Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"There shall be no difference between them and the rest"

Happy Walt Whitman's birthday.

This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger,
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous, I make
appointments with all,
I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited,
The heavy-lipp'd slave is invited, the venerealee is invited;
There shall be no difference between them and the rest.

(-- excerpt from Song of Myself)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Water o' Tyne

Today I found a mix CD that I used to play at the first meeting of the voice class I taught for non-majors while working on my doctorate.  I meant to use it to open my students' ears to classical singing in all its possibilities.  This was the first piece on it, a Northumbrian folksong, sung a cappella by Sir Thomas Allen (the cute badgers, alas, have nothing to do with the song).

Our Lady of Sheshan

Today is the traditional day of pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Sheshan, and has been designated by the Pope as  World Day of Prayer for the Church in China.  In 2008,  Pope Benedict composed the following prayer for this day: 

Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,
venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title "Help of Christians,"
the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.
We come before you today to implore your protection.
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother's care, guide them
along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be
a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said "yes" in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God's eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously co-operated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, Who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in His footsteps by taking up His Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God's loving presence.

Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,
who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love.
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,
and of the world to Jesus.
In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,
offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,
ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!

I will be offering this prayer today for all the children who wait in Chinese orphanages.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sunday Prayer-Palooza

As some of you know, the little boy we are in the process of adopting was connected to us in a most unusual way -- through a blogger, whom I did not know personally at the time, but with whom I discovered I have a great deal in common, and with whom my husband and I even share a good many real-life friends.  Ever since Mrs. C told us about little Jude, we have been keeping her and her husband's intentions in our prayers.  They are now involved in a domestic adoption process, and are expecting their baby, a girl, in mid-June.   

Mrs. C blogged recently about the birthmother's doubts and fears.  Many people are praying about the situation, for all concerned.  But -- especially since Mrs. C has given us such a wonderful gift -- I wanted to do something special for her.

May 22 is an important day to me personally.  For one thing, it is the feast of Saint Rita of Cascia, the patroness of the impossible, who I believe has helped me with many things.  It is also the day that we have set aside to celebrate our first son's name-day -- no, his name is not Rita, but he is named after an obscure ethnic saint whose cult is not celebrated in America, and about whom, in fact, little is known.  And finally, it is the day that our adoption paperwork for baby Jude is due (we have submitted it).

I have pledged to offer all of my actions, hopes, doubts, prayers, and sufferings throughout the day on this Sunday, May 22, for the intentions of Mr. and Mrs. C, for the success and ease of their adoption, and for Baby C and her birthmother.  I invite you to do the same.  I feel as if my family is connected to hers through the mystical efficacy of the Divine Mercy, and I pray that Christ will have mercy on both of our families, on Baby C and her birthmother, and on all of you who are reading this and who offer a prayer for her.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Patron Saint of Shyness

 I don't know if there is one.  But I was very touched to read in the back office here that someone had found this blog through a Google search for the

saint that represents shyness and kindness

I suppose that person was directed to this post.

Black Humor

The Onion has skewered the pro-choice movement with the article "Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex."

I'm not sure abortion humor is at all viable, and I have to admit I didn't find the article funny, which has never happened before with me and The Onion.

Nonetheless, it's quite interesting that the satirical paper is eviscerating one of the sacred cows of the Left; it's a position I would not have expected to see in America's Finest News Source, whose target audience is probably college-educated men in their twenties and early thirties, and it's encouraging.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Picture of God's Love for a Lost World

There was an interesting discussion in the combox at Adoptio about transracial adoptions the other day, which, like so many other posts, suffered in the Great Blogger Crash of May 2011 (the original post is back up now, but the original comments have been washed away).  In it, Mrs. C asks her readers for advice on how to address racial issues with her daughter, due in just a few weeks, who may be racially different from her husband and herself.

