Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Glover Dale

Don't try spell check. This is a name: my mother's name. I have written a number of times about my father in the blog. He lived until just before Christmas 2013 so that he was a part of my daily life during the course of much of the period covered by the blog. But my mother has been dead for 20 years, and I think that she has appeared here only in reference to her death. As I wrote in the post about the anniversary of my ordination, her dying and death came just at that time. That limited view does an injustice to her because she was full of life.

Of course memory colors things, but I remember her as fun: so much fun. I also find myself understanding her much better as I get older, especially her preference for people, places, and things that were unconventional. She was bored by social conformity, except of the highest standard. She valued authenticity in every thing and every one. She could not stand fake stuff or people, especially fake flowers! She loved to talk. She was "organizationally challenged" so I come by that naturally. There was a certain organization there, but it was indeed pretty unconventional, shall we say.

She had great friends. Really interesting people. She was loyal, and she expected (and received) loyalty. That is another trait that I received from her. (It is one that hurts a lot in a world that values loyalty less and less.) This fierce fidelity was one of the ways that she best expressed her love.

OK -- better get down to facts. Glover Dale Tarver was born in Murfreesboro on June 3, 1933: Confederate Memorial Day. My grandfather, John Sims Tarver, was from old Middle Tennessee stock; and my grandmother, Donnye Clopton Tarver, was from Murray in extreme western Kentucky, the Purchase. Both my grandparents had been teachers. That is how they met, but my grandfather had gone home to Murfreesboro to rescue a relative's failing business and so he ran an automobile parts business and junk yard for the rest of his life. I am named for him.

My mother grew up in the very ordered world of Murfreesboro, a town with no lack of self confidence. There were accepted ways to do everything, and my mother very much accepted that social order but with more intelligence and humanity than most. The social disorder of things beginning in the late 60s was a huge affront to her. Even though I grew up in the days of social revolution and the Vietnam War, my parents were totally committed to old fashioned social and civic virtues. It has blessedly unfit me for the world I live in!

She graduated from Murfreesboro Central High School, as "best all-around" girl, and entered Vanderbilt. She was also quite an athlete. At Vanderbilt, she was an English, pre-med major and a Tri Delta. She valued the tradition of the New Critics of the English department at Vanderbilt, now completely despised by the university. After graduation, she was working in a lab at Vanderbilt and applying to medical school, when she was engaged to my father, then a Vanderbilt law student.

They were married in June of 1956 and went to live in Brazil, where my father served in the State Department. My mother loved Brazil, up in the north at the mouth of the Amazon where they lived. She learned Portuguese and fit right in with her dark features. She even loved the Catholic faith of Brazil, but that had to wait for many years to come to fulfillment.

When she became pregnant with my sister and my father was going to be reassigned back to Washington, they decided to call the State Department quits and return to Tennessee. Strangely not to Murfreesboro or to Nashville but to Ashland City, the really small and completely unfashionable town where my father had spent a good part of his growing up -- as much as anywhere. I understand this was my mother's preference. I think that she already sensed the suburbanization of Murfreesboro and the "itness" of Nashville. She wanted no part of either for her family.

Well, I am not sure how long or where this is going, but it's a start!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The people I'm grateful to

After the last post, I took an early morning walk. It is getting light enough and warm enough to do that again. I was thinking about the diverse influences in my life that came together visibly at my ordination. I think that I will begin to write about some of those people and try to introduce them to you. I realize that I have had an incredibly rich life when it comes to people whom I have known, who have taken an interest in me, even loved me. So many of these people are not the sort of people who would ever come to light in the crazy world we live in. So many of them are practically "extinct," if you get what I mean. They belong to a world that is passing away or is already passed. I want you all to know them.

These sketches will be somewhat idealistic. The real people all have faults, but what I want to show is their goodness, their virtue, their love as I experienced it. That is what is special about them to me.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

21 years and counting

Last evening I celebrated Mass with the students in the Cathedral as I usually do. It was the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the patronal feast of the Cathedral of the Incarnation, and, very far down the list of notable things about the day, the anniversary of my ordination. I was ordained to the priesthood on March 25, 1994 in the Cathedral of the Incarnation. It is an unusual date for an ordination. It was chosen because my mother was dying, and Bishop Kmiec graciously insisted on moving the ordination up a few months so that she could be there. It worked: she was there, by the hardest, and she did die in June, the month of the original date for the ordination.

