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From the Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols. 

 

 

EPSON MFP image

7 Quick Takes

—1 —

One outing this week: to Noccacula Falls, which is in Gadsden, about an hour away. It’s off I-59, which is the interstate you’d take if you were going from here to Chattanooga or Knoxville.

We’d been several years ago – so long, Kid #5 had no recollection of it. (Kid #4 was working). That time, however, I think we just did a brief stop on our way somewhere else and just looked at the falls from above – we didn’t venture down on the Gorge trail, which allows you to go behind the falls.

We did this time.

A very nice day. The weather’s been really pleasant this week – lows in the actual low 60’s, which is quite unusual and surely won’t last.

For video, go to Instagram.

— 2 —

Movies this week:

Master and Commander – none of us had ever seen it before. A great movie, quite rousing, must have been spectacular on the big screen. It’s a real shame no more were ever made.

But…speaking of Russell Crowe…have you seen the trailer for his new movie? It looks ridiculously insane. 

And he looks…different.

— 3 —

Then Hobson’s ChoiceWhat a wonderful movie. I’d seen it long ago, when – perhaps a few of you remember – some PBS stations would run Janus Films on Saturday nights. Anyway, although some regular television stations ran older films late night or on weekends and the networks still broadcast made-for-theater movies (NBC Monday Night at the Movies!), what they showed was very mainstream, of course. By the time I was in high school, cable had come into our world – WTBS and WGN mostly, in those early days, and they showed movies. But never any art house or foreign films.

So….those Saturday night Janus Films on the Knoxville PBS stations …that was where I first saw Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, The Four Hundred Blows, M,  La Strada, Metropolis and so many others.

Here’s a contemporary article about PBS purchasing the rights to broadcast these films. 

And yes, Janus Films still exists as a rightsholder and distributor.

— 4 —

And oh yes, Hobson’s Choice. The only place it was streaming was through HBOMax, so I grabbed a 7-day free trial (remind me to cancel it on Tuesday, will you?) and got it rolling.

Based on an early 20th century play, starring Charles Laughton, Brenda de Banzie and John Mills and of course directed by David Lean, it’s a marvelous, easy comedy with a strong female lead and a charming love story based, initially, not on passion or even initially much attraction – but built on mutual respect (and, okay,  a little fear) and partnership. John Mills bracing himself for his wedding night – and the transformation that comes the morning after – is very funny and illustrative of how to express true things about sex and marriage in subtle, artful – and comedic – ways.

 

— 5 –

Next movies? Not sure. We only have a couple of days before people head off for a little visit to family, so we must choose wisely. I’m leaning towards The Man in the White Suit and Wages of Fear. 

Quite a change, isn’t it, from forty years ago, when, besides those Janus Films, the best we could get was a commercial-laden, chopped up showing of His Girl Friday on a Saturday afternoon.

— 6 —

 

The cover of the edition that’s in my memory from my parents’ shelves.

Over this past week, I read Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene for the first time. There won’t be another time. It’s definitely my least favorite Greene, although, being a Greene, it’s not an unpleasant read. I suppose I prefer my Greene with a bit more politics and a little less wacky female character. A couple of passages worth remembering:

I met my Aunt August for the first time in more than half a century at my mother’s funeral. My mother was approaching eighty-six when she died, and my aunt was some eleven or twelve years younger. I had retired from the bank two years before with an adequate pension and a silver handshake. There had been a take-over by the Westminster and my branch was considered redundant. Everyone thought me lucky, but I found it difficult to occupy my time. I have never married, I have always lived quietly, and, apart from my interest in dahlias, I have no hobby. For those reasons I found myself agreeably excited by my mother’s funeral.

 

“Are you really a Roman Catholic?’ I asked my aunt with interest.

She replied promptly and seriously, ‘Yes, my dear, only I just don’t believe in all the things they believe in.’ ”

 

“But surely you must have despised the man after all he had done to you?“
We were crossing the long aqueduct through the lagoons which leads to Venice-Mestre, but there were no signs of the beautiful city, only tall chimneys with pale gas flames hardly visible in the late-afternoon sunlight. I was not expecting my aunt’s outburst.
She turned on me with real fury as though I were a child who had carelessly broken some vase she had cherished over the years for its beauty and the memories it contained. “I despise no one,” she said, “no one. Regret your own actions, if you like that kind of wallowing self-pity, but never, never despise. Never presume yours is a better morality.”

 

In the act of creation there is always, it seems, an awful selfishness. So Dickens’s wife and mistress had to suffer so that dickens could make his novels and his fortune. At least a bank manager’s money is not so tainted by egotism. Mine was not a destructive profession. A bank manager doesn’t leave a trail of the martyred behind him.

And then, what sums up the entire book, beginning with a childhood memory:

I was afraid of burglars and Indian thugs and snakes and fires and Jack the Ripper, when I should have been afraid of thirty years in a bank and a take-over bid and a premature retirement and the Deuil du Roy Albert.

(The last is a reference to a dahlia that had not flourished under his care, and had therefore been a source of disappointment to him.)

— 7 —

Today is the solemnity of  the Sacred Heart of Jesus

In a time and culture in which hardly any of us understand what love actually is, in which dehumanizing hate and contempt dominate public discourse, a daily prayer (you can find some here) focused simply on love might just have surprising power.

