Thursday, May 28, 2009

From Usher's Quay, Dublin 8, Ireland

Painting of the River Liffey, Dublin, view of the quays with Queen's Street Bridge -where my sister's apartment is-

Writing from Usher's Quay, Dublin, my sister Carmel's pad, 3rd floor apartment overlooking the brown River Liffey, a great sensation, as this murky river has been the life blood of the city forever, since before the Viking incursions in the 6th century or whenever, but that was centuries after it had been Christianized

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ancient Irish Legend, the 'Tain...

As my brother in law, Tommy, stood chatting with neighbors near the bridge at Annagassen, County Louth, on Sunday evening last, a road sign behind him caught my attention and I took a photo; it held the Gaelic word "Tain" which I connected to the Cooley Mountains in the background, fantasy flashing to the legend of The Cattle Raid of Cooley, featuring Queen Maeve of Connaught [Province] and the Ulster [Province] hero, Cuchulainn -koo kulling- in an epic battle that arose over a prize bull. A tale about a tail?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Balbriggan, County Dublin, Ireland

Although Americans keep insisting in, or on, "Dublin County" and upsetting us native born.
This is where my sister, Mary, lives and it is around this East Coast where most of my relatives live, in towns like Rush, Co.Dublin, and further north around Drogheda [accent on the first syllable, please! it is from the Gaelic meaning 'bridge'; the river Boyne, I think is nearby, history 'Battle of the Boyne' way back in 1590? where William III -of Orange- defeated English Catholic King James II and thus ushered in Protestant Rule to the North of Ireland; well, history, recent and remote, peeps out at you from every corner!]

Internet access courtesy of Balbriggan Public Library, Fingal, Ireland

Friday, May 22, 2009

Introducing Peter Stanford, British writer


Peter Stanford is a writer, journalist and broadcaster. His books include biographies of the Labour Cabinet minister, Lord Longford; the Poet Laureate, C Day-Lewis; Bronwen Astor; and Cardinal Basil Hume. His writings on religion range from The Devil: A Biography, Heaven: A Traveller’s Guide, The She-Pope: The Legend of Pope Joan to Catholics and Sex. His books have been translated into ten languages.

A former editor of the Catholic Herald (1988-1992), he writes for papers including The Independent on Sunday, Observer and Daily Telegraph. He presents television and radio documentaries including the award-winning Channel 4 series, Catholics and Sex, BBC 1’s The She Pope, Channel 5’s The Mission and has appeared as a regular panelist on the BBC's The Moral Maze, Vice or Virtue? and FutureWatch. His biography of Lord Longford was the basis for Channel 4's 2006 multi-award winning drama, Longford.

Born in 1961 and raised in Birkenhead, he is chairman of the spinal injuries charity, Aspire, and director of the Longford Trust for penal reform. He lives in London with his wife, Siobhan Cross, and their two children. He is currently working on an illustrated Life of Jesus and a book about Britain's sacred places.

He writes a monthly column in the Tablet, the Catholic weekly, about home life which is reproduced here on the website.

April 25, 2009

The school curriculum is packed full of excursions and trips that take children, as the phrase goes, out of their comfort zone. Whether it be nine-year-old Orla going off, next month, on a week-long school visit to York – she’s packing and unpacking her suitcase already - or her older brother, booked in for a trip to Prague with the school choir and unlikely to think about what to take with him until five minutes before, they have opportunities a-plenty to experience other places without parents guiding them and telling them what to think. Which is, of course, an important part of growing up and walking away.

What about seeing another side of religion, though? Where are the opportunities to develop their own independent view of faith, points of contrast to their daily diet of bedtime prayers, Sunday mass in the parish, RE lessons and the regular visits of the school chaplain? As I list them, they sound enough in themselves. As I had assumed they were until – for the entirely practical reason of a clash of school holiday dates and a consequent childcare crisis – I took my 12-year-old son with me on a work trip to Holy Island.

