Sunday, June 30, 2013

Harry and Mark, Winston and Roger

We have heroes in life, don't we. One of mine is Winston Churchill, hero of World War II, who stepped in and saved England from Hitler and the Nazis. And saved the world from the notion that bullies can be appeased. To me, Winston Churchill was even greater than President Franklin Roosevelt, because Churchill was on the scene, wandering about during the air raids, shaking his cane at the bombers overhead. Winston Churchill was singularly a greater-than-life man.

Closer, another hero was Father Tom Byrne, who was rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church during my impressionable teenage years. Father Tom encouraged me in everything about life, including in my view of myself, in ways that my father and uncles did not. Not disparaging them, but it was different. Looking back, in the blood relationship there was some kind of competitiveness at work, which I did not understand all my growing up years, and frankly still do not as I look over the fence at my seventy-eighth birthday; ineffably, a mental competition of some sort, not positive. Bishop Frank Juhan might have been a hero too, but he was too dignified, too awesome to regard that way. But Father Tom Byrne, very much so. I saw Father Tom the final time at a farewell reception at the Cove Hotel when I was 19; he was leaving Panama City for Jacksonville and I was a college sophomore who had decided not to go to seminary and become an Episcopal priest after all. And then I met Father Tom Byrne again thirty years later at a clergy conference at Camp Beckwith, him in his eighties and me not long back into the diocese, wearing my black shirt and clergy collar. He was an influence and a hero to me.

Some of the authors I've read and loved are heroes. Harry Golden, Heinrich Boll, a few others off and on. Anthony Trollope. In his ancient age, beginning with The Invisible Wall, Harry Bernstein wrote a touching, deeply moving series of books about his life. Mark Twain, not so much Huck Finn, but Tom Sawyer. From my comfortable ecclesiastical chair I shouldn't tell this, but Tom Sawyer hated Sundays because his aunt made him go to church, and the worst part of church was the eternal pastoral prayer. Tom knew every word, pause and inflection of that prayer, and when the preacher added a line, or a name, it only extended the blasted thing and drove Tom even more up the wall with the unendingness of it. I know how that is, because I remember Tom Sawyer when our prayers go on and on into name after name after name, and places in the diocese, and ultimately provinces of the Anglican Communion that my rebel mind suspects don't even really exist but are just made up and prayed for to have a go at me. For Tom Sawyer, the saving grace of Sunday church came only with a beetle to watch crawling on someone's hat, or a cat to tease. A dear friend, during the interminable sermons of one of our nevertheless beloved interim rectors, would gaze prayerfully up at Jesus' underarm in the Roland Hockett statue stretched above him. When that beloved interim rector set up his music stand podium at the head of the aisle at sermon time on Sunday morning, you knew we were in it for the long haul.

This is what is known as wandering, eh?

Honestly, another hero appeared this morning, again an author, in a book that Norm just recommended to me. I read the introduction last night before turning out the light. Don't ever skip a book's introduction, if you do, you're not unlikely to miss the very best part. That is, unless it's a book by some theologian, in which case the intro is liable to be as lofty and gaseous as the rest of it. Read his first chapter early this morning before daylight. It's still before daylight, by the way. Film critic Roger Ebert died a couple of months ago. He wrote a book, Life Itself: A Memoir. It's my favorite type of writing, short folksy essays about his life, like those of Harry Golden in For Two Cents Plain and other of his collections. Roger Ebert was a treasure, and his writing, to me, is exquisite. I'm going to read his book very slowly and savoringly, because I won't want it to end. Like it was with Harry Bernstein. And also with Frank McCourt, who was a teacher in the New York City schools, Tis: A Memoir, and Teacher Man. Roger Ebert became one of my heroes today.

Tom Weller

Saturday, June 29, 2013

June 29, 1957

Linda and I were the first couple married in Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, Panama City, Florida. The concrete block church was only what is now Battin Hall, standing in a sand lot among palmettos and scrub oaks. Metal folding chairs on the dusty concrete floor, the roll-up matchstick blinds weren't yet in the bare windows, and don't get your car stuck in the sand. 