In a church culture which often reflects contemporary values that emphasize achievement and self-actualization and fulfillment by doing the Next Big Amazing Thing in Your Very Big Amazing Life, a daily prayer centered on opening ourselves to sharing the love pouring forth from the heart of Jesus in just ordinary ways might provide a welcome refocus as we get our bearings for summer.

Here are the pages on the Sacred Heart from The Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols. 

Click on each image for a larger version.

More about the book – and the others in the series – here. 

Tomorrow (June 20) is the memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin:

From The Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols. 

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Pray Like This

 

PATER NOSTER

Image: Daniel Mitsui

Today’s Gospel is the account of the “Lord’s Prayer” from Matthew – embedded within the Sermon on the Mount:

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this:
‘Our Father in heaven,
may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test,
but save us from the evil one.

Of course, we have taken Jesus at his word here – pray like this –  and taken these prayers as literally– how we are to pray.

Although, I wonder how widespread memorization of these words are among those who aren’t Catholic? Years ago, my daughter was in a high school production of Lilies of the Field down here in Birmingham.  There’s a scene in which the sisters recite the Lord’s Prayer. They weren’t off book then, but, you know…the Lord’s Prayer. My daughter was the only one who knew it by heart, here in Bible country. Perhaps none of the other girls were church-goers at all, but it did prompt me to wonder…would evangelicals  – those of whom who aren’t so much into Bible verse memorization anymore – know the Lord’s Prayer as a stand-alone?

Anyway, as a memorized prayer, taking Jesus literally, the Lord’s Prayer is foundational. But it is more than that.

Pray like this. Use these words, certainly, but just as importantly, listen to the shape of it, attend to the perspective. They are about how to pray, no matter what words – or no words – we bring. They are about an attitude and approach.

So often when we think about prayer, we focus on petitions and on ourselves. We begin by spilling out our guts to God about our problems, needs and the state of the world as we see it.  But how does Jesus tell us how to pray?

By beginning in giving praise to God and acknowledging who God is.

Half the prayer is that – God is Father, God is holy, God reigns. Oh, and then…may we be sustained. May we be forgiven. May we be faithful in the face of temptation.

Amen. 

Not a lot of words. No self-centered babbling. A lot of God, not much us.

As I said, a conscience-pricker.

A bit more, on a slightly different angle, from The Words We Pray. 

 

These images are small, and I don’t have time to fix that, but you can actually read the entire chapter on The Lord’s Prayer here. Just go to the table of contents and click on it. 

 

 

There is no quick and simple way to summarize the history of Black Catholics in the United States. If you are interested in doing more studies, you might begin with the website of the National Black Catholic Congress and the work of the great historian Fr. Cyprian Davis, O.S.B.

I am going to point you to a few journal resources, but before that a couple of observations, both playing on favorite themes of mine: the power and danger of false narrative and the reality of unintended consequences.

The casual reader of American Catholic history might well have come to believe that all was mostly well in the history of Black Catholics in the United States. For the narrative that many are familiar with is one that places institutional Catholicism in favorable contrast to mainline Protestantism, with the latter’s role in upholding discriminatory civic policies and traditions. Somehow, in our mind, the work of St. Katharine Drexel and the Josephites and the image of Catholic religious marching in Selma tilts the balance in our favor against segregated and separated Protestant bodies.

Historical reality is, of course, much more complicated. We can celebrate the existence of all-Black religious orders of sisters, but why did they have to exist? Because white religious orders wouldn’t accept Black women as members and white religious orders didn’t want to serve Black populations. We can celebrate, for example, predominantly Black parishes and schools in New Orleans, but why did they come to exist?  Because the institutional Church acceded to Jim Crow laws, both in letter and spirit.

In short: when we look at the history of the Catholic Church and African-Americans in the United States, there is no room for institutional or majoritarian self-congratulation. It’s a history marked by fearful submission to civic, cultural and social prejudice, which teaches us, among other things, that there is nothing new under the sun.

And, like all history, it’s quite interesting, and for those with the time and motivation, provides endless fascinating rabbit trails. A couple of places to begin.

First, as I’ve mentioned, because of the pandemic, the JSTOR site has greatly expanded its free offerings. If you are not a member of a participating institution, a simple email registration will get you free access to a hundred articles now.

Here are a couple of special issues on the matter from the U.S. Catholic Historian. 

Here, from 1986

And from 1994

I’m sure there are other special issues, as well.

The individual stories are fascinating, and each contains a microcosm of one aspect of the experience. This article about the controversy surrounding the funeral of a Creole soldier in New Orleans, for example, tells us much about the lives of free Blacks in New Orleans as well as the conflicts within the local Church, as the priest who celebrated the funeral was at constant loggerheads with the bishop:

amy-welborn

(I can’t download these articles and easily transcribe. So…screen capture is what you’ll get.)

This article  – about Jim Crow laws and New Orleans Catholic schools – explores the deep complexity of the situation – how the “good” of a vigorous school system for black Catholics was the consequence of the Church’s willingness to abide by unjust laws, the prejudice of white Catholics and was at many stages, opposed by black Catholics because they didn’t want separate schools. Why would they?

Finally, a very detailed chronology (through the early 90’s) of Black Catholic history in the United States.  Probably important to start there.

In the late 19th century, there were several meetings of the Negro Catholic Congress. You can read a summary article exploring these meetings here. 

The primary concern – aside a deep conviction of the truth and value of Catholicism as a unifying force –  of all the meetings was education. It was essential, the delegates emphasized over and over again, that black Catholics, especially young men, have access to the same opportunities as other Americans, and that the Church had a responsibility to provide it.

