Saturday, November 30, 2013

Friday, November 29, 2013

Just like in your parish, the Giving Tree went up a couple of weeks ago, hung with a good number of tags. I'm notoriously bad about taking tags with the best intentions only to be scrambling last minute to deliver by the due date. I've learned to "play it safe," not trusting myself with too much responsibility. I have alot going on.

Hoodies are big. There's a children's home in Trenton that wants to give all its residents hoodies. I took a tag for one, bought two, thinking I'd surely find another tag to go along when I returned. To my disappointment, when I came to drop off, the tree was bare of tags! Every last one had been taken by a parishioner. What was I to do with the spare hoodie I'd bought? Take it back for a refund? How could I?

By that weekend, the tree was again full of tags! I was so relieved, so overjoyed that there was another opportunity to give. I scoured the tree for a tag to match a new hoodie and found one. Then I took a tag for toddler's clothes.

Shortly thereafter, I received a heartfelt, semi-mass email from a fellow parishioner. His reaction to the bare, then full again Giving Tree was the exact opposite of mine: he issued a "sincere plea" at the "overwhelming need." He was near tears at the simple requests: socks, a heating pad, gift cards to various stores. He reassured emphatically that the needs were all properly vetted (he's a Republican) and largely destined for local people (he's a Republican). He fought the impulse to run an ad in the local newspaper requesting outside help in meeting these needs! He suspected we'd taken on too much.

I replied to his email that our parish has historically responded very generously to people's needs and, while the demand may be greater this year, there's no reason to believe that we won't all step up.

But I couldn't get over our complete opposite reactions and am pleasantly smug that mine's the right one. Well I hope I am right about the outcome. Oh, that reminds me: I need to grab another tag.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

The closest test site was at the Wilberforce School in Princeton. As the name tells you, it's a religious school. Almost all the families I met over many years of Bible study at the PCA on Meadow Road have moved over to the church led by the founder of this school. If you can follow that. I remember their excitement at the school's founding1, at the same time learning of the "expense."

Most of which is irrelevant because my son has no interest in applying to Wilberforce. But the school to which he is applying does not host the entrance exam, if you can believe that. So rather than just drive down the road this morning, we trekked over and up Route 1, near the Forrestal Village2, across from offices of well-known pharmaceutical companies.

For the most part, after dropping him off, I sat out the 3+ hours in the parking lot of the Plainsboro Public Library, reading my Community Bible Study assignments. I like the library but, except for the chill, felt too comfortable in my car to leave it. When the testing was almost up, I returned to campus with enough time to look around. The architecture immediately grabbed my attention. I parked and walked around to the chapel. Doors were locked, not unexpectedly. But I took pictures with my phone. I wish I'd had the Canon M with me.

Chapel of the Queen of the Miraculous Medal

I ambled through the graveyard. The unadorned, uniform grave markers suggested immediately that members of a religious order were buried here. It wasn't unlike a military cemetery, only lacking flags in most places3. Such a testament to men's lives of service to Christ.

Upon closer inspection, I noted the religious order, Vincentians, and that markers dating from 1963 and earlier were inscribed in Latin. Plenty of Irish surnames, as well. I read up on the history when I came home.
Originally known as St. Joseph's College, the seminary provided training for the priesthood. Later, its functions were transferred to Niagara University and it became a preparatory high school for boys considering becoming priests. The school ceased operation in 1992 and became a retreat center operated by the Vincentian Fathers. The Seminary today consists of several buildings, the finest of which is the Queen of Miraculous Medal Chapel. Construction was begun in 1932 and completed in 1934. It is an exquisite example of the Gothic architectural style. Its appointments are of the finest artistry and quality and contain a vast amount of metal work that many consider among the most outstanding in the country.
cf. "A Brief History of Princeton Landing and Surrounding Areas"
Founded in 1914, St. Joseph's is the former minor seminary of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission. In 1989, its 75th anniversary year, St. Joseph's reopened its Gothic chapel, restored after 18 months of work. The seminary school was closed in 1992 after serving 78 years as a boarding high school for young men contemplating the priesthood. It was later leased to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen for youth programs.
cf. "Cost-cutting puts St. Joe's in limbo"

In my research, I came across a visual directory of tombstones. And the lady who contributed pictures of the St. Joseph Seminary cemetery is the wife of the former asst. director of Evangelization in my diocese. I found my father's headstone as well, even though I'd already photographed it myself several months earlier.

1 "Three Mercer schools join forces to form Princeton Center for the Arts & Education in Plainsboro", Trenton Times, 2/23/11
2 Forrestal Village (Wiki)
3 Some had military service.

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

My posts this week:

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Friday, November 08, 2013

I did not know Elvis recorded "It is Well with My Soul!" It served as a recessional at a funeral today.

