Weekend Travel

8 May 2009

So, we’re travelling this weekend for Mother’s Day. Pray for our safe travels.  It should be fun, culminating with a porkloin feast on the beach on Sunday.

There are some scheduled posts between now and then, but next week may be a light posting week.

Happy Mother’s Day to all.


In a brilliant lectionary turn, the Old Testament lessons in the BCP Daily Lectionary (i.e., the daily readings as set forth by the Episcopal Church’s prayer book) describe the time in the desert during this time.  The readings start the week before Holy Week, lay off for Holy Week itself, and are taken up again during Easter Week.

I say this is brilliant because we usually think of Easter as a time of joyful celebration, a season of easing restrictions, a period of wonderful blossoming coinciding with springtime.

Ah, if only it were only so easy.

While the Sunday Gospels this time are either inspiring (apperances of the Risen Jesus) or warm and cuddly (the Good Shepherd gospel), these readings underly that even after the Passover (whether it is the Passover of Our Lord, i.e. Easter, or the first Passover) the reality of our freedom is undeniable, but that doesn’t mean its easy.

The Israelites are complaining, they’re building idols, they’re reveling in pagan ways, they’re afraid, they’re lost, they’re hopeless.

But, of course, within the Christian context these readings simply underscore that although the day-to-day struggles persist, even in Easter, we look forward to the Resurrection after which the long, hard slog slogs no more.

As anyone who’s ever used a breviary knows, it takes a while to get the hang of. A whole year even.

My current breviary, A Monastic Breviary (available here; sorry, it doesn’t have its own webpage), has an ordinary for Eastertide, which I had not noticed until this Easter, so last Easter I was praying it Ordinary Time-style with Alleluias thrown in for the Psalm antiphons.  So it’s taken me a whole year, really, to realize that this breviary has seasonal ordinaries, probably because I don’t (or at least haven’t) used A Monastic Breviary for Lent or Advent, seasons when the Ordinary is particularly important.

Anyway, in addition to praying this breviary properly in terms of Eastertide, this week includes several feasts I’ve never had occasion to celebrate before.  Monday was St. Monnica’s (sic), yesterday was the Conversion of St. Augustine, and today is the Finding (aka the “Invention”) of the Holy Cross, also known as the Feast of the Holy Cross in Eastertide.   This last one was supposed to be on May 3, but May 3 being Sunday I transferred it to the first free day, today.

These latter two feasts are rare, at least nowadays, but are present in this breviary because the Order of the Holy Cross has a special devotion to the Holy Cross (unsurprisingly) and St. Augustine, since their chapel is dedicated to him, if I remember correctly.

I’m observing these feasts for the first time, and I really like them, especially today’s.  Fr. Hunwicke celebrated the feast yesterday and has mentioned this feast a few times lately, so look to his ‘blog for a little more information on it.  (A word to my more liberal readers: Fr. Hunwicke is a decidedly traditionalist and conservative Anglo-Catholic, so some of the things on his ‘blog might not sit well with some of you, as they don’t with me. Fair warning.)

If you read my draft rule published yesterday, you might have noticed that in this rule I set out the goal for myself of doing a certain number of things for a certain number of hours per week.

Part of the motivation behind writing a rule of life is discipline.  It’s much easier to spend an hour three days a week studying German or writing poetry or exercsing than to keep trying to remind myself of these things every day of the week and seeing if I have time for any of them.

For example, I’ve decided that I want to take up reading Greek for the first time in about seven years.  So this morning was the beginning of my second week spending an hour three days a week reading Greek.  Because I know that I have an hour or so in the morning before the Little Guy wakes up, it’s a perfect opportunity to read Greek.  And so I did.  I can read a chapter of New Testament Greek in about an hour.  Great.

One of the challenges of the last year or so was that the computer, which I only got last year, became a distraction.  My computer bit the dust a year before and I was quite happy to be computer-less, with the one computer that was mine being utterly non-portable (a battery-less laptop) and internet free.

But now I have an Internet-capable laptop.  And I have a busy life, in general, so it just became harder and harder to find time during the week to do things like submit poetry for publication or just write poetry at all.

Just sitting down and saying, “I’m going to do this thing for an hour,” whatever it is can be amaingly effective.

At least for me.