And here, thanks to the Internet Archive, is a pamphlet from the time, reporting on the first three meetings.

 

Scanning the reports and talks, you get a quick overview of concerns and some hints of tensions (for example, one white priest took as a central theme of his talk that of course whites and blacks don’t really want to intermingle and mix. Awkward).

Education, as I said, was a key concern. Interesting to me was an emphasis on industrial and technical education, presented as modern and forward-thinking, in opposition to the old-fashioned understanding of education as merely literary. But, of course, what use is that education if jobs cannot be obtained – and the role of trade unions as obstacles to black workers being employed was frequently mentioned. Another interesting myth-buster to many today, I’d imagine.

What was most frequently expressed was a hope and a trust that the universal Catholic faith would work as a binding force of unity among all people and, given the Church’s role in education throughout history, would play a key role in alleviating the remaining effects of enslavement.

From one of the addresses:

In conclusion then, let us continue to be patient and faithful, praying to God our Father to hasten the time when the Church without discrimination as to race, color or nationality ,will be more closely united, not only by the bonds of common faith, but that she may be able through her Catholic sincerity, to establish forever that most “sacred unity of Christian brotherhood among her children, thus enabling us all, the clergy and the laity to repeat the words of the Royal Prophet, ‘Behold how good and how pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” When this is done universally by the Church, and the proud, selfish deceitful and predjudiced heart of man- kind is changed to that of the Christian and Catholic, we shall then be united hand and heart, for where unity is destroyed, Catholicity is impossible.

Having then as Christian Catholics become united as to one religious teaching and belief, we shall go forth hand and heart zealously laboring for God’s Church and for extending the wholesome influence of the Christian religion. Then, and not until then, will the sacred mission of the Church be realized,  practiced as preached, and her children made to feel that brothers we are, whatever be our color or nationality, and  brothers we shall forever remain, differing in language, in habit, and in taste, we are all united in the bond of one common religion, having one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father over all who is above all and through all and in us all. Then indeed will the glorious mission of the grand old Church be fully accomplished, and the world will then realize the fact that the bond of grace and faith are much stronger than flesh and blood, and as a happy and grateful people we will sing the praises of the Lord and join in one grand chorus, repeating the beautiful words of Ruth, ‘Be not against me to desire that I should be with thee and not depart,for whither soever thou shalt go, I will go; and where thou shall dwell, I shall dwell. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God,” my God; the land that shall receive the dying, in the same will I die, and there shall I be buried.”

This is the first of two blog posts I’m going to write on this. The second, which will follow either later today or tomorrow, will offer a few historical resources.

This one will be from my usual off-center, peering with my head cocked sidewise perspective. That will probably be misunderstood partly because I don’t communicate my point that clearly and partly because people are stupid, sometimes willfully so.

Onward, despite all of our limitations.

Like you, perhaps, I observe public conversations about various issues with a combination of sympathy, understanding, confusion and puzzlement. Sometimes narratives seem so off you wonder where they came from. Also, the older you get, the more frustrated you get at the repetitiveness of both events (as in..when are we going to get this right and stop doing bad and stupid things?)  and discourse (as in..you younguns are just now figuring this out?) 

And so it is with this conversation, which I’ll confine, since it is so wide-ranging and deep, to the Catholic side of things. So..you’re just now figuring out that racism is an issue in Catholic life? Really? 

None of us can avoid centering ourselves in a public conversation, but nonetheless it’s a little bemusing to watch white Catholics, in the name of anti-racism, presenting a project as an attempt to “welcome other voices to the table.” The lack of self-awareness of the paternalism – or, shall we say, maternalism, since most saying things like that are female – is startling.

It’s rather like those times – many – when Catholics pray words like, “May we reach out to the poor” – a “prayer” which expresses quite clearly our sense of the “poor” as Other and not included in the “we.” Not really the Body of Christ.

In some ways that reflects our natural tendency to be self-referential and tribal, but the point of this post is to point out a few ways in which the embodied structures of Catholicism reinforce these tendencies, as well as racial division, especially in the United States. 

I think it’s important to understand, first – and this is something I’ll come back to in the second blog post – that the American Catholic experience on race is unique, and that’s because the United States is unique. Yes, there are other multi-cultural societies, but none quite as multi-cultural as we are here, along with our unique – especially in the 18th century – approach to religion and civic life.

Moreover, do know that throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the American Catholic hierarchy’s actions – and inaction –  on racial issues were judged mostly negatively by others around the world, particularly Rome. In other words, most American bishops and religious order leadership during this period reinforced, rather than resisted racism. And that was noted.

This is startling to some because of a particular narrative, quite prevalent in the American Church since the 1980’s. It’s a triumphalist, self-satisfied narrative, the outgrowth of apologetics enthusiasm,  that has glossed over institutional sins  and presented a story of American Catholicism in which the main point about race has been something like: “Well, Catholicism didn’t split during the Civil War like the Protestants. And, er, Pierre Toussaint, Katharine Drexel and Augustine Tolton, you know. And that one cool Black parish in my city.”

As I said, I’ll dig into that a bit more later. But for now, let me suggest a few points to consider that might help understand American Catholicism and race and perhaps help expand the conversation beyond Maternalistic White Saviorhood.

