An Actor I Love to Watch

Linda Hunt

And Another One...

So much for freedom in academia....the ivy-covered walls are only for those with certain beliefs, apparently....

I am wondering:  if she were a Christian Scientist or a Scientologist, would they kick her out for not believing in the use psychiatric medications?

What NOT to Wear

The Vatican has announced that it is enforcing its dress code for visitors.  It's nothing oppressive:  no shorts, women's shoulders need to be covered.  If someone violates it, a Swiss Guard quietly asks them to come back when they are more appropriately attired.

I want to post a Swiss Guard at the entrance of every Catholic church in America.

I know that we are living in an increasingly casual society.  We don't do the whole nylons-gloves-hat thing anymore.  That's okay.  I must ask, though:  isn't there some middle ground between ballgown formal and showing up in the grocery store in your pajamas???????

Yes, there is that inevitable:  "God doesn't care what you wear."  I'm not so sure about that.  Even the biggest slob will agree that the clothes one wears affect how you feel and act.  Most of us behave with more decorum at a business dinner with the boss than at the Saturday morning soccer game.  Certainly, if one was invited to dinner at the White House, the general concensus would be that your old Bud Light t-shirt and some flip-flops wouldn't cut it.

Why do we insist that God doesn't care?  Why is it so hard for us to give Him our best?  Doesn't wearing our best signal to us, to those around us and to God:  "Hey, this is important.  I want to be at my best, physically and spiritually.  I know I'm going before the King of Kings, and I want to enter His Court in a way that is worthy of Him"?  Instead, many of us grab whatever will be most comfortable later on that afternoon on the boat and figure it's good enough. 

Jesus is not any less present in your parish church than He is at St. Peter's and more importantly, He's not any less present in our churches than He is in Heaven, or when He was walking around on earth.  You really want to meet your Lord and Savior wearing THAT?  Don't make the nice Swiss Guard ask you to leave......and look at how nicely that Swiss Guard is dressed.....

Perfect Joy and Suffering

A short time ago, my blog came up in a conversation.  The woman I was talking to asked me what it was about, and I told her "About Catholic teaching life, and the perfect joy of suffering in Christ."  She sort of laughed, and said sarcastically,  "Oh.  That'll be popular!"

Yeah.  That's sort of the way I feel.

There is a story about St. Francis of Assisi, and one of his friars asked him what perfect joy consisted of.  St. Francis (in a rather lengthy manner), told him that perfect joy was being cold, wet and muddy, hungry for both food and comfort, and then being TURNED AWAY FROM ONE'S OWN MONASTERY, as you mistaken for a beggar.   Really?  THAT'S "perfect joy"???

And yet, I know exactly what Francis was talking about.  It's not the miserable circumstances that bring joy, but recognizing that one is in exactly the same situation Christ was in (and still often is):  wholly open to the Will of God, and yet rejected, even by those closest to you.  That realization that you are being allowed, by the love of God, to taste even in the smallest way, Christ's life, is perfect joy.  As a Christian, I want to be more and more like Christ, and that is not possible without partaking in the suffering.

Let me illustrate.  Eldest Son, who is just getting ready to go off to college, has caused his father and me a great deal of headache and heartache.  This goes beyond the normal "teen years" stuff.  He committed a series of crimes that eventually caused him to be removed from our home, and lived in a therapeutic setting and then a foster home for several years.  The crimes he committed harmed a lot of people, both directly and indirectly.  

I can write about all this now with some sense of detachment and balance, but in the midst of those years, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth.  My husband and I suffered spiritually, physically, financially and emotionally.  It was hard beyond words and imagining.  The depth of grief was often overwhelming, and my days were often filled with words, situations and circumstances that I had no experience in dealing with. 

So what does this have to do with perfect joy?  I was completely empty, and completely open to Christ at that point, and Christ never disappoints.  As hard as every moment of that situation was, there were ALWAYS (and I mean ALWAYS) moments of grace. 

Remember on the way to Calvary, that Jesus stumbles several times?  Simon of Cyrene lifted the cross for him.  Veronica wipes his face.  The women of Jerusalem wept in union with him.  He still had to carry the cross to Calvary, but there were moments of grace.  That's what I felt in those years.  It wasn't that my grief and suffering disappeared.  It wasn't that the situation disappeared miraculously.  It was still there, day after day, horrible and haunting.  But I knew that Christ was there, in the suffering and the sadness.  Suffering doesn't bring joy;  Christ's presence does.  That is  perfect joy.