I’m halfway through researching and writing a book on sacred places in Britain. The idea is to visit these holy sites when others are there so as to see what sort of spiritual exploration is going on today. I had therefore timed my visit to Lindisfarne to coincide with the annual pilgrimage by the ecumenical Northern Cross organisation. Five separate groups walk, carrying a cross, from various points in the north of England and southern Scotland and congregate on Beal Sands, on the mainland, facing Holy Island, on the morning of Good Friday. Together they then wait until low tide allows them all to set out across exposed mud flats to Lindisfarne, following the wooden poles that have for centuries marked the safe route across quick sands for pilgrims on their way to the island of Saint Cuthbert.

My son and I were allowed to join Northern Cross for this last leg. It felt a bit like coming on as substitutes and not really deserving our cup winner’s medal. We really ought to have done the whole of the previous week’s walking to get the true flavour of the pilgrimage, as more than one of the group pointed out. They said it, I should add, not in the spirit that we were shirkers – though seven days of sleeping on the floor of church halls and washing in cold water is certainly well outside my personal comfort zone – but rather from concern that we were short-changing ourselves of a unique and sustaining spiritual experience. The pilgrimage is about putting worldly concerns to one side and, because we all seem nowadays to carry so many worries and responsibilities about family, home and finance, it requires a good few days walking to banish them from our thoughts.

The other thing this particular pilgrimage is about, of course, is witness. People carrying a cross through the English and Scottish countryside is not an everyday sight. Those who do it are marking themselves out in a society that treats people of faith, in Tony Blair’s phrase, as ‘nutters’.

Joining the party of around 75, young and old, Anglican, Catholic, and even one Moslem from Turkey - ‘I have been in England for two years,’ she explained, ‘and I haven’t seen any sign of your faith until now’ - to walk the three or so miles across the sands that morning was a new experience of public witness for my son – and a long overdue refresher for me.

There were a few people gathered at Beal Sands to watch us set off, barefooted and singing hymns, in what was still hazy light, but most were photographers who managed to get a suitably moody pictures of the five crosses and their bearers into the next day’s national newspapers. Once we arrived in Lindisfarne, though, the day-trippers, who come there via a road which takes a different route across the sands and is only open at low tide, stood around and stared unabashed. One or two of the teenagers looking on even sniggered. I remembered at that moment the 50 plus per cent in a recent poll who had no idea of the Easter story. In their shoes, at their age, I could imagine sniggering at the sight of hymn-singing, bare-footed adults carrying crosses whose significance was utterly lost on me. It only made me feel more certain that this was something worth doing – a sign of contradiction, as John Paul II was fond of remarking.

But what of my son? 12-year-olds are particularly prone to peer-group judgements. Was he feeling okay, I asked as casually as I could as we walked up the main street of Holy Island. ‘Fine,’ he replied, breaking off from a chat with some of the teenage children of parents who had been doing Northern Cross for years. I mentioned the odd looks we were getting. ‘But did you see that woman at the hotel?” he asked. As we had passed a small B and B on the island, he’d seen a cleaner hurry out and stand as we passed, hands joined in prayer, lips moving with the hymns we were singing. We had touched her, and she in her turn had touched my son.


© Peter Stanford 2007. All rights reserved.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Family Leave

Off to Ireland, Co. Louth, Annagassen
to visit with my sister who has not been well
Employer obliged with sick leave and Continental with frequent flyer miles. I continue to practice my vow of poverty...more so than I ever did when I was a religious with the Legion of Christ. But they did not let me go home for family gatherings, much less "compassionate leave". Glad I can be a bit pro-active about this visit.
The plane trip is like a curtain closing on a life stage, a letting go of heavy luggage - image of heavy luggage falling into the a
Atlantic, pleasant instead of dreadful- , and a new beginning.
I hope to read on the flight, relax with family and friends, and enjoy the places and the people

