Mashley, slanderer, tektōn

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Maria and Ashley with…

[re-post from March 2016]

None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands. A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when—like the artists of every age—captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colors and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you. — St. John Paul II

Today I am thrilled to feature my daughter Maria’s writing, with her gracious if blushing permission. But that’s not all! I also get debut the writing of her dear friend and co-vocalist, Ashley. Yes, of the famed Ashley and Maria. 

Maria’s poem was written as part of her English class’ unit on poetry. She asked me to read it and then tell her what I thought it was about. I read it quietly. As I read it slowly through, I was delighted by the artfulness of her language and her ability to beautifully structure the meter and rhyme. But when I got to the last line, I exploded out a “WHAT??” and then drained my hyperbolic word bank dry while I lay prone on the carpet. Here it is:

There for my compulsions of cathartic release
A vacuum for my thoughts ‘til my mind is at peace

The greatest of listeners, absorbing every thought
Unfailingly present whenever you’re sought

Upon your exemplary performance, my success is dependent
With you in my grasp, my thoughts grow transcendent

Transporting me to where my mind is seldom sedentary
I yield to your craft, O slanderer of the ordinary

I immediately knew the moment I lifted that last line from the paper, through my eyes and into my mind, that she was describing the very pen she had employed to slander in this poem! I added to my explosive WHAT??, “Are you kidding me? Majestic! Outrageous! Stupendous! What is this? How did you think of that?”

She smiled.

Then, just when I thought I was safe from any more unsettling provocations, Maria passed on to me Ashley’s poem. Who are these 16 year olds? Where do they come? After having Maria admonish all pen-wielders to slander the ordinary, Ashley the tektōn indulged me in her slandering fest, consecrating raw empirical data into a sacrament of beauty. That’s how it felt! Ashley’s poem is a protest against modernity’s insular vision, against its atrophied imagination, healing her generation’s neurotic fear of punching upward-opening holes in our synthetic ceilings for fear they might reveal God’s downward gaze.

Those eyes! What hue? Azure? Indigo? Turquoise? Zaffre?

As I read “On the Lake,” I was transported into Ashley’s world, drawn through her eyes to envision a landscape of colors I had never seen myself. I even tasted her colors: bitter sweet! And I could hear her heart singing praises to the FarNear God in words that carved new depth into those canyon crags, only to leap up again with joy into the skies.

Let me allow her to speak:

On the Lake// 
I want to paint a picture of it, but no painting could do justice to its surreality.
Rusty-colored rock walls, built towards the sky, seemingly endless.
The ground not solid, but a crystal clear lake of blues —
The kind of blues that can only match the color of God’s eyes.
For even the blind man could recognize an aesthetic realm such as this.
The canyon could dizzy and perplex even the most intellectually gifted of men.
It has the kind of beauty I begin to develop a deep nostalgia for even before I arrive, as I
know how I will miss the grace of the natural atmosphere.
It is the closest place to heaven on earth, like a mirror parallel to the blue of the sky-
The reflection of the bitter-sweet color strays before it hits the rock.
It is the land of Aphrodite and Venus, where they sang and danced and laughed.
It is easy to feel free in the midst of the red rock, the same rock that shifts and transforms
and never looks the same, but always maintains its allure.
A land so dry and barren, yet still, I have never felt more tied to the earth, with all its
humbleness and peace and magnificence.
The sun kissed my shoulders, my skin now the same shade of red as the rock walls.
But I didn’t care. How could I? How could I possibly care about anything besides taking in
every inch of the canyon walls? How could I think of anything so extraneous when
surrounded by this insurmountable beauty?
I must let this earth consume me completely,
For in just a few days, I will desperately dream to be on the lake again.

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Here’s what I wrote later in my journal:

That’s the true vocation of a writer, isn’t it? To make the familiar strange and the strange familiar; the extraordinary ordinary and the ordinary extraordinary? Maria’s, Ashley’s love of language, and their firm grasp on its potential for beauty, bleeds through the pen. Their voices are inflected with faith, intoning the forgotten power of language to reveal, by a surprising refraction, countless concealed beauties. Language rightly used is the rainbow-sign of God’s enduring true love.

