Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Storm Predictor Center

Change. The theme was always about change. Most of us fought change. Yet we were called to be changed.

Storm Predictor Center. Storms changed lives.

Unease about the economic outlook? There was a lot of restlessness out there. Beyond the stories coming out of Iran.

Tribes. Settlers. Nationalized settlers. Whether Israel or Ireland or anywhere, people everywhere show inner beliefs are strong, based not on materialism, not on nationalism. But there was the new found clash of secularism with religion and the inner beliefs which will never change. All they will do is become civilized. People marry, settle, look for jobs. The clash of the developed world with the tribes of the 3rd world.

Tribes clashing with the settlers. Unrest. And more unrest.

That 3rd world that had become radicalized. By occupying foreign armies. By death and destruction. And the anger never subsides. The Turks and the Armenians. The Bosnians, the Serbs, and the Croats. Not in one hundred or 500 years.

Diaspora. Tornadoes and June. The hurricane season started again on June 1st. The unrest between water temperature and air temperature. Hurricanes seemed to be related to the unrest between water temperature and air temperature. And the flooding that resulted. Unrest. And more unrest.

Diaspora and Pakistan. It is said that there were 3.5 million people displaced by the pursuit of 5,000 Taliban. The tribes of the Taliban. While as fate would have it, people now in the throes of the worst post-World War II recession everywhere. I think we all saw the unrest in Pakistan as the threat. Where the currency exchange was 50 rupees per dollar in 1999, and now was 81 rupees per dollar. Unrest in the market. When political parties based on the Taliban, the old tribes, hope to secure power from the settlers there. A power that would include nuclear weapons. In a world that witnessed the hostility of the disenfranchised against the developed world that never listened. To those without cars. Without educations. With only the bond of kinsmen. Pakistan was in trouble.

Money and the times always provided the ambiance to the story. The story of life. Or the lack of any money also did. Coming to grips with it all. Diaspora, but with people stuck in homes they could not afford. One story of change, amongst the settlers.

The story of change and eventual death. The stories of destruction. Belief or disbelief. About what had happened. The social texture which grows out of its religious ground. Out of tribes and settlers. About whether death could be changed into life. Coming to grips with fear and change. Coming to grips with it all.

Changing fear into something else. Unease about the political outlook? There was a lot of restlessness out there in coming to grips with it all. The theme was always about change. When most of us fought change.

That Storm Predictor Center. And diaspora. Those storms changed lives.

Fathers and Horsehide

Father’s Day.

A father trying to reach a young son. With all in which he had believed.

For my family, Father’s Day and baseball were and still are synonymous. In the house I grew up in there was a spot in the basement where my father kept at least a dozen Reach baseballs. Okay maybe two or three dozen.

So differently, those generations? From one generation to the next, kids have always wondered what’s inside the ball. Whether it was about the inert game of golf or baseball, most kids had a curiosity about the insides of the ball. There was a sense of wonder about what was inside, and what was inside the ball was part of the attraction to the game.

What was inside the ball? Reach was the manufacturer of these baseballs kept in our basement. With Joe Cronin’s signature on them. Made in Haiti. In the late 19th century, Spalding acquired Reach and operated the company as a subsidiary, leaving the Reach name on these balls used in the American League. Our supply was always replenished.

That childhood sense of wonder – of what was inside the ball – was the first of the various real life mysteries in our lives. For my father’s kids, anyway.

Baseball is an art form, in one of the mysterious celebrations of life. Baseball which all seemed to start in our basement. At my house. Chaim Potok wrote, “Art happens when what is seen becomes mixed with the inside of the person who is seeing it.”

When I was fourteen, I got my first job. It was at a ball park. I worked there over 9 seasons. Something happened to a person when you went to a ballpark everyday of the summer, even when the team was on the road. The ballpark was like a church. Something was absorbed each day. A relationship developed – an invisible bond – with the past to the present. A invisible bond which seemed too often missing from many who played the game professionally today.

The lunchroom. When an original American League franchise had moved to my hometown. Where the tradition was carried on from the days of the Great Depression to have a lunchroom when the full-time employees ate for free (though noting the union employees on the ground crew did not have the privilege). Remembering the days of hunger from the 1930s as well as recognizing the fierceness of people who come out of revolution and great upheaval, which the players after the time of the 1976 expansion through today would never comprehend. When there had been a reserve clause in the contract.

