Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Elena Marie and I trundled off to Mass last weekend, and she was very pleased to find herself in the pew behind Ate, Tita Josie, Kuya Ramon and Kuya Kyle. We did what we always do at Mass: she implored for me to hold her (ostensibly to see the priest, which is a valid ostentation for a 5-year-old), and I denied her, and then she pouted, and then we moved on and paid attention to the Mass. Elena Marie flipped through the missal, looking for the responsorial psalm, then I helped her. Then she had to go potty (must remember to require the kids use the bathroom at home before going to Mass!), and then she complained she was tired. Mass-business as usual.

What was such a pleasure for us was to see Kuya Kyle there. See, I was called in to talk with him. About what, I didn't know until we started talking: he has renounced his belief in God. I was so flummoxed by this statement that I couldn't marshal a response (so much for my Christian apologetics). So, to see him at Mass, for any reason, was a cause to celebrate.

I have a question: does sending a child to Catholic school increase the likelihood that they renounce the Faith? In my experience, it seems like these two things are linked by causality.

When we went up for communion, Elena Marie observed that Kuya Kyle wasn't going, so she asked why. I told her to ask her kuya, but then she put on her shy face.

I'm currently also working on my agnostic friend, Mike. Now, if he went to Mass this last weekend, that'd be a "God 2-fer". I invited him to morning Mass this last weekend, but he said he wouldn't go because he had to go to Mass at 3 pm for a relative's death anniversary. Win!

"Yup," Mike said, "you can tell God you had absolutely everything to do with me going to Mass this weekend."
"Hm," I replied, "the word after 'absolutely' I was thinking of was quite different..."

Mike has a little girl on the way, and I believe him going to Mass will help his family, as it has helped mine. But, of course, nothing is ever that simple. Elena Marie believes in the Real Presence because her parents believe in the Real Presence. Isabel thinks about God and Heaven because her parents think about, and believe in, God and Heaven. If they saw me going to Mass, just to go to Mass, they would smell my phoniness a mile away. So, one could argue (erroneously) that going to Mass is a waste of time.

But, then, on the other hand ("there are 5 fingers"), the Real Presence is Real. One is closer to the Communion of Saint because one participates, along with the rest of the congregation of believers, in the sacrifice of the Mass. One is keeping the Sabbath holy, and therefore doing an absolute Good and avoiding mortal sin. On a purely secular level: the homily is edifying, and, after all, it's just an hour one is "wasting". To put Blaise Pascal's wager succinctly: "If I go to Mass, and there is no God, I've lost nothing. If I avoid Mass, and there is a God, I've lost everything."

Anyway, Mass was good: I received our Lord, and the deacon's homily was about the Lord disciplining those He loves (which related to the second reading for the Mass), which is always an à propos message, being an eternal one and all ...

Monday, August 27, 2007

A funny thing happened to me on my way to reconciliation with God ...

We Catholic-Christians have this "silly" ritual: we confess our sins to Christ (yes, it is Christ that we confess to: the Christ, through the priest physically present, in alter Christus, who then forgives us our sins). Now, let's think about this miracle for a moment: I have offended God through a sin committed or omitted, and God, in His infinite Mercy, forgives me, and through His infinite Justice pays for my offense through His Own self-sacrifice.

"All roads lead to Calvary ..."

With me still? Because I've lost me: why would God ever forgive my sins? When, after all, I find it very hard to forgive myself. Now, try forgiving somebody who's sinned against you. Okay, have you done that? Now, imagine doing that over and over again, perfectly. Parenting might be a hint of God's Mercy, but I think my ability to fathom this miracle is extremely limited, even as pater familias, as the below stories illustrate.

I was waiting in the faster line at the confessional (you didn't know that queuing theory makes you efficacious in spirituality, now, did you? Well, then, there it is). We where moving along at a fair clip, but the lady in line in front of me turns to me, out of the blue, and begins aping a confessor who just doesn't stop confessing. To be sure, the lady ahead of her did have her Rosary out (a sure warning sign that this particular confession would be a prolooooooooonged affair), but her confession took no longer than anyone else's. Apparently, she forgot the "waiting for the bus" rule: the bus takes twice as long as you think it will when you're waiting for it at the bus stop (if you matriculate in the field of Operations Research, you find this rule explicated in the stocastic models course). So, when our angry lady stormed into the confessional, I checked my cell. When she stormed out, 8 minutes later, to spit out her penance in front of the Presence of our Most Blessed Lord, I did not inform her that she took exactly twice as long as the poor lady bearing the brunt of her anger ...

