Friday, August 12, 2011

Terry's totally wondrous mystical adventure at the opthamologist's office on the feast of St. Clare.



So much to tell...
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First of all, I thought it was significant that my appointment fell on the feast of St. Clare of Assisi, my favorite of the saints who embraced poverty so generously.  Her name means 'clear and bright' - two important attributes for good vision and sight - indicating light - since sight is light, or facilitated by it.  St. Clare is clear and bright - get it?
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So anyway - there was good news and bad news for me.  Good news, glaucoma is in it's very early stages, bad news isn't really bad at all - I just have to have surgery for cataracts.  I protested, "But doctor, I'm so young, I just turned 35 on May 16th!"  I didn't mention what year of course.  C'est dommage.  Unfortunately I have more tests next week - but I'll offer it up.
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My encounter with Islam.
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My real adventure took place in the waiting room.  I spoke with two heavily veiled Muslim women from Somalia.  I was very surprised they would speak with me - whenever I've encountered Muslim women in stores or on the street they seem rather aloof and distant, and I have never had the chance to speak with them - and I wasn't sure I was allowed to do so.  These ladies were very friendly and nice once I initiated the conversation.  I started out by expressing concern and sympathy for their people suffering from famine.
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Naturally I had to bring up their fast for Ramadan and they told me all about it.  I marveled and told them how much I admire their austerity and devotion.  The one lady laughed and said, "But you Catholics spend 40 days doing the same, don't you."
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"No, no, no - not at all like that."  I then went on to explain how we fast from candy and abstain from meat on Friday and have only 2 required fast days on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday - otherwise we don't do much unless one lives in a monastery of cloistered nuns.  Then I told what happens if St. Patrick's day falls on a Friday and how we can be dispensed from fasting and even get drunk - it was then she reminded me that they do not drink alcohol in Islam.  But my new friend seemed not to believe me since she went on to tell me that while she lived in Italy everyone seemed to be fasting during Lent.  (I know!  I didn't think the Italians still did stuff like that either.)
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I laughed again and assured her that even in Italy no one fasts like they do in Islam.  I then wondered to myself if perhaps the increase of Islamic immigrants into the once Christian west wasn't on some deeper level meant to awaken Christians to a more fervent practice of our Christian faith?  The fidelity of Muslims to their faith is admirable and for the most part, puts many of us Christians to shame.      
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These ladies were so pleasant and kind, and so respectful, I was very much impressed.  I recalled how highly regarded Blessed Charles de Foucauld held the Muslims in whose midst he lived, and I felt I understood something of the great love and respect the Trappist martyrs of Atlas had for the Muslims they lived amongst.
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One on one - if everyone could know one another and would love one another and respect one another.  I want to try to live as devoutly as a Muslim does - I want to try to be a better Catholic, a better man.
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The doctor from Punjab
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My other mystical encounter was with my doctor, who is from India - and he is a Hindu.  I asked if I could ask him a personal question - he obliged me and answered, "I am a Hindu."  Then we talked about Hinduism, the gods, the shrines, the saints, and the iconography, prompting him to ask, "How do you know so much about Hinduism?"  After jokingly telling him I was a big Beatles fan, I explained I had once worked with a Hindu man and that I was fascinated by the various cults and art and how  much of it paralleled the Roman Catholic veneration of the saints, and so on.  He seemed quite pleased.
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I too was pleased.  It struck me on the way home that it is only the extremist factions within political- religious groups who stir up the passions and incite hatred for anyone outside their respective cult - otherwise, the ordinary people accept one another as they are.  There is a bad zeal which always threatens religious groups, it is a temptation to fundamentalism that always needs to be tempered and resisted, otherwise it becomes fanaticism and extremism, which is based in hate, and never love.
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Art: Virgin Mary and Child Jesus, Persian miniature

 

30 comments:

  1. Terry: We have been praying for you. Any surgery is expensive. Cataract surgery must be quite prohibitive. I hope that your Ophthamologist is confident that he can control your glaucoma. Is painting now out of the question, or are you able to still paint?

    One on one encounters always help dispel my prejudices. Sadly, being human, they are sometimes re-enforced.

