Seven Quick Takes No. 6

The "quick takes" fest continues over at Conversion Diary.

1. Yesterday my son and I "discovered" San Miguel Mission, the oldest church in continuous use in the United States. Well, at least it is the oldest in the territories now included in the United States, but of course it was founded long before the "United States" ever existed. Today it is a mission church without a parish, but it has stood on this site since 1610, despite having to be rebuilt and repaired more than once over the centuries. As if its sheer antiquity were not enough, it is even said (at least, according to the guidebook at the church) to be haunted by a wide variety of spirits. Visitors over the years report seeing a woman in white kneeling in tears at foot of the altar, a tall priest dressed in a black cassock, six Indians walking together across the front of the chapel, and several children running up and down the aisle, laughing and singing "with delight as only children can, spirit or not," not to mention "orbs of light dancing through the interior [of the church]."

2. "That which is oldest is most young and most new. There is nothing so ancient and so dead as human novelty. The 'latest' is always stillborn. It never even manages to arrive. What is really new is what was there all the time. I say, not what has repeated itself all the time; the really 'new' is that which, at every moment, springs freshly into new existence. This newness never repeats itself. Yet it is so old it goes back to the earliest beginning. It is the very beginning itself, which speaks to us." --Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (Boston & London: Shambala Library, 2003), p. 109; book purchased yesterday from the shop maintained in Santa Fe by the Benedictine monks of Christ in the Desert.

3. More centering prayer. It's been rough this week; I've had a harder time letting go of all of my obsessions, curiously since most of my family (husband, sister, mother, mother's boyfriend) left Saturday or Sunday and it's been only my son and I here in Santa Fe. My uncle (my father's sister's husband) has taken us on a number of outings (including up to Los Alamos to have lunch with my cousin), but otherwise we've been on our own, free to hang out, explore, do whatever we want. And yet, my mind is still racing, refusing to settle down. I'm worried, I know, about how things are going to go once we get back to "real life" in Chicago. And I'm still upset about that incident last week at the yoga studio, being taken for my sister's mother. I feel so old, so stiff, so fat. And then my uncle asks me if I have ever considered writing a novel. As if all of the work I have done as an academic doesn't really count. Because, of course, it doesn't make me any money. I spend far too much time wishing that my life were otherwise, when in fact it is wholly wonderful.

4. Speaking of distractions, I have definitely spent far too much time the last couple of weeks playing with my new Blackberry. Or "Crackberry," as my sister calls it. Oh, the delight of feeling always connected, the dopamine hit of hearing the notifier tone when I get a new email message! And then, of course, there's the apps: an alarm? a memory booster? a little weather icon? Sure, you can have all of these! Except the memory booster doesn't really work (I took it off) and the weather icon doesn't include Santa Fe. But isn't it fun adjusting all the settings? Like home decorating, really: a ringtone here, an address-book entry there. Soon I'll know exactly where everything is and truly have the world at my fingertips. Except that I still need to get a new media card since the one that I have is really too small to store very many photographs or sound files. Toy or tool? Addiction or organizer? All I can say: it sure is fun being able to search Google Maps "on the road."

5. How is it that things always seem further away when you haven't been there before than they do once you have? Like heaven, I suppose. Yesterday, as we walked back from San Miguel Mission to the center of town (actually, only a few blocks away), my son marveled at how quickly we got back to the places that he was familiar with when, to his mind (and, truth to tell, to mine as well even though I had a fairly good idea of where we were), it seemed like we had wandered so far. I've had this experience on the "Crackberry," too: wandering through the setting trees trying to find how to change the notification sounds or looking for how to set the calendar options. The trick, of course, once you've found your way there the first time, is finding your way back.

6. Should I even dignify the book that I spent the last week reading with a "quick take"? Shame, shame, I finally got around to laboring through Dan Brown's (ahem) bestseller, you know the one. What can I say? It was there on the shelf and it was easier to absorb (or not) than the Catechism of the Catholic Church which I had intended to read. At least now I know what all the fuss has been about (yes, I've had colleagues no less ask me whether "it was true." Sigh.) I'm not sure which is more distressing: the fact that it is otherwise such an ordinary "thriller" (lame clues, simple "chase" plot, cardboard characters, predictable "insider" betrayal) or that so many readers are in fact so poorly educated in Christian history (not to mention the Gospels!) as to believe for even a second that the doctrine of the divinity of Christ was a political machination of Constantine (have they ever read John?!) or that the Church had somehow dishonored St. (get it? Saint!) Mary Magdalene (Vezelay, people! We know where her relics are and it's not under the pyramid in the Louvre. Good grief.)

7. Perhaps most distressing of all, however, is the persistent (and quintessentially modern) obsession with God's sex. No, not whether He had it (who really cares, unless He was actually God? And if he, that is Jesus, wasn't God, well, big deal, maybe he had kids*); but whether He should be She, as if God, the ground of all being, could be reduced to such physical particularities as having male or female genitals. Okay, okay, so the Masculine and the Feminine go beyond having genitals, but since when did it become so important to divide God's divinity according to (purportedly) masculine and feminine traits? Do we really believe that only goddesses can be merciful or compassionate? Clearly, I'm missing something.

*No, I don't think Jesus and Mary Magdalene had children or that Jesus ever had sex. It's just that if all Brown's readers who are so delighted at the thought that He might have (had sex, that is) stopped to think a bit, why should they care whether Jesus had children with anybody unless He were God? If he weren't, then Mary Magdalene was hardly (as Brown would have it) the "sacred chalice" for His "holy blood." Rather, she was just another woman impregnated by just another man. Duh.


  1. Re: Dairy Queen. Inquiring readers want to know whether FBear prefers chocolate or vanilla soft swirl, dipped or undipped.

  2. I love your thoughts in #7 about why people are so concerned with the sex of God. " if God, the ground of all being, could be reduced to such physical particularities..." Well said.

  3. I read "The Davinci Code" when it came out because of all the hubub, and haven't read the rest, not because I was offended or shocked, but simply because he's not (in my opinion) much of a writer. You summarized his writing style pretty well. I remember thinking when I was reading DC, "This might make a good movie, but it's not much of a book." And I did enjoy the movie, and I'll probably see "Angels and Demons," but honestly, the fact that people see these movies as "factual" just makes me roll my eyes. Where has critical thought gone in this world?


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