks from Craig’s parents) and Anna who is the 13th of 18 children.  We were almost the last ones to leave.  But we went back home and cooked hot dogs for Bob and Mary Lou (aka B-Bob and Mimi) while the girls swam.  Dinner was kindly provided by Mr. Joe and Miss June across the street, and B-Bob and Mimi, the neighbor next to Joe and June, Mr. Darwin, and the couple two doors down were also there, along with a good part of Joe and June’s family.  So far – five meals, four of them in communities.

The other thing with Mr. Joe is that he invites everyone who lives around him over for beer every afternoon at 4.  Accommodations are made for little ones who can’t drink much beer.  And Mr. Bob spends 9/10 of the day, rain or shine, hot or cold, on his back porch (which might as well be his front porch) open to company.  We barge in frequently, and often return with ice cream.

Monday we had Mr. Darwin and B-Bob and Mimi over for dinner (Craig made some amazing meatballs, I’m sure he would be willing to share the recipe if he remembers it!) and then went to a youth group softball game.

Tuesday Craig went to work and the girls and I met Bob and Mimi at the donut shop, where they meet their friends Bill and Mary (and anyone else who comes in!) every day.  Lucy enjoyed her pink sprinkled donut, and the shop owner gave them donut holes when she saw that Samantha hadn’t touched her pink sprinkled donut.  Chocolate milk was enjoyed all around.

We finally headed home Tuesday evening after Craig took some youth to visit a local nursing home.  On the way back I was counting (we had 6 of 9 meals in community – and 7 if you count dinner with his parents after they got home!) and realized that the community we would like to build could look very much like this:  neighbors watching out for each other, feeding each other’s dogs, drinking each other’s beer, (occasionally accidentally feeding each other’s beer to each other’s dogs…) talking, talking, talking.  Most of the world’s problems have been solved at least twice on Bob’s back porch.  But there is one thing that makes it all happen – people take the step to invite other people to share with them.  Then the trust builds, then the back porch is always open.  It was a good lesson for me.

My Kind of Church

We were watching Brother Sun, Sister Moon last night, which scared Lucy is so many places (she doesn’t like feverish people, or strange looking crucifixes, or lepers…).  The frolicking in the fields was a bit more 70s than I cared for, although Samantha enjoyed pointing out every flower, bird and dog (=sheep).  When the crowd came and they opened San Damiano, Lucy said,

“I want to go to church with flowers.  And ducks.”

Me too, Lucy, me too.

Triduum

I love the Latin with the double u’s.  And we had occasion over the past weekend to find out the real reason that we get Easter Monday off of school.  It’s to allow people with small children to recover from the Triduum.

Or not, since I think that’s probably just us.  But we survived it – two hours on Holy Thursday with an un-napped three-year-old, two hours Good Friday, and over three hours on Holy Saturday.  Here’s the blow-by-blow.

We arrived late for Holy Thursday, because we came straight from New Orleans at rush hour, straight from Craig’s FoodFast retreat at school (that means 50 or so high school students fasting and learning about poverty for 24 hours).  I cooked the closing meal, Hatian red beans for 50.  That is getting to be my specialty, if anyone needs catering in the near future.  (We made it for about 200 the Friday before – that’s another story!)

But anyway, we got there, parked in the boonies, and planted ourselves and our tired babies in a pew.  I’d been prepping Lucy for a couple of weeks about the people getting their feet washed and such, but we couldn’t see very well, and she was really too tired to care.  Samantha alternately climbed, fussed, and nursed the two hours away.  Then it was home to Nana and Papa’s to collapse, except collapsing doesn’t happen at grandparent’s houses, at least not right after you arrive, so we were up for  a little longer.

Friday brought sleeping relatively late and the (traditional?  I’m not sure) Good Friday fish fry at the Bakers’.  More fish, hush-puppies, fries, and the like that we could eat.  Then on to the Veneration of the Cross.  Samantha was very, very fussy, and I finally ended up nursing her in a side chapel.  Unfortunately, it was the crucifix chapel, and rather than bringing up a cross to the altar like I expected, the liturgical plan was to circle everyone through this very chapel to reverence the cross.  When I saw the altar servers and deacon headed my way, I had to very quickly detach sleeping Samantha and run for the pew.  As much as a person can run with a surprised, yet thankfully still sleeping, toddler in her arms, anyway.

But my close-escape was not the end of our trials.  As Craig came up to the chapel in the line (behind me unfortunately, so I didn’t get to see the festivities) Lucy, whom he was carrying, latched onto the wall with both hands and refused to let him enter the chapel.  (I don’t think “chapel” is really the best word for this space, now that I think of it, it’s really more of a nook, but that sounds funny to me.)  Lucy was apparently afraid of the crucifix, which was strange because the night before she had wanted to stay later so Craig could “show her Jesus”, but that was not about to happen during the silent watching after the Holy Thursday liturgy.  Anyway, Craig returned to the pew thwarted.  But yet, we survived and went home (well, to Craig’s parents’ home at least), again, to bed.

