Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sincerest form of flattery & all...

This from Sherry Weddell over at Intentional Disciples:
Catholic Quote of the Day . . . by an Anglican

“Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest thing you will ever encounter with your senses. . . if he is your Christian neighbor, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also, Christ . . . Glory himself, is truly hidden.”

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Friday, February 23, 2007

Stem cell talk on University of Delaware campus

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Rae D. Stabosz
Telephone: (302) 731-7692 (night),
(302) 981-5059 (cell)
Email rstabosz@gmail.com

The Controversy Over Stem Cells: Is It Crazy to Care About Embryos?

NEWARK, DE – February 22, 2007 – Is it right or wrong to destroy human embryos in order to conduct research that may save lives?

Delawareans will tackle this question again when they advise their legislators on Senate Bill 5 (SB5) as it comes to a vote in March. SB5 would authorize the destruction of existing human embryos and the cloning-and-destruction of new human embryos for research purposes. Will this benefit humankind or is it a step into the Brave New World?

On Thursday, March 8, 2007 in 104 Gore Hall at the University of
Delaware, Dr. Mary Ann McLane will explore the science and the ethics of embryonic stem cell research. The talk will run from 7-9 pm, with refreshments and a light reception afterwards.

Dr. McLane, Associate Professor of Medical Technology at the
University, is a teaching and research professor with expertise in
cancer cure research. Her publications include "New insights on
disintegrin-receptor interactions: eristostatin and melanoma cells", which investigates the role of naturally occurring proteins called disintegrins in retarding the growth of tumor cells. She has given presentations around the state on the topic of stem cells, cloning, and the parameters of ethical stem cell research.

This talk is sponsored by Catholic Scholars of Delaware, the Pro-Life Vanguard at the University of Delaware, and The Saint Thomas More Oratory.

For further information contact Rae Stabosz at 302-981-5059.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ever ancient, ever new

In the 1980's, Latin was a taboo language in Catholic liturgy in the US -- one of the Church's traditional practices that was mercilessly mocked during the frenzied modernization that followed Vatican II. There's nothing new about that in church history -- every council is followed by a period of unsettledness. I will leave it to historians to determine if the post-Vatican II decades were comparable to other such times or uniquely chaotic due to the intensely rapid changes taking place in the culture at large.

So what Frs. Szupper & Keegan of the University of Delaware's Thomas More Oratory did one year at the Easter Vigil was a surprise and a delight. This was especially so because at the time the Oratory had the reputation for being the "hippest" church in the diocese. ("The bishop already thinks that if you want something radical done, go to the Oratory because they'll do anything," Fr. Keegan told me when he was trying to get me to have my marriage regularized in the Church. Bill and I were both lectors at the Oratory at the time, and he wanted to point out the possible cause for scandal among other things.)

The Oratory was dark that Easter Vigil, except for the Easter fire burning in the gathering space and the just-lit pascal candle.

"Lest we forget," Fr. Szupper announced softly from the darkness. Then he prayed the Exultet in reverent spoken word English while Fr. Keegan sang it beautifully in Latin in the background.

This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!

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Haec sunt enim festa paschalia,
in quibus verus ille Agnus occiditur,
cuius sanguine postes fidelium consecrantur.

Haec nox est,
in qua primum patres nostros, filios Israel
eductos de Aegypto,
Mare Rubrum sicco vestigio transire fecisti.

Haec igitur nox est,
quae peccatorum tenebras columnae illuminatione purgavit.

Haec nox est,
quae hodie per universum mundum in Christo credentes,
a vitiis saeculi et caligine peccatorum segregatos,
reddit gratiae, sociat sanctitati.

Haec nox est,
in qua, destructis vinculis mortis,
Christus ab inferis victor ascendit.

Nihil enim nobis nasci profuit,
nisi redimi profuisset.
O mira circa nos tuae pietatis dignatio!
O inaestimabilis dilectio caritatis:
ut servum redimeres, Filium tradidisti!

O certe necessarium Adae peccatum,
quod Christi morte deletum est!
O felix culpa,
quae talem ac tantum meruit habere Redemptorem!

O vere beata nox,
quae sola meruit scire tempus et horam,
in qua Christus ab inferis resurrexit!

Haec nox est, de qua scriptum est:
Et nox sicut dies illuminabitur:
et nox illuminatio mea in deliciis meis.

