If you axe me….

photo 2

My girls, looking lovely for Mardi Gras 2014; and me, pitifully trying to look local.

Today I’ll write on a lighter note. Whew.

Now that we have been in New Orleans for nearly 2 years, I can confidently say, along with my wife, that I have fallen in love with this Cajun space. Really. Truly.

I told someone up North that, and they said with a slight twinge of irony, sarcasm or some other Northern sneer, “Why?” Well, it’s hard to say exactly why, it’s mostly intangible, and as ever it’s bound up with the fabulous friends we’ve made. But it also has something to do with the untidy mix of faith, churches, culture, vice, virtue, food, drink, color, water, personality, voodoo, rosaries, relics, beignets, Po’Boys, football, family, jazz, parades, feasting, fasting, canals, gators, bayous, chicory coffee, a local accent that I simply cannot replicate, Abita Amber, the Sazerac and oh so many other things. Somehow, local Catholicism entrains all of these things into its embrace, whether that embrace be with arms of welcome or with arms of purifying fire!

American author and devout Catholic Walter Percy aptly described its sui generis, island-like identity:

New Orleans is both intimately related to the South and yet in a real sense cut adrift not only from the South but from the rest of Louisiana, somewhat like Mont St. Michel awash at high tide. One comes upon it, moreover, in the unlikeliest of places, by penetrating the depths of the Bible Belt, running the gauntlet of Klan territory, the pine barrens of South Mississippi, Bogalusa, and the Florida parishes of Louisiana.

It was after reading Earl Higgins’ very funny The Joy of Y’at Catholicism, which plays wonderfully on these irreconcilably reconciled contradictions that constitute our Catholic-shaped, Christ-haunted menagerie culture, I was confirmed in my love. As a New Englander steeped in a more or less pragmatic cultural puritanism, maybe my greatest joy is simply in quelle différence!

Someone sent me this fun and upbeat music video reflecting on the local character of New Orleans. To break the intensity of my writing of late, I thought I would share it:

13 comments on “If you axe me….

  1. Sherri Paris says:

    What a fun video! I have never been there but, would love to see it sometime! Our DRE is from there. Have a blessed week! ☺️

  2. Chrissy says:

    Great summary! I loved NOLA got a long time and often can’t explain why I feel so at home visiting on sporatic vacations over the years. Its way cool how deep the faith roots are that the schedule of events is based on a liturgical calendar of sorts. Bourbon St is all anyone hears and it’s sad because there is so much more!

  3. Victorious Love says:

    Lousiana is my first love! There are many beautiful deep ties to such a unique place. I have been blessed by spending adventurous summers there with my cousins. As well as spending time with good priest friends who introduced me to the bliss of Cajun dancing. I believe this is one of the many myriad expressions of Jesus jubilant love!
    I hope you have experienced the sheer joy of this with your bride. If not I encourage you to step out and permit yourself to be swept away into the crazy Cajun fun! 😄

  4. Rev. Mark Moretti says:

    Good afternoon Tom!! I was really amused reading your take on your adopted city…it reminded me of a quote attributed to Cardinal Josef Ratzinger in the book “The Ratzinger Report”. Taking a break from the heavier theological content the book intended to cover, the author light-heartedly asked the Bavarian prelate if he thought it was the work of the Holy Spirit that the Catholic Church became geographically centered in Rome instead of Germany :) Instantly sensing the humor in the question, Ratzinger whole-heartedly agreed. He said if the Church had been centered in Germany, it would have gone out of existence a long time ago! As the two men chuckled over their coffee, Ratzinger opined that the Italians have a special way of taking the ups and downs of human life…with all of it’s joys, sorrows, laughter, tears, triumphs, tragedies, heroism and sheepishness with equal grace…something that is not readily apparent in the linear way of thinking that is so emblematic of German sensibility.

    His observation was borne out on a pilgrim visit to Rome with my parishioners. Looking out the window of the bus, I saw glorious Saint Peter’s and a modest family shrine in the same view. Little Italian nuns strolling past two heavily engaged lovers on a blanket in a park. Earnest workmen next to healthy men on the dole. Modern office buildings adjacent to open-air fruit markets. Fabulous five-star Michelin rated restaurants next to little corner cafe…and, of course, the ever present Chinese restaurant to cap it all off:) It seems that Rome and NOLA have a lot in common.

    An orthodox and faithful Church that can in some organic way embrace these seemingly contradictory elements of life can truly say it has earned the title “catholic”. Wouldn’t you agree??

  5. Ona says:

    Rio has a similar sort of appeal. Come visit sometime!

  6. Thomas jordan says:

    What a medley of flavors your life and sweet family is!

  7. Judy Svendsen says:

    Tom,
    I loved your post!! I miss NO!! We loved our 3 years there! As I was reading what you wrote, I so agreed!! You have made me really want to visit NO again!! Nicole was born there and we haven’t been back. I would have to say it was one of my favorite places to live! I loved the people, the food, etc. Maybe one of these days we can come visit. As one of those “North” people who lived there, I totally get it!! Love NO and the Neals!! Miss you both!!

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