Welcome! This blog celebrates both the local and the catholic -- that is, universal -- aspects of the Roman Catholic Church by sharing reflections on experiences of the Church in a variety of settings and cultures. Postings will come from around the world and around the corner. You don't have to be a Catholic to come along.

Monday, December 20, 2010

MervSue's Hideaway

Our good friends Mervin and Susan Marshall are renting out rooms in their home on the west coast of Barbados as a bed and breakfast to raise funds for a young person from their parish who is hoping to attend World Youth Day in Madrid.

They have two bedroom available, each with one queen-size bed and a stand-alone fan. Guests will have access to a shared kitchen, equipped with refrigerator, hotplate, kettle & toaster, pots & pans, dishes etc.

The cost is $70 a night or $450 for a week, including shuttle service in and out of Speightown, continental breakfast, and a few surprises. This offer is available until June 30, 2011. Mervin and Susan aren't normally in the B&B business.

Ann and I had the joy of staying at MervSue's Hideaway at 22 The Rock, St. Peter's Barbados, on two occasions for two weeks each. But we went there as friends, not paid guests. We know them as fellow Catholics interested in religious communications.

Catholics are a decided minority on the beautiful little (166-square-mile) island, and the Marshalls seem to know just about all of them. They are both very active in their parish and in the diocese.

Mervin hosts a weekly Catholic radio show for young people, Cari-Vibes, on which Ann and I once appeared as guests talking about the concept of vacation as an educational and spiritual journey for Roamin' Catholics.

The always-busy Mervin also has a weekly television program on gardening. It's no surprise, then, that 22 The Rock is beautifully landscaped. It's also close to everying. (In Barbados, everything is close to everything.) Staying there would be a special treat, while helping a good cause at the same time. If you're interested, write to mervsue@hotmail.com or delleous@gmail.com.

Friday, December 10, 2010

R.I.P., Fr. Louis

On this day in 1968, man named Fr. Louis died of accidental electrocution in Bangkok -- 27 years to the day after he entered religious life at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Ky.

He was better known under his birth name, Thomas Merton, the name which appeared on a startling high number of spiritual books over a 20-year period. Most famous among them was The Seven-Storey Mountain, the best-selling story of his own life and conversion published in 1948.

But the name on his tombstone, the same simple cross afforded to all the monks buried there on the abbey grounds, is Fr. Louis Merton. The grave isn't given any special honor or attention, but I found it the first time I visited Gethsemani on retreat about 15 years ago. I have returned to there almost every year since.

During that very first visit, my friend Greg and I also had the rare opportunity to sit in Merton's hermitage and talk for an hour an half with a woman who was staying there while she discerned a possible vocation as a Trappestine nun.

The Merton house, deep into the woods on the Merton property, isn't open to guests. But we had connections. A friend of ours, Fr. David DeVore, was living at the abbey on sabbatical at the time. He took us for a walk in the woods to see the house; the woman staying there saw us and invited us in.

Now Fr. DeVore is himself buried at Gethsemani as well.

In the middle of the last century, Thomas Merton was one of the major figures of the Catholic Church in the United States. His legacy lives on in more than 60 published volumes of his writings that still have power today. But to be at Gethsemani, where he lived just over half of his life and where his body lies, is to connect with Fr. Louis in a special way that is important to me.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Saint Who is Santa

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Last night Ann hung our stockings by the chimney with care for St. Nicholas to fill, as seen above. We have been doing this all during our married life. The number of stockings has expanded consistently as we have added children, spouses of children, and grandchildren.

St. Nicholas was bishop of Myra in what is now Turkey in the fourth century. His remains rest in Bari, Italy. Our Byzantine rite Catholic friend Stephanie Moore called our attention to a wonderful website called "St. Nicholas: Discovering the Truth About Santa Claus." Check it out to learn more.

The site includes beautiful icons of the saint. Icons of St. Nicholas are quite popular in the eastern rites and the Orthodox Church. Stephanie's son, Nicholas, owns about a dozen icons of his name saint.

In Stephanie's tradition, children leave their shoes by the door the night before the feast day to be filled with chocolate coins and candy. At the Moore house, the adults also find their shoes filled with adult beverages! This is yet another reason why St. Nicholas should be better known in the west than just another name for Santa Claus.