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Howdy. We've moved from Cayce, but St. Elizabeth of South Rose Hill or Lizette de Waccamaw de Sud just don't do it for me.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I love working for the State of SC

Extra Benefit--TWO Memorial Days!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Busy, Busy, Busy

And I don't even have graduation or moving to blame for having no time to write.
Taking a couple of minutes while waiting on another fax to say:
My desk is a disaster again, but the presentations are getting done, policies are getting reviewed, disease investigations are I guess it's all relative.
Sometimes busy-ness keeps me from having time to process all I need to think about.  I want to have time to write poetry, to write gorgeous prose on relationships, to think about faith.  I want enough time to be able to understand what B16 really meant in His Easter vigil homily...(I don't "get" philosophical writings on the 1st, 2rd or 3rd pass--I missed the part in school when we learned to think without pictures.)
Maybe I had the mumps that day.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

et Religio

Recent linguistic acquisitions (2 from today's retreat)

1. Fundagelical
2. Episcopagans
3. Prolapsed Catholics

Conversion Axiom--Discuss Amongst Yourselves

So, a few days ago (or just earlier today, if one counts the Octave of Easter as one day--thanks for the suggestion, Gashwin!), I posted a quote I'd read on conversions:

"...well-formed evangelicals/Protestants tend to become Catholic, whereas poorly formed Catholics tend to become evangelicals."
An e-friend (*) of Izzy's wondered to him:

...what happens to poorly-formed evangelicals and well-formed Catholics? Scientologists and even-better Catholics, respectively?
Izzy replied:

In my experience, I *think* it's been: poorly-formed evangelicals become Bart Ehrman or KKKlowns, whereas well-formed Catholics become Third-Order Franciscans and Opus Deians. But I could be overgeneralizing.
My turn to over-generalize--sticking with what I know.

I have known a number of former Catholics who ended up in evangelical churches. These folks seemed to have solid understandings of doctrine--I don't really know enough to comment on their Catholic formation. From those cradle Catholics I've known well, it seems that well-formed Catholics do tend to stay Catholic, but only after making some sort of deliberate, intentional step after their confirmation.

From what I can tell, this is true of so many believers. Well-formed believers tend to stay in the church (even if not the church of their childhoods.) No matter when you walked the aisle, jumped the pew, added an extra name--if it happened before adulthood, there comes a time when you have to re-adopt your Christian faith when you leave your parents' home. It has to become your own.

For me, this happened when I went away to college. Even at a Christian school, with Sunday church attendance mandatory, I still had to decide (1) to go to church & not to Winchell's, (2) where to go--easy--the closest Baptist church had the latest bus, plus donuts!, (3) to continue to go once I had other options (for me meant going to church once I moved to Dallas and began working nights.) Izzy and I, often more at Izzy's insistence since I was pretty tired working 11-7, were at church every Sunday.

My continued "formation" (a term I'd never heard until entering RCIA) in faith was facilitated by being in my pew, in the Sunday School discussion, in small accountability groups--first in the fundamentalist Bible church and then in the evangelical Presbyterian church. I got into that pew because my parents took me, because I rode with a kid in Youth Group, and later because Izzy was there.

The love of God and His word, the growth in understanding of church history, the hunger for the Eucharist as I came to believe that Christ was truly present, all of these were fostered in me while under the tutelage of the local church. Had I been infrequently taken to church as a child, poorly taught, whatever ... I cannot say how things might have turned out.

Before earlier today, I think I might have further commented on the "axiom" above with some degree of pride that my broad exposure to the truth was what shepherded me into the Church, etc.

All that changed at a retreat today.

One young participant, noting the >60% of participants, who were not cradle Catholics, asked what attracted people to Catholicism. Two huge themes emerged in answers to his questions: Love and the Eucharist. People were invited to church by friends, co-workers, others who cared about them. They felt loved and accepted--for who and what and where they were--and they were willing to return. Over time, they associated the Church and the Eucharist with the love they'd felt from God's people, and hungered to receive Christ's body in this midst of His body the Church. They had been raised in various Protestant Churches, or with no particular faith, or even in the Catholic Church. The decision to come to church, or come back to church, seemed to result from someone else's care for them.

So, I'd add as a corollary, based on today's discussions:

"...well-loved visitors tend to stick around and become believers and fostered believers tend to retain their faith, whereas poorly loved/ignored visitors or church members tend to disappear." **

Izzy & I get no credit for finding the church--soli Deo gratias!

