Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Week of Accomplishments

At the end of the summer it never fails: about half of the things the list of "things to do this summer" remains. But--the last few weeks are super-productive. So, here's an account of my productivity for the last week.

  • two syllabi are complete
  • two classes have been taught, and two more start soon
  • a translation that I started in May has been turned in
  • the extra readings for my fall class have been scanned and posted for student access
  • recycling was taken out (yay! floor space has returned!)
  • new friends have been invited to dinner next week (which means the apartment will be clean soon)
  • faculty meetings were attended (begrudgingly, I must admit)
  • most of my emails were answered
  • my desk was partially cleared off
Some big things did get done earlier in the summer: I turned in my complete application to the RSCJ over a month ago. That certainly cannot be overlooked! I'm now waiting for an initial interview, which should take place in September.

This week, I also started reading Mother Teresa's Come Be My Light. It's extraordinary--very beautiful, very touching. She was so devoted to the poor and to Jesus from the very beginning of her vocation as a Loreto nun. Her "vocation within a vocation" is an amazing call. I'm enjoying the book very much.

Happy Sunday, All!

Prayers to those in the southeast--especially New Orleans.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A morning in pictures

Today I decided was mine... to do with what I please. I worked all weekend, and I need some time to process everything in my head. So I went, armed with my little camera and a book (Elizabeth Johnson's Quest for the Living God), to the arboretum.

There were few people there, probably because it's Monday, but many lovely flowers.

And some wildlife...

The waters are lovely.

In all it was only a couple of hours, but so refreshing to "escape" the city for a bit. I've only been here a year, and I'm still searching for nice parks with big trees. A place called "arboretum" seemed like a good place to look... and it was.

I didn't get to the book....

Sunday, August 24, 2008

It's just one of those weeks....

I'm here, I really am!

Classes just started, so the last week has been incredibly busy with preparations and planning.

I've also had some "friend issues" - of my own creation, of course. This week, for me, the hardest part about changing my life and moving toward religious life is the shift in friendships. My best friend is pregnant--which means that her life is changing, too. It also means that our priorities and goals are no longer the same. Though our friendship will not end (we are too close for that) it has to change. I don't like those changes very much right now.

I am thankful for all of my friendships. I have some wonderful people in my life, who help me to understand the sadness in my heart, as well as all the good things about life.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Feast of the Assumption of Mary!

Happy Feast!

I have to admit that I have never been particularly devoted to the Blessed Mother. But, as I learn and read more, I am coming to appreciate her more and more.

I was asked to give a talk today on things Marian. I chose to use that invitation as motivation to finish reading Elizabeth Johnson's Truly Our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints. It's a wonderful book, focusing on Miriam of Nazareth--the human person, living in a particular time and place.

So, I presented some of the material, and then reflected on the Magnificat with Johnson's assertions in mind. I'd like to share some of that reflection here.

The text of the Magnificat that I used is from the People's Companion to the Breviary:

My soul proclaims your greatness, O my God,

and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.

For your regard has blessed me, poor, and a serving woman.

From this day all generations will call me blessed,

for you, who are mighty, have done great things for me;

and holy is your Name.

Your mercy is on those who fear you, from generation to generation.

You have shown strength with your arm.

You have scattered the proud in their hearts’ conceit.

You have put down the mighty from their thrones,

and have lifted up the lowly.

You have filled the hungry with good things,

and have sent the rich away empty.

You have helped your servant Israel,

remembering your mercy,

as you promised to Abraham and Sarah,

mercy to their children forever. (Luke 1:46-55)

My reflections:

The history of the Hebrew people is bound up in their deliverance from overbearing political leaders, from those who do not believe in Yahweh.

Yet there is a challenge here also, a hope that the world is not going to remain in the oppression that is being experienced.

By remembering God’s acts, the community remembers that God will do this again—God will always lift up the lowly, will always isolate the proud to their own inner dissatisfaction, will always pull the mighty from their powerful positions.

What does that mean for us? Are we the lowly or are we the proud? Certainly, for Mary, the lowly were those who were quite literally at the bottom of society—the slaves, servants, peasants, farm workers, “blue-collar” people who live from paycheck to paycheck.

But what about us? What about me? It is so easy to say that I am one of the “spiritually humble,” one who acknowledges my own lowliness before the God who is all-powerful and all-merciful.
But do I recognize the power I have over other people, the opportunities that my socio-economic status has given me that others do not have, through no fault of their own?

