In Judaism, the most solemn time of the year is almost here. Wikipedia tells us: "Rosh Hashanah is a two-day celebration, which begins on the first day of Tishrei. The day is believed to be the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and their first actions toward the realization of humanity's role in God's world. Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar (a hollowed-out ram's horn) and eating symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey to evoke a 'sweet new year.'" This year Rosh Hashanah ("Head of the Year") begins at sunset on Wednesday, Sept. 24, and continues on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 25 and 26. The new year to be entered is Annum Mundi (Year of the World) 5775, that is, from the beginning of God's creation.
The last column was in a literary vein, and now I would like to recommend a new memoir: Monastery to Matrimony by Mary Ann Weakley, a frank and moving account of the author’s experience of religious life in a diocese bordering ours from the 1950s to the 1970s. (Full disclosure: Mary Ann is my cousin.) Obviously, the author left religious life; be assured that the book is written with a sense of tremendous respect for her religious community, religious life, and Catholicism in general.
Sunday, August 3, is the 50th anniversary of the death, in Milledgeville, Georgia, at age 39, of Mary Flannery O’Connor, a singular writer.
Flannery O’Connor’s novels and short stories are the fruit of her reflection on her Catholic Christian faith and her assessment of life as it was lived in the South: “While the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted,” she remarked. One can reflect on such haunting in the short story “Parker’s Back,” which refers, not to the return of someone named Parker, but rather to a tattoo on Parker’s anatomical back. Race is a theme in many of her stories, and the ironies she plumbs are rich.
Imagine that two groups of Christians need to come together, and that the mediator is a non-Christian community. Does it seem strange that things should occur in this way?
Someone asked me whether I’d be writing about the prospect of baptizing an extraterrestrial. The question was spurred by recent remarks of Pope Francis about the inclusiveness of the Gospel. The Bishop of Rome spoke jocosely about the possibility of beings from other planets showing up at our church doors.
Our celebrations in the Easter season quite fittingly have a eucharistic focus. Jesus at the Last Supper gave us the holy Eucharist as the most excellent way to live and proclaim his death and resurrection. It is most appropriate that ordinations of deacons and priests take place at this time, as they will in our diocese for four transitional deacons on May 10 and two priests on May 24. Priests preside at Eucharist and deacons carry out many roles within this liturgy. Many celebrations of first holy Communion also occur in the Easter season.
A Pan-Orthodox Council has been announced for 2016. This is extraordinary news, especially in light of the fact that no such gathering of bishops in Eastern Christianity has taken place since the Second Council of Nicaea of 787 — the seventh and last council recognized by east and west as “ecumenical” (of the entire household of Christianity).
As I follow the news of the strife between Ukraine and Russia, I have been pleased to note the presence of priests in the midst of protesters and the armed forces of the two countries. The priests have placed themselves there as a way of calling agitated people into an awareness that the people on all sides of the controversy are God’s people.
The death of Pete Seeger some days back reminds me of an LP of his which was a favorite of me and my siblings when we were growing up. On that LP, our particular favorite song was The Foolish Frog, a hilarious take on the pitfalls of fame.
Some time back, I described the usual relationships, to be found in the many smaller towns of our diocese, among pastors and churches. Now, I would like to tell you about some other local associations, both ecumenical and interreligious.