Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gathering with other Christians inevitably leads to distractions on differences. All personal preferences, I suppose. But, for instance, among the regulars who pray the rosary on Friday morning after mass is a woman who instinctively bows her head at the name Jesus in the prayers. And if a participant drops a Hail Mary inadvertently, not to worry, the next participant says 11 to make up for it. They say the Fátima Prayer before any mysteries or decades.

During the prayers of the faithful at daily mass, a woman prays the same intention, verbatim, every day. I could recite it for her, I've heard it so often. I murmur it under my breath along with her. I'm tempted to throw her off one day by slipping in my intention ahead of hers! I'd have to be fast.

The ladies in Allenwood, all variations on a Baptist theme, similarly bewilder me. Make-up, coifs, manicures, jewelry, accessories. But no perfume, which is, naturally, the only purely feminine item I go for. Instead of showing compassion towards a pregnant middle schooler, one complained that her young niece encounters her in class everyday. Several shared her concern.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

With the kids off school and Jeff on vacation, I've been able to swim every morning this week for as long as possible. Most days, that's worked out to 90 minutes, except yesterday was only 70. On a good day, then, it's over two miles of swimming. It takes me about twenty minutes to warm up and, actually, 45 minutes to "feel good." After 30 minutes, I switch from three stroke breathing to five stroke. I swim five stroke breathing for 30 minutes, then back to three stroke breathing for the final 30 minutes. Today I tried something different: I swam five stroke breathing for 40 minutes without any problem. And the last two laps of that I tried seven stroke breathing. That didn't go too well. I was gasping and one time, I turned my head to breathe and couldn't open my mouth!

Why force this breathing pattern instead of just breathing naturally? Because I hate breathing. That is, I hate turning my head to breathe. I was actually a bit dizzy this morning for the first fifteen minutes or so from turning my head side-to-side. I'd much rather just swim, just pull with my arms and skip the breathing part. The solution is probably to get a snorkel, but I like the discipline of holding my breath and breathing deeply at regular intervals.

On Thanksgiving, I started jogging. I call it jogging because that's what it is, even though it feels like running to me. And I wish it was running. I run jog down the street and back. Nothing complicated. There aren't any significant hills or traffic. I've seen just about all my neighbors at one time or another, so that embarrassment factor is over and done. I had tendonitis in my right knee from running, similar to my shoulder pain from swimming. I used that Icy Hot stuff immediately after running and the pain went away for hours. And now I don't need the Icy Hot anymore. The pain has just gone away.

I wanted to add some time onto my running, so I leave my street at the end and run down the main road to Fairplay. Then I turn around and come back. There's a bit of an incline getting to Fairplay but I tell myself that it's downhill on the way back! Yesterday there was a strong, cold wind blowing. Again, I told myself as I ran into it, that it'd be blowing me home on the return trip! I actually ran the loop two minutes faster yesterday than the day before. I credit the nippy December wind.

I prefer running in cold weather. I've never been one to run in the summer. Off-season training for cross country always took the form of cross training: swimming, biking and weight lifting. But I'm finding out that my college coach spoke the truth long ago when he said that running is the best preparation for good running. Not swimming or biking. No, two miles in the pool or five on the elliptical does not fully prepare one for road running. My breathing is strong but my legs were not quite strong enough to support me for the whole time.

However, now that I am running, my legs are stronger on the elliptical and on the leg weight machines. I'm increasing the total weight I'm lifting with my legs very rapidly since I started running.

And getting good nights' sleep is also very crucial. So, g'nite!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

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

Click to join sunday_snippets
She let it slip that she's a universalist. Given the subject matter - the Book of Revelation - I could understand and wasn't too surprised. The rest were stunned, however, mistakenly thinking she'd have them also adopt universalism. She had no such intention. They sought to disabuse her of her position, citing various Scriptures. Her own son, who had arranged for her to teach at his parish, professed to being as surprised as everyone. "She sees things this way since I've left home!"

But she did persuade some people, I'm sorry to say. Not that I'm so opposed to universalism, but they ended up arriving at the worst conclusions. Must be they just haven't read the books I've read.

For instance, one of them, trying on how universal salvation might work after one died, decided that encountering the overpowering love of God - in the context of a judgment, keep in mind! - would win over absolutely anyone. Well, not according to C. S. Lewis, in a couple of places:
"The point is not that God will refuse you admission to His eternal world if you have not got certain qualities of character: the point is that if people have not got at least the beginnings of those qualities inside them, then no possible external conditions could make a 'Heaven' for them." (emphasis mine)
It's a little like, "It takes one to know one." Emphatically, opposites do not attract.

So, Lewis again:
"For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. ... That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realised it before or not." (emphasis mine)
With the recent passing of Christopher Hitchens, I'm reminded that there's much in Scripture and Tradition to caution us against universalism.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

My husband says I'm obsessed. He's probably right.

I'm back from the First Sunday of Advent, experiencing the revised Roman Catholic liturgy for the first time. My main reaction is frustration that maybe about half the congregation appears even aware of some sort of change. About half are referencing the sheets, holding them in their hands. A few others are, like myself, holding a newsprint missal because no reasonably-priced Catholic publisher has released their offering yet. The rest don't seem to notice that they are no longer saying the right words.

The cantor did not pronounce "eleison" correctly. How could she, when she's so young, she's never heard it sung before1. Again, more frustration because I love a well-done Kyrie. I panicked when we appeared to skip the Gloria, suspecting that the priest thought the changes too much for us! But then I realized omitting it is prescribed during Advent.

Myself, I messed up the Creed, despite holding the missal inches from my face. I was following along, but a rubric appears between a couple of lines in the middle of the text and, as I read that direction silently to myself, I missed following the next line. Instead, I began on auto-pilot, "by the power of the Holy Spirit," before my eyes caught up again with the text.

The changes in the eucharistic prayer appeared even more drastic than they are because my pastor habitually uses one of the two "Reconciliation" prayers during Advent, which aren't very familiar anyway. The priest has always self-edited on the fly, with varying degrees of success, exchanging masculine pronouns for inclusive language wherever necessary. So it's fun to see how he modifies the revised prayer. I've never heard him refer to Mary as "Mother of God," much less now "glorious."2

The so-called "clunky" phraseology characteristic of Latin syntax, in which a prayer's main thought is interrupted almost from the get-go by a subordinate clause, reminds me of the prattle of an excited, tongue-tied child. I'm not sure this is the intended effect.

The disposable, annual missal includes the present pope's name, "Benedict," instead of the customary, generic "N." A first, no doubt.

As I approached for communion, I noticed that my fingertips were dirty from using the inexpensive, newsprint missal. The fresh print had rubbed off. How diligently I had tried to obtain a better quality book for myself before Sunday! I hesitated, then, to receive communion in my hand and so, was struck by the irony of it. "Hadn't traditionalists predicted the new liturgy would move us to a deeper reverence for the eucharist. But for such a reason as this?" I told myself it couldn't be helped.

I'm in the habit of tidying up the choir loft where we sit after everyone leaves. What used to be a quick, simple task has sprawled into something almost out of control, as I separate liturgical cheat sheets from church bulletins mindlessly mixed into the stack. And the presence of loose papers isn't ending anytime soon.

My prediction is the new liturgical words will not promote greater participation, no matter how reverent those words are perceived to be. In fact, reverence is considered pretentious, and Catholic laypeople shun pretense. Instead, as more people realize the old responses won't wash anymore, they'll simply stop responding. They'll close their mouths altogether and not bother learning the new words. So those altar servers better start speaking up!

UPDATED 12/9/2011: I've attended now five of these new liturgies, three Sundays, one weekday and the Immaculate Conception holy day. We've managed to say the Creed only once, on that first Sunday of Advent. On the second Sunday, a prolonged homily addressed to the confirmandi caused the Creed to be omitted. It was skipped at the weekday service, of course and, inexplicably, at the solemnity. I expect the Creed will not be routinely omitted, as it was, I recall, at St. Anselm's in Wayside under Fr. Bob.

At Bible study last night, a friend asked me what "prevenient" means. I told him. He said the word appeared in the offertory prayers for the Immaculate Conception liturgy and even the priest stumbled over the word. I don't actually remember hearing the word myself. My friend had gone home and looked up the word in the dictionary, having never heard it before and was surprised I knew the word. I told him "pre" means "before" and "venient" means "coming," like "vent" in "Advent." I know the word simply from having studied Wesleyanism ("prevenient grace" - Wiki).

