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Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Herald-Whig exchange


A few weeks ago “Don Blickhan” published the following letter in our Quincy paper. I am quite sure he is “Father Donald Blickhan,” recently retired as chaplain at the Illinois Veterans Home. He was chaplain at Fort Benning, Georgia back in the 1990s when I was going to the School of the Americas protest there, and he published a letter attacking the SOA protest movement.

He is also a former student of mine. I taught him in high school. Within the last two years he has twice asked me to take his place for Sunday Masses at the Veterans Home.

printed August 8, 2019

To the Herald-Whig:

Socialism is based on the illusion of a utopia, an imaginary state of things or place where everything is perfect. There is not, nor has there ever been a perfect place.

But socialists nevertheless passionately pursue that goal. But in so doing they cause great harm to the social order.

Socialism is fundamentally immoral because it depends on theft to achieve its ends. Socialists propose taking money from one group and giving it to others. It holds that the end justifies the means.

But theft always involves a disrespect for the person who is thereby violated and is therefore profoundly divisive of society. It sets people against one another.

A good number of our current political candidates are socialists. They believe that their programs will make America a better place. And that sounds so nice. They propose a “free” college education, socialized medicine, open borders, and many other idealistic schemes that sadly will only bankrupt our country.

It is a popular sentiment in the country today because it is so seductive. It is seen as an easy way to solve our country’s challenges. The only problem is that a utopia is a goal that can never be attained. And the more it fails, the more a society disintegrates as those in power multiply their efforts to attain the impossible. It becomes a fanatical pursuit.

Every nation that has gone down that route has been destroyed. Have you noticed what has happened to Venezuela and Cuba?

Don Blickhan
Quincy


printed August 22, 2019

To the Herald-Whig:

Don Blickhan’s letter (August 8, 2019) contains a number of statements that I challenge.

He says that socialism is immoral because it takes money from one group and gives it to others, which he says is theft. All taxation is theft. It is theft when we tax ourselves to pay police, firefighters, school teachers, and Medicare recipients, and to build highways and airports.

We should do as much as possible without government intervention, but when we cannot get something done by private efforts, we should use government authority to do it. Governments exist to support life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

There are almost no societies in the world today that are either totally capitalist or totally socialist. All countries have a mixture of private enterprise and government intervention. How much government intervention is necessary needs to be determined by reasoned political discussion. 

Blickhan presents as absurd several ideas proposed by some current political candidates: "'free' college education, socialized medicine, and open borders."

We have free elementary and secondary education. It is not absurd to debate whether we should have free college education.

“Socialized medicine” was the term used to oppose Medicare when it was being proposed in the 1960's. While Medicare is no more perfect than any other human enterprise, not many of us over 65 want it to go away.

We should not be looking at “open borders” as a horror to be feared. Jews and Christians welcome strangers and aliens. Immigrants seeking asylum are people who have fallen among robbers, and we do not pass them by.

Furthermore, our country has thrived because we have welcomed immigrants. Our openness has  provided us with some of the most creative and productive people in our economy. Our gain is other countries’ loss. Immigration is helping to mitigate the problem caused by our low birth rate: fewer and fewer young workers supporting more and more aging retirees.

Blickhan does not mention the most important issue we face: climate change. Science is warning us that really drastic changes in our lifestyles will be required if the earth is to be livable fifty years from now. Drastic changes will require government action. 

Joe Zimmerman





Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Forgiveness of sins



Give thanks to the Father
who made us fit for the holy community of light,
and rescued us from darkness,
bringing us into the realm of his beloved Son,
who redeemed us, forgiving our sins . . .
(Colossians 1:14, ICEL translation)

"who redeemed us, forgiving our sins."

I have always wondered why forgiveness of sins is so important in the Gospels and other New Testament texts. The people I know and live with don't seem that sinful. I don't feel sinful. Sometimes I think my sin is that I don't feel sinful. Either that or the people in New Testament times must have been a lot more sinful than we are today.

But then, praying that the other day, it struck me. No. Those people weren't any different from us. They weren't any more sinful than we are. Maybe the sense of "sin" in these texts is a vague sense we all have that, deep down, we must be guilty of something.

We all hurt sometimes, and it is a human tendency to think that when we hurt, we must have done something wrong. That is why people have so often offered sacrifices in atonement for sin. The book of Leviticus scheduled such sacrifices routinely. They would never run out of things to be forgiven.

