May 2011

Looking back on Vatican II

By Art Goodtimes

CONFESSIONS OF AN EX-MONK … The dawn of the 3rd Millennium of the Christian Era has not showered its graces upon the Byzantine stained glass of Roman Catholicism.Revelations of widespread sexual abuse among deviant members of the Roman Catholic clergy have rocked the faithful and non-believers alike. Bishops and Cardinals have been touched by the smoldering, decades-old scandal (even, some claim, the Pope). Not for any predatory sexual behavior themselves, but for allowing ordained predators to continue in the priesthood – instead of shutting the offenders up in mandatory seclusion. Or sending them off into the world, excommunicated. Or (God forbid) turning them over to the civil authorities … As a young man I had such hope for religion. I was a believer. Even with the allure of Fifties rock ’n’ roll parties and eighth-grade first dates, I decided at 14 to dedicate my life to making this a better world with a better life for all. Which, in my young mind, translated into entering a diocesan seminary south of San Francisco (Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs was just a class ahead of me there). My intent was clear – I would help convert the world into believers in the gospels of the RC Christ ... Of course, the deeper I got in my studies, the more my goal morphed. We aspiring clerical Turks wanted to get rid of the old Latin Mass. Bring the ritual into English, so all could participate. And understand. Ours was an American kind of Catholicism, imbued with Jeffersonian principles and Catholic Worker tendencies. Many spiritual greenhorns like myself embraced the near-heretical writings on the Omega Point by Jesuit philosopher-paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, as well as the complete oeuvre of Trappist poet, pacifist and celebrity monk Thomas Merton, who pioneered interfaith dialogue among East and West religious traditions and bridged the spiritual chasm between modern literature and contemplative life (Cables from the Ace, New Directions, 1968) … But the retrenchment of the Roman Curia once Blessed John the XXIII (Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli) died and my own wrestling with existential phenomenology (and a looming vow of celibacy) led me out of St. Patrick’s Seminary and off to Montana and the land of the Absaroka (but that’s another tale) … All of this to say I have a confession to make. I’m addicted. Every spring, as my mail box fills up with lurid photos of the most beautiful creatures, I have come to accept that I am addicted to the pornography of garden catalogues … Omygoddess, I could leaf through their Technicolor pages for hours. Entranced with the beauty of this bulb. Lusting to purchase that flowering annual. Pining for the rarest heirloom spud seed … And, honestly, I’m not a bit ashamed. When it comes to the sin of gardening, I’m completely unrepentant.

THE TALKING GOURD

Lady in Red

I am cleaning out my closet.
You can imagine the mess.
A lot of black dresses.

You’d think I am, like Masha
in Chekhov’s The Seagull,
“in mourning for my life.”

I’m throwing everything out
(well actually I’m giving it all to
charity).
From this day forward, I will only

wear red, from here on out.
I’ve saved what I have,
three red dresses,

and a couple of jackets.
One is more raspberry than red,
but oh what a color.

I have saved it
from the great purging.
I want to walk naked down the street,

reciting poetry.
But they put you in the loony bin for that.
Instead, I will wear my three red dresses,

in no particular order,
and never all at once, naked
underneath, and recite my poetry anyway.

Valerie Haugen
Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival Carbondale

WEEKLY QUOTA … In a letter to Nicaraguan poet and cultural minister Ernesto Cardenal, Thomas Merton wrote: “The world is full of great criminals with enormous power, and they are in a death struggle with each other. It is a huge gang battle, using well-meaning lawyers and policemen and clergymen as their front, controlling papers, means of communication, and enrolling everybody in their armies.”

GREGORY GREYHAWK … Another bright star flames out … One of those giant souls, huge-hearted, a string of his own hockey teeth pearled around his neck. Brilliant, erratic. I loved being around him. Anything could happen, and sometimes did …. Just ordered his book, Wailing Heaven, Whistling in Hell (Howling Dog Press, Berthoud, Colorado, 1996) … Gonna miss the wrap of his big arm as we caromed down a Denver sidewalk, and the wild grin of his gap-toothed smile.

DICK BRETT … An old sem buddy of mine reporting from the interior of China last month … “The weather is Chengdu gray here. Spring is not in the air … The Chinese just finished celebrating their tomb-sweeping three-day holiday where they remember their beloved dead. I was the only foreigner in Pingle, a 2300-year-old Chinese town, where human beings first used natural gas. I was surrounded with Chinese who have gotten a little bit bigger piece of their ever growing economic pie. The Chinese know how to relax with their family and friends, tea and beer by the river -- talking, playing cards or mahjong, and eating fresh, delicious food … The four hour trip back to the big city was worth it.”

LA GRUTA … If you ever make it to Mexico’s Estato Libre y Soberano de Guanajuato in the country’s high central basin (which I heartily recommend you do), let me introduce you to a very relaxing hot springs spa – La Gruta … Just a short drive out of the picturesque colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, the resort hosts a series of outdoor pools fed by a thermal hot springs, and a dark cave-like dome of rough-hewn stones pierced by spears of light dancing on the water’s crystal . It’s accessed by a long, covered, waist-deep waterway, creating a magical wading corridor of entrance and exit. Under the dome you can swim and at intervals a spring-fed waterfall is switched on – affording one the opportunity to be pummeled by warm water. Unlike local springs here, drinks (including alcoholic ones, especially margaritas) are allowed in the pools, although only in plastic cups … Highly recommended.

Art Goodtimes is a county commissioner in San Miguel County, Colo.