When you had to uproot your family to survive in a ballpark on the other side of the Mississippi, in these twin cities. When your sister had married Joe Cronin and most of the people in the lunchroom had met him a few times.

Perhaps there are too few things which I care about, as much as I cared about baseball, no mattter how bothered I was on the surface about the state of the present game.

Today is the major league draft. The quality is down again this year. If you read the views stated yesterday in the Chicago papers. As it seems to be so often. It was not only the African-Americans who were no longer playing the game in great number. It seemed to be the entire generation. In a world with a booming population, with expansions which had taken the baseball world which I grew up immersed around from twenty teams to thirty, the quality at the big league level would never be the same. Because no one could throw strikes, the announcers told you of all these great at-bats. When no one hit the ball. And the games kept getting longer. Though it would never be admitted during the inning brought to you by the snake oil salesmen, with belief in liniment rubs, now employed by the team.

Since the time when everyone ate what is now called an organic banana, the days of awe have been replaced. I have a hard time being at the ballpark any more, with not enough players exhibiting that spirit within. Hustle. The tenacity shown on the diamond. When pitchers seldom threw complete games. And when too many players with a missing reserve charged the mound too fast. After an inside hard one.

The conceits. The movement in the story: the time of game. Speaking of spiritual borders between generations, when a past-time become a different kind of pursuit. Taking action. Or taking pitches, as the players became spectators. There was a difference between responding and reacting, maybe from the influence of television. With the fear as seen on a young performer’s face, dealing with greatness? Like something once started like a parent walking a child to the bus stop, the over-protection of pitch counts.

Timeless. The timeless pursuits. The waiting. Having to measure up to greatness. The challenge to the next generation to measure up. To try and measure up. To people like Charles Gardner “Old Hoss” Radbourn who in 1884 set a record for pitching 678 innings.

Children in their innocence had a reverence for things that too many jaded adults lost along the way. About baseball, about life. From the institutional voice of a parent who was always there from the beginning, as the seat of authority. In the humanness of a father. The mystery and reality of life, until one day any child had to answer the question: What do you want to be when you grow up?

It was a Father’s Day in the last 1980s. I lived in Chicago, with a real job, and my dad was in town on a trip that had him for professional reasons at Comiskey Park on that Sunday. Afterward I took him to five o’clock Mass at old St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. It was one of the few buildings that had survived the Great Chicago Fire. Old St. Patrick’s Catholic Church then was being revitalized by a priest named Jack Wall. And I think that was the day he delivered his Holy of Holies homily. It had to do with Roman centurions storming into the Jewish temple which must have been in Jerusalem in search of the Holy of Holies about which they had heard so much. It was the secret to what inspired the passions of the people of Israel. After much destruction around the location inside the the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle where Holy of Holies was kept, the Roman centurions left. They were unable to resolve the mystery of what was behind the thick curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place drawing such reverence from the people.

With the theme of recognition, I had my difiiculty with baseball in the age of expansion. Trying to pass on what was here before, not necessarily what baseball is now. And so the conflict between generations. And THAT I think is the story of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. Over issues of belief, talent and fertility. When the game seems so much more artificial – though it is the same game, only the new generation of broadcasters relied on artificial intelligence throwing around statistics – and what is my grandson using?

It is not irreverence to compare my feeling to what is inside the ball — how the ball gripped me — to the same mystery that Jack Wall talked about that Sunday. It was not so hard believing in everything a father taught you, as the beliefs became so very real. About an excitement at a ballpark. In the bonds. Over the identity, like that of a catcher from the Pitcher, when a child was born. Just a different version of spirit seen in the excitement on display from that of a Saint Patrick’s Day.

When your father introduced you to greatness, with a certain reserve. The control artists before expansion. The progressive movement as the world expands, with an awareness of the old level before the accumulative affect of twenty years upon the standard of care. During the same time, the multiplication of image and sound, and meaningless noise, in a growing population. So what happens to the old level of play, after sixteen teams grow to thirty? So beyond just the packaging, what was left inside?

The baseballs are no longer made in Haiti. Pitchers no longer can throw strikes. A good at-bat now constitutes a walk. With no assurance by leaders of quality control, with no assurance of either the baseball or the baseball player, as one game lasts forever.