And then comes Jesus, saying so often, "your sins are forgiven." What he was really saying was that we should quit seeing God as the Grand Inspector, peering into the depths of each of our days, spotting the places where we should have loved more.

Yes, Jesus was saying. You should have loved more. So? God knows that. God knows how you were made, and God accepts you as you are. That's forgiveness. Your sins are forgiven. God loves you anyway.

This all seems like trivializing the Gospel. It's pop psychology, "positive thinking." But it's more than that. I'm not just okay, and you're not just okay, but you and I are loved, and not just by each other. We are bathed in love greater than any of us.

We are in the realm of God's beloved Son, who redeems us, forgiving our sins. 




Monday, August 5, 2019

A definition of love



I am a priest. To become a priest I had to study philosophy. The philosophy I studied is called "neo-scholastic." That means it is based on medieval thinkers like Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus.

Neo-scholastic philosophy is big on definitions. You start every discussion with a definition of your terms.

Love

What is love? Everybody talks about and writes songs about it, but what IS it?

Jesus said that all the commandments can be boiled down to two: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. But what does that mean? How do you know when you are loving God or your neighbor? What IS love?

I searched for a definition for years. Here is one that half-satisfied me:

          Love is wanting to be with someone and for someone.

That is a definition based on prepositions, not completely adequate, but it served me as the best I could do.

Then I received what I consider a really adequate definition. Maybe it isn't the definitive one, but hey, nobody down through the centuries, including Thomas Aquinas and anybody else I can think of has done better.

I can say that, because I would think that if anyone has done better, we would have heard of it.

          Love is respectful, vulnerable, faithful, passionate involvement of one person with another.

I got this definition from a real philosopher, another Franciscan with whom I lived for years, John Joe Lakers. He had studied in England under people like Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose specialty was language. But "JJ" also spent thousands of hours talking with people, very often married people or people wanting to get married, or people wanting to stay married but not knowing how. He struggled for years to write a book, and finally did write one. The book was so difficult to read that he used his book-signing talk telling people why they didn't have to read it.

I read it, because I was his friend and I proof-read it for him before it got published. Even after doing that, it took me a while to discover that he was using the definition of love all through the book without actually saying it was a definition. Once I saw that it was, I was off and running.

I think that for the last 25 years, I have not preached a sermon or homily when I didn't mention the definition.

Let's break it down.

Involvement

Love is, first of all, involvement of two persons. What is involvement?

Involvement is interacting, being present to another, talking, listening, doing something together.

Involvement can take all kinds of forms. It can be "making love," or fighting, or staring at someone. It can be playing any one of the thousand games that we play with each other, using any one of the thousand masks that we wear.

Involvement can be with God too. What else is prayer besides involvement with God?

Some surveys I have read say that there are more people who pray than there are who believe in God. Pretty strong evidence of how important involvement is in our lives.

Respect

Respect is extraordinarily important in human involvement.

How many relationships are ruined by one disrespectful word? Marriage Encounter had a rule: Don't call names.

Names hurt. Names kill. "You are a slut." "You are a loser." That's all it takes, one little word. In some neighborhoods, to "diss" someone can cost you your life.

What is respect? Just courtesy, just a few rules of behavior in public. Eye contact, smile, speak, listen.

Here is one way that racism operates: A person of another color comes into the room. I am nervous, because I am afraid that I might say the wrong thing to that person. So I look away. I try not to meet the person. 

That's disrespect.

Why am I not courteous? Why can't I make genuine eye contact and smile? Our racist heritage (based on the rules required to make slavery operate) says that you never treat the slave as an equal. You must be actively discourteous. In polite society, it is courteous to your peers to be discourteous to your slaves.

When I don't respect, I don't love. And I want to love my neighbor as myself.


Vulnerability

How many stories are there about strong men who become lovable when they are forced to be vulnerable?

We often wear masks because we don't want to be hurt. I don't want you to see how afraid I am that I am not masculine enough. I don't want the teacher to know that I am dumb, so I become the class disruptor.

If God loves me, that means that God must be vulnerable. This sets off alarms. God is not supposed to be vulnerable. God is all-powerful. God cannot change. If God would be vulnerable, God wouldn't be God.

Sorry, but God loves.

