Posts Tagged ‘Catholic’

Letter from Claverack 09 13 15 In a time of travail…

September 13, 2015

The sun is setting here in Claverack. It has been a grey day, mostly, with bits of rain here and there. It’s been warm but not hot. The high was at most mid-70’s today. Soon it will be cool and I’ll be lighting fires in the Franklin stove.

As has been the case of late, I had a hard time waking this morning and hit the snooze alarm an annoying number of times but, as it was my personal commitment to go to church today, I pulled myself eventually out of bed and prepped myself and got off to church.

For some reason, I found myself thinking about my Catholic childhood, all of us forced to attend Sunday Mass with our classes, filling the 9:00 service with all our bodies, a Mass generally avoided by any thinking adult. Who would want to go to church with hundreds of school children?

Sister Ann, my 8th grade teacher, announced one day that we would be persecuted because we were Catholics. I remember thinking how strange that sounded. Certainly I didn’t think of myself as being persecuted. I lived in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood and it didn’t seem to me that anyone was persecuting me for being Catholic.

I was born a couple of generations after that had happened.

It came to mind today because Mother Eileen, interim Pastor at Christ Church Episcopal, where I now attend service, talked today in her sermon about those who are suffering around the world because they are Christians.

And, while I am not in those countries, it is real that Christians in Iraq, Syria, and other places are being targeted. There is IS with its rigid and antediluvian interpretation of Islam and there is persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Muslim/Christian tensions inflame the African continent.

I thought we were beyond those times but we’re not, not at all.

As I drove to church, I was listening to a program on New England Public Radio that was devastatingly funny in its oral portraits of what Republican candidates are saying regarding constitutionality. It was almost hysterical, except these people are serious. The constitution should be enforced when combating Muslims but shouldn’t be enforced when Kim Davis refuses to uphold the law of the land. The hypocrisy was astounding.

Post church, I went for a drive while I listened to “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!,” my favorite NPR program and then I went to the Red Dot and perused a new cookbook I had purchased the other day, realizing that we are slipping into fall and it was time to think about Holiday meals.

While the day was supposed to be cursed with thunderstorms, there were none. A bit of light rain has fallen but nothing more.

It is seven in the evening. The light has almost completely left the sky. The light on the fountain has automatically turned on.

The house is quiet. My world is quiet though I know that far away from me the world is not quiet.

The Saudis are bombing Yemen, inflicting terrible pain upon the civilians. People in the lands controlled by IS are cowering in their homes. The markets of Baghdad are not safe.

All of this seems far away. Today, though, Al Qaeda called for individuals to launch attacks in America. Europe is in turmoil over the refugee situation. 14,000 refugees arrived in Germany today. Austria and Hungary have closed their borders.

They are being overwhelmed.

People are lamenting the refugee situation without looking at the wars that are causing the situation.

These are desperate times. I am not sure what to do except to donate to charities who are attempting to help the massive flow of people, desperate to escape their desperate lives, wanting to flee to someplace where they might not be randomly killed or starved for lack of resources.

I have no answers and am not sure I have the questions. I only know we are in a time of travail.

Letter From New York 08 05 15 Thoughts from the train heading north…

August 5, 2015

The last letter I wrote was from a train headed south. This one in being started while riding north, headed back home for a day before a quick trip to the Vineyard. I’ll arrive on Friday and leave on Tuesday with a day back in Claverack and then to the city for a couple of days.

The Hudson River is steel grey and the sun is shielded behind clouds, giving a grey hue to the whole world. I am happily munching popcorn and sipping a Diet Pepsi while the river glides by to my right. It feels good to be headed home and I’m looking forward to my time on the Vineyard.

I’m having a good afternoon. I’ve been grumpy the last two days and this morning became dissatisfied with being grumpy and determined not to be. So far, so good.

The field has been declared for the Fox debate among the top ten Republican candidates. Leading the pack: The Donald. Almost everyone I know of is panting to watch the debate, eager to see how he performs because it will be a performance.

My family was Catholic. My two siblings and I attended Catholic school through high school. My brother’s entire education was in Catholic institutions as well as my sister, who, after high school, entered the convent. I rebelled and went to the University of Minnesota. My sister left the convent, got married, got divorced, got remarried. My brother is also divorced and remarried.

Today, Pope Francis encouraged Bishops to be gentle with divorced Catholics, to not treat them like pariahs. Still no communion or confession but a little reconciliation can go a fair way. Not deviating from church teaching, Pope Francis still managed to sound conciliatory and healing.

The Malaysian Prime Minister announced today that the piece of a 777 found on Reunion Island in the western Indian Ocean is from MH 370, the first piece of evidence regarding the fate of the flight that has been found. At lunch, a friend said to me: at least we now know aliens didn’t abduct them.

Obama is working hard to sell the Iran deal, lobbying via speeches at various places. He has written off the Republicans and is hoping to convince wavering Democrats to stay the course with him.