Robert Duvall: Faith and Movies

I thought this was worth sharing:  He certainly has given us some thoughtful faith moments in his films.

Maybe you're getting sick of the animal pics

but I seriously think these are proof that God has a sense of humor, and truly loves beauty.  God is good.  And so are llamas.

Where is He???!!

I was talking to my mom today, and she was once again lamenting the fact that her parish church is one of those that has hidden the tabernacle.  Both of us thought that the majority of Catholics have no idea why they should genuflect in a Catholic church, and certainly stowing the tabernacle in some storage-room-come-chapel doesn't help.

She then said these were "St. Mary Magdalene chapels".  When I questioned that, she told me she had heard Fr. Mitch Pacwa refer to them this way.  Why?  Because "they have my Lord and I don't know where they've taken Him."


Sacred Place of the Day

Cave of Shiva, Amarnath, India

Ooooohh! Geek Joy!!

A virtual tour of the Vatican Archives?  Why, yes, I would like that!  Documents dating back to the 8th century?  Sure!  The Vatican School of Paleology?  Of course!

Natural Family Planning - hurray!

The mainstream press has, over the last few days, been writing about the Church's promotion, especially among young people, of Natural Family Planning.  This article,, is a short-and-sweet explanation of why this is such a practical and healthy choice.

Having said this, I must add something.  I have never had a baby or been pregnant.  My kids are all adopted, and while I have great parenting experience, I have zilch-zero-zip pregnancy experience.  This comes up when I talk about NFP, of which I also have no experience.  Let me also explain that my kids are biological sibs, as they all have the same birth mother.  We adopted our two oldest at the same time, and then the next three as they came along.

When talking to a mom one day about NFP, she said to me, in an exasperated tone, "Yeah, well, you had it easy.  You already knew there was a baby.  You HAD to take it."  (This wasn't true.  We weren't under any obligation to take the new baby.)  My response was,  "How do you know that God doesn't have a brother or sister planned for your kids?  Are you at least open to that?"

Literally, we got a phone call telling us about a new baby.  I wonder if more families would have more babies if they had to actually say "Yes" or "No" to a real live person:  "Sure, we'll take the little girl" or "No, we really can't right now" or "Are you kidding????  We can't handle another thing".  Is the baby more or less "real" in these circumstances?  How do we know what God has planned?  Are we open to His will, or stuck on our own?

Death, Dying and all that stuff.

I am in the midst of dealing with my first funeral in my new job.  That means meeting with the family to plan the funeral mass, making sure they have what they need for the viewing and funeral, coordinating with the funeral home, etc.  I'm not being morbid when I say that I like doing this.  It is an honor to be with people at such a vulnerable time, and an honor that they allow you to be part of their lives in such an intimate way.

I am constantly amazed at how much I do NOT know, but I actually have learned a few things about death and dying in the past few years.

1.  There is no time-table on grief.  You might think you're "over it" (or someone tells you that you should be) and then grief reaches up and smacks you in the face.  You open a box of Christmas ornaments, and grief is lurking there.  You hear a laugh at a family part, and grief grabs you.  A piece of music nearly strangles you with grief.  There's no "done" with grief.

2.  We need the rituals of death and dying.  Yeah, it may be someone's last wish to be quietly cremated and have no service, but that doesn't do a darn thing for the living.  We need to be able to talk, walk, cry and wail with each other in order to put things in perspective.  Funerals aren't for the dying; they're for the living.

3.  It's okay to be mad at God.  I've yelled at Him about the death of a loved one.  I knew it wasn't His fault, but I needed to yell at someone, and He was available.  It's okay;  He understands.

4.  Students have told me, in the past,  "I don't know what to say" when talking about funerals.  I always tell them,  "It's okay;  NO ONE knows what to say."  You just show up.  Wasn't it Woody Allen who said that most of life was just showing up?

5.  On the other hand, there are things NOT to say:  "It's God's will".  "It's all God's plan".  That sort of thing means:  A. You are now God's official spokesperson.  B.  God wants people to grieve.  Yuck.

