One Person at a Time

I recently learned a great piece of advice from someone with a very busy schedule.  In the course of his day, it was pretty normal to have at least two of the following occurring at the same time:  someone in his office wanting to talk, someone on the telephone, and he in the middle of an email or writing a letter.  When I met him, he seemed one of the most relaxed persons I had ever met.  He told me that he used to try to multi-task all these communications--you know, talk on the phone at the same time he was writing an email or filing something, etc.  It was so easy; it made him feel like he could get everything done.  "But it actually made everything take longer," he said. "Because I couldn't really give my attention to everyone.  So now I stop what I'm doing and listen to one person at a time."

I thought this amazing advice.  No wonder he seems so relaxed.  He always gives his undivided attention to a person and his needs.  He says this actually makes it easier to help people and to help them more quickly!  What are we doing if we don't have five minutes of undivided attention for a human being?  This seems like real engagement with reality, and the only real way to build community.  This reminds me of Simone Weil's essay "Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies" which I posted about here.     

The Catholic Cave

The Catholic Cave is a fantastic radio conversation airing on Catholic Radio Indy every Saturday and Sunday at 11 AM (EST). Join Marc Tuttle and Timothy O'Donnell, with their host, Kent Blandford, discussing all things philosophy, including culture, education, beauty, bioethics, faith and science, and all in a way which is both thought-provoking, entertaining, and refreshing. I was reminded of how John Senior and friends used to teach by having a conversation. The conversation of friends, so praised by thinkers from Plato to John Paul II, and so needed in the virtuous life, needs to be modeled. Tuttle and O'Donnell do that well. They also do a great job of going deep without being pedantic or too heavy for a weekend morning.  Think "Car Talk" meets philosophy!

A good way to wrap your mind around the mission of the show is to listen to their episode "Cave 101: Back to Basics." Listen live to Catholic Radio Indy by clicking here. Or enjoy podcasts from past episodes of The Catholic Cave by clicking here.

Tuttle and O'Donnell also bring in guests sometimes such as Dr. James Eberl, Dr. Kevin Vost, Dr. David Deavel, James Kalb, and many others. I had the pleasure of doing a show with these guys on The Catholic Cave. The show airs this weekend (November 26-27) and will be available later as a podcast. We discussed parishes, education, learning through experience, Hilaire Belloc, being a Millenial, and a lot more.

Thanksgiving Traditions

One Thanksgiving, I was working at an institution where we hosted a banquet for all the staff and students. We played jazz and voyageur music.  We ate a lot of turkey.  We had door prizes and contests. We posted pictures of Fulton Sheen, Dorothy Day, Miguel Pro, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Bl. Marie of the Incarnation, Fr. Damien, John de Brebeuf, and many others. And then we all went outside to whack a pinata I had made in the shape of a piggy bank.

The stick had been christened "Bob Queequeg," a nice Herman Melville tribute.  I didn't realize that one can buy pinatas quite cheap at party stores.  Still, making this pinata was great fun.  I joined two punching bag balloons (one slightly less inflated), and covered them with five layers of glue/water/newspaper strips.  Then I popped the balloons, filled this guard-like shape with candy, harnessed it to some clothesline, and covered the whole thing with pink tissue paper.  The legs and snout are paper cups taped on and covered with pink tissue paper.  The ears are triangles of cardboard taped on and covered with pink tissue paper.  The curly tail was made with wrapping paper ribbon zipped across a scissors.  It was WAY TOO STURDY!  After each kid got two swipes, and it still hadn't busted, we called every staff, faculty, spouse, chaplain, cook, proctor, senior, and student to have a whack at it!  And finally the Dean had to cut it open with a pocket knife so I could toss the candy to the younger attendees.  Such a good time!  Here is the beloved chaplain taking a whack.

Stay Put

Tomorrow is the Feast of Christ the  King, which I will celebrate in my home parish.

Part of my research at Maryvale Institute involved reading about the Benedictine vow of stability--what that means and how it has been interpreted over the years.  What good could be gained by promising to stick close to one's community or location?  Or does it just mean perseverance in the pursuit of Christ?  My interest was to see how much stability can be interpreted as geographic stability--commitment to these people in this place.  This research afforded me some profound reading about the reasons one would stay put for the Kingdom of God.  Here are quotations from two of the best articles I've read, one from Michael Casey's "The Value of Stability," Cistercian Studies Quarterly 31 (1996), 287-301 and Augustin Roberts, “The Meaning of the Vow of Stability,” Cistercian Studies 7 (1972), 256-269.
The vow “discourages us from deferring love until we find a community worthy of it.  The barriers to love are within ourselves.  Until we dismantle them, no community will meet our standards.  Meanwhile progress ceases.  And because we fail to recognize how much we contribute to our own unhappiness, we project blame onto the community.  Stability is really a matter of learning to love.  And this process means staying around long enough" (Casey, “The Value of Stability,” 295).  This text, I think, is the same as that included in Casey's longer work An Unexciting Life.   

“It must be recognized that one of the principal reasons of the vow of stability is to guard against the temptation to seek a greater good in another place or community . . . Stability is directed against the possibility of an evil disguised as a spiritual good.  In itself, the vow makes it impossible for a monk to change his community; but the purpose of the vow is to make him realize that stability itself is an immense good, and that in the vast majority of cases it constitutes a much greater good than that which might be attained by a change to another community or Order.  If a monk maintains stability, he will be able to effect the great change which alone is important:  change within himself, transformation into Christ, full openness to the Holy Spirit.  If we seek satisfaction somewhere else, we are not going to work to attain the good which can be ours here and now. 

