January 24, 2002

Sweat, Blood
on me a little
Garden Blood
find me
a Pharisee
mired in debts
calling in debts.

Blood crimson
seek me out
find my hovel
my eyes defect
they cannot see
else I would come
to thee.

That I cannot be John
let me be Andrew
or Thomas

Oh but the inconsolance
the unbearableness
of the Wait
of not knowing where I stand
Of having no art
to influence You
no sophistry, argument, excuse, no beauty
of having no weapons
but which thou hast given.

January 21, 2002

There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again; and now,
under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our
business. -
T.S. Eliot

January 18, 2002

Saw the Mark Twain special on PBS and was struck that a four-hour
two-part special could omit a book Clemens spent twelve years
researching, two years writing and later called his "most
important book" - his story of Joan of Arc. I was curious
what their 'spin' would be on such a seemingly unusual undertaking for a
secular ex-river boat captain. But they simply ignore it. How like PBS.
And Ken Burns.

January 11, 2002

"From what troubles we are saved, my God, by the vow
of obedience! The simple religious, guided by the will
of her Superiors alone, has the joy of being sure that
she is on the right path; even when she is sure that
her Superiors are mistaken, she need not fear. But the
moment she ceases to consult this infallible compass,
she goes astray down barren pathways, where the waters
of grace soon fail her." -
St. Theresa of Lisieux
Quotes from or about Bishop Sheen

"'I think the closer we get to Christ the closer we get to one another.
That is why one feels very much at home with a real Christian. Our
differences as Protestants and Catholics are lovers' quarrels.'"

While fully aware of modern biblical scholarship, he chose, as did the
Church, to reject almost all of it. Fulton wrote simply, 'He will not
allow us to pick and choose among His words, discarding the old ones, and
accepting the ones that please our fancy.'"

"Sheen could not repress his basic optimism. 'There are wonderful times
in which to be alive because 30 years ago, and in other days, when we
were moral, when we had a spirit of work in the United States, not a
spirt of sloth and avoiding responsibility, it was easy to be good, it
was easy to be American, it was easy to be Christian. Today it's hard.
You're being tested. Dead bodies float downstream - it takes a live body
to resist the current. And that's why these are great days. They are
struggle, and I love them."

from the author, Thomas Reeves:

"The True Believer is, of course, a familiar character in history. It is
important to observe that he is capable of great good as well as great
evil. There is nothing intrinsically bad in seeking meaning to life and
trusting wholeheartedly in an institution or book or philosophy that
claims to have the whole truth. By the same token, cynicism, doubt,
indifference and selfishness are not always, as some believe, evidence of
enlightenment and goodness."

