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.
My Table Is Spread
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.
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?”
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.
My mother was a faithful woman, but she was not a pious woman. In the weeks before her death on Dec. 22, her speech became increasingly infrequent. When she did speak, she was hard to understand. Repeated strokes had left her mouth slack, her tongue seemingly too large for its space. Usually crisp sounds sagged and stretched beyond recognition.
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.
The Phoenix diocese announced plans to restrict the distribution of Communion under both species. The cup will be offered to the laity on feast days “and other special moments.” The first reason the diocese offers is this: to protect the sacred species from profanation.
“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.”
Music is the lit dynamite of liturgical debates. It is the struck match in a parched field; the gasoline-soaked rag stuffed in a bottle and tossed, flaming, into the crowd. Music is a marker: “Thee’s to the right; You’s to the left. Please, no talking.”
I once walked into the Bishop DeFalco Retreat Center in Amarillo, Texas, and paused at the sign prohibiting firearms. I looked around for the other sign directing me to the hymnody conference.
On the day people in Joplin, Mo., were searching the ruins for survivors of the tornado, we got a call from a survivor in Haiti. It was Claude Winddcheley Saturne, calling to say, “My long Lent is over.” He had started college classes that morning in Port-au-Prince.