So as a father and grandfathers still try to reach their sons and grandsons through the love of the game — with a sense of excitement about the world — I do wonder about what inspires the passions now of these present day people who had missed out on the real Holy of Holies. Whereas I used to wonder what was inside the ball, currently with Bud Selig’s autograph, I wonder now, in the age of steroids, from about 1992 through the present day, what is inside the athlete.

Ryan Braun


In those days of youth, I traveled to Duluth in June with my grandparents and was photographed with a sister and brother looking at a train, a post card still sold in their tourist attractions.

Time. And the waters. In those days of youth there were fireflies in the summer. I recall jars used as cages, punctured with air-holes. Those fireflies have since departed Minnesota, for the most part, where I live, as the waters for the most part keep on flowing by in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

I grew up in an age when immersion described the Catholic way of life.  Mark Massa is a Jesuit who wrote a piece in Company, discussing passing on the faith.  In his piece, he quoted Alex de Tocqueville’s famous observation of religion here in his journey in the 19th Century, with the United States the most religious nation of the industrialized world.  What he observed here and not in Europe was that religions were in competition, surviving as a voluntary activity, where the economic survival was from the religious groups and not the government. Tocqueville wrote about the two different kinds of religious groups here. The culture model offered either a religious identity of total immersion or the evangelical outreach variety.

The waters used by all living things.  Total immersion defines my upbringing, as the only way to journey in this world is to give yourself over to it.  To the journey, that is.

I lived on a Catholic street, if the religion of the neighbors defined the neighborhood.  I went to parochial school where, as I vividly recall, tuition had been $35 to $60 a year over eight years.  The generation after me never has had this total immersion into a culture that I experienced.  Not across the Catholic board, with the surplus of vocations by women.

In either the religious identity of total immersion or the evangelical outreach variety, my identity comes from the immersion into a culture in what Mark Massa, S.J., described through a unique language and music that defined us.  This Catholic culture met individual needs for social location, family values, and group interaction.  This was the world of the 1950s and 1960s for Catholics and Jews.  For the most part, Protestants were without a total immersion, or the ones on my block any how, when we moved to the Scandinavian enclave one mile away.

The fireflies have since departed Minnesota for the most part. Yet I see them once a year, in a weekend that I spend on retreat. In Lake Elmo, on Lake DeMontreville, mostly the retreat master watches in awe as God enters into their lives in very specific and individual ways. As one priest said, it was as though God had been waiting for so long to have this time with us. The retreatants. I don’t do much talking there, when individually most meet with the priest to discuss their relationships with God. The priest was there to help mediate.

Last year I wrote down a quote on retreat from a priest about how few Filipinos know how to float. Father Foley had observed the fear of immersing the head, and a resistance to immersion. I had the same fear, about swimming. He said that once you learn how to float, you never forget to relax in the presence of water.

This was a place of welcome and rest. Over time you become aware of perspective. DeMontreville was a space cared for by 3 Jesuits, where the Trappists farmed next door. Over time, you discover that you were absent a view, a perspective, and a focal point within, something much bigger than yourself. For me the spiritual excitement began after Benediction and the first night conference.

There was meaning in certain physical things I witnessed each of the June nights I have been there. There was a mystery.  It was everywhere.  It was in the fireflies on Thursday nights, at dusk.  And it was with the stillness of the lake on a Sunday morning, with a glass effect to the lake, before morning prayer.  And believe it or not, I witnessed these things each of the last 10 years.  I felt a spiritual presence in this ritual of nature, before the fishermen and the water skiers came out of the near-by homes, before and after the first and last prayers of the day.  For anyone who is open and listens for a personal intention, the natural event expresses more than the event is able to express in itself—this was the definition of miracle used by Father Edward Schillebeeckx, I learned 15 years after I first visited here.

Being in the woods.  Alone.  And stopping for the silence.  Shutting up.  The awe of it all.  When the silence is something felt, and more than just one thing that the five senses can pick up.  To be alone in nature. Away from the urban symphony.  Alone with God.  In the woods.  And feeling a presence in a silence, a true silence, a spiritual presence, which shouted.  As I was left to interpret the language of silence here.  With a retreat master.

In the study of God, Judaism can teach a lot about this world.  What did people say about God’s work of creation?  Where Midrash was the commentary on the Torah.  About the degree of caring, about the stories, which defined us.  The silent degree of caring, hidden between the lines.  There is a different degree of the caring in each human.  And sacrifice plays a role in teaching that mysterious something. When sacrifice  brought out the hidden part.  The importance for me in going on retreat is to hear the commentary of a Jesuit on his own life.  And to then see it in my own.  The Midrash.  The degree of caring about the world all around me.