1 I've been again since and she's been corrected by someone, singing it properly now.
2 However, at the Immaculate Conception liturgy - he struggles the most on the Marian holy days - he acknowledged Mary's intercession on our behalf.

Comparison of Immaculate Conception prayers
Click to enlarge

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Neither of my regular Bible studies were meeting today so I stopped by the Presbyterian church in town for their mid-morning study with the pastor. I had been reminded of it on Sunday morning when I attended their worship in anticipation of the evening ecumenical prayer service. I'm quite sure I did exactly the same trifecta last year at this time.

It's a comfortable group, only one person I didn't recognize from last time. The first 30 minutes was spent in chit-chat and housekeeping, especially transferring the money collected at the ecumenical prayer service to the one who would purchase the food cards.

Catholics and Catholicism came up rather frequently and without warning. One lady noted that she's heard the Catholics are changing their "form," by which I think she meant liturgy. Another lady talked about gender issues and the suppression of women in Christianity beginning, she supposed, with the Catholic church in the Middle Ages.
There were books kept out of the Bible about women, like Judith. Of course, God told them which books to put in the Bible.
That's what she said.

The pastor showed me a picture of his grandson and I told him he was lucky to have such a cute grandson. He echoed back that he's lucky but it seemed to stick in his craw. I could have as easily said "blessed" but that seems so trite among Christians. I wanted what I said to effect him.

There were some other housekeeping issues discussed, enough to cure me of any desire to know the inner workings of my own parish, thank you very much.

The one lady, Suzie - so says her license plate - is the former Catholic who came in like a ball of fire to tell about a funny video by Sr. Mary Pat.1 I resisted the temptation to correct her when she fumbled for the routine's proper title, referring to it as "Night Sunday School" and "Nighttime Catholicism." I didn't want to appear to be too familiar with the program. She had, apparently, emailed the video's link to the pastor and some other people in the Bible study. She explained it to me and others who didn't have email. She wondered aloud whether she should forward the link to my pastor, Fr. Mike, but her pastor said he's probably already seen it.
Not that he wouldn't appreciate it.
She seemed to be still a little high from the ecumenical prayer service in which there were so many Catholics "in da' house."

We got to Genesis eventually and the reverend allowed me to read verses 26 and 27. I had the proper version with me this time, the NRSV. He distributed the entry for Genesis in the "Oxford Guide to the Bible," except they called it the Oxford Companion. I almost acknowledged having that book at home but wasn't real sure about it. Turns out, I do have it.

We talked about the first person plural, "our," and what it means to be made in God's image. We went on to chapter 2 and talked about dietary issues. The grown children of several of the participants were vegetarians, looking ahead to another meatless Thanksgiving. We talked about the significance of the sabbath rest and the pastor said that his professional journals encourage him to pick another day during the week for rest. They remembered how blue laws used to be when they were younger: Sunday was a day at home without options. They talked about how chains were drawn across the roads leading to the Methodist town of Ocean Grove. One couldn't drive in Ocean Grove on Sunday. Asbury Park was also mentioned and the pastor noted that "Asbury" is a well-known Methodist name - Asbury Theological Seminary - so he supposed the Methodists had also founded that town. I should have been the one to think of that connection! Cokesbury I would have got!

The pastor read a footnote from the book he had shared with us that he's enjoying at the moment about how when polled people overstate how often they attend church on Sunday. Even though they report about 30% attendance, actual attendance is about half that. Someone worked the numbers out for the town - about 8,000 inhabitants and they draw a weekly Sunday attenance of 70 people. So, the question was raised whether most town folks were going to St. Joseph's on Sunday? What's their weekend turnout like? I said nothing.

However, when the pastor speculated that Fr. MIke offered five weekend masses, I told him three. When he said 6500 families, I said 4,000. When they asked how many actually show up on Sunday, I gestured towards the reference book and said, "A quarter." And I kicked myself all the way to the car for taking the bait. They're designed to sniff people out. It's what they do. As if my name doesn't give it away. Just as well, I don't foresee any occasion to go back.

1 It seems to be Maripat, one word. Part of the humor, I suppose.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I cut back on computer usage but the debilitating pain in my arm and shoulder persisted. What's the cause? Only after swimming twice in one day did I realize the pain comes from how I turn in the pool. I can't flip turn, so I used my right arm to hoist my legs to the wall for push off. Too much. I've switched now to using both arms and the pain has lessened significantly.

I recently increased the length of time I swim from 70 minutes to 80 minutes. What I noticed about adding time is it isn't added in the middle when I still feel good. No, the added time necessarily comes at the end of the workout when I'd rather quit. But after a couple of weeks of swimming the extra ten minutes, I've gotten used to it.

I'm also attempting to change my breathing pattern. I presently breathe every third stoke which has the added benefit of working the kinks out of my neck. But some mornings the kinks don't work out no matter what, so I breathe every fifth stoke. I can do this for only about 15 minutes / 10 laps. I pull stronger on non-breath strokes. I equate this to 100 m hurdles technique, 3-step vs. 5-step1, except the numbers are inverted. Breathing every fifth stroke is preferred but I need to work up to it.

Beginning Tuesday, the swim team takes over the pool from 5 am to 6 am, the principle time I go each weekday, until February. I joined another pool in the meantime which doesn't open until 6 am. The other pool is geographically closer to my house but the later opening still means less time overall. I'll have to see how it goes. Most days I can swim after I've taken the kids to school.

1 I have never ran hurdles, neither have I ever swam competitively.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Between my high school reunion and my mother's birthday lunch lay all of Sunday morning.

What to do, what to do.

I'd already taken care of the Sunday obligation Saturday evening at what used to be called St. Joseph's. After mergers, it goes by Resurrection. I was immediately struck by all the gray heads when I entered. A sea of gray. I was early, hoping to make confession for the Day of Atonement but I didn't, and this was 4:30 on a Saturday evening. I didn't like the service in the least. After a million dollar sanctuary renovation, the sound system is still inadequate.

My friend from high school is church secretary for a non-denominational congregation that meets in the old Mancuso movie theater on Main St. She's done that from the beginning, sixteen years or so. I invited myself to her church on Sunday as it didn't seem likely she'd invite me. I opted for the earlier service, 8:30, because I could be sure it would end before the later service at 10 am. God only knows when the 10 am service might end and I had a very important lunch date! At 7:30 am, I attended mass at what used to be called St. Mary's on Ellicott. As this parish is merged with St. Joseph's across town, the music selections were identical. Ever since the outbreak of H1N1 or even before, Western New York Catholics do not make physical contact during the Sign of Peace. They are all overly concerned about germs despite the availability of hand sanitizer stands in the church entryway. I knew the service would run about 50 minutes and I'd have time to get to the next service.

Kathy and I arrived at about the same time. Just as I was asking someone where she might be, she appeared from the back. She'd gotten herself a coffee and offered me one. I don't drink coffee. She took her usual seat but caught herself and told me to select our seats. I moved us to the center of the theater which turned out to be a bad idea because the two screens which display the song lyrics are, ironically enough for a theater, each placed along an outside wall. No wonder no one sits in the center.

Her daughter performs in the band. She did a fabulous job and I told her so afterwards. She looked as if she was really getting into it but wasn't a distraction. She took this picture of us after the service. We didn't sing many songs, maybe three. I don't remember knowing any but they were uncomplicated praise songs. The collection was taken up immediately after, as the pastor said something about joyful giving. The preacher was an evangelist running a mission-type event for the youth that evening. He scared me considerably. I took adequate notes to describe the service here.

The presentation included a slide show in Powerpoint which the speaker referred to as "post-modern stained glass." Every bullet started with "P." He looked at each of the final words of Jesus to his disciples in the four Gospels and Acts. Matthew 28:19-20, "Presence Commission;" Mark 16:15-18, "Protection Commission;" Luke 24:46-49, "Power Commission;" John 21:11, "Personal Commission;" Acts 1:8, "Promise Commission." I was a little disappointed that the sermon didn't require me to flip all over the Bible. At one moment in the sermon, the evangelist seemed on the verge of making a subtle point and the pastor gave him a hardy "Amen" before he actually got the thought out. Inexplicably, the evangelist failed to make his conclusion - whatever it was - and the pastor was left saying, "Bring it, oh, bring it!" It was an awkward Emperor's New Clothes moment. He gave a helpful breakdown of obedience: principled obedience == the moral law, particular obedience is God's call on you, not on me and pointed obedience - do what Jesus says to do now or you miss it.