Our problem is philosophy. (Who was it that talked about the "god of the philosophers"?). Aristotle thought that anything that changes has to be imperfect because presumably it changes so it can become more perfect. The goal is to arrive at the perfect state, the perfect body, the perfect building. Greek architecture created masterpieces of unchanging beauty--think of the Parthenon.

But life is change, and God created life. Isn't God more perfect when God is vulnerable?

The clincher: Jesus was vulnerable. Jesus is God. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus, don't read Aristotle.


Faithfulness

Faithfulness is being in it for the long haul.

The problem with the "one-night-stand" is that it lacks faithfulness.

Of course, we cannot be faithful with the check-out person in the grocery store in the same way we are faithful with close friends. But we can treat the check-out person with respect and vulnerability, and we can refrain from doing anything that will shut down the possibility of knowing that person better. That's being faithful--not doing things that shut off future involvement.

Here is where much of morality enters in. We do things and we refrain from doing things because we can see what will happen when we do or not do them. The script in our brain sees ahead: if I do this, it will be a lot harder for me to be involved with this person down the road.

The Ten Commandments are descriptions of behaviors that shut off future involvements with people. They are rules for faithfulness. That's true of all law.

That's why Jesus could say that if you love God and your neighbor, you have got all the rest of the Law covered. It is a minimal cover--when you add in respect and vulnerability and passion, you have the whole package and life not only goes well, it goes forever.


Passion

JJ proposed passion as the first characteristic of loving involvement. Earlier in his life he had put it second in his list of adjectives, but he moved it to first place because he saw it as so important. But I put it last because passion is not under our control. We don't create passion on demand. The very word says it: passion is passive. It is not under our control. Active voice and passive voice. Active voice: I am writing this. Passive voice: This piece is being written by me.

I'm a pretty rational guy, and I am suspicious of passion. I have often thought I don't have any passion. Marriage Encounter said that it is typical of men to think they don't have passion. But I do have it, because I notice that there are things that get me fired up.

So while passion is essential to love, the fact that you don't control it means that if you are interested in being loving--and who isn't?--you can't start with trying to be passionate. That is something that just has to come along. It is a gift. If you treat someone with respect, vulnerability, and faithfulness, passion may be given you. If it does, rejoice.




Saturday, June 8, 2019

Christianizing barbarians


One of my professors in graduate school once said: “Every generation of infants is a horde of barbarians needing to be civilized.”

I thought of that remark when I was looking at the small size of the congregations at all the Sunday Masses in a church where I recently presided, and especially at the lack of young people in those congregations. I thought of the comment of one of our parish priests who said that he estimated that half of the children in his parochial school do not go to church on Sunday.

It could probably be said that the history of Christianity has been the story of generations of spiritual barbarians needing to be Christianized. During some historical periods, missionaries thought that all you had to do was baptize people and they were Christianized. We now know that their solution was too easy.

But I am afraid that we are guilty of another solution that is too easy. We pride ourselves as Catholics that we are the largest denominational group by far in the U.S. These days we are wringing our hands at the number of people who respond to the question “What is your religion (or religious denomination)?” by answering “None.” They are the “Nones.” Catholic “Nones” are the second largest U.S. denomination.

This is not a sign of spiritual failure on our part. Let me explain.

The forefathers and foremothers of most of us came from Europe and found themselves in a hostile U.S. Protestant environment. The gatherings that they created in this country were by necessity heavily based on kinship. Migration tends to be based on kinship ties. Most people come to a new land because they have relatives already there who provide a soft landing for them when they arrive.

I speculate that back in Europe these immigrants were not particularly Christianized, because in  most times and places the number of really Christianized Christians is a small minority of people who call themselves Christian.

A Christianized Christian is a person who has a real relationship with God, or, to use a more generic term, a Higher Power.

Revivals (Catholics called them “parish missions”) aimed to help people have a real relationship with God. “Conversion” was the term they used. People who attend revivals or parish missions are not unchurched, they are pre-churched or de-churched. (Priests who heard confessions at parish missions had stories of people who had been away from the Faith for 40 or 50 years.) The preacher’s goal was to church them.

When pre-churched European immigrants came to the United States, their parish church became a focus of group unity. Catholic rituals gave structure to their new world, by means of its liturgical seasons and its sacramental rituals. Immigrant groups built impressive churches, often within blocks of other immigrant churches. Some of these churches were so large that their builders surely expected parish Masses to have hundreds of worshippers far into the future, maybe forever, though more realistically, the large church was too often a tribute to the ego of the pastor.

