Monday, October 15, 2012

The sanctuary of the host church was open and available as a place of quiet. I visited after lunch Saturday right before my presentation. In years past, the plenary speaker sessions were held in the sanctuary. I'm not sure why these were moved to the adjacent building in which one hears the street traffic much more readily. I suppose there was one year of bad weather so putting everything in one place was likely deemed better than moving us back and forth. But I liked being in "a church" at least part of the weekend and sometimes we sang together from the hymnal.

Still, this sanctuary, a sacred chamber, has always reminded me of a courtroom or political hall, like the Senate. It looks so "officious," if I may quote Norman Bates. I would guess there's a Bible upon the lectern ... or there could be but I've never had the guts to sneak up there to peek. Anyway, the tray for it mimics an open book with scrolled up edges.

I knelt there several minutes which, despite the sloping aisles and absence of kneelers, was quite comfortable. I didn't pray my rosary, out of respect. The space did not feel vacant or devoid of spirit. Any "chill" in ambience was reduced by the warmth of the rich, dark wooden pews. Nobody "caught" me in there on my knees and I wondered how much the space was utilized by the other workshop participants over the weekend. On one occasion, I saw the musicians who provided the weekend's music coming out but never anyone else.

The Workshop adjourned twenty minutes earlier than last year and since my friends were unable to keep our dinner date, I attended the vigil mass at St. David's, a stone's throw away on the corner.

It was a lovely mass. The same msgr. who'd said Night Prayer the night before presided. His homily began with a lament of Joe Paterno's absence this football season and I had to remind myself of where I was. Either way, scandal or no, Mr. Paterno is quite absent, most noticeably in his family's lives. Once the msgr. got past that bit of sentimentality, he spoke very encouraging, gospel-filled words.

Afterwards, I picked up a sandwich at a counter sub shop and drove home to my family.
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Saturday, October 13, 2012

This morning began with mass at Our Lady Help of Christians in Abington, a few miles from the hotel. Like last year, the Holy Name Society was on hand to pray the rosary outside after mass.1 And just like last year, I forgot to bring a coat, a penance on Our Lady of Fatima. There was still frost on the grass as we walked along a circuit of stepping stones in front of a statue of OLHC. I caught sight of a banner stretched near our path which declared our prayer intention, for the traditional family. One cannot be too careful when casually joining other Christians in prayer.

At the completion of five decades, someone interjected a request for a sixth decade - never heard of such a thing! - for the "deceased and living members of OLHC." Well, fine but this is going to make me late for my 9 am appointment!

In fact, I was able to remain for the pope's intentions then cut out as the prayers switched to birthright. I just feel the pro-life intention is well-covered and my voice isn't needed.

My friend presented this morning on Col. 1:24 - 2:15. Her worksheet was handwritten. She nailed the main points of the passage, a very long passage, and I had nothing to add. Maybe I was just tired from thinking too hard the day before. After her, someone shared on Col. 2:16-3:4. Her worksheet was also handwritten - in pencil - and I began to suspect that these were prepared only last night! Imagine writing out five or six copies of the same thing! The final question asked for a real world example of the passage. Our friend left this question blank because she did not want to offend anyone. However, this one who grew up in the "Roman Catholic tradition" - her words - claimed that she was told to pray only to saints and never to God or Jesus. This deprivation won her a great deal of sympathy with the others. "'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!' I've lived this!" she declared.

If I'm raging now, I wasn't then. There's nothing to say that doesn't sound defensive. And I've no reason to be defensive. Instead, I thanked God for the time at adoration yesterday and mass with rosary this morning, activities that gave me assurance of truth. I was just a little amazed that my friend didn't even throw me a compassionate glance or afterwards ask how I felt. Maybe she believes I'm not really Catholic deep down.

More than this, though, the former Catholic expressed concern for all her neighbors who are Catholics. She wants to witness but can only think to criticize their devotional practices. The study leader, who was also Catholic once, said it's better to allow Jesus to bring a halt to such activities. "Just introduce them to Jesus." I had to agree that there's nothing offensive about speaking to a Catholic about Jesus.

