Monthly Archives: February 2016

Fall of Pope Francis?

I had to smile last week when I saw the brief video clip of Pope Francis in Mexico yelling at whoever pulled at his arm and sent him toppling onto a young man in a wheelchair.

francis falls

No, I’m not celebrating the infliction of pain.

But isn’t it just so “us?” To be so eager to touch the celeb that we completely forget about the message of peace and mercy the man is preaching?

So greedy to get one of the free rosaries he’s handing out that we forget what they’re often used for, to pray for peace, to pray for others?

More, More, More, Said the Baby is the title of a children’s book, but so often, wouldn’t you say it’s the mantra of our lives? more more more

I have to wonder if one of the reasons the current election is so heated is because we’re so greedy for more, more, more. So ready to knock anyone threatening our goodies out of our way, and the common good (does anyone think about the common good anymore?) be hanged.

Nearly said “damned,’ but this did start out as a post about the Pope. Though, as that fall shows us, he can lose control of his temper. Like the rest of us. Sure he got mad. If I were almost 80 and somebody knocked me over, I’d be pretty ticked, too. It’s to his credit that all he shouted was, “Don’t be selfish! Don’t be selfish!”

Which is another point. The Pope is like the rest of us. He’s not God, he’s not Jesus, he’s not a saint, and he’s not supposed to be worshipped. Listened to, if we will, because of what he represents, not because he’s a superstar.

But isn’t it just like us, to be so excited by the presence of power that we overlook its message.  Ignore the fact that grabbing onto the Pope’s coattails, so to speak, isn’t going to get us anywhere. We have to actually do the work. Practice the mercy he’s advocating, for instance. Which loosely translates as looking out for others.

450px-Moment_of_Mercy_(3412860347)

(Felix de Weldon (US-american): Monument to Richard Kirkland, 1965, Fredericksburg. This sculpture depicts the well known incident in Fredericksburg where a Confederate soldier, Sergent Richard R. Kirkland, risked enemy fire to bring water to the injured Union soldiers in front of Mayre’s Heights.)

Except–well, it’s a lot more fun to get a selfie with a celebrity.

And a free rosary.

Made to Measure

Wooden_ruler_used_for_measuring_cloth_in_a_Bangalore_tailor_shop

Some people are good with rulers. I’m not one of them. My best relationship with a ruler occurred decades ago when we lived in England for a year. Every new entry in every essay book we kept for every subject had to have a perfect line drawn separating it from the entry above, a little the way you use those long black thingies in a check-out line to separate your groceries from those of the person ahead of you. I was good at drawing those lines, once I learned how not to leave long smears of ink from the fountain pens we were required to use.

So the task of creating an arrangement of family photos on our living room wall continues to daunt. Aka frustrate. (Aka madden.)

pics on floor

Because I have to measure. (Not to mention use a level.) I know that in this, the continuation of my second freshman year, I’m supposedly reveling in learning new skills. But precision work like that makes me want to throw things.

You might ask, why, then, am I so interested in learning to quilt? A craft that requires precision at every infinitesimal step? Answer: I’m still in the delusional, what-pretty-fabric stage.

It hasn’t helped my photo project that some of the frames I’m using come from my grandparents’ house and are some sixty fragile years old. Nothing worse than finally getting to the hanging-picture-on-accurately-placed nail moment and having the frame fall apart. (Glass breaks when it hits a wood floor.)

My point (I do have one) is that I’m just not a precision person. The art of eye liner, for instance, continues to elude. One of my uncles (now deceased) a physics teacher at Exeter was probably a precision person. One, at least, of my sons has inherited the gene. And while it’s true we can learn new skills, and especially as we age probably should to stimulate our brains, we can’t become what we’re not. Which I’m always wanting to do. Become the person who’s the life of the party instead of the empress of all introverts. Become the person whose phone vibrates every few minutes because so many friends are texting in (see above). Become, for the moment, anyway, the person to whom marketing oneself comes so naturally that it won’t take longer to write the query letter to prospective literary agents than it did to write the 60,000 word novel.

But–I’m stuck with me. Like it or not. And maybe that’s one of the most basic skills I need to be learning: how to live with what I’ve got.

 

Lent, Lengthening, Lightening

Lent looms.

Actually, if you’re reading this anytime after its moment of writing, it may already have started. Better polish off those chocolates. (I’m working on it.)chocolate

OK. You already know I’m talking about the forty days before Easter that Catholics and others observe as a season of fasting, penitence, prayer and almsgiving to prepare for Easter. (The purple season.)Liturgical_year.svg

What I keep forgetting, is that despite all dire predictions of having to give up this or that and the darker hangings in the church, it’s really a joyful time. The word itself means “spring”, from the anglo-saxon word, “lencten,” from a word meaning “lengthening.” Which the days are doing, have you noticed? I mean, I know it’s snowing outside and we’re shivering in the teens and twenties again, but we’ve had our whiffs of spring, and the real thing is only weeks away. Really.

daffs

My other thought about Lent I’m stealing from our deacon, who stole it from the late scripture scholar Fr. John McKenzie. You know how Lent is associated with the forty days Jesus spends fasting and praying in the desert. You know how many significant events happened to the Israelites there (think Moses and his forty years of wandering). Fr. McKenzie pointed out that one thing about the desert–or really, any wilderness–is that if you don’t focus, you die. Take your mind off where you’re stepping, where you’re headed and how you’re going to get there, and you–get lost, starve to death, freeze to death, you name it. Focus, or die.

(Not to be confused, this day of New Hampshire’s primary, with their state motto.)

NH

All Lent really is, when you come down to it, is a time when we’re invited to keep our focus on what matters. Invited to strip ourselves of everything else, all the things that aren’t essential (you don’t want to be toting a lot of luggage in the desert): Others’ opinions of us. The chase after more money and more fun. These lovely comfortable habits, whatever they may be, that keep us from paying attention to God, that confuse us into believing that because we’re so safe and comfortable, we don’t need anyone else.

Actually, back to New Hampshire. “Live free or die” is all very well on a political level. On a spiritual level, it’s fatal.

Lent helps us realize this. For forty days we’re invited to leave behind safe and secure–where we think we’re free and independent– and step into a wilderness where it’s all-too-obvious that we’re dependent beings. (Ever been lost in the woods at night? Ever notice where your thoughts go when you are?)

We’re invited to recall that no matter how many creature comforts we possess and crave, they’re not, in the end, what keep us safe.

We’re invited, in this season of light-returning, to lighten ourselves of what blocks us from seeing that.

ash wednesday

Happy Lent!