Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Yesterday I erupted in anger and disappointment over a political email sent to me by a friend. I don't want to go into details and who was right, who was wrong -- but because of this I quit a book group I've been part of for the last three years. Now I am feeling like I did the evening the ocean spit me back - in shock, wondering how did things take such a bad and unexpected turn.

So my question now is the same as it was the night of my ocean adventure -- what do I do to pass the time while I am in shock, grief, feeling battered, wondering should I beat myself up or not for bad judgment?

Hence the title of this entry: What Would Father Alberione Do? Like the WWJD question, I wonder. All I can think of is what not to do - don't act on my anger, don't feel sorry for myself, don't strain too hard to fix a rupture that is so fresh, don't keep telling myself that I was right and they were wrong. That's irrelevant to what do I do now -- although ultimately it is not irrelevant to how I communicate myself to the world. But it's irrelevant to what I do with these feelings of hurt, betrayal and anger.

Oremus. All I really can do is exist and be present to reality. Be present to God, Whom I dare not bring into the argument even in my own mind, lest I do Him the grave injustice (self-idolatry really) of conflating my will with His, or shrinking His will to my own puny dimensions. In other words, I think I had (have, because it's not over) the right of the argument, I don't know how that affects what I do now with the fallout from the abrupt rupture with friends.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Dressed to Kill

This was an incredibly busy weekend so I really wanted to unwind in front of the television tonight. But I went in at 8:00pm and Bill was watching a Dirty Harry movie. Aside from marveling at how smooth Clint Eastwood's skin was and how much hair he had back then, I had no positive response to his choice at all. Then it turns out he'd just been flipping the channels and wasn't wedded to it at all. What a relief. I left the room and when I came back he had switched over to Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill, which was just beginning.

What a satisfying Hitchcock "homage" that movie is. I had forgotten how much I used to like Brian De Palma. This might be his best movie ever. Lush music, great camera angles, strange sexual tension see-sawing through the various couples who occupy the screen at the same time -- the doctor (Michael Caine) and the frustrated housewife (Angie Dickinson); the housewife and the art museum stranger; the cop (Dennis Franz) and the hooker witness (Nancy Allen); the cop and the doctor; the son and the hooker; the two psychiatrists in consultation. Excellent thriller. This is exactly the kind of movie I must learn to reflect on from a Pauline point of view. It was so completely satisfying to me, yet I have no idea why and don't know if I could defend my praise of it at all. Morally and ethically, did it have a POV? Is it a "Catholic" movie like so many of Hitchcock's were?

Maybe tomorrow when I am more awake, I'll see if I have any luck analyzing the spiritual content of the film. Like Sister Rose teaches us to do at the film retreats.

Princess Gabriel the Great is getting married

Gabriel my third-born called this evening to say that she and David had decided when and how to get married. In two weeks, on the weekend of Oct. 7-8, they are driving to North Carolina to get married. They will have a civil ceremony, no family. They told David's mother today and she was disappointed. I of course am disappointed, but not so much. I'm happy for them that they don't have to go through the agony of planning a wedding, big or small. In comparison with my disappointment that they are not getting married in the Church, this is nothing. And on the first count, I believe Gabe will be back. She never does things half way. When she was all for being Catholic, she did it completely, threw herself into it. Now she has doubts, and she is throwing herself into David. I get it, I really do. Experience, choice, and will are the woof and warp of life. Gabe is an honest young woman, and she and her fiance are committed to Christ. They just don't have unity of feeling on the institutional church. Oremus. To all things there is a time and a place for everything under the heavens. A time for doubt... however much we wish it could be different.

Meanwhile, I have my round trip ticket to Birmingham for next Friday. I'll meet David and his family a week before the kids tie the knot. Bill has met him already, and gives him two thumbs up.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Community Day in Newark

When the kids were little, I took them each September to Community Day on the Green of the University of Delaware. An all-day fair, it features flea markets, performances by local talent including young kids doing karate, gymnastics and the like. Local civic groups of all sorts had booths, and the Delaware elected officials would turn out especially on years like this when an election was upcoming.

