Thursday, May 28, 2009

Between, Now and Then

From my journal, Sept. 9 2006:
"Up at 4:30 am, hour walk to catch a bus to DC, volunteer the morning away, catch bus back, rest very briefly, catch bus to work, get home at 2:00 am. My knee was screaming for mercy by the end, and again - along with the rest of my body - when I woke up at 8:00 this morning. So, I'm fairly exhausted. And I'm probably going ramble. And possibly write a journal entry that I will wince at later.

"And yet, I wouldn't have it any other way. What I do at the Missionaries' (Mother Teresa's order), mostly, is sweep and mop floors and do dishes; last time was a break in the routine since they needed me to accompany a woman at the hospice to a doctor's appointment. But mostly it's cleancleansweatcleanclean, and somehow, in that, it's the highlight of my week. What the MCs are doing there, and elsewhere, is work that so very desperately needs doing, and they have such joy in it; it's a true privilege to be part of it even if I'm the one with the mop in her hand. Pray God I can be part of it, as a sister or as a volunteer, for the rest of my life - oh, I wander here and there and poke at this job route or that career. Medical billing, sign language interpreting, others. But it's the idea of life as an MC that holds me and draws me back again and again; something that's been true since my weeklong stay with them over three years back..."


It's been another three years. I left off the volunteering and in general drifted from the Church, caught in a cycle of shame and hiding and more shame. I still attended Mass most Sundays, but I did not receive Communion, I did not go to Confession; there wasn't much to me except bitterness and anger. That I've been called back, that anything in that journal entry is again true, is by the sheer grace and mercy of God. Not from anything I did or deserve - it's very easy to forget that.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Musical Direction

On the way to spiritual direction this morning, I was ready to discuss any of a number of topics of Great Spiritual Import. The scandal that the Church in Ireland has visited on itself and on the Church as a whole; my recent lessons - those learned and those ignored - in humility and obedience; the upcoming departure of the Sister Superior, who has been something of a mentor to me; even the financial obstacles that lie between me and any attempt to enter an order, any order, which Monsignor had said we would discuss. It's been a long and rough week, there was plenty to hash out.

But none of that would amount to spiritual direction, necessarily. And Monsignor knows me by now; he didn't give me the chance to drag any of that up. Instead he started talking about music. Not what passes for music in the inner city, where the parish is located. Not that excretion of seething hatred. But music that is a blend of words and melody, the two coming together to calm us and draw us towards God. Monsignor is an organist, and classical/hymnal music is a particular love of his; for him it is a form of prayer. His point was simple: what role does music play for me? What one hymn, or song, holds the most spiritual meaning for me, and why? He wasn't referring to hymns as sung in church, communally, but rather to their private use.

I don't listen to music that often. Oh, I have plenty of songs, and a music player. It's called my old, broken-down laptop. It takes 10 minutes to start up and another five to load iTunes. So I don't bother, and anyway I don't have the time or inclination. I'm at work, or I'm volunteering, or I'm sacked out (read: being lazy). But - back when I did take the time, every night? What were the songs then? And what was it about them?

It's a good thing to slow down, stop, and ponder. What in the music, or the words, or both, affects us? What does it produce in us, and does it turn us towards God or away from Him?

Friday, May 1, 2009


In Italian, that means either 'hello' or 'goodbye' - here, it means both. Been gone on retreat to Rome, with a 2-day extension in Venice...various thoughts and musings and odd experiences (did you know it hails in Venice?) will be posted here over the next few days, as I have time in my too-soon resumed workaday life.

A Passenger Manifesto

Man is the sum of his appetites: what has conventionally been termed “free will” is but the expression of those. He should – nay, must – be permitted to do as he likes, when he likes, where he likes. Any other state of affairs is in direct contradiction to observed human nature, and is psychologically unhealthy.* It is, therefore, the role of society and government to enable the fulfillment of fundamental appetites in a manner as comfortable and safe as possible. While European governments are demonstrably ahead of America in this regard, there remains work to be done. There must be removed that lingering inequality by which a mere portion of the populace enjoys full privileges to the envy and resentment of the rest.

In light of this, Rome-Fiumicino airport must remove and replace all benches that have armrests, not only half, so that everyone who wishes to may stretch out and sleep. The proffered recourse to a 24-hour cafe is appreciated, but ultimately is as weak and inadequate a substitute as the caffe latte on hand there.

The true desire of all those remaining overnight in Fiumicino is to sleep. A disheartening proportion enjoy no success. Until this is rectified, there can be no true justice.

Penned by Margaret Catherine
The 30th day of April, 2009
3:30 am

*Symptoms of psychological imbalance resulting from enforced insomnia include auditory hallucinations of 'Funkytown' at 3:00 am. The Italian love of American 80's music, however, is a subject for another time.