Musings on Muses
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Better Weather, Less Blogging
Well, it looks like the weather had decided that it is Fall for the moment. I'm wearing sweaters and wanting coffee again. I even saw some greater Canada geese fly over head.
And I just found out I have another deadline. Tomorrow. I have to whip something up about the misconception that NFP is "Catholic Contraception" in about 4 hours so that there's time for editing.
See y'all again in a day or two.
Thursday, October 23, 2003
Can You Believe It's October!?!
It's 90 degrees out here. N.I.N.E.T.Y. ...Nine-zero.
I just want to look at turning leaves and wear sweaters and sip tea and it's still beach weather during the day.
OTOH, it will make moving in a few weeks very nice indeed. Crisp fall days finally settling in as the movers take all of our worldly possessions out of the house.
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Halloween and the Culture of (Silenced) Death
I am going to step up and admit that Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. From my earliest years, I loved dressing up in costumes, getting candy, and seeing what fun and spooky decorations people came up with. Carving the pumpkin was up there with decorating the Christmas tree and dyeing Easter eggs. We worked every year to make our front yard terrifying and inviting, putting up cobwebs and scarecrows.
Since my not so long ago childhood, Halloween has become big business. Many Christians have begun to shy away from it because of its nebulous connections to pagan ceremonies and the neo-pagan movements embrace of the night for activities utterly different from trick-or-treating and bobbing for apples. Meanwhile, it has become a commercial goldmine as merchants hawk not only costumes and candy, but lights, decorative tabletop villages, ornaments, and other decor.
I suspect that the commercial success of the holiday has very little to do with the neo-pagan emergence. Yes, we are becoming more superstitious as a society but that is really just a reaction to the atheistic tendencies of the past few decades. We are on a eternal flux between materialism and superstition and the pendulum is just swinging back the other way. This is hardly the first time that a vast number of people have been interested in the more silly and harmless looking aspects of the occult.
No, I think that the popularity of Halloween has to do with something entirely different. It has to do with the Culture of Death. Because one of the curious aspects of the Culture of Death is that it makes Death a forbidden subject to talk about. Abortion is not viewed as murder (and thus not death), neither is euthanasia, and no one admits that contraceptives can act as abortifacients. Children are shielded not only from violence but also from reality. We no longer take our kids to funerals, even of close family members, for fear that it might scare them. Death is something that occurs quietly, off to the sides, in the shadows, in clinics, in retirement homes, out of the public eye. We ignore the mortality of others so that we can ignore our own.
And we need an outlet. In the days when death was a daily part of life, when children attended funerals, when war occured close to home, not half a world away, when plagues and other diseases decimated populations, we had outlets. Our fairy tales weren't so squeaky clean back then. They were tales full of warning, that wolves lived in the woods and would eat you if you strayed from the path, that death lurked round every corner. And we also had Requiems. How long has it been since you've heard one? In church, not in a concert hall. How long has it been since you've been to a funeral Mass? How long since you've remembered to attend not only the All Saints Day Mass, but also All Souls? How long since you've thought of the departed, the Dead?
All Hallow's Eve is the last vestige of a culture that dealt with Death. And in dealing with death, it could not commit quiet sanitary murders so easily, because death was a reality. It's no wonder people love the spookiness of Halloween. It's the one day of the year when we can confront mortality head on. And because we are part of a Culture of Death, we never go beyond laughing in the face of Death.
Monday, October 20, 2003
Thanks to the Two Sleepy Mommies for adding me to their blogroll.
Friday, October 17, 2003
New Move Date
Well, my current employer has decided I ought to leave by the end of this month. So we will be moving sooner than we thought.
It looks like it might be a blessing in disguise since it will give us either a) more time to pack or b) a much earlier move date.
For those wondering about the column, I will have a link established to a PDF of the South Plains Catholic once it hits the presses.
Monday, October 13, 2003
Woohoo! I just sent off my first column to be ripped to shreds by an editor. And two days before deadline. South Plains Catholic readers look out. You're witnessing the birth of a writer.
Thursday, October 09, 2003
Well, I ended up getting to a dentist Tuesday afternoon. Root canal. I'm now on Vicodin and trying my hardest to stay awake and not make simple transposition errors while at work. On the bright side, my teeth aren't throbbing anymore and I've been sleeping real well.
