A contemplative monastic nun writing about spirituality, family, relationships, memories, art and craft,
books and more...all from the Boomer Generation perspective and experience.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Family Context for the Boomer

The Oreo Generation

Long ago a promise was made here to attend to the Boomer experience; to reflect upon the relationship of this generation, a generation in or entering retirement, to the slice of population born before them, the younger generations that follow them, as well as the social and cultural reality in which they live.

The image of a sandwich has been used as metaphor for the experience of this generation in between. I prefer the image of the famed Oreo cookie. What is the experience of being the filler in this generational alignment while surrounded by a contextual  smorgasbord including technological revolution, economic shift, constant war, realities of aging, global warming, the ebola virus, etc., etc., etc.?

Why propose the image of the Oreo? The filler in an Oreo does not rest between two yielding slices of soft bread. The filler attempts to meld two unyielding firm and demanding cookies. In addition, its sweetness is to soften the more blunt flavor of chocolate striving to assert itself.

This is a vision of the Boomer reality experienced by many these days. Many are trying to be lovingly, responsibly and appropriately in relationship with the generation that came before us (parents and other older relatives or friends) and the generation which came from us, now our adult children. As in the Oreo cookie, we either take on or have cast upon us the task of supporting or holding together this generational mix. And like the cookie filler we are to be a sweet, pliable, and present and wise element of the structure.

Most recent posts touched upon the cause of world peace, issues in the Church, history, social commentary and more. However, the events of my personal life in last five months call me to ponder this Oreo phenomenon. As Boomer well into the last years of my life the experience of the Oreo filler is mine. The most recent episodes follow all too rapidly on the heels of placing my mother in an assisted living facility, supporting Hospice care for my father in his home, experiencing his death, selling the family home and dealing with the collections of their life time.

Future posts will tell the story in more detail. The story is presented at least in part as a cautionary tale for the Boomer and for the generations that surround them. But here I will merely post the remembrance/obituary piece I wrote two weeks ago upon the death of my mother's brother.

In Remembrance of Joseph Milazzo

Joseph Milazzo peacefully slipped away in the morning of October 3, 2014 at Putnam Ridge Nursing Home, Brewster, NY following a brief but serious illness. He was 82 years old. Following a physical collapse in Florida on July 20th and hospitalization, he was moved to Brewster on August 13, 2014.

Joseph was born on December 1, 1931 in Brooklyn, NY.  His parents were Rosalia Galante and Frank Milazzo, both natives of Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily. He is survived by his older sister, Matilda Nimke, widow of Helmut Eric Nimke. Matilda now resides at Putnam Ridge Nursing Home. He also leaves his nieces Sister Hildegard Pleva, OSsR of Beacon, NY and Commander Rosalinda Hasselbacher, US Navy Nurse Corps Ret., of Shelton, CT as well as four grand-nephews Jonathan, Matthew and Andrew Pleva and Erich Hasselbacher, their spouses and five great-grand nieces and nephews.

It has been arranged with Halvey Funeral Home, 24 Willow St., Beacon, NY 12508, that the family will gather at the funeral home at 10:30am on Wednesday, October 8, 2014. At 11am there will be a brief prayer service at which Fr. Richard Smith, pastor of St. Joachim and St. John’s Parish in Beacon will preside. Immediately following we will proceed to St. John's Cemetery, 80-01 Metropolitan Ave., Middle Village, NY 11379) in Queens. Uncle Joe will be buried in the grave of his mother who died in 1932 at the age of 29 just three months after his birth. There is something very touching in this reunion of the two of them.

My Uncle and all his Brooklyn buddies who I remember from my growing up years are in many ways like characters from a Damon Runyon story but with a Sicilian/Brooklyn accent. My Uncle began life in the Depression with many strikes again him so he was not what I call a 'straight line kid.' Did not finish high school; went from one unskilled job to another; was drafted during the Korean War and served in Germany. He did get a GED and finally, through a friend of my parents, began a job working as an apprentice in the carpet trade. Slowly and with much hard work he rose through the Union ranks and became a skilled carpet mechanic with the ability to lay intricate designs in wall to wall carpeting. He would come home and talk about doing work for the likes of Claudette Colbert and Lena Horne. After his retirement he took on the pattern of a snow bird, living in Brooklyn during the late spring and summer months and returning to his condo in Margate, Florida to enjoy being on the beach with his many friends every day. He eventually took up permanent residence in Margate.