USA Today had a good editorial about the deal today. It argues there is no real alternative; if it fails because of the U.S., the coalition that has brought Iran to the table will fall apart. Here is the link:

Tomorrow morning at 8:15, a temple bell will toll and tens of thousands of people will be silent. The representatives of a hundred countries will be present. It is 70 years ago since the first atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima. The U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, will be there.

To some degree, we all have lived in terror since.

The survivors are called the hibakusha. Every year the names of those who have died since the last memorial service are added to the peace park’s cenotaph.  In total, there are 292,325 names inscribed.

The train arrived in Hudson and Jerry, my favorite cab driver, brought me back to the cottage. When I first moved here, he taught me how to pronounce the name of my town, Claverack, as if I were a native and not a weekender.

I am now sitting on the deck with the creek glittering in the setting sun. A chipmunk is settled on the deck near me, completely unfazed by my presence. The birds are chirping, the sky is blue with a light splattering of clouds.

The peace of the moment is overwhelming.

Letter From New York December 07, 2014 The Day after Winter Walk

December 8, 2014

Today is the day after Winter Walk, which was perhaps the most lightly attended Winter Walk of any year that I have been attending. The chill rain drove many inside, skipping the street for the warmth of restaurants and bars where merriment was to be found. Not to mention that it was dry.

The human crèche that is an annual event was scrubbed this year due to the rain. But it was interesting in the blocks I walked before the chill set in to see all the new shops that had opened on Warren Street, some for the first day.

One of those was Talbot and Arding, a high-end purveyor of foods next to the Red Dot. Yesterday was their first day open and the shop was shiny and glistened and was filled with good foods. It will be interesting to see how they do. I’ll go back for a closer look when the crowds thin down.

The hit of the evening was the Saxophone playing Santa, who jammed with any other musicians on the street, performing interesting versions of Christmas Carols – think jazz meets African meets traditional.

I sailed on home after a couple of hours and had dinner with friends, rising, refreshed to a chill but sunny day.

My friend Lionel was singing from Handel’s Messiah today at Christ Church Episcopal so I went to church this morning to give him moral support. He was great; no support really needed.

It brought back childhood memories of going to Visitation Church in South Minneapolis; all the students had to go to the 9:00 AM Mass and I remember long winter months when we would be crowded in with our coats and mufflers. Someone was always sure to faint.

A part of me loved the ritual of the Catholic Mass, set in its ways down through the centuries, modified by Vatican II. One of the things I like about going to Episcopal services is that they resonate with the rituals remembered from childhood. I enjoyed today the Kyrie and the readings, the Gospel and the sermon. I warmed to the fact the priest was a woman, Mother Eileen, and that a gay man was being called to be a sub-deacon.

So far from the Catholic Church I knew and while Roman Catholicism is having its “Francis Moment” there is still much healing to be done within the religion. While it is moderately more progressive than it was a few years ago, it’s still far way from where I would want it to be and so I stay away for the most part.

Yet if someone to ask me my religion, I would probably say Catholic. I think once a Catholic always a Catholic. You might worship in another denomination’s house but your heart stays with the Church – or at least mine does.

But until Catholicism accepts and loves and tolerates more than it does today, I will remain Catholic in my heart but not in my practice.

Letter From New York

March 4, 2014

Letter From New York

March  3, 2014

Or as it seems from Italy….

At 220 km/h the Italian countryside slides by as the Italo, Italy’s high-speed train races from Roma to Firenze.  It has been raining on and off all day; off now, as I am cozied up in the Club Car, leaning against the window, staring out onto the Italian countryside, a mix of lush greens and soft browns, a land prepping for spring.  Farms slide by, clouds scud across the sky, threatening more rain, I ride the train backwards as we slide through tunnel after tunnel.

For the last five days I have been in Roma at SIGNIS, the global organization of Catholic Communicators.  I did a speech for them two and a half years ago in Costa Rica and they apparently liked what I did as they asked me back to be on two panels for them this year.

As many know, I grew up in the Catholic tradition and feel that I will never quite quit being Catholic.  It stays with me, a reality from which I can neither escape or fully embrace. 

At SIGNIS there were 300 plus delegates from 80 plus countries, a United Nations of Catholics.  As the days went on, I became aware of the vast gulf between some of them, particularly between conservative and liberal Catholics, with the liberals primarily but not exclusively from Northern Hemisphere countries.

Some American Catholics described their discomfort with African Catholics who tend to be conservative and narrow according to their counterparts, dogmatic and rigid against the backdrop of a changing Catholicism in the north where some embrace Catholicism but turn their back on rigid rules.  I suspect North American Catholics have no trouble with birth control and lean to acceptance of gay marriage, certainly gay relationships.  They seem to follow the social leanings of mainstream liberal Protestantism.  NOT ALL but a goodly number.  It was even surprising to me to hear their voices at such a Catholic conference.