(*) This guy, whom I'd love to meet, seems to have been separated from Izzy at birth. ;-)
(**) Duh!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Conversion Axiom

Saw this in a thread about mega churches on Open Book, but it applies to a number of folks I know including, one hopes, myself and Izzy:

"...well-formed evangelicals/Protestants tend to become Catholic, whereas poorly formed Catholics tend to become evangelicals."

Might have to write more on that one sometime.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Notes on Easter Sunday

This is the last entry I'm re-purposing from comments made at Open Book. Later, I'll have time to talk about family baptisms, prayers answered and not answered and everything else I've contemplated during this very busy week. But first, a summary of my morning.

Happy Easter!


9 AM Mass

For a Mass that may have 35-40 worshippers some Sundays in the summer (70-80 during the school year), we were amazed to have >200 in the small Chapel at 9 AM. SRO in the back & sides. Altar servers ended up on the Sanctuary steps, and families filled the empty choir seats. There were 4 of us singing at 9 AM, so our sound was amplified by the additional 16 or so bodies sitting behind us.

This was my 6th liturgy this week (and that's nothing compared to our Priest and Assoc. Campus Minister!), and I had hopes for a great culmination of Holy Week. I was not disappointed.

A significant part of the crowd included our Padre's extended family, as his niece was making her 1st Communion today. She was adorable in her dress and veil and gloves and clear attempts to remember to behave when distracted by her younger brother.

Entrance to Jesus Christ is Risen Today. The >50% increase in singing parishioners from a "full Sunday" made this hymn extra special.

Water of Life during the Rite of Sprinkling--we went through all 4 verses this time.

Psalm 118: This is the Day, got lots of smiles and, again, lots of singing along.

Our Assoc Campus Minister & I chanted the Victimae Paschali Laudes. In the middle section, he sang "Dic nobis Maria...?" and I responded with Mary's description of what she saw and the tomb and heard from the angels.

Similar homily to the Vigil, since most folks in this Parish don't attend both liturgies.

Offertory: Now the Green Blade Rises (twice through to get through everyone.)

Sung Eucharistic Prayer, as during the Vigil.

Communion: Song for the Body of Christ (2x)

Closing: Sing to the Mountains.

Long, long lines to get out--noisy and happy families, a strong feeling of community, and a great ending for Lent.

Lesson? Prepare lots more music next year....

Notes from the Triduum: Holy Saturday Vigil

I'll write more sometime next week, but for now, here's more comments inspired by the Holy Week versions of What Did You Hear? at Open Book.


We began inside at 8:30, processing out to the fire. It was dark, even with streetlights, and the flames, sparks and crackles intensified the experience. We sang Christ Our Light, processing back into the Chapel by the light of the Paschal Candle and a few tapers held by servers.

Candles were lit only as we entered pews--probably the safest route. Candles were extinguished after prayer.

We did all the readings in the dark. There was a Psalm after each, but not always the "official one." We did "Ps 145: I will Praise Your Name" after Reading IV (Is 54) and "Come to the Water" after Reading V (Is 55.) The Song of Miriam was, as always, a literally rousing song in the middle of the readings.

9 notes on a trumpet (Give Glor-ry to God in the High-est), and the Bells and it was Easter!

As a university parish, we always have RCIA candidates and catechumens. The homily focused on the journeys of those being received and the completeness of Christ's sacrifice.

One young man was baptised, kneeling in the pool, and the Vidi Aquam was chanted while he was out changing into his baptismal robe. He smiled the entire rest of the Mass--beaming as he and the other 8 candidates for full communion were received (during the annointing we sang the Taize Veni Sancte Spiritus.)

We followed it with Alleluia, Let Us Rejoice.

*Corrected* The Exulset was sung in English and Litany in Latin, this Parish having gotten much more used to Latin due to its use in Masses during Lent.

Offertory included Lift Up Your Hearts (OK) and Lord of the Dance (grrrr--I cannot sing two of the verses at all. Being in the choir and not wanting to make an obvious disturbance, I mouthed "watermelon" while we "leapt up high" and while we lamented the difficulty of dancing with the devil on one's back...)

We did the Eucharistic Prayer setting from the Mass of Creation, which suits our Padre's tenor.

Communion: Now the Green Blade Rises and I AM the Bread of Life.

Closing: Jesus Christ is Risen Today.

Right at 3 hours. Allergy meds made it through the duration (incense & lilies--thankfully no perfumes.)

