We almost had a possum in the house, which certainly would've been a first. Our dog Buddy took off like a shot put after something, presumably a squirrel, but it turned out to be an eminently catchable possum. He's caught it so many times the poor fellow probably has teethmarks permanently embedded. Buddy whirled towards the door, apparently wanting it as a trophy for the living room, but I got there first and blocked him and made him drop it. The possum played dead as possums will, and we photographed it for posterity. Not the handsomest animal on God's earth, nor the swiftest, but arguably the best actor. Hollywood take note.
All's well that reads well, or rather all's well when I'm reading. Preternaturally hungry for text (over image or sound), I made my way through the beginning of "Slumberland" by Paul Beatty, the next novel up in the grand parade. Lyrical, humorous, politically incorrect, it's a sort of a live wire (i.e. the first 30 pages). Then onto it's opposite - a biography of Prussian political genie Otto von Bismarck.
Finished the sometimes very satisfying "Leaving Atocha Station" by Ben Lerner. I really can't believe how consciousness-changing it is to be in that sublime, supine position on the recliner reading a lyrical novel. And the sun shone for it's obligatory 25 seconds in Central Ohio such that it was bliss itself. How refreshing a little snippet was, just a half-hour of reading was an improvement over that awful non-fiction in the form of National Review. Nothing against NR of course, but the fatigue of reading about how things are falling apart wearies. The cover story is about how education costs have soared despite massive increases in government spending in education. On Friday Aaron configured the salt and pepper shakers in close proximity, the pepper indicating the "reset" button, and asked me where he thought we are on the decline declination. I told him we've been declining for 500 years according to French intellectual Jacques Barzun. He's concerned the guvmint will means-test his savings away.
Been playing, addictedly, "Words With Friends", an online Scrabble game. Sometimes democracy is right, given its popularity. Not only is it extremely satisfying to occasionally find the gigantic hit (today I managed "Heather" for a whopping 61 points!) but it's good for sharpening the middle-aged brain and thus hopefully staving off the inevitable mental decay and/or dementia. Just as physical exercise is a requirement as one ages, so too mental exercise. Too often I balk at the latter.
Read last night a bit of the richly photographed bookish accompaniment to "Downton Abbey". I got it "free" on amazon with points from my credit card. It's the sort of book that would be terribly disappointing in Kindle form. Also reserved "Kill the Irishman", both the book and movie, at library. It fills that need to try to figure out "what went wrong" with this mafiaosa Catholic who was raised by loving religious sisters. I'm so predictable in this drive to try to figure out the inexplicable, beginning with Judas, the "ur-type" (or maybe, actually Lucifer) with all the advantages and yet who chooses wrongly.
All day Saturday was the big 2,000+ man annual men's conference of the diocese of Columbus called "Answer the Call". I always feel a tad guilty for not answering that call. Went once to Cincy's version back a decade ago with my dad and his brother. These events seem like pure reaction to the Promisekeepers, not that there's anything wrong with that. Evangelicals often fill a need before we Catholics do. And there seems to be a need for these conferences, else there wouldn't be such a large attendance. Similarly the small group phenomenon - the men conference always plugs small groups even though, for me, they seem to be anathema. My inner introvert rebels and/or my laziness.
The conference was covered live on the local Catholic radio station, and I tuned in for the tail end of one glorified pep talk which reminded me why I'm so turned off by it all. Lots of emotional sports analogies that always tend to be too... self-consciously chest-thumping. But the next talk was Scott Hahn and his talk centered on the liturgy, basically saying that the original of the "New Testament", as stated in the New Testament itself, is the act of the Eucharist - not the Bible. In other words, when Christ instituted the Eucharist he spoke of the "new covenant" or "new testament", and he said "Do this in memory of me..." not "Read this in memory of me". The Scriptures that came to later be called the New Testament, about 150 or so years after the death of Christ, were called that because of their connection to the New Testament or Eucharist - these were the sacred writings that were read at early liturgies. So it's a "sacred by association" type deal.
Wednesday is hell day, i.e. hazing day, an 8am-5pm meeting in a corporate re-education camp. Everyone was cordially invited and then compelled when not enough were promptly accepting the meeting notice. So that means I need this bleary, beery time of printoxication. I'm ready for long dollops of music, beer. The table next to me is full of rich appointments: Porrello's handsome "To Kill an Irishman" book, as well as the even handsomer "Downton Abbey" post-Victoriana. And above both sits that quietly dedicated servant, the Kindle. (Got a new cover for it. I'm becoming a bit womanly when it comes to liking these sorts of accessory frills. Next thing I'll be admiring a pair of shoes.)
"Kill the Irishman", the film, held me transfixed from the opening scene of a car bomb going off in the 1970s-era Boston-like setting. A period piece nicely photographed, it depicts a hard neighborhood with tough characters, centered on one figure's rise from Irish laborer to union president and then to his eventual corruption. I seem to have a real soft spot for movies involving the lower class Irish, like "The Fighter" starring Mark Wahlberg, "The Gangs of New York" or Clooney's "The Perfect Storm" to name but three. Fascinated and repulsed, simultaneously, by that hard East coast cutthroat world.
At mass Sunday a psalm is quoted: "I trusted, even when I said: ‘I am sorely afflicted.’" How does one have such faith!? During morning prayer the other day I meditated on those three OT brothers in the furnace praising God, giving proof to the psalm. They weren't being burned, that is true, but they certainly trusted God to even go in there to begin with. And Jesus does have the power to heal so sore afflictions need not be permanent. It's possible to be healed, like the paralytic in the gospel, the one where he's lowered through the roof. Jesus, so cool and nonchalant, first heals him of his sins as if that's the more pressing matter (which, of course, it is in reality). Amazingly, that was the very gospel that was read some thirty minutes later during the Byzantine liturgy on Sunday. Then I thought about Pope John Paul II with his Parkinson's, and St. Therese with her tuberculosis. In both cases it occurred to me that perhaps God is reiterating, by the afflictions of saints, illness is not a sign of God not loving us -- because who could He love more than Pope John Paul II and St. Therese? God's love for them is unimpeachable, and so therefore we don't equate lack of healing with lack of faith on our part or a lack of love on God's. So all of this was a salutary reminder of what should already be obvious!
My appreciation of Cardinal Dolan continues to increase. On his XM radio show I heard him say, frankly, that he doesn't much like Lent (how many prelates say that?). Amen brother, good to hear it from someone far holier than me. He said he's more of an Easter person but did add that he takes Lent very seriously and that on Holy Saturday he's always thankful for the grace he received over the season.