Catholic Life = Geography

  • Catholic life is organized geographically. From diocese to parish, Catholics normally relate to their faith in a fundamentally geographical context. Therefore, concrete Catholic life is going to reflect lived, concrete social parameters. So it’s going to reflect, in general, a couple of things. First, in terms of American life, it’s going to reflect a history of segregation, both legally enforced and less formal.
  • And then, as legally-enforced segregation waned, of course other divisions developed and grew, both racial and socio-economic. So, the rise of the suburban parish that reflects, not the diversity of a dense urban environment, but all the homogeneity of the gated subdivision. Which – I hasten to say – in some communities are, indeed ethnically, but of course never socio-economically.

So that’s point one. American Catholic life is lived, outside of urban areas, in the context of parishes that reflect the diversity – or lack of it – of their geographic basis.

Modern Catholic Life: Local and personal > Universal and Global

  • One of the great emphases of the Second Vatican Council was attention to the local. We were called to pay attention to the unique presence of God in the local and the personal, rather than the universal. The assumption was that this would help deepen spiritual experiences of God in whatever our present moment and culture might be – and perhaps it has.

But might it have also worked to elevate division and inwardness?

As the upper-middle class suburban parish is happily celebrating God In Their Midst, centered on that experience, counting its blessings and glorying in that,  might it become more difficult to understand, in that context, one’s ties to the universal, to those who live, look and speak differently in different parts of the world, or even of the city?

Along this line, the New Liturgical Movement blog ran a post suggesting the traditional, universally celebrated Latin Mass as a symbol of unity, the loss of which exacerbates division. 

I hasten to add two points to this – first, the universality of the traditional form of the pre-Vatican II Mass did not prevent racial and ethnic divisions, especially in American Catholicism. Shared liturgical forms aside, the history of American Catholicism during certain periods is dominated by rivalries between Germans, Irish and Italians, as well as others. New Italian immigrants were bound and determined to found their St. Philomena Parish rather than worship at the St. Boniface, six blocks east or St. Patrick, six blocks west. And, more to the point of these posts, those assumptions about the universality of the Faith didn’t prevent racism from infecting and in some ways, defining American Catholicism.

But with a universal form of worship, there were at least fewer excuses and justifications for tribalism, rather than more. I think. And it functions as a powerful symbol as well. Sure, there are German or French parishes, but at least the Mass is substantially the same in both. That works on a deep symbolic level.

Second point: the reforms of the Second Vatican Council were intended to emphasize the deeper unity beneath visible forms. Of course. But it’s worth considering how those forms impact us. How they work to emphasize and bring out either positive or negative forces or tendencies.

As I have said in many other contexts, this is not a matter of positing either a rosy past or golden future. It’s a matter of embracing, in hope, what God calls us to, but to also be realistic about human weakness, and then fashion our structures with both of those – the ideals and human weakness – in mind.

Modern Christian Spirituality: Dreams, not Duty

Contemporary Christian spiritual trends, which American Catholicism takes up with enthusiasm, characterizes the spiritual journey as one of personal fulfillment. Of following one’s deepest desires and dreams. If, it is said, one discerns that desire or those gifts, the best way to follow God is to follow where they lead. This, of course, is elitist and reflective of a lifestyle characterized by  leisure, choice and mobility, the type of life which most people through history have not have the privilege of leading.

But it also – besides not being, you know, the Gospel –  works to drastically narrow our spiritual vision, to lead us on a path on which our prayers and spiritual practices become about our feelings, our sense of ourselves, our peace with where we’re at in the world. In that context, concerns about charity and justice become hobbies. They become elements that we add as part of our personal spiritual growth project rather than aspects of faith that’s presented to us as an objective reality that we have a duty to form our lives to.

Read any of the saints for a contrast. Filled with joy, at the same time, they weren’t necessarily “following their dreams.”  They discerned Christ’s call to hard, hard things with difficult people amidst great suffering, and because he said, “….you do unto me“…that’s what they did. You serve, you sacrifice, you change your attitude. Not because it’s satisfying your ambition, but because Jesus did this. Jesus said this. I’m following Jesus. I must do it too. I’m not sure I like it, but here I go.

This may seem roundabout to you, and perhaps it is. But really, no talk of greater diversity in Catholicism is going to progress until we acknowledge:

Catholicism is diverse. Caucasians are a minority of Catholics, globally speaking. If you can’t see this, if you don’t live with this as your reality, then start – start – by shaking off the idea that the essence of faith is embodied by your experience in your parish in your neighborhood and that your journey is about no more than feeling good feelings of peace and fulfillment in that place.

There’s a bigger, cosmic picture that each of us is only a tiny part of. That picture is expressed vividly in the totality of Scripture, in the tradition and worship of Catholicism, in the fractured, weird, history of our faith which reaches out to every corner of the world.

Racism is real, systemic and serious. There are changes specific to that tragedy of American life that require attention and transformation. What I’m doing here is simply suggesting a reset for the Catholic approach. I’m simply maintaining that the cramped, psychologically-shaped, self-help, personal fulfillment model of faith that is lived out in segregated, self-satisfied communities, that centers the white experience as normative and treats Blacks, Latinos and, while we’re at it –  “the poor” and “the disabled” –  as Other we  “help” and “welcome” because it makes us feel fulfilled and at peace –  doesn’t do a hell of a lot to affect that transformation.

Summer Film Series

Last week’s viewing:

(Reminder of audience: Me, 19-year old & 15.5 year old. Experienced film-watchers, mature and patient with the differences between older films and contemporary culture.)