Notes from the Triduum: Good Friday

More comments inspired by the Holy Week versions of What Did You Hear? at Open Book.


3 PM Good Friday Service

Began with prostration by Priest and Deacon.

We were seated for the Gospel, read by the Deacon and 2 lay readers.

Cross carried into the Chapel in stages, with more of the red covering removed at 3 or 4 "stations" where we heard "This is the wood of the Cross" and responded with "Come, let us worship." The slow, deliberate pace, the attention to detail were so important--there is no rushing reverence.

Two servers held the cross for veneration, during which we sang Via Dolorosa and Behold the Wood. We ran our of time for O Sacred Head Surrounded...alas.

Communion: What Wondrous Love is This & Were You There

We returned at 7:30 for a Tenebrae service with evening prayer readings and 3 responsorial psalms: The Lord is My Light, Be With Me Lord, and My God, My God (why have you abandoned me?) The Psalms and readings took us further and futher from light.

Long tenebrae chants (English and Latin) by talented cantor.

The draped cross lay on the sanctuary steps, unavoidable, undeniable, unalterably true.

The earth, who could not hold Him,
Bursts forth every spring
Celebrating her failure.

Notes from the Triduum: Holy Thursday

I spent the weekend in church, absorbing every minutes and looking forward to having/taking the time to blog on it. 
The opportunity was provided by the Holy Week versions of What Did You Hear? at Open Book. 
I'm re-purposing my comments here--so I'll be able to find them later...
Happy Easter to All!  Congrats to the newest Catholics!
Comments / Notes on Holy Thursday
Before Mass:  Gather Us In. (Triduum services have music lead by the main--11 AM--choir group, which a few of us from other Masses join.  They have a tradition of doing a song before Mass--it seems to me like a time-filler that might distract from prayer.  But, that, and the "Lord of the Dance" in the Vigil are really my only distractions this season.)
Entrance: Lift High the Cross.
Kyrie in Greek.
Gloria with (seldom used in this Parish) bells.  The bells and the incense and the music and the later hour combined to evoke tears of overwhelming joy.  The Eucharist, the institution of which we celebrate tonight, is the source and summit of our lives--we really meet God at this Table!!!
I lectored--a bit choked up on the 1st reading from the joy of the Gloria.
12 sets of feet washed--hard to tell all the ages & genders from my spot in the choir area, but it was more than viri selecti.
Foot-washing music:  The Servant Song (our Padre's favorite), The Lord Jesus (after eating with His friends washed their feet), and Pan de Vida
Offertory: What Wondrous Love is This
Agnus Dei in Latin
Communion:  Now in this Banquet
We processed from the small Chapel to the tiny Chapel of Repose in the (accessible from the outside) basement of our Catholic Student Center.  We sang the Pange Lingua and Tantum Ergo in Latin, which became difficult for most of the congregation who stood in the dark outside of the Chapel of Repose.  Choir members with flashlights carried the music along.
We had been encourage to return to the Chapel to silently observe the stripping of the altar.  It's so moving to return to a semi-darkened church and see the open tabernacle, the empty candle-holder, and bare granite altar.   We share a bit of the panic and confusion of the disciples during the night.
The reverential silence continued as we walked into the night--only whispering as parishioners watched the bats trying to escape the netting.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Cousins, non-identical cousins...

OK, Heather, since you asked...

First, an Explanation of cousin numbers. The children of siblings are 1st cousins to each other. The 1st comes from the facts that each child is ONE generation removed from one of the original pair of siblings.

A & B are siblings. Each has a child. A is the parent of C and B is the parent of D. C is one generation (or step or degree, to use Kevin Bacon terminology) removed from A and D is one generation removed from B.

Suppose C is the parent of G and D is the parent of H. G and H are each TWO generations (degrees, steps) removed from the original siblings, A & B. Thus, they are 2nd cousins to each other.

How is C related to H? C is one generation removed from sibling A. H is two generations removed from B. You take the shorter number at the type of cousins, and take the difference between them as a degree of removal. 2-1=1. Thus, C and H are 1st cousins (C's distance from A), once removed.


Now to my family (real names used only for the deceased)

1. PW & DD are children of my Dad's half sister, SuzieQ. We (me & PW & DD) are each one generation removed from the siblings, my Dad & SQ. One degree equals ... we are 1st cousins (1C) to each other. That's easy enough.

Now it gets complicated...

