Saturday, February 23, 2013

I was under the impression that Garry Wills swore off publishing again anything critical of his church. I read his article at HuffPo the day after the Pope announced his resignation, heard him on Brian Lehrer and The Diane Rehm Show and saw his Colbert Report appearance at an anti-Catholic blog that I won't link to. America links to both his and Fr. Martin's appearance in the same episode. The release of Wills's book couldn't have been timed better.

In these interviews, I was generally disappointed in how unprepared the interviewer was. With the exception of Colbert, the interviewers aren't adequately familiar with Catholicism. None of them appear informed of Wills's positions, stances which are by no means new, recent or even novel. I'd like to hear an interview where Wills can state his positions fully. Rehm brought on a counterpoint with the unfortunate name of "Msgr. Pope."

There's nothing quite like books by an historian. Such detail! I finished Wills's Outside Looking In in October last year. I found the list of personalities and experiences fascinating. Someone who's often been in the right place at the right time, and sometimes not. I read What Jesus Meant in the spring of '06, the following summer I read What Paul Meant and I read Wills's book on the rosary in-between. It's very easy to detect his theological affinities, Augustine, Chesterton, Newman, in that order. What holds it together for him must be very personal because it isn't readily evident. It's clear the New Testament and the Creed enjoy prominent, nay essential, spots. Ecumenical preoccupations loom large as well.

I don't see him being able to profess, with candidates for full admission, "all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims [is] revealed by God." In an attempt to understand what holds the Faith together for him, I turned to the book he wrote after Papal Sin, Why I Am a Catholic. Funny, I found both books on my shelf but I can't remember buying either. Beginning the latter, it sounded familiar. I must have started it on another occasion. The portion on arranging Chesterton's letters was quite similar to his chapter on his relationship with his wife in Outside Looking In. In fact, I skipped back to the public library - I had borrowed the latter book from the library, not wanting to add YA ("yet another!") Wills book to my collection - and some reflections on the personal history events were repeated.

The public library did not have Wills's latest book yet but searching the digital holdings catalog for "why priests" turned up the 1971 book by Hans Küng. I signed that book out and began reading. It doesn't sound nearly as radical as Küng's become. His motivation then seems to be pragmatic as well as ecumenical. In the least, it's really remarkable how much ecumenism has dropped off in the past 40, 30, 20 years.
Sunday Snippets - a Catholic carnival hosted by Rann at "This That and the Other Thing."

This week, I wrote about an experience of serving Bible study child care for homeschooled children.

Also, there's a post about two Fridays of Stations of the Cross so far this Lent.

And a post about Garry Wills being in the news again.

Click to join sunday_snippets

Friday, February 22, 2013

For the second successive Friday, I attended what was advertised as Stations of the Cross at a nearby church. I own numerous editions of Stations booklets that I've kept handy, in my car, for many years. Anything I want to keep handy, I keep in my car. But last Friday I looked for the booklets and couldn't find them. I can't remember where I put them. Someplace "safe," of course.

This parish uses the version identified with Bl. John Paul II and several were on hand to be borrowed. As much as I appreciate Fr. Champlin's other booklets, his take on the Stations is not my all-time favorite, especially with its inclusion of the 15th Station. I prefer the traditional words to Stabat Mater, too. But after a few Lents, this version is growing on me. Certainly, I enjoy the citations from the Psalms.

Last Friday, the monstrance was out and exposition, adoration and benediction surrounded the Stations devotion. The practice is nothing new in this particular parish. What was new, however, was the silver. Someone donated a silver cross and silver candlesticks to be used during Lent (and Advent, the pastor proposes, click for some very nice pictures inside the church), temporarily replacing the gold ones. Silver is more somber than gold. Obviously, benefactors can do what they like with their money. The fact that these items were on the parish's Christmas Wish List doesn't demand that anyone fulfill the request. Although I've heard that people feel obligated when Father, any Father, makes a specific request. In my own parish, the pastor has learned to watch what he says because the parishioners deliver, and fast. But philanthropy is, for most of us, a zero-sum proposition.

