Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Snippets - a Catholic carnival hosted by Rann at "This That and the Other Thing."

My submission this week:

Friday, October 29, 2010

I was asked to participate in a spiritual mentoring program at a church using a book that draws upon the biblical mandate in Titus 2:3-5 --
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Biblical mandate. I know, right?

I'm put off by the intentionality of this because relationships ought to form naturally. For instance, when I first volunteered to teach, I was friended socially by another who became an informal mentor, most memorably recommending the prayer of the rosary to me, and otherwise setting a fine example.

Was I just lucky then? True, I haven't experienced a similar relationship since.

This isn't at a Catholic church.

Particulars aside, the proposal, as well as my other reading, has made me aware that I'm not in the habit of putting into practice specific scriptural advice, like mentoring. The tendency can't be found in the popular Catholic ethos and that concerns me.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

To complement our trip to Hershey last weekend, I bought the family tickets at Allaire Historic Village for their haunted hayride on Friday evening. I bought the tickets in advance over the telephone two full weeks ago. For a family of six, it was expensive. Jeff noted that the charge went through on the credit card. But when we went to pick up the tickets, they had no record of the pre-purchase. So they took our contact information and kindly let us in anyway.

The village isn't big and we're familiar enough in the daytime, so we found our way to the hayride queue. The moon was full but didn't offer much light. Propane lanterns lit the paths adequately. The blurb on the website does not describe the hayride accurately at all. The subjects were horrors from literature: Jekyll and Hyde, sirens, Robin Hood, Frankenstein's monster, Harry Potter's nemesis, the giant squid from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. And others. I can't remember them. And really I could have done without them. It was pleasant enough to ride through the woods on a crisp, autumn evening without things jumping at our wagon.

After the ride, we were let off outside the carriage house where some witches had a cauldron on a fire. We were invited inside the carriage house to hear scary stories but the kids wanted to go to the bakery tout de suit. So we did and they got their $2 cookies.

I had also purchased haunted express train tickets on site. Those were significantly less expensive but were for a particular "departure" time. In other words, we had time to kill. After the bakery, we went into a row house which is set up as a museum. At least we could get warm. The older two kids have some experience with NJ museums so they learned from the displays. In fact, Tim recognized mention of bog iron from his fossil-finding field trip to Poricy Park earlier in the school year. We were literally the only ones in the museum besides an "historian" of sorts, whose repeated offers to give us some information we declined.

We waited at the train station for about 30 minutes. But the time flew. Really. We saw some characters from the haunted express train milling about. Took the edge off, I guess. We could see the train moving very slowly along the circuit and then it stopped for a bit before resuming again and pulling into the station. Kenny speculated that someone boarded the train and then had to get off. I just replied that whatever they did for the previous ride, they'd do for us, so we'll see what it is.

Our turn came and we took our seats in the open-sided passenger car. Jeff had Ella. Facing them was Tim with Kenny. I sat with Chris across the aisle. I thought it was a good idea to have Chris on the inside, away from the open train car sides. A lady asked whether she could sit facing us and I said, "That's fine." She said she didn't want to ride alone. She freaked me out during the ride because she seemed to be staring just over my shoulder with a frightened look on her face. I thought to myself, "C'mon, lady, this is for kids!"

The train pulled out from the station heading clockwise around the loop. Every other time I've been on that train it's gone counterclockwise. The first encounter along the tracks was with another engine, set up near the tracks to simulate a head-on collision. The smoke makers were a nice effect too. But we dodged the collision and passed a graveyard in which people stood up from behind the grave markers and started to walk towards the train. Jeff Goldblum's "Must go faster" from Jurassic Park always comes to mind in those instances.

Along the center of the track route were stakes with ghosts and other creatures affixed to them. Jeff was riding backwards so he brushed up against these things before seeing them. They were positioned closer to the train on his side anyway. I could see them in the light of the train but once I reached them they were in darkness. They really needed to have lights on the side of the train or something.

We went around a second time and encountered the engine threatening another head-on collision. This time in passing the cemetery, the train stopped and those things from behind the headstones boarded. I had Chris cover his eyes and put his head down. I held him tight. Sitting on the inside didn't seem like such a bright idea anymore. Tim put up his dukes and was going to punch anyone who went for him. He is a tough customer. I found myself warning the actors: "He will punch you, seriously. And leave a mark."

