Saturday, August 31, 2013

Rescue Rochester Refuses

One of the local anti-abortion groups is Rescue Rochester. Back in July, it staged protests in conjunction with Operation Save America.

Those protests involved the use of graphic pictures of aborted children.

One of the places they protested was at the Planned Parenthood in Greece New York - the same clinic at which Catholics have been praying every Saturday for years. I have been part of that Catholic group for a while. The RR/OSA group decided to stage their protest at the same time we normally gather to pray. I showed up the day of the protest, saw their aborted baby pictures, and left.

I find such signs violent and counterproductive. They might work when viewed by women who are considering abortion, but they are likely to harden hearts and minds with people who are not. Such images are particularly inappropriate at this Planned Parenthood site - directly across a busy street from a plaza and a food market. On Saturday mornings at the time of the protests many families with young children - people who have nothing to do with Planned Parenthood - drive by and see any signs on display. As a parent myself, I would have been upset if such images had been inflicted on my children.

I was out of town after that protest and missed the next Catholic prayer vigil. But when I returned the following week, I discovered the Rescue Rochester people were continuing their protests. (I later discovered that they have decided to be there every Saturday, and that their protest times will overlap ours.)

They had aborted baby pictures. I was offended by them, and did not want to be associated with such violence. I left.

The following week, the signs and pictures were fine, so I remained. But I determined that if they should have those offending signs I would go over and ask them to not show them.

That was the situation today.

I approached them and went to the person who appeared to be the leader of the group.  I explained who I was, and thanked them for joining us in our efforts. I then said that the aborted baby sign was distressing and wondered if they could put such signs away while we were there.

He refused.

I explained that I found such signs violent and not appropriate there. He defended them. I pointed out it would be different if this were at the main Planned Parenthood offices, but that here innocent people would see them.

One of the other men mentioned violent images on the evening news and asked if I'd ever written to them. I noted that while I had not seen the particular images he was referring to, I had indeed written on previous occasions. Then the leader cited his own 9-year old daughter's knowledgeable response to the image. I was horrified that he had let her see the image - I never would have let my daughters see such horror when they were 9, but I did not say that to him.

He then cited Ephesians 5:11 - Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose the ...." Okay - but do not pictures of living  babies, or words explaining what goes on in the clinics, or even the people standing praying expose what is going on? Violent images are not needed to expose. I also thought of Romans 14 - St. Paul's  advice not to put stumbling blocks in the way of fellow believers, as they were doing to me and some of my fellow Catholics who find the images distressing. But I did not want to get in a battle of Bible verses, so I asked if they would do it out of respect for my group. He again said no. He had also counseled the others to stop talking to me.

So much for being brothers and sisters in Christ.

I left and went to my parish's 24-hour chapel to pray the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet that I would have said with the group.

To be honest, there is another feeling at play in all this. Our group has been coming to the site for years. The Rescue Rochester folks are new on the scene, and they are imposing their style of protest, one not in keeping with ours. That seems to be a lack of respect for us and what we have been doing. Those tactics, the leader's response, indeed, his tone of voice and the look on his face, all made me feel as if I and my fellow peaceful protesters were being bullied. 

Now knowing that Rescue Rochester plans to be there every week at the time we are there I've decided it best not to go back. I will pray in the chapel instead, or outside Planned Parenthood at a different time. The 40 Days for Life campaign is beginning in September as well, and I'll take part in that.

Sadly, because of their insensitive tactics and their lack of respect for others who seek an end to  abortion, I have lost respect for Rescue Rochester.

I am pro-life, and that includes avoiding all unnecessary violence.

Pax et bonum

Friday, August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney, RIP

One of my favorite poets, Seamus Heaney, passed away this morning. He was just 74.

When people ask me my favorite "serious" poets, Heaney was always one of the first I mentioned (Robert Frost always being first, though). Frost, Heaney, Emily Dickinson, Yehuda Amichai, and Pablo Neruda are generally my top five.

Raised an Irish Catholic (sadly, I understand he fell away from practicing the faith, though it did color his writing) he won multiple awards, including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995.   

So many wonderful poems. Here's a favorite:


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.

