Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday cat blogging: another peek

Friday cat blogging: you've all been waiting for this one


Well, here she is, Maya Pavlova, in all her glory. Enjoy. She is happy in her new home, and I am happy to have an in-house therapist. Everyone is happy

The Beloit Mindset List Is Out

Feeling old? Read this and you really will.

This list comes out every fall and makes many of us laugh and groan. It's also a good way to get to know the younger generation. (I can't BELIEVE I am now using that term!)

I'll post tidbits from it here when I return and recover from all my meetings. Meanwhile, here is a teaser. Off I go. The site also has lists from the previous years. Well worth a read.

Each August for the past decade, as faculty prepare for the academic year, Beloit College in Wisconsin has released the Beloit College Mindset List. Its 70 items provide a look at the cultural touchstones that have shaped the lives of today’s first-year students, most of them born in 1989. It is the creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and Public Affairs Director Ron Nief.

Latchkey kids for most of their lives, students entering college this fall think nothing of arriving home with parents still at work, then e-mailing or texting their friends, instantly updating their autobiographies on “Facebook” or “MySpace, and listening to their iPods while doing their research on Wikipedia. They’ve grown up with Rush Limbaugh urging his fellow Dittoheads to excoriate liberals, with having been taught by an equal number of women and men in the classroom, and with women having been hired as police chiefs of major cities.

Food has always been a health concern. Consumer awareness about ingredients and fats has always been energized. They’ve never “rolled down” a car window, and to them Jack Nicholson is mainly known as the guy who played “The Joker.”

As usual, they remind their elders how quickly time has passed. For them Pete Rose has never been in baseball. Abbie Hoffman’s always been dead. Johnny Carson has never been live on TV, and Nelson Mandela has always been free.

As for the Berlin Wall, what’s that?

Many missed feasts; communities of prayer and remembrance

The beginning of the academic year has kept me from honoring the saints and feasts on this blog as I usually do, but as in all times when we cannot "do" (or cannot pray, which happens to all of us at some time) the broader community carries us in its wide stream. Padre Mickey was faithfully at his post, in fact twice, to write about Augustine, whose feast was this week. And just as I am about to teach Puritan sermons, we had the commemoration of John Bunyan, who was a great favorite of some of those early Anglo-Americans. (The class is not quite at the Puritans yet -- we are looking at the Native peoples first, and we did an initial segment on religious pluralism in the U.S. today and the post-9/11 religious situation before heading back to the 17th century this coming week. But more about this in another post, probably late in the weekend.) The commemoration that poured out of me almost verbatim was the post of two nights ago on the vigils remembering the war dead and witnessing for peace.

I am also deeply grateful to blogger friends who posted commemorations of and updates on the ravages of Hurricane Katrina and its impact on communities on the Gulf Coast -- and the communities' response.

There is power in remembering. (I'm thinking of janinsanfran's blogging label "gone but not forgotten.") And remembering, even --sometimes especially-- remembering with lament, can fuel hope. (I once referred to memory and hope as "the twin engines of biblical religion" in I can't remember which book. It's time for me to write another book, since I can't remember the last one verbatim! I always do for a few years after I write one.)

I have always had strong theologies of the Body of Christ and the communion of saints. Faith, prayer, and work for justice and healing in the world (what the Jewish tradition call tikkun olam, mending the world) cannot exist without the community across geographical and historical bounds. One of the challenges I encounter among my younger students especially (as opposed to the "adult" students who are closer to my age) is a deeply entrenched individualism. Communal thinking doesn't occur to them much. This is true of younger people and is true also of U.S. Americans, especially among Whites.

When the Holy Spirit shows up, it descends on the community. Always something good to remember.

P.S. I will fill in this post with the pertinent links later today. I have to go to meetings meetings meetings now. (On my alleged day out of the office. At least tomorrow will be an open day.)

P.P.S. Yes, there are cat pictures coming.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mother of Acts of Hope is 89 today

Today is my mother's 89th birthday!

So it's the feast of Joan.

She and my father had a fine day.

L'chaim! To life.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Vox populi: litanies of protest

The MoveOn and Take a Stand Day peace vigils were tonight, all around the country. Truth be told, I am not sure I would have made it to our Greensboro one had it not been a) a few minutes from where I live and b) partly organized, or at least actively publicized, by a friend. We stood with candles and signs on the edge of the road, at the intersection of two major thoroughfares, on a bit of green at the edge of the campus where I teach. I had gone from lunch meeting to office hours to a class full of first-year students and technical malfunctions in a room with broken air conditioning to an early supper at home with a friend from church, part planning meeting (for something prayerful) and part "whew!" at the end of the work day. I should add to the friend "and with the cat." She loved the guest. She is not shy, this one.

At the edge of the road, still holding our signs, we read dates of deaths and names of home towns. Of U.S. soldiers. This was a MoveOn script. We read of the dead and the wounded in circles of ten or twelve. Some voices were soft, others strong. Many cars honked at us and our signs, in agreement, it seemed, for the most part. We read of the dead and little by little, people began to add to the script. "And no one counted the Iraqi dead that day." "There is no mention of anyone else." "On the same day, Iraqis were wounded and killed." "Mercenaries died." "The Iraqi dead included women, men, and children."

"On that day, how many also became refugees?"

"There is no mention of the nature of their wounds."

"No one has shown us their flag-draped coffins."

Round and round the circle went the voices and the place-names. Many were places I knew. I have friends there. Thibodeaux, Louisiana. New York, New York.

I remembered the reading of the names from the AIDS Quilt commemoration, the Names Project.

I remembered the wall commemorating the U.S. dead in Vietnam, all those names.

I remembered standing at another corner on another bit of green in another part of the country near another college when I was a student, thirty-five years ago.

We only read the hometown names. We did not have the humans' names. As the vigil was ending a young Black woman --perhaps a student at the college-- was sobbing, a friend consoling her and stroking her back. Did she lose a brother? A sister? A father? Did she grow up on a base? Or did the occasion alone cause her tears?

Even less do we have the names of the Iraqi dead or the place of their birth and death. Relentlessly, the small circle in which I found myself raised the presence of the un-named. Tired from holding up signs, hot in what is now an official --though still green-- drought zone, not openly religious or liturgical, the group raised the presence of the absent, the dead, the ones with neither name nor place, its ritual no longer awkward, even when one of its members paused, hesitating as she or he improvised. Prayer is protest. Protest is prayer. Lament is opposition. The stones cry out.

Prayers for JohnieB and his Mama, may she rest in peace

Our blogger pal JohnieB, who does not have his own blog but is a frequent commenter here and in the general bloggy neighborhood, has given me permission to let you know that his dear Mama just died in Arkansas. Johnie is headed out there shortly to be with the family. As some of you may know, he visited just recently and thus was able to be with his mother before she passed. Her name was Pearl. Please pray for the family, for consolation and unity.

