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Subject:seven years later
Time:11:10 am
When I was a child I loved a folktale about a teacher who at the end of his career sets his students a contest. Each of them is given a purse and instructed to fill a room. The winner will be the one who fills it most wisely. One student filled the room with food, another with books; each fills his room differently and, to each the teacher gives the same judgment: "You have done well but you might have done better." The last student, to fill his room, bought only a simple lamp. He filled the room with light. He wins the contest.

Somehow, out of all my grandfather's things, which by the end of his life were not many, I've fallen heir to two: his Christian Prayer book and his lamp. It is a wonderful scarred vintage goose-neck lamp. When it fills the room with light, it is the light of another time, his lifetime. It's the same light that meant his waking presence when he was still with us.

I have my own Christian Prayer book. It was one of my three most precious Confirmation gifts -- aside from the gift of the Sacrament itself. I store it now in a protective leather case. It goes with me when I need to pray on the road. But it is not always nearby when I'm praying, as I usually do, in my room. So I pick up Tetukas's book. There's a little indentation on the first page where he once paper-clipped a key to the abbreviations used in the guide booklet. I showed my mother that one time before it was removed (by a little one, I suspect) and she teared up. It was so characteristic of his meticulous habits.

Those who are close to me know how the older liturgy and traditions of the Church have become the woods I wander in. The prayer book I once loved with a simple love I now see with a critical eye. The weird modern black and red illustrations cannot hold a candle to the engravings of the old breviaries. Many of the hymns are inferior, the translation of the readings often regrettable. I share my father's love for the four week Psalm cycle widely used today but, unlike him, I also yearn for the Latin. For awhile, I used the computer to pray Lauds in the pre-Vatican II form (approved for use by Pope Benedict XVI).

It will be awhile before I can afford a full Latin breviary set. There is a breath-taking suspense to watching Tridentine Mass catch on, set fire to souls in today's Church. But thinking of Tetukas's prayer book, I remember the grace with which he lived a holy life among diminished things. May his prayers help us to reclaim the good things of the Lord, the riches of His house, and to wait in patience for the full restoration He has promised. Amen.
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Subject:Stasys Eiva, d. March 26, 2010
Time:11:59 pm
This evening, in New Hampshire, surrounded by singing members of his family, my grandfather breathed for the last time.

I was able to visit him back in the first weekend of February. For the first time, I told him I loved him and he said he loved me. Both of my grandfathers were members of what my mother once called the "silent generation" of men. Sitting at the kitchen table or in his room with him, struggling to think of things to say in this last visit, I realized for the first time that this silence between us, which had been a hard thing for me, was also hard for him. We sat in that silence, suffered it, and struggled with it, during the weekend I was there. But in the end, all the needful words were spoken. And, co-existing with the pain of the silence, was the peace of it.

This year I prayed a novena to St. Joseph, leading up to his feast day as husband of Mary on the the nineteenth of March. I prayed an old formulaic novena, but I also prayed one my sister shared with me a couple years ago. Each day you pay four "visits" to St. Joseph. During the first visit you think of Joseph's fidelity to grace. Then of his fidelity to the interior life. Of his love for Mary. Of his love for the Divine Child. My grandfather's happy death was one of my main novena intentions. The more I thought about St. Joseph the more I saw of the beauty of my grandfather's life.

It started with thinking about fidelity to the interior life. I realized how profoundly this virtue shaped my grandfather. His fidelity to the interior life went hand in hand with his silence. Yes, it impoverished his exterior life, but in the sense of making it simple and essential. My grandmother is a storyteller, who passed on to us her rich impressions of an important past, World War II in Europe, the occupation of Lithuania. But the glimpses we got of my grandfather's past were few and far between: once he recalled a leather coat he had, the way the buttons squeaked. He told us about an exam he took in high school. About ordering a bouquet of lilacs to give our grandmother in winter. One amazing afternoon, when some of us were sitting around after a big dinner with extended family, he talked about cycling across Nazi-infested Europe with his brother, the beauty and the fear, while we sat enthralled, hardly able to believe that we were getting to hear it all. His silence though, spoke even more than his words. I remember knowing sometimes that he was thinking sad, unsharable things. It was impossible not to realize that sometimes when he was silent, his soul was with God. But I think none of us fathomed just how often that was true.

