Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Why can't we all play nice?

Chapter 72 of the Rule of Benedict
The Good Zeal of Monks

Just as there is a wicked zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from evil and leads to God and everlasting life. This, then, is the good zeal which monks must foster with fervent love: They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (Rom 12:10), supporting with the greatest patience one another's weaknesses of body or behavior, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another. No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else. To their fellow monks they show the pure love of brothers; to God, loving fear; to their abbot, unfeigned and humble love. Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.
Over at martha,martha, there has been a new implementation of commenting rules. What's the rule? Play nice, or I'll be forced to delete your comment. Goodness, how restrictive! I mean, it's not like she had to delete comments on her post about "All We Need Is Love" or anything like that?!?!?

I gotta hand it to Penni. She throws out these thoughts that culminate in all sorts of battles in her comm-box, but she sticks in the game. People pass along all sorts of judgments about what constitutes a good Catholic or Christian or whatever -- sometimes making the "concerned blog hostess" appear to be in the "not" column -- but she hasn't thrown in the towel. Not yet, anyway.

I was thinking relatively recently about how I haven't really had any sort of a flame war go on, even if it is in the name of religion. Not that I'm asking for one, mind you, and I'm sure it has nothing to do with my impeccable skill at presenting my thoughts in a manner that leaves no room for dispute, and everything to do with my not-nearly-so-large-as-Penni's readership.

And what kills me is the fact that it is being done in the name of religion.

No wonder people "out there" can't stand organized religion.

No wonder people "out there" don't believe in the Christian God.

Heck, if we can't even play nice among ourselves, what makes us think we'd be able to play nice with our guests?

And more importantly, why would they want to be our guests?

Oooo, hellfire & brimstone. Pick me, pick me!

Once again I have to ask ... where are our priorities? Is it more important to rip someone to shreds over something they've said, or worn, or thought .... or to let God handle the relationship from his end?

I'm not saying that we can't point out issues, but there's a big difference between "pointing out an issue" and ripping someone to shreds. Am I quoting every text I can to prove that I'm right and you're wrong .... or am I merely pointing out where I differ from your understanding by addressing the point of disagreement but still respecting you as a person?

It's not like any of us has the answers, folks. Sure, I can quote the Bible all I want, but really .... does that prove rightness? My faith dictates to me that the Bible is truth (though not literal historical truth), but it is my faith that dictates that. My faith dictates that the Koran, Book of Mormon, and other texts are not "scriptural truth" ... but that doesn't deny the fact that Muslims and Mormons hold those texts as truth. As a Catholic, I have about ten more books in my "authoritative Bible" that most Protestants consider to be extraneous. Does their disbelief in the "truth" of these books deny my belief that these, too, are the inspired word of God? No more than the Judaic view of scripture denies my understanding of the New Testament.

It's faith, folks. It's belief. It's about, to use the stereotypical phrase, "a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Period. It's personal. I believe what I believe, and I believe it to be the truth, but I can't know until I'm dead and in heaven. Neither can anyone else for that matter. For every quote I find to say that my way is right, someone of another faith tradition can find a quote that counters mine and says instead that they're right.

I can stand on my beliefs, and I can discuss points that differ with my beliefs, and I can even point out actions that appear to me to be contrary to that which I believe, but I cannot in good conscience tell someone else that their beliefs are wrong and mine are right.

Even if we're talking about the same basic beliefs.

For every Catholic out there, there a unique understanding of who God is and what Catholicism is. And that's what's cool about the word "catholic" -- it's universal. But, if we're gonna embrace the "universal" nature of our church, we need to acknowledge the many different people that make up that universe.

All the petty, stupid, backbiting, childish stuff I see out there is crap. And it's not just the stuff that I disagree with. I get just as infuriated by things I see that are on my side & condemn as I get with things that I disagree with. Say you don't like the changes of Vatican II, fine. But the name-calling, mocking, ridiculing is just immature, and does nothing to give our faith a good name.

We're worried about how a movie is going to present our church? Let's look at our actions. Most people understand that, when they're sitting in a movie theater, they're there to watch a cinematic production. But when they meet actual people, in the flesh ...

What do our actions, our speech, our living out the gospel message of Jesus say to the world about the Roman Catholic Church (or Christianity, for that matter)?

And though many like to point out Jesus' line of "Go and sin no more" ... we also never see Jesus condemn the believers, even for repeat offenses. Rather, he says:
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
go to main page

Monday, May 29, 2006

Ahhhh .....

And .... check it out .....
Course, I suppose I can't fully be gleeful until they're verified and submitted, but it's a start, right?

All of which means .... I don't really need this one anymore!!!


big red button from suburban lesbian
Cookie Monster Searches Deep Within Himself and Asks: Is Me Really Monster?" phantom

Sunday, May 28, 2006


Your Seduction Style: Au Natural

You rank up there with your seduction skills, though you might not know it. That's because you're a natural at seduction. You don't realize your power! The root of your natural seduction power: your innocence and optimism.