The change in date involved a lot of scrambling. The invitations had just been printed with the original date and so correction cards were prepared, and a team of retired sisters at the Dominican Motherhouse set to work addressing the invitations. They were ready in no time, with the perfect penmanship of sisters who had taught school all those years! Music was prepared, a retreat arranged, etc. Since my mother was so sick and my sister was assigned in Memphis at the time, I needed help with hospitality. New friends from Kentucky took on the reception; old friends from Ashland City housed dozens of seminarians who came to help with the first Mass, serving and singing. Flowers were gathered from yards, woods, and road sides. St. Martha's in Ashland City jumped in for lunch after the first Mass. There was a whole team to get my mother ready and transported in as much comfort as could be managed. It was so beautiful and so simple. I wore borrowed vestments for the first Mass. And the generosity of the faithful in their gifts allowed me to pay the bills and to help with my mother's very expensive medicine.

The Cathedral was packed for the ordination Mass, largely in tribute to my mother and family. I think everyone knew that this would be her last public event. The dear Dominican Sisters filled up a whole section of the Cathedral in black and white. So many people of such diverse backgrounds were there. I have never been able to express my gratitude sufficiently for all love, kindness, and support offered in that time. It was a beautiful spring evening much like yesterday.

All of this was coming back to me in love and gratitude in that same spot 21 years later.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

ramblings on the state of things

I think that I have commented before that I find the very early Church to be a good model for how to live in the world that we are moving into: a truly re-paganized world. It is a world in which basic Christian concepts like the dignity of the human person, the sacredness of sexuality, marriage, and family, and the reality of judgment and eternal life have been rejected along with their moderating influence on the exercise of worldly power. For all the supposed secularism of enlightenment and modern thought, the rationality employed in these periods was still resting on Christian philosophical pillars. Only with the deconstruction of post-modernism do we find ourselves again in a truly un-Christian world: the dictatorship of the relative, to use the term of Benedict XVI.

What do we do about it? I think that we seek to serve the world and suffer what the world has to offer, which will certainly be increasing persecution and marginalization . This is what the Lord did and what the early Christians did. I hope not to see the rise of Christian militias or political movements. We started on that approach with Constantine, and I don't think that it has worked well for us. Worldly methods and influences always end up corrupting the Church. I don't condemn the Crusader or the culture warrior, but I don't think that approach works ultimately because it relies on the methods of the world.

Just and legitimate governments should defend the common good, including defending the rights and lives of the innocent. That is the proper sphere for government. I don't think, however, that the Church should be doing the governing or telling others exactly how to do it -- not that either is very likely any more. The Church should be equipping and making saints. Maybe some of them can influence the powers of this world for good. St. Thomas More, pray for them!

The cross is the method of Christianity. So I tend more and more to find inspiration in the meekness of Christ, led like a lamb to His slaughter. In the Passion, the strongest character by far is that of the Lord. And worldly power in that story just about guarantees weakness of character. Even good but powerful figures in the story, like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, sneak around at night to do the good that they do. The road to Calvary is a hard road but a road of no regrets. And it is the only road to Easter. The road of comfort and power leads to disaster and death: just look at what happened to Pilate and Herod, for example. They came to very sad ends.

I do not judge those who are off to war: literally, politically, or culturally. Sometimes one just has to. Many of them are inspirations to me for their courage and nobility. But it is not the way for me. You know, we had our brief stint as culture warriors. We were on Fox and Friends to prove it! During that fight, which we had not chosen, we more and more looked for ways to bring it to an end and to play down the rhetoric without violating the principles and the trust of the students. That's how we became UCat. Since then, we have lived our secular dhimmitude at Vanderbilt, but I think we are more fruitful and faithful than ever for it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Msgr. Pope does it again

Excellent post on temptation.

See especially point 5 on purification of the senses and powers of the soul: my particular battle right now.

Sounds like he is blaming the sinner -- which he is. Rightly!

Refreshment after exertion

I seem to be developing a new normal: incredibly blessed and busy weekends with a restful Monday to recover. This week, anyhow, certainly fit the description.

This weekend there was Awakening XVI. A tremendous blessing -- and a few firsts. Our first Awakening with a male leadership team. This had the result of a certain "chillness" to the weekend. No stress. (Also, the first male kitchen staff head -- same result: chill kitchen.) FYI -- being "chill" is a good thing. We also had our first international visitors to Nashville Awakening: from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The main glitch to the retreat was my doing -- but covered by the chill rector and coordinator and by the ever-resourceful Miss Duffy! Thanks for saving me!

OK and then there was St. Mary's: regular weekend schedule AND and a funeral. And the regular Masses at Belmont (covered) and the 9 p.m. at Vanderbilt.

Then Monday: prayer, wonderful hike at my new favorite place -- Beaman Park, a few errands, lunch, long nap, Mass, supper, visit with priests, bed.

Ready for the week!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Rise, take up your mat, and walk

In my prayer, I am finding it easier to hear God talking to me. I did on Tuesday of this week.

This is what He said: "Rise, take up your mat, and walk." Well, not to me exactly but to the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda and through him to me.

I think He wants me to do more and to complain and analyze less. He will give me everything that I need, but I am to do it. So here goes!