He was only 15 years older than my sister and I so he was the young gay blade who taught us how to dance the cha-cha and how to let the man lead on the dance floor. When my sister went off to St. Vincent's Nursing School in Greenwich Village in 1968 it was an awful neighborhood and he knew that sooner or later she would be out and about in a threatening neighborhood and meeting with friends at the local hangouts. She recently shared that before she left for nursing school Uncle Joe said that if she ever had a problem or got into a fix she did not want to drag her parents into she just had to call him and he would be there. This was the type of presence he offered in the family.

He had a beautiful girl friend before he was drafted and kept to his death an album of all their pictures while dating. I believe he received a "Dear John letter" from her while he was in the Army and it broke his heart. He always had a woman in his life, women he could bring home, but he never married.

He worked very hard, enjoyed life, loved good food and had many friends. But he saved money and played the market. When he knew the market had gotten beyond him he placed his money in wise investments. So his generous gifts in life will be matched by bequests in death leaving a legacy which will enrich the lives of those he loved.

He was known as "Joey Blue Eyes". He was a generous friend, treated his ladies with dignity and respect as a gentleman. He loved his sister and her husband, my parents, and called them from Florida every Saturday. And he loved his nieces and their children.

After his collapse on July 20th of this year, even in his dismay at his deteriorating condition in hospital and nursing home, he remained concerned about others and grateful for care. He was always inquiring as to what or where I had eaten and if I was a feeling comfortable in his condo and finding everything I needed.

We did everything we could for him but something else was winning the race and finally he just slipped away.

I see now that the act of writing has been the creation of a more intimate obituary than is usual. I share it with you to give a sense of the man.

There will not be a Mass because he was only a weddings and funerals type of church-goer. But he was good and loved by God and conquered many demons in his life, I am sure. And "now he knows." The prayers offered at the funeral home and cemetery will be as much for those he leaves behind as they are for him as his ‘awareness’ expands to all eternity.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Meeting Sr. Theresa Kane, RSM

Sr. Theresa Kane, RSM
Archdiocesan Council of Women Religious (ACWR)
October 14, 2014, Sparkill, NY


The Years of Consecrated Lives:
Comments Upon Advent of Papal Declaration
for the Year of Consecrated Life

Sr. Theresa Kane is currently teaching at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY. She resides at Marian Woods, an assisted living facility for women religious. In 1978 she was appointed to deliver words of welcome to Pope John Paul II at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. At the time she was serving as president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).The event received world-wide media coverage. In her remarks she raised the topic of issues pertinent to women including reference to consideration of access by women to all of the ministerial roles in the Church including ordained priesthood. Her remarks were startling and brought on a storm of response on all sides of the issue. Below appear my notes of her remarks at the ACWR meeting.

Quoting retired Bishop Hubbard (Diocese of Albany) Sr. Teresa spoke of consecrated religious life as an expression of “evangelical daring”. Upon reflection she moved from the singular form of the year’s title to the plural form “years of consecrated life”. Prior to her famed remarks to Pope John Paul II in 1978, the United Nations had declared the first UN “Year of the Woman”. Thus consideration of the dedication and possibilities of women’s lives is many years old.
The presentation as outlined was to include the topics of genesis of the word “consecrated”; how “consecration is to be understood in current conversation”; and important implications for consecrated life including the Second Vatican Council, the role of laity, and the consequences of consecrated life.
Exploration of the origins and use of the term consecration:
·       consecration of the host at Eucharist
·       consecration of holy ground (cemeteries)
·       consecration of bishops
·       consecration of religious
·       consecration of couples at marriage
·       consecration at ordination for priesthood
·       consecration in sacraments and blessings (baptism, holy buildings, virginity)

Consecration comes with a blessing. It is the vehicle of covenant resulting in mutual blessing.

