Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Return of the Tabernacle

The Tabernacle at Sacred Heart Church in Pinehurst, NC, has been returned to the Altar from the Adoration Chapel. You can barely see it, I'm afraid, under the Crucifix. I'll try to go again soon and get a better photo -- I'm playing with a new digital camera and unfamiliar software. Please bear with me! and thanks in advance!
And here is the beautiful Adoration Chapel.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Taking Turns Leading the Way

I was talking with a young friend a little while ago, when I happened to remember a selection my 7-8 graders read this spring, an excerpt from the autobiography of Sir Edmond Hillary, the first man to scale Mt. Everest.

M's having a rough time right now. She was Confirmed in April, a wonderful, even euphoric time for her after a not-easy entry into the Church. Now she feels so far removed from her joy of that Vigil Mass when she was brought into full communion with Christ's Church. Something happened, she missed Mass one week-end... then another... and now she feels she's just losing ground faster than she can recover it.

It's a feeling I think all of us know well. And complicating matters is that M loves a man who was raised Catholic but due to a series of sad events now considers himself atheist.

"Would your friend be helped more by your return to the Church, or by your continuing delay?" I asked. Of course, she is a gentle soul and is very uncomfortable with the idea of leading or directing anyone in any way. She's particularly uncomfortable with the thought that, as conscious of her faults as she is right now, someone might follow her anywhere.

And that's when I remembered Sir Edmond Hillary.

During his long and arduous trek to the summit of Mt. Everest, nearly all the members of his original climbing party deserted him. Only his native mountain-climbing guide stuck with him. During the final assent, Hillary details how he would lead the way forward for a number of yards, then his guide would take the lead. In this way, each pushed forward in bitter, almost insurmountable conditions, while the other took a more passive role, resting from the earlier exertion and summoning energy for the next. Their progress was deadly, as they took turns testing the durability of ice packs suspended over thin air and braving other hazards in the final yards before reaching that place where no mortals had stood before.

So, as I see it, right now M is taking the lead. She sees where she needs to go in order to reach the summit of Christ's service. She must forge ahead and prepare a clear path for whoever happens to be in her company at this time. Later, when she is weary and discouraged, some other member of her family or her circle of friends -- very likely her now-"atheist" friend -- will pass her on the path, climb ahead, break a new route through deep snow and ice, and help her up onto the next plateau.

If she refuses to take the lead, then those with her are left to flounder at a lower level, their journey to the summit delayed and perhaps even jeopardized by lack of a clear-sighted leader.

And so on we go, each taking his or her turn at finding himself stronger, clearer-minded, leading and helping those who are for the moment spent and in need of aid. It is a startling revelation when we who have always seen ourselves as the pupils and proteges of stronger teachers find ourselves sent forward to find the best route to the next camping space. But we have been taught well, and it is only right we should go as we are sent, for the sake of helping our masters who need us for the moment, and for the sake of those younger than ourselves, who will one day take their places at our sides.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Blog on!

I'm just amazed at the number of friends who've started blogging since Randy got me started on this venture: Check out Mary-Love, Ed, Linda H, and Shirley. My friend Catalinni says she's about to join the blogosphere, with her story "Macaroni and Jesus" and with some of her wicked sharp anti-cancer humor. I'll let you know as soon as she's online.

Meantime, pray for these dear folks, okay?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Would you trust this Director of Faith Development with your children?

If I thought the woman whose identity is so weakly distorted in this BBC news item were the DFD at my parish, I'd pitch a good ol'-fashioned hissy fit!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Very Happy (Priestly) Anniversary

Today folks around here are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the ordination of Father Kenneth Parker. Father Parker is something of a chaplain for the charismatic Catholic renewal around here, regularly celebrates healing masses around central North Carolina -- and he's the dear, kind priest who heard my first Confession, nearly three years ago.

God bless you, Father Parker!

Monday, June 20, 2005

It's been a quiet week in...

