Sunday, March 30, 2014

Because ...

"Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble..."

Happy Laetare Sunday!

This is also known as Laetare Sunday (for the Latin first word of the entrance hymn -- Rejoice!)
and Rose Sunday because the celebrant may wear rose-colored vestments.

Think pink!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

If you seek a pleasant peninusla ...

Michigan is a state in the Great Lakes region of the Midwestern United States. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake". [When I was a student at Michigan State University, my Jewish roommate claimed that the name was derived from the Yiddish meshugana, meaning crazy person.] Michigan is the 9th most populous of the 50 United States, with the 11th most extensive total area (the largest state by total area east of the Mississippi River.) Its capital is Lansing, and the largest city is Detroit.

Michigan is the only state to consist of two peninsulas. The Lower Peninsula, to which the name Michigan was originally applied, is often noted to be shaped like a mitten. The Upper Peninsula (often referred to as "the U.P.") is separated from the Lower Peninsula by the Straits of Mackinac, a five-mile (8 km) channel that joins Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. The two peninsulas are connected by the Mackinac Bridge. The state has the longest freshwater coastline of any political subdivision in the world, being bounded by four of the five Great Lakes, plus Lake Saint Clair. As a result, it is one of the leading U.S. states for recreational boating. Michigan also has 64,980 inland lakes and ponds, and a person in the state is never more than six miles (9.7 km) from a natural water source or more than 85 miles (137 km) from a Great Lakes shoreline.

What is now Michigan was first settled by various Native American tribes before being colonized by French explorers in the 17th century and becoming a part of New France. After the defeat of France in the French and Indian War in 1762 the region came under British rule, and was finally ceded to the newly independent United States after the British defeat in the American Revolutionary War. The area was organized as part of the larger Northwest Territory until 1800, when western Michigan became part of the Indiana Territory. Eventually, in 1805, the Michigan Territory was formed, which lasted until it was admitted into the Union on January 26, 1837, as the 26th state. The state of Michigan soon became an important center of industry and trade in the Great Lakes region and a popular immigrant destination.

Though Michigan has come to develop a diverse economy, it is widely known as the center of the U.S. automotive industry, being home to the country's three major automobile companies (whose headquarters are all located within the Detroit metropolitan area). While sparsely populated, the Upper Peninsula is economically important due to its status as a tourist destination as well as its abundance of natural resources, while the Lower Peninsula is a center of manufacturing, services, and high-tech industry.

The state motto is, "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around."

The word Tuebor on the flag is Latin and means "I will defend."

I attended Michigan State University in East Lansing from 1968 to 1972, graduating with a BA in Religious Studies. One of my profs my senior year, a woman the department hired when I was chairing the Student Advisory Committee and had some input, was a Franciscan sister from Milwaukee. About the same time that I became prior at Holy Hill, she became president of her community's university outside Milwaukee.

Gratitude always comes first.

The title of this post is taken from something a friend of ours used to say ... before launching into a lengthy account of everything that had gone wrong in the past week.

The above image reminds me of a line from the Tao Te Ching, attributed to Lao Tzu: Those who know they have enough are rich.

For those who prefer a biblical injunction, there is always I Thessalonians 5:18: In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

I ran across this one on a friend's blog a couple of days ago, and it came at a great moment for me. I hope I have loved much (if not always wisely) and lived gently (if not always bravely,) but "gracefully letting go" remains an ongoing challenge. Yet I know therein lies much of the secret for serenity. As a wise and experienced Discalced Carmelite nun told me years ago, "The longer I live, the more I realize that it's all about letting go."

Or just read John of the Cross.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Vanilla squirrel

We have often seen white squirrels alongside our road, and recently Peggy and Rich told us that they had seen one at their house. Thursday morning, after I left for work (naturally!), Tom noticed this one under the bird feeder. Michelangelo grabbed his camera and took a picture through the window. Not perfect, but you can tell what it is.

Monday, March 17, 2014

An improvement on the silence

There is a saying that one should not speak unless one can improve on the silence. This statement concerning reports that Fred Phelps (Westboro "God Hates Fags" Baptist Church) is near death does that.

Equality Kansas (formerly the Kansas Equality Coalition) today urged members of the Kansas, United States, and worldwide LGBT communities to respect the privacy of the family of Fred W. Phelps, notorious pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church. “If the reports of Fred Phelps’ declining health are accurate, then his family and friends are certainly saying their good-byes and preparing to mourn his loss,” said Sandra Meade, chairwoman of Equality Kansas. “We ask that everyone understand the solemnity of the occasion, and honor the right of his family and friends to remember and mourn his loss in private without interruption or unseemly celebration,” Meade said.

