Lose the Story, Lose the Culture

We normally encounter morals through the language of moral codes and commandments. Do this, Don’t do that. But it is much more illuminating to approach ethics and morals through stories and narratives. The reason narrative is more helpful than a code or set of commandments is that it brings into play imagination, manner, style, and even tonal quality. For example, the Commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother.” But the Commandment does not tell us in what manner, with what tone of voice, with what degree of gentleness and/or firmness, or whether with renewed devotion or simply by routine.

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Musings from Michael: The Meaning of Pope "Francis"

Published in The Huffington Post on March 14, 2013, The new pope has chosen the name "Francis."  Francis (1180-1225) was a rich young man who lived out a quite dissolute youth, before God finally caught up to him and seized his heart.  Francis chose a life of poverty and prayer.  He is one of the two most loved saints in the Catholic world today. For his simplicity, his poverty, and his love and joy in God's world.

The following is a prayer -- his prayer, the tradition says -- that helps to explain what the choice of the name Francis means: 


Lord, make me a channel of thy peace, that where there is hatred, I may bring love; that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness; that where there is discord, I may bring harmony; that where there is error, I may bring truth; that where there is doubt, I may bring faith; that where there is despair, I may bring hope; that where there are shadows, I may bring light; that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

 Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted; to understand, than to be understood; to love, than to be loved.

For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.

It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.

It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.

Read at The Huffington Post.

Musings from Michael: A Banner Day at Ave Maria

imagesCALON9GJFeb 9 was a banner day at Ave Maria University. At 6 pm, the 24-hour “Homerathon” concluded – an oral reading in Demetree Auditorium of every book of the Iliad by students, in groups ranging from one to fifteen per book. The last hour was read with quiet, deeply felt and powerful passion by Professor Lombardo from the University  of Kansas, whose command of Greek idiom, and customs, and funerals was effortless -- and extraordinary. His new translation of Homer is translucent. I wish I had benefited from it in my schoolboy years.             Afterwards, one felt an enormous pride in the Ave student body, who carried the reading through all night and all day long. Professor Lombard said of his experience that the Ave campus was one of the most extraordinary he had ever experienced – because of the quality, keen interest, and sense of purpose he experienced among the students. He corrected himself from “one of the most,” to “most,” and then to “unique.”

            As far as I had experienced myself, he nailed it.

            It was neat, too, that the Chairman of our Board of Trustees was a key mover behind the Homerathon. And that Travis Cartwright, Professor of Theater and Performance as well as of English Lit (specialist in Shakespeare) and the Classics Department coached the readers in advance rehearsals. I understand that attendance was often at about 20, sometimes 50, and by the last hour had reached 175  (I hand-counted them myself, to be certain).

            The night concluded with a videotape of the New York City Metropolitan Opera performing Richard Wagner’s Das Rhineland before a live audience in Manhattan.

            In between these two thrilling performances, I ducked in for  a quick dinner at the Queen Mary’s Pub (perhaps my last martini before Lent, plus a Queen Mary Burger –  thick, juicy, and medium-rare). At the end of the evening, driving home on my battery-run golf cart, with  the profound myths and metaphysical soliloquies of  Wagner still terrifying my imagination – I hummed quietly through the warm, rain-pregnant evening air under the huge Florida sky.

Out of sheer generosity of spirit, I said a heartfelt prayer for my friends and family up north, who were just then enduring the last of 30 inches of snow drifting quietly down. The terrifying Wagner prompts me to confess that that I also felt a wee touch of what the classics called “morbid delectation.”