...the backwoods of North Carolina. The quiet seems to be settling into my bones, finally. I haven't turned the radio on all day, am instead enjoying listening, with nearly every window in the house open, to the mocking bird singing from the top of the wild cherry tree I park the car beside. Every now and then I hear a quail calling from the woods behind the tobacco barn, and a dove closer to the house. There are dozens of bird calls I don't recognize, all around me. Amazing to hear them so clearly, and only occasionally a car approaching on the highway. After being in a city, I think of the farm as "quiet," although in reality it is a very noisy place.

The summer is speeding right along. As I sort through the shed, which is where I'm writing these days (a picnic table is a perfect size for a desk!), and the trailer, pulling odd bits of accumulated clutter from the past fifteen years, I feel as if I am also performing a spiritual exercise of discarding hurts, disappointments, resentments, old outgrown dreams, and bad habits that have cluttered my mind for too long. Saturday I picked up a jar of odd metal bits that Rusty had left behind - unidentifiable to me and evidently unimportant to him since he'd neglected to include them in the "important" things he'd cleared from the house, three years ago... I've been hanging on to that jar, thinking I might discover what these odd pieces of metal are and that they might come in handy for something some day... as I dropped the jar into the trash bag, I felt a little lighter in heart for disposing of one more item with surprisingly toxic associations.

I cling to the most absurd things in the expectation that they could be useful some day, or that if I discard them I'll be amputating some important part of myself in the process. On the other hand, I once took boxes of books to a used bookstore because Rusty insisted I "never" looked at them, and at the time I couldn't imagine using them again; I've spent an obscene amount of money this past year trying to replace many of those books, which I have needed in my work.

Hmmm... mediations on the spiritual exercises of housecleaning?

Friday, June 17, 2005

Tribute to another hero -- a cancer fighter

I first "met" Catalinni (all names herein are changed to protect the innocent... and the guilty) back in 2001. I was a new participant in the Catholic Online discussion forum, and this woman posted a prayer request for her son, who was going through a divorce, and for his children. I think I may have sent her an email; anyway, we began corresponding.

I learned she had recently undergone a complete hysterectomy for uterine cancer -- endometrial adenocarcinoma. In the fall of 2002, eighteen months after her hysterectomy, her cancer returned. This time she underwent chemotheraphy, followed by radiation therapy.

While she was undergoing her radiation, she began to branch out into a new life. She wrote of her cancer support group and what a fun group of women they were. She wrote of the funny hats she was wearing to counteract the "Sinead O'Connor Look" of chemo-related hair loss. She even wrote of going to the gym, where she did some MAJOR WORKOUTS -- Body Pumping, bellydancing, Pilates, and 1/2 hour on the treadmill!

Catalinni was 66 when she started taking those classes.

Then all hell broke loose. A phone call from her ex-daughter-in-law, Gina, put her already fragile world into a tailspin. "I think you need to know," said , "and I know they won't tell you. Gramps was questioned by the police today, and he's confessed to molesting Caty." Caty was Catalinni's son's 8-year-old daughter. The nightmare unfolded during the succeeding weeks as Catalinni learned the details of her husband's betrayal and her granddaughter's suffering. "Gramps," who had not been incarcerated pending trial, never spoke of it to her; so far as he was concerned she knew nothing, all the information came through her son and his ex-wife.

Catalinni herself had been molested as a child by more than one close family member. Her memories resurfaced. Her rage at her husband's betrayal and abandonment -- there had been no intimacy between them for years -- knew no bounds. She poured herself into her gym classes and her cancer support group. She began seeing a therapist. She renewed her old love of writing.

She slipped off to visit her beloved granddaughters away from their home, and she looked for every way she knew how to help her granddaughter recover from her trauma.

"Gramps" underwent sentencing for molesting his granddaughter a little more than a year ago. He's due to be released again in less than two weeks. Catalinni doesn't know where he's going to be taking up residence, but she's adamant about one thing: he ain't comin' back home.

