In Praise of Fresh Starts

In North Carolina, like much of the East Coast, there is that slice of the year–days only– that is bereft of humidity or cold or heat. If you don’t pay attention, you miss it in all it’s glory. It’s where the weather is almost not there. You walk outside to a silken breeze and sunshine peeking through leaves. And it always reminds me of the first day of school!

At Villa Cabrini Academy, on Burbank Blvd in the foothills of the Verdugo Mountains, the first day of school would find me in a baby blue pleated uniform with white collar and cuffs, Buster Brown shoes and white anklet socks. My bangs were probably very short because I kept moving when Mom was trimming. [I am sure there is a picture somewhere of me with little stalks of hair sticking out of the top of my forehead.] [Right to left: Belinda, Mary Jane Francis Waggner -with frog- and me] I’d have a new book bag, a light navy blue sweater and I’d be lining up with my class for assembly in the quad between the eighth grade classroom and the Angelus bell. From the loud speaker John Philips Sousa would blare and we would march, around and up one, down two, up two, down four, up two, alternate down two and off to the class room in order, lowest grades first . I loved it, there was a consistency, a rhythm. It was order and process. This probably was to tire us out, prepare us to sit in our desks and learn. [Kindergarten, 1951] Although for me, sitting still was a struggle.

These few, very few mornings, with a slight chill in the air, a baby blue sky, and pure gold sunlight are prized. I hear a John Philips Sousa march in my head and I’m in that quad, with my friends, getting ready and it’s like the first day of school, bright, shiny, clean. I cherish the memories of consistency, rhythm, order and process that enables fresh starts. Because we all need them. I’m very lucky. I can go there every morning.

Alleluia! Alleluia! 

“Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal King, let all corners of the earth be glad, knowing an end to gloom and darkness.”

Easter. The celebration of Easter falls on the first Sunday after March 21, the Church’s date of the vernal equinox. Easter. The most amazing liturgical season of the entire calendar.

The next Sunday will be Divine Mercy Sunday. Good Friday is the beginning of the Divine Mercy novena. “Jesus said to Sr. Faustina one day: ‘Humanity will never find peace until it turns with trust to Divine Mercy’ (Diary, p. 132). Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity at the dawn of the third millennium.” — St. John Paul II, Divine Mercy Sunday Homily, April 22, 2001

Eastertide. The marked by Divine Mercy Sunday, The Ascension of our Lord and The Solemnity of Pentecost, which crowns and fulfills the Easter season, is a good time to pray for a deeper indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Let us rejoice and be glad.

Sacred Times

When I was growing up we started Easter Vacation on Thursday. But it was not vacation. No, that actually started on Easter Monday. For the next three days it was church and more church. Mass on Holy Thursday was lots of incense and feet washing. Good Friday was dour, lots of purple, the saying of the Stations of the Cross. And Holy Saturday was lots of ‘Let us kneel’ and ‘Let us stand,’ and ‘Let us pray,’ [maybe not in that order] preparing was how I always thought of it.

Then one Easter, I must not have been paying attention, sometime in the 80’s, Holy Saturday went away, and I feel the loss. We knew the Good News was coming, but Holy Saturday was the final wrap-up. To appreciate. To think. To meditate. It was one more opportunity to look into the darkness, to see the despair, to know that at one time there was little hope for redemption or salvation. That there had been only waiting. But the waiting was almost over.

Now, Saturday is the Easter Vigil. A long, long, event with the lighting of the first fire, the lighting of the Paschal candle, baptism and confirmation if we have RCIA candidates. Long. But there is no step in between the awfulness of Good Friday–to die on a cross, to hang suspended by nails in your hands and feet, to wait for that moment when the pain and suffering of the moment ends–to Easter. Christ dies and YAY, he is Risen.

When we were in Massachusetts, attending St. Edward the Confessor church, I joined the liturgy committee. A Ph.D in Theology from Boston College came once a week for three or four months and helped us to understand how the liturgy had evolved from the first Christians in the catacombs to the present time. Mostly it was of the Western civilization bent, before the mass was codified in the Roman Catholic church as we know it today. Although that changed with Vatican II and opening the windows–when some people wanted to open the doors too. To me, Vatican II was never about change but about letting both Catholics and non-Catholics learn about who we are, what we are. I came to understand it was big risk, but not as big as leaving the Church as an impenetrable monolith, feared and mysterious.

