Monday, October 07, 2013

Rules for Reading Pope Francis: Rule #5

Reading (and rereading!) the recent interviews Pope Francis gave (one to a fellow Jesuit; another to an atheist journalist), I have had to come up with a set of guidelines to make sure I "get" what the Pope is saying, without letting my own presuppositions (or the way I would say things) distract me. First, I have to get used to the fact that the Pope is going to be speaking off the cuff (Rule #1); that he isn't necessarily speaking to me (Rule #2); that the newspaper headlines are interpretations and fail to communicate the whole point (Rule #3); and that the Pope's message is, far from diluting the content of the faith, challenging my puny faith to acknowledge how much greater the Truth is than I usually give it credit for (Rule #4).

But is there a rule for putting it all together?

Sure there is, and it is the one your mother taught you: Always say "Thank you."

Until the media get tired of Francis (or disillusioned with him) his comments will create openings for the ordinary Catholic to speak about the faith, or about Catholic life, in settings where that would never have been possible without my "forcing the matter." If you have been shy about one on one evangelization, Pope Francis has gotten people interested enough that anyone known to be Catholic is assumed to be a reliable fount of information. If he speaks about the saints, you can mention them now and again, too. If he mentions the need for Catholics to be involved in politics, you have a ready answer to those who would reproach me for bringing your religious convictions into the voting booth (or being active in the political process).

Francis is leading the way, not as a classroom teacher, but as a shepherd who "walks ahead of his sheep, and the sheep follow him." I get the feeling he is deliberately acting "non-pontifical," not to diminish his office as Successor of Peter, but to carry it out in such a way that we, too, carry out our role of being leaven in society. Jesus did the same: "I have given you an example, that as I have done, you also must do."

So what do you say?

Thank you.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Rules for Reading Pope Francis: Rule #4

Following Pope Francis when he goes "off message" or puts aside his prepared notes for a homily or talk reminds me a bit of getting into one of those "Moonwalk Bounce Houses" that people rent for kids parties. UP is still up and DOWN is still down, but they feel different. As a grown-up (and one with a problem back, at that!), I don't find that fun at all. I find it kind of scary.

And that leads me to the 4th "rule" for reading Pope Francis: Don't be afraid. Pope Francis is asking us for more faith--not less.

The Pope may not always use the formulae I'm familiar with, and he may apply the key teachings of the Church in ways that I haven't always thought of, but I'm catching on that what he is saying is more, not less, than what I'm more used to hearing.

Remember what he said to Eugenio Scalfari in the "La Repubblica" interview last week? "There is no 'Catholic god'... there is God." That made some Catholics bounce-house nervous. "Did we miss an important memo? What about the Trinity? Is he 'leveling' the real differences between Catholic understanding and all other religions?"

Far from leveling Catholicism, Francis is giving us a glimpse of what our faith really means: he is heightening the expression of our faith!

This God we believe in as Catholics is not a "Catholic god": There is only One: "He is the LORD and there is no other" and "he rules from end to end and orders all things mightily" while not even a sparrow falls to the ground, or a hair gets brushed off your head that he isn't aware of. This one, holy, infinite God who "delights in the children of men" and "who understands all they do"; "who searches hearts"; who "welcomes sinners and eats with them," is not bound by the means he has given us for meeting him, St Thomas says, not even when those means are the Church and the sacraments.

God is bending over backwards to  reach people even beyond the explicit (and, in the case of the Eucharist, unsurpassable) "usual means" he has given us for meeting him. The Shepherd will do whatever it takes to draw the stray sheep closer to home.

Doesn't that vast vision, hinted at so simply in Francis' words, challenge your faith? It does mine! God doesn't issue a "report card" for good attendance at Mass; He gives us himself. The horizons are so big, I am reminded of what a tin, fragile frame I am using to keep my vision of God in. I'm invited to a new level of faith. And the first step (so it seems throughout the Bible) is "do not be afraid!"

