Friday, January 30, 2009

"For destruction ice is also great and would suffice."

Hardy, Arkansas. A year ago.

Hardy, Arkansas. Today.

I spent my teenage years there. It is not easy to see it in this shape, and to know that it is time for my father to move away. It is not easy to cut that last link to the town where my mother spent the last years of her life, and where I made my first real friends. It is really possible to mourn a town as you would mourn a person. Just less explicable.

The Beauty of Words

Throw words at the surface of the problem
Send shallow answers skipping across
To lose their purpose and sink into the muck
Trite solutions swallowed by the question.
Fish them out again - sullied, betraying
Stained and worthless – still, scrub them off.
Pocket the lot, polished for another time.
Wipe your hands clean of the contact.
Never bend to taste those waters yourself,
Nor seek to fathom their bitter depths.

Stroll 'round the edge, chatting easily
-Every word spoken but One-
Admire your reflected perfection.
Wander away, picking comforting phrases
Inhale your bouquet of soothing cliches
Scatter bright petals, delicate and obscuring.
Thank your friend for suggesting the walk
Meander on, retracing long-trod paths.

Come back in winter, when ice has sealed all
And you can figure-skate across life's worries.
But promise to come back. It'll all be there.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Prayer request.

Just under a year ago, my father's Arkansas town was hit by a tornado. No loss of life, praise God, but a number of businesses were destroyed. This year - today - it is an ice storm that has already caused significant damage in the form of downed branches and trees; killed thirteen; and left my father and many others without power. It is too dangerous for him to go outside to see what damage has been done to his property, but he can hear branches snapping and falling on the house. The storm is not going to end until tomorrow afternoon. It is very difficult to get specifics as Highland is such a small town; even with last year's tornado, details were very scant. It is not a wealthy town and it has already had one severe blow.

I ask for your prayers for his safety and that of everyone else affected by this storm, and that there be no serious damage to homes or businesses. Thank you!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Marching on

A year ago yesterday, Presidential candidate Obama issued a statement priding himself on his 100% approval rating from NARAL and Planned Parenthood; reaffirming his commitment to Roe v. Wade; and stating his intention to sign the Freedom of Choice Act into law. Yesterday, President Obama issued a reprise of that statement, couching the same sentiments in less definite terms and asserting our essential unity despite divisions.

Mr. President, no. We are not united. And we, the pro-life movement, do not accept your goals. There is no need for abortion: even an action taken from desperation is not a need. We will never find common ground on "access to...contraception", "affordable" or otherwise. On the other hand, we do agree with you on providing accurate health information, and we look forward to your Surgeon General investigating the very real link between abortion and breast cancer.

Many of us were "unintended pregnancies" - unless I miss my guess, you were one. My siblings were, by definition; so was I. More, my mother never wanted to be pregnant yet again. By every point on the pro-abortion scale she ought to have aborted me. On welfare; eighth child; second Caesarian; detriment to health; uterus worn too thin to carry another child after me - she would have to have a hysterectomy. She did not want to go through it all again, especially the hysterectomy to top it off. She could have aborted me. And by law, my father would never have had to know that I, his daughter as much as hers, even existed.

That is why I joined the March for Life yesterday, and in many past years. It is not a religious question for me. I am not pro-life because I am Catholic, although that gives shape to my conviction. For me it goes deeper even than that. It is a question of the very right to exist, a right so very easily taken away - taken away in complete legality, and in secrecy. That is why I marched. That is why many of us born after 1973 marched. We survived.

We are pro-life; we are also pro-choice. We simply understand what the choice is, and that it takes concrete, flesh-and-blood form. That it is between life or death; blessing or curse. We've lived to make our own choices, and we will speak up for those who are not permitted to.

Perhaps we are a voice in the wilderness, easy to ignore. Certainly we were only a fraction of the size of the crowd who came to see you inaugurated, and certainly we only received a fraction of the media coverage. But we have come together to form that one voice for 36 years; we will continue to do so; and leaving from the March we will be individual voices across this land. And one day again, we will be heard.

Monday, January 19, 2009

As charged.

I was angry. I said what I should not have. Even if I could take it back now, unseen, I don't get to. That's not how it works. I will have to stand and account for what I said.