But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

And given my Scottish independence streak, I love that he turned down the offer to become Britain's poet laureate - he was Irish! - and then there is this little snippet of his:

Be advised my passport's green.
No glass of ours was ever raised
to toast the Queen.

Since my senior English class is British Literature based, I plan to sneak in a few of his poems.

May he rest in peace.

Pax et bonum

Monday, August 26, 2013

Didn't make that goal - time for a new one

I began the summer with a list of books to read. A number of them were related to the new course I was taking over that had a set summer reading list.

I didn't get through them all.

The woman who created the list had her own perspective on life and men. Last week I told one of my fellow teachers that just getting part way through the list left me hating men.

I got down to the last three books. Two I gave up on and just skimmed. Let's see: a clueless dad who sells his daughter into virtual slavery (not a bad guy, actually, just a product of his sexist society who later comes to regret his actions); several abusive husbands; two men who impregnate unmarried young women, then desert them; a suicide (pregnant unmarried woman); an abortion (ditto); a lesbian love affair, then, after lover dies, starts to fall for the brother of the lover who looks like the lover; general mistreatment of women.

And neither book was particularly well-written. Lots of clichés. Lots of dastardly men. The jerks.

The last book is much more interesting. The writer is also a published poet. That one I'll finish.

But bogged down in trying to get through those books, plus painting the stockade fence, cleaning out piles of old papers (we now house many boxes of papers from five deceased relatives - heck, I found tax returns from 1992 in one box), dealing with a heat wave, shoulder issues, putting together a collection of poetry (almost ready to go to print) and, well, too many distractions, I didn't get to all the books and things I wanted to.

And school starts next week. Gotta get my room and all sorts of packets for the students ready.

So summer goals have bit the dust.

But there are some books I do want to get to. Just got two in the mail, one about hermits. Yeah.

Another new distraction was my novel, a dark fantasy. I had been working on it on my old computer, which died. In addition, I'd hit a road block. So I stopped.

Five years ago.

I'll wait for the laughter to subside.

But as I read the novels for my class, I kept thinking, if I'm going to criticize these books, maybe I should finish writing my own. Put up or shut up.

I searched and fortunately found a disc I'd saved it on. Twenty-one chapters; 37,000 words.

I'm rereading the last few chapters to refresh my memories. I've already encountered a character I'd forgotten about. Maybe I'll kill him off just to make things simpler.

It is a dark fantasy, after all.

I wonder if I can involve a raven in some way. Hmm.

After the poetry collection is done I'll start writing the novel again.

Who knows: At the rate I'm going maybe I'll finish it in time to supplement Social Security. I could be the Grandma Moses of dark fantasy.

Pax et bonum

Some clerihews with "comic" intent

I've never seen Steve Martin
in tartan.
But to me he doesn't look right
in anything but white.

Kathy Griffin
Likes to joke about sexual sin.
But to be honest all she does is bore
When she tries to play the whore.

Steven Wright
Is right:
Boycott shampoo,
demand the real poo.

I sometimes think Frankie Boyle
Fills his mouth with soil.
As for his jokes, he’s out of luck:
I won’t repeat anything containing words like #@&!

Pax et bonum

Friday, August 23, 2013

Some Secular Franciscans

I know Arlo Guthrie was a Secular Franciscan back in the 1970s - don't know if he still is - but there have been plenty of famous Secular Franciscans over the years.

Here's a partial list:


