September 30, 2009 at 2:22 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

This little tidbit may have sneaked past you, but last year the Vatican approved a new translation for various parts of the mass. The idea was to bring the English translations (which vary from country to country) in line with each other, and also with the original Latin. So, for example, at some point in the future, when the presider says, “The Lord be with you,” instead of saying “And also with you,” you will say, “And with your spirit.” Yeah, THAT will roll trippingly off the tongue, fellas. And instead of “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed,” we will be saying, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Wasn’t there anyone with a facility for the English language at work the day they decided on that one? Yikes.

I’ve got a couple of thoughts about this. Firstly, I’m not a translator, but my understanding of that art is that you don’t actually translate word for word. Any yahoo with a dictionary can do that. More important is to convey the sense from one language to another. Secondly, and possibly more importantly, aren’t there some real problems to deal with? War, hunger, poverty, man’s general inhumanity to man and the Church’s response to it? And thirdly, I thought the decision to switch from the Latin mass to the vernacular was to make it more immediate and accessible to the mass-goer. Aren’t we going backwards here?

I SWEAR, those people make it hard to be Catholic sometimes.


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A home truth

September 29, 2009 at 2:40 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

As the Iran talk ramps up, I’d just like to point out a bumper sticker I saw on the back of a minivan last week:



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The Seven Storey Book

September 28, 2009 at 10:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Caveat lector

Caveat lector

Around about the time that I began this little blogging endeavor, I also decided that my reading was tending a little too much to the “Shopaholic” and not enough to the substantive. (Not that there’s anything wrong with chick lit – who hates that term? raise your hand! – but there just isn’t enough time in my day for reading, and to only read that stuff…well, it’s like only eating moose tracks ice cream. It’s awfully good, but you can’t live on it. Incidentally, my mother says that she started getting up before five when she had small children, just so she would have enough time to read…I am neither disciplined nor well-rested enough to do the same.) Anyway, the book I picked to reacquaint myself with my intellect? Thomas Merton’s spiritual memoir The Seven Storey Mountain. Just a little light reading.

I didn’t know very much about Merton before I read the book. I knew, randomly, that he died of electrocution in Thailand, and I had this notion, which despite (because of?) the wonders of Google I can’t confirm, that he said something along the lines of, “if ‘thank you’ is the only prayer you say in your life, it’s enough,” which really really really predisposed me to adore him. (The “thank you” thing, not the electrocution, der.)

After reading the book, I sort of doubt that he can possibly have said anything of the kind. In terms of spirituality, nothing was ever enough for this guy. So here’s the Cliff Notes of Merton’s life: he was an American/French/English kid that became a monk after his desperately sinful youth. But the problem is that, and maybe this is just because I’m so inured to immorality living in our sinful age, he just doesn’t seem to have been that bad, so him becoming a monk doesn’t seem like a huge stretch. Evidently he fathered a child out of wedlock (gasp!) as a very young man, but he doesn’t even get to talk about that, since the Abbott or somebody of his order forbade it.

And he’s so extreme. Just being a priest isn’t enough, he has to be a cloistered monk with a vow of silence. He spends some money on himself and he berates himself up and down Fifth Avenue for not giving all of his money to the poor. He’s a little hard to take.

But then there are passages like this:

“What is ‘grace’? It is God’s own life, shared by us. God’s life is Love. Deus caritas est. By grace we are able to share in the infinitely selfless love of Him Who is such pure actuality that He needs nothing and therefore cannot conceivably exploit anything for selfish ends. Indeed, outside of Him there is nothing, and whatever exists exists by His free gift of its being, so that one of the notions that is absolutely contradictory to the perfection of God is selfishness. It is metaphysically impossible for God to be selfish, because the existence of everything that is depends upon His gift, depends upon his unselfishness.” (Harcourt, 186)

Pardon the expression, but holy crap! And it only gets better. Read on, Macduff.

“When a ray of light strikes a crystal, it gives a new quality to the crystal. And when God’s infinitely disinterested love plays upon a human soul, the same kind of thing takes place. And that is the life called sanctifying grace.” (Id.)

I mean, I could quote entire great swathes of the book – when Merton’s writing about God and faith and man’s relationship to all of that crazy stuff, it is just so beautiful and powerful and shocking and fantastic. And maybe he’s not really all that extreme. In Sunday’s gospel, Jesus says “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off,” which is not exactly sky-blue-pink and fluffy clouds kind of religion.

Anway, thus concludeth the Seven Storey book review.

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Love poem

September 24, 2009 at 3:36 am (Uncategorized)

George Herbert (1593 – 1633) wrote the text to the hymn “Come My Way, My Truth, My Life” and if you’ve read anything more gorgeous, I MUST know what it is:

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a way as gives us breath;
Such a truth as ends all strife,
Such a life as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a light as shows a feast,
Such a feast as mends in length,
Such a strength as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a joy as none can move,
Such a love as none can part,
Such a heart as joys in love.

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What time is it?

September 22, 2009 at 8:52 pm (Uncategorized)

From Ecclesiastes, or you know, The Byrds:

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

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Birthday girl

September 17, 2009 at 4:22 pm (Uncategorized)

What to do – Lucy’s two?!

