THE SACRED, PRESENT MOMENT

In the summer of 2007 — time flies — Edwin Faust, a writer, married father of three, New Jersey resident and news editor for a daily metropolitan newspaper (don’t know which one), reflected on his faith. His was and presumably remains a very traditional brand of Catholicism. I don’t know him. I know that people like him — and me — who prefer a more traditional liturgy, even in the traditional Latin, are often viewed as rigid, reactionary and spiritually hidebound. Not the case.  We simply prefer the reverent sense of sacred mystery and quiet solemnity to be found in the ages-old practice of the immemorial liturgy. Many people far younger than me feel the same way. The “new order” Mass — new since about 1968 or so — is, in most instances,  perfectly fine and valid and in recent years priests have taken pains to restore a serious sense of reverence to it.

I don’t feel any particular competence to be judging such things. It’s widely acknowledged that there have been periods of improvisation and silliness in liturgical practice and that the jejune, often trite and banal influences of pop culture have invaded the sanctuaries. This is especially true of the music. The happy-clappy, toe-tapping affective or emotional melodies and tonalities continue in many instances to win out over the spiritual and devotional in parishes still under the superficial influence of modern culture. I suspect a lot of people who don’t go to church stay away because they feel they can get more enrichment from a good Sunday morning walk in the woods. I confess I often feel the same way. A considerable degree of spiritual gravitas, not to mention a sense of divine obligation, has been lost. Some modern services can move one to tears, sort of like a Hallmark movie. But I prefer to have my soul, not my tear ducts, moved. So much for that. Just my opinion.

Anyway, Mr. Faust counseled, “we should proclaim our faith when opportunity allows and prudence counsels it, but we should not do so angrily,  nor should we become preoccupied with politics. So much time is wasted in fruitless agitation….A man generally has his hands full earning a living, raising a family, managing a household and saving his own soul. I think he might justly exempt himself from having to formulate domestic and foreign policy for the United States of America according to Catholic principles…. I sometimes reflect on the irony that Vatican II , an avowedly pastoral counsel (i.e., not meant to alter doctrine, just improve spiritual outreach to the world) triggered a doctrinal crisis, while Traditional Catholicism, in defending doctrine, brought about a pastoral crisis.

(Note: Vatican II was the major church conference between 1962 and 65 — encompassing, as it happened, all my high school year — which inadvertently unleashed enormous confusion, squabbling, division and loss of vocations in the church, partly because if fell right into the middle of a worldwide secular cultural and sexual revolution.)

Faust continues:

And when our churchmen want to make their peace with this world of depravity, rather than oppose it, this leaves us….temporarily orphaned, but it doesn’t leave us without recourse….Every day we have an opportunity to remove from our lives all that keeps us from God, so I can say as Saint Paul said, “I live, but not I,Christ lives in me.”

Wonderful spiritual advice, chanced upon in my pile of mental and material junk this Saturday morning.

I know — but have not seen in years — a once-very devout Catholic guy who formerly manifested a good deal of evangelical fervor. He drove St. Paul’s point home to me one evening over coffee at a Dunkin Donuts. Sometime afterward I learned that he had pretty much abandoned the practice of the faith and spent his Sunday mornings flying model airplanes. That’s good clean fun but not a great substitute for religion. Our faith can be a fragile, precious possession too easily lost.  I sat listening on that Dunkin Donuts evening, myself  a person of struggling faithfulness,  suspecting that this somewhat younger companion of mine had not yet been entirely subjected to the sharp teeth of life’s buzz saw — or fully matured emotionally. St. Paul would have told him he needed to “finish the race” — and advance from a childhood faith, then adolescent faith to an adult faith. (I think we encounter that exhortation in Corinthians I.)

Yes, we must keep the faith — as busy, sin-prone, tempted adults. And I must go to any Mass I know to be valid, even if the liturgy or especially the “pretty” music, annoys me a trifle. The supernatural graces are the same. And I’m aware that I’m given sometimes to overstating the problem (though, forgive my pride, not by much.)

Mr Edwin Faust continued — actually concludes — It is only by erasing that little ‘I’, that hard nut of egotism that can taint even our noblest aspirations, that Christ will live in us and in those we want to share in the life we have found. Or, I would add, in the life for which I am still searching as I join others in the search, trying — often failing — to lead by example.

Mr. Faust’s article, by the way, from which I’ve culled these excerpts, is called: “Finding Our Place in Salvation History or How to be Happy in the Present Moment.” 

It appeared in the Summer, 2007 issue of The Latin Mass magazine.

 

 

COVID 19 ADDENDUM

My former colleague Chris Luke, who is Chinese-American, has taken me to task for that part of a Facebook post in which I seem to link China and, by extension, all Asian peoples to  the Covid-19 pandemic, presumably finding most offensive the reference to  ” a filthy street market in Wuhan” and bats being  butchered for food. She says Asian people, including apparently her relatives, are being “racially profiled” as a consequence of  the pervasive linking of the outbreak specifically to China, either to a marketplace, or a lab, or wherever in that country. Continue reading “COVID 19 ADDENDUM”

THE INFECTED MOMENT

No one writing anywhere on the web can fail to say a dozen or so words about where we find ourselves, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. This is to note it — and note that, when I can get my small head around it, I’ll want to say more, if only to myself — and to whatever lonely soul chances upon this lonely blog. Continue reading “THE INFECTED MOMENT”

NO JOY ON JERSEY STREET

That — Jersey Street – is what became of Yawkey Way after the posthumous mugging of the late, once-beloved Tom Yawkey over questions of his racial attitudes. I won’t open that big can of snakes again — but, yes, as winter grips Beantown and that short, shadowy byway astride Fenway Park awaits the crowds of opening  day and the Sox begin their ritual preps in Fort Myers – I’d have to say, as a Boston native and unalterable fan of all Boston teams, that the loss of Mookie Betts is, well, too, too bad. Who can deny it? But that’s pro sports now. We root for laundry, as Jerry Seinfeld so aptly said. Continue reading “NO JOY ON JERSEY STREET”

THE LIFE WE SAVE MAY BE THE U.S.A.

