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Archive for the ‘Liturgy’ Category

You know this is more for me than for you, right? It’s a convenient way to “file” these things. So here they are, all in one place. Click on the images to get to the page.

By Month:

2021 highlights here.

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I did this last year (Here’s one post, with links to all the others.) It’s a way for me to sort through things, retrieve ideas that might work for longer pieces in other spaces, make me feel horrible about my terrible memory (did I write that?) and so on. I don’t include posts on saints or travel here. The saints because I tend to re-run them, no apologies, and the travel posts because they are collected here. Gender-related posts here.  Book and movie takes, as well as links to other monthly highlights, at the end of this post.

Several post-V2-music related posts (in prep for the Substack, which will revive from winter dormancy this Friday), some pre-Advent thoughts, and, in travel, summing up the Mexico trip and a Thanksgiving trip to Colorado.

All November posts here.

In December? Lots of movie, book and gender-related posts, as well as saints, Advent and Christmas. Go here for all of them. A couple of highlights below.


Anyway, my point of disagreement with Douthat has to do with his core notion – in this column at least – that Vatican II was about making the practice of Catholicism easier. Okay, he does qualify this:

The idea was not simply to make Catholicism easier, of course; the hope was that a truer Christianity would flourish once rote obedience diminished.

But then proceeds to point out that the results are what matter, not the stated intentions. I disagree. I think it’s important to get the intentions right – as right as we can, given the fog of history.

And what were the intentions, if not just to “make it easier?” Too much for a mere blog post, but the core of it seemed to be a conviction that vibrant, authentic faith rooted in a free response to God’s invitation – was impeded by legalistic language and practice, as well as by the accretion of tradition and an “outdated” human anthropology and medieval Eurocentricism, blah, blah, blah. Yes, there’s even more – I would suggest the boredom, stupidity and loss of faith of religious professionals played more of a part than we like to admit – as well as other more complex, nuanced, factors, but when you read the documents and those that came afterwards, this is the clear, stated intention.

Secondly, if you go to these videos and read the comments, you will read many, may fond memories people have of this music.

I don’t necessarily have fond memories of this era’s music, but I certainly do have memories. Listening to the podcast, I was shocked by how much I could just join right in on after not having sung any of it for decades.

Of my hands, I give…to you….Oh Lord….

As several have pointed out in the comments, as simplistic and even annoying as some of this early music was, a great deal of it was at least Scripture based. That core was forgotten at certain points – as we see below – but then picked up again by the St. Louis Jesuits who, even their detractors admit, wrote music rooted in Scripture texts.

There are a number of striking, weird aspects to this corner of history, but one of the most pressing questions to me is why the course taken for the sake of lay “active participation” and the cause of restoring ancient forms completely ignored the Eastern liturgical tradition which involves a relatively high degree of possible lay participation, is musical (chanted) from beginning to end, and is, yes ancient.

Of course Latin churchmen still at that time undoubtedly harbored disdain for the East and since the agenda was centered on ModernNewProgressSignsoftheTimes I guess dudes in crowns chanting behind icon screens didn’t exactly fit that model, but still.

One more road – one more – not taken. Tragically.

Hence the Christian is not afraid of the clock, nor is he in cunning complicity with it. The Christian life is not really a “victory over time” because time is not and cannot be a real antagonist. Of course, the Christian life is a victory over death: but it is a victory which accepts death and accepts the lapse of time that inevitably leads to death. But it does this in a full consciousness that death is in no sense a “triumph of time.” For the Christian, time is no longer the devourer of all things. Christian worship is at peace with time because the lapse of time no longer concerns the Christian whose life is “hidden with Christ in God.”

That’s Thomas Merton, not me.

For most of human history, it hasn’t been the full, satisfied college degree holder looking to scratch a vague itch of existential despair who’s been hearing the Good News. It’s been the peasant nursing constantly aching teeth, squinting to see through weakened eyes, middle-aged at thirty, working hard from dawn to dusk, remember dead children, hearing rumors of war, studying the skies, waiting and praying for rain, subject to the whims of human authorities.

From a friend who was also at that Mass, I learned that a parish near me had added a 7am Sunday Spanish Mass to the lineup. Since, due to old age I suppose, early morning Masses are starting to be my jam, I decided to check it out, not expecting a big crowd since the Sunday afternoon Spanish Mass was still in place.

Wrong!

The place was packed!

This is a marvelous piece about the effect and importance of singing the Torah.

