Friday, December 31, 2004

Joe vs. the Volcano : What a Wonderful Movie!

Here it is December 31, 2004, last day of the year and I am holed up in my post-Christmas messy house with a head cold that sidelined me for the last 48 hours. This happens every year, the sickness after Christmas I mean. It has been a part of my Christmas vacation for as long as I can remember. Must have something to do with my immune system going wacky with all the pre-Christmas stress plus the days of eating cookies and chocolate and raviolis and other yummy holiday foods.

So I walk into the living room and catch the last 10 minutes of John Patrick Shanley's brilliant movie "Joe Vs. The Volcano". You should rush right out and rent or buy it and make it your New Year's Eve entertainment.

This movie is the perfect example of an anti-horror movie that is as exciting, colorful and spiritually cutting as the best of the horror genre. This is the best "story of a soul" movie Hollywood ever produced. I brought it to a Christifideles retreat once to show my example of a perfectly Catholic movie, but I don't think anyone took to it or quite believed me. People had fun watching it but afterwards said "Okay, Rae, now tell us why you wanted us to see that movie."

God bless the Internet. I just googled the title and see that there are some sites devoted to this film and some folks who think of it as I do. Well, not quite as I do. I read a few essays, and the closest I found to my own take on the movie is this essay by Adam Baker where he understands the whole good vs. evil, gaining and losing of one's soul theme. But I still have not read anyone who interprets the three Meg Ryan characters as " three faces of Eve" to Joe's Adam. His relationship to the three of them shows us the classic Catholic understanding of the sacramental working out of the scripture lines "it is for this reason a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife".

I need to write my Joe vs. the Volcano essay on marriage and salvation. It's a dirty job but somebody has to do it. I'm fairly sure that Shanley did not mean the moon to be The Eucharist, but it certainly works perfectly as such.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Holy Father makes me smile

Pope John Paul II, in his Midnight Mass homily in this year of the Eucharist: "Stay with us, living Bread which came down from heaven for our salvation! Stay with us forever!"

And on Christmas Day, addressing the crowd in St. Peter's Square: "...the message of the Christmas tree is thus that life is 'evergreen' if one makes a gift, not of material things, but of oneself: in friendship and sincere affection, in fraternal help and in pardon, in time shared and in reciprocal listening."

I just love this pope. Between him and Blessed Alberione, I am spoiled for reading any other Catholic's thought. They both combine great intellect with sincere piety and winning humility.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

the Horla

I finished reading Guy de Maupassant's story "The Horla" last night, from "The Dracula Book of Great Vampire Stories." The protagonist sounds so much like a person in desolation.

"Now I know, I can divine. The reign of man is over, and he has come. He who was feared by primitive man; whom disquieted priests exorcised; whom sorcerers evoked on dark nights, without having seen him appear, to whom the imagination of the transient masters of the world lent all the monstrous or graceful forms of gnomes, spirits, genii, fairies and familiar spirits... Woe to us! Woe to man! He has come, the -- the -- what does he call himself -- the -- I fancy that he is shouting out his name to me and I do not hear him-- the-- yes-- he is shouting it out -- I am listening-- I cannot-- he repeats it-- the-- Horla-- I hear-- the Horla-- it is he-- the Horla-- he has come!

But the butterfly, you will say, a flying flower? I dream of one that should be as large as a hundred worlds, with wings whose shape, beauty, colors and motion I cannot even express. But I see it -- it flutters from star to star, refreshing them and perfuming them with the light and harmonious breath of its flight! And the people up there look at it as it passes in an ecstasy of delight."

In the introduction to the book, editor Leslie Shepard notes that De Maupassant died of syphilis in an asylum six years after writing this story.

I started "The Horla" on the train to Boston, on my way to the Pauline Cooperator retreat. I questioned then, and now, my affinity for horror stories, vampire stories, stories of the dark and monstrous. Twentieth century criticism has written at length about "the monstrous" and why it appeals to us. But much of that criticism is a criticism of the Church, and religion. Horror movies, stories of the monstrous appeal to us because the Church and religion have repressed the darker sides of human nature so that we have to approach them obliquely, through tales of terror and the supernatural.

Not all modern criticism goes that way - it's mostly mainstream literary critics who do so, not the genre critics.