Huius igitur sanctificatio noctis fugat scelera, culpas lavat:
et reddit innocentiam lapsis
et maestis laetitiam.
Fugat odia, concordiam parat
et curvat imperia.

O vere beata nox,
in qua terrenis caelestia, humanis divina iunguntur!"



Listening & praying along, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck raise and my nose prickle.

Today I ran across another thing that reminded me of the richness inherent in the Church's journey through time -- ever ancient, ever new, like its Founder. I found it on the Intentional Disciples blog.

The Intentional Disciples blog is an oasis of intelligent inspiration in an increasingly snarky Catholic blogosphere. Sherry Weddell posted a useful link recently to an interactive guide to the station churches of Rome. It is keyed to the days of Lent. Each entry has a history of the church along with some images that when click enlarge to nearly fill the screen.

I am going to try to remember to come back to it throughout this Lenten season.

Monday, February 19, 2007

thank you, Bill Donahue

I stopped following the John Edwards campaign kerfluffle for a few days. Last thing I knew was that Edwards was keeping Marcotte and McEwan on despite the crude attacks on the Catholic Church and the Pope on their respective blogs.

Now I see Andrea Marcotte has resigned and Melissa McEwan followed suit. Marcotte specifically notes that Bill Donohue's persistence in keeping the issue alive made it untenable for her to keep her position.

I used to be embarrassed by Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights (CLRCR) but I think that was more a case of me trying to be a "cool Catholic" and not make waves in the Saturday Night Live culture that we Boomers helped create rather than me giving serious thought to what he was trying to accomplish.

But I'm seeing the wisdom of insisting on respect for Catholicism in the media. I've had my own battles, and am willing to applaud Donahue and CLRCR for exposing the double-standard of the mavens of public culture when they give a pass to anti-Catholic and anti-Christian bigotry but no other bigotries.

I like what LifeSite reports about the Donahue's tenacity in this case:

The Catholic League pursued the issue on grounds of equality saying, had the comments by the two women been addressed to any group but Christians, they would have been immediately denounced as bigoted.

“The purpose of this communication is to ignite a national discussion on the incredible double standard that exists regarding bigotry in American life,” Donohue said in a statement Feb.9. “We either have one shoe that fits all when it comes to fighting bigotry, or we have a phony, politically correct approach to the subject. That is the ultimate issue, not John Edwards.”

Newsweek coverage of the controversy illustrated the double standard operating towards hate speech when applied to Christianity, Donahue pointed out in a statement Feb. 12. In the February 19 edition of Newsweek, Morcotte’s and McEvans’ comments were referred to as “criticism” of Roman Catholic and religious conservatives.

Donohue responded, “It is not criticism of Catholicism when someone makes a comment about the Virgin Mary being injected with semen by the Lord. Nor is it criticism when religious conservatives are called motherf---ers. It is hate speech. And these are only two of their incredibly vulgar assaults.

“Newsweek reeks of a double standard. In its December 11, 2006 edition, it said that Michael Richards had gotten himself in trouble for his ‘racist rant,’ and in the same article it recalled Mel Gibson’s ‘anti-Semitic remarks.’ On February 5, 2007, it said that Isaiah Washington got himself into hot water for making a ‘homophobic comment.’ In other words, when someone makes a racist, anti-Semitic or anti-gay remark, Newsweek labels it as such. But when obscene comments are made about the Mother of God or religious conservatives, it counts as mere criticism.

Right on, Bill! The level of public discourse has become almost fatally degraded. And we are all complicit. Let's all clean up our acts. Anti-Catholics and anti-Christians included.

A local habitation and a name

A couple of years ago I found a complete set of Yale Shakespeare for $5.00 at a firehall sale. Each play in its own small, hardbound volume -- score of the day!

My son Ish used them for a Shakespeare course at UD. Otherwise, they've been waiting for me to find the time and inclination to crack them open. I had a vague idea of reading through the plays chronologically, although that might turn out like trying to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation -- a method that bogs you down through the minor parts.