You're the type of person who happily plays around and creates a unique little world. Little do you know that your personal paradise is so appealing that it sucks people in. You find joy in everything - so is it any surprise that people find joy in you?

You bring back the inner child in everyone you meet with your sincere and spontaneous ways. Your childlike (but not childish) behavior also inspires others to care for you. As a result, those who you befriend and date tend to be incredibly loyal to you.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Person's a Person, No Matter How Small

I know there are all sorts of folks out there, and I know that for every person reading, there is a different attitude, understanding, belief, or bias. Some issues are universal, some issues are contraversial, yet all issues are personal in terms of how we view them.

I'm taking an online Catholic Social Teaching course (seemed like a good idea at the time ...) that started last weekend (and so now I have a week's worth of work to catch up on tomorrow); the things going through my mind as I try to submit some of my comments involve our need to constantly remind ourselves that these people that we stereotype, judge, condemn, or otherwise label are in fact that. People. Beloved children of God, created in God's image and likeness, that God found to be very good. Despite whatever we may think of their actions or choices, we need to remember, first and foremost, that these are people too.

So what's my point?

Tomorrow (or today, probably, by the time you read this ... or perhaps yesterday, or last week, or ...), Amy Kellogg and Kendra Lee are getting married.

There are many people out there who will take great issue with this event. There are many people out there who will have all sorts of things to say about "these people" ... and perhaps even about me, for not saying them. But do the things we say about "these people" actually reflect who "these people" are?

I have not met either of these two, though I had toyed with the 75-mile bike trip (and am glad I didn't, after reading Kiker's account!); however, I have been following their blogs for a while now, and exchanging various e-mails back and forth as well.

To read their blogs, there would be nothing to signify their classification as "those" people, except the occasional reference to "girlfriend." Other than that, there nothing out of the ordinary about them. Well, Amy does have this thing about dinosaurs and Sesame Street and other bits of silliness, but who doesn't flick boogers? And Kendra might have issues like baby sicknesses (baby sickni?) and eats four-year-old food (no, the food is not four years old, nor did she steal it from a four-year-old, merely that it's typically consumed by four year-olds.), but who doesn't have childish moments now and then?

So, really, they're just your perfectly normal, everyday kind of ....

OK, so maybe Amy's not quite able to be classified as normal, but she's definitely no weirder than I sometimes am. And Kendra is amazingly supportive and even puts up with the silliness ... which is pretty much on track with how my best friend tolerates my bizarreness.

So, tomorrow, they'll be locking that best-friendness in just a little bit more. Whether you like the idea or not on a global scale, what is to be gained through a condemnation of these two individuals?

Like I said, I've never met either one, but they seem like a lot of fun and people I'd love to hang out with. But even if I didn't, would that still give me the right to wish unhappiness on them and all other sorts of evil thoughts?

And so, Kikerfly & Kellogg, I wish you both much happiness, joy, peace, love, and everything else. Best wishes to you, and blessings as you continue on your journeys.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Nope, still tryin' to learn .....

The Movie Clapper Board Generator, found via The Generator Blog, which was found via Too Good To Miss, which was found via Jules, which was found via my patented Stress-Time Escapism and Procrastinating Hyperstimulation, Associated with Never Initiating Early.
Cross-references include here, here, and here, along with, unfortunately enough, many others.

Monday Morning

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Partial Revokation of Previous Post

OK, so in the interests of full disclosure, I checked out some of the items in my previous post.

The Columbine game, rather than being a "video game" in the standard sense of the term, it's more of an interactive walk-through of the events of that day. True, you are playing the roles of Eric and Dylan, but it's got all their motivation and comments and things like that. So in some respects, it's more of following them through the day -- think of the reenactments of crimes we see on America's Most Wanted every week.

Now, on the flip side, I also found the Mexico border game. [Obviously, I still haven't learned!] It was on a White Aryan Resistance site, along with various other "Racist Games" (their phrasing, not mine). So I checked out a few of the very cartoony games, and thought I'd pass along a sampling of the objectives:
Border Patrol: Don't Let Those Spics Cross Our Border -- There is one simple objective to this game, keep them [Mexican nationalist, drug smuggler, breeder] out ... at any cost.
Drive-By 2: Feel What It's Like In The Ghetto -- Use your mouse to aim and shoot at anything and everything. Be careful because the police are out to stop your reign of terror!
Watch Out Behind You, Hunter! -- Shoot the fags before they rape you.
Kaboom! The Arab Training Game -- no objective given, simply that it's the Suicide Bomber game
I'm sure many would say that these are horribly offensive objectives. And yet .... when I go to miniclip , home of a wide variety of perfectly acceptable flash games, I find many of the same games. So apparently it's not OK to shoot people crossing the border, but it's OK to shoot "terrorists"? To be a black driving through the ghetto shooting "anything and everything" is bad, but if you're in a spaceship-looking thing "destroying anything that moves" then everything's great?