The train resumed course and these things menaced us. We stopped again at the last turn before the station and they were going to get off. But they said they needed to take someone with them. They settled on the lady facing me. She tugged at my coat and begged, "No, take her instead!" I wasn't too impressed with her selflessness. When they succeeded in pulling her from her seat, I put my feet up for the remainder of the ride. Chris found her boarding ticket on the floor - she'd dropped it in the struggle. We passed her after we got off the train. She'd be needed again for the next trip.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'd be ready for a normal week next week.

We drove out to Hershey on Saturday after tennis lessons. We didn't tell the kids where we were going. They don't like surprises. Neither do I. Just before we exited the PA Turnpike, Kenny figured it out. Well, there's a huge sign, how could he not?

We stayed at the new Country Inn & Suites that just opened up on 39. It's so much closer to the park than the other one. And new translates into "clean" when speaking of hotels. We arrived at the park at 4 and got a two-day pass. We stayed until 10 and did the usual things.

The one difference is that Tim moved into a taller ride category over the summer and could ride with Kenny on all the roller coasters. That alone made the trip worthwhile. But also, Ella got on the merry-go-round first. Her asking for the ride was the primary reason we made the trip!

Something different for Halloween is trick-or-treating near Fahrenheit. There's a cute village set up in some catering pavilion. Oh, and all the rides have specifically seasonal names. We've only ever been there right after school lets out in June so this was new to us. But not confusing - we caught on quickly.

People were bundled up on Saturday night. We had two layers of clothes, but other people had winter coats, hats and gloves! It wasn't going to get that cold! Pulling into the hotel parking lot just before 10:30, my car reported a major transmission problem. I had trouble in late summer with the transmission fluid and, of course, two years ago had the transmission replaced. But they didn't do it right and axle grease go into the transmission fluid and ruined the transmission.

Nothing to be done about it. We didn't change our plans. Swam in the hotel pool for a couple of hours on Sunday morning, visited Chocolate World and then got into the park when it opened in the afternoon. We stayed until after 6 and I was dreading the ride home. Jeff agreed to drive the car for me. Ella fell asleep within ten minutes of getting in the car. She woke up after an hour but went back to sleep again for good.

Once the car got into high, it drove fine. There is construction on the NJTP Extension near exit 6 where the turnpike is being widened to three lanes. Traffic was backed up for a couple of miles. We lost about twenty minutes there and moving at low speeds was so painful with the bad transmission. But Jeff got us through it and we were home between 9:30 and 10. The kids went straight to bed and had something interesting to say at school in the morning!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Enough time was allotted to meals to get into some interesting discussions. At dinner on Friday night, I sat down at table with a woman from New York City, so said her name tag. Underneath, her church was listed, "Redeemer Presbyterian Church."
Oh, you attend Tim Keller's church. What's that like?
She was surprised to learn how popular Keller is with this gathering. She seemed rather blasé about Keller being her pastor. After she left the table, someone speculated that she probably never sees him.

At lunch yesterday, my friend spoke freely about her non-religious upbringing, her conversion to Catholicism in college and then her adoption of Reformed theology. I didn't press her for specifics, even though I was curious. I just let her say what she felt led to say.

I met her at the Reformed church years ago and she recognized my NCPL conference tote. She said she was living with the man who became her husband while she was very active in church ministry, teaching religious education.
And no one said anything to us about it, even though they all knew.
I do wonder what she expected. Did she mean to say that she didn't know it was wrong? Would she have respected the recommendation that she withdraw from active ministry? She attends an Arminian church now, for her husband's sake, and she's frustrated by the fact that she can't teach the Bible there. The fact that nobody said anything to her about her sin isn't the reason she left Catholicism - there were many other reasons - but it's something negative that she remembers of her Catholic experience. She asked me whether I'm in the Catholic church for the sake of my husband and I said, no, that I want to be there. She seemed surprised and a little sad. I think she thought I was a prisoner of male headship or something, like herself.

Another lady joined us from New Life Church in Glenside. I was able to share with her that last summer our Bible study relied on the Psalm material on their website. Someone was trying to name the man most associated with Ligionier Ministries and I was able to supply that. Someone expressed concern about the plenary sessions and what's the difference between teaching and preaching. I'd have to agree that the exhortations with which Connie concluded her third plenary bordered on preaching. When about the only thing a pastor does is preach - and not offer a sacrifice like a priest - it's very difficult to distinguish gender roles in ministry and very hard to say "men only." Yes, I was thankful to be affirmed in the Catholic notion of priesthood.

