Monday, March 26, 2012

From Heather King...

I sent an email to Heather King, introducing her to our group and letting her know that we are currently reading her book on her year with St. Therese, Shirt of Flame.

She wrote back! Here is her response:

"I am thrilled to know you all are reading Shirt of Flame in College Station, Texas! I want you to know I have driven across Texas twice, stopping over in such lovely towns as Austin, Ozona and Junction; getting to meet Fr. Ron Rolheiser in San Antonio; and doing a 40-day retreat on the Gulf Coast a couple of years ago...so this is a lovely connection and more to the point, I am always happy to meet a friend, or in this case friends of Therese. 

We all want to make a mark and it's such a consolation to remember that Christ will do that for us: in his time, in his way...

I love the C.S. Lewis quote. Books do that and so, in the end, does Church....

Thanks gals!
All best wishes,
Heather "

Introduction to Heather King

Heather King:
"My work is both Catholic and catholic, which is to say universal, all-inclusive: a thirst for communion, a pondering of the questions: Why are we here? Where did we come from? Where are we going?

Someone once asked me, "How could you become a Catholic in L.A.?" My answer is "How could you not become a Catholic in L.A.?" What better backdrop for reflection than the paradoxes of wealth and the poverty, beauty and broken dreams, the power and the glory of the City of Angels? What better place for the maddening, every-absorbing task of making my way as a human being and a writer than this fractured city of nine million other shining souls?

I'm a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and Suffolk Law School. Born and raised on the New Hampshire seacoast, I did a 10-year stint in Boston and moved to L.A. in 1990. Following a disastrous 4-year run as a Beverly Hills attorney, I quit my job, converted to Catholicism, and began writing. My commentaries have been aired on NPR's "All Things Considered"; my essays published, among other places, in The Los Angeles Times Magaizne, The Utne Reader, Commonweal, Notre Dame Magazine, Portland Magazine, and The Sun; and my work anthologized in the Best Spiritual Writing series 2002, 2005, and 2008. (click on dates for links).

I've received fellowships from the Djerassi Foundation, the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Ucross Foundation, and am a communicant at St. Basil's and St. Thomas the Apostle chruches in Koreatown, L.A." 

~ from heather-king.com

"If you are lonely enough, and spiritually hungry enough, and desperate enough, you will eventually see a cross with a body on it, stop in your tracks and realize: That is me. " ~ Heather King

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lizzie's War Character Reflection: Fr. Zeke


“All things are interesting, in that sense. If you’re paying attention. That’s just the reality of the incarnation.” (p. 62)

Fr. Zeke is my favorite character. His struggle sums up the all of the ‘wars’ that take place throughout the story. Interestingly, Tim Farrington originally named the book "Careers of Faith". And, while I'm glad that title didn't stick, it makes clear what the book is about. Maybe too clear, and thus the title change. The book is about vocation. About embracing your 'war'. And letting it go. Fr. Zeke Germaine seems to be just that, distilled. No question. Warring with himself, his past, his suffering, his desires and his vocation to love.

(from just after he was wounded in the war, pg. 148. Italics are mine.)

"He was terrified but strangely calm, as he often was under intense fire. Combat was the world, and he was in the world but not of it. There was even an exhilaration to the experience; he'd never felt so free, so true and so real. The blazing adrenaline made him simple as a flame, all radiance and quiet heat, a lit place where everything was clear and all he could see, in perfect focus, was the next man in front of him in need of care and comfort. He didn't think much about dying himself. Death came, in such a place, or it didn't. That was in God's hands."

These two scenes captivated me: The Pastoral Care meeting at Priscilla Starkey's parlor and the Bingo game at St. Jude's.  Fr. Zeke travels between the base reality of the present: who should receive which leftover altar flowers and who's cheating at bingo, to the deep love of a priest acting "in personal Christi" and loving his flock. Remembering the death of a good man, Mr. Condotti and his compassion for hard-of-hearing old Mrs. Malewich in her wheelchair who just wants to win one durn bingo game. And, interestingly, Mrs. Starkey is the instigator in both scenes, as dull and uninspired as her weak coffee.  What beautiful, delicate contrast. How real. Hasn't every priest been here? And, do they pray the words of St. Peter, too? 