In a sense, the commentary here about creation, through/with/in my life, is the mystery of life.  In this Creation, where you and I are the Midrash.  Considering how inhospitable this financial environment can be –the rising taxes, the rising health insurance premiums–that commentary on creation, with my life, made the chapters worth writing, a life worth living.  With passion.  With more caring about the world.

The awe of the discovery of my own life when up against the world — that I was significant — made the chapters of life more understandable.  Living with more caring.  With zest.  Living with more passion.

Oh the past six months!  In these times, the whole concept of a path is a bit ridiculous.  To wander for the year, without much of any income, to go forward with no clear destination in mind, is a dangerously foolish plan.  Considering this environment, being here, one begins to feel a sense of the journey.  Over giving yourself over to be immersed.  Sinking into this Creation.  In the study of God, in the search for the Creator, what do people say about God’s work of creation?  Or what did God say about a person’s work of creation?

The Mystery.  How does one not know, not feel God?  How does one feel not close to God?  Not everyone does.  Not everyone spends the time.  Not everyone tries.  I had learned to wait for those fireflies of my youth.  I had learned to wait for God, Who, like those fireflies, had a way of appearing when I took the time to look at this particular place.

The Mystery.  Wanting more.  “I suspect in wanting more, in fact, we always feel distant,” wrote Larry Gillick this week. Wondering of the meaning of people who say they would like to grow closer to God, “how would one feel if they were 50 or 70 Godmeters closer?”

The Mystery.  Soon it will be time to pick up and pack my belonging and go about again.  With the home field advantage in this land where I was born, I had found support and God’s grace in the company of friends and family.  I sense that it soon would be a time to let it happen.  That journey again, only with a sense of mastery.  Of divine power.  Wanting more.  The Jesuits used the word “Magis.”

I saw that divine power once a year on display in those fireflies. Up close. The Magis.  On the shores of this lakeside retreat.  And the fireflies refreshed the degree of caring I had, while immersed, about this creation.


Visitation III

Over the past few weeks I have had an inflamed eye. Ironically, this occurred about the time a piece was written here entitled Noli Me Tangere. The eyelid plays a major role in maintaining the integrity of the eye. Or I learned, excessive tearing would continue.

Immune-mediated diseases. Autoimmunity is the failure of an organism to recognize its own constituent parts as self, which allows an immune response against its own cells and tissues. Immunological tolerance occurs in three forms: central tolerance, peripheral tolerance and acquired tolerance. Genetic defects in these processes leads to autoimmunity. A low level of autoimmunity is thought to actually be beneficial. In the 20th Century in medicine it has become accepted that autoimmune responses are an integral part of vertebrate immune systems, normally prevented from causing disease by the phenomenon of immunological tolerance (the process by which the immune system does not attack an antigen).

This inflamed eye and the need to treat it. Or I would lose my vision. I had a twin sister with Rosacea. She tells me that half of all Rosacea suffer from blepharitis. The other half have twin brothers with blepharitis? I don’t know as I really do not talk to her about her Rosacea.

Autoimmunity. In systemic lupus there are autoantibodies to DNA. Nearly 75% of the more than 23.5 million Americans who suffer from autoimmune disease are women. Rheumatoid arthritis and thyrotoxicosis are associated with of loss of immunological tolerance, which is the ability of an individual to ignore ‘self’, while reacting to ‘non-self’. This breakage leads to the immune system’s mounting an effective and specific immune response against self determinants. The exact genesis of immunological tolerance is still elusive, but a person’s sex seems to have some role in the development of autoimmunity. The reasons for the sex role in autoimmunity are unclear. It has been suggested that the slight exchange of cells between mothers and their children during pregnancy may induce autoimmunity. Apart from inherent genetic susceptibility, several animal models suggest a role for sex steroids.

The tensions within the church have only grown greater since the days of The Symbionese Liberation Army, since the day in October 1979 when Sister Theresa Kane offered a greeting to John Paul II upon his first papal visit to the United States. According to the S.L.A. manifesto, the name ‘Symbionese’ was taken from the word ‘symbiosis’ and defined as “a body of dissimilar bodies and organisms living in deep and loving harmony and partnership in the best interest of all within the body.” Seven principles of the SLA were Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. The Symbionese Liberation Army, seeking to increase its membership, found no would-be revolutionaries (or anyone else) in the Bay Area who wanted to have anything to do with them and moved, kidnapping Patty Hearst along the way.