Monday, May 11, 2009

Healing the Past in the Present


Dear AML,
as heavy raindrops beat noisily against the large office windows on this Monday evening, I finish my "progress notes" to meet "performance measurements'.
I open the attachment of the wonderful audio visual of the Vatican Museums [not available here unfortunately], see the beautiful images and hear gentle music creating a long interlude of relaxation and comtemplation. I have been at the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel during my Roman sojourn - 1963-70 -, and only God knows how much or how little I enjoyed those visits in my former life: surrounded by a large "community", closely supervised by superiors, and enlightened by Brother 'Cicerone'. But now, from this vantage point of mental, emotional and spiritual freedom, I revisit and recover those previous visits and savor them richly in the present moment.
Hopefully I will return to Rome after almost 40 years with my dear friend, Jose Barba, during the 2nd week of July, 2009. This time I plan to relax among the wonderful fountains and the piazze and practice my Romanaccio as I mingle with the locals, admire their cultural treasures, and partake of their food and wine.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lennon Book Presentation May 7 in Kensington, MD

J. Paul Lennon author of
Our Father Maciel, Who Art in Bed
A Naive and Sentimental Dubliner in the Legion of Christ


Thursday, May 7

The author was one of the first Irish recruits of the Legion of Christ, a very successful religious order founded by Father Maciel and approved by the Vatican.

What Paul observed as he struggled with an austere and rigorous training system was the lavish life-style Fr Maciel, “Nuestro Padre”, enjoyed, justified apparently by his multiple illnesses. Years after leaving, the author learned about credible accusations of Maciel sexually abusing his seminarians, from bed; thence the title.

Fr. Maciel and the order’s leaders vigorously denied those allegations up to the founder’s death in January 2008. Mr. Lennon was sued by the Legion in August 2007 for “scurrilously criticizing” the Legion and “stealing personal and proprietary material”; subsequently Legion lawyers made him take down a discussion board where ex-members aired the order’s dirty laundry. Now, two years later, Legion leaders have revealed that Fr. Maciel fathered a now twenty-year-old daughter. The public is demanding more information and reform from the Legion, while the order and its lay branch, Regnum Christi (Kingdom of Christ) maintain they are, nevertheless, divinely inspired.

This honest testimony of one who has been on the inside pretends to shed some light on the controversial phenomenon of the Legion of Christ religious order and its lay branch, Regnum Christi. The intimate narrative is enlivened with quotes from Siddhartha and with the lyrics of songs that accompanied the author growing up in Dublin, traveling to Spain and Italy, working in Mexico, and finally "landing" on the shores of the Potomac in 1985 to recover from his ordeal.

Though a cautionary tale, the story exudes healing and hope as the author comes to terms with himself, God and the Catholic Church.

Monday, May 4, 2009

They tried to stop her at the Border

They tried to stop her at the border

by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés on Apr. 28, 2009 El Rio Debajo Del Rio


They tried to stop her at the border
No visa for her kind, you know...
undocumented, some were certain.
Border guards, La migra, didn’t like the looks of
her. No one cared that
her many, many relatives were waiting for her
back home in Santa Fe USA, and
in surrounding little villages with names like
La Cienega, over near Chupadero, and Española.

Her so many relatives, holding babies in their arms,
were praying daily, nightly, for her safe travel and especially
for her clear passage at the border.

Her familia already had all their kisses ready on their lips,
just to give to her.
They had prepared the special water to ritually cleanse her
for having made the perilous journey successfully.

But fate would not have it, their prayers were not answered.
Stopped at the border; the frontier guards swarmed the truck,
their reasons now seeming so clear,
for her girth alone, was so great...
a peasant woman, not a svelte city woman,
she was just a campesina girl grown up ...
and now pregnant, so far bigger than usual.

And just trying to make her way over the border...
carrying, as las parteras, the midwives, say, ‘way out front.’
She could hardly be expected, being with child and all,
To fold herself into a woman
The size of a gnat.

So, no, she stood out, that belly in certain lights, you know,
looking quite suspicious and all.
Clearly she was from one of the oldest villages.
One could tell by her odd clothes and bare feet.
Why would such as she be wanting to come to the US?

So Immigration and Customs nabbed her.
And the truck driver who was bringing her,
slipped away.
And Customs interrogated, wanting to see papers:
Papers and papers and more papers yet. And money too.
But she was not carrying even la retícula, a small purse,
and did not have even coinage, so she could only answer
with the priceless look in her beautiful eyes.

