Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday After Charlottesville

Today is Friday -  traditionally a day of penance in the Catholic world - remembering in some felt-way the meaning of Christ's death on the cross. And here is a final scene from Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. It is like Michelangelo's famous marble Pieta in St. Peter's Basilica, except here it is created in film.

Last Friday and Saturday, young white men who fancy themselves to be the new Nazis, carried torches in Charlottesville, VA (like in a 1940's Third Reich procession) chanting, "Jews will not replace us." They also chanted "Whose streets? Our streets," which means, "If we have anything to do with it, this country will belong to us again and not to anyone who is not us." That translates: black people, native peoples, brown people, Asians, gay people, Muslims, Jews, even Catholics. Special needs and handicapped people? Hitler got rid of them too.

When I heard the anti-Jewish chant, this film-image came to mind. Mary Magdalen and the young apostle, John, are on the left. They were Jewish. Jesus and his dear Mother are in the center of the tableau. They were Jewish. Who is that on the right? Perhaps a soldier, exhausted with hate and violence. He's bending over to catch his breath and still his pounding heart. Perhaps he is feeling the first twinges of terrible regret for his complicity.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Intercessions ~ Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

St. Bartholomew ~ El Greco

We pray for Pope Francis,/ who has many set against him for his continued call to welcome refugees./ We ask for a world that solves problems and crises creatively and with great kindness./ We pray to the Lord. 

Jesus never wrote a book/ because he wanted to give us a new way of life/ and not an intellectual exercise./ We pray to understand and embrace this new heart-challenge./ We pray to the Lord.

Thursday is the Feast of the Apostle and Martyr,/ Saint Bartholomew./ We pray for the Christians of the Middle East/ whose enemies want them removed or destroyed./ We pray to the Lord.

A week after the violence of Charlottesville,/ we pray for the nation to name its demons boldly./ We pray for a change of heart,/ and that we would learn to love God and neighbor rightly./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask soundness of mind for our leaders,/ generosity of heart and spirit,/ and the desire to serve and unify an embittered country./ We pray to the Lord.

"Jews will not replace us" was one of the new-Nazi slogans chanted last week./ Jesus and his Mother were Jewish./ For the stain of anti-semitism to be washed out of our country./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the people who are considered to be of less value./ We pray for the American family which is often weak and afflicted./ For the safety and well-being of our own families and friends./ We pray to the Lord. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Mary's Assumption ~ Sunflowers With A Prayer Attached

A happy memory of this Assumption Feast: In June of 1975, having completed my first year of theology up in Yonkers, New York,  I took a job cutting grass in Calvary Cemetery (section 4B under the Kosciuszko Bridge) in Greenpoint, New York. The last bit of the morning commute took me in my yellow beetle along the infamous Interboro Parkway - a winding, heavily trafficked road.

Aware that it was Mary's feast day, and that I might not be able to get to Mass, I passed a median of wild sunflowers, whipped by the air currents created by speeding rush-hour traffic. I quickly pulled over onto the barely existent shoulder and dashed across the lane of cars, filling my arms with bright yellow flowers. Then taking some extra turns and minutes to Richmond Hill and the Church of the Holy Child Jesus, which I knew from my student teaching days, I left the flowers (in a mysteriously appearing large jar of water) at the foot of Mary's lovely altar there. Kind of crazy, reckless and best of all, utterly romantic!

And here is a liturgical prayer from the Eastern liturgy for the Feast of the Assumption (Dormition).
Neither the tomb, nor death could hold the Theotokos, who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions. For being the Mother of Life she was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her Virginal Womb.

Assumption Prayer To the Mother of Life

So near your feast day,
there is killing in our country,
a bold river of flame,
the angry young white men,
the fearsome call to unite people
in violence and hate.
Like a 50's wild-west movie,
boys brandishing guns,
even the peace-calling clergy
are insulted and assaulted.
And Heather Heyer is dead.
And Jay Cullen and Berke Bates.
We're not born hating people
we have to be taught. 
On the feast of your resurrection,
in your assumption into the heavenly kingdom, 
intercede for our nation
O Lady.