    I am on day five of a fast--I am drinking water, occasionally juice and green tea. It is actually the first time I have fasted in this way...I will keep your intention in mind, mon frere...

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  2. Thanks Maria - I did explain that devout people like you fast and pray generously - but it seems many Christians no longer do so if stats are to believed - the women understood my humor - surprisingly to me.

    Anyway - thanks for your prayers - the surgery will be expensive so I'll have to sell some stuff. Everything as God wills however. Yes - I can still paint.

    We'll keep praying for one another. God bless.

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  3. Terry, glad to hear the news was not so bad.

    Just a note though - perhaps it's the Orthodox we should look to for fasting practice. The difference is that the Ramadan fast applies only in daylight hours. I've talked to Muslims who assure me they can pig out as much as they want all night, and in fact, in the Muslim world restaurants and stuff stay open late during Ramadan for that reason.

    I've also talked to Muslims disillusioned with the whole idea because they don't see how it's real fasting I they can do what they want all night.

    But in any event, what they DO do is more than most Catholics, including myself. And their devotion to prayer and their incorporation of faith into life is admirable. That's one area I need to work on - I want to do penance but I don't want to get te wrong idea - you probably know what I mean based on conversations weve had.

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  4. Wonderful tale; so fine that I am going to post the whole thing, if that is okay?

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  5. Daniel, Anyone is welcome to use anything I post. Thanks.

    Mercury - I also know that some pig out all night too. LOL!

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  6. Good news Terry, and great story! I learned all about Hinduism from Catholic nuns.

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  7. Terry--I am glad you can still paint! Though often painful, it is good to be totally dependent upon Him...

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  8. Too funny, Badger!

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  9. +JMJ+

    I, too, have been very moved by Islam lately.

    Muslim ladies look so beautiful and feminine in their headscarves that I couldn't resist borrowing a bit of their style. Your very tasteful self will be glad to read that I've completely given up mantillas for pashminas--worn "Muslim style."

    While it's a surprisingly easy look to pull off (Translation: I look damn hot), it naturally carries a lot of political baggage. I bravely wear my pashminas in my parish church because everyone there already knows me as the weird woman who covers her hair, but I doubt I'd dare have it on at a satellite chapel in the part of our neighbourhood with the biggest Muslim population.

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  10. Badger - that is really funny.

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  11. Another beautiful post, Terry- thanks be to God.

    I'm experiencing Ramadan personally as one of my friends is Muslim, and we can't really hang out much this month- his energy level is quite low from fasting.

    Muslims inspire me, as well, to greater devotion. Islam is a beautiful religion, and I learn much from it.

    A note to Mercury- try going the entire day in this heat without even water to drink. Try it once. You'll understand Ramadan much better.

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  12. I was impressed that do not even drink water.

    Mercury is right however - the Orthodox do a stricter fast.

    I forgot to mention that when I was little, a lay teacher at Catholic school traveled to India and came back and modeled a sari for us students and wore jewels on her head - this was way back in the olden days when Hindus were always called pagans and the nuns dressed like Mohammedan women.

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  13. Sorry about the spelling (Remember Tori Spelling, 90210?) and the fact that I neglected to include 'they' when referencing the fast from water.

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  14. It is not only a food and water fast, but also from smoking and sex...there are a few other rules, like you have to be of a certain age so young children don't have to fast although they are encouraged to give up something like candy...ther is also an upper age limit too but I do not recall what it is.also if you have a medical condition like diabetes.
    In Turkey where I was at pregnant women were also dispensed from the fast.

    Of course people dispensed were encouraged to do additional penances such as prayers, visiting the homebound, etc. My Turkish landlady who was diabetic cooked food for the poor.

    Ramadan is especially tough during summer when the days are long.

    As soneone suggested--try it just for one day if you can. You can get your local sunrise/sunset times from your local news station. You are also not allowed to be grouchy or uncharitable because you are hungry and thirsty.

    As my Turkish landlady once said, as Ramadan that year was in the winter "Thanks be to Allah that Ramadan is in the winter." I was in Saudi in year when it was in July and that was brutal.