That greeting offered to John Paul II:

“In the name of the women religious gathered in this Shrine dedicated to Mary, I greet you, Your Holiness Pope John Paul II. It is an honor, a privilege and an awesome responsibility to express in a few moments the sentiments of women present at this shrine dedicated to Mary the Patroness of the United States and the Mother of all humankind. It is appropriate that a woman’s voice be heard in this shrine and I call upon Mary to direct what is in my heart and on my lips during these moments of greeting.

“I welcome you sincerely; I extend greetings of profound respect, esteem and affection from women religious throughout this country. With the sentiments experienced by Elizabeth when visited by Mary, our hearts too leap with joy as we welcome you — you who have been called the,- Pope of the people. As I welcome you today, I am mindful of the countless number of women religious who have dedicated their lives to the church in this country in the past. The lives of many valiant women who were the catalysts of growth for the United States Church continue to serve as heroines of inspiration to us as we too struggle to be women of courage and hope during these times.

“Women religious in the United States entered into the renewal efforts in an obedient response to the call of Vatican II. We have experienced both joy and suffering in our efforts. As a result of such renewal women religious approach the next decade with a renewed identity and a deep sense of our responsibilities to, with and in the church.

“Your Holiness, the women of this country have been inspired by your spirit of courage. We thank you for exemplifying such courage in speaking to us so directly about our responsibilities to the poor and oppressed throughout the world. We who live in the United States, one of the wealthiest nations of the earth, need to become ever more conscious of the suffering that is present among so many of our brothers and sisters, recognizing that systemic injustices are serious moral and social issues that need to be confronted courageously. We pledge ourselves in solidarity with you in your efforts to respond to the cry of the poor.

“As I share this privileged moment with you, Your Holiness, I urge you to be mindful of the intense suffering and pain which is part of the life of many women in these United States. I call upon you to listen with compassion and to hear the call of women who comprise half of humankind. As women we have heard the powerful messages of our Church addressing the dignity and reverence for all persons. As women we have pondered upon these words. Our contemplation leads us to state that the Church in its struggle to be faithful to its call for reverence and dignity for all persons must respond by providing the possibility of women as persons being included in all ministries of our Church. I urge you, Your Holiness, to be open to and respond to the voices coming from the women of this country who are desirous of serving in and through the Church as fully participating members.

“Finally, I assure you, Pope John Paul, of the prayers, support and fidelity of the women religious in this country as you continue to challenge us to be women of holiness for the sake of the Kingdom. With these few words from the joyous, hope-filled prayer, the Magnificat, we call upon Mary to be your continued , source of inspiration, courage and hope: ‘May your whole being proclaim and magnify the Lord; may your spirit always rejoice in God your Savior; the Lord who is mighty has done great things for you; Holy is God’s Name.’”

In 1991, author Donna Steichen published her own first-hand experiences with groups of “progressive” Catholic sisters in the United States, including Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR ), in the exposé study of US women’s religious orders titled “Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism.” The book is said to document the movement that began in women’s religious orders in the 1960s which focused on their systemic revolt against the authority of the Church, a Symbionese Liberation Army as it were of the Roman Catholic Church. Donna Steichen became active in a more conservative alternative to the leadership conference.

In February 2009 William Cardinal Levada sent a letter to the officers of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and the officers of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), and a meeting held with him in Rome to address issues of theological orthodoxy, in the search for the pathogenesis of this autoimmune disease. This was after the LCWR had been asked to promote “Ordinatio sacerdotalis,” a 1994 Apostolic Letter which represented Church teaching on the sacramental priesthood; to promote Homosexualitatis Problema, the Catholic position written by then-Cardinal Ratzinger in 1986 on homosexuality; and to promote “Dominus Jesus,” the 2000 document which holds the Catholic Church as the chief path to salvation. “Ordinatio sacerdotalis,” included the church’s current position that ordination of women is impossible.

A keynote speech in 2007 delivered to the LCWR by Laurie Brink, O.P., contained the quote, “Jesus is not the only son of God. …Salvation is not limited to Christians,” which calls the question of why she was still working in the Roman Catholic Church and why she was allowed to deliver the keynote address to the LCWR. Thus the involvement of William Cardinal Levada to address issues of theological orthodoxy.

