Friday, March 31, 2006

I love Fr. Dietzen's syndicated weekly column. He's so dang sensible. I just wish his columns were online somewhere. And my scanner isn't connected right now, so here goes typing:

Looking for references to Mary's Assumption in the Bible

Q. Where in the Bible does it state that the Blessed Virgin Mary was taken to heaven? Or that St. John was with her until she died? Where does it say Mary was glorified in heaven? I can't find any of this in the Bible. A Christian friend brought this to my attention and said everything we believe should be in Scripture. (New York)

A. Catholics and most other Christians often find themselves unnecessarily confused and embarrassed when someone aggressively confronts them with this question, Where do you find this or that belief in the Scriptures?

They panic and run to their priest or write to me and say, "We must be wrong because I can't find this anywhere in the Bible." The truth is that we, and all Christians, hold as sacred many significant truths that are not, at least explicitly, in the Bible.

Jesus did not write a Bible, nor did he tell his Apostles to write one. He established a community of believers to which he imparted his Holy Spirit. He promised to be with this community, to keep it in the truth, until the end of time (See Matthew 28 and John 15 and 16).

We need to remember that over a period of many years, the Christian Scriptures were produced by the early Christian communities; they are part of Christian tradition, not something outside and separate from that tradition.

Thousands of Christians were born and died before the New Testament was even written. These followers of Jesus received their faith not from a book, but from the company of those who were Christ's disciples before them, the group we now call the Church.

To put it plainly, therefore, we do not believe, and Christians never have believed, that all the doctrines and truths we profess are explicitly in the Bible. We do believe the Bible is the word of God. We believe that the Bible is the norm of our faith, that nothing the Church believes or holds as revealed by God can contradict what is in the Scriptures.

We also believe, however, as the Christian Church has believed from the beginning, that the Holy Spirit guides us above all in and through the community of faith, not exclusively by the Bible which that same community produced in its earliest decades.

Even Christians who say they "accept nothing that isn't in the Bible" must prove the most basic of their beliefs, that the book is the word of God, from something outside that book. It must be authenticated by someone, or some group, that can point to it and say authoritatively: "This is God's word and revelation. Accept it and believe it."

So don't panic when these questions arise. Explain that you are on a different track of faith, the faith of the Church that, by the light of the Holy Spirit, gave us the Bible in the first place and which guides us still in the doctrines we believe.

That said, it is true that the dogmas about Mary's Assumption and glorification in heaven are among those which cannot be found explicitly in the Bible. Many passages in both the Old and New Testaments, however, show that the honors and roles our faith attributes to the mother of Jesus are in accord with how the Gospels tell us the Father's love is played out in the life of Jesus and in our lives. Nothing in these doctrines contradicts or denies what is in the Bible."

Home from school, sick, up most of last night, getting a little rest now.

Taken just before I put him in his bed.
Temperance referred not specially to drink, but to all pleasures; and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further. It is a mistake to think that Christians ought all to be teetotallers; Mohammedanism, not Christianity, is the teetotal religion. Of course it may be the duty of a particular Christian, or of any Christian, at a particular time, to abstain from strong drink, either because he is the sort of man who cannot drink at all without drinking too much, or because he is with people who are inclined to drunkenness and must not encourage them by drinking himself. But the whole point is that he is abstaining, for a good reason, from something which he does not condemn and which he likes to see other people enjoying. One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons--marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.

One great piece of mischief has been done by the modern restriction of the word Temperance to the question of drink. It helps people to forget that you can be just as intemperate about lots of other things. A man who makes his golf or his motor-bicycle the centre of his life, or a woman who devotes all her thoughts to clothes or bridge or her dog, is being just as 'intemperate' as someone who gets drunk every evening. Of course, it does not show on the outside so easily: bridge-mania or golf-mania do not make you fall down in the middle of the road. But God is not deceived by externals.

C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity Book III "Christian Behavior" Chapter 2 "The 'Cardinal Virtues'"

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Family pictures are slated for Saturday and the face of my middle boy looks like a prizefighter.

He has a huge bruise on his forehead from a fall in gym class Monday. I kept the incident report from the school nurse with me all day as evidence against any charge of maternal assault. His swim teacher did a double take with him that afternoon. It's a whopper of a welt.

Today he got a scrape on his chin from brushing against a railing on the playground, according to him. After his bath this evening, he told me that his chin hurt really bad after he scraped it. I asked him whether he told anyone during recess that he hurt his chin. He said that he told Kenny, his older brother. I laughed.

Both classrooms were on the playground at the same time and the brothers were playing together. I told him that next time he gets hurt on the playground he needs to tell his teacher. Especially because Kenny isn't going to do anything for him!

I'll need to buy some make-up to cover his boo-boos for family pictures. No, I don't have any foundation or zit coverup or any make-up at all except lipstick, eyeshadow and mascara. Hard to believe?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Is this the hardest thing that I've tried to do? It feels that way. I've tried some really hard things before. Maybe I'm just getting old and rigid. "Set in my ways" or whatever.

The "second" (first for me) series on Revelation was a breeze. Even the Daniel series wasn't too hard to take. I could maintain my perspective, 2nd cent. BCE text (for the most part), the fourth kingdom was Greece not Rome, etc., etc. A IV E and all that, full preterist in the case of Daniel.

But the "third" (second for me) series on Revelation is harder. I think because my side doesn't offer any set answers. At least as far as I know. So my side has a void on how exactly to understand the "little apocalypses" in the Gospels. I'll have to dig out Sproul's book and try again to make sense of it. But I'm not sure how much I should agree with him either. I think we're probably in the middle somewhere, defying pigeon-holing, as usual. I have Olson's book ... don't like it. I tried Paul Thigpen's book again today ... he just doesn't understand the issues. It makes me wonder whether he's ever spent five minutes actually listening to anyone who thinks this way.

Oh, well, I gotta do my homework or else I can't open my mouth tomorrow morning. And I want to be able to open my mouth, probably.
Book review Our Endangered Values. I have Carter's book but haven't read all of it yet. Just some interesting critiques in the book review:

Carter's is marred by the fact that he gets some very basic things wrong.

At one point he speaks of the "worship of Mary." (Christians do not worship Mary.) [ ... ] Referencing the Vatican's rejection of liberation theology, he says that this "and other Vatican policies have resulted in a massive shift of Catholics to Protestant congregations." (Statistical data clearly show there's been no massive change.)
New Orleans church closed due to sacrilege.
It's trite to admit that I like chicken wings, fried and dipped in hot sauce. Outside of Buffalo, NY, wings served this way are called "Buffalo wings," but in Western New York (WNY), we just call them "wings". We'all know what we're talkin' about up there.

And, with the exception of a restaurant located -- thankfully! -- near my apartment in Dayton, OH when I lived and worked there, I have yet to sample decent wings outside of WNY. If you know a place, then, by all mean, pass it along. I have resorted to making my own. Wings are easy to prepare and I have improved upon the procedure that my husband learned from his mother. And things are made even easier since Wegmans rolled into town. Now I can pick up bottled sauce straight from The Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY ... right in Manalapan, NJ.

Funny thing, 'though, is that I have never been to The Anchor Bar in Buffalo! And my husband and I have an "inside" joke about that place but it's too hard to explain.

As an undergrad on UB's Amherst Campus, Duff's was easier to get to for wings. And any visit home after college graduation might require a trip up to Amherst for wings. But we could get decent wings in Batavia at Pontillo's. And then I found a place in Dayton and now I make them myself at home. But my husband can't take the hot sauce anymore. He needs 'em mild nowadays.
I began reading the Church Fathers, the Christian writers and teachers of the first eight centuries, and especially their commentaries on the Bible. I kept bumping up against my ignorance as the Fathers frequently referred to something I knew nothing about: the liturgy. [...] it was only when I began attending Mass that the many parts of this puzzling book suddenly began to fall into place. Before long, I could see the sense [ ... of several liturgical references ... ]. These are not interruptions in the narrative or incidental details; they are the very stuff of the Apocalypse.

Scott Hahn, The Lamb's Supper, pp. 66-7

He overstates his case, like any convert would.

But I see his point from my own experience in studying Revelation with Christians who are themselves mercifully "unsteeped" in definitive liturgical reference points.

Time and again, the violence, death and destruction draws their attention away from the liturgical elements. Oftentimes, war and worship appear in the same verse! But in their eyes, war trumps worship. They detect the one but miss the other.

Rev. 11:19 is a good example. The ark of the covenant was reported to contain manna for future generations, the "hidden manna" spoken of by our Lord in Rev. 2:17. But instead of this eucharistic reference, they bemoan the lightening, the thunder, the earthquake and the great hail and express pity towards those upon earth.

Consider assumptions as casual as these: in discussing Rev. 19:10, the study leader said, "Imagine, John kneeling before this angel!" And I thought to myself, "Kneeling? He's on his face!"

