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My Table Is Spread

Messages in air and architecture

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Our next-door neighbors built their house in 1951. Now, Bob is dead and Mildred has moved to a retirement home and the house is for sale.

Architect Elizabeth Wright Ingraham, the granddaughter of Frank Lloyd Wright, designed the house. The low wooden structure opens onto a lush, walled garden, shaded and sheltered by a large linden tree. Apricot trees are espaliered along the western bricks separating our houses.

When all I want is a Blue Moon ...

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A friend emailed me the other day. She wanted to know if I was experiencing the same "Catholic fatigue" that ails her. You know the symptoms: You're at a party, headed for the beer cooler, when someone whose face you recognize but whose name you don't know pins you up against the stainless steel Sub-Zero and begins to depose you on Catholic hospitals (all of them) and the Plan B contraceptive.

Guidelines for talking about the church

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We talk about schism and purges. We talk about a leaner church, a remnant church. Many are convinced of sinister forces at work, and on the rise. In journals of opinion, at dinner parties, at family gatherings, at coffee and donuts after Mass, Catholics are talking.

I think we need some guidelines for these discussions, ways to bring them out of the fog of conspiracy and into the light of real conversation.

Around the deathbed and the birth bed

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On Dec. 21, my mother died. On Jan. 21, my granddaughter was born.

As my mother lay dying, my children came to say goodbye to their grandmother, the woman they knew as Atoo. For most of her last few days, mother did not open her eyes or speak. We kept vigil. On Monday afternoon, I turned to my older son, who is a physician, and asked him, “Why can’t she open her eyes?”

My, yours, ours: a prayer out of balance

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Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.

I’ve played with the font -- “my sacrifice and yours” -- and tinkered with the punctuation -- “my sacrifice, and yours” -- and still the words jar, like a mathematical equation in which the two parts are uneven, and, so, forever out of balance.

A new meaning for the manger

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In my memory, the Arnett aunts, my grandmother's sisters, are all dressed in pastels -- suits with jeweled pins on the collars -- and wearing hats and kid gloves. A patent leather handbag hangs over each aunt's arm.

There was a rhythm to the attire (suits, hats, gloves, nylons, heels for Sundays and family gatherings) and to the conversation. My father would always inquire after their health.

We laugh because we know who we are

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“The devil, the proud spirit, cannot endure to be mocked.” -- Thomas More

Dictators run some countries, and dictators run some families. Dictators can even be found running some churches. What the tyrants have in common is a hatred of the sound of laughter. Rather than indulge in laughter, they indulge in what G.K. Chesterton calls “the anger of the idle kings.”

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In This Issue

July 18-31, 2014

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