Monday, April 30, 2007

Grand Time

"Boating" by Édouard Manet

The wonderful painting by Manet is one of many that I saw when I visited the Houston Museum of Fine Arts exhibit of French paintings from the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

My friend from my college days invitied me to visit her in Houston. We had not seen each other for several years, so I decided to go and, while I was there, take in the exhibit. The Met in NYC can be overwhelming, so it was good to see a manageable number of their masterpieces at the HMFA. Lovely way to spend an afternoon, indeed.

Before leaving, I joked about going to the city of freeways that turn into giant parking lots. However, my friend lives in a charming older house in a beautiful neighborhood full of old-growth trees. We took several enjoyable walks through the neighborhood, and we drove through other attractive sections, at times driving under oak tree canopies. I came away with a much more positive impression of Houston after this visit.

It was good to see my friend again. Even after years of not seeing each other, when we get together, we can pick up where we left off. It's almost as though time has not passed.

We gathered for meals and interesting and stimulating conversation a couple of times with several of her lively, intelligent, and well-informed friends. For my meal at the Mexican restaurant, I ordered a Mexican omelet called Tortilla Azteca, which included strips of cactus as one of the ingredients. My first taste of cactus, and it was delicious!

My friend, if you read this, thank you for a grand time.

UPDATE: I have been informed that another name for my Mexican omelet is huevos con napales.

Friday, April 27, 2007


"Waterlilies" by Claude Monet

Today is the one-year anniversary of the death of my beloved sister, Gayle. You can read about her in this post from earlier this month. I talk about The Dillenkoffer Endowment, which a friend of hers set up to provide college scholarships for GLBT students in Missouri and Kansas.

Beneath a slide show of pictures of her at the scholarship site are the words, "Gayle's rich life on earth came to an end on April 27, 2006 after a four month fight with pancreatic cancer. Her grand spirit lives on in the lives of so many."

That's so very true.

I say this about her in my post, "She was a lovely person, and I miss her terribly still, as she was my closest confidante." It's true today, and I want to remember her and honor her.

About the scholarships, I said this, "I'm sure she looks upon this memorial with great delight."

May God give her rest in the light of his love.

May God bless all of us who loved her and give us healing and peace.

Local Marines Are headed to Iraq Soon

From the Times-Picayune in New Orleans by Paul Purpura:

Ordered to defend an area that has witnessed some of the fiercest fighting since the war in Iraq began four years ago, more than 350 Belle Chasse-based active-duty and reserve Marines are soon bound for the region, the Marine Corps confirmed Thursday.

"That's what they live for," said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Sprague of Marine Air Group 42, Detachment C. "They enjoy playing in the game rather than practicing all the time. What it boils down to, if you join the Marine Corps in this day and age and you haven't deployed, you've got to expect to."
(Bolding mine)

Posted without comment, except, "God bless them and keep them safe."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Riverbend Is Leaving Iraq

Riverbend, the Baghdad Blogger, and her family are leaving Iraq.

First she talks about the wall that is being built to separate the Sunnis and the Shias in Baghdad:

The Wall is the latest effort to further break Iraqi society apart. Promoting and supporting civil war isn't enough, apparently- Iraqis have generally proven to be more tenacious and tolerant than their mullahs, ayatollahs, and Vichy leaders. It's time for America to physically divide and conquer- like Berlin before the wall came down or Palestine today. This way, they can continue chasing Sunnis out of "Shia areas" and Shia out of "Sunni areas".


I remember Baghdad before the war- one could live anywhere. We didn't know what our neighbors were- we didn't care. No one asked about religion or sect. No one bothered with what was considered a trivial topic: are you Sunni or Shia? You only asked something like that if you were uncouth and backward. Our lives revolve around it now. Our existence depends on hiding it or highlighting it- depending on the group of masked men who stop you or raid your home in the middle of the night.

And her family's decision:

On a personal note, we've finally decided to leave. I guess I've known we would be leaving for a while now. We discussed it as a family dozens of times. At first, someone would suggest it tentatively because, it was just a preposterous idea- leaving ones home and extended family- leaving ones country- and to what? To where?

Since last summer, we had been discussing it more and more. It was only a matter of time before what began as a suggestion- a last case scenario- soon took on solidity and developed into a plan. For the last couple of months, it has only been a matter of logistics. Plane or car? Jordan or Syria? Will we all leave together as a family? Or will it be only my brother and I at first?

I knew it would come to this, if they survived, but it's not simple:

After Jordan or Syria- where then? Obviously, either of those countries is going to be a transit to something else. They are both overflowing with Iraqi refugees, and every single Iraqi living in either country is complaining of the fact that work is difficult to come by, and getting a residency is even more difficult. There is also the little problem of being turned back at the border. Thousands of Iraqis aren't being let into Syria or Jordan- and there are no definite criteria for entry, the decision is based on the whim of the border patrol guard checking your passport.


The problem is that we don't even know if we'll ever see this stuff again. We don't know if whatever we leave, including the house, will be available when and if we come back. There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country, simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming. It is unfair that in order to survive and live normally, we have to leave our home and what remains of family and friends… And to what?

It's difficult to decide which is more frightening- car bombs and militias, or having to leave everything you know and love, to some unspecified place for a future where nothing is certain.

God speed to you and your family, Riverbend.

"I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend."

Hat tip to Scout at First Draft.

Tripping Out - Again

Tomorrow, Friday, I'll be leaving for a long weekend visit with an old friend from my college days in that beautiful metropolis, Houston, Texas. Such vistas of freeways, those vast parking lots, surely a sight not to be missed.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is hosting an excellent (or, so I hear) exhibit of French art on loan from the Metropolitan Museum in New York, which we plan to take in while I'm there. I'm looking forward to the visit, because it's been a while since I've seen my friend, and because I need to get away for a few days.

Since I don't own a laptop, I won't be posting again until Tuesday, except for a brief post tomorrow. I know you'll cry; I know you'll miss me terribly, but try to bear up. I won't be gone long.

Au revoir, mes amis!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Archbishop Williams Summers at Georgetown

According to Jim Naughton at the Episcopal Cafe, "The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, will spend much of his summer sabbatical at Georgetown University sources in England and Washington confirmed today." Georgetown is a Jesuit university in Washington, DC, for those not in the know about this sort of thing, therefore the ABC will be in virtual Roman territory while he's there.