Linda was twenty years old and had to get parental consent to marry. I was 21, just graduated from the University of Florida and in ten days heading off to U.S. Navy Officers Candidate School, Newport, Rhode Island and GKW after that. Dating and going steady since she was a junior and I a senior at Bay High, we had been pinned since my freshmen year at Florida and engaged since Christmas 1956. Her father was stunned at our short engagement, protested that I had asked him if Linda and I could become engaged but nobody had said anything about marriage or a wedding, and was hesitant to sign the consent form. But my paranoia knew her mother, a native of Tuscaloosa and a graduate of the University of Alabama, was ever hopeful that some young man with an Alabama pedigree and the scion of a prominent Alabama family would ride up on his white horse. Any Gator with any sense at all knows you haven't never been able to trust nobody from Alabama and that won't never change, and I wanted to make GeeDee* sure no Charging Elephant came around courting as soon as my Lockheed Constellation lifted off the ground at Fannin Field, Panama City Airport.

So the wedding went forward. The wedding was in the -- church. The wedding reception, and wedding cake baked in Birmingham with beautiful spun sugar crystal flowers, was at the Peters home at what was then 518 Bunkers Cove Road. For our "getaway car" from the reception, Joe Parrott let us borrow his shiny new 1957 Ford Thunderbird demonstrator. My brother Walt kept the TBird hidden out of sight so it didn't get adorned with shoes and cans on strings and JUST MARRIED!!! painted on with white shoe polish, and Walt drove it up just as we dashed out the front door and people threw rice and we were off for life together. 

June 29, 1957. Fifty-six years ago today. 

On June 25, 1958 our daughter Malinda was born, and four days later Navy Ensign and Mrs. Tom Weller celebrated our first wedding anniversary with the last slice of wedding cake and a glass of champagne.

Malinda, Joe, Tass, Nicholas, Ray, Kristen, Caroline, Charlotte.


* Let the innocent choose Gosh Darn or Gol-Durn, but no Gator is innocent.

Friday, June 28, 2013

And Let Us Journey On

Courage, My Soul

Hot dog, bit early in the pre-season, but starting to heat up. Sean Frye’s column in Bleacher Report, “Big 12 Football: 4 Reasons the Big 12 Will Be Better Than the SEC in 2013.” What a load of it. How do you like your crow, Sean: well done, medium, or with feathers and feet?

Aaron Hernandez, former Gator, bad news, really bad news, bad news unto the personification of Evil Himself.

Senate passes immigration bill. House? House?

Jahar Tsarnaev charged in four murders.

PCB Pirates having a good season. Real soccer right here at home. Congratulations to our own local sports team. 

Now and then, Walt’s granddaughter Sarah phones me, “Hello, Papa!” from Phoenix. We came to love Phoenix forty-some years ago while stationed in San Diego when Linda’s parents lived in Scottsdale. Favorite restaurant was Los Olivos, scrumptious Mexican. Sarah says the temp is “in the hundreds,” which brings it all back now. 

Hard, driving rain. Loud thunder now. The storm is passing over and morning light coming soon.

... and let us journey on.


Meant to do Beloved Buicks actually. Another day. Buicks above: 1935, 1936, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1941, 1947/48. Buick often offered especially pretty 2-tone paint schemes.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Not Ugly, Thank You, Jesus

If not darkest, “gothic” Southern fiction of Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) is surely strangest. A Southerner and therefore one of us, O’Connor knew us. With her eye on hypocrisy, she could have wrung a murky nightmare out of Paula and the N-Word in which evil to the innocent reader might have seemed Paula Deen, but obliquely would be the good churchgoing, Bible-believing, God-fearing Christians picking up stones as they circled Paula in self-righteous damnation.  

O’Connor minced no punches and pulled no words, to turn it upside down. For our Seminary orientation week we had her The Complete Stories to read and discuss. The stories are horrifying, though the horror is not what people see, but what we neither see nor recognize that we are.

A favorite in one story was a used car salesman’s line, “Anyone with a good car don’t need salvation, and this is a good car.” Another is my image of a 1939 Buick sedan rolled, then uprighted and driven away. You could do that with a 1939 Buick.