Once Upon a Time in the West :

Sergio Leone, again. A year ago around this time we did a weird pilgrimage in the midst of our Spain trip to the location of the famed circular-cemetery-showdown scene in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Also on that trip, we did a crazy hop across the water to Lucca, Italy to see Ennio Morricone’s “Final Concert” – and looking at his website, it seems that yes, that was accurate. Son #5 is crazy for Leone’s films and for Morricone’smusic, but we had never watched this one – celebrated by some as the best, and notable, for, among other things, genial Henry Fonda playing a thoroughly despicable character.

I mostly enjoyed it – it was a little long, and honestly, while the Claudia Cardinale character was, indeed, a little more complicated than the “prostitute with the heart of gold” stereotype, the regular featuring of her half-clothed self got to be ridiculous. Oh! Time to run the water for my bath! Yeah, whatever.

The opening scene (embedded above)  is stunning. Long, silent, menacing, mysterious. Gorgeously shot, as is the whole film, of course. Breaking Bad wouldn’t exist without Leone, for sure. The plot is a little confusing, but the point is clear: The mythology of the West is just that – mythology. Once upon a time. 

On a similar theme: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Another classic I’d never seen. I admit that I’m not a fan of either John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart’s acting. It’s all about the persona, though, and both fit here, as Ford explores the question of masculinity and the shape of the West – really, the shape of civilization, period – the ultimate question whenever we talk about the settlement of the American West. Again, it’s about the power and function of myth, which I really can’t address directly without spoiling the film. Let’s just put it this way – the vivid, visible discomfort expressed by two main characters in the closing scene of the film is intended to inspire our questions and discomfort as well: about the origins and growth of the country in which we live, and perhaps, casting a wider net, about the myths upon which our individual lives are constructed as well.

An interesting side-note. As I watched the film, I was struck by the character of Pompey – the rancher John Wayne’s employee/ranch hand, who is Black. There were several scenes in which Pompey’s presence and role is not quite in the center, but unmistakable and therefore important, as well. In other words – he didn’t have to be in that scene, doing what he was doing. Most striking to me was the election scene, in which the males of the area gather to elect delegates – they crowd into the saloon, and in almost every scene, Pompey is there, just at the edges of the frame, sitting, looking to the side. Liberty Valance was released in 1962, and it seemed so clear to me that in addition to the general questioning of national myth, Ford was presenting a subtle statement on race – well, not so subtle in some scenes (the schoolroom scene), but in cases like this – visible to those with eyes to see – and once you notice it, overwhelming.

I found a good article on the question of race and Liberty Valance in which the author discusses all of these issues and  relates how director John Ford intended to make three more films starring Woody Strode, who played Pompey.

It is also worth noting that when he died, Ford had plans for three films likely starring Strode. One was The Josh Clayton Story, a western about black cavalrymen, and another was a Western screenplay with a white protagonist that Ford wanted rewritten so that Strode could assume the title role. The last Ford project announced to the press came in March 1972 when “Variety reported that Strode or Williamson would star in a Ford film called The Grave Diggers, an original by Bellah and his son James Jr. about Benjamin Davis, the first black West Point graduate to retire with the rank of major general.” Ford’s plans to make movies surrounding issues of race—and in these three examples also starring African Americans—at the end of his life points to the larger Ford trend of overtly examining race in American culture in his later work, with films such as The Searchers (1956), Sergeant Rutledge (1960), Two Rode Together (1961), and Cheyenne Autumn (1964).

Minority Report  – eh, it was okay. 

think I saw this in the theaters when it came out, but I’m not sure. In my head, I always confuse it with Twelve Monkeys, which I definitely saw in the theater.

There were certain aspects of the future-visioning which I found engaging and interesting, but the plottiness of the last part I found tedious.

His Girl Friday  – time for a comedy break! Of course, I’ve seen it many times, the boys had seen it ages ago, but not recently enough that they remembered much of it. Always great. And a refreshing reminder of a couple of things: First of all, the concept of the “strong woman” and the “woman in the workplace” was not invented in 1968.  Secondly, for all of our present-day mooning about the Nobility of the Press, this (along with its origin story The Front Page) is an excellent reminder that for most of its history, journalism has been experienced as a shady, self-interested pursuit. What raised the image of journalists? Three things, I think:  war correspondents, the love affair of certain elements of the press and the Kennedy administration and, of course, Woodward and Bernstein and Watergate.

His Girl Friday, besides being a cracking time, is a useful reminder of reality.

Last night, Son #5 watched Interstellar. Son #4 was at work and I wasn’t interested. He loved it.

This week? Not sure. I do think Master and Commander will be on the list, though.

Today is his feastday!

From The Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols. 

Here is a link to some of his homilies. It’s pdf. 

Then, a General Audience from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, from 2011:

It is only the prayerful soul that can progress in spiritual life: this is the privileged object of St Anthony’s preaching. He is thoroughly familiar with the shortcomings of human nature, with our tendency to lapse into sin, which is why he continuously urges us to fight the inclination to avidity, pride and impurity; instead of practising the virtues of poverty and generosity, of humility and obedience, of chastity and of purity. At the beginning of the 13th century, in the context of the rebirth of the city and the flourishing of trade, the number of people who were insensitive to the needs of the poor increased. This is why on various occasions Anthony invites the faithful to think of the true riches, those of the heart, which make people good and merciful and permit them to lay up treasure in Heaven. “O rich people”, he urged them, “befriend… the poor, welcome them into your homes: it will subsequently be they who receive you in the eternal tabernacles in which is the beauty of peace, the confidence of security and the opulent tranquillity of eternal satiety” (ibid., p. 29).

