Sunday, March 23, 2008

Culling . . .

Buffalo Dusk
by Carl Sandburg

The buffalos are gone.

And those who saw the buffalos are gone.

Those who saw the buffalos by thousands and

    how they pawed the prairie sod into dust

    with their hoofs, their great heads down

    pawing on in a great pageant of dusk,

Those who saw the buffalos are gone.

And the buffalos are gone.


Carl Sandburg Reading Buffalo Dusk


And yet and yet:

The New York Sunday Times
March 23, 2008

Anger Over Culling of Yellowstone's Bison


GARDINER, Mont. — This was not the Yellowstone National Park that tourists see.

At first light on Tuesday, at the end of a closed road, past a boneyard of junk cars, trailers and old cabins, more than 60 of the park's wild bison were being loaded on a semi-trailer to be shipped to a slaughterhouse.

With heavy snow still covering the park's vast grasslands, hundreds of bison have been leaving Yellowstone in search of food at lower elevations. A record number of the migrating animals — 1,195, or about a quarter of the park's population — have been killed by hunters or rounded up and sent to slaughterhouses by park employees. The bison are being killed because they have ventured outside the park into Montana and some might carry a disease called brucellosis, which can be passed along to cattle.

The large-scale culling, which is expected to continue through April, has outraged groups working to preserve the park's bison herds, considered by scientists to be the largest genetically pure population in the country. It has also led to an angry exchange between Montana state officials and the federal government over a stalled agreement to create a haven for the bison that has not received the needed federal financing.

"When they leave the park they have nowhere to go," said Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana, a Democrat. "This agreement would have given them a place to go."

Al Nash, a spokesman for Yellowstone National Park, said park employees tried to haze the bison into returning to the park but often met with limited success. Last week, two employees on horseback drove a large herd across a snow-flecked mountain from the north entrance back into the park.

"They come right back out again," Mr. Schweitzer said. "They just rebel. What would you do if you were a starving buffalo?"

The culling of bison at Yellowstone, while legal, has been a briar patch of controversy for more than two decades. In 1996, the count reached a peak — until this year — when 1,084 animals were killed.

In 2000, the State of Montana, the National Park Service
, the United States Forest Service and the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, which oversees disease issues for the Department of Agriculture, signed an agreement to manage the population. It had two main objectives: to stop the spread of brucellosis, which can also be transmitted from elk, and to allow some bison to leave Yellowstone unmolested.

Conservationists, Montana state officials and other critics say the first part of the agreement has been honored, but the second part has been ignored by the federal government.

"The public should be outraged," said Amy McNamara, national parks program director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition in Bozeman, Mont., which has worked to allow bison to leave the park. "An American icon is being taken to slaughter."

Ms. McNamara added, "By next week they'll be in somebody's freezer."

Federal officials say the money needed to make the agreement work — to obtain land along the Yellowstone River that would allow the bison to cross from the park to a publicly owned forest north of the park — has not been allocated by Congress.

Bruce Knight, under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs for the Department of Agriculture, said his department did not manage land or pay for the acquisition of habitat. "I've never received a directed appropriation for that," Mr. Knight said.

At issue is a corridor of land on the Royal Teton Ranch, owned by a religious group called the Church Universal and Triumphant. Last fall, a final stumbling block was removed when church leaders agreed to move their cattle off 2,500 acres of the land so the bison could cross to the forest, about 10,000 acres farther downstream. Any movement from there is blocked by a narrow canyon and the river.

With the cattle removed from the land, there would be no risk of transmission of brucellosis from infected bison. The plan would allow 25 bison who had tested negative for exposure to the disease to be allowed out of the park. If that went well, 50 or more would be allowed to leave, and so on.

The State of Montana and conservationists committed to raising $1.3 million toward the $3 million or so it would cost to lease the church group's land for 30 years. They expected the federal government, through the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, to provide the balance.

Mr. Schweitzer blamed Representative Denny Rehberg, Republican of Montana, for leading the opposition last summer to a $1.5-million Congressional appropriation that would have fulfilled the federal obligation. "He killed it," Mr. Schweitzer said.