But after my experience recently of such desolation, I find myself wondering if this sort of story, the horror genre that I am drawn to both in reading and in writing, is part of the "old man" that I ought to discard as I put on the new. There is a stubborness in me that insists this cannot be so -- but is it part of my Steppenwolf-Rae to embrace the dark and shy from the light, in fiction? Certainly that thought merits consideration and prayer.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Post-abortion poem

who contributes to a blog called After abortion.
Life after abortion: News, opinion, personal experience, resources"
, surfed on in to say she is collecting, among other things, poems written about the experience of abortion. The blog is a good one and you ought to check it out. The post-abortion poetry is heartbreaking, e.g.:

Coming Home from the Exorcist

The needles and the hoses

and the cold metal table are behind me

the flailing cramps, deep in my gut

feel like loneliness, my body abandoned

by its malignant


Memories of

cold rubber gloves

and the doctor's stone face

drip away

like the afterbirth of someone else's domestic dreams.

I bury the carrion fantasy

and think of brighter things, like

how much easier it must be

to be a man, and how much pain

an unloved child might feel,

and how babies go straight to heaven, no matter who their parents are.

Death is a better mother, sweetheart.

She'll never

let you go.

- Holly Day

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Renovating My Blog

I tried editing my blog template like Gordon suggested to put in code for links, and the template I was using didn't have a place for that. After spending 20 minutes or so trying to insert my own code in the right place of my old template, with no success... I did the sensible thing and found a template that allows it easily. Voila, my new blog format! I kind of like the bright orange, and I'm starting to put links in already.

More evidence of post-abortion trauma

Post-abortion psychological problems frequent

Thanks to Betty of Catholic Surfer for the link.

Why I love The Founder

Digging through "Thoughts", a compilation of Fr. Alberione's short sayings on a variety of topics, I find enough inspiration to write a dozen articles. I remember why I love this Apostle of the Media:

"Electric current has high and low tension. Religious life is spiritual current at high tension, the poetry of a personality in Christ, the generator and promoter of heroism."

"If our apostolate truly follows God the Writer and Publisher, it will bear fruit and endure."

"It is an error to restrain the young from manifesting their thoughts, however strange these may be in adolescence and crisis. Instead, encourage them to talk and give them explanations. Offer them support, make it easy for them to open up and to make themselves known... Then counsel and correct their ideas, supply books suited to their situation, offer reasons, and use the greatest possible wisdom and goodness."

"If we don't weep for time lost, for what shall we weep?"

"Watch your minutes... There was a cleric who subtracted ten minutes a day from useless conversation, indifferent reading and easy distraction, and put them toward the reading of books on ascetics, sociology, history, literature, etc... Small change makes for capital, and it is the attentive person who gains treasures for heaven."

And this one that is so salutary to me!:

"This must be insisted on: don't have hallucinations about gradiose things. Are you really sure that you can accomplish them? And then? And then you will incur grandiose debts."

Ambassadors of Christ

I am researching an article for the Cooperators magazine on blogging. Searching for a quote from Fr. Alberione about the good press and the bad press, I came across a homily given by Cardinal Egan of New York to commemorate the beatification of Blessed James Alberione, given at St. Patrick's Cathedral on November 30, 2003. Cardinal Egan reminded the members of the Pauline family gathered there to celebrate the beatification of The Founder, The Theologian -- Don Giacomo Alberione as Cardinal Egan knew him -- of the core of his mission, that we all become, in this modern age of communication, "ambassadors of Christ" as St. Paul was so long ago. Cardinal Egan wrote:

"If you and I were to leave this packed cathedral this morning and go out in the world and live as women and men who are committed to justice in season and out of season, who never damage the rights of another, who never take away the good name of another, who are fiercely just, who would be men and women of unconditioned compassion, then every human being who crosses our path would be seen as an image of God for whom God has died. Anyone who is hurting could trust that we would hurt as well and come to his or her assistance.

If we went out of this cathedral this morning, not only just and compassionate, but also as women and men of honor to speak the truth in and out of season and never counted the cost, as women and men whose hearts are clean no matter how unclean the world may seem to be, then you and I would be ambassadors of Jesus Christ. Indeed it would be God speaking in us. Everyone — not just the priests, brothers, sisters or lay associates of the Pauline Family — but each and every one of us has been called to be a Don Alberione."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

much better now

Out of desolation, the worst since this Donec Formetur retreat began. Beginning to discern the spirits in the Ignatian/Alberione way. During my bleakest time I remember wanting to write to Sr. Kathryn and ask her why the only hint of consolation I could discern within myself was the sharp, intense pulse of something of color and brightness trying to break through the pall of evil, discouragement, self-doubt, self-loathing that had descended upon me. This intense pulse of color was not peaceful but fiery, and seemed a whirlwind that wanted to grab up all the evils and horrors --like the woman who was arrested for allowing her boyfriend to abuse her children and neglect one to death -- and punch them into a tornado of chaos that was the only bright aspect of my world of gray death and quiet.