ABC Williams has previously spent time at Georgetown. He is a friend of the president of the university. According to Naughton, "Williams has not visited Episcopal churches during his previous visits, although he has held breakfast meetings with prominent local church leaders. He has refused numerous requests to participate in Episcopal Church events."

Well, we're simple former colonials, so I suppose I can understand that he would meet only "with prominent local church leaders". He is from the great mother country, the United Kingdom, after all, and we are mere states. Besides, if he visited Episcopal Churches, he might not like us, and then what?

Perhaps during his upcoming visit, he will not remain completely - shall we say - "closeted" for the entire time. We shall see.

Jim Naughton is an excellent and serious reporter on events in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, but I sometimes detect a trace of tongue-in-cheekiness in his reporting. Of course, I could be wrong.

Bill Moyers - Record Of War Lies

Tonight a Bill Moyers' Journal segment titled "Record Of War Lies" will air on many PBS stations. Check your local listings for times. We know of many of the lies already, but a refresher course is never out of order for a review of how we got into this war without end.

Judging by the reviews from folks who have seen the program, it appears to be extraordinary. Bill Moyers is a national treasure, another one of the good ones out of Texas, like the much-missed Molly Ivins.

Feast Day of St. Mark The Evangelist

From James Kiefer at The Lectionary:

The Apostle Peter had a co-worker whom he refers to as "my son Mark" (1 Peter 5:13). Papias, an early second century writer, in describing the origins of the Gospels, tells us that Mark was the "interpreter" of Peter, and that he wrote down ("but not in order") the stories that he had heard Peter tell in his preaching about the life and teachings of Jesus.


Mark's symbol in art is a Lion, usually winged.

From Isaiah 52:7

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’

From The Gospel of Mark 1:9-14

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news* of God,* 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;* repent, and believe in the good news.’


Almighty God, who by the hand of Mark the evangelist have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Just Because...

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

Psalm 36:7-9

Imagine! We drink from the river of God's delights.


The members of my church, with the exception of a few, generally do not want to talk about the controversies swirling within the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion. Since I don't care to push unwanted conversation upon others, I have found myself with few people to talk to about things that concern me in my own church.

Partially from a sense of frustration, and partially from a desire to lend a small voice in support of full inclusion in the life of the Episcopal Church for all its baptized members, I began to write this blog.

For quite some time, I had occasionally written long comments in response to posts on the blogs of others, taking up a good deal of space in their comments boxes. Lately, more and more often, I found that I was barred from commenting, unless I had a blog of my own, or, at the very least, a faux blog. The name I chose for my faux blog was available on Blogger, and once the blank space was there, I began to write. The rest, as they say, is history.

My blog has a small readership, and I seem to be preaching to the choir for the most part, but perhaps someone out there reads something here that leads them to think a little about the idea of inclusion within the church

Last week, Fr. Jake linked to a post by Mata H. in which she tells a beautiful story:

I have a friend whom I have known since we were both 16, who is a gay man, now 57. He is a brilliant professor and writer. We were chatting on the phone the other day and generally blathering on (as we do) about the condition of the world in general and America in specific. Out of the blue (because we have never discussed it) he said, "I really love the Episcopalians!"

Why does he "love the Episcopalians"?

"Because look at all those straight people putting -- of all things -- their church on the line in support of our right to a full life. Church people, straight people, standing up for us for the first time! It is wonderful, so hopeful!"

I don't know about you, but that warms my heart. It makes me feel that my small effort might do a bit of good.

Here are Mata's final words in her post:

Do not be discouraged, those of you in the Episcopalian or other churches who care about inclusion. Do not fear. Know that as you speak the words of inclusion, people you do not know, people who thirst for the gospel, people who have never seen courage like this -- well, those people are listening, and they are thankful. Those people are gay and straight, rich and poor, urban and rural -- they are the people outside your doors whose hearts will be touched progressively more deeply as your doors open progressively more widely.

If you do not think of me as an unlikely candidate to take up the cause of inclusion, well, think again. Or read my four part story which I link to on the sidebar, "Confessions Of A Recovering Homophobe". Or take my word for it; it's quicker.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Just Look At This!

Jim Naughton at the Episcopal Café calls our attention to a letter from "A group of Episcopal rectors and cathedral deans, fresh from a retreat in Canterbury".

The first two paragraphs read as follows:

We are members of a clergy colleague group enjoying a retreat at Canterbury Study Centre in the Second week of Easter. While here, we have appreciated the hospitality and history of Canterbury Cathedral itself. Surely this holy place represents the graceful strength and broad wisdom of the entire Anglican Communion of churches. We are proud to locate our own history in this spot, and we are glad that our own ministries are refreshed by our time here.

We can say gratefully and humbly that our own congregations represent centers of faithfulness, outreach and documented growth, something not always reported about mainstream Anglicanism in North America. We believe our growth has something to do with our own practice of invitation and hospitality in the one Lord. We are deeply committed both to the Anglican Communion, and to gays and lesbians as integral members of our communities.

It's way past time that Archbishop Rowan hears from groups such as this. At times, he has seemed truly out of touch with and unaware of the existence of large numbers of priests and parishioners of the Episcopal Church in the US.

Thanks be to God for the voices of these priests.

I'm no theologian, nor am I a Scripture scholar, but when folks tell me that I am wrong in my thinking that all baptized members of the Episcopal Church should be welcomed into the full life of the church, I tell them, "If I make a mistake, I'd rather make it on the side of inclusion, with the Jesus of the Gospels as my model."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Attitude Of The Heart

At church today the appointed readings from the Bible included a favorite passage of mine from the book of Revelation:

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice,
‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!’
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,
‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might
for ever and ever!’
And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the elders fell down and worshiped.
Rev. 6:11-14

Why would such a fantastic vision of John's arouse such admiration? To me, it's perfect imagery to describe the proper attitude of the heart when we gather together to worship God. It's not the case that every Sunday I present to God this perfect and pure attitude of the heart, but every time I read the passage, it reminds me of how it should be. From time to time, by the grace of God, it happens, and it's a gift and a wonder to me.

From Psalm 33:1-3,

Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous.
Praise befits the upright.
Praise the Lord with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings.
Sing to him a new song;
play skilfully on the strings, with loud shouts.


Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.

God is God. We are his creatures. Acknowledgment is due. God doesn't need the acknowledgment; we do. As the Psalm says, "Praise befits the upright."