I guess I just realized as I looked at the "racist" games that they're no different than the other games out there. Basic objective generally is to destroy and/or kill them before they destroy and/or kill you; the variation comes in whether you're George Bush & Queen Elizabeth shooting terrorists or the hunter shooting fags or the cowboy shooting criminals.

And yet we wonder why we're always so competitive, with the constant need for a preemptive strike, that I be sure to attack you before you get the chance to attack me ....

And we wonder why our world is so messed up???

Shock, Anger Over Columbine Video Game

Some exerpts from the article ...
Ledonne [the game's creator] admits that the site is not "a very good game." Harris and Klebold, fans of the gory game "Doom," probably wouldn't think much of it. It's a 2-D game with tiny, cartoonish pixies and the look of a 1980s Nintendo title. It's not especially bloody. ("Not what gamers are expecting," he said.)

His reasoning for making the game?
"I'm not advocating shooting up your school, and I don't know how many times I can say that and no one will listen. This game does not glorify school shootings. If you make it far enough in the game, you see very graphic photos of Eric and Dylan lying dead." Ledonne said. "I can't think of a more effective way to confront their actions and the consequences those actions had."

Other games out there?
Games that many would find tasteless and insensitive have sprouted up in recent years. Two years ago, you could play as Lee Harvey Oswald in a game based on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Another game that, according to its Web site, allows players to "shoot Mexicans crossing the United States border," has been making the rounds.

I'm no expert, but I would guess that playing these games over and over wouldn't pass along the message of "Look at the consequences of these actions." Cuz you know what? After you've pretended to be Eric & Dylan and shot up the school and then died yourself ... you can just click "Restart" and play all over again. Is that, too, representative of the consequences of those actions?

Now I'm not one who wants to blame the entire downfall of western civilization on a single video game, as some wanted to blame the Columbine massacre on the Internet. But .... games don't do the best job of getting across the concept of the rather permanent nature of death.

And my issue isn't necessarily with this specific game in particular. But with the dismissing-it-away by saying that it's not really that bloody and the people are cartoony instead of realistic .... and there are other games to shoot people crossing the border .... and yet we still wonder why our culture is so throughly steeped in violence?

Somehow, I don't think more prisons and more executions are the best way to remedy the situation. But a blanket condemnation of all video games is also not the solution. It'd take something of an attitude shift .... and that's why our violence is so hard to resolve.

Violence, unfortunately, is so much more than just guns.

I just found the game's website (not very hard to do), and it makes me wonder if the creator's intentions were truly as pure as he proposed to the Washington Post in his interview. The main page states the following:
CONTENTS: A FREE Role Playing Game (RPG) for your PC devoid of malware, spyware or other junk not related to "killing as many fuckheads as possible!" Preview pics below.
MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: Windows 98SE/2000/ME/XP, 233mhz processor, 128mb RAM, 50mb disk space, soundcard (optional), and killer instinct (mandatory).
A WORD TO THE WISE: Save your game whenever possible and explore! A multitude of surprises await players who destroy thoroughly.
FINALLY, remember Reb's words: "Don't follow your dreams or goals or any of that shit, follow your fucking animal instincts: if it moves kill it, if it doesn't, burn it. Kein Mitleid!"
Yeah, sure. Does that really seem like something that would achieve the goal of "an indictment of society"? That won't in any way be construed as a glorification of school shootings?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Will I Ever Learn?

In case you forgot .... check out the countdown.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


See here.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Blessings on your journey, Ettel

About two months ago, I wrote the following:

"Ethel better not sneak out on me the way Elaine did...."

Well, she didn't. I got to be there. And she's now hanging out with her buddies Terence and Elaine, among others.

And she already made her presence known at Evening Prayer as we tolled the bells for her. But the story of that and the weekend will be written up tomorrow morning sometime.

In the meantime .... blessings on you, my sweet. You put up an amazing fight, and I'm glad you decided to take your reward. Say hi to my other buddies up there and know that you were extraordinarily loved. Thanks for being so deceptive in your appearance of a "sweet little ol' nun" ... and thank you for loving me.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

TV Tidbit....

... as passed along from Lorem ...
Delores Hart (the Elvis actress-turned-Benedictine) is going to be profiled on 'CBS Sunday Morning' this coming weekend. It's on from 9-10:30 (although her part won't be that long; like '60 Minutes,' they have several features).
She was discussed in an earlier post here.