Is not this, dear friends, perhaps a very important teaching today too, when the financial crisis and serious economic inequalities impoverish many people and create conditions of poverty? In my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate I recall: “The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred” (n. 45).

Anthony, in the school of Francis, always put Christ at the centre of his life and thinking, of his action and of his preaching. This is another characteristic feature of Franciscan theology: Christocentrism. Franciscan theology willingly contemplates and invites others to contemplate the mysteries of the Lord’s humanity, the man Jesus, and in a special way the mystery of the Nativity: God who made himself a Child and gave himself into our hands, a mystery that gives rise to sentiments of love and gratitude for divine goodness.

Not only the Nativity, a central point of Christ’s love for humanity, but also the vision of the Crucified One inspired in Anthony thoughts of gratitude to God and esteem for the dignity of the human person, so that all believers and non-believers might find in the Crucified One and in his image a life-enriching meaning. St Anthony writes: “Christ who is your life is hanging before you, so that you may look at the Cross as in a mirror. There you will be able to know how mortal were your wounds, that no medicine other than the Blood of the Son of God could heal. If you look closely, you will be able to realize how great your human dignity and your value are…. Nowhere other than looking at himself in the mirror of the Cross can man better understand how much he is worth” (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi III, pp. 213-214).

In meditating on these words we are better able to understand the importance of the image of the Crucified One for our culture, for our humanity that is born from the Christian faith. Precisely by looking at the Crucified One we see, as St Anthony says, how great are the dignity and worth of the human being. At no other point can we understand how much the human person is worth, precisely because God makes us so important, considers us so important that, in his opinion, we are worthy of his suffering; thus all human dignity appears in the mirror of the Crucified One and our gazing upon him is ever a source of acknowledgement of human dignity.

Dear friends, may Anthony of Padua, so widely venerated by the faithful, intercede for the whole Church and especially for those who are dedicated to preaching; let us pray the Lord that he will help us learn a little of this art from St Anthony. May preachers, drawing inspiration from his example, be effective in their communication by taking pains to combine solid and sound doctrine with sincere and fervent devotion. In this Year for Priests, let us pray that priests and deacons will carry out with concern this ministry of the proclamation of the word of God, making it timely for the faithful, especially through liturgical homilies. May they effectively present the eternal beauty of Christ, just as Anthony recommended: “If you preach Jesus, he will melt hardened hearts; if you invoke him he will soften harsh temptations; if you think of him he will enlighten your mind; if you read of him he will satifsfy your intellect” (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi III, p. 59).

Secondly, for children, an excerpt from my Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints:

Then one day something happened that was almost as strange as the ship wandering off course. There was a large meeting of Franciscans and Dominicans, but oddly enough, the plans for who would give the sermon at the meeting fell through. There were plenty of fine preachers present, but none of them were prepared.

Those in charge of the meeting went down the line of friars. “Would you care to give the sermon, Brother? No? What about you, Father? No? Well, what about you, Fr. Anthony—is that your name?”

Slowly, Anthony rose, and just as slowly, he began to speak. The other friars sat up to listen. There was something very special about Anthony. He didn’t use complicated language, but his holiness and love for God shone through his words. He was one of the best preachers they had ever heard!

From that point on, Anthony’s quiet life in the hospital kitchen was over. For the rest of his life, he traveled around Italy and France, preaching sermons in churches and town squares to people who came from miles around.

His listeners heard Anthony speak about how important it is for us to live every day in God’s presence. As a result of his words, hundreds of people changed their lives and bad habits, bringing Jesus back into their hearts.

Next, some photos of the huge Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua from our trip in 2012.

(No photos were allowed inside)

 

7 Quick Takes

—1 —

IMG_20200610_135516

More here.

A year ago, we were here…sigh. 

 

I am certainly missing traveling (except for the spending money part), but also am realistic about it. Our travel was a privilege, and if that type of travel doesn’t happen again, oh well. We saw some wonderful things and had great experiences – and there are wonderful things and great experiences where I live, as well. I came to travel late, but was determined to see what I could of the world in the time I had, shaped by a couple of background experiences: My dad hadn’t started traveling until he was in his early 60’s and always regretted it, and then my husband dropped dead at the age of 50. Anything can happen. Who knows how much time I have? Who knows how much time I have to share experiences with the kids still at home – and even those who’ve moved on? (Son #2 and his family joined us in Spain)

— 2 —

This is a fantastic essay:

Meanwhile, I began to notice that, as kid culture filled up most of my days, I had been exiled from adult culture. Or rather, I began to notice that parents in the US lived in a strange, lonely and depressing gulf between two opposing cultures: one designed entirely around the fantasies not necessarily of children but of parents imagining the kind of uber-stimulation and play their children might need; the other designed almost entirely for single people or couples without children. Mixing these cultures is taboo. It was utterly surreal and hilarious to take my little brother, a single, 29-year-old musician living in Sweden, to the Children’s Museum – ‘What is this place?’ he kept repeating. It was also surreal and slightly stressful to take our daughter to certain restaurants and, once, to a bar in Portland at midnight, or out for the evening with adult friends, and it was off-limits to take her to many shows and performances.

