Friday, January 08, 2010

Posture during the Rosary

There is a great diversity among contemporary Catholics in the posture one assumes while praying the family Rosary. Many take the traditional posture of kneeling, a posture of humble supplication. This is a commendable practice for many reasons. I often wish we did it.

On the other hand, many of us either sit or stand for the Rosary. One family we know stands because they are steeped in Byzantine spirituality. Byzantines stand to pray. We ourselves tend to sit. In our culture, the typical posture for meditation is sitting, so it is appropriate to sit when one is meditating on the mysteries.

I tried for a while at one point to have us kneel, but it didn't work that well. It never "took." It was too hard to concentrate on the mysteries. On on the other hand, I wanted us to do something to show physical reverence beyond sitting our our duffs. The theology of the body has made me even more sensitive than I was before to the need to engage the body in our spiritual life.

So, I reflected upon the fact that the Rosary was historically a way that illiterate lay people could participate in the liturgy of the hours. My experience at monasteries is that the monks sit during the psalms, and stand for the Gloria Patri (bowing) and the Magnificat. Our current practice, then, is to stand and face the image the Mother Thrice Admirable from the Creed to the end of the first Glory Be, sit for the Our Father and Hail Marys of each mystery, stand for the Glory Be, and stand from the Salve Regina (which we sing in Latin) to the end. Our current practice adds a sense of reverence, while allowing us to sit for meditation, a proper posture for that purpose.

Another rosary practice we have is to occasionally allow our younger children to draw the mysteries while the rest of us are praying the prayers. Over the years they've become quite sophisticated in depicting the subtle significance of each mystery. This has helped us all appreciate the depth of the prayer better.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Christmas culture

Although I'm quite religious about Christmas and love for my Advent to be Advent, etc., there are some aspects of the popular and secular Christmas culture that are dear to me. They actually enhance, rather than detract from my experience of and participation in the "true meaning of Christmas." Specifically, there are five creative works that have so become part of my celebration of Christmas that I can scarcely imagine Christmas without them. They do not replace the Christmas Story, but enhance it as secondary reflections upon the human impact of Love made Man.
  • First, there is A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, whether it be by reading and unabridged or abridged version, or by seeing one of the screen renditions. Whatever Dicken's religious convictions, there is something very powerful and true to the meaning of the Incarnation about the underlying message. There are two screen renditions I definitely don't like. The first is the Mr. Magoo one, that I loved as a child, but now see as woefully materialistic in its distortion. Second is the one with Patrick Stewart as Scrooge. Make it not so!
  • Second, is Its A Wonderful Life. I never watched it until I had a family of my own, but we now try to watch it together every year. Once again, shaky theology at points, but a great message about the value of life and the providence of God.
  • Although many people dislike Suess for one reason or another, I'm not one of them. I think he really hit pay dirt with How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The 1966 TV musical special is an astounding gem. You can't beat the narrative and voice by Boris Karloff, or the little voice of Cindy Lou Who. I have nothing to say about the Jim Carrie version, having not seen it.
  • Then there is the O. Henry story, "The Gift of the Magi." I heard it read aloud on CBC's "As it Happens" a couple of weeks ago. Henry's style is sometimes a little jarring for twenty-first century ears, but the pathos--and joy--is quite effective. Jim and Della's expression of love is quite moving and there is something to the association of the sacrificial generosity of a married couple and the love of Christ for his Bride, the Church, which begins with the marriage of heaven and earth at the Incarnation.
  • Finally, there is A Charlie Brown Christmas. I am always brought to tears when Linus stands on the stage and says, "Lights, please," and begins the reading from the Gospel of Luke. Can you imagine anyone doing anything like that on network television now?

I also like The Homecoming, the pilot for The Waltons, although it gets a little rough around the edges at some points for the youngest. Hamner does not himself come across as a religious man to me, although I don't know anything about it.

New Jesuit Review

In doing some research for a project I am doing I ran across a new journal of Ignatian studies called New Jesuit Review, edited by some English speaking Jesuits in Rome. Hat tip to Vincent Strand, S.J., of the Whosoever Desires blog.

The New Jesuit Review has as its goals the recovery of Jesuit spirituality from its authentic sources and reflection by contemporary Jesuits on its significance for their lives. The writings of St. Ignatius and the First Companions, the lives of Jesuit saints and martyrs, and classics of Jesuit spirituality are examined in the spirit of Perfectae Caritatis, the Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life of the Second Vatican Council:

It redounds to the good of the Church that institutes have their own particular characteristics and work. Therefore let their founders' spirit and special aims they set before them as well as their sound traditions -- all of which make up the patrimony of each institute -- be faithfully held in honor. (Perfectae Caritatis, 2)

My family still remembers the amazing and inspiring talk Strand gave at the Arts and Sciences Honors Convocation at Marquette in 2005. There is no doubt in my mind that he is going to do great things for the Church, as will his brother, Luke, who was last year ordained priest for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. What are they drinking in the Strand household, anyway?