Faith! I’m absolutely convinced that an imagination captured by faith, hope, love, breathed into us by Christ the Tektōn [artisan], creates a capacious imagination. Faith, i.e. to think in Him who is the Word, the Origin of all beginnings, the Goal of all strivings, the restless resolve of all opposites, the Unity that preserves all difference. He gives to the mind its fullest “breadth and length and height and depth” (Ephesians 3:18)!

He is the Most High slanderer of the ordinary, the Writing God who has chosen US to be, and do, His calligraphy. We are the Scribes of the Wild Kingdom (Matt. 11:12; 13:52), word-smiths who render the mundane, celestial; the stable, an earthquake.

Writers discover, recover, uncover the uncommon in the common, mine infinite ore hiding within a flat wasteland, reveal the surplus of meaning lying latent in every empty space.

I also thought, after reading Maria and Ashley’s work, about the word tektōn, which is used in Mark 6:3 to describe Jesus’ profession. It’s usually translated “carpenter,” but is so much broader. A Greek lexicon says it includes “a worker in wood, a carpenter, joiner, builder, any craftsman, or workman, the art of poetry, maker of songs, a planner, contriver, plotter, an author.” Fabulous! God is a tektōn, all of these things, so of course Christ was also a tektōn. Brilliant!

I thought of the Catechism #2501 “Indeed, art is a distinctively human form of expression; beyond the search for the necessities of life which is common to all living creatures, art is a freely given superabundance of the human being’s inner riches. Arising from talent given by the Creator and from man’s own effort, art is a form of practical wisdom, uniting knowledge and skill, to give form to the truth of reality in a language accessible to sight or hearing.”

Mary Consoles Eve

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This painting, entitled “Mary Consoles Eve,” by Sr. Grace Remington, OCSO, captures in a very striking way the relationship between these two women. As I prayed with it, three things came to mind: a brief story, the words of St. Irenaeus of Lyons and a poem by St. Hildegard of Bingen.

The story:

Back in the late 1980’s I heard an astonishing story preached by a priest in a Russian Orthodox parish. He said there was a woman living in the Soviet Union in the 1950’s who was pregnant with her second child. She was a Believer in an age of Soviet atheism. Late in the pregnancy her doctor warned her that her delivery could be life-threatening and recommended abortion, though he said even the abortion could be life-threatening. She refused the abortion, and during her labor and delivery suffered severe hemorrhaging and died. While delivering the baby, she held a Byzantine cross in her hand and clasped it so tightly that her hand bled. When she died, the blood-stained cross fell to the floor and her husband picked it up. After a pause, the priest said, “That was my mother, and I was that child.” Gasp. Then he took out a cross, and said: “This is her cross. And when I was ordained a priest my father gave this cross to me and said, ‘Your mother compressed all of her love and life-blood into that cross. So whenever you feel tired or lost, think of her.'”

St. Irenaeus:

The seduction of a fallen angel drew Eve, a virgin espoused to a man, while the glad tidings of the holy angel drew Mary, a Virgin already espoused, to begin the plan which would dissolve the bonds of that first snare. For as the former was lead astray by the word of an angel, so that she fled from God when she had disobeyed his word, so did the latter, by an angelic communication, receive the glad tidings that she should bear God, and obeyed his word. If the former disobeyed God, the latter obeyed, so that the Virgin Mary might become the advocate of the virgin Eve. Thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so it is rescued by a virgin; virginal disobedience is balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience.

St. Hildegard:

Pierced by the light of God
Mary Virgin,
drenched in the speech of God,
your body bloomed,
swelling with the breath of God.

For the Spirit purged you
of the poison Eve took.
She soiled all freshness when she caught
that infection
from the devil’s suggestion.

But in wonder within you
you hid an untainted
child of God’s mind
and God’s Son blossomed in your body.