A spokesman for Mr. Rehberg, Bridger Pierce, said Mr. Rehberg wanted the spread of brucellosis dealt with inside the park before any bison were allowed to migrate outside.

The standoff has been made all the worse by the detection last year of brucellosis in several cattle elsewhere in Montana. Though experts believe the disease was transmitted by elk, not bison, the case has stirred passions among ranchers. Brucellosis is a bacterial infection that can cause spontaneous abortion in cattle, and when detected, requires that the cattle be destroyed.

If another incidence of brucellosis appears in Montana, the state would lose its brucellosis-free status, which would mean each cow exported would need to be tested, an expensive proposition for ranchers. Wyoming and Idaho only recently regained their status as brucellosis free after cases were detected in those states in 2004 and 2005.

"Our interest is having a brucellosis-free United States," said Mr. Knight, the agriculture official. "The sole remaining reservoir is in the Greater Yellowstone. That makes it an exceptionally high priority for us."

Mr. Knight says the best solution would be a vaccine for bison, which he said could be a year away. Park officials, however, say it is not known when a vaccine, which they are researching, will be available.

In the meantime, conservationists and researchers who care about the bison worry that serious damage is being inflicted on the population here.

In the last few years biologists have discovered that Yellowstone's bison are one of only two genetically pure herds owned by the federal government.

James Derr, a professor of genetics at Texas A&M who is studying the Yellowstone bison, said he feared that some behaviors or traits, including the propensity to migrate, could be lost with the killed bison. “The great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and daughter often travel together,” he said. Killing them “is like going to a family reunion and killing off all of the Smiths. You are affecting the genetic architecture of the herd.”

In the next few weeks, so-called green-up — when the snow melts and new grass sprouts — is expected to begin in the park. At that time, some captured bison being held at a facility here who test negative for exposure to brucellosis will be released and allowed to head back into the park. Those that test positive, however, will be slaughtered.

“It’s a very difficult thing,” said Mr. Nash, the park spokesman, as he watched park employees load the bison for slaughter on Tuesday. “They do the job they have to do, but that doesn’t mean they enjoy doing it.”

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Priest and The Archbishop

Reverend Marek Bogusław Bozek is the pastor of St. Stanislaus Church in St. Louis, MO. He is being persecuted by the powerful Archbishop Raymond Burke, who has accused, tried and adjudged him guilty of nine canonical delicts. One would have been enough, but overkill is rarely eschewed by those who claim absolute power. Father Bozek is a Polish priest, like Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, 1947 – 1984, put to death by the Polish Secret Police for speaking out against communism and supporting Solidarity. He is featured in Daniel Berrigan's awe-some book on the Church, The Bride: Images of the Church. Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2000. (pages 123 – 125)

The icons were drawn by William Hart McNichols. Text and poetry by Daniel. Each image this poet and this artist drew about Fr. Popieluszko may readily and easily be drawn about Fr. Bozek.

Of Fr. Popieluszko, McNichols had this to say: "This icon of Holy Martyr Jerzy Popieluszko was created with the hope and prayer that Father Jerzy will be a patron and intercessor for all diocesan priests throughout the world, especially those who suffer and stand with the outcast and the persecuted."

Dan Berrigan had this to say:

The young priest, a look of sadness,
    substance, soul.

His garb Polish-traditional,
cassock, stole, rosary in hand,
long out of mind,
the image redolent of silence's
deep well.

        A moment,
and his voice breaks in a tidal wave,
rock-ribbed conviction, passion.
"To serve God is to seek a way
to human hearts"
    And large-handedly, his
seeks your hand.

festers, a bomb aimed, explodes;
    "Fear only betrayal
for a few silver pieces of meaningless peace."

Not an inch given,
    no bending to the will
of martinets, overlords, all-out liars
defaming, cowing a people.

The end.

    Volcanic days and nights;
a brutal, inept, bloody , misadventure;
    This troublemaking priest
once for all, done with.