Meanwhile, though I have lots to say, I need to head up the hill to sit with my buddy Ethel for a bit. So, until I return to the keyboard .... peace out to you all.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Some Context for the News

If you listen to NPR's Morning Edition, you may have heard the story this morning about Eric Lueken, a Marine from Dubois, Indiana, who was killed in Iraq. Dubois is only about 15 minutes away from the monastery, so he's a local guy. In fact, when his father is interviewed, he said that he dropped Eric off for the Marine Corps bus in Ferdinand. The whole county has flags at half-mast in his honor.

Prayer Update

Thanks for all the kind comments on the previous post .... it means a lot.

The "other sister" I mentioned before died Tuesday night .... she had been secretary for the monastery leadership for the past 15 years, so in some respects she ran the place. It's gonna be a tough one, especially for our administration.

Blessings on you, Elise .... at least you didn't suffer too long.

They always say that these things happen in threes around here ....

MMmmmmmm, cocktails ... (insert Homer Simpson drool sound here)

Courtesy of RevEm (from a while back) ....
How to make a steph

5 parts friendliness

5 parts humour

3 parts leadership
Add to a cocktail shaker and mix vigorously. Serve with a slice of caring and a pinch of salt. Yum!

How to make a Sr. Steph

3 parts pride

3 parts silliness

3 parts joy
Blend at a low speed for 30 seconds. Add a little cocktail umbrella and a dash of caring

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sigh .....

Apparently, my buddy Ethel met with the doctor today .... Medically, there is little that can be done for her. Her body has just been through too much. .... The doctor was clear that she can make her comfortable but not “better”.


We have another sister, too, who is nearing the end (and maybe one or two more), but Ethel's the really key one for me right now.

And I only get more attached as time progresses ....


Sunday, May 07, 2006

It's the Most Wonderful Horrible Time of the Year!

And I haven't even hit the Reformation yet!?!?!? And block scheduling means I only see the kids every other day ....

In other words ..... I'm in big trouble!!!

Remember last semester?

Of course, this also means ....

Friday, May 05, 2006

Friday Five ~ A Very Merry Unbirthday

This meme brought to you by the RevGalBlogPals.

1. Favorite birthday cake/ice cream/dessert: Immediate thought is my mom's Chocolate Torte ... that was my standard request for the last several birthdays-at-home. But I'm always up for ice cream. Or milkshakes. Or cookies. Or cake. Or ....

2. Surprise Parties -- have you ever given or received one? Growing up, we would often have "midnight parties" -- we'd go wake up the birthday person and have some of their favorite treats (as sanctioned and performed by the parental units, of course). My freshman year in college, my parents had set it up with my roommates -- there was a thoroughly unexpected not-quite-midnight party with all my floormates awaiting me when I got back into the room the night before my birthday.

A couple years ago we did a 40th anniversary one for my parents. Except we knew that my mom wouldn't like being underdressed and the like, so we took advantage of the fact that my brother-in-law was born just a few hours before my parents got married (a story that's a great way to check if people are really listening!). So, she thought we were doing a surprise party for my brother-in-law. My sisters, of course, did an excellent job of pulling off the scam, complete with a guest list for my mom to check, having one of his co-workers RSVP to my mom, and even a set-up wherein my mom thought she had given away the secret to my brother-in-law. In fact, my mom ended up cleaning and decorating my sister's house for her own surprise party -- they just replaced the birthday stuff with anniversary stuff. Needless to say, it was quite entertaining when my mom thought she showed up early to help set up and all her friends are standing around the inside of the house. She stood at the door frozen for a good three minutes, mouth dropped open, trying to process it all. My dad, on the other hand, picked up pretty quickly and just started laughing at the whole thing.

I've also been involved in a few surprises here at the monastery, but you know the saying .... what happens in the monastery stays in the monastery. :-)

3. Favorite birthday present: Can I change it to worst? Because that's a lot easier to select.

I turned 30 during my novice year at the monastery. Since the novice year is set by church law to be a more restrictive time, I had plans with some friends that they would pick up some pizza and we would watch Finding Nemo (since I hadn't been able to go see it in the theater because I was a novice). Unfortunately, right before the fun was to begin, I discovered that what I thought might have been a mouse dashing across my floor on Monday night was in fact truly a mouse, as he took the opportunity to saunter a bit more slowly across my floor on this-now-Friday evening. I had had it (because of some of the other issues involving his previous days' residence in my room and our thoughts that he had been caught) and stormed down the three flights of stairs (he climbed all the way up to visit me?!?) and went for a rant-filled walk outside. In the meantime, apparently some of my good formation buddies attempted to catch him with a Cool Whip container. When I came back, I decided that since we knew he was in my room, we should just put the traps in there and wait him out. Which we did. And, to lessen his chances for escape, I opened my door a minimally as possible .... and slept on the couch down the hall during the weekend. Lots of other tidbits to tell about this extremely adventurous creature (as discovered when I cleaned. My whole room. And saw he had been everywhere.), but I need some sleep, too, so I'll just save them for another day.