Although obviously from a Jewish context and perspective, it might be enlightening for any of us who think about prayer and liturgy, no matter what tradition.


January 2022 Highlights

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November and December 2022 Highlights

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I did this last year (Here’s one post, with links to all the others.) It’s a way for me to sort through things, retrieve ideas that might work for longer pieces in other spaces, make me feel horrible about my terrible memory (did I write that?) and so on. I don’t include posts on saints or travel here. The saints because I tend to re-run them, no apologies, and the travel posts because they are collected here. Gender-related posts here.  Book and movie takes, as well as links to other monthly highlights, at the end of this post.

Lots more to share this month, with a big trip at the end – to Guanajuato, Mexico. Posts related to that trip here. All October posts here.


As has been noted by…everyone…the emphasis (and hope) was that by cracking things open, the core truths would be more accessible to a world that, to use a minor example, did not respond in the same way to, say, concepts of kingship that previous generations did, or could peak into galaxies that may not have been fashioned in seven literal days after all or examine the bones of ancestors who might not, after all, have had names.

Understanding how this concept – that there’s a core of faith that can be expressed in diverse culturally-formed ways – was used and abused is a key to tracking the path that leads up to this synod.

I suppose the point on which much of it turns is the small step from: the core of faith might be expressed in a culturally-bound way to —> the core of faith is, because of its essentially mystery and the way humans live and communicate, always and necessarily expressed in culturally-bound ways, so…let’s go for it.

What struck me, and not for the first time, was the sense in this liturgy that I was entering into something. That there was something present and real and solid in whose presence I had entered and was free to approach or not, from whatever place I was in. It was there yesterday, it would be there tomorrow. As a congregation, we responded to that presence in our own ways, speaking, chanting, silently. But it was always there, waiting.

Yeah, it’s broad (but startlingly knowing) satire, but it’s not a bad reminder, either: when someone has made the effort to ask you a question – even it’s how do I get him to use his magic powers to help me score? – take a moment and mind the gap, as we say, between what you’re hearing, what’s really being asked – and whatever comfortable nonsense you’re tempted to reflexively pull out of your answer bag first.

It just seems to me that whenever we suggest that our self-proclaimed weirdness, our quirkiness, our tattoos, our use of language, our family size, our role as employed outside the home or working within it, our pop culture choices, our political views, and even – yes – even our self-identified sinfulness – makes us “different” from those others, and worth some kind of special attention, no matter how “humbly” it’s articulated, what I hear, every time, is simply:

O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest….

Now, I love a good vintage travel account, so I thought I would take a look. One of the aspects I always dig into in these kinds of books is what the writer says about Catholic Things. I find that reading what contemporary travelers say about their encounters with Catholic popular traditions, liturgies, figures and cultures is illuminating, more helpful in regard to helping me understand Catholics of the past than many academic historical studies.

This author only mentions Catholic Things once, but it’s fascinating. He has landed in Malta, and, as are all the other travelers, is required to quarantine for time before entering the country. The place of quarantine in the harbor there – as well as around the world at the time, was called a lazaretto. There’s one, for example, outside of Philadelphia, built to protect the city from yellow fever.

Here’s what he sees on Sunday…

For decades I have thought, “Wow, I can’t believe that was my sophomore religion text in a Catholic high school, crazy times, right?” but last night I transitioned fully to: I CANNOT BELIEVE THEY USED THIS AS A TEXT IN A CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL. WHAT THE HELL WAS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE.

Who were, I don’t hesitate to say, very nice, well-meaning people. Most of them.


January 2022 Highlights

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Hahaha. I have no highlights for July.

I did this last year (Here’s one post, with links to all the others.) It’s a way for me to sort through things, retrieve ideas that might work for longer pieces in other spaces, make me feel horrible about my terrible memory (did I write that?) and so on. I don’t include posts on saints or travel here. The saints because I tend to re-run them, no apologies, and the travel posts because they are collected here. Gender-related posts here.  Book and movie takes, as well as links to other monthly highlights, at the end of this post.

Why no July highlights? I certainly posted – here are all the July posts, including those on books, movies, saints and gender issues – but beyond that most were travel related – the last chunk of the England/Scotland trip, then Nashville, then driving from Alabama to Wyoming, then at the end a couple of stops on the way to Charleston.

August saw travel as well – back to Charleston for a bit, and then a big solo driving trip to New Mexico and back.

But I did write about other matters in August. Here are all the August posts and then some highlights below.


A space opens up…what do you do?

Whether it be in terms of your career or personal life or just the day, what’s the question you ask?