Meanwhile, the lit anthology I'm browsing has a section of excerpts from the plays. Kind of a "best of" instead of one complete play as is usual. Today's morning reading is from A Midsummer-Night's Dream:

Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet,
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman; the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

The devil and Enoch Soames

I have a weakness for high school and college lit textbooks. My favorites are the literature anthologies from the thirties, forties and fifties written by professors at Catholic universities for the education of Catholic high school and college students. This was before the challenge of the sixties, the sexual revolution, and Vatican II, at which time Catholic schools became self-conscious and started bending over backwards not to teach anything that smacked of Catholic parochialism. Unfortunately that lead to the "butterflies and flowers" textbooks for religious ed that featured thumbs-up Buddy Christ tripping through Galilee with his hippie disciples. And Catholic lit anthologies became as overstuffed with existentialists, nihilists, atheists, modernists and post-modernists as anything written for the public schools and universities. Those were the days when we were ashamed to claim any form of Catholic culture whatsoever.

Today I picked up a textbook from 1948 titled "Literature: The Channel of Culture" by Francis X. Connolly from Fordham University. In it I read Max Beerbohm for the first time. It was a short story called "Enoch Soames", about an unsuccessful English writer who makes a deal with the devil to travel 100 years in the future so he can read the effusive appreciation posterity has towards his artistic genius. Let me tease you with the making of the deal. If you want to read more, Project Gutenberg has the whole text online and downloadable.

From "Enoch Soames" by Max Beerbohm:
"I am a man of business," [the devil] said, "and always I would put things through 'right now,' as they say in the States. You are a poet. Les affaires--you detest them. So be it. But with me you will deal, eh? What you have said just now gives me furiously to hope."

Soames had not moved except to light a fresh cigarette. He sat crouched forward, with his elbows squared on the table, and his head just above the level of his hands, staring up at the devil.

"Go on," he nodded. I had no remnant of laughter in me now.

"It will be the more pleasant, our little deal," the devil went on, "because you are--I mistake not?--a diabolist."

"A Catholic diabolist," said Soames.

The devil accepted the reservation genially.

"You wish," he resumed, "to visit now--this afternoon as-ever-is --the reading-room of the British Museum, yes? But of a hundred years hence, yes? Parfaitement. Time--an illusion. Past and future--they are as ever present as the present, or at any rate only what you call 'just round the corner.' I switch you on to any date. I project you--pouf! You wish to be in the reading-room just as it will be on the afternoon of June 3, 1997? You wish to find yourself standing in that room, just past the swing-doors, this very minute, yes? And to stay there till closing-time? Am I right?"

Soames nodded.

The devil looked at his watch. "Ten past two," he said. "Closing-time in summer same then as now--seven o'clock. That will give you almost five hours. At seven o'clock--pouf!--you find yourself again here, sitting at this table. I am dining to-night dans le monde--dans le higlif. That concludes my present visit to your great city. I come and fetch you here, Mr. Soames, on my way home."

"Home?" I echoed.

"Be it never so humble!" said the devil, lightly.

"All right," said Soames.

"Soames!" I entreated. But my friend moved not a muscle.

The devil had made as though to stretch forth his hand across the table, but he paused in his gesture.

"A hundred years hence, as now," he smiled, "no smoking allowed in the reading-room. You would better therefore--"

Soames removed the cigarette from his mouth and dropped it into his glass of Sauterne.

"Soames!" again I cried. "Can't you"--but the devil had now stretched forth his hand across the table. He brought it slowly down on the table-cloth. Soames's chair was empty. His cigarette floated sodden in his wine-glass. There was no other trace of him.

Dr. Who: the next generation



Have I mentioned how very good the new Dr. Who series is?

I am a long-time Dr. Who fan who started watching with the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and stayed faithful through the Fifth (Peter Davison) before losing interest with the Sixth (Colin Baker). I also went back and watched all of the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and some of the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton).

The first two years of the revived series has been a feast for fans. The new series keeps what we loved about the original and adds on a depth of emotion that was deliberately absent from the earlier incarnations.

The Ninth and Tenth Doctors, portrayed respectively by Christopher Eccleston (who contracted for one year only out of fear of being typecast) and David Tennant (who first announced as a child that he wanted to be an actor when he grew up after getting hooked on Dr. Who), is still cheerfully daffy but with a steely, darker edge that can surface without warning. He has seen so much war and death that he's a bit more ruthless than before. He is keenly aware of all the blood on his own hands, and his enemies are not loath to bring this up to him from time to time. He is the last surviving Time Lord -- a great Time War took place at some point in the years between the old series and the new -- and he is lonely. He is still the champion of all that is good but the cost of battling evil has made him hard beneath the devil-may-care exterior.