“For over 20 years, Phelps and the members of his Topeka-based church have harassed the grieving families of LGBT Kansans and others,” said Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas. “He and his followers showed utter disregard for the privacy and grief of others for many years. This is our moment as a community to rise above the sorrow, anger, and strife he sowed, and to show the world we are caring and compassionate people who respect the privacy and dignity of all,” Witt said. Equality Kansas asks that its members, supporters and allies refrain from protests or demonstrations should reports of Phelps’ imminent passing prove true. “Our focus must remain on our mission: ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Meade said.
May the God of your understanding (or as a friend said of himself, "of my misunderstanding") have mercy on us all.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Por los caminos de Teresa

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I was waiting for the arrival of a Spanish volume I am supposed to check against an English translation. The book arrived some time ago, but I only received the English version this past week. So that work is beginning. I have already done the work on the captions, but that needs to be entered on the Word document. I have only started checking the main body of the book. This is not translation work, hardly even editorial work. But I am finding it interesting. Back in 1978 my companions and I visited twelve of the seventeen monasteries featured in the book. Not all of the original buildings are there, but we did see the original locations and were able to visit with the nuns in most cases. It was a memorable journey, much easier for us in cars than it had been for Teresa in carts and on foot!

This is a beautiful book, by the way. In the best of all possible worlds -- which publishing seldom occupies! -- the English version will be available this summer. If you are at all interested in Teresa, you will be able to get it from ICS Publications. Click here for their website. The book will show up there eventually, but there are plenty of things you may find interesting now. (Including a few volumes to which I contributed, back in the day.)

I am working around an increased library workload (two days now instead of just two hours, filling in after health reasons forced one of the staff to retire unexpectedly), a guest in the house this week and then a trip to Texas (the one I was not able to make in December, thanks to the weather) to see family. All that should keep me out of too much mischief. ;-)

Meet the guardian devis!

There is a lovely sung version of the Buddhist meditation Metta bhavana, a meditation for extending compassion out to the whole universe. I listen to it regularly and find it very relaxing as well as inspiring. Most of it fits easily into the mindset of those raised in Western Christianity, but one line has always struck me, a line about the guardian devas.

Devas are non-human beings who share the characteristics of being more powerful, longer-lived, and, in general, living more contentedly than the average human being. Some Hindu and Buddhist believers say that every living thing -- person, animal, or plant -- has an angelic being called a deva (male) or devi (female) assigned to guard it and help it grow and prosper. Each deva or devi acts like divine energy, inspiring and motivating the person or other living thing that it guards to better understand the universe and become one with it.

So I have decided that Sundance and Cassidy are our guardian devis. I know, their names might make you think they are male, and they were named for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. They are female, however, which means they are not our gaurdian devas, but our guardian devis.

Cassidy guards the basement office, studio and entertainment center from her throne.

Sundance keeps watch upstairs from her station in Tom's office, where she can see what is going on outside, too.

Divas, in other words, in pretty much every sense of the word.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hint of spring?

Okay, nowhere near this point ... but with temperatures over the next ten days supposedly going into the 30s and even upper 40s, hope is blooming in our hearts. Still below freezing at nights, but, hey! If it's not below zero, we're happy! (Talking Fahrenheit here. For you folks who use Celsius, that means we will be below your zero at night but not the -25 C we have had lately. And it will get as warm as 7.2 C.)

Snow is starting to melt away and more birds are singing. Wintry weather is not likely done with us yet. We often get a heavy snow around St. Patrick's Day. The man got rid of the snakes in Ireland. Why can't he get rid of the snowstorms in the midwest? I remember attending a St. Patrick's Day parade during a heavy snowfall some years ago near Holy Hill. (It is in the Town of Erin, originally settled by Irish before the Germans moved in.) One local resident who had a petting zoo had his animals in the parade. The camel in particular did not look pleased.

Hello ...

Peeking out to say hello. Someone asked if I were going to go completely silent for Lent, and the answer is that I am not. I did decide to spend less time on this blog, though, for a variety of reasons -- one of which is that I do have a translation project that I need to be working on. But thanks for asking and for caring! I will be back from time to time.

I do appreciate comments, by the way. I know that more people read this blog than ever post comments -- that's what the blogger stats tell me, anyway --, and that is great. Feel free to drop in as you wish and to say hey if so moved.

And a special Sunday shout-out to Robert in Iowa, who is a good sport and has a great sense of humor! Travis sends his regards, BTW.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Happy Mardi Gras! And a good Lent!