2. My paternal Aunt SQ adopted her 1st cousin Bt when Bt's mother died. Bt and my Dad were also 1st cousins, so, before he became my 1st cousin through adoption, Bt was originally my 1st cousin once-removed. The sibling pair were my paternal grandmother Ermal (2 degrees removed from me) and Bt's mom Roseanna (1 degree removed from Bt.) Bt's brothers and sister include PW & DD. It would stand to reason that the siblings of my 1st cousin once-removed were also my 1st cousins once-removed (1C1R).

3. (Maybe easier than #2.) Remember that SQ is my Dad's half-sister? Her father, my Dad's step-father Bob, was the 1st cousin of my Dad's father, James. Yes, my grandmother Ermal married two men, James and Bob, who were 1st cousins to each other. Counting back 2 generations to the sibling pair (Bob's father and James' mother), my Dad and his half-siblings were 2nd cousins to each other. Going forward one generation to me and to PW & DD, you find that we are 3rd cousins (3C) to each other, based on our great-grandparent's having been siblings.

PW's son Zk (one generation removed from his Dad) is my 1C1R, 1C2R, & 3C1R. He is the 2C, 2C1R, and 4C of my assorted nieces & nephews.

Clear? Could be weirder...
Izzy's family has the situation in which two siblings married two siblings (2 Koniecsko's married 2 Gosiks) and thus their children were double 1st cousins.

Wikipedia's chart looks like it's on steroids...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Musical Reflection for Holy Week

Asked today on an email list I'm on: Who Killed Jesus?

The writer suggested an answer from a hymn by John Newton: In Evil Long I Took Delight. In this hymn, penned by John Newton, the eighteenth-century pastor-poet who also wrote “Amazing Grace,” Newton recounts the story of his own conversion from sin. Newton finds himself guilty of the death of Christ.

The question reminded me of the gorgeous hymn Ah, Holy Jesus. * I first heard it a few years back when we learned it for a Good Friday service. The 2nd and 5th verses always give me pause ... They are anything but amusing/soothing, to cite a frequent criticism of much of contemporary Christian music.

Ah, holy Jesus, how hast Thou offended,
That man to judge Thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by Thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee.
'Twas I, Lord, Jesus, I it was denied Thee!
I crucified Thee.

Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
The slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered;
For man's atonement, while he nothing heedeth,
God intercedeth.

For me, kind Jesus, was Thy incarnation,
Thy mortal sorrow, and Thy life's oblation;
Thy death of anguish and Thy bitter passion,
For my salvation.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay Thee,
I do adore Thee, and will ever pray Thee,
Think on Thy pity and Thy love unswerving,
Not my deserving.

Good words on which to meditate while preparing for the Triduum.

* Words: Jo­hann Heer­man, (1585-1647) De­vo­ti Mu­sica Cor­dis, 1630 (Herz­lieb­ster Je­su); trans­lat­ed from German to Eng­lish by Ro­bert S. Bridg­es, (1845-1930) in 1899. Music: "Herz­lieb­ster Je­su," Jo­hann Crü­ger, (1598-1662) Newes voll­köm­lich­es Ge­sang­buch Augs­burg­isch­er Con­fess­ion (Ber­lin: 1640)

Midi here (doesn't do it justice...).

Monday, April 10, 2006

And a Little Child Shall Lead the Prayer

So, Izzy & I headed over to Mom's yesterday to have lunch with a few of my sibs and a few visiting cousins. A son of my Dad's half-sister came down from Chi-town with his son Zachary and had picked up his sister (also my cousin) in Greenville along the way.

Bonus points if you can tell me how 2 of these folks are my 1st cousins, 1st cousins once-removed, and 3rd cousins, all at the same time. (* Corrected 4/11)

10 of the 13 of the SC folks at Mom's yesterday were Babdis', all the Babdises having gone to the local FBC that AM. That background makes the following even more unusual/cute:

About an hour after the scheduled time for lunch, we finally all assembled in the kitchen to say grace. Folks looked around, shuuushing their kids, trying to decide about holding hands, etc. Someone looked towards B3 (Babdis' deacon) to get him to lead the prayer.

When the word prayer was said, little Zachary (age ~6) looked up, crossed himself while saying "In the name....," and proceeded to pray the "Bless us, O Lord..." prayer. Izzy and I, of course, prayed along, thrilled that this kid (1) felt comfortable leading prayer and (2) was well-trained enough that this was completely normal for him, even when away from his Catholic mom & sis.

B3 said a few words afterwards, but nothing that would make Z think anyone felt his prayer wasn't sufficient.