We pulled in the parking lot with some trepidation. We'd heard that
the friend of Mryt's had had her car broken into on a Sunday night in
this very parking lot. The neighborhood was poor but had the cache of
charisma about it, like a movie set. The church was called "Higher
Ground Always Abounding Asssembly" and we were there to hear the choir
"High Praise Company".
We walked in feeling self-consicous given our extreme whitness. Three
black youths stood by the doorway and looked us over. Once inside, we
took our conspicuous seats in the sanctuary, which was dominated by a
circular stained glass window of Christ tending sheep and huge twin glass
structures on either side with large amounts of water streaming though
them. It was hypnotizing. The concert was scheduled to start at 7pm,
but Carole, the black friend of Myrt's, warned us that these things don't
start on time. That was the first thing I noticed - the laid-back
attitude towards time. The Irish used to be called the black Englishmen,
in part because of a similar relaxed attitude towards time. By 7:40
things started up. I felt like an extra in an Eddie Murphy movie.
We started up with a praise and worship service. Much clapping, lots of
following directions on lifting hands up (and they say the Mass is hard
to follow?). We had to turn to our partner and repeat to them
spiritual-slang phrases that the pastor had expressed. I turned to
Steph. But then the leader had us do it to the person on our right, who
in my case was a large black guy. He was probably thinking, "damn my
A large black man in an all-brown, shiny leather soon strode up to
the front and said "Y'all know I have the hardest job today. I got get
some money out of you. Colored folks need to support their own." (Steph
later told me that she thought this meant we wouldn't have to
"Will every man here willing to give $50 or $100 please stand up."
No one stood for a bit, then three or four extremely well-dressed
men stepped up and put money into a purple-clothed inlaid basket. (Of
course nearly everyone was very well-dressed; the gent beside me was in a
suit and tie and cufflinks while I wore dockers and a denim shirt).
"Will every man here willing to give $20 please stand."
After some uncomfortable moments, ten or twenty men made their way
to the front.
"Okay. Now, I want everyone here who is not a woman to stand up."
Hmm…how do I get out of this one? I stood up. I was now triply
conspicuous - I was white, ill-dressed and standing.
"Who is willing to give $5 or $10 to the Lord?"
Most went up, including a rare white man. (I'd guess there were 3
or 4 besides us out of a couple hundred or so people). I went up too,
and donated $5.
I sat down with relief and was surprised that he asked for $3, $2,
or $1 donations. Three or four younger guys came up and donated that.
They then did the same routine with the ladies, though Steph and Myrt
cheated by giving their $5s for Carole to bring up.
By 9:00 the choir finally came up and began their set. The songs
were not your daddy's gospel - they were much speeded up with lots of
percussion. No "Amazing Grace" here. They were all self-written tunes
that allowed the singers to display the range of their voices, which was
spectacular. The songs often expressed lines like "Praise and Glorify
Him" over and over and over that had an almost mesmerizing effect, like a
chant almost.
One Thanksgiving weekend, my wife, her three sisters, and mother
ventured to a cabin deep in the woods of Hocking county in the
Appalachian foothills of southeast Ohio. They would be renting it for
just two nights and so drove up the long, gravel drive so typical of
country residences with a sense of anticipation. Unknown to them,
nestled in those hills lived a stray tomcat, redneck-thin and just shy of
two years. He lived by his wits and little else, and surely not for
On the first day, my wife's sister Karen walked down that long
spirally drive and noticed the plucky tomcat walking towards her, begging
for attention and food, whichever came first. The owner happened to be in
the vicinity and warned Karen he'd soon be putting a bullet in the cat's
head since he didn't much like strays. She didn't doubt him; he looked
like he was born with a gun and an appetite for killing. She brought him
up to the cabin, and they noticed with amazement the little eight-pound
wonder was not intimidated in the least by our hundred-pound dog, a
German shepherd-mix my wife rarely leaves behind.
The new member of the cabin had dark tiger stripes down the length of his
back and humorous tall legs, one of which was nearly all white and the
other white only to the ankle sock. He looked like he'd gotten up late
for work and put on a calf-length tube sock on the right foot and an
ankle-sock on the left! A respiratory infection had him sniffling and
snorting; his eyes leaked and gave off a shiny glow.
By a process of elimination, all the sisters but one - my wife -
offered reasons they couldn't take the stray in. My wife called and
asked if we could add a second cat to go along with our dog and I
couldn't say no. She returned with the strikingly beautiful new animal
in tow.
The country cat was tough and routinely drove our dog Obi to the
point of insane barking. The little piker was afraid of nothing. But
what name to give him? Long whiteboard sessions led to fruitless
results. Winston, Seamus, Sir Tuneces, Hobbes, Piker, Lazarus all came
and went. His behavior had noticeably cooled since being locked 24-7 in
the family homestead, so it was finally decided that Mr. Hyde would suit
this Jeckel puss. The name was picked hours before his Great Escape,
when he found the door open at 2a.m. and calmly strolled out with the
insouciance of …well, a cat. Our son had not completely closed the back
door and the cat was nothing if not an opportunist. The timing was
especially fortunate for him given that he was scheduled to go under the
knife the next morning and experience the pangs of becoming half a cat -
i.e. neutered.
And so the days went by and an at-large Mr. Hyde made himself
scarcer than a dime in Scrooge's outstretched palm. My wife put Mr. Hyde
on the FBI's Most Wanted Pet list and littered the neighborhood with
posters. She also visited the death camp, I mean kitty shelter, to see
if he had turned up there. Given her obvious determination (and threat
to get another cat), I went to a childhood friend, St. Anthony - the
saint who helps find lost things - and asked if he might help. She went
directly to the Father, a bit sheepishly but knowing that not a hair on
our heads goes uncounted.
The next afternoon, six days after Hyde's disappearance, my wife's
brother Joe was delivering packages for UPS about a half-mile away from
our house and across a busy thoroughfare. A stray tomcat walked right up
the drive towards him, begging for love or food, whichever came first.
Joe, a cat-lover, thought it a disgrace that someone would leave a tomcat
run loose. He remembered my wife Steph was missing her new stray, so he
made a mental note to check a picture she'd emailed him. He went home
and checked it and that was the positive ID he needed. He called Steph
at work and she called me and then rushed to pick up her still sniffling,
still snorting cat. He was back, back from the seeming dead, and
rechristened "Lazarus" for his remarkable rebounding abilities. He
wasn't able to avoid his rescheduled date with the knife though, and so
now Lazarus is less interested in the lady cats in the neighborhood.
Obi, meanwhile, is sharpening his barking abilities while experiencing
the downside of a cat not de-clawed!