Is it What do I want to do? How can I follow my dreams today? What are my dreams, anyway?

Or is it…

What is my duty right now? What does love invite, call or even require me to do in this moment?

And one of the points you hear being made about the current situation with the TLM is that it’s a return to the days right after the promulgation of the current Mass, even the days (it is feared) before the establishment of groups like the FSSP, before the indult. It’s an attempt to re-create a moment in time that occurred about forty years ago. It’s a desperate attempt to reclaim a hope and a dream rooted, not in the present with all of its nuances and developments, but in a nostalgic vision of that immediate post-Vatican II era , when all seemed so simple and clear.

You know, those last decades of … the last century.

But I did see and hear for myself how contentious the question was among Catholics. I had one fascinating evening where I went from one parish-related event to another and heard two completely different takes on the situation – one set of conversations assuming that the parish in question was moving too fast towards “normality” and as a consequence, these people would be attending another parish where there were more restrictions in place – and then an hour later, another conversation among many people from the same parish who were happy with minimal restrictions and would prefer none at all.

I think my appreciation of it this time is directly due to other recent (as in over the past year or so) experiences I’ve had – recounted here – of super dramatic praying of the Eucharistic Prayer. I mean – just almost to the point of parody.

What are you doing? Why are you talking like that?

Well, I think the reason the presider in those cases is talking like that – which varied, but in general, amounted to drama – was because he knew he needed to communicate that this moment was special, and all of his formation and (importantly) the assumptions of the congregation in front of him led him to a point of assuming the burden of communicating that sacredness via his personal demeanor.

Kind of like….he’s trying to sell us something.

Huh.


January 2022 Highlights

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April 2022 Highlights

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Books of 2022

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I did this last year (Here’s one post, with links to all the others.) It’s a way for me to sort through things, retrieve ideas that might work for longer pieces in other spaces, make me feel horrible about my terrible memory (did I write that?) and so on. I don’t include posts on saints or travel here. The saints because I tend to re-run them, no apologies, and the travel posts because they are collected here. Gender-related posts here.  Book and movie takes, as well as links to other monthly highlights, at the end of this post.

All March 2022 posts here.

(As you can see from the images below, it was also the month we saw Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yoakum within a 2-week span. I didn’t write at length about either concert, but the pics are there for my memory’s sake.)


Do you or any of the adults that you know want to talk to other people’s kids about either sexual matters or even your own personal lives? Is making sure that any kids in your circle understand you or even know what you did last weekend important?

Is it even normal for a 40-year old to want a bunch of 11-year olds to “know who I really am?” much less to want to dig into their personal lives?

Um, no.

It would seem to me that after decades of discussing how the “fun mom” and the “cool coach” and the “drama teacher who lets us hang out at his apartment” and the “priest who drinks beer with us” are all basically emotionally arrested groomers and often abusers – we would be determined to insist on more walls between the adults who care for and educate young people and their charges, not fewer.

If Mom is always “doing her best” just because she’s Mom – why the heck are so many of us still grappling with Mom and Dad issues into adulthood?

We waited for the carrier, and when it came, she asked the baggage handler, Maleta? – referring to her checked bag, so now my Spanish vocabulary has been expanded by one more word, and then her phone rang while the baby was fussing a bit, so I took the baby – Jose! – and ended up carrying him through the airport while she talked on the phone, I presume to her relatives who were, indeed, there to meet her, with the women immediately swarming over the baby and everyone saying gracias and buenas noches and some of us…. phew.

In other words, our instinctive reaction to some Catholic moment from the past might be: Wow, that’s pretty crazy. And it might have been! But we might consider a follow-up as we consider our own lives: Wow, that’s pretty crazy, too, to be honest.

As I said, ours is not to point and laugh and bask in our superiority. Because we don’t have anything to brag about.

That is not to argue that the past is golden, ossified and preserved in amber for our devotion and emulation. The Catholic past is a riotous dynamic which includes moments worth reverencing and moments worth critiquing.

For the history of the Church may not be properly understood by the secular definition of “progress” but it certainly has the dynamic of reform baked into it – that is indeed, our history: Establishing a thought or practice or other reality that is faithful to the Gospel, and then, invariably, that moment drifting, corrupting and being an example, no longer of love, but of human pride and folly. And so we pray, discern, perhaps painfully tear down what have become idols, and begin again.

I was once at a Mass celebrated by a bishop, who was very happy at the end of Mass. He crowed, “We were really Church tonight!” I got it. I understood. On an emotional level, it was not an unreasonable reaction. But the point is: no matter how freaking boring it may seem to you– it’s still Church.

