Blogs I Know · My world

Portland is a little weird.

I know that goes without saying but to think that this billboard would be controversial considering the season….

God is with us
God is with us

H/T to both Happy Catholic and The Curt Jester

Now, this happens to also be a time where a new abortion mill is going up a handful of blocks from my parish (where the sign originally was) and just to our north Washington State voted last month on assisted suicide.  So I can see where there can be some “politics” viewed there.  But this is first and foremost a religious statement.  The fact that the incarnation can be viewed politically at all is simply evidence of how entrenched and hostile the culture of death is.  When a pregnant Mary, full of life, is seen as a statement against the political status quo the political status quo is pretty dismal.  I suspect an ultrasound image of a baby in utero would have been viewed similarly.
You can read the Oregon Live story here.  I agree with Julie at Happy Catholic.  This quote is sort of weird:
“Images of an obviously pregnant Mary are rare, said Jane Kristof, professor emeritus of art history at Portland State University.

“Generally, it was considered undignified,” she said. “The same is true of Mary nursing.” Artists instead rendered Mary gesturing toward her stomach to suggest that she was pregnant, Kristof said. “

The Virgin round with child is a standard in medieval and renaissance art.  Pregnancy in the plague years especially was viewed as highly beautiful.  Do  quick search on the Madonna of the good milk or the Virgin Mother and you will have more images of breast feeding and pregnant Marys than you can shake a stick at.  Now maybe Ms Kristof is talking about modern art… or maybe she is stuck in some weird alternate universe that hates pregnant woman… but I am not seeing the undignified thing she is thinking she sees.   But then again this IS Portland we are talking about and as the oft seen bumper stickers reminds us — we keep it weird.

My world

Ash falling like snow


Ash from a volvanic eruption fills the sky
Ash from a volvanic eruption fills the sky



In 1980 when I was 11 years old I woke up to a very strange site. Grey dust covered the cars, the grass, the rooftops – everything. It was like an unseasonable frost or a covering of very light snow. It was ash. Mt st Helens had erupted the day before spewing a fine ash into the atmosphere; the winds carried it north, east and south. My little town, though hundreds of miles away, was dusted with the ash. To us the eruption was nothing, a mere inconvenience that ruined a few too-fussy-for-ranch-land auto-finishes and otherwise was harmlessly washed away. Near the epicenter it had been a pyroclastic nightmare that had leveled trees, filled lakes and killed everything it touched. 


This morning I was reading about the potential of the FOCA being passed and how this might well create a crisis in Catholic Hospitals which are currently exempted from having to perform abortions by various conscience provisions. Our Bishops have shown almost uncharacteristic zeal on this issue. There is a real fire burning in Baltimore. I read Auxiliary Bishop Robert Hermann’s magnificent statement that “any one of us would consider it a privilege to die tomorrow — to die tomorrow — to bring about the end of abortion“, there is a thrill in my heart. Our Bishops, American Bishops are saying something like this? It is almost beyond belief. But there it is. After reading Melinda Henneberger’s excellent article at Slate I am convinced, as she is that FOCA is a real threat to Catholic health care. The threat is not from the Bishops, they are simply stating the obvious. If faced with the choice to perform abortions or not take federal funds they will stop taking federal funds. If they stop taking federal funds they won’t be able to cover operating expenses and will have to close. 


The outrage from the pro-Obama quarter is as incendiary as you would expect. The Big Horrible Catholic Hierarchy is trying to force the Poor Permanent Victim Class of Woman into the back-alley to obtain their Fundamental Reproductive Rights. But I think rightly viewed the Bishops are neither blustering nor threatening per say. What they are doing is stating firmly that they can not, and will not, do immoral things no matter the consequence. If there is an attempt to force them to do evil they will opt out entirely. The media will certainly frame this as the Church being horrible, medieval or intolerant, but public opinion really can’t come into play here. The Church is at her worst when she plays to public opinion and at her best when she says what is true boldly and honestly with no care to the world’s view of her. But I am concerned that this has the potential for getting really seriously bad for Catholics, Christians in general maybe, but certainly for Catholics.


It seems a fine haze of ash is filling the air. Is it from the dead wood burning away leaving out Bishops with a clear sense of purpose and mission? Is it the remains of personal liberty and the ability of institutions and even individuals to act in a manner consistent with the consciences? Maybe it is all that or even more. Only time will tell, it is our job to wait and pray.



Advent – The First Week


For Advent I am sticking a week long post on the top of the page,  if you scroll down you will see the newest articles I have put up.  I also haven’t been doing Reflections.  I will pick these back up after Advent.

Pieter the Elder Bruegel - The Numbering at Bethlehem
Pieter the Elder Bruegel - The Numbering at Bethlehem

In the crowd of people can you see them? The carpenter and his young wife on the donkey’s back are nearly lost. People are busy, children are playing, and everyone has something important to do. Among all this business the very reason this moment exists is almost forgotten. What a perfect image for our world. God winds His way through our lives weather we notice Him or not. Maybe that makes it even sweeter when we turn and see that glimmer of Christ in a place or moment when we least expected to find it. Hope is being open to the possibility that God will reach into our lives at whatever time He pleases and will surprise us with something beautiful.