I'd have trouble imagining this a decade back... 8-) We've grown...yay!

Eliza Came Home Yesterday

Per her parents:

She's home! ... and sleeping, so we're going to do the same while we have the chance!
Praise God!

Praise God, indeed. Luke looks very ready to be a good big brother.

You are not alone

Izzy left this AM for West-by-God Virginia to see his Dad and Step-Mom.

Lest I felt lonely, the good people at Saint Matthews Churches perfectly timed their latest mailing. The front of the envelope reads "YOU ARE NOT ALONE" -- the back reads "This Is Your Chance To Get Yours."

Inside, in four colors and over a dozen fonts, they let me know about the cars, homes and vacations that can be mine if I send them $$ each month. No more mention of healings, spiritual growth, weather improvements, even. If I thought for a minute that sacrificial giving would re-grow brains, cure cancer, restore broken marriages and lives, etc., I'd take a vow of poverty--destitution, even.

But, God doesn't seem to work that way. His grace is sufficient for us, His strength is made perfect in weakness. Prayer can change circumstances; almost always it changes us. One thing that prayer does is to join us to others who are praying about/for the same things...we are not alone.

And that's so important to know while we wait and hope...

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Palm Crosses--Instructions for Same

Izzy, who plans ahead, looked at these directions before Mass this AM and selected his slender palm accordingly.

If you got an extra wide palm frond, just split it in half before starting. A folded-in-half frond will also work, but the center square gets a bit snug.

Easy and very nice looking.

Directions here, courtesy of the Episcopalians.

Now, off to see the Baptists...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Swapping Spit

...or How one gets the Mumps.

This quote from Meghan Harris, MPH, of the Iowa Department of Health (via ProMed), attempts to explain why college students are particularly affected in the ongoing mumps outbreak in Iowa:
The 300 confirmed, probable, or suspected cases of mumps represent the nation's largest mumps outbreak in 17 years. Early on, most of the Iowa cases were reported in college-age students. The mean age at onset was 21, and almost 45 percent of the cases occurred in 19-year-olds. But Harris said that no single college or university was implicated in the outbreak.

"We can assume that this outbreak is associated with some aspects of college life, such as living in dorms or mixing together at the same clubs," she said. The best explanation, according to Harris, is that college students "in general have a higher risk of sharing saliva."
Not something they put in the catalogue, I'll bet...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Exciting Milestones

After three posts on DWM's, I thought I'd mention a few less sad milestones:

  • Another nephew, B1S2, age 12, is being baptized Easter Sunday. He's finally getting a chance to become involved in church after a bit of a hiatus, and is excited about playing drums in the youth group praise band.
  • Two of our (oldest friends? they aren't that old...) friends of many, many years are being received into the Catholic Church during this year's Easter vigil. Having come from the same evangelical fundamentalist type background that we did, they are also both being confirmed now as adults. We each took long roads to get here. I hope to someday hear more about their faith journey once they've caught their breath.
  • Eliza, after many twists and turns in her story, may actually be able to come home in the next few days. There is enough certainty that her folks are being allowed to room-in with her to get ready for 24/7 care.

Plenty to celebrate.

Bye, Bye Katrina

and Rita, Dennis, Stan and Wilma. Their names were retired from use for Hurricanes.

Season starts June 1. There is avian flu in a swan in Scotland. Iowa has a mumps epidemic.

Plenty to worry about...plenty of job security.

Cliff's Obit

Mom & I sat behind nearly 50 Eckstrom's as Cliff was remembered Wednesday morning. His right hand held a Gideon New Testament; the sermon he requested reflected his focus on Christ. Full military honors at the gravesite.

Obit pasted below, since The State only archives for 7 days.

Clifford Ray Eckstrom

IRMO: Clifford Ray Eckstrom went to be with his Lord Sunday, April 2, 2006. Services will be held at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, April 5, 2006, at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, with interment to follow in Bush River Memorial Gardens. Pallbearers will be his sons, Richard A. Eckstrom, James R. Eckstrom, Daniel R. Eckstrom, John P. Eckstrom, Nathan T. Eckstrom, and son-in-law, L. Jeff Gardner. The family will receive friends from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, 2006, at Caughman-Harman Funeral Home, Irmo/St. Andrews Chapel, at Bush River Memorial Gardens. Memorials may be made to Gospel for Asia, 1800 Golden Trail Court, Carrollton, TX, 75010.