Baby Anna and Fr. Zeke share a birthday. This really didn't stand out at me until reading the book again, this third time through. Is it stretching too much to think there is some connection there, with the birth and death of this little innocent baby and Fr. Zeke's ability to find "what it takes to make a human being into a priest"?  In a way, it is because of Anna that Fr. Zeke finds freedom from his feelings for Liz.  Our last view of him is at the front door of Lizzie's house, saying good-bye, no longer full of craving and dread. " 'I might come by on Saturday,' he said.  'The lawn could use mowing'... Germaine smiled. He still wanted to kiss her. He probably always would. The only difference now was that he knew it would never happen. Something had changed between them, in that hospital room. He was, forever, the man who had given last rites to her daughter. And soon enough he would be the man who had sent the pictures of her dead baby to her husband. And he thought, So this is what it takes to make a human being into a priest. 'Okay, then,' he said. 'I'll see you Saturday.' "

One last Fr. Zeke moment. Liz and Fr. Zeke start talking about the weather (p. 104):

Fr. Zeke: “ ‘I’m ready for some real fall, to tell you the truth. I don’t do well in the heat.'
'That must have made Vietnam tough for you.'
'That, and all those young men dying.'
So much for talking about the weather, Liz thought. Conversation with Germaine was like hiking on a glacier; things had a way of falling through the covering of small talk into dauntingly deep crevasses."

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lizzie's War

I'm interested to hear your thoughts about the book, Lizzie's War by Tim Farrington.

Who is, in your opinion, the most interesting character, and why?

(post answers in comments)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Don't mind me, I'm moving to Virginia...

Check it OUT!

Class: Introduction to Fiction Writing with Tim Farrington

"We all have stories to tell, whether we are aiming for short stories or novels, and in this class we will begin to explore both the fundamentals of craft and the even more crucial challenge of carving out a space for yourself as an artist. We will work at every level with your stories, from the mystery of the creative impulse itself to the logistics of getting a character from one end of the room to another. We will study excerpts from the fiction masters to see what we can learn and what we can copy. With any luck, we'll also have some fun getting to know each other and ourselves along the way. Come join us! Your instructor will make every effort to tailor the submission schedule to your goals."


Mondays, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
an 8 week session beginning February 6


From Catholicism, to Hinduism and back home again...

This snippet of an interview with Tim Farrington gives us a glimpse into the part of him that made Lizzie's War come to life:

"I was raised Catholic, the oldest of four children. My father was a Marine Corps officer who served in Korea and Vietnam, and my mother was an actress and drama teacher, so I had plenty to reconcile right from the start. I had several years of Catholic school in the classic Catholic experience, including a good dose of the terror of hell and sin, and nuns with sticks, but I was also blessed in having an aunt who was a nun, and I spent a lot of happy hours at her convent and got to know the human and fun-loving side of religious vocation as well.

I was an altar boy right around the time the mass switched from Latin to English after Vatican II, and thought about being a priest for a while when I was a kid. In my teens, though, I got into Buddhism, philosophy, and literature, and went through a long period of alienation from Christianity. But I was definitely looking hard for meaning.

In my twenties, I entered an ashram in Oakland, CA, where the prevailing philosophy was Hindu, Kashmir Shaivism. Strangely enough, it was during my two years there, while I was chanting to Kali and Krishna, meditating to an Om Namah Shivaya mantra, and chopping tons of vegetables in the ashram kitchen, that I discovered the profundity of the classic Christian mystics, beginning with The Cloud of Unknowing, and began to heal my alienation from that tradition. By the early ’90s I had come full circle, had discovered the bottomless wisdom of John of the Cross, and had embraced a centering prayer practice after meeting Fr. Thomas Keating."

If