4. What do you think of those candles that won't blow out? Depends. Am I on the receiving or giving end?

5. Best. birthday. ever. Again, off the top of my head .... 25th. 24 had been tough ... I had been working in the boarding school in Louisiana for a few months, and was gonna start taking courses to get certified to teach. This meant I had to take the Praxis test, but for some reason the only location available for me was somewhere in Mississippi. Slightly obnoxious, but I was gonna take my very good friend along (who had actually gotten me the job) and we were gonna make a little road-trip fun weekend out of it. Except that the week before she basically disappeared -- we just got an announcement in a faculty meeting that she was on a leave of absence from the school -- and I didn't even get to say goodbye. So not only did I not know even where the only friend I had down there had gone, I had to spend my birthday driving to some stupid test way far away without the person who was supposed to come make it enjoyable.

So, the next year .... a couple friends from home who have birthdays right around mine decided to remedy the situation. The two of them flew down to Jacksonville (one of them was from there and still had season tickets to the Jaguars) and I flew across from Louisiana to meet up with them, and we had a weekend of fun with her family, a Jags game, and a day at Disney World. Two very good friends with whom I had probably the most laughs than with anyone else .... and that weekend was just more of the same.
I began responding in my comment box, but then realized it might go a bit long, so I decided to give my thoughts a new post.

The very first thing I address in my Social Justice class (which matches the first major theme given by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in Sharing Catholic Social Teaching) is the "Life and Dignity of the Human Person" – that each and every person on this earth was created in the image and likeness of God that God found to be very good, and thus that each and every person on this earth has inherent God-given worth and dignity. Or, as the bishops put it: "We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person." So I don't see this situation as a question merely of what the jury should consider as much as I see it an issue of "Should the death penalty even be on the table as an option?"

Actually, the Catholic perspective has not so much shifted as it has been solidified, especially by becoming a top priority in the past year and the topic for a brand new pastoral statement, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death. The background information for congressional lobbying on this issue presents the USCCB position:
Since 1980, the U.S. Catholic bishops have taken a strong and principled position against the use of the death penalty in the United States. The Catholic Church opposes the use of the death penalty not just for what it does to those guilty of horrible crimes, but for how it affects society. Last November, the U.S. Catholic Bishops affirmed this position in their statement A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death. This statement complements the efforts of the Catholic Church for many years and is a part of a comprehensive Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty launched in March of 2005. Moreover, Pope John Paul II, in both The Gospel of Life and the revised Catechism of the Catholic Church, stated that our society has adequate alternative means today to protect society from violent crime without resorting to capital punishment.

In looking for what the Catechism says, I was struck by this segment within the Social Justice section (§1930) .... I find it to be amazing food for thought:
Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy. If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church's role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.
So, if society does not respect the rights of a human that flow from his/her dignity, then authority can rely only on force or violence? Hmmmm .....

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Solution to the World's Problems

Headline on the front page of the Post today for the Media Notes column, which does kind of a round-up of what everyone's saying:
Is Congress a Running Joke?

Opening lines:
But seriously, folks, has Congress become something of a joke?
Are these toothless lawmakers no longer capable of passing anything with bite?

And then it points out the seemingly pathetic attempts to make things work.

Reminded me of a post I saw earlier today and wanted to promote anyway .... this just provides perfect context. Check out her platform ... it's priceless.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

This May Sound Horribly Twisted, But .....

I have to admit that I did a giant "Yes!" to seeing this headline:

Moussaoui Sentenced to Life for Role in 9/11 Plot ~ Jurors Reject Death Penalty

Please do not misunderstand and report me to Homeland Security. Remember ... I was teaching 10 minutes outside the District line that Tuesday morning. I was extremely upset once I made the connection that my mom had just started working downtown and hadn't initially wanted to -- and we talked her into it; it wasn't until later that evening that I discovered that her new office was in fact two blocks away from the Capitol. Amazingly enough, my sisters called her the moment the planes hit New York and told her to clear out, and she was able to grab a cab home right before all hell broke loose. I had friends with relatives affected; the landscape of my "home" was extremely changed. I went down to the Pentagon a week later to make it all real, separate it from all the fancy-schmancy cinematic techniques that we see on TV every day.
Do I like what happened on that sunny Tuesday morning? Of course not.

Do I believe that, had Moussaoui told the truth, the New York skyline would look the same as it did ten years ago? Quite frankly, I don't think so.

And yet .... even if he was the sole individual responsible for the planning, coordinating, and implementing of the entire event, would I think he should be killed? On my behalf?

I don't think so.