6.  God knows grief.  Intimately.  Think of how many people He has loved and lost.  That's grief.  Trust that He will be with you, and understands.

7.  It doesn't matter how many times or how many ways you go through it, grief is hard.  It may be the hardest thing we have to do as humans.  Let's hold each other's hands.

Nature abhors a vacuum. So does a soul.

I'm from here.

Dear husband and I had a weekend away, which doesn't happen often enough.  Just a couple of days hanging out, eating good food, wandering and relaxing.

Being Catholic, a weekend away also means checking into a hotel and grabbing the phone book to figure out where the closest Catholic church is, and what time Mass is.  I enjoy attending Mass in a different place, just to have a change in architecture, music, homily, etc.

What I do NOT like is the inevitable "Let's have all our visitors stand up so we can welcome them" when we are in a "vacation town".  Some priests feel compelled to make a spectacle of people, shake our hands, applaud us, whatever.  Ugh.

There are a couple of reasons I don't like this.  The first is that I don't like messing around with the Mass.  It's not social hour.  (Yes, I know I sound grumpy.  I don't care.)  The second, and perhaps bigger reason, is this.  I am NOT a visitor.  I am from here.  Okay, I don't live in this town, but I'm Catholic.  Therefore, I am NOT a visitor in this particular church.  I am not a visitor in ANY CATHOLIC CHURCH ANYWHERE. The Catholic Church is universal.  That means, no matter where I am, this is  my home.  Doesn't matter if the parish is in Timbuktu, Taiwan, or Traverse City.  It's my church.  I'm from here.

Amazing art from Chinese photographer Li Wei

You can see his work at his website.

Sacred Place of the Day

Minaret of Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakesh

Living in the moment

I am probably not the person to talk about living in the moment.  It is an ability I admire, and wish I had, but I worry too much.  That being said, I'm now going to expound on this topic anyway.

Tallest Son and I went to a concert last night (Matisyahu...very good).  I don't go to a lot of concerts, as I really dislike crowds and drunk people, and the smell of pot makes me sick to my stomach.  I did enjoy the music though.....and yeah, I realize I sound old....

One thing I really noticed last night was how many people spent most of the concert on their cell phones.  They were either trying to talk (yeah, right), or they were texting or taking photos and videos.  It was really weird - like they were at the concert, but once removed.  To me, it was sort of like going to Rome, and then sitting in the airport and reading the travel guide, but never actually getting out into the city. Okay, you went to Rome but did you EXPERIENCE it?

As I said, I'm probably the least likely candidate to extol the virtue of living in the moment.  My mind is constantly abuzz with "what ifs" and wondering how I'll accomplish or tackle something in the future.  I worry, mull, exasperate myself, gnaw on and imagine myself into near-hysteria, but I try.  I try to just be in the room and listen to and enjoy the music.  I try to listen to the sermon.  I try to rest and read.  I'm not sure I'm getting any better at it, but I keep trying.

This much I know:  I do not want to experience my life once removed:  through the lens of a camera or the screen of a cell phone.  I want to be in each moment, fully and consciously.  And I'll keep trying.

Further reading on the crisis in Europe

I wrote a short time ago about the population and economic crisis in Europe.  Here is some further reading from Dr. Gregg on this topic:

Sensible talk about the BP oil debacle

Homage: Tour de France

Because it's July, and at my house, that means Tour de France:

Hurray for backbones!

Archbiship Hellin, of Burgos, Spain is urging Catholics there to participate in civil disobedience regarding new legislation on abortion. 

"Let's be clear: this law is not a law, although it is presented as such by some politicians and lawmakers. It is no law because nobody has the right to take the life of an innocent human being. For this reason it is not obligatory. Moreover, it demands direct opposition without distinction," the archbishop said in a letter.

Read the whole article here:  I also appreciate when our Church leaders act like leaders.  Remember, social justice begins in the womb.

Haiti Today

Over 2 million Haitians are still homeless six months after the devastating earthquake.  This link will take you to Catholic Relief Service's story about the aftermath, their financial report, and a way to contribute:

Sacred Place of the Day

Buddhist temple, Tibet

No reason to post this, except....

it's impossibly cute! 

What should I bring?