Anybody out there experienced in writing an abstract for submission to a conference?  Would any of those bodies care to look over a one-page double-spaced abstract and give a quick appraisal of its quality, in terms of the conventional requirements.
I’ve written abstracts for papers to present at literature conferences, but I’m thinking that the conventions/methods in theology might be different.

During Advent and Lent, the daily office shall be prayed from the Roman Breviary, 1964; the gradual psalms and seven penitential psalms with the litany and its prayers will be prayed as often as possible.  During Christmas, Easter, and Ordinary Time, the Monastic Breviary of the Order of the Holy Cross shall be used for the daily office.

The Angelus or Regina Coeli shall be prayed upon rising, at noon, and at 6 pm every day.

The Rosary shall be prayed every day in Advent and Lent, and daily, if possible, during the other seasons.

One hour shall be spent in silence and stillness per week, hopefully increased to three.

A multi-day retreat shall be made four times a year, once in Advent, once in Lent, once on the Feast of Benedict in July, and once in September.  The Advent, Lent, and September retreats should coincide with Ember Friday and Saturday if possible.

Single day retreats are also recommended, but not in the same month as a multi-day retreat.  If retreats coincide with Ember Days, those days will be fast free; the Ember Day fasts should be transferred to the preceding or following Friday and Saturday.

During Advent and Lent, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays will be fast days; alcohol and animal products will be avoided as much as possible.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, a small breakfast shall be taken before exercise.  On Saturdays, no breakfast shall be eaten.  From Vespers of Saturday until Compline of Sunday will be fast free.  Ember Saturdays will be fast days as much as possible.

During Christmas and Easter, there will be no fasting, with the exception of the Rogation Days.

During Ordinary Time, Wednesdays and Fridays will be fast days; alcohol and animal products will be avoided on Fridays as much as possible.  Alcohol shall be limited to no more than four drinks from Monday until Saturday Vespers, with no more than three drinks on one night.

Feast days shall be fast free.  Feast days shall be the Principal and Major Holy Days as outlined in the Book of Common Prayer, and the Feasts of Saint Anthony of the Desert (January 17), Ordination of Florence Li Tim-Oi (January 24), Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas (March 7), Gregory of Rome (March 12), Benedict (March 21), Dietrich Bonhoeffer (April 9), George (April 23), Romuald (June 19), Benedict (July 11), Henry (July 13), Our Lady of Mount Carmel (July 16), Mary Magdalene (July 22), Bernard of Clairvaux (August 20), Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary (September 8), the Martyrs of Memphis (September 9), Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7), Consecration of Samuel Seabury (November 17), Thomas Merton (December 10), and Thomas the Apostle (December 21).

Sacramental Life
In remembrance of baptism, holy water will be used every day.

The Eucharist will be attended every Sunday, in so far as this is possible, and receive Communion on Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent and Advent.  If the Eucharist cannot be attended on a Sunday, the Eucharist should be attended at some point before the next Sunday.

Confession will be made at least four times a year: on or before the Advent Ember Friday, on or  before Good Friday, on or before the Feast of Benedict, and on or before the Feast of the Holy Cross.

Opportunities for anointing will be taken advantage of whenever practical, especially in the face of health problems.

Study, Reading, and Writing
At least a half hour a day or 3 hours a week shall be spent writing poetry.  Every Friday, some time should be made for submitting poetry for publication.

One hour a week shall be spent translating Spanish.

Three hours a week shall be spent reading Greek.

One novel or short story collection, one new collection of poetry (less than a year old), one old collection of poetry, and one nonfiction book shall be read per quarter.

Some short devotional work shall be read in Lent.  Some work of the Fathers and Mothers shall be read in Easter.  During the summer a work of non-Christian religious origin shall be read.

No additional spiritual reading shall be taken on during Advent.

Communication Disciplines
Aimless, recreational internet use shall be limited to one hour a day, six days a week.  ‘Blogging, research, and work-, school-, writing-, and church-related emailing do not count against the one hour limit.

Sundays and feast days Internet use shall be limited as much as possible.

A written, paper letter shall be written and one phone call made to different friends living outside the Chicago every month.

Family Responsibilities

At least one date per month with Beth shall be planned.

At least one special activity with Hank a month shall be planned.

Overriding, Reviewing, and Revising the Rule
Charity and compassion being the overriding Christian virtues, this rule shall not apply whenever Christian charity and hospitality shall dictate.