With a ghastly hero, The Lame Shall Enter First has a scriptural allusion that we picked apart in class.

Strange as any, A Late Encounter With The Enemy is about the footsoldier from the War between the States whom somebody once called “General.” The rank stuck so that in a few years everybody including himself thought he had been a General of the Confederacy, and he loved going places in his dress uniform with sword. Though looking like a dried up spider, at 104 years old the General considered himself still handsome and attractive to the ladies, five feet four inches of pure game cock. His white hair reached to his shoulders and he would not wear teeth because he thought his profile was more striking without them. In full dress uniform, the General attends his granddaughter’s college graduation in a wheelchair, pushed by his nephew John Wesley in his boy scout uniform. John Wesley is a lazy child addicted to cokes. Toward the end of the graduation exercises the General dies sitting up ramrod straight in his wheelchair, eyes wide open. My favorite image in the story is the very end, about John Wesley. “That crafty scout had bumped him out the back way and rolled him at high speed down a flagstone path and was waiting now, with the corpse, in the long line at the Coca-Cola machine.”

O’Connor’s stories are macabre. One, “Revelation,” came specially to mind with the Paula Deen Fiasco. Assorted people are in a doctor’s small, crowded waiting room. Mrs. Turpin, who puts herself to sleep nights categorizing in her mind the classes of people Jesus has made and continually thanking Him for making her a nice, white, middle-class Christian woman with a good disposition and a little bit of everything, not a nxxxxr, not ugly, and not white trash like another woman in the room. “One thang I know,” the white-trash woman said. “Two thangs I ain’t going to do. Love no nxxxxrs or scoot down no hogs with no hose.”* (O’Connor, who pulls no words, does not substitue exes for eyes, gees and ees, as I have done here). Another in the doctor's waiting room is Mary Grace, an ugly, foul-tempered young woman who is a student at Wellesley way up in Massachusetts. Mary Grace takes a hatred for Mrs. Turpin, hurls a heavy book across the room, striking her in the face, and snarls at her, “Go back to hell where you came from, you old wart hog.” In horrified sorrow, Mrs. Turpin takes the girl’s curse as a condemning word from Jesus about what He thinks of her. “Revelation” is horrific but the poignant justice is oddly redemptive somehow even though nobody "gets it."

All this comes to mind as the Supreme Court decisions relating to same-sex marriage are read, probably because Flannery O’Connor would have gotten some darker than night stories out of this social struggle too. Notwithstanding Scalia, the court’s decisions seem right because although all government is all ways all bad, "better" government is not allowed to tell people what they can and cannot do.

For all sorts of reasons, abortion, a hot issue that divides even families, is but should not be stirred in with the same-sex marriage forum, because they are not related, except that politically both are emotionally set in concrete at the far ends of political spectrums. A long dead aunt whom I visited last week, once went into a vicious tirade at me when I said abortion should not be used for ordinary birth control. Retired from her long career as a civil servant with HEW, Washington, DC, my aunt raged that my view was racist and anti-feminine, and there should be no restrictions, but the business of the woman only. It was a non-discussion to which I listened open-mouthed. A quarter century on, I realize the intensity of feelings on all sides. Ever since, I have been less absolute in my certitudes, because someone I respect, even love, surely will disagree with me violently or at least strongly. 

And, after all, I may be wrong. 

A Catholic, Flannery O’Connor wrung horrifying stories out of Southern tarpaper shacks with the brick design stamped into the tarpaper. 

I shudder to think what she would have done with abortion clinic murders and gay marriage lynchings by the righteous right.


* O’Connor, Flannery, “Revelation” in Flannery O’Connor The Complete Stories, page 494, FSG, NY, 16th printing, 1980. Winner of the 1971 National Book Award for fiction. (Extensive use of the word “nxxxxr” is hers, not mine).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

More Tea, Vicar?

More tea, Vicar?