The first time she posted, several readers mentioned that the magazine Adoptive Families tends to have good information about these things, but that they had cancelled their subscriptions because of other subject matter in the magazine that was offensive to their faith as Catholics (these comments are now gone).  I have read several issues of Adoptive Families myself, and I agree that its editorial position in favor of gay adoption and surrogacy and egg donation (which, it seems to me, are hardly appropriate topics for inclusion in a magazine about adoption) is dismaying.

In order to verify what I recalled about the magazine, I went hunting around for an issue, the most recent of which I found lying face down in a pile of other neglected reading material on my desk.  I was surprised and impressed to find on the back cover a full-page ad for liberal whipping-boy Focus on the Family's adoption ministry, I Care About Orphans.

I poked around on the Focus on the Family adoption website, and found that the organization has spearheaded an initiative to encourage Christians to adopt -- especially to adopt waiting children out of U.S. foster care -- and to provide resources and support before, during, and after adoption.  One of Focus on the Family's spokeswomen, Kelly Rosati, speaks eloquently in a video about how her family's commitment to the sanctity of human life inspired her to adopt four children out of foster care, and notes:

Adoption is God's idea.  It comes straight out of the Scriptures.  We read that all of us who are believers in Christ have been adopted into God's family through faith in Christ . . . . Adoption is a picture of God's love for a lost world.

Rosati goes on to talk about how Focus on the Family partnered with the Department of Human Services in Colorado to encourage Christians to adopt out of foster care, and that, as a result, the number of children waiting for families was reduced by more than half.

This is wonderful.  I wonder why the Catholic Church is not involved in any sort of similar effort.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fruits of Blogging, Part Zero

As many of you know, Blogger went down the other day, completely obliterating my post about Oteptoti's visit and all your thoughtful comments.  I will try to reconstruct it when I have time, but that might not be for a few days.  These, I suppose, are the fruits of typing your posts directly into Blogger without keeping a copy elsewhere.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Riding the Elevator into the Sky

This poem was on The Writer's Almanac today.  I had never read it before, and it took my breath away.

I am dedicating it to two readers who have become friends, Rodak and Ex-New Yorker, because I think they will like it, even though Ex-New Yorker doesn't like poetry.


As the fireman said:
Don't book a room over the fifth floor
in any hotel in New York.
They have ladders that will reach further
but no one will climb them.
As the New York Times said:
The elevator always seeks out
the floor of the fire
and automatically opens
and won't shut.
These are the warnings
that you must forget
if you're climbing out of yourself.
If you're going to smash into the sky.

Many times I've gone past
the fifth floor,
cranking upward,
but only once
have I gone all the way up.
Sixtieth floor:
small plants and swans bending
into their grave.
Floor two hundred:
mountains with the patience of a cat,
silence wearing its sneakers.
Floor five hundred:
messages and letters centuries old,
birds to drink,
a kitchen of clouds.
Floor six thousand:
the stars,
skeletons on fire,
their arms singing.
And a key,
a very large key,
that opens something—
some useful door—
up there.

-- Anne Sexton (above), from The Awful Rowing Toward God. © Houghton Mifflin, 1975.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Brahmsday

The most humane composer of all time would be 178 years old today.  To celebrate, one of the most beautiful of his works, "Zum Schluss" (In the End), the last song in the Neue Liebesliederwalzer, set to a text by Goethe:

Now, you Muses, enough!
In vain you strive to show
how misery and happiness
change places in the loving breast.
You cannot heal the wounds
that Love has caused,
but solace comes, dear ones,
only from you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Little Encouragement