Our ‘family life’ was not supposed to intersect with our ‘adult life’. Being a family meant that we were eating at the local pizza house with its colouring pages and sticky booths; going to the event sponsored by Massive Corporation X or Y, where kids could jump in bouncy houses and glue-stick feathers to construction paper; spending our Saturdays at the playground. Then maybe we’d indulge in a ‘date night’ at some hip izakaya in Lawrenceville, downing cocktails while bleeding $15 per hour for a babysitter.

The New Zealand philosopher Brian Sutton-Smith, the 20th century’s leading play theorist, suggested that, as US society generated more amusements for adults – think of goat yoga, onesie bar crawls and Harry Potter-themed adults-only parties at the art museum – the need to distinguish adult ‘recreation’ or ‘entertainment’ from the play of children became paramount. Young adulthood, or childless adulthood, has roped itself off from family life, letting parents know that adult recreation is not child’s play….

….Kid culture fully subscribes to the idea that children need to inhabit a world unto themselves that has been carefully organised and constructed by adults; that their childhood must be meticulously cultivated in a Petri dish of intentional experiences; that their growth into healthy and happy human beings is contingent upon the number of hours they spend navigating climbing walls or scooping trays of ice into buckets; that ‘good’ parents will rearrange their entire lives to create opportunities for their kids to sit on the grass and watch a librarian act out the story of Hansel and Gretel with finger puppets; that ‘family life’ means doing something targeted specifically or exclusively toward children. It’s the idea that to become a parent is to forfeit citizenship of a larger culture, reinforced by the sly, ubiquitous US capitalist pressure to consume and experience one’s way through a competitive childhood…

….

— 3 —

I don’t disagree:

The director of one of the world’s oldest and most prominent art museums, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, has suggested that religious artworks residing in institutional collections should be returned to their respective places of worship. Eike Schmidt, who has led the museum since 2015, told the Art Newspaper that “devotional art was not born as a work of art but for a religious purpose, usually in a religious setting.”

Schmidt cited a specific example from the Uffizi’s own collection, the “Rucellai Madonna” painted by the Sienese artist Duccio di Buoninsegna in the Middle Ages. The gold-ground panel of the Virgin and Child enthroned, the largest painting on wood from the 13th century known to date, was removed from the church of Santa Maria Novella in 1948.

Viewing such a work in the context for which it was created, says Schmidt, is not just appropriate from an historical perspective, but could also connect the viewer with its spiritual significance.

…Schmidt’s proposal has been received with hesitation, with the archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, saying that “every case would have to be considered on its own merits.” Mark Jones, former director of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, echoed Betori’s words, acknowledging that art is “better in its own context” but telling the Newspaper that decisions would have to be made on a case-by-case basis.

— 4 —

I suppose my blog highlight of the week was my round of applause for JK Rowling. She’s right, you know!

(Which is the motivation for my header-of-moment up there – filled with images of me, Gender Non-Conforming since 1960! As well as one of my late mother, Gender-Non-Conforming since 1924!)

— 5 –

Movie/Writer Son has a post about 1917, which he liked more than I did.

Scofield’s emotional journey, though, is the real center of the film as a whole. When he starts the film, he’s recently traded away his medal that he was awarded for fighting at the Somme for a bottle of wine. The idea of glory has been eroded to nothing with him, and it’s through Blake that he begins to open his eyes again. That’s why the meeting with the French woman is so good. Scofield has made a promise to see the mission through, not because it’s his mission but because he’s forced himself to adopt Blake’s sense of duty and dedication. Almost by osmosis, Scofield has begun to be less cynical towards the fight around him. He goes from, after barely escaping the booby-trapped German line, nearly walking back through No Man’s Land to the relative safety of the English line to offering up everything he has to a stranger. It’s the enormity of the experiences that he’s going through that are changing him, from a close death to a near death experience and finally to the sight of a lone woman with a baby not her own, desperate to survive for just one more day, that pushes his worldview so that by the time he does get up over the lip of the trench to run through those green fields to deliver his message faster, it’s a believable moment of selflessness from him.

— 6 —

Continuing our piano presentation, here’s some Prokofiev:

 

Entire playlist here. 

— 7 —

Tomorrow: St. Anthony of Padua:

From The Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols. 

The Loyola site features a healthy excerpt from the Loyola Kids Book of Saints on St. Anthony. Read it here. 

And then Sunday, Corpus Christi.

EPSON MFP image

 

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Finally

Finally, a day off and away.

Between piano responsibilities and other factors, including a spate of cool, damp weather, we’ve not been able to have many outings.

Today fixed that.

It was to the Little Falls swimming hole – also known as Martha’s Falls, also known as the Hippie Hole. It’s part of the Little River Canyon area, an amazing part of Alabama that serves to emphasize how ecologically diverse this state is.

It’s up near Fort Payne, which gave Son #5 a chance to be amusing and blast “Song of the South” just as we passed the Alabama Fan Club and Museum.

So, just some photos. About a 3/4 of a mile walk from the parking lot to the river. It’s a trail, so it’s not like you’re hacking through the woods, but it is a hike. Which is good. It’s good that it’s difficult, because it can be dangerous – two people died in the span of one week in May.I’m a little fuzzy on how – the waters must have been a lot higher and perhaps they weren’t swimmers. Tragic, no matter what.

Despite the fact that it’s not just a little skip to the swimming area, it is very popular. A man in the parking lot told me that that same (large) lot had been packed out on Saturday – a good reminder not to come on the weekends.

 

 

Click on the bottom right photo.

