celebrating Mom

mom_letter_400wIn celebration of Mother’s Day, here’s an idea for a future Mother’s Day gift: a letter of memories and gratitude from all the kids.

About a decade ago, shortly after my Dad died, one of my sisters initiated a Christmas letter from my siblings to my mom, and it turned out to be a great way of honoring her. I think, with our Dad’s loss fresh in our minds, we realized that we didn’t want to wait until she was gone to send up some words of appreciation.

Here’s the idea as my sister presented it. She collected our letters, which were based on the following format:

  • Identify the top 2 things you like most about mom and why they’re meaningful to you. Add up to 3 more areas that you admire or like about her, (optional)
  • When you think of mom, you think of __________(from 2 words to 2 sentences)
  • Two important things that mom has taught you. (Can be more) This can be by her example as well, etc.
  • Most important gift mom has given you.
  • Favorite day, moment or memories with her (this is not limited but can expand as far as you’d like- beyond just one moment, day, experience too)
  • Funniest or silliest memory of her (laughable moment/s).
  • Your hopes, prayers or dreams for her now-what you would hope she will have/experience, related to her fulfillment.
  • (Optional) One thing she doesn’t know about you that you’d like to her to know (it can be anything, silly or serious-the point is sharing something here with her that she doesn’t know yet know about you or your life, that you’d like her to know).
  • Thanking her for … (Personal thanks for whatever comes to mind) (Some of these things may overlap but that’s fine).

A sampling of the responses from my nine brothers and sisters is posted here.

My own contribution:

The two things I most appreciate about Mom: her generosity and her receptivity. She defines what it means to be recklessly large-hearted, and fearless of the pain that might come from making herself so vulnerable. And by receptive I mean welcoming, not in any formal, dutiful way… but genuinely ready to open herself to whoever would present themselves to her. And then there’s her sense of humor, generally self-deprecating but always alive to the incongruities of life and all that is inherently silly… without caving in to the temptation of being ironic or sarcastic in any form.

Like last Christmas Eve, when she and I spent a good hour traversing back and forth across Clark Fork looking for the Holy Grail of plumbing: a toilet plunger for the overflowing facility at Sacred Heart.

lily of the valleyWhen I think of Mom, I think of lilies of the valley and sailboats, two things she’s fond of. Mom is like those delicate, fragrant flowers that change the whole aroma of the place without drawing attention to themselves, and like a sail open to wherever the Spirit might blow, and constantly tacking to see where the Wind might want to lead next. I think that’s how she taught me the value of discernment: testing everything, and keeping what is good.

Favorite memories include the lunches we shared together at the Burger King at Vine Hill and Highway 7, when I was in junior high school. I was just attending the junior high on a part-time basis, spending the rest of my time homeschooling. Generally, a bus would pick me up midday to take me to East Junior High. But from time to time, Mom would offer to drive me, so that we could have lunch together. It was just as the era of Home Covenant School ended, and during these undivided times shared with Mom, I felt I was getting to know her all over again.

My hope and prayer is that in this particular chapter in her life, she can look back with satisfaction on all of the artistry she has co-created — not the least the family she raised and nurtured with Dad — and look forward to all the new expressions of creative love that she has within her, waiting to be revealed in the days to come. She’s an artist of the human heart, with a canvas that has stretched as far as the eye can see… and a lot farther, I’m sure. There are realms of that canvas for her to revisit, and others to explore for the first time.

So I hope she’ll hop on her pontoon sailboat, so to speak, find the Wind like the expert sailor that she is, and set the course anew each day… touring that entire canvas, that whole work of art that is her life. It’s going to be a joy to watch.

requesting prayers for a writing project

I am returning to Los Angeles this summer to draft a screenplay that I have been brooding over for seventeen years, since I completed the 2002 Act One writing program in Chicago.

The screenplay is set in an arena I know intimately – namely, an American Catholic seminary in the 1990s. Given recent developments in the scandals in the Church, the story seems especially timely. This is not a documentary, or a scandal script, per se, but really intended as a theological thriller in the vein of Charles Williams’s novel Descent Into Hell.