May Pearl rest in peace and rise in glory. May our brother John travel safely. May Pearl's children be in harmony with each other as they grieve for their mother.

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(Note: there won't be sound at first, but this does work, so just turn the volume up a bit and wait. It's not Baptist from Arkansas, but Russian Orthodox via Maurice Jarre. We do sing a form of it too in the Episcopal Church.) (Sorry I could only find the Dr. Zhivago version of the Kontakion!)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Grupo Masculino Cant' Arte sings "Siyahamba" and "Oh Freedom"

I love this and tried to post it via YouTube, but it's just not getting here (the information superhighway must be crowded at the end of the weekend). So here is a link. Check it out! This group is singing both "Siyahamba" and "Oh Freedom" ("Freedom Is Coming," the South African version, which we used to sing a lot at the Paulist Center in Boston -- haven't heard it in Episcopal churches yet). No fancy video work, but it's a fine rendition, with lots of great male energy. (Who says feminist women don't appreciate good male energy?! This one does.) Check it out, boys -- and girls. ;-)

And that little snippet of a woman's voice at the very end sounds like someone speaking Portuguese.

Siyahamba (another version)

There are a lot of versions of everyone's favorite song from the church (and struggle) of the Global South. You saw the bishops of the Global Center dancing to it, now hear this a cappella choir sing it. (Those bishops from Latin America were at the time in South Africa, birthplace of Siyahamba. If Wikipedia is right, which it isn't always, the song has an interesting history.

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And this one's from Zambia, also a cappella.

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You can also hear an energetic version here. (You'll have to press the Media Player link, the MP3 doesn't work.) I think it's by the Swedish group that originally took it North! But the real treat is the YouTube I am about to post.

Summer Disco: rounding out the French weekend with music

This is a double feature, in honor of I'm not sure what. Perhaps my two posts on France?

Both of these songs are sung by Charles Trenet (1913-2001) and both date from the 1940s, though they have been recorded many times since by many artists in many languages, especially the second.

The first is a lovely one called "Que reste-t-il de nos amours?" ("What remains of our love?" The French put the word "amour" in the plural sometimes.) This is major nostalgia for French folks of a certain age. There is a well-known movie by Truffaut, "Baisers Volés" ("stolen kisses") whose title is taken from this song, though the expression way predates the song, of course. The song, in a new version, was the theme music for the movie.

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And this one is a really old, old song. You've probably heard several U.S. American versions of it, including Bobby Darin's rendition and a recent obnoxious cruise line commercial, but THIS (says she, drawing herself up in full snob mode) is the original, sung by Charles Trenet. The song was still around when I was a little girl, though we thought of it as "old folks' music." But we knew it.

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This is not disco. Or rock 'n roll.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A French sort of week(end): Saint Louis a.k.a. Louis IX

Today is the feast of Louis IX. He is never known as Louis IX in France; you always learn about him and talk about him as "Saint Louis," though everyone knows he is Louis IX because in elementary school you learn all your kings and queens and who was the son of whom and the wife of whom and (very important) the mother of whom and (as I noted yesterday) the mistress of whom.

In this case the mother was important, because Saint Louis (pronounced the French way, not the Missouri way) was only 12 when he became king, so like several other kings of France, he had a regent, that is, someone who did most of the governing in his stead, and in his case it was Blanche of Castille, whose name we learned at the same time as her saintly son's. We never did, now that I think of it, learn who his wife was. My memories of Saint Louis are: Blanche of Castille, the Sainte-Chapelle (Louis had it built to house a piece of the true cross and the crown of thorns), Crusades, the building of a famous hospital for the poor and blind, and death from typhoid in 1270 -- and also the fact that he wasn't entirely what one might think of as a saint. Then again, neither were a lot of other saints. But he did sound rather military and most of the other saints did not.
So let's go to the Daily Office bio for a little catch-up. There are errors in there in the French spelling, and I know I am being picky, but Americans who bungle French spelling, on restaurant menus or in historical biographies, or even when trying to be funny, get me irritated. (Ask PeaceBang, with whom I got all huffy (under my Beauty Tips for Ministers pseudonym), and yes of course PB and I are still friends.) I'm a grammar and spelling nut in English too, but there is something about the U.S. messing up of French that drives me particularly crazy. Psychoanalyze that -- I'm not going to bother. At any rate, the bio by James Kiefer is quite interesting as usual, but I have to note the proper spelling of the French cities of Limoges (which has an s at the end) and Périgueux (not Périgeux, which changes the pronunciation) and the province of Roussillon (two ss), from which there are some fine hearty red wines, as Dennis the wine maven will know.

The bio notes what I only vaguely remembered: that Louis was just and wise and had a mix of military valor and personal holiness. My students are always fascinated by the Crusades and by the new military orders (as in religious orders) that arose at the time: how did Christianity come to endorse violence and honor conquest? How did religious orders, which back in the days of Benedict, had almost exclusively been a sanctuary from fighting, expand to include warriors? What fervor for the holy places where Jesus walked drove the Crusaders? How to study the mix of faith, material greed, opportunism, and self-sacrifice present in the Crusades? What were relations with Muslims and Jews like and why? Why and how the killing? Were there friendly encounters as well? Louis's life contains, if not answers, at least illustrations for some of these questions. As a king, he did a great deal of good. I love Kiefer's accounts of Louis' friendships with Robert de Sorbon (yes, the Sorbonne was named after him) and Thomas Aquinas. His was a period of great intellectual and artistic ferment and creativity. One of the answers.com biographies notes that Louis ordered the expulsion of the Jews from France and had many copies of the Talmud burned: he was, alas but inevitably, a man of his time. (Note: the king who ordered the more strict and pervasive expulsion of the Jews was Louis' grandson, Philippe. See this account by the BBC researchers, a little more reliable than answers.com and well worth the read.)

Louis' life reminds us of the strength and subtlety required of those who rule, of the place of self-sacrifice in the exercise of power, of the complexities of every age especially when there is war and social chaos (which he managed not only to contain but to reduce), of the exercise of government with compassion, of the blind spots of all great people, and of an era with whose legacies we still live, in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond: yes, here in the Americas too.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Introducing Maya Pavlova

Well, no original pictures, although I took a bunch this afternoon. I won't bore you with the story of the drugstore clerk who forgot and various other matters, some technical, and we may or may not have lovely pictures tomorrow; I may have to start all over. I don't own a digital camera (they cost money) so I have to get a CD made from regular film, but that wasn't the problem.