UPDATE: We capped the service off with a favorite hymn of praise:

Alleluia! sing to Jesus! His the scepter, His the throne.
Alleluia! His the triumph, His the victory alone.
Hark! the songs of peaceful Zion thunder like a mighty flood.
Jesus out of every nation has redeemed us by His blood.

All in all, a lovely morning.

"Si, Mi Chiamano Mimì" - Atto Due

In the comments to my previous post, about heading out to hear "La Bohême" Allen said, "ma il suo nome non è Lucia." He is correct. My name is not Lucia. The line that follows, "They call me Mimi," in the opera is, "But my name is Lucia." My grandchildren do call me Mimi. I answer to that name, and that's all I'll say, Allen. My real given name is "out there" in the ethers of the internet, if you search diligently. Weren't you the one who ferreted out my church parish, my ferret friend?

Also in the comments, Dennis said, "how was it?" It was wonderful! The principal artists sang beautifully. Mimi and Rodolfo's voices soared to heavenly places when they sang duets. Marcello's baritone was outstanding.

All of the principals were terrific actors, too. Musetta's acting was superb. The production moved along at a pace which left not one dull moment. The sets and costumes were traditional, but quite pleasing.

I believe that producers and directors of opera sometimes focus on the music to the extent that they forget that an opera is a musical drama. In this instance, they remembered well.

All in all, it was a lovely evening, pure pleasure.

As Mimi was dying, my cursed tendency toward irony (which sometimes intrudes at the most inappropriate moments) kicked in, and I found myself thinking that for a dying lady, Mimi was in very strong voice.

The good news is that the Mimi who writes this blog did not die of consumption, and remains in good health, but for feeling a little sleepy because of a late night out.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Si, Mi Chiamano Mimì"

I'm heading out to a performance of "La Bohème" at Tulane University with a young friend. It's one of my favorite operas. Romantic that I am, I like the operas that are filled with beautiful melodies and arias. The number of talented artists performing in the relative hinterlands is always an amazement to me. I hope for the best today.

"Si, mi chiamano Mimì". Arrivederci, amici.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Hymnal at the Diocese of Wenchoster

I have been poking around at the website of the Diocese of Wenchoster again. The website includes such a bounty of riches, that I hardly know where to start whenever I visit. I decided to have a look at their Hymnody section, where I found extracts from the Cathedral hymnbook "Hymns Modern & Ancient". To my surprise, their hymnal includes a specially composed tribute to Alpha. Having recently completed five Alpha series sessions during Lent, I was delighted

18: O Church of Alpha, by whose word

(Tune: Dundee.)

O Church of Alpha, by whose word,
House groups are filled with food.
To fill their hearts and minds with faith,
A tactic rather shrewd.

Invite them round for wine and cheese,
Perhaps a large baked cod.
Then after all have had their fill,
You gently mention God.


Let all recall that we're not there
To give them free repast.
It's all a ploy to win their lives,
And make them join our caste.

©Pharisaios 2002

This next hymn is dedicated to priests who may visit and to lay persons who enjoy the spectacle of their priests parading in the splendor of liturgical vestments:

76: Priests need vestments that are pretty

(Tune: "Stuttgart" by C. F. Witt. 1660 - 1716)

Priests need vestments that are pretty,
So in state they may propel
Round the altar in procession,
And the Mass of Rome excel.


Eastern rites in all their glory
Make our worship rich and rare,
Oblivious to all the people,
Clergy persons make their prayer.


Ditching alb for fur-lined cassock,
Rural clergy bend the knee,
Trying to keep their butts from freezing
In the cold Epiphany.

©Pharisaios 2001

The hymns are wonderful, and I wanted to quote them in full, but there is "fair use" to be considered for copyrighted material. I hope I have not crossed the line there. If I have, the authorities at the cathedral know where to reach me to order a "cease and desist".

If you would like to read my impressions of the Alpha series, you can by going here, here, here, here, and here, but I really would not advise taking the trouble.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

This Article Hasn't Been Commented Yet.

Today, I checked out the website of the Diocese of Louisiana to see if my comment to Bishop Jenkins' response to the House of Bishop's "Communication" had been posted. I have already said that I think the comment will not see the light of day, and, indeed, it has not so far. My comment was not dated, but my post quoting it and the bishop's response went up on April 9, 2007.

At the website, above the space for posting a comment, is the notation, "This article hasn't been commented yet." Well, that's not quite true, is it? I'm fairly certain that mine was not the only comment that was sent in.

In addition, I had sent a letter concerning the plans of the Windsor bishops on March 5, 2007, and an email concerning his response to the HOB "Communication" on April 5, 2007, and I have not received a response to either of them.

The War Prayer

Saint Pat at No Claim To Sainthood has posted Mark Twain's "The War Prayer". It's a shocking piece of writing, which is well worth reading or rereading from time to time. Twain makes his point brilliantly. Although this wasn't published during his lifetime, it has lived on. He was a very wise man.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Peter and Thomas And God's Woman

Peter Denies Jesus
Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, ‘You are not also one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’ One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’ Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
John 18:15-17, 25-27
Jesus and Thomas
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
John 20:24-29
God's Woman

Peter, Thomas, are you my kin?
I call you, "Brother". Are we alike?
You imperfect ones, a doubter, a denier,
Am I your sister?

"I tell you I do not know him!"
Three times your Lord denied.
Oh, Peter, when you heard the cock crow,
Your salty tears were bitter.

You, Thomas, to touch, to see was all.
"Me believe? When I see the nail marks,
When I put my finger in his side."
"My Lord and my God!"

You, my brothers, deeply, fully human,
You flaw-filled men of God,
You give me strength; you give me courage.
Perhaps I'll be God's woman, after all.

June Butler 4/18/07

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Oncale's Restaurant

Grandpère and I went to eat at Oncale's Restaurant in Chackbay today. He had a yen for crawfish etouffée. I like my own crawfish etoufée recipe the best, and I told him that, but he retorted, "Well, you never cook it any more." Fair enough.

Anna Oncale, the proprietor of the restaurant, is 83 years old, and still does the cooking and works the tables. Her picture is above.

Behind the restaurant is a large dance hall that was once a foot-stomping place back in the day, however the glory days are past. Anna showed us a framed copy of this article by David Jacobs in The Daily Comet, which tells of those days:

But Anna Oncale, 82, who said she founded the place with her late husband, Herbert, 60 years ago, remembers when patrons came from as far away as Grand Isle and Morgan City to dance, drink and, sometimes, get a bit rowdy.

