Saturday, July 30, 2011

Henri Nouwen: Competition vs Compassion

I am reading Michael Ford's Wounded Prophet: A Portrait of Henri J.M. Nouwen. Ford notes that when Nouwen was at Notre Dame, a professor in the newly formed psychology department, he wondered how the apparent obsession with football at the university "connected with the Christian message."

In a book co-written with fellow priest and Notre Dame faculty member Don McNeill (and Douglas Morrison), Nouwen had this to say about competition:
This all-pervasive competition, which reaches into the smallest corners of our relationships, prevents us from entering into full solidarity with each other and stands in the way of our being compassionate. We prefer to keep compassion on the periphery of our competitive lives. Being compassionate would require giving up dividing lines and relinquishing differences and distinctions. And that would mean losing our identities! This makes it clear why the call to be compassionate is so frightening and evokes such deep resistance.

This fear, which is very real and influences much of our behavior, betrays our deepest illusions: that we can forge our own identities, that we are the collective impressions of our surroundings, that we are the trophies and distinctions we have won. This, indeed, is our greatest illusion. It makes us into competitive people who compulsively cling to our differences and defend them at all cost, even to the point of violence.

What's up with Gay (-themed) Movies? Part 6: Jeffrey


Maybe we are too far away from the days when the AIDS crisis was the number one topic on the gay community, but watching this film just did not strike me as an experience I would want to repeat—ever.

Jeffrey loves sex. But it seems that every time he is having sex with someone or is about to have sex, the disease gets in the way in the form of over-the-top caution resulting from extreme paranoia. So sex has simply become too fraught with frustration for poor Jeffrey to be willing to engage in any longer. He decides to give up the activity he loves best.

Then he meets Steve at the gym (where Jeffrey is working out, an activity he has decided is a decent replacement for sex), and there is instant chemistry. But as Jeffrey has vowed not to have sex, there is a bit of a cat-and-mouse game as Steve—along with Sterling, Jeffrey’s best friend (played by Patrick Stewart) and Sterling’s ditzy lover, Darius—tries to convince Jeffrey to jump into the sack. Things seem to be progressing nicely in this direction until Steve informs Jeffrey that he is HIV-positive. Suddenly Jeffrey has become the paranoid one and immediately backs off. Steve is hurt and offended and abandons the chase.

Meanwhile we learn that Darius is also HIV-positive, and ends up dying of AIDS. Jeffrey recognizes that he wants more than sex but is now afraid to make a commitment for fear of his partner dying. In his struggle with this dilemma he attends a workshop run by a self-obsessed New Age guru, played by Sigourney Weaver, and goes to a Catholic church to seek answers, only to be hit on by a horny gay priest obsessed with Broadway show tunes (played by the always perfect Nathan Lane).

But it is Sterling and the deceased Darius who finally convince Jeffrey that the experience of truly living life and truly loving another person is worth the pain of seeing them suffer and die. About to enter heaven, Darius tells Jeffrey, “Hate AIDS, not life.”

In its online review, calls Jeffrey “surprisingly lighthearted and witty.” The film just didn’t strike me that way. Apart from a funny scene with Jeffrey’s parents and Nathan Lane’s antic priest, I found it flat, self-conscious, and forced.

And it was narrated.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What's up with Gay (-themed) Movies? Part 5: Outing Riley

Outing Riley
This film is slightly different from the others in that I find none of the characters particularly attractive—i.e. cute. So why did I buy it? Well, there seems to be another attraction for me….

Bobby Riley is the youngest of four sons (he has a younger sister) in an Irish-Catholic family in Chicago. Like his brothers, he is a bit of a redneck—he is chronically sartorially challenged, loves his sports, loves his beers, has a distinct tendency toward sophomoric language and behaviour. He is also gay and very much in the closet with his brothers.

As the film opens, the Riley patriarch has just died and Bobby’s sister is reminding him that he promised he would come out to his brothers after the parents were gone (the mother died some time before). The “boys” decide to go on the annual fishing trip even though their father will not be with them this time. Bobby’s sister tells him that if he does not come out to his brothers on this trip, she is going to out him herself.

The trip is a litany of adolescent pranks and activities that highlights the closeness of the brothers and only serves to deepen Bobby’s dilemma. There is simply no way he can come out to them in this environment.