As you might imagine, this is rather highly charged material, that has to stare squarely into the face of some very uncomfortable realities. As Flannery O’Connor once wrote in an essay entitled The Church and the Fiction Writer:

A belief in fixed dogma cannot fix what goes on in life or blind the believer to it…. If the Catholic writer hopes to reveal mysteries, he will have to do it by describing truthfully what he sees from where he is. An affirmative vision cannot be demanded of him without limiting his freedom to observe what man has done with the things of God….

It is when the individual’s faith is weak, not when it is strong, that he will be afraid of an honest fictional representation of life; and when there is a tendency to compartmentalize the spiritual and make it resident in a certain type of life only, the supernatural is apt gradually to be lost. Fiction, made according to its own laws, is an antidote to such a tendency, for it renews our knowledge that we live in the mystery from which we draw our abstractions. The Catholic fiction writer, as fiction writer, will look for the will of God first in the laws and limitations of his art and will hope that if he obeys these, other blessings will be added to his work. The happiest of these, and the one he may at present least expect, will be the satisfied Catholic reader.

I’ve hesitated for a long time to move forward with the project. Only recently have I felt ready (personally) to address this subject in a way that I hope will be redemptive for the audience. At least I know that the story, as it is unfolding, has been redemptive for me.

I plan to first draft the project as a novel, and then work on its adaptation for the screen. (I understand that Graham Greene took this approach with The Third Man).

I’d be grateful if you’d consider keeping this in your prayers. The operative title for the project is Saint Judas.

Pre-work reading includes:

The Third Man – Graham Greene
Goodbye, Good Men – Michael Rose
Ungodly Rage – Donna Steichen
Trojan Horse in the City of God – Dietrich von Hildebrand
Descent into Hell – Charles Williams
The Chocolate War – Robert Cormier
The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene
Story – Robert McKee

VIII: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

Jesus calls out to the women: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, weep rather for yourselves and for your children.” Sometimes our sorrow is misdirected. We grieve because of the failings of others. Pointing out the faults of others may leave us in the pleasant shade of our own complacency, but this is a false redemption. We must call to mind the task given not to others, but to ourselves. If we wish our sorrow to be productive, we will direct it toward the one place in which we can truly effect a change: our own hearts.

Contrition… imparts to the soul of man a unique character of beauty. For it is in contrition that the new fundamental attitude of a humble and reverent charity becomes dominant and manifest, that man abandons the fortress of pride and self-sovereignty, and leaves the dreamland of levity and complacency, repairing to the place where he faces God in reality.

Dietrich von Hildebrand, “Contrition,” Transformation in Christ

who was Benedict referring to in this passage?

From Patrick Madrid’s coverage on Relevant Radio:

…In light of the scale of the pedophilic misconduct, a word of Jesus has again come to attention which says … “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” That’s from Mark 9:42. And Benedict says the phrase “the little ones” – in the language of Jesus – means the common believers who can be confounded in their faith by the intellectual arrogance of those who think they are clever…

Like, I don’t know, maybe… certain gadfly priests who flit around on social media and flit around giving talks and lectures and appear on, you know, late night television programs and confound the faith of believers because of their own intellectual arrogance and they subvert the teachings of the church… I don’t know; I’m just pulling ideas out of the air here. He’s referring to that kind of thing.

So here Jesus protects the deposit of the faith with an emphatic threat of punishment to those who do it harm. What he’s saying here, I should just say, is: bishops and priests, take note. Those who cause these little ones who believe in me to sin …. It would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. He identifies the little ones from the Greek that’s used there as the common believer – the average person who doesn’t have a theological background. The modern use of the sentence is not in itself wrong but must not obscure the original meaning…

Click here to listen to the audio.

sshhh…. this letter is an open secret

Hi all you fine clerics of Bavaria, just wanted to be sure you received a copy of the letter from the pope emeritus. Translated into English. JCR (aka PB16) greets you cordially, by the way.

Also, Patrick Madrid does a nice job of explaining what it all means. It’s profound, compelling and nutritious. Enjoy!  If you like what you hear, please consider subscribing to his podcast over at Relevant Radio.

Given in Minnesota, on the 12th day of April, 2019, the 49th year of my insertion into the priesthood of all believers.