When everybody has an opinion, some idiot priest’s opinion adds no value. Nonetheless

Stranded in a Moscow air terminal this morning, Putin inviting him, Edward Snowden did not go to NSA and discover trouble, he went in planning espionage. His treason dishonoring his trusted top secret clearance may cost American lives. Lapping up the spotlight, promoting himself to CelebrityHero, and running for his life, he's a self-important little man. But sow’s ear cowards don’t make silk purse heroes. The heroes are Keith Alexander and others who despite all the flak are stopping terrorists and helping keep Americans safer. Snowden? To the Wall. 

Support our government? Negotiating with Taliban is the moral equal of negotiating with Nazis. These, who behead boys, and kill villagers who dance, and shoot mothers who steal bread for hungry children, and shoot teenage girls who want to go to school, are earth’s most evil subhumans since Hitler and gang. Negotiate with these “people”? If we want to leave Afghanistan leave and let Karzai the Clown fall, which he will. But negotiating with Taliban takes us to their moral level.

More tea, Vicar?

Zimmerman v. Martin. Stand Your Ground granted, regardless of legal rights, there’s no moral right to shoot a man if you go looking for trouble and provoke him into a fight. 

Vicar! MORE TEA?

Texas abortion bill filibustered to death. We tend to favor only our own filibusters.

Texas to celebrate 500th execution today by putting a woman to death. I ...

Two Supreme Court decisions involving gay marriage are coming this morning. They ...


Thank you. Milk, no sugar, please.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


What comes after this, something or nothing, oblivion or pearly gates and streets of gold? And can Saint Peter pull a lever to open a trap door that drops the Calvins into the apocalyptic lake of fire? What differentiates losers and winners? What will I be? If existence ends I will no longer be, I will have been. Gospel song: "We'll understand it better by and by." If we are, perhaps so. If we are not, no matter.

About dying, someone recently said, confidently if smugly, "I know where I'm going." Not, actually. To confuse faith for knowledge, knowing with believing, is folly, the scriptural opposite of wisdom. So, believe, but remember: believing, even believing fervently, even believing with every fibre of my being don't make it so"She's in a better place now" is not a statement of fact, but a faith assertion. Or, it may be a fact, who knows?

Nobody. Nobody knows.

This thought has surfaced here before, but yesterday's Calvin & Hobbes cartoon ch130525 brought it back to periscope depth this morning. For anyone who's ever had a general anesthetic -- not that dreamy elixir they drip before repairing droopy eyelids, or wheel you away to commit the indignity of a colonoscopy; but a general -- which as I -- know -- releases one into complete oblivion, as is done for open heart surgery. Inducing a trip into eternity, general anesthesia may be a metaphor for Saint Paul's vision of sleeping in Jesus until the trumpet sounds. Sleep with no dreams, no memory, no awareness of the passing of billions upon trillions of years. That's a long sleep: how far along is great-Uncle Eb, 1872 - 1942, whose grave I visited last Thursday morning? 

Postmoderns are skeptical, but modern Christians prefer not Paul's vision of "sleeping in Jesus" but the image of a late loved one meeting us at the gate of death and escorting us into the Promised Land -- like the ghost who travels from the distant mountains down to the plain to meet the bus rider in C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce. I too prefer that image to Paul's long sleep. But neither view can be proved anymore than oblivion can be disproved. This means that we can choose; which, then, is not knowledge, but Faith.

But, suppose Calvin's question: suppose this is all we get? 

A thoroughgoing Hobbesian, I'll take it anyway.


Thanks, Phil!!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Compound Eyes & The Katzenjammer Kids

Compound Eyes & The Katzenjammer Kids

Someone throws the Panama City News-Herald our way every morning. Linda pays for it a year at a time, and reads it faithfully. Yesterday it got soaked in the predawn downpour. 

For some reason the newspaper habit left me years ago, probably because the news online is more instantaneous and relevant, or more likely because after reading The Harrisburg Patriot every morning our years in Pennsylvania, when we got to Apalachicola the newspaper was only a weekly and the habit lapsed. Now, when there’s something local that I need to read Linda tells me or sets it aside for me to look at later. She just read me an obit, for example.

After working the crossword puzzle she sets the comics section aside for me. All my favorites aren’t necessarily in it, and between a couple of websites most all the comics are available online, but reading real comics in a real newspaper is part of being real. Whoever scorns the comics needs to remember “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” That goes whether the work and play are physical or mental. 