Fools, every one.
        Never, not to be done with,
no blow sufficing, no mortal strike
        but crowns him, immortal.

    Jerzy, people's martyr.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Strange Country We Live In . . .

Strange country we live in. . .

A few days ago, a columnist, Clive Crook I think, but I didn't save the reference, wrote of the Bush administration that several pundits are referring to it as a "reign of terror . . . "

Yesterday, the Cominch of the Middle East, an Admiral, resigned because he disagrees with the president's policies there. A lot of us fear that Bush/Cheney are planning to leave office with a shock and awe preemptive strike on Iran in the waning days of their own "reign of terror . . ."

Yesterday, Diane Lopez-Hughes was released after serving 45 days for her witness against the SOA/WHINSEC, the school for educating hit men in a "reign of terror . . . "

Strange country we live in. . .

This day, the Governor of New York resigned, not so much for foolin' around, as for prosecuting those who also fooled around, while granting immunity for his own penis penchants. Mumbling prosecutors stumble over immediate decisions whether to prosecute him for being a John.

This day's news proclaims that Barack Obama is black and resents Geraldine Ferraro for calling him black, while she is outraged that the media is outraged at her for saying so. Hillary Rodham Clinton is female, but nobody seems to notice that, because she is white? The whole sordid business, by professionals, is called a campaign for public office, the one called "the presidency," so as to extricate us in 2009 from the "reign of terror . . ." starting, as they say, on the "First Day" at "3:00, AM."

Strange country we live in . . .

A couple of months ago, January 28th, John Dear, SJ, was sentenced for sitting too long in an elevator in a federal building, by a Magistrate Judge, who called Dean from the safety of the bench a "renegade priest," "a coward" and "no Gandhi." Thus, freedom of speech in the land of the free and the brave.

Strange country we live in.

Diane Lopez-Hughes said on her day of sentencing, also January 28th:

"As the daughter of a Guatemalan father, I am a member of an extended family that has experienced both sides of the conflict in that tortured country. In the late nineteenth century my grandfather was a general in the Guatemalan army. His mother was an indigenous woman. So my relatives have included those who have been repressed and those who have directly participated in the repression. And my own government trains Guatemalan soldiers in techniques that support the repression, disappearance and murder of their own citizens and those who would help them in their quest for a better life and just treatment. And I believe that the attitude that allows this practice is also responsible for our domestic and foreign policy that disrespects individuals and promotes injustice."

Strange country we live in. . . Makes one wonder when our own "reign of terror . . ." will end. Or will it? Just by voting?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

God As Friend

[Thoughts on a new book by William A. Barry, SJ. A Friendship like No Other: Experiencing God's Amazing Embrace.Chicago: Loyola Press, 2008, 203 pp. Paperback, $14.95. Not reviewed is a second edition of a prior work , now published simultaneously as a companion book: God's Passionate Desire. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2008, 130 pp. Paperback, $14.95.]

William A. Barry, SJ, is a veteran spiritual director who is currently serving as tertian director for the New England Province of the Society of Jesus. He has taught at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology and Boston College.

A Friendship like No Other: Experiencing God's Amazing Embrace is the latest in his many books on spirituality and prayer. It presents a radical idea: God wants to be our friend. Not many Christians would be so daring. To them God is remote, buried in the theology of scholars or the crossword puzzles of catechisms with questions and answers dutifully to be memorized. Few of us would dare say, "God is my friend." Whether casual, close or best.

Barry, well known and respected the world over for his skill in the spiritual direction of others, has lived daily what he preaches, teaches, writes and counsels. In referring to the encouragement given by three of his fellow Jesuits, he wrote they "embody what all Jesuits are asked to be for one another: 'friends in the Lord.'" With a lifetime of experience like this, he asks, not that we be like Jesuits, just that we know we are friends with God.
"In this book, I will confront another daunting question: what does God want in creating us? My stand is that what God wants is friendship." [p. xiv]
This work is not a theoretical foray into the high scholarship of contemplation, that peculiar province of those saints who were mystical, and whom we deem so far beyond us that we keep them at arm's length and admire. It is written in a language we all know and understand, the words we use with our own friends, with whom we live and move and have our daily being. Barry shows us how to take down our saints from their stone pedestals and experience what they did all their lives, the friendship of and with God. Like Dan Berrigan when he wrote, "Lord, send us mystics with hands."