So there’s where ritual comes in.


January 2022 Highlights

February 2022 Highlights

March 2022 Highlights

April 2022 Highlights

May 2022 Highlights

June 2022 Highlights

July/August 2022 Highlights

September 2022 Highlights

October 2022 Highlights

November and December 2022 Highlights

Books of 2022

Movies and Television of 2022

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I did this last year (Here’s one post, with links to all the others.) It’s a way for me to sort through things, retrieve ideas that might work for longer pieces in other spaces, make me feel horrible about my terrible memory (did I write that?) and so on. I don’t include posts on saints or travel here. The saints because I tend to re-run them, no apologies, and the travel posts because they are collected here. Gender-related posts here.  Book and movie takes, as well as links to other monthly highlights, at the end of this post.

All February posts here.


I got to church a little late, and left a little early as is my probably unfortunate habit these days. I was surprised because the church was more full than I’d seen it ages. The music was as mediocre as always, but the preaching was good and there were no narcissistic liturgical shenanigans. A crowd of teens sat in the front, I’m thinking at the end of a Confirmation retreat. A man in the back pew smiled and graciously made room for my latecoming self. A mentally disabled man limped past me after Communion. The deacon brought the Eucharist to an elderly woman in a wheelchair, and the mother in front of me pointed to the words of the Creed in her little boy’s Magnifikid.

It is not easy to be a person, to be a human, to be a Catholic. I don’t think it ever has been, and the institution and the people help sometimes and hurt quite a bit.

I don’t know what to make of it all, and have not yet figured out how to say what I do make of it, but I think I do know that nothing begins until you open the door, take that uphill walk, find your place with the rest of the broken, no matter when you arrive, and try to listen.

This is conjecture on my part, and I’m generally not a fan of conjecture or scene-construction when it comes to Jesus words and activities in the Gospels, but this simple possibility – that Jesus could have told similar stories and made similar points in many different contexts  – might point to, for some of you, perhaps, a more helpful way to the presence of Jesus in the Gospels than the constant focus on intra-Gospel differences and authorial intention does.

The assumption of certain narratives as normative, deviations as heresy and honest discussion and exploration of data, evidence and experience as a threat is not what I call progress.

I’m thinking about this, not just because I happily stir-fried some asparagus the other day, but also because it’s time to start thinking again about the Gallery of Regrettable Lenten Food and how much even home cooking has changed over the years, mostly thanks to access to higher quality ingredients – and also because I made salmon cakes last night. I’ve never made salmon cakes or loaf or croquettes in my life, but it was also a regular part of our menus growing up (not with fresh salmon, but with canned, of course) – and also because as I was making the slaw to go with the salmon cakes, I pulled out some powdered mustard and some celery seeds, saw they were from Kroger’s, which meant they’d come from my parents’ house, looked at the sell-by dates, saw they were….. 2004 and 2009 – since my parents died in 2001 and 2011, that was not surprising, and well, I guess it’s time to toss them. Finally.

It’s worth a read, always, and perhaps especially as we live in a time in which government and corporate solutions are not only proposed and suggested but mandated by our betters who assert that the evidence is sound and settled and who present it all with the highest confidence in their own expertise and the deepest contempt for their skeptics’…skepticism.

Even with the post-Conciliar anxiety about “participation,” I have always felt that one of the great strengths of the Catholic Mass has been the sense that we do, indeed, come as we are to this place, and that’s okay. We are joyful and mourning, curious, doubtful, restless, fearful and content. God has gathered us here, and we trust that in the liturgy, in this point in space and time, he will meet us where we are, as we are. The liturgy – in its objective nature, its traditional formality and even its silence – gives us all room to celebrate, to grieve, to wonder, to praise, to drift.

This entertains me because all three takes are very expressive of our respective personalities: Careful and usually accurate assessment of the landscape, then making a decision based on that; A willful determination not to be wrong, ever; and, er…hope something works, be glad when it does, but you know, whatever happens happens, so let’s move on.

Back to music. We’ve never been on the High Performance Road. But we’ve also been blessed because from the beginning, his excellent teacher has understood this kid, accepted his goals, made sure that if he changed his mind he had the tools to take those steps, but if he doesn’t – well, even if you don’t want to practice three hours a day and try for Julliard, you can still go deep into the music, play it beautifully, grow from the experience, and bring some of that beauty with whoever happens to be listening at the moment, whether it’s the fifty parents and grandparents at the recital, or if it’s the elderly woman and her daughter, walking quiet, steady laps around the church after their rosary while you practice in there.