Elizabeth of Hungary, W (d. 1231)?
Ferdinand II of Castile, C (d. 1252)?
Rose of Viterbo, V (d. 1252)
Louis IX of France, C (d. 1270)?
Margaret of Cortona, P (d. 1297)
Ivo of Brittany, C (d. 1303)?
Elzear of Sabran, C (d. 1323)
Rock of Montpellier, C (d. 1327)?
Elizabeth of Portugal, W (d. 1336)?
Conrad of Piacenza, C (d. 1351)
Bridget of Sweden, W (d. 1373)
St. Joan of Arc (d. 1431)
Catherine of Genoa, V (d. 1510)?
Thomas More, M (d. 1535)
Charles Borromeo, Bp (d. 1584)
Paul Suzuki, M (d. 1597)
Gabriel of Ize, M (d. 1597)
John Kinuya, M ( d. 1597)
Thomas Danki of Ize, M (d. 1597)
Francis "the Doctor" of Mikayo, M (d. 1597)
Thomas Kosaki, M (d. 1597)
Joachim Sakakibara, M (d. 1597)
Bonaventure of Mikayo, M (d. 1597)
Leo Kasasumaru, M (d. 1597)
Matthias of Mikayo, M (d. 1597)
Antony of Nagasaki, M (d. 1597)
Louis Iabaraki, M (d. 1597) .
Paul Iabaraki, M ( d. 1597)
Michael Kosaki, M (d. 1597)
Peter Sukejiro, M (d. 1597)
Cosmas Takeya, M (d. 1597)
Francis Fahelante, M (d. 1597)
Jane Frances Fremyot de Chantal, W (d. 1641)
Mary Anne of Jesus de Paredes, V (d. 1645)
Mary Frances of the Five Wounds, V (d. 1791)
Joseph Benedict Cottolengo, C (d. 1842)
Vincentia Gerosa, V (d. 1847)
Vincent Pallotti, C (d. 1850)
Emily de Vialar, V (d. 1856)
Jean-Marie Vianney, C (d. 1859) (Le Cure D'Ars)
Joseph Cafasso, C (d. 1860)?
Mary Joseph Rossello, V (d. 1880)
John Bosco, C (d. 1888)
Pius X, Pope (d. 1914)
Frances Xavier Cabrini, V (d. 1917)
John XXIII, Pope (d. 1963)

Blessed and Beatified

Viridiana de Attavantis, V (d. c. 1242)?
Humiliana of Cerchi, W (d. 1246)
Luchesio of Poggibonsi, C (d. 1260)
Gerard of Villamagna, C (d. c. 1270)
Novellone of Faenza, C (d. 1280)
James of Citta della Pieve, M (d. 1286)
Peter "the Comb-Maker" of Siena, C (d. 1289)
Bartholomew of San Gimigniano, C (d. 1300)
John Pelingotto of Urbino, C (d. 1304)
Amato Ronconi of Saldezzo, C (d. 1304)
Joan of Signa, V (d. 1307)
Angela of Foligno, W (d. 1309)
Chrisiana Menabuoi, V (d. 1310)
Ramon Lull, M (d. 1316)
Ubald of San Gimigniano, C (d. c. 1320)
Peter Cresci of Foligno, C (d. 1323)
Francis ("Cecco") Zanferdini of Pesaro, C (d. 1350)
Michelina of Pesaro, W (d. 1356) .
Delphina of Glandeves, V (d. 1360)
Charles of Blois, C (d. 1364)
Hugolino Magalotti, C (d. 1373)
Oddino Barrotti, C (d. 1400)
William of Scicli, C (d. 1404)
Jeanne-Marie de Maille, W (d. 1414)
Peter Gambacorti of Pisa, C (d. 1435)
Nicholas of Forcapalena, C (d. 1449)
Paula Gambara Costa, W (d. 1515)
Louisa Albertoni, W (d. 1533)
Hippolytus Galantini, C (d. 1619)
Leo Satzuma, M (d. 1622)
Lucy Freitas, W M (d. 1622)
Louis Baba, M (d. 1624)
Caspar Vaez, M (d. 1627)
Mary de Vaez, M (d. 1627)
Thomas O. Jinemon, M (d. 1627)
Francis Huhyoe, M (d. 1627)
Michael Kizaemon, M (d. 1627)
Luke Kiemon, M (d. 1627)
Louis Matsuo Soemon, M (d. 1627)
Cayo Jiemon, M (d. 1627)
Martin Gomez, M (d. 1627)
Thomas Tzugi, M (d. 1627)
Louis Maki, M (d. 1627)
John Maki, M (d. 1627)
Louis Higashi, M (d. 1628)
Francis Higashi, M (d. 1628)
Dominic Higashi, M (d. 1628)
John Tomachi, M (d. 1628)
Dominic Tomachi, M (d. 1628)
Michael Tomachi, M (d. 1628)
Paul Tomachi, M (d. 1628)
Matthew Alvarez, M (d. 1628)
Michael Yamada, M (d. 1628)
Laurence Yamada, M (d. 1628)
Raymund of Omura, M (d. 1628)
Louisa of Omura, V M (d. 1628)
Peter of Senday, M (d. 1630)
Thomas Sakujiro, M (d. 1630)
Peter de Betancur, C (d. 1667)
John Tchang, M (d. 1900)
Patrick Tun, M (d. 1900)
John Van, M (d. 1900)
Philip Tchang, M (d. 1900)
John Tchang of Nan-che, M (d. 1900)
Thomas Sen, M (d. 1900)
Simon Tcheng, M (d, 1900)
Peter U-ngan-pan, M (d. 1900)
Francis Tchang-iun, M (d. 1900)
Matthias Fun-te, M (d. 1900)
Peter Tchang-pan-nieu, M (d. 1900)
Contardo Ferrini, C (d. 1902)
Louis Guanella, C (d. 1915)
Erminio Pampuni, C (d. 1930).