The text says, "I fell down at his feet to worship him."

The leader was a little embarrassed for John's "sin" and she tried to smooth that over and apologized to us for his "mistake".

"All the stuff he's seen, you can imagine that he might be a little confused. Who wouldn't be?!" Hey, I'm in no position to judge him, are you kidding? It ain't my thing to judge people in the Bible, no sir.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The entranceway of school is dotted with named stars, the names of returning students. Kenny's name was missing but it was found and put up this morning. His classmate, Zack, told us that his name is missing, too. Kenny said hopefully, "Well, so was mine, but I told them and they put it up. Just tell them, they'll put yours up!" Zack said that he had a secret that he couldn't tell. Then he had a secret that he could tell, he's moving. So, I know both his secrets. Even though they won't move far, he's not coming back next year.
The Gala is this Saturday night, no foolin'. A treasurer asked me again this morning whether I would attend. I'm thinking to myself, "Look, I attended four high school proms and two fraternity formals in college (all with the same man, hubba-hubba!); I'm done playing dress-up!" But these ladies aren't done playing dress-up. They dress up everyday.

Jeff took 400 photographs last Wednesday morning when he escorted Kenny's kindergarten class around the school for their Science Fair. 400 photographs! How does that happen?! He wants to pick a few good ones and make prints for the students in Kenny's class. He tried to get good shots of everyone.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Whispering to the ear he can't hear in:

"Remember the night we broke the windows in this old house? This is what I wished for."

Mary Bailey to her husband, George
On their rainy wedding night.
Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life
The five-year-old asked me to guess his favorite thing. "It starts with a 'T.'"

"Television?" I guess.

"No, tech-nol-o-gy," he says slowly as if I can't grok four-syllable words.

"Oh, just like daddy!" I praise.

"Yes. I like technology because it's like science," he clarifies.

"Well, yes, it's applied science," I impress.

"What's applied science?"

Now I'm stuck. But I bluffed this far so I say, "It's when you do something practical with your experiments." He buys it and tells me about an experiment at school involving two flowering plants, a cupboard and discriminative care. They guessed about the results a priori and were proved right!

They ought to nurse the wilted plant back to health but that's just my own thing: I think that science should neither create nor destroy.
Anagram for "mormon"!

[ ]

Jeff just told me that he watched Big Love on HBO last night and recommended that I watch it.

I had told him about the documentary Inside Polygamy on A&E a couple of weeks ago. I blogged about it here a little bit, so read that other post for my reactions to polygamy in general.

But I have a new thought in light of this HBO show: there's a challenge to the conservatives' definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. So, who's piggy-backing off of whom? Or, as Jeff said, "Who's broke-backing off of whom." Are the (excommunicated) Mormons trying to slip in under any eventual homosexual marriage provision or is it vice versa?

Well, I haven't watched the show yet, so I'll have to save my comments until then. And I don't really care about this issue. I mean, I have my own understanding of marriage that I was "growed up" with. As I said in the other post, it would be hard to shake. So, unless my husband wants to take on more ... From my perspective, marital matters are meeting my expectations, thank you very much.
Pulling into the parking lot at Princeton Alliance Church last Thursday morning, I saw a "Let's Roll" bumper sticker on a car and thought to myself, "Does this church distribute those bumper stickers to members? I mean, shouldn't they? Shouldn't a "Let's Roll" bumper sticker be included with every new member welcome packet? I mean, this was the Beamers' church. I thought so, at least, from church members.

Maybe it isn't anymore. Or maybe some people have forgotten. You see, I've forgotten a little bit myself. And I don't take Bible study here because of his heroics.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

From memory. So please offer corrections [ actually, a version is here ]:

All right, then, I'll throw a rock at the old Granville house.

Oh, no, George don't. It's full of romance, that old place. I'd like to live in it.

In that place?


I wouldn't live in it as a ghost.

Now, right there in the second floor, see?

What'd you wish, George?

Well, not just one wish, a whole hatfull! Mary, I know what I'm gonna do tomorrow and the next day and next year and the year after that: I'm shakin' the dust of this crumby little town off my feet and I'm gonna see the world! Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Coliseum. Then I'm comin' back here and go to college and see what they know. And then I'm gonna build things. I'm gonna build skyscrapers one hundred stories tall, I'm gonna build a bridge a mile long, I'm gonna build an air field ... what, you gonna throw a rock? Hey, that's pretty good. What'd you wish, Mary?

George Bailey and Mary Hatch
On the night of Harry's graduation from high school.
Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life
I think that I have figured out why people are at times slow to kneel after singing the Sanctus and slow to stand up after singing the Great Amen: because the music is different during Lent! It's amazingly frustrating that after all these Lenten Sundays for all these years, it still feels awkward. I guess Lent is supposed to disrupt our habits. We are supposed to stop and think and challenge our routine. And the Catholic liturgy is there to help by throwing off our rhythm where it matters most, in our worship of God.
The Gospel readings for the present Sunday cycle come from Mark with an occasional reading from the Fourth Gospel during special liturgical seasons. The readings today are here, note that the Gospel is from John today, 3:14-21, Jesus' words to Nicodemus.

In the few moments of reflection between the readings and father's homily, I caught a common theme between the Epistle reading and the Gospel reading. The author of Ephesians writes, "For we are his [God's] handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared ... " and the end of the Gospel's pericope is "But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God."

In my experience, little effort is made to fit the second reading with either the first or the Gospel but today I could find a tenuous thematic connection.

2 Chronicles 36 is a personal favorite ... not because it concludes the book! Actually, I enjoy the work of the Chronicler - he's got a great flair.

The recessional hymn was Amazing Grace and we sang only two verses. How do you sing only two verses of Amazing Grace, I ask you?! And how do people walk out during those verses?!
God our Father,
your Word, Jesus Christ, spoke peace to a sinful world
and brought mankind the gift of reconciliation
by the suffering and death he endured.

Teach us, the people who bear his name,
to follow the example he gave us:
may our faith, hope, and charity
turn hatred to love, conflict to peace, death to eternal life.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Opening Prayer, Fourth Sunday of Lent
"Did it take long to find me?" I asked the faithful Light.
"Oh, did it take long to find me and are you gonna stay the night?"

Cat Stevens, Moonshadow
What is my God, then?

In Italian: Cosa è dunque il mio Dio?

From Augustine's Confessions
I ought to put this article on my refrigerator ... or on the wall by my computer where it can do me some good!

(Link from Mark Mossa, SJ at You Duped Me Lord)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Kenny and I were talking just yesterday about how apes evolved into humans, and I told him that paleoanthropologists are constantly on the look-out for the bones of the "missing link."

In jest, I told him, "So, if you want to insult your classmates, your fellow five-year-olds, just call them 'the missing link!'" OK, not funny. But then this story turned up:

Could Ethiopian skull be missing link? and we had another opportunity to talk about evolution again today.

And I told him that "out of africa" blows the "cradle of civilization" out of the water. To get nit-picky about semantics in effect says Africans are uncivilized -- it won't wash.

I learned "cradle of civilization" in school, funny how things change.
The 10 Commandments on a billboard on Route 1 South just after Washington Road ( county routes 571 & 526 ) in Princeton.

Have you seen it?
The school year is dotted with fund raisers and next weekend is the Spring Gala at the Battleground Country Club in Manalapan.

Parents donate items towards themed baskets to be auctioned at the Gala. In years past the themes were basic: beach, movie night, game night, etc. This year, with a new slate of officers running the school's Parents Association, the themes were cranked up a notch. And, this year, I have two students to contribute for. In Tim's class, the theme is "Disney," probably because most of his classmates take their initial annual vacation to Orlando during this first preschool year. I bought some ball caps, T-shirts and a beach towel at the Disney store at the Freehold Raceway Mall. This was the same day that I bought my perfume at Macy's. I never go to the Mall, never, ever.

For Kenny's class, the theme is "Pottery Barn Kids" so I went to MarketFair Mall on Route 1 in Princeton. I wanted to buy some sheets and maybe a quilt. I get their catalogue in the mail, so I have an idea of how much things cost. That morning, two working mothers offered to go in with me on whatever I bought. They have daughters, so I bought girls' stuff in Queen / Full size because most of these girls have queen / full sized beds and it was the only size they stocked.

And walking around that mall in Princeton at lunchtime, I thought, Manalapan has nothing on Princeton. Women dripping in jewelry, even the sales staff; men driving in convertible Porsches and BMWs. Eek. I told my friend afterwards and she said, "Well, it's a good thing that you didn't go to the Pottery Barn in Short Hills." Yes, I suppose that's true.
One-to-one, my friend is outspoken in her opposition to the preoccupation of some at our children's school with what could be called "status symbols." The temptation to own and display luxury items seduces the parents, the children and the teachers. These are surely guilty of bad taste or poor manners, hardly more. To not follow, yes, but I must check my thoughts because I can get angry at what I perceive to be superficiality.

