by Melanie Bettinelli on June 06, 2013
My dad at his usual place in front of his computer this afternoon.
My dad went home today!!!
After going in to ICU Monday with no speech and right side paralyzed, to think that he has progressed so far so quickly as to be home playing games and doing quicken on the computer, with no need for PT or OT is incredulously amazing. Making arrangements for speech therapy and followup in neurology. Thanks be to God!
She also added via text message that he’d already shot and killed a squirrel with his air rifle. (The squirrels are my dad’s arch-nemesis, eating his pecans and figs and getting into the attic to destroy the wiring.)
Tonight my mom and brothers and sister-in-law are planning to take him out to his favorite restaurant, Fonda San Miguel, to celebrate.
I’m amused by this photo of my dad with my brother Tim. My mom writes: “Well, we had twins today. When Randy got dressed to go home, it was the shirt he had when he went to the gym. Tim grabbed his shirt in Houston before driving to Austin… Funny!”
I’m sorry if this last picture upsets you, but I just have to share. My brother Stephen snapped a picture of my dad’s most recent offering to the vultures. When I was growing up I knew my dad was a country boy and he told stories about shooting and hunting and the like. Still, never in a million years did I imagine him taking pot shots at squirrels in the backyard. It reminds me of Steel Magnolias. I can’t stop chuckling about it. My dad is such a character, but really you’d never guess. Stephen says when he went to pick up dad’s things from the gym there were half a dozen pellets in the pants pocket.
by Melanie Bettinelli on June 06, 2013
ON THE THIRD DAY
The Creed says, “he suffered death and was buried and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” When Melanie asked me to contribute to her series of reflections, she offered me a list of phrases and I immediately jumped on this one, because of something I noticed a few weeks ago. I was reading the Gospel of John, and I came upon this passage (John 2:1):*
On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee‚
and this time, for no particular reason, that phrase, “On the third day,” kind of jumped out at me. “On the third day” from what? John is not Luke; he’s writing much later, and after long reflection, and he’s not so concerned with placing every detail in its proper time. I looked at the end of Chapter 1, which was no help; Jesus had just called some of his disciples, woohoo, but there was no obvious reason to emphasize the three days between the one and the other.
So why did John, in this particular case, choose to tell us that three days had passed? There are two other places in Scripture (that I could find, anyway) that tell us what happened on the Third Day: Genesis, and the descriptions of Easter Sunday. How might these three events be related?
In Genesis 1:11-13 we read,
And God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.
On the third day of creation, life, natural life, first appeared on the Earth. And each living thing lived according to its own nature. Later, God would bring forth the beasts of the field, and then the man and the woman, but here’s where it began.
And then, of course, the man and the woman did what they did, and we as a people learned the hard way that while the natural order is good, very good, it is insufficient to raise us back up to God. We need significant help.
So then, in John 2 we read about the Wedding at Cana, where Jesus turns the water into wine. And what vessels does he use? John 2:6 says,
“six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification‚”
Six jars used to store water, to be used for purification according to the Torah: a natural washing, commanded by God, but still a natural act that washes the outside and not the inside, where the trouble is. The whole long history of the Children of Israel can be seen as an argument that man’s natural efforts are insufficient.
And Jesus has the servants fill the vessels with water‚ and the water becomes wine. There is grace present here, and a foreshadowing of the greater transformation to come, in which wine becomes the very blood of Christ, in which oceans of grace are poured into his people at every mass.
And then comes Good Friday, and on the third day the Resurrection, in which for the first time a human being, Jesus, very man and very god, is raised with a glorified, heavenly body. Our natural human life has been changed, and filled with the grace it needs to reach its right true end in the Father.
Natural life first appeared on Earth on the Third Day; and the supernatural life of grace likewise appeared on Earth on the Third Day; and thus we can all be washed clean, not just outside but inside. Glory to God!
* All scripture quotations are from the RSV-CE.
What are your thoughts? What else can we learn from “on the third day”?
Will Duquette is a software engineer by day, and a Lay Dominican by night…well, and by day, too. He’s also the husband of Jane and the father of four kids, and he writes because he can’t help it. He blogs at The View from the Foothills about whatever takes his fancy.