Gregory IX (1227-41)
Blessed Gregory X (1271-76)
Pope Martin V (1417-31)
Innocent XII (1691-1700)
Pius IX (1846-78)
Pius X (1903-14)
Clement XII (1730-40)
Blessed Pius IX (1846-78)
Leo XIII (1878-1903)
St. Pius X (1903-14)
Benedict XV (1914-22)
Pius XI (1922-39)
Pius XII (1939-58)
Blessed John XXIII (1958-63)

Charles Borromeo
Henry Edward Manning
Herbert Vaughan


St. Elizabeth of Hungary
St. Elizabeth of Portugal
King Ferdinand of Spain
Queen Isabella of Spain


Dante Alighieri
Giotto di Bondone
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino
Michelangelo Buonarroti
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Franz Liszt
Charles Gounod
John Michael Talbot

Parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Parents of St. Maximilian Kolbe
Mother of St. Maria Goretti

Scientists and DISCOVERS:

Louis Pasteur, biologist
Christopher Columbus, discover of America
André-Marie Ampère, physicist

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I get to read poetry

The good thing about being an English teacher is I get to read poetry and count it as working. All kinds of poetry.

After finishing some work at school this morning, including a brief meeting, I headed to the library to return a few books and drop off some donations (remember, I have to get rid of two books for each new one I buy). While checking to see if a book I wanted was in, I noticed a new book of children's poetry. That set me off searching for a favorite poet (they had nothing by him) and finding others instead.

I was careful: Only a few. I have school work to do. I need to pick essays for my senior English class now that I know the collection of essays I requested was ordered.

But now I'm listening to The Civil Wars (a folk group) album and skimming through one of the poetry books I took out.


Pax et bonum

Monday, August 19, 2013

"The Road to Assisi" - Sabatier's biography of St. Francis

While reading books for school, I have also been doing some spiritual reading. I just finished The Road to Assisi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis by Paul Sabatier.

Essential? Well, maybe not, but certainly an important biography, the first modern biography of St. Francis, as the book cover notes. It was first published in French in 1894; the version I read was  edited by Jon Sweeney using the 1906 English translation. Sweeney abridged the book, used a different Bible translation for Bible verses, and corrected a few factual errors.

Still, the book is Sabatier's and a sense of him and his focus comes through. It was interesting to get a Protestant perspective on St. Francis, and seeing some familiar stories reported through different eyes. Sabatier also raised the idea that Francis was sometimes in conflict with the institutional church. I have to read more about that - including claims that some of Francis's earliest followers who tried to remain true to his vision were persecuted by the Church. To be honest, I don't know enough to address those claims intelligently.

Still, the book has me thinking, and gave me a greater appreciation of the mystical Francis.

Definitely worth reading for those who are drawn to Francis and Franciscan spirituality.

I also read a very short poetry collection: Grooks 2 by Piet Hein. I'd read his first collection of short, whimsical, and sometimes pointed poems. This book is more of the same.

A favorite:

That's Why

Why to bad writers
     win the fight?
Why do good writers
     die in need?
Because the writers
     who can't write
are read by readers
     who can't read.

For fans of short verse that sometimes make you smile - or think - Hein is fine!

Pax et bonum

Speaking of permanent deacons ...

