May 2007


    Saturday I took Mr. Boy and the two littlest girls to Oconee Station State Historic Site .

    This is a great field trip for young children.  The site is small, just two historic buildings and a nature trail, so you can explore it all without getting exhausted.  Between 1pm and 5pm Saturdays and Sundays, park service guides open up the buildings, and then stand about to answer questions while you explore.  Excellent if you have busy preschooler — as much up and down and around as you like, and no worries about missing something because of a sudden intruding toddlerism. 

    For myself it was a neat little study in architecture — and a lesson in why masonry buildings are much more sustainable than cheaper, easier, and therefore more popular, stick houses.   Mr. Boy was sold by the fact that the place was a military outpost.  Bun liked going up and down the stairs.

 Never did make it all the way to the waterfall (long story), but the portion of the nature trail that we did explore was lovely and not strenuous.    A good trail for beginner hikers.

Advertisements

Dawn Eden blogged a few days ago about being thankful for crosses.  A timely for topic for me — pushed me to see certain parts of my life in a new light. 

Curiously, this Easter I had some psalm trouble.  Lent ended, so it was time to call a halt on psalm 22, but it didn’t seem right to go back to my ordinary time verses.  Trouble was, I don’t know the psalms, or the bible in general, well enough to have some Eastery-psalm or verse on the top of my head to pull out in my time of need.  So I did what came naturally, and procrastinated.  (Ahem, this is not the recommended way to conduct one’s spiritual life during Easter week). 

Finally the Holy Spirit, or something, prompted me to just flip open the bible to psalm 22 (bookmark still wedged there) and see if there wasn’t something nearby that would do the trick.   Sure enough, take a look at psalm 21*

"He [the king] asked you for life, and you gave it to him—
       length of days, for ever and ever."  (NIV)

I don’t know whether this passage is usually interpreted as applying to Jesus, but it certainly could be.   I am reminded of Jesus praying in the garden, "if you are willing, take this cup from me" — a natural lead in to that final recitation on the cross of the opening lines of psalm 22 — "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

It looks on the outside like Jesus *was* forsaken.  As if his prayer was not answered.  (And certainly, if by "this cup" He meant suffering on the cross, so it was not.)  But in psalm 21 we get another perspective — He asked for life, got not just the chance to grow old, not just another forty or sixty years, but life without end.  Life for all time. 

Dawn Eden’s post about being thankful for one’s cross was a good shoulder-shaking for me.  But, like her, I don’t find this easy.  It doesn’t make any sense.  The thing I struggle with most, it seems it *ought* to be God’s will that it be removed.  Surely the evil in everyone’s life is the same way — we know God wants what is good.  It should be so incredibly obvious that He ought to be hearing our prayers, and giving us the ‘yes’ we’re asking for.

And I think there, in these cases where we are so, so, certain that what we want — what we suffer for lack of — *ought* to be God’s will, the psalmist fills in the mystery.  The king in the psalm asked for life, and got not the few little measly decades he’d hoped and prayed for, but all eternity.   We who are getting a "no" on our little prayers that seem so big to us, I suppose are meant to be trusting in the same sort of surprise.  That if our desire really does correspond to God’s will, then it must be that the "no" to the "little" thing offers hope of a "yes" to something beyond our understanding?

*I tried briefly to find a link to a public-domain catholic translation.  I discovered the Douay-Rheims numbers the psalms differently than contemporary translations.  Anyone know what the story is with that?

Lots of feasting going on around here.  Took the kids out to dinner for our anniversary, and then went out again later in the week with just adults.  (Our poor babysitter, I forgot to tell her where the baby’s bed was.  Didn’t realize I had moved it since last time she was over.   Big kids tried to pull a few fast ones on her when she asked them for guidance on this question.)

Meanwhile, Mr.Boy turned seven.  Took him and the other kids to Waffle House for breakfast.  The kids love, love, love that place.  About twice a year I break down and take them — we live just a mile or two from one, as does, I suspect, the most of our state’s population.  Also took the kids to Target, another destination they have been begging to visit; got the carseats and bike helmets I had planned on, kids found nothing (approved by mom) to spend their savings on.