This year I worked at the Delaware Right to Life booth. I feel a bit bruised up inside, and have a new appreciation for what Moira Sheridan and the other folks on the front lines of pro-life activism in Delaware face each time they go out. I had forgotten how angry and confrontational people can get over the abortion issue. I had my own stack of flyers that I was pushing particularly, inviting folks to the Catholic Scholars-sponsored panel discussion in October on embryological stem cell research. I did introduce myself to Congressman Mike Castle, who had accepted our invitation to be on the panel and give his pro-ESC research POV. He is looking forward to hearing Dr. Gomez-Lobo, he says, having talked to multiple scientists who agreed without exception that embryological stem cells are the ones with the greatest potential. I would love to see his list of scientists talked to.

I ran into an old friend, Ben Williams, who was manning the booth across from DRTL, an effort by a historical preservation group to maintain the site of the one Revolutionary War battle held on Delaware soil - the battle of Cooch's Bridge - undeveloped. Apparently, and this was news to me last year when Ben's booth colleague (and, like Ben, my old babysitter) Nancy Willing spoke at a Newark City Council meeting, there is contention among some as to whether this battle ever took place at all. Nancy and Ben had a bunch of cool maps including one in which Lord Calvert of Baltimore apparently got the location of Cape Henlopen wrong and wound up claiming only the bottom most part of the peninsula to make up the colony of Maryland. According to Nancy, Delaware exists because of this misunderstanding, in which the Cape was positioned far south to its real location, and the boundaries between Delaware and Maryland used the erroneous Cape Henlopen location as the line between colonies.

Ben and I are friends but we haven't been in touch for many years. I saw his brother Dan a few weeks ago and he told me Ben had been back in town for awhile. Ben told me today that he worried about what would happen if he saw me again. I can't say I worried about what would happen, just that I thought it inevitable, and hoped it would happen without me initiating contact. And so it did. We took up exactly as we had 15 or 20 years ago, as if no time had passed. I think my clumsiness with expressing my faith way back then helped cause Ben to drop out of RCIA which he had begun. I did not trust the Holy Spirit to work as I have since come to see he does work in folks of good will and openness who go through the process. I hope that I didn't get in God's way too badly then, even though one of Ben's best friends had taken me to task for even encouraging him in that direction.

Funny, the whole time I talked with Ben today, being so happy to see him and self-conscious about renewing our old acquaintance, I had totally forgotten how he was going to RCIA and I was sponsoring him. I don't even remember now how he got started, if I had to do with that or if he just started inquiries on his own. And I'm not going to beat myself up over asking too many questions of Fr. Brubaker during the last session that Ben attended, which was after receiving the cross and going through the first public statement of intention.

But Ben mentioned God several times during our conversation, and I am reminded that every heart receives a constant calling back to its origin, sometimes a loud one and sometimes quiet, and I pray that Ben be under the Mercy particularly until he hears the call loudly enough to try to pursue his pursuer, again.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Ignatian discernment, Jungian dream work

Sr. Kathryn sent me the undoctored version of Week 4 of the Donec Formatur retreat, and this for me is going better than the condensed version. I like Fr. Alberione's thought and find it stimulating. Since this retreat is based on the classic Ignatian retreat, here's a Q/A from our discussions that I thought helpful.

Me: If I am getting you right, praying in this manner (ie, concentrating on
feelings and active imagination ... kind of like day-dreaming...rather than analysis
and moralizing) has a lot in common with Jungian dream interpretation, which I took a course in once. Not the weird Jungian stuff that some people get into, but the discovery of what one's unconscious/subconscious is letting you know about yourself
that your conscious self might not want to pay attention to.

Sr. Kathryn: The difference I would suppose between Jungian dreamwork and Ignatian exercises (though they are similar principles at work) is that the Spirit is directly working in you. Coming up with resolutions is still on the conscious side of what I think I should do at this time with what I know. But the Spirit can lead to some
rather surprising and at time unsettling but healing directions.