One of our local permanent deacons who is outspoken about the role of the Church and Christianity in the persecution of the Jews, and who is not a fan of Pope Pius, got into a couple of online exchanges recently.

In one, a person asked of him: Do you speak out against the abortion of the innocent in the womb?

The deacon's response: I prefer to speak out on social justice issues.

My comment after the deacon's response: And abortion is not a social justice issue?

He did not respond to my comment or others - other than to deflect and attack us.

He commented, for example: Not in favor of social justice? 

To which I and others replied, but he did not address the issues we raised.

Now, in a new exchange, he suddenly spouted: Priests who sexually abuse children should not be stopped from serially offending?

The comment had no clear connection to the topic, and when the person talking to him asked what he was talking about, he replied: Are you saying even married folks are called to chastity?

I interjected: Of course they are. Are you confusing chastity with celibacy??

Wow. Now maybe he just mixed up the words. We all do that at times. But still, one would expect a permanent deacon, an ordained representative of the church, to be more careful when dealing with church teachings.

My Franciscan calling is currently battling with my combative, argumentative inclinations!

Pax et bonum

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why I'll Never Be a Deacon

For several years I had considered a call to the permanent diaconate. To be honest, I wasn't sure how much of it was a genuine call, and how much of it was my ego. But then, that's part of the purpose of discernment!

Ultimately, because of some dumb decisions on my part a few years previously, I had an impediment that required an appeal to Rome if I wanted to continue. I took that as a sign to give up. Instead, I began formation with the Secular Franciscans, professing two years ago.

All good.

Of course, being me, I always wondered in the back of my mind what would have happened had I appealed to Rome. If Rome had said yes, I might now be a permanent deacon. But would that have been a good thing? (For me or the Church.)

I'm not a social being - my hermit tendencies. That's one of the things that kept me out of the priesthood (along with that celibacy thing!). I also tend to be kind of blunt and outspoken.

Think of what I'd do! I started making a list of activities or words that would show why I'll never be a deacon:

I'd suggest people put in the collection in church at least as much as they spent in the last week on beverages and treats.

I'd name names of local Catholic politicians who supported and/or voted for measures counter to clear Catholic teachings.

I'd talk about what kind of clothing is not appropriate for Mass.

I'd remind all unrepentant couples who used artificial birth control that week they shouldn't receive Communion.

I'd tell people who miss Mass for Sunday morning sports leagues that they are committing a serious sin.

I'd remind people who chew gum during Mass that they are violating the fasting rules.

I'd preach a homily in which I mention consistently arriving late or leaving Mass early is wrong.

I'd remind people that 1 or 2 p.m. Saturday wedding Masses don't fulfill Sunday obligations (even for the bride and groom).

I'd tell newlyweds that if they use artificial birth control on their wedding night they've begun their married life with a serious sin.

I'd go ahead and do things because I lack the patience to wait for others to be empowered to do them.

I'd refuse to do marriage prep for a couple that was living together until one of them moved out.

Maybe it's a good thing I never became a deacon and will likely never do so!

Pax et bonum

Monday, August 12, 2013

Summer is winding down, and ...

I began the summer with a few reading goals, largely prompted by the fact that I was taking over a class and the students had already been given a reading list full of books I hadn't read (or at least read in a long time).

I was doing okay until we left last week for Boston. Little reading then. And when we got back, well, the head of steam was gone. I started one of the novels, but it did not hold my interest (remember, i did not create the list - I inherited it). But ... I need to finish it and another novel in the next two weeks, plus a new pedagogical book to prep for the course. Then there's the book my department head wanted everyone in the department to read. I'm part way through that one.

My first department meeting is Wednesday. Summer's over.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, August 10, 2013

If two hermits meet in the woods, do they make a sound?

Yesterday I met an old college friend for lunch. We had been in touch by e-mail, but we live in different cities and hadn't actually met face-to-face in a couple of years.

We talked about some life changes, in his case, some major ones. And he told me that because of some of those changes he'd had to seek release from the Secular Franciscans. I was saddened by that - as long as I've known him he'd been involved with the Franciscans in some way, from considering ordination as a Franciscan priest to profession as a Secular Franciscan. Indeed, one of the first times we'd spoken was back in the 1970s after we were part of a group that went to see Brother Sun, Sister Moon.