Something he said made me jot down "Pentecostal?" in my notes. It may have been the bit about asking God for an anointed pickup line, so he could meet his wife at church on Wednesday night. The website says he's Foursquare.

Afterwards, the band did not take the stage again; the service was just over. My friend offered to show me around. I told her that I wanted to make the Episcopal service at 10 down the street but I had a few minutes. She showed me all their space, including a new youth center across the parking lot. "Children's Church" will be taking place there next week. It was set up for a rock concert. She showed me their food pantry which was enormous and their dining hall space that they rent out to local guilds of businessmen. I was encouraged by all the good they're doing in a financially struggling city and I saw no possibility for this former Catholic to find her way back.

I was, unfortunately, a bit late for the Episcopal service. Unlike at the City Church, the bulletin was invaluable for active participation in the service. Jeff's grandmother was Episcopalian but the closest I'd ever come to setting foot in this church as a kid was attending her viewing at the funeral home next door. I came in during the Gloria and immediately recognized that, when the Roman Catholic liturgy changes next month, this liturgy which is nearly identical will remain the same. Quite a revelation. The Gospel was the same - this was the third time that I was hearing this particular Gospel reading - the first and second readings was both "earlier," if you get that. The service relied on the Book of Common Prayer. The sermon was outstanding, really made an impression. I was totally moved. The Peace was something else again. Orderly, yes, but not emotionally restrained. Very heartfelt. Naturally, my feet were bolted to the floor and I couldn't move from my place so everyone came to me! The choir came down and walked the entire aisle, shaking hands. Even the pastor came down, recognized me as a stranger and asked what brought me from New Jersey that weekend.

There was no elevation of the host during the consecration. The rubrics say not to. I didn't go forward for communion - even for a blessing - because the altar seemed so far away. Seriously. All the music was just perfect and beautiful.

If, by any chance, I could find an Episcopal or Anglican service like this one near my home, I would attend especially if I get frustrated by the liturgical changes this Advent.
It was the combined events of a high school reunion and my mother's 70th birthday that brought me to my childhood town this long, Columbus Day weekend. I had to shuffle Kenny off to his cousin's house Saturday night as children were not welcome at the reunion dinner. Turnout was low, mostly us out-of-towners. As one old classmate put it, the locals see each other all the time.

I'd never been to the Batavia Country Club before, so I wasn't sure I was in the right place. On the one hand, the voices in the group entering ahead of me sounded vaguely familiar. Yet, on the other hand, they were also just typical Western New York accents. Turns out I knew them as we graduated less than 100 students 25 years ago: we all knew just about everybody then.

I wasn't late, really, returning to the hotel after Saturday evening mass momentarily to retrieve the camera I'd forgotten. I grabbed my one and only alcoholic drink from the cash bar, a white Russian. I'd been up since 4:30 AM, driven 8+ hours, eaten only breakfast and expected to be out until 11:30 or 12 so, as refreshing as the drink was, I did not take a second one. I allowed myself some caffeinated soda instead.

I felt awkward without Jeff. Not everyone had "a date," so being alone wasn't the issue. It was just hard to get past the superficial questions of "Where do you live? What do you do for a living?" And I couldn't remember anything anyone said. We posed for a group photo and watched a video provided by the family of a classmate who'd died in a car crash within a few years of graduation. It became obvious from the remarks made aloud during the showing of that video that some people were already drunk.

Mercifully, dinner was served rather quickly after that. I tried to join a particular table but there wasn't room so I moved to the next one. I felt as if I was following the same people around all night. I wonder whether they noticed. Like I was "clinging." At dinner, we were regaled with the absurd ramblings of a "much older" drunken spouse. My old classmates were polite to him, answering his personal questions. I would not. He got the message and moved on.

As I said, the turnout wasn't great and the hall had a minimum number of 80 people. We were half that, if even. How to raise the difference? Raffles and 50/50's. That's right. After dinner, a line formed in the back, near the bar, and people put down 20's for a strip of ten tickets. I followed suit but declined putting my tickets in the raffle jar. The prizes were for local services anyway, a round of golf at the country club, gift card to the local grocery chain. And the 50/50 prize went to a reunion organizer who almost certainly contributed out of pocket for decorations, etc. Besides, I abhor gambling in any form.

The DJ did a fantastic job. He wasn't intrusive and played the songs we'd requested. He had a setup for karaoke. Believe it or not, I've never done karaoke. A group of us went up and sang the class song, REO Speedwagon's "Time for Me to Fly." I wasn't drunk in the least and found karaoke to be alot of fun!

As the night wore on and more and more people left, it became difficult to find anyone to talk to. Many people were around the bar, but it wasn't as bad as in reunions past. There was a TV at the bar so that helped a bit. I noticed that my former classmates weren't very generous with the bar staff in regards to tips. Drinks were $5 and I saw very little money coming back or being left. So before I called it a night, I gave the girl a $20 - wish it could have been more - and she was appreciative.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

I listened to Marcus Grodi of EWTN's The Journey Home program at a nearby parish today. When he entered the sanctuary, walking a few paces behind the pastor, Fr. Ian, I was quite overcome with joy. I thought to myself, "Wow, that's really him, in the flesh." I was downright giddy. The first thing that struck me is how tall Grodi is, nearly as tall as the towering Fr. Trammell.

The titles of the three scheduled talks over the course of the day were "Why Be Catholic? A Conversion Story," "How to Stay Catholic," and "Keeping Your Family Catholic." Grodi delivered on the first title but not so much on the second two. I think that the parish tried to tie him into their current Pastoral Year of Marriage and the Family program but Grodi talked about what he wanted to talk about. And why not?

First, he told his conversion story to Christ and to the Catholic Church. He was converted to Christ by a concerned friend who challenged him to read the Bible. He picked up St. John's Gospel and swiftly read to chapter 15 before he even realized how deep into it he'd gotten. He recalled a couple of moments from his youth and young adult years when Protestantism wasn't adding up but no one else seemed to be bothered, so he continued to "go with the flow."

But when he read in the paper that Catholic theologian Scott Hahn was speaking, he attended to see whether the rumors about his old seminary friend were true. He half suspected that Hahn had faked a conversion in order to gain entry into Catholic churches by stealth. This is how these people think, I'm afraid. But it was on the up and up, so he listened to Hahn's conversion story on tape and was a goner after 15 minutes or so.

After a break, he spoke about our progress in the faith. He used punctuation marks as a framework. Our initial response might be "Jesus?" - meaning that we aren't familiar - followed by "Jesus," - meaning he's one of many things in our life. Then "Jesus." meaning we're more committed. And "Jesus:" - meaning that we're learning more. And finally, "Jesus!" - meaning he's everything to us. It was an innovative framework.

The local Catholic radio was on site broadcasting live during lunch. I so wanted to be interviewed. I even practiced what I'd say on air on the drive over this morning. But I never even found where they were! While we ate our boxed lunches, Marcus and Fr. Ian were interviewed. Then we said the rosary in the church while the clergy and Marcus went out to lunch with the retired bishop.

When they all came back, Marcus gave his third and final address. He was quite nervous at first with the bishop in the audience but he quickly remembered a time when Billy Graham visited his seminary and he gave the chapel sermon without being fully prepared. Compared to Billy Graham, retired Bishop Smith ain't much, I reckon. He could have just imagined the bishop in his underwear or some other public speaking trick without namedropping.

So Grodi got his groove back and preached on the Beatitudes. He said he never preached on the Beatitudes as a Calvinist minister because the theology of the Beatitudes didn't make any sense1. He called the Beatitudes the "stair steps to Heaven," saying that the virtues are progressive and build on each other. He pointed us to an outline of his talk.

I'd heard this before, that the Beatitudes are progressive and that one first descends into poverty, mourning and meekness until one is empty and hungry for God. Then the ascent begins. But one lady in the audience was overcome and, with the bishop and all the parish's priests in attendance, she explained that she's never heard such wonderful preaching on the Beatitudes before! I thought to myself, "She's gotta get out more." It's a Protestant commonplace. But I just wonder how the clergy took her comments. I'm sure they were tugging at their Roman collars a bit.

He graciously signed the book that I bought.

1 I've heard a Calvinist contrast "imperative" and "indicative" in regards to the Beatitudes. Marcus also rejects the Lutheran interpretative prism of Law & Gospel. And the idea that the purpose of the Law is to uncover our sinfulness, to prime us for the Gospel.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

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

Click to join sunday_snippets
Those Facebook changes are something, aren't they? Whew, I can't keep up anymore.

