Monday, November 21, 2022

You're doing it wrong

You’ve seen the clickbait, some photo of an everyday object withe the caption, “You’ve been using this all wrong!”

This summer, Math Guy (the offspring with many blog names, including “The Egg”) and his fiancee (!) brought me a cool spoon for my tea that rests on the cup. For months I had been putting the spoon across the cup with the bowl hanging outside the cup. Recently it occurred to me that this left the spoon dripping onto my desk. So I tried the perch shown in the photo. I wasn't sure how secure this would be, but it works great. The spoon seems to float, but is stable enough to carry the mug upstairs without dropping the spoon. I was definitely doing it wrong! (And I did check with the internet, which confirmed it.)

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Morning prayer: In praise of lament

The traditional name for Morning Prayer is Lauds, a chorus of praise. Examinations of conscience and penitential rites are reserved for the end of the day. Every day is a new start, venturing forth into a world lit up by the grace of its creator. But I’ve been trying something different these past few months. Listening to the news. To the groans and howls of a world in pain.

About 10 years ago a director on a retreat suggested praying with the news. “Oh, no, I never touch the paper while I’m on retreat.” “Well,” she replied, “Maybe you’d read the news differently on retreat?” I still steadfastly avoided browsing the NY Times sitting on a table in the hallway. But she was right.

So when I wrote an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer last spring about thoughts and prayers in the wake of the Uvalde shooting, someone apparently decided I needed to be ‘educated’ about guns and signed me up for a daily email from a gun company. Every morning I get links about why I need to be armed, and how best to neutralize targets. I could click and unsubscribe, but I haven’t. It sits in my email to remind me to be persistent in praying for an end to the violence and equally persistent in doing the work for justice this demands. It reminds me, too, to examine my conscience to see where I am complicit in the culture that fosters such disregard for human life. To start the day determined to work for the Gospel - for peace, mercy and justice.

This morning I awoke to the news of the shooting in Colorado. I wanted to look away, to pull up psalms of joy on the Solemnity of Christ the King. But instead I sat with the reality of a fallen world, to which I have contributed. And wept for those who died. Lamentations instead of Lauds.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Chewing photons for inspiration

I have been riding my bike to campus this semester. My route takes me through a stone archway and then to the top of the green that leads to the science building. The campus landscape was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed Central Park (and the grounds of the now-closed Jesuit Center at Wernersville). When I hit the top of the hill I’m looking down an aisle of enormous oaks, their canopies merging in a magnificent green arch, a nave of a living cathedral. I never fail to take a deep breath when I see it. A literal inspiration. 

I can feel my shoulders relax, and all my anxiety slide off.  Is it all the oxygen those leaves are churning out, as they sit there chewing photons? Is it that the rest of my ride is downhill, away from traffic? Or is it awe?

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

An open window

It's the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council today. I don't remember the opening of the council, unsurprisingly as I was 4 1/2 (almost to the day).  

The late John W. O'Malley, SJ, who was Crash’s undergraduate thesis advisor, summed up the effect of Vatican II as a move from "commands to invitations, from laws to ideals, from definition to mystery, from threats to persuasion, from coercion to conscience, from monologue to dialogue, from ruling to serving, from withdrawn to integrated, from vertical to horizontal, from exclusion to inclusion, from hostility to friendship, from rivalry to partnership, from suspicion to trust, from static to ongoing, from passive acceptances to active engagement, from fault-finding to appreciation, from prescriptive to principles, from behavior modification to inner appropriation." I sometimes scroll through #CatholicTwitter and think how far we still have to go.              

I look at the photograph from the opening and see so many men — all men at the opening. But Pope Paul insisted on adding women auditors to the Council. And now the Secretary General of Vatican City is a woman, Sr. Raffaella Petrini. I got to meet her a few days ago, she oversees the Vatican Observatory. And for a few minutes I felt the stirrings of the Spirit, and the hope that Fr. O’Malley expressed so vividly flared into fire.

Saturday, September 03, 2022

Taking Augustine for a bike ride


At a celebration of the Liturgy of the Word earlier this week, the presider mentioned that St. Augustine said you should live your life with your death always in front of you. 

These days I get from place to place by biking. I love its portability. I can park in my office, or in the rack just outside, not hunt for a spot in the parking lot or lug my stuff up or down the hill. Biking on the Main Line is, however, a memento mori. At every stop sign, for just a fraction of a second, my death flickers before me. 

I have safe routes to church and school and the local grocery store. I am careful. But I am amazed at the blatant disregard for stop signs, through which barrel huge black SUVs driven by mothers, bright blue Porsches, and silver BMWs piloted by men with more important things to do than stop. I presume Augustine got from place to place by walking, at least in his daily life, at a time when the dangers were horses and not horsepower under the hood.  But I live as Augustine would have it. Remembering that I am dust.