That keynote speech in 2007 delivered to the LCWR by Sister Laurie Brink, a Sinsinawa Dominican, entitled “A Marginal Life: Pursuing Holiness in the 21st Century,” had commented on the possible future of women religious as well as the decline of many religious orders, addressing the four directions religious were being pushed. Her theme was that lay ecclesial ministers were and are feeling disenfranchised, Catholic theologians were being denied academic freedom, and religious and lay women felt scrutinized simply because of their biology. Her speech was a call of liberation.

“What is at stake is the very heart of the Church itself. But the cardinals and bishops may be so busy putting out brush fires that they fail to see the coming conflageration, at least as concerns the American church.” Her entire speech can be read @

A bishop’s responsibility is to safeguard the unity of the Catholic Church, besides protecting the souls of the faithful.

This political issue of the woman’s role in the church, which most legislative politics seemed to have forgotten, was about listening. All politics, including church politics, was all about recognition and attention. A group disenfranchised from leadership on basis of gender wanted a greater voice. In this political discussion, there was a call of liberation from the old world. So far, in the comprehensive study into the quality of institutes of women religious in the United States by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, God was not a participant.

American Catholics: Who we are. Where we were going. Among the protestants within, there was the “No one knows we are out here working” feeling. Amidst the dysfunction. The part of the old boys’ network that just had never listened. To the women. There was a lot of antagonism toward the home office in regions around the world, in all organizations. From the powerless. From the women who had once educated the greater populace of Catholics. That was the dysfunction. Yet these women still were working, within a new reformation movement. Hoping to be heard. Praying for reconciliation.

Past medical history was important to make a diagnosis. A good doctor listened for a good medical history of a problem. Change. Always having to deal with change. I could not ignore the blepharitis problem without repercussions. The reconciliation with age of the body. Blepharitis tends to recur and stubbornly resist treatment. It is inconvenient and unattractive but usually does not damage the cornea or result in loss of vision.

At a party I attended in January in Omaha, a friend asked me what I thought of Pope John Paul II. He made reference to his “Theology of the Body.”

Autoimmune. Treatments for autoimmune disease have traditionally been immunosuppressive, anti-inflammatories, or palliative treatment, reducing the severity of the disease. Steroidal or NSAID treatment limits inflammatory symptoms of many diseases. Non-immunological therapies include hormone replacement.

Sister Sandra Schneiders, a member of the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who teaches at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California, stated most women’s religious orders have found an entirely new way of living their vocations since Vatican II. Sister Schneiders writes: “So, let’s be what we are. Religious who are not cloistered and ministers who are not ordained.”

There has been a lot of dysfunction in this church since October 1979. Sister Laurie’s theme that lay ecclesial ministers were and are feeling disenfranchised did not apply just to women religious. It applied to all women. There was threat of schism with 50% of the church. This was the biggest challenge facing the Church of Rome. The ones who lived amongst us. However, in the stating the cause, Sister Laurie’s creed that Jesus is not the only son of God flies in the face of the Nicene Creed. (Even though the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments was in the midst of changing he opening line of the Nicene Creed from “We believe” to “I believe.”)

Dealing with women. Men dealing with women in the 21st Century. The ones with voting rights. It was hard. Look at the statistics on divorce. It was not with just the diminishing number of nuns. It involved the women living with a little more control over their cycles. Yeah, those sinners. Our moms. Our wives with modern conveniences. The ones who used birth control. And these autoimmune sisters. Educated woman. As likely better educated than the men.

Since October 1979, mostly it was about the failure by the doctors of the church to listen. There was a certain irony watching all these people with professed belief in prayer who seemed to have forgotten the words of Psalm 46. The words of Psalm 46 seemed to be instruction of the other half of prayer. To just shut up and listen. On the second retreat I ever made, in a 3 day struggle, I learned the importance of, the second half of, what prayer really was. No one really had told me. About the importance of just listening. At some point God did answer.

It seemed a time for the sisters to remind the powers of the mission statement, what it was that this American Catholic identity had always been about. This Apostolic Visitation, the study of their lives with national and international attention, offered an opportunity to explain the substance of religious life. It seemed a good time for a reminder what you learned in literary criticism class in college. The adage was, if any of this stuff means anything, then of course you should offer criticism. Even in theology. Even where most doctors of the church were often at an age when they experienced the physical affects of hearing loss.