I think we took a big risk too, getting rid of Holy Saturday. The journey for the Jews and Christ’s followers was not an easy one–it was arduous, fraught with terror and fear, open to seeing the worst of mankind as those in authority tried to suppress this new faith.

Although my knees are not good, I do miss standing shoulder to shoulder with friends and family on a Saturday night, and Father intoning from the altar, ‘Let us kneel’ and ‘Let us stand,’ and ‘Let us pray.’ More than ever we should feel the need to kneel and pray as we too wait in hope for redemption and salvation.

Stay Frosty!

Just because there was no social media in Rome doesn’t mean that it was a simpler life. Read any book on Pax Romana and you read of class warfare, slavery and oppression. Ha! Don’t even get me started on Medieval Times and sadly, from the 1700’s on we have more information on just how gawd-awful life could be.

Human rights are a new thing in the history of the world. There is no such thing as the good old days. For some life was a horror. For others life was drub. For some it was great, but keeping it great was a huge chore.

It’s always interesting how we come to cope with the mess of life, how when we interact, we show our concern and care. It’s not just words that are interesting, it’s how people put them together and how we use the words. I’ve written about the British series LEWIS- the spinoff or sequel to MORSE and the term, What Joy? Or No Joy? Which was an interesting way to say, ‘did you find anything good?’ Or, ‘no, there is nothing to report.’ A very succinct way.

Recently I’ve heard the term Stay Frosty, mostly used as a good bye, instead of ‘see ya’, or ‘take care’. [which are throw-away pro-forma statements.] Stay Frosty has a more thoughtful appeal and please note: I hate cold. I mean I have a deep, down, long-abiding, dreaded and wrenching loathing of cold. I rarely put ice in my drinks. I like tap water. I’ll take a neat whiskey over a cold beer any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

So. I looked it up.

Apparently it started in the military? Instead of Stay Cool, it was Stay Frosty. Keep your emotions in check. Don’t get all hot and bothered. But it is more than that. Cool is thought of as laid back, not involved. But Frosty has more of a stand-up, pay attention, keep alert quality.

So in our complicated life, where it feels like every single day we are bombarded. Where every single day there is a problem to solve and less ways to solve it. Where you know , because of all that has happened in the past decade, we can be less inclined to be charitable, or kind, or sympathetic because we are all bombarded with problems. Where there are those who are lashing out, taking their anger to the streets, and mitigating the structures of a civilization, then we need to be alert, be cool, keep our emotions in check and…

Stay Frosty!

Tomorrow

My electric can opener died on Friday afternoon. I was making dinner and needed to open a can of diced tomato. I put the can in the proper place, pushed on the lever and there was a noise like a falling rock, a buzz in the device and the can did not move. I have no idea how long I’ve had that can opener but a long time. No worries, I went onto Amazon, looked up electric can openers, compared several and bought one. It arrived the next day.

Welcome to the Twenty First Century. Well, sort of.

I was eight when Disneyland opened in 1955. And we went. In those days you were likely, even at eight, to be in a dress, shoes and socks and on your best behavior. It was an event. I clearly remember the Home of Tomorrow by Montsanto when it opened in 1957. Long lines, but inside. Well. Wow. There were video phones and ovens that cooked stuff in minutes. It was all very plastic and very bright.

Even back then I was a huge Sci-Fi fan and my mom found me the Lucky Starr series written by Asimov under the name Paul French. Asimov writes in a conversational tone, you feel like you’re right there. Lucky wasn’t his real name, it was David or Peter or something, but Lucky he was. And he had all kinds of cool future stuff, a rocket ship, computers, maybe even a robot–after all this was Asimov. At a time we were talking about video phones, and microwave oven and flying cars, Lucky had his tool belt. And the tool belt came with his own personal force field. In one adventure it let him go close to the sun to solve the problem.

So here we are in the twenty first century, twenty years in actually. We can get things we want overnight. If you live in a big city, even that same day. We don’t have flying cars, but we do have video phones and microwaves and computers and rocket ships, even a space station.

I’ve forgotten much of the Lucky Starr story, but that tool belt with the personal force field–that’s my yard stick for when we have made it into the twenty first century. Sadly, we are not there yet.