On a related note, here's a great Pope Francis quote found by Suzanne at The Catholic Breadbox: "Relativism is, oddly, absolutist and totalitarian. It does not allow anyone to stray from its own relativism. Basically, it means ‘shut up’ or ‘don't meddle.’"

Friday, October 04, 2013

Rules for Reading Pope Francis: Rule #3

So the Pope is making headlines. In these days of 140-character posts, a headline may be all some people read. What about you, the ordinary, Mass-attending (right off the bat that makes you not exactly ordinary) Catholic? If you are going to read the next interview with Pope Francis, what rule do you need to keep in mind, aside from Rule #1 (Get Used to It) and Rule #2 (Accept that He's not Speaking to You)?

I give you, Rule #3: Don't stop at the headline.

In fact, don't even dwell on the headline. Headlines are interpretations even when they include a direct quote. Case in point: Last Tuesday's release of the Pope's conversation with Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari. The Italian headline declared: "This is how I will change the Church" (the English translation was more modest: "The Church will change").

Crest of Pope Paul V (St Peter's Basilica)
What was behind the headline? Did the Pope really express a detailed program for how he "will" change the Church? Not really. In speaking of the Roman Curia, the Vatican offices that are at the service of his worldwide ministry, the Pope remarked that too often the goal is "Vatican-centered" rather than "person-centered": "It sees and deal with the interests of the Vatican, which are still, for the most part temporal interests. This Vatican-centric view neglects the world around us. I do not share this view and I’ll do everything I can to change it.*" That "it" is a self-focused institutional vision that Francis sees at play in certain offices of the Vatican--not the Church herself.

But there is a kind of change the Holy Father alluded to (without using the word "change"): "The Church is or should go back to being a community of God’s people, and priests, pastors and bishops who have the care of souls are at the service of the people of God. That is the Church."

But who wants to read a headline like that?

*This amended translation comes from the blog "In Caelo."

Francis: the Saint and the Pope

"Francis, rebuild my Church." Words that changed the world.
St Francis
Detail of an altarpiece from the
Walters Museum of Art
(used under Creative Commons License).

Today's feast of St. Francis is especially significant, since Pope Francis has chosen to spend this first "Name Day" with his eight Cardinal-collaborators in Assisi (a city he has never visited before). "This," he said about his associates, "is the beginning of a Church with an organization that is not just top-down, but also horizontal."

With the upcoming [today? this weekend?] release of his encyclical on poverty and the interview published earlier this week, the Holy Father is, as it were, setting up a classroom. We might find the key to his lesson in his words to the unbelieving journalist, Eugenio Scalfari about his patron:

St. "Francis wanted a mendicant [dependent on alms] order and a traveling one. Missionaries who wanted to meet, listen, talk, help, to spread faith and love. Especially love. And he dreamed of a poor Church that would take care of others, which would receive material aid and use it to support others, with no concern for itself. 800 years have passed and times have changed a lot, but the ideal of a missionary, poor Church is still more than valid. That is still the Church that Jesus and his disciples preached about."

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Sr Helena, the Hockey Nun

Well, Canada figured it out right away: the Hockey Nun got "traded" from the (Stanley-Cup-Holding) Blackhawks to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

5 Rules for Reading Pope Francis: Rule #2

Since we can expect Pope Francis to continue reaching out to unbelievers, even when they control significant media channels (see Rule #1), it would be good for us day-to-day Catholics to acquire a kind of spiritual discipline when it comes to finding the Pope in the morning headlines.

Rule #2 might just be the hardest for us to swallow, but it may also be the most helpful: Accept that he isn't speaking to you.

No, he's not. Really. When the Pope is on his cell phone, or in his office meeting a journalist for an informal interview, he is speaking to the person he is with at the moment. You are listening in.