In the vertebrate immune systems, there were those 3 forms of immunological tolerance: central tolerance, peripheral tolerance, and acquired tolerance. In the 20th Century in medicine it has become accepted that a low level of autoimmunity is actually beneficial, and autoimmune responses are an integral part of vertebrate immune systems. Defects in these processes leads to autoimmunity. Autoimmunity is the failure of an organism to recognize its own constituent parts as self.

In other news, Italian newspapers reported in late May that the beatification of Pope John Paul II may be delayed as the Vatican seeks more documentation regarding his almost 27 years as pope. About his Theology of the Body. With encouragement to his countrymen, John Paul II, who died in 2005, with the peaceful challenge to the communist regime from a protestant in Rome, is credited by many with hastening the Soviet demise.

The process of immunological tolerance by which the immune system does not attack an antigen. Making reference to “Theology of the Body,” a friend asked at a party in Omaha, what I thought of Pope John Paul II. I think he meant his leadership within the church body. I think he meant about a doctor of the church who always was having to deal with change. For me, John Paul seemed to have a hearing problem. And he seemed to have a spiritual autoimmune disorder, failing to recognize the Church’s own constituent parts as self. But the most alarming part of this venerable man was in his relationships when, according to a piece in the Atlantic Monthly a few months after he died, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger never came around to see him in the last 3 months of his life. There seemed always an underlying conflict between Germany and Poland.


Those 3rd Generations

Why were you here? What exactly was it that drew you here? To this place. Of all the places in the world to live. To your lover? Of all the places in the world to live. Of all the people in the world to love.

Why were you here? Did you even know? Something drew you. To Omaha. To an employer. To Fargo. To Sioux Falls. To St. Paul. To this town. To that cemetery. Something drew you. In Lourdes, Iowa. In 1992.

Why were you here? It was the type of question that you heard on retreat. Something had to have drawn you here.

It was June and I would soon be back on retreat. Something drew you back on retreat. Was it last year’s priest? A maternal grandmother? A great grandfather? A namesake?

Why were you here? The discussion always led back to the sense of wonder. A curiosity. Of my own.

The 3rd Generation. At the start of the 20th Century lived a man with my name. He was my great grandfather. He died within a couple months of my birth. Matt was a stock broker. By the time the Great Depression came along, his eldest son was 34-years old. Matt was said to own properties around town. When it came to time to collect rent, he let a lot of things go during the Great Depression. He was alleged to be quite a kind man. I was driving on a business call in Cresco, Iowa. In 1992. I stopped on the way back at that cemetery in Lourdes, Iowa. His first wife, my grandfather’s mother, was buried there. She had died during childbirth. Of her second born, who did not live.

Across the country my maternal grandmother was 30 years old when the Great Depression came along. Her name was Theresa. She was in the midst of her short married life that saw her with 11 kids by the start of World War II. Okay, long enough to have 10 pregnancies. By the end of the war her eldest son was in the seminary and her youngest was 3-years old. That was the point when her husband took ill. He was dead within a year. A woman with 11 kids did not have time to work. Somehow during the next few years, anonymous checks came in the mail. That was what sustained the family. That was life in the Irish American neighborhood at the end of the 1940s.

Looking for significance even in what seemed insignificant on the surface. People with a common past to begin with. What exactly was it that drew you here? To any friend.

How old were you when you had the chance to search for significance? Some people only began in their retirement. Others never really thought about it. In the post-war world. In 2009. Looking for a point to view. There were a ton of questions all along. Subtle ones. People with a common past to begin with. In family. It all made saying Grace much more heart-felt.

Those fourth generations were what the Torah meant, in new perspectives. About the God of Abraham. The God of Isaac. The God of Jacob.  The one who started writing the story.

Those “Givers of life.” From the past.

Throughout her life, Theresa was known for her pies. Of her descendants, one woman made pies like Theresa did. I did not know if this pie-making would be passed along to her 4th generation. By my generation. Of her 43 grandchildren.

Descendants from those “givers of life.” The 3rd generation.