What do I do about it?

Am I content to live my comfortable life and ignore the needs of those in my world, my country, my city, my street?

How much am I willing to pull myself down, as God pulls down the mighty from their thrones?

How much am I willing to see what God sees and attempt to remedy the injustice in the world? How have I helped in God’s task of lifting up the lowly?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Quote: Imitating Christ's Love

I'm preparing for fall classes, which means choosing reading assignments. Right now, I'm picking sermons from Bernard of Clairvaux, On the Song of Songs. I came across this lovely passage in Sermon 20:

Christian, learn from Christ how you ought to love Christ. Learn a love that is tender, wise, strong; love with tenderness, not passion, wisdom, not foolishness, and strength, lest you become weary and turn away from the love of the Lord. Do not let the glory of the world or the pleasure of the flesh lead you astray; the wisdom of Christ should become sweeter to you than these. The light of Christ should shine so much for you that the spirit of lies and deceit will not seduce you. Finally, Christ as the strength of God should support you so that you may not be worn down by difficulties. Let love enkindle your zeal, let knowledge inform it, let constancy strengthen it. ... So love the Lord your God with the full and deep affection of your heart, love him with your mind wholly awake and discreet, love him with all your strength, so much so that you would not even fear to die for love of him.

It goes on. What beautiful language. I am always so amazed to think that a holy one who lived centuries ago can still speak the words that my heart needs to hear, the encouragement that seems timeless.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

New French Word

Here's my new favorite French word:


A sound file of its pronunciation is here.

It means "in all likelyhood" or something along those lines.

Isn't it lovely? Seems to have too many letters, and in all the wrong order.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday Five Locked In / Out

From RevGalBlogPals:

The "Lock Me Out, Lock Me In" Friday Five.

1) How do you amuse yourself when road construction blocks your travel?
Well, lately my travels have been by myself, so my amusement is in the audiobooks that are my companions. By the way, I mentioned last week that I had five with me--I listened to two. In keeping with the theme, one of them was on when I hit construction (fortunately, there was little of that this trip). The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier was great. I love historical fiction, and this one imagines the creation of those lovely French tapestries that illustrate the story of the lady and the unicorn. It's imaginative, has some historical data (though actually very little) and doesn't go too far in the direction of historical smut, like some of those novels do. I really enjoyed it.

2) Have you ever locked yourself out of your house? (And do you keep an extra key somewhere, just in case?)
Not really. I mean, I've been locked out before, but it wasn't my fault. I lived in a small apartment building, and someone broke their key off in the front door lock. So I had to buzz someone else to let me in. When I called the landlord to tell him that someone else had done it, he didn't believe me! He said, sure, it was someone else. How rude! It really was not me!

3) Have you ever cleared a hurdle? (And if you haven't flown over a material hurdle, feel free to take this one metaphorically.)
Hmm... dissertation takes the cake. And, no, I have never actually cleared a material track-and-field hurdle. Not even one of the little ones. Though in high school I carried them around a lot--I helped with set-up for track meets.

4) What's your approach to a mental block?
It seems that the best way to deal with it is to do something else, to take your mind off it completely. Of course, usually when one has a mental block, that's all one can think about. So this is more theory than actual practice!

5) Suggest a caption for the picture above; there will be a prize for the funniest answer!
"News flash! Three men escape from high-security inflexible men's prison. They are wearing yellow plastic, and they may be linked together. If you see any persons fitting this description, call the police."

A new type of prayer

I'm reading all sorts of things in preparation for classes this fall. One of the books is Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O'Donohue.

Celtic spirituality is quite different from much of the history of western Christian spirituality. A striking difference is the unity of body and soul. Western theology is so hampered by dualism - whether we like it or not, this way of thinking has invaded Christianity.

O'Donohue speaks of how our body is not separate from our soul in any way, but he says that our body resides in our soul. I'm still working that one out, but it is a beautiful image.

He offers a way to pray:

Your body is in the soul, and the soul suffuses you completely. Therefore, all around you there is a secret and beautiful soul-light. This recognition suggests a new art of prayer: Close your eyes and relax into your body. Imagine a light all around you, the light of your soul. Then with your breath, draw that light into your body and bring it with your breath through every area of your body.

(p. 49)