While he's been incarcerated, she has remodeled the apartment and her life. She continues with the cancer support group -- a major "remodeling job" this past October due to vaginal cancer has been followed by still more cancer this spring (she's undergoing chemo now). The doctor said at one point that he would chase it around as long as she wanted him to. She's had to give up the Pilates for the time being, maybe permanently -- even with the present round of chemo, doctors suspect her cancer is spreading. The culture on her bladder comes back next week. She's pretty much decided she's tired of being cut on, and the doctor agrees.

In the meantime, the raucous emails keep on pouring in. If laughter is a weapon in the fight against cancer, then Catalinni is a Ranger or a Green Beret. She's collecting and forwarding all sorts of humorous emails to those of us rooting for her from the grandstands -- and the puns we had to bear when she had her vaginal cancer surgery last fall (she also lost much of her colon and her rectum as well as her vagina -- that's why I called it a "remodeling job") were wilder than I ever could have imagined. This is one gutsy, feisty dame!

And Caty, her sister, and their cousins are once again frequent visitors at Catalinni's home. They watch movies, pop corn, and party all night long. Catalinni says the only thing she really wants is to be able to see those kids grown to adulthood. With the ongoing tests and suspicion of spreading cancer, however, she may not get to do it quite the way she wants.

So say a prayer for my friend Catalinni, and for her family. And remind me, next time I whine about some minor adversity, or want to crawl under the bed from low spirits -- how immensely blessed I really am.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

More encounters with wildlife --

I am going to have to seriously alter some of my habits, down here on the Farm. You see, I have a window I leave open, without a screen, so the cats can jump in and out during the night without waking me up. And I've been in the habit of leaving my back door open to let fresh air in, up until I go to bed.

That has to change as of NOW.

I got off to a bad start when my neutered male, Bubba, woke me up a few minutes after six this morning with that funny little whirring meow that tells me... "Bubba, what have you done NOW?" Yesterday he'd brought me two little lizards, still living, and as soon as he dropped them on the floor they'd scurried under a cat food bag or behind the dryer (they're still around here somewhere -- too fast for me to catch! and of course, once he gave them to me, Bubba lost interest)... this morning it was a dead bird. A brown thrasher. I picked up the bird and tossed it out the front door.

A few minutes ago, I heard a cat munching cat food in the automatic feeder just inside the back door. Glanced up... RACCOON! a bright-eyed, half-grown raccoon, standing INSIDE MY HOUSE in my back hallway! I think I gasped. He looked up and seemed as startled to see me as I had been to see him.

"Excuse me -- WHAT are you doing in MY HOUSE? Don't you think you belong OUTSIDE?" Don't ask me why I was speaking to a wild raccoon. I also talk occasionally to inanimate objects.

He stared at me for a moment then turned around and waddled out the back door. I grabbed my battery-operated sweeper and headed for the back door. He was standing just off the deck, and when I appeared in the back doorway, he peered at me again.

I knew we had raccoons out here. I regularly see tracks around the back dirt roads. But I've never even seen one waddling down the road at night. So this was quite a treat.

Still, it is not a good thing for wild animals to come meandering into one's back door. From now on... the door remains shut and locked. Otherwise, I might step out of the front bathroom to find a deer in the living room, next!

Friday, June 10, 2005


There was a quail in my front yard this morning. I was working on the computer when I heard the "bob-bob-WHITE!" I knew he was close, but it took me several of his calls to realize he was so close. I got up from the table and went to the kitchen window; he was standing under the dogwood tree nearest the house, and as I watched he lifted his head and called again:

Bob, Bob, WHITE!

I could easily see his little white throat stretch out on the final syllable. such a startling contrast to the dark brown bands around his face, the rich brown of his back and the simple cream of his breast.

After a few moments, he quit calling and simply began to stroll in the yard, occasionally pecking something off the ground.

Grits 2

If you haven't taken a look at Randy's blog, you'll not know that while he was here he had his first encounter with that great Southern breakfast food: grits.

For you non-southern readers, grits are simply fine-ground corn. Not flour, mind you -- or corn meal, as it is more properly called. Corn meal is used in making cornbread and breading vegetables such as squash and okra for frying. Grits are a corn product in their own right, cooked one part grits to two parts water, just as you would any other cooked cereal.