I was pleased to hear that he was now in formation with the Secular Carmelites. In fact, we were able to meet because he was driving by the town where I live on his way to a weekend Carmelite retreat at a local retreat house.

My friend has always been one of the most religious men I have ever known, and that has not changed. He talked about various retreats he'd been on, not to boast, just to share, and the spiritual books he'd read, wondering if I'd read some of them. He confided that he lived near a church that had a perpetual adoration chapel, and he went there regularly. He even had a key to get in during odd hours.

As part of our discussion, I mentioned that I felt increasingly drawn to a more hermit-like life. He beamed. He, too, had been feeling the same call. He had moved to as small apartment to live a simpler life, and was now close to that chapel where he goes to pray alone. I mentioned that my parish also had a perpetual adoration chapel, and that I stopped by there periodically for private prayer. I also said that I often took walks, sometimes into the woods, just to pray and commune with God through nature.

I told him about Raven's Bread Hermit Ministries and the network of hermits and lovers of solitudes (of varying degrees and life circumstances) that it connects. I'll be sending him the contact information.

As we talked, it occurred to me that I had added my own private place, my own small hermitage, in our home without even realizing it. I've converted the bedroom of one of my daughters - who long ago moved out - into a workspace/library/spiritual retreat. The room had turned into a storeroom and it is still a bit cluttered, but this past week I got it to the point where I can use it. I will continue to organize it, but I am grateful that I have it now and for realizing that it is indeed a kind of hermitage!

My friend left for his retreat. I drove to the cemetery in a nearby town where my parents and grandmother are buried, replacing the flowers, cleaning the headstone. I was pleased to see the small angel I'd put on their headstone was still sitting there. I said a few words to them, and then drove home.

I felt happy and at peace because of my time with my friend and at the grave. And I am smiling still to know that I share the desire for and love of solitude with a friend.

Pax et bonum

Friday, August 9, 2013

Remembering Nagasaki and Hiroshima

a break in the clouds
gave way to that sunrise –

the morning prayers
rose heavenward that day –

walk in the woods
noticing the mushrooms –
August 6

May God forgive us for what we inflict on each other. 

Pax et bonum

Thursday, August 8, 2013

It's art, they said

As part of our visit to the Rockwell Museum, we saw an exhibit of art by Jarvis Rockwell, the youngest son of Norman Rockwell. From the pictures and some comments, the younger Rockwell seems like a nice enough fellow.

The exhibit include some early works, drawings that show he was skilled at realistic works. But then the exhibit featured some of his later work, including a pyramid

of toys and action figures.
Okay. It obviously took time to amass and arrange all of this "Hindu-inspired" piece, but, well, a lot of people could have created something similar. I guess it's just a matter that he came up with the idea and he took the time to do it, while other people were busy doing other things.

He also created assemblages/collages on wall boards consisting of cards, pictures, toys, lines, etc.

Again, a lot of people could have created them. It takes time and some sense of arrangement, but my wife regularly does that beautifully with flowers from our garden (and did repeatedly and skillfully with merchandise when she worked in retail). 

I was reminded of doodles and oddities I used to create, experimenting with line, markers, colors bled through paper, and so on. I also used to collect things - figures, cards, pictures, etc., that I used to arrange on shelves or bulletin boards. I do that at school in my classroom sometimes - collages of posters and pictures of writers, musicians, art, artists, world leaders, religious figures, and so on.

I was also reminded of some things I've written - or at least started. For example, at a book store I once came across one of those little books - the kind they have on racks near the checkout. It was a collection of hundreds of things to be happy about. Just words and phrases, hundreds of them. I jokingly said I should write a book about 500 things to be grumpy about. I even started compiling some. But I thought it a waste of time and stopped. A couple of years later, sure enough, there was a book similar to the one I'd envisioned on display on the rack of little books.

Just think: If I hadn't decided it was a waste of time and an unworthy effort, it might have been my book on that rack!

But I wondered what such silliness as my arrangements or mocking writings would add to the world. I guess my "a slug among weeds" poems are as close as I get to actually inflicting my sense of humor and quirkiness on the world.