The Holy One was his midwife:
his birth broke the laws
of flesh that Eve made. He was coupled
to wholeness
in the seedbed of holiness.

The man you thought I was

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“When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women” — Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

[Spoiler alert for Sherlock fans]

[Spoiler alert for Sherlock fans]

[And one more time, spoiler alert for Sherlock fans]

At the end of episode 2, season 4 of Masterpiece Theater’s Sherlock, there was a dialogue between Sherlock and Watson about Watson’s dead wife, Mary. There’s too much to explain background-wise, but suffice to say that in this scene Watson was confessing both to Sherlock and to his dead wife that while Mary was still alive he had had an affair (of sorts) with a woman he met on the bus. He was tortured with that memory. There was an insight in their dialogue that led to a reflective exchange between my wife, Patti, and me later the next night.

Here’s the part of that dialogue I wish to highlight:

Watson: She was wrong about me.
Sherlock: Mary? How so?
Watson: She thought that if you [Sherlock] put yourself in harm’s way, I’d rescue you. Or something. But I didn’t, until she told me to. And that’s how this works. That’s what you’re missing.
She taught me to be the man she already thought I was. Get yourself a piece of that.
[…Watson then confesses his affair to the ghost of Mary]
Watson to Mary: That’s all it was. Just texting. I’m not that man you thought I was. I’m not that guy. I never could be. And that’s the point. That’s the whole point. The man you thought I was is the man I want to be.
Mary: Well then, John Watson, get the hell on with it…

Brilliant. Unquestionably true in my life. “The man you thought I was is the man I want to be.”

That phrase, rightly understood, has a very particular meaning for me. In fact, I know many, many men who would say much the same as I do here. While I cannot say what I am for her in this regard, I can say what she is for me. Here’s the gist of what I said to Patti later, as I captured and expanded on it in my journal. I share it because my wife is a living witness whose story I wish to tell as I am able. She, imperfect in her humanity, has taught me more of the Way of Perfection than any other one person. How can I keep from writing?

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It’s not simply that you want me to be something I’m not, which can be toxic were it accompanied by your constant frustration, nagging, by seething anger and resentment when I fail because, in reality, you despise these things in me. Were you that way, I would never want to become what you hope from me. And if I did become it, I would be only a chimera, a distorted reflection of your own needs.

Neither is it that you wish me to be who you want for your benefit, to extract what you want out of me. Or that you want me to be what you know I could never be. Or again, neither do you charge me to change by being manipulative, coercive, employing the weapons of guilt or exploiting my weaknesses against me. I’ve seen those before at work in couples or whole families, and it’s bitter poison, the stuff of a suffocating, crushing, life-sucking and joyless marriage and family life.

No, why you motivate me so powerfully, so effectively is because you love me. Plain and simple. You see in me what I can be, awakening me to God’s dream for me. You know me, know who I am all too well, and you see so many things — great and petty — that inhibit me from becoming who I am to be. Because you love me, you see, and you want me free. You see so well the chains that keep me from becoming who I was meant to be, because you listen so long, so deep. And you kiss my chains, you slip your hands between mine, into those chains with me, and you show me the key to unlock them. It was just beneath my hands, but I never saw it. I miss so many things.

And my limits, so many, slowly migrating, sometimes expanding, other times receding, still other times exactly where they were from the start. I know you’ll be a saint for them, grueling patience, relieved by occasional gut laughs together that make us cry.

At times, you’ve known your love must be tough, direct, precise. You grabbed my tie and shook me, looking deep into my eyes as only you can, and said: “This is who you were made to be. You know it’s true. Do it. Don’t let fear keep you down. Your family needs you to be strong. Be a man.” The only reason I finished my PhD. Your eyes, His eyes.

You pray over my chains. You pray for rain on the drought. You call on the Angels to drive away the demons of doubt and fear, of despair and lust, of hate and unforgiveness, of self-loathing and mediocrity. You dismantle the armor, break up the hard clods and clear the stones. You see what I should have known, but never did and, instead of shaming or blaming, you say: “Here, see, look at true beauty; understand the liberating order God has made; a path of life; taste what hope is; be gentle and know that strength is only thus wrought rightly.”