Pope Francis is a confessor to Pope Benedict's professor. Francis is a one-on-one communicator. Even when he is zipping through those incredible crowds in St. Peter's Square, he is making eye contact with people one at a time. All the more, then, when he is in a conversation and the tape recorder is rolling, we need to know who the Pope is with. Everything the Pope says is going to be for or in response to that individual. Know whom he's speaking with and you already have the most important interpretive key for everything else.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

5 Rules for Reading Pope Francis: Rule #1

It's all still so new: a Pope who calls people from his own cell phone; off-the-cuff interviews (during which he makes sure his guest has coffee--or water, as the case may be); the mad scramble afterwards to get to the heart of the message. After yesterday's marathon, I think we need to establish some ground rules.

Here's Rule #1: Get used to it.

Right now things feel a bit like that little pirogue I paddled off in one fine summer morning when I was a postulant home for a family visit. I pulled away from the shore to make my meditation in the gently rocking vessel. But by the time my meditation was complete, the lake was starting to roil, and I was not entirely confident that I could actually control the thing and get back to our campsite. That meditation time I enjoyed on the calm waters corresponds to the gentle pontificate of Pope Benedict. With Francis, instead, we have someone who plunges into the water yelling, "Cannonball!"

The interview published in yesterday's "La Repubblica" wasn't the first headline-generating papal interview (even Benedict pulled one of his own a few years back: remember the "condom" headlines?). It certainly won't be the last: Francis promised La Repubblica's Scalfari a follow-up conversation on women in the Church.

The waves are stirred; everyone takes notice. What are you going to do now? Smack the irrepressible pontiff upside the head with an oar so you can continue your quiet meditation, or accept the invitation to jump in with him?

I know what I'm going to do.


The Lord bless these comings and these goings...

It's not hard to imagine that after almost three months away, I would find some changes in Chicago. It's just that ... there are some real changes going on right now! Sister Helena is officially transferred to Toronto, but she has so many commitments in Chicagoland, she is already back (and packing more books and a/v equipment for the trip back). We'll see her again in a few weeks.

Sister Edward Marie arrived on Monday. This is her first "little house" in twenty years. She had been stationed at the motherhouse, serving for the most part in the publishing house business office. To celebrate, Sister Frances put her interior design skills to work--not only repainting Sister Helena's old rooms with Sister Edward's favorite colors (including an "accent wall") but adding some spiffy bookshelves and an Ikea dresser. (Sister Helena had a system of boxes that is not really transferrable.)

Sister Gemma was transferred from Korea to the United States, and is stationed now in Chicago. She has been working among the Korean communities in the States for about 8, maybe 10 years, but is now officially a part of our province. She's taking time to perfect her English skills, and hopes to do some theology studies after many, many years as a missionary (including 8 years in Pakistan). Sister Gemma brings with her a world-class, turbo-charged rice cooker with multiple settings, and a sweet voice that makes cheerful announcements in Korean. I am presuming the announcements are about the rice and not world news, but Korean technology is so advanced, this may actually be a multi-platform device.

Sister Frances started back to school today, working toward her degree in Construction and Interior Design at the Art Institute. We have plenty for her to do with those skills (besides painting tiny rooms in complementary colors): her first big project will hopefully involve the expansion of our bookstore chapel!

Rendering of the
project around the
corner (73 E Lake).
Sister Lusia spent two months in Samoa, visiting and consoling her mother after the unexpected deaths in the family. She was supposed to be enjoying her time in the islands, but when people realized she knew how to drive, she ended up getting a lot of requests for chauffeuring services and spent more time in the car than on the beach.

And I just got back, too--but not for long. On Saturday I head back to Boston for three more weeks (including the Catholic New Media Conference!). That means I'll only be in Chicago for a month before I ... hit the road again for the Christmas concert series (are you near any of this year's locations?).

Meanwhile, the building is shaking again (construction next door and around the corner), and for the first time in a long time, the chapel is full!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Pope Francis and a very challenging message

This is my second post on the Pope's second interview. I was just going to keep commenting on the first one, but that could get wearisome. Not to mention hard to read. And criss-crossy with other people's comments. So here goes. I'm sorry if this comes off as preachy; I have seen so much anxiety and so many misinterpretations of the Pope's remarks that I am a bit concerned to respond to the ones that seem to be the most widespread.

