Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lions at St. Peter's

The spiral stairs at the Vatican Museum

I don't mean to overuse the lions theme here. But I just can't resist. So please indulge me. These are lion finds at the Vatican Museum

Monday, May 28, 2007

Lions in Siena

Oh, so what did you expect me to look for in Siena but more lions.

Guarding the door of the Cathedral

Found at the library in the Cathedral

Floor lions

Lucca Lions

We visited the medieval city of Lucca on the way to Florence. We found lots of lions everywhere.

A lion guarding the path atop the city wall

A lion at the cathedral door

A sentinel lion with a feathered friend

A lion who refuses to be trampled over

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Leaving on a jet plane

To quote the Walrus, "The time has talk of many things, of saints and popes and flying ships....of pilgrimages and kings..." Well, something like that. I'm off to Italy for three weeks.

I'll try to post pictures here and there. Especially in Caput Mundi, Città Eterna, Bella Roma.

God bless.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Three Book Meme

~Forgive my inactivity in the land of lions this past week. There are lots of loose ends to tie up before I leave for Rome on Wednesday. Edmund has tagged me for the Three Book Meme, so I thought here's a good place to respond. With the handy-dandy Google Book Search, you can preview a book.

Three non-fiction books everyone should read:

1. The Western Canon by Harold Bloom (What makes a book great? What is the Great Conversation?)

2. On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius (since Edmund took Confessions by St. Augustine, here's the other book that guided me into the Catholic Church.)

3. The Story of Civilization by Will Durant (yeah, 11 volumes--only a couple of summers’ reading material, vero?…found the whole set in a second-hand store called The Dusty Bookshelf for $50)

Three books of fiction everyone should read:

1. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (who can resist a Mole, a Rat, and a Toad being friends? and how about the chapter “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”…and the opening paragraph: Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even in his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.)

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen ("excessively diverting")

3. A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin (a book to be savored page by page)

Three authors everyone should read:

1. William Shakespeare (please, if my kids can enjoy reading the plays out loud, you can, too. My daughter was reading Ophelia's part in Hamlet when she was seven)

2. St. Augustine (I'm going to sneak in Confessions here and City of God)

3. St. Francis de Sales (Introduction to the Devout Life is one that I have in my backpack everywhere I go)

Three books no one should read: (I won't even link these.)

1. Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren

2. Purpose-Driven Church by Rick Warren (these two were required reading for vestry when I was still an Anglican.

3. Anything Dan Brown and if you think he’s the best writer of all time (which an acquaintance of mine said after reading DVC), you’re not reading the right books.

Tagging: Kira, Dim, and Fr. Z

Monday, May 7, 2007

Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art

Godhead, I adore thee fast in hiding; thou
God in these bare shapes, poor shadows, darkling now:
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived;
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed:
What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there's nothing true.

~from Gerard Manley Hopkins' S. Thomae Aquinatis

The scent of incense greeted me as I entered the door, the rosary was being prayed. My weekend wanderings brought me to our diocese's only indult parish. A friend, Edmund C., was singing in the choir providing the music for today's Tridentine High Mass, so I made the almost two-hour drive to hear and to taste and see once again the beauty of 'heaven on earth'. It had been almost a year since I was last here.

I put on my chapel veil, relishing the scalloped edges in my peripheral vision, and slid into a pew. The little chapel was almost full at a half-hour before the Mass. I took out my rosary and quickly fell into the rhythm of the prayer...Hail, Mary, full of I gazed on the Crucifix, there was Our Lady's statue in front, a crown of flowers ringing her head.....the Lord is with thee....I glanced above at the cerulean-blue ceiling. I had remembered it to be a darker shade, but here, together with worshipers gathered from around the region, the sky-blue somehow seemed fitting, as the prayer proceeded to Mary's Assumption and Crowning as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Gradually, we were being prepared to delve into the mystery of Christ-come-down-to-earth as Victim and Priest. Yes, we had come to meet with the Lord here in this holy place. Through Mary, the earthly cares were shed and put aside.

At the end of the prayer, there was silence, a pregnant waiting. Then the Introit began, in that timeless chant: Jubilate Deo, omnis terra...., the solemn procession moved toward the altar. Vidi aquam egredientem a latere dextro, alleluia. Ah, living water, it is still Easter and we were sprinkled with the waters that reminded us that we were brought out of death into life. We had barely begun, and already my heart was full. Tears pricked my eyes as the chant washed over me. I closed my eyes to try to make out Edmund's voice from among the voices. But the liturgy bid me to open my eyes and pay attention.