I think I made her cry again.

And hopefully, all of this will bear fruit in that no matter where he goes, he’ll always find a keyboard when his fingers start itching, and maybe even find others to jam with, not because there’s a big audience to please or a scholarship on the line, and to certainly use his gifts for God’s glory and the service of others when called to, but in the end, to sit at the piano, most of all, for the pure, absolute joy, in communion with that mystery in your own soul, expressed in musical language gifted to you by a riot of brilliant, quirky friends across time.


January 2022 Highlights

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April 2022 Highlights

May 2022 Highlights

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October 2022 Highlights

November and December 2022 Highlights

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First, on this Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas, we encounter Simeon again.

Back in 2020, this was a Living Faith day for me and I wrote this – written and turned in during the spring when “just two weeks to stop the spread” was still being hopefully and trustingly bandied about, btw

Another calendar year is drawing to an end. When I look back, what do I see? What emotions do the events of this year’s journey around the sun bring? Perhaps the year has been dominated by sadness or discord, and we won’t be sorry at all to see it go.

Perhaps 2020 will stand out in our memories for unexpected and surprising moments of joy. Maybe we’ll be glad for what we learned, even if that schooling was difficult and unwelcome.

In that moment in the Temple, Simeon knew he was in the presence of someone special. He knew God was at work. My challenge, as I reflect back and look forward, is to remember that this child who Simeon welcomed was with me every moment of this past year. And because of that, no matter what, because of him, I can move on the journey—in peace.

Remember Art & Theology? This link takes you to posts tagged “Simeon” – at which you will find some wonderful art, including the piece below from a Bolivian artist and what the blogger says is the painting that was on Rembrandt’s easel when he died.

Simeon in the Temple by Rembrandt

And a poem by Richard Bauckham, on waiting:

…Two aged lives incarnate
century on century
of waiting for God, their waiting-room
his temple, waiting on his presence,
marking time by practicing

the cycle of the sacrifices,
ferial and festival,
circling onward, spiralling
towards a centre out ahead,
seasons of revolving hope.

Holding out for God who cannot
be given up for dead, holding
him to his promises—not now,
not just yet, but soon, surely,
eyes will see what hearts await.


It’s also the optional memorial of St. Thomas Becket.

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It is from a small book by Anglo-Catholic Enid Chadwick called My Book of the Church’s Year.  Reprint edition available here but can be viewed online here.

He’s in the Loyola Kids Book of Saints in the section “Saints are people who tell the truth.”

Here’s the last page of the entry, so you have a sense of the content.


A couple of years ago, the British Museum had a special exhibit on Becket. Here’s the website for the exhibit and here’s a playlist of associated videos.

And here’s an episode of a BBC series called Pilgrimage centered on the Canterbury pilgrim path. It’s quite good – charming.


Of course, we read The Canterbury Tales in the homschool. Here’s my take – well, really quoting someone else’s take – on why everyone in the Church should read it right now.

He is the great poetic ecclesiologist of a Church marked by sin and so repentance. He is a voice for our times because he can act as a guide to living together, confessing our sins, telling our tales, and sometimes laughing on our way through the vale of tears towards Jerusalem.

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As the calendar year draws to a close and Advent begins, it seems a proper moment for stock-taking and pondering. What do all of these disruptions, changes and challenges we seem to be constantly experiencing mean? What is this new world and how do we live in it?

Well, when you take time to sit with the Scriptures of Advent, you might be struck, most of all by the old news, once again, that all this supposedly unprecedented disruption, change and challenge is not new at all.

For most of human history, most people, even the wealthy, have lived on the edge of earthly existence, with very little sense of control. Life was precarious. High maternal mortality, high childhood mortality, high mortality, period. Populations subject to the vagaries of climate and natural disaster, without benefit of satellite or radar to know what’s coming. Famine, floods and pestilence always on the horizon of possibility, which meant, not that you’d have to put off a trip to the store and consider a week or month-long disruption of the supply chain, but that you, your children and maybe your whole village would  starve.  Brutal rulers, punishments and restrictions, pogroms and genocide.

And you don’t even have to reach back to the Middle Ages to find it.

In such a context, it is not difficult to remember that you yourself are not God, or even a god, that you don’t create your own destiny. With that understanding, it’s not so much of a challenge to live in the knowledge that any joy or contentment you can grab from life on earth will not – and cannot – be tied to material prosperity and peak physical health, for neither of those things will probably ever come to you at all.