I grew up in the climactic years of immigrant Catholicism. I knew who the Catholic movie stars were, and the Catholic athletes, and saw Notre Dame as evidence that the Church was on a roll. Movies like Bing Crosby’s “Going My Way” presented an idealized  priesthood. The end of World War II with its millions of returning veterans and the resultant baby boom gave rise to an explosion of priestly and religious vocations.

But, even as a child I recall parishioners saying that when parish young people went to college, they never returned. The election of John Kennedy, a Catholic, as President was just one more indication that the walls that had nurtured immigrant culture were down. The Second Vatican Council, the Vietnam War, revolutionary openness about sexual issues, and the availability of contraception uncovered the differences between Christianized Catholics and pre-Christianized Catholics.

For several years in the late 1970s and early 1980s I was a “team priest” in Worldwide Marriage Encounter. During those years the movement was very successful--we would have weekends with 20 or 30 couples every few months. Looking back, I think its success was due to the fact that it welcomed some of the new societal developments like the sexual revolution, and in the name of the Second Vatican Council, provided a spirituality that many couples had never experienced--a truly Christianized spirituality. Those couples had grown up in a pre-Christian Baltimore Catechism Church and Marriage Encounter helped many of them experience a true religious conversion.

Today, here in Quincy, Cursillo continues to have that effect. There have been over 230 Cursillo weekends at the Retreat Center here on campus since the movement began in the 1970s. Each weekend involves new candidates, sometimes as many as 30 or 40, and a team that spends months preparing for their weekend. Like the old parish missions, it is Christianizing pre-Christians.

Pre-Christianity rides on the coattails of kinship. Where kinship ties remain strong, the church remains significant in people’s life spaces. When kinship ties break, church affiliation breaks too. The reason for the attrition from church membership is that kinship has been less important in people’s lives. There are several reasons for this. One is the increasing prevalence of divorce. As families dissolve and become reconstituted, the wider networks of kinship ties become fragmented. Another is increasing geographic mobility. Perhaps the most important factor is the smaller size of families. The fewer relatives you have, the fewer relationships you have that tie you to your kin group.

We should quit grieving over the membership attrition we see in our churches. It has always been thus, The only reason it was not thus is because of the artificial support of kinship and geographic stability, neither of which are essential features of Christianity.

This is another way of saying that the Church requires constant re-evangelization. A personal religious conversion requires person-to-person contact. Whenever a Christian community is not fed by individual conversions resulting from individual contacts and conversations, whatever numbers appear on membership lists or even in church on Sunday are poor indicators of Christian life.

It has always been thus. The harvest is great but the laborers are few.






Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Opioids and steroids


Karl Marx once said that religion is the opium of the people—it puts them to sleep so they don't do anything to lessen their pain.

A colleague of mine at QU, Mobray Allen, said once that, no, religion isn't a depressant, it’s a stimulant. It puts people on steroids. They get hyped up and do wild and crazy things.

The Roman Catholic Church, my home all my life, says that its hierarchy needs to control people so they don't do wild and crazy things. That's a noble thought, but reality says that too many of its hierarchy want to control people because controlling people is fun. And control can have economic advantages.

But we need not focus on the extremes. Religion, in less lethal doses, can alleviate pain and can add zest to life. Religion is like music.

Music can alleviate pain and it can add zest to life. This is so true that music is found in all kinds of cultures and is performed in all kinds of ways.

Music and religion are not the only things in life with such properties. Visual art, poetry, cooking, can produce such good things. Even science can have that effect.

Recently I came across the idea that beauty may be the best argument for the existence of God. That means that music, art, and poetry can all be ways to experience God. Religion doesn't have a monopoly on God.

There is much grieving among religious professionals these days that people are deserting religious affiliations in droves. This is especially true of our young people—at least young people in "western" cultures. Are these young people lost?

Look at it this way. We church people have seen ourselves as responsible for saving the world. I think we have misinterpreted our calling. Jesus called us to "make disciples of all nations." He didn't tell us to enroll everyone in the Roman Catholic Church. He told us to help everyone become learners in what God is like—the word "disciple" means "learner."