I didn't tell this angry lady this, but the gentleman two places behind me accosted the soon-to-be-innocent in front of him: "DOES CONFESSION ALWAYS TAKE THIS LONG?" The young man behind me, who I will vouchstaff for sainthood if God wants my opinion, answered quietly: "I don't know, it depends, I guess." The angry man behind me didn't let it go: "WELL, DOES THE PRIEST SPEAK ENGLISH?"

Now, where in the world did that accusation come from?

The young man, a model of patience, replied: "I don't know, it depends on who the priest is, I guess." "HUH! WELL, THIS WILL BE INTERESTING!"

I blame foot-mouth-itis for my useless addition to this conversation: "Sir, this is the faster line ..."

Now, where in the world did that comment come from, and what does my comment matter, anyway?

"FASTER IS A RELATIVE TERM!" was the harumph I got for my trouble. I did not tell this man that he could test his theory of relativity by trying out the other line.

Oops, my turn. The priest heard my confession (I didn't confess my offenses of thoughts about how God could improve his creation in two particular cases in the a particular confession line or the future sin about my next thought). I received, in English, my penance and did it, quickly.

Everything was right with God, again ... that is, vis-à-vis me, or so I thought. Driving along, I checked my rear-view mirror: the very chic young man in the very tinted sunglasses, with the very black hotrod had a card hanging from his mirror ... like a moth to the flame, I translated the backwards writing:

"I >heart< MY P*N*S" -- (vowels editted out by author)

Eddie Murphy states the man who shot Pope JPII didn't want to wait in line (Satan: "You shot the Pope? Come right in!"). The "huh!" I uttered after reading our young man's narcissistic ode will probably put me right up front, too.

A few weeks ago, a priest delivered a relevant homily (it, too, was in English) from the Colosians (as my brother Bob Colosi likes to say). He said: "If we are no longer Greek or Jew, then God loves you as He loves me. So, if you are crying, then, by God's Grace, I should be sad, too, and comfort you in your sorrow, for if I'm happy when you are sad, I'm not seeing the Christ in you." I don't know when I'll learn this lesson, but I had better learn it quickly, for this life is over soon.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sandra Boynton Moment

Last weekend, we had a "thank you for visiting us, Tata Dennis" luncheon (Diane cooked everything) where we invited Diane's extended family from two houses (from one: Tito Levee, Tita Femme, Aileen and from the other: Mike and Malou). Near the conclusion of the lunch, Isabel sat on Tita Malou's lap and sang the following song:

Go to sleep, my zoodle
My fibbety fitsy foo
Go to sleep, sweet noodle
The owl is whispering, Moo.

This song is one of the seven bits of poesy from Snoozers
by Sandra Boynton (our current-day Dr. Seuss -- who, by the way, has count'm 1-2-3 primary websites (the last one will please Mike with its straight-up Massachusetts-centric focus on the good Doctor) ... Boynton concentrates on Dinosaurs and Hippos than Elephants (named Horton) and Hoos, but you get the point. Actually, Felicia Bond has a lovely set of books, headed by Tumble Bumble, that gives Sandra a good run, but I digress ...) and when Li'l Iz sings that song on my lap, it's a moment of ecstasy for me.

So, Malou, I hope you enjoyed your zoodle moment, because I certainly enjoyed watching you two have that moment together.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A stream of poetry

I recently saw these pictures on my desktop from a vacation in Punta Fuego we had back in 2003:


and I sang e.e.cumming's poem again:


maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

Uppermost in my mind, besides, of course, Robert Frost's poems (is it, then, a civic duty of every New Englander to think in Frostian cadence?), are a couple of old Chinese and Japanese poems:

The Little Fête, by Li Po

I take a bottle of wine, and I go to drink it among the flowers
We are always three, counting my shadow and my friend the shimmering moon.
Happily, the moon knows nothing of drinking, and my shadow is never thirsty.

When I sing, the moon listens to me in silence.
When I dance, my shadow dances, too.