The Rule must be reviewed during each quarterly retreat, and revised as necessary.

by the hand of Tobias Haller, BSG

by the hand of Tobias Haller, BSG

People are freaking out over swine flu, and understandably.  While only one patient has succumbed, this particular flu poses a huge public health threat.

Which got me thinking about self-sacrifice.  Today is the feast day of Catherine of Siena, who herself served those who were too sick or too unpleasant for other nurses.  The history of Christianity is filled with those who stayed and ministered to the sick and dying, often contracting the disease their patients suffered from.  St. Gregory of Rome, St. Damien of Molokai, and the Martyrs of Memphis (more here, here, and here) are but a few of those who acted heroically in the face of frightening plague.

Which made me also think about the place of celibacy in the world.  Many people, Christian and non-Christian alike, criticize celibate life as “unnatural” at best and at worst a haven for people whose sexuality is not accepted (gay folks) or who have sexual predation on their minds (pedophilia).  But isn’t there a place for celibacy, especially in the case of disasters such as plague?

I remember sometime after September 11th watching a television interview with the widow of a firefighter who died inside one of the towers.  She mentioned that her most abiding emotion was anger, anger with her husband that he had chosen all those people in the tower over her and her child.

While I think that the potential for such a choice goes with being or marrying a firefighter, she has a point.  If I choose to give my life, not for my wife or my son, but for someone else, especially in a context where the risk is a conscious decision and not a split-second, reflexive action, I think my family would have reason to be angry with me.  Whether or not they are right, and whether or not my action would be right, they would have a reason to be angry.  My wife because I made her a single parent against her will, and my son because I chose to save someone else’s life at the cost of my own, instead of being his father.

It makes me wonder if there is a very practical reason for having celibate folks around.  A celibate person can put herself in harm’s way without having to worry about others he or she is leaving behind.  While a celibate is certainly missed and mourned, there is no spouse or child to leave behind.

Of course part of the challenge here is that society as a whole and a significant portion of the church consider celibacy to be a misfortune, and not something anyone would ever choose.

And yet there are those who choose it, hopefully because they are really not interested or meant for marriage.  And that celibacy can be a great gift in more ways than one.

One of the proposals that Beth and I have discussed for a general house rule is “No alcohol Monday through Friday.”

In other words, that no beer or wine be consumed during the week, but only on Saturday evening and Sunday.

This has roots in excessive drinking that both Beth and I indulged in, but that we do not do anymore: she at all, and I only rarely.  We’ve noted also that if we have a beer or two every night, this tends to keep us up later, prevent us from getting enough sleep, make us oversleep, and generally make us less with-it and less energetic than we might like.

The only exceptions being truly special occasions: feast days, visits from faraway friends, etc.

And yet I fear that this rule is somewhat puritanical.  Case in point: Beth is currently laid up with the flu, hopefully of a non-swine variety.  Wouldn’t it be reasonable, after taking care of an influenzic person and a four year old, if I were to have a beer?  It’s no feast, but I’m tired, stressed out, and in need of a break.

But my counter concern is that if I let myself off the hook now, what’s to stop me from letting myself off the hook later.  We’ve encountered this before, too; there’s always an excuse to have a beer or two, and honestly, I’m happier and more productive if I don’t always have a beer or two.

So I’m wrestling how to incorporate some kind of alcohol guideline within the rule.  Should there be a quota of during-the-week drinks (say, four?), and then a greater leniency on Saturday evening/Sunday?  Rarely do feasts double up (as they did last week, St. George and then St. Mark), so such an allowance seems reasonable.

But again, I’m no puritan, and yet as I’ve always said, rules help one be truly free.  This kind of balance is the stuff of a Rule of Life.

Christopher and Derek have both written within the last year about personal and family rules.

I have been thinking about writing a rule of life for some time, and perhaps this is the time to undertake it.

I welcome your toughts as I begin posts discussing a personal rule.  Hopefully, in the next few days, posts will be forthcoming on various issues and challenges in the composing of the rule as I see it.

Famous by Proxy

28 April 2009

I seem to be a person who is famous by proxy, or perhaps more accurately, transitively famous or vicariously famous.

See, I went to high school with Perez Hilton and Jose El Rey.

I post this because I’ve long known of Perez, but recently re-connected with Jose.  Watch out for him.

In your eye.