Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Lady G 'n Me

My college students ~I teach as an adjunct in the Theology and Religious Studies Department of the local Jesuit university ~ were dumbfounded last week to learn that I am a Lady Gaga fan.

I mentioned it to them because Lady G had just posted an expression of gratitude to her Catholic priest on twitter and, consequently, I discovered that she had attended the Convent School of the Sacred Heart in New York City.  "So Lady Gaga and I were both convent schoolgirls," I told my class.  "We both spent part of our lives wandering around in Catholic school uniforms and hanging out with nuns."

Lady G first came to my attention about a year ago when a local radio station began playing her song Edge of Glory.  Could the lyrics be about what I thought they were? I wondered.  On the surface, they are about sex, and the video exudes a blatant and raw sexuality, but I thought there was more to it.  Indeed, it seems that she wrote the song as her beloved grandfather was dying, and that "glory" means exactly what I thought it did.

Glory is what comes next.  After the horror, after the sorrow . . .  glory.

If you know that I have lost a child to suicide, a child with whom I walk every day and whose death haunts my dreams, that perhaps you understand why I sometimes open the car's sunroof and crank my music up loud to listen:

It's time to feel the rush to push the dangerous
I'm gonna run right to, to the edge with you
Where we'll both fall far in love
I'm on the edge of glory and I'm hangin' on a moment of truth
Out on the edge of glory and I'm hangin' on a moment with you.

Lady Gaga's tweet about the meaning of the Eucharist created some controversy among those who understand faith to be more about law than about grace.  I'm guessing that they those folks don't much like the Edge of Glory video. 

But grace abounds in the most unusual places. 

Lady Gaga sings it.  I raise the bread and the wine and I think it.  I'm on the edge of glory, and I'm hangin'on a moment of truth. 


PS: Now that I know about her convent school background, I also "get" Lady Gaga's inspired Sound of Music tribute to Julie Andrews at the 2015 Oscars.  Even though I can't carry a tune, I was actually in our school production of The Sound of Music (7th grade; Kurt) and have astonished my family by my encyclopedic knowledge of every line and lyric, but more than that: it was a convent school. I suspect that Lady Gaga's powerful performance honored Sacred Heart sisters as well as Julie Andrews.

Friday, May 13, 2016

School Daze ~ Friday Five

mictori says, "Let’s reflect upon our school days in today’s Friday Five" ~

1. Favorite class during your many years of school?

A graduate course in Ignatian Spirituality, back when I was working on a master's in Humanities, and before I knew that I was going to transfer a lot of those credits to a seminary!  That course was one of those which set me on a path toward an entirely unexpected future.

2. Toughest class you have taken?

Chem 101 ~ I tried three times, and never got beyond the drop/add date.  I didn't understand a word of it, and I was surrounded by young pre-med students who'd already taken AP Chem.

3. Class you would love to retake?

Hmmm . . . . in seminary, I really.did.not.like. my required Christology course, which I took during the winter quarter.  One evening that next spring, I was sitting outside the library when a friend stopped by to tell me he was taking Christology with the new professor just arrived on campus, and that I would love it. Ha!  I said.  Not for me!  I have earned my credits and collected my grade, and I am quite finished with Christology.  He practically dragged me with him that night, and I was entranced.  Finally ~ the sort of scholarship and discussion which I had imagined seminary would be all about.  I audited the course for the remainder of the term, did an independent study and then a seminar with the same professor, and ultimately invited him to preach at my ordination. I would love to re-take that course, now that I have a few years of ministry and weekly preaching under my belt.

4. Favorite seminary or theologically-themed class?

See above.

4. Dream class – if you could design the ultimate undergraduate/graduate course, what would it be?

I am thinking about doing some work on wisdom literature and trauma,  so maybe it would be something like that.  Second choice: I have just finished a second time teaching an undergrad course in law (my first field) and religion.  I was unhappy with the way that I re-designed the course this time around, but I think that now I finally know how to do it.  If I get another opportunity, that one has some real potential.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mother's Day, Ocean Day

If she were still alive, my mother would be 83 for tomorrow's Mothers' Day. 

I try not to harbor illusions about what her presence now would mean for me.  My father and my mother-in-law both face serious surgical procedures in the next month.  A friend and her husband moved his (decade older) parents into skilled nursing care yesterday. Similar versions of the same story are ubiquitous in my circle of 60-something year old friends who have parents still living. I know that my vision of an active, engaged, and healthy mother are mostly fantasy.

Pure fantasy, actually, since my mother died at 28.  I have no memory of her voice, her posture, her gestures.  I have a few recollections of various incidents, most of them concerning the utterly nonmomentous stuff of which daily life is made.

My daughter and I have had a couple of conversations recently about favorite childhood memories.  (Hers seem to center on cats.  So, to tell the truth, do many of mine.)

But in one of my very favorites, my mother and I are in the car, running errands in Vero Beach, Florida, where she and my father have just built the home to which they hope to move us, permanently rather than for just a few months at a time, from Ohio. I am six and it's May, just about this time of year, and I am beside myself with excitement.  I am about to acquire my very own bedroom ~ the boys will share another one ~  and I am consulting with my mother about my decorating plans.  My goal is one of those touristy beach shops, and my prospective treasure includes fishing nets and seashells and buoys and all sorts of ocean-related fabrics and colors. 

That room will never make it past my imagination, just as my mother and youngest brother will not make it past that year.

I will be fine without the room.  But what I will miss, which I do not realize until thirty years later, when I have a daughter of my own, will be the conversations.  The ones about me: school, friends, boys, sports, music, college, legal career, husband, house, children, loss, cancer, ministry.  The ones about her ~ and I don't even know what they would have been.  That move to the beach? More children?  Work?  A return to college?  Her friends?  Her extended family (all gone now)?   Travel?  Health?

I like to think that she and my dad would have driven up here yesterday to spend an extended week-end with us and the kids, because Mother's Day would be a happy kind of holiday.  (Something else I have missed: a mother who would have treasured my children as I do, and shown up frequently just to hang out with them.)  I imagine that she would be standing in the sunroom window, looking out at the back yard, and saying, "Robbie, I wish that you would learn to garden.  It would be so relaxing for you, and your yard would not look like an abandoned lot wishing for a lawnmower.  Would you like me to stay a few days and put some flowers in for you while you're at work next week?"

And I would say, "Momma, yes, that would be great, but could you make some kind of thing with the driftwood and shells out there, so it could look like we live on the ocean?"

Unless, of course, things had worked out as planned, in which case we really would live on the ocean.

Lose a mother, and you lose a whole entire way of life.  Ocean, and almost everything else.