My family had a big get-together yesterday for a great niece's birthday.  Just an ordinary backyard blow-out with hot dogs, little kids in bathing suits, and lots of lemonade and beer.  I contacted my niece-in-law last week and asked,  "What can I bring?"

"What can I bring?" is the question women have been asking each other forever.  Mary probably figured out some way to ask Elizabeth that before the Blessed Mother went to visit her cousin.  "What can I bring?" is not just a question about food, it's a question about helping, community, sharing gifts and pitching in.  "What can I bring?" means "I care" and "I want to be a part of this in a more intimate way than just showing up.  I want to share, not just partake."

By far, the biggest complaint young people have about Mass is "It's boring".  Adults say the same thing;  we just say, "I don't get anything out of it" since "It's boring" sounds even more juvenile and whiny when it comes out the mouth of a thirty-something.  And I'm not saying I've never been bored at Mass, but I readily recognize that when this has happened, it's been my fault, and not a problem with the liturgy.

Just as "What can I bring?" means more than just "What kind of food do you still need?", "It's boring" means more than "I want to be entertained." (Although it means that too.)  "It's boring" means "I'm just showing up.  I don't want to share or partake.  I'm just gonna sit here and wait for something marvelous to happen."  And it doesn't work that way.

One of the things we need to do to prepare for Mass (and yes, Virginia, you do need to prepare for Mass), is to ask,  "What can I bring?"  Tell God that you want to share and partake, not just be a fleshy blob of humanity taking up space at the party.  The Mass is a party - the Great Wedding Feast, the Best Supper, the Seder of the Savior, the Biggest and Best Family Get-together.  And just as we would ask Aunt Mabel "What can I bring?"  we need to ask ourselves (and God!) "What can I bring to this feast that will make it more meaningful, more filling and fulfilling?  I don't want to just show up.  I want to participate."  God wants you to be a welcomed guest, but not the kind of guest who gets waited on hand-and-foot, but rather the kind of guest who rolls up his or her sleeves, helps to serve the food, dances to the music, and stays afterwards to clean up.  You know, like a family party.  And just like a party isn't a party without Aunt Mabel's pickled herring or Cousin Anita's hummus and pita chips, the Mass isn't complete without YOU.

This week, as you're looking towards the weekend, and making plans, take a few minutes and ask God.  "What can I bring?"

Sacred Place of the Day

Ancient temple at Petra, Jordan

We are family

At Acton University last month, I was able to listen to Dr. Samuel Gregg address Pope Benedict's response to the crisis in Europe.

What crisis, you ask?  We know that the European crisis is multi-dimensional, not the least of which is Europe's spiritual crisis.  Europe, for the most part, is now largely agnostic.  However, Dr. Gregg chose to focus on what he believes are the two greatest challenges facing Europe:  its economy and the demographics of most European countries.

Betcha didn't know:  no Western European country has a replacement birth rate.  1/2 of Europeans have no siblings.  1/4 of European households are single people.  Europeans are simply not having kids;  they are not able to sustain their aging populations.

Now, Dr. Gregg went on to note how this fact will impact Europe (and the world) economically.  However, I was taken by the fact that millions and millions of Europeans have no siblings, no cousins, no aunts and  uncles, no nieces and nephews.

That is horrifying to me.  I didn't grow up in a big family - just three sibs and me.  However, we had scores of cousins, some of whom lived just around the corner from us.  Aunts and uncles were constants in my life - surrogate parents, playmates, babysitters and co-conspirators.  I am blessed to have 23 nieces and nephews and 22 great nieces and nephews (and that number is subject to change at a blinding rate of speed!).  Having a large family means a lot, but first and foremost it means you are never lonely, and you never have to worry about what will happen in a crisis.  There is literally an army of people ready and willing to prop you up when necessary, kick you in the tush when you need it, and hold your hand when you need encouragement and consolation.  What would it be like to travel through this life without that?

Oh, I know many people will tell me that they have created their own "family":  a network of friends that work as a quasi-family unit.  However, you really only do that when you're an adult.  What would my life be like if Ken, Alan and Jamie hadn't taught me what life with boys was like?  If Aunt Frances and Uncle Frank were not silly counterparts to parents who didn't mind me dropping in unannounced at their home with a herd of college friends?  If I hadn't been able to practice being a mom by caring for my nieces and nephews?  It wouldn't be simply a radically different life, but a lonely and emptier life.