There are many ways to learn what God is like. Surely someone whose life becomes centered on music is learning what God is like. So is someone who mindfully speaks words from the Q'uran each day.

Of course, not everyone who speaks religious words is learning God. Religion has its pathologies just as music does. But the real danger for so many of our fellow humans these days is that they are not learning about God at all. Older generations might say they are worshipping idols. Someone whose life is focused on profit—on numbers displayed on spreadsheets—is traveling down the wrong track. So are all the people who seek enlightenment alone, all by themselves.

Which brings me to a crucial point. All of these ways of learning God—religion, music, art, poetry—create relationships with other human beings. We do all these things with and for other people, at least most of the time.

To be "with someone and for someone" is a fairly decent definition of love. In other words, those things which help us be with others and for others are manifestations of love.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. These two rules sum up the Law and the Prophets.

Ivan Illich once said that the Catholic Church lets mushrooms grow. I think of a lattice of broken machinery within which soil settles and life emerges. The Church takes itself too seriously. Its leaders need to get out of the way and let God work. Let life and beauty happen. That's what salvation is.

Ever so often I am privileged to preside at weekend Masses in parish churches. The churches are well attended. I know that some people are there for what I consider the wrong reasons. Maybe they're running for office and want to be seen as pious. The number of young people there is not statistically promising. But these people are there. And I am with them. They carry me along a little closer to God. I am blessed. We are blessed. Mushrooms are growing.

Who am I to say that a similar thing isn’t happening in the Lutheran church down the street or in the mosque across town? Who appointed me God's gatekeeper?

The people we need to care for, who we fear are missing out on salvation, are the ones who are not captivated by beauty in their lives. The ones who are traveling alone down some path. They are the ones who need to become disciples—learners of God.

Scientists warn us that there are increasingly grim times ahead. We will need each other. We will need God. Religions have always helped people get through bad times. That can delude us into thinking that religion is only good in bad times. No. Religion, and its siblings, music and a whole host of other beauty-creating behaviors—can bring life to the good times too.

They can all help us learn God.





Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Prison bars


Two men looked out from their prison bars.
The one saw mud, and the other stars.

That little ditty came from a pious book that someone gave me as a child, The Young Man's Guide. I would not recommend the book to anyone today. It was the kind of book that could spend pages talking about purity without ever mentioning sex. But the ditty has stuck with me.

One reason it has stuck with me is that my teen years were years of stories about priests being imprisoned in China, forbidden to "say Mass." Outsiders would sneak them tiny bits of bread and wine so they could say Mass on their chests, lying in bed. Presumably they had prison bars, and were probably limited in their view to mud and stars.

So I think of prison bars when I look out my window this morning. The windows in my house are too high for me to see directly out. All I can see are the tops of trees. But when you are limited in such a way, you start to notice details. I watch the different ways that the maple tree develops buds or leaves (I can't tell which) from the walnut tree which has not yet started developing anything. The walnut tree was trimmed back so drastically a year ago that I assumed it would be cut down. Instead it sprouted small branches and by the end of last summer you could hardly tell that it had been trimmed. Right now all I can see are those thin bare branches reaching to the sky.

We live in an ecological desert, even though it is reasonably landscaped according to prevailing standards. The diversity of insects and birds that we had in our back yard when I was a child are long gone. It has been years since I have seen or heard a catbird. We have robins, cardinals, sparrows, house finches, crows, and starlings. Some other species pass through on their way north. But those few species that I can see from my prison bars are gift enough. I never missed the passenger pigeon because it was extinct before I was born. People fifty years from now will never miss the species that are going extinct day by day.

Sparrows and starlings are invaders from elsewhere who now dominate the scene. I used to resent them, but they are, after all, the lower class of the bird world. As a Franciscan, I now identify with them.

How long will I be able to look out of these prison bars? My health could put me in a nursing home tomorrow. My Franciscan Order is aging, and in a few years, if I am still here, there may be so few of us that we will have to move somewhere else. There is a certain freedom in knowing that almost any window could be a new set of prison bars. Whatever I could see from those bars would be as much a gift as what I can see from the ones right here.

I have not traveled much. I lived six years in Boston and visited most of the famous sites there. Faneuil Hall (the site of the "Boston massacre") was just a few blocks from where I lived. I have learned that I can visit a place like Niagara Falls, and a month later the memory is not much different from the post cards I could have bought. It takes time to get to know a place, and the people in the place. So what is the value of standing for a few minutes in front of a famous Roman fountain, snapping a picture or two, and moving on?