Lucy lovey

Lucy lovey

Happy birthday to my darling, independent, talkative, happy, funny girl.

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September 11, 2009 at 5:11 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

I’m having a rotten morning. Nothing major, just run-of-the-mill stuff: forgotten lunch, puking kid, the 80th spilt milk of the week. And yet, I have felt on the edge all morning, with a lump in my throat and tears setting an ambush behind my eyelids. I sort of wonder if it’s because eight years ago was such a spectacularly bad day.

It started out okay – we woke up in our hotel room in Vancouver on the third day of our honeymoon at about 5:45 am. Unable to go back to sleep, we made our way down to the pool. I think I swam a few laps before joining Sam and a veterinarian from Michigan in the hot tub. He was there for a conference, and we talked about bovine spongeform encephalitis. When we found out what had happened after breakfast, we wept and watched TV and tried to reach Sam’s family in New York on the telephone. We thought it was the end of the world.

But it wasn’t. And here I am eight years later, a wife and a mother, with the milk and the lunch and the vomit and the tears.

In Judaism, there is a custom of yahrzeit, where you mark the anniversary of a death by saying Kaddish and lighting a candle. Catholics have masses said in honor of their deceased loved ones. I guess our secular observances are monuments and museums and speeches. None of that is giving me any comfort today, so I guess I’ll just say in memory of that day, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so very, very sorry.

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American girl

September 11, 2009 at 3:46 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

We can file this under the category “some people have real problems…” (and yes, I know that the president gave a speech on health care last night, but I haven’t seen it because Wednesday is choir night, and has been forever, or at least since 1994, and OK! I admit that I watched “Glee” this evening after the kids were in bed instead of the president’s speech but come ON! It was “GLEE” and I have been waiting all summer to see it, so yeah, saving the world is just going to have to wait until tomorrow.)


In addition to our gardening adventures, Riley and I also found time this past weekend to get down to Chicago for a birthday party. It was big fun; we drove down with two of her friends and their moms, who coincidentally happen to be my friends, so it was really a treat for all of us. The ride to and from may have been my favorite part of the day – I’ve forgotten how much I love road trips when I’m not singing endless verses of “Old MacDonald,” mediating sibling turf wars, or playing Peek-a-boo for the bazillionth time.

The party was at American Girl Place in Chicago, and if you don’t know what that is, then you don’t have a daughter/niece/cousin/whatever between the ages of 3 and 23. The girls brought their dolls with them, where they (the dolls!) were provided with chairs at the table, festive headgear and their own plates and cups.

Afterwards, as we walked through the store, all of the girls wanted to get their pictures taken next to the big displays of the dolls. However, Riley’s doll had been “retired” last year, so we couldn’t find the display. Riley started to make those “I’m about to cry” noises, so I found an employee and asked where the “Samantha” display was. “Oh, Samantha’s retired,” she responded. “Well, yes, I know, but surely you have a picture of her somewhere or something, right? It’s not like she never existed.” This poor nine-dollar-an-hour employee stared at me, and mumbled something about being sorry. I grabbed my daughter’s hand and hissed at the employee, “That’s so mean. That is So MEAN!” and before Riley could lose it, I said, “We’ll write a letter to the company and tell them how we feel.”

So yeah, cry me a river, I know, but I do think there’s something quite rotten about a TOY COMPANY breaking the hearts of hundreds, maybe thousands of kids, first by “retiring” the dumb doll and then by not having even a stinking picture of her in the Doll Mecca. You know, Longfellow said, “There is an honor in business that is the fine gold of it that reckons with every man justly; that loves light; that regards kindness and fairness more highly than goods or prices or profits.” I guess that’s why Longfellow was a poet and not a businessman, but I wish it were true. I’m looking at YOU, American Girl.

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Core Aeration for the Soul

September 9, 2009 at 1:41 pm (Uncategorized)

One of our projects this past weekend was to aerate the lawn. It’s something you do when you’re a crunchy granola type who doesn’t want to use Round-Up on the weeds, so you rent this massive (and insanely heavy) machine from Home Despot which digs up plugs of earth from your lawn.

Aerating the lawn

Aerating the lawn

It’s supposed to give the grass some breathing room so that it can spread and flourish. So I mowed the lawn, Sam ran the core aerator over it, the kids and I sprinkled new grass seed and then we watered it, taking the opportunity to play a few sprinkler games in the warm September sun.

I realized during the course of our labors how appropriate it all was. The gospel from Mark on Sunday was the story of Jesus curing the deaf mute. Well, see for yourself:

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
“Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Mk 7:31-37

“Be opened!” Jesus said, not “Listen up!” or “Be healed!” or “Abracadabra!” Be opened. Be opened, so you can grow and flourish and fight off the weeds.

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All health care, all the time

September 4, 2009 at 7:10 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

I’m going to have to change the name of this blog, if this doesn’t let up, but it’s no wonder that I’m obsessed. This is the civil rights movement of our time. This could be our generation’s contribution toward making the world, at least our corner of it, a better, more just place. It’s unthinkable to me that we will miss this opportunity.

Why do we think the only thing the government ought to be doing is waging war? It seems to me the government hasn’t been very good at that for quite some time, whereas it has been quite good at other things. Here are some examples.

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