I'm not going to dismiss the questions and say that the whole interview was badly translated; it's mostly reliable. In some places (really, I only noticed two so far), where the Pope is using philosophical/theological language, the translator found herself on shaky ground and her usual approach simply didn't convey the meaning. That still leaves us with a very challenging message from Pope Francis, and some Catholics are feeling pretty shaky about what it all means.

Is he serious that "The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old"? (Yes, that's pretty much what the Italian says, too, though "solitude in which the elderly are left" is a bit stronger than just "loneliness.")  Apparently, this is his pastoral assessment of things.

But this is the same Pope Francis who--just a week ago--in a much more formal setting, declared: "A widespread utilitarian mentality, the 'throwaway culture', which now enslaves the hearts and minds of many, has a very high cost: it requires the elimination of human beings, especially if they are physically or socially weaker."  So we are challenged to read his informal, conversational words (about unemployment and the loneliness of the old) in the light of his earlier, very thorough and passionate pronouncement.

That broader reading we are called to do is not easy. And the secular media won't make it any easier, because we have to go looking for the things the mainstream is not interested in covering. Like papal addresses given to Catholic Medical Associations. ("Ho, hum," the headline-writers say, "Nothing exciting in this one.")

Is the Pope, by highlighting the immediate pastoral problems of unemployment, hopelessness and alienation, diminishing the importance of life issues? Or is he hinting at one of the reasons we have such a disrespect for unborn human life in the first place: unemployment (including inadequate housing, unlikely prospects for meeting one's own basic needs) that feeds hopelessness, and contributes to a self-focused life that has no time for the weak, whether unborn, newborn, or aged? In fact, as the Pope continued his thought, you can see that he finds that people who give up hope of finding work also give up the hope of forming a family. I have heard people defend abortion because the parents "can't afford a child" right now (or maybe ever). Pope Francis spent time getting to know the poor of Argentina. How many times did he hear the confession of a woman who aborted her child because the father was out of work and could not provide for them? He probably has a much clearer picture of things on the ground than most middle-class Catholics. I'm going to trust his take, because I know how limited my awareness of human suffering is.

What about his seeming dismissal of Church leaders as self-seeking narcissists? "Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy." Is that an accusation? Is the Pope being judgmental? I think he offering a generalization (that could surely be verified at numerous points throughout Church history), and maybe also sending a signal flare out to anyone who still cherishes ambitious dreams of worldly influence in a Church setting under a Franciscan pontificate. My own experience of working at the Vatican (during the Jubilee Year) brought me in touch with one or two persons who may have been lightly infected with this form of leprosy. (It was not edifying.)

Pope Francis, as I suggested in one of my comments to the first post, seems to be deliberately "making a mess," as he urged the young Catholics of the world to do while in Brazil. He is rocking the boat so that all hands will show up on deck and not leave everything up to the captain--a peculiar temptation of Catholics. Francis is not giving us that luxury.

If we are going to each take our oar and row, perhaps the most important thing we can do right now is
learn to follow the captain's signals. He has already given us the interpretive key: everything he says is "just what you find in the Catechism".  The founder of his Jesuit Order, who knew from experience what it meant to have one's teachings held suspect, teaches that we are obliged (under pain of sin!) to make an effort to interpret what we hear or read from another member of the Church in the most orthodox manner possible. Further, St Ignatius of Loyola says, if we fail to come up with an orthodox interpretation, we are to assume that the fault lies with us. Ignatius had more than once been denounced to the Inquisition--over his Spiritual Exercises, one of the treasures of Catholic spirituality. I wouldn't have wanted to be one of the guardians of orthodoxy who denounced a saint to the Inquisition, but it did happen. To me, these episodes in Ignatius' life (and his insistent teaching later in life) are an invitation to trust more in the Holy Spirit than in my own way of figuring things out. I need to go beyond the usual way things are said, the typical contexts, and listen to what Pope Francis really means.