Sometimes the set-aside comics stack up before I get to them. They are now, as a matter of fact. Or fiction. They’re there from before I went to my silent retreat through yesterday, including two Sunday comic sections. Linda is leaving in a few minutes to take an older friend, who lives in St. A. Towers and doesn’t drive, to the lab to have blood drawn. While she’s gone, I might read the stack of comics and catch up, there’s no future in letting that stack get any higher. One reason there’s no future in it is that if it stacks up any more Linda may toss it.

The other family member who likes the comics is Caroline. Ten years old, Caroline is brilliant, but that we both like the comics doesn’t rub her brilliance off on me. She’s been reading since she was three or so. One day when she was about four she put down a science piece she was reading and asked her mother, “Did you know flies have compound eyes?” Another time in 3K or 4K her teacher chose her to read the prayers from the Book of Common Prayer at a school event for parents. She read perfectly. Afterward, other parents commented that she did so well memorizing the prayers. Tass said, “she didn’t memorize, she was reading.” This is no ordinary child. She blows my mind.

If the News-Herald is tossed onto the back driveway we know it’s our regular carrier. If it’s tossed into the front yard we know it was thrown by a substitute and we worry about our newspaper carrier, who was out with a heart attack for several months, then suddenly returned.

My grandfather used to read the comics to my cousin Ann. Pop called them "the funnies." Ann would crawl up in Pop’s lap to hear the latest about Li’l Abner, the Katzenjammer Kids, Alley Oop, and Red Ryder.

Last week on my way to Mobile I stopped by St. John’s Cemetery and told Mom and Pop and Mamoo and Daddy Walt that I still love them. Also found Daddy Walt’s brother Elbert Gentry. I remember Uncle Eb, 1872 - 1942. A partner at Gentry Bros. Loans & Pawns (Est. 1909), he died when I was six.

Daddy Walt used to introduce himself, "My name's Walter Gentry, I've been in business since nine."

Time to read Garfield and Dilbert. 


Sunday, June 23, 2013

D.L. and the Pigs

D.L. and the Pigs

Shell Island Sunday for our church! Almost everyone boats across the Bay for a day of beach, surf, sand and sun. Fellowship, chicken, worship and fun. Beer, wine and Demon Rum? This is the Episcopal Church. 

BTDT? Take heart! Worship as ever back at the church, eight o’clock and ten-thirty.

From Luke, today’s gospel is the story of Jesus crossing the sea and stepping out of his boat only to be confronted by the Wild Man of Geresa. Ominously, mysteriously calling himself Demon Legion, he is a fearsome creature of terrible strength who rips off his chains and roams the graveyard under the full moon, terrorizing the townsfolk, who themselves are shepherds of swine. A strange tale of demons and pigs, it is not a pretty scene. 

Miss it at your peril.


PostScript. For readers who normally access +Time through a CaringBridge email notification, the CB staff regret that problems updating their website continue to plague. I am unable either to post to my CaringBridge JOURNAL or to update my PHOTO file. Apologies. TW+

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Truthfully, a Southerner, this one at least (and "least" is what this one is), doesn't know what to say-to or do-about Paula Deen. Which, as the italics show, is not herself the person, but the topic. The topic, the unspeakable topic. And the spread between unspeakable and unthinkable. It isn't about political correctness, which is as thin skin deep for sincerity as high-church pomp is for theology. It isn't about a -- word -- either. It's about the distance between seeming and be-ing; what is seen v. what is.

Many people have a "focus." For example, my teaching focus those years in Holy Nativity Episcopal School was the N.T. Greek word agape', which is a kind of love, love that is not a feeling but how you treat people; it's vital for Christians -- for anyone -- to be mindful of that. In the Paula Deen cavitation this morning, I remember the focus of an admiral I once knew. He's probably long dead now, but during a Navy tour in the Pentagon in the mid to late sixties, I worked around an admiral whose focus for us was "Image and Substance." Admiral Masterton never lost his focus, never let go of it, never quit talking about it, never let us lose sight of it. The first time I heard him talk about it (it would have been at a luncheon in 1966) I thought he was going to chide us about our organization's impeccable image, that what is important is substance, not image. He didn't. He did not. He made sure we knew that both are important, that image without substance is an empty box, and that substance without image is a lost cause. 