After a noon meal that felt initially tense, I presented on Col. 3:5-17 after another woman presented on the same passage. Ideally, two participants cover the same passage but with one no-show and a desire to go over most of the epistle, ours was the only redundant duo. Her presentation was well-done and I couldn't improve it. I received no feedback on mine, either. Maybe everyone was tired, a drawback of going last.

I had read the passage aloud from Msgr. Ronald Knox's translation which is available online. Everyone asked which translation it was, so I said "Ronald Knox" to distinguish from John Knox. But no one understood so I added his title and everyone clammed up. In the ensuing silence, I told them that the translation was made in the 1950's but that the version will be republished soon. I didn't say the translation was made primarily from the Vulgate. The cat had mostly taken their tongues but the study leader affirmed how good to read from numerous translations.2

1 Two years ago, a small group of us prayed the rosary indoors and it was the first time I'd ever recited a decade aloud in public. A wonderfully inclusive group of Catholics there.
2 Of course I compared Knox's translation with, say, the ESV and it checks out. Baronius Press seems a bit behind on their fall release of this republication, as usual. Thanks to Matt for tipping me off.

The so-called plenary sessions on John's Gospel were delivered by the woman who usually served as master of ceremonies. Given her buoyant personality, I didn't think she could focus enough to prepare a series of talks. She repeatedly shared how little she'd worked on these presentations. And how things were done last minute. She was able, however, to calm herself enough to read three lectures in which she made many good points. But she did not hold my attention and I blame her Australian accent. Voice quality is so important to me when I'm listening to someone.

My study group was assigned Colossians. We met after the general talk on John 5 to work out together Colossians 1:1-14. One participant was unable to make the workshop, so only one gave a presentation on Col. 1:15-23 which includes the hymn. I offered some criticism of her report which I can't now remember. But the point of the workshop is to provide feedback on our effort and this is her third time at the workshop after taking the teaching track (a more challenging track) the first two years. I thought she could handle receiving input but she could not. Later in the day, she said something about how gently Paul corrected the Colossians and I took that as a veiled hint that I had not been gentle. Anyway, I tried to make friends with her almost immediately afterwards. I have some trouble understanding the attraction of her denomination, but I couldn't find a tactful way to inquire about it. I suppose that difficulty of understanding may be mutual.

The dinner hour began at 6:15. They offered a gluten-free chicken and an eggplant lasagna. So many people are vegetarian these days, there's no reason to think only of Friday abstinence. I ate the lasagna quickly then left into the cool night air. From the driveway, I could see the inviting lights of St. David's chapel at the corner. I walked towards it and arrived immediately. I entered to find one person at exposition. The 7 o'clock church bells rang and she left shortly after. I thought, "She thinks I'm her relief and I'm not." No, relief hadn't yet come. So, I stay until relief comes? I tried to wait but at 7:10 I got out. I nearly bumped into the guy who was to be next. He eyed me and then looked at his watch. He was indeed late but he probably thought I had no business going until he got there.

After the second general talk on John 11, there was time to return to St. David's for benediction. At 8:45, a woman retrieved booklets for Night Prayer (Compline)1 from the altar area and distributed them. The msgr appeared from the side of the altar - how do they do that?! - and, matter-of-factly, we said Friday's night prayer and received benediction. I checked into my hotel room and made sure I was ready for the next day.

1 US Bishops' website no longer sells this booklet.
I arrived before noon yesterday and went straight to St. David Church on Easton for exposition. As I approached the chapel, a FedEx driver drove up and called out to me:
Excuse me, Ma'am, but do you know where '400' is?
I knew my destination for the day was 405 Easton, across the main road, but I couldn't recall even the street address of where I stood at that moment. I said,
Odd numbers are across the street, so 400 must be on this side of Easton.
Then I told him I was just arrived from New Jersey and had only visited the town of Willow Grove a few times in as many years. He wasn't about to give up so easy. He continued,
Well, someone was out with this package yesterday and brought it back after not locating the address. It's for a Mary Rose ... do you happen to know who that is?
I had to say that I did not and began worrying that I was losing time.