I felt like I was hitting a brick wall this morning during my Social Justice class. In trying to get these kids to broaden their horizons, some times are easier than others. Over and over, I try to explain the "Seamless Garment" approach to life issues. That, no matter what, we are all beloved children of God, deserving of dignity and respect, because we all were created in the image and likeness of God ... all of which God found to be very good. A concept, which today also included the non-human aspects of God's creation ... at least in my mind. There was some disagreement on the part of a few kids. But I digress ....

Over and over and over I've blogged about the all-loving all-merciful God that Jesus preached. Over and over I've questioned my right to judge .... even if it's my right to judge those who pass judgements on others that I don't like, Fred Phelps et al. And I have yet to even venture near a keyboard with my growing frustration over the past few weeks about all the division we create in our "us/them" world.

Which should help explain why I was stopped cold on my way to school last week, when I heard the line from the prosecuting attorney during his closing arguments: "Let me be blunt, ladies and gentlemen. There is no place on this good earth for Zacarias Moussaoui . . . Cruel, heinous and depraved do not even begin to tell the story."

And yet, in looking up the quote, I came across his comments right before this line, which would be absolutely hilarious if it weren't so horrendously ironic: "Enough is enough. It's time to put an end to his hatred and venom."

But what about our hatred and venom?

In trying to find that quote for my kids last week, I came across
this USAToday blog, and I wonder how people don't see how some of their comments are right on par with what they're hating Moussaoui and the others for. Granted, these are just random people spouting off in some anonymous comment box .... I could label them extremists, insist that they don't represent me .... but doesn't that hold true as well for the Islamic world?
Just a sampling:
Lethal injection is too quick. Turn him loose in the street of NYC and let the people give him American style execution.
Give him a choice: life in prison in total isolation, no yardbreaks, no reading material, no eletronic media, no human interaction of any kind. Meals can be taken in/removed. Simply, his own mind/soul in his own cell forever....or.....give him a gas can and a box of matches in an empty stainless steel room that has nothing to burn and wait until the smell of smoke is gone.
Both options offer both great pro's and con's. My suggestion for the best solution? Take out a full page ad in all of the NY newspapers that you will be depositing this man at "ground zero" on X date at X time. I believe that justice will then be served!
I say put him to death in a firing squad with guns loaded with bullets that have been soaked in pigs blood. Martyr or not, the boy won't make it to his Heaven with that nasty abomination. Send the message to all his fellow partakers that a similar fate awaits them all.
Here's an idea. We could always let him spend 1-2 years in American prison and them strap him to a daisey-cutter bomb as it is dropped over taht armpit of a country known as Iran. That way we kill two birds with one stone and we'll be all nice and done!!
I feel so hopeless. And yet, that jury gave me hope. None of them bought the martyr line, and none felt that a life in prison would be the worst option. But either way, and regardless of which arguments they accepted or not, at least they weren't immediately trigger-happy, reaching for that syringe.

Which apparently isn't out of the ordinary in cases like these. According to the Post article, "Federal juries nationwide have chosen life over death by a 2 to 1 margin since the early 1990s, statistics show. None of the five defendants eligible for the death penalty in the Alexandria courthouse have received it."

Course .... I wonder if they'll try to revisit this issue if/when the Death Penalty Enhancement Act is finalized and approved.

But really, we are a civilized nation. Our death penalty practices don't really need any enhancing. As long as we overlook headlines like this that we might see right alongside the Moussaoui verdict: Man tells executioners "It's not working."

I had just entered the monastery when the snipers laid seige to the DC area. It began with five shootings in a 1.5-mile radius area; when I looked at the little circle on the graphic in the paper, I could point out the house where I grew up (and where my parents still live). So, when they spoke of a Mobil gas station, even though there are several gas stations right around one particular intersection, I knew exactly which one they were talking about. And while I was living 600 miles away at the time, I was terrorized by this even more than if I was still at home, because it was a couple weeks before it became national news. For those 22 days, I was compulsive about checking the Washington Post -- has the headline changed in the last 15 minutes? When someone told me they caught the guys, I didn't buy it right off; I was wary, thinking it was too good to be true. Believe me, even in the Monastery Nowheresville, I felt the impact of those guys.

But, to see the jockeying for position once they were caught? Where would we have the best chances of watching them fry? One death sentence isn't enough; let's keep trying, just in case. The jury didn't understand that they had options, gave the kid life in prison? Darn. Guess we'll retry him somewhere else. Wait, we can't execute juveniles anymore? Well, then, why bother with another trial.

Is it justice we want, or vengence?

Let us not become the evil we deplore.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Totally Freaked!

On a whim, I checked out my Keyword Activity. I know lots of people report their funky keyword combinations, but the few times I've checked, no one has seemed to search for my blog in any way whatsoever. But today I actually had a few semi-interesting ones. Nothing compared to others that I've seen, but compared to "BlogSearch for nuntime" .... it was pretty exciting.