The quiet of desolation is not peace. The only activity appears to be the whirlwind of evils punching color into a colorless world -- Christ seems to be inside the whirlwind, and that is the only place He seems to be in desolation.

In today's meditation I was directed to bring to memory the day of my own baptism. Being an infant at the time, I could only bring it to memory in imagination. I thought of Aunt Betty and Uncle Dominic, young and full of life and the excitement of being with Daddy and Mother as they welcomed another baby into the traditions of generations of past D'Orazios. Daddy, I know, would have been filled with faith and joy at my becoming part of the Catholic Christian world, with all the hope and help within it. Daddy was a man of faith. Mother would have felt, perhaps, once again an alien in a strange world of Italian Catholicism. On her deathbed, when the chaplain asked if she had any regrets about her life, she said no. Then she said one of the most unexpected things I ever thought to hear from her mouth, and this when talking to a chaplain about her life and upcoming death. She said, "I raised six good Catholic children, I have no regrets." Her promise to raise us as Catholics must have been very important for her, that she would bring it up on her deathbed in answer to a question about regrets. I love her so much. She brought me to Christ when she did not "feel" him herself, when she had "taken Jesus for her personal savior" on several occasions but "nothing happened." She was an agnostic whose faith, I believe, was stronger than many who think that they know Christ. "Religion is life", she said often when discussing her own inability to find a home within a church or faith community. "Religion is life", and she lived her blind faith. I love you, Mommy. I love you, Daddy. Thank you for the gift of my second life.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

writing my way out of a paper bag... or is that a paper drag?

Today I could have thrown a computer or a human being through the glass windows at my work, I was that peevish all day long. I repeat as before, like a broken record, as I get ready to say my prayers and go to bed, this is still the point in time of spiritual renewal/retreat/re-forward when I decide that my aspirations to "put on the new man" are wildly overambitious and lead me to and tottering on the edge of reason. My own shibboleth. But you know what? Eff it if they can't take a joke, to quote some guy from some movie that I can't remember. Sr. Kathryn says there are ... [something, I forget her exact words,] something like glass shards sprinkled all along the road if we try to travel barefoot. Barefoot is for hippies. I am big girl now. Snares of the devil pish-tosh! So, as St. Paul said in his Epistle to the Vegelutherans (now lost), "I will put on the boots of stubbornness and the corselet of good humour and embrace the banana split of wakefulness covered with the whipped cream of silliness and the cherry on top of hilarity," and stride into the fray, glass shards be darned...


Orcs gnash.
White beasts prevaricate.
Mothers let their boyfriends kill their children in motel rooms.

Ring around the devil's knees, pockets full of rosaries,
Ashes, ashes, we all mourn and weep.
Lambs wash.
Mercies accelerate.
Mother let your children find their Champion in your womb.

Lamb of God protect our get, harrow hell, collect our debt.
Mercy, mercy, we all fall down.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A sonnet, my first, fruit of my desolation. Okay, I am reminded of some forgotten truths, about art and the spirit.

A very big thanks to Paul Croakin who sent me encouragement in my desolation, and prayers, just at the right moment. On my website at I wrote years ago, as an intro to the poetry section, "Poetry saved my life once. Write a poem -- it might save yours!" Now I take my own advice and compose my first sonnet, out of this desolation, at least I believe it follows the proper sonnet format. I do like this.


The cold lay on her heart like fallen snow,
A wintry hollow desolate and drear.
Within the frozen borders nestled low
She shivered taking weary rest with fear.

Where once in light, in darkest depths untold
Her anxious soul pursues the lost Embrace
The Path, the Word, the Living Truth unfolds
Unseen, unnoticed, neither caught nor chased.

The frozen tale, once told, begins to thaw;
The icy muscle melts with last reserves.
The heart beats twice, provisional and raw
The wakened Word restores the rattled nerves.

Aroused from rest, the drowsy Christ demurs,
Could not he sleep one hour with her secure?

Back to the title... Confessions of a Cooperator

Confessions of a Cooperator... alright, then, what am I cooperating in? What have I to confess?

I am cooperating in Fr. Alberione's vision of a group of men and women dedicated like St. Paul to telling the people of this age about the now-old but in truth always new "evangelion" of Jesus the Christ, Way, Truth and Life.