Read all the entries in the Blog Series: Credo: Professing the Creed for the Year of Faith.
by Melanie Bettinelli on June 05, 2013
2. Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life by Elizabeth Scalia
This is such a great book. But I’m reading slowly, deliberately. I don’t want to rush because then it would be too easy to ignore. The best way to sum up this book is to say that Elizabeth Scalia has written a book-length examination of conscience on the first commandment. And yet that makes it sound utterly dry and boring and awful and it’s really exactly the opposite. Funny and fascinating and well, yes, utterly convicting. But that’s a good thing.
Actually, just go read Calah’s review. (If for nothing else for the excellent Emily Dickinson poem, one I’d never read before.):
I don’t remember where I saw this recommended. I thought it sounded really interesting, but he totally lost me in the second chapter when he recounted his version of the history of education which included a very strong anti-Catholic bias. According to Gray Catholic universities were founded not to promote free inquiry but to solidify the Church’s hold on doctrine. And a bunch of other nonsense. Basically he seems to hold to a noble savage ideal: the hunter gatherers had a sort of pure and happy life and farming and cities and religion have messed it up. I would have read to the end to see what he said about contemporary education except that the book had to go back to the library because there were other holds on it. It didn’t seem worth letting the fine accrue to keep and read (which I often do since our library system’s fines are small and the librarians generally let me take books out even if I don’t have money on me to pay my fines.)
If you’ve read it and think I should check it out again to finish reading it, please do tell me why I’m missing out.
4. Spiritual Childhood: The Spirituality of St. Therese of Lisiseux by Vernon Johnson
Another book about St Therese? Well but my book club was reading it. And according to an Amazon reviewer the author was “one of the least well known of a fabulously gifted circle of English Catholic writers of the 1920s through the 1940s which included G.K. Chesterton, Hillaire Belloc, Ronald Knox, and Abbot Vonier.”
So far I’ve read chapter one, so I can’t say much. But it was a very good chapter. I do think this book will have something to teach me. I just need to buckle down and read it.
5. Angels and Demons: What Do We Really Know about Them? by Peter Kreeft
Someone on Google+ asked for recommendations for good Catholic books about angels. I went to Amazon to look up the one I know Do has on the shelf and while there I saw this one listed. I love Peter Kreeft and had to get it. Good stuff. Solid, mostly based on St. Thomas Aquinas, the Bible and the Catechism. Anything you ever wanted to know about what Catholics believe about angels. And demons. Even if you aren’t Catholic and are only mildly interested in the subject, this book will be an entertaining read. Kreeft is very witty.
6. Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell (re-reading)
I had to create a new blog category for this book just to organize all the posts. A must read.
by Melanie Bettinelli on June 05, 2013
Well, things are looking really good. The kids and I had a video chat with my dad this afternoon. Oh how wonderful to see his smile and hear his “I love you” and oh he was saying everyone’s names. I could tell he was frustrated several times not being able to think of a word. And a couple times he got confused about the girls’ names. I couldn’t tell if he was just mistaking Sophie for Bella, which isn’t hard to do on a small phone screen with poor lighting, or confusing the names.
Right before we chatted with him he’d taken a shower all on his own. The PT and OT have cleared him so they are just waiting on the doctor and speech therapist, but it looks like he might be able to go home soon and do the speech therapy as an outpatient.
Oh I wish I could hop on a plane to visit. It’s hard being so far away. But reassuring to know things are going so well.
by Melanie Bettinelli on June 05, 2013
This is part two of the CatholicMom.com discussion of Forming Intentional Disciples.
Here’s this week’s prompt:
In her first chapter of Forming Intentional Disciples, Sherry Weddell describes with detailed statistics the crisis of Catholics leaving the Church. She shares the evidence that most departures happen in young adulthood, and that most who leave never come back. She concludes:
If this trend does not change, in ten years it will cease to matter that we have a priest shortage. The Builders will be largely gone, the Boomers retiring, and our institutions – parishes and schools – will be emptying at an incredible rate.