Mr. Eckstrom was born in Crosby, MN, November 12, 1916. He attended St. Andrews Presbyterian Church. He served on mission tours to six continents and volunteered in prison ministry for over 50 years. He was a member of Gideon’s International. He was a WWII combat veteran, where he served in the Southwest Pacific as a U.S. Navy officer in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. He taught at the University of Maine, Columbia Bible College (now CIU), Voorhees College and the University of South Carolina.

Mr. Eckstrom was predeceased by his son, David C. Eckstrom. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Virginia B. Eckstrom; daughter-in-law, Mrs. David C. Eckstrom (Alba); sons, Richard A. Eckstrom, James R. Eckstrom, Daniel R. Eckstrom, John P. Eckstrom, Nathan T. Eckstrom; daughters, Margaret Ann Eckstrom, Mary E. Gardner and 19 grandchildren.
RIP Cliff. Say "hey" to my dad when you see him.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Death of a Patriarch

Cliff Eckstrom has died, aged nearly ninety, of multiple myeloma. If you look on-line, his obit should appear tomorrow and will be available for about a week in The State's archives. Right now, you'd only find his name as a contributor to a Christian organization, and a supporter of Talking Books for the Blind.

So, there is obviously some reason to blog on this obscure old guy. My reasons are (1) his remarkable family that has been such a blessing to my family of origin over the past 4 1/2 decades, and (2) his witness to Christ.

(1) Family.

One son told me that, after having attended something like Boys State in Jr. High, his older brother came back with a sudden interest in politics and public service. The next year, son #2 went and caught the same bug. There family has been involved in politics ever since. Cliff's sons have served as Chair of a School District's Board of Trustees, SC State Treasurer, SC Comptroller General, a Circuit Court / County Probate Judge, and have served in the military. Cliff's children have run companies (sometimes one after the other taking a turn at the till), more than one of which used my Dad's services as an electrician.

They've been controversial (here and here) and never invisible. Even when taking a controversial stand, there's never been a hint of scandal. They've even inspired admiration in political opponents. (When David was diagnosed with brain cancer and die shortly after losing the race for State Superintendent of Education, his opponent, Inez Tenenbaum, actually held fund-raisers to retire David's campaign debt.)

I will personally never forget an afternoon in October 2002 when, after Izzy and I had left a message about my Dad's brain cancer diagnosis, Richard came by the hospital. He spent an unhurried visit, spending several minutes aloud in prayer, loving and reassuring Dad. He mentioned he needed to drive to another city--I never know until later that he was headed to a televised debate. He spent time that could have been used for last-minute prep in prayer for Dad. This seems typical of a man who, after losing his own re-election bid a few years earlier, had spent the greater part of a year caring for his older brother during that brother's battle with cancer.

This may sound more like praise for the Eckstrom kids, but I know that you don't get kids like that without strong, remarkable parents. That brings me to reason #2 for writing about Cliff's passing:

(2) Faith / Charity / Hope

Cliff and Virginia raised 8 children (David, Richard, Dan, Jim, John, Nate, Margaret and Mary.) They had at least 3 of their children AFTER the birth of Margaret, who has lived her whole life unlimited by anyone else's expectations of what she could do with Down Syndrome. The family lived their faith, sharing with all who had need.

They became lifelong friends of my parents in the very early 60's and these couples prayed with and for each other and each other's children. Cliff's wife, Virginia, was scheduled to host a Tupperware party at my parents' apartment (in the projects) on the night of November 22, 1963. Though the President had been killed that afternoon,and everyone was in shock and mourning, the decision was made to continue with the party since all the Tupperware being bought that night was going to go with a missionary couple who were leaving for Africa. Missions came first.

In my last year of High School (the earth had just about cooled by then), the Eckstroms moved to our neighborhood. Two of their kids rode the bus with B1 and me. We noticed that every weekend brought a steep driveway full of cars of Eckstrom kids and grandkids back for Sunday dinner. There was never any question of the devotion to family that these kids learned from their parents. There was also such a love for and acceptance of Margaret, who worked in the family business until just after her 50th birthday (a remarkable age for someone with Down's) when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

When I moved to back SC, I learned just how close Cliff and Virginia were to my parents. Cliff, legally blind, walked down almost every day, regardless of the weather, to see and pray for/with Dad. Hills in my folk's neighborhood can be tough on seniors, but Cliff made the effort. Margaret would occasionally walk with him, preferring to be driven the 2 blocks by her mom. Cliff would pray for strength and healing for Dad; Margaret would "speak against" the cancer. She'd lost her older brother and didn't want to lose her friend. Its also a testimony to my folks that Margaret could really see them as her friends. The Eckstrom boys that live near here were also over very frequently bringing food, encouragement, love and sharing what they'd lived through and what to expect. David's death was still recent and they could have avoided re-living the hurt; instead, they took the hope and faith that had developed as they shepherded David to Jesus and helped us see how not to despair in desperate times. This included long periods of praying with us around Dad's bed.