I've been back to New York a few times in the past few weeks to gather and compile documents for our adoption.  I had thought that I'd be able to sit around and wait for these documents to come to me, but realized this wasn't the case when I found there was no record of my marriage in the vital-records computer system for New York City (I was told that they have all kinds of glitches in the system -- that, for instance, if your father was born in Ireland, the computer system changes your birthplace to Ireland too, which causes people all kinds of unanticipated problems).  Luckily, the Department of Vital Records keeps everything on microfilm in an off-site storage site, so, by going to New York City, I was able to get what I needed -- and I got to be at the Marriage Bureau on a typical weekday, which is a happy experience, on this occasion bustling with brides of many nations in skirt suits and hats, twirling their modest bouquets and twittering excitedly. (I also saw a pudgy newlywed couple with teenaged sons from one marriage or another producing their Italian passports for inspection, and then, as I was leaving, a hugely pregnant middle-aged bride-to-be yelling at her harried-looking groom as he stepped off the curb into traffic in beautiful New Yorkese, "Great, you're gonna getchaself killed the day before our wedding!" which made me inexplicably happy -- well, not happy that he was being careless in traffic, but happy that God had created this particular man and woman.)

With all my documents in order on the New York side, the next step was to bring them to the Chinese Consulate.  I assumed this place would be on the East Side of Manhattan near the United Nations, where all the other consular offices are, but it turned out to be as far west as you can go -- i.e., as far away from the United Nations as geographically possible -- on 42nd Street at the corner of the West Side Highway, in a warehouse district (as Otepoti observed, this location was undoubtedly intended to discourage protests, and, though I saw at least two protests going on during the two days I spent there, they were in fact mostly obscured from public view, on the other side of the West Side Highway).  The consulate itself, a little piece of the People's Republic of China in America, was everything I imagined it would be:  drab, gray, airless and windowless, harshly lit and crammed with hundreds of people, waiting for hours in ten snaking lines, seeking to have documents of various kinds authenticated.

As I waited, a Chinese woman struck up a conversation with me, wondering me what I was there for.  I showed her pictures of Jude, and had started to tell her about special-needs Chinese adoptions when I was called to the window.  I was couriering a friend's adoption dossier as well as my own, and the friend had given me money to have her documents processed the fastest way possible, by which I would be able to pick them up the next day (I was having our documents processed the usual way, by which I will have to return to New York to pick them up tomorrow), so the next day I was back again on Chinese soil, and waited for two more hours in two separate lines to collect my friend's documents.

While waiting, I saw someone waving to me from one of the lines, and recognized my friend from the day before.  She motioned to me to come to join her in her line, which was not far from the window, for which she was roundly scolded by a young Chinese woman who we simply waved on ahead of us.  My friend, whose name was Weijin, told me that she had been thinking about our conversation from the day before.  She had one daughter, she told me, who was born in China.  When she was born, it was evident that she was cognitively disabled, and the doctors told Weijin that it would be better if she allowed her daughter to die.  But Weijin and her husband moved to America (they are naturalized citizens) and raised their daughter.

Weijin took out pictures, and I saw a round-faced girl with shining black hair, smiling broadly out of a school picture.  The girl, who Weijin and her husband named Ying -- which, she said, means "a little encouragement" -- is now twenty-four, and attends a sheltered workshop during the day.  Weijin said that for years she had asked God why He'd given her such a painfully disabled daughter, one so demanding, one in need of so much more than just a little encouragement.  Now, however, she realizes that her beautiful daughter is a great gift, and she told me that, since our conversation of the previous day, she had decided that she, too, wanted to adopt a special-needs child from China.  We cried and hugged each other as we stood there, causing some bemusement in the line behind us.

It's often (though not always) been my experience that, in the midst of the most annoying, trying, and harassing errands, something will happen that shifts my focus away from my annoyance and opens, as it were, a small door onto eternity.  I hope, as I always do, that I might have been able to convey an inkling of Christ's mercy, or at least a little encouragement, to Weijin, and I pray for her family and her adoption plans.

(Above: The ensemble "Gambei!" from the Metropolitan Opera's 2011 revival of John Adam's Nixon in China.)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Miraculous Cure Attributed to Dorothy Day

 This letter, describing a miraculous cure through the intercession of Dorothy Day, was sent to Lourdes Ferrer of the Guild for Dorothy Day in New York City this past February.

Servant of God Dorothy Day, pray for us.