Sunday, Novemeber 30, 2008

 We made our Advent wreath and we lit the first candle after dinner while we sat around the table eating cookies and talking about the fun things we want to do this year as a family for Christmas.

This is the start of a journey.  It is a journey that we all know well, yet every year it is a new journey.  The unexpected awaited us around each turn.  The star we follow, the light that has shown on us for every year leads us anew.  This is a journey we take confidently knowing that Jesus waits for us at the end.  That beneith the star is love, life, peace and joy — our hope is in journey.

This seems the perfect day to take a little time to set things aside and find quiet and peace as we begin our Advent season.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Mondays are so taken up with business for me.  The children have their CCD and Hannah has ballet.  So between getting something ready for dinner before leaving the house at 1:45 life feels rushed.   
While I was looking for some music yesterday I came across of snip of one of the Nativity movies.  The scene where Joseph is frantically searching for a place for Mary who is in full on labor.  Learning of the manger he actually picks her up and rushes to the creche.  He falters for a moment at the horrible little spot, but having no other option lays her softly in the hay to continue the birth. 
Mary is in a sense the center of Advent for me.  I am not a big “Marian” type.  I certainly don’t see anything wrong with a devotion to the Blessed Mother, it is just no chrism.  Except for Advent.  The first time I started to catch a glimmer of Advent through the eyes of Mary was the year I was pregnant with Ashley.  My first baby.  I was far from “home” and family.  I had very little support and felt very disconnected.  I could feel Mary’s heart in Christmas that year.  The overwhelming reality of motherhood was  pressing everyday a little more as this little person growing inside of me.   It made me identify with her in a way I had never been able to appreciate  before.


 This song gets stuck in my head.  The plaintive cry of a woman overwhelmed not just by the child she is expecting, but the unparalleled magnitude of what this all means for herself and world.  Just what has she been chosen for and can she do it?  It is the desperate joy of being a tool in the hand of God.   And it feels desperate.   A sense of trusting in God because that is all you have.  Child birth is like that for me.  I get to the point where there is nothing left but just having the baby.  There is no end, just the moment and while that moment is horrific it is also magnificent.  Possibly (hopefully) the closest thing I will ever get to understanding the ecstasy of the martyrs.

There is something about being a mother that draws me to God more fully than anything else in my life.  It is my vocation.  Everyday reminds me how small and unworthy of the task before me I am and how much my every breath depends on the Grace of God.  This is a great thing, a wonderful thing, my most worthy work.  It is through this very base act of having children that I am connected to the Incarnation.   Advent brings that home in a real way each year.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


The Annunciation - Henry Ossawa Tanner
The Annunciation – Henry Ossawa Tanner

Wisdom and grace are so often connected to Mary.  That in the fiat she exercised the ultimate freedom in offering all she was to the service of God.  I think this is the great contradiction that so many modern atheists fail to grasp.  If you haven’t already heard about the controversy in Washington over the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s display you might want to watch this video:

The card reads “There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”  I am sorry (not really), but that is just so much willfully stupid post modern sentimentality and naivete.  There is the underlying supposition that if there was no religion that people would have no differences and nothing to fight over.  It is John Lennon’s simplistic ideology morphed into a misbegotten creed which ignores not only human nature but all the good that religious feeling and belief have added to the world and totally ignoring the real evils and wrongs committed by those individuals and regimes with no faith.  But somehow I don’t think these people really bother with thinking things through very far.  They have a belief and will not look at anything that might weaken that belief.  And they accuse people of faith of being the illogical ones… sort of funny in a sad way. 

And it is of course the exact opposite of Mary’s simple declaration of faith and submission..  It is somewhat ironic that (arguably) the most praised, honored and respected of woman in all history is a  girl who did nothing more important that have a baby.  I know that thought probably makes many woman bristle.   We girls are taught early on that having a baby is NOT what makes a woman important.  Certainly it is nothing to be proud of or take any satisfaction in.  Motherhood is fine if you really want to be ghettoized in the suburbs with endless boring days of play-dates and grocery shopping but it isn’t important or really fulfilling.  No woman really worth any notice, no one any girl should aspire to would be just a mom.  Anyone who praises motherhood or is happy being just a mom must be wrapped in the social constraints of a cruel misogynistic patriarchy that only values woman for their wombs.  Just look at the most important woman in the Catholic church who is only important for the babe she bore.

But then that pesky reality intrudes again and despite all the decrying of how life draining, unimportant, unfulfilling and useless to the world motherhood is there are plenty of us who embrace this life and love it.  How we ever managed to free our minds from the endless conditioning that we had in public schools and college is nothing short of a miracle.  For those of us called to this vocation Mary’s journey to Bethlehem is a model.  I don’t think all women are called to motherhood – or even called to it the same way – there are some woman who are called to balance career and family in unique ways for the glory of God and the betterment of the world.  But for many of us modern women who looking to fulfill this vocation in a small and simple way Mary is the ultimate example. We leave behind what we have been taught to desire career, fame, or economic independence, and find joy in the simple things, the small and poor things.  There is where we see our star and follow it, no matter where it might us led even to that lowly stable long ago and the mother who was brave enough to say yes.