One more comment on faith: Cliff and Virginia resisted advice to institutionalize Margaret, raising her at home as a full member of the family. She developed their work ethic, their closeness, and absorbed their faith. At one point, disliking the preaching style she heard at their church, Margaret decided to walk with Sunday to a different church in the neighborhood. That lasted until the new church added drums... Margaret has a child's understanding of Heaven; she has known that her brother is there and she made sure that Mom know that Dad was there as soon as she received word of his death. She's been living away from home for a few days while her Dad's cancer advanced, and was told today that he had gone to Heaven. Her reply was to say "I want to go, too."

We'll be especially in prayer for Virginia, who lost her husband of 62+ years on the day the world again marked the passing another Father..

Sunday, April 02, 2006

One year ago today

I posted this as a response to the Question at Open Book: Where were you?

Like many others, we'd been watching closely for several weeks as our Pope entered and left the hospital. On Easter Sunday, I had downloaded many pictures from Yahoo, wanting to hold on to the image of John Paul II's struggle to speak, his anguish and then resignation as his spoken word ministry ended. I still cannot look at those photos without sorrow for all we lost when this great man left us.

On Saturday, April 2, we watched cable coverage all morning. In the early afternoon, we had to head across town to drop my husband's motorcycle off for maintenance. None of our local radio stations were following the story (this is a very Baptist town) , so neither of us heard anything at the moment of his passing.

As I arrived at the bike shop, and was about to get out of the car, I heard the announcement on the top of the hour NPR newsbreak. I walked over to my husband, as he removed his helmet, and managed to say "We've lost him," before dissolving into tears.

We drove home quietly, and spent much of the next two weeks engrossed in the story. We prayed the novena, got up early for the funeral (which we watched on C-SPAN while following along on EWTN's website), and took advantage of the opportunities to answer questions from friends and family about the Catholic Church. A bout of pneumonia kept me home for two weeks in April, so I was able to follow the papabile pontificating, and watch the chimney-cam.

I am so grateful for John Paul II's very public life, including his public suffering, showing us both the dignity of all of life and the never-failing mercy and love of God. Subito Santo!
Here's a couple of the photos.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Fortune telling via I-Tunes

Got this from Izzy, who got it from Gashwin. My turn.

Caveat: Not having an iPod, and having put limited music on my laptop, this ought to be interesting...
Instructions: Go to your music player of choice and put it on shuffle. Say the following questions aloud, and press play. Use the song title as the answer to the question. NO CHEATING.

How does the world see you? Concert for a Queen (Resurrection Band, from Rainbow's End) "I offer you a concert for a Queen...and our Harmony is a concert for the King." Heavy metal Jesus people love song!

Will I have a happy life? Let Him Help You Today (DeGarmo & Key, from Straight On) "Cause you know that Jesus loves you, and He shows you every day...Let Him help you today."

What do my friends really think of me? Godhead Here in Hiding (Adoremus Hymnal) Not as good as the original Latin...but comprehensible enough. Adoro Te Devote is one of Izzy's faves, especially for reading during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

What do people secretly think of me? What a Day (2nd Chapter of Acts, Phil Keaggy and a Band Called David.) Song for your first day in Heaven. Maybe they're hoping I'll arrive sooner, rather than later...

How can I be happy? Panis Angelicus (Adoremus Hymnal)
The Latin:

Panis angelicus fit panis hominum;
Dat panis coelicus figuris terminum.
O res mirabilis! Manducat Dominum
Pauper, pauper, servus et humilis.

The English (online translation since Izzy is away)

The bread of angels becomes the bread of man;
This bread of heaven does away with symbols.
What a marvel! The poor, the servant and the humble
May feed on their Lord.

Happiness comes in the Eucharist--not bad, I-Tunes!

What should I do with my life? Te Lucis Antes Terminum (Adoremus Hymnal) Ask God to protect and preserve me at the close of each day.