A particular vulgarity, an obscene joie de vivre: "test driving" or joyriding in a friend's new convertible Jaguar around the school parking lot one afternoon at dismissal time. Can I be blamed at being offended?

The trouble is none of us families at the school are above reproach. It depends on our personal frame of reference. In particular, my friend decried the Coach handbags and Seven jeans that a kindergartener received from her parents for her birthday this year. I have never heard of Coach or Seven before but my friend told me these items are expensive. Her own handbag is D&B, "Dun & Bradstreet," I thought, and she was a little insulted when I said that.

I was buying my favorite perfume last week at Macy's and saw some D&B handbags on display, next to a display of Coach handbags. The D&B cost $200 and the Coach cost $300. To me, that isn't much of a savings. I didn't think that my friend with the D&B bag could claim to be living frugally. On our way to a hair appointment last week, I told her about my seven-year-old MUDD canvas handbag from Penney's that holds everything, including half-empty sippy cups of milk and half-eaten bagels and licked lollypops and goes through the washing machine on occasion. (OK, I don't play fair; I am the antithesis to fashion!)

Apparently, Dooney Bourke is a significant step down from the Louis Vuitton $1,000 purses that my friend used to tote when she worked at JP Morgan in Manhattan. It must be so frustrating to fashion name-drop around me because I am not familiar with any of it. I buy my perfume from Macy's and that's it.
I was riveted by the gestures of the driver ahead of me on Friday morning. Ahead of him were two oversized dump trucks traveling at twenty miles per hour, top speed. If not for his frantic gestures, it's unlikely that I would have noticed our slow pace.

His hands were hardly on the steering wheel at all, so concerned was he with expressing his frustration to his two passengers. It was approaching the 9 o'clock hour and, as his car turned into Old Tennent Church (lovely web site, beautiful church, check it out!), I began to suspect a Friday morning service for Lent at which they would arrive late.

And I continued to follow the dump trucks through Tennent, across route 9 and down East Freehold Road to the YMCA where I myself was a few minutes late for my swim aerobics class. Not as important as meeting with God, I suppose.
The five year old, "I'm thinking of a number between twenty and one."

Me, "What letter does it start with?"

Him, "'T.'"

Me, "Ten."












I am patient. I have played this game with him before -- the number was "zero" that time. If only I had asked for the first letter on that occasion! I ought to know how he thinks by now and go right for the jugular. But it's the thrill of the chase for him.
The architect dropped off five copies of a bid packet just before Jeff left for San Jose a couple of Sundays ago. The plans would grow our living space by two fifths, by 1,000 square feet: another bedroom upstairs, a laundry room for me downstairs, larger kitchen and larger family room with a back staircase. I have always wanted to live in a house with a back staircase, so neat.

Last week I had two general contractors over to the house to review the plans. The architect recommended another two which I need to meet with. It's a big enough project that I am not having any trouble finding interested contractors. Both told me the same ballpark pricing, $100 - $150 / sq. foot. Sure, of course. But our home needs a lot of repair work too, so it will probably run more than that.

We are committed to this project, Jeff and I. Yes, it's expensive. Yes, we refinanced to fund this. But we like our home's location, the house just needs some work. I mean, sure we could do alot of other things with the money. But we think that this is the right thing to do for our family.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Speaking of The Jesus Seminar, Wills writes on page xxv:

This is the new fundamentalism. It believes in the literal sense of the Bible -- it just reduces the Bible to what it can take as literal quotation from Jesus. Though some people have called the Jesus Seminarists radical, they are actually very conservative. They tame the real radical, Jesus, cutting him down to their own size. [...]

Trying to find a construct, "the historical Jesus," is not like finding diamonds in a dunghill, but like finding New York City at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. It is a mixing of categories [...]

The only Jesus we have is the Jesus of faith. If you reject the faith, there is no reason to trust anything the gospels say. The Jesus of the gospels is the Jesus preached, who is the Jesus resurrected. Belief in his continuing activity in the members of his mystical body is the basis of Christian belief in the gospels.
[emphasis mine]

If Wills is saying what I think he's saying, then I have been saying this myself for a little while. In direct response to believers eager to authenticate the Bible through archeology or secular history (or rapture eschatology -- "you'll see I'm right when I disappear someday!"). If these people can only find the remains of Noah's Ark or just uncover the tumbled down walls in Jericho (they showed us something in Jericho, I assure you), or simply find the fish that swallowed Jonah, then everyone will have to accept that the Bible is trustworthy. To mix-up Paul from Romans 3:27, "Where, then, is faith? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of the cold, hard artifacts."

But the Bible already has the greatest witness attesting its credibility: the Church. I don't think that the Bible was intended to stand alone, apart from the Church. And, obviously, the Church can't stand very long without the Bible.

That's exactly what we are trying to do, and have been doing for a very, very long time, in Wills's opinion. And my question is, "OK, when we've become convinced that we've misunderstood, not individually but collectively, what do we do?"
Two references to Nietzsche in Garry Wills's book What Jesus Meant:

(1) "Nietzsche, a trained classicist, said that if God wrote the New Testament, he knew surprisingly little Greek."

(2) Quoting Romano Guardini's The Humanity of Christ, which I found online here, of all places: "either he [Jesus] is deranged, as Nietzsche became in Turin in 1888 ...

My husband laughed aloud heartily at the first quotation. The comment does reveal a fundamentalist understanding of inspiration which my husband would undoubtedly share if he believed.

On the second point, Jeff asked me whether the Shroud was at Turin / Torino at this time and I answered that I thought it was. And I don't think it would be appropriate to believe that God smote Nietzsche -- but it is a very unfortunate ending.
The story about the Lutheran, not the late pope's miracles.
I see red.
I blogged about this shocking story when it was first announced at church a couple of weeks ago.

Father solicited volunteers to offer hospitality for the scheduled memorial service held in the church, a charitable, supportive as well as prudent event in this pre-Easter season as the memorial service brought into the church people who may be away from church, may be inactive Catholics, or aren't aware that a new pastor has arrived at St. Joseph's, etc.

A permanent memorial on the property is a good idea. If they chose to replace the statue of Padre Pio, it's alright with me. I hope that VBS happens this summer even without her but, actually, my oldest boy is still even too young.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A favorite TV show is The Simpsons. When it's good, it's very, very good and when it's bad, it's horrid.

I let the kids watch a recent episode -- My Fair Laddy -- because I figured that most of it would go over their heads. In the beginning, I was right: the couch gag with Gumby rolling in went right past them.

However, the boys managed to pick up an expression or two, especially the younger one who doubles as a mimic. He chants "Bombardment, bombardment." I hope he doesn't do it in gym class!

The boys must have watched another episode along the way because the younger one also quotes one of Bart's prank phone calls, which has Moe say to his bar clients,
Hey, is there a Butts here? A Seymour Butts? Hey everybody, I wanna Seymour Butts!"
Actually, that episode is rather touching, in a Simpson sort of way.
Confessions of a Reformed Iconoclast

It was a hard sell and I had to push off into the deep end to make any progress. That is, attend a presentation at the Orthodox Church in Freehold on the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy.

The priest, an iconographer himself, showed a modest collection. Icons of the Theotokos -- never referred to by name; "Mary" apparently a four-letter word among the Orthodox, too -- the saints, the Christ.

When I mention to Father that I am Catholic, the conversation cools considerably as he deadpans, great friends with my pastor. Hard to believe; can't imagine my Fr. V. having "great friends." But clergy exaggerate with impunity, especially in matters of Christian charity and during the sermon.


I want to say something about beauty but I'm not qualified. If there is a science or art of aesthetics, I haven't studied it. I'm an admirer of beauty not a producer.

While in the workaday world, I valued simplicity, not beauty. Simplicity was beauty. In the discipline of computer programming, like its parent mathematics, simplicity is king, is elegant, is beauty. Occam's Razor and all that. Maybe the workplace downsizng / rightsizing challenge to "do more with less," work around the clock, made me counter "why should I?"

I am learning what's lacking and longing for loveliness.

Being at home, planting flowers, decorating the inside and the outside, even for holidays or simply the change of seasons.

And the irony: that me, this reformed iconoclast, me, studying the Book of Revelation, me, sees its vivid images, visions and icons of heaven, Jesus, the saints and hears the warning against idolatry, like a refrain, nearly an anthem. And I wonder, "Does the existence of a counterfeit tacitly sanction the authentic?" Well, no.

Chronologically, no, by about 100 years, at least.

Could the "word pictures" of Revelation be taken as endorsement by a later generation? After all, a picture is worth 1,000 words. To my knowledge, appeal is made to the Incarnation, the "constant practice of the church", an ecumenical council of the church, Nicaea II, ... but no support is found in Scripture. Again, to the best of my knowledge.