Some of them make sense, like:
stephanie blog nun (from just down the road from the monastery???)
in witness thereof
monastic dress
theotokos; god bearer
Easter Vigil Readings

And I can kinda see how these two got directed towards me:
does mary j. blige has a sister or brother
wearing black pantsuit to interview

But I was at a complete loss for these two:
do contact lens inserters really work?
lyrics to the song though they laugh and did not believe noah kept on praying and kept on saying it's gonna rai

Does anyone even know what that song is? Cuz I sure as heck don't have it posted anywhere ...

But the one that led to the Subject Line above was a Yahoo Search for Stephanie [LastName]. Now, from the start I decided not to go the anonymous route – even if I hadn't named my community it probably wouldn't have been that hard to figure out who I was. Then, once you get links to my community ... it's no great stretch to find pictures and press releases about me. Then from there, finding out all you want about me is Just a Google Away.

But ... I've never put my full name directly here on this blog. I figured people should have to work a little to chase me down. After all, it'd be no big stretch for my kids to find me on here even without my last name, but I didn't want to make it that easy. That's why I've been skeptical about the whole WordCloud thing – my LastName kept showing up on it (along with all the BlogRing info) .... and yet, when I search my blog for LastName, it's not found. Hmmmmm .....

Sollicitudo Rei Socialis did have my full name both in my bio and posted in the sidebar as one of the Contributors (full names and bios are gone with the cessation of posting), but I was cool with that. Of course, it could point people back to my blog, but, like I said, I'm not fully trying for anonymity. So it makes sense that a search for Stephanie [LastName] would bring the searcher to Narrow at the Outset.

But ....

Someone from Ireland?!?!?

Searching for me?!?!?!?

By first and last names?!?!?

Please delurk yourself, whoever you are .... the only people I can think of that I "know" in Ireland are folks that I've met once or twice while I helped at our Vocation Conference at the monastery. And there's no way those people even knew my last name, let alone remember it two years later to search for it.

And if someone from Ireland can do it .... I wonder when my kids will let me know that My Gig, too, Is Up.

So, please please please please PLEASE ..... enlighten me, O Pal Across the Puddle. Perhaps you might even win Morristown New Jersey's unclaimed prize (pay no attention to the lies in the comments of this post).

Oh, and .... if Any of Odin's handmaidens who conducted the souls of the slain to Valhalla are out there ... ummmm .... hi?

Totally Creeped!

Worms at the Window
Originally uploaded by SrStephOSB.
Imagine, if you will, this window up near the ceiling of my basement cave. Imagine, if you will, that the sky outside is not bright and sunny, but dark and thundery. Imagine, if you will, waking up to see this .... ummmm .... sight in front of you. Imagine, if you will, that this photo ends at the windowsill -- the window is set back about 18 inches into the wall. Imagine, if you will, watching these two brown lines slide their way back up onto the windowsill.

Imagine, if you will, still being creeped and jumpy even upstairs sitting crosslegged in a chair during morning prayer.


Any advice?

Monday, May 01, 2006

But Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you?

At our school, the junior religion class is Social Justice; this year the junior retreat has been shifted to one run by Crossroads Ministry. It's an overnight inner-city immersion experience with the intent (hopefully) of broadening their horizons a little bit. One of the biggest things that I got out of the experience was a reminder that I need to get back into this stuff again. Service has always been a big thing for me, and I've had two really huge experiences that have made me (re)connect with the extreme significance direct service has for me (which I'll write about later). This wasn't as huge, but still ... I need to get back into this again. It also clinched for me that I need to keep my Social Justice class, if even just the one section – convince these kids that they need to get out there as well! As frustrating as it can be sometimes, I have to at least try.

Just to share a couple of the things that struck me …

We made blankets. Just the simple two-layer fleece things that you cut and tie the edges together. Nice, easy, idiot-proof. One side had the pattern; the other side was signed by each of us with some quote we had chosen from wandering the CrossRoads house. (I, of course, used the Rule of Benedict – And above all, never lose hope in God's mercy.) We made 12 blankets that were to be donated to The Healing Place for Women when we visited there the next day. Such a simple basic thing that took no time and minimal cost, and yet would provide psychological warmth and comfort to someone in real need. It reminded me of the Linus Project, which provides security blankets for kids – I thought it was the coolest idea when I first heard about it, but it's been absent from my mind in the five years since. Something for me to do, to give, perhaps?

We went for a long walk, kind of a pilgrimage through the city, stopping at various points to draw a cross on the ground, have a reading, and remember that this is all holy ground. We stopped first outside Glade House, which began over twenty years ago to serve the needs of those facing AIDS/HIV. Which, if you consider the understanding (or lack thereof) of AIDS in the 1980s .....