Slicing the pie. In Minnesota, the Cowles family had owned the Minneapolis Star and the Minneapolis Tribune in the 1950s. Other branches of the family owned the Des Moines Register and The Ladies’ Home Journal. As one generation passed to another, the children all seemed to want the same size slice of pie. There was a desire for more, even when there were more family members trying to survive with the same pie. In the world of journalism, often the solution was to go public. To get a bigger slice of the action, less interested in the stories. The descendants, the inheritors wanted more money, not recognizing the still one pie to split. This was one factor in the crisis facing survival in the newspaper business.

One solution was to become leveraged. Becoming a stock company let the shareholders look for higher profits. There could be more out of control greed with shareholders. Market forces at work.

Something drew you here. What was it? The Cowles had a mansion on Park Avenue in Minneapolis. The neighborhood became run down over the years. The world kept evolving.

No one was buying the paper. The hard copy. The Cowles had sold out at the right time. For something like $1.2 billion. There had been descendants to please. The McCloskeys took over. And they sold out after a brief run. For $500 million. They stayed in the business, acquiring the Knight Ridder chain. Those descendants wanted their pie, if not the same size slices. In another very short time, Avista Capital Management’s investment had shrunk to a worth of $100 million. In 2008. Newspaper reporters were given pink slips.

Some good writers became part-time. Actually the best sportswriter in these parts. Pat Reusse, went to radio full-time. It was an interesting reaction. If people would not pay for the paper, why keep writing for them? Why give away your product? When unions could no longer protect the workers’ seniority, when the product was given away, this was one answer to affect change. When shareholders no longer could answer the question as to what exactly it was that drew you here? To this investment. To this city.

Quit writing for a while.  In the world of supply and demand, why not see how much the reader appreciated you?

Market forces. Sharing power. In alliances and coalitions. In those fourth generations. Getting a market share. Changing the way the pie was sliced. With a fear of market forces. Badly sharing power.

With fear, it was important to stay focused. So said a guest on Reusse’s radio show who had written a book.  Norman Ollestad.  He had survived a plane crash that took his father’s life, killing everyone onboard, except Norman.  I lost the other specific details as I climbed out of bed, with his voice.  In knowledge of how to respond appropriately, he stated fear was only one of the options.  He had survived because fear — he had learned from his father — was not a choice in times of panic.

Getting a market share. Getting out of bed, I heard of the importance of getting a market share.  In the newspaper business.  Editor & Publisher editor-at-large Mark Fitzgerald was yesterday’s guest, talking about what had happened in the newspaper business.  He had just delivered a speech to the Inter American Press Association in Asuncion, Paraguay, on the state of the U.S. newspaper industry.  Changing the way the pie was sliced.  With stock companies replacing newspaper families.  With new fears of market forces. When profits were diminished, and no one recognized the windswept change coming from Craigslist, while going all the way to Paraguay to discuss the forces.

The mission was still about finding the truth.  With each generation.  And finding the truth was not so easy even when it all seemed to be spelled out.  The mission for the fourth generations was still about finding something to say and then how to say it.  Most of the excitement in the romance was found in the early chapters.  As arousal gave way to fear, there was a lot more suspense along the way.  Fears about endings.  When love, not yet vanished, is still the theme.  Amidst the market forces.

My namesake’s only grandchild and his great grandchildren had all studied either journalism or English, to address exactly what it was that still drew the 3rd generation here to his place.  Still.

Amidst all the fear, looking to find something to say.  And then how to say it, in your own words.  About current events and the news.  About the attraction for baking pies.  It was a good definition of prayer.  Amidst the market forces, slicing the pie.

Those fourth generations and new perspectives.  With the same mission to discover the truth. In the news.  Or about what Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the Torah meant.  When finding the truth was not so easy, with budgetary pressure.  When people were not buying your product.  When the levels of passion seemed to be diminished.  Looking to find something to say, in your own words.


Chilled & Stilled

Listen to the words of intimacy.

Ghosted? Concerning this “presence,” when I left you! Please come back! If only for the sake of the children. With the help of your grace, I resolve to share myself better.

I am sorry. I am heartly sorry. For having offended you. I detest everything I did. Most of all, for having offended you. You who are all good. You who are deserving of all my love. With the help of your grace and presence. I firmly resolve. To change. To share myself better. To communicate. To amend my life. To be more intimate. To merge my identity into yours. To do good. To offend you no more. And to seek to avoid the nearer occasion of things that made me selfish in the first place. I am sorry. I am heartly sorry.