Sunday, November 17, 2019

Chances Are...

Last week I opened an email from our local library announcing to me that a book that I had had on the reserve list for 8 weeks was finally mine to pick up. What joy! This is an author that one of my more literate friends got me hooked on a couple years ago, so when I saw that he had a new book I got on the list. What a great, really great writer. His name is Richard Russo, he is a Pulitzer Prize winner and is, for me, a kind of male Anne Tyler, whom I also love. I like their writing for the same reason: they write about the extraordinary in the ordinary.

This new one by Russo, with an ellipsis in the title, seems set up to be classic Russo. Here's a little from the book flap: "Russo is renowned for his astute, masterful understanding of community...Shot through with his trademark comedy and humanity, his latest bristles with suspense and menace..." A perfect beginning to one of my favorite winter survival techniques: hunkering down with great books!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Life is grey

We got to hear a wonderful presentation this evening about Christian ministry and how it is and should be changing in this country and in our Catholic Church. Dr. Greg Baker from our local Mercyhurst University shared his ideas on how "pastoral power" is not the mechanism to lead people on their faith journey, but rather accompanying people on their paths of freedom, guiding people along their own seeking is the better way. He used the analogy of fences--that tend to control and hold in, contrasting them with porous boundaries that allow coming and going with the freedom of adulthood.

He shared the statistic that in 1970 55% of US Catholics attended Mass weekly. In 2018 it was 21%. Something is not resonating with seekers. He stressed that this is not at all a Catholic-only trend, as 26% of Americans now identify themselves as "unaffiliated" in religion.

It was a great presentation, full of contemporary, yet solid perspectives and concerns. Greg complimented us on the many social justice areas we address, but we think that with people as himself by our side, they are all the more meaningful, powerful and enriching.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Special weekend

Two special experiences stand out this week, no, let's make that three.

In nature, it's THE week when our larch tree is in its golden glory. Usually one of the last whose leaves turn from green to gold, as well as one of the last to get those leaves again in the spring, it's such a special tree. We get a first hand view of it every day as it is located right outside the dining room.

On the guest list, four of the writers of the book Dear Joan (see the blog entry below) came to visit for the weekend. It was delightful to see them again. They had a chance to visit with Sister Joan, to join us in prayer and just to be "on site" after a year and a half since their first visit. I heard that many of them are doing things with the book: offering retreats, book club sharing, Q & A's. Good for them. The book has already sold over 1,000 copies.

Third, after two weekends in a row of community meetings and obligations, it was nice to have a "free" one and to see so many of the sisters enjoying a weekend to visit friends, catch up on projects, watch movies or TV and just relax.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019


Today I'm going to plug one of our newer books, Dear Joan Chittister: conversations with women in the church that was published a few months ago. It's a very, very interesting little book, put together by eleven 22-35 year old women who attended a spirituality institute here that Benetvision sponsored a couple years ago. All of them are somehow involved in theology or religious studies or a similar area. In the book they each write a short letter about an issue and Sister Joan responds in a letter back to them.

The topics range from such things as:mentoring younger women, divorce and its effects on women, how to handle patriarchy in parishes, how to live authentically. In this month's US Catholic magazine, with a cover story ironically on Benedictine monks in Chicago, they ran a excerpt from the book---a full letter to and from Joan. The subject was: male only pronouns versus inclusive language. I don't know where to buy this issue, outside of libraries such as ours, but here's a 5-minute youtube video of the editor, Jessie, giving an overview.

The whole concept of young, educated Catholic women musing over the things about "church" that interest and bother them, is very attractive and interesting. Listen to Jessie and enjoy. BTW, six of the eleven letter writers are going to be here this weekend for a kind of reunion and to celebrate their project.

P.S. if you'd like a copy of the excerpt in the magazine, I'll send you one, just ask.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Bag Man

In the early 1970s my interests swayed little from my dedication to becoming a good high school teacher and the same for becoming a finally professed religious woman. I had little knowledge of the stories behind the political news of the day and, therefore, only got the big picture of Watergate and the Nixon era. Now, forty years later, along comes Rachel Maddow and her unique and compelling brand of storytelling to get the whole picture behind current events.

Recently Rachel produced a series of seven audio programs, Bag Man, on the background stories that led to the resignation of Vice-president Spiro Agnew, an event that was a pivotal prelude to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. They read like a modern day spy/thriller and have eerie similarities to today's political picture!

I want to encourage you to give them a try. Just listen to the first one (they are each only 30 minutes long). And, if you are hooked, as I was, I know you'll be fascinated with this time in our recent history, knowing now how things evolved over the next four decades and what could have happened--had things gone another way.