My study guide leader took me aside and inquired so gently, "How did you become a believer?" I told her my story of reading Mere Christianity in college and realizing that I'd never heard a description of Christ's work on my behalf before, despite being in church my whole life. But that, if it's is true, and I think it is, I want to believe it. Then, at church, I had "new ears" and could hear what had been said all along. I'm not sure whether my story convinced her.
I heard the "c" word quite often at the women's Bible conference this weekend.

No, not "church," nor "Christ," nor that other word, not even "coffee," but "caffeine." Maybe I'm just more sensitive since I've given it up. But even when I had an addiction, I don't recall myself being so open about needing my fix. I felt a bit like a recovering alcoholic because cans of Pepsi and Coke were readily available on ice for nothing. But I stuck to my Seagram's ginger ale and thought it a shame there wasn't any rum.

The final small group session had us study Ps. 73, looking for the central idea. I had plenty of prior experience with this psalm because I presented it at a Bible study last summer. We broke out into a smaller group of only three and went to an area with a library. Frankly, there were books strewn about all over the church hall, like most church halls. But this spot held a concentration of volumes and so, was referred to as "the library."

Earlier I had looked at the spines of the books. The one that caught my eye was a very old hardcover called The Secrets of Romanism. I flipped to the opening page and read that this book - or any other - is unnecessary because the best book against Catholicism is THE BIBLE. Then Zacchello should have left it at that. I was tempted to "misplace" the book somewhere on the shelves, but instead I reasoned that none would be inclined to read such a book.

I tried to explain the narrative of Ps. 73 to my two partners but they weren't interested in listening to me, at least at first until they saw that I had a decent handle on it. Still, we weren't the only small group in the library so the conversations of others interfered with my partners' concentration. Somewhat uncharacteristically I was able to tune out the others perhaps because they sat to my "deaf" side, i.e., my right.

We returned to "present" to the rest of our small group who also worked Ps. 73. They grasped the flow of the narrative quite well also. The central idea that I saw was something like "the psalmist's belief in retribution theology is reaffirmed by what he hears in the Lord's sanctuary," presumably the preaching of the Old Testament. But the other group came up with "God is good when he is near" or, something like that, and allusion was made to Christ's incarnation, his "tabernacling" with us, as John 1:14 puts it. I think our respective approaches reflect our religious sensibilities, Catholic and Protestant.
I was assigned Psalm 8. From the public library I picked up Alter's book. I didn't look at any other book, except the NAB notes. I overheard someone mention the Jewish Study Bible and kicked myself for not even glancing at it!

I decided to work from Alter's translation because his verse numbers follow those in the NAB, i.e., according to the Hebrew. I prepared a handout that reproduced the psalm. The worksheet came in the text of an email, not as a document. So I pasted the text into a Pages document and replicated the formatting as best as possible. In fact, the font size is larger than the original which seemed necessary.

The first question on the worksheet asked for a short sentence relating the central idea of the psalm. So I studied the passage and noticed that the middle of the psalm seems to carry the punchline:
What is man that You should note him, and the human creature, that You pay him heed?
The psalmist is astonished that the LORD regards him. Someone in the study group bristled at the word "astonished," as if the word had a negative connotation, expressing doubt. I thought of the idea in terms of "blown away" or "bowled over."

The next question requested two or three verses to back up my identification of the central idea. The heart of the psalm, verse 4-6, carry that. I didn't neglect the refrain repeated at the beginning and the end, forming an envelope or inclusio, but it was secondary.

The question that tripped everyone up asked to provide an illustration. I dreamed up a sketch about an out-of-our-league suitor who calls upon little-old-us. Then we were to connect this passage to the rest of Scripture. Obviously the original readers would "hear in all this a beautiful poetic reprise of Genesis 1"1 and the New Testament authors associate Christ with the one made a little lower than the angels, with all things subjected to him [Heb. 2:6-9; 1 Cor. 15:27].

I delivered my presentation fairly late in the program, by which time the tone was already more or less set by the previous presenters. We got into this horrible habit of interrupting each other quite freely, to the point that one woman was cut off with one full page to go! The thing is that, when people aren't confident, it's too easy to jump in, even out of empathy.

The curious thing is that I was (1) challenged on my selection of the central idea: someone thought the opening and closing refrain ought to serve. And (2) asked about the meaning of verse 2. Alter said that no satisfactory interpretation had been found so I took his word for that. But someone's Bible cross-referenced Matthew 21:16 and I was astonished that I missed that!