For a number of years I served on a committee that met in New Orleans every year during the last days before Mardi Gras. We attended a number of the parades and were told that to make a good Lent, one must make a good Mardi Gras. This struck me as a pretty transparent rationalization, until I began to reflect on what happens at a Mardi Gras parade. I am not speaking of the sorts of things that the newscast likes to show, because the events we priests and nuns attended were family-friendly and fun, not scenes of drunken debauchery or exhibitionism. Still this is what I observed.

Most of the parades take place at night. People crowd the sidewalks, there is laughter and joking, jostling for position, merrymaking and the occasional excess. Then out of the dark one begins to hear music. The bands go by, the uniforms glittering, the batons twirling. Huge floats appear out of the darkness, kings and queens in gold and silver, bright jewels, lovely women, handsome men, many mysterious behind their masks. They fling coins and beads to the crowds. People reach for the baubles, stretching out their hands over the heads of children to grab things from the air. You pile the beaded necklaces around your neck and immediately scream for more. “Mister, throw me something!” You crawl on the ground to snatch at coins and stuff them into your pockets before jumping back into the fray.

More beads, more floats, more beautiful dresses and lovely masks, more coins rattling on the pavement. On and on it goes until finally it is over, and exhausted, you stumble home laughing, loaded down with your booty. What a fun night!

When you reach home, you look in the mirror and in the light what do you see? Cheap plastic beads. Colorful tin coins that will purchase no food, no shelter, no clothing. You lift the beads from your neck and suddenly realize how much they weigh. It is as if a burden has been lifted. The time has come for Ash Wednesday, the time to lay aside the false beauties of papier-mâché masks and plastic finery, the time to stop trampling other people to get things that sparkle in the dark but have no lasting value in the light. The time has come to be somewhere else.

Monday, March 3, 2014


I ran across this editorial cartoon over the weekend.

It is interesting because it is a rhetorical question, assuming that the answer is "Nobody."

There is a story in the gospel of Mark (with parallel in Matthew) where Jesus does appear willing to discriminate against someone and/or a group of people.
Mark 7:25-30 (Revised Standard Version)
25 But immediately a woman, whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoeni′cian by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this saying you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home, and found the child lying in bed, and the demon gone.
 One thing that scholars find fascinating about the story (and that some believers find disconcerting) is that apparently Jesus was willing to change his mind when the woman confronted him with her need.

I note that the child was not merely sick in Mark's story: she was possessed by an unclean spirit (πνευμα ακαθαρτον).

Perhaps the question is not whether Jesus would discriminate, but whether we are willing to change our minds in the face of human need.


Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.
~ Madame Curie

Madame Curie was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize (Physics, 1903) and the first person to win two when she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911. The photograph is an official portrait made on the occasion of that second Prize.

I ran across a reference to this quote in a comment a friend posted on another blog. It speaks volumes.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The 500 Hats

March 2 is Texas Independence Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico in 1836, as well as Sam Houston's birthday (1793-1863).

It is also the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Libraries and elementary schools across the United States at this time of year have special programs, including Read Across America, in his memory and honor.

The first Dr. Seuss book I remember reading was The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, written in 1938 and falling into my hands some twenty years later when I was in second grade. I came to like many (not all) of the Seuss books, yet this whimsical tale of a boy who tried but failed to remove his hat in the presence of a king caught my imagination. There was something hilarious about the hats that kept popping up on his head whenever he removed one, and something not-so-hilarious about the fact that he risked losing his head because he did not seem to be able to lose his hat. The fact that the hats grew more and more elaborate as his danger increased only added to my delight. I may also have liked it that the story took place in the Kingdom of Didd. Not Dodd, but close enough when you are in second grade.

Although I was not all that fond of the Cat in the Hat books, Tom and I do have Thing One and Thing Two t-shirts. (These are very popular in the t-shirt shops in the Dells, and you see families walking by with kids wearing Thing One, Thing Two, Thing Three, Thing Four shirts.) I bought my Thing Two shirt to wear on the bookmobile during Seuss Week, and I got a Thing One shirt for my co-worker. Since I already had Thing Two, Tom had to be Thing One -- which is fitting because he is s-o-o-o-o much older!

Quote from The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins: "The kingdom of Didd was ruled by King Derwin. His palace stood high on the top of the mountain. From his balcony, he looked down over the houses of all his subjects ... It was a mighty view and it made King Derwin feel very important."

You will notice that this book was written in prose, not the anapestic tetrameter that you find in many of his books.