All speak of a “Francis” moment, that this new Pope who has sat upon the Papal Throne for only a year has generated interest in Catholicism and an openness to it that has been missing for at least a generation or two.  Not doctrinally liberal, Francis is spiritually sensitive and projects an adherence to the teachings of Jesus perceived missing in the last Pontificates.  “Who am I to judge?” he has said while also acknowledging at moments, he does not know.  Appealingly human, he has captured the imagination of many and because of that there is a “Francis” moment – a chance for the Church to reclaim the drifting masses and to hold a moral high ground felt missing for a time.  Any man labeled a Communist by Rush Limbaugh deserves some solid attention

Now two days later, I am on the return journey from Firenze, back to Roma, to spend a night before flying home to New York, hoping to be able to get there, as the weather is not promising.  Taking a walking tour yesterday, three of us were treated to an insider’s look at Firenze by the charming Chiara.   The tour ended in the Gallery at the Academia that holds Michelangelo’s David, a sight that literally takes the breath away.

For an hour, I stayed with him, Michelangelo’s vision of the young David, naked, armed only with a slingshot and a stone, ready to take on mighty Goliath.  It is a work of staggering beauty and worth the trip to Florence.

Waking this morning to church bells pealing, I thought this was a good end to the trip, a visit with David.  Once we were all a bit like him, ready to take on Goliath, in the heady days before Kingship and Bathsheba, before the weight of power and the lure of his lusts pulled him from the purity with which he faced the Philistine giant.  For centuries it stood in the town square and now sits protected in the Academia, hopefully for as much of eternity as can be managed.

While back in Rome, it will be interesting to witness how long the “Francis” moment will last, how long it can be managed, this chance for Catholicism to reclaim hearts and minds within and without the Church.






Letter From New York Easter Sunday 2009

April 12, 2009

Letter From New York
April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday

It is Easter Weekend. I am at the cottage, and winter will not pull its icicle claws from us – it is unseasonably cold. A fire burns in my Franklin stove. There is a lament in the streets that spring will not really happen. We, here in the Hudson Valley, have been teased by spring yet it will not burst upon us. It is still winter cold.

Tonight, returning from a day of errands, the sunset was of the kind that inspired the Hudson school of painters. Grey clouds were bordered with magenta light and it was magical. Nature isn’t giving us warmth but it is giving us beauty.

It is Easter. It is Passover. These are profound holidays for those who live in the Judeo-Christian tradition. I find myself acknowledging them if no longer quite a part of them. It is now been a long time since I have been a practicing Catholic, which is my heritage. I gave that up a long time ago. I have flirted with a few other faith groups and have never been able to quite settle in comfortably with any of them. I appreciate the Episcopalian tradition; it is a religion that was born out of a need to justify divorce and murder. It should be forgiving. But even there I have never quite found a match.

That he lived – of that I have no doubt. That he changed the world – of that I have no doubt. Today much of the world will celebrate his Resurrection – his return from the dead after a horrific death. Out of this event came one of the greatest religious movements the world has ever seen. Christ died and was resurrected and this man god Jesus has become one of the central pillars of civilization.

Yet I wonder what Jesus would think of the way he has been used over the centuries. This was a man of peace. Granted he was testy with the moneychangers in the temple but he didn’t kill any of them. He was a man of peace and love from all the accounts of his life that have been written, from the sanctioned writings to the Apocryphal Gospels that didn’t make it into the “Bible.” This was a man who forgave and asked people to simply go and sin no more. Yet I am in the middle of a Holy Season and I am brutally aware of how much warfare has occurred due to individuals and nations claiming Jesus Christ as theirs. Empires were built on the concept of “Christianization.” Other wars were fought by other nations justified by their religion. Christianity and almost every other religion have been used to justify war, death, cruelty.

This is not what I think Jesus was expecting when he offered himself up to die on the cross. He was not a person who wanted earthly power and yet many of those who have followed him since then have been focused on having earthly power and used the controlling power of religion to attain it. While Europe was living its Dark Ages, Islam was preserving the best of our past. We would be missing much of Greek and Roman civilization were it not for the Muslims; they preserved and valued what the Christian West rejected – the thoughts of anyone who had come before them.

It seems most religions become seduced by the earthly power that can be derived from controlling souls. As we celebrate Easter and Passover the world is full of examples of religious fury and religious peace. In Italy earthquake survivors celebrate amidst the ruins, an Afghan woman, an official who supported women’s rights, was gunned down in the streets of her town, Pope Benedict XVI calls for world reconciliation, the Real IRA in Belfast is calling for the death of an official because he is working for peace.

“Father, forgive them; they know not what they do,” was said by Christ on the cross. I think now the words were for that moment and all the moments to come when his teachings would be bastardized.