    It was interesting that the Muslim women spoke with you....yes they will not instigate a conversationwuith a man, you have to start it. I guess they assumed that since youall were in a doctor's waiting room that it was ok. Usually they are only permitted to speak to men outside their families is in business transactions, like the doctors offfice or the market.

    But this is also America and they can relax a bit :) the religious police isn't watching their every move...

    Glad you had such a good experience :)

    Sara

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  15. Terry - sounds like you did more for inter-faith relations in one afternoon than bishops have managed in the past 40 years.

    In all seriousness, keep it up brother.

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  16. Clark--The lavendar Jebbies stalked me. Simply awful. I am so sorry for our situation. I have to do what you are doing for while.

    Sara: "It is not only a food and water fast, but also from smoking and sex". I gave up alcohol many, many years ago. I gave up cigarettes after my heart attack four years ago. Sex, well, it gave up on me after my conversion :) I have nothing left--no job, no health insurance, no home of my own-- but I have everything. I have Him.

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  17. Clark--The lavendar Jebbies stalked me. Simply awful. I am so sorry for your situation. I had to do what you are doing for while.

    Sorry for the typos.

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  18. Maria--in addition for people being crabby because they are hungry and thirsty, they also quit smoking cold turkey :)

    I'm sure as soon as the sunset occurs the chain smokers are lighting up :)

    When I was in Turkey alot of folks would wear rubber band on their wrists so when a craving would come along they would snap the rubber band...the drums would also beat in the middle of the night to wake people up so they could eat a midnight meal...it really messes with your personal schedule.

    I am sorry about your job situation..I pray that you find employment soon.

    Sara

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  19. Don't forget that the Byzantine Rite Catholics follow the same fast as the Orthodox. Much stricter both during Lent and Advent, when I believe they're vegan, but they also fast from meat on Wed. and Fri. At least the Orthodox do although my Orthodox friend is dispensed from the fast for medical reasons.

    Note that some Latin Rite Catholics fast from meat year round.

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  20. Thom I guess what I said sounded kinda jerky. I have no illusions about what kind of a wimp I am when it cones to fasting, so at be it from me to criticize anyone.

    Nan, you may know this, but are Eastern rite Catholic and Orthodox married couples expected to abstain from all marital relations through all of of Lent, all of Advent, in other penitential periods, on all Wednesdays, all Fridays, and the evening before an the evening after receiving communion (which effectively means all of Saturday and all of Sunday)? Do people really follow this rigorous program, an is it expected of everyone? If so how can it be good for a marriage if you are expected to abstain almost all of the time? (except Monday Tuesday and Thursday when it's not a holy day or a fasting season) I'm not saying that abstaining for spiritual reasons is a bad thing per se, not at all (some Catholics do for Lent, or on Fridays) but a program that rigorous seems overwhelming - you'd have to resist all natural impulse towards your spouse MOST of the time.

    This whole thing reminds me of a thread on Catholic Answers where Muslims and Orthodox Christians were arguing about whose fasting was the most extreme, as if THAT were the primary thing religion is concerned with. Then an Ethiopian Orghodox guy got and was like "oh yeah? We have a rigorous fast 220 days of the year!"

    I do admire the devotion of Muslims and of the Orthodox, and I would like to do penance more, but I don't want to make the mistake that level of fasting = level of holiness. It always makes me think that I'm somehow "not doing enough for my salvation", because of my measly Friday abstinence and Lenten fasting (pathetic compared to some others). In the end, that's not what will bring about my salvation. Or I sometimes wonder if Catholics are somehow lascivious and lustful in the eyes of the Orthodox, because married Catholics are not expected to abstain MOST of their marriage - as if theyre somehow less holy compared to other Christians, or even Muslims, because they're not forced to abstain for long periods before receiving communion.

    But I hope I'm right about this - things like fasting and abstinence are really only good insofar as thu bring us closer to God. If I find it too hard to be a bean for any length of time, it if I'm married and the abstinence causes more harm in my marriage than good - then perhaps thats not where God has me. And as far as thoughts of content fear that I have to do more, be more rigorous - all I really have to do is trust God, avoid sin, be good, pray, and hope. Is that right?