The study leader said that when the New Testament interprets the old, we're on very sure ground. Yes, but, of course, Jesus quotes the LXX which has emended the unintelligible Hebrew! And it's amazing to me that a translation like the NIV imposes Jesus' words from Matthew 21:16 - itself a quotation from the LXX - upon their English translation of Ps. 8:2, merely footnoting the Hebrew!

I sensed that both my view of man and Alter's view of man were just a little too esteemed for this group. However, to my surprise, just about everyone copied down the ISBN to Alter's book!

1 Robert Alter, The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary (New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co., 2007) p. 24.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

An original thought came to me as I planned an overnight in Willow Grove: seek out a nearby Catholic church with some liturgical events scheduled.

The thought was likely prompted not so much by an awareness of First Friday / First Saturday but rather by the feasts of St. Thérèse and Guardian Angels. On the former, I found nothing and decided to attend locally in the morning before heading out. Not even an evening holy hour in the vicinity. But on the latter, turned up a service at OLHC in Abington, about one mile away, an hour before the workshop's Saturday morning start time.

Still, I arrived early enough on Friday to locate the church. Funny, I drove by St. David's in Willow Grove on the way - even the hotel directory listed St. David's. But, as far as I could tell, the first weekend service there was Saturday evening about when I'd be leaving town.

Nothing was doing at OLHC mid-morning Friday but I slipped in for a rosary, I think, even though the devotion would mean forgoing lunch. I was too nervous to be hungry. Then, the next morning, I arrived just before 7:30 and said another rosary. The 8 AM liturgy was well-attended and I hung around afterwards expecting another - this time corporate - rosary.

There were three others, plus the acolyte joined us more than halfway through. Not quite a minyan. The members took turns with the decades and I wondered whether, I, a newcomer, would receive a part and how I would know. So, the acting leader nodded to me for the third Glorious mystery and I counted very carefully on my beads because there's no greater offense than saying too few ... or too many! Aw, we've all been there.

I was so uneasy, at first, at the sound of my solitary voice in the large church that I caught my breath during the second half of the Aves. Soon I got comfortable with it and was able to utter the full Marian prayer.

Now, the acting leader was curious because he took no decades for himself. "What's he waiting for?" I wondered. Something big, no doubt. Turns out, it was one of those rosary recitations that never seems to end! More and more, tacking on a dozen or so incidental prayers, one of which I couldn't understand,1 much less say. Pray for the pope's intentions, fine. Pray the Memorae, ok. Pray for Right-to-Life, yes. Pray for our intentions, naturally. Pray to St. Michael, alright. But I had my eye on my watch!

Finally, oh, finally, the lovely praying came to an end and the acting leader nodded to me again, a "thank you," and I returned the gesture and quickly left for Calvary.

1 maybe this was one.
Sunday Snippets - a Catholic carnival hosted by Rann at "This That and the Other Thing."

My submissions this week pertain to a recent Bible workshop:
We took to our groups in the dining room for what the schedule called "Tea." In years past, I had "missed" the Tea, arriving too late, but I never actually "missed" it, as I detest informal social situations.

The ice-breaking exercise, I reckon modeled on speed-dating, instructed us to find at least two things in common before switching partners. The Baptist and I made short work of it, both hailing originally from NY and having attended the workshop previously.

I turned to the next partner whom I'd asked perfunctorily whether she'd ever been overseas. She said she'd spent about four months at L'Abri in Switzerland under Dr. Schaeffer. Since I am vaguely aware that Dr. Schaeffer died some time ago (but I wasn't exactly certain - it seems more than 25 yrs. ago) and my new acquaintance didn't look terribly old to me, I asked whether she was there while he was still alive. A silly question, I suppose, but I think it was an awkward attempt at flattery. After some sarcasm, she said that she visited just after the film "How Should We Then Live?" came out.

In trying to find a "connection" with this, I blurted out that I'd read Crazy For God. Well, most of it.
You mean Frankie's book in which he smears Os Guinness and everyone?!
I responded that Frank's a fine writer but maybe next time I'll try his fiction! Had I recalled sooner Dr. Schaeffer's reputation for accepting "girls in trouble," I might have had another question for her!

Fortunately, I seemed to hit it off with everyone else, especially the study group leader who's been to Israel many times. I discussed many of the sites there with her during our "turn" together.