Yet, I force myself to possess holy cards, to use them as bookmarks in my sacred books and to look at them without hostility. Because of the Creed set at Nicaea I -- We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church
Jim started his Rapture talk with Titus 2:13, "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" in the King James. He said that dispensationalists see "blessed hope" and "glorious appearing" as two things, not the same thing. "Blessed hope" is the rapture and "Glorious appearing" is the parousia, Christ's second coming. The footnote in the New American Bible says on this verse:

The blessed hope, the appearance: literally, "the blessed hope and appearance," but the use of a single article in Greek strongly suggests an epexegetical, i.e., explanatory sense. Of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ: another possible translation is "of our great God and savior Jesus Christ." Titus 2:13, footnote #3

For a group that prefers to let "Scripture interpret Scripture", I am amazed at the tendency to ignore such self-explanatory expressions in the sacred text. In my experience, a literal approach does not allow for these internal cues. A few weeks ago, in a study, the "troublesome" verse , Matthew 24:28, "Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather" came up and even the study leader had no clue on the verse's meaning. There was a tendency among those at the study to allegorize the verse, to let the corpse stand for something and the vultures for something else. I thought that allegory was a hermeneutic repudiated by biblical fundamentalists. To save them from their medieval method of interpretation, I offered that the proverbial saying simply means that Christ's return will be visible to all, obvious and unmistakable.

Later, I scurried home to check my commentaries to make sure that I didn't say anything too wrong. Here's what I sent via email to a couple of people: the person who raised the question about the verse and the two study leaders, one of whom replied to say that she agreed with it:

There seem to be two alternatives, not necessarily mutually exclusive, in interpreting the proverb in Matthew 24:28. The predominant way involves Matthew 24:27, so I include both verses here, from the King James Version, for convenience:

For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
(Matthew 24:27-28, KJV)

The approach that I gave at the study sees Matthew 24:27 & 28 as a doublet, like in Jewish poetry (e.g., the Psalms): the two verses are saying the same thing with different words or different images.

In support of this, a footnote in my Bible says of these two verses: "The coming of the Son of Man will be as clear as lightning is to all and as the corpse of an animal is to vultures." ( -- or "eagles," as in the King James Version, I do not quibble about "vultures" vs. "eagles," in this verse.)

The editor of the Sacra Pagina commentary series on the New Testament, Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, says in his volume on Matthew's Gospel, page 338: "As Matt 24:27 shows, his (Christ's) coming will be as clear and public as the lightning flashing across the sky. [...] The point of the proverb in this context (in Matt 24:28) is to stress the clear and public nature of the coming of the Son of Man."

And so you will find elsewhere: the NIV Study Bible (Zondervan), Reformation Study Bible (R. C. Sproul, Ligonier Ministries), and the like.

But a nuanced perspective that you may encounter attempts to allegorize the proverb. Hendriksen's commentary on Matthew published by Baker House is typical of this allegorizing approach. On page 861, Hendriksen writes, "When morally and spiritually the world has degenerated to such an extent that it resembles carrion, in other words, when the Lord judges that the world's cup of iniquity is full, then, and not until then, Christ shall come to condemn that world."

Along these lines, C. I. Scoffield says in the Scoffield Study Bible of this verse, "Where moral corruption exists, divine judgment falls."

The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Zondervan) combines the two in its comments on Matthew 24:28: "Just as the carcass inevitably results in the gathering of carrion birds, so will the wickedness of people certainly result in their judgment. Or perhaps the proverb simply means that the sign of Jesus' coming will be as clear as the fact that carrion is around where vultures gather."

Personally, I espouse the view that I shared at the study - that this proverb speaks of the clear and unmistakable coming of Jesus at the end of time - because I hesitate to allegorize the proverb. But, certainly, others feel that the meaning of the verse is profitably expanded in allegory.

Of course, I lapse into biblical fundamentalism from time to time ... it requires less leg-work, less reading, less study, less thinking - it's much easier than taking the trouble to figure out what the passage means. But my church doesn't allow me to interpret the Bible literally, at least officially. We are a little schizophrenic on that point at times.
I planned on blogging about driving in NJ and just had a fresh experience to include ...

It's good for me to drive through Lakewood on a Saturday and I have the pleasure of doing so once a month on my way to Brick, straight down route 9. It's a good reminder of what I'm about -- to see the Orthodox men and boys walking to and fro. I don't see myself as standing in contradistinction to them, 'though there are many, many differences ... I prefer to think in terms of continuity and hopefully I can think that without causing too much offense. Many of them don't have cars, so Sabbath or not, they walk.

On my way back from Brick, through Lakewood again, turning from route 88 to route 9 north, I paused at a green light for a couple, a man and a woman together, to cross. They happened to be Mexican people, as far as I could tell, but they were waiting in the crosswalk, so their ethnicity mattered less to me than the state law which dictates that I yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. The driver behind me in a bright-colored pick-up truck (either bright yellow or flashy red, I can't remember, but it was eye-catching) could stand no more and laid on the horn at me and started waving his arms. I was going to get out of my car to talk with him but the last time I did that, the driver later threw a Snapple bottle through my rear window. So I decided to stay in my car and not corner him or make him feel threatened. As if I could threaten anyone. The driver was obviously agitated and probably frustrated at me already for not making a right-on-red earlier. But such a move isn't permitted at that intersection, according to the posted signage. Anyway, I survived and so did he.

Now on route 9 heading north, we stopped side-by-side at a light at the next intersection, but I was less concerned about him and more concerned about three young boys roughhousing in an empty lot. An older boy was pushing around a younger one while another looked on. The younger one kept coming back for more, as younger ones will. They may have been related, even brothers. I'm not sure what difference their relationship should make -- there seemed to be real potential for harm. Had the street a shoulder, I would have pulled over, gotten out and talked with the older boy, but there wasn't room to leave the travel lanes, so before my light changed green, I rolled down the window and hollered out, "Hey, stop pushing." My husband told me later that I overstepped my responsibility but I'm a mother, I can't help myself. I doubt that my words were intelligible over the traffic, etc., but the older boy knew enough to run across a side street into a yeshiva or house of worship there on the corner, presumably where he would find his parent, and the smaller boys followed him inside. So, all's well that ends well.

The fresh experience was just now coming home from my sons' school. The five-mile stretch is mostly a no-passing zone and is all 35 m.p.h. Normally, I do 40 but every once in a while, I set the cruise control to 35 and forget about it. If someone comes up behind me and looks agitated, I try to pull over and let them pass or I may speed up a little to make things tolerable. The road is basically one-lane. But for whatever reason today, I was oblivious to the driver behind me and it wasn't until we came to Millstone Road -- I went straight and he turned towards town -- that I realized how miffed he was, because he raised his middle finger at me ... I saw in my side-view mirror. And I burst out laughing at myself for being so unaware of him. I mean, I knew there was a car behind me, following closely, but he didn't venture out as if he wanted to pass or otherwise drive aggressively, rev up towards me and pull back or any of the usual habits of impatient drivers. So I was in the dark about his thoughts and how pathetic that, because he behaved relatively patiently, I hardly noticed him. I mean, unless he's in my face, I don't see him? What does that say?
The lecture on Tuesday evening was supposed to be the Catholic version of the End Times. But Jim would always much rather talk about "them" than about "us". Not necessarily in a finger-pointing way, 'though some people laughed at the absurdity of some of the notions. Jim is so not "us" ... but he isn't "them" either. Myself, I have lost the right to laugh, "forfeited" the right is probably more accurate. I was there to keep him honest on his topic and he was, very honest. As always.

His position, following Rev. Rossing, is that Rapture theology is environmentally deadly. He quoted James Watt (Reagan's dept. of the Interior) in his confirmation hearing answers as saying "Well, I don't know how many more generations we're going to have until the Lord comes again." Jim's point: the wrong guy to have in charge of the country's environment.

I'm not necessarily an environmentalist. I mean, obviously, I was brought up to not litter and I don't. You know, that crying Native American campaign and everything. That's the extent of it, no littering. From what I see in NJ, that's practically a virtue. Oh, well, we recycle, too, but that's the law. I don't do the two other R's: reduce and reuse.

So that angle of "attack" isn't going to convince me. I am much more concerned about the spiritual implications and the escapist tendencies. Jim shared this quote from Sojourner Truth which earned an amen or two from us:

You seem to be expecting to go to some parlor away up somewhere, and when the wicked have been burnt, you are coming back to walk in triumph over their ashes--this is to be your New Jerusalem!! Now I can't see any thing so very nice in that, coming back to such a muss as that will be, a world covered with the ashes of the wicked! Besides, if the Lord comes and burns--as you say he will--I am not going away; I am going to stay here and stand the fire, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! And Jesus will walk with me through the fire, and keep me from harm. Nothing belonging to God can burn, any more than God himself; such shall have no need to go away to escape the fire! No, I shall remain. Do you tell me that God's children can't stand fire?'