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  21. Oh, and I forgot Jews. They cant even touch of Han things to each other as long as the wife is having her period, much less have relations. And am I mistaken or do Orthodox Jews abstain through all 9 months of pregnancy?

    I am so sorry everyone. I an so obsessed with the idea that religion = hatred of sex. This is my pet fear, my pet obsession. As if it's not enough to be a faithful spouse ad parent. I keep making myself think that there must be more rules than the Church gives, that holiness means avoiding it as much as possible. I know the Church doesn't teach that, but it seems tradition does. I must be tedious and obnoxious to y'all. I'm so sorry.

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  22. I really hate autocorrect.

    "be a bean" = be a vegan
    "of Han" = or hand (really autocorrect? You assume I was talking about the Han Chinese?)
    "thoughts of content fear" = thoughts of constant fear

    If there's anything else that's weird besides my normal weird obsession, chalk it up to autocorrect.

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  23. Sara--Thanks so much. Some days it seems like it will never end. He has his reasons...

    Mercury: My father had another saying: moderation in all things...Seems meant for your :)

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  24. Georgette12:55 PM

    Re: this post: 'Zactly, Terry!

    And this is why yours is one of the last blogs I continue to follow.

    ~Gette

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  25. Mercury--it helps to understand why Muslims fast during Ramadan...they are obliged to do it, much as we're obliged in the Latin Chuch to do our version of fast two days a year. For us Secular Carmelites we have many more fast days prior to feast days of certain "Carmelite saints.

    If we WANT to do more it is indeed encouraged. But we have to examine as to WHY we are doing it. To get approval from others?? Or to be proud of ourselves that we made it through a whole day without reaching for a cookie. Or to grow just a bit closer in holiness to Our Lord. And its definitely something you're not supposed to be miserable over.

    I know concerning Muslim marital relations....at least in Turkey husbands and wives usually have separate bedrooms to preserve modesty, espeically if breast-feeding a baby. Separate accomodations would reduce the temptation...and if this is how you were raised and you don't know any different then it's easy to do. Us Americans would find it very strange.

    My sis-n-law who's an architect recently had a contract to remodel a very expensive custom house purchased by a Muslim family...there essentially had to be two complete master bedroom with complete baths and showers, and bidets installed as well as the infamous "Turkish toilets" as we calls them....essentially tiled floor with a hole and flushing mechanism...many folks of Middle Eastern roots think it is filthy to sit on a toilet. Plus th eboys and girls neede to be in separate areas of the house. My sis-in-law had to do alot of reseach and interview alot of Muslims and Middle Eastern folks to come up with her proposals. then finding a plumber to do the work and order th especial fixtures. But for this Muslim family money was no object..

    You haven't lived until you've used a Turkish toilet :) Remember to fill the cup for the next person..

    Sara

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  26. So that's supposed to be a good thing? Husbands and wives sleeping apart so as to "reduce the temptation"? Married people observing strict modesty as if they weren't married, as one would with a roomate? Men and women compartmentalized? Are Catholics supposed to admire all this? I'm not talking about the occasional renouncing of a good thing for spiritual reasons, but living a life where married people have to treat their desires like handling poison for most of marriage.

    Like I said, it always seems like less sex = more holiness. I guess that whole "unitive" thing really is a bunch o modernist trash, as the sedevacantists say.

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  27. Sorry, all that kind of stuff makes me so uncomfortable. As if spouses should be afraid to be naked on grit of one another, or as if yet should see the sexual drive and desire for one another as a sinful temptation. So I guess for them, changing while the other is in the room is terrible. Walking into the bathroom when the spouse is in the shower or just getting out - oh the horror.

    It seems like very traditional religions are always this way, which makes me wonder if the trads who insist on spouese avoiding seeing each others bodies, having relations as quickly as possible in pitch dark, doing it as rarely as possible - as if they may be on to something.

    I have a very hard time believing that God and religion, Catholic or otherwise, really sees regular spousal relations and attraction as a good thing.

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  28. "on grit of" = in front of

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  29. Hmmm....lemme see... nope, I'm still a bigot.

    No one is coming to me for ecumenical views any time soon. But God love ya, Terry,

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