There were also examples of found art. Used matchbooks - with some accompanying reproductions. Okay, I can see that. But the gloves? Apparently he walked out of his studio and found some old work gloves. He mounted each in a picture frame and hung them on the wall. That's it: Each is just an old glove presented as is. Dada, eh?

Heck, I could go in my basement and find, oh, rusty nails. Empty beer bottles. A mouse trap. Hmm.

I know there are intellectual-sounding explanations for what he does - a commentary on our culture sort of thing. Maybe there's a folk art purpose to it all as well. And there is a value in amusing people. But I have a hard time believing that people will look at this art 50 years from now the way they do Norman Rockwell's.

And I wonder what Norman Rockwell would have thought of some of the works his son produced.

Pax et bonum

Walden Pond Images

I actually got to stop by Walden Pond twice. The first time, we were up above the pond, glimpsing it through the trees. I didn't realize how large it was.

The following morning, I went down to the Pond at 6 a.m. - it was lovely and quiet.

But I was not the first there -there were people already swimming and fishing.

And, yes, I did stick my toes in Walden Pond. 

  Pax et bonum

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Venerating Relics

Yesterday at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, they finished the Divine Mercy Chaplet and a Benediction service with venerating relics. The priest held one for people to come up and venerate, then there were several others at side altars. I didn't catch who the different relics were of, there were so many, but I think one was of St. Faustina.

People kissed, touched, or bowed before the relics.

I was not among them.

I don't reject the teachings concerning relics. I don't question the validity of venerating them.  Nor do I think less of people who physically venerate a relic. I am happy for them, in fact, because of how meaningful and special it is for them. It's like the Traditional Latin Mass. It's not something I'm interested in attending - but I fully support the right of people for whom it is meaningful to do so.

I'm just not a physical person - not in that way. On Good Friday, for example, when people go up to venerate the cross, I generally don't kiss it as so many do. I bow.

So when I have an opportunity, as I did yesterday, to venerate saints, I prefer to remain where I am. I pray to God, and, if the saint is someone who is important to me in some way, I ask for him/her to pray for me. When we had a relic of St. Francis at a Franciscan event last year, for example, I asked for his prayers.

As for those who venerated the relics yesterday in physical ways, may God be with you and give you the blessing you need.

(But in keeping with my off-beat sense of humor, and given the ages of most of the people at the shrine, I did scribble a silly haiku:

Divine Mercy Shrine -
venerating relics
with fellow relics)

(mea culpa!)

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

You can get anything you want - in Stockbridge

Goodbye to Concord, hello to Stockbridge.

Three worlds intersect here.

It's the home of the Norman Rockwell museum.

It's also the town made famous by Arlo Guthrie in his "Alice's Restaurant Massacree."

And it's also the home of the Divine Mercy Shrine.

We started off at the Rockwell Museum. His art, his illustrations, his final studio. I admire his talent, his humor, and the ideas he expressed. I bought prints of his Four Freedoms to hang in my classroom; his art contribution to American culture is something I think my students - especially my AP students - need to know.

The museum was also featuring an exhibit of the art of his youngest son, Jarvis (who had obvious talent, but went off in some strange artistic directions!). And there was also an interesting exhibit of the art behind the machining of Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  

Just a few miles from the museum is the church made famous in Guthrie's song. He later bought it, named it the Guthrie Center, and turned it into a community center for various programs  - including a meal program reaching to the less fortunate - and as a site for concerts. There was another couple there - about the right age to remember all that surrounded the song.

We later ate dinner in Theresa's - the restaurant that's taken the place of the actual Alice's Restaurant run by the Alice of the song. It is located where he describes it in the song - "it's around the back, just a half mile form the railroad track." Arlo's picture graces the wall, along with pictures of Alice and a guitar signed by Arlo. Good food, too.

We'd been to the museum and the Guthrie Center before, years ago. But this visit included the Divine Mercy Shrine. Amazing place - with multiple statues and mini shrines. The Lourdes Grotto - a duplicate of the real one - was particularly arresting. It inspired me -

Divine Mercy Shrine -
surprised to find real candles
in the Lourdes Grotto

(too many of the candles in shrines and churches these days are electric ones)

But being me, noticing the age of most of the people at the shrine, I had to add a humorous twist -

Divine Mercy Shrine -
venerating relics
with fellow relics

Tomorrow, home, and the effective end of the summer for me.