You listen me into wisdom, sing me into peace, gift me into outward love. You never let me get away with what I should never get away with. Highest, greatest of all: you brought to me the gift of children who, with your motherhood, recreated fatherhood in/for me, rebirthed childhood, resurrected wonder and awe and simple joy and spontaneity and so many of my favorite things life had trampled on.

It is commonly thought that women are more capable than men of paying attention to another person, and that motherhood develops this predisposition even more. The man – even with all his sharing in parenthood – always remains “outside” the process of pregnancy and the baby’s birth; in many ways he has to learn his own “fatherhood” from the mother. — St John Paul II

“The man you thought I was is the man I want to be” not because you demanded it, commanded it, but because you inspired it. God breathed life into Adam before He made Woman, but He has breathed life into the New Adam through the New Eve. Likewise, He has breathed life into me through you, with you, in you. Deo gratias. 

Tom: The man you thought I was is the man I want to be.

Patti: Well then, Tom Neal, get the hell on with it…

Aborting the Image

Maria Gravida The Pregnant Virgin (circa 1410), Hungarian National Gallery. pinimg.com

Looking ahead to 1/22, here are a few spontaneous theological thoughts I wrote several years ago on the unspeakable crime of abortion. While abortion is an irreducibly complex issue, faith provides a fundamental vision that should illumine a Christian approach to the debate.

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From the moment of conception, the life of every human being is to be respected in an absolute way because man is the only creature on earth that God has “wished for himself” and the spiritual soul of each man is immediately created by God; his whole being bears the image of the Creator. Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. —  Vatican Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation

I have always found this theological argument to a compelling way of thinking about the Church’s approach to abortion. It is, you might say, a contemplative approach that requires openness to seeing the grandeur of human life at its very beginning. Aquinas defines contemplation as a “simple gaze on truth,” an intuitive grasp that precedes cold analysis.

Seeing in this instance means to become aware of the truth that, in the “event” of conception, God creates ex nihilo, “out of nothing,” a singularly unique, immortal and spiritual soul. In this act of creation, God imprints the “stamp” of His image in our clay and transforms a new instance of life into a new person. The Divine Persons beget human persons, a face made to behold a Face.

Every newly conceived human is an absolutely new creative event, something utterly novel, singular and incommensurable. Literally a new creation. This immediate divine action, that takes place unseen in the body of the mother, is a recapitulation of the beginning of creation when God called all things into existence out of nothingness. In a mother’s womb, God re-utters the words He spoke at the genesis of human life. No, better, at conception the mother’s womb becomes present to God’s timeless Trinitarian resolve, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26).

Every human being is a microcosm, a “little cosmos,” for whom God created the entire cosmos. This is the sense behind the ancient Jewish proverb found in the Talmud:

Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.

One could also say that the womb of a mother, as with the Virgin Mary, is a temple in which God draws so near to creation that He leaves behind the imprint of His image in our clay. Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of God in the womb of Mary, is simply the in extremis, “in the extreme” of God’s repeated act of creating each of us in His image and likeness.* Think of the intimate proximity between the divine Archetype and His image. We are the “apple of His eye” (Psalm 17:8). God becoming human (John 1:14) spotlights, seals, crowns, elevates and consummates the infinite dignity of every human life, as the eternal Image of the Father (Col. 1:15) joins to Himself forever His created image. Magnificent! This is why whatever we do to His image, He considers done to Him (cf Gen. 9:6; Prov. 19:17; Matt. 25:40).

Pope Benedict put this poetically: “Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.” In the woman’s womb, regardless of the circumstances of conception (as God can even bring good out of evil), God wills into existence a new and wholly unique person whom He has thought of – dreamt of – from all eternity. God creates each new person as an unrepeatable “word” spoken to creation, tasked with a specific mission, and calls each to union with Himself in an existence that will never cease. As the Vatican document above says it, once conceived each man and woman “remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator.”