“We had dances here for 31 years,” she said Thursday, standing near her empty wooden dance floor ringed with tables sporting plastic tablecloths. “Once we had 600 people here. Some of them had to stand outside.”


They had dances every weekend. She said New Orleans legend Irma Thomas performed there, but most, like the Bel-Airs and Billy Wray & Show Band Royale, are long forgotton. But the beer was cold, and there weren’t all that many entertainment options at the time.

They had a few bouncers, and Oncale herself would wield a big stick from time to time with folks who had one, or two or six, too many.

“You had to have something happening, or you wouldn’t have a crowd,” she said. “One might want to hit the other one, so you had to stop them. They would come back in holding each other by the neck.”

But she said they were mostly well-behaved, and the patrons in her many photographs don’t look like ruffians. The pictures are undated, with black-and-white shots of men in hats and ties and women in ankle-length dresses giving way to color photos of less-formal customers with shaggy hair.

Quite a few folks who grew up around here have told us that they met their spouses at Oncale's. The dance hall is a sight to behold. It's still in good shape, with its large wooden dance floor intact. The juke-box with the old songs on it still stands in the hall. It's a shame that it's not used any more.

She said she has turned down an offer of $100,000 for her building, which features several rooms, including her living quarters in the back. The numerous antiques, like the dusty piano, the clock over the bar featuring the Budweiser clydesdales, and more heavy furniture than she could possibly use, might be worth thousands to collectors as well.

MadPriest, if you are around, I think you would have loved the place in your - ahem - younger days.

Before Katrina, tour groups from New Orleans would stop and eat at the restaurant, but the tourist trade has dried up. While we were there, only two others were at lunch.

Chackbay and Choupic are small communities up the road from us. Just in case you don't know, choupic is also a fish. I have never eaten it, but folks around here fish for it and eat it.

I remember hearing that the fish must be cooked while it's fresh, so I Googled around and found this recipe at Landing Big Fish, which I thought was informal and amusing. It includes this cautionary advice:

...also try to fillet the fish fresh, that way the meat does not turn to "cotton". After you have cut the slab off lay it on a pan and try to pull out any loose scales. Don't worry if you don't get them all just watch out for them when eating.

A Somber Day

It's hard to know what to say on the day after the tragedy of yesterday. Add to that the sobering post by Juan Cole at Informed Comment in which he says this:

I keep hearing from US politicians and the US mass media that the "situation is improving" in Iraq. The profound sorrow and alarm produced in the American public by the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech should give us a baseline for what the Iraqis are actually living through. They have two Virginia Tech-style attacks every single day.


I[Cole] wrote on February 26,

' A suicide bomber with a bomb belt got into the lobby of the School of Administration and Economy of Mustansiriya University in Baghdad and managed to set it off despite being spotted at the last minute by university security guards. The blast killed 41 and wounded a similar number according to late reports, with body parts everywhere and big pools of blood in the foyer as students were shredded by the high explosives. '

That isn't "slow progress" or just "progress," the way the weasels in Washington keep proclaiming. It is the most massive manmade human tragedy of the young century.
(My bolding)

To keep informed of the real story in Iraq and the Middle East, I read Professor Cole nearly every day.

How do we bear this state of affairs? Sometimes it's overwhelming for me. I do what I can do in my small way to try to change things. It's pitifully little; may God forgive my sins of omission.

And I pray.

From the Carmina Gadelica:

On the Rock of rocks
The peace of Peter and Paul,
Of James and John the beloved,
And of the pure perfect Virgin,
The pure perfect Virgin.

The peace of the Father of joy,
The peace of the Christ of pasch,
The peace of the Spirit of grace,
To ourselves and to our children,
Ourselves and our children.

And I look for a word from the Lord.

From the Lectionary:

Psalm 5:1-3

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my sighing.
Listen to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.

1 John 2:7-11

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says, ‘I am in the light’, while hating a brother or sister,* is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person* there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer* is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Jesus Wept

Prayer for the dead at Virginia Tech:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

Prayer for the families and friends of the dead and for the wounded and their families and friends:

God our Father, send your healing love upon them; heal them in spirit, soul and body. Give them strength and courage to go on with their lives, and above all, give them your peace that passes understanding to keep their minds and hearts. Amen.

Prayer for all students, faculty, staff, and administrators at Virginia Tech:

Lord God, send your Spirit upon everyone at Virginia Tech. Give the leadership wisdom, knowledge and understanding as they move forward. Bless everyone and heal them and draw them together in the power of your love. Amen.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio
Jesus and Thomas

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

John 20:24-29

In his sermon today, my rector reminded us that even as Thomas demonstrated his unbelief when the other disciples told him of seeing Jesus, upon Jesus' second appearance, Thomas made a deeply profound declaration of faith as he said, "My Lord and my God."

It seems to me that if we claim to be people of faith, we must (if we are honest with ourselves) accept that, like Thomas, faith and doubt exist side by side within each one of us.

Do click on the picture and get the larger view. It's so beautiful.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

When They Came For Me...

Yesterday, I drifted over to David Virtue's site. I should know better. It's an astonishing experience.

I'm not giving a link, but the post that I reference is titled, "When They Came For Me There Was No One Left To Speak Out".

First off, David quotes Martin Niemoller:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.
When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.

Good enough, except that Niemoller's list is not all-inclusive of every group the Nazis came for.

Then David says this:

Friedrich Gustav Martin Niemöller's words, uttered more than 50 years ago, ring with an ominous clarity as we watch the slow evisceration of orthodox Episcopalians in the American Episcopal Church. Never has the prominent German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor's words resounded with so much terror as we watch what is happening to the nation's premier church that has seen numerous presidents, senators and community leaders pass through its hallowed doors.

Just as Niemoller became one of the founders of the Confessing Church which opposed the nazification of German Protestant churches, we are seeing today in the U.S., with the homosexualization of The Episcopal Church, the rise of confessing churches that stand in opposition to the pansexual (LGBT) agenda that is ripping and tearing at the fabric of a once proud denomination.
(Bolding is mine.)

Hold on. One of the targeted groups that Niemoller left off his list of folks the Nazis came to get are the "pansexuals".

I need a minute to work this out. Niemoller is speaking against the Nazis. The Nazis arrested and killed "pansexuals". Now Virtue compares the Episcopal Church to the Nazis, because they call for equal rights for "pansexuals". I don't believe that logic holds up. Of course, I could be wrong.

