1 April 2015

The cross is not a Rorschach Test

Some years ago, I attended  a Stations of the Cross at my old home parish.  The meditations on each station that evening had a phrase that kept popping up over and over again, rather as a refrain:  "my other self".  That was what Jesus represented to whomever wrote the reflections:  "my other self."  The whole thing reeked of an indecent narcissism - it turned the Passion and Death of Our Savior into something that was All About Us.  I had hoped that this was a isolated reflection, but a few years after that I attended Stations on another Good Friday at the Cathedral itself, and the same reflections were used.

I have heard that the Pope is rumored to be using another set of reflections for his Stations on Good Friday this year.  It is not the reflections I have heard, thankfully, but unfortunately, it doesn't look good.  Here is the reflection for the Station "Christ is Crucified":

We gaze at you, Jesus, as you are nailed to the cross, and our conscience is troubled. We anxiously ask: When will the death penalty, still practiced in many states, be abolished?...  When will every form of torture and the violent killing of innocent persons come to an end? Your Gospel is the surest defense of the human person, of every human being.

I am not going to argue the death penalty here.  A Catholic in good conscience may be for or against it.  That is not my point at the moment.  What I would like to point out is what this reflection has in common with the other:  The author is projecting onto the passion and death of Our Lord what they want or what their concerns of the day are, and steadfastly refusing to see what is there.   There is a tendency within the church to see almost anything else but what is there to be seen. 

Just like the phrase "Eucharistic Celebration" has replaced "Holy Sacrifice of the Mass", these reflections turn us away from the sacrifice, from the moment of our salvation, and direct our attention elsewhere.  It treats the cross like a Rorschach ink blot, devoid of meaning except what we project onto it.  That is false.  The Cross is Real:  it stands at the heart of our faith.  It begins our faith.  It is true, or nothing is true. It has meaning, or nothing has meaning, and yet time and time again we are told to turn away from that meaning and see something else- our own precious selves, or some political cause of the moment- even on the day when the cross stands before in the most glaring light.

30 March 2015

Second assessment

We had his second assessment, and now we have the diagnosis we need so we can try and get him some help. 

To those of you who shared your inspiring stories of how your children were diagnosed on the ASD but grew out of it, thank you for sharing, but that's not our situation.

Update, or at least, a second thought:

I may have sounded a bit harsh above.  For that, I apologize.  I had been holding on to hope that somehow, everything would turn out hunky dory.  But his diagnosis was more severe than we had expected, coupled with the specialist's belief that he also has some cognitive impairment, so I am in the process of letting go of the old hopes.  It is bitter, but at this point I must rid myself of what I want or wanted to be true and embrace what is in fact true,.  Only then will I be able to help my son in the way he needs.  

That is not to say I am in despair.  Giving up some lost hopes is not the same as giving up all hope.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

My soul is deprived of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is; I tell myself my future is lost, all that I hoped for from the LORD. The thought of my homeless poverty is wormwood and gall; Remembering it over and over leaves my soul downcast within me. But I will call this to mind, as my reason to have hope: The favors of the LORD are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent; They are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness. My portion is the LORD, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him. Good is the LORD to one who waits for him, to the soul that seeks him; It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the LORD.

24 March 2015

First assessment

Yesterday Puff and I took Frodo to a specialist for his first assessment.  We are trying to find out if, or more accurately, where he sits on the Autism Spectrum. 

Frodo was lead off to one room where he would be examined by a specialist who would observe and ask him questions as he played while Puff and I were taken to another where we were asked questions about our son.   The questions were about how he has developed so far, and pinpoint his progress so far.   It was... enlightening, I suppose, although one could also say disheartening.  It drove home just how far behind he is.

Does your son engage you in conversation?  For instance, if asked will he tell you about his day?  No.

Does he use verbs in their ing form?  As far as we know, no.  (to be fair, he actually began using 'ing' verbs that very day on the way home.)

Does he parallel play with other children?  He used to.  He doesn't now.  Oh, so now he fully interacts with the children?  No- the opposite.  He does not interact with them at all.

Does he have any friends at school?


And so the conversation went.  The woman was nice to us.  At no point did I have any sense that she was judging us, but she didn't have to.  I was judging me.  With every question and every 'no' answer.my judgment against myself grew harder.  How did I miss all of this?

Things are getting tougher for Frodo.  He is now on his third Kindergarten teacher- it has nothing to do with him, but for some reason the school keeps transferring his teachers to other classes.  The current teacher has strongly suggested to us, through her assistant, that it would be for the best if Frodo only attend for the morning.  They so little want Frodo there they objected when Puff agreed to pick him up during the lunch break, when the kids were on the playground.  Could she not pick him up before lunch began?  When asked why, the assistant became evasive.   It's like they don't want to be bothered with him any more.  He doesn't mind being picked up early, though.  He hates school.  In that he is advanced:  it took the girls until grade three before they hated school.

A few months ago I took Frodo to school.  As we were walking in A little girl walking with her mother squealed and pointed.  "Look there, Mommy!  That's Frodo! That's who I was just telling you about!"  The mother looked rather embarrassed and quickly hushed her daughter and forced her arm down before she hurried the girl off to another part of the playground.

What will happen when we get the assessment?  Will we be able to get him the help he needs, or will he just be written off  as the autistic kid?  I hate that this is not in our hands, and yet, as I listened to the long list of questions, I felt that I failed him when he was in my hands.  But this isn't about me or my feelings.  It's about him and the help he needs.

We take him back for his next assessment on Monday.

17 March 2015

Happy St Patrick's Day.

As you know, there are only two types of people in the world: Those who are Irish, and those who wish they were.