After demonstrating that this trend is just as worrying among Hispanic Catholics, she delves into the reason for the emptying of the pews across all ages and ethnics groups. The primary cause of departures relates to an unexpected finding, discovered in surveys researching the beliefs of Catholics:
. . . one of the most fundamental challenges facing our Church is this: The majority of adult Catholics are not even certain that a personal relationship with God is possible.
She shares a conversation with an archdiocesan vocations director that underscores the statistical reality:
I asked him, “What percentage of the men you work with – men discerning a possible call to the priesthood – are already disciples?”
His answer was immediate: “None.”
“Why do you think that is?”
He was very clear: “They don’t know how. No one has ever talked to them about it.”
This week’s Questions for Discussion:
Have you always been Catholic? How did the instruction and mentoring you received help you – or prevent you –from having a personal relationship with God?
If you were raised in a Catholic home, are your family members all still Catholic? What events among your friends and family seem to explain why some are Catholic, and others are not?
(I’m going to skip the questions about the retention rate at our parish since I don’t know the answers.)
Yes, I’ve always been Catholic. My parents really laid the foundation for me, helping me to know God as a person who loves me and to trust God. And I’m sure my Catholic school was instrumental, though I have no clear touchstones to point to. And oh I am so grateful to the University of Dallas for introducing me to the Catholic intellectual tradition, the wonderful way in which the life of the mind is not at odds with faith but part and parcel of the same. And then my husband was a huge mentor in my life… way back before we even were dating he ran a Bible study at our parish and helped me so much in direct and indirect ways. And the internet, Catholic blogs and websites was an education in itself. All these helped in ways little and great.
I suppose the question was how and not who. But to properly do it justice would take a novel. And really I’m not always sure there’s a clear “how” just an awareness that things pushed and pulled and gradually I began to see and hear more clearly. I did drift. I never doubted that God was a person with whom I had a relationship. I never doubted that he loved me. I just didn’t know how to live that relationship. I didn’t know how to pray, how to put down roots and grow in my faith. And it’s not like I’ve reached a point where I’m satisfied that my roots are deep enough, that my faith is strong enough, that my relationship is all that it’s meant to be. What holds me back? Fear? Why do I sometimes fail to trust in God?
For all that I had many great influences in my early life, I must confess that in some ways I was also a casualty of the current way of handing on the faith which treats it as a subject to be learned in school rather than a relationship to be lived. There were many bumpy places in my journey to an adult, mature faith that could have been avoided if there had been more of an emphasis on formation. Especially on formation after confirmation. I have spent some times wandering in the wasteland and I often wonder about what might have been. Could that have been avoided?
As for question two, I really don’t feel comfortable writing about other people’s faith lives. Especially not to speculate about the experiences of my siblings. Those are their stories not mine. Hard enough to write about mine. But at least it is mine to share. I have speculation, guesses, but not real answers that are the fruit of conversation. And while writing about them might clarify some things, it just doesn’t feel like the right thing to do.
So this week my answers are pretty skimpy. I’m pretty distracted so I’ll leave it at that.
by Melanie Bettinelli on June 04, 2013
Things are looking really good today. His paralysis on the right side is gone and he even stood up. He’s able to eat and drink—oh he was happy about that as he hadn’t eaten since Sunday night.
They moved him out of the ICU tonight and into a regular room.
He’s been working really hard on saying everyone’s names and can say at least a nickname for most everyone and full names for some.
My mom and youngest brother have been at the hospital and have been sharing lots of updates and even some pictures. We’re hoping that now that he’s in the new room we might even be able to video chat. We tried this afternoon but my mom couldn’t get a good signal.
Mom gave me more information about how it happened. Pretty amazing. My dad swims every morning and so luckily people at the health club knew him The woman swimming in the next lane who sees him there often noticed him bumping into the lane divider and knew he never does that. He made it to the end of the lane and turned and was veering off to the side. She realized something was wrong and called for help. Dad later told mom he couldn’t stop swimming. So someone who was trained in first aid and CPR jumped into the pool and grabbed him and checked his vitals. His pulse was strong and his breathing fine. So he knew it wasn’t a heart attack. They got him out of the pool and called 911. Fortunately when they got him to the hospital he was alert enough to nod his agreement to the treatment, which requires informed consent. Very lucky since they weren’t able to get hold of my mom for some time as she was with a client. They were able to treat him within an hour and a half, which is evidently crucial for the medication to work. One of the guys who helped pull dad out went by the hospital to check up on him.