He still doesn't mess around with his companions in the Tardis but the taboo against touching and kissing is gone. In The Girl in the Fireplace he has a poignant romance with Madame de Pompadour. In School Reunion he runs into his companion from the Fourth and Fifth Doctor days, Sarah Jane Smith, and she not only takes him to task for abandoning her but also relates to his current companion Rose as to a rival. Rose too sees the possibility of her own future when she looks at Sarah Jane -- will she be the left behind companion who grows older while the ever-regenerating Doctor stays young and flies off to adventures without her?

In last night's episode, the last surviving Slitheen from an earlier episode is caught by the Doctor who intends to rid the earth of its murdering presence and take it back to its home planet, where it faces the death penalty. The Slitheen has become comfortable in her "skin suit" as a middle-aged, professional Englishwoman who by this time has become mayor of a city. The Slitheen argues for her life and accuses the Doctor of being her executioner. She asks the Doctor for a last request -- that he take her to a restaurant she had become fond of during her time on earth.

"Can you sit at table with someone you are delivering up for execution?" she asks the Doctor.

If you haven't checked out the new Dr. Who series and are a fan of the old, I highly recommend you do so. You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

On poetry, memory, Jonathan Cott & the mind of God

In May of 1982, I bought a slim book of poetry titled Charms, written by an author I didn't know and published by Toothpaste Press. Printed on quality, heavy-weight beige paper, "Charms" looked exactly like what it was: a short collection of poems from a fine letterpress publisher of literary books. No more than 850 copies were printed. Jonathan Cott was the author.

In March of 1982, my world had been shattered when my two-year-old son Simon died of sudden bacterial meningitis. I bought Cott's volume for one poem alone, although I came to appreciate the others:
Death of a Child
after Rakugo

If I could see a face
Like my child's face
I'd go look for it
Among the little dancers

This poem grabbed me fiercely and worked that mysterious act of poetry that sears the heart and kindles hot tears and profound release.

I hadn't thought of this poem, or Jonathan Cott, in years. Then the other day I found the book and fell in love with it all over again. This time I read the familiar but forgotten poem from a happy distance of time and memory. I decided to look Jonathan Cott up on the Internet and see what he was up to. Was he still a journalist for Rolling Stone? Still producing small works of poetry?

I discovered that in the intervening years, Jonathan Cott had undergone electroshock therapy for severe depression (as my father had undergone several times in the 1950's, when it was given without anaesthesia). In Cott's case, the treatment caused the loss of his short-term memory and retrograde amnesia. The journalist/poet effectively forgot 15 years of his life.

Out of this experience he published a book two years ago called On the Sea of Memory: A Journey From Forgetting to Remembering. I remember reading reviews when that book came out. I did not connect the Jonathan Cott who wrote it with the author of my Toothpaste Press book Charms. You can read about it in Living Memento: Is Happiness Worth Losing Your Memory? by Jay Michaelson of Slate magazine.

From this episode of time travel I conclude the following. The Internet is indeed something new under the sun. Through it we gain access not just to information but to those doors, windows and bricks that are the building blocks of the architecture of human interconnectedness. We become like God in our ability to know, understand and love the infinite variety of human life and experience beyond our own.

Telephone Book
- by Jonathan Cott

First I erase your number
Your address
Your name
Then blow away the specks

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Christmas, domesticity, and time.

Christmastime is hard for me. My husband once observed somewhat crudely that I went "on the rag" at Thanksgiving and did not get off until after New Year's. It is at Christmastime that my deficiencies in homemaking nearly cripple me. I don't bake cookies, I have little sense of how to decorate a home, I sweat and fret over buying gifts that will not disappoint, I don't cook (but fortunately Bill does), and I get nervous about the rounds of parties and social affairs that I seldom reciprocate outside of the family.

Then there is the ubiquitous "meaning of Christmas" that tears at me because I have a great fondness for the religious customs and liturgies of both Advent and Christmastime, but my household is too theologically diverse to come together smoothly in the way I might idealize. When the children were younger, I made Jesse trees and lit the Advent wreath but it's harder to do now that my kids are older and are comfortable with family customs and rituals but not overtly religious ones. And that's as it should be, to some extent. Our household is not a religious community, we don't share a common faith and worship and the children still living here are adults. It is no longer appropriate for me to be their formal teacher and guide in the faith. Harmonious living requires mutual respect for the workings of the Holy Spirit in each family member's soul. On my part, that means rejecting any temptation to express or even entertain internally any disappointment that I didn't raise a passel of practicing Catholics. On their part, it means rejecting both the pressure to conform without real assent to my hopes for their involvement in the faith in which they were raised, and the pull to reject these simply as a part of the maturation and individuation process of reaching adulthood.