There are three parts to this book: "Experiencing God's Desire for Friendship; Understanding Ourselves and God; Experiencing God." The keen eye of the knowing pray-er will notice the magic word "experience" immediately and nod assent, for it is in our own personal experience where Barry urges us to sit and be still and know that he is God. Not knowledge, nor theory, not even the inspiring words of others, but simply for us, for real, for "a friendship like no other."

Part One – Experiencing God's Desire for Friendship -- makes a startling suggestion: substitute "like" for "love". It's easier to swallow, because it's not so heavy. We just don't say to a neighbor's wife, "I love you," and hope we can get away with it, when what we meant was, "You're a nice neighbor. I like you." Try: "God likes me, and I like him, too." Somehow it means more than the duty-laden, almost forbidding if not foreboding, "Thou shalt love God with all your heart, etc." Then Barry gives us a short biblical tour of God's friendship with his people, in which he uncovers banter between God and Abraham and Sarah that I never saw there before. Friends do that.

Jesuit that he be, he then opens up the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in a new way, as "a developing pattern of friendship with God" and not a technique for making or manual of directing retreats. Again, hitherto unseen by me, despite many retreats including that first and only Long Retreat. This book is so new, so different, so real, so alive with meaning, because it is so filled with common sense and talks to us about friendship, in the simple way we share with our friends.

Spiritual Director that he be, he takes the time to offer practical tips from the years of his own experience in helping others, to overcome their fear – or even dislike - of God, and get to like him a little bit, then more, and want him as friend. There are more exercises offered, particularly when he warns us not to be so harsh on ourselves for our shortcomings especially in the way we may have treated some of our friends. These practical exercises keep this as a book on friendship and not a treatise on religiosity or churchism.

This part ends with getting to know God deeper, becoming a friend with Jesus and his community around us, with the help of people like P.D. James, the novelist, N.T. Wright, an Anglican bishop, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and J.R.R. Tolkien, who gave us The Lord of the Rings. The most poignant part of this section is this:
"I was deeply moved during a province retreat when Kenneth Hughes, SJ, one of the retreat leaders, had us imagine someone meeting Jesus after death. The person says to Jesus," I wish I had known you better in life. Jesus replies, "I wish I had known you better." Imagining that scene was life-changing for me." [p. 70]

Part Two – Understanding ourselves and God -- dissolves the bugaboos of our insignificance and unworthiness, dismisses the Me-Stuff of self-sanctification, and uproots the way we use names and nicknames, in coming to understand ourselves. Barry then gives God the same treatment, in showing us that God is vulnerable as we are vulnerable, and brings up this unusual question.
"We feel compassion for our friends and are moved to take risks to help them. But have you ever felt compassion for God? Perhaps the reason we don't often do so is that we do not sense the mutuality in our friendship with God." [p. ]
To understand God, insofar as we can, we need Barry's help in handling God's remoteness, anger and justice, our excuse, perhaps, of not seeing that God "abases self in order to win us over to friendship." Friends need to understand friends as only friends can.

Part Three -- Experiencing God -- opens with the unusual suggestion that prayer is not the only place in which we experience God and calls on us to pay attention to other places, especially "thin places."
"The Irish speak of 'thin places,' where the border between heaven and earth, sacred and secular, seems especially porous and God is believed to 'leak through' more easily. Because I believe that God can 'leak through' anywhere, I prefer to say that in such places people find the presence of God more easily. Where are the thin places in your life? What makes a place thin?" [p. 163]

And then he surprises us by offering scripture as a thin place; liturgy, too; married and family life as well; and nature. That last thin place with help from the poet Mary Oliver. And, or but, there are unlikely thin places: Dachau, a nursing home, a difficult ministry, Golgotha "the unlikeliest thin place in all of history . . . "    

"God, who invites us to friendship, is present and active everywhere. As the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins put it, 'The world is charged with the grandeur of God.' Every place on this earth can be a thin place. All that is required to experience God is our openness to God's presence." [p. 176]

Good. But how do we know we are "experiencing" God? For Jesuits the thin place for this answer is St. Ignatius' discernment of spirits. Barry gives us a short review of some of its rules, while describing them, with great insight and humor, as only a friendly friend can.