On their return to the city the siblings meet at the parents’ house to divide up family possessions. The sister has suggested to Bobby that a “family” slide show will do the trick, and she includes slides of Bobby and his partner in obviously “gay” poses. The brothers are not impressed. The eldest, who is a priest, is disgusted and storms out of the room. The other two—one is addicted to Internet porn; the other to pot—believe that Bobby and his sister have pulled some kind of prank on them. It is simply not possible that their baby brother is gay.

Once the truth begins to sink in, the brothers’ reactions range from outrage to disgust to bewilderment, all of these emotions accompanied by the usual plethora of homophobic jokes and remarks. When they realize that this little family “crisis” is not going to go away, the two middle brothers decide to meet Bobby’s lover, who happens to be a smart lawyer. Of course, he turns out to be pretty much like them (except for the fact that he doesn’t follow the Cubs) and he makes them look like the boorish fools they are.

The two brothers eventually come around to accepting Bobby back into the fold: he is their family and they cannot escape the simple fact that they love him. So in typical over-the-top fashion they hold a surprise coming-out party for him, complete with a large hand-written “Bobby’s Gay!” sign and a couple of hot strippers.

On the serious side, the eldest brother is unable, as a priest, to accept Bobby’s “active” homosexuality. He appears to truly buy the teaching of the Church on homosexuality and experiences great difficulty reconciling his love for his younger brother and his moral distaste for what he does in the bedroom. To the film’s credit, this conflict is left unresolved.

Outing Riley is a sweet and touching film. The family dynamic is truthfully played out, and the siblings, as well as Bobby’s partner, are lovable, distinctly individual, and believable.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What's up with Gay (-themed) Movies? Part 4: Boys Love

Boys Love
The next film in my collection is quite different from the ones reviewed in the three previous posts. First, it is Japanese. Second, although it is a gay-themed movie, the writer-director and the principal actors are all straight. Third, this movie has a distinct psychological edge to it.

The movie begins with a good-looking (of course) young magazine writer-editor, Taishin Mamiya, visiting the art studio of Noél, a (similarly good-looking) senior high school student, who also happens to be a celebrity model. The magazine is doing a series on the avocations of celebrities and this is the young writer’s first major assignment.

Both parties are surprised during the course of the interview. The artist does not get the usual stupid interview questions (“What’s your favourite food?” What’s your favourite colour?”) but rather pointed, knowledgeable questions about his art. The reporter soon realizes he is encountering real art and that in this case the “avocation” is of more interest and value than the vocation. The pair quickly establishes a kind of offhand camaraderie.

After the interview, Mamiya and Noél go out to an expensive restaurant/bar for dinner. Somewhat tipsy from polishing off a bottle of Dom Perignon, the young reporter heads to the washroom. To his shock and horror Noél has followed him and soon has his way with him in one of the stalls. Much confusion results for Mamiya.

Not so the artist. He cunningly arranges to have Mamiya visit his apartment, appearing at the door clad only in a loose sheet. The writer instantly realizes he has been deceived and tries to flee. Before he succeeds, however, Noél drops the sheet, exposing his naked body to the horrified young man.

Mamiya is becoming drawn in, however, and ends up making another visit to Noél’s apartment. But this time, it is not Noél he finds there. Instead it is the young artist’s classmate, Chidori, who suspects that Mamiya is just another of Noél’s apparently constant stream of sex partners. When he finds out that Mamiya wrote the magazine article about Noél and his art, he launches into a tirade about how he is the only one who understands Noél and his art, that he is the only one who really loves his classmate, and that Noél will eventually come to his senses and choose him as his partner. The young man (who bears an amazing physical resemblance to a brilliant and funny and lovable homestay student we once had) is clearly disturbed.

Chidori explains to Mamiya that Noél does art as a distraction, just as he engages in promiscuous sex, because he is sad. He alludes to a childhood friend of Noél, Ken-chan, who appears in the only painting that shows the artist’s feelings. “He’s more fragile and weaker than anyone.”

Mamiya employs a trick to get Noél to promise to quit sleeping around, but it is Noél who is smarter: he gets Mamiya to fall in love with him. The relationship changes them both. Noél becomes a conscientious student (and stops sleeping around) and Mamiya becomes his true self.

Chidori soon realizes what is going on between Noél and Mamiya and that his dream is about to fade. In a fit of jealousy he shows up at Mamiya’s apartment at one in the morning, expecting to find Noél there; he tells Mamiya that he will never allow him to have Noél. And in a pivotal scene, Chidori is waiting for Noél at his apartment when he arrives home. To get Noél’s attention he has removed the beloved painting and an argument ensues. Chidori forces Noél to confess his love for Mamiya and then tearfully begs him to realize that he, Chidori, is the only one who loves him. Noél replies that they are friends—no more and no less—and leaves the apartment.