Eric Sloane

Eric Sloane's detailed illustrations and informative texts are a delight, especially Look at the Sky and Tell the Weather or A Reverence for Wood. Sloane (1905-1980) has a biography here. This man mined a wealth of knowledge which is rapidly being lost and chronicled it in beautifully illustrated  . . . journals? . . . fieldguides?  . . . handbooks?  I'm not sure what to call his books.  But once you start, you'll be hooked.

I did some other minor fun things like

I found the Haymarket in Boston; read Tom Wessell's incredible Reading the Forested Landscape; discovered Lord Peter Wimsey novels; got introduced to Pimm's and Fursty Ferret; attended a fantastic wedding and helped make hors d'oevres under the direction of the Jacobite chef; registered for the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture Annual Conference; realized just how good Scythian's music really is (especially the first track on their new album); found out that Librivox's best reader, the awesome Mil Nicholson has just finished and uploaded Dicken's Our Mutual Friend and Nicholas Nickleby . . but I'll stop there before I give away all my ideas for the blog.

I walked the Assumption Pilgrimage at St. Boniface

Yes, that's right: 30 miles through God's country--beautiful Indiana--with fellow pilgrims from St. Boniface Roman Catholic Parish.  It starts Friday night and ends twenty four hours later.  We camped overnight beneath the full moon.  Mass to start, mass in the morning, and mass at the end with sandwiches and beer to solace the tired pilgrims.  Join us next year in 2012; click here for more information!

I ran the Summer Highschool Programs at Thomas More College

And you can read more about that excellent institution here.  Like last year there was study, prayer, competition, service, poetry, scavenger hunts, races, singing, dancing, hikes, swimming, trips . . . We built stilts this year, too, and raced in them.  I'd say the best part was the girls trip to see the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean.  Part of me really wanted to take them to see the sunrise; another part thought, "Why am I doing this, this is crazy!"  And yet--look at the photograph!  Engage this reality!  Does it get any better?


I went to the Royal Regatta and Stoner House. . .

With other graduate students at Maryvale Institute.  The Henley Royal Regatta was a lark.  Stoner House was deeply moving; this is where St. Edmund Campion printed the Decem Rationes and the famous "brag."

Campion’s Brag

To the Right Honourable, the Lords of Her Majesty's Privy Council:

Whereas I have come out of Germany and Bohemia, being sent by my superiors, and adventured myself into this noble realm, my dear country, for the glory of God and benefit of souls, I thought it like enough that, in this busy, watchful, and suspicious world, I should either sooner or later be intercepted and stopped of my course.

Wherefore, providing for all events, and uncertain what may become of me, when God shall haply deliver my body into durance, I supposed it needful to put this in writing in a readiness, desiring your good lordships to give it your reading, for to know my cause. This doing, I trust I shall ease you of some labour. For that which otherwise you must have sought for by practice of wit, I do now lay into your hands by plain confession. And to the intent that the whole matter may be conceived in order, and so the better both understood and remembered, I make thereof these nine points or articles, directly, truly and resolutely opening my full enterprise and purpose.

I began a Ph.D program at Maryvale Institute

Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England is located at the old site where Bl. Newman first lived after his conversion to the Catholic Faith.  I am working on a research degree, a Ph.D in Catholic Studies.  The proposed title of the dissertation is something like The Role of Stabilitas in the Transmission of Tradition: An Analysis of Alasdair MacIntyre’s Ideas with Reference to Western Monasticism and applied to a Midwestern Parish 1850-2011.

I saw Gerard Manley Hopkins' grave

And Newman's University Church in Dublin.  Hopkins' grave was not marked in any special way--with hundreds of others in the Jesuit Plot at Glasnevin Cemetery.  I remembered that his first identity was not poet but priest.

"The Lantern Out of Doors"
Gerard Manley Hopkins

SOMETIMES a lantern moves along the night,
That interests our eyes. And who goes there?
I think; where from and bound, I wonder, where,
With, all down darkness wide, his wading light?

Men go by me whom either beauty bright
In mould or mind or what not else makes rare:
They rain against our much-thick and marsh air
Rich beams, till death or distance buys them quite.

Death or distance soon consumes them: wind
What most I may eye after, be in at the end
I cannot, and out of sight is out of mind.

Christ minds: Christ’s interest, what to avow or amend
There, éyes them, heart wánts, care haúnts, foot fóllows kínd,
Their ránsom, théir rescue, ánd first, fást, last friénd.

I worked on the St. Michael Hymnal

Check out the forthcoming 4th Edition here.  It is outstanding.

Where have you been?

You might ask . . . My last post was May 5, 2011.  What happened?  Well . . . I finished the school year at Trinity School at Greenlawn.  I went to see friends in Ireland.  And we climbed Croach Patrick.

More Easter Traditions

Once I wrote a post about Easter Traditions, but this year, for some reason found that I wasn't able to keep my usual ones. I just ran out of time! The Holy Triduum making of Easter Stollen, Pralines, Easter Spice Ring, and the annual cleaning of the car just couldn't happen without skipping some of the liturgy (not an option). So I just made the Easter Stollen and decided to space out the other traditions.

Here is the Divine Mercy Sunday "Making of the Pralines." Last year's failure was transformed into this year's near perfection. Next year the purgative way will lead to the final and perfect praline.

Call for Papers: Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture 12th Annual Conference

The Conference will take place Nov. 10-12, 2011 and the theme:  Radical Emancipation:  Confronting the Challenge of Secularism.  Submissions are due July 15.  Learn more here.  A retreat for the mind, that's what this conference is--always rewarding.

Final Writing Assignment

A great exercise that sometimes yields surprising results is to have students take out a few sheets of looseleaf paper and a pen or pencil.

Then tell them they have 30-60 minutes in which to write:  "What did you learn this semester?"

You can limit it to the class in particular or to the classes they took this semester.  This exercise gives the students the opportunity to realize how much they've learned and to make connections.

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