Then I think about his love for my grandmother. Their marriage, I realized as I got older, was not an easy one. When divorce became popularized in America, many older couples took what they saw as a way out. My mother said my grandparents must have been tempted. But unlike my father's parents, they did not divorce. And so the two of them remained for their children and children's children a source of stability. Throughout my childhood, we visited them, for long and short visits, at the house where my mother and her brothers grew up. With all their personality conflicts, my grandparents made in their quiet corner of Brockton a place that even as a child, I thought of as a garden of Eden. They cared for trees: evergreens, oaks, birch stems growing among the rocks, a single pear tree. For flowers: rhododendrons, lilac, forsythia, wistaria, impatiens. For vines: tomatoes, grapes, and roses. They took care of each other all their mutual lives. I remember my grandfather washing the supper dishes, every single night.

I think of his love for us. And here I think of fruit again, because I remember how he would call us from whatever we were doing and have us sit around the dining room table. I remember always feeling a reluctance at these times, similar to the reluctance I had as a child about going to church. What he was teaching us was meditation, attentiveness, gratitude. And joy. He would select a fruit from the bowl on the side table. And we would all sit in silence and watch him cut the apple, the orange, the pear, the banana. He silently admired the beauty of the fruit as he cut it -- and we all admired it too. Then he would pass the fruit slices around the table, orange pieces always arranged in their own peels, like little boats. And we ate in silence and tasted the fruit in a deeper way than if we'd just grabbed an apple at home. It had something to do with receiving it, rather than taking. (This is what I mean about the way he spoke with silence.) Often he'd call me and spread the comic page of the newspaper in front of me, and give me a pen to do a word jumble puzzle. I would sit there for a long time, struggling with it, wishing I were playing with the other kids. Hurting his feelings, refusing him, though, was unthinkable, so I would puzzle on. He played chess with my father and brothers. He loved word games, number games, and telling jokes. He knew seven languages. I remember asking him once: "Tetukas (what we called him), are you the smartest man in the world?" He answered, "Second smartest."

And lastly I think of his fidelity to grace. Once when my sister and I were spending a few days with my grandparents, I stood with her in the door to my grandfather's bedroom. I think we were waiting for him to take us somewhere. He was kneeling next to his bed, praying the rosary. His face was so beautiful, so radiant, and not just young, but boyish. He looked like a boy on his first Communion day. It didn't seem right to watch but it was impossible to look away. Afterward, I remember him coming out of his room and catching up my hand with a special joy in his smile. I wanted him to know we'd seen him so I asked, "Tetukas, did you pray a *whole rosary*?" And he smiled deeper and said, "Just a decade." His faith was both Charismatic and deeply traditional. He and my grandmother went to two prayer groups every week, a Charismatic prayer group and a Lithuanian rosary group (and they took care of their friends in the aging Lithuanian community of Brockton for many years before they moved in with my parents). When we were there, they took us with them. My grandfather had studied for the priesthood in his youth and that priestly formation never left his soul. He wrote the Lithuanian homilies for the pastor of their parish who didn't speak the language very well. When I prayed the St. Joseph novena, I came to see that though my grandfather was clearly holy, we had no idea how holy. God allowed his holiness to be somehow simultaneously evident and hidden. But in his last days, I saw his soul as an unimagined treasury of grace, the myriads and myriads of graces corresponded to throughout his life like the snowflakes of a winter.

Before suppers at his house, he would lead us in grace and then lead us in song. The old charismatic songs mostly, and hymns, and alleluias. (I know he had nostalgia too for the Latin of his youth, I remember him fondly recalling the "Asperges me.") At my parents' house too, he would often begin a song after grace. The last time I was there, it being Lent, we sang not alleluia, but "Holy God We Praise Thy Name." This evening though, my family sang "Jesus in the Morning": "Love Him, love Him, love Him when the sun goes down," and then began an alleluia anyway. It was when the alleluia started that he stopped breathing. And now he goes where alleluias never end.

His death coincides with the end of my long childhood. For those who can pray, please pray for me. And those who cannot, please, desire my joy. As I desire yours.
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Subject:Christmas anticipation
Time:07:25 pm
This year, today, the feast of St. Andrew and the first Sunday of Advent coincide.

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
in which the Son of God was born
of the most pure Virgin Mary,
at midnight,
in Bethlehem,
in the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God,
to hear my prayer and grant my desires,
[State your intention(s) here...]
through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ
and of His blessed Mother. Amen.


This prayer is to be recited fifteen times a day, starting on St. Andrew's day, ending on Christmas eve. This will be my third year praying it. As the author of a blog I've recently discovered points out, "They are very beautiful words, you really want to say them over and over again."

