Sunday, July 11, 2010

In Our Keeping

I attended the Dominican Archivists and Historians Conference in River Forest, Illinois on the campus of Dominican University. Janet Welsh, OP (Sinsinawa) Director of the McGreal Center for Dominican Historical Studies has been such a gracious and joyful host, ready to lend a hand and lighten us with cheer at every juncture. Everywhere we went on campus and off .... even on the local scene on the waterfront in Chicago, the people were so hospitable and engaging. I never knew Chicago was such a friendly city! Suzanne Noffke, OP (Racine) set the tone for the conference with her opening presentation on History as Sacramental Remembrance and our responsibility to help others to gain respectful access to the archival material we treasure with such fidelity and help them to enter into those sacred remembrances within the eternal presence of God. This freed us from feeling that our job was just keeping the dust off the collection, to looking at new ways of breaking it open sacramentally.

We held a Skype conversation with Barbara Beaumont, OP (Fanjeaux) about the Sister Historians of the Order of Preachers (SHOP) and their international distance learning that allows students from parts of the world where advanced learning is inaccessible to study theology by correspondence or online toward degrees in divinity soon to be co-sponsored by the Angelicum. In the afternoon we discussed Cynthia Folquer, OP's (Tucaman) work on the mystical experience of the indigenous peoples of the high mountains and the interweaving of politics and religion in Argentina.
We had a preview of Kathleen Sprows Cummings new book, New Women of the Old Faith: Gender in American Catholicism, about the many valiant ways that Catholic women overcame sexism and forged new ground for women in every field. We discovered new ways for Sister historians and archivists can relate to each other more productively and help to preserve and share the story of Dominican congregations. We reviewed software and hardware available for conserving space, preserving and sharing documents and artifacts. We visited the McGreal Center and talked with the volunteer staff of Library and Information Science Students from Dom U. Then we heard an insightful and stimulating panel of young Dominican friars, sisters, nuns, volunteers, associates, and students talk about what the Dominican family has meant to them and how they understand their role in shaping its future. Our own former volunteer and friend of the congregation, Sara Brabec represented DVUSA and spoke eloquently of the joys, supports and challenges of living in an intergenerational Dominican community and her desire to continue to grow in faith seeking understanding through formal study at GTU Berkeley and teaching. We closed the conference with Liturgy of the Word and Eucharist and Mary Ellen O'Grady (Sinsinawa) preaching on the scholar's call, after learning the answer, to go and do likewise.

I will stayed on at the McGreal Center to update our MSJ file of documents in the archives and insert 10 pages of key dates from our own Congregational history into the 10 page timeline of the California Chronology for Volume II of Dominicans in the US. As a member of the OPUS project I am offering to help with writing and editing of Vol. II while working on my own writing about Dominican Mothers and Mystics funded by the Mariological Society of America.

The truth is in our keeping and telling. I leave here with the awareness deep in my soul that God is eternally present as we tend the sacramental remembrances of the past. Because of this sacred work those who come after us will be able to live in its light and find hope and peace and joy.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Faust's Wager

Ever since my German Professor treated me to Gounod's Faust at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco earlier this month, I've had "Le veau d'or est toujour debout" running through my head. Goethe's story of a man willing to wager his soul for an experience of Divine Wisdom, and the epic struggle that ensues, is my favorite book. In the French version by Goundod, Faust gambles his soul in exchange for wine, women and song instead. In the English version by Marlowe, the exchange is for power and glory. It is interesting how the different cultures interpreted the story of Faust differently. The opera has multiple endings ... sometimes Faust loses and sometimes he wins. You never know how it will turn out until you see it. Th experience at the opera has reignited my passion for truly great music. While on home visit in New Hampshire, I picked up a second hand set of Opera Collection I by EMI Classics with arias from Cosi fan tutte, Carmen, Aida, La Traviata, Madame Butterfly, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, the Magic Flute, Norma, Tosca, Romeo and Juliette, Werther, Les Troyens, Samson and Tristan and Isolde filling the room while I work on Info Tech. These powerful songs remind me to enjoy even the moments of tension in life as part of the great drama of being fully human. We are in the midst of preparing for our 24th General Chapter and tension has begun to mount around the preparations .... discussing the upcoming elections of a new Congregational Prioress and Council, listening to the voices that challenge us from the margins,and identifying key areas on which we will choose to concentrate our collective energy in the coming 5 years. Meanwhile, this magnificent music is animating my days and nights. It puts me in a positive frame of mind and helps me to enjoy life as an unfolding love story of epic proportions, with bits of romantic comedy, intrigue, tragic undoings, and elevating acts of transcendant nobility all woven together in creative ways by our loving creative God. Treat yourself to a good recording of one of your favorite operas, and you'll see (or hear) it for yourself. I like to imagine God as a singer especially today as the thunder storms mount around us rumbling and crashing their cymbals. Now which of the SATB parts do you imagine God would be singing? I'm favoring the Baritone today.