Something reasonable to think about — albeit also a little emotion-charged — on the subject of tolerance and bipartisanship in this fraught election season – a post by Princeton Professor and scholar Robert P. George, always a voice of reason and principle: He’s aiming it at conservative Democrats. Continue reading “THE LIFE WE SAVE MAY BE THE U.S.A.”

NECESSARY KOBE B. ADDENDUM:

I just wrote of the tragedy — wrote at length — and made passing referenced to the circa 2003-2005 rape accusation. I needed to remind myself that Kobe read a statement in court essentially acknowledging that the sex with the 19-year old who accused him of rape “may not have been consensual.”  As Tara Sullivan in the Globe is saying, finally, the star who could have been a great advocate against the rape culture missed that chance. Mindful, he was never convicted in a court of law and there was a civil settlement, which does not amount to a guilty conviction — and these sexual encounters, with the famous or non-famous can be complex he-said-she-said matters….nonetheless, it shouldn’t take a #MeToo movement to remind us that no means no. And that victim is still out there, a 34-year-old woman. What must be her thoughts?

And so, there. We are all sinners. The tragedy abides, as does all the good KB did, this father of four daughters, one of whom entered eternity with him.

A FLASH IN THE FOG

I believe I was somewhere in Florida’s interior when it happened — when Kobe Bryant, his daughter and several other souls were suddenly lost in a violent flash in the fog three thousand miles away on a north-of-LA hillside. I had probably just recently exited I-275, then exited I-10 and found my way to state road 301 west on my way back to what is currently home: Largo in the Tampa Bay area. And I know that for much of the drive I’d been thinking about my son and his new wife. I was just coming from their wedding in Mount Pleasant, SC, a seaside suburb of Charleston. And I was thinking about life’s frailty, its shooting star evanescence. ( Driving on any American highway at any hour of the day will induce such thoughts.) I’d been praying for God to keep the newlyweds safe — to keep us all safe, every soul. But life is both fragile and — though we should not dwell on it — full of dangers.  And the truth is that I had not, in the years prior to his wedding, bonded with my son as any father should — and should not fail to do. Now, the love I was feeling, tinged in equal measure with joy and remorse, was great. Every moment without love is a tragedy. Life is short. Love — well, it’s eternal. Cliche? Yeah. Sorry. Continue reading “A FLASH IN THE FOG”

CHEATERS

Observing the shame that has fallen on the Houston Astros and knowing that the Red Sox might soon be forced to submit to the same chastisement, I feel compelled to ask — what does it say about our society that seemingly upright public figures could so overtly and deliberately cheat on such a grand stage as a major league baseball championship? Perhaps I’m naive to ask the question — but I have to say I am shocked and fear it may say a great deal about our anxious morality and its precipitous state of decline. Perhaps I’m learning that, the bigger the stage, the higher the stakes, the larger and bolder the sin.

WHEELS (AND ROCKETS) OF FORTUNE

Rockets are scary and those wheels of fortune do grind slowly, but exceedingly fine.

I confess I watch Wheel of Fortune and recorded last night’s “episode”. (It  truly IS an “episode” and “adventure” for the souls who wait weeks, if not months, to try their puzzle-solving skills on national television after being duly vetted, interviewed and tested for sportsmanship so unflagging that they smile and applaud fellow contestants even after losing thousands of dollars and a trip to an exotic venue at the capricious click and bump of a stupid wheel).

But my recording of last night’s episode was abruptly pre-empted at the outset by a special network bulletin and I was soon looking at the face of CBS’s Nora O’Donnell — appearing to my eyes equal parts alarmed and indignant  — urgently informing us that Iranian rockets were raining down on a U.S. base in Iraq, ominously launched not by Iran’s terrorist surrogates but by — and from within —  Iran itself. Continue reading “WHEELS (AND ROCKETS) OF FORTUNE”

THE VERY IDEA….

The push to impeach Trump is political theater. I state the obvious. I recall the uproar among liberal celebrities and prominent academics when Clinton was impeached. I covered a Harvard rally to which, among other luminaries, Carly Simon made the long trip to Cambridge ( though she did not speak, or sing) As a sample of the pedigree of the protest arguments, the celebrated theatrical producer/ playwright Robert Brustein  – speaking of theater — angrily suggested, in prepared remarks, that we remain under the sway of New England’s Puritanical ancestors when we insist on impeaching a political leader for his sexual conduct. Harvard professor and author Wendy Kaminer bluntly summed it all up in a Yiddish word — and to great applause — when she said, “The President is a putz, but that’s not impeachable.” Continue reading “THE VERY IDEA….”