All this is barely significant, because the good news is that I have a new housemate. She is grey with very faint tabby markings, white paws, and a white triangular bib, and she is currently stepping on my lap and rubbing her head against my hands trying to keep me from writing. Her purr is nice and loud. She actually moved in Sunday, but because I am allergic to some cats and not others I waited to see whether my lungs got sick or not. The last time I tried to adopt, long ago last early winter in the pre-blog era, I turned out to be violently allergic to the furry critter and had to return her to her foster parents. But this time, only the occasional itchy eyes and a sneeze or two; not a hint of asthma. I'm waiting a few more days before making the adoption permanent (who is adopting whom is the question) but it looks like Miss Maya is going to stay.

Maya is her shelter name. The last time I adopted, I gave the cat a new name. That was the late lamented Sensei. My two failed adoptions (one a year ago from the SPCA and the one in the winter from the local shelter-rescue league, from which I had adopted Sensei) also got new names. This one has a lovely name and it fits, so I thought I'd just add to it. The Pavlova part happened because this creature JUMPS. I mean, she is a dancer and leaper of the first order. UP she goes to the top of the file cabinet. DOWN to the floor and WHOOOSHHH gallops to the kitchen and UP to the top of the fridge. Run, leap, jump. Also, she has a habit of arching her front paws like a dancer about to get up on pointe, usually, but not always, before she leaps. The great dancer Anna Pavlova (1881-1931) was known for her extraordinarily arched feet. (I on the other hand have flat feet, so ballet dancing was not the career for me.) Hence Maya Pavlova.

Today Maya Pavlova did not leap as much as usual. (I spoke too soon, she just jumped from my desk to the top of the file cabinet, where she likes to nap and from which she surveys my study and keeps an eye on me.) I was home working here most of the day and she relaxed and sat on my desk keeping me company, watching what my friends and colleagues next door call "Kitty TV" --the view out the window-- napping, and occasionally stretching and showing me her belly. I think she's starting to like it here. She likes the company and so do I.

Maya Pavlova is a small creature. She was, says the shelter, "a baby having babies" when someone abandoned her. She had the babies, the shelter had her spayed, and she's now enjoying her adolescence and occasionally acting like a kitten, but she's as large as she'll get. She's not tiny, but she's not a humongous cat.

I figured this fall would be the time to look for a new cat, or let a new cat find me, but perhaps not quite this early. The serious grumpiness of a week or two ago (definitely school-related, but perhaps not unrelated to grief) helped persuade me that I needed an in-house therapist. Also, there was the mouse problem. And this critter was awfully cute.

As for the gorgeous and lively black cat whose photo I was oggling on the web (the one the shelter named Jane, same shelter as Maya's) I did have a visit with her and in fact first came looking for her. But she was terribly skittish and didn't even want to talk to me. She also scratched me a few times and the scratches turned into big huge welts, which means allergy. Alas. She is very pretty and apparently black cats get adopted less, so I'd have been happy to take her in. She gets stressed out at the shelter, apparently -- lives in foster care and was hyper on her two or three afternoons per week in the institutional setting. Can't say I blame her. Maya on the other hand had been living at the shelter at the while, so they tell me, and was pretty mellow by the time she and I had our little interview. It's a little strange interviewing cats. Or being interviewed, if they are willing. Maya was willing. Eventually you'll see her picture. Yes, that's her below, but you can't really see her face. You can catch the vibe, though.

Purrrrrrrrr. Auntie Jane's stress level is much better.

P.S. More on dancer Anna Pavlova here, with a great photo.

St. Bartholomew's Day (La Saint-Barthélémy)

As a child in the French public schools, I learned early about le massacre de la Saint-Barthélémy. This massacre took place during the French Wars of Religion (1559-1598) on the night of the 23d to the 24th of August (hence the name), 1572. The massacre began in Paris but spread to the provinces, where it lasted several days. At the end of it, thousands of Protestants (a.k.a. Huguenots) had been killed. The massacre took place under the reign of King Charles IX, perhaps at the instigation of his mother, Catherine de' Medici, and just a few days after the Paris wedding of his cousin, Henri of Navarre, a Protestant (later to become king of France as Henri IV and convert to Catholicism -- after having already once gone over to Catholicism and back to Protestantism again) which had gathered a good number of the Protestant aristrocracy (still a minority compared to Catholic aristocracy, but substantial) in Paris. Henri's marriage to Marguerite de Valois, a Catholic (and sister of three kings of France including the one on the throne at the time), did not sit well with some. Due to the need for an heir, Henri later got the marriage annulled and married Marie de' Medici. Marguerite de Valois, known as la Reine Margot, found ways to console herself. She was politically strong-willed and sexually active. Henri, meanwhile, had mistresses during both his marriages, including (very long-term) the famous Gabrielle d'Estrées and the lesser-known Henriette d'Entragues, whom he took as a mistress after Gabrielle's death. I'm skipping the parts about the attempted murders of all the above-mentioned kings and their eventual assassinations (except for Charles IX, who died of tuberculosis), the expulsion of the Jesuits from Paris, and a few other juicy details.

Hey, who needs soap operas? I had all these stories growing up. As I once wrote in the opening sentence of an essay which the New Yorker rejected many moons ago, while my cousins in New York and Cleveland were memorizing the Gettysburg address, I was learning about Louis the Fourteenth's mistresses. Yes, of course in the public schools. We had to learn French history.
It was years before I connected the massacre, whose name in French is almost one word to me, with Bartholomew the apostle and his day -- even though the names for the apostle are close in French and English. I wasn't a practicing Christian when I was growing up, so this may account for part of this compartmentalization. Later I celebrated St. Bartholomew's Day because one of my closest Catholic friends is named Bartholomew (Bart for short) but somehow kept this completely separate from my knowledge of the massacre.

The Daily Office people at Mission St. Clare have a little something on Bartholomew here. As they note, we know he was one of the Twelve, but we don't know much about him.

Two portrayals of the massacre: the one above, figurative and very well known, from sometime in the late 16th century (with a detail view) by one François Dubois, painted on wood, and the one below, which I just discovered today, in oils by the contemporary French painter Georges Mathieu (from the 1950s) which in its own way is figurative and portrays really well what we learned and retained as children about that horrible night.

Friday cat blogging: a preview of...

... someone whose pictures you will see more of soon...





Thursday, August 23, 2007

Well, glory be (for dancing bishops)

Muchisimas gracias to Padre Mickey for these videos of

THE DANCING BISHOPS OF THE GLOBAL CENTER!

Glory Hallelujah. Now that's liturgy. And leadership. And rockin'.

And don't anyone tell me it's not reverent.

"Isolating the Images" (more from Nelle Morton)

Here is the second half of the essay excerpt my students read for today in the "Feminist Theology" class. (I'm going to have the registrar change the title to "Feminist Theologies" for the next time I teach it.) We discussed the excerpt from the writings of Nelle Morton (see my previous post for context and this for some background on Nelle Morton) in class today and students also wrote a page of reflection on it. We had a great conversation -- and a very moving one at times.