Virtue sinks lower and lower with each paragraph in the post, and I won't quote more. Niemoller's words resound with terror for them now! I'm convinced. Fear is their fuel. The comments are unbelievable. The folks there have a seige mentality, a "they're out to get us" mindset that comes from where? Just amazing. I really should know better than to go there.

Perhaps the Episcopal Church was "a once proud denomination". I hardly think it can be so today, and if the pride is gone, that's quite a good thing.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Dillenkoffer Endowment

My sister's wealthy, gay friend wrote to me to tell me that he has set up an endowment scholarship fund in her memory. Here's the information on the eligibility for the scholarships:

The Dillenkoffer Endowment was formed to support gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered teens with college tuition grants in Kansas and Missouri.

Gay teens across the country continue to face personal and academic challenges unlike those faced by their straight classmates. In addition to challenges at school, many face rejection by their families and the community at large as well as religious persecution. Even violence is not uncommon. Statistics show gay teens are more likely to abuse substances, drop out of school, run away from home, be involved in prostitution and attempt suicide.

The Dillenkoffer Endowment's mission is to:

* recognize and reward gay teens who are able to succeed in the face of personal and academic challenges;

* help them achieve even greater success through higher education; and

* provide them with the tools to be role models to others as they become young adults.

If you go to the site you will find pictures of my sister in all the transformations of her appearance. She was given to making drastic changes rather quickly and often. She was a lovely person, and I miss her terribly still, as she was my closest confidante. The one-year anniversary of her death is near the end of this month. The address of the site is

I'm sure she looks upon this with great delight.

Six Weird Things About Me

My "friend" Eileen, whom I will never forgive, has tagged me for the meme. Only six? I could go on and on.

1. I am claustrophic. After several hours on a plane, I want to break a window and jump out.

2. I have acrophobia. I can't go more than two steps up on a ladder, or I get dizzy. Once, at the top of Mont Blanc, after ascendng the inside steps to the very tip, I had to descend the outside steps sitting on my bottom. The steps were metal grating that you could SEE THROUGH!

3. I love my time alone. (Is that weird?)

4. I have gephyrophobia (fear of bridges) over water, even bridges over untroubled water.

5. I am the quintessential Jewish mother, even though I'm not Jewish.

6. I'm with Doxy. I simply cannot pass the meme on.

Correction: Eileen did not tag me; it was Julie+. My humblest apologies to you, Eileen.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Auden Centenary In York

Henry Alford writes in "Shouts and Murmurs" for The New Yorker, this short humorous piece titled The Knowledge, inspired by an article in The Times noting that cabdrivers in York have been memorizing Auden's poems to entertain their passengers who are visiting the city for the centenary celebration. Here's an excerpt from Alfords piece:

’Ewas me Norf, me Souf, me East and West,

Me working week and me Sund’y rest,

Me noon, me midnight, me talk, me song;

I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

’E ’ad a gentleman friend, Mr. Auden did, dinnee? Bit of a trouser man, orroight? That seems to be the way nowadays, innit, wif actors and M.P.s and clergy and wot ’ave you. In my day, there weren’t a need to fling yer spanky knackers into other folks’ faces all jumble-wumble and ’ere’s-mine-guv’nor. Though the missus did drag me to see Mr. Rudolf Nureyev at the ballet once. That man packed a full bag of groceries, dinnee?

The whole thing is quite funny and short, so definitely click on the link to read the rest.

Note to MadPriest: this is much more your sort of thing, but I decided that I would have it.

The anniversary occurred on 21 February 2007, so it's probably too late to plan to attend.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"Clarity And Charity" From Bishop Jenkins

Since I do not know whether the comment moderation is kept up to date on the Diocese of Louisiana website, I'll go ahead and post Bishhop Jenkins' response along with my email to him at the website: (See Bishop Jenkins' Response below)

A Response to the House of Bishops
The Clarity and Charity of a Self-Differentiating Act

Each action taken by a leader or a group in leadership towards clarity is not necessarily a movement towards differentiation. The difference between mature leadership and tyranny is that the former makes room for points of view differing from the majority, while the latter can hardly tolerate divergence from the majority opinion. As Ed Friedman once noted, “the more monolithic the system, the more dissent is seen as destructive.” Both the differentiated leader and the tyrant may be clear and well defined but clarity alone does not make an action a mature response. To quote Ed Friedman, “The critical issue in determining differentiation is the ability to tolerate difference.” The paradox between clarity as differentiation or as tyranny is defined in part by the attempt of the leader or group in power to coerce the other into accepting the majority opinion.

Dissent from the actions of various General Conventions does not imply a desire to “divide our Church.” I am one who has a deep “love for the Episcopal Church, the integrity of its identity, and the continuance of its life and ministry.” I have for years suggested that the Episcopal Church should separate (do not hear what I am not saying) in order that we need not separate. Again, this is a concept put forward by Rabbi Friedman. By “separate in order not to separate”, I do not mean division or schism. I am not talking about parallel jurisdictions, as the concept seems to have been put forth. I am not talking about two Anglican Churches in North America or anywhere else. I am saying that we Episcopalians have lately become too close and as in a marriage, such over-closeness, or fusion, often leads to separation or even divorce. I have been told the Canons do not allow for an appropriate sense of distance in our ecclesiastical relations to avoid an absolute separation for divorce. I may be the only person in the Episcopal Church who believes that we have become fused with one another (I have not been able to sell this concept).

I disagree with the widely held perception by members of the House of Bishops that the “Communication from the March 2007 Meeting of the House of Bishops” was in fact a differentiating move. For sure, it was clear, but the inability of the majority to tolerate dissent, to engage a spirit of adventure (one would hope under the guidance of the Holy Spirit), and the tendency towards historical gloss make me question the value of the Communication as an act of self-differentiation.

The Lambeth Conference of 1998 was a clear demonstration to all in the Communion who had eyes to see that the traditional connections and relationships of the Anglican Communion were under great challenge as insufficient for the future of the Communion. The traditional axis of the United Kingdom, North America, and Australia was not alone representative of the future of the Church. I think the great adventure for us as Anglican Christians is to seek prayerfully the guidance of the Holy Spirit to discern humbly where God would have us grow as Communion. The opportunity to avoid fusion and herding as well as separation and schism, is the exciting adventure that is sidetracked by the Bishops’ rigid appeal to our polity. Episcopal Bishops have said repeatedly that brothers and sisters from around the world do not understand the polity of The Episcopal Church. Such a statement seems to suggest that if our brothers and sisters did understand our Episcopal polity, they would accept it. I am not willing to make such an imperialistic assumption. I think many outside of the Episcopal Church do understand our polity. They just do not buy it. I assume that to engage a great adventure of where the Holy Spirit would lead us does not necessarily mean that we know the answer before we even bend our knees in prayer.