It’s really hard not to be able to hop on a plane to be there with them. But who would watch the kids? Dom would have to take off from work and he can’t do that right now. As it is my mom is supposed to come up later int he month while Dom goes out of town for a conference. Well, we’ll see what that looks like. Maybe my sister will come instead.
Anyway, thanks for all the prayers, everyone. They mean so very much.
by Melanie Bettinelli on June 03, 2013
My dad had a stroke while swimming this morning…
My mom writes:
Good people saw and pulled him out, called 911 and then one came to the hospital to tell us exactly what happened, came and waited till Stephen [my brother] and i were there and told doctors the story. Randy [my dad] has regained motion and grip on right side, is able to articulate a word or two, is alert and patiently awaiting whatever needs to be done while in ICU for the day. He can, slowly, stick out his tongue very very well!! We will see what next couple of days bring, expecting rehab / speech therapy over time.
Actually just videochatted with Theresa [my sister] and he said ‘love you’ quite clearly! Then went to nap after 2 minute call, exhausted.
Please pray for his swift recovery and that there are no further complications.
And join me in a prayer of thanksgiving for the kindness of strangers who pulled him out of the water so quickly and saved his life.
by Melanie Bettinelli on June 02, 2013
1. Two years ago my parents brought some iris bulbs from their garden, offspring of bulbs I had planted when I was a teen, and I planted them in this little bed I created. Along the edge I also put in some lupine seeds. Most of them didn’t sprout and the one that did sprout didn’t bloom at all that year. Nor did it bloom last year. But this year… Wow!
A true Miss Rumphius moment. They are glorious! So many flowers. And so tall—almost up to Sophie’s shoulder. I need to plant more lupines.
2. Dom took this picture of me with all the kids. I’m pretty happy with it. Sure, Ben is pouting and Sophie is diving out of the shot, but that’s life.
3. I can’t remember if I already shared these or not. A lady at the library told us where there was a swan’s nest with eggs about to hatch. So we went to take a look. The nest was right there on the other side of the chain link fence, both swans were taking turns sitting on the nest.
We haven’t been back to see if the eggs have hatched. The thing is, it’s in the opposite direction from the library, the grocery store, the farmer’s market, everything. So it’s not easy to remember to just swing by. But I do want to see the cygnets.
4. Anthony took his lunch outside. How lovely it is that we can do this now! And how sweet is it that he is so independent?
5. I took Lucia outside to look at the irises and she started grabbing at the leaves in the crabapple tree. When I went to take her picture, she turned to look at the camera and oh it was the sweetest picture.
Sometimes she just looks like a little doll.
6. After the farmer’s market we picked up some pizza and subs and took them to the park for a picnic. It was hot, but the kids ran around and picked up acorns and had a grand time.
7. Last night we had our Saturday night farmer’s market bounty feast. Dom grilled some sausages and chicken and peppers and onions while I made some asparagus, turnip greens, and chard. While I was snapping a picture of my plate I noticed a little hand reaching out to grab at my plate. Lucia, who was sitting on my lap, snagged a piece of the turnip greens and even got it into her mouth. I don’t think she was very happy with the taste.
by Melanie Bettinelli on June 02, 2013
Blessed Feast of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ!
From a work by Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest
O precious and wonderful banquet!
Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that men should share in his divinity, he assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make men gods. Moreover, when he took our flesh he dedicated the whole of its substance to our salvation. He offered his body to God the Father on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for our reconciliation. He shed his blood for our ransom and purification, so that we might be redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleansed from all sin. But to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us for ever, he left his body as food and his blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine.
O precious and wonderful banquet, that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness! Could anything be of more intrinsic value? Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered, but here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food. What could be more wonderful than this? No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all. Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament, in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion.