Jim's bottom line was that he's prepared to be wrong about Rapture but it isn't so important to believe in Rapture. That is to say, he doesn't think that in order to be raptured, one needs to believe in Rapture. The important thing is believing in Jesus and that's Jim's thing, that's his position. If you belong to Jesus, he'll take you whenever he comes. And the audience agreed with him and nobody was laughing anymore.
My kindergartener was the only one in his class to score 100% on his vocabulary test last week, according to his teacher.

It was difficult to take her news in stride, to act nonchalant, as if I didn't care or as if I expected it of him. You know, "of course he did" type of thing.

To tell the truth, I was thrilled, because it doesn't matter how well he does, so long as he beats everyone else ... you know, that old, ugly competition.

I could hardly contain my pride in boasting about it to his father -- as if I had any hand in it -- we never study before these weekly tests. As I fished the test paper out of his backpack to prove it, I glanced quickly at the questions and answers before handing it over to Jeff and I saw immediately that Kenny had gotten a question wrong and the teacher had neglected to mark it wrong!

His teacher has me pegged as a fussbudget and a stickler -- and I am -- so I didn't dare bring her oversight to her attention. If something of value were at stake besides bragging rights - class rank or scholarship money, then of course. But this is kindergarten. Why are there weekly spelling and vocabulary tests? And why are the tests graded out of 100%?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

My neighbor told me yesterday that her daughter will be confirmed this spring. Four years ago, her daughter was one of my CCD students. Hers isn't the first class of mine to reach their confirmation year. In fact, hers is the last class because I haven't taught in four years, since my second child was born.

I was in Barnes and Noble this morning buying her a confirmation gift (a RSV Catholic Edition of the Bible and Lewis's Mere Christianity) because she'll be coming over the babysit my kids tonight while I attend a lecture on Rapture ... it's a homework assignment for evangelization training, believe me!

At the same time, I picked up a book by Garry Wills, a devotional book on Jesus from the Gospels (there is no other Jesus, in his opinion). His more serious books scandalize me, 'though I know he's right. I may blog some excerpts as I have more time. But, so far, my impression is "God help him, he's Catholic." God help us all.
When we were lost
and could not find the way to you,
you loved us more than ever:
Jesus, your Son, innocent and without sin,
gave himself into our hands and was nailed to a cross.
Yet before he stretched out his arms between heaven and earth
in the everlasting sign of your covenant,
he desired to celebrate the Paschal feast
in the company of his disciples.


We do this in memory of Jesus Christ,
our Passover and our lasting peace.
We celebrate his death and resurrection
and look for the coming of that day
when he will return to give us the fullness of joy.
Therefore we offer you, God ever faithful and true,
the sacrifice which restores man to your friendship.

Eucharistic Prayer -- Reconciliation I
This fictional piece from The Onion hits a little too close to home:

Area Man's Pop-Culture References Stop At 1988

Sunday, March 19, 2006

What took me so long to blog this?!

Bunny Bixler and I were in the semi-finals--the very semi-finals, mind you--of the ping-pong tournament at the club and this ghastly thing happened. We were both playing way over our heads and the score was 29-28. And we had this really terrific volley and I stepped back to get this really terrific shot. And I stepped on the ping-pong ball! I just squashed it to bits. And then Bunny and I ran to the closet of the game room to get another ping-pong ball and the closet was locked! Imagine? We had to call the whole thing off. Well, it was ghastly. Well, it was just ghastly.

Gloria Upson, Patrick Dennis's financée, in Auntie Mame
You scored as New Catholic. The years following the Second Vatican Council was a time of collapse of the Catholic faith and its traditions. But you are a young person who has rediscovered this lost faith, probably due to the evangelization of Pope John Paul II. You are enthusiastic, refreshing, and somewhat traditional, and you may be considering a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. You reject relativism and the decline in society that you see among your peers. You are seen as being good for the Church.

A possible problem is that you may have a too narrow a view of orthodoxy, and anyway, you are still a youth and not yet mature in your faith.

New Catholic


Evangelical Catholic


Lukewarm Catholic


Neo-Conservative Catholic


Liberal Catholic


Traditional Catholic


Radical Catholic


What is your style of American Catholicism?
created with
A popular bulletin stuffer: Catholic Update
Almost didn't get a parking spot at church this morning. Late because I let my husband sleep in -- he probably has a little jet lag and a hangover of fatigue from not sleeping on Friday night and watching the kids all day on Saturday -- I got one of the last two spaces and there were still another dozen cars pulling into the lot.

The parking problem was one of the reasons that I stopped attending church when Fr. Mike came 18 mos. ago. Fr. Valentine was so despised that there was never a parking problem -- folks stayed away or went elsewhere. Parking problems are a real turn-off for me. I would not have had the guts to park illegally on the street. But, geez, parking on the street ought to be allowed on Sunday morning. I don't know why the town can't make an exception. Folks in the neighborhood seem to be vocally opposed to just about anything the church wants to do.

The lady who parked next to me has five or six children so I paused to make sure that she had enough room to park and unload them, open doors and whatever. I offered to help her walk her children into the building because we were a good ways out, in a far corner of the lot, and cars were still circling around looking for openings. It wasn't quite safe. But she only had one child with her; she had dropped off her older children at the front door on her way by. She said that Father needs to add a service on Sunday morning and I reminded her of the announcement mailed home last week with the upcoming schedule for Holy Week which showed new Mass times for both Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, three services on each day instead of two. I said, "Perhaps Father is moving in this direction, changing Mass times and adding a service."

As I entered the doors with a steady stream of worshippers, I watched the wave of youngsters going downstairs for "children's church" - a once a month program. I found a seat for one in a back pew just as the Scripture readings began and I mulled over a point made yesterday at the evangelization training about how hard it is to feel comfortable at a new church: for all you know, someone opined, you are sitting in someone else's seat! At that moment, I put two-n-two together: the wave of young people leaving the sanctuary and the seemingly providential seat-for-one towards the back, and I figured out that at the end of the readings, a little boy or girl was going to return to the pew and find me sitting in her seat! And that is what happened, but fortunately there was room for everyone. Still I felt like such a lug.

The first reading was the Decalogue from Ex. 20 with an optional short version which omitted all that offensive stuff about not carving idols (verses 4-6). We read the long version. The way it was punctuated or printed on the page called out our preference for breaking the "covet" commandment into two: house and wife plus other property.

The Responsorial Psalm was performed by Norah Jones, I'm quite sure. It was sultry. Even Father looked a little surprised and impressed. I saw a number of people rocking in their seats, enjoying the solo. It was hard not to sway.

The Gospel reading was John's version of the cleansing of the Temple. I have a post on this blog somewhere about my understanding of the significance of the cleansing ... I mean the story's christological import, what the Evangelists are saying about the Person of Jesus in that story. Instead of pointing out any of Jesus' kingship which I think the story expresses, our pastor talked about our temptation to bargain with God and to think of religion in terms of quid pro quo. He mentioned "covenant" a couple of times and I'm not clear on what he means.

(, please pardon the "triumphalist" tone -- I think Akin's conclusion is mostly accurate: that Catholicism isn't "either-or" on the issue of dispensational vs. covenantal theology, but some of each. )

So I'm listening to the homily and I'm thinking, yeah, but isn't it quid pro quo? I mean don't we express things in these terms? We can say 'til we're blue in the face, "God doesn't work that way." and at the same time, during the Prayers of the Faithful, offer up an intention that "our Lenten observances will help us find favor with God." Huh? Exsqueeze me? Baking powder? Maybe someone can explain that to me.

I'll blog some of the beautiful words of the Eucharistic Prayer.

I sat in the back, remember, third row from the back, and was overwhelmed during Communion how more and more and more people approached the altar in a steady stream from behind me! I was asking myself, where are they all standing? SRO at the 11 o'clock Mass in Perrineville! Who would have guessed it? I glanced along the backwall after Communion and saw a good number of people standing there. I peered into the vestibule and saw a good many more. This is insane.

Back in the parking lot, I overheard a woman tell her daughter, "Come on, we need to hurry, I'm blocking someone else's car." I again encountered the lady with several kids when I reached my car and, since many people leave church during Communion, I pointed out to her that there were plenty of parking spaces now, just after Mass. She laughed -- she's very lighthearted.
Hospitality Survey Debriefing

At the diocesan evangelization training at Visitation Church in Brick yesterday, we discussed the results of our informal hospitality survey of Catholic churches in the diocese. We answered the question, "How friendly are our churches?"

First and second place went to Spanish services at Christ the Redeemer Church in Mount Holly and St. Barnabas in Bayville. I remember Fr. Joe, now at Christ the Redeemer, from St. Anthony's in Highstown when I attended daily Mass there. I liked him and wondered, when I read about his reassignment, what the Spanish community in Hightstown would do without him.