What I can do, is go on break; take a few deep breaths of my own and concentrate on my real-world work. What this has become is no good to anyone, least of all it's author. I've been dragged/let myself be dragged down the path towards real hate before - which is why I reacted to you the way I did at the start, Nina. I've been there and done that. I have no desire to step back on that road.

Nina, you have my apologies, excuse-free. And you have silence from me.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sometimes when you look into the abyss...

Recently, I've been spending a lot of time - too much - over at Raving Theist. Interesting site; good atheist/theist discussions, with personalities and viewpoints spanning the range and a refreshing lack of preaching to the choir. For the most part, it's civil, even when that's involved gritted teeth.

The truly uncivil (which has already paid a visit here) started her own blog in response; and one hopes she did not begin as she intends to continue. All of this is built, as regards me, on three statements of mine in a discussion at Raving Theist's on homosexual marriage. First, my generalized statement that homosexual behavior is wrong. Second, that homosexual activity, by its physical nature, is a common cause of AIDS (somehow this became a "condemnation" of "gayness" rather than simple medical fact). Third, that a homosexual who is not Christian cannot be expected to live according to Christian ideals.

That was it. That was all I had to say on the subject. I could not do to a dog what Nina suggests I am ready and willing, eager even, to do to a person. She's even able to describe it in loving detail that in itself disgusts me. No Catholic who has any right to call themselves that could do it; and yet because we are Catholics, we must all be salivating as we await our chance. She knows us better than we know ourselves; a privilege I'd thought reserved to God.

Nina's made her decision to hate the Church and all Catholics, however she came to it. The choice and the consequences are both hers to live with. But hatred like hers is not rational. It is not sane. It can never be justified. It is not even human.

It is what it claims to detest. It is demonic. And there is no point in glossing it over.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wacco for Flacco?

Probably our restaurant's only claim to fame, of recent origin, is that every week or two Joe Flacco, of the Baltimore Ravens, comes in to eat. Until recently it was an interesting sidenote; he's a rookie on the team, and Super Bowl fever hadn't yet set in. As the football season's progressed, though, so has the adulation. Customers coming over to shake his hand. Our expo manager chasing him outside to get his autograph - our GM gave her a "don't make me fire you" glare when he heard about that one. Still, nothing out of hand; he's a rookie who's having a great first season, but he's not a celebrity. Or wasn't.

Until last Saturday's play-off game.

Joe Flacco-themed t-shirts are now almost as common as Obama shirts at Baltimore street kiosks. And quiet meals at one of his favorite restaurants are a thing of the past.

He came in again on Sunday, and it was embarrassing to watch. Not least as the entree specials board gained a new entry: "Wacco for Flacco!" I hope, I pray, that that was not added until after he left.

I wasn't his server, but I ran his meal (okay, yes, it didn't happen quite by accident) - and the man hovering at his booth to get an autograph would not move. "Excuse me, I hate to interrupt ritual, but I have your food." Flacco grinned a bit; the man shifted position to let me set the plates down - and he still would not leave. Not for a good two minutes more; and then it took his wife to drag him away so that Flacco could eat before his food got cold. He can't have had too much complaint, though: another table paid for his meal, and a little girl asked if she could buy him an ice cream and "put it on her tab." (The server who took the ice cream over started stumbling over his words. " cream..." Not his smoothest moment.)

Honestly, let the guy alone. Yes, the Ravens are doing well; yes, he's a large part of the reason why...but he is not an animal in a zoo, or an autograph machine. He's not at a public event. He just wants to eat dinner, and if you really want the Ravens to continue doing well, you'll let him!

Saturday, January 10, 2009


This morning, I worked the graveyard shift. Never, ever ask me what I mean by that.


It's a good thing that there's a God who loves me, because the universe clearly hates me today. (But it loves the Ravens.)


It's nice to have time to sit and think. But not when it's a Saturday evening, and I'm at work.


That is all.


