Friday, April 20, 2007

A Continuing Echo

Two Weeks after returning from Istanbul I cannot get the echo of the Call to Prayer out of my head. I cannot get the image of the bearded men in the pantaloons in Fatih and their veiled wives out of my mind.
I want to be a liberal- I want to be open minded but for a Christian, even a Liberal One Istanbul is a place that makes one wonder and think about his/her place in the world.
I keep thinking about the panels in Hagia Sophia, where each the panel crosses were removed
with at chisel systematically, I keep thinking about the icons and mosaics of St Savior in Chora with their smashed faces and desecrated bodies and I ask myself what is it that makes us one?
The thing that haunts me is that my people have done the same things. In Spain and Sicily we did the same things to Mosques and Synagogues but one some level most Christians don't care
because it is evil being done to another. In Mexico and Peru the same things.
This sense is the reason that most people in Europe in the 1930s and 40s said nothing about the holocaust- it did not effect them why should they risk? Why should they try to change and he hurt by courage?
I cannot believe that when Abraham was called by God (YHWH, ADONAI, ALLAH) 6000 years ago he meant for his children- as numerous as sands on a seashore- to be like this with one another. I have heard all the stories- Islam is a religion of war- Christians are Crusaders on balance we are equally flawed and sinful. But why is it that as we pray to same God we continue to commit atrocities?
Less than 10 years ago Orthodox Christians in Bosnia- murdered unobservant Muslims for revenge for a battle in 1389. In the Middle East in Lebanon and Cyprus Muslims and Christians continue to kill each other. In Iraq Shia and Sunni kill each other over a family dispute 1400 years ago. Why is it that Islam could produce a Sinan or a Rumi and Christianity a Dante or a St Francis and Judaism a Buber or a Heine but we continue to kill each other?
I go back to the smashed icons of Istanbul- and the desecrated mosques of Palermo and wonder?

Friday, April 13, 2007

That Intellectual Look

That Intellectual Look......
The other night at our local poetry group we were waiting for one of our members- Jen Scappettone to arrive and the group of us were watching Garin Cycholl's orgasmic MLB package.
When Jen entered the room she gave us "that intellectual look" you know the look? Like what the hell is this? This is a waste of time this is silly or worse unimportant. I really like Jen she is a great poet and great intellectual but she is the master of the intellectual look.... maybe we need to spend a few nights at the Cell..... or at Schallers???
But in the room were great poets and great Baseball fans.
I love poet ball fans,
Mark Tardi- the closest poetic equivilent of a wirey shortstop-
Mike Antonucci, a grizzled hard first baseman,
Garin Cycholl the poetic equivilent of Stan Musial,
Bill Allegrezza a graceful centerfielder,
Brian Clements a sure handed second baseman,
Joe Ahearn a powerful DH- poets all.
Oh and me, a broken toothed catcher......
I have never understood people who view Baseball as just a sport? What other sport has such characters? or Babe Ruth, what other sport has changed America- Jackie Robinson, what other sport gives you daily diversion and deep thinking? I get more often from a great ball game then from a group of poetic intellectuals reading their musings... baseball- a cool clean change. Poetry readings are less so... but I love them too.
I have to say that apart from getting married, and publishing my first book my greatest joy was watching my White Sox win the World Series. It is April, it is snowing in Chicago and yet there is a ball game on tonight the Sox are playing the Indians (I hate the Tribe)......... such joy.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday has always been an important holiday for me.

As a child we would spend it with the Vincentian Fathers in Lemont, Illinois. These wonderful wacky radical priests were my first introduction to feet washing and processions.

Later when I was in Bolivia I had the most moving Holy Thursday of my life when Father Benoit a Capuchin with whom I worked did the Mass for that day and asked each inmate in the jail where I worked to wash the feet of those around him. I always go to Mass on Holy Thursday and today was no exception- Traudi and I are in Istanbul on our 10th anniversary trip. We ventured to the Beyoglu neighborhood here in the city to attend Mass in Turkish, Italian, English and Tagalog. Beyoglu is the only place in this city where one feels the fresh air of post modernity- in some areas like Fatih it is closer to the air of the Prophet than to the post modern world.

Being in Istanbul for the past week and being a Christian a sense of loss is everywhere. We have visited over 10 former Byzantine Churches including the Church of Churches, Hagia Sophia. The desecration of these great churches is jarring for any Christian and while I know that these things happened 500 years ago the melancholy of the desecration still sits on you darkly. I am sure the way Muslims feel when they enter the Alhambra which we desecrated 500 years ago. To stand in Hagia Sophia and know that the Eucharist will never be celebrated in that most Christian of spaces is a sadness that will stay with me.

Once on a business trip to Cordoba, Spain I escaped a day of trade shows and associations to visit the former great mosque of the city. I remember thinking what must it be like to enter the mosque- as a Muslim-and see it now changed into a Cathedral.

What it must be like to be cut off from the place for prayer and know that you are separated from the place by the violent act of force.

Istanbul, the former Constantinople will cause a feeling in your soul. Istanbul is a fabulous place- a place of legend and a place of ghosts. To be in Istanbul during Holy Week also makes one think about the future.

Touring former Churches with hoards of Spanish and Italian tourists who probably never enter Churches in their home nations and wondering how many of their fabulous edifices will be desecrated in the same ways in few years time when no one will attend Mass anymore in those nations?

In the end Istanbul is a city if ghosts and of memory and the fact that it is Holy Week and so few people here even think about remembering that fact in this the city consecrated to the Virgin Hodegetria is a thought for all of us in the West to ponder- Deo Gratia