Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Giving Thanks

The President of the United States will declare tomorrow to be "a national day of thanksgiving." Across the USA, families will gather to carve turkeys, watch football, and argue with long lost relatives.

My teenaged son will be with his mother's family for the occasion this year. My family is all in Ohio. Somebody told me "no one should be alone on Thanksgiving." But this year, I will be. I've been alone for holidays before.

And millions of us are, for one reason or another. Some have no home. Some have no one to care about them. Some are working in hospitals or nursing homes. I know what you're thinking: "Why don't you go work in a soup kitchen?" Been there, done that. I'd be one of several people standing around watching everybody else who had the same idea. I also spent one year feeding patients in a hospice. I loved it so much, I went again, and they didn't know what to do with me.

For many of us, tomorrow will be just another quiet day when damn near everything is closed.

But the nearby IHOP will be open, thanks be to God. I had my Thanksgiving there back in 1999. It was good enough then, it's good enough now. I'll probably go to a movie, or spend the day packing for the Thanksgiving Dance Weekend in Rochester starting on Friday night. I look upon this "dance gypsy" experience as the beginning of a personal odyssey, which I'll be describing on this weblog in the weeks (and months) to come.

So, thank your God in Heaven that you have relatives with whom to argue. Thank God there's still football. And thank God for Yahoo, where we can learn everything we need to know about Thanksgiving. Not to mention all those great movies on cable that they run every year.

Not only that, but I still have my good health. I hear the highway callin.' Till next week...

Thursday, November 14, 2002

While I was away...

Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older, too

(-- from Landslide, by Stevie Nicks)

I suppose there is some truth to the phenomenon known as the "midlife crisis." If nothing else, I could blame it all on that.

I was on a leave of absence from my job for over a month. I used most of the time to clean out my place. There I was, with enough stuff for a one- to two-bedroom unit, situated in a studio apartment. The task became a metaphor of my life these days.

In the time I was away, I had to deal with some changes in that life -- taking a hard look at my career and where it was all going, the painful parting of the ways with a dear friend (for whom I still pray to this day), the facing of my son's challenges in coming of age in a "broken home." All in all, there was the sad reality that, in refusing to carry the Cross, it was the Cross that found me. I sank into a deep despondency, a "dark night of the soul," if you will. There were friends who were ready to take me to the hospital. No, I said, I have things to do. I made excuses.

But it was, at all places, the National Wanderer Forum (where I served again as sacristan and liturgical co-master of ceremonies) that I found people who offered consolation, and prayed over me.

I still go zydeco dancing. Can't seem to shake it loose. I got a new guitar, a Fernandes Nomad, Standard Model, in black. This is my first solid-body electric I've owned since I was a kid. But this one has a built-in amplifier/speaker. When I don't have a partner at dances, I pull out my guitar and jam with the band from the dance floor. Somebody told me the other day, of how the late blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn used to do the same thing.

I could do worse. (Pictures to come.)

The other day, I went to the hotel where the American bishops were having their annual meeting, and had lunch with representatives of the Boston-based group known as the Voice of the Faithful. There was a gentle meeting of hearts and minds, a frank and honest exchange of views, and an admission that things got way out of hand in the process of breaking new ground as an organization. With some disagreement apparent within the leadership ranks (at least it seems that way to me) over where to go from here, I was able to shed some light on how they might best address the issues of clerical sexual abuse, within the bounds of Catholic teaching and practice. I have no idea whether what I had to say will make any difference.

That encounter aside, I have paid little attention to the meeting.

Nor, for that matter, have I paid much attention to much else, least of all in the blogosphere. Upon my return, I see where some writers have combined efforts into a single site. I can see this being the wave of the future for some, especially since it provides for more variety and livelier exchange at each site. The various pundits can respond to one another, just as in the days of the more erudite e-mail discussion lists.

But for the time being, I'll remain on my own here. I'll keep an eye out for things, commenting on the state of the world from time to time. But other than that...

Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Not Enough of Niebuhr

A reader sends me this piece from First Things magazine, on the controversy surrounding Niebuhr:

"Germane to the question of a Niebuhrian 'naturalistic view of the world' is his prayer life. Judging her husband’s prayers to be key to his faith, Ursula Niebuhr assembled a representative collection of them in Justice and Mercy (1974), along with some of the sermons from his decades of circuit-riding in college and seminary chapels. She introduces his prayers with his own outline of a biblical sequencing to be observed by the 'priestly function' of a pastor: 'praise and thanksgiving... humility and contrition... intercession... aspiration.' All such prayer is directed to 'the divine person' of whom he reminds Wieman and Tillich. Among the most memorable prayers is the 'serenity prayer' that was circulated among soldiers in World War II by the USO and incorporated by Alcoholics Anonymous and others into their twelve-step programs..."

Hey, whatever works.
"God, grant me the serenity... accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

I was asked by a reader to translate the prayer posted last Saturday. "The Serenity Prayer" is very well known in the present day, and is attributed to the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971). What is less well known is the rest of the prayer:

" one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen."

Saturday, November 02, 2002

"Deus, dona mihi serenitatem...

...accipere res quae non possum mutare, fortitudinem mutare res quae possum, atque sapientiam differenitam cognoscere."