For most of human history, it hasn’t been the full, satisfied college degree holder looking to scratch a vague itch of existential despair who’s been hearing the Good News. It’s been the peasant nursing constantly aching teeth, squinting to see through weakened eyes, middle-aged at thirty, working hard from dawn to dusk, remember dead children, hearing rumors of war, studying the skies, waiting and praying for rain, subject to the whims of human authorities.

If they could see us, reeling from our present-day troubles, they might well ask us, “Well…what did you expect?”

Consider one of the traditional Advent Scriptures: Isaiah 63-64. It’s an astonishing outcry of a people in exile, a wild mix of all that every person feels in time of loss and crisis: What did we do to do deserve this? Why are we suffering so? Have we done wrong? Are we suffering consequences of that wrong? God is so harsh with us! God seems to be silent, hidden and absent? But….you know what? He’s our Father. We trust him. He’s like a potter, we’re clay. Go ahead, Shape us.

The voices come to us from 2700 years ago – 2700 years – questioning, railing and ultimately trusting – and it’s as if they could be speaking today

Well, they are.

Same human race, same struggle, same veil we yearn to lift, same ache in our hearts for peace, wholeness, life and love.

Same cry for a savior.


I’ve attached this poem to another Advent post in the past, but it seemed fitting here. Written at the end of World War II, the poet Anne Ridler says of it:

This poem, ‘Expectans Expectavi’, which is the title of a psalm, “I waited patiently for the Lord”, is about waiting, written at the end of the last war when the whole world, really, seemed to be holding its breath for the return of ordinary life, and all the soldiers from overseas, and I thought of it in the wintertime, at Christmas, with the carols and the children’s faces, recalling the refugees of the time. The poem happened to be chosen to be posted up on the underground, so although I never saw it myself, several of my friends have been surprised by it in the middle of a crowd of people standing up in the tube train.

Expectans Expectavi

The candid freezing season again:
Candle and cracker, needles of fir and frost;
Carols that through the night air pass, piercing
The glassy husk of heart and heaven;
Children’s faces white in the pane, bright in the tree-light.

And the waiting season again,
That begs a crust and suffers joy vicariously:
In bodily starvation now, in the spirit’s exile always.
O might the hilarious reign of love begin, let in
Like carols from the cold
The lost who crowd the pane, numb outcasts into welcome.

Advent is a reset, yes, but if we listen carefully to God’s Word and the lives of others beyond our own bubble of time and space, it can be a reset that anchors us more deeply in communion with the reality of the ebb, flow and crashing and burning of human experience, an experience that our privileged houses of sand manage to hide from us – those houses of sand Jesus warned us about for just that reason: they trick us, the rich man of the Gospel, into thinking we don’t need God…

…that we don’t need a savior.

And so we listen to the Scriptures proclaimed at Mass and in the Church’s prayer, we listen to the saints whose words are given to us during this season, and we’re reminded that none of this is about hoping and dreaming that someday life will get “back to normal” or that this particular type of suffering and difficulty will end and then peace on earth will reign right now, in its fullness.

It’s about acknowledging the mess – the mess that’s now and the mess that came before the present mess – and lifting up that mess to God, trusting that he will take it and somehow make good come out of it, a type of rescue, if you will. It doesn’t diminish a bit of our current suffering. It simply situates it and puts us into communion with others who have suffered – which is everyone.

And then, as the weeks of Advent pass, we listen to the cries and questions asked and answered over centuries past in the context of Word, prayer, song and art – it becomes clearer and clearer: Yesterday and today, the human family speaks from the same broken, suffering heart – and yes, He hears us. And look right here in the mess, just look: here he is.

Others have found him. Keep looking. So can you.

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Not quite as much walking on Saturday, but even so, one thing became clear to me Saturday night – I can cross the funicular off my transportation options from mid-afternoon on at least for the next day or so. It’s a holiday weekend, so folks are flocking to town and La Pipila is a major destination – and of course if you can, you want to ride up and down, not just for the ease of it, but for the experience.

(Remember – click on photos for larger versions, and go to Instagram for videos.)

This was the crowd at La Pipila early Saturday evening:

And this was the line for the funicular to go up about 9pm Saturday night:

The line goes in a building and up some stairs, and each funicular car holds no more than 8-10 people. With about five minutes in between loads. So….