There's a lot of anger, a lot of bitterness, and quite frankly a lot of cruelty in Nina's comments on this thread over at Raving Theist. She starts angry, and proud of it, and goes from there. But there's an uncomfortable amount of truth, too, in what she has to say about the blogosphere. (Yes, Nina, I'll even grant that you hit rather close to home with me - it's an annoying part of Catholicism, having to own up to ourselves... ;) ) The entire discussion is worth the read, for that matter; it goes a-ranging. And then on his main page, there are the puns. Always, there are the puns, stuck everywhere a pun can be stuck...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hey, it's been done!

It's not in having power or not having power. It's not in getting that better job or paying off that bill or buying the best of everything. It's not in knowing the right people or having the right friends. It's not in being a priest or a nun or father or mother. It's in being who and what God calls you to be. It is, in short, in being a saint. In that category, there is no partiality: what St Paul wrote 2000 years ago, history has amply borne out. People of every walk of life, of every race, of every age, both male and female, are revered as great saints. King St. Louis of France; Bd. Jacinta and Francesco, who did not live to be 10; St. Faustina, who spent her years scrubbing pots in the convent kitchen. Nothing in common, those, save their love for God and their search for him in the circumstances that were about them - not their search for new circumstances.

Instead of viewing God through the world's eyes, instead of expecting from Him what you expect from the world, why not view the world through His eyes? Instead of seeking to be what you are not, why not seek, first, to become what you already are: a child of God?

Public Service Announcements

First, to my housemate:
Yes. I am single. Yes, I am celibate and happy to be so. Yes, I do want to enter the convent.

No. The next "cute boy" to turn the corner will not lay waste to my plans. No, I do not need you to "watch out for me" so I don't get into "mischief". No, I do not want to get involved with, or want you hinting that I might want to get involved with, your 18 year old son. I am 27 years old, not 17, and I do not categorize life as either "boring" or "fun".

And lastly, no. I do not need to hear about your marital problems, severe as they certainly are. You have a daughter my age, there's no advice I can give you, and you detailing said problems is not going to "prepare" me for what I'll hear as a nun. What it is going to do, is make me extremely uncomfortable and desirous of being anywhere but in the same room as you. It is merely going to test my patience and charity, and probably my posting this represents a failure of those.

To my co-workers:
Yes. I am single. Yes, I am celibate and happy to be so. Yes, I do want to enter the convent.

No. I am not blind, that is not why I am entering. That time I had the weightllifter, in a tank top, at my table? Or yesterday, when I ran food to Joe Flacco's table? Shocking as it may be, I looked. I even lingered a moment or two more than strictly necessary. Admiring a good-looking man is not tantamount to taking him home. And not taking him home is not the end of the world or of any chance to ever enjoy life.

No. Short as I am, I do not want you putting me on a pedestal. When you start up your conversations and your cursing, please do not abruptly stop because "Peggy's a nun-in-training." (I'm not. That would be after I enter, not before.) Trust me, I've become very adept at walking away when certain topics come up. I'm developing quite the radar for them. Stop, by all means - but stop because you want to. Because it's right to. Not because some paragon of holiness is nearby - none is!

And no. Being Catholic does not mean thinking alcohol is evil. I've yet to find that in the Ten Commandments. It is quite possible to have a drink without getting drunk, and this I do and enjoy doing. In any case, evil or not, waking up with a massive headache the next morning simply holds no appeal for me. I already get migraines and attendant nausea; they're quite enough.

The only time, in fact, that I am tempted to become drunk is after repeating, yet again, any of the above conversations...they're on the level of daily ritual, almost. My co-workers see that I'm different, but they never see why I'm different. They have parties and drugs and sex and all manner of "fun". One day they'll grow up and leave off all of that, as one said, but for now it's all there is to their lives. Fun - but no joy. Nothing interior. Nothing lasting.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Real poverty... lying in your nursing home bed, in a room as ugly and barren as a jail cell, with no roommate, no one to talk to. With no evident possessions, not so much as a Christmas card to show someone outside cares for and thinks of you. You can't even make it down for the Mass and (belated) Christmas party, just wait for Father to bring you Communion and a small gift. Just wait, and let the thought that God is punishing you gnaw at you until it is all that you can talk about.