I hope my HNES kids, college students and young adults now, never forget what love is, just as, in the very center of me, I will always be mindful of Image and Substance. Paula Deen and the unmentionable word, not the person, is an empty box that both grieves and embarrasses me as a Southerner. And the grief is deeper than the embarrassment.

This is not something I talk about, but will briefly this morning. Born and raised a Southerner, some of my early heroes were old-timers, the incredibly ancient and oblivious Confederate soldiers riding in the open-top touring car at the end of parades down Harrison Avenue. To realize just how oblivious, read Flannery O'Connor's "A Late Encounter with the Enemy." I would like to think that what I was is extinct, that there are irretrievably none left, but it isn't so. This thought links to my view of knowing, of what I know for certain. Friends and folks in my Sunday School and Bible Seminar classes, heck, anyone who reads my blog, knows about my skepticism, scorn, even contempt for "knowing," for "knowledge" -- certainty, certitude. It's because I grew up knowing what a Southerner knew. And slowly coming to the surface of reality during my college years and realizing that what I knew was -- I'll use Saint Paul's N.T. Greek word skybalon, because I don't use the English s-word in my blog. (If I did, BMcD would kick my bee-you-tee-tee). When something is all you know, you know it. What I knew was a crock, it was wrong. Both irredeemably incorrect and obscenely immoral. Unspeakable, so unspeakable that it must become unthinkable; pushed farther and farther away and out. God help me, and wishing it was Lent, at nearly 78 I can look deep within and declare myself almost shriven. Almost.

Almost enough to cast the first stone at Paula Deen.


Friday, June 21, 2013

For My Next Trick

First day back from the first adventure of my Summer of Silent Retreats. It was an exceptional experience, my first such in thirty years. Last time in Boston, an Episcopal monastery overlapping with Harvard, my room looking across a highway upon the Charles River. Now in a Jesuit place I was the only non-Catholic, and most of the women there were nuns doing their annual spiritual retreat.

Next adventure starts in just over a week. (What, going away again for more goofy religious stuff?) Yes, three this summer for the purpose of being open to whatever God has in mind for me next for ministry. Next as in starting this fall, this coming September. Turning 78 and needing a new slate, minor change or major, and wanting to go into it, whatever it may be, feeling the same Divine summons that got me into this Holy Mess nearly forty years ago in the first place. 

Far out on an old farm in the boondocks of Georgia, the next place has no WiFi, but the maps show 3G coverage. It will be my intent then to continue +Time posting. So, between now and then, I'll practice writing and posting using iPad instead of MacBook. We shall see how it goes.

Meantime, sermon preparation time.



Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mother of God

In this picture, a Christian spirituality abides, a Christian theology is seen, far different to what most Episcopalians know, whether we regard ourselves as so-called "High Church" or "Low Church." 

Things have changed in the Episcopal Church over my three-generation spread of life, with “churchmanship” as we understand it coming to “the Center” for the most part; but it was not that long ago -- my own growing up years -- that our terms High Church and Low Church had specific meaning to us. The Diocese of South Florida was scandalously High Church: their bishop wore cope and mitre! We were staunchly Low Church: no making the Sign of the Cross, no sanctuary lights, no reserved Sacrament, Misters no Fathers, no sanctus bells, no thurible; cassock and surplice but no chasuble. The sight of our bishop in cope and mitre would have been -- the sky is falling, we’ve gone to Rome! 

Some dioceses and parishes were High Church, they preferred “Anglo-Catholic” of course, though seemingly veneer, what is seen and heard, and for self-impression, as someone noted, “they really know how to play church.”

But churchmanship is underlying theology, not superficial theater. “High” v. “Low” is not ceremonial but dogmatic substance as different as the Christological distance between Paul and John. And that the Roman Catholic Church has largely shelved elaborate ceremonial (eagerly picked up by many Episcopal parishes) has not changed Catholic high spiritual churchmanship. Thus, the picture. It bears looking at, contemplating. Seeing.