This week's focus is on God the Father as Creator. One recommended practice: take a walk and contemplate creation around you. I think my analytical, over-active mind needs to touch creation directly more often than I do. Associating the works of nature with the Person of the Father as creator relieves my mind of its illusion that it's all my responsibility, it's all about me doing right and wrong, making use of grace or wasting it. No. Repeat three times, Rae: "I am not in control of life, I am not in control of life, I am not in control..." What a relief! Bill always says, "God's in control" and he means it. With my sensitivity to language, I am so conscious of that phrase being used as an aphorism tending to a cliche that I am denied, so often, the power of its simple truth.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Garden State: Zach Braff writes, acts, directs away from Scrubs

Garden State is the kind of movie I usually watch on video. When I go out to the movies I want to see a larger-than-life adventure, science fiction, thriller, film noir, yada yada. Colorful, exciting, intelligent, something that immerses me in another world. These days I find myself falling out of the demographic for that type of movie - Pirates of the Carribean had what it takes, but most movies sacrifice special effects, things blowing up and car chases for colorful characters and daring adventure.

Garden State is like none of the movies I usually see on the big screen, and yet it is the best movie I have seen this year. I'm too tired to try and figure out why, myself, so
read what Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat say about it
in their "Spirituality and Health" column.

wedding bells and difference of confession

My daughter Gabriel, in Selma, Alabama, left a voice mail message Friday night for me AND Bill to call her back. Uh-ho. Never in her life has she asked to talk to her father and me both at the same time.

The news was what we expected - she's getting married to David, the Selma lawyer she has been dating since June. David got on the phone with Bill and me and said, "I just want you all to know that I love Gabe and I want to be married to her for the rest of our lives" or something very close to that. Bill, Emily and Dave all met David when they visited Gabe in Selma in June or July, and they came back with glowing reports. Friday was the first time I'd talked to him, but I certainly did glow when he spoke up so eloquently of his intentions.

The announcement was not so much a surprise, and was pure pleasure. The date picked out was more of a surprise, October 9, 2004, that's 4 weeks from now. The place was again not much of a surprise: Selma, Alabama, where David lives and where they will make their home. The church was more of a surprise: not the Catholic parish where Gabe served her one year with the Edmundite missions, but the Methodist church of David's family.

I just got out my trusty Catechism of the Catholic Church and I see that she can have a licit marriage within the Church if she gets permission from the local ordinary. I hope she will do that. She's not sure of her Catholic faith at the moment, although she is sure about Christ.


Monday, September 06, 2004

back from the beach

Sniff... This link goes to the beautiful, peaceful house in Ocean Pines, MD that I have rented from a colleague,for three years in a row, as a splendid way to pack myself and assorted kids, siblings, grandkids, etc. off to the eastern shore for rest and relaxation. I fear I may never rent it again, much as I have grown to love it. I had a Close Encounter with the Atlantic Ocean just three days ago, the last day of my vacation, when I got swallowed up and dragged around by a riptide that almost drowned me. A wonderful lifeguard named Dave Haight from the Ocean City lifeguard crew pulled me out and got me safely to shore. That wasn't the worst, bad as it was. My son David came in after me when he heard me yelling "Help," got sucked into the same riptide, swallowed even more water than I did until he too was pulled out by a different lifeguard, to cheers (as we heard later) from people on the shore. He was blue and white in the face as he lay on the shore getting his breath back, and as a mother I never, ever want to experience something like this again. My biggest terror is not that I will do something stupid and die, but that I'll do something stupid and somebody I love will die.

Deo gratias, Deo gratias, Deo gratias for my life and David's. But I feel just like I did after my son Simon died suddenly of meningitis 22 years ago. The line between life and death is thin, thin, thin, and we take our lives too much for granted. We both thought we might not make it out of the ocean. We spent a couple of hours in the ER in a hospital in Berlin, MD, got oxygen, chest X-rays, and all checked out before they released us and we took a taxi back to the beach to get Dave's car and drive back to our cool rental house.

Now I never want to go in the ocean again... or, rather, I never want to see anyone I love go into the ocean again. I now have such a healthy respect for its power that I know I will forever be careful, if I ever venture out. I know Dave will also. But the other kids, let alone the grandkids... no, no, no, I will be a wreck if I am ever present when any of them go out any further than knee-deep. I fear I have ruined the beach for myself.

Me, me, me. It's all about me. But no, really, I could wax philosophic or even theological but at the moment, 78 hours after the fact, all I can wax is shaken to the bottom of my being.