Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Elizabeth Dreyer & Medieval Women Mystics


The University's Ignatian Faber Institute invited Elizabeth Dreyer (former PhD graduate) to speak about Medieval Woman Mystics. I thought it would be a good break from writing two papers and a presentation. She didn't really talk about the mystics themselves, but how to approach their writings today.

1. Text Isses: Medieval writing can be difficult to follow. The women often wrote in the language of the time, some may have wrote in Latin, many dictated their work to men or clerics who then wrote their ideas in Latin. When aware and ask yourself whose voice you are hearing; the mystic, the writer, or the translator.

2. Women had to be very courageous to write in their time. They were monastic women and they had to balance their call to community and silence and the need to write their visions. These led to public popularity that might have added more pressure to keep writing and exploring the visions. They also had to consider the possible censure of the Church and their own community.

3. Fidelity to their message: Women may not have had much formal education, but they wrote from their experiences. This lead to a broad use of origional and creative language. They were faithful to their vision from their point of view, there was no concern for cliche. They call us to be faithful to our own expereinces and voice, they call us to reverence our own stories.

She recommended looking to Julian of Norwich to a new vision of the Trinity and Grace, Gertrude the Great for Baptism, Jadewijch of Brabant's poetry and visions, and Perpetua's dreams while in prison. Once, a person is ready for the challenge, then move to Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle and Hildegard of Bignen's challenging writings.

I really wish I had the time to dive into more of their works. Maybe over Summer break from school! She also recommended (pitched) Called To Holiness a new series of 8 volumes about spirituality for Catholic Women. They even have a website through St. Anthony Messenger


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Happy Feast of St. Benedict


The Fransicans have been helping me celebrate the Feast of St. Benedict! I laid out a little center-piece where we pray using my Benedict Icon and a little Rule. They don't have any mention of Benedict in their prayer book, but I added a bit of Benedictine as we prayed along.

Today, they surprized me with a trip to the theater. We went to a simulcast of THE METropolitan Opera at a nearby movie theater. (It had wonderful cooshy seats.) "La Sonnambula" is an opera by Bellini that was sung in Itallian with English subtitles (thank God). The story is about a young couple that is about to be wed. Until...the former girlfriend was flirting with a stranger (long lost baron of the city) and saw the bride to be sleep-walking into the strangers room. She uses this as an excuse to get the groom to be to break the wedding off and denounce the young bride. Of course, the story ends with the bride and groom getting back together and even the former girlfrind getting a different boy and the mother of the bride getting the nobleman.

The show was fun and the music was AMAZING! The lead tenor was Juan Diego Florez and the sopranno was Natalie Dessay...I didn't know the names either, but the voices were so beautiful, it totally made up for the goofy storyline. They set the show in the rehearsal space of a theater. So they were dressed in rehearsal clothes and it was half story-telling and half chuckling at itself. They had part of the chorus playing costumers, tech folk, stage was very cool.

After the opera, we went to a late lunch or early supper. There was this wonderful little Mexican resturant. We came at an odd time so we had most of the resturant to ourselves! We could hear the cooks singing along with the music in the background.

I'm very grateful that the sisters are willing to celebrate with me. Honestly, it is a bit lonely while remembering our feasts on my own. Especially since I haven't experienced how the Franciscan folk commemorate their own feasts and celebrations. They kept asking how we celebrate the major feasts of Benedict and Scholastica. As I was trying to explain, it really came down to our remembering Feasts with liturgical prayer and good food (and wine) and time to share the two...hmmm...I miss home.


Islam Conference


I attended an interesting conference on Thursday: Teaching about Islam: Pedagogical Resources and Perspectives. It was led by Susan Douglass (almost PhD) from Georgetown University. The presentation was a very interesting combination of explanation of the basics of Islam, teaching resources, and overall perspective of the teaching of history.