Will I ever have children? Christmas at Denny's (Randy Stonehill, from Return to Paradise) Chances of kids happening seem as bleak as this song, about a man who lost his child (died) and wife (drowned her grief.) A bit rough, I-Tunes.

What is some good advice for me? Matters of the Heart (Bob Bennett, from Lord of the Past) "You can show me your sales curves, plot my life on a flow chart; ... But there's just some things that numbers can't measure--matters of the heart."

How will I be remembered? Coventry Carol (my version from our STM Christmas CD) Which applies, Herod's cruelty in the song or the fact that I recorded it? Hmmmm...

What is my signature dancing song? My Shadow Companion (Bob Bennett, from Small Graces) "Oh, Loneliness, my shadow companion, you are no friend of mine." Guess I'm not going dancing.

What do I think my current theme song is? Praise to the Holiest in the Height (Adoremus Hymnal, again) Text by John Henry Newman. Gotta be related to the amount of time I spend at the Center.

What does everyone else think my current theme song is? Addey (DeGarmo & Key) Perhaps only my priest thinks so...Addey is finding God after a difficult life.

What song will play at my funeral? We Were the Kings [of Summer Street] (Bob Bennett A gorgeous ode to a childhood friend

What type of men/women do you like? Starlings (Randy Stonehill) "My mother would grumble, 'Those birds are a curse, they're a thorn in the farmer's side.' But I couldn't help feeling sad and inspired, by their desperate ballet in the sky. Say a prayer for the starlings, the hot dry wind beats their ragged wings; Have a thought for the starlings, no one ever listens to the songs they sing..." I prefer someone who is compassionate, who sees the real value in others.

What is my day going to be like? Keep on Shinin' (2nd Chapter of Acts) I-Tunes doesn't know I'm not a morning person.

My addition:
One more random pick and the question I wish it answered: Conjunction Junction (School House Rock) should be my signature dance song.

Cinderella, your pumpkin is here

It's ending for George Mason, the Cinderella team that's trailing by double digits as time runs out in their NCAA final four game against Florida.

My picks for the final game, all based on sour grapes:

  1. If LSU wins it all, it'll feel better that they beat Duke. There's honor in being bested by the very best team, the team that wins it all.
  2. If Florida wins it all, our local boys, who won the NIT Thursday night, can feel pretty good about themselves, having blown out Florida twice in the regular season.
Random comment on collegiate sports: USC, who played for the NIT championship (OK, it's not the NCAA, but it is a national championship, fercryinoutloud!) had to travel to NYC with their mascot, 2 cheerleaders and NO pep band. I'll bet they'd never do that to the football team...

Back to Cinderella:
Final Score: Florida 73, George Mason 58.

Lenten Austerities: Some Folks Just Don't Get It

Saw this headline in Yahoo News today:

Florida Church Members Launch Lenten Diet

BOCA RATON, Fla. - Instead of giving up the usual chocolate or coffee during the Lenten season, members of one Florida church are adding something: exercise.
Advent Lutheran Church kicked off their six-week program "40 Days of Fitness" on March 1 to encourage members to get moving. The program offers free Saturday morning workouts, along with volleyball, yoga and cycling classes during the week.
Church pastor Andy Hagen sees the program as an alternative for Christians to the traditional sacrificing of the Lent. (sic)
"We like the idea that we would take on a routine of physical fitness instead of denial," he said. "The connection between fitness of the body and spiritual development has been a real exciting experience for people that didn't make the connection of the two, but the Bible makes the connection all the time."

Point A: Yes, our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. Fitness, cleanliness, fresh coats of paint, all can be important.

Point B: Lent is NOT about getting into shape. Giving up chocolate or coffee is not supposed to be about fitness--at least not the bodily kind. We are called to scrutinize those things in our lives which keep us from God, which hinder us from renouncing the Devil and all his works [as Izzy and I promised at our god-daughter's baptism.] We are called to spiritual re-orientation and to making room for God, called to prayer, generosity and penance.

We all need to consider how God wants to meet us. I find that I am reminded of my need for Him during Lent at those times when I vary a routine:
  • taking time to pray when using the stairs rather than the elevators,
  • meeting Him as I pray the stations of the Cross or the Rosary more often in this season,
  • thinking about food choices and the needs of the poor, etc.

Taking the stairs does not make me more spiritual, and does not, in and of itself bring me closer to God. Having a few more intentional reminders of my need to live more intimately with God--that's what I see as the role of austerities, of things added to or subtracted from my routine, of special services and prayers...

Now to go get some chocolate...