We stopped in the food court area of Fourth Street Live for bathroom breaks and a pause for journalling ... and then we left, seemingly to continue our journey. What we hadn't realized was that our stop had been rather intentional; as soon as we stepped out one of the side doors of Fourth Street Live, we found ourselves in an alleyway marked with yet another chalk cross. Dawn (the leader) pointed out that, to be truly accurate, the cross would be on the top of the wall alongside us, for that very wall represented a paradox. On one side of the wall was Fourth Street Live, a place with couches just "inside" the entrance to the outdoors mall .... with flat-screen TVs suspended from the ceiling, again on the outside .... with lots of restaurants that give excessively ample portions of food, more than you could imagine of whatever you choose to eat.

Then there was the other side of the wall. The side of the wall that faced us in the alley. Just to our left were the glass doors into the entertainment complex that is Fourth Street Live. Just behind us to the right were some stairs leading down into the Cathedral Undercroft, where about 150 people arrive every day at lunchtime for some soup and bologna sandwiches. Those who come here to dine may not even have a couch on the inside of their "home"; the only TVs they watch may be on the other side of the window from where they sleep. They too can have ample food to meet their needs, and choice too .... but not at all the same choice you got on the other side of the wall.

It's not all bad, though. Occasionally the two worlds blend, merge into one. Apparently during the first year of Fourth Street Live, the folks who were supposed to bring the Christmas dinner for the Cathedral Lunch Kitchen (see page 4) somehow didn't come through. The owner of the Hard Rock Cafe next door told them: "Don't even open your doors." They called in their waitstaff, invited the folks in and had them eat off the menu. They didn't just send food over; they gave them a real night out. From the looks of the newsletter, it seems Hard Rock continues to assist by way of staff and freezer space.

We had a woman come speak to us Tuesday night, about her previous work as a public defender and now as a lawyer with Child Protective Services. Hearing her speak reminded me about one of those times when I was hit by the need to reach beyond myself. I was helping with a service project in Pontiac, Michigan, during the summer before my junior year in college, and had been completely taken in by Yvonne. She was an adorable kid, with sandy-brown curls, wide eyes, and an infectious smile. One morning, in response to the standard question of how she was doing, she said very matter-of-factly: "Oh, my mom got mad, punched out the windshield of the car; car was covered in blood. I got hurt too, but I'm not supposed to talk about it." Her manner of speaking made you think she was merely recounting her cereal of choice that morning. The same kid who, another day on the bus, was telling me how she's not sure what she thinks of police officers, since she saw them take her dad away in handcuffs. And yet she was the sweetest, most loving, most precious little 5-year-old I've ever encountered. It was heartbreaking. It's her fault that I am where I am today. I had been a chemical engineering major, looking to go into biochem/biomedical engineering and work with pharmaceuticals/drug transport and artificial organs ... but with Yvonne and all the other broken innocence I was facing, my mantra for the project became: I can't spend the rest of my life locked up in some factory somewhere making shampoo. I've gotta be doing something to help these kids. And thus I did my drastic Chemical Engineering --> Music Therapy switch halfway through junior year.

I often lose sight of that drive, to do something .... but when it resurfaces – BAM! The other time I was hit hard was doing an Appalachia Service Project the summer I was in the midst of my initial crush with this community; I was hit so hard that I almost didn't come for the Benedictine Life Week the following week, Ferdinand seemed so disconnected from the "real" issues of the world.

I almost wonder if I've lost that drive. Eating a bologna sandwich with Don Wednesday afternoon .... riding inner-city public transportation with the kids .... stopping outside the nondescript prison .... hearing the stories of two women my age and their journey back from alcohol and meth .... standing on the very spot where Thomas Merton had his Walnut Street epiphany .... and, while I had the thought that I need to keep my Social Justice class so I can keep trying to open these kids eyes, and while I had the thought of making blankets for homeless kids, and while I had the thought of coming back down to the soup kitchen to spend time with the people .... it didn't burn in me the way it did in Pontiac, or in Appalachia.

And I think that's what upsets me most. That I'm not upset. Have I really lost my edge? My drive? My need to reach beyond?

I need to get back into this. I need to engage once more.

I need to not lose the big picture of what really matters. I can talk at the kids all day long about it, but I better have something to back it up.

I need to reconnect with that part of me that lives for others.

May I not remain unchanged.go to main page

In Witness Thereof, Part II

A comment left on the earlier post is being given its own entry ... because I want them to get due credit!

From Jeana:
Okay this is a week late, but the pictures from our profession are finally up on Home at the Dome!
It was awsome. I didn't expect practically to cry when I got up to read the document. Thus you see no picture of me reading MY profession!

Jules brings up a good point ... one of these days I should explain the nun-making process. Which would then answer Lisa's question .... Final Profession does take place in the context of the Mass. For us, each step is gradually more involved with liturgical celebrations, with Perpetual Profession culminating in a Mass. It'll make sense when I explain the process, but I've gotta go teach kids right now.

But .... go check out pictures. There should be a news release posted soon as well.
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