Following this exchange, Noél gets very drunk and ends up nearly passed out in a seedy area. He is accosted by a man who beats him badly and rapes him. As a result of his severely messed-up face, Noél’s modeling career is on hold; meanwhile Chidori arranges for Mamiya to be implicated in Noél’s predicament and thus to lose his job at the magazine.

The two young men wait for each to text the other, until finally Mamiya sees a newspaper article explaining what happened to Noél. He rushes to Noél’s apartment after work and finds that the young artist has broken his promise and resumed his dissolute lifestyle: he is in the middle of another anonymous sexual encounter. Mamiya confronts him, calls him stupid. Noél responds that he does not believe in promises and tells his childhood story of his love for Ken-chan, an older boy who protected him from bullying and who encouraged him in his art. When Ken-chan was in the hospital and Noél was visiting him, Ken-chan promised to go to the sea with him as soon as he got better, as neither boy had ever been to the seaside. A week later Ken-chan died, and Noél realized that he loved him. The painting that Chidori took was of Ken-chan standing on the shore.

“But if loving someone is so sad, and if loving someone hurts me so much, I no longer want love. I’ll never believe in promises.” Noél starts to cry, and for the first time, Mamiya embraces him.

In the next scene they are lying on Noél’s bed together, fully dressed and chastely holding hands but obviously in love. Enter Chidori, returning the painting he stole. He sees the couple and the look on his face makes it clear he is about to go off the deep end.

Spoiler alert! Noél and Mamiya are in the artist’s apartment, celebrating Mamiya’s new job. In comes Chidori with a knife. He stabs Noél to death.

Mamiya takes the body to the seashore and carries it into the water until the lovers disappear.

One of the big problems with gay movies is that you get distracted by how cute the guys are. In this case, both Noél (who actually appears much older than a high school student; in fact, he looks older than Mamiya) and Taishin Mamiya are extremely easy to look at (especially for an old rice queen like me). The story itself is also quite gripping; it moves along quickly and the viewer is really wondering what will happen next, both in terms of the love story and of Chidori’s reaction to it.

So it is easy (for me at least) to miss the movie’s shortcomings. One wonders, for example, why Noél got so drunk after rejecting Chidori’s tearful supplication; he has appeared quite capable of chilliness throughout the story so far, and it is clear that he is in love with Mamiya. One also wonders why he didn’t go to Mamiya after he was traumatized; surely by that time there was enough trust between the two men. Also, Noél and Chidori were childhood friends. Chidori claims he has been in love with Noél since they were kids. Would he not have long ago realized that Noél did not love him romantically? And finally one wonders if it is realistic that experiencing the death of a beloved friend at age eight or so would on its own precipitate such a long-term cynical, self-destructive reaction.

Nevertheless, I do like this film.

Oh, and the title is quite clever. No doubt Boys Love refers to the love between Noél and Ken-chan, which Noél found again with Mamiya. But it also works well from a marketing perspective….

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What's up with Gay (-themed) Movies? Part 3: Trick

Now this one is really pretty fluffy. Aspiring young Broadway song writer and his semi-hysterical aspiring actress BFF (nicely played by Tori Spelling; it seems that women in these movies actually act while the boys just look pretty-kidding! (maybe)) present his new song at a songwriters workshop and it flops. So young composer ditches BFF and heads for a gay bar where a very hot nearly-nude guy is dancing go-go. Writer is clearly attracted but too shy/naïve/nervous/whatever to make a move.

Well, guess who gets on the same train as Young Writer is on his way home. They trade looks and Go-Go Boy follows Young Writer off the train at his station.. They go to YW’s room, which he shares with a straight guy. Straight Guy has claimed the room for the night as his girlfriend is returning from six months in France and well, they just have to get it on right away. So GGB and YW have only an hour to do the Big Deed.

Sadly, time is wasted because BFF actress happens to be in the room when they arrive; she is printing 150 resumes on an old dot-matrix printer. When she finally shoves off, YW is too nervous to get it on without all kinds of weird stimulation. And then just as things are slightly kinkily heating up, SG and France Girl show up early ready to do the BD. GGB, who lives in Brooklyn, cannot offer up his digs because he lives with an older woman who does not like him to bring guys home (Older Woman happens to be his mother, we discover some time later).