My three days in Assisi were special, because of what they have meant to me as a Franciscan. But I always thought: As a Franciscan I have pledged to live poorly. No poor person I know can pack up and fly off to Italy. The poor have to find beauty where they are. So that's what I will do.

Everything I can see from my prison bars is a gift. Every day I can enjoy seeing those things is a gift. I have only so many days left to enjoy such gifts. Today is good.







Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Ivyrosary


I admit that the name of this blog, “ivyrosary,” is strange. Here is how it came about.

I used to have a website, but the service that supported it, AT&T, quit its support sometime in the early 2000s. I tried to find a free website platform, but none of them fit what I wanted. The process was so complicated that I gave up on the website idea. 

I discovered an alternate way to publish things, the blog. There is a free service called “blogspot.” I decided to use that and needed a name for my blog.

Back in my days of studying theology in Teutopolis, Illinois, my classmates nicknamed me “Ivy.” I think they were kidding me about my tendency to be in an ivory tower. They must have been onto something, because shortly thereafter my superiors sent me to an Ivy league school, where I took courses from the all-time ivory-tower sociologist, Talcott Parsons.

You can tell from this blog that I do a lot of ivory-tower thinking.

The rosary has fascinated me for several reasons.

First of all, it was part of my family’s life. My mother, father, brother and I started praying it kneeling by our parents’ bed. My dad was allowed to slouch over on the bed, and I, with the privileges of the eldest son, got to join him. My younger brother had to join my mother kneeling upright at the end of the bed, where there was a footboard that kept them from slouching. After a while we all yielded to nature and moved to easy chairs in the living room.

The rosary involves beads. Beads are physical, and are used in more than one world religion. By the time I set up the blog I had several sets of rosary beads. One was my mother’s. It has two small medals attached, which I am sure my dad attached for her. One medal was from the shrine of Sainte Anne de Beaupre in Montreal, which we visited when I was in college. The other is a “miraculous medal,” a very popular medal featuring an image of Mary. She kept the rosary in a metal case, on whose inside cover I can barely read the numbers “1928,” the year my parents were married. Was the rosary a wedding gift?

Another rosary I got from my dad’s older sister, my Aunt Mary, shortly before she died. It has large beads, much larger than any that are seen on rosaries sold today. Its crucifix opens from the back to reveal a set of relics. I had it for years before I noticed how worn the crucifix was. It had obviously been handled enough to wear smooth the metal figure on the cross. Then I remembered a story that my dad told about this Aunt Mary. When their mother died, my dad was twelve years old. His mother had given him a little drum, but in the aftermath of the funeral and relocation of the family, Aunt Mary threw away the drum, which my dad never forgot.

It struck me that Aunt Mary may have been entrusted with the family’s possessions after their mother died, and that this rosary might have been her mother’s, and possibly even older than that. Somehow its crucifix had seen a great deal of use, enough to wear smooth a metal figure.

That’s what physical beads can mean.

Then there are the mysteries of the rosary: three sets of five, the Joyful Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Glorious Mysteries. The five Joyful Mysteries are all focused on the infancy and childhood of Jesus. The Sorrowful ones are focused on his passion and death, and the Glorious ones on his resurrection and its aftermath.

That seemed to me to overlook all the events of the public life of Jesus, so I invented a set of five “public mysteries” and used them. This happened before Pope John Paul II had the same idea and composed a set of what he called the “Luminous Mysteries.”

Then there are the repetitious Our Fathers and Hail Marys that make up the oral part of the prayer. People have commented on the value of repetitious oral speech as an aid to meditation and prayer. But that has never appealed to me, and in fact kept me from using the rosary until about 20 years ago. After I began reflecting on the ideas I presented above, I started linking the mysteries to psalms in the daily “Liturgy of the Hours,” the prayers that priests and religious have prayed for centuries, 90% of which prayers are psalms. When I do this, my mind often wanders, just as it did when I prayed Our Fathers and Hail Marys, but as I keep returning to the stories recalled by the mysteries, I relive the scenes from the life of Jesus that the mysteries recall. I use the beads to count of verses of each psalm.

That is how “ivy” and “rosary” became my blog title.