It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper. As he was on the point of leaving the world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion. It was the fulfillment of ancient figures and the greatest of all his miracles, while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.
who in this wonderful Sacrament
have left us a memorial of your Passion,
grant us, we pray, so to revere the sacred mysteries
of your Body and Blood that we may always experience
in ourselves the fruits of your redemption.
Who live and reign with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
by Melanie Bettinelli on May 31, 2013
Recently Darwin Catholic had a very good post about the ethics of historical fiction prompted by the movie Amadeus and the problems with historical fiction that intentionally gives readers a false vision of real people or events.
Of course, any fiction is “not true” in some sense, definitionally. And an author who is writing about real historical characters or events will necessarily fictionalize: Combine people, arrange meetings that didn’t take place, make up details that aren’t known. None of these bother me in the least.
I think what it is that bothers me is when an author takes a historical person or event and intentionally represents it differently than it was in order to write some other story or convey some other point—using the established cultural meaning of a real person or event to lend color to his fiction.
Historical fiction has a fair amount of power. We often remember characters from books and movies better than we do anything we read in a history book. As such, it strikes me a problematic when historical events are treated as cultural short hand for some big idea rather than being portrayed in human terms.
And that, I the end, strikes me as the danger with knowingly inaccurate historical fiction, it runs the risk of obscuring from us the real human events and dramas that people experienced in the past. And when we don’t know what really happened in the past, in a certain sense, we no longer know who we are or how we got here.
I think Darwin’s analysis is sound about the danger of deliberately inaccurate historical fiction.
I was struck by the quote he pulled from an interview with Mark Helprin:
Mark Helprin does not let too much of the outside world into his fiction—certainly not impersonal facts. “Research kills a book. It makes a book like a historical romance,” he said in a telephone interview from his home in Seattle. “An Italian who fought in the First World War or was a historian of the period” who reads his novel, “A Soldier of the Great War,” “would probably become apoplectic,” Mr. Helprin said.
It’s an interesting contrast to the approach of one of my favorite novelists, Canadian fantasy writer Guy Gavriel Kay. Kay’s novels are perhaps best categorized as historical fantasy. With the exception of his first trilogy, The Fionavar Tapestry, which is high fantasy in which characters from our world travel to a magical realm similar to the Pevensies traveling to Narnia, Kay’s books are set in magical worlds that are clearly not our world—often they are marked by having an extra moon, and usually there are magical creatures and other indicators to create an otherworldly setting. And yet his worlds have clear historical parallels. Tigana is set in a world that is very like Renaissance Italy, A Song for Arbonne is set in a parallel Medieval Provence, The Sarantine Mosaic is Byzantium, and Under Heaven is Tang Dynasty China.
Kay is kind of the anti-Helprin. He does extensive research on his target milieu, but doesn’t let the liberties he takes become a stumbling block to the reader. Kay has neatly avoided the ethical conundrum by making it clear that however strong the parallels, his novels are fantasy and not history. And the fantasy setting gives him the leisure to play with history in a whimsical way, cleaving as close to his source material as he likes and straying from it where it makes a better story. Some of his characters have clear historical parallels: El Cid, Justinian and Theodora, Alfred the Great. But Kay doesn’t have an obligation to be accurate and so his portraits are free to reimagine history.
This freedom, incidentally, allows Kay to explore religious themes in ways that are new and fresh. The three religions he creates for The Lions of Al Rassan, The Sarantine Mosaic, and he Last Light of the Sun are clear parallels to the three great monotheistic religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism; but because they are not the same, Kay is able to look at things in a new and fresh way.
Anyway, I guess this wasn’t a full-fledged post. Just a little nod to Darwin and Kay, a little tangent I wanted to follow that seemed a bit much for Darwin’s comments.
I do have this ambition to write a series of blog posts about Kay’s works. Do some close reading, explore some themes. A different kind of extensive blogging project. Something like what Literacy Chic is doing for Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books. Who knows someday it may even happen. Though in the comments to my Billy Collins post Manny reminds me about how remiss I have been about my Waste Land project. Guess I should get back online with that before I go hounding after a new thing, huh?