"Ignatius began to learn how to discern the spirits through paying attention to his feelings while daydreaming. God and the evil spirit, Ignatius came to believe, were working in his daydreams to different ends. This story should remove some of the mystery associated with the term discernment of spirits." [p. 179]

This small book, truly a thin place, ends with the profound simplicity with which it was written:

"God wants friendship with you and with me and with all our brothers and sisters in the world. Let's take the offer, shall we? Bless you all."[p. 194]

There are five short pages of notes at the end of the book. Do not miss them. Short, sweet and to the point, as the saying goes, these few notes show how Barry opened up the world of friendship to explore. Each reader can do the same, with the help of this friendly book.

My father loved to tell the story of the learned Jesuit, degreed as no other, fond of his flowing cape as ineffable as his words, who conducted a St. Francis Xavier Novena in our parish so long, long ago. At the close of each evening's session, the Jesuit prayed quietly at the rear of the church, noticing a gentle, elderly woman halfway down the aisle, also praying quietly. After several evenings of waiting long for her to leave, he dared ask, "And why do you stay so long afterwards, my dear?"

"To pray," was her simple answer.

"Really, and how is that you pray?" asked the gifted theologian of so many years of study and scholarship in matters spiritual.

"Oh! I just sits here and looks at Him. And He sits up there and looks at me."

Barry has the same emoluments as the preacher of long ago, the same two initials after his name, "SJ", but he identifies much more easily and friendly with the gentle woman, who loves to sit with her friend, long after others have gone home, and is thus able to speak to us in the same words she uses and understands. Friends talk to each other that way. That's the way friendship is. It is not an idea but a relationship, a bond between two persons, in such a simple way that neither one is one.

I met Bill Barry the day he entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Shadowbrook, another thin place, on August 14, 1950, the day our friendship began.

Friday, March 7, 2008


The number of days to March 7, 2008, since these words were first spoken . . .

Every gun that is made, every warship launched,
every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense,
a theft from those who hunger and are not fed,
those who are cold and are not clothed.
The world in arms is not spending money alone.
It is spending the sweat of its laborers,
the genius of its scientists,
the hopes of its children...
This is not a way of life at all,
in any true sense.
Under the cloud of threatening war,
it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower
April 16, 1953

Monday, March 3, 2008

Illegal and Legal Immigrants – Any Difference?

The tangled issue of "illegal immigrants" is easily put to one side by a Yankee, raised in Massachusetts, worked in New Hampshire, summered and retired in Maine. My childhood and teenage years were spent in Boston, where as "modern" as 1945, our senior prom at a pretty nice Boston hotel banned any black persons in our class. We switched hotels, because Bart Branch was our basketball captain. Black was the only off-white color noticeable around town. Greeks were a bit swarthy. Italians had that Latin look. The French had cigarettes in the corners of their mouths all the time, the smoke masking the pale – oh! so pale coloring of those near the Seine. As for the British, they wore spats and carried umbrellas. Their white was a haughty one. In the working years, both NH and ME had tiny, tiny populations of off-white coloring. We were Anglo-Saxon-Franco-Germanic-other European Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Agnostics, Atheists and some descendants of the original Yankees, a/k/a Puritans, whom we had elevated to a kind of superclass royalty off The Mayflower, even though they were perhaps the most intolerant Americans our country has yet endured.

