Saturday, January 22, 2011

A promising start

The first week of the semester is behind us.

Here's the funny thing: I really liked it. I know, people who know me know that I love teaching, so they probably don't get the strangeness here. But I usually hate the first week. I hate it, basically, because I hate teaching strangers. I love teaching when I'm into the semester a bit and I know my students and they know me. But I hate that first week, usually.

This week just felt ... different. Maybe it was that I knew at least one student in every class before going in. Maybe it was that when I went around the room and asked them little ice-breaker questions about theology, more of them were positive than usually. I really don't know. It just felt good.

And so the semester is off to a very promising start.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rosaries and a love stronger than death

I just prayed a rosary for Chad, who passed away yesterday of a drug overdose. Chad's cousin was a classmate at both college and masters level and remains a friend, through the magic of Facebook. He asked for prayers, rosaries specifically, and I said I would pray a rosary for Chad.

Now, officially, the rosary-the-night-before-the-funeral went out with the Vatican II reforms. A very nice Vigil service has been designed. I've been to those Vigils a couple of times, organized by eager, informed priests for families who had no real sense of what should happen at/around a funeral. (I was there not as a mourner so much as parish staff.)

I remember gently suggesting the Vigil instead of the rosary for my mom's funeral. Not to put too fine a point on it: hell, no. What WE do when people die is we pray the rosary.

So, it was good tonight to pray the rosary for Chad, and to have a sense that I joined with people in something of a "virtual" collective rosary for him. It was also bittersweet to remember those losses that have hit me closer to home, but to keep plugging through, praying the same prayer.

The rosary--especially its backbone the "Hail Mary"--really is the perfect prayer in the face of death. You find yourself repeating over and over the request that Mary "pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death." There is nothing like a death to make that line stand out, and I heard it each time I said it but for Chad, for those deaths past, and for my own death coming at some future time that I don't know yet.

I know that sounds a little ... morbid, a community of death or something. But I actually don't mean it like that at all. I'm really convinced that the good news of Christ in the midst of death is that love is stronger than death, and that the way that gets best embodied for us is in the love of the Christian community in the face of death. We offer love, and prayers, and that gentle reminder that the last enemy to be defeated is death. The love of Christ conquers all.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Timely reflections?

Happy New Year!

For some reason, I've been thinking a lot about time this week: the passing of time, how I use my time, what I have time for, make time for, the ways I protect my time sometimes, only to end up squandering it.

As I often do this time of year, my thoughts turned to Auden's "For the Time Being." Usually, I'm most struck by the line about "Remembering the stable where for once in our lives / Everything became a You and nothing was an It." But this week, the lines about time have grabbed me, especially that the time being is the "most trying time of all" and the suggestion that we feel we must redeem it from insignificance.

Time, of course, has already been redeemed from insignificance, not simply in the stable Auden mentions, but in the 33 years or so that followed, and especially in the death and resurrection of the babe from that stable. (Quick parenthetical shout-out to the brilliance of the gentle inclusion of the Cross in this Christmas poem, mentioned only in the "whiff of apprehension" at the coming of Lent and Good Friday.) But, of course, that is precisely what makes the time being so very trying: the battle is won. The temptation is, then, to simply bide our time, to live in the Aristotelian city. And, of course, the challenge is to figure out how to be in the world in such a way that we know that we don't need to redeem it and yet we also know that the difference we makes matters.

I'm not sure how well I do that, but I've been thinking about what I do make time for, fail to make time for, etc, and I want to change a couple of things. I'm usually not a great one for New Year's resolutions, but it seems the time is ripe, and I want to make one here publicly: I will blog more this year. Of course, blogging more than last year would probably not be much of a challenge, so I'll be more specific. I'll aim at blogging weekly, even if something brief.

My others are, I suppose, more personal. Or, to put it another way, they don't involve any of my potential readers so directly. Suffice it to say that they involve me becoming more disciplined with my time so that I manage to do the things that I want or need to do, rather than doing the things that I sort of drift into. There are, after all, bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair, and (always my favorite!) irregular verbs to learn. There are also a number of books and articles that need me to write them. And there are some other things I would like to find a way to get done as well.

May 2011 be a blessed and wonderful year for you and yours!