Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, Gooble Gobble!

From The Onion:

“Dear brothers and sisters, it is my deepest joy today to present the life and witness of this humble bird to the Church and welcome him to cluck and cackle among the saints in God’s Kingdom of Heaven,” Pope Francis recited in accordance with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, invoking the name of God three times before inscribing the newly beatified bird, named St. Gobbler, in the catalogue of saints. “Like those who came before, this pure and simple bird lived a life in consecration of Christ the Lord, his gentle gobbles spreading goodness and grace throughout Applewood Farms. May this noble and dignified bird forever bear witness to the Glory of God on earth and shine light in the hearts of the faithful on this most holy day.” Vatican sources say the ceremony was far less controversial than last year’s posthumous canonization of St. Wattle, a 23-pound wild turkey who was burned alive as a heretic in 1690."
To which the communion of saints responded,

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Your Face in the Depths of This Heart (Cinq Grandes Odes)

Paul Claudel

Mercy is not a lifeless gift of something we already have too much of, it is a passion like a knowledge. 
It is a discovery like the knowledge of your face in the depths of this heart which you have made. 
If all your stars are necessary to me, how much more all my brothers?
...Behold the outside world where lies our laic duty, 
Without scorn of one's fellow man, with love of one's fellow man, 
Observing the Ten Commandments better than one sees I knew how to, 
Saying my prayers morning and night and giving each person his due. 

Pope Francis embraces Vicino Riva, a man
 with a tumorous disease, at Nov. 6 Wed. audience

H/T Artur Rosman

Saturday, November 16, 2013

That Strange Word Which Means Its Opposite

Cambridge, January 2001
by Sally Thomas

Seagulls surf the wet
Updrafts over roofs
 A hundred miles inland. 

Every weather's a weather
 Of gulls, a scream against
The bottle-blue or cloud-

 Mottled sky, the one
Constant besides rain
 Spittling the window: 
These birds who revel in being
 Blown off-course. If
They had any idea,

 That is, where they meant
To go in the first place.

 I was never a believer

In resolutions. What's resolve 
 But another word for wish? 
Ask the fisherman's wife

 How far she got on wishes. 
Would I resolve, say, to let
 A third child choose

Itself? What can I 
 Say I wish for? Just now
My two already-wished-for

 Children, resolved into flesh,
Gallop down the hall,
 Speaking in whinnies. 

I wrench the door open 
 And shout, Inside feet! 
What are inside feet? 

 They'd be justified in asking. 
We have the same feet
 Wherever we go. Instead

They say, Okay. They wait
 for the door to close. Gallop
gallop, neigh neigh. Does control

 End at conception? Or
Only our belief in it? 

 The rain's tsunami threatens

To wash the whole country
 Into its inhospitable
Hinterland, the sea. 

 We inhabit a culture of rain,
Learn to speak its commonplaces: 
 Wellieboots, waterproofs-as if

We needed to prove water's
 Existence. We think in a language
At once ours and not ours. 

 At breakfast, our son holds up
A spoon. What's the English
 Word for this? He won’t believe

That spoon could possibly be the answer. 

 Where does it come from, this desire
To shape-shift, to be, say, 

 A horse for the afternoon? 
Perhaps some memory
 Persists, of pre-life, 

Or not pre-life, but life
 Before it's named, flesh and blood, 
Yes, and also possibility. 
 Perhaps children remember 
Without knowing
 The call that makes them 

Step so fluidly out
 Of their bodies, though
They never entirely

 Leave-the body
Goes with them
 Through locked gates, 

Across snowy pastures
 Their hooves leave unprinted. 

Empty branches tap

 The leaded chapel window: 
Stainless daylight, white
 Walls, the unprompted

Revelation of the world
 Not watching us at prayer-
At the motions of prayer, our lips

 Moving over words
Which like our own names
 Begin to lose sense

When we overhear ourselves
 Whispering them-not watching
But with us, cold, 

 Immaculate, clear. 

We never imagined having 
 To say, Take your feet

Off the celery. Don't lick me. 
 The corkscrew is not a toy. 
What did we expect? 

 Amnesia, entropy
Extend their present-tense
 Mercies to our children who are

Not whatever we dreamed:  
 Vague, two-dimensional
Composites of our childhood

 Photographs. Quiet. Able
To play the piano. Sew. 
 Finish what they begin. 

Absolve us of ourselves. 

 After church, a friend
Offers her baby. She
 Drinks her coffee, grateful
For a minute, two hands free. 
 The baby snuffles, exhales

Warmly into my neck,
 And I think, Oh, 
It didn't hurt so much. 

 And other lies, as if I thought
Nothing of having hands
 Open to take the weight

Of a child who won't wake me
 From an hour's sleep. This
Can pass for a decision. 

 My translation of a word
Like goal. Or sane. 
 I could fit a travel cot

Between my bed and desk-
 Anything's possible. Or if
Impossible, still possibly worth doing. 

 Cot:  what the baby
Sleeps in. Crib:  what
 The manger becomes when surrounded

By plaster statuettes wearing painted
 Looks of reverence or weariness-never
Surprise, though you would think

 Someone might have been surprised. 

In bed, in the borrowed
 Time before the alarm,  

We hold each other, hoping 
 Maybe this time it won't 
Happen, the day will hang

 Back shyly at its own
Threshold. Even now
 The sky is paling, a white

Sliver between the curtains. 
 Eleven years married, are we
Any closer to knowing

 What we want? Our wedding
Vows told us precious
  Little. Not what to

Expect, only to cleave, 
 That strange word which means
Its opposite. I close

 My eyes. This could be
A stranger's body my hands

 Move across, mapping again
Desire's universal, alien terrain. 

 O for the wings-but where
Would I go? Where are you not? 

 All of you, husband, children, 
Calling my name, calling me
 Back from myself, back into

Myself. Erasable
 Only by death. This
Must be what it means,

 One flesh. I carry
Your voices in the pocket
 Of my ear. We speak

Of making vows, lovemaking, 
 As if such things didn't exist
Until we think. 

 And they occur to us. 

Morning wind hurls itself 
 Against the house, forces rain
In through the absence

 Of caulking. In watery daylight
Beached raindrops glint
 Like jellyfish along
The windowsill. Outside, 
 Birds are still free-falling
Like leaves across the housetops, 

 Blown away but never out of the sky.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

St. Joseph's Abbey, Covington, Louisiana

Walker with Mary "Bunt" Townsend Percy

Before leaving, I snuck inside the empty church at St. Joseph's Abbey to pray and ended up wandering around, checking out the art and architecture. 

St. Catherine of Sienna

St. Cecilia

St. Mary Magdalene

Mary with Christ, flanked by the angel Gabriel and John the Baptist, winged I forget why

All the paintings in the church were by Dom Gregory de Wit, a
Dutch monk I'd heard of before. I'd hoped to swing by Sacred Heart
in Baton Rouge just to see his work, and turns out I didn't have to.

SS. Benedict and Scholastica

Update sidenote: Almost forgot, on the way home I got lost in New Orleans and happened to pass by this house as they were setting up for the outside shot.

Deux: Percy once said something to the effect that the average American is extraordinarily kind and surprisingly dumb. Well, having gotten myself into being nearly stranded about twenty miles to Beaumont with no gas, a frozen debit account and a dead phone (and still making it back in time for lunch with the folks, though I'd promised them breakfast), I can vouch. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers.