Thursday, November 20, 2014

PER SEMPRE ROMA



I don't pay much attention to what's going on in the Vatican but I'm a huge Pope Francis fan. And I did note with approval when a couple of months ago he made the mild and eminently common-sense observation that if we are calling folks of same-sex attraction (along with all us single Catholics), out of ardent love for Christ) to celibacy, we will of course want to embrace them with open arms, invite all to the table, and recognize  generosity, creativity, and nobility of spirit wherEVER it appears in the human heart!

Well that is beautiful I thought. Then, by chance, I glanced at my FB newsfeed one night and saw the appalling reaction of several folks who you would have thought had just been ordered to round up their first-borns and slay them.

How OLD are you? I thought. And when was the last time you left your gated compound?

Anyway soon afterward I somehow got wind of the fact that next October the Church is going to hold a synod on the family in Rome. I was in Rome once: probably forty years ago, when I was still drinking.

And suddenly the thought arose: Maybe it's time to go again

Just sort of mosey on over, wander (but with a purpose) about to churches, mingle, eat, fast, pray. Pray for the Church, our Mother, and all of us in it, and all people everywhere. Our hearts, our wounds, Pray for the reconciliation of the wound between men and women that I am ever more convinced is at the heart of all poverty, all war, the degradation of the earth's resources

That includes of course my own wound.

I am perfectly capable of and willing to go the airbnb route, or just rent a little room somewhere. I am always happiest and most comfortable creeping about incognito and alone.

But then I thought well maybe I could participate a bit in some way not of my own choosing. For that is one very sure way to get out of my own "gated community"--and we are always but always called to leave our gated communities.

I'm also continually astonished at the "magic" of my blog. Folks emerge from the woodwork to say they've been following it for years.

So I'm going to throw it out there, just on the off chance anyone knows of or has a suggestion of a spot--a room in some tucked-way convent, a horse stall--I might make headquarters for a week. Wifi, a coffee machine, and within walking distance of St Paul's Church on the Via Napoli and/or St. Andrew's, Via XX Settembre 7 and I'd be good to go.

Totally able and willing to pay the going rate or make a donation.
.
Probably easiest to email: hdking719@gmail.com.
Thank you!



DOWNTOWN L.A. CATHEDRAL OF OUR LADY OF THE ANGELS
7 A.M. MASS

Monday, November 17, 2014

THANK YOU, CONCEPTION ABBEY SEMINARIANS!





All week, I've been drinking in the big skies and long views of northern Missouri.

A mile or so from Conception Abbey, at the end of a trail that winds through fields and vale, lies the Mary Grotto: dedicated to a seminarian who died here several years ago. One of the dear young men here SHOUT-OUT TO CHAD walked me out early in the week.





Another day I went out at dusk, just before Evening Prayer, and walked the perimeter of the pond. The clouds, while benevolent, seemed a force of nature: bearing down, enveloping, incorporating,shifting,  incarnating.

The next afternoon it snowed, the first fall of the season..





I didn't have the right foot gear, but I bundled up and tramped off anyway, noticing the way the trees, and grasses, and native plants receive and provide a nest for the snow.






Me and the birds--back to the grotto.



And now, after Monday Night Compline, I prepare to head home tomorrow.
Sunday night at the Clyde Apple House rocked.
Thank you, one and all truly beautiful seminarians for the deep, rich time I had here.
May the all powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death.
Let's all keep one another in prayer.
And if the spirit ever moves, come on out to Los Angeles!
 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

AN INTERVIEW WITH SENIOR LEAD OFFICER SKID ROW COP DEON JOSEPH

I BET I COULD BEAT HIM AT ARM WRESTLING, EASY
For The Tidings, I worked up a little piece on Senior Lead Officer Deon Joseph whose beat is L.A.'s Skid Row. It begins:

"When you drive into downtown L.A.’s Skid Row, you feel suddenly and violently cut adrift from all the markers that signal civilization.

I learned of Senior Lead Office Deon Joseph through an article he wrote last August for Downtown News. He sounded human. He responded quickly to my request to talk. I’d come down to the station, we agreed. Always nicer in person.

Joseph is 41, with the stocky build and huge arms of a guy who likes to keep order.

“I was raised in a rough part of Long Beach. My father grew up in the Jim Crow South. He saw his great-grandfather murdered by a 16-year-old who wanted my great-grandfather to walk in the street because he was walking on the sidewalk,” Joseph said.

“He and my mother loved children. They raised four, adopted three, and took in 41 foster children: crack babies, sexual abuse, homeless. My father hired ex-felons. My mother fed the homeless.”

He never wanted to be a cop. “Like many African-American males, I was indoctrinated to hate the police.” But then his father’s contracting business crashed after the Rodney King riots."

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Friday, November 14, 2014

THE MEASURE OF MY DAYS




SUNRISE FROM MY GUESTROOM

I would like to report that here at Conception Abbey, in Conception, Missouri, the age of chivalry is not dead!

I can't say how touched I have been at the courtly manners of the young men who have called me Miss King (Madame! I want to say), patiently guided me from building to building, kindly handed me a hymnal open to the correct page, discreetly slipped me a copy of the Lord's Prayer in Spanish, fetched me a napkin, appeared at my elbow as if by magic with a laminated prayer card of the Salve Regina, walked me to the Mary grotto, forbearingly repeated the schedule for the following day, refrained from shooting me for inadvertently taking their seat in the oratory, and overlooked my many daily faux pas.

Even better, many of the seminarians have shared some of their stories, struggles, and holy longing.

It can't be easy to welcome a stranger into their midst and they have done so graciously, tactfully and with a wth a kind of wholesome mid-Western heart that has warmed my own.

Meanwhile it is freezing, penetratingly, cold outside so much of my photo-taking has been accomplished from indoors. My room faces east making for spectacular mornings, always my favorite time of day.

I'm sure something deep is happening here. As usual, I have no idea what it might be. Not that something deep has to happen, but the older I get, the more I feel that every second, the world, and all us frail human beings in it,  is dying and being being made new.

And I feel sure the solid presence of these possible priests-in-training is fortifying and guiding me in some way I can't know. Just hearing their voices raised together in song is steadying and a gift.

“Hear my prayer, O Lord,
And give ear to my cry;
Do not be silent at my tears;
For I am a stranger with You,
A sojourner, as all my fathers were

Remove Your gaze from me, that I may regain strength,
Before I go away and am no more.”


--Psalm 39

SUNSET FROM THE ORATORY

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

CONCEPTION ABBEY: HAVE YOU BEEN IN LOVE?

 
Twenty-five years [after photographer Minor White made his "pilgrimage" to see Alfred Stieglitz], White could recall only in the most general terms what took place in those meetings--they looked at prints, they talked about what was happening in photography and modern art--but one of his journals reveals what made the deepest impression on him. Stieglitz asked him, "Have you been in love?" And when White answered that yes, he had, Stieglitz said, "Then you can photograph."

--From Aperture, No. 80, "Minor White: Rites and Passages. His Photographs Accompanied by Excerpts from His Diaries and Letters, Biographical Essay by James Baker Hall," p. 16


OUTSIDE CONCEPTION ABBEY
CONCEPTION, MISSOURI
WITH THE TREES BARE, YOU CAN SEE MANY ABANDONED NESTS.
VERY BEAUTIFUL HERE. FREEZING COLD.
WARM HEARTS IN THE MONKS AND SEMINARIANS.

Monday, November 10, 2014

SELF-PUBLISHING COUP



Holy mackerel, things have been moving at a steady, ALMOST but not quite frenetic, clip.

One huge event of the past weeks is that Loyola Press has bought my most recent book. You know it (or not) as STRIPPED: Cancer, Culture and the Cloud of Unknowing. Several months ago I rec'd an out-of-the-blue email from Joe Durepos and darned if the team there didn't read and like the book. And so they have bought it!

And will no doubt re-title it, do some light editing, give it a new cover, and bring it out in the not too far distant future.

Which means when I become famous and/or get canonized the original version, published by Holy Hell Books (that's me) through createspace will be a collector's item. So get 'em while they last!

No, seriously,
all those hours spent hiring a designer, proof-reading, editing galleys, getting the thing formatted for ebook have paid off. They'd paid off already, as my goal was always simply to get the book "out there." But for those who for whatever reason have chosen to self-publish, I hope this is a little piece of encouragement. Cause once it is out there, you never know who's going to see it, and respond.

Personally I think St. Ignatius arranged the whole thing as recompense for the Lyme Disease I contracted while doing the 30-day Exercises last summer.

Thank you, Joe D. and Tom McGrath. Thank you, Loyola Press. Thank you, God.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

THE SOUND OF A WILD SNAIL EATING


Here's my reflection on Elisabeth Tova Bailey's killer memoir about her year of being bedridden and her discovery of the humble forest snail.

Almost makes you want to come down withe a debilitating illness yourself!



Thursday, November 6, 2014

THE MOMENT OF RECONCILIATION


SUNSET AND ALVARADO,
ECHO PARK, L.A.
THAT RECTANGULAR SIGN, UPPERMOST RIGHT,
REPORTS THAT THIS WAS PART OF THE OLD ROUTE 66

When I first became a Catholic, I often went to Mass at St. Basil's where, before Mass, together we'd pray the Angelus, followed by the Morning Offering:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, the salvation of souls, the  reparation for sin, the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of all the apostles of prayer and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father for this month of fill in the blank.

Slowly I memorized the Angelus and the Morning Offering. I found by the time I'd gotten out of bed and made coffee I'd already undergone a universe of "joys, sufferings, prayers and works." And ever since I've loved checking out the Holy Father's prayer intentions at the beginning of each month so I can remember them in my morning prayer throughout.

For the month of November, 2014, those are:

Lonely people. That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others.

Mentors of seminarians and religious. That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.

Somehow the two seem connected. What human being has not known--does not continue to know--loneliness? And those pledged, in and out of seminaries, to the contemplative life voluntarily sign up for a special kind of loneliness; a particular way of consenting to be without signposts, validation, or peers.  .


Anna Kamienska (1920-1986) was a Polish poet, writer and translator. Her poems "touch on Jewish culture, and the loss of Jewish and Yiddish culture from Poland as a result of the Holocaust." After the death of her husband in 1967, she turned to Christianity.

THE MOMENT OF RECONCILIATION

Take in your hand the gray wafer of day
for the moment of reconciliation has arrived

Let there be reconciled
apple with knife

tree with fire

day with night

laughter with sobbing

nothingness with body

Let there be reconciled

loneliness with loneliness

--Anna Kamienska, from Astonishments, trans. Grazyna Drabik and David Curzon

RANDOM SHOT OUT CAR WINDOW FURTHER DOWN SUNSET
IS THAT HAIR?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

ILLUSION, REALITY, AND ANOTHER TRIP TO THE HEARTLAND



I can't begin to share the depth and breadth and width and height of my gratitude as of late. Lost in wonder, all day, every day, even in the midst of fatigue, impatience, fear, and the zillion calls for help, mundane obligations, and petty annoyances of daily life.

My column on arts, culture, faith and life for The Tidings has become a lodestar. I feel as if my whole life has been leading up to this crazy forum in which, WEEKLY, I get to write about the people I admire, the things that fascinate me, and the ideas that set me on fire.

Plus, people, I get comps! That's right. A PAIR of tickets to the ballet, the opera, the L.A. Master Chorale, thus allowing me to ingratiate myself to the two or three friends I haven't yet managed to totally alienate! Saturday night I saw Swan Lake and Thursday my friend Annika and I will attend Dido & Aeneas/Bluebeard's Castle at the opera.

"Do not worry about what you are to eat or what you are to wear (or what art you're going to be graced to take in). The Heavenly Father knows before you ask Him"...

I always peg myself as a warm weather person, but the fact is I love winter, too. The minute Daylight Savings hits, I get out the extra down comforter, haul out the space heater, check my home-made Christmas card supplies, dust off the holiday recipes and, heart leaping with anticipation, start waking at 3:18 a.m.