Unless you come from a terribly dysfunctional family, you will acknowledge how great a blessing extended family is.  Recognizing that there are literally millions of people in the world who will never know this blessing is not simply a sad fact, but a vision of a fundamentally warped version of what we now know as culture in the Western world.

If you want to read more from Dr. Gregg on this topic, go to

Quickly becoming a favorite Web spot to visit

NPR's "The Picture Show" blog features amazing (really, I'm not hyping it!) photos, including this one from the Smithsonian in a story about photography during the Civil War era.

St. Francis, Lady Poverty and Our Amazing Lack of Cash

St. Francis of Assisi (for those of you unfamiliar with the great saint) was born into wealth.  His dad was a successful cloth merchant and his mom was minor nobility.  Francis enjoyed the life of a young playboy:  parties, wine, women, song, clothes - the whole Paris Hilton package of the 1300s.

As a young man, Francis had a radical conversion, and rejected his previous life.  His dad was livid, and dragged Francis before the bishop to tell the young man to straighten up.  Francis, in a moment of great drama, faith and showmanship, stripped to his birthday suit in public, laying his expensive clothes at his father's feet, and told him he no longer wanted his dad's financial support.  He embraced poverty wholly - calling her "Lady Poverty", whom he served as a noble knight for the rest of his life.

What does any of this have to do with me?  A number of years ago, Dear Husband and I made the decision to follow St. Francis via a group of Franciscan Sisters with whom we've developed a relationship.   We believe Francis' way of life in Christ has much to offer us, our family and our world. Our decision to do this has brought great riches to our lives....none of those riches financial, however.

I want to get a little bit ahead of the bills.  Not a lot.  Just a little.  But somehow, God - in His infinite wisdom and with great humor - knows that we have made this decision to live a Franciscan life, and is holding us to that. 

I'm actually getting paid for two full-time jobs right now.  My old job will continue to pay me until the end of July, when my contract runs out, and I'm getting paid for my new job.  In fact, I got that 'extra' paycheck today.  Woo-hoo!  An extra paycheck!  I had some glorious fantasies for that money.  And then, I got home, and the repair guy told me that the not-very-old refrigerator was dead.  Kaput.  Not worth repairing. 

Guess how much a new fridge cost me?  Almost exactly the same amount as that extra paycheck.

God is good - He keeps His promises, and holds me to mine.  But in the words of Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof":  "Would it be so terrible if I had a small fortune?"  Well, would it??

At what point...

in a woman's life do you suppose it is okay to just give up the battle of the bulge and eat ice cream for dinner every night??????

Does "living together" really help you get ready for marriage?

The evidence is clear:  "living together" is no way to prepare for marriage.  For a long time, we told ourselves that living together was a great way to "practice" for the day-to-day life of a husband and wife.  However, now we know the opposite is true:  living together actually increases the chances for divorce.  Why?  That part is still unclear, although many people believe that cohabiting sets the stage for "Well, if this doesn't work, I'll just leave."  After all, walking out on a "living partner" is a lot easier than divorce.

When I attended the Acton Institute last month, I had the great pleasure of listening to and talking with Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, the founder of the Ruth Institute, which promotes happy, traditional marriage.  In a recent email, she talks about even more problems with "living together":

Women (aged 14-44) who grew up in married intact families and who now worship weekly are the least likely to have had two or more cohabitations in their lifetime. According to the National Survey of Family Growth, 2.8 percent of women who grew up in intact married families and worship at least weekly have had two or more cohabitations in their lifetime, followed by women who grew up in other family structures and worship at least weekly (6.7 percent), those who grew up in intact married families who never worship (8.5 percent), and those who grew up in other family structures and never worship (17.1 percent).

Examining the rate of cohabitation by structure of family of origin, 5.6 percent of women who grew up in intact married families have had two or more cohabitations in their lifetime, followed by women who grew up in intact cohabiting families (11.1 percent), those from single divorced parent families (11.6 percent), married stepfamilies (12 percent), cohabiting stepfamilies (12.9 percent), and always single parent families (13.5 percent). Overall, women raised in intact married families are only half as likely to have had two or more lifetime cohabitations as those from all other structures.