Pope Benedict, in a homily given at vespers on Thanksgiving, said something that resonated with this difficulty I have with Christmastime, which is after all only a magnification of the difficulty all Christians have in fulfilling that part of the Creed which states, "I believe in all that is, visible and invisible."

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Two different evaluations of the dimension of time thus contrast each other, one qualitative and one quantitative. On the one hand, there is there is the solar cycle with its rhythms; on the other, that which St. Paul calls the "fullness of time" (Gal 4:4), namely, the culminating moment of the history of the universe and of the human race, when the Son of God was born into the world. The time of promises was fulfilled and, when the pregnancy of Mary had reached its end, "the earth has yielded its increase" (Ps 66 [67]:7) as a psalm says.

The coming of the Messiah, foretold by the Prophets, is qualitatively the most important event in all of history, to which it confers its own final and ultimate meaning. Historical-political coordinates do not condition God’s choices, but, on the contrary, it is the event of the Incarnation that "fills up" the worth and meaning of history.

- Pope Benedict XVI, November 2007. Thanks to
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf for the reference.


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Test of blogging software. Ignore.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

With a little help from my kin

Two amazing (to me) events occurred in the past two months. My sister Marguerite and my son Ish both returned to the practice of the Faith. Not only does it make me happy to witness firsthand the remarkable clarity of mind that this homecoming brings to two people I love so well, but it makes me feel less alone in my own journey to understand and live the gospel in an authentic, non-sentimental way.

*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_
Sunday dinner

So tired of taking
meals without my kin.
So pleased to see
you sit again at table.
Kiss me in peace,
my sister and my son.
Tell me your tales
as soon as you are able.
*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*

I am one who believes that Pope Leo XIII's vision in 1884 was authentic. While the Church teaches that belief in private revelation is never required, it also recognizes that 1) private revelation does exist and b) nothing in Leo's vision is contrary to what we know and believe. His vision goes like this:

*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*
'On October 13, 1884 Leo XIII had just completed a celebration of Mass in one of the Vatican's private chapels. Standing at the foot of the altar, he suddenly turned ashen and collapsed to the floor, apparently the victim of a stroke or heart attack. However, neither malady was the cause of his collapse. For he had just been given a vision of the future of the Church he loved so much. After a few minutes spent in what seemed like a coma, he revived and remarked to those around him, "Oh, what a horrible picture I was permitted to see!"

During Pope Leo's ecstasy he heard two voices, one deep and coarse which he understood to be Satan challenging the other voice, Jesus. Paraphrasing:

Satan: "Given enough time and enough power I can defeat your church."
Jesus: "How much time and how much power?"
Satan: "100 years and the power over those who would serve me."
Jesus: "You will have the power and the time."
What Leo XIII apparently saw, as described later by those who talked to him at the time of his vision, was a period of about one hundred years when the power of Satan would reach its zenith. That period was to be the twentieth century.'
- Modern Papal Visions, http://www.pdtsigns.com/popeleo.html
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Reflecting back on my life, it does seem to me that the idea of truth fell into intellectual disrepute during the 20th century, and that later historians will look upon our culture as one which abandoned reason in favor of will in all areas of human endeavor but technology.

And faith divorced from reason may be worse than no faith at all.

I want to cry sometimes when I recall the loneliness of the bitter wind that blew during the times I discounted the existence and work of the Blessed Trinity. I want to cry for the lies I accepted as truth -- that organized religion was a snakepit of hypocrisy and conventionality; that I was equipped with superior intelligence that would allow me to free myself from the shackles of organized religion; that the Church was an instrument of oppression and repression alone, with no roots in the absent Trinity's creative, redemptive and sanctifying activities.

This is a new century, and I think I am witnessing a sea change in the attitudes and understanding of good-minded people towards western religion. The self-hatred and suspicion seems to be abating.

Last night on Veronica Mars, our college-age girl sleuth was asked to solve the Mystery of the Morning After Pill. One of Veronica's classmates had become pregnant accidentally. Initially she wanted to get an abortion, but then after talking to her boyfriend and her parents she changed her mind.

So someone slipped the pregnant student RU-486 and caused a miscarriage. (Statistically, they would have had to have slipped her a round of prostaglandin 48 hours later or she would have had only a 60% chance of complete abortion, but for plot purposes the basic facts were right).