Enjoy the day, and remember to honour the great man whose day this is.

16 March 2015

It's Easter, so here come the lies.

Once again we are being flooded with a new crop of real Jesuses, real authentic Christianity, and ways we have to go if we are to survive.  Today the Toronto Star weighs in with an article entitled: "Atheist minister praises the glory of good at Scarborough church" .  A minister for the United Church of Canada (where else?) has who considers herself a "post theist" has abandoned God in her church and her preaching and uses her post as "a venue for criticizing traditional Christianity."  She lost about half her congregation when she began, going down to about fifty people, but has since gotten her numbers back up- to seventy!  With a median age of about seventy five!  Now there's a church with a future!

Somehow, the author for the Star considers this to be a success story: "But with an average Sunday attendance of about 70, West Hill is prospering, relatively speaking, while churches throughout the Western world shrink and wither."  'Relatively speaking' is about the only way this is prospering.  Relatively speaking, getting a congregation, losing about half of it, then getting about forty percent of the numbers that left back are somehow a great success- if you overlook the overall thirty percent decline.   That is  speaking relatively, of course, or to use the technically correct term, speaking a great load of BS.  Objectively speaking, this is an abject failure.  

The conclusion states the secret behind this minister's glorious 'success'- "All they had to do, it turns out, was get rid of God."

Oh, well done. Absolutely no political program here.  This author- sorry, editor of The Star- went out of his way to find someone with a church who presumably suits his views, spun their utter failure into a success, and then turned it into a program for all churches to follow if they want the same relative success.   Very good sir.

We'll be sure to get right to work on that.

12 March 2015

New Basilica

I'm a little late to the party, but I recently learned that back in December, Pope Francis elevated Our Lady Immaculate in Guelph (which I wrote about here and here)to the status of minor basilica.

The elevation coincided with the completion of renovations to the church. The renovations don't look too bad, and could have been much worse, but, they seem to have left the church a little bland. I'll say more abot that another day. For now, congratulations on the elevation. It is a great honour.

Interesting fact: This is the third church designed by architect Joseph Connolly to be designated a basilica. The others are St Peter's Cathedral Basilica in London Ontario, and St Paul's Basilica in Toronto. I wonder if that's a record for an architect.

9 March 2015

On answers

Why oh why is it that when I ask one question, people answer six or seven questions I did not ask, and maybe incidentally (but not always) the one that I did?

Today I asked a coworker: "Have you heard anything about the ratification vote?"

She said: "The meeting takes place between 4:30 and 8:00 tonight, so we'll all be home by the time it happens. And by the time the votes are counted, it will be around 10:00. It might be on the late news, but I doubt the university will be able to be up and running by the morning, so classes and such will not resume until Wednesday by the earliest. At any rate, we've already decided to change our hours for this week, so you'll still have to come in tomorrow at 9:00 instead of he usual 11:00."

How on earth was that an answer to my question? Either she decided she could read my mind and answer the questions she saw hidden behind the question I did ask, or she just likes to hear the sound of her own voice. I already knew about the ramifications of the vote, so she was not telling me anything I didn't already know. But this happens to me all the time. People answer what they think I am asking, and not what I am actually asking. It is confusing and frustrating. This is one of the reasons I don't talk much to other people.

Let me show you what would have happened had she actually answered my question.

Me:"Have you heard anything about the ratification vote?"

Her: "No."

Isn't that much simpler?

Singing at Mass again.

I sang at Mass for the last three Sundays. I thought yesterday would be the last I would be singing at Mass for some time, but then the music director/ organist asked if I could sing the Easter morning Mass. I should have considered it a great honour of which I am unworthy, but the first thought that ran through my head was that the sopranos must be busy- which, as it turns out, was true. It's nice to be wanted.

The other week I was practicing with the Music Director and my singing teacher. I asked the director if we could go over Schubert's Ave Maria, as I am trying to expand my musical repertoire in preparation for hopefully joining the wedding and funeral circuit where I will, hopefully, Get Paid. The entire time I sang the Ave Maria my teacher was looking at me with a facial experssion which I read as "Why on earth would you want to sing that?" Afterwards, he warned me to sing it like I was walking a tightrope and to be wary aout making a mistake, as it will not be missed. He has a point. There is no happy ending to singing that song, or the Bach Gounod version of the Ave Maria. They have both been done to death, and by the greatest singers in the world. No one looks good in comparison. No matter how well I sing, no one will come up to me afterwards and say: "I have heard that sung by Pavarotti, Domingo, Sutherland, De Los Angelos, Price, Del Monaco, Bjorling- even Caruso himself- but I have to say your version was the best."

At any rate, for Easter I am preparing the Victimae Paschali Laudes sequence, which has never been sung at my church as long as I have been going, the communion proper in Latin, and the Marian Antiphon for Easter to sing post communion. I imagine Christ the Lord is Risen Today will be on the menu for the day. I don't know what I'll do for communion yet, but I'll come up with something. In the past when the sopranos sung for Easter they usually had some festive closing piece - one year it was an aria from Handel, I believe. It was quite glorious. The director often prepares an organ postlude. One year it was Widor's Toccata, another he had a violinist and together they played an organ violin redaction of the Allegro from Vivaldi's Concerto in A minor. I hope he does something similar this year, at least for his part. Easter is one of the occasions where it is only proper we pull out all the stops, and I love to hear a good organist putting a decent instrument through its paces. I doubt he'll have me singing anything grand. As he has pointed out to me on multiple occasions, the sopranos are better trained, and generally better singers than I. Not to sound bitter, but I really only needed to hear it once, and not even then. I had figured it out.