And once again CNN drags out
the retired generals who,
like priests,
helping us to meditate
but on the things of war:
the smart board maps and missiles,
the submarines and heavy bombers,
the artillery,
the firepower, 
the warfare planes and
all the talk that causes
the military industrial complex 
to high rejoicing
while the money pours in.
And the macho bluster,
the bellicose threats and
the counter threats.
We don't dare consider
how many children would die
if it all came to pass,
and the animals and plants,
the waterways and mountains,
the temples and churches.
On the feast of  your glorification,
in the fullness of your spiritual and 
bodily existence,
intercede for our nation,
O Lady.

And from your place of 
bright encounter with the face of your Son,
shout out an awakening to those who wink at violence,
whose hearts are dull,
whose minds are dim,
who turn away, 
who won't admit,
who sleep 
as on Gethsemane night.
On the feast of your translation
to the higher things,
the highest things,
intercede for our nation,
O Lady.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Digging Rocks ~ Unearthing People

The local old-timers nearby say about the ground here, "For every piece of dirt, there's three rocks." The photo here makes the point, these rocks having been pulled out of a 3 foot flowerbed extension. Once I worked for a week with a car jack before dislodging a boulder from a garden!

For me, the best time to dig rocks is between 7 and 9 in the morning before the sun clears the hills. The morning after rain is good too; the ground soft and workable. But while I was pulling rocks today, I held one in my hand and thought, "No one has ever laid eyes on or touched this rock before." Each rock has a story:
  • How long has it been buried in this spot before my shovel hit it?
  • How did it get here? Was it pushed by water or ice?
  • How old is it? 
  • Did Indians walk over it?
  • How was it formed?
  • How would a rock expert identify it? 
But it was really the un-earthing that caused me the deepest reflection, because there are millions and millions of people on this earth who are hidden away: who have never had eyes fall on them, who we might say need to be un-earthed, recognized, named, held or helped.

Years ago I was in the lower church of St. Francis of Assisi in New York City anticipating the start of Mass. And immediately after I moved into the bench I became aware of the most incredible smell ever - so awful it was impossible to stay there. Everyone else had moved far away to the other side. And off in a shadow against a pillar was a sleeping bag-man. We might remember Paul Simon's song, The Boxer.

In the company of strangers
in the quiet of the railway station
running scared
laying low, seeking out the poor quarters
where the ragged people go
looking for the places only they would know.

This man hidden in the church shadows had a story, as does each human person - like the garden rock, maybe a very long story:

  • What was his name?
  • Where was he born? To whom?
  • Was he loved as a child - fed, kept clean, educated?
  • Did he ever know love?
  • Did he marry? Have a family?
  • Did he have friends? Jobs? A home?
  • When was the last time someone spoke directly to him - except the persons who might have said, "Get lost!"
  • When did he last eat a home cooked meal, soak in a tub, sleep on clean sheets?
  • When was the last time he was hugged or kissed?
  • When was the last time he laughed?
We might recall these gospel stories of Jesus un-earthing people who were hidden away, or looking in at life from the outside? 
  • Jesus taking the little girl by the hand, "Little girl, arise." Mk 5:41 
  • Jesus hearing blind Bartimaeus and saying, "Call him over." Mk 10:46-52
  • Jesus calling for the mothers to bring the children forward. Lk 18:16
  • Jesus calling embarrassed Zacchaeus down out of the tree. Lk 19:1-10
  • Jesus sitting in conversation with the woman at the well. Jn 4:1-25

While sitting in a doctor's waiting room, a crazed man, surrounded by bulging plastic bags, sat muttering out loud to himself. An old-fashioned nurse in white uniform (even a cap) came through, and seeing the fellow, went over to him, sat down real close, put her clipboard down and started a conversation which seemed to break the spell. Eye-contact, touch and conversation broke the spell! I'm so glad to have witnessed that un-earthing.