The chasuble is the robe of Christ, stripped from him and cast-lots-for by the crucifiers. The Supper is no memorial, nor is it subject to personal interpretation, it is the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary and what will be placed in your palm will not be offered to eat in remembrance, but physically the Body of Christ: receive it with adoration. Saints and angels wait to be called upon. 

The unseen foundation is not part of our spiritual building code, therefore we don’t understand it, but it is concrete. Analogy that comes to mind is The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy. Even reading the wonderful stories, most people are totally unaware of J.R.R. Tolkien’s underlying Legendarium, these are not shallow stories, the roots stretch out and down almost incomprehensibly deep. Tolkien of course was Catholic.

This chapel, where I meditated and prayed many hours this week, abides within such spirituality. That outsiders such as myself are welcome and blessed but not fed is understood and accepted before entering, one comes grateful that the door is open to me at all. In my church, the wafer placed on my palm will be Anglican Waver. Here is no uncertainty: the wafer will have become the substance of the Man on the Cross. Even though I cannot sup here, simply to come into His physical presence is awesome:

Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but speak the Word only, and my soul shall be healed.

But the picture.

Mary high center, Christ on Cross down off to the left. If the gospel questions are "who is this that even forgives sins?" and "who is this that even wind and sea obey him?" the question of an Anglican inquirer/observer is "who is this who stands even above the Son of God, God the Son, who is this?"

Whereas we Episcopalians may have all of the questions and take smug pride in -- knowing -- none of the answers, here the answer is known. Who? Who indeed! This is Mary the Mother of God. A recent time in the Church even thought to raise her into the Godhead. 

For an Anglican holding the Trinity and the three creeds, does this positioning make sense theologically? 
I don’t know. Perhaps the answer is a question, perhaps a question is the answer: does a Son honor his Mother above himself?

If not, shame, eh?


Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Meeting with the retreatant each day, the Spiritual Director may suggest a topic as the basis of prayer over the next 24 hours. These are not assignments, but truly “suggestions” which one may go with, or may go one’s own way, as I may wish or feel led. All of these are being helpful to me, variously, including seeming somehow to open prayer as a two-way street in which I am receptive to whatever comes my way instead of just trying to hear answers to my concerns. It reminds me of Jesus’ “trick” in which a hostile person asks Him a question only to have His response be a rejoinder shifting the focus from what they want answered to what He wants heard. 

“Trick” is the wrong word, maybe the word will come to mind before this morning’s +Time nonsense is signed, maybe not. Anyway, it’s a rhetorical technique, isn’t it. If what I mean isn’t clear, such a case might be the gospel exchange that begins, “Shall we pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” You may get an answer to your own question, or He may answer some other question entirely, or He may turn the tables such that you must answer your own question. And you may feel blessed, or you may slip away with a red face.

Suggested to me yesterday for the 23 hours before today’s meeting is to imagine prayerfully what happened between Jesus and Mary his Mother after the Resurrection. It’s between Jesus and that Mary. We already know what happened between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, don’t we: he said, “Don’t touch me,” didn’t he. But what happened between Jesus and his Mother is not addressed in the gospels.

If anyone is reading my +Time nonsense this morning, and is so inclined, set your own imagination prayerfully free with my non-assignment for today, and see what comes of it.

From the Sodality Chapel, here’s an image to ponder as you pray.

And here’s a blessing for your prayer.

+ + +


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Morsel of WHAT?

Coffee is not for gourmet delight in a college dorm room diverted to silent retreat accommodation for five days, six nights: Winn-Dixie instant coffee made with three forkfuls because there’s no spoon, hot water from the washbasin tap. Yuck doesn’t say it. Nasty? No matter, serves for wakeup.  

