faith in the desert: July 2005 Archives

no, you can't go home again

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Earlier today, as I was driving around, I clicked on the radio to "A Prairie Home Companion". The music I heard took me back in time - the brass, the rhythms, the oompah and the accordians - I thought it was banda and eagerly awaited the back announce. But then they started singing and I realized that it wasn't Spanish, nor was in Portugese - no, it wasn't any language that I recognized. But the music itself was so achingly familiar that I almost wept with homesickness. Come to find out at the end of the music that it was the "Bride and Groom Polka" being sung and played by a traditional polka band out of Chicago!

Did I ever mention that I'm that rarity for my generation - a native Californian? Not only that, but my father was born in California and his father was and his mother's father was. And no, they weren't members of a Spanish Land grant family, though my grandmother's father's family once owned a large rancho in San Diego. It's been over 8 years now since we left California. Our last 13 years there, we owned and lived in a 1954 tract home in a cul-de-sac in the barrios of the San Fernando Valley. We shared a zip code with Pacoima, the stomping grounds of musician Richie Valens (birth name - Ricardo Valenzuela) - most famous for his phonetic rendition of a song his abuela taught him - La Bamba.

Living in los barrios was a little scary for us at first, and we never intended to stay there for so long. But houses for large families on a tight budget are always hard to come by, and so we stayed. The crime rate was really no higher than in other parts of the San Fernando Valley, meaning that you couldn't leave a bicycle unattended for more than 5 seconds or it would disappear. While we were moving in, my vacuum cleaner and a box labelled 'silverware' (actually very cheap stainless flatware) were stolen out of our living room. But once we got to know our neighbors, they looked out for us and we rarely locked the doors to the house. The garage, on the other hand......

Every weekend night, one or another family would have some kind of event. Even if it were only a small backyard cookout, there was always music. We grew accustomed to falling asleep to the sounds of banda, norteno, mariachi, and other less common styles of latin american music. Our closest parish (where we started out in but eventually left) had only 2 English Masses per week, but 7 Spanish weekend Masses and daily Mass was bilingual. Outside the local elementary school where one child went for 6th grade, you could find peddlers hawking hot tamales and champurrado from shopping carts before and after school. The billboards were mostly in Spanish, and the local chain supermarket carried fresh nixtamal, fresh masa, tripas, chicharonnes, and other mexican and latin american food items.

I visited the old neighborhood last year. The new owners of the house had put up cast iron fencing around the front yard and driveway. The roses that I planted in front, however, were still there and were thriving. The cul-de-sac looked a little dingier. A few miles away, in what had once been a large and mostly unused parking lot, entepreneurs had built up little concrete garage type buildings, and various small merchants sold a wild variety of items under awnings in front of the buildings. It reminded me of the mercado in Tecate or a similar small Mexican city.

It's hard to explain why places grab and hold on to me - especially when I have lived in so many of them in my life. I don't understand the process of how those memories are triggered, either. Very often it is from a snippet of music. "Hurt" by 9 Inch Nails will put me right back in Oklahoma, driving on the road between Tulsa and Tahlequah. Some kinds of bluegrassy country/folk music puts me back in Oregon, on the road between Eugene and Florence. I can close my eyes and listen to the music and see the road in my mind's eye. I have so many memories, visual and auditory, of the places I have lived. Even the ones I disliked, I can still remember so much and even the worst of them I have fondness for.

I don't fluster easily, but two standard questions will often throw me for a loop while I try to think out a reasonable yet honest answer, avoiding TMI. The first, "Where are you from?" The second, "How do you like New Hampshire?". I've been here now for nearly 5 years, but I still don't feel truthful if I say "I'm from Concord NH". And as for how I like New Hampshire, well that depends on the day and my mood! It isn't where I ever imagined I'd end up. Like any other place, it has its ups and downs. Yet I am very sure that if we ever leave here, I will end up missing it just as I miss almost every other place where I have lived.

I am getting tired of being homesick at random moments, but I guess that God is not-so-gently reminding me that my true home is not on this earth, that these days and these places are a gift from him but are temporal and not eternal.

another prayer request

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Hi, Alicia. It's me, Sandy, reader of your blog. My other emails to you have been lighter, happier ones. I would like you to please ask all those wonderful citizens of St. Blog to please pray for my mother-in-law. She was visiting us here in England and landed in the hospital. She has pancreatic cancer that has spread to her liver and lungs. We're all just devastated. She is going to have a stent placed in her bile duct so that it will drain. Hopefully, that will bring back her appetite and relieve the jaundice.

