Sunday, June 29, 2008

Glory be to You, O God, glory be to You!

From the Liturgy of the Word at the Mass of Sts. Peter and Paul, St Peter's Basilica:
At the beginning of the liturgy.

Joint blessing with the Book of the Gospels.

An Orthodox deacon chants the Gospel.

Patriarch Bartholomew gives his homily.

Said it before, have no doubt I'll say it again: Christ will not permit His Church to remain so divided. Today, we've moved that much closer to reunion...however much remains to be done, and however long the rest of the journey takes. (It's only been nearly 1,000 years so far. After all.) There is still a lot to be done in reconciling doctrinal questions, and I'm certainly not prepared to pronounce on that!, but also there is so very much to be done in regards to the laity. To the suspicion between Orthodox and Catholic that's more to do with each other's long-since-alien traditions than anything else. The Roman Catholic Church in America did a fine job, back in the early 1900s, of driving Byzantine Catholics who were in communion with us back into the Orthodox Church: our bishops, for whatever reason, told Eastern European immigrants that only unmarried priests would be permitted to exercise their ministry. Which meant, in effect, that these immigrants who only had the married priests who emigrated with them had no priests, or very few; thus, no Liturgy and no Sacraments. Many of them, priests and laity, did not stand for it, and I can't blame them. There needs to be reunion, and one day there will be. But first there needs to be familiarity with and acceptance of each other at the common-person's level.

Through the prayers of the Mother of God, O Savior, save us!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Owf. My foot ith thtuck.

So, I'm coming back to drop the bill off with one of my tables. (Yes, my dear two readers who do not know me, I am a waitress. One of them lay 'Mary Catholics' who evidently need a nice, simplified, monosyllabic liturgy...but I digress.) Anyway - the two at my table were an older couple; pleasant; seemed to have been married quite some time. I notice that the woman is gone, and I suppose I had a questioning look on my face. Or maybe it was my hesitation. Or one of several other unsubtle clues in my body language. He explains that she's left; I, teasingly, ask, "Your wife left you?"

"Yes...she did. We're separated, but we're still friends."


If you need me, sir, I'll be in China. Just call down that hole by your table. Thank you for dining with us...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

All the World's a Snowglobe

"...when they could not find [Paul and Silas], they dragged...some of the brethren before the city authorities, crying, ‘These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also..." -Acts 17:6

In 1981, a group of people came to the Missionaries of Charity Brothers' house in Rome, informing Fr. Sebastian that "they were fed up with the structured Church and so they wanted to belong to the Church of Mother Teresa." He got them to sit down, and they had what I can only imagine was a very long, very gentle chat (with God no doubt chuckling quietly in the background). And then another chat, and another; and from those chats the Lay Missionaries of Charity were born.

However adequate or inadequate their education in the Faith was, those first members understood one thng very clearly. Mother was turning India, and the world, upside down and the Church as they knew it was not: they could not even connect the two. They didn't want "coffee-and-donuts" (or rather "coffee-and-cannoli") Catholicism. They wanted to belong to the Church that was out there embracing the dying and giving love and care to the most wretched, seeking them out where they were. They wanted to be where the Church was truly alive and fulfilling her Great Commission. They wanted to be told "Go, you are sent."

Serving 'the poorest of the poor', as Mother did and the Lay MC's also strive to do, is not always nearly so dramatic. Yes, many of the Baltimore group volunteer at the AIDS hospice and yes, the need is obvious there and in the surrounding neighborhoods of East Baltimore - but often it is a far subtler need. It's in those so wrapped up in self, in their pleasures, that they simply have no room for others or for Christ. It's in the college students I work alongside - and believe you me, there are no warm fuzzies in trying to love that bunch; in trying to see Christ in them no less than in the men at Gift of Hope House. Yet their need is all the greater...because they are not even aware of it, rushing as they do from one party to the next and comparing hangovers the next day before going out to do it all over again.

In America and Europe, with our padded edges and rounded-off corners - in public life and in church - that's our most common poverty: the spiritual, not the physical. Do we recognize it in ourselves, much less in others? Do we seek Christ as Paul and Silas did, as Mother did - to preach Him, and thereby to turn our comfortable, padded world upside down?

Scene from outside Monday night p&w

Random guy, describing New Orleans to us and somehow veering onto a Victor Hugoesque description of the sanitation system: "Every night, all the businesses put their garbage bags out in the street, and in the morning these trucks come and suction them up."