Yup, my winter circadian rhythm kicks in and the good Lord entices me up super early so I can sit with Him for a couple of hours and, especially lately, hit 7 a.m. Mass at the downtown Cathedral. After an action-packed day, I'm ready for bed by 9 and in my coolish (uninsulated) room, it's a joy to burrow 'neath the covers, clutch my rosary to my breast for dear life, and descend into slumber.

This week holds a special anticipation as next Monday I'll fly out to Kansas City, get picked up by the good Fr. Xavier, and proceed to Conception Abbey. Here, starting Monday night, I'll give a Day of Recollection for the seminarians. Again, it would be impossible to describe how deeply I feel this as a mystery and a sacred honor. I mean, come on--me? And on the other hand, absolutely, me.

Because this is the great paradox: you die to your ego; you come awake in Christ.

I'm going to stay at the Abbey for a week. I'll bring my books, my camera, and my shearling jacket. I'll wander about the trails and look at the sky. I'll go deep inside, pray for the seminarians--as I've been doing for weeks--and prepare interiorly for Advent.



Morgan Meis, a wonderful writer himself, sent the link yesterday to a piece by Francis Spufford (a writer who was new to me) called "The Trouble with Atheists."

Spufford writes:

"What goes on inside believers is mysterious. So far as it can be guessed at it appears to be a kind of anxious pretending, a kind of continual, nervous resistance to reality. We don't seem to get it that the magic in Harry Potter, the rings and swords and elves in fantasy novels, the power-ups in video games, the ghouls and ghosts of Halloween, are all, like, just for fun. We try to take them seriously; or rather, we take our own particular subsection of them seriously. We commit the bizarre category error of claiming that our goblins, ghouls, Flying Spaghetti Monsters are really there, off the page and away from the CGI rendering programs. Star Trek fans and vampire wanabes have nothing on us. We actually get down and worship. We get down on our actual knees, bowing and scraping in front of the empty space where we insist our Spaghetti Monster can be found. No wonder that we work so hard to fend off common sense. Our fingers must be in our ears all the time – la la la, I can't hear you – just to keep out the sound of the real world."
Spufford makes the point that to be a believer is to take fairy tales seriously and it's also to die to every illusion.

"The funny thing is that, to me, it's belief that involves the most uncompromising attention to the nature of things of which you are capable. Belief demands that you dispense with illusion after illusion, while contemporary common sense requires continual, fluffy pretending – pretending that might as well be systematic, it's so thoroughly incentivised by our culture."
To have faith is to become clear-eyed--mostly about yourself--to a degree that is not for the faint of heart. Or as a priest friend says, "If you're lucky, you'll give up all hope of ever being happy in any way you ever thought you were going to be."

In the end, it's you, it's me, before the Eucharist.

And the word was made flesh.
And dwelt among us.

STARGAZER LILIES AND LUX PERPETUA CANDLE,
CIRCA 4 a.m. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A NIGHT AT THE OPERA

MARIA CALLAS
"I would not kill my enemies,
but I will make them get down on their knees.
 I will, I can, I must."

Oh people, I am branching out by the moment.

This week's arts and culture column is about the opera I'll be attending Thursday evening at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown L.A..

Here's how it begins:

"I’m enthralled by the late singer Maria Callas — her voice, her life. I also have a thing for the somewhat obscure German contralto Emmi Leisner (1885-1958). But perhaps like many of us, I’ve always thought of opera as a high-brow version of the musical, which, with the exception of Fred Astaire movies, I pretty much can’t stand.

But the real deal, I have to admit, is I’m cowed by opera: I’m afraid I don’t know enough about music to 'get' it.

That was before I went to a recent luncheon talk given by the Australian theater and opera director Barrie Kosky, who made his U.S. debut last year at the L.A. opera with Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” He’s back again this season with a double bill: Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” (1689), and Béla Bartók’s “Bluebeard’s Castle” (1911)."

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

And down on your knees!!