At this rate, the poor we'll always have with us.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

In my experience, child care at ladies' daytime Bible study can be touch and go. Over the several years my children utilized it, I told myself that I would continue to be committed to the service even after mine had outgrown it. With that in mind last year, my first year of school day childlessness, I served as a "Love Lady," what they call a nursery volunteer. It wasn't a good experience because I found myself critical of the first-year teacher for her lack of organization and insincere, sing-song voice.

Since they say that being a Love Lady is completely voluntary, I did not sign up this year. Why not? I remember so many women over the years whose children were long grown having no commitment to Bible study child care. Why should I be different? Just because I said I would? But the fact that I hadn't served and didn't plan on serving did not go unnoticed and when a cancellation occurred, I got a call the night before. Was I a last resort?

An hour earlier than the regular time, I joined the Leaders' Team meeting to review the homework questions. The former Teaching Director was in town for a visit and led the discussion. My Core Group leader was seated next to me and I could see that her tendency to work her iPhone chronically was not limited to our regular group's time. I've been on the verge of saying something about her distractibility and I am now somewhat assured that if I do go to her superiors, they'll have a solid idea of what I'm talking about.

In the Leaders' Team meeting, I hoped I'd have something really insightful to say but nothing came to mind. In these circles, silence is often taken for wisdom, too often. In addition to my workbook, I had my little old commentary of Daniel, paired with Ezekiel. Simply flipping through the pages reveals which of the two I've studied and studied over again. The pages of the first half are nearly pristine except the twenty year age of the booklet shows. My Core Group leader asked which translation I had and I said, "New American" which can usually be understood as "New American Standard."

After the Leaders' Team meeting, I was placed with the homeschooled students, five children aged 6 - 10. The ten year old arrived late and was outspoken, confident and much too old for the others. I was to sit with the kindergartener who could not read. We looked at Jesus' feeding of the 5,000 in all four accounts, looking for differences. Not in a critical way, however. Unlike other parallels, this story doesn't have contradictions, only additional details, like the name of the city, the name of the lake, that a boy brought the food. I was impressed with how the children found these four passages in their Bibles. My charge even knew that there was food left over! The vocabulary of the story was simple; the teacher defined only "solitary" and "remote" for them. The approach of looking at the story across the Gospels reminded me of the work we do on Thursday nights. Protestant children and Catholic adults doing the same Bible study work. I thought a synopsis would be handy.

Sure, the kids became bored after working through the first account. They probably wondered why bother with the other accounts which say basically the same thing. But even though they shifted in their seats, asked for snack time and got up for a glass of water, they were very attentive. I could not imagine my children sitting through such an exercise. And I was torn between wanted my kids to know Bible stories and being concerned about overly dealing in generalizations and gross simplifications.

During snack, the kids mentioned some things they're learning at home. One of the eight-year-olds said he was learning about the Middle Ages. The teacher swooned, "Oh, I love the Middle Ages!" I was curious to know what she knew about the Middle Ages. Or thought she knew. I didn't have to ask, she offered. She said she'd taken a class on the Middle Ages recently and she learned that it was a really dark time.
"Where was the church during the Middle Ages?"
In chorus, "Underground!"
"That's right!"
I almost threw up. She said that the only good thing the Church of that time did was that monks preserved the Scriptures in monasteries. I said translations of the Scriptures were made as well, and she asserted that the Bible wasn't translated into English until King James' edition. I told her about the Lindisfarne Gospels in the 10th century. I told her about Sts. Cyril and Methodius in the 9th century translating the Bible into a Slavic language. She didn't seem to understand why these points were important.