The upshot is that it pays to be Spanish-speaking in the Diocese of Trenton. My impression of Bishop Smith is that he consciously reaches out to the Hispanic community. Maybe he thinks that they are most at risk for non-Catholic proselytizing or he sympathizes with their hardships, being mostly immigrants.

My parish made the list of friendly parishes -- a shock. I graded hard, too. As I tried to show in the survey answers, it's gotten friendlier since Fr. Mike joined but there's still room for improvement.
Jeff returned from San Jose Saturday morning at 7 AM after a week at the VON conference. He had a productive time, learning and networking and interviewing, at Apple, for instance. A small part of me suspects that some day -- I do not know when or how -- we will move to CA and Jeff will work for Apple. I said "I do not know how" because of the cost of housing in CA.

Some friends from my sons' school are in the process right now of relocating to San Jose -- they claim that Silicon Valley is booming again. They own a 4,000 sq. foot house in Manalapan and need to pare down considerably their possessions because they'll be in an apartment for some time until they find a house. Even then, their CA house will be significantly smaller than their Manalapan home. But I suppose the new position is worth uprooting the family. I am quite sure that our family is holding Jeff back professionally. Then again, Silicon Valley has always been there and Jeff has always worked in technology, so he could have moved there long ago.

The first boy plays with cars and trucks and never plays with people, not even Fisher Price's Little People. His cars talk to each other, no human drivers needed. I remember the first time he saw a doll's house in the toy store: "But where's the garage?" he said. Always thinking vehicles.

The second boy has eight girls in his preschool class and only one other boy. This one plays tea party.

I get out grandma's silver and my china cups for him to use because, in a house of boys, we haven't a play tea set. He plays cars and trucks too, but his cars have human drivers. He uses small Lincoln logs because we don't have any play human figurines.

I noticed the driver and passenger in his toy car yesterday and asked him, "Who's that?" Wiggling the driver he said, "This is Mommy" and wiggling the front passenger, said, "This is Daddy." Well, at least Daddy wasn't lounging in the back seat with Mommy as some sort of chauffeur!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Both of my mother's parents were Irish. I can't tell you their surnames because "mother's maiden name" is, well, you know, used in identification and authentication. Well, all right, my mother's mother's maiden name was Kearns. I have to tell you that because my mother's mother's side of the family factors into the story a great deal.

Growing up in upstate NY, being Irish wasn't necessarily celebrated. Oh, everyone was aware of their ethnic heritage and, like anything, geographic areas were known by the predominant people groups populating them. But nobody I knew belonged to the Ancient Order of Hibernians. One thing I knew, growing up: my mother was from Brooklyn. You heard it in her vocabulary, her accent, her mannerisms. She taught herself not to call me "Tereser" but how she emphasized the final "a" never sounded natural.

Four years ago, I attended a family reunion in Queens and learned the level of commitment. AOH membership a given. I can't even tell you the family history ... there's too much. None of it is earth-shaking, just honest people living and working the American Dream. It's filled with everything that I love about the 20th century in the greatest city in the world.

Just a funny story: my mother's cousin, Colleen, traveled to Ireland and told my mother about it, "You remember how we didn't drink certain beers because of whose labels they were? Well, over there, they don't care about that stuff." Just an example of how the Irish abroad live more conservatively or consciously than those in Ireland. But isn't that how it is? You'll cling to the things that remind you of home.
Father promised us "scriptural" stations of the cross tonight and the material was that used by JPII in the 1990's at the Coliseum. The non-scriptural events like the Three Falls, meeting His Mother, and meeting Veronica on which is based the Holy Face tradition (a theme I used in my custom Christmas card last year) were dropped in favor of the following 14 stations:

Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
Jesus betrayed by Judas
Jesus condemned by the Sanhedrin
Jesus denied by Peter
Jesus condemned by the people
Jesus crowned with thorns and clothed in purple.
Jesus carries the cross.
Jesus assisted by Simon of Cyrene
Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
Jesus is crucified.
Jesus speaks to the thief
Jesus speaks to his mother
Jesus dies on the cross
Jesus is buried.

And hearing again the words of the Good Thief ... seeing with the eyes of faith Jesus hanging beside him, "Remember me, Lord" -- what a picture of discipleship.

And is there nothing that JPII left untouched? These stations are good but I hope they don't supplant the traditional stations -- they would have to redo the Via Dolorosa in the Holy City!! Not to mention in other places around the world I can't imagine that happening. But, I'll tell you, regarding the fourth set of Mysteries of the Rosary, the Mysteries of Light, that JPII contributed -- the stained glass windows in my church include those new mysteries. And I still don't know them by heart! If I ever get back to teaching CCD, I would need to learn them. That isn't hard, but I don't pray those mysteries on Thursdays, I do the Joyful Mysteries like always.
My hairdresser, Maureen, regaled me this morning with a story her grandmother tells and, according to Maureen's father, has embellished over time. But that's the Irish way --

In the time before freedom was achieved, loyalists raided her grandmother's house looking for her brothers who were hiding in the thatches. They used sticks to poke at the roof. This made me think of Kristallnacht a la Spielberg but the Germans used automatic weapons and were more successful.

In the case of Maureen's grandmother, all of the brothers escaped. Maureen said that wearning green was outlawed - imagine! - but they wore it underneath their outerwear. Maybe that's why people wear green nowadays. But I could not fathom why anyone would support a monarchy instead of a republic. Think about it. Aren't monarchs despised? Was it pure religious bigotry?
Logistics necessitated that I bring my eldest child to an evening Bible Study on Thursday. For the first bit, he completed his homework but was still a distraction as he counted out his math problems on his fingers and whispered his reading work to himself. And, of course, he asked for help and needed more correction than usual.

When his homework was finished, he took to the New Testament that I had made available to him.

I had placed a post-it note paper on the page that we would study, Revelation 6. I gave him a yellow highlighter and he was delighted to write in a book, as he has seen Mommy do almost every day!

He set about, then, per his own idea, to highlight his vocabulary words, starting at the very top of the left hand page, Revelation 4:5, and got fully through the page, ending at 6:1, ironically where we were starting that evening. He might have gone further but the yellow post-it covered most of the right hand page, those narrow, economy New Testaments from American Bible Society that I used to buy for my fourth-grade CCD students every year so they would have one and we could work in it each week. And I brought extra copies to class in those days because some kids would forget to bring theirs so they would borrow for the morning as we did our worksheets. My goal was always to give them familiarity with the names of the books in the New Testament and to teach them how to look up chapters and verses. The mechanics of using the Bible. But we read Gospel stories, too.

Looking now at what he's marked, just about half the words. Wow, that's pretty good. But that doesn't mean that he can read the text ... he just knows the words; he can't string them together yet.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

On The Journey Home this week there was a former priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church and his wife.

He talked about how, growing up, he never really had a problem with the Catholic Church and thought that one day unity would be restored.

He said,

"I felt, I prayed, I prayed with all my heart, that one day, ah, Rome and England would be reunited and I felt that, I felt that I could work for unity as easily on one side as I could on the other."

That last bit got to me because, well, obviously there must be folks on each side dedicated to unity or else there would be no dialogue. But it seems that people are getting impatient and jumping ship. I know that reform works best from within -- if it works at all. But there must be people of good will on all sides to strive towards unity.
Two years ago, I emailed some research to a Catholic theologian and friend who had challenged us in his Bible study on whether Catholics could be assured of salvation. Here's what I told him:

Assurance of salvation in the WLC:

Question 80: Can true believers be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and that they shall persevere therein unto salvation?

Answer: Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavor to walk in all good conscience before him, may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God's promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made, and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God, be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation.

Question 81: Are all true believers at all times assured of their present being in the estate of grace, and that they shall be saved?

Answer: Assurance of grace and salvation not being of the essence of faith, true believers may wait long before they obtain it; and, after the enjoyment thereof, may have it weakened and intermitted, through manifold distempers, sins, temptations, and desertions; yet are they never left without such a presence and support of the Spirit of God as keeps them from sinking into utter despair.

In our (
i.e., Catholic) catechism, I find something else, in # 2005:

Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved. However, according to the Lord's words—"Thus you will know them by their fruits"—reflection on God's blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.

A pleasing illustration of this attitude is found in the reply of St. Joan of Arc to a question posed as a trap by her ecclesiastical judges: "Asked if she knew that she was in God's grace, she replied: ‘If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there.'"


Our prayers at Mass tell the story, I think. All this week I heard the following Prayer after Communion:

“Lord, look on your people with kindness and by these Easter mysteries bring us to the glory of the resurrection.”

It is ironic that prayers throughout the Mass have this begging quality, even during the Easter season when confidence in our resurrection ought to run high.

Just an interesting expression in the Catechism, “justification through faith and ... sanctification through charity” [# 2001]. Perhaps this joins Paul with James.