How we eat our grits is open to debate. How not to eat them, if you please, is with what Randy calls "oleo." That's margarine for the rest of us. Unfortunately, that is how the Your House restaurant serves everything. Cold is another way you do not want to eat grits; Your House did not commit that offense.

Salt, pepper and lots of butter seems to top the list of grits dressings for people who've responded to me after reading Randy's post. I happen to not like pepper, and I do like sharp Cheddar cheese on mine (reminds me, I've got to find my grits souffle recipe). My buddy Steven recommends butter and crumbled bacon. Ed reminds us that Yankees like theirs with milk and sugar -- which (sugar) is how my ex-father-in-law eats them, and he's from Texas. My grandmother Carter liked hers with red-eye gravy, which is simply the gravy made from the drippings of fried country ham and very strong black coffee.

There is also an unhospitable tendency among southern cooks -- which Your House does not do -- of dishing the grits out on a plate so they sort of run and pool over your eggs and breakfast meat. Me, I want my eggs (over easy) separate from my grits, and my drippy golden egg yolks uncontaminated by them. The restaurant served their grits in a separate bowl, which was mighty nice of them to do. I was pleased to see that their grits had a little bit of "body" to them, weren't as runny as my grandmother's usually were (once you add the butter, they do get runnier, so you want to start out a little thicker than you ultimately want the food to be).

Next time: okra!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

New photo

I just want to take a moment to give credit where credit is due for the new photo. The old one, by the way, was taken by a parent at the school where I teach. The new one was taken by Randy while he was here at the farm on Sunday evening. Those are southern Longleaf Pines in the background, and I think the dogwood and part of a buddleia. I'm trying to persuade him to post one of the ones I took of him, but he's complaining about looking too grey-headed, or hat hair, or some such excuse. I thought he was a good-lookin' feller, myself, but he seems not to believe me...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Woke up this morning with the very strong sense that I HAD to get to the local home improvement warehouse and pick up some flowers. Half of them are now potted on my back porch; the other half will go in pots or in the ground later today. So begins my summer.

Randy was here over the week-end, and Sunday afternoon I brought him to the Farm for a couple of hours. It was a time of wonderful gifts of the kind I like best. As he unfolded his nearly - six-foot frame from my little Escort, the first thing he said was, "Man! it's quiet out here!" and almost immediately we heard the plaintive little "bob-WHITE" of a quail in the woods behind the tobacco barn, and another across the road answering him. The buddleia I almost killed last year by transplanting late in the spring is blooming like crazy, and so are the daylilies and the spiderwort. There are deer tracks within twenty feet of the front steps. I wouldn't have seen the fox if Randy hadn't seen it first, gazing curiously at us through the underbrush of the hedgerow in the back yard. When the sun set and it grew quite dark, we went a little way up the road so he could see the stars unimpeded by city lights or my back-yard security lamp.

The one thing I couldn't arrange for him was one of our glorious summer thunderstorms. We had a grand one Monday night after he had left, and another here last night, with heavy downpours of rain and rumbling thunder in the distance. The lightening bugs also did not cooperate while he was here. I saw a couple last week-end from the kitchen window where I'm now writing. We used to have hundreds of them blinking their way through the early summer evenings, when I was a kid. I suppose the extravagant use of pesticides and other chemicals has destroyed most of them. They've become quite rare, and you just don't hear kids bragging about how many they caught and bottled the way we used to do. It's a pity, the things we've lost over the past couple of generations.

Well, duty calls in the form of a cluttered back porch and two six-packs of impatiens. It's a gorgeous morning, and I'm glad to be home for a while to enjoy it.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Sticks and Stones...

... can break my bones, but words can never hurt me!

Of course, we all figured out a long time ago that words can hurt a lot. That's why the Church has some very strong words about the sins of detraction and calumny, which are sins against the Fifth Commandment.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.[277] He becomes guilty:
- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
- of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;[278]
- of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:
Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.[279]

2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one's neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.

More thoughts to follow.