Isolating the Images

When we want to begin with the image out of which we live most of the time, we are not aware of what that image is or how to isolate it. We may find it at the end of a diffused pain, difficult to follow to its source. It comes clearer in telling one’s story or in keeping a journal. This is not like the early consciousness-raising sessions in which women took turns telling their stories. A woman must be granted all the time she needs when it appears that her story is being told for the first time. Depth hearing dares not interrupt but deepens when the telling halts or the pain becomes intense. Hearing walks alongside the teller all the way down to her most excruciating agony. At such a point one suburban women cried out, “I’m a sex object. I have been one all my life. I am one, now! Oh-o!”

Once the image is isolated a woman may savor its fit; ponder its power, the grip it has on her life; trace it to its source. Stay with it until it breaks from the inside and she touches her real self –that part of the self that the image has bound. The stereotyped image keeps us imprisoned. It is a false image to be shattered from within—false because it was assigned. The woman who discovered she was a sex object discovered also that when she dealt with it the image shattered and another more positive image emerged to take its place. The new image enabled her to affirm her sexuality –far more pervasive than she had thought – as a spiritual gift.

Women have tried to get at the image through drawing the self, then dealing with what the drawing indicates about our self-image. Often in such an exercise a woman may draw a much younger self than she really is. When this happens it may mean that there are experiences and living that she inadvertently has evaded, perhaps that she is not willing to take responsibility for. After I had turned gray, I found myself continuing for a year or so to put “black” on questionnaires asking for color of hair.

When working with children in the Deep South Robert Coles used the method of drawing the self. He discovered little black children often drawing themselves with some sort of physical handicap when, as a matter of fact, they were not physically handicapped at all. Societal structures and cultural images had functioned so powerfully that the children had developed handicapped self-images long before they had come to the age of conceptualization. One child drew himself as a small and insignificante figure until he went to visit his grandfather who owned a farm in another state and who cultivated his own field. The boy he drew on his return covered the entire page and was colored very black. His only comment: “When I draw God, He’ll be a great big man.”

An image is not just a picture in the mind’s eye but a dynamic through which one communicates publicly or which communicates oneself. An image is its functioning – whether it operates consciously or deep in the unconscious; whether it operates in an individual or in the body politic.

For next time, they're reading essays by Susan Secker and Jeanette Rodríguez, among others. Shortly we will get to Rosemary Radford Ruether and Katie Geneva Cannon.

Meanwhile, we're in the first few centuries of the church in "History of Christianity" and the very recent post-9/11 era in "History of Religion in America" (which is actually 3/4 history and 1/4 contemporary, and we're starting in the present; two weeks from now we'll start back in the 16th/17th centuries) -- I think I have historical-theological whiplash. But it's been fun, though tiring, and the students participated really actively today even in the heat.

Happy eve of St. Bartholomew's day!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"Hearing to Speech"

This is a well-known piece of writing by the late theologian Nelle Morton, from her 1977 essay “Beloved Image,” reprinted in the book The Journey is Home. She used the expression "hearing to speech" before 1977, though; in another part of the book there is a journal entry from 1971 recounting one of the stories in the passage below. Some of you may already be very familiar with it, but I thought others might not have seen it.

My students in the Feminist Theology course are reading and reflecting on this and another passage (which I will enter here later) for the course this week. Yesterday was the first meeting of the course, which covers feminist, womanist, and other women-defined theologies in the U.S. and internationally.

Hearing to Speech

It was in a small group of women who had come together to tell our own stories that I first received a totally new understanding of hearing and speaking. I remember well how one woman started, hesitating and awkward, trying to put the pieces of her life together. Finally she said: “I hurt… I hurt all over.” She touched herself in various places as if feeling for the hurt before she added, “but… I don’t know where to begin to cry.” She talked on and on. Her story took on fantastic coherence. When she reached a point of most excruciating pain no one moved. No one interrupted. Finally she finished. After a silence, she looked from one woman to another. “You heard me. You heard me all the way.” Her eyes narrowed. She looked directly at each woman in turn and then said slowly: “I have a strange feeling you heard me before I started. You heard me to my own story.” I filed this experience away as something unique. But it happened again and again in other such small groups of women. It happened to me. Then, I knew I had been experiencing something I had never experienced before. A complete reversal of the going logic in which someone speaks precisely so that more accurate hearing may take place. This woman was saying, and I had experienced, a depth hearing that takes place before the speaking – a hearing that is far more than acute listening. A hearing engaged in by the whole body that evokes speech –a new speech—a new creation. The woman had been heard to her own speech.

While I experienced this kind of hearing through women, I am convinced it is one of those essential dimensions of the full human experience long programmed out of our culture and our religious tradition. In time I came to understand the wider implication of this reversal as revolutionary and profoundly theological. Hearing of this sort is equivalent to empowerment. We empower one another by hearing the other to speech. We empower the disinherited, the outsider, as we are able to hear them name in their own way their own oppression and suffering. In turn, we are empowered as we can put ourselves in a position to be heard by the disinherited (in this case other women) to speaking our own feeling of being caught and trapped. Hearing in this sense can break through political and social structures and image a new system. A great ear at the heart of the universe –at the heart of our common life—hearing human beings to speech—to our own speech.

Since this kind of hearing first came to me, I have tried to analyze the process, but it resists analysis and explanation. It traffics in another and different logic. It appears to belong in woman experience, and I have found it in some poetry and some Eastern religions. The Pentecost story reverses the going logic and puts hearing before speaking as the work of the spirit.

There is no doubt that when a group of women hear another woman to speech, a presence is experienced in the new speech. One woman described the “going down” as non-speaking—or speaking that is a lie. Even though she used the common vernacular she said she used it in the clichéd manner of her conditioning. It was the language of the patriarchal culture—alien to her own nature. “Coming up,” she explained, “I had no words. I paused. I stuttered. I could find no word in the English language that could express my emotion. But I had to speak. Old words came out with a different meaning. I felt words I could not express, but I was on the way to speaking –or the speaking was speaking me. I know that sounds weird.”While all liberation movements may be expected to rise with a new language on their lips, I have been particularly conscious of the new woman speech. Perhaps because it portends such vast changes of both a personal and political nature. It is as if the patriarchal structures had been called into question and the powerful old maleness in deity had been superseded by the new reality coming audible in woman speech.

The phenomenon of women speaking runs counter to those theologians who claim that God is sometimes silent, hidden, or withdrawn (deus absconditus), and that we must wait patiently until “He” deigns to speak again. A more realistic alternative to such despair, or “dark night of the soul,” would see God as the hearing one—hearing us to our own, responsible word. That kind of hearing would be priori to the theologians’ own words. It might even negate and ruffle their words and render them unable to speak until new words emerge. Women know hearing to speech as powerfully spiritual, and know spirit as movement and presence hearing us until we know and own the words and the images as our own words and our own images that have come out of the depths of our struggle.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Summer Disco: a bonus for Grandmère Mimi

Well, Grandmère Mimi, you get a nostalgia bonus for being up late and listening.