And in the same place, “God brings to completion in us what he has begun ...”. Sort of sounds a bit like assurance.
The topic of this two-year-old TV program, Inside Polygamy, would not ordinarily appeal to me, but it touched upon biblical interpretation, faith and religious freedom and practice -- and I find those topics interesting. Besides, the views of Utah were breathtaking!

I expected the voice-over to engage in Mormon-bashing, because, well, that's fashionable, ain't it? I mean, after the "Last Acceptable Prejudice" (à la Dr. Jenkins or Fr. Massa) ranks anti-Mormonism. But, these civil law breakers, guilty of a misdemeanor in the third degree, are officially excommunicated from the LDS. So it isn't a black eye on Mormonism, per se.

I questioned how a husband could provide financially for more than one wife, and the program reported a couple of times that the additional wives and children may live on public assistance and in poverty.

The benefits of large family are obvious but this could be achieved through extended family or closer contact with neighbors. Yes, a polygamous arrangement would help one grow in sanctification because of the constant need for humility, love and self-sacrifice. But, well, it isn't a view of family that I have grown up with and it would be a very difficult proposition. And I don't know how I feel about them living this way. They say it's no different than cohabiters who are also breaking the law. Some polygamists have done jail time for child abuse, not for polygamy. But the prospect of removing the head of household from the family for any length of time can't be useful either.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Monday, March 13, 2006

There aren't too many "beach days" in March in NJ and yesterday was no exception. But, do you ever notice how, when the sun is shining, you think it'll shine forever? That was my thought on Saturday when the middle boy said, "Mommy, I want to go to the beach." "We'll go tomorrow," I assured him.

Even the optimistic oldest one did not think a beach day was possible. Jeff told me that all week the forecast called for rain on Sunday -- does he think that I have time to look at a weather forecast?! "F12, Dashboard Widgets, Weather from" Hey, I use the dictionary / thesaurus all the time.

Kenny suggested Seven Presidents in Long Branch ... a great idea because the playground has a covered seating area. The rain had stopped locally but we caught up to it in our drive east. I pointed out to the boys Daddy's work location as we passed, that former AT&T building near Monmouth Park (the horse track) we affectionately called "the sewer." I said to them, "This is West Long Branch; the beach is in Long Branch and there's no East Long Branch because that would be in the Atlantic Ocean!" That got them thinking about Atlantis and speculating about living under the sea ... they watch too much Science Channel!

Still, it stopped raining again by the time we unloaded at the county park. The two older boys promptly stomped through the mud puddles while I secured the baby in the stroller. Kenny was dismayed to see the pavilion area closed up and the outdoor showers removed. He almost cried but I told him that, come May, the water will be turned on and the showers set out. He doesn't understand "off season," but I'm doing my best to instill in him its value.

From the first trip down the slides, to laying out on the sand making "sand angels", they got dirty! I kept the baby in the stroller -- he was supposed to be napping anyway. He'll get his beach days this summer and I want him to like sand, etc., so I didn't want a cold, wet experience for him yesterday to prejudice him against the whole thing.

Sporadically, families with children would pass through the playground on way to their cars. None of the kids appeared as covered in sand and water as mine even though some of them had walked along the beach and in the surf -- I could see from the dunes. One family looked downright pristine, in fine wool sweaters and corduroy slacks -- Sunday beach best, no doubt. All jacketless, the mother toted an umbrella. So the example of my kids having fun enticed the pristine boy to risk the slide to his mother's chide. "Well, don't complain to me later in the car when you are wet!" Now, really, doesn't anyone prepare to go to the beach, especially on a mixed-weather day as you'll have in early, early spring? Sure, we live 40 minutes out, so it isn't as if we walk there on a Sunday after church. It's a deliberate trip with toys and a picnic lunch. We will spend hours at least. I've never thought that passing through is especially fair to young children.

At last, the rain returned and it was time to go. I got no argument; they were played out. And with everything locked up, I had no choice but to change their clothes at the car. They took one more splash in the parking lot puddle and then were stripped of their wet, sandy clothes and given dry, clean sweats and thick, fleece blankets and I blasted the heater in the car. My regrets is that I hadn't any hot chocolate in a thermos and could have used a plastic bag for their soiled clothes. Everything came clean in the wash last night -- to my surprise -- even their sneakers. It may be unconventional to play outside on a cool, wet day and they may catch colds but I'm concerned with creating memories. I grew up around many natural wonders (Niagara Falls, Letchworth State Park, the Finger Lakes) and have very few memories of visiting these places. We traveled to Hamlin Beach on Lake Ontario quite regularly with picnic lunches, that's all I remember. I don't want my kids to miss out on the wonders of nature.
Every once in a while, on a Friday afternoon, lunchtime, in the back of a commerical parking lot, I observe the swap: the transfer of the children from one parent to the other for the weekend. This past Friday, the mother was dressed in professional attire, an office worker of some sort, and the father was casual, took the afternoon off, perhaps. The child was young, still in one of those rear-facing, infant carriers, probably less than six months. Nice, SUV-type cars for both. The mother left, returning to work, before the father was fully settled with the base and infant secured. The noon hour was almost gone. I watched intently in case he needed help but within minutes, he too was on his way. And I thought to myself that this sort of thing happens across the country in a variety of public places on Fridays and Sundays.

Within three months of returning to work after my first was born, my entire tech group relocated from AT&T in Lincroft to AT&T in Middletown. My son's day care was in Wickatunk along route 520, just outside Marlboro, actually -- a non-sectarian program sponsored by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. Since, the day care has closed and the space was converted to dorms for a community from Hamilton Square. But, anyhow, I submitted a change of work address with my son's day care provider when the relocation was official and a week or two later, one of his providers told me that my son was "acting out". I could not account for it; he was fine at home. She said, "Well, this sort of thing happens when young parents split up." I was so shocked ... and, frankly, a little frightened because not only was my change of address information apparently misapplied in the front office but his providers were projecting mistaken personal information onto his behavior! Fortunately, my son left that room within a few weeks as he "moved up" with older children. My relationship was never quite the same with his original providers after that misunderstanding. I have a difficult time dealing with anyone who questions my integrity.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

From Bunyan's classic, Pilgrim's Progress

“Then Interpreter took Christian by the hand, and led him into a very large parlour that was full of dust, because never swept; the which, after he had reviewed a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep. Now when he began to sweep, the dust began so abundantly to fly about, that Christian had almost therewith been choked. Then said the Interpreter to a damsel that stood by, “Bring hither water, and sprinkle the room,” which when she had done was swept and cleansed with pleasure.

Then said Christian, “What means this?”

The Interpreter answered, “This parlour is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the Gospel. The dust of his original sin and inward corruptions that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first is the law; but she that brought water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel. Now, whereas thou sawest that so soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did so fly about that the room by him could not be cleansed, but that thou wast almost choked therewith, this is to show thee that the law, instead of cleansing the heart (by its working) from sin, doth revive, put strength into, and increase it in the soul, even as it doth discover and forbid it, for it doth not give power to subdue.

“Again, as thou sawest the damsel sprinkle the room with water, upon which it was cleansed with pleasure. This is to show thee that when the Gospel comes in the sweet and precious influences thereof to the heart, then, I say, even as thou sawest the damsel lay the dust by sprinkling the floor with water, so is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean, through the faith of it, and consequently fit for the King of Glory to inhabit.”

One third of the way down this page, look for "INTERPRETER".
This seems to be written with great tenderness and while the specific issues in the Catholic Church may differ, I can relate to his sentiment, 'though I am not particularly conservative theologically; I have other reasons for staying -- one of them is not that I'm blind to the problems.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Women's role in the church
Gives "preacher's kid" a whole new meaning -- from CNN.
Father announced tonight that an active woman in our parish and in the community died suddenly and unexpectedly yesterday. He talked briefly about her involvement in the CCD program, "teaching second graders about Jesus." He asked our prayers for her husband and their four children because, according to Father, they are devastated. Father also announced times for the wake and funeral and solicited volunteers to serve refreshments because he expects a great crowd of mourners due to this woman's involvement and reputation.

Well, I was devastated at the news and I don't even know her. Many people remained in the sanctuary after Mass, on their knees, praying. Other people gathered in small groups, reacting to the news with shock and disbelief. What I could not get over was Father's beaming smile as he made these announcements -- I found it disturbing, as if he was not comprehending the full impact of this tragedy. Funny thing, he's just always smiling.
The fact that this movie, Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth, was recommended to me by people who know about good movies and good theology, in other words, by people whom I trust, prompted me to attend a Lenten study series using this movie at my church. I have never seen this movie and so, Tuesday night, saw a scene: the cleansing of the Temple.

The typical pious reaction to Jesus' cleansing of the Temple is scandal, followed with attempts to explain Jesus' presumed expression of anger, and leading to notions of "righteous anger", justifiable anger, anger without sin. (Psalm 4:4 quoted in Eph. 4:26). These explanations have never seemed to me to be anything more than a rationalized contrivance intended to save face, Christ's and our own who affirm His sinless earthly existence. In the movie Jesus is not depicted harming any person, he just overturns the tables.

