Sunday, October 4, 2009

550. Holy Day/Holy Space

Reader Beware - this is a rambling religious entry.

Some people have favorite days of the year, days such as their birthdays or anniversaries; others have favorite holy days, such as Christmas or Hallowe'en, which has its roots as a the vigil of a holy day in Christianity, which borrowed the day from earlier worship forms. Then their are those non-official holy days, such as Thanksgiving or, more recently, Patriot Day, which is September 11th.

For me, one such non-official holy day is October 4th; it is in fact one of my favorite days of the year. I had said yesterday that October was my favorite month. If I have a favorite day of that month it is certainly Hallowe'en. But if I have a second favorite day it would be today - for reasons religious. Today marks the "Feast Day" for Saint Francis of Assisi, one of the church's true characters from the 12th and 13th centuries. September 17 is also a feast day for Francis, marking the impression on him of the stigmata.

Oddly, September 17 also serves as a feast day for Saint Robert Bellarmine (Roberto Bellarmini), who died on October 4th. Robert Bellarmine was a doctor of the church who lived in the 16th and 17th centuries. Bellarmine is the man who first brought Galileo before the church councils to warn him about his theory on a heliocentric universe. Louisville's Bellarmine University, which I attended off and on in the early 1980s when it was still called Bellarmine College, is a namesake of Saint Robert Bellarmine.

One of my teachers at Bellarmine was Monsignor Raymond J. Treece, a sometimes crotchedy old bastard given to long lectures on the sins of the modern era, usually making barbs at the business of modern business. I remember attending Mass one October 4th at Saint Francis of Assisi Church, three blocks from Bellarmine. Monsignor Treece gave a Hell, Fire, and Damnation sermon with LG&E playing the role of Lucifer. I always liked the old man, to be honest. He was a Civil War buff and I believed had served in the United States Navy. On that count, he reminded of my grandfather, also a Navy man. Both were born in 1912. My grandfather died in 1983; Treece in 1985. He was a remnant of the old social justice mentality of the Roman Catholic Church, a mentality which, like the monsignor, is no more. The absence of that social justice curriculum is one of the major reasons I have been departing Holy Mother the Church in favor of the American offspring of the Church of England, the Episcopal Church. I think Treece would have been comfortable in the present-day Episcopal Church. I'm pretty sure Francis of Assisi would as well. My take on Robert Bellarmine is not as liberal. Such a jump for him would be a giant leap of faith, indeed.

Today being Sunday, I attended mass as the Episcopal Church of the Advent, where the gospel reading was taken from Saint Mark, one of Jesus' lectures on marriage. It included the familiar words most of us hear at weddings. Dr. Dru Kemp, a counselor of some sort dealing with relationships, gave an excellent homily, covering a broad amount of territory in her discouse of Jesus' treatment of the matter. She carefully and tactfully explained her way around the prohibtion on divorce with its subsequent pronouncements of adultery, as well as how in the 21st century, there are many types of relationships and families, not just the familiar ones we read about in the Bible.

After church, I took in a different form of worship, one which addressed the blue sky father, the green earth mother, and various colors of a prayer bracelet representing the four directions, a total of six ideas or dimensions. Tying them altogether was the 7th dimension, the heart. My attendance was at a retreat held on the Oldham County land of Eleanor Bingham Miller, known as Harrods Creek Farm, named for the creek which forms its southern border. It is a vast acreage, as large a single piece of property as I've ever been on in my life. It is located near the "C" on the aside map, actually across Harrods Creek and on the west side of KY 1694. The farm backs up to the Hermitage Farm, all in the Goshen or Shiloh area of southwestern Oldham County.

The retreat involved trust building efforts, a workshop of sorts amongst a group of us working together with a particular goal in mind. It was far more pleasurable than I anticipated. I tried a few things I've not done before, and while I wasn't entirely successful at one of them, I wasn't entirely unsuccessful either. In addition to learning to rely on my peers in our efforts, What I was, mostly, was overwhelmed by the vastness of the property. There was a period where we were directed to spend fifteen minutes walking aimlessly among the paths listening to our souls, perhaps making an appeal to the sky above and the earth below for guidance in our future plans. At the comment part of the retreat, I expressed my awe at the property itself.

As someone who lives on a postage stamped sized inner-city lot (about 27'x130'), I was overcome by the open fields, the woodstands, the forest, the land set aside as habitat for wild animals, and just the land in general. One of our participants, a young man from Washington DC who just arrived in the city talked about how two weeks ago he never expected to be in the middle of the woods in rural Kentucky, yet here he was. I had the same feeling. And there was something deeply religious about spending time on the land that I have so often written about here on the blog.

Our land and its history are as important religious symbols and icons as any words from a Bible, injunctions of Jesus, or sermons on a mount. They are collectively our world, to be cherished and worshiped. As the retreat fell on this well-favored day of mine, I have had a remarkable time of it. It has been a day, and an experience, I will not soon forget.

Thanks Be To God.

1 comment:

Bryce Hudson said...

Happy favorite day Jeff!

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Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Single, male, bald, overweight, early 50s, seeking . . . Oh wait, that's goes on the other website. How about this - never married, liberal Democrat, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.