I was not at the March 2007 meeting of the House of Bishops when the “Communication” was discussed and voted on. I had returned from Camp Allen to New Orleans for a series of meetings and events that demanded my presence. I would have spoken against and voted against the “Communication” had I been present. It was a done deal by the time I was able to return to Camp Allen.

The Gospel of John tells us of Jesus’ prayer from the Upper Room “that they may be one as we are one.” (St. John 17.22b) As we keep this Maundy Thursday, let us pray that God will in all truth make real in our lives even a dim shadow of that perfect unity of the Holy and Undivided Trinity.


Here's my comment:

Dear Bishop Jenkins,

I understand that you are under great stress since Katrina and the flood, with scattered members of the flock, priests who have no congregations, priests who have moved on to other locations, ruined churches, and your own home flooded. I want you to know that I pray for you, because I know you bear heavy burdens at this time, and that there is still much work to be done.

I read your response to the House of Bishops meeting at Camp Allen. I understand that you were not present for the discussion and vote on the "Communication" that the bishops released, and that you would have spoken against it and voted against it, had you been there.

Beyond that, I confess that I understand little of the rest of your response. Where is the "tyranny"? Is it in the House of Bishops? I am not familiar with Rabbi Friedman's books, and I do not understand your statements that reference his ideas.

What can you mean by saying that the Episcopal Church must "separate in order not to separate"? What do you mean when you say that the church has become overclose or fused, which could lead to a divorce?

You say that certain members of the Communion "just do not buy it" [the polity of the Episcopal Church] So, what then? It is not within the power of the House Of Bishops, by itself, to change the polity of the Episcopal Church. There is another House, the House of Deputies. There is a process for making changes in the Canons of the Episcopal Church. I like the democracy in the Episcopal Church, and I would like to retain it.

You say what you don't mean; you don't mean schism or division, nor do you mean parallel jurisdictions, but I'm not sure what you do mean.

I can't think what sort of "great adventure" you have in mind. If the adventure involves putting the Episcopal Church under the authority of the likes of Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria and Archbishop Orombi of Uganda, who are already intruding in our church in a manner which they have no right to do, I would be greatly disappointed. There are many problems in their own countries which need to be addressed, and they should stay home and tend to them.

Let me make myself clear, Bishop Jenkins: I pray that the Episcopal Church is not excluded from the Anglican Communion, but should that happen, I would take my place firmly within the Episcopal Chruch. I pray that you do not have in mind to press for a withdrawial of the Diocese of Louisiana from the Episcopal Church.

Although I am only a humble Episcopalian in the pew, I feel sort of dull and stupid not to understand more of your response, even after reading it several times. Perhaps you can shed light for me.

UPDATE: At church today, Sunday April 15, we received a printed handout of Bishop Jenkins' "Response To The House Of Bishops", but without an explanation or translation.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bishop Jenkins' Response

I had already written a post on Bishop Charles Jenkins' response to the House of Bishops meeting at Camp Allen and the "Communication" from the meeting. However, the bishop has put up a comments box on the website of the Diocese of Louisiana, and I thought it best to write what I wanted to say there. I had sent him an email, but had not heard back on that, so I pretty much repeated my email and added a bit more. The comments are moderated, therefore I'm not 100% sure if mine will make it to the site. Let me say that it is perfectly polite, but not necessarily complimentary.

Please find the site yourself, because a link will send him here, and I'm not sure I'm ready for that. I will be found out sooner or later, I'm sure, but I'm not going out of my way to identify myself. Is that cowardly of me?

Monday, April 9, 2007

Supper At Emmaus

Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio, 1601
Then he [Jesus] said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over. "So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?"

Luke 24:25-32
From Rmj in the comments to my Noli Me Tangere post below:
We used to have wonderful discussions in seminary about Jesus after the resurrection. Did he have a body, or not? All the Gospel witnesses are intentional[ly] inconclusive. In Luke, he appears to the disciples, but is only recognized in the breaking of the bread, then he vanishes. In John, he walks through walls and closed doors, but has wounds that can be touched, and eats fish with Peter (to prove he's not a ghost).

Fascinating stuff. Ambiguity is the very warp and woof of life!
Indeed it is! Assuming Jesus had a body of some sort, I wonder what it would have been like to be among the disciples on the road to Emmaus with Jesus and hear him explain the Scriptures. What would it have been like to break bread with Jesus that night? Although they did not know him as they walked with him, there was something about him that made them want to remain in his presence. I put myself in their company.
Come And Eat With Me

Will you come and eat with me?
You can stay the night.
Stay just a while and have a meal.
As we break our bread, we'll talk.
Stay with me; rest a while.

Here, take your bread.
Wait! Who are you?
You are Jesus, the one who died!
You are dead, but here you are alive,
Here you break bread with me.

You made me come alive,
As you spoke to me of the prophets.
You set my heart on fire when you told me
How you had to suffer and to die.
What! You're gone? Just like that?

June Butler - 4/9/07
From Luke 24:25-32

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Noli Me Tangere

Noli Me Tangere (1524), by Hans Holbein the Younger

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”
John 20:11-17

Why did Jesus tell Mary not to touch him? In my search for an answer, I found this article in The Smithsonian Magazine, titled "Who Was Mary Magdalene?" by James Carroll, who writes a regular column in The Boston Globe.
The multiplicity of the Marys by itself was enough to mix things up—as were the various accounts of anointing, which in one place is the act of a loose-haired prostitute, in another of a modest stranger preparing Jesus for the tomb, and in yet another of a beloved friend named Mary. Women who weep, albeit in a range of circumstances, emerged as a motif. As with every narrative, erotic details loomed large, especially because Jesus’ attitude toward women with sexual histories was one of the things that set him apart from other teachers of the time. Not only was Jesus remembered as treating women with respect, as equals in his circle; not only did he refuse to reduce them to their sexuality; Jesus was expressly portrayed as a man who loved women, and whom women loved.

The climax of that theme takes place in the garden of the tomb, with that one word of address, “Mary!” It was enough to make her recognize him, and her response is clear from what he says then: “Do not cling to me.” Whatever it was before, bodily expression between Jesus and Mary of Magdala must be different now.
After his Resurrection, Jesus has a body. He is the same Jesus, but, at the same time, he is different, and his physical relationship with his disciples had to be different.