I could go on and on about what a wonderful lady she is. I love her like my own mom and she loves me like a natural daughter.

She is still trying to wrap her brain around this, as she had been thinking she was perfectly healthy, if a bit run-down and stressed from her job and caring for her parents. Her father only passed away in June.

I'm asking God for a miracle. That is all that can help at this point. She has spent the last 10 years working hard so that she could retire and see her grandchildren raised. I trust that she'll enjoy the view from Heaven.

Please ask all of your readers to pray for Clare (and the rest of us, too). She has always had a special place in her heart for St. Bernadette.

Thank you,
Novena To
Glorious wonder-worker, St. Peregrine, you answered the divine call with a ready spirit, and forsook all the comforts of a life of ease and all the empty honors of the world to dedicate yourself to God in the Order of His holy Mother. You labored manfully for the salvation of souls. In union with Jesus crucified, you endured painful sufferings with such patience as to deserve to be healed miraculously of an incurable cancer in your leg by a touch of His divine hand. Obtain for me the grace to answer every call of God and to fulfill His will in all the events of life. Enkindle in my heart a consuming zeal for the salvation of all men. Deliver me from the infirmities that afflict my body (especially.....). Obtain for me also a perfect resignation to the sufferings it may please God to send me, so that, imitating our crucified Savior and His sorrowful Mother, I may merit eternal glory in heaven.

St. Peregrine, pray for me and for all who invoke your aid.

Prayer to Saint Peregrine

O great St. Peregrine, you have been called "The Mighty," "The Wonder-Worker," because of the numerous miracles which you have obtained from God for those who have had recourse to you. For so many years you bore in your own flesh this cancerous disease that destroys the very fibre of our being, and who had recourse to

The source of all grace when the power of man could do no more. You were favoured with the vision of Jesus coming down from His Cross to heal your affliction. Ask of God and Our Lady, the cure of the sick whom we entrust to you.

(Pause here and silently recall the names of the sick for whom you are praying)

Aided in this way by your powerful intercession, we shall sing to God, now and for all eternity, a song of gratitude for His great goodness and mercy. Amen
St. Peregrine was born in 1260 at Forlì, Italy to an affluent family.He lived a comfortable life as a youth, and politically opposed the papacy. After he experienced the forgiveness of St.Philip Benizi, he changed his life and joined the Servite order. He was ordained a priest, and later returned to his home to establish a Servite community. There he was widely known for his preaching, penances, and counsel in the confessional. He was cured of cancer, after he received a vision of Christ on the cross reaching out His hand to touch his impaired limb. He died in 1345 and was canonized in 1726. He is the patron of cancer patients.

another convert's blog

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Mere Catholic: News, analysis, and apologetics from a mere Catholic convert.

from her professional introduction:

Prior to becoming a mother in 2001, Misty's professional experience included seven years as a full-time writer and editor for trade and consumer publications. She has written about personal finance, civil engineering, medicine, government, and politics. She recently relocated to Roanoke from Northern Virginia with her husband, Tom, and their three children.

Just four years ago, Misty was a staunchly pro-choice, pro-homosexual rights atheist. Then a friend loaned her a book on natural family planning, written from the Catholic perspective. Several chapters of the book detailed the beauty, logic, and historical consistency of the Church's teachings on sexual ethics and marriage, factors which contributed significantly to Misty's conversion a year later. She was baptized and received into the church on the same day as her first child in November 2001.
She is also an NFP teacher through Northwest Family Services, the NFP
Coordinator for the Diocese of Richmond (VA)and speaks about, writes about,and teach NFP.

fear and trembling


For some reason this morning, I was thinking about Phil Ochs. Something in the news triggered my mind to the lyrics of his song Crucifixion.
The specific phrase that rattled my mind was "Beneath the greatest love is a hurricane of hate". I remember thinkg that in Marriage Encounter, we were taught that the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference. Now I'm sitting here trying to remember what little news item set my brain cells whirling, but it's completely lost. Funny how those things can happen on a long commute.

So I turned off the car radio and popped in a CD - I spent some time a few months back to make myself a couple of car mix CDs so that I don't have to carry my whole library with me everywhere. Car Mix one has an eclectic collection including Dave Brubeck, Johnny Cash, the Oxford Boy's choir singing Ralph Vaughn Williams hymns - and several cuts from What's That I Hear?: The Songs of Phil Ochs . Among the cuts I chose for this were Dave Massengill's rendition of Crucifixion, Outside of a Small Circle of Friends - Dave Van Ronk, Flower Lady - Ian Matthews, Pleasures of the Harbor - Rod MacDonald, and Highwayman - Steve Gillette. But I digress.