The great Sarah Vaughn (does anyone ever refer to her as anything but "the great" Sarah Vaughn?) singing "Lullaby of Birdland." Enjoy.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Summer Disco: And now for a little swing!

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In honor of the beginning of the academic year tomorrow, let's get "in the mood" even if it is still summer. Grab your partner and kick up your heels.

"The Color of Health Care" (systemic racism at work)

janinsanfran wrote in the comments section a few posts back:

Hi Jane -- have you seen this remarkably clear description of how systemic racism works, despite our best intentions? Might be useful someday.

Many thanks to Jan for that link to the article "The Color of Health Care: Diagnosing Bias in Doctors."

Who said that?

Perhaps some of you have had this experience: you try to look up the source of an oft-quoted quote, and you can't find it, or you find out no one ever uttered that quote in the first place. Or you discover that the quote itself was inaccurate.

This has happened to me in the process of writing books. For my first book, I was looking up the source of the James Joyce quote all my Catholic friends loved and many contemporary Catholic writers have quoted, his definition of the Catholic Church as "here comes everybody." Never found it. For the second book, I searched high and low for the location of the famous Augustine quote "the one who sings prays twice." I even went to one of the top Augustine scholars in the country, for crying out loud, and she didn't know where it was from. So I wrote "attributed to Augustine" in the book because I never could find the source.

So now I'm looking for the accurate words and trying to verify the source of the William Faulkner quote, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." What I do know is that Faulkner did write that, or words very close to those. If I had a copy of Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun here at home I could just look it up, since it comes, the internet tells me (but you how the internet is) from that 1951 work in Act I, Scene III. Anybody out there got a copy they can check?

In the process of poking about the Web about this, I found this very interesting excerpt from a book by Ralph Keyes called The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When. Have a look, you lovers of language and rhetoric. I think I need this book!

I'm glad that Keyes sets people straight about the alleged quote by Nelson Mandela (you know the one about how our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, bla, bla), which is much too New Age-y to have been written by Mandela and is by Marianne Williamson.

I'm going to use the Faulkner quote as an epigraph on my syllabus for "History of Religion in America."

(I know, Padre Mickey, I should say "Estados Unidos" and not "America," but I just inherited the course, so that's its title. Trust me, I'll deal with that one -- and with the fact that the first religious and cultural paths we need to look at are those of Native peoples here.)

Excellent retreat; thanks for your prayers

The Anti-Racism Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina had a very good retreat yesterday. Some prayer, some vision and mission statement work, some planning, and some business. Many thanks to those who prayed for us and our work!

Nice location, too. (I think having a beautiful location and good food makes for better meetings, and it doesn't have to be expensive.)

If time allows in the coming week or two, I will report a bit further. Tomorrow is the first day of classes at Guilford, so I have morphed from Church Lady to Professor Jane today.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Thank you for your prayers

In case you haven't yet scrolled down to my earlier post: thank you in advance for your prayers, meditations, incantations, and good vibrations.
To read about this painting and its social context, click here.

Would somebody from the church news services please write better headlines?

First this in the Presbyterian arena.

Now the inventive Lutherans try to get you to read about their biennial meeting:

2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly Addresses Variety of Topics

Maybe they didn't want to blow this out of proportion...

Coincidentally... Episcopal Church this Sunday: Slavery and Racial Reconciliation

We didn't plan it this way, but the very weekend that we are having our diocesan Anti-Racism Committee retreat on Saturday, the Sunday bulletin insert in the Episcopal Church is titled "Continuing to combat racism and oppression; working toward reconciliation."

Download it here. (Scroll down a bit, right now it's the third item.)

You'll see there are several formats, so you can print 'em as you need 'em, photocopy the two sides back to back, and so on.

You can also just read it online.

And if you are an Episcopalian and they don't have it as a bulletin insert at your church this weekend, yell at them. Nonviolently.

Friday cat blogging (this one's for Ed and lj)

In honor of Ed's comment in the Doga post below and of his link reminder to lj's fabulous yoga cat photo.

Yo, pray-ers out there: Anti-Racism Committee in NC (Episcopal Diocese of.North Carolina)

I've a request for those of you who engage in intercessory prayer.

Would you keep in your prayers the Anti-Racism Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina?

We have a day-long retreat tomorrow for a combination of prayer, planning, and business. I am facilitating it (I chair the committee) with the help of a few other members. Several folks can't be there because after all the calendar-tugging of last spring and coming up with the date that worked for everyone, now everyone can't make it. But we have a good core. And we have strong support and involvement from the Bishop and Assisting Bishop (whom I replaced as committee chair) of this diocese.

We also just lost our part-time staff person, whom we had just hired this spring. She has to resign for health reasons, fortunately not life-threatening, but this messes up some of the infrastructure she and I worked to build this summer (that's some of the stuff I don't talk about on-blog...) and this is putting an extra burden on the volunteers, though happily this same wonderful staffer has offered to give us a bit of help in the interim as she is able.

Since we just went through a staffing transition, this puts us in transition mode again and we do have work to do! This includes anti-racism trainings in the diocese, a new program of twinning congregations of different racial and cultural compositions, and some other projects. (The staff person and I have also been starting to build a blog so the committee can share resources internally and with others around the diocese.) Please pray for those projects as well and for the work of justice and reconciliation in a part of the country where not so long ago, human beings enslaved other human beings and owned them like property, and where the sequelae of slavery in the form of institutional racism still exist, as they do in church and society all over the U.S.

All this of course is coinciding with the beginning of the academic year at the college where I teach, with orientation week this week and the first day of classes on Monday, so I've been testing classroom technological equipment (nothing worse than walking into class the first day and trying to play a video or call up the course website and finding out you can't do it), checking on late arrivals at the bookstore, working on syllabi for my three very different courses (one of which I've never taught and is not in my field), reassuring an anxious parent of a new younger student, an anxious new adult commuter student with a mobility challenge, and an anxious returning student, and now I think I need to go reassure my own anxious self!

The Psalm for today's Morning Prayer had some strong nature imagery in it. (Birds! Owl, vulture, sparrow. Also bones, coals, grass, ashes.) Anyone notice?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Yoga for dogs -- yes, this is for real

YogaDawg, the great satirist of yoga (also a serious yoga practitioner) whom I have mentioned here before, and who is currently writing a series on the various types of yoga studios, could have invented this one.

But it's for real.

Introducing... DOGA! I read it in Newsweek, so it must be true.