I have never heard anyone make the connection between the temple cleansing of Josiah and Hezekiah (2 Kings 23, 2 Chronicles 29) and Jesus' cleansing (Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46; John 2:13-17) but cleaning the house before Passover is the task proper to the righteous king or, these days in Judaism, the head of household. Jesus shows his kingship in this careful act before His Final Passover (John's source material is a little different here, but the cleansing still takes place before a Passover). Emotional temper doesn't factor into it at all: the text is making a christological statement. We should see in it neither a sample of how to display anger righteously nor be bogged down on whether Jesus could do all this without sinning. On the latter issue, I don't question He could. And anyone who doubts that Jesus lived without sin because of this story has missed the real point of the passages.

Since I have never mustered the courage to watch Gibson's Passion, the only biopic of Jesus that I have seen is Jesus Christ Superstar. You are smirking, aren't you? I love the music; you can't argue with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice -- I love Disney's Aladdin, too for Rice's lyrics! Yes, in Superstar, I am upset that Judas is cast as a black man, I don't understand that, actually. And, yes, I was shocked by the Broadway performance many years ago (ten years?) when the resurrected Christ and (resurrected? in white) Judas shake hands at the end of the show. We Catholics were warned as children to not think anyone in hell except Judas and Hitler. Anyway, this is my point of reference, you must understand. I compare Zeffirelli's masterpiece with a rock opera.

And, more poignant than the Temple cleansing scene, as important as that action may be, is Jesus' intent focus, fixation almost, on the rising smoke of the sacrifice. He is engrossed in its constant presence and lofting. It recalled to my mind the censor of Revelation, mixing incense with the prayers of the saints. The smoke from the offerings was a prayer to God, and Jesus was touched to rededicate the Temple to the purpose of prayer.

I wanted to talk in greater detail about John's placement of the story earlier in his Gospel, in fact, it occurs right after the water to wine incident at Cana. John's source is different than the Synoptics not only in its placement but also in reference to which type of OT literature is fulfilled by the story: in John, the cleansing fulfills Wisdom literature, i.e., Ps. 69:9a, but in the Synoptics, the cleansing fulfills the Prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah (56:7 and 7:11, respectively) Fulfilling Wisdom literature is consonant with John's Logos and of seeing Jesus as God's wisdom embodied; Jesus is the climax of God's Word.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I find that things go better for me among Protestants when I don't self-identify as Catholic. It's just the nature of the reaction of some that causes me to retreat from all. But this self-imposed, non-disclosure agreement suits the Bible Study guidelines at most churches, guidelines which discourage the naming of religions, churches and denominations, so my covertness works to my benefit and is also consistent with the tenor of these studies.

Sometimes people guess -- frankly I should think that they would have to be blind or deaf or dumb to not guess, eventually -- and they let me know that they know with a wink or a hug or an "We're glad you're here". But I try not to make any of my answers reveal the intensity of my commitment. I want to edify all present, as much as I am able. I have watched the wall come down across their faces too many times. I am so prone to triumphalism that self-censure is my way of getting over myself and letting others have their say. It's gotten easier to say less since starting this blog because I have an outlet that satisfies my need for self-expression without anyone necessarily listening.

So, this morning, someone caught on, and it happened like this: I shared on Revelation 11:17 and I may blog the details later. I mentioned something that I do not think ought to be particularly Catholic, namely the Lord's Supper, Communion, the eucharist (ευχαριστουμεν, "we give thanks"). I used those latter two titles because "the Lord's Supper" sounds too much like "the Last Supper", suggesting a one-time, historical event, belonging to the Lord and with little modern relevance.

Afterwards, a woman who had mentioned her former association with Catholicism at an earlier time approached me and admitted that she knew what I was saying. That is, she heard me, talking about the eucharist. And she said, "You're Catholic, aren't you?" There's no denying it, so I didn't. "Yeah, I guessed it." Bully for her.

So we talked briefly because she accused me of condemning one of her statements during the discussion. I wanted her to remind me of what that statement was because I had not any recollection of commenting on anything she said. I suspected a misunderstanding and, this sounds harsh in print, but it wasn't so in person, I said, "Look, you are slandering me, so please remind me of the details." And, after thinking about it and checking her notes, she had to conclude that she was mistaken. Anyway, she wanted to talk with me about the dispensation of the Jews but I had to excuse myself to pick up Christopher at child care.

Then I was invited to lunch and I expected the true grilling to get underway over the simple meal. I resolved myself to submit to their inquires for Christ's sake despite the real potential for suspicion and alienation.

So it started with flattery that I am a sucker for. "Oh, you know the Bible so well, have you been studying long?"

"As much as I can."

"Oh, but have you had any formal training?"

"Yes, an MA in theology ... but it's just a beginning, really, you know."

"Yes, of course, and where did you study?"

"Georgian Court College in Lakewood, NJ. Do you know Lakewood?" Most of them didn't. One woman said, "Oh, with all those Jews?!"

"And what type of college is that, is it associated with a church? Who runs it?"

"The Religious Sisters of Mercy." One woman's brother is a priest, so she shared something he had told her about a decline in women's vocations and the closure and selling of convents ( did she say "nunneries"? ) to support retirement and medical funds.

And, after this exchange, the conversation was much more guarded. And one woman said nothing else for the remainder of the meal. So, I will see how it goes for me next Thursday. The ladies had invited me to some greenhouse tour in Hillsborough with which I am quite unfamiliar on Holy Thursday since we do not have Bible Study but I told them that I expect to be busy on Holy Thursday. It is one of my favorite holidays, the Institution of the Eucharist, not surprisingly.
You have a local map in your car, right? How many people don't have a map of the county or state where they live in their car, right now, raise your hand? Hmm, alright.

Well, I almost had to get mine out this evening just trying to get across town. Picked the boys up at school at 3:20 and by the time I took them to the restroom and got them to the car and changed the younger boy's pants because he had a big rip in the right knee (hand-me-downs!) which I hadn't patched soon enough, apparently so it ripped bigger, it was 3:40. Their after-school computer class starts at 4 but it only takes 15 minutes -- tops -- to get to the class from their school. So, 33 East towards Freehold to 527 North, oh, look at all that traffic on 527 South, oh, it must be a detour, wow, there's so much construction around here -- right onto Main Street towards Tennant -- stopped, traffic backed up.

That's alright, turn around, everyone's doing it, continue North on 527 towards Englishtown and I'll sneak down 522 to the Old Tennant Church -- stopped, traffic backed up in Englishtown. That's alright, turn around, go south again on 527 and right onto Woodward Road -- no way I'm gonna sit in that traffic trying to get from 527 to 33 that I saw earlier, so back to 33 and the intersection with their school. 4:00, computer class has started and we are starting over.

Take 33 East towards Freehold and take Business 33 towards route 9. Route 9 north is closed because, as I find out later from my husband, of an accident in the morning which took out utility poles. I'm forced by police to cross over route 9 and remain on Business 33 past the Race Track which is open, so cars and people are coming and going. Plan to turn left onto 537 East into Freehold but traffic is backed up so I change lanes at the last minute and force cars going left to squeeze by me as I head straight across and remain on Business 33. Along the way, the kids, who have talked of nothing else all week but this computer class, lament ever getting there. And rush hour traffic is starting, 4:20. I'm afraid that we will arrive as class finishes and I'll have as much trouble getting home.

Once I crossed 537, Business 33 was smooth sailing and I picked up route 79 north, got through a couple of lights in town, got out of town and up 79 to East Freehold road and the YMCA is right there. As we traveled up 79, Kenny commented, "I bet we are going to be the only ones who make it there, Mom, because you know all the roads." Whew, that's something I needed to hear because I was feeling pretty bad and frustrated.

Pulled into the parking lot at 4:30 and made it to the classroom by 4:40. 50 minutes of driving, Google says, about 8 miles. The real mistake was trying to get through Englishtown. And maybe the wait at 527 and 33 would not have been bad enough to justify going back to Woodward. But, the big stumper was route 9's closure. I always refer to it as "the nightmare on 9" because of two separate construction projects for the past three years.

And do you want to know about getting home? They wanted McDonald's again, just like last week. Well, traffic on route 9 southbound, towards the closer McDonald's, was all backed up to the Wegman's. Very, very unusual. So, I went North on 9 to Marlboro and took them to the McDonald's near 520. Then, not wanting to go through Tennant again, I tried to take 520 home but Texas Road is detoured.

I must have taken a wrong turn or followed the detour without realizing it because the next thing I knew, I was on 527 south, going through Englishtown. And it looked as if the traffic congestion in Tennant was cleared up. We got home 30 minutes later than usual and, for the most part, the two younger boys were ready for bed. And the eldest, after doing his homework, he went right to bed too.