After all festivities, the guests must depart.
This sadness I do not know:
When I go home, the moon goes with me,
and my shadow follows me.

This translation is intoned on Vangelis' China, but a very different translation is reproduced at the author's site.

I also recently reran into a pensée from a Go-playing friend, David Matson ...

"Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things."
Okakura Tenshin

... which, surreally, goes very well with this week's reading from Ecclesiastes, chapter 1:

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

Seymour makes an appearance here, via his brother, Buddy:

" My personal phobias aside, I don't really believe there is a word, in any language - thank God - to describe the Chinese or Japanese poet's choice of material. I wonder who can find a word for this kind of thing: A proud, pompous Cabinet member, walking in his courtyard and reliving a particularly devastating speech lie made that morning in the Emperor's presence, steps, with regret, on a pen-and-ink sketch someone has lost or discarded. (Woe is me, there's a prose writer in our midst; I have to use italics where the Oriental poet wouldn't.) The great Issa will joyfully advise us that there's a fat-faced peony in the garden. (No more, no less. Whether we go to see his fat-faced peony for ourselves is another matter; unlike certain prose writers and Western poetasters, whom I'm in no position to name off, he doesn't police us.) The very mention of Issa's name convinces me that the true poet has no choice of material. The material plainly chooses him, not he it. A fat-faced peony will not show itself to anyone but Issa - not to Buson, not to Shiki, not even to Basho. With certain prosaic modifications, the same rule holds for the proud and pompous Cabinet member. He will not dare to step with divinely human regret on a piece of sketch paper till the great commoner, bastard, and poet Lao Ti-kao has arrived on the scene to watch. The miracle of Chinese and Japanese verse is that one pure poet's voice is absolutely the same as another's and at once absolutely distinctive and different."

... which really isn't a poem, but a steam, nay, a river of thought.

So, am I sad because I read these poems; or do I recall these poems when I'm sad?

Monday, August 6, 2007

Wishing Well

Diane sent me on a quest:
Retrievest thou a table of sturdy construction by which we will instruct the brood

This devolved into going to Washington D.C. to pick up a table from Italian student named Shasha (she was quite taken with Elena Marie) that Diane had bought off of Craig's List.

Mission accomplished, and with very little fuss or distraction (except my constant gawking: Dear, look, that sushi bar has a happy hour! Her: Dear!).

So, to reward my effacacy, Diane allowed lunch at Teaism, where I enjoy (salmon) hand-roll bento, and the children (the brood) enjoy lounging by the indoor koi pond (Me: Elena Marie, don't put your finger into the pond, the fish will bite it off! Elena Marie: But that boy put his finger in the pond, and the fish didn't eat it. Me, getting creative: Well, that's because he didn't wash his hands. Me, to Isabel: Don't feed the fish that rice, only the cook feeds the fish at certain times. Isabel: But, Papa, they look so hungry! -- there is no denying the pitiful looks from the fish with their mouths gaping above the waterline).

So, with lunch done and table collected, we started our trek back to the parking space (only 2 blocks away; Fancy that, Hedda!), but we were deterred by a large Naval ceremony. (Me: Dear, look! Diane: Dear!) As the children were enchanted, we stayed for part of the ceremony (that I found out from an NCO was a retirement ceremony -- thank goodness: with so many family so well-dressed and looking so sad, I was afraid it was for our kids (who have kids: I just returned from a 6-bagger baptism where one of the kids was in a full-dress corporal Marine uniform) who didn't make in the Gulf). But, after the parade of the Colors, the long speeches began, so we decided to leave. However, as the ceremony was by a monument that had a well and fountain, Elena Marie dug in her heels and demanded coinage to make a wish. I granted her her dime (I was out of pennies), and recalled Isabel, who had already started walking off with her mother who had places to go, and very little time to get there! Both Elena Marie and Isabel cast in their coins and told me their wishes.

EM, the material girl: I wished for money, so I can buy things!
... and off she raced to catch up with her receding mother.
Isabel, holding my hand, and always wanting to be like até: I wished for money!

We walked along for a bit, Isabel and I, both caught up in our thoughts, then Isabel turned to me: Papa, give me moneys.

... apparently, for this little girl, there's a very tight connection between the wish/desire and its fulfillment.