Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Random Notes in Downtime

Having turned in my big book project before Thanksgiving, I am trying to do nothing this week—other than finishing reading two books, doing my Christmas shopping, figuring out how to teach just one decent religious ed class to 20 fourth-graders before they mutiny and go running down the corridors screaming Mr. Bull is torturing us, sort of like the kids at left, and so on. Life keeps happening, even during self-enforced personal health weeks.

In the spirit of downtime, I figured I should draw together a post of unrelated, random observations, not to tax my brain too much.

Our CL School of Community meets on Fridays at 7:30 pm. Since several of us are parents of young children, not all of us can make this time slot every week, so today for the first time in a while we held a secondary meeting, beginning at 7:45 am. I sat for an hour with Vangie and Elizabeth to discuss chapter 11 in The Religious Sense. I thank God I was introduced to Communion and Liberation before being received into the Catholic Church four years ago. It brings faith to life, in the twin senses of making it alive and bringing it face to face with the everyday stuff I encounter. I am so grateful for my friendship with Vangie, Elizabeth, and others, and I hope more members of our SoC will take advantage of these Wednesday meetings.

One of the best restaurants in greater Boston is The Helmand in Cambridge, where my family enjoyed a delicious meal graciously served not too long ago. Helmand is one of 34 provinces in Afghanistan, and the Helmand River flows through it. As the name suggests, the restaurant offers Afghani cuisine. I couldn’t help thinking of the good folks at The Helmand, or of other Afghani expatriates living in our country, when I read this morning about the latest atrocity in Afghanistan, a bomb that killed 19 civilians in Helmand Province. We think of the Afghani people as being over there, but they are us too.

From the tragic to the absurd: Have you seen the DirectTV commercial where the guy is watching a violent movie on the 58-inch plasma in his living room, and he then pushes a button on his remote, goes into his kitchen, and pushes the remote again, whereupon the violence breaks out in front of his refrigerator? This is supposed to be a benefit of DirectTV: Our virtual lives will follow us everywhere, no need to live real ones.

My CL friend Moira saw my post last night about books I read in 2011 and sent me a wake-up message regarding Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, which I said was the “Book I Most Wish I Had Written.” She wrote:

Webster, Don't regret not writing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close—JSF is not as talented as he thinks he is. However, History of Love by his wife Nicole Krause is AMAZING (they met through their literary agent who introduced them after rep-ing both these books). Extremely Loud is a great concept, however, it is overwritten and written by someone who thinks he's better than his audience. Honestly, the main protagonist the kid Oskar is a pain in the ass, seriously. I read it several years ago but it made no real impression on me, however I always go back to History of Love realizing I enjoy it more with each read. Just a humble suggestion, Moira

Of course, when I read Moira’s message to Katie, my dear, understanding wife said, “But I’ve been telling you about that book for years!”

Father Julián Carrón’s School of Community, noted regularly on the CL home page, is required reading for anyone who wants to follow the Movement seriously. In his remarks on chapter 11, Carrón made a couple of points that struck me sharply. Here is one of them:

[I have been] rebuked for the fact that I speak of reason and not of Christ, but there is a way of speaking of Christ that is totally useless for our life! The problem is not that we are not speaking of Christ, but that Christ is affirmed without something happening in the person, in his relationship with reality. Pay attention: we are not claiming that one can live reality without Christ – of course not! The problem is what we mean by faith, because we can see that there is a way of saying “Christ” that is perfectly useless, because it isn’t able to take away the feeling of being bothered.

This totally resonates with (or as my CL friends might say, corresponds with) me. The reason I latched on to CL even before becoming an official Catholic is that I knew I would not be satisfied with merely saying the word Christ when the liturgy requires it. I wanted my Christian experience to change the way I met life, change the way I thought, change my reason. Not to take anyone else’s inventory, I know from my own experience that, as Carrón states, “There is a way of speaking of Christ that is totally useless for our life!” I need Christ to help me, even when, especially when, I am “bothered.”

LATER in the morning

My Wednesdays are balanced between the religious ed class in the afternoon (see above) and taking Communion to Catholic residents of a senior facility across from our church in the morning. Where the afternoon experience is saturated with uncertainty and doubt (about my own abilities), the morning mission is one of complete certainty. Why is this? Because the “old ladies” “like” me more? Or because it is easier to see Christ in their grateful faces than in the inattentive, randomly directed eyes of a bunch of 10-year-olds? I need to work during the afternoon classes, to realize that reality is always positive, even when I am bothered!


I have written several times about Patrick O’Brian, an author I revere. Creator of the 20-volume Aubrey-Maturin series of historical novels, O’Brian was interviewed very near the end of his life by Walter Cronkite in a public event at the New York Public Library. Next time you have 50 free minutes, check out this recording of that interview.

And because I know you are craving chipotle roasted sweet corn, please finish by reading Marian’s latest post.

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