Crucifixion was written sometime between 1963 and 1965. Maybe Dawn would know the exact date - she's a storehouse of that kind of information. I know it was after November 1963 because it was originally inspired by the assassination of JFK. I know it was before 1965 because that is the earliest recording of it that I have been able to find. So, 1964.

It was the year of the last big rubella pandemic - and the argument was on for abortion for moms whose babies might have been affected. Now, many (most?) of you who read this were probably not born yet when this song was written. It was from a different era, a different way of life - not necessarily better or worse overall than what we have today - but different. The Pill was on the horizon, abortion was mostly illegal and definitely not socially acceptable, civil rights were becoming a topic of passion, and the war in Vietnam was just heating up. It was a presidential election year, there was a World's Fair in NYC, it was an Olympics year. There was hope and there was despair on the horizon.

I was nine years old, and that summer, we left Los Angeles to go first to New York for a few days (one day at the fair!) and then to fly to France (for a year's stay)with a side trip to England. I remember seeing all the mod stuff in London. The Beatles and the Beach Boys were all over the AM radio, and all the cool kids had Japanese transistor radios. The Chinese exploded an atomic bomb, and we alternated between the fear of atomic annihilation and the giddiness of the progress in science. It seemed that there was a new breakthrough every week, vividly pictured on the cover of Life or Look or the Saturday Evening Post.

Now let me share with you another bit of lyrics from the song that literally jumped out at me while listening this morning.
The eyes of the rebel have been branded by the blind
To the safety of sterility, the threat has been refined
The child was created to the slaughterhouse he's led
So good to be alive when the eulogy is read
The climax of emotion, the worship of the dead
And the cycle of sacrifice unwinds

Think about it. We now have in vitro fertilization - "the child was created"- and from the 'excess' we have the push for embryonic stem cell 'research'- "to the slaughterhouse he's led". The euthanasia movement, especially as exemplified by George Felos (see this chilling article in Crisis) gives one "the climax of emotion". The embrace of the Manichaean dualism (spirit good, body an evil trap) has become so pervasive in our culture that it even infects Christians who should know better.

I have great hopes that the Theology of the Body will help to correct or even reverse some of these changes in our culture. By recognizing that God made us as incarnate souls, as a unity, and that the body is intended to be a good thing, maybe we can get past some of the ideas that have rotted our culture from within. Maybe we can restore human sexuality to its innate sanctity. Maybe we can appreciate that human life is a gift, not a burden - even that life is at the one cell stage, even if that life is not one that seems bearable to an outsider. Maybe we can remove the death penalty from the innocents whose greatest crimes are that they are inconvenient, expensive, or suffering.

Or we can continue down the path which places the autonomy of an individual above all other moral values. God gave us free will, after all. He has told us what He thinks we should choose with that will, but he forces no one into His arms.

dear lord, why?


I got out of work this morning after 24 hours of solid work - a baby at noon, another minutes after midnight, and a full day in the office as well. Turned on the radio to hear about the news from London and listened for the hour drive home. All thoughts of sleep disappeared as I thought about how my colleagues in London, all the doctors, nurses, midwives, etc, are probably totally mobilized and working in the kind of organized chaos that inevitably follows any major disaster (natural or un-).
My thoughts went back to last year's Madrid train bombings and how worried I was about fellow blogger Robert Duncan. Robert came through that event OK and later was the driving force behind the revitalization of the Spero Forum.
Then I thought back to the 9/11 attacks, and how nurses and doctors waited for hours for an expected onrush of injured - only to realize that most had died.
Then my thoughts wandered to the other disasters through which I had personally lived - the 6.8 Northridge Earthquake (1/17/1994) being the biggest and closest to home for me.
God has been incredibly merciful, but the sheer volume and scale of human trauma that we have been through in the last few years is exhausting. One can't help but wonder if the four horseman of the apocalypse have indeed been sent forth. Or maybe it is just that we now learn of disasters within hours if not minutes of the first casualty reports.
I am weary, and I know that part of it is just sheer physical exhaustion, but also thinking about how much suffering there really is in the world. I know that I alone am truly helpless to make a big difference, but I can always pray. And I can also try to do as Mother Teresa suggests - small things faithfully.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the faith in the desert category from July 2005.

faith in the desert: June 2005 is the previous archive.

faith in the desert: August 2005 is the next archive.

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