Again, the mainstream media will not make things easy. The headlines will take the Pope's most banal comment and make it seem like a radical departure from every Tradition the Church has ever known. That means that each one of us is challenged here to go behind the text, to find the basic Catholic teaching the Pope's words presume, to deepen our own understanding of how those teachings are being applied, and then to "go and do likewise," taking our Catholic faith places we did not know it could go.

Books and Today's Saint

Yes, Therese of Lisieux was a media apostle, even if she didn't quite set out to be that kind of missionary. The young Doctor of the Church died two years after the invention of cinema, so she didn't even have a chance to really learn about any media aside from print. And yet here she is, patron of the missions, and therefore one of the patrons of the media apostolate. So it is fitting to feature just a few of the many books her life has inspired: biographies, yes, but also one title with selections from  her writings (a good book to share with someone who is suffering), and a pair of books on her spirituality. (Most of these are available in e-book formats so you can start reading them right away.)

Story of a Soul: the book that started it all, in the Carmelite translation
For young readers: St Therese of Lisieux, the Way of Love

The Little Way:
Comfort in Hardship: Wisdom from St. Therese: How do I hold on to faith when my heart hurts so much?
My Vocation is Love: St Therese' Way to Total Trust (a classic on the Little Way)
Holy Daring: The Fearless Trust of St. Therese of Lisieux (Take a look inside!)

Francis: Interview #2 UPDATED with CORRECTION

Two interviews in barely two weeks! Francis is taking every opportunity to engage in conversation. Here is the interview he granted Eugenio Scalfari, an Italian journalist, in the same setting as the three day interview with his fellow Jesuit, Antonio Spadaro. I find it amusing that the Pope, who makes good use of his own cell phone, called to offer Scalfari an appointment, but had to wait to be "put through" to the journalist by the newspaper man's nervous secretary.

There are things in that conversation that will raise questions; I've only scanned the interview and found two eyebrow-raisers. A bit of research into the Italian original showed me that both are translation issues [really only one]. And serious ones, to my mind. (What? Did they use Google Translate?) So I am going to just hurry to post the differences between the English as published, and my own rather literal Italian.

If "everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them," is the Pope saying that there is no such thing as objective truth, or objective right or wrong?

This is where it is really, really helpful to know Italian: "Ciascuno di noi ha una sua visione del Bene e anche del Male. Noi dobbiamo incitarlo a procedere verso quello che lui pensa sia il Bene" is more literally (and helpfully?) translated as "Each one of us has his/her own vision of the Good or even of Evil. We must encourage him/her to move toward that which he/she sees as the Good." The Pope is not leveling the difference between truth and untruth, right and wrong: he is saying that we all have a duty to encourage people to pursue the Good, knowing that the true Good will not fail to manifest himself, even if "through a glass darkly." 

CORRECTION: Really, I must apologize right now, even though it is getting late (8:25 Central Time). The Pope made his point about conscience twice. The sentences I cited in Italian, believing these to be the original and only text, came first; these are accurately translated, even if the philosophical uppercase (Good and Evil) in the Italian was lost in the first sentence. The phrase about choosing "to follow the good and fight evil" as one conceives these was the Pope's follow-up statement. Again, rendered accurately enough. In these sentences, the fault was with my own all too rapid reading which conflated the two. 

What the Pope is doing is expressing the fully Catholic conviction of the primacy of conscience. Our challenge, he then explains, is "to identify the material and immaterial needs of people and try to meet them." At times, maybe a lot of times, this means not stopping at the words people use to express their needs, but perceiving the deeper, but unexpressed need. The woman who "needs" an abortion probably really needs a faithful husband; a supportive community; any number of material and immaterial goods. Her uninformed conscience might not take her that far; as Catholics we owe it to her to help her move toward the genuine stability and security she "sees as the Good." 
Me, tearing my hair out at the unreliable translation.