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison, Mozart's Mass ensconced in its proper place within the liturgy. Further and further we were drawn and our hearts were lifted to God...Gloria in excelsis Deo....glory to God in the highest...laudamus, benedicimus, adoramus, glorificamus...we praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you. A tinge of regret, why can't we sing in this reverent manner each Sunday. But then, I remember where God has called me to serve and I am grateful for this one moment in time to praise him in this way, in beauty and in holiness.

The Mass moves forward and then the drama of the altar began--the incense, the music, yes, it is indeed fitting and right, our duty and our salvation to give thanks to you, O Holy Father. Agnus Dei...Lamb of God we remember your Passion, your Sacrifice, You, Victim most Holy, most Perfect, Bread of Eternal Life. At the altar rail I knelt, knowing of my unworthiness to receive such a gift, humbled that my God should come to me as Bread upon my tongue. For this I am thankful for the veil that covers my head--I am in the presence of the holy.

I returned to my pew and knelt, such a simple action denied to us in my parish in obedience to diocesan norms, but so right after the gift of so great a magnitude. All too soon, the Mass comes to a close, Salve, Regina is chanted, the prayer that was my companion in my conversion into the Church. Vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve. The tears that had been held back finally trickled down my cheeks. Sweet Virgin Mary, bid me to go into the world again, your Precious Son within me, if only for this brief moment.

We emerge out into the late afternoon sun, the brisk breeze helping to lift the veil off my head. Father imparts a blessing as we shake hands. How do I return to my ordinary existence after that?


...I have been on the road for the last few days and will be home this evening....will post tonight.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Modern Conveniences

It was the morning rush-hour and I was negotiating a multi-lane left turn when the piercing dah, dit, dit, dit alarm jolted me. Annoyed, I glanced over at my handbag sitting on the passenger seat, realizing that it was my new Palm/Blackberry wannabe telling me to be on my way to an appointment. I was rounding the turn, so there was no way that I could turn it off. It chirped again soon after I was on the straightaway.

"I know, I know," I told it impatiently. Still, it chirped on. "That's where I'm going now." I ground my teeth, bidding the image of my husband cheerfully programming in the different alarm sounds. "He meant well, really, he meant well." I said to myself trying to overcome a rising resentment.

Dah, dit, dit, dit answered my Palm. I growled feeling the urgency of changing lanes in a quarter of a mile or miss my exit and the need to quiet that thing which was supposed to be a help but was now adding to my road rage.

"Stop it," I yelled, and at that instant realized the utter absurdity of a grown woman trying to argue with a dumb Palm. I burst out laughing, I'm sure the people in the cars next to me must have thought me mad. Once safe in the parking lot of my destination, I pulled out the shiny Palm and turned off the alarm.

"Really, you are more trouble than you're worth," I said to it. What was I doing talking to inanimate objects that were meant to be aids to my existence? I sighed thinking of how I used to never have to write anything down, that I could remember things with clarity and ease. In school, I never took notes because of a near-photographic memory. It drove everyone crazy that I could remember conversations word-for-word, and that I could quote pages and pages of books verbatim. But each subsequent child and their myriad activities, on top of all my obligations wore out my ability and I increasingly had to rely on Post-it notes. Where would I be without Post-it notes?

But progress, you know, has a way of infiltrating your life, and early on in the life of PDAs, I sported one, if just for the convenience of having an alarm to remind me of my next duty. Each time it would ring, the children would pipe up and say, "Your purse is talking to you, Mama."

And then there were the upgrades, oh, the latest bells and whistle, how can you do without them? Finally, I decided to return to my Post-its and a planner. It was lovely to not have a constant chirping companion that intruded in the most inconvenient times to remind me not to be late.

But all that ended, when a box arrived and there it was....the latest. I can check my emails with it, make phone calls, organize my shopping list, keep abreast of the latest news. Ah, what's not to like? Spam-on-the-go served anytime, anywhere.

I'm sure I'll find a way to like it. But for now, it's one more thing to remind me of my rootedness in time, the tyranny of the urgent pressing upon me. How much I need daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration to remind me of the country to which I belong, the time-outside-time that creates room for me to breathe in the Divine, to say, with the choirs of angels and archangels, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth." Here am I, mortal that I am, direct me, use me for your greater glory this day.