You know, my kids attended a Vacation Bible School (VBS) at a Bible church in August and the ladies invited me to their weekly Bible study. The funny thing about that is two years ago I had contacted the pastor through their web site about participating in their ladies' Bible study. Whomever he passed off my request to dropped the ball and I never heard back. It's a rare church which would only welcome regular members to Bible study.

So I went on Wednesday morning even though I don't really have time for it now. Wednesday morning is typically my "do errands" time. For instance, next Wednesday I'm chaperoning a fourth grade field trip. And last Wednesday I was having the car serviced, so I missed the initial meeting. The ladies are working through the Sunday school booklet and I had already looked through Chapter 1 online.

The facilitator almost hugged me when I entered the door, if I had allowed her. She really pressed me to identify my church so I looked her straight in the eye and told her. I eventually gathered that she's the pastor's wife. The pastor, since he quit his high school teaching post last spring, was around and came in to answer a question about God. We had read something in Genesis about man being made in God's image (Gen. 1:27) and a participant wanted to know whether God was human like us. My first impulse was to quote Jesus to the Samaritan woman at the well, "God is spirit" (John 4:24) but to also say that Jesus is God incarnate. Instead, I decided to see how her question was handled. The pastor pretty much said what I had thought, only mistakenly attributed the phrase "God is spirit" to John, Chapter 6 and mispronounced "anthropomorphism." Still, his giftedness as a teacher came across very well.

We were taking each question from the workbook in round robin form, looking up each verse and reading it. We were jumping all over the Bible because we were investigating a theme: how the Bible describes God the Father. The facilitator was reluctant to put me on the spot even though I showed no qualms about looking up passages and reading them from my King James Bible. Yeah, alright, I stumbled on "shouldest" in the first verse I read aloud but I quickly caught on. Actually, not everyone had the King James and those who did modernized what they read to us on the fly.

When I read Titus 3:5, the lady next to me wondered what "the washing of regeneration" could possibly be. I really could have told her. Then she read her passage and commented on the name "Lord" all in small capital letters. She said, "There's that word again, LORD. What does that mean?" So I explained it's the translation of the divine name and that most Bibles have translation notes in the introduction explaining their choices. It was as if I hadn't said anything. No one acknowledged what I said but rather continued to ponder the significance of "LORD" in their Bibles. I was surprised the facilitator didn't offer any answer or call to her pastor husband again.

Later, this lady identified herself to me as a former Episcopalian before asking about my church. I told her and she said her opinion of Catholics is that they don't read the Bible either.

At the conclusion, I hung around to explain to the faciliator that I enjoyed the study and the company of the other women but that Wednesday is my "errand day." She offered to switch the study to any other morning for my convenience, a proposition that I found quite preposterous. I turned her down. I think she also offered to meet with me one on one.

As I drove home, I was thinking over this experience, laughing about how nice they all were to me and to each other but also considering how stunted they seemed. These critical thoughts were interrupted when my St. Christopher visor clip slipped off and bopped me on the head! I told God if he wants me nice he's gonna have to make me nice.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My parish hosted an ecumenical prayer service this evening for the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The Presbyterians and Jewish Center joined us, bringing their respective choir and cantor. The cantor sang first, accompanied by her own guitar. She performed a couple of folksy songs that made use of several Hebrew words. Most of us were lost trying to sing along. I was pleased to see that folk music isn't only the scourge of liberal Christianity but has found its way to liberal Judaism as well.

The reverend read from Exodus 14 and I followed along in my Bible. He gave a sermon on the reading that referenced a magazine for Presbyterian clergy. Apparently, an article was submitted to the magazine from a Pastor Wilton in Point Pleasant, a major player in the local presbytery, describing his reaction to 9/11 ten years ago. I can't find the article online but he walked out to the beach where he could see lower Manhattan. He saw a pillar of smoke and thought it demonstrated God's presence in the midst. He was recalling the reading from Exodus 14 in which the Israelites were accompanied by a pillar of smoke in the day and a pillar of fire at night. At first, the reverend couldn't see the connection. How could God be present in such a horrible situation? But, then he asked, "Where was God?" and began to hear stories of survivors. Many got down the stairs because the stairwell walls held up ("the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left." Ex. 14:29). The reverend came to see that Wilton had a good point.


The reverend observed that the Revised Common Lectionary specified selected verses from Exodus 14 for September 11. I couldn't believe him because our lectionaries are generally pretty close except, I guess, when we read from something like Sirach. But it's true. Obviously those who assembled the Revised Common Lectionary also see a connection between the Exodus and survivors of 9/11.

For most of the service, I found myself trying to figure who was who based on their apparent comfort level and gestures.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Thursday, September 08, 2011

There isn't daily mass at my home parish on Thursdays but given today's feast, I wanted to attend mass. I took Ella to the next town over, the one that had had a great deal of flooding from Irene, for their 9 am service. It's held in the chapel adjacent the sanctuary. Huge numbers of people were entering the church building. I was curious why. Sure, it's a significant holiday which tends to draw people out but, well, moreover, these people were well-dressed. All on their way to work?

Turns out, Catholic Charities was having a meeting with the bishop in a room adjacent the chapel. A couple of years back, the parish added the chapel and meeting room and now I see that the bishop gets to use it whenever he wants. :-) I hope that they were evaluating their response to the flooding. I tried to get a glimpse of the bishop through the large glass windows but wasn't able to. I could only approximate where he was seated based on the direction of everyone's attention.

The chapel was packed. I imagine that if some poor souls weren't already in the sanctuary having some quiet moments, the pastor would have jacked on the lights and switched venue to accommodate those pouring in for liturgy. Ella and I found seats up front which meant she could see the proceedings and would have to behave like a perfect angel. She did. To tell the truth, I'm not used to being that close to the goings-on!

Thankfully, he took the shortened form of the Gospel, leaving out the genealogy. The first reading was Romans 8:28-30; Mary's life makes the best case for Christian predestination. During the Lord's Prayer, Ella followed suit and prayed with hands in the orans position, not something I've ever done. But, as she grabbed my left hand, I found my right hand turning out and up.

We sang two hymns, "Hail Holy Queen" (entrance) and "Immaculate Mary" (recessional) a cappella. After the service, we stole into the dark, quiet sanctuary because I had a dollar for a candle. The kids like to light candles and our parish doesn't stock any. There were at least a dozen people in there praying who had not attended mass and several other people wandering about. I've never seen a Catholic church so busy on a weekday morning.

Then we hightailed it over to the Baptist church for the first session of bible study. It was nice seeing some familiar faces. I remember being jealous last year, my first year, not knowing anyone. This year, people are at least saying hello. I have a new small group leader but she's away for her anniversary so we had a substitute. The sub is actually in our group as well but winters in Florida. By January, she's out. Another lady in the group also winters in Florida. It's an incredibly well-off group, in my opinion. But that's what I get attending a bible study near the Shore. Imagine, going from flood-ravaged, working class Hightstown over to Spring Lake?

We had to tell a little bit about ourselves to our neighbor and then they would share it with the group. I'd rather share about myself directly but I guess it's an icebreaker and I do listen better to at least one person! There wasn't a clear pattern in their stories but one lady talked about growing up Catholic - which she didn't regret - and joining the host church a couple of years ago. Another lady, with a very Catholic-sounding surname, talked about her husband who was "another religion" before becoming Christian. And, at least as they told it, it was the wife who converted the husband, rarely the other way 'round. So much for spiritual headship.

Last year I met a woman there who was Catholic but I couldn't spot her this year. The lady sitting next to me was good friends with the sub and after we finished the icebreaking exercise, she talked with our leader about her Saturday evenings after her company has left. She said she sometimes goes over the Bay Head if it wasn't too late but otherwise would go to St. Dom's. She lives in Brick. So, afterwards, we were wandering back to the sanctuary to sing a closing song and listen to a lecture, but we were in a dining room with tables full of books for sale, cheap. So I was browsing and she saddled up next to me. I pointed to a book from Piper, saying I'd never heard of it before. Then the Interior Castle caught my eye and I commented that that particular translation is good1. Then I pointed to a book by Schaeffer. She just said that my interest in books reminded her of her cousin.

1 But, in fact, it was Peers which I think is not the good translation. This edition was recommended when I took the class on Christian spirituality authors several years ago (Merton, Lewis, Siena and Avila).