Here's another whopper: This next passage really does contain a translation error:
"The Son of God became incarnate in the souls of men to instill the feeling of brotherhood." Um, the Son of God did not become incarnate in souls. He became incarnate in human nature, in his own human flesh and blood. The Italian is " Il Figlio di Dio si è incarnato per infondere nell’anima degli uomini il sentimento della fratellanza": "The Son of God became incarnate to infuse into the soul of men [could say "the human soul"] the feeling of brotherhood."

Take the rest of the interview with a grain of salt--and with the Catechism at hand, knowing--as Pope Francis told Father Spadaro-- that he is a "son of the Church" and that everything he says should be interpreted in the light of Church teachings. I am sure that other commenters will be providing more of a blow-by-blow, but I wanted to get this out fast.

Read Italian? Here's the original.

Other links:
Interview of Pope Francis by Antonio Spadaro, SJ (updated translation from America Magazine)
Pope Francis School of Life (newsletter)

Related books, media:
Light of Faith (Pope Francis' first encyclical)
Jorge from Argentina: The Story of Pope Francis for Children

O Jerusalem!

Jesus' exclamation seems to come naturally on reading the Liturgy of the Word for today's Mass (unless you use the special readings for St Therese). In the first reading, the prophet Zechariah regales the bewildered, poverty-stricken returnees in Jerusalem with a vision of a future for their ruined city. "Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem.... ten men of every nationality, speaking different tongues, shall take hold, yes, take hold of every Jew by the edge of his garment and say, 'Let us go with you'."

That impossible vision began to be fulfilled in the Gospel reading for the day: Jesus, accompanied by the Twelve and preceded by messengers, "turned his face toward Jerusalem." (The Greek is so much more telling than the English "resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.") And ever since that day, "many peoples and strong nations" have undertaken the same journey.

Every person who has ever encountered God owes it to the rest of humanity to witness to Him by turning his or her face toward Jerusalem.

But what if Zechariah's Jew, the blessed descendant of Abraham and inheritor of the promises, was not "turned toward Jerusalem"? Where would those eager Gentiles be led? And what of those Catholics who are living a compromised faith? When people come to them and say, "You're a Catholic. Help me understand what your Church, what your Pope says about....?" What "city" are they showing these hopeful inquirers? The dwelling-place of God or just another ruined city?

Isn't this what makes Therese so significant? We read her story and we want to take hold of the edge of her Carmelite mantle and say, "Let us go with you!" And she obligingly shows us her roadmap--a trustworthy "little way" for the faint of heart.

Monday, September 30, 2013

For or against?

Today's Gospel offers a real challenge in our polarized society. And I suspect that one reason Pope Francis makes some people very nervous is that he is actually demonstrating what that Gospel looks like in practice: "Whoever is not against you is for you."

This is so unlike the typical assumption (which we see in John: "We saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to stop him because his is not one of us") that anyone not in our in-group is an outsider at best--but more likely an enemy. Sad but true, I often find a variant of this attitude in myself. It can happen that when some "other" Catholic media enterprise achieves a goal my community has been struggling, perhaps for years, to reach, I may feel more regret (over our failure) than Pauline joy ("that Christ is being proclaimed").

Today's first reading, in its own way, speaks to that incipient depression, offering a vision of a restored and flourishing Jerusalem--an impossibility in the eyes of the prophet's audience, for sure. Because, in the end, isn't the polarizing "us or them" mentality a sign of a fundamental lack of hope? The kind of insecurity that is constantly taking stock of resources, operating on calculations rather than relationships? Francis, like Jesus, challenges that defensive posture--even though it makes his would-be handlers very nervous.

What would be different in your way of reading the news if you were convinced that "whoever is not against you is for you"?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

More Roman tidbits

You never know what you're going to learn when you travel. This time I learned the Italian equivalent of "the floor is open" (for input from the assembly): "A voi la parola" (the word goes to you all). I also picked up a new, one-word way of saying "The question/comment I was going to raise has already been made by someone else": "assorbita."

So much for parliamentary vocabulary.