The first session discussed how to build a curriculum and classroom culture that makes discussions about varying religions/cultures less confusing or worrysome to students. There is a whole group out in the political world that has defined or set up some guidelines about how to discuss religion in the classroom..."Finding Common Ground". This project was developed using folk from a variety of areas so as to reflect the multitude of perspectives that need to be considered. It comes down to the basics of how a teacher respectfully approaches a religion or culture without advocating it to the students. Douglass did a good job of fitting the general explanation of the tennents of Islam in this structure.

I was amazed at the amount of resources the conference shared with the attendees. We recieved copies of the "Finding Common Ground" teaching statement/explanation, CD's of many lessons and resources about Islam, and a multitude of website recommendations for more FREE information! (Teachers love the Free.) I gathered two copies of everything to send back to O'Gorman. I hope the theology department and the history folk find some usefull information in the packets.

Another aspect that was discussed was how books organize history in general. The speaker pushed the idea of covering an era of history...not just one society, but an era covers how a series of cultures worked together. One of her slides was very interesting. It showed the spread of the major world religions during eras as they occured together and how they spread to similar areas at the same time. Hmmm...interesting.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009



Yesterday, the sun shone and the breeze off the lake was cool, it was a gorgeous 75 degrees! Campus was humming! Every square inch of green space had students throwing baseballs, frizbees, or footballs. There were games of whiffle ball or whiffle golf all over the place. Plus it was St. Patrick's day--all were decked out in their finest varieties of green for the festive occasion.

I had to hide myself away in an interior room at the library. Even then the warm weather seemed to distract me with the occasional student who would wander past in flip-flops. It has been very hard to keep time on task lately. Not that I don't have tasks to be working on...but the birds are singing and undergrads are laughing and I'm stuck with a research area I can't find solid articles to back up. (SIGH)


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fish Fry Woes


The house went to the parish fish fry last night. It seemed like a good way to support the parish and also enjoy Milwaukee.

In the parish's defense, they never expected the crowd they received (event though they have held this every year for the past few). In the caterer's defense, the fish was really good.

We arrived at 5:30 and the parking lot was full! We were happy for the parish. We were even okay after we realized that the line was backed up the stairs to the doors of the parish. However, after an hour of standing in line our support was fading. They were selling soda, beer, & wine to those a little Coke settled the nerves. Finally, we approached the front of the line, and discovered the problem. There were four folk from the catering company serving the whole meal. There were two deep fryers for all the fish fillets, chicken strips, and fries (the center of the meal).

Okay...we were given our plates of fries and fish and easily found a table. Next, the sisters wanted to choose a dessert. I declined. Actually, I stated that you couldn't pay me enough to choose a dessert from a table being run by second and third grade girls...with their long hair dangling over the table, sitting by the desserts on the table, and eating the desserts as they hollered at folk to come over and take one. NO! Blech!

The people were kind and the fish was good...but the line clumped, the wait was too long, and the use of unsupervised kiddos was just not right. I thought I was the only one of our group that was trying to just enjoy the fish. Then Linda smirked, "I think a few sisters could stream line this thing." I confessed that the teacher/nun/former Turkey dinner worker in me wanted to jot down a few notes of concerns. Linda reminded me that I should make recommendations where I don't want to volunteer. So, I suggested we finish the fish and get home to play some rummikube.

Alas, the fish fry woes.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu


I happened to be reading late last night and decided to watch a bit of Craig Ferguson's comedy monologue before bed. You'll never guess who was on the Late Late Show! Arch Bishop Tutu...the real one! He was the ONLY guest of the show that night. He was wonderful. The whole episode won't be online until next week, but they do have a short clip about forgiveness and another about Obama's presidency.

It was an interesting evening...Craig did a quick education about the events in South Africa (the Dutch and the British) from the Scottish point of view. Then he reminded everyone to be good while the Father Tutu was there. Tutu himself was delightful. Insightful, touching, and yet telling little jokes along the way. Facinating way to educate the late night crowd of college kids and nuns who are up too late.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Powerful Noise


The house is gathering with some other Fransicans to go to "A Powerful Noise" to support women in poverty around the world and hear the stories of three women. After the movie on Thursday night, there will be a live panel presentation to discuss the issues behind the oppression and poverty of women.