But, but, but, we were all, almost all, white. Tons of us were the first born of immigrants – both Mom and Dad came from Prince Edward Island, Canada, just an overnight trainride away, no long boat trip across the Atlantic Ocean. I remember both parents studying for their citizenship exams. And then, they were able to say, "Civis Americanus sum," borrowed with adjustments from Saint Paul himself. No immigrant he, just a wandering apostle, a roaming Catholic. Actually, surrounded by five immigrant Canadian aunts, a couple of uncles and a bunch of Roman Catholic cousins, we thought we were much more American than them high falutin' Mayflowerites and the Silk Stocking Yankee crowd up on Beacon Hill.  We were Irish, too, fundamentally so, and that brings up a completely different sort of intolerance and clannishness, doesn't it. Once banned and barred from jobs in Boston, the Irish had overcome. By the time I was 5 years old,we not only ran the town, police, fire, mail, schoolteachers, priests, bishops, cardinals, etc., we owned it. Era? 1930s, 1940s.

Then at 25, I went off to Tokyo. Not a member of an occupation army, but worse, a Jesuit infiltrator, I knew what it was to be an immigrant, albeit legal, an easily spotted one, who stood out in any crowd with my blue eyes, white skin, awkward posture and attitude,  all of which proclaimed loudly that I was no native, probably an American. A fellow on the train saw me reading La Bible de Jérusalem, and asked, "Furansujin, desu ka? – You French?"  I almost said, "Oui," but stupidly it came out,"Si," and he turned away. We "gaijins – foreigners" got pushed off sidewalks, were shoved out of crowded trains, knew little of the famed Japanese courtesy, until we learned it was reserved for those they knew personally. No stranger need apply.

I got a small taste of what current "illegal immigrants" go through in the America of postmodern times. When I spoke Japanese to a ruffian, politely but firmly telling him to back off, my voice and accent was that of a Japanese college student – the men in the dorms taught me how to street talk like one of them – and suddenly, there was much deep bowing, many expressions of regret and apology and a kind of  coronation ceremony when the bad guy announced  to all, "He's a sensei – honored professor."  It was almost, but not quite, as if he had said Americanishly, 'It's OK. He's one of us."  So  easy to get along, fit right in, if you know the words, no matter the color of your skin and eyes. No fakery involved either.

The ire seen in newspapers, heard on Cable TV, seems to be based on color, any color off-white, be it black, tan, coffee, oriental yellow (their white) and is directed mainly southwards, but oddly not eastwards to Spain, whence those immigrants' immigrant forebears came from. When I hear "illegal immigrants," I know they are talking about Mexicans, Columbians, Puerto Ricans (they American citizens?) any kind of South Americans. Europeans aren't a source of "illegal immigrants," nor is Ireland, Russia, China, India, Japan (we're a bit ashamed of the imprisonment of Japanese American citizens after Pearl Harbor was bombed by their relatives.) The Irish, a little over a century after being treated like trash, now furnish some leaders to those patriotic red, white and blue Americans smoting the "illegals," the postmodern trash. We always have to have some group to  beat up on, don't we? To blame for our bad luck in life, usually a foreign group that consensus agrees is beneath us, not worthy to tie our sandal straps.

Kind of funny, too, that we treat Native Americans, copper-skinned, as real Americans, autochthonously so to speak, not just as one of us, but as a kind of royal ancestor who saved the land for us. Which we promptly took away without asking politely first. To hide our shame, we gave them poor land, called it "Reservation" and herded them inside to stay out of sight, out of mind. They knew they were"legal" though and were and are patient, so patient, that we are beginning to look on them as ancestors, forebears, seeing something definite in their culture that is American, far more authentic than our own potpourri slatherings on from all the countries of Europe and Asia. Africa doesn't count, you know. On the grey scale, they're way out on the far end of black, and somehow that just isn't another hue of white or off-white. Besides, Civil Rights is being won by them, slowly, but being won.

Well, Mom and Dad were immigrants. White ones. May have been "illegal" for all I know.  But got sworn in and were able to vote. Most of the parents on our street were immigrants, too. We were a happy crowd. And now, our children aren't so happy and are yelling a lot about drivers' licenses, language spoken as a native tongue, taking menial jobs, making sure we keep America "free and legal" while assuring there are enough "illegal immigrants" to wait on us, do our housekeeping, run errands, clean up the streets, pick up the garbage and then go back where they came from, provided they send their children here to take their places.