Her post: http://starrymantle.blogspot.com/2008/11/christmas-anticipation-prayer.html
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Subject:Toni Morrison
Time:10:06 am
I thought about the baby that everybody wanted dead and saw it very clearly. It was in a dark, wet place, its head covered with great O's of wool, the black face holding, like nickels, two clean black eyes, the flared nose, the kissing-thick lips, and the living, breathing silk of black skin. No synthetic yellow bangs suspended over marble-blue eyes, no pinched nose and bowline mouth. More strongly than my fondness for Pecola, I felt a need for someone to want the black baby to live -- just to counteract the universal love of white baby dolls, Shirley Temples, and Maureen Peals. And Frieda must have felt the same thing. We did not think about the fact that Pecola was not married; lots of girls had babies who were not married. And we did not dwell on the fact that the baby's father was Pecola's father too; the process of having a baby by any male was incomprehensible to us -- at least, she knew her father. We thought only of this overwhelming hatred for the unborn baby.

from The Bluest Eye
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Subject:I say that we are wound, with mercy round and round
Time:09:08 pm
Catherine Doherty: Beads on a String
http://www.madonnahouse.org/restoration/2005/10/beads_on_a_string.html

Pope John Paul II: "The Rosary is my favorite prayer"
http://www.madonnahouse.org/restoration/2007/10/the_rosary.html

Catherine Doherty: The World is at War
http://www.madonnahouse.org/restoration/2006/10/the_world_is_at_war.html
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Subject:theme poem of this weekend
Time:10:47 pm
The Two TreesCollapse )
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Subject:a unicorn and an echo
Time:10:37 pm
This was a Milosz poem that moved me during our trip. Had I read it before? Probably - but probably not.

INCANTATION

Human reason is beautiful and invincible.
No bars, no barbed wire, no pulping of books,
No sentence of banishment can prevail against it.
It establishes the universal ideas in language,
And guides our hand so we write Truth and Justice
With capital letters, lie and oppression with small.
It puts what should be above things as they are,
Is an enemy of despair and a friend of hope.
It does not know Jew from Greek or slave from master,
Giving us the estate of the world to manage.
It saves austere and transparent phrases
From the filthy discord of tortured words.
It says that everything is new under the sun,
Opens the congealed fist of the past.
Beautiful and very young are Philo-Sophia
And poetry, her ally in the service of the good.
As late as yesterday Nature celebrated their birth,
The news was brought to the mountains by a unicorn and an echo.
Their friendship will be glorious, their time has no limit.
Their enemies have delivered themselves to destruction.
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Time:09:37 pm
16 weeks

I am a little world made cunningly
Of elements and an angelic sprite. . .
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Time:07:53 pm
I have always thought that one of our goals as parents is to fill our children's
memory bank with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pleasant scenes.

Dr. Sears

"It's a blind," her father said.
"What's a blind?" Alessandro asked.
"Memory of things like days at the sea, or thunderstorms."
"I love those things," Alessandro said. "You can't imagine
how much I love them."
"Alessandro, in memory, things, objects, and sensations
merely stand in for the people you love." He had to rest and
breathe before he continued. After awhile, he said, "If I long
for a thunderstorm in Rome sixty years ago, or seventy, for
the heavy rain and the disheveled lightning, for the wet trees
that were completely free and abandoned, it's not
because of the rain, or the quiet, or the ticking of the clock in
in the hall way - all of which I remember - but because of my
mother and my father, who held me at the window as we
watched the storm."

Mark Helprin, Soldier of the Great War
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Subject:Zulu Girl - Roy Campbell
Time:10:16 pm
When in the sun the hot red acres smoulder,
Down where the sweating gang its labour plies,
A girl flings down her hoe, and from her shoulder
Unslings her child tormented by the flies.

She takes him to a ring of shadow pooled
By thorn-trees: purpled with the blood of ticks,
While her sharp nails, in slow caresses ruled,
Prowl through his hair with sharp electric clicks,

His sleepy mouth plugged by the heavy nipple,
Tugs like a puppy, grunting as he feeds:
Through his frail nerves her own deep languors ripple
Like a broad river sighing through its reeds.

Yet in that drowsy stream his flesh imbibes
An old unquenched unsmotherable heat —
The curbed ferocity of beaten tribes,
The sullen dignity of their defeat.

Her body looms above him like a hill
Within whose shade a village lies at rest,
Or the first cloud so terrible and still
That bears the coming harvest in its breast.
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