Pax et bonum

Monday, August 5, 2013

Graves - and a Sam Adams Beer tribute haiku

Went up to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where we saw the Author's Ridge. Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, and Emerson are all buried there. People have put pine cones or stones on many of their graves/headstones. I wonder how far back that tradition goes?

Quite an experience.

We then went into the city, where I saw Fenway Park - some day I will get to a game there - and went on the Sam Adams Brewery Tour. The tour guide was very funny - he did a great job.

At the end of the tour, they had a comment sheet. The guide said we could put whatever we want - even limericks or haiku. Aha! I wrote:

Monday afternoon -
after sampling your fine beer
Boston looks better.

Pax et bonum

A Walden Pond Rosary

While the wife slept, I went back to Walden Pond.

6 a.m. Already there were people in swimming. Some folks were out in the middle of the pond on  small boat. A man was sitting on the shore fishing. Ducks were paddling near the beach. A light mist was rising from the water.

A perfect time for saying a Rosary. Joyful Mysteries.

It is in quiet moments like this that nature helps me to connect with God. I sense his presence all about me. It's easy to understand how people can mistake this nearness and think that we don't need church or religion to come in contact with God, that blessed moments like this are enough. For me, God in nature is just one aspect of faith - ah, but it is a glorious frosting on that faith.

And yes, I did stick my toes into Walden Pond.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, August 4, 2013

First Day in Concord

Today was a day spent in history. We visited Walden Pond, Luisa May Alcott's long-time home, North Bridge, the Old Manse, and Lexington Green. I loved the guide at the Alcott House - she obviously knew her facts and loved her job. I was entertained, and learned a great deal. At Walden, I got a good poster for my classroom.

The Pond surprised me, though. I thought it would be some sort of a "shrine" to Thoreau.  While it is an historic park, and the site of Thoreau's cabin is marked, the cabin is long gone and there's no duplicate of facsimile of it. Meanwhile, the pond is a popular park for swimming, the beach crowded with people, the water full of people, some swimming far out in the Pond well away from the beach area. I wondered what Thoreau would have thought of such company?

"I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude." - Henry David Thoreau

The day began with Mass in the basement of a church undergoing renovations. The cantor was very good. The priest was funny and a good preacher. A woman sitting next to me was very helpful with directions to a store after Mass.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Before I get back to reading ... Books that tempt

This might come under the heading of "temptation."

I have been busy reading books for school for next year, having taken over a course that had a reading list full of books I'd never read.

I finished one book yesterday, and was going to start another when a friend sent me this list of the top 100 science fiction and fantasy books compiled by NPR. The list allows you to check off how many you've read, and then compare that number with fellow sci-fi/fantasy fans.

I've read 33 of them. One friend has read 60 of them. I'm waiting to hear from other friends.

But with a score of just 33, I feel like an ungeek!

Among the titles I have read:

The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Space Trilogy - C. S. Lewis

You knew those two had to be listed by both NPR and me!

Then there are the classics -

Nineteen Eight-Four and Animal Farm - George Orwell
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
The Foundation Trilogy and I, Robot - Isaac Asimov
Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury
Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine - H. G. Wells
Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert Heinlein

and so many more.

A couple on the list are particular favorites that I think not enough people have read.

The Princess Bride - William Goldman (if you love the movie, you have to read the book - it's even better!)
A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter Miller (the faith survives despite wars)
Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke (what if we are ready for the next step in evolution?)

I can't argue with most of the titles on the list, though some may be current pop favorites that in time might be dropped (Wicked by Gregory Maguire?).  And there are book I'd consider adding, like A Case of Conscience by James Blish. It's a fascinating novella turned novel about a Jesuit priest on a space expedition who meets up with a completely moral/ethical race that has no sense of God or religion.

Meanwhile, there are books on the list that I'd like to read or reread (hence the temptation):

Ringworld - Larry Niven
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip Dick (I loved Blade Runner, though I know the movie is very different from the novel)
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card (people want to boycott him!)
Small Gods - Terry Pratchett

Anyway, I could go on. But I have books on my school pile to read.

I must set a good example.


Pax et bonum