Veronica investigates and discovers that the girl's father is an evangelical Christian preacher who has a television ministry. We are lead to believe that the dad will turn out to be the bad guy, a hypocrite who preaches "love the sinner, hate the sin" but who cannot afford to have his daughter turn up pregnant, and so he quietly gets rid of the problem.

But bingo -- the plot twists differently. The preacher dad was warm and supportive of his daughter when he learned of her pregnancy, and was also grieving the subsequent death of his grandchild.

The RU-486 was slipped the girl by her college roommate and friend since childhood, who did not want to see her scuttle her career plans by being burdened with a baby at that time in her life.

Now, if you think it is absurd to imagine that there is a reality behind Pope Leo XIII's vision, and that there exists actual war made on God by his fallen angels, consider this.

Is there any way that plot line could have appeared on a teenage-skewing popular television show in the twentieth century?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The concept and reality of "home"

As a child of the 60's, I have had a love-hate relationship with the concept of domesticity. I was of the generation of women who found it an absolute duty to have gainful employment outside the home. I scorned the idea of homemaking as a valuable use of time. But I also bore and raised a passel of children, and wanted for them the stability and warmth of a reasonably ordered domestic existence. I wanted a home that reflected the reality of the Christian orientation to life. But I did not want religious sentimentality.

Sr. Margaret Charles sent me a manuscript titled Sacred Dwelling: An Everyday Family Spirituality to read and write about for the Pauline Life and Soul magazine. She said parts of it reminded her of me.

Indeed. This is a book I wish I'd found earlier in life. The author is Wendy Wright. In the first chapter she addresses her readers directly:

'Very few of you are smiling all the time. Most of your families are scarred to one degree or another by death, disease, alcoholism, … lack of communication, quarreling between generations, quarreling with in-laws. Most of you find the fabric of your relationships stretched unbearably by the pull of contemporary life. You are stamped with the violence and the jaundiced view of human society that is reflected in the media. You are oppressed by the pressures of succeeding, overwhelmed with financial worry, seduced by a consumerist view of ultimate happiness, absent from one another’s lives because of the sheer number of commitments forced on you by jobs, schools, peer and collegial pressure, duty or the desire for some sort of personal enhancement.

Despite all this, most of you will also look to your home and family as a primary source of nurture and meaning. You will accept the idea that home in some way represents (or should represent) a foundational experience of caring community.

I think this is not just an unfounded and culturally induced illusion. Both philosophically and psychologically the concept of home has been explored as a powerful and primal image in the phenomenology of the imagination, a concentration of the entire psyche, our first universe. Child psychologists, when they want to ascertain the self-image of a young client, will often ask the girl or boy to draw a picture of a house. The home as an image can reflect a sense of identity and meaning-making that contains within itself a clue to the way we understand ourselves and our world.

… We experience home as representing the American myth which gives expression to our collective longings for a stable, caring environment and community… At the same time, we also recognize the current reality of our own homes and families.

There may be considerable disjuncture between these sets of data. But this gap need not be uncreative. Nor, I think, should we be deterred from looking at our unidealized life-situations as potential windows through which to touch and be touched by God’s presence. While our “real” homes may not always conform to our “ideal” homes, there is a profound relationship between the two.

By this I do not mean to suggest that we imagine ourselves as other than we are. This is not a book that will attempt to articulate a spirituality out of the experience of the “perfect” or even the clinically “functional” family. After all, an authentic spiritual life assumes that we start exactly where we are, not in some unattained ideal realm. God cannot find us in any place other than the one in which we find ourselves.

But neither is this a book that ignores the profound spiritual yearning in each of us to “come home”, to realize the “more”, both the “more” of what we would want our families to be and the desire for “more” that spurs our religious seeking.

Within this lived tension our spiritual lives are cultivated: the tension between the factuality of our daily lives with their monotony, opaqueness, limitations and sorrows, with occasional moments of insight and beauty, and the equally factual but less realized soarings of our hearts. “Home” for each of us is at the lived center of this creative tension.'
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Will you, God, really live with people on earth?
Why, the heavens and their own heavens cannot contain you.
How much less this house that I have built…
Listen to the cry and the prayer I make to you today.
Day and night let your eyes watch over this house,
Over this place of which you have said:
“My name shall be there.”

- 1 Kings 8: 27-29