I wandered away at that point. The man couldn't unwrap the gift, his hands were too gnarled, so I did so very noisily and out of sight. Father listened to the man, and tried to convince him that no, this was not God's punishment for something he'd done. (I neither heard nor sought to hear what.) "It doesn't work that way." I tried too, when I brought the gift back,'s the overriding thought in his mind. His situation must be his fault, he must have brought this on himself. He's Catholic; he'd just received the incomparable gift of his Lord in Communion...and yet that same Lord is, must be, punishing him.

I don't know why that place is called a "nursing home". It is absolutely not a home, and nursing - as in caring for the ill, for the whole person and not merely the diseased or crippled body - is simply absent. What it is, is an institution; a holding pen for people until they finally die. When Mother talked about the spiritual poverty of the West, that is what she meant - people who have all their physical needs met, but are utterly ignored as persons.

It's nothing new. And yet it is always new, with as many different forms as there are people affected by it. Something old is something we become used to, and something we are used to is something we lose the energy to fight against.

...just enough of you.

So the sisters want to see more of me. One sister, of the five of them, is off on retreat; another is about to leave for their General Chapter; both of Wednesday's volunteers are out with the flu. Okay. No problem; I have the time.

I just wish they would stop trying to see more of me. They sent me home today with nearly an entire chocolate sheet cake, leftover from their nursing home Christmas/Epiphany party. Okay. Slight problem - but a tasty one!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Where two or three are gathered

"Are there any announcements?"
"After Mass, there'll be brunch-"
"-and Father will be present."

This past week, a friend of mine called me to extend an unusual invitation. Her brother, who was ordained a Jesuit priest over the summer, would be visiting; pending his agreement, would I want to join them for Mass at her house on the Solemnity of Mary? I was going to be by that day anyway, to say goodbye to Juli – she's leaving for Peru for a month, to work with the Missionaries of Charity down there. So, given that, could I make it for the Mass?

I wasn't entirely certain about the idea - a home Mass? Celebrated by, well, a Jesuit? Except that that Jesuit's first Mass was one of the most orthodox, beautiful, and all-around-reverent I have ever attended; and I know Juli too well to do other than wonder how, not if, she will convert her home into a chapel. And look forward to seeing – so, I had to go see! And attend! It turned out to be just we three; her other brother was sick. In that, it turned out to be the most intimate Mass I have ever been at – and, again, one of the most beautiful (even though I, and not Fr. Christobal Fones, was singing). Fr. Phil is intent on setting a high bar for himself – he is, after all, a Jesuit.

The set-up was fairly simple: the table covered with a white faux-damask tablecloth and set with candles and a crucifix; the chair and ottoman moved back to allow space for the congregation. There wasn't anything really suited to serve as a pew, so Juli and I sat on the floor, Missionary of Charity-fashion. Fr. Phil commented that it made him feel too formal, but it's a posture I'm used to, and that Juli had better become used to!

The hymns were both Marian: 'Sing of Mary, Pure and Lowly' and 'Holy is His Name'. Fr. Phil wanted that first one when he saw us looking at it, since he referenced it in his sermon (recycled from his Vigil Mass). I did the first reading and psalm, going up to stand beside the altar out of sheer conditioned reflex; Juli looked amused, but did the same for the second reading. Doing that put us directly beneath a small picture of Mary – and there was something utterly right in that, as Juli read. Standing below she who brought the Word into the world, to proclaim that Word anew.

Fr. Phil said the Mass at the same deliberate pace as his first Mass: no prayer hurried, silence given as much weight as the spoken word. Even Eucharistic Prayer II, in his hands, seemed unrushed and even beautiful. He said Mass for Juli and I, but after the Consecration, it became just he and God. The pure intensity on his face – absolutely private, absolutely focused on his Lord in the Eucharist - left no room for anyone else. Whatever it is to be a priest, and I'll never understand it, it was contained in that look.

I've been in that dining/living room any number of times, just to relax: to laugh, chat, go over times old and new. After Mass, we did all of that again – but for that Mass, for that one hour, the room was set aside for another purpose. The table I gave to Juli a year back became an altar of sacrifice. The bas-relief Last Supper hung above it ceased to be simply sacred art and became instead an icon, a window onto the heavenly reality being enacted beneath.

Ever ancient, ever new. Jesus Christ; the same yesterday, today, and forever.