There were a couple of people in the chapel at adoration. The monstrance was like nothing I'd ever seen before:

Unique but appropriate. I get it. Now, isn't this hospitality? I think so. Being from out of town, I can find an unlocked Catholic church with exposition across the street from my meeting place. I felt wonderfully welcome and at peace, even though no parishioner even greeted me. I had a place to turn to.

Before I was too long at prayer, the noon bells rang for a full ten minutes. Then I decided I needed some lunch before the Workshop began. I left the chapel and headed down the street for a wrap. I spotted #400 on the convent building across the side street from the chapel and hoped the FedEx driver had found it. Mary Rose, of course!

Walking across the parking lot of my destination, I overheard the sounds of children playing nearby at recess. The corner is crammed with Catholic properties: churches, schools and convents. I discovered that the joyous sound came from a schoolyard associated with Queen of Angels school.

Getting to the Workshop in time for the 1 o'clock tea, I had trouble mixing with the women in my study group. For instance, I knew what was coming next when a woman boasted she was one of twelve children: she became a Christian at 38, having been Catholic most of her life. Not fair that she gets to brag of the large family without keeping Catholicism! She described the theological upgrade she'd recently experienced leaving a non-denominational church for a PCA church. She had no idea what she had been missing! The Reformed women flanking me could not agree fast enough. I preoccupied myself with the prospect that she would make it full circle and become Catholic once again. Pretty soon they were discussing dispensationalism vs. covenantalism, as if there's nothing else.

Then, my study group leader turned to me and asked,
Teresa, do you attend a church?

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Thursday, October 04, 2012

I missed the first week because I was off listening to Fr. James Martin, SJ at a church in Hamilton, NJ.

Tonight, a quiet man sat next to me. I asked whether he was a deacon and he insisted that he was not. He had a brand new King James Version of the Bible with him that he said he had just picked up at Barnes and Noble. It was a Red Letter Edition, but I don't think Thomas Nelson makes any other kind. He said he was new to Bible study but thought he heard too little Scripture at mass. He wants more. He showed me how easy his Bible was to read and understand. Aware that the KJV isn't esteemed for its intelligibility to today's reader, I thought he had, perhaps, the Amplified Version instead. But after looking over a couple of pages, I could see it was not the Amplified Version, just a large print edition. I said nothing negative about his book, only that it was very nice and easy-to-read.

On my other side was a talkative woman who showed me her Bible, Tyndale's "One Year Bible" in the New Living Translation. I've never actually cracked the cover of this edition before tonight and, when I did, I was a bit horrified at its sequence. It's a calendar, basically, with Scripture passages assigned for each day of the year. So, one can't flip to the end of the book and find The Revelation or turn over to the front and find Genesis. It's all mixed up instead. How strange to bring such a thing to a Bible study! No need, really, because we're working from the "Synopsis of the Four Gospels" presently. Handouts of the text are provided for whomever doesn't have Aland's book.

Towards the end of the discussion, the quiet man next to me spoke up to the group, asking about "biblical inspiration," as a phrase he'd read about or heard batted about. Now, last night, I attended a presentation from Msgr. Benwell on the Origin and Nature of the New Testament and he presented two understandings of "biblical inspiration." I'm not very clear on it myself. I just know what it's not. So, the diversity of views was mentioned and a couple of paraphrases from Dei Verbum were given.

After the evening, the quiet man told me he'd attended a Bible study at a nearby Independent, Fundamental Baptist (IFB) church. I had some acquaintance with the church because my children attended Vacation Bible School there last summer. I also tried to attend their women's Bible study on Wednesday mornings but it was too social for my tastes. Oh, yeah, and too fundamentalist. His complaint was that the pastor covered only two verses the entire time. He said, at that rate, he'd die before he got very far. Covering only two verses could be bad or could be good. Taking tangents and getting sidetracked aren't good. But really covering those verses and maybe flipping to other verses could be really good. I wasn't there so I don't know. But I asked him whether he would go back again and he indicated that he would not. I hope he returns to ours next time.