The Three Pietas

“All-changing time now darkens what was bright,
Now ushers out of darkness into light” 
                                                                Horace

For much of his life, my father managed an appliance store called General Electronics at 4513 Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest Washington DC, just up the street from American University. There's a Starbucks there now I think.

They sold primarily General Electric appliances for local residents. But a large part of their business was selling appliances for export.

In DC, this was a booming market. My father knew the procurement officers from embassies, consulates, and military posts all over the world, as well as many of the staffers from foreign embassies in DC. I remember one of the staffers from the Norwegian embassy would bring us lefse from the home country, a boyhood treat Dad craved.

I worked at the store most Saturday’s from age 12 or so, as did my three brothers. After a few years, I knew the electrical specs for pretty much every nation from Japan to Jordan. I wasn’t as introverted then and enjoyed being on the sales floor, meeting people from all over the world,  surprised to find how much they valued things I took for granted, like washing machines and refrigerators.

The General Electric company offered sales incentives, and Dad often brought home new televisions or appliances, including the microwave my mother wouldn’t use at first. But their favorite incentive was travel. GE would host trips for groups of top salesmen (I suspect back then they were all men). Often the same people would go on subsequent trips, and they made  some lasting friendships and stayed in touch long after my father retired.

So once every couple of years, my parents would fly off to Europe and other destinations that seemed so exotic to me. The world felt larger then, yet despite the nuclear threat of the cold war, somehow safer.

I don’t remember all the places they went. Paris for sure. Madrid. Mexico City (twice I think). Acapulco.  Italy. Probably others.

I could figure it out. They took hundreds of photos, now stored away in a box until I get around to digitizing. They also kept matchbooks from all their travels, and my mother bought dolls from many countries.

And they bought other souvenirs. A painting of the Madonna from Spain. A silver ring (two actually, on different trips) from a Mexican silversmith. A replica of Michelangelo’s David. And three miniature marble Pietas.

I’m guessing the Italy trip was my mother’s favorite. A devout Church-Every-Sunday-Sodality-On-Saturday-Make-Your-Children-Go-To-Sunday-School-Even-Though-Its-On-Monday Catholic, she must have been enthralled by Rome. She visited the Vatican, saw the Sistine Chapel, had an audience with the pope (John or Paul, I’m not sure which) (and I don’t mean Beatles). And bought three copies of the Pieta, Michaelangelo's statue depicting Mary holding the body of Jesus.

They are sitting side by side now in the china cabinet, with the other curios she assembled, like the girl and puppy porcelain statue I have written about elsewhere. The Pietas differ in size by maybe half an inch, and have slightly different shades of white, from snow to cream. Perhaps the color has aged, or the marble is just different.

I have often wondered why she bought three. I never thought to ask while she was alive. Did she intend them as gifts? Did she plan to give them to her four sons? (I got the David, so maybe the three Pietas were for the others, who obviously needed more spiritual help).Did she want to help the artists who carved them? Or was she just so overwhelmed by the spiritual experience?

I don’t know. I’ll never know I suppose. The three pietas will always be a mystery, unless she was right in her belief, and we will all be together someday, and I can ask her. It would be like her to think that far ahead. She was a great planner, with a wry sense of humor. I can see her smiling as she bought them, thinking of how puzzled I would be many years later.

If she was right, one day (or no day) I will know the answer. And be overwhelmed by the spiritual experience myself. 

Yet, in some sense, it is the wondering that I crave. Keats had a phrase, negative capability, the willingness to live (and create) in a state of irreducible not knowing. In a state of wonder.  

Those who reduce belief to a kind of knowing may be missing this point: the gift of wonder is the essential condition of religion, of art, maybe of sentient life, essential because it impels us forward, closer to that now unreachable truth.

So I wonder about those three pietas. I really do wonder.

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Faith and Grace

I think about dad a lot.

I don’t see him as often as I should.

 

There is nothing to explain really.

It’s just the way things are.

 

Yes I know.

I should, I must, I have to.

 

My point is about something else.

I think about Faith and Grace a lot.

 

I do what I can to keep the faith.

I believe that with grace, nothing could ever be lost.

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That 3AM Moment

Anyone who wakes at 3 am understands what that moment is all about.

What the silence brings.

 

I recall the many nights then.

I’d stand by the window and stare into darkness.

 

I was told that’s when the gates of heaven are open.

So ask, and so shall you receive.

 

It’s God time and he hears clearly.

So do your best and ask.

 

For many dark nights at dawn

I woke to the stillness of things around me.

 

Gently whispering to the breeze.

One’s deepest thoughts and desires that life could bring.

 

Suddenly I find myself awake once again this same moment then

Only this time I hear myself asking slightly different.

 

I know you hear me dear Angels in Heaven.

And I know God is present in all things.

 

So dare shall I ask in utmost silence.

Please, grant my desire that my fragile heart holds dear.

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Spotlight on my Faith

Upon the recommendation and egging of my sister, I downloaded the movie Spotlight and watched it.

I must say... what a powerful movie about sexual abuse within the Catholic Church!

I do recall hearing accounts about events in Boston, it must have been through CNN and all I saw were snippets.  That was quite a while back.

At the end of the movie, Manila and Cebu in the Philippines were among the list of places enumerated where there are accounts on record. 

The movie itself I thought was phenomenal!  The actors all showed how crucial reporting and journalism is.  Investigation beyond the call of duty and perseverance!

I am catholic.  I was truly touched by the accounts narrated in the movie.  I feel for all victims of abuse, not just within the catholic church.  it's beyond complex.

I thought about my mother who was traditionally catholic and who like many others that lived ordinary lives had their own difficult struggles too.

Depending on how one defines religion in their personal lives and journeys, it can be difficult to live by and live with.  With all do respect to religion, it can make or break.   

Not directly with God but everything else in between that leads one to God.  That is, the Church, the Organization, the laws...

In the end, I believe it is important for me to have the kind of inner faith that links me directly to God.  I may not be the kind of Catholic I am "supposed" to be.

But much as I sympathize with all the victims this movie has brought upon me,  my next life will be with God or some higher form of being and not with the idolatry or dogma or some form of teaching that will tie me down or define me.

 

 

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