The church was constructed, as most are, in the round – or half-round. Despite the historical importance and the symbolic power of the cruciform arrangement, I’ve never quite understood some people’s scorn for a more circular layout. No, not bunches o’chairs strewn in a circle, but a well-constructed setup that offers a good view of the altar wherever you sit. One of the more interesting church visits we had was to the Shrine of the Little Flower up in Royal Oak, Michicgan, which was built before Vatican II, and with a distinct circular arrangement, surprisingly.
Most irritating at St. Vincent's was the typical lack of representational art or color. Big white, boring walls. Stained glass that looked like ocean waves. Mary and Joseph statues stuck in nooks. And – in the church itself, not one (that I could find) statue, painting or window devoted to St. Vincent de Paul. Not even an explanation of who the fellow was.
The liturgists tell us, of course, that we don’t need representational art because it distracts from the truth that we are the Church. Posh. We are the Church, but we’re not the entire Church, thank God. Look. I live in a house. In a few days, I’m pleased to say, all my children are going to be here. We are a family.
Does putting pictures on the wall distract us from that reality? Does having old photographs of my mother and her brother when they were children, or my grandparents portrait, or a photograph of my dad with my two older sons render us all stupid and forgetful of the fact that we are a family?
Uh, no. In fact, most of us would say that it strengthens our sense of family because it reminds us of the fullness of who we are, roots us in the past and gives us hope for the future.
It just might be the same with Church. Might.
We ended up going to Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, which is new, but not as new as St. Vincent de Paul, not quite as nice, but with the same great expanses of white space on the walls. A little more representational art, including a large statue of St. Elizabeth and some children out front.
And, Michael noted, a large crucifix in the sanctuary that had not been there on his previous visit a couple of years ago, when their sanctuary crucifix was naught but a small processional number.
Times, they are a’changin’.
Michael wrote about this at his blog, but it’s worth retelling here.
Yesterday morning, we were sitting in the living room, trying to figure out where to go to Mass. Yes, our parish is but half a mile away, but we’d missed the 8:00 am, and we really, really didn’t want to endure the MegaMass 10:30 if we didn’t have to. So we were there looking through the diocesan directory, trying to find a 9 or 9:30, when Michael saw what he thought was a small log in the back yard. He looked closer. It wasn’t a log. It was a rabbit.
See, our living room is defined by this enormous, floor to ceiling picture window. We have a bird bath right on the other side, and most of the time, it’s better than television. It’s especially good if you’re rather short, like Joseph.
So anyway, from the comfort of our couches, we studied the rabbit, who looked rather strange, especially since he was just lying there. He was obviously injured – his back end wouldn’t move, although the slight movements in his front end showed that he was still alive.
Michael took him out some carrots and some water and I wondered what you did about an injured wild rabbit in your back yard. Do you take it to a vet? Do you put it in a sling and nurse it back to health?
As it turns out, I didn’t have to worry.
A few hours later we returned from Mass and a few other errands. I looked out the window. Couldn’t see the rabbit. A big old bird – a hawk - was blocking my view. I thought at first it was eating the carrots. Maybe not, I realized, as he took a break and raised his bloody beak. Guess I won’t have to worry about what to do with the rabbit.
So yes, right there in full view, ready for viewing, was the hawk ripping apart the bunny, shaking its fur off its beak, clutching the body with its talons. Well, good for Mother Nature, but not something we wanted to watch all afternoon, so Michael took a rake and moved the rabbit to the back of the property. As he relates, it took the hawk a good while to find its lunch again, but once it did, it settled down and spent a good hour and a half feasting.
I was just glad Katie wasn’t here (she and David are in Virginia until this Friday), for I don’t think we have enough Kleenex in the house to deal with that many tears.
Incidents like that always make me think of Disney movies. Really. Or actually, all kids’ entertainment that sanitizes nature and pretends that the food chain doesn’t exist or is solely composed of herbivores.
Italians continually cite the expense of children, but as a society, Italy is much richer than it was in the aftermath of World War II, when its fertility rates were more than double what they are now. Unemployment has always been higher than in other wealthy nations, but that can hardly explain why the well-fed Italians of the postwar years would have steadily fewer children than their parents.Part of the economic issue may have to do with a gap between the lifestyle Europeans expect and one they can afford. Salaries are lower than in the United States, and consumer goods can be more expensive. Like most Europeans, the average Italian has only two-thirds the wealth and purchasing power of the average American, according to the World Bank.
which included marriage and kids.
This article mentions a small organization called "Sister-Moms" just for religious women who are also mothers. Interesting. And before you reflexively scoff, remember St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. And St. Jane de Chantal. And....well, lots and lots of women.