We've begun the planning process for the move. If you have any ideas on how to make it go smoothly let me know. Tonight, I'm taking down all the posters, and this weekend I'll tackle knick-knacks and other clutter. Hopefully I can tackle summer clothes this weekend.
Also, I'm working on a column on the myths of Natural Family Planning. If you are an NFP practitioner and had to have a few myths debunked before you would try it, let me know what they were.
Tuesday, October 07, 2003
Toothache (aka Petty Excuse #418)
I was intending to do a post on actual versus active participation and how the understanding and translation of the word aftects the current liturgy, including the focus of community upon itself. But I a toothache which has kept me up all night. Nothing to worry about, just a temporary pain, probably from grinding my teeth over this move that's coming up. I'm going to be a zombie today and I have a bulletin to publish for Sunday. (Just think what your parish secretary goes through to get that bulletin Sunday morning. Don't you think you ought to read it, not just skim during the homilies...)
Monday, October 06, 2003
Oh the Places You'll Go
It looks like I'll be leaving the South Plains in a few months. Most likely heading down to New Orleans. Dallas is the next likeliest. Either way, big changes.
If all goes as planned, I will transition from church secretary/financial wizard/everyday tech/desktop publisher/firefighter to Stay At Home Mom, hopefully with a few columns. I'll have more time to write, so I should be able to have daily blog posts. I'm looking to see if the diocesan newpaper will pick up my fledgling NFP column (coming soon to a South Plains Catholic near you!). Also hoping the Time-Picayune might be interested in something. We'll see. In addition, I'll have time to work on my books.
To Mark Shea for mentioning my blog on his site. My traffic has doubled. Must continue updating blogroll...
Friday, October 03, 2003
On Baptism and the place of Fellowship
My son was baptized into the Catholic church this weekend. We had a private ceremony (not the custom around here) with the family and friends gathered in from out of town. We chose pouring over immersion (also not the custom around here) and had a lovely christening gown, destined to be a family heirloom, made by my mother-in-law. In short, it was a fairly traditional affair.
It was a study in contrasts to see how my family and friends reacted to my very untraditional church. Don’t get me wrong. I really like the pastor and he’s done a lot to rein in the liturgical wackiness. But it is definitely not our aesthetic preference.
Our church (which will remain nameless) was founded in the late seventies, during the energy crisis. I mention the energy crisis because this seems to be the driving force behind the architectural concept. It is halfway underground, windowless, and until last year, had windmills atop the roof to help with the power bills. The liturgical style also dates from the seventies. We have had the same woman heading the liturgy since then and she is suited to charismatic worship, modern hymnody, and really ugly altar decorations. And the baptisms tend to be during Mass, naked, by immersion. All valid options but not to our taste.
Sunday morning, the day after the baptism, all of the Catholic friends and family went to our church for Mass. My charismatic friend liked the pastor but cringed at the music, a mélange of the greatest hits of Haugen, Haas, and Schutte. My mother was noncommittal. My mother-in-law gave her condolences to us. And my grandparents loved it.
I think the most interesting reaction was my grandparents. You see, they complained that their parish back home in Sacramento is dead and they loved how alive the parish seemed. They are convinced that what the youth need is guitars and clapping to get us engaged. Excuse me, but I am the youth and I don’t think that these are appropriate or enticing.
The problem, as I see it, is that it is not enough for a parish to feel alive or have great community. Because I have been in parishes and mass communities that do have these things without the clapping and guitars. In fact some of the closest communities I’ve been in were a Latin Mass community and a Byzantine Catholic parish. There were young people there who loved the tradition of chant, knew that chatting in the sanctuary was inappropriate, and that fellowship was not the main purpose of the Sunday obligation.
Fellowship is the point of Altar Societies, prayer groups, the Knights of Columbus, Bible studies, and a million other things. The point of the Mass is worship. Of God. Not the community. If we were Protestants, the point of getting together is to worship God of course, but you can do that anywhere so Sunday service really is another opportunity for fellowship. But for Catholics, the Mass is a sacrifice where Christ is truly present in body, blood, soul, divinity. Would we be trying so hard to build community if we really realized that? Wouldn’t the appropriate reaction be to enter the sanctuary, awed that we have the privilege of being in the presence of the Lord Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, and kneel in silence. How reverently would we approach the altar at communion. Would we not try to match the angels in songs of praise? And afterwards, our little hour of heaven completed, when we are finally sent forth, would not then be the time for fellowship? Is a Catholic church filled with chatter really alive?