Me: "Oh, Baltimore has that too. The truck just never comes."

Seriously. There's a pile of trash bags a few doors down from the MC house that has, apparently, been there for three years. It's only remarkable for being the biggest's hardly alone. And a few doors down from that is one of the city bus-stop benches inscribed, as they all are, "Baltimore: The Greatest City in America." Mm-hmm.

Scenes from an Adoration Chapel

Setting: A quiet, peaceful, prayerful, Holy Hour. The way they all should be - even for the man snoring in the back pew, head tipped back against the wall. Almost...


Sir, I appreciate that you are wearing headphones. However, I am three rows behind you and I can still hear the words plainly. Do you think you could possibly turn down your Rosary? The book of Numbers is hard enough to read, all these tribal genealogies...Thank you!


Woman in pew behind me: "Oh! I thought you'd brought a sandwich!" Upon realizing that my change purse was not, in fact, a ham-and-swiss. That would *really* not be kosher!

Oh, fine. Before y'all give up on me.

Buffalo (from the city of) Buffalo (that other) buffalo (from the city of) Buffalo buffalo (as in bully), buffalo (as in bully) (other) buffalo (from the city of) Buffalo.

Take out the parentheticals and it still works as a sentence. Honest.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Blessed repose and eternal memory.

Melvyn Parnell, a resident at Gift of Hope hospice in Baltimore, passed away on Friday, June 6, from complications from AIDS. He was only 50; he'd been at the home for ten years.

I didn't know him when his health was - not good, but better; when he was still lucid and not in and out of awareness; when he was still eating and not on a feeding tube. He was in so much pain by the end - from the sores that covered his lower legs and cracked and bled; from his intestinal problems. For him, a simple bowel movement was a struggle, and something for us to celebrate - honestly. That was the condition he was in. Death was truly a mercy for him: release from suffering here; rest with God. He was in pain; he rarely could talk; he was bedridden save for when he was carried downstairs and placed in a chair in the common area.

I can't explain...what it was to have him there as part of the home. His condition was awful; death was a mercy; so why do I have any sort of regret or sorrow? The residence is poorer without him, very simply. We volunteers, and the MC's who run the home, gave love and care, and in his way he gave it back to us. There's no Melvyn to cheer Father on in his sermon ("Go for it!"); no Melvyn to tell the nurse-volunteer she's "bad-ass". No Melvyn to nod in mute assent when asked if he wanted to receive Jesus in Communion; no Melvyn - during his last hospital stay - to cover his face with the sheet and only lower it when another resident came to say hello. Another man from the home just went back in the hospital with recurrence of his leukemia. He won't be able to be at Melvyn's funeral; but he will be perfectly able to sit in his room with that reminder of death much too close to hand. He doesn't need that right now. He needs to hope. I'm worried for him on that front, from the mood he was in when I saw him last; just after he heard about Melvyn.

What is "quality of life"? Who are we to determine it? As I type, I can hear the Agnus Dei being sung at Mass over in the church: Lamb of God, given up to death for us. It's God's to determine - God who suffered as we do, as Melvyn did. I did pray that it would not be long for Melvyn; that his suffering would soon be over. But act to hasten that end? No. We are not allowed to play at being God, ever. We are only allowed to place ourselves in His hands, and trust to him for our good. And now, we are only allowed, able, to pray to God for Melvyn's rest with Him. We were only ever able to stand alongside him; it was always between he and God. In the end it was only that question that mattered, and that we could never answer for him.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may the perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo

No, my copy-and-paste function did not get stuck - the above title is in fact a grammatical English sentence, with the proper punctuation and capitalization. I'll give you a few minutes to work it out, while I go enter the numbers. If you'd rather, there's a training video you could watch - no? You'd prefer a cup of tea? Earl Grey? Hot? Or perhaps something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea?


As you may suspect from all of the above, I'm not in a terribly contemplative mood at present. Lotsa work, lotsa bills to pay. A good amount of the pressure is off, and I never thought I'd be happy to see a letter from the IRS...but I'm still recovering from an exhausting two/three weeks. (It's of no help, on the writing front, that I started a bit of writing that in very short order became much too long and broad in scope for a mere blog post.) I stopped by today to feed the blog, keep it happy and secure that it still has an owner who cares for it - just don't tell it I gave it junk food. It'll have something more substantial over the weekend.