They took her then, to where all suspicious people are taken,
to warehouse in holding cells; and there alone on the cold floor
she laid her head.
And they put their hands inside her maternity clothes,
certain she was carrying contraband.
‘What about that belly, real or fake?
Maybe filled with cocaine probably...
Ah these people will try any trick to bring in drugs.’
And so they forced her to be x-rayed, just to make sure.

And after, she just looked through the fence of the cage
they’d put her in.
Would someone, anyone, come
and free her?

No one came.

The next day.

No one came.

The next day.

She was lost.

But not forgotten.

Despair back in the villages in the USA.
How lonesome they all were for their jailed relative, for since forever in what was once Mexico, now the US, la familia had grown to thousands -- blood, not blood -- thousands of aunts, uncles, comadres, compadres, cousins -- especially cousins -- mamis, papis, aubuelos, abuelitas, neighbors, everyone who traded tomato plants with each other, friends, everyone who cultivated gardens amidst the chamisa and scrub piñon across the Santa Fe hills, all had become family by virtue of food and Faith.

Now this huge group of “families within a Family,” prayed and prayed hoping to hear word of her whereabouts, praying to see maybe even an old Mexican truck with the little religious flags and red chenille berries waving across the truck’s headliner ... how such would come chugging across the border, tilting sideways with the effort, carrying her home to her people up north....

Everyone there waited.
Many wept for her being lost.

And the pregnant mother waited in jail.
And waited...
having committed the crime of trying to come
across a line
that someone claimed was holy ...
a line drawn in the sand
along the banks of the Rio Grande
by less than ten men, long ago.

The pregnant mother waited in her jail.
And waited.

Meanwhile, at the border, men and women swarmed, waved papers around, phone calls flew through the magic wires. A holy man was called in to do the things holy men do, to negotiate the young mother’s release from the holding tank. To bring her home to her people.

And it was done. Somehow the grim blood and the prayer sent out over the Sangre de Cristo and the Sandia mountains, the appearance of gentle yet fierce souls at the border, led to her release.

And now, allowed to go free, she was brought the rest of the way, in a big red truck from the US, fittingly called by its manufacturer, El ariete, The Ram. And you have rarely seen such rejoicing, teenagers holding camera phones high, elders weeping, those scarred by life, weeping and laughing, children bedecking with flowers...

As she came from the truck, she was gentled and soothed and
Kissed and touched as though souls had at last met Soulmate; singing broke out, the old hymns...

as la familia extraordinaire, were reunited once again...
From dream to reality, she had made it across the border...
on the same trail that all ancestors journeyed upon long ago...
La Nuestra Señora Guadalupe, with our Cristocito in her belly,
Had made it to her people, to all souls who hold a place for her

And her little Son, “the radiant contraband Baby” that is invisible only to those who have not yet the eyes to see,
the ears to hear ... invisible even to x-ray machines ... at last He and she were here, safe in the arms and eyes and hearts who love, those who have always loved La Conquista, Mother of the Conquered, Mother of the Americas who ever comes bearing her Precious Cargo.

And to at least one old pilgrim in Santa Fe who could hear La Señora Guadalupe’s words without her saying them aloud, she whispered that she was touched by the people’s fears and their great love, but she was never really lost. Just had work to do ... at the border ... in the warehouse

... maybe with one of the poor old men who swept the floors, maybe with one of the young who came to graffiti a wall, maybe with an official who remembered the generous heart again, maybe with a young mother who didn’t know if she could make it, but seeing our Lady behind the fence, felt filled with bold grace and knew she could make it after all. A momentary pause. Not a lifetime peril. Our Lady, on the way home, stopped for a bit, for she had business at the border.

Several years ago, the padrecito of Our Lady of Guadalupe parish [Shrine] in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, Father Tien-Tri Nguyen, along with deacons, parishioners and many people on both sides of the border, began seeking an artist to fulfill a vision... to create a living statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The comadres and compadres were literally overjoyed to find the sculptor La Señora Georgina Farias in Mexico, a tiny woman about five feet tall, and in her 60s, who would create the heroic-sized statue of bronze. The beautiful statue is twelve feet tall and weighs about two tons.

The statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe was indeed confiscated at the border on its way from Mexico to the US, but not allowed the usual Customs detainment of a day or two, but rather she, seeming suspicious somehow -- at least to authorities -- was carried off the truck, all 4000+/- pounds of her, and taken to a warehouse, and her whereabouts were unknown for many days. She was indeed x-rayed to make sure she was not carrying contraband.

For several days, the people of faith waiting for her in the US, having already rented buses to drive to the border to greet her, to stay with her, and to bring her home in triumphant procession, were so frightened that they had ‘lost’ her for good... like many other families on both sides of the border who do not know where their loved ones are, they kept a heart-rending vigil.

Yet, no authority seemed to know where she was. The “right hand at U.S. Customs” said one thing, and the “left hand at U.S. Customs” said something different ... as though she had become desaparecido, a missing person.

Yet, anyone knowing the border as we do, knows it sometimes seems the Tower of Babel must have been built right on the banks of the Rio Grande, and it seems to come startlingly alive again with disinformation, misinterpretation and downright lack of conveying facts that ought normally be available to any rational being.

So, in order to find Our Lady of Guadalupe and free her, along with his posse of devotees to Our Lady, Fr. Tri, as he is called by his parishioners, journeyed from Santa Fe to the border.

There he and the determined posse (In Latin, posse, means to ‘be able’) found persons in Customs who helped, a warehouse door-opener rather than a foot-dragger, and no doubt by the padrecito’s purity of purpose that was poured into him by all the longing and gentleness and fierceness of the parishioners, deacons, candidate deacons, old people, young hearts, middle-aged soulful people, and others who loved Our Lady, they were able to secure her release.

Thus, she was lifted to a great flatbed trailer, secured safely and with the red Ram truck pulling with its strong engine, she came finally along the ancient road into Santa Fe -- literally with police motorcycle escort, and horns blaring from the long lines of cars and trucks in the processional that had formed to bring her home to Agua Fria Street, at last.

And too, just as I said, the people literally wept in joy and gratitude, and most of all, in love, in immaculate love for her, as they touched her, kissed her, sang to her and for her, as the blessed workmen raised her up to her perfect outdoor room they’d prepared for her.... one that lets the clouds, the sun, the moon, and the stars peek in cycles through her open rayos, those rays around her body. This last, a nightly and daily shower of her esteemed symbols over and through her bronze body.

To bring her home...
Let this be the prayer, then, in every heart this May,
the month of La Nuestra Madre, Our Mother.
And let there be a little procession to crown Our Mother,
as in times of eld, let that processioncito be in our hearts
as we celebrate the time of all mothers,
no matter what appearance they take, no matter what form...
let us honor all who carry in their own hearts that which,
no matter whatever else,
remains immaculate in Love for all.

Let her, let us, let all of us be found,
Be freed to be brought home
to a place of Love for one another,
on all sides of every kind of border, at last.

“They Tried To Stop Her At the Border” ©2009, by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, director of La Sociedad de Guadalupe, for works in her name. All Rights Reserved. permissions:

Special gratitude to heart of Miss Deanne Newman, for calling my attention to Our Lady of Guadalupe parish and statue, where I went to Mass last Sunday late... a place of true refugio, refuge, after having driven four-hundred miles, and in 4-wheel drive through two snowstorms and over a high mountain pass, to fulfill a teaching commitment in Santa Fe. Y mil gracias to mi Estimada Delores Romero at Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine for so generously speaking to me, a stranger, as though I were family tambien.

Too, I hope you will click here to see the photos of Guadalupe’s journey from Mexico to Santa Fe, U.S.A., especially the faces of those who came to accompany her, bless and be blessed by her.... both in Mexico and the US. There were many stops at villages and churches along the way. The photos were taken by Joshua Trujillo, son of the deacon at the parish in Santa Fe. Joshua is a fine photographer. You will also see there’s a book, Our Lady of Guadalupe, A Journey.