Sudden burst of rain. iTitan on the iPad spread out for detail shows a rainstorm moving through Mobile, green over us, yellow approaching, light orange spot may come over momentarily, but the two darker orange spots will move one to the west of us and one to the east. iTitan is so perfect that one can tell whether a rain squall (or tornado) will hit this block or the next block. I absolutely love modern electronics, have been enjoying their advance for the past thirty-five years. It’s worth living into the early 21st century instead of the late 19th century with my grandfathers, just for weather apps. Otherwise I prefer their day and age of trains instead of planes, windows open and screen doors slamming.

Our first half of the 20th century was still like that, and better because of Henry Ford et alia.   

Under spiritual direction, continue listening for Elijah’s sound of sheer silence. Saturday night awakened from a miscellaneous dream by the thought “here for health,” keeps recurring, returning. Is that you, יְהוָה,? Otherwise, the sound of silence is birds singing, mosquitos humming, tinnitus ringing, crickets chirping.

Elijah is featured on the current Mass booklet:

Nice, though unlikely Elijah dressed so well in the ravine where the ravens fed him bread and meat. That bread looks like manna -- or a Communon wafer. But meat? Meat? Where do ravens get meat? They snatch morsels of carrion from lions and wolves. 

Still listening.

The rain is gone.


Monday, June 17, 2013

The Sound of Silence

"I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, 'Here I am, here I am' ..." (Isaiah 65:1 NRSV).

Here I sit waiting for God, like Estragon and Vladimir waiting for Godot. Eerily like. Like them, to hold the terrible silence at bay, I do other things and my spiritual director asks if I've ever encountered the interference of Satan getting in the way of God. Yes, as a matter of fact, this very moment I hear the sound of silence but it's not the sound of sheer silence, the still, small voice that Elijah heard; it's Simon and Garfunkel. And no angelic harp, it's a guitar and their voices. The temptation to switch from Scripture to YouTube, click on and listen, is heavy. 
This dawn I'd rather listen to Simon and Garfunkel than strain for the still, small voice. 

Prayer for freedom from distraction goes unanswered. Maybe the reason for the distraction is that, wanting to hear what God wants from me and hearing naught, God's want of this time is other. What might that other be?

If the boy is truthful, Godot is a shepherd with a white beard, was here yesterday and will return tomorrow. I'll wait.

The Sound of Silence.

So far this week I've spent a lot of time in the Jesuit graveyard. Each tombstone is marked RIP. But the Peace of God or the sound of sheer silence could never sound better than this.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

What Are You Doing Here, Tom?

What Are You Doing Here, Tom?

Only been at it a day, but this business of awaiting the Deity's appearance in the Silence is not coming as easy for me as it was for the prophet in the lesson for next Sunday (1st Kings 19, NRSV), “... a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle.” 

The KJV doesn’t say "a sound of sheer silence," it says classically and memorably "a still, small voice." The Orthodox Jewish Bible says "a kol demamah dakkah (a quiet, gentle voice)." That quiet, gentle, still, small voice I might hear even without hearing aids, but -- a sound of sheer silence? don’t think so. As it turns out, the sound of sheer silence in this Jesuit place is the sound of birds chirping. 

What are you doing here, Tom, you're not Roman Catholic? 

Present, waiting to hear God. 
Waiting for God.

Actually, checking the Hebrew scripture for 1 Kings 19 shows that Elijah was not waiting, listening for Elohim, God, but for יְהוָה which is YHWH, Adonai, Hashem, the Lord, which says that this is from the mind and hand of the J-Writer -- 

-- which wanders down the side trail into the briar patch, distracting from what Tom+ is here to do, and which was the object of my directed Saturday prayer, "The particular event of this day that I most want healed is ..." and I inserted "distraction."

Go to silence, go directly to silence, do not pass GO, do not collect $200. 

Unlike my last dorm room 55 years ago, which itself was fifty years old at the time and never heard the word air condition, Friday night this a/c dorm room was freezing. Saturday night, freezing again so cranked a window open.

What are you doing here, Tom? Scratching mosquito bites.

Thus far then here on Silent Retreat, Elijah's sound of sheer silence is for me birds chirping and mosquitos humming.

What are you doing here, Tom?

Waiting for God.

Walking, scratching, listening, waiting.

Listening hopefully if not expectantly for the sound of sheer silence.