Thus the night is spent in a futile attempt to find a place to get it on. Naturally several misadventures and small crises occur along the way, all of which threaten to extinguish the possibility of a consummated tryst. But to our surprise, and no doubt the surprise of YW ad GGB, they realize that they like each other as people and do not really need to have sex right away in order to enjoy each other’s company.

They finally kiss as they are about to go their separate ways. GGB gives YW his phone number and heads for the station. YW immediately runs over to the very conveniently located bank of payphones immediately behind him and dials the number. He hears GGB’s voice on the answering machine and skips down the street singing the tune that opened the story: “Enter You.”

Sweet but not too deep. The only reason to watch it a second time is to ogle GGB.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What's up with Gay (-themed) Movies? Part 2: Food of Love

Food of Love
This one starts out quite well. An aspiring young pianist, Paul Porterfield, is asked to be a page turner for Richard Kennington, a major name, in a concert in San Francisco, near where the young man lives. Before the concert, Kennington’s manager, Joseph Mansurian, who, we discover later, is also his lover, tries to put the make on Paul. There is obvious attraction between Paul and Kennington (who is approaching 40) but nothing happens and each goes his separate way.

Some time later, just as Paul and his parents are due to leave for vacation in Europe, the boy’s rather hysterical mother discovers that her husband has been having an affair. Mother and son end up traveling to Spain alone, and in Barcelona, Paul discovers that Kennington has just given a concert there. He manages to locate the pianist’s hotel and pays a visit, which leads to Paul being seduced and quickly falling in love with Kennington. There is a brief fling in Barcelona under the nose of the unsuspecting mother, until Kennington gets guilt pangs and heads back to New York.

Mansurian, in the meantime, has hired a male hustler to have sex with him while his lover is away.

Six months later, Paul is in his first year at Julliard and living in a very posh apartment with his new lover, an older artist. The apartment happens to be in the same building in which Kennington’s manager/lover, Joseph Mansurian, lives. A classmate of Paul’s is signed by Mansurian and Paul is asked to be the young pianist’s page turner at a party given by the impresario. Paul agrees, recognizing that his hope of becoming a concert pianist has just been extinguished. After the party Mansurian, clearly a calculating predator, seduces Paul, with Scarlatti playing in the background.

At Christmas back in California, his teacher confirms his fears; she suggests that he pursue another career, as an accompanist perhaps, if he can bear to stay in the world of music. On this same visit, Paul’s mother discovers that he is gay and that there is something between her son and Richard Kennington. She keeps this information to herself but there is almost unbearable tension between her and Paul over his desire to quit Julliard and the piano altogether, her paranoid suspicion that Kennington has exerted some pernicious influence over her Paul, and her continued depression and hysteria. Paul’s attitude toward and treatment of his mother lead one to suspect that he may be a reflection of his father.

After Paul returns to New York, his mother attends a PFLAG meeting, which only manages to fuel her rage at Kennington for his “negative influence” on Paul. After the meeting she decided to fly to New York; she ends up in Kenington’s apartment in the middle of a surprise 40th birthday party for the pianist, who is on his way from Chicago. After Kenington’s arrival she confronts him and Mansurian, demanding to know the whereabouts of her son and accusing Kennington of lying when he claims that he has not seen Paul since Barcelona.

Paul is finally located in the apartment of his lover and he and his mother meet. He is horrified that she found her way to Kennington’s place and is enraged at her seemingly ridiculous accusations against Kennington. He treats her very badly.

But in the midst of her pain and her hysteria, Paul’s mother has intuited the truth about Kennington and Mansurian: that they are lovers and that they have both deceived Paul. Paul is chastened by this revelation and realizes that his mother is not a fool, after all. They are reconciled and the viewer suspects that Paul will be that much wiser in his relationships in the future.

Damn again! There is more to this movie than I saw when I watched it the first time. It does have a kind of logical structure and a kind of theme to it. And I have to say that Juliet Stevenson (loved her in Truly, Madly, Deeply, with Alan Rickman) is absolutely brilliant as Paul’s mother.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

What's up with Gay (-themed) Movies? Part 1: Introduction and Under One Roof

Over the past few years I have purchased several gay-themed movies, like Under One Roof, Outing Riley, Trick, and Food of Love. Of course, I have to be honest and admit that a (significant) part of the attraction of these films was the degree to which I felt the principals were cute. In this regard, I have not been disappointed. And perhaps I should have just been content with that bit of gratification and not harboured any other hopes or expectations—I mean in terms of dramatic interest, thematic depth, quality of writing, and so forth.

