Some years ago, my husband and I visited a Norbertine Abbey in Belgium. The abbot's chair looked like a throne. But just across from the chair, on a wall the abbot faced every day, was a carved skull. Underneath the skull the name of each former abbot was carved into the stone, with space left for the current abbot's name and for the names of those yet to be appointed abbot. Memento mori. (That's Latin for "Don't take this seat personally.")
My Table Is Spread
On Dec. 27, my mother was diagnosed with pneumonia. We kept her home, Foley catheter and all. A visiting nurse came each day to give her a shot of the antibiotic Rocephin.
He’s retired now, our bishop emeritus, but for over 20 years, Richard Hanifen presided at midnight Mass at the cathedral. As Christmas Eve moved into Christmas Day, Hanifen would stand to greet us.
“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” he said. And then, smiling, “I bring you greetings from your brothers and sisters in the El Paso County jail.”
From bedtime to Advent wreaths, ritual is part of the life of parenthood
When Americans say “faith,” we often mean “opinion,” or what we think about God. In truth, faith is a life, and lives are made up of actions, of deeds. Who cares what you think when a vomiting child wakes you at 3 a.m.? Who cares how you feel about it? Who needs your opinion on being startled from sleep by the sounds of retching from the crib? Only this matters: that you do get up and clean the mess and comfort the child.
Both died the same week. One of the dead was a neighbor, near my age, his heart broken after the suicide of his son, a soldier who had returned from Iraq changed in some terrible way.
Very near the anniversary of his son’s suicide, my neighbor took his own life.
One of the dead was a 14-month-old boy, the younger son of a young woman I have known since she was a child. He woke up well, or seemingly so, on Tuesday morning. By Wednesday morning his brain had ceased to function. By Thursday, the baby’s extended family had gathered and the nurses unhooked him from the machines that caused his chest to rise and fall in a terrible imitation of breathing.
My mother claws at her chin. The skin is red and raw. Sometimes it bleeds. If a protective scab forms over the wound, my mother scrapes it off.
The gerontology nurse tells us this behavior is typical of senile dementia. There is nothing to be done, except, perhaps, to “give her something else to do with her hands.”
To read the full article click here.
In his rule, St. Benedict describes one of the decrees of monastic life. The monk "is to promise, before God and his saints to be stable" -- that is, to settle in a place, one place, for life. It is not an assumption we share. Indeed, the notion of a grown man still living in the house where he was born conjures images of instability, mental and emotional. We imagine Boo Radley, afraid of the world beyond his porch.
Our world is shaped and defined not by stability of place, but by mobility and its partner, consumer choice. The premise of consumer choice is that, somewhere, the perfect fit between product and purchaser exists. It is the responsibility of the producer to offer it, the responsibility of the purchaser to find it. Shop till you drop.
This column first appeared July 20, 2009. Read the full column here: Sticking with an imperfect (church) fit
The last time my son-in-law, Corey, went to Haiti, I requested a souvenir from the gift shop at the Port-au-Prince airport. I wanted him to bring me a poster of “Les Chefs d’État d’Haiti, 1804-2011.” This display of the pictures of Haiti’s presidents -- individuals, as well as committees that have ruled throughout Haiti’s last 200 years -- tells the length of each person or cadre’s tenure.
I was not raised in a linguistically sensitive family. My parents called us “stupid” when they thought we were. They employed the full range of locally well-known, inaccurate and often hateful words and phrases for people of different skin colors and abilities.
I say this to assure you that I am not squeamish. My mother, nearing 92, can, and does, still tell me I look or am acting like a “pinheaded idiot,” and the words register in my Texas-toughened brain as a suggestion to take off that outfit, or to stop whatever it is I’m doing.
And yet I cringe every time I hear a bishop or cardinal speak of the penalty, the punishment, the threat of taking a priest found guilty of serious misconduct and “reducing him to the lay state.”
Read the full column here: Reduced to being the earth's salt and savor
You say, “I’m not religious, but I am spiritual,” and then I head to the bar. I’m not spiritual but I am religious.