Carroll's entire piece is worth reading as a counter-story to the nonsense floating around about Mary Magdalene.

An archive of his recent columns can be found here.

Preface of Easter
Almighty God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord's resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by thy life-giving Spirit; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Alleluia, Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Good-bye To All That

The Good Friday services are over, but the remembrance of the death of God and God in the tomb goes on until Sunday. In my youth, Good Friday was a solemn day, a somber day. We spent three hours in church in the afternoon. There was no radio, no movies, nothing that was fun. We knew were commemorating something serious, even as children.

Now church services are shorter; fewer activities are forbidden. In fact, earlier in the day yesterday, I attended a party. Alas and alack! It's still somewhat shocking to me that, in my very Roman Catholic area, a tradition has arisen to have a crawfish boil party on Good Friday. It seems strange to me, and it was difficult for me to participate when the custom began in my own family. What am I doing at a party on Good Friday - the most solemn day of the year? Since it was a family gathering, I'd go, but I felt uncomfortable.

This year as I mulled over the tradition in my mind, I thought to myself, "Is it right for me to be the Puritan in this instance? Should I go, but with a disapproving attitude? The members of my family are not getting up a posse to go murder people or rob houses. It's an innocent crawfish boil. Am I to suggest to my family that they're not to pass a good time on Good Friday? I think not."

I went yesterday with a good heart, and it was much better for me, and, no doubt, for the others also.

Friday, April 6, 2007

The Deposition

The Deposition by Caravaggio

From the Vatican Museum

When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.

Mark 15:42-47

Good Friday Solemn Collect:

Let us commit ourselves to God, and pray for the grace of a holy life, that, with all who have departed this world and have died in the peace of Christ, and those whose faith is known to God alone, we may be accounted worthy to enter into the fullness of the joy of our Lord, and receive the crown of life in the day of resurrection. BCP p.280

Lately, in the blogosphere, there has been much discussion of the meaning of Jesus' death on the cross, atonement, salvation, and from Rmj, who likes to use fancy words, soteriology. I've put in my two cents here and there, but I've found it much easier to say what I don't believe than what I believe. I've been struggling over the last few days to come up with my own theory on the meaning of Jesus' death. First off, I find that I can't separate the death from the Incarnation and the Resurrection. Second, I have not come up with anything that could be called coherent.

In the comments to a post by Rmj, I found this from Boreas:

Fr. Armand Veilleux, O.C.S.O., a member of the General Council and Procurator General of the Cistercian Order in Rome, essayed an answer which seems germane to this conversiation [on salvation], and which I quote in part:

"Christ saved us by his life, not by his death. But his death is part of his life. It was because he was faithful to being the witness to his Father to the end that he had to accept death as the consequence of this witness. But he did not accept it joyfully. The agony was a tremendous difficulty for a young man who was facing death at thirty-three years of age. Also, if you analyze the New Testament very closely, you see that Jesus puts an end to the practice of sacrifices.... Christ was not killed as a sacrifice, he was murdered. Because he accepted to be murdered, it is his life -- including that consequence -- that has replaced all the sacrifices. And so in our life, we are not pleasing God by making sacrifices; we are pleasing God by living according to his message as Jesus did. And this, our life, is the only "sacrifice" that God wants. So when we celebrate the Eucharist, we celebrate the fact that Christ -- God incarnated as a human being -- has given himself as "food." We are not killing him; we are celebrating his life and the gift of life that he gives us as food -- as nourishment -- for our life."(pp. 231-32

From The Gethsemani Encounter in 1999 by the Continuum Publishing Co., of New York.

The words of Fr. Veilleux come closest to my thoughts on the meaning of the cross. Jesus' whole life, including his death, was the offering.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Sacrament Of The Last Supper

The Sacrament Of The Last Supper by Salvador Dali. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’

Mark 14:22-25

Over the ages there have been countless discussions, explanations, and disagreements among Christians about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. I believe in the Real Presence in the bread and the wine rather than a symbolic remembrance or reinactment of the Last Supper. The how of the presence of Jesus in the bread and wine is something else entirely, and I don't know of a completely satisfactory explanation. Jesus said it, so I believe it.

I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, with transubstantiation, which I find unsatisfactory. I cannot fully explain the Presence, but from the accounts in the Gospels, I find the words of Jesus, "This is my body....This is my blood," compelling.

In addition are these prophetic words from John's Gospel:

I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’

John 6:48-58


Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.

John 6:66-68

Those who walked away seemed to have thought that they were hearing words that were difficult to believe. If Jesus was speaking symbolically, why would they have left?

I also like these simple words of John Donne:

He was the Word, that spake it:
He took the bread and brake it;
And what that Word did make it,
I do believe and take it.'

Divine Poems. On the Sacrament.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Is This What You Want, Baby?

Yesterday, we returned to New Orleans because we wanted to cook a roast leg of lamb for Easter dinner. Since the Winn-Dixie Supermarket closed down, we no longer have a place to buy good meat here in town.

We went to the Whole Foods Market in New Orleans and spent a whole lot of money on meat and imported and exotic stuff which we can't buy here. The butcher at the counter where we bought our meat was a not-young black man, who lost three houses in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans, his own house and two rental houses. He is fixing his house and going back there to live. He said, "Ive lived there 40 years." What courage.

All the while we were talking, he was calling me "Baby". "Yes, Baby. Is this what you want, Baby?" I thought to myself, "Where else but in New Orleans will you find a perfect stranger of a man who calls you "Baby" and means nothing familiar or disrespectful by it"? It's a great place full of great and courageous people, and I am proud that it is my home town.

The Temptation Of God

Tobias Haller at In A Godward Direction preached this sermon on Palm Sunday. The title is "The Temptation Of God". Tobias' sermons are lovely and quite accessible. I recommend that you read the whole sermon, but I especially liked his final words, which suggest a way forward for the time that remains in Holy Week.

Our yearly company with Jesus in his Passion has begun, as we set our feet upon the path of Holy Week once more. Let us then with courage set our faces towards Jerusalem and resist the temptations we face in our lives in the knowledge of his faith, his remembrance of us, who did not save himself, but gave himself that we might be saved. +


Palmesel means palm donkey in German, but most often refers to a statue of Christ on a donkey. These statues were mounted on a wheeled platform and used in Palm Sunday processions.