Sunday, September 04, 2011

As I was thinking about Community Bible Study, the telephone rang. It was my new group leader for Community Bible Study calling to introduce herself. Without a visual, it did little good. I hardly know anyone in Community Bible Study, having attended only one year. She sounded like the rest of them, breezy but intentional.

It starts on Thursday morning. Problem is, Ella's school doesn't begin until next week. She offered to check whether I could stick her in their children's program for that one time. As I was thinking about her again, the phone rang with the response that I could. We'll be studying the Acts of the Apostles this term which is convenient because I just finished a Little Rock Scripture study series at my church on Acts.

The Plainsboro church is back to offering Precepts again. Same time, Thursday morning. But I'm just so done with Precepts, you know? I'm even thinking of tossing all my old workbooks. That's very telling. I never throw away any study materials, ever!

At the Princeton church, Janet will use Dr. Keller's materials to study the same book as the Plainsboro church this term, Romans. She had sent out an email about a women's mentoring program and I thought the Bible study was morphing into mentoring. So I checked into Queenship of Mary's offerings in the same time slot. I had done Great Adventure Timeline and Matthew with them two years ago. I think they did Acts of the Apostles last year but this year they are doing Revelation. So I'll be joining them. Unfortunately, I'm going to be late arriving each Tuesday by a good 15 minutes because Ella's school never starts on time!

Still, I bought a copy of Keller's materials, printed them out and intend to work on them, visiting Janet's study whenever QoM doesn't meet. In addition to the video lectures on Tuesday mornings, there's also a live person lecture on Wednesday evenings. I have to check with my husband whether I can attend those. There's a good chance I may because it begins late, 7:30. In sending Janet my regrets, I told her I felt I could deal with hanging with Catholics again.

Every other Thursday evening, Jim is reading the Psalms. My summer goal is to read through the psalms with this church, two a day. But I fell far behind in late July, so I was reading ten a day this past week and now I'm ahead! It's actually better to read several in one sitting so that patterns are more evident. I enjoy the poetic - almost romantic - retelling of Israel's dusty wilderness stories. I've tried reading with the idea that Jesus is the "singer and the subject" of the psalms, a very Reformed idea. But I'm so used to reading as if David's words are my own prayers that, with few exceptions1, I'm the singer.

1 Like, whenever my supposed "blamelessness" is mentioned, or there's talk of the "pure oil" running off my anointed head into my beard (Ps. 133:2)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

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

My post this week:

Click to join sunday_snippets

Friday, August 19, 2011

Last night, I dropped the kids off at VBS but didn't stay for the adult portion because I was committed to attending the summer Bible study at my parish which met at the same time.

Tonight I stayed for the adult section. We crossed the road to the church and met in a Sunday school room directly off the main sanctuary. The room is filled with pews but no tables. The associate pastor distributed a worksheet to us that included several questions about Matthew 22:34-40 and directed us to work in teams. He paired me with the couple at the far end of my pew, a youngish set. Before I slid down, a lady behind me said, "Wouldn't you rather work with us and remain where you are?" and I said, thinking of obedience, that I was told to work with the others.

I introduced myself to them and vice versa. Her name was Maria and it struck me as a pretty name so I said so. His was John. He is, I believe, a corrections officer and looks the part, with a muscular build and serious demeanor. I told them both how I had heard this very Scripture passage at church that morning. What a coincidence. I also had in mind the first reading, from the beginning of the Book of Ruth, just in case there was anything complementary in it for our assignment.

After we answered our questions, we had a few minutes to chat. I complimented the man on his Guadeloupe tattoo. If I had been sitting on the other side of them, I probably wouldn't have seen it because it was inside his left forearm. She asked how long I had been attending the [Independent, Fundamentalist Baptist] church and I said that we came only for VBS. She said she's on the fence about the IFB church because she's Catholic. I said that I am also Catholic. She asked where I live and then she confirmed which parish I attend. That was remarkable to me because nobody outside a very small geographic radius has ever heard of the parish. But she said she has relatives that attend there.

At that point, we have to break off our conversation because everyone else was finished with the assignment. The husband's parting words were that he wanted his wife to attend a Christian church and didn't care which one but that they had visited on Sunday and liked the Baptist service very much.

Of course there were things that I wanted to tell her but I had to be respectful of her husband. It would have been a red flag to him if I had disregarded his authority.

After we reviewed the assignment, another pastor stepped in to preach a bit on Philippians 3:13-14 and he gave us time to find the passage by saying a few things about Hebrews 12:1. He's going for the athletic imagery, you see. Gosh, I ran in college, so I've heard it all, long time before. Besides, he didn't think in terms of track or cross-country but football and baseball! Ugh.

The poor guy next to me, John, spent all this time trying to find Philippians. After much page flipping, he came across it. Meanwhile, my Bible pages were stale, having been open to the verse so long. Then the preacher told us to "turn back" to 1 Corinthians 9:24, those subtle, directional clues for them with ears to hear. John had so much trouble finding Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians that he gave up and tossed his Bible at his wife who wasn't about to try.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The kids were certainly happy to return to VBS this evening. They got points for wearing a hat and bringing a Bible. I gave Ella a copy of Peterson's "The Message," Kenny took a Catholic edition of the GNB in two-tone leather, Chris brought my compact NRSV that I used in Israel ten years ago and Tim carried a flashy NASB '95 paperback, lovingly covered in clear contact paper. Also, we brought more change for the missionaries in New Hampshire but none of them had memorized their Bible verse!

The pastor's composure was better even though he had spent most of the night and a better part of the day with his employee who had broken his leg the night before. We parents gathered together and walked as a group across the street to the Sunday School rooms in the church. He gave us a tour of the church and the rooms, the nursery was really cute. We opened our work packets and he scrounged up Bibles from the church pews for those who had forgotten theirs.

The activity was all multiple choice questions, like a middle schooler's homework assignment, on Christology. Questions like, "Which verse says Jesus is God?" with four scripture references. There were more than four of us, so he couldn't assign them one apiece. Instead it was hodgepodge, "Who has Titus 1:3? Does anyone have Romans 14:18-19?" There were many times I opened my mouth to read the verse when someone else piped up, "Oh, I have that one, shall I read it?"

One man didn't know John from 1 John and confessed, "Usually my wife looks these up for me." But his wife wasn't there. Another lady said, "It would take forever to look all these up!" Meanwhile, I'm halfway down the page, especially because I knew a few without looking them up. When reading Hebrews 1:8, she pronounced "scepter" as "skepter" and her husband needed help reading "Bethlehem Ephrathah" from Micah 5:2.

Giving us time to look up the verses, he would talk about, well, I don't know what. I wasn't really paying attention. Maybe things like, "Oh, that's a good verse, such a good verse" and "Oh, why did God put that in there, it's so hard to do!" And, like any grade school teacher, he can't keep quiet long enough for his class to do their work in peace.

He passed around samples of their Sunday School programs, for children and adults. The kids' is Patch the Pirate written by a man who had cancer in his eye and had it removed. The publisher, Majesty Music, in Greenville, SC also provided the hymnals in the pew in front of me. A reference in our work packet was made to Bob Jones University, in Greenville, SC. The adult materials looked a little more interesting (chapter 1 in PDF).

Tim told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was not to sign him up for Sunday School. I wouldn't dream of it, he can be sure.

We walked back across the street and, by this time, it was dark, being well after 8pm. He said they usually hold VBS in July when it's still light after 8 but this year they picked August way back in February and didn't think about the shorter days. I'm glad they didn't hold it in July. But we'll skip it tomorrow because there's a parents' picnic at the kids' camp and I wouldn't miss that for anything.
On the way to a bowling party for Chris on Sunday afternoon, I spotted a VBS sign at a church in Robertsville. I couldn't see the dates on it, only that it had evening hours. So this morning I googled the church and then called about it. They sounded delighted to have four last minute registrations. OK!

I got the kids checked in, the boys are all together and Ella is on her own. She doesn't mind that. The theme is racing/race cars which seems a little masculine (and hick) but we're keeping positive. During an opening game, a man taking photographs of the activity - for the week's-end slideshow - fell off the stacked plastic chairs he was on, for a better shot - and broke his leg in two places. An ambulance was called but I think someone could have simply driven him to the hospital. An ambulance seemed excessively cautious.