Everyday is Leg Day now…

Saturday morning, I started walking with the intention of getting a taxi up to San Cayetano for real this time (remember, I tried, unsuccessfully, on Friday). In my walk out of the pedestrian-only city center, I spied open doors on a church that had been closed every previous time because of reconstruction work they are doing. Popped in to find a small space, packed with images, of course, and also with two groups of religious education students – one younger group at the front, and an older group on the other end. It’s the Templo de San Roque.

Made my way through the already-crowded streets, found a taxi, showed him the place on my phone – and up we went.

You can read the history of the church (and, incidentally, the mine) here. Fraught, to say the least, in my opinion. It’s gorgeous, retablos covered in gold leaf, the picture frames solid gold – in gratitude to God and St. Cajetan for the discovery of the silver mines – which were mined with enslaved and indentured labor.

They manage seeing the church quite closely. The pews are roped off so you can’t sit, there are people supervising, asking you to take off your hat and reminding tour guides not to….guide while they’re inside.

I would have liked to sit for a bit and take it in, but I have no complaints with their rules, because they’re made with their own sense of the sacredness of the space in mind, probably knowing full well what havoc and disrespect tourists can bring with them.

Another taxi back down, this time directly to the bus station, so I could catch a ride to Leon.

Inter-city buses in Mexico are very comfortable, clean and efficient. Buses go between Leon and Guanajuato every twenty minutes, so I paid my 66 pesos (about $3USD), and there was a bus, just about ready to go.

I wanted to go to Leon for a few reasons: it’s a center of leather goods production, and there are heaps of leather goods vendors right outside the bus station, there’s a well-regarded museum of Guanajuato history and culture, and the cathedral – Pope Benedict visited here in 2012. Here’s his homily at vespers at that cathedral.

First stop was a short walk to the museum – admission 25 pesos – a bit more than a dollar. It was a nice museum, spacious, but not very large. There were four main exhibit spaces, only one of which is permanent. There was contemporary art in two of them, a (of course) Don Quixote exhibit in another and then the permanent space, which was very well done, but seemed incomplete – it only went up to the 18th century. There was a closed off door across the mezzanine, which seemed to me to be a continuation…oh never mind. It cost a dollar, for heaven’s sake.

From there I headed in the direction of the cathedral, which was about a 2 mile walk from the museum. I thought I’d walk it to see the city and then cab or Uber back. Which is what I did.

Leon is a huge, busy city – the center is not “charming,” but it’s clean, very busy, with lots of shopping. In gardens and plazas along the way, I saw many quinceañera photography sessions happening, and several shops like this:

Approaching the old city, I saw this looming church and thought, huh, Maps was wrong. Why did it tell me the cathedral was a mile further?

Because…this isn’t the cathedral.

I wish I had done my research and learned more about this before I’d gone – I’d have headed over earlier to give myself more time and toured the crypt as well.

Expiatory Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

My preference is for colonial…well I prefer a lot of church architectural styles over Gothic, but it’s definitely impressive.

Okay. So one more mile and then, here we are:

To save time, I got an Uber back to the bus/leather area.

The driver pointed out what he claimed were the best shops. Well, no matter what, combine the lower cost of living and the made-right-here prices…and you have some deals everywhere.

Also….????

The bus ride back took less time than the first because it was non-stop. About 40 minutes or so. The main bus station in Guanajuato is pretty far out of town, so I took a taxi back, rested a bit, then went out to fight the MOBS of people in town. I had a meal in an actual restaurant, but this is long enough, so I’ll save that for the “what I ate” post. But before that…

..well, one of the most internationally well-known artists to play at this festival was Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of the LA Philharmonic. He and the orchestra (I presume just a core) have been touring and this was the last stop. My Pianist Son is a big Dudamel fan, so I’m familiar with him. Tickets for the concert last night were impossible to get, but I thought…hey. I know where the stage door is. Let’s lurk.

(I wasn’t the only one, just so you know.)

I got there about 7:35, security was fairly heavy around the door, so I knew he hadn’t yet arrived. Five minutes later…there he was. One young fellow was brave and leaped over and got a maskless selfie with him – he (the young guy) was ecstatic, and told me, as we were walking away that no he wasn’t a musician, just a fan of great music, he’d been waiting there since 5 and that tickets for the concert had sold out in an hour.

Anyway, here’s Gustavo Dudamel in a mask.

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Well, duh. Of course it was Louis IX. That was who I’d assume it was, but a quick look of images, didn’t give me the crown of thorns. Who knows. I probably entered the wrong Louis in the search box, given I was …pretty…tired.