The oldest boy, who spoke about having a ministry to neighborhood boys, asked our prayers for his dilemma: his basketball schedule conflicted with church attendance on Sundays and Wednesdays (Awana). I asked him casually when his sports season ended, but the teacher was livid that he had to get to church at least weekly. He said his parents insisted on his commitment to athletics but his goal was to get to church twice every three weeks. When the boy's mother arrived to pick him up, the teacher took her aside to encourage her to take the boy to church. Once again, I found myself arguing the Protestant's position more consistently than the Protestant. I bet she would be the first to tell you that "a church is just a building, you don't have to be at church in order to pray or worship God."

I found the children less perplexing than the women in my Core Group.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

I received the pager and it went off before anyone else arrived. I took the table and ordered a drink before anyone else arrived. A couple came together to the table and one handed to the other the first season of Downton Abbey. They talked about the popular show briefly, being careful not to reveal spoilers.

Another arrived and blurted, "We don't have a booth?!" in greeting. Apparently I wasn't discriminating enough, since I merely sat where they put me. "Maybe if you'd been here twenty minutes ago when they first seated us, you could have ..."

I made up my mind about entrees from the online menu because even though I brought my reading glasses, the restaurant lighting was too low for me to see. Someone ordered salad without croutons because she is gluten free. She was served a salad with a breadstick instead. But rather than simply remove the breadstick, she sent the whole thing back for fear of contamination. I bet the waitress just plucked the breadstick off and served again the very same salad.

My entree was not even warm but spicy. I'm usually too hungry to send anything back anyway. My friend's steak was well instead of medium and at the other ladies' insistence, she sent it back. Which was the right thing to do. That is, the restaurant made it right by her, and quickly.

The entire time that food was coming and empty dishes were going and drinks were being refilled, I didn't hear anyone acknowledge the server's service. I know in fancy restaurants, with head waiters, one might not acknowledge his underlings. But this was not a fancy restaurant and I could tell from the waitress's frustrated expression that she was accustomed to being regularly thanked by patrons.

I showed my pilgrimage pictures even though it might be considered "off-topic."1 I shared them in the spirit of "life goes on." Then the conversation turned to "shop:" the state of the church all of them had left over the past year, an upcoming women's retreat, and, of course, the latest TV shows. Seeking to justify their leaving, one of them made the assertion that their former church had left its denomination and turned non-denominational. I checked the church website and the denomination's website and that doesn't seem to be the case2.

A number of TV shows were mentioned and endorsed. Someone turned to me and said, "You have alot of shows to start watching!" and I just replied that I don't watch TV. Certainly not anything with Maggie Smith.

There was talk of publishing some original study materials posthumously, and a desire to go through the personal library as well as retrieve a promised Coach handbag. The discussion began to take on a well-intentioned but manipulative quality, based on knowledge of the family's less-than-ideal habits, and I expressed that I was not involved. But I was aware of at least two books in the personal library that had been autographed by the author. I had given them as gifts and they ought to be given to someone who can appreciate them. I didn't ask whether the intense interest in the Coach handbag was due to devotion to the brand or to its previous owner.

After dessert and cappuccino - which a few of them couldn't make up their minds about - the bill came and sat on the table for 20 minutes. Obviously everyone is used to their husbands taking care of it. I caught our server putting on her coat and I was afraid her shift was over. I decided there was no reason we couldn't handle the bill and let her go. I worked the numbers but someone suggested that I deduct the sales tax before calculating the tip. That's not my practice but I followed the advice and then promptly forgot to add back the sales tax. I went over the numbers again and again but when I worked out the tip per person, it seemed too skimpy. Still, I couldn't see my mistake and no one offered to check my math.

As we left the table after more than 3 hours, I placed down more money, thinking that maybe our very long dinner prevented another party from sitting there. And it turns out that I left almost enough to cover the amount of the sales tax that I had left off. She received just a dollar shy of an appropriate 20% tip.

1 We were out together to observe the one year anniversary of a friend's death.

2 The church's Facebook lists the institution as "non-denominational" as well as some other categories, but how persuasive is that compared with the other two websites?