What have I to confess? The rubber band effect has flung me completely back into the old world/old skin/old man -- this is the point in time at which I completely abandon any attempt at putting on the new man. Depression has settled on me like the old unwelcome enemy (not friend) who dogs my steps at every turn, disconnecting me from every person and every tie that binds me to my life. I am unmoored. Physical weights like huge boulders press on my chest, physical pain from my back and legs saps my energy, the color leaches out of the universe and all I want to do is curl up in my bed and await... whatever comes along to break it.

Mental illness is not a blessing, but is it a textbook that accompanies my education in Jesus Way, Truth and Life? There's never any talking myself out of it, the only course is to hang on until it goes away. I might, this time, try not to put any false gods before me as I wait out the numbing winter in my soul, mind and heart. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

the 10 commandments & the examen

Okay then. Examen of consciousness or examination of conscience. Ignatius and Alberione both use both terms somewhat equivalently. Fr. Alberione suggests using the 10 commandments as the basis for examining our own lives. At first I thought this specious - I don't kill - but it has proven a remarkably effective tool.This morning's examen:

1. false gods - the god of cool. At Mass last night, an Epiphany! My own particular Steppenwolf has long been the pious, serious Rae vs. the cool, careless Rae. I have long been influenced by the sentiment expressed well by Billy Joel in his song "Only the Good Die Young": "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, the sinners are much more fun." Fr. Alberione and St. Paul are both a couple of sober-sides. At core, me too. The saints cry for good reason. The joy of the saints is not identical to laughing with the sinners. The saints and the sinners are one; the saints know it, the sinners do not.

All that is over-analysis. I am obedient, serious, pious and open (vulnerable) at core. When I see these virtues mocked, I chicken out and bounce back to prove that I am as rebellious, frivolous, irreverent and closed off (protected) as the best modern Catholic woman. False god - the god of cool Catholicism.

2. name of the Lord in vain - nothing today but often an accompaniment to having the false god of cool before me: taking the real Lord's name too familiarly, as if to show that my God is as cool as I am.

3. keep holy the Lord's day - be careful not to omit the communion of saints ie., keep the Lord's day holy with my household even if they don't know it is the Lord's day.

4. honor thy father and mother - feeling smug and distant from Lisa T and those like her whose aging, ailing parents are still alive and who are struggling to care for them. nyah, nyah, i've been there/done that. don't stand aloof in my mind, be with them mentally and spiritually. Also, whenever I come to this part of the examen, I pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for my mom and dad and Bill's mom and dad. Also grandparents and other relatives who have died.

5. thou shalt not kill - i vented my annoyances at work yesterday, got on a regular roll.

6. thou shalt not steal - time at work? depends. or doesn't. Thou shalt not steal time at work to look at and read movie reviews, rae.

7. commit adultery - guard tongue in male-female exchanges. speak of Bill and marriage always truthfully, never to be cool. don't participate in the culture's trivialization of sex.

8. bear false witness - turned on F., almost gave a vocal petty analysis (pet peeves) of her hospitality, this tied up with the god of cool. see what a plebian I am, to feel discomfort among the patricians? bleh. Christ was at ease among the patricians, acted like himself, challenged the false accoutrements of the patrician lifestyle, didn't smile to their faces & criticize behind their backs.

9. covet neighbor's wife - wanting to capture the attention of giovanni, caesar.

10. covet neighbor's goods - getting overwhelmed while looking at and, overwhelmed with WANTING and ANXIETY over not having the accoutrements (yes again) of the Good Life.

Be not afraid, I am with you. From here I will cast light. Be sorry for sin.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

not dead yet (the blog I mean)

Do you know that most people give up blogging after a few weeks or a couple of months? Yes indeed they do, and why? You tell me. I can make my own guesses. You run out of steam or bog down or your life gets too busy for consistent blogging.

All of the above, in my case, and then one more. After the Boston Cooperator's retreat, I started over doing the Donec Formetur retreat long-distance with Sr. Kathryn James as director. I can happily say that in the three weeks of my second, start-back-at-the-beginning effort at making this Ignatian/Alberionian discernment retreat, consistency in prayer has not gone by the wayside as so often when I make "new efforts".

On the other hand, if I didn't know what I wanted this blog to be before, how much more do I not know what I want it to be. Journal, "morning pages", relevant links, commentary, punditism, witticism, language etc. etc. etc. Write, write, write. That's what writers do.

So again I sit down to the keyboard to blog.

...... how long now before my next entry?