Monday, July 7, 2008

Bishop Corriveau's Dinner

It has been a rather momentous week.
On Tuesday, the bishop did make it for dinner as scheduled, showing up precisely on time, five pm, in his brown Capuchin robe and sandals, just as MT hoped he would. Conversation flowed wonderfully for three-and-a-half hours. He compared my home-brewed dark ale to beer he had drunk in Belgium, and everything set before him on the dinner table he seemed to enjoy. No hostess takes this for granted on a first occasion.
On Thursday, I had a personal rerun of some of the most difficult spiritual hours of my beginning days as a catechumen and came out of it realizing that it was time to try putting my first novel on the Web. I had been working on the process of posting some excerpts on a geographically relevant Website on the coast, but when I found the individual chapters and read them in context I knew publishing selectively would favours to no one. MT flew at the technical parts of the operation and by late yesterday the prologue to "Contemplatives: The Novel" was not only available via the mouse but linked to this blogspot.
After all these years of various forays into the world of paper publishing I'm still astounded at the opportunity of the technology now available for writers, and can only offer my heartiest thanks. Obviously the Omniscient One has had in mind all along the means which would allow me to be both published author and relatively secluded hermit at the same time, but we can only know events hidden in His personal schedule when he jolly well chooses to let them manifestly unfold.
This time of year has always been interesting for its inspirations for attempts at getting the novel out there. In 80, I was printing little photocopies and selling them, only to give up when it felt that the format lacked a dignity proportionate to the subject material. Also, sending copies to a variety of university literature faculties had failed to arouse any interest. In 82 it looked for a few weeks as if an old friend, turned publisher in Toronto, might do the trick, but he found the book too serious for his list. And it was precisely on July 2, in 1983, that Rome turned down my agents' request to either publish my unique work or recommend a concern that would.
Ten years later, minus a month, we had a bit of a tussle with the policies of the Sacred Congregation for Doctrine, as we were flogging the tapes of the read aloud version, but we bashed past their policy of refusing to comment on an unpublished manuscript by insisting - via the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - that the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was entitled to a spiritual life, especially as the then Pope, John Paul II,had already been commenting on the chapters he had been receiving since the end of 1982.
At this morning's mass I reflected that this is the first time I had sat in the cathedral as a published author. Of a novel, that is. The Nelson Daily News has kindly carried my letters on a number of subjects for years - with a few exceptions - and as Shawn pointed out to me on our customary post-liturgy stroll, my only published short story, "The Axe" was carried in a student magazine. But on that fateful morning in early 1952, when the Muse scared the pants off me by telling me I was a novelist, there was no mention of short stories, songs, plays, or letters to the editor, so obviously this morning's realization carried the tang of a special moment.
And to celebrate, there were two turtles visible at the waterfront pond! Their backs were gleaming, too, for both had just crawled out of the water.
One of the many fruitful things about the evening with Bishop John was the grace to be able to chat about some of the more peculiar things in my own personal spiritual thinking on the nature of the Third Person of the Trinity. I had actually had a very real encounter with the Spirit one late summer evening in Cherry Valley, when I was eight and on my way to a neighbourhood corn roast, but that was an experience which left me thinking that the Holy Ghost, while friendly, was also something that inspired awe. Running into Him as a young adult took away none of the friendship, nor the awe, but I was almost 'scandalized', as spiritual writers will say of the more advanced areas of the soul's understanding, first of all by how youthful He seemed to me, and then by His immense capacity as a joker. He appeared to see so much that was funny in so many human situations.
But as Saint Thomas says, a sense of humour is a sign of intelligence, and who could be more intelligent than the Holy Spirit?
This commentary on my own spiritual puzzles came up because of the bishop speaking very passionately about the Holy Spirit and Saint Francis of Assisi's relationship with him, and how this affected the heritage of Franciscan spirituality. There were other theological topics as well, and also a lot of story-telling and joking. It's been a long time since we had an evening with a priest that was so reminiscent of the golden years in Ocean Falls when Shawn and I sat at the Reverend James Fagan's dining table, with three squares a day of merry and purposeful lay and clerical co-operation.

Fagan was a man of unswerving loyalty to the authority of the Church, was determined to see only the best in people as long as such a view was rationally possible, and had boundless enthusiasm for life from day to day. Sitting across him day after day I was regularly grateful, if only as a writer, to have the experience of such intimate daily contact with someone almost old enough to be my father, yet with the faith my father had never had.
It must say something for the spirit of a good diocesan priest when it has taken a Capuchin bishop to make me so reminiscent of the good old days.
Father Fagan also had a great love of the first music of the liturgy, the Gregorian, as he had spent most of his student years in the Benedictine abbey at Mission. We did all sorts of Gregorian chant in Ocean Falls, and were in at the start of the revised Easter liturgy. The diocese of Nelson, four years later, was playing catch up with Easter and has rarely had any lasting ability with Gregorian unless my family was involved.
How will the diocese now cope with Benedict's obvious preferences regarding the recovery of the liturgy?

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