Clearly, the sins of fathers and mothers get visited upon the next generation (and the next, and the next.....)  The best gift we can give our children?  A happy,  healthy, lifelong marriage.

Don't believe the lies!

(My only complaint:  be nice to have a wider ethnic variety of young men here.)

I have a new love

Dear husband has been gone on a rather long business trip to China, and won't be home for a few more days.  In his absence, I've developed a new love:  Panera's Tomato, Basil and Mozzeralla Salad.  Yum, yum, yum.

Sacred Place of the Day

Tarxien Temple, Malta

Becoming an Imperfectionista

I have suffered from Perfectionism.  It's a nasty disease, driving both the sufferer and those around him/her nuts.  Things must always go according to plan, events must be properly scheduled, calendars kept.  Household items must always be in place, neatness always counts, and failure is never an option. 

God, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, knew I needed to be rescued from this malady, and thus sent me five highly imperfect children to show me the light of imperfection.  I have to say I'm still learning, but have now happily settled into the role of an Imperfectionista.

Along those lines, please enjoy the new blog called "Catalog Living" at  It features the imaginary-yet-perfect Gary and Elaine, the couple who lives in all your catalogs.  Those shiny plates, gleaming silverware and perfectly appointed bar?  Gary and Elaine's.  Polished floor and neatly lined bookshelves?  Yep, Gary and Elaine's!  Enjoy this cheeky place to visit!

Peppy popsicles sticks, kinetic kitty and dancing dominoes!

Sacred Place of the Day

Old North Church, Boston

Church of ME!

I ran across this quote today from Thomas Paine:  I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

Isn't that special?

What I thought when I read that is,  "You and all of contemporary society, Tom."  Really; isn't this exactly how most people today think?  "I get to decide what is right and wrong for me.  Don't legislate morality.  Hey, if you don't like it, don't do it, but don't try to stop me from doing it."

Here's the problem, at least for me.  If I got to live according to The Church of My Own Mind, it would follow these "ten commandments of Elise":

1.  Family budget?? Bah!  I want shoes!
2.  A good merlot is good anytime.  Even for breakfast.  If I feel like driving after a bottle of good merlot, so be it.
3.  If you annoy me, expect a good tongue lashing.  Or perhaps just a lashing.  Depends on my mood.
4.  Any cruel thing that pops into my head also comes out of my mouth.
5.  Children are cute sometimes, but wearisome always.  Not for me, thanks!
6.  While I realize that people like my husband, my mother and friends often do kind and generous things for me, that doesn't mean I owe them a damn thing in return.  Not even a "thank you".  Hey, if my mind doesn't compel me to do something, I don't have to!
7.  In fact, I don't owe anybody anything.
8.  No one else's property deserves my respect.  It's not mine.  That goes for bodies as well as things.
9.  I don't really care about your stress, problems or issues.  I've got my own.  And my own are all that matter.
10.  I matter.  Not really sure about you.  I suppose you might matter, if and only if you don't cross paths with me.  Should you cross my path, I take precedence.  Always.

The issue here is that if I don't get held to a higher, more objective authority, I will become the basest and most sinful of human beings.  I'm already pretty darned sinful;  I don't need to be bolstered to dwell in my own selfishness.  I NEED a church to tell me,  "You are better than your basest desires and instincts.  You are MORE.  Here are some guidelines to help you out."

(By the way, I don't buy the argument of "The Church MAKES you do this or that."  Really?  There's a platoon of bishops with guns compelling me to do things?  Must have missed that.  I thought people got to choose what to do.)

This is what organized religion does for us:  it gives us an objective rule to follow so that we don't fall into the pit of our own mind, our own selfishness.  If we got to create the Church of My Own Mind, most of us would be selfish.  Admit it.  We'd do what serves ME, not you.  It's only when we are surrounded by others all striving to follow rules like "Do unto others" and "Do not kill" and "Respect others' property" that we hold our heads up and say, "Okay.  I can do this.  I'll put aside my own bratty desires and put you first.And when I don't do that, you'll call me back to this greater purpose."  We have to recognize that "ME" is not the be-all and end-all of it all.  That's what objective truth and morality does for us.

