The other day I heard a story about a women in her nineties who was receiving palliative care.
This woman, it was told, “had never before insisted on ceremony.”
She was not the kind of person who would have had her academic credentials in her Twitter handle.
She did not ordinarily expect anyone to use her professional titles.
However, for the first time in her life, when she was receiving care much later in life, she asked to be called “Doctor.”
She was a not a medical doctor, but she had earned a doctorate in some other subject.
And the reason why she wanted to be called “Doctor” only now was because she intuited that it would make a difference for how she would be treated and the kind of care she would receive.
This is a common and striking phenomenon and reminds me of this story about Dr. Harvey Chochinov:
The author of the book Resisting Throwaway Culture has laid out some concrete proposals for how to do so at the end of his newly published book, Losing Our Dignity.
Like Pope Francis, author Charles Camosy agrees that it is our cultural consumerism that is contributing to a “throwaway” mentality extending toward human beings.
The opposite of throwaway culture, Camosy suggests, is to “live out a counterculture of responsibility, encounter, and hospitality.”
The other day I was attending a lecture by a scholar who is interested in architecture.
He spoke about why he considers façades to be the most important aspect of architecture given that this is what gets projected outward into the public realm.
Perhaps there is something neighbourly and civic-minded in this view.
Still, upon reflection, I think that the beauty of houses, buildings, tombs, and churches depends largely on the reverence shown toward what is inside.
Today I came across this striking passage in Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France:
To avoid therefore the evils of inconstancy and versatility, ten thousand times worse than those of obstinacy and the blindest prejudice, we have consecrated the state, that no man should approach to look into its defects or corruptions but with due caution; that he should never dream of beginning its reformation by its subversion; that he should approach to the faults of the state as to the wounds of a father, with pious awe and trembling solicitude. By this wise prejudice we are taught to look with horror on those children of their country, who are prompt rashly to hack that aged parent in pieces, and put him into the kettle of magicians, in hopes that by their poisonous weeds, and wild incantations, they may regenerate the paternal constitution, and renovate their father’s life.
There is a relationship between filial piety and patriotism. The reverence we have for the traditions of our political communities is analogous to the reverence we have for our parents. Are we able to receive from our parents and from our tradition?
To what extent is our political culture reflective of “hack[ing] that aged parent”?
What difference could restoring filial piety have on renewing authentic patriotism?
Today while visiting my friends John and Sarah Beth in Houston, John brought home a book to show us titled, Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero by David Maraniss.
“I don’t find it easy or natural to think about death, but when I think about this book…” John began, excited to share with us the story of a noble life and death.
I had never heard of baseball player Roberto Clemente before but John’s sincere enthusiasm – and even reverence – for Clemente immediately signified to me his undeniable importance.
John told us that his passion for Clemente’s story was piqued in third grade. An excellent teacher had given the assignment of doing a biographical book report on any famous person he wanted to learn about, admired, or found interesting.
I have very much been enjoying Charles C. Camosy’s new book, Losing Our Dignity: How Secularized Medicine is Undermining Fundamental Human Equality.
Camosy begins with sketching the anthropological views undergirding our contemporary secular bioethics and then proceeds to explore recent cases, particularly at the beginning and end of life, where human equality has been questioned or undermined.
In a fascinating chapter on brain death, I was interested to learn about how Jews have succeeded in challenging the notion that brain death constitutes the death of the person.
My friend just sent me this photo of the sign outside of Majestic Mortuary Service Inc., a funeral home in New Orleans.
The motto caught her attention, and I can see why.
The dead are not the only ones who deserve to be treated with reverence, of course. For the living, too, this is their due. Yet, if you went to a restaurant that advertised “We serve with reverence”, you might think that’s a bit much.
This, however, shows my point that how we die (and how we naturally conduct ourselves before the mystery of death) has the power to humanize our culture.
The other day, my friend Ada and I were discussing the discovery of Indigenous children’s undocumented remains outside of the former residential school in Kamloops.
Ada is passionate about the Arctic and through her studies, research, and work is involved in cooperating with Inuit in the north with sensitivity, respect, and mutuality.
I could tell the news had shaken her and so I asked whether she had ever been to a First Nations cemetery.
“Yes, twice,” she said.
It was 2018 and Ada had just completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Victoria. As a member of the Catholic Students’ Association, she joined four other students, led by university chaplain, former Anglican-turned-Catholic priest, Fr. Dean Henderson, on a cultural mission exchange to a First Nations reserve in British Columbia.
“So teach us to number our days
that we may gain a wise heart.”
– Psalm 90:12
I remember seeing the news of Palm Sunday church bombings in Egypt on my phone while I was in Poland.
I had not been to Egypt before but of course the photos gripped me.
That was a year that the Western and Orthodox calendars synced up and so Christians worldwide were commemorating on the same day Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem before his Passion.
That suicide bombers charged into two Alexandria churches on this date and in this way indicates that their intent was to wreak not only destruction but desecration.
What was the impact of looking at the those photos on my phone in a small Polish church?
Today marks the 81st anniversary of the Katyn Forest Massacre and is the designated day of remembrance for the victims.
I don’t remember really learning about this event until I moved to Poland.
But once I was in Poland, I saw lots of monuments and memorials commemorating the more than 20,000 Poles who were murdered by Soviets in 1940. Since many of the mass graves were discovered in the Katyn Forest, this became the name by which the massacre came to be known.
One of the prominent Katyn memorials I saw was this one at the Lipowa Cemetery in Lublin, Poland.