When the kids went to their groups, the pastor led a session for the adults. He was still so shook up about his injured, hospitalized friend that his presentation was all over the place. He distributed materials that he says he's "working on," a hodgepodge of boxed text he's clipped from various books, mostly by John MacArthur. It's supposed to be a study on the life of Christ but it primarily involves authenticating the Bible.

He quickly got off-topic, however. He talked about chips getting put into people's wrists and a parent blurted out, "Isn't that in Revelations [sic]?!" EXACTLY! came the pastor's reply. In another exchange, he said we're supposed to love our enemies and an older man lamented, "Does that included Muslims?!" When told yes, he buried his head in his hands and shook his head back and forth. I don't want to think that these are plants but I know the type.

In fact, that one admitted to having a "Catholic upbringing." He said that he used to feel better "for a little while," after going to confession on Saturdays. But then he got saved and ... what, 1 John 1:9 doesn't apply anymore?

We did talk about the rapture quite a bit and read 1 Thess. 4. In finding the book, the pastor said that God, in his wisdom, placed all the 'T' books together in the New Testament. I refrained from pointing out to him that Θ is different from Τ. He seemed to get such a kick out of how the Bible was crafted. Since he was reading from the King James, he had to translate "prevent" as "not going before" (cf. modern translations' "precede").

Then he took us to the Ten Commandments, for some reason, and I followed from Exodus 20. Of course, he got the numbers all wrong and downplayed the necessity of honoring the sabbath because it's Saturday: "The only one of the commandments not repeated in the New Testament." He teaches Bible at Timothy Christian School ("Brodie") and he came across as a teacher much more than as a pastor, despite the M.Div. On the 6th commandment, according to his numbering, he read "Thou shalt not commit murder" even though my King James in my lap has "Thou shalt not kill", both in Exodus 20 and Deut. 5.

I looked over the materials when I got home. We'll see what tomorrow night brings.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I was at the pool this morning somewhat later than usual. The later I am, the more crowded it is. A much older man was already on the pool deck just ahead of me. Common courtesy dictated that I allow him to pick a lane first. Initially, I thought there were two lanes available so I quickened my steps, not in competition with him but in case anyone was behind me.

Within a few steps, however, I saw my mistake and slowed down. I recognized a couple of the swimmers and knew their approximate daily schedule well enough to guess they were about done with their workout. In which case, I didn't really mind waiting what I supposed would be only a few minutes.

Instead, a man exited the pool from Lane 6, right in front of me. I gestured to the older man who was, in my mind, ahead of me, to come over. The man exiting the pool told me, "You know, you don't have to wait. It's two to a lane. There's no reason on earth why you should be standing here. Get into Lane 2." I replied that I know it's two to a lane but that I was deferring to the other gentleman who had arrived first.

At which point, he came over and I offered him the lane. He protested, "I'm not sure which of us was here first. But, well, if you have to be at work or something, just go ahead. I'll wait." I said, probably too proudly, that I don't work.1 He said sincerely, "Beautiful. Finally!"

I'm not certain what he meant by "Finally!" My first thought was that he was commenting on my not working. But then I thought he was just happy about getting a lane or pleased that a woman had let a man go first for a change. I mentioned the conversation to Jeff and he thought it was the first thing, about me not working. There's all kinds where I swim, ages and cultures and professions, and it isn't always easy to figure where people are coming from. Some are courteous and some are disrespectful, for instance. But I can only do my best to act in good faith.

As soon as the man took Lane 6, Lane 1 opened up completely for me and I had a good swim.

1 However, naturally, my husband does work but he's home watching the kids while I swim, waiting for me to return so he can go to work!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ella's morning swim program takes us forty minutes from home for the next two weeks. Since it's just me, it makes sense to hang around in the vicinity until she's done. Their instructional policy is that parents cannot remain to observe.

What to do, what to do?

My first impulse was to check out the camp meeting at Ocean Grove. I've always wanted to but never been able because it begins so early and I'm coming a distance. Now, I had heard that exiting the swim school's parking lot takes a great deal of time and patience. Worse than a church lot. I was afraid that rushing over to Ocean Grove and back would waste my time.

Instead, I found the nearest public library. I always have things I want to read or study. The library doesn't open until 10 and I figured, as slow as the parking lot may be, I'd get out well before then. After dropping off Ella, I checked my GPS for the nearest Catholic church. There's one in Sea Girt a couple of miles away. I figured that if they had a morning mass, it would have been at 9 or earlier but I went over to visit and pray a rosary.

There was a man working the grounds but the side door was open. The outside sign announced a 7:30 am and an 11:00 am daily mass. I slipped inside and milled around a bit. A stack of Sunday bulletins lay on a high table with the top one face down. I saw only the standard small business advertisements on the back and paid no attention. I found the church inside to be beautiful despite a lack of coherence in decor. I'm not sure if, taken as a whole, it was breathtaking but features of it were tasteful. I had left my camera in the car and was kicking myself for not bringing it in. Maybe tomorrow I'll get some pictures.

The first thing I noticed, after the tabernacle, was a low, marble altar rail. It surprised me to see an altar rail. But it's marble so why not keep it? For the final decade I knelt at it and found the silestone floor more comfortable than the tile in the pews. The marble was, of course, cool to the touch as I rested my arms.

Before leaving, I gave myself the grand tour. A large pipe organ was situated in the choir loft above, 'though I saw a covered-over piano and drum kit below towards the front. I exited the heavy wooden doors to the vestibule and saw a makeshift nursery with no connection to the sanctuary. I picked up a bulletin out of curiosity as to whether I'd ever heard of the pastor and my jaw dropped because my former pastor from ten years ago, who married us, is assigned there. And, of course, I knew that but all the shore parishes begin to sound the same after a while.

I thought if I returned for the 11 o'clock service, I might see him. Or I might not. The service would let out with enough time for me to get back to Ella at her swim lesson, so I decided to attend. I got to the library ten minutes before it opened, but a good thing I was early because the small parking lot filled up quickly. A half dozen people waited at the side entrance, most to return books. I found a seat and desk inside, one of two, and got to work on my weekly Acts Bible study homework. I had forgotten a Bible which was only needed for a few verses outside Acts, most of which were familiar. That is, I could guess the reference from the context. Still, when I'd worked my way through all the questions, I walked the perimeter of the library, looking for the reference books. In less than a minute - it's a small library, I found the dictionaries, encyclopedias and Bibles. I brought an RSV back to my place and double-checked the references to Paul's letters. They were all as I had thought. My pen was struggling to put out ink and the last word I needed to write was little more than an indentation on the page. Bring another pen or two tomorrow.

I arrived back over at the church well before 11 because I wanted to be assured a decent parking space. The church seems to have no parking lot, only street parking. My GPS told me it would take seven minutes to get from the church to Ella's swim school and I was quite sure the service would run only 30 minutes. It began on time. The place was packed with mostly older folks. The responses were hardly said in unison at all. I was really thrown off by the lack of unity. But, except for some minor improvisation, the service followed the prescribed liturgy. I must have seemed as if I was in a hurry to leave when it was over but I was trying to move slowly for the sake of the others. Due to traffic heading into the swim school, it probably took twice as long as my TomTom said but I still made it on time. Ella had a wonderful time and can't wait to return tomorrow. Me, too.

Monday, July 11, 2011

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

Click to join sunday_snippets
I missed my parish's Bible study on Thursday night because I was taking another class. But last Thursday a couple of topics came up that I want to mention.

The first was kind of strange: a man who attends "ecumenical" Bible studies with his wife asked the deacon about predestination. The deacon replied gruffly that the word "predestination" can't be found in the Catechism. I didn't have a Catechism with me but I reasoned to him that since the word "predestination" appears in the Bible, it necessarily appears in the Catechism. Here's my research, after the fact:
"Predestined" is mentioned in 381, 600 and 2012 (quoting Romans 8:28-30).

In regards to "Mary's predestination," paragraph 488 says "from all eternity God chose for the mother of his Son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee." The same section quotes paragraph 56 of Lumen Gentium (as well as paragraph 61), "The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in the coming of death, so also should a woman contribute to the coming of life."

Paragraph 307 says, "Though often unconscious collaborators with God’s will, they can also enter deliberately into the divine plan by their actions, their prayers, and their sufferings (Cf. Col. 1:24)." Paragraph 1037 says, "God predestines no one to go to hell (2 Pet. 3:9)," a point I affirmed to the group twice.