A day after receiving word of the arrangements (and determining I couldn't possibly attend), a Facebook friend posted an NPR story advising to "always go to funerals." Feeling a bit fated, I entered the address of the church into my GPS and set out with my youngest for the 45 minute drive down the shore. As we neared the town and the street, I remembered that I had taken a photograph of this stately church a couple of years previous after Joseph at the Algonquin.

First Baptist Church, Manasquan - August 2011

An usher directed us to a seat about midway up and I chose the side aisle to it. I immediately recognized someone from Community Bible Study: she was standing just behind the reserved rows and was turned completely around, as if looking for someone. I nodded towards her when our eyes met but I can't be sure she recognized me. She was my CBS core group leader two years ago.

The organist was playing that old "I love you, Lord (and I lift my voice)" over and over again with slight variations. Ella said the organ sounded like circus music. I suppose she's want of exposure to better organ music than emanates from the carousel at the mall. For the opening hymn, "How Great Thou Art," I dropped my voice an octave and got my Baptist singin' on. The man behind me sang great.

The pastor flew through the opening hymn and Scripture readings so quickly, I thought we'd be out of there in 20 minutes. The service felt rushed and without realizing that the program continued on the back cover, I saw no reason. I noted that the pastor recited substantial chunks of Paul's letters from memory (1 Thess. 4:13-18, Romans 8) but needed to read from the Gospels. To his credit, he seemed to have the Lord's words memorized - “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me"- , but not Thomas'. "Amen" was interjected occasionally, with varied introductions, "And all God's people said ...," etc.

The ladies I knew from CBS each gave tributes. The phrase "our little club" sticks out in my mind. But it was an inclusive club, they said. Now there's "a gaping hole." Poems were read. Her son played a number on guitar. The pastor said, in a shameless plug, that the boy plays music most Sundays there. "So if you liked what you just heard ..." Com'on back and see us.

The emotion with which the tributes were delivered brought tears to mine own eyes. I spied boxes of tissues placed strategically on each window ledge but the one nearest me looked empty. In fact the box was so new, so full, that no tissue had yet been taken. I took one to get it started.

After the family had had their say, the pastor articulated a personal appeal directed towards any hapless fool in attendance who was unacquainted with the Lord or eternal salvation by faith. But his words were phrased as if coming, not from himself but from the deceased. "She would want you to know the joy of knowing ..." No doubt. It would take a very brave individual to sit an hour in a Baptist church without knowing Jesus. More likely, they simply think they know. For the benediction, he asked everyone to pray with him. It's less intercessory, that way. Immediately, every head bowed (except mine and probably my daughter's). It was quaint and probably a bit humble. Certainly not self-conscious.

During all the talking, I reflected on my motives for attending. There's the general principle that if I know about something, I make every effort. But I've missed two funerals in the past four months that fit that principle. Even though I expected to see ladies from CBS there, I don't think hobnobbing was my motivation. I sensed that some who cried were really crying for themselves. Well, of course they are. If they have faith, they aren't crying for the deceased. Maybe they were wondering whether so many will turn out for them. When the time comes, they won't care.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

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

My posts this week:

Comparative Bible Study, Deuteronomy / 2 Kings / 2 Chronicles

Mourning a Fellow Pilgrim

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I'm not participating in the group discussion at Community Bible Study presently because those conflict time-wise with the weekly retreats I'm making down the shore. However I am trying to keep up with the study guide materials. I'm about three lessons behind!

I can ordinarily plow through lessons in an hour or so but I'm really struggling to find any meaning in the study guide questions. Part of my struggle comes from adhering to a different chronology. The study guide author asserts that Deuteronomy was written by Moses. After all, that's what Deuteronomy claims. But the commentaries I've read, including one from the JPS Torah commentary series, say it was written either during the times of King Josiah or King Hezekiah.

So imagine the exercise from yesterday's lesson in which I'm asked to compare passages from Deuteronomy with 2 Kings 23 and 2 Chronicles 30. To my mind, these are from about the same time (but Chronicles is a bit later). So if the texts are similar, it's no wonder. Now, just because they're written about the same time doesn't necessarily mean that there will be commonalities 'cross the texts. The Gospels were written about the same time and look at them! All I'm saying is that time is not the factor in the equation that the study guide author thinks it is. There's no miracle of timelessness in the words. It just isn't there. He'll have to pick on something else to awe me.
I received word from someone I met on pilgrimage last year that one of our fellow travelers died recently. She had been ill on pilgrimage, her reason for going to Lourdes, I believe. She was a very nice person.

On the way to Lourdes, she sat directly behind me on the tour bus. She talked with great excitement about visiting Lourdes. She pointed out to me signs in the clouds, messages to her from God. She took great pleasure in those omens. I don't think I humored her - I'm not that way - but I listened. That's all I could do. I hope she died as peacefully as she had lived.