Reading places

I’m a reader of plaques and historical signage.

I love to stop at those pullouts along the highway with boards full of words about what happened at this very spot. Maybe it was a battle or a disaster or a significant way-point for some journey of exploration. Maybe it’s the ancestral home of a people group.

I love to discover words while walking  – words on a plaque that tell me who used to live or work in this building, what happened on this street corner, even the name of a “loved one” to whom a park bench is dedicated.

These various words remind me how deep places are, how much longer-lasting than I am, how in flux they are and yet the same. They remind me of the receptivity of places, allowing me to be here, giving me a kind of love. These found words tug me into the place itself, link me to the deeper meanings it contains. And always by insisting that many belong, and I belong: I’m here, reading. Continue reading

A gesture and a death

A gesture and a death jostle for my attention at Borrowing Bones this morningso I think I’ll let both of them be and if they illuminate one another in any way, well, so much the better.

Like so many other ‘watchers from afar’ I followed news of the papal conclave and the election of Pope Francis with keen interest, then satisfaction. It’s too early to know how, or if, he’ll manage the challenges facing the church, but media reports are full of pleasure at the signs of difference and new direction: the name, the simpler quarters, the calmer clothing (black shoes, not red), the washing (in the ritual footwashing ceremony just past) of two women’s feet as well as a Muslim’s, his warmth with people. Much of this is gesture, perhaps, though genuine gesture, it seems, and thus: so far so good. (I like Martin Marty’s take on it with an April Fools theme at Sightings.)DownloadedFile_2

One gesture on Easter Sunday was especially moving — the one where he kissed the handicapped child. The way the child embraced him in return and how he then stayed with that embrace seemed to me not so much a sign of Pope Francis’ ‘new style’ as it was an unplanned revelation of his essential spirit. (It can be seen near the end of this short news clip.) Continue reading

The Pope’s legacy

Pope Benedict’s surprising resignation on Monday, February 11, — the first pope to resign in 600 years, we’re told — has, not surprisingly, unleashed a great deal of commentary, from speculation about the reasons (besides his health) to musings about the retirement of elderly leaders in general. There are tributes and assessments of his writing and achievements. Others are less willing to line up with accolades. It should not be forgotten, they say, how dreadful Pope Benedict’s record is on the sex abuse of children at the hands of church leaders.

I find the words of political commentator Andrew Sullivan (see this column also) significant on the matter of Pope Benedict’s legacy. And after all that, I caught part of the documentary “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God” on CBC-TV’s The Passionate Eye on Sunday evening. That night, it was hard to fall asleep.

I mean no disrespect to my dear friends who are Catholic, but in this context, I find the images one often sees of Pope Benedict’s red shoes and white robes chilling; they  seem an indictment.Pope-shoes