But then again, and again, I'm a Yankee from Maine, where I couldn't tell a Mexican from a native, and always kept my own head down, lest I heard a real Yankee say, "Him, that porky guy, he's from away." I'm not a resident of Los Angeles, or Taos, NM, or even a small town in Arizona, where vigilantish saviors of democracy want a few hundred miles of fencing erected real soon. Thinking of my own ancestors, I wonder why the drumbeat for the fence is not  so loud between us and Canada. Maybe, because it would be a much longer one, about 3000 miles from the Pacific to the Atlantic, not just a wittle one from Baja California to the Gulf of Mexico. Cost a few billion. And Canadians are the same color as us, blend in easily, never look "illegal."

Thus, no reason for me to pop off here on this issue. Not much to say or recommend, except a few little things about the Statue of Liberty. I'm kinda close to immigrants in my own family, and was one myself for three years in Japan. Being from the Northeast, I've never had much trouble with other immigrants, and here in Colorado, I'm beginning to notice some antipathy towards people  who speak Mexican-Spanish and wear baggy clothes.

If the ruckus continues, I think we should take down the Statue of Liberty, disassemble it carefully, because it was a thoughtful gift, and put it in storage or give it back to France. What is remarkably noteworthy is that the lady's face was originally a copper hue, almost the same color as the skin of those sneaking in from south of the border. Over the years, her face and hands have taken on a patina, as only copper can do, so she is now green. Wonder how we'd react to green illegal immigrants. Could spot them more  quickly, I suppose.  Anyone know her name?  Lazarus gave her one in the poem below, Mother of Exiles. Kind of sad, isn't it?

At the very least, before we build those fences, we should have the integrity to go inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and melt down that bronze plaque inscribed with the poem "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus. It's a brazen lie now, like so much else of America, which seems to be imitating the empire of ancient Rome in a slow but steady fall and decline. Some of us wonder whatever happened to our Church. Have we ever asked, Whatever happened to our country?  

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Suscipe Prayer of Saint Ignatius

Saint Ignatius wrote this prayer to be experienced in the Fourth Week of the The Spiritual Exercises during the Contemplation to Obtain Love.


Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem.
Accipe memoriam, intellectum, atque voluntatem omnem.
Quidquid habeo vel possideo mihi largitus es;
id tibi totum restituo, ac tuae prorsus voluntati trado gubernandum.
Amorem tui solum cum gratia tua mihi dones,
et dives sum satis, nec aliud quidquam ultra posco.

Literal translation

Take, Lord, my entire liberty.
Receive all my memory, intellect and will.
Whatever I have or possess you have given me;
I give it all back to you, and hand it over to be directed wholly by your will.
Give me only your love along with your grace,
and I am rich enough, nor do I ask for anything more.

Anthony Mottola's Translation

Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding, and my entire will,
all that i have and possess.
Thou hast given all to me, to Thee, O Lord, I return it.
All is Thine; dispose of it according to Thy will.
Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is enough for me.

Modern Translation
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding and my entire will,
All I have and call my own. 
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it. 
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace.
That is enough for me.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

My Laptop Crashed

It happened to me. First time, too.  The laptop crashed. Badly. After frustrating difficulties in upgrading an application, I asked for help, was directed to Microsoft itself, and began a telephone step-by-step dialogue with one of its geeks from India. Our conversation began a week ago last Thursday at 9:20 AM, and was recessed at 5:30 PM, to be resumed the following day. At recess, the monitor screen was black, unvarying, endless black like that of the holes in the universe, and as implacable as well.

The next day's walk-through was conducted by a geekess from India, whose staying power was nugatory when compared with her predecessor. Within two minutes, she advised, "Ve vill now format dee harddrive. I vill bring up a DOS prompt, and you . . ."

"Pardon me, Ma'am, my solo practice since 1992 and written words and phrases since 2002 are on that hard drive," I murmured, adding, "You see?" Intuiting she did not, could not, we parted politely. And then, early that Friday morning, I began to tremble.