This is the “white hot core” of what is assaulted in an abortion, which is carried out beneath the rapt gaze of the Father.

How unique is His love for each human life! “O Good One, who so cares for every one of us, as if you cared for him only” (St. Augustine).

Pregnancy is not just a biological datum, a genetic mass, but a fathomless mystery that contains the singularly focused attention of the infinite God who loves every person into a new existence. A person who alone, in all of creation, is capax Dei, “capable of [union with] God.” But only in a sacramental universe, seen as shot through with the action and presence of God, is such a perspective comprehensible. Yes this is the universe Catholics are called to discover, to uncover, to reveal to the rest of humanity so that all can see the glory of God teeming with splendor at the very beginning of the story of every human person. Be in awe of every human being, qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, “who was conceived by the Holy Spirit” from all eternity as the masterpiece of the Father, created for the Son to be His mystic Body to the eternal glory of the Triune majesty unto the ages of ages. Amen.

St. John Paul II:

I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and to his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.

*Θ caveat: though I wish to emphasize the radical continuity of God-becoming-man with our being created in the divine image, the Incarnation is a wholly unique event, as Jesus alone is God-in-the-flesh, His union of natures in one divine Person being different not only in degree but in kind from that all of other human beings. We are not pantheists.

Family Dinner

6th century mosaic, Last Supper; Ravenna. christianiconography.info

…when Jesus wanted to explain to His followers what the meaning of his forthcoming death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal. —  N. T. Wright

In many cases, parents come home exhausted, not wanting to talk, and many families no longer even share a common meal. Distractions abound, including an addiction to television. This makes it all the more difficult
for parents to hand on the faith to their children. A family that almost never eats together, or that never speaks at the table but looks at the television or the smartphone, is hardly a family. Sitting at table for the family dinner, sharing our meal and the experiences of our day, is a fundamental image of togetherness and solidarity. — Pope Francis

When Patti and I got married and had children, I began to learn things good, bad and indifferent about myself that I was never really aware of before. When you live with people 24/7, they see things; you see things; and you begin to unearth patterns of thinking and behavior that often stem from your family of origin that, while you were single, must have been dormant.

One of those patterns I became aware of was my gut level aversion to sitting down for a family meal. That had not been, for the most part, a habit of my own childhood. So I preferred to eat alone, efficiently, in haste and with minimal interaction. But my wife insisted that regular family meals be a part of our new family life. Though I subscribed in theory to the idea, my neuro-pathways had been so deeply etched by lifelong habits that each meal became for me a hardship; a scourguing; an inner battle between a good idea and an ingrained habit. The Good Idea said, “remain with us, for evening is near” (Luke 24:29); the Ingrained Habit said, “he immediately went out, and it was night” (John 13:30).

I intellectually “got” that the family meal was meant to serve as a focal point of communion, unity, conversation, bonding, story telling, schedule planning and building a common vision of who we are. And I quickly began to understand the many ways it served as the most important means of communicating the fact that love means enjoying idle time with one another. This was new for me. I often prayed for grace to overcome my desire to flee the table, and worked to restrain my selfish protests to my wife that we get a reprieve from this form of culinary torture. My deep-seated aversion to this practice seemed impervious to the inroads of my lofty sentiments.

But I recall noticing, after about four years relentless daily fidelity to daily meals, there was a subtle change at work in me. I remember specifically mentioning it to Patti one day. While there was no one “wow” moment where I was suddenly transformed, I began to feel more and more at home at the table, less restless. Not a pacific state of being, but more natural feeling.