Online story here. (Mention of doga is toward the end of the story.) No photo in that online version. But the print version of Newsweek has a picture of people doing yoga with their dogs. And the online version has a link to dogadog.com. No, it's not a joke. At least, I don't think so.

Clumber, Dennis, MadPriest, and Padre Mickey -- go ahead, have a field day.

Oh, and other dog people, let's see: Grandmère Mimi, Simple Village Organist, Diane (though I don't think you're as given to satire and snark as the rest of the crowd), Wormwood's Doxy... I await your comments.

Cats, of course, don't need yoga classes. But, as usual, I digress. DOGA! THE NEW TREND! Work it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bonus Mary - a Guadalupe image

I know. her feast day is December 12, but Guadalupe is a year-round presence too and I like this mosaic of a dark-skinned Mary. (Or as my honors student Anna wrote in the title of her senior thesis, "Guadalupe: Mary, Goddess, or Both?)

Mary's Day

It's Ferragosto in Italy, a Roman (as in the emperor Augustus) holiday turned Marian, and in the Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican communions worldwide it is the Dormition, or the Assumption, or the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin. I know an icon of the Dormition would be appropriate, or one of the Assumption, but several blogging friends have posted fine ones, particularly Grandmère Mimi (see the comments too) and Padre Rob+, and also, humorously, MadPriest, who has written one of his better captions. (Do not look at that if you get offended at religious humor. But really, it's quite brilliant.) And I'm short on bloggy research time this week.

What I do want to share, because I have it around and just love it, is a representation of Our Lady of Mercy, from Ravensburg (Germany), in the late 15th century.Also, à propos of Protestants and Mary (this came up in a comment on Grandmère Mimi's blog) , the latest hottest book on this is Blessed One: Protestant Perspectives on Mary. (See the handy "search inside" feature and have a look at the table of contents.) Some of you (Protestant or not) may be interested in having a look.

August 14: Jonathan Myrick Daniels

A day late, almost two. I'm going to stop apologizing for posting late. Life is just late these days!

August 14 is the commemoration of Jonathan Myrick Daniels, seminarian and Civil Rights martyr.

Instead of the usual bio from the lectionary or the Daily Office, I thought you'd be interested in the bio from Virginia Military Institute (VMI), from which Daniels received his undergraduate degree.

Daniels died while a seminarian at ETS (now EDS, the Episcopal Divinity School), killed in Alabama, a young White man protecting a young Black woman from being shot.

You'll see some interesting documentation at the VMI site.


O God of justice and compassion,
who put down the proud and the mighty from their place,
and lift up the poor and afflicted:
We give you thanks for your faithful witness
Jonathan Myrick Daniels,
who, in the midst of injustice and violence,
risked and gave his life for another;
and we pray that we, following his example,
may make no peace with oppression;
through Jesus Christ the just one:
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

George Tavard, R.I.P.

One of the great ecumenists of the 20th --and early 21st-- century has died very suddenly. I just learned this from the Catholic Theological Society of America mailing list. It is so soon after his death that there are no obituaries yet. But because of his role at the Second Vatican Council (he was a peritus, an official theological expert, appointed by Pope John XXIII) and his wide-ranging scholarly and ecumenical work, there is a substantial biography, with photos, bibliography, and other information, here.

May the angels sing him to paradise. Rest in peace, brother George, and rise in glory.

Indulge me briefly

Yesterday was a Church Lady sort of day with a short diocesan-related meeting in the a.m., a longer congregation-related meeting in the early evening, and a little pastoral counseling in the later evening (students keep late hours). Also some quiet writing time in the afternoon.

Today, however, is the first faculty-staff meeting of the academic year at Guilford and it is MUCH TOO EARLY FOR THIS!Whatever happened to starting school after Labor Day?

Oh and P.S. we don't have Labor Day off. (First college I ever heard of in the U.S. where we don't have most Monday holidays off - only Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.) And classes start next Monday, August 20.

Do I sound cranky?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Goodsoil (re: lgbt news of the ELCA)

Alphabet soup time:

ELCA= Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. (Not to be confused with the LCMS= Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.)

lgbt = lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

The ELCA is in the news because of this. There are years and years of conversation and heartache behind this national church assembly decision not to discipline openly partnered pastors and other church workers. While the language is indirect, it does mark a significant change in direction.

In connection with this, a Lutheran friend has just made me aware of Goodsoil and its website, where you can find resources, stories, meditations, and all manner of information and inspiration on lgbt people in ministry in the ELCA.

A loving, intelligent strategy was the creation of a booklet of devotions and stories and of another booklet featuring the ministries of several out pastors. Look, they say, ministry is happening here. There is a loving Christian community. Folk are preaching the Gospel. They are visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, encouraging the gifts of the young, including and respecting the elders. And oh, by the way, they're gay -- or lesbian, or bi, or trans.

Do have a look.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

August 11: Remembering David (and Clare)

Today is the feast of Clare of Assisi, woman of valor, founder, spiritual teacher, friend and colleague of Francis of Assisi.

Others are writing about her, and well.

I want to remember my friend David, who was born on this day. He died in the summer of 2002, in July, but it is good to remember people on the day of their birth and not just on the day of their death. (I've read somewhere that the Kennedy family prefers to remember President John F. Kennedy on his birthday in June rather than on the day of his assassination in November.)

The last time I saw David, cancer had robbed his brain of the capacity to speak. He may or may not have recognized me. I think in some form he did. His brilliant and eloquent words were gone, but his gentleness and spiritual core remained, "essence of David" as I called it shortly after the visit. He was fully dressed and in a wheelchair, not in bed. I read him Psalms and Canticles and poems by Thich Nhat Hanh. We also sat in silence.

I miss our conversations.

Below is the obituary from the Jesuit magazine America, of which he was Associate Editor. It was published a couple of weeks after his death, on the day after his birthday.

Today Dave would have been 72.

David S. Toolan, 1935-2002
by the editors
August 12, 2002

At Home in the Cosmos, the title of the last book written by David S. Toolan, S.J., can also serve to describe his life. When our longtime associate editor and treasured friend died on July 16, he did not know that his book had recently won an award for theological writing from the Catholic Press Association. By that time, in the last stages of the cancer he had battled for years, he was no longer able to use words. A man who had dazzled with words, in writing and in conversation, he gradually had even those taken from him. He was left only with touches and facial expressions to communicate. In those last days what he communicated was serenity, assuring us of his acceptance of God’s power and God’s will.

David had been a Jesuit for 44 years and a priest for 35. He had been a teacher, editor, spiritual counselor and superior of his Jesuit community. In each of those roles, he communicated his faith and serenity with remarkable ease and gentleness. He did not come by these admirable qualities by accident, any more than his vocation came out of the blue. David attributed his goodness, which he modestly acknowledged, to his parents and grandparents and took the blame for his own foibles. Eight years of Jesuit education in high school and college at Georgetown prompted him away from the law, a natural choice in a family of lawyers and politicians, and toward religious life.