Also seen – a not uncommon sight in this part of the world. Stars and Bars swim trunks and a group of Latinos chatting amiably. Yes, like everyone else, we have big problems here, but this also, is part of life.

 

And afterwards, ice cream.

Hopefully, all a harbinger of what’s to come.

St. Barnabas

Today’s the feast of St. Barnabas – patron of the parish where Kid #5 is employed as a church organist, by the way. It’s a lovely little church:

 


 

 

Consequently, it is not the fact that we have never erred but our capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness which makes us saints”

Back in the day, Pope Benedict used his General Audience talks to teach us about various figures in church history, beginning with the apostles. At the time, Catholic publishers gathered these talks into bound volumes. When OSV did this, they asked me to do a couple of study guides.

This particular book isn’t in print any more, but of course, all the talks are available for free online.

amy-welborn I maintain that these talks on both the Apostles and the Latin and Greek Fathers would be great parish adult religious education resources – if you agree, feel free to download and reprint the study guide.

You can access it through this link.

The study guide on The Fathers is available through this link.

 

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, from his 2007 General Audience on St. Barnabas

Continuing our journey among the protagonists who were the first to spread Christianity, today let us turn our attention to some of St Paul’s other collaborators. We must recognize that the Apostle is an eloquent example of a man open to collaboration: he did not want to do everything in the Church on his own but availed himself of many and very different colleagues.

We cannot reflect on all these precious assistants because they were numerous. It suffices to recall among the others, Epaphras (cf. Col 1: 7; 4: 12; Phlm 23); Epaphroditus (cf. Phil 2: 25; 4: 18), Tychicus (cf. Acts 20: 4; Eph 6: 21; Col 4: 7; II Tm 4: 12; Ti 3: 12), Urbanus (cf. Rm 16: 9), Gaius and Aristarchus (cf. Acts 19: 29; 20: 4; 27: 2; Col 4: 10). And women such as Phoebe, (Rom 16: 1), Tryphaena and Tryphosa (cf. Rom 16: 12), Persis, the mother of Rufus, whom Paul called “his mother and mine” (cf. Rom 16: 12-13), not to mention married couples such as Prisca and Aquila (cf. Rom 16: 3; I Cor 16: 19; II Tm 4: 19).

Among this great array of St Paul’s male and female collaborators, let us focus today on three of these people who played a particularly significant role in the initial evangelization: Barnabas, Silas, and Apollos.

Barnabas means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4: 36) or “son of consolation”. He was a Levite Jew, a native of Cyprus, and this was his nickname. Having settled in Jerusalem, he was one of the first to embrace Christianity after the Lord’s Resurrection. With immense generosity, he sold a field which belonged to him, and gave the money to the Apostles for the Church’s needs (Acts 4: 37).

It was he who vouched for the sincerity of Saul’s conversion before the Jerusalem community that still feared its former persecutor (cf. Acts 9: 27).

San_BarnabaSent to Antioch in Syria, he went to meet Paul in Tarsus, where he had withdrawn, and spent a whole year with him there, dedicated to the evangelization of that important city in whose Church Barnabas was known as a prophet and teacher (cf. Acts 13: 1).

At the time of the first conversions of the Gentiles, therefore, Barnabas realized that Saul’s hour had come. As Paul had retired to his native town of Tarsus, he went there to look for him. Thus, at that important moment, Barnabas, as it were, restored Paul to the Church; in this sense he gave back to her the Apostle to the Gentiles.

The Church of Antioch sent Barnabas on a mission with Paul, which became known as the Apostle’s first missionary journey. In fact, it was Barnabas’ missionary voyage since it was he who was really in charge of it and Paul had joined him as a collaborator, visiting the regions of Cyprus and Central and Southern Anatolia in present-day Turkey, with the cities of Attalia, Perga, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe (cf. Acts 13-14).

Together with Paul, he then went to the so-called Council of Jerusalem where after a profound examination of the question, the Apostles with the Elders decided to discontinue the practice of circumcision so that it was no longer a feature of the Christian identity (cf. Acts 15: 1-35). It was only in this way that, in the end, they officially made possible the Church of the Gentiles, a Church without circumcision; we are children of Abraham simply through faith in Christ.

The two, Paul and Barnabas, disagreed at the beginning of the second missionary journey because Barnabas was determined to take with them as a companion John called Mark, whereas Paul was against it, since the young man had deserted them during their previous journey (cf. Acts 13: 13; 15: 36-40).

Hence there are also disputes, disagreements and controversies among saints. And I find this very comforting, because we see that the saints have not “fallen from Heaven”. They are people like us, who also have complicated problems.

Holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned. Holiness increases the capacity for conversion, for repentance, for willingness to start again and, especially, for reconciliation and forgiveness.

So it was that Paul, who had been somewhat harsh and bitter with regard to Mark, in the end found himself with him once again. In St Paul’s last Letters, to Philemon and in his Second Letter to Timothy, Mark actually appears as one of his “fellow workers”.

Consequently, it is not the fact that we have never erred but our capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness which makes us saints. And we can all learn this way of holiness. In any case, Barnabas, together with John Mark, returned to Cyprus (Acts 15: 39) in about the year 49. From that moment we lose track of him. Tertullian attributes to him the Letter to the Hebrews. This is not improbable. Since he belonged to the tribe of Levi, Barnabas may have been interested in the topic of the priesthood; and the Letter to the Hebrews interprets Jesus’ priesthood for us in an extraordinary way.

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