Recent history regarding the Apostolic Visitation of congregations of women religious in the United States instituted by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) was reviewed and it was suggested that declaration of the “Year of Consecrated Life” was an effort on the part of CICLSAL to quietly put that controversy to rest.
Second Vatican Council

The Council did not spring full blown out of the mind of Pope John XXIII. It came from a vision and a spirit of anticipation among scholars and theologians beginning in the 1930s and 1940s. The Council engendered new emphasis on religious ecumenism, religious freedom, participation of the laity as expressed in “Lumen Gentium”, a Council document, and the concept of community replacing the prevalent concept of institution. Where ‘institution’ has features of organization, structure, systems, management, purpose and, in terms of the Church, leadership by a pyramid of hierarchy. In contrast, the concept of ‘community’ presents a discipleship of equals, a spirit of liberalism and the notion that the entire community is consecrated.

Lay people are 90% of the Church community. The movement from the tradition institutional concept to that of community declared a new dignity of inclusion for the vast majority of the People of God.
Consequences of Religious Consecration

The consequences of living a life of religious consecration are a Gospel way of living, service to those most in need and a quality of prophecy.

1.     Gospel Way of Living – Consecrated religious life is a valid Spirit-driven life style that does not have its origins in an institution but is lived in parallel to an institution. Since consecrated life is Spirit-driven it can often be in tension with systems of religion especially in areas of business and governance because it is a radical departure from the standard values of society and culture. These values include ownership. Wealth, independence, and lives not determined in an autonomous fashion. The communal stress in consecrated life is a Spirit-driven mystery following the Gospel way of life which requires:

 * prayer, solitude and contemplation
 * community
 * service
2.     Apostolic Service – Service to the poor within the context of the belief that “the poor are to be agents of their own destiny” to overcome oppression by both the Church and the government. Choices for ministry reflect a “preferential option for the poor”.

3.     Prophecy – Requires contemplation, the courage of one’s convictions, and development of conscience followed by respect for the primacy of personal conscience in discernment.
In this way we atone; we become ‘at one’ with ourselves, in relationship with others, with all of humankind and with all of creation.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Caryll Houselander
1901 - 1954
A Prayer for Our Time

British author so stunning with spiritual insight Caryll Houselander is best known for her book "The Reed of God", a meditation on Mary the mother of Jesus. The title is metaphor for Mary's willingness to allow God to work Divine Will in and through her being.
Less well known in the United States other works are rooted in her experience of the horrors of the London Blitz during World War II. Our monastic library (no longer with us to my great dismay) held some of these gems. Among them I found her little book "The Comforting of Christ". In just the title we are invited to consider such a strange notion; the idea that we human beings can comfort the suffering Christ. Think about that one.
At the end of this precious book Houselander placed a lengthy prayer entitled " A Meditation on the Mass of Reparation". Beautiful in its poetic phrasing the prayer never fails to open my heart. Over  and over again I have been drawn to the section that speaks of the moment when the priest adds a drop of water to the chalice of wine. I share this section here because while its content was born in the mist of Britain's darkest hour its appropriateness in our time is so poignant. After reading of the horrors reported in the New York Times on a daily basis, I am present at Mass with this prayer before me.
"Receive the tears of the world, in the drop of water in the Chalice; receive the tears of the old mothers who weep in the ruins of their homes, rifled nests of the little birds that were once their sons; receive the tears of frightened children, of homesick children. Receive the privileged tears of those who can weep for contrition; receive the tears that are not shed, that are hard as salt-water frozen in hearts that can weep no more; that ache in the throats of those who have no more tears to shed. Receive, O God, from my hands, who am not worthy to breathe the air He breathes, the tears of Christ in the Chalice of our salvation, the tears of the Infant in Bethlehem, the tears of the little foreign Child in Egypt, the tears shed over Jerusalem, the tears shed over Lazarus...O God, we offer Thee the tears of Christ in the tears of the world: "We offer Thee the Chalice of Salvation, humbly begging Thy mercy that it may ascend to Thee for our salvation and for that of the whole world."  