The Cloisters - A Medieval Art Museum in Fort Tyron Park, New York City

I note that in the statue illustrated above, Jesus appears to have a receding hairline. Take heart all you guys who have less than a full, luxuriant growth of hair on your heads. Perhaps Jesus was one of you.

Sunday I missed going to church because I took the Katrina disaster tour, with Scout of First Draft as the tour guide. She knows her way around New Orleans, especially the devastated areas, like a native, although she lives in Wisconsin. It was a strange, but perhaps appropriate initiation into Holy Week.

So far, I have not yet adjusted to the compression of Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday into one Sunday. With this arrangement, we move from Jesus riding triumphant - albeit on a donkey, a lowly animal compared to a horse - with the crowds shouting "Hosanna in the highest!" and waving palm branches to an abrupt thrust into the Passion story and Holy Week.

I've just finished reading the Passion of Our Lord from Matthew's Gospel. Often when I'm reading something familiar, certain words will leap out to grab my attention, words that I have taken little note of in previous readings. Today the words were from Matthew 26:56, "Then all the disciples deserted him and fled."

How many times have I deserted Jesus and fled from him? More often than I'd like, I'm ashamed to say. Perhaps that's fertile ground for meditation during this Holy Week.

Sunday, April 1, 2007


First Draft Krewe Before

It's truly difficult for me to write about my weekend, because New Orleans is my city and will always be my city, although I have not lived there for nearly 50 years. It's my home. I have lived in my town for 37 years, and it's a good town. My children grew up here, and it was a fine place to raise a family.

The New Orleans which I loved the most did not exist even before Katrina. The NOLA which I grew up in and lived in fof the first 24 years of my life is the city that I loved the most. Over those 24 years, it seemed to change very little, but during the years that I lived away, it changed greatly, unfortunately not always for the better. But it was still there, and I continued faithful to my love who had gone somewhat bad. We visited and enjoyed the goodness which remained.

I had already met Scout on one of her previous trips to New Orleans, but it was great to meet Athenae and Mr. A., Ray in New Orleans, Sinfonian, Cynthia, Mike Danablog, Cheri and Harry (archeop), and Spork. I will forever picture Spork with three heavy cameras hanging around this neck as we took the tour of the devastated areas. You can see some of his terrific pictures at his blog.

Gutting a house is hard work. The house we worked on was on 1773 Sere St next to the London Avenue Canal, which breached about a mile away from the house and flooded a wide area. I will read about those who volunteer to help gut a house with great respect in the future, especially those who work in the heat of July and August. The suits are hot, the respirator is a scary-looking thing which I was not sure I would be able to wear since I have claustrophobia, but it was OK once I got it on. Wearing the hooded suit, the respirator, the goggles, and two sets of gloves - work gloves over rubber gloves - you sweat before you even start to work. Many of the other - ahem - much younger folks did heavier work than I did for a longer time, but I did my little bit for the cause, sweeping debris that fell when the walls were knocked down into a pile, shoveling it into wheel barrows, and picking up boards with nails in them so no one would step on them. The others worked with crowbars and hammers. Some of us found a certain satisfaction in knocking out sheetrock as you can see from Athenae's post.
Inside the house it was dusty and dark; our goggles fogged up and we were drenched in seconds, but it was satisfying, in a situation in which you feel there's so little you can do, to slam a crowbar into some drywall. And that's for the convention center, and that's for fucking Geraldo having smarts our government didn't have and that's for every right-wing nutball who said people should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and that's for everybody who ever told me America was a Christian nation. That's for Gentilly and that's for St. Bernard and that's for New Orleans and that's for my country, you fucking fucks, as Ashley would say. [Sadly, Ashley Morris, who blogged brilliantly and prolifically about New Orleans, died unexpectedly on April 2, 2008.]
The retired couple who lived next door appreciated what we did. They are well along in fixing their house but still have their FEMA trailer parked in front. They very kindly allowed us to use the bathroom in the trailer as we worked. Later, the gentleman bought us two cartons of fried chicken wings, which quickly disappeared as we devoured them.

We had a great crew of college students from Elon University working with us as part of a requirement for a class. Good for their teacher for having them do this. I'm sure they learned a great deal from this time out of the classroom.

On Sunday, we took a tour through the devastated areas, some of which I had not seen yet. My husband and I had gone twice before to view the ruins, but at some point I had to ask him to stop before we saw certain areas, because I just could not take any more, but yesterday I saw parts of the city that I had not seen before. Block after block of wasteland, with the only visible progress being the removal of the huge piles of trash and vacant lots where houses had been bulldozed. Occasionally, in the midst of the wasteland, we'd see one house fixed and inhabited. I wondered how the folks could live there alone, surrounded by vacant lots and ruined houses.

We saw the breaches in the levee, which had been repaired, but adjacent to the repaired and reinforced areas were the same old levees that failed after Katrina. No one in the area believes that the US Corps of Engineers has fixed much of anything. The same disaster could repeat itself once again.

Remember that it was not Katrina that caused the major disaster in New Orleans. The city came through the storm pretty well, but the subsequent failures of the levees, built by the same US Corps of Engineers, caused the city to go under water.

Enough for now. I'll probably write more later.

First Draft Krewe After

UPDATE: Many thanks to lb1303 and Dangerblond for their wonderful New Orleans-style hospitality in opening their homes to us, and thanks to all who contributed the delicious food for the gatherings.

UPDATE 2: If you'd like to read an account of a New Orleans all-nighter, go read Mike Danablog at Detached Retina. Keep in mind that the all-nighter came after a hard day's work of house-gutting.

UPDATE 3: A happy ending: Sinfonian, a member of the group who worked with us, returned to 1773 Sere St, which we thought was a lost cause and likely to be demolished.  Pictured below is the termite- and roach-infested kitchen as it looks today.  I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the beautiful new kitchen in the picture.  A young family purchased the house and lives there now.

  Below is a photo of the exterior of the restored house from Google Maps.

Do You Know What It Means?

Later, perhaps tomorrow, I'll write my impression of my trip to New Orleans with Scout Prime and Athenae from the blog First Draft and the other folks in our group. Meanwhile you might want to check out Athenae's post, We Are Marshall, at FD. I'm a little daunted to attempt to give my account, because she and Scout write so well.

If you are absolutely holding your breath, near to dying, to see a picture of me and Grandpère you can look at this post at First Draft and see if you can guess which of those lovely people we are. I warn you; it's going to be quite a challenge to pick us out.