The laptop is an HP Pavilion, purchased last June from Circuit City, in South Portland, ME, with their Advantage Protection Plan, fortunately.  To make sure of backups, I joined it to an HP Expansion Base, which has a drawer available for an external hard drive, soon filled with an HP 300GB naked beauty.  The total blackness of the laptop's screen convinced me that the backups were as inaccessible as My Documents,1992-2008.

To restore the laptop to its pristine glory, HP's Restore Disc, plus the two it commanded me to create, begin by wiping the hard drive clean, and only then reinstall the applications it supplied last June. Wiping clean includes the remorseless destruction of documents and data and their remnants. Before daring that stroke on my own, without superior help, the little voice asked, "What if the backups in the Expansion Base drawer are corrupted?

The tremors, subsiding some from the initial onslaught, renewed with vigor and force, almost reminiscent on a personal basis of that shock and awe we read about but never feel. Could I have lost everything I did since going solo in 1992 and responding to Robert Blaire Kaiser's invitation in 2002, to join his group and write? Gone, all gone?

And that's when I saw The Suscipe Prayer, affixed to the laminated wood block our son Steve made for me in 1973. The English version starts off: "Take and receive, Lord, all my liberty . . ." I gulped. The wise-guy's initial retort was going to be "You know I  didn't mean it,"  followed by a quivering "Did you have to take me at my word? It's just a prayer, you know, " and ending with a resentment, "You could have waited a year or two, maybe."

Although convinced my work was gone, irretrievably, I grunted, lugged the old Desktop out of the closet, dusted it down, cleaned it up, and plugged it in. There would be no data on it, I knew, because all that stuff was transferred to the laptop last June and then deleted.  At least, I thought, as the monitor flickered into life, I can begin again. There is still some time left. Perhaps?

During the ensuing week, meditation was a bit deeper, lingered longer on Suscipe, Domine – Take, Lord, to me the quintessential Jesuit prayer. Realization came that I'd gotten a glimpse of its depth, when LordLord did not accept what had been offered. He simply took my hard drive. Could have been the devil who kept screaming in the black hole of my despair, that it could be restored, though wiped clean of everything created on it, were I a good boy.

It took a day over a week to demand, not summon, courage to reappear. I was tired of fiddling with the Desktop installation, sensed over and over anger dispelling hope -- that's why they call it "Re-sentment", not just plain, old anger, but the over-and-over-and-over variety that makes peace impossible. Emotions teetered, when I remembered the fun of the last six years and bemoaned the loss of a machine far more sophisticated than a pencil hovering above a blank sheet of paper.

So, today, I bagged the laptop, gathered all Restore discs, photocopied last June's receipts of purchase, stuck the Expansion Base under the free arm and drove with Jean to Fort Collins, CO, where there was a friendly Circuit City Store we often went to, when we lived and worked here ten years ago.

The technician, uncannily able to see the tears behind my calm, brave smile, checked out my records for the Protection Plan, opened the cover on the laptop, functioning on battery alone, and clicked on >START<, evoking  a DOS prompt, to which he entered the command "explore." After a long roll-down of DOS gobbleydook, he said, "It's not as serious as you think. I'll try first to extract everything from the hard drive in the Expansion Base, save it to our master computer in the back room, and then restore the laptop. Thanks for coming into Circuit City."

On the way home with Jean, I heard her say, "You're a changed man. You look different."  

When we pray Suscipe, Domine, are we holding onto a backup? Just in case?  If so, shouldn't we make sure that the backup is completely external to the entire system it is backing up and not an integral part of it in an attached device. The backup must be reachable, obviously.

The crashing of a laptop and the need for the restoration of its hard drive is but a gentle reminder that when we utter "Suscipe, Domine," and click on >ENTER<, it goes out instantly to a listening Dominus. There is no backup.

What if, what if Dominus took us at our word?  

What if, what if he responded: Amorem tui solum – only your love?

What if, what if we meant: nec aliud quidquam ultra posco – nor do I ask for anything more?