Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday in a Catholic city

I grew up in the Bible Belt. That means that Ash Wednesday was decidedly not a big deal. In fact, most people in Oklahoma City probably didn't even know what it was. I don't recall ever seeing anyone walk around with ashes on their head until I went to Catholic boarding school in high school. It didn't help that we never went to Ash Wednesday services because neither of my parents could drive. For the most part I was ignorant of Lent, although I knew you were supposed to think about giving up candy or t.v.. It WAS post-Vatican II, though, so what we were taught is to be extra nice during Lent, rather than give up stuff.

So, I am always quite startled when I go to an Ash Wednesday Mass up here in Catholic land and the Church is crammed full. I first experienced this in Minneapolis at St. Olaf's downtown. The noon Ash Wednesday Mass (and Good Friday services) were STANDING ROOM ONLY. Today we went to an ordinary parish in an ordinary part of Milwaukee county. Once again, a FULL Church.

There are other things that amaze me about the Catholic north. For instance, A Jesuit friend of mine reports that the local newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, had a pull-out section from the Archdiocese on Lent. I can't imagine the Daily Oklahoman doing that! Also, there is this peculiar thing called "release time." In the north, the public schools actually let the students start late or leave early on Wednesday to go to religious education classes. The Baptists in Oklahoma would take that one to the Supreme Court on violation of Church and State grounds.

The Church is much less invisible here in what the former blogger "Lucy" called the City of Steeples. I hear that she is even more invisible in the secular ecotopia of the Northwest than in the Baptist South. I had a friend from Seattle who was amazed when she saw a building near the Marquette campus with the words "Catholic Knights" in huge, red neon letters on top. "That wouldn't happen in Seattle," she said.

Missionary Servants of the Holy Family

A young woman from a homeschooling family in the Milwaukee area, Maryclare Stephens, has felt called to start a new religious order dedicated to the renewal of the Catholic family called Missionarii Servi Sanctae Familiae. She is currently organizing lay people in a movement of prayer and consecration to the Holy Family. There are three groups of lay people: 1) Discerning single lay women, 2) the family branch, who consecrate themselves to the Holy Family and strive to live, as a family, in imitation of the Holy Family, and 3) Lay single women and men, who pray for the group's mission.

One of their primary activities so far is a monthly holy hour. The web page has some slide shows of previous holy hours. The next one will be on Sunday, February 28, from 1:00-2:00 in the St. Francis de Sales Seminary chapel (3257 South Lake Drive, St., Francis, WI ). It will be led by Fr. Don Hying, the Rector of the seminary.

I haven't been to the holy hours yet, as they seem to be intentionally scheduled so as to conflict with the Gotcher's calendar :), but we certainly plan to go in the future. The world needs the message of this movement more than ever, and needs zealous, dedicated young people like Maryclare (and the rest of her delightful family).

Even if you do not participate in their activities, because of distance, please pray for the success of this venture.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


"Books, you know, Charles, are like lobster shells, we surround ourselves with 'em, then we grow out of 'em and leave 'em behind, as evidence of our earlier stages of development," Lord Peter Wimsey, in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, by Dorothy L. Sayers.

It would be quite interesting to go through one's own book collection with this in mind. I would have many books that I haven't read at all, such as the one on ships. I just picked it up because it was free and ships interest me. I have a lot of more or less pop theology and spirituality from my earlier years as an active Catholic. I, of course, have a bunch of technical theology from my graduate school days (now I depend on libraries for my technical theology). I have a whole host of novels I've never read (or, in the case of The Brothers Karamazov, never finished, though I got to around page 600 at least 3 times).

A lot of my books are in boxes in the garage. Not enough shelves or space to display them properly, or at all.

I read a lot of children's literature these days.

I have a huge Thomas Merton collection, 'though I haven't read him for well over a decade, it seems.

A lot of books I've read I don't own any more. Like all those Asimov books from my teen years.

We do have many copies of each volume of The Lord of the Rings. That says something, although it has been a few years since I've read it. Maybe that can be my Lenten reading.