Thursday, July 12, 2007

Summertime Miscellany

Last night I went with the Lovely Daughter and two of her friends to see the Harry Potter movie. I found it a bit tedious at first, but we were all mesmerized by the end. And then a bizarre experience on the way home unfolded as a young boy dashed frantically into the street right in front of the car ahead of us, followed by a furiously gesturing man who looked to be in his twenties, who was himself followed by a prancing little dog. Two other boys stopped themselves on the curb, and we all gasped in relief as we saw that neither boy nor man nor dog had not been run over. We called the police, and drove back after dropping off one of the girls to find four squad cars lined up at the corner.

The dog was the most bizarre element of the rather unnerving scene.

Between yesterday and today I've had maybe five seminary related conversations, with administrators and other students, on topics ranging from the practicalities of moving in to some of the more esoteric challenges ahead. Just as it took several weeks for the reality of leaving my teaching job and Jewish community to sink in, now the realization that I am beginning new work in a new community is washing over me with increasing momentum.

I called the Ontario Jesuit center today and made my final deposit on my eight-day retreat, which is only three weeks away. I've never done this before and, while I'm really looking forward to it, I'm also having trouble imagining a large community of people spending a week in almost complete silence together. I suppose that by the time it's over, I will be struggling to imagine people spending most of their time in conversation with one another!

I find that I am increasingly perturbed by the Pope's remarks earlier in the week about the Protestant churches. They have been well analyzed elsewhere; all I really have to note is my personal distress. I know that he hasn't said anything new, and I knew that most of my own Catholic friends are probably more unhappy about the situation than I am. Of course, we have all had our own contribution to make. When I have taught the Reformation to my Jewish high school world history students for the past several years, I have presented it as follows: a day on the social, economic, and religious climate in which frustration with the church fermented; a day on Luther, Calvin, and Henry VIII; a day on Luther's anti-Semitism, distasteful and horrific as the topic is, but to me seemingly mandatory in the interest of full disclosure and honesty toward Jewish students; and the usual final day wrap-up of ask-whatever-you-want-about-Christianity.

It's been a long 500 years.

The photographs are of the ruins of the Iona Nunnery. I took them exactly one year ago this week, and I think most of them enlarge pretty well with a click or two. Before I went to Iona, a good friend of mine, a nun in her seventies who has spent most of her life in that rural convent I described a few entries earlier, told me how powerfully the Nunnery had resonated with her on her two visits there. "I imagined those women," she said, "working there, out on that isolated island, eight hundred years ago, and thought: they were trying to do exactly what I try to do!" The Nunnery is in ruins thanks to the Presbyterian Reformers of the sixteenth century. Enough of it remains that it is easy to imagine those women at work, at prayer, at dinner, stopping to stare out the window toward the sea -- and painful to imagine the disruption of their lives by those who thought they had a clearer vision of the will of God.

And so today my own life feels unsettled ~ by the man chasing the little boy into the dark and busy street, by the prancing dog who followed them, by the unknown future, by the persistent voices claiming power and supremacy of vision.

I do need that retreat.


RevDrKate said...

The photos are so beautiful and as I read your reflections on the lives of the sisters I found myself thinking again about how we insist on downsizing God and making it about how "God is on our side" whoever "we" are. The Pope insists God is Catholic, the Primates believe God is on their side in the Anglican Communion and that this gives them the right to exclude others at the table. Maybe this is just another kind of downsizing, but I can't help but think that in the face of all this, God weeps.

Diane said...

good reflections, deep thoughts re: the brokenness still of lives and of religious systems...

I'm "kind of" here though away and enjoy seeing your pictures and reading your thoughts

Presbyterian Gal said...

Did you ever find out what the fracas with the chasing and the dog was about?

We saw Harry Potter today. They do get darker as they move on.

Great pictures. Remind me of the scenes in "Brother Son Sister Moon" where Francis is rebuilding the ruins into a new church with Donovan singing in the background "If you want your dream to grow, you must build it slowly......"

Happy, renewing retreat.

Gannet Girl said...

It does look like those scenes, PG!

Carol said...

If you didn't finish Eat, Pray, Love, you should try to do so prior to your retreat. Transitions are indeed challenging but I'm fairly certain that this retreat will help ease yours just a bit.

Stushie said...

Celtic Crossing
By: John Stuart

Celtic Crossing

for a new
land over
the Irish
Sea, Columba and
some friends came
upon small Iona.
Establishing their community in
the center of pagan territory and
preaching Christianity faithfully,
Christ's Dove began advancing the
Celtic cause which combined his
holy faith with
land sea and life.
God created all.
Holy Call
ful - filled
the needs
of people
for a God
who loves
the earth.
And all the
Celtic wonder
of Nature, Life
and Faith becomes
a prayerful path to
follow Christ today, to
preach the word teach the
truth and heal the people
"Come back to us Columba"

This is a picture poem, dedicated to St Columba, who brought the Gospel to Scotland by crossing the Irish Sea. The colors represent the rocks and pebbles that can still be found on the shore line of the sacred island of Iona.

you can find it in color at

Kathryn said...

Count this Catholic friend among the outraged. I was angry when this pope was appointed. He has done absolutely nothing to improve my opinion of him. His age is no comfort as he seems quite healthy and vigorous.

Michelle said...

Relax into the 8-day retreat -- it seems like a long time the first night and the next thing you know, you're mourning the end. I just finished 8-days last weekend (with the Jesuits as well) and yes, the Society is a great source of grace, indeed....