Today we had  a massive birthday event for the boy.   Way too much candy.  Way too little adult supervision.  Complete craziness.  Castle parents need to work on their party skills.   We are definitely novices in this department, and it shows.  None of the other parents said anything uncharitable, though, so that was good.

Bun turns three at the end of the month, so we’ll make another attempt at sane feast-making at that time.

 Realized tonight how much I tend to expect a perfect world.  Not an entirely perfect world — though I keep itching for one of those, as well, who doesn’t? — but at least a world where my laundry is caught up and I’m cheerful, too. 

I can’t blame it on TV, though other people could, I guess.  I tend to get my dose of the perfection-fantasy via literature.  There’s fiction, where, if you read the fun stuff and not the depressing kind, the main characters only ever struggle with the conflicts embedded in the official plot lines.  And then there’s ordinary non-fiction, where lawns are mowed, gardens weeded, wayward canes pruned.  No one would ever, ever, think about whether pansy food is good for roses, not in that world.  They either break down and buy the rose food, or concoct their own special organic alternative — in either case, applying at the right time of year.

The worst though is self-help non-fiction.  And there, the Christian Housewife market is just as bad as the secular offerings.  Plenty of good material out there, telling me just what I need to do to get my job done, and get it done well.  None of it, however, takes into account the bit about how *I* am the person who is expected to do it. 

I do not think the solution is to give up on myself.  If I have to settle for mediocrity, or some kind of even worse-itocrity, I shouldn’t go down without a fight.  The trick for me is remembering that I and everything and everyone else in the world have fallen, and so if the actual results vary from the model, well, um, don’t say I wasn’t warned.

****

On that note, St. Francis de Sales is your man.  Here are the Golden Counsels – nice quick reading, good for busy housewives.    (You can thank some of the delphi NFP ladies for directing me that way a few months ago, in an off-line conversation.) 

 
My home is chock full of them.   From my mom, mostly, but from other people as well (no canonized saints, and no body parts of anybody).  These days, I’m discovering the supply-and-demand element of the relic world.  When someone dies, suddenly everything becomes the Last One.  The Last Dress LP will ever get from her grandmother. The Last Birthday Card I ever got from mom.  And so on.  Something I’d not exactly anticipated, and which is causing certain spells of minor insanity.  Of a comic sort despite the obvious sadness. 

In the process I’m discovering is what it means to "venerate".  Because we do, in fact, venerate our various non-holy relics. 

For example I have the handbell my great-great-grandmother would ring as a warning signal when her dozen or so children got too loud after bedtime, and it gets special treatment.  If I’d gotten it off E-Bay (they’re currently selling for about $10, plus shipping) I’d let the kids use it.  Brass holds up, no problem.  But since I got it for free — but from a great aunt, as a wedding present — it stays up on a shelf in the Adult Study Where No Children Are Allowed (Most Of The Time), and I get to yell at the kids if they play with the bell.  (And then repent for the yelling.  I know.)

It’s special to us.  We treat it with reverence.

***

Per another relic of mine — my dad’s collegiate dictionary — to venerate is to regard with reverential respect, or with admiration and deference.  It can be religious, or not.   I’ll get back to the religious question in a minute.

We don’t live in a culture where displays of respect are grand and outward.  We do have them, but we are so used to them that we think it can’t possibly be "veneration".   For example, my favorite Evangelical Seminarian Friend wouldn’t dream of phoning up Dr. Norman Geisler — a professor and apologist he holds in high regard — and saying, "Hey Norm, how about I buy you a beer?" 

ES, as down-to-earth and egalitarian of a guy as you could hope to meet, will call the man "Dr. Geisler", and would never dare to presume to extend any kind of personal invitation.  If perchance ES was able to go hear the professor speak, he might approach with a question afterward only by prefacing his question with a few comments of gratitude or admiration ("thank you so much for coming to speak here tonight" "I have learned so much from your books") , and perhaps an apology for bothering the learned man with a mere second-year student’s probably-simple question.