The document "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ," put out by the Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) reads in paragraph 54: "Viewed eschatologically, Mary thus embodies the ‘elect Israel’ of whom Paul speaks - glorified, justified, called, predestined. … Mary is marked out from the beginning as the one chosen, called and graced by God through the Holy Spirit for the task that lay ahead of her."

Catechetical texts in conformity with the Catechism should "teach that man is predestined to reproduce the image of God's Son made man, the "image of the invisible God."(381)"

I think the point the deacon failed to make is found in paragraph 1993: "Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom." The text goes on to quote the Council of Trent: "When God touches man's heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God's grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God's sight."
The second topic was also a little strange, as regards the deacon's reaction. This was the Thursday after Corpus Christi and a member of the Bible study group said he'd heard about a eucharistic procession in nearby Monroe (Metuchen Diocese).

Sounding apologetic and sad, the deacon explained gently, "They're not allowed to do that any more." I was so taken aback by his ignorance that I prodded, "What do you mean? On Corpus Christi? Of course, they can. There was a procession at St. Veronica's in Howell and another one at St. Raphael's in Hamilton. Do you think Fr. Williams would do anything irregular?" The deacon thought a procession was only for Holy Thursday night.

I had heard these ceremonies announced on the new Catholic radio station and had hoped there was a way to attend the one in Howell. But I couldn't get there. What I didn't know at the time until I read this week's diocesan newspaper is that the bishop also participated in a procession that day. He appears in the photo on the right, below.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Top 10 Childhood memories, a meme:
  1. Winter! Especially the Blizzard of '77 during which my father was stranded in Rochester, NY for two weeks until he followed a plow home and my mother boiled pots of melted snow on the gas stove to keep the house warm because the electricity was out.

    How my father would bundle up, even in more normal winters, using a scarf my mother knitted, to plow the snow from the driveway.

  2. Summer! Especially all the tennis we played.

    Those long, exploratory bike rides, especially to Hamlin Beach.

    Those rare visits to my dad's brothers in Newfane for block parties. The even rarer long walk through the vacant lot to my aunt's neighbor's pool, seemingly abandoned. The murky, cold water, the overgrown weeds around the chain-link fence, the feeling that we were trespassing, a sense of the deserted. Fourth of July at the family friend's farm, the smell of the barn, pig roast, wagon rides, fireworks in the distance and softball games.

    The ability to predict my mother's whereabouts at any time of her workday as a letter carrier in our small town and riding my bike to ask her for whatever was on my mind. I was sure she had the best job for a mom, better than a school teacher.

    Not being able to wait for school to be out so that I could spent time studying what I wanted to study, referencing my parents' paltry library, the decent public library in town and the larger one in the county seat. When home life stunk, the library was my sanctuary.

  3. My newest brother, the youngest, coming home from the hospital after five days on my fifth birthday and Mother's Day.

  4. My husband's valedictorian speech at high school graduation.

  5. Flipping off my high school cross country coach when he teased about not having any water on a long run. And his little red car! And all those hills we ran!

  6. My father's restaurant and his bankruptcy. And his rotten luck as a rate clerk for the trucking industry. He took me to an office in Buffalo when he cleaned out his desk. A secretary put me on her lap and had me type my first name using the home row on her electric typewriter. I realized then my first name is all on the left hand. I remember how my dad used a calculator, collected bicentennial quarters - I wonder who has his collection now?

  7. The moment I realized that my older sister was growing up and would soon be leaving home and how much our lives would change as a family. Including getting our room to myself! Painting it and wallpapering it.

  8. Playing around in my friend's building, the town's former middle school, in the summer before it was renovated into senior housing. Including, but not limited to, sunbathing on the roof.

  9. Working graveyard shift summers during college at the town's only 24 hr. convenience store. After getting off third shift, riding my bike six miles to the YMCA to lift weights and swim and riding home again, in order to be in shape for Fall cross country at school.

    The night a kid asked to write me an I.O.U. for gas. And the night a guy asked me to unlock the beer cooler after hours. I wisely said no to both requests and called the police in the second instance.

    My friend who lived across the street coming home from her job at McDonald's and giving me whatever "expired" food she's managed to take away.

    Staying awake for about 30 hours after pulling a double shift (2nd and 3rd) then day-tripping to Sherkston Beach in Ontario with friends. It's been built up some since, I guess. I feel asleep on the beach, briefly, then worked third shift so sunburned I could barely stand. My stovepipe pants stuck to my swollen, blistered legs.

  10. 1978-1982: Three Mile Island, Love Canal, JPII's election, Lennon's assassination, the royal wedding. Getting cable TV. Playing Atari. Jeff's TI-99 and Commodore 64 home computers.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jeff took all the kids to the movies late this afternoon - as Ella calls it, the "fee-ater" - so I had a few hours to myself.

He suggested I exercise so I did. And even though there was plenty to do around the house, what with summer camp starting tomorrow for the boys, I ducked out and went down to Howell for their annual tent revival. I've never been and I picked a good year to go as it's their last one ever.

I checked out the book table. Mostly the typical titles: Navarre commentaries, Benedict's encyclicals1, missals and prayer books. A thin paperback caught my eye, The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say to a Catholic from Harvest House. There wasn't really anyone manning the table but I wanted to ask whether the bookseller had mixed up his boxes, confusing his target audiences. I could imagine some venues where such a book would be appropriate. I had enough money to buy the inexpensive book but I decided against it. There was also an anti-Mormon pamphlet there.

I went under the tent and got a very good seat near the front. Some people had saved a couple of rows ahead of me but most people filled the back pews folding chairs. Right on time, five people mounted the stairs to the platform and led the audience in a rosary. I had prayed one on the car ride over but dug my beads out of my purse and went along. I was distracted by people's arrival, sometimes large groups of people. "Holy Rollers," I thought to myself. Yes, some looked the part.

One lady sat near and joined in the prayer without beads. I'd read somewhere that it doesn't "count" unless you have the beads.2 At the conclusion, the leader led us in prayers for the Holy Father's intentions in order to "get the indulgence," but we weren't in a church, so the plenary indulgence was not available anyway.

A band called "Our Refuge" passed out song sheets and performed a few numbers. They said they were from St. Francis Cathedral in the Diocese of Metuchen. There was considerable feedback in their audio but tolerable. I knew two of the songs they played. There were others that I would have liked to hear. One was by Kristyn Getty. The audience was very charismatic, waving hands in the air, swaying, yelling "Amen" and "Alleluia." At one point, a lady seated behind me pulled a tambourine from her pocketbook and began rattling it. Some came very prepared.

In due time, the speaker was introduced. He came to the platform carrying a thick Bible with four multi-colored ribbons. I wondered which Bible but it seemed to be for show because I didn't see him open it. True, I wasn't able to stay for his entire talk. His presentation didn't really seem to be going anywhere. I was disappointed that he couldn't cut to the chase.

I walked out without being noticed and went over to the Catholic Radio table to say hello. Both of the people staffing the table were deeply engaged in conversations so I moved on without having the opportunity to verbalize my support. I returned to the book table with the intention of buying Rhodes's anti-Catholic pamphlet but it was gone. Either someone bought it or the bookseller realized his mistake. The anti-Mormon booklet was still there; a lady was reading from it to her male companion, laughing.

1 which are free online

2 Then, what about this Kindle rosary?
Sunday Snippets - a Catholic carnival hosted by Rann at "This That and the Other Thing."

Click to join sunday_snippets

Friday, June 24, 2011

I bought a pair of swim gloves last week because I'm no good at keeping my fingers together. Even if I could, I wouldn't get the same amount of resistance that these gloves provide. I've used the gloves three times so far for, at most, a third of my time in the pool, and I feel stronger already. So I'm really excited!

I notice other swimmers wearing two suits during their workouts. The idea of more laundry strongly repels me. But since I finally received the new suits I ordered for myself for Mother's Day, wearing a worn out suit on top of a new one might be better than throwing the old ones away. The old suits are see-through in spots, thanks to careless laundering practices (i.e., the dryer). So they can't be worn alone.

I also bought flippers. Some other swimmers use flippers for part of their workout. I haven't used mine because they seem so awkward. But I'm planning to bring them with me tomorrow because I found a net bag to carry them in.
We met last night to cover the second lesson in the Little Rock Scripture Study on Acts of the Apostles. The deacon stood in for the pastoral associate. That made little difference since he was just returning from a business trip and had prepared the wrong week's lesson.

I also was returning from vacationing out of town but had managed to read the text and commentary before leaving. I crammed the week's worth of questions into an hour. They were easy questions. Much less work than the Matthew study. The text covered chapters 3 to 5, including that curious story about Ananias and Sapphira.