At around the ten-year mark, though, I do remember very clearly one specific event. My wife had announced that we would have a “casual” dinner, so everyone could eat when and where they wanted. To my shock, I felt sad. I wanted to sit and eat and talk. It was a moment of genuine surprise, and I laughed out loud! I realized at that moment, after ten years of fidelity to my wife’s marvelous vision of family unity around a table, I had become a different man with a different vision. After 20 years of practice, it’s still not a perfectly consistent disposition. I’m sure it will never be. But something genuinely new had come into being within me, grace at work through my family had carved some fresh neural pathways. I wrote in my journal the next day:

What a giant victory of insignificance for me. Seems so small, but it is monumental. Patti obligated me to do the right thing for the sake of our family. My grandfather said to me, “If you want virtue, fake it till you get it.” Jesus said, “Only the one who does the will of the Father” walks into the Kingdom of love; into the family of God [cf Matt. 7:21]. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for commanding the Sabbath rest, when we cease work and focus on being-with over doing-for. Thank you for obligating us through Mother Church weekly to the Eucharistic feast. There we learn the beauty of wasting time together with you, O Banquet Host, Father-forever and Lover of Mankind.

Here’s my biblical meditation on this: “But they urged Jesus, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (Luke 24:29-31).

Mystics in the Yuck

Tapestry of Nativity in the nave of the cathedral of Strasbourg, France. wikimedia.org

Since “the human person has an inherent social dimension”, and “the first and basic expression of that social dimension of the person is the married couple and the family”, spirituality becomes incarnate in the communion of the family. Hence, those who have deep spiritual aspirations should not feel that the family detracts from their growth in the life of the Spirit, but rather see it as a path which the Lord is using to lead them to the heights of mystical union. — Amoris Laetitia #316 (Pope Francis)

This is my favorite passage in all of Amoris Laetitia. I thought of this today because this time of year tends to bring out the best and the worst in family life, and because I had a conversation with a friend this week that included an amazing insight she said I could quote. She has tons of family issues — addiction, disability, divorce, unemployment, just to name a few. As we talked about these various trials, and the impact they had on her, she said something close to this:

But you know, Tom, I was praying the other day asking Jesus how I was supposed to find Him in all of this mess, as I just could not quiet my soul enough to get into the season and pray deeply. So much yuckiness. I was so incredibly frustrated. Like I wanted to either run from my problems or from God. But on Christmas eve I felt Him say to me, as I sat in the pew with my restless children,

“Child, in the unrest, fighting, turmoil you accompany my Family well in these days. I was conceived amid suspicion, rejection and fear, born homeless, hunted by Herod, welcomed by a massacre and sent into exile in Egypt. My mother and father found me dwelling in the midst of these un-ideal circumstances. Found joy. I chose to begin my life there so I could be closest of all to suffering families. So there, smack dab in the middle of your trials, is where I feel most at home. Welcome me and you will find me. It’s in these tangles that I love to weave my most beautiful tapestries. But you’ll have to wait until the next world to see it finished.”

Is that not stinkin’ awesome?

It is.

And, as “Is that not stinkin’ awesome?” is a loose rendering of Mary’s Magnificat, let me leave you with that song about the God who loves tangles:

 

A Day in the Life

I took some fun pictures and recorded some sounds this last week of things that, for various reasons, captured my attention. I include captions.

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What can I say? Heaven spotlighted for me this odd piece of New Orleans artwork as I drove by. The man behind me beeped with impatience as I paused to snap this shot.

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The International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, sculpted in 1947, has visited 100 countries and came to New Orleans this last week. My 90-year old mom and I prayed in front of her last Saturday. My mom’s prayers are nuclear.

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Someone left their coffee thermos on the levee. No one in sight anywhere.

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Someone left their champagne bottle on the levee, 300 yards from the coffee thermos. Also no one in sight.

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The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

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December 17. Quietly protesting the claims of winter.

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Welcome relief after a 45 minute walk-run along the levee.

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Festive neighbors.

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A December Monarch on a holdout goldenrod!

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Party bus stopping at a neighbor’s house. They were rockin!

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I made a Twenty One Pilots symbol with my ketchup.

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Catherine’s sketch of a wolf.

I took a 7 hour bus ride this week, and during the ride, as I was writing a lecture on the Mass, this announcement came on:

Maria’s high school, Mount Carmel Academy, had their Christmas concert the week before last, and I recorded them singing their Alma Mater. It always gets to Patti and me.