Holy Saturday dawned.  We made one excursion, then made sure there were naps all around.  (Lucy has been successfully avoiding them lately, but that was just not an option.)  We got all dressed up after a later-than-planned dinner and headed out.  Mass started at 8 PM.  We were as prepared as parents can be for such a thing – books, a lacing card for Lucy…but no snacks.  Well, we were almost as prepared as we could be.  The bonfire went well enough.  Lucy was interested, but Samantha was fussy.  But it wasn’t a big deal since we were outside.  The procession inside calmed her down for some reason, and God be praised, she nursed to sleep as soon as we got to the pew.  And slept through all the readings, the lights coming on, the Alleluia-ing, the Baptisms, and even the applause that went with them.  I didn’t get to see much since I spent the whole time sitting down, but I was so glad she slept.

Of course, she did wake up, as usual it seems, in time for the Eucharistic prayer, and so we spent the rest of the evening back and forth, in and out of the building.  There isn’t anywhere to hide a screaming infant in that church.  The final outburst, in the liturgical silence just before the closing prayer, was the loudest.  Father (apparently, I couldn’t hear it with the screaming in my ear as I rushed -again- for the door) mentioned that it sounded like a broken record, at which Samantha promptly changed her tone.  So she showed him.  Or something.

But we celebrated with cake and cheese cubes and broccoli and punch afterwards, and slept late on Easter morning.  We were tired.  It was so worth it.  I love the Easter Vigil.  I started going in middle school (or earlier?) when my mom was doing RCIA for children.  I got to hand the brand-new neophytes (is that redundant?) the towels after they were Baptized one year.  I have always loved the liturgy for this night, the fire and water, the litany of the saints, the lights coming on in the middle of the service.  The oil and the smiles on 10-year-old faces afterwards.  (And Fr. Tom does not spare the oil.  He slathers.  Even after they changed, the poor boys all had holy-oil cow-licks.)  St. Jean does beautiful liturgy, and it was a blessing to me, screaming baby and all, to experience it this year.  It was that little taste of the Holy that I miss sometimes now that I don’t get to daily Mass, or adoration, or those other quite times that I used to so often.  It was totally, entirely worth it.

Easter included an egg hunt at one neighbor’s house, and then Mrs. Mary Lou’s feast at the other neighbor’s house.  Many, many desserts were sampled.  A bunny had his tail straight-pinned on.  There was a pinata, but I missed that part.  Monday Craig and I had a movie date (finally cashing in one of our Christmas presents) and we drove home.  And today I finally finished unpacking.  We are nearly recovered.

Happy Easter!

On Waiting

“The main barrier standing between ourselves and a local-food culture is not price, but attitude.  The most difficult requirements are patience and a pinch of restraint–virtues that are hardly the property of the wealthy.  These virtues seem to find precious little shelter, in fact, in any modern quarter of this nation founded by Puritans.  Furthermore, we apply them selectively:  browbeating our teenagers with the message that they should wait for sex, for example.  Only if the wait to experience intercourse under the ideal circumstances (the story goes), will they know its true value.  ‘Blah blah blah,‘ hears the teenager: words issuing from a mouth that can’t even wait for the right time to eat tomatoes, but instead consumes tasteless ones all winter to satisfy a craving for everything now.  We’re raising our children on the definition of promiscuity if we feed them a casual, indiscriminate mingling of foods from every season plucked from the supermarket, ignoring how our sustenance is cheapened by whole sale desires.”

-Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Thanks for the book, Fr. R.B.!

I think she has a point, don’t you?  What do we wait for anymore?  Not information, there’s the internet.  Not food, there are microwaves.  Not TV shows, even: we have DVR.  Not letters, a phone call is quicker.  Not babies, their ‘delivery’ is scheduled for our convenience or our doctor’s.  There does seem to be a pattern.

How peculiar…

“The Lord, your God, has chosen you from all the nations on the face of the earth to be a people peculiarly his own.”

-Deuteronomy 7:6

This was part of the reading of the Morning Office today, and it really struck me.  Forgive me if I stretch the translation a little!  You might think, hearing that God’s people are “peculiar” I would be a little concerned.  But no, this is actually comforting to me, because I’ve been feeling a little peculiar lately.  Mostly when I’m out in public.  For example, when at a Catholic schools week dinner, the Ave Maria melts seamlessly, without even a breath of pause, into the Pledge of Allegiance, complete with gigantic waving flag on the projector screen.  I know that I blanched at the juxtaposition of the two; it was like being punched in the gut.  And once the whiteness passed, I wondered how I could sit in a room and continue to smile and make small talk.