Being a Jesuit suited him in the most wonderful way. (At the funeral Mass, his nephew John said that “wonderful” was David’s favorite word.) He reveled in the conversation and interchange of community life. Excited by the ecumenical possibilities of the 1960’s, he chose to study for a doctorate at Southern Methodist University in Dallas after ordination. Both as a teacher and as an author, his zeal and enthusiasm were transparent.

David had a wonderful sense of humor. In many ways it saved him from becoming angry or morose because of his equally strong sense of justice. Raised in New Jersey and in Maine, where he was born, he was surrounded by material comfort and emotional support. His exceptionally loving family provided him with a concern for others as he observed the charitable work of his parents and grandmother. During summers in pre-Castro Cuba, he saw serious poverty and was horrified by the gulf between the rich and the poor. Later this horror translated into action, as he wrote movingly about the exploitation of the developing world, its resources and its people.


Always something of a patriot, he deplored the actions, and inaction, of successive U.S. governments in their dealings with less prosperous nations. Equally, he was elated to write about the efforts of individuals and groups to ease poverty in developing nations. Even as his illness weakened him, he traveled with Catholic Relief Services to Central America to see the accomplishments of the U.S. Catholic Church on behalf of the needy. Returning exhausted, he let his sense of humor take over. “Surely they could have found some devastated villages closer to a main road for us to visit.”

Just as he loved his country, he loved the church. He was spared full awareness of the present crisis in the U.S. church, but he was acutely pained by reports of theologians being treated with anything less than the candor and fairness he would have expected. Despite that pain, the enthusiasm about Catholic Christianity that first energized him four decades ago never left him. He was too familiar with Sacred Scripture, church history and was himself too good a theologian ever to give in to discouragement for more than a brief moment.

David’s contribution to America was enormous. Always cheerful, always faithful, he managed to generate a spirit of excitement and energy around him, even when he had little physical energy himself.

For years he was also the director of the Catholic Book Club, silent and uncomplaining as he plowed through the piles of manuscripts on his desk. When asked by his successor how to choose books, his one-word answer said far more than a paragraph: “arbitrarily.” And then came that famous laugh. He worked hard, took responsibility and was delighted when he had picked a winner. He wrote articles and editorials on so many topics that he became the “living rule” for the other editors. “Know something about everything, and everything about something.”

David’s grandmother had a daily morning conversation with St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Were we able to ask David in a similar way what heaven is like, we know what he would answer: “Wonderful!”

Friday, August 10, 2007

General Seminary converts to energy-efficient geothermal system

The General Theological Seminary (GTS) in the Chelsea area of Manhattan, New York, began construction on what is perhaps the largest geothermal project in the Northeast -- converting the school's heating-cooling system, now powered by fossil fuel, to a new energy-efficient geothermal system.

Full story here.

Well, that's a relief

No Presbyterians believed injured in bridge collapse

August 10: Laurence, deacon, martyr, patron saint of....

... chefs des rotisseurs, among others. Those are the head grillers in a large kitchen. (I will refrain from starting the barbecue discussion. Take it to another blog.)

His incredible strength and courage when being grilled to death led to his patronage of cooks, says one among many hagiographers. It was in the midst of this torture on an outdoor iron stove that Laurentius, they say, cried out: "I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other."

His martyrdom is one of the best documented in the early church.

More importantly for our contemporary sensibilities, On 10 August Lawrence was commanded to appear for his execution, and to bring along the treasure with which he had been entrusted. When he arrived, the archdeacon was accompanied by a multitude of Rome's crippled, blind, sick, and indigent; he announced that these were the true treasure of the Church. (Same anonymous hagiographer -- on a cooking site, no less.)

Lawrence's care for the poor, the ill, the neglected have led to his patronage of them. His work to save the material wealth of the Church, including its documents, brought librarians and those in related fields to see him as a patron and to ask for his intercession.

It is a good day to honor deacons, whose ministry, like that of the deacon Laurentius, focuses on service to the poor and disenfranchised.

Laurentius, Laurence, Lawrence...

Let's call him by his Italian name, Lorenzo. Several churches in Rome mark the places where he lived and died.


Question for the day: when we remember the saints, do we remember the manner of their death, or the fullness of their life? Or does the one illuminate the other?

The annual Perseid meteor shower, one of the best known of the annually occurring meteor showers, and which occurs near his feast day in August, is sometimes called "The Tears of St. Lawrence" in Italy. Some refer to it as "the fiery tears of Lawrence."

You know I couldn't resist

Enough with the seriousness.

I actually took this last night. Tonight I could end up Hungarian, who knows. But I am off to get some rest. Tomorrow: a mouse tale. I'm counting on you cat bloggers to show up.

Your Inner European is Russian!

Mysterious and exotic.
You've got a great balance of danger and allure.


P.S. Took it again and changed the food and the food only. Twice. Both times I ended up with this. The food wasn't Dutch, I swear!

Your Inner European is Dutch!

Open minded and tolerant.
You're up for just about anything.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

And speaking of Simchat Torah -- meet Sha'arei Shalom, a Progressive (Reform) community in Saint Petersburg!

As I was googling for photos of mixed-gender Simchat Torah dancing celebrations, I happened upon the English-language website of a new congregation in Saint Petersburg. Take a look at this happy renewal of Jewish life in Russia. With a few setbacks with the rental location and much joy and celebration and learning!

Benediction meets Simchat Torah

I apologize to those whom the comparison of these two celebrations might offend (it will not offend many Christians but could seem sacrilegious to Jews), but I'm talking flavor, not meaning.

To understand what I'm talking about, visit Paul, a.k.a. the Byzigenous Buddhapalian. Who got it from Rob, a.k.a. Padre Rob+. Make sure you watch the video.

My remarks in the BP's comments section elaborate a bit more and introduce the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament//Simchat Torah analogy.

SVO-Ed, you'll have some thoughts on this one, I'm sure.

Very, very interesting. At any rate I agree with Paul. Rob is still a bit perplexed. ;-)

August 9: Nagasaki Day / Franz Jägerstätter


The Simple Village Organist has a fine post on this double commemoration. Bill Wylie-Kellermann, as always, delivers.

August 7: John Mason Neale, not a bland Anglo

"Not a bland Anglo" is not what the lectionary calls him. John Mason Neale, whose feast the Episcopal Church celebrated two days ago, sounds like just another English clergyman, and seeing his name on the calendar, some of us might think, ho hum. But as is the case for many of these modest and unprepossessing Anglos with three names, John Mason Neale deserves our attention. He certainly caught mine.