Several questions include in parentheses references to other books of the Bible in order to answer fully. So, a personal application of the story of Peter and John healing the cripple (3:4-6) asks in what ways are we to help those in need. The references point to Genesis 18, Matthew 10:41 and Romans 12:13-18 but I didn't have to look them up. I knew that Genesis 18 is about hospitality, Matthew 10:41 is about giving a cup of cold water and Romans 12 is about how to get along with people in community.

Can the question be answered without looking up the references? Of course. Everybody knows about helping those in need. But the lengths that the Bible recommends might be just beyond what comes naturally. And so, we won't know how much is called for (and how much grace is needed) unless we reference the recommended texts. It's a Bible study.

One of the questions directed an analysis of Isaiah 53 from the perspective of fulfillment in Jesus' passion. Nobody else had a Bible with them, so I opened mine (cheaper editions elsewhere) and read the verses that resonated. I just assumed everyone was familiar with the passage but maybe it's only familiar from stations. Our deacon said Isaiah originally wrote it for a contemporary king but it also applies to Jesus. I hadn't heard that before and initially thought he was rather thinking of earlier Isaian chapters (7 and 9). But then I came up with a possible royal candidate and asked him whether it was Hezekiah. He didn't know. But I've since searched and found some support.

An aspect of Peter's preaching in the early chapters of Acts that I find interesting is the technique the commentary calls "pesher." It's only since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls that we've fully understood this Jewish method of interpretation. It involves plugging specific, contemporary names into general, ancient prophecies. So, in chapter 4, Peter quotes Ps. 2:1-2 before the Sanhedrin and explains that Herod and Pontius Pilate stand in for the "kings of the earth" and "rulers."

I read a footnote in the LRCSB to answer someone's question about Acts 3:21 - an apocalyptic designation of the messianic age, fitting in with the christology of Acts 3:20 that associates the messiahship of Jesus with his future coming. Another participant asked where, in Jesus' own words, he said he was coming again. I read Matthew 24:3ff.

From the video, I learned that Luke is building a legal case in the early chapters of his Acts. He is showing his side as being righteous and the other side as being criminal. He is showing by the healing miracles in Jesus' name that Jesus is not dead but still alive. I immediately developed an even greater appreciation of Luke's careful presentation.

I had seen a friend from Jim's study there last Friday morning after mass but didn't see her again this morning. I didn't actually have time to hang out after mass so maybe she eventually arrived. Another friend from his study said she also planned to attend on Friday mornings but I didn't see her either.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

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

My post this week:

Click to join sunday_snippets

Monday, June 06, 2011

A friend is in the hospital. I was strongly encouraged to visit her by a mutual friend who would be out of town. She had me cover for her, it seems. I don't mind. How often do I get to visit friends in the hospital?

The hospital is located near a state university that I didn't attend. Not even socially. Years ago, I took Timmy to the nearby medical offices because he was (and still is) underweight. Even so, I can't admit to being familiar with the area. It was twilight and as I turned onto Livingston, I saw the plain white cross of the hospital above the low-rise city buildings. I drove to the main entrance hoping to ask the valet where I could park. There was no one out except an alabaster statue of St. Peter. I recognized him by the keys in his right hand.

Turning back onto the street, I saw a statue of Fátima.1 I really felt at home but quickly thought about my Reformed friend in the facility.

As I entered the parking garage, I was greeting with a CASH ONLY sign. I handed over my credit card but the gatekeeper refused it. I told her why I was there and gave her all I had, ten quarters. She took my name and raised the gate. I must have that kind of face. I was prepared to show ID at the security gate and received a hall pass. I found my friend's room which was full of immediate family. It was as if they were having a quiet evening at home but, I was expected, so I didn't feel as if I was intruding. The eldest daughter stayed with us while the rest went home.

I saw the flowers that I had ordered through the hospital gift shop. They looked just like the image on the website. I saw a small, thin crucifix on the wall, rather high up. Maybe intentionally out of reach. Perhaps out of sight unless one is looking for it. The room was nicely appointed with wood trim. Not large but private. As the shift was just changing, the new nurse came in, introduced herself and looked my friend over. Then she excused herself saying she had many other patients to see but call her if needed. On the weekends, I know, hospital staff leave you alone.

There's a room on the wing devoted to quiet meditation. My friend walked me down to see it. She calls it the "Zen room." The sign on the wall said "Healing Room." Chairs line all four walls and in the center is a pergola without slats along the top. Between the four upright posts of the structure are live, green, leafy plants and a pile of large, assorted river stones. On the far wall is a shiny mosaic of a tree. The soft sound of a local radio station could be heard over the PA. My friend said she heard morning prayers said over the PA once but didn't tell me the nature of those prayers.2 That is, whether they sounded Christian. But the room sticks in her craw. She associates pergolas, plants and rocks with Zen Buddhism; I associate them with the outdoors. Not altogether in bad taste for patients cooped up.

She said a hospital chaplain had visited a couple of times but she turned her away:
She was a nun.
When I was in the hospital with my first child, I had disclosed my religion on the pre-registration forms, rather proudly, as I remember. Sort of thinking the information would be necessary in the event of my death, actually. Then, early on my first morning there, a woman came with holy communion. I wasn't in the right frame of mind so I thanked her but sent her away. She came back the next morning and I asked her not to come back. On subsequent pre-registrations, I omitted details about my religion. Yes, if I were in the hospital for serious reasons, I'd think differently.

We returned to her room and her daughter left. She had her text when she reached the car and text again when she got home. I never gave personal safety there a second thought, actually. I had brought my Kindle with a FREE edition of the ESV Bible (thanks, Ellen) on it and wanted to read a couple of passages I'd heard on Ascension Thursday in church. I like reading aloud and she tolerated it. Days earlier I had asked her to pray for me in return for all the prayers I was making for her. And her prayers were answered very soundly. Which poses the problem of why, if God so clearly hears and answers her prayers, she is sick in the hospital and not actively doing her ministry at home and in church.

1 Three children. I reflexively thought Fátima, then second-guessed myself and thought Lourdes. But three children is Fátima. Three secrets, three children.
2 Whether they were Divine Office or whether she would even recognize them as such.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

This isn't going to turn into an "exercise blog" or anything like that, but I am working out just about every day.

So exercising is a major way that I'm spending my time lately and blogs are usually about how we spend our time. A bit.

The exercise logging system offers a number of metrics, including a ranking system. I wish I hadn't stumbled upon it because I was ranked first in my age/sex last month and kind of sat back on my laurels for a week. But then I realized that I couldn't do that and maintain my standings!

Last week, I received an email from my "trainer" (actually, I think the message was automatically generated by the logging system) informing me that I'd surpassed my goals by a significant degree and that I ought to seek some advice in taking my routine to "the next level."

I thought I could just "up" my goals, but it doesn't work that way. I was afraid that I would have to pay extra for individual training services, but it's nothing like that. No, instead, I told a staff person my typical workout and she recommended weightbearing exercises1 to fight osteoporosis, the buzz word in women's fitness for decades. That is, she got me on an elliptical machine.

I'd been dying to try this machine since joining the gym about two months ago, but I knew I wasn't physically ready for it. I'm sort of ready now. That is, I don't think I'm getting ahead of myself by starting to use it. I did fifteen minutes at the lowest resistance and thought I was going to collapse. What's worse, I had no time for the pool after. Rather, I spent five minutes in the hot tub, a poor substitute.

The trouble is whatever time I give to elliptical training necessarily takes away from swimming. In comparing the two exercises, I prefer swimming for many reasons. I use swimming for recovery as much as anything. Swimming soothes my aching muscles, relaxes me, has improved my circulation and flexibility and coordination. I feel great after an hour or more of swimming.

In contrast, after fifteen minutes of elliptical, I can barely walk, even the day after. The pain in my legs, ankles and feet is pretty bad right now. I don't like sweating indoors. I get thirsty and am probably becoming dehydrated. Both exercises burn 400 calories an hour so it's sort of a no-brainer: pain vs. painless. The only thing swimming is bad for is my hair - but my stylist recently gave me a terrific leave-in conditioner!

Regardless, I asked my husband's opinion and he suggests I give the elliptical a chance. So I will give up some of my swimming time to the elliptical machine and see how it goes.

1Already, I'm completing a circuit of Cybex machines three times a week which qualifies as weightbearing exercise.