I've added a clip from a CNN interview with the director...check it out!


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Diversity Overload


All my reading, writing, and on-line chatting has been focused around the issues of diversity. It was during my on-line posting for the "Teacher as Leader" class that I realized that today is the Feast of St. Katharine Drexel...hmmm...God is so sneaky.

My cultural revolution began with Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I started to read his 1970 work over a month ago and soon found it too much for me to take-on. So, I switched over to his Teachers as Cultural Workers: Letters to Those Who Dare Teach. I had borrowed a teacher's copy, but soon realized I needed my own. I've underlined, circled, written comments and throughly ate up this book. I hadn't even made it through his "First Words" before I began to take notes.

"...My intention here is to demonstrate that the task of the teacher, who is also a learner, is both joyful and rigorous. It demands seriousness and scientific, physical, emotional, and affective preparation. It is a task that requires that those who commit themselves to teaching develop a certain love not only of others but also of the very process implied in teaching. It is impossible to teach without the courage to love, without the courage to try a thousand times before giving up. In short, it is impossible to teach without a forged, invented, and well-thought-out capacity to love" (Freire, 2005, p. 5).

The book was challenging and engaging all at the same time. I found my self wanting to argue with the man...but I didn't get to stay with one book for long. Next, the "Teacher as Leader" course launched us into a section on diversity and leadership and the troubled waters that it is. Yesterday, I heard Dr. Charles Payne speak about the challenges facing Urban Education at this time. He was a good speaker and interesting intellectual. The graduate and PhD students were invited to an afternoon Q & A session with him. While I had no questions, I was facinated at his approach to the answers. This man who was introduced as the authority on Urban Education listened deeply to the questions, thought for a moment, and then would answer with "well, my understanding is..." or "another way to think about it might be...". It was very refreshing to see him interact and think with us and not just pontificate.

I am currently preparing two literature reviews on two different topics (I know, I'm crazy) that occasionally dip into diversity as well. I am looking to find what makes a "successful" teacher induction program and I'm trying to discover how to continue teacher edcucation on school mission statements. Both are interesting (except for when they are boring), but there is a great deal to read and everyone seems to say the same things over and over again.
Well, there is your schooling update! I love and miss you all!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Women of Christ


Yesterday, I went to the "Women of Christ" conference. This was the first gathering of what they hope will become an annual event...over 2,400 women registered for the day. Its aim was to offer spiritual development and time away for the women of the diocese. There were a few religious sprinkled in the crowd, but the day was really offered for the lay-women. I was amazed at the age range of attendees, grandmas through grandchildren.

The speakers were pretty good. They had four main speakers to address different aspects of women's lives: prayer and healing, the Blessed Virgin, women & men, and women and children. Okay...I was surprized so hold on...Mother Assumpta of the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist spoke about the Blessed Virgin in women's lives. It was good. Her script was a "letter" from Mary to the women, and its focus was sharing how her life connects with the expereinces of women today. For example, Mary understands loss and pain, she lost her community's respect, her husband, her son, and she can understand and walk with women who are now struggling with loss and pain. It was an interesting connection for the women. I was watching the folk around me and they were listening and following M. Assumpta's speech...she knows an audience and how to reach that audience.

Another speaker I enjoyed was Dr. Ray. He is a psych and counselor who has a talk show on alot of Catholic radio shows. Great, I thought (sarcasm). He was hiliarious! He has a large family that his wife and he built through adoption...and he used stories from their own successes and failures to encourage the women with families. I wished that my two sisters had been there to hear his stories and hope for mothers who end up carrying a heavy burden in many families. His advice and stories boiled down to two statements: first, don't let "experts" tell you how a family should be, and second, do what you believe to be good and don't worry about the psychologically "right", do what is good. I thought that was pretty good advice.

Overall, it was a pretty good way to celebrate Lent. I probably won't go next year; it really is designed for lay women who are single, married, or with families. But I enjoyed the gathering and hearing the speakers.