More History from World War II Letters


Helmut Eric Nimke - 1944
The limits of time - only 24 hours in each day - do not allow for concentrated effort in completely processing the cache of letters written by my mother and father during WWII. Therefore my reportage concerning what they reveal is a bit strung out here. But I know there are readers who look forward to reading more.
Just found this post in draft form stashed in the "files" of this blog. Just can't let it go to waste even if there is little I can add at this time. The letter above seems to have been a joint communication by men in my father's squadron who are dismayed by the injustices they observe in Meridian, Mississippi. Bear in mind that 10 years later Meridian would be at the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement.
Below are two enclosures from the letters. They are followed by a letter in which justice issues are spoken of yet again.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Church and New Document Governing Nuns

In April 2014 CICLSAL - The Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life sent a questionnaire to the monasteries of contemplative women ("cloistered monasteries") requesting their response to an attached questionnaire. In 2008 the Congregation held a Plenary Assembly concerned with "The Monastic Life and Its Meaning in the Church and the World Today". Currently ecclesial legislation regarding monasteries of nuns is governed by the Apostolic Constitution entitled "Sponsa Christi" promulgated in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. 
To inform the work of the Congregation in preparing a new document a questionnaire was sent out with a return date of September 2014. The new document is to be promulgated during the Year of Consecrated Life which begins Advent, November 30, 2014 and will end on February 2, 2016, the World Day for Consecrated Life.
The essay below is my own general response which has come out of our community deliberations in response to the questionnaire.
Answer the Call:
General Response to Questionnaire 
Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life
 and Societies of Apostolic Life
Sr. Hildegard Pleva, OSsR

In concert with the desires of Pope Francis, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has been directed to prepare a proposal for a new apostolic constitution for monasteries of nuns, a successor to Sponsa Christi promulgated in 1955 by Pope Pius XII.  It is possible to discern within this directive an invitation offered by our loving God. A call can be heard; a call issued to our Church which, having entered the 3rd millennium, is invited to affirm the dignity of all women created in the image and likeness of God and particularly women of our faith baptized into the Paschal Mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ who is priest, prophet and king.
In formulation of the proposed Papal document, the first of its kind in the 21st century, the Congregation, cognizant of current theology and scripture interpretation with regard to women as well as the cultural and societal norms of our period in history, can be attentive to the signs of our times. Recognizing the import of these factors, the new document should assert the dignity of women, render respect, declare trust and, by its stipulations, affirm the full equality of women in the Church and society, both secular and ecclesial.
The regulations concerning Papal Enclosure were first promulgated over 1,000 years ago. Analysis by historians has revealed that these regulations and their periodic reiteration in a variety of documents were rooted primarily in the political, economic and cultural context of times long passed; more rooted in constructs and circumstances long passed than in any purely spiritual value. To this day anachronistic provisions are draped with the cloth of spirituality.
Just as apostolic congregations of women are largely self-determining in the manner in which they live out their vows and fulfill their stated active apostolic purpose to serve the needs of the people of God, women in solemn vows and committed to the apostolic work of prayer, should be similarly self-determining of the manner in which they remain committed to and exercise their vowed ministry. In this way their dignity and equality in the ecclesial setting would be affirmed.
In the matter of interaction with the world at large and the ways in which modern technology can present a challenge to contemplative life, contemplative women, in accord with the philosophy described here, should be paid the respect and trust that their dignity and equality merit. They have the ability to self-manage the circumstances of their lives and the availability of new technologies in a manner that supports contemplation, corporate prayer, and community life in accord with their varied charisms while remaining focused upon the apostolic work of prayer for our Church and our world. The current technological challenge is not a new species of development. In the 16th century there was the appearance of the printing press. The 19th century brought with it the telegraph and telephone. In the 20th century we dealt with the advent of the automobile, television and mass media. All of these the challenges were weathered as this question was answered, “How can we use this development to foster faith, prayer and community (local as well as international) but not allow it to destroy the focus of our charism and crumble the enclosure of our hearts?” Contemplative women can be trusted today to answer the same question with great integrity and to respond appropriately to current technological developments in computer sciences, the ability to access to the Internet and the availability of social media.
The document under consideration can express this trust in allowing mature women who are committed to their vows and the person of Jesus to formulate the question over and over as the times demand and to continue to live lives centered on Jesus, pledged to Gospel values and determined to preserve contemplative life dedicated to the apostolic work of prayer.