What about social vocabulary? Lots of people know that "ciao!" is the Italian all-purpose greeting (for hello or good-bye). Most may not realize that it is an extremely casual and familiar way of speaking. In all other circumstances, you can never go wrong with a "Salve" (this is a "hello" sort of greeting, but where you are just passing someone in a hall; the sort of situation that a nod of acknowledgement might work for in the US).

Little gossip bit? Cardinal Ruini (served as Vicar for Rome under John Paul II) is a race car fan, and waits each month for his Formula One magazine to arrive. That's probably because he's from the same province as Ferrari.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Italy photo of the week

Since I came back with hundreds of photos and don't exactly have free days, weeks or months at my disposition to sort through them all, I thought I would enlist this blog to do that for me, by featuring an Italy photo of the week for as many weeks as I ... get around to it. Join me in seeing how long it lasts, and enjoy the tour in the meantime!

In the "Castelli Romani" region near Castel Gandolfo, Sister Lucia Kim (the Chapter photographer)  aims her lens toward the sunset. A week later, we voted her onto our General Government, the first Korean sister at that level of leadership in our congregation.
This was taken on the property of the Regina Apostolorum Hospital, founded by Blessed James Alberione  as a place not only of medical and spiritual care, but as a  supernatural powerhouse where the "apostolate of suffering" could support all the media ministries and other services of the Pauline Family. (The hospital is now a regional hospital in the Italian health care system.)
Click on the image to see it in more detail.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Home, Sweet Home.

It's amazing how quickly I've adapted to speaking English all day; I don't even have to think about it first. After arriving in Boston Monday at midnight (the people in Boston thought it was only around 6 pm), I'm returning to Chicago tomorrow--and returning to a changed community. One sister is being transferred out (to Toronto) and another sister transferred in (from the motherhouse--after 20-something years). I'll show up in the afternoon to really stir up the soup.

Sister Margaret
already borrowed
one of the new
What's on your wishlist?
Mail Call! All with
my name on them!
There were some surprises already waiting for me in Boston. Last Monday (17th), the Feast of St. Hildegard of Bingen, was declared "International Buy a Nun a Book Day" by Benedictine webmaster Sister Catherine Wybourne (@DigitalNun on Twitter). She was taking a page from the "Buy a Priest a Beer Day" meme. Bottom line: books trump beer any day of the week. I found five packages in the mailroom in Boston--and there are two more books waiting for me in Chicago, all from online friends who visited my Amazon wishlist on St Hildegard's Day and sent me a little literary love. A few of the gifts came with notes so I could thank the donors; some were anonymous. Yesterday I prayed a rosary for all of them.

Since part of the work of a Chapter is communicating the decisions and basic thrust to the rest of the sisters, I'll fulfill some of my immediate commitments in Chicago next week, and then return to Boston to work with the other delegates in preparing the presentations for the roughly 130 sisters who didn't spend the last month in Italy. Since I already registered for the Catholic New Media Conference (Boston, Oct 19-20), all I have to do is change one plane ticket. (Maybe later.)

Bet you can't find
all the patches*; some
are pretty clever.
When I come back, I'll also be able to pick up the new habit that is being made for me. When I was here in August, my already patched summer habit began to shred along the seams. I tried darning the holes, but there wasn't enough fabric for the thread to cling to. So while I was away, the seamstress added some creative new patches to provide me with a work dress that I won't have to worry about messing up. When Pope Francis' new encyclical on poverty comes out (presumably on Oct 4, Feast of St. Francis of Assisi), maybe I should wear this habit (even's kind of embarrassing). (That thing Jesus said about patching an old cloak with unshrunken fabric? I hope that won't come into play here.) Meanwhile, the weather has changed enough that my winter habit will be pressed into service.

By the way, a little FSP habit trivia: The blue that you may know as "Daughter of St. Paul blue" has a real name, avion. The dye of my habit (photos) has long been bleached by the sun to a muted greyish color. I'm not sure there is a name for that, though.

* Give up? The edge of the button panel is really a patch over some really frayed fabric. The pockets are also patched, inside and out.