Sorry, Tom;  I'm gonna go with 2000 years of "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life".  The Church of My Own Mind leaves me very lonely.

Sacred Place of the Day

Rose Window, York Minster, England

In Memory of John E. Graveline

My dad, John Graveline, passed away July 4, 2007.  In memory of him, I'm reposting an article I wrote a few years back:
It is almost impossible to find a decent hero these days — our sports figures are regularly arrested, dress up in weird costumes or get married for three minutes, our civil servants lie to us on national television and allow their staffs to "put the right spin on it", and the movies offer up too violent a fare to present to our young people for emulation. Where can we look for role models and people of distinction?

I am blessed, for I have a father to look up to. Let me say right up front that my dad never won a medal for bravery or for sports, never had a job that paid a great deal of money nor did he ever save a child from a burning building. But I've never met a soul who knows my dad and didn't like him or have something nice to say about him.

He is of the generation molded by the Depression and the Second World War; he started his senior year in high school by studying his text books from the beginning and the middle so that he might graduate early and join the Marines. It was, he believed, his duty. He cared for his crippled mother through much of his teenage years, but he shrugs it off as "merely" responsibility.

He met and wooed my mother (she wanted him to date her younger sister) and struggled to build a career and family. He went through a series of jobs, some of which he did not like very much, but it never occurred to him to give up, accept charity or even complain. He did not have the benefit of a college education and regretted it much of his adult life, but he managed to constantly learn from everything he did. He also learned the real value of education, the kind of education that puts food on the table come hell or high water, and stressed this ethic with his children, generous with his money for our minds.

He raised a family, with all that entails: turbulent teenage years, family vacations (by car, and you know what that's like), burying beloved pets, attending piano recitals and school plays, and enduring the boyfriends of his dear daughters. My dad built a playhouse that my sister and I practically lived in, and then tore it apart to make a stall when we outgrew the tea parties and wanted a horse. One of the greatest compliments I can pay my father is that throughout my growing-up years, he was there: at the dinner table, helping with school projects. He was not hiding in hobbies, working insane hours, or available only for weekend visits. My dad was there. He did it all with love, practical concern and his own hands.

My dad is a great amateur photographer, an avid genealogist and an accomplished handyman. Things out of order bother him and he is getting to the point in life where he values the quiet left behind when the grandchildren leave. He volunteers with numerous organizations and gives of his time generously.

When he retired, my father decided to go to school. So he bought a backpack and enrolled in college. I don't know if he was prouder of my graduation or if I was of his. I know he thinks that his decision to go to college wasn't that big of a deal, but it really did have profound effects: a friend of mine, who put off going to college (figuring he just couldn't cut it) told me once that when he saw what my father had accomplished, he knew he could do it too - an existence changed by my father's example.

And this is the legacy of my father's life: a quiet, unassuming, and rather stoic presence that ripples out to so many people. It has touched, not only his children and grandchildren, but nieces and nephews, foster children, employees, fellow students and volunteers, church members and so many others of whom I have no knowledge. What my father has taught all of us is that character is dignity, perseverance, willingness to do jobs that you don't like, sense of humor, keeping your word, faith in God, and an ability to look at the world as opportunity not merely luck, and no sense of entitlement without effort. I know my father is not unique to his generation; there are many men like him. But in today's world he seems so special that it is worth singling him out: "Look at this man. This is a man. Be like him: serve God, country, family and be blessed."

In our society today, we have so many people vying for the title of hero: singers of Satanic messages, sports figures with incredible athletic skills and no common sense, politicians who betray their family's trust and ours, actors and actresses who choose roles designed to show off their bodies more than their acting skills. We have confused fame with character. Perhaps what we need to do is look within our own families and communities — I choose to be like that man or woman because he or she is great in small but essential and enduring ways. Greatness in love, character, responsibility, and faith — that is certainly my father, the hero.

I admit it....

I'm a cheap date.

Check out this new PBS documentary

It's called "The Birth of Freedom" (and what could be more appropriate this holiday weekend??).  Check local listings - it's airing in my area on 7/5.

You can check out the trailer here:

The Best Laid Plans...

About 20 years or so ago, I stopped giving up things for Lent. It's not that I didn't find it a worthy practice; I did. It's ...