Among his singular achievements was the founding (or co-founding) of the Sisterhood of St. Margaret. I knew the Sisters of St. Margaret in Boston. Not well, but they were a fixture at urban meetings, interfaith and ecumenical gatherings, and other occasions, in their long gray habits and heavy pectoral crosses. Again, a deceptive image. These are forward-looking women. I remember when they decided to leave their old house on Louisburg Square (pronounced "Lewisburg"), some of the finest and most expensive real estate in Boston, and move, in keeping with their vocation, to Roxbury, what some would call the ghetto, in keeping with their founding "for the education and relief of women and girls." I did not realize at the time that their founder was John Mason Neale, nor that this was the purpose of their founding. I did know they have a place in Haiti and were founded in England. Their first ministry was nursing the poor in their own homes.

John Mason Neale (Daily Office bio here,) is described in the Lesser Feasts and Fasts simply as "priest." Only when one adds up the dates, writes another biographer, Sam Portaro, does one comprehend the shape of John Mason Neale's ministry. Though ordained in 1852, Neale's health was so poor he was prevented from being instituted in his first pastoral assignment. Four years letter, his health still less than robust, he was posted to the wardenship of Sackville College, where he carried on a prodigious career as a writer, translator, and compiler and found sufficient energy to found the Sisterhood of St. Margaret for the education and relief of women and girls Still, his activity was severely limited by a lifetime of ill health, and the burdens of his convictions.

An adherent of the Oxford Movement, Neale's fondness for ritual was somewhat problematic in his time. In 1847, five years after his ordination, he was (as euphemistic nomenclature so deftly puts it) "inhibited" by his bishop, denied the exercise of his liturgical and sacramental ministry. When he set about to found the Sisterhood of St. Margaret, his efforts were met with violence. The Protestant quarters of the community rose up in anger and mounted ugly protest over his attempts to be of service. His ministerial office was restored to him in 1863, only three years prior to his death at the age of forty-six. Thus, John Mason Neale conducted his incredibly prolific and powerful ministry while deprived of health and the celebration of the sacraments.

Against these realities, it is all the more surprising that he was described by contemporaries as a man of "unbounded charity." Was he a fool? Where was his anger, his righteous indignation? Why do we not see his bittersness? Few of us would have stood for the kind of treatment Neale received at the hand of the church At the very least, we would have argued with the bishop, or made a stink in the community; we would have transferred to another communion, one more amenable to our preferences. Or we would have left altogether, washing our hands of such a thankless institution and abandoning our faith completely.

But Neale continued to write and translate, giving the Anglican communion and the wider Christian community some of our sunniest and most popular hymn texts, and he gave himself unstintingly to his work with the Sisterhood of St. Margaret. Only a sincere and somewhat single-minded devotion to one's vocation can survive such severe buffeting. Small comfort that we remember John Mason Neale today; he knew no such recognition in his own time, but went to his grave at a relatively young age, spent by the burdens of disease --the disease in his own body, and the dis-ease of those who struck out against him.

If the kingdom of heaven is, as the parables suggest, invested with an integrity marked by singular devotion, then we must acknowledge that John Mason Neale achieved union with the real in life and in death. His tenacious, patient, and charitable dedication to his ministry prevailed over all else and he was never deterred from his labors. He gave us much about which to sing, and the words with which to sing it.

From Brightest and Best: A Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts by Sam Portaro (Cowley Publications, 1998)

For titles of hymns translated into English by John Mason Neale, see here.

The dog is Penny, and she lives in Boston with the Sisters.

More from May


On the way up, the weather was less overcast. Early May tree branches with a few new leaves.

Mountain view: a memory of May

Back in May, I went for a little hike in the mountains of Western North Carolina, some pleasant exertion in the middle of a few days of rest and solitude. Here is a photo I took from the top of Max Patch Bald, a flat-top summit not far from Hot Springs, NC.

We will return to our usual wordy posts late tonight, with saints, nuns, mice, and other interesting features. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

"A Bushel and a Peck"

This is the best version I could find on YouTube. It's from the Tonight Show, not directly from the Broadway stage, but it is performed by members of a recent revival of "Guys and Dolls" on Broadway. (Most of the other YouTube versions are high school productions.)

The song I mentioned in the post below begins after the dance numbers, about two minutes into the video, though it's all part of the same piece.

Now you've seen what some of us do in our non-liturgical family time. (Again, see below.)

From the mouths of babes

MadPriest will enjoy this.

So will Peacebang. (She's also here. And her lovely rant about cultural styles, which reminded me of my birth family and of my ministerial-ecclesial families, is here.)

The scene:

Large gathering room at my parents' retirement community. Thirty-odd of us from three generations (there is now a fourth -- one child and another on the way -- but they and their parents had to stay home on the other side of the Atlantic) have finished large meal plus long round of public story-telling with laughter, groans, and applause. My aunt, one of the few surviving members of the oldest generation, a pianist, writer of children's musicals, and former vocal coach for Broadway singer-actors, sits down at the piano, dementia and all, and despite her bad arm which is still in a sling, starts playing show tunes, Cole Porter, Gershwin, requests from her own musicals in which several of the cousins acted in summer camp, and finally, requests from Broadway musicals. Everyone claps appreciatively and she is putting on an amazing performance.

I request tunes from my favorite Broadway musical, Guys and Dolls, and lead four female cousins in an appropriately silly and campy rendition of "A Bushel and a Peck" (the star number by the Hot Box chorus girls -- see Act I, Scene 4 here for context) complete with waving arms and wiggling bodies. (Did I mention that this family is full of hams and loudmouths?)

The youngest member in attendance, a boy, age 9, pipes up in an alarmed voice:

"Is this an asylum?"

Except that he has never heard it pronounced, though being a literate sort like most of us, he has seen it written. So he says "ASS-ill-um."

"What?" says one of the cousins.

"Asylum," says the adorable young one. "A place for crazy people."

"Yes," say I, "that's right. Every last one of us." (Very pleased with my family and looking fondly upon the adorable young one.)

The boy's aunt (my first cousin, age 40) grabs him from behind in a big hug and in a fake scary voice says, "and we're your FAMILY, so you're DOOMED."

So far, no signs of trauma in the kid, but it's only been four days.

This is the same boy who, when told there would be all sorts of people he wouldn't know or remember at this reunion, said "That's okay, I'll just go around and hug everybody." Which he did.


P.S.**Video of two of the tunes from the 1971 and 1992 revivals of "Guys and Dolls." Once you get to the site, click the screen on the right, you religious types. Don't you think the Episcopal Church could use a little of this? (The tune on the left-hand screen is pretty funny, too.)

P.P.S. **Video of "A Bushel and a Peck" coming shortly in separate post. Not performed by anyone in my family, though. We do have to keep some boundaries in this blogging business.