So, let’s go – day 3.

One of the features of day 3, aside from walking was an approximately 1639% rise in the number of American voices I heard as I walked. I mean – everywhere.

So, back to the walking. The first thing I wanted to do was to see if this one church – San Francisco – which I’d walked by ten times so far, and has always been closed – was open. It wasn’t. But the little church just at the other end of the block was, so I popped in. It’s called Santa Casa de Loreto, and according to what someone said in Google reviews is “used for talks.” It’s quite small, circular, filled with saints in their garb, as it the tradition here.

Click on photos for full, large version. Videos on Instagram. For past days, check the “highlights.”

Next, time to climb. Guanajuato is in a valley, and there are a lot of good hikes in those hills. Friday, I decided to stay urban and just walk up to Mina de San Juan de Rayas. It was the first mine in Guanajuato, discovered in 1550 by a muledriver after whom it’s named.

So remember, Guanajuato is in this deep valley with basically one flat street, and then everything else running uphill from that point, on all sides. So that was my walk – up, up, up – to the first viewpoint, and then down a bit, then back up to the town and the second viewpoint and the – of course – closed church.

Next, I decided I’d either just walk back down to town (a different way) or, if I could get a taxi, go up to San Cayetano to this church.

So I started walking down the road. Within a couple of minutes, a taxi carrying a passenger passed me going up, so I assumed he’d be coming back down in a minute. He did. I hailed him, and said (I thought) Cayetano? He repeated it back to me – I thought. Nodded. I got in.

I guess my accent is much worse than I thought. I was following our route on maps, and it was fine for a couple of minutes, then just kept descending….till we ended up at the Mercado Hidalgo back in town, he put on his flashers and looked at me expectantly. Si?

Sigh. Okay. I guess God didn’t want me to go to Cayetano today. Sure. Saved me a walk down at least.

So, since I was right there, I went to the Museo Regional de Guanajuato Alhóndiga de Granaditas – you can read about its history here. The placards were all in Spanish, of course, but they did have scan codes – thanks, technology! – so you could access English-language information. I was a little scared because in the MesoAmerican room, I’ve gotten to the point where I can sort of differentiate between the cultures just by the look of the artifacts – when I said to myself without reading the card, “Oh, that’s Veracruz” – I knew my life was very strange now, thanks to kids and the way they expand your world.

Lots of Mexican Independence material, since this area was crucial to that struggle. But of most interest to me (of course) was a room full of ex-votos – I’d seen a lot at the Guadalupe shrine a few years ago. Those I highlight here seem to refer to mining accidents.

Then some shopping, lunch at a place highly recommended by another B & B guest – and yes, it was good.

Then up (on the funicular) for a rest before heading out in the night to see what was happening – and one of the things that was happening was Mass at the always-closed San Francisco, so in I headed. The priest had just begun with the Eucharistic Prayer, which was the Roman Canon, by the way. (I would like to take up a collection to purchase wireless mikes for Mexican parishes. In both Masses I’ve been to so far, the priest has held an microphone even during the consecration. Maybe get a server to hold it for you? Shrugs)

The Mass was fairly full, I’m guessing both because St. Jude seems to be an important saint in this parish (his statue was at the front) and because St. Jude is popular – there were several in the congregation holding small statues to be blessed. As per usual here, the doors to the church were open all during Mass, and so people came in and out, and street life noises – including a would-be lounge singer on the plaza – mingled with the life inside.

You might be interested, too – out of a congregation of about 70, only 9 or so received Communion. I’m used to seeing maybe 25% of predominantly Latino congregations receive Communion, and this was even lower. Interestingly, a noticeable number of people left right after the Consecration, as well.

The town was hopping – as it always seems to be. I wandered around, took in various street musicians, then decided to head back in time to get the funicular.

Hahahaha. I missed it by that much. As in – the last one was rising up the tracks as I walked through the door. Cerrado. Menana. Well, I don’t want to ride it manana, thanks.

So, up I trudged, in the process getting caught in a callejoneadas matrix (photo on the far right). Well, at least now I know their route. At one point, there was no way I could gracefully exit the situation, with callejoneadas groups on three sides…well, at least I saw the show (for free)! I think one of the situations was that this particular callejoneadas excursion was only for couples, and then they divided them into two separate groups, telling them that they were going to do separate tours – and then (at the point I arrived), they brought the men out from behind a block of buildings, up some steps to reunite with the women accompanied by some romantic song. I think that’s what was happening, anyway.

(Video on Instagram)

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