It’s admiration.  It’s deference.  It’s a profound respect.  It’s veneration. 

Not bowing to floor, nor composing flowery odes about not being fit to polish the man’s shoes, but still, ES would display genuine deference towards the professor.  And as much as reading Geisler’s anti-catholic apologetics makes me want to toss books across the room, I’d be mortified if ES treated Dr. Geisler any other way.  

Now my veneration of the bells and the dictionary is not as profound as the veneration due to the relics of a canonized saint.  And ES’s veneration of Dr. Geisler is not as great the veneration due to St. Peter.   But both of those far lesser attitudes of reverence are the same kind of thing that catholics engage in towards holy relics, and towards holy men and women.

This is important to understand: same kind, differing only in degree.

***

Evangelicals have a legitimate fear of idolatry.  That is, of treating as God something that is not God.  And somehow evangelicals have gotten the idea that "veneration" is a form of worshipping God. 

To start with, because we live in a society that doesn’t admit when it venerates — except by way of humor or hyperbole — the word "venerate" has taken on a purely religious meaning.  And from there an assumption is made that if something has to do with religion, it must be something about worshiping God. 

Not a bad guess, but inaccurate.  (It would be like assuming that if something has to do with cars, it must be related to the engine.)  We know that many other things associated with religion — hymnals, pews, pot-luck dinners — are not God.

"Veneration", however, tricks us up, because it involves showing respect, admiration, and deference towards something.   We worry we should only have such feelings towards God.  

To clear up the difference between "veneration" and "worshiping God" try this:  Imagine a hymn that goes, "Jesus, I respect, admire, and defer to you!"  Add any other praise you like, so long as it is something a mere human did or could do. Put it in the most poetic language your culture allows, for a mere man.   (So many northerners thing "sir" and "ma’am" sound like groveling.  Here’s its just simple civility.)

Still, it falls flat.  Makes for good praise of a mere man  — high praise, for a mere man.  But heretical if addressed to God Himself.

The elements of mere veneration are not the same as the worship due to God.   Not the same at all.

May is family reunion season. We had one Saturday up near Chesterfield. Weather was cool and rainy, which isn’t so bad for a picnic – compared to say, hot and buggy – if you’ve got a nice big carport for the pot-luck.

To get there we drove through Bethune, home of Requiem Press. Nice little town, larger than I had remembered. If you like this blog, you may enjoy Bethune Catholic even more.

Sunday we had a coughing toddler – not terribly sick, but not fit to go infect a parish, so the SuperHusband and I took turns going to church. Which gave me my big chance to sneak over to a traditional (Tridentine) Latin Mass, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. (The other choice in my time frame was a Spanish mass, which is also on my to-do list). Dug out the appropriate accessories, and tried my best to be in the back so I could copy other people, not so easy as a number of other attendees apparently had the same idea.

The Mass was just lovely, I was pleased to see what all the excitement is about. Am sure it was more than just the novelty of not holding a shrieking infant through the whole thing, though that didn’t hurt.

Determined that I needed a lot more practice with my Latin, though. Checked my shelves this morning and discovered my closest choices for foreign-language tapes are:

1) Classical Latin (“How to Read Latin Poetry”)

2) Italian

3) Occitan.

Old Latin, New Latin or Gaulish Latin. Hmmn.

 . . . It’s the feast of St. Athanasius.    Butler’s Lives (the older one, which our local public library now circulates) has a gripping telling of his adventures, detailed enough to keep things clear, quick enough to not lose any of the suspense or drama.    Good introduction to church history. 

****

Mother-in-law tells me it’s been hitting the mid-90’s here during the day, and I’m inclined to believe her.  As often seems to happen in May, it’s a deceptive kind of heat — dry and breezy, and cooling down at night.   The type of weather that can make you think, if you are not a pregnant person, that one could manage without air-conditioning and live a fairly comfortable existence.  

***

My apologies for the homeschoolblogger continued wackiness.  Hard to get in a post, but I will try to overcome server-challenges as best I can.