Tuesday, November 13

All kinds of weirdness on television tonight. When the baby drifted off to sleep around 7:15, I had high hopes for getting some work done ....hopes that were dashed 45 minutes later when Joseph appeared downstairs, ready for company. Oh well.

First we watched the PBS Nova program on bioterrorism which made me much less worried about smallpox, more worried about the plague, and even more worried about the Russian research facilities with all kinds of diseases stored in vials stuffed in coffee cans in unlocked refrigerators.

Then, on the History Channel, there was a program from last winter about the World Trade Center. How it was built, and so on. Included in the program was an eerie, sad portion of an interview (recorded in January) with Frank DiMartini, construction manager of the WTC, who spoke quite confidently of the ability of the Towers to withstand the force of an airplane crashing into it - and even more than one. DiMartini was in his office in the WTC on September 11, and was not one of the survivors.

Moving on to CBS, there was protracted, painful weirdness in the person of Michael Jackson who has got to be one disturbed fellow. He can't sing at all anymore and looks like an alien, especially when placed alongside his perfectly normal looking brothers. And who were all those people cheering hysterically? Do you know anyone who even cares about Michael Jackson? I don't.

Finally, there was a NBC Dateline "special" on exorcism. Not the Catholic kind, but the evangelical kind. The program centered on a South Carolina gent who thought he had demons inside him (didn't see the beginning of the program, so I don't know how he reached this conclusion). We saw excerpts from the exorcism session, in which he was prayed over for five hours by a team of exorcists from his Baptist church. It was pretty strange, and although I'm sorry the man had been depressed and glad (he reports) that he feels delivered from whatever was binding him, I can't commit to defining the situation as demon possession with the consequences of real evil piled up lower Manhattan.

Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini

If you want to feel like a real slob of a Christian, read the story of Mother Cabrini, whose feast we celebrate today. Born in Italy, and sickly as a child, Frances grew up to be one of the most energetic, creative missionaries of the modern Church. She crossed the ocean twenty-five times, and worked in New York, Chicago, Colorado,Seattle, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Latin America. From the bio I cited above:

The personality of Frances Xavier Cabrini represented the integration of the paradoxes which characterize spiritual maturity. By temperament humble or even reserved, she resolutely moved forward with an amazing vitality and perseverance in the performance of the service of God. By nature and education docile and obedient, she knew how to be stubbornly autonomous and independent when it concerned her God and God's mission. She was introverted in the manner of contemplatives and given over to prayer. Yet during her missionary activity, she devoted much attention and energy to organizing, founding, financing the foundations, serving and evangelizing all people. Always frail and sickly, she traveled continually, often under the worse conditions, seemingly not allowing herself any rest.

Some of the other saints whose feasts we celebrate today are nothing but expressive of the richness of the Catholic experience: complicated, controversial, quite human and a little wacky:

St. Abbo of Fleury was a scholar and reformer who was murdered by a group of monks resistant to his attempts to reform them.

St. Brice was an orphan adopted by Martin of Tours, who became quite the reckless cad when he grew up, even though he was a priest. Martin, undeterred by Brice's loose behavior was said to have predicted that if Jesus could deal with Judas, he could deal with Brice. Brice was elected a bishop, but was so rotten that the people rejected him and he left town. He eventually changed his ways, and after several decades, was accepted as bishop.

St. Stanislaus is well-known as a patron of the Polish people and of young people. Once, while staying at the home of a Lutheran, he fell ill, and was not allowed to call for a priest. In response, St. Barbara appeared in a vision to him and gave him communion.


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