Or watching the nightly news, when my stomach turns at not just the story they tell, but the images they show.  When did they start showing people dieing on TV?  Real people, not cartoons, not even movie special effects.  I don’t watch the news often, usually only when it’s on at someone else’s house, but I had noticed they showed an awful lot of very gory footage the last few times I did watch.  The movies are bad enough, but no matter what point the story is making (the one I saw was doing its best to vilianize Iran – justifiably or otherwise) I can’t see how showing someone dieing like that is not taboo.

And this keeps happening.  I’ve never fit comfortably into most social situations, but it’s getting worse and worse, not because I feel personally awkward, although there’s enough of that, but because I find myself asking, “Why are we doing this?”  “Why are all the waiters black?”  “Can Catholics live like this with a clean conscience?”  “What about the people who can’t afford to eat tonight?”  And on, and on.  So to know that God’s people are “peculiar” gives me a little hope that I’m not crazy, and maybe I’m even on the right track.

Re-membering

“My great-great-grandmother, great-grandmother, grandmother, mother are all alive for me because they are part of my story.  My children and grandchildren and I tell stories about Hugh, my husband.  We laugh and we remember–re-member.  I tell stories about my friend, the theologian Canon Tallis, who was far more than my spiritual director, with whom I had one of those wonders, a spiritual friendship.  I do not believe that these stories are their immortality–that is something quite different.  But remembering their stories is the best way I know to have them remain part of my mortal life.  And I need them to be part of me, while at the same time I am quite willing for them all to be doing whatever it is that God has in mind for them to do.  Can those who are part of that great cloud of witnesses which has gone before us be in two places at once?  I believe that they can, just as Jesus could, after the Resurrection.”

-Madeleine L’Engle, Glimpses of Grace

Happy birthday, Dad.  We planted some blackberry bushes in the backyard for you today.  We miss you and we love you.  Pray for us!

It wasn’t a VW bus, was it?

“There was a time when good academic qualifications guaranteed a job, but not any more.  One reason is academic inflation.  In the next 30 years, more people worldwide will be gaining academic qualifications than since the beginning of history.  But as more people get them, their currency value is falling sharply.  A university degree used to be an open sesame to a professional position.  The minimum requirement for some jobs is now a Master’s degree, even a PhD.  What next?  But there is a second problem.  Many companies are facing a crisis in graduate recruitment.  It’s not that there aren’t enough graduates to go around; there are more and more.  But too many don’t have what business urgently needs:  they can’t communicate well, they can’t work in teams and they can’t think creatively.  But why should they?  University degrees aren’t designed to make people creative.  They are designed to do other things and often do them well.  But complaining that graduates aren’t creative is like saying, “I bought a bus and it sank”.

-Ken Robinson, Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative

Captain’s Prayer

When we were at Tulane, and I went to daily Mass at the Tulane Catholic Center, there was an elderly gentlemen who came sometimes whom I only knew as “Captain”.  I don’t know his name, or any part of his story.  His face looked like he had been injured during his service, or it could have been scars from surgery, or cancer, I don’t know because I never asked.  He walked with a cane, and when he finally stopped coming to Mass I think I remember hearing that it was because the steps to the upper room chapel had finally become too much for him.

The chapel, for those of you who haven’t been there, is very long and narrow, and the lecturn is set up at one end and the altar, tabranacle, and crucifix (if you could call it that!) were at the other end.  Chairs lined the walls, all facing center.  Captain always sat at the chair nearest the altar, on the window side.  This was carefully planned, so that when we all gathered around the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, he was included in the circle.  We would all bend down, on our way around the circle, to share a sign of peace with him.  And at the Concecration, when the Host or the Cup was elevated, he would say, in a gruff but somehow gentle voice, loud enough for all to hear, “My Lord and my God.”

Why am I telling you all this?  Because you never know whose life you touch, and here is a proof for that statement.  Captain did not know my name, I don’t think.  Nor Craig’s.  But at every Mass we have attended for years now, his prayer has become our own.  There, in the priest’s hands, is My Lord and My God.  And “Captain’s prayer” is the clearest expression of faith in the Eucharist that I think I have ever heard.

And if two isn’t enough, I know of at least one more person who has taken up this prayer.  How many are there that I have no idea of?  And Captain didn’t set out to enrich our spiritual lives, he merely (although merely is unfair, because it was a struggle for him) showed up to daily Mass and spoke his faith.  And did so simply.

It left me wondering, am I doing things that have a positive impact like this?  Even little things.  And what little things I do could be having a negative impact, particularly on my girls?  I have to steal a line from Father R.B. here, I hope he doesn’t mind!  But “It’s something to think about!”