Of the six or seven films I have in my collection, I am afraid that across the board the cinematic quality is just not there. The stories are generally sweet (read, therefore, predictable) and/or marginally funny, or dramatically promising at the outset, only to lose their way in the middle.

And do all these films have to be narrated?

These are movies made for a gay audience. Surely we are capable of making and appreciating films of more depth and relevance than these. Or maybe I have not yet seen the “great gay films” of our age. So far, in fact, the most powerful “gay” movie I have ever seen is Brokeback Mountain, based on a short story written by a straight female author, directed by a straight, Taiwanese film maker, and acted by straight actors. WTF?

Now I am gay but not really engaged in gay culture, so I am humbly willing to be educated here; in fact, I beg enlightenment.

In the meantime, here is a sampling of what I have seen so far:

Under One Roof
This is the first gay movie I bought. Again, a big reason is that I was attracted to the main actor, a rather cute Asian guy (Okay, I get the feeling I am going to be—justifiably accused of hypocrisy here, or at least of wanting my cake and eat it too). The story is of a lonely young gay Chinese-American, Daniel Chang, the only son of a widowed mother, who lives with her and his grandmother in San Francisco. His mother is desperate to get him a wife so she can have grandchildren and he is desperate to tell her he is gay so she’ll get off his back. Neither has been successful and the resulting tension is palpable; it only increases when the new tenant for their downstairs suite moves in. His name is Robert. Robert is good-looking, gay, and available, and Daniel is immediately smitten, cranking the tension up another notch or two.

The boys do their clumsy and tentative mating dance in the “forbidden palace” while the “evil empress” continues to plot wedding scenarios unawares. Until a convenient sewer back-up makes the basement suite uninhabitable and pretty-boy Robert is consigned to Daniel’s room while the very-long-term repairs take their course. Daniel is determined, however, to keep his home life separate from his “homo life” and sleeps on the couch. In the meantime, Robert is ingratiating himself further and further into Mrs. Chang’s affections.

Well, Mom finally gets tired of missing her favourite night-time TV shows and Daniel is forced into bed with Robert. And after a few more steps of the dance, the boys finally get it on. The scene is actually pretty hot, and quite tender.

Anyway, they carry on this affair under the unsuspecting mother’s nose until Daniel is forced to make a choice between Robert and his mom after the city declares the basement suite illegal and Robert is forced to leave the Chang household. Ever the dutiful son, Daniel elects to stay with his family.

After Robert is gone, Daniel recognizes that the problem is not his mother; it has been him all along. His love for Robert makes him realize that if he does not close the gap between his family and his friends and boyfriends he will end up alone for the rest of his life.

Finally, Daniel tells his mother that he wants to be with Robert—“the same way that you and Dad were together.” His mother is scandalized, but Daniel stands his ground, telling her that he wants to look after her but that he will not pretend any more, not for her and not for his dead father.

Mrs. Chang invites Robert’s mother over for tea. Robert’s Mom tells her that she too was “heartbroken” and “confused” when she found out her son was gay. But then she met a friend who told her that her son had left home and never returned, and Robert’s mom realized that nothing would ever come between her and her son.

Mrs. Chang: I know Daniel is hurting. I just don’t know how to help him.
Robert’s mother: Would a second son be so bad?

Daniel is hanging out with his friend Amy when he gets a call from his Mom, telling him that she’s set him up with someone to meet. He immediately heads home in a snit, determined to set her straight once and for all.

Of course, we all know who is waiting for him when he gets to the house.

Damn! I have been watching the movie again as I write this and, well, it doesn’t seem so bad after all. In fact, it is rather touching and entirely believable (to a gullible romantic at least). I can actually imagine a Chinese only son facing a dilemma like Daniel’s and choosing family over romantic love. I’m just not so sure the real-life dilemmas are resolved as happily as Daniel’s story is.

But then it is San Francisco.

To be continued…

Henri Nouwen: Gifts

From Life if the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World:
It is worthwhile making a distinction between talents and gifts. More important than our talents are our gifts. We have only a few talents, but we have many gifts. Our gifts are the many ways in which we express our humanity. They are part of who we are: Friendship, kindness, patience, joy, peace, forgiveness. gentleness, love, hope, trust, and many others. These are the true gifts we have to offer to each other.

Somehow I have known this for a long time, especially through my personal experience of the enormous healing power of these gifts. But since my coming to live in a community with mentally handicapped people, I have rediscovered this simple truth. Few, if any, of those people have talents they can boast of. Few are able to make contributions to our society that allow them to earn money, compete on the open market, or win awards. But how splendid are their gifts! Bill, who suffered intensely as a result of shattered family relationships, has a gift for friendship that I have seldom experienced. Even when I grow impatient or distracted by other people, he remains always faithful and continues to support me in all I do. Linda, who has a speech handicap, has a unique gift for welcoming people. Many who have stayed in our community remember Linda as the one who made them feel at home. Adam, who is unable to speak, walk, or eat without help and who needs constant support, has the great gift of bringing peace to those who care for him and live with him. The longer I live in L'Arche, the more I recognize the true gifts that in us, seemingly non-handicapped people, often remain buried beneath our talents. The so-visible brokenness of our handicapped people has, in some mysterious way, allowed them to offer their gifts freely and without inhibition.

More surely than ever before, I know now that we are called to give our very lives to one another and that, in so doing, we become a true community of love.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"God is a foolish farmer"

I don’t often go to church these days; about the only time I do attend Mass in a Catholic church is when I visit my Mom in the small town of Chase, BC, as I did this past weekend. We usually go to the small church in Chase that is administered from the diocesan seat of Kamloops. This is the church where I first encountered Father Bob, whom I have blogged about in the past.

In spite of my disenchantment with the Roman Catholic Church and my recent ambivalence about attending church services period, I am still fascinated (for some reason) by priests and the priesthood. In my limited experience and observation, there appear to be two general kinds of priest. One of these is the cookie-cutter variety, which tends to follow a standard orthodox path in the celebration of liturgy. I usually find Masses celebrated by these priests, characterized either by excessive piety or a lack of sincere piety, singularly uninspiring. The homilies are boringly pedantic, patronizing and condescending, or simply incomprehensible. I cannot help but feel that these men are priests for reasons other than the desire to be loving and faithful servants of the People of God.

The second type of priest is the one who is truly himself. Orthodox or progressive in outlook, he simply loves being a priest, loves God, and loves the People of God. This love is apparent in all that he does, but especially in the celebration of liturgy. It is so rare to find such a priest (at least this has been my experience) that when one does encounter a man belonging to this second category, the occasion is memorable.

On Sunday, Mass in my Mom’s church was celebrated by Father Vincent, a young priest on loan to the diocese from Nigeria. The Mass was late beginning and when Father Vincent explained to us that this was because “several of our brothers and sisters needed to reconcile,” I could immediately feel genuine warmth radiating from the man. His voice was loud and strong, and he sang much of the Mass, in a powerful and beautiful baritone.

Father Vince’s English is flawless in every way except that it carries a pronounced African accent, making it, in my view, all the more charming and compelling. His homily was on the topic of the parable of the sower and the seed and was delivered without notes and without a pause or a mistake. It was also beautiful in its immediacy, its passion, and its use of imagination (“God is a foolish farmer: he sows his good seed even where he knows that it is not likely to grow”).

It is incredible to me this man could come from a country like Nigeria to the Interior of BC, where the culture is so radically different and the winters can be so bitterly cold, and pour out his love for people who must at times appear as if they came from the far side of the moon.

During the Prayers of the Faithful we learned that Father Vince’s father had just died, and at the end of Mass, he told us that he was going back to Nigeria in a couple of days to bury him.

Father, you are truly a man of God.

The photo above is not of Father Vince

Monday, July 4, 2011

Personal Holiness

From Marilynne Robinson's essay "Onward, Christian Liberals," included in The Best American Essays 2007:

I believe in the holiness of the human person and of humanity as a phenomenon. I believe our failings, which are very great and very grave -- after all, we have brought ourselves to the point of possible self-annihilation -- are a cosmic mystery, a Luciferian disaster, the fall of the brightest angel. That is to say, at best and at worst we are within the field of sacred meaning, holy. I believe holiness is a given of our being that, essentially, we cannot add to or diminish, whose character and reality are fully known only to God and are fully valued only by him. What I might call personal holiness is, in fact, openness to the perception of the holy in existence itself and above all, one another....To put the matter another way, we baffled creatures are immersed in an overwhelming truth. What is plainly before our eyes we know only in glimpses and through disciplined attention. Or again: to attempt obedience to God in any circumstance is to find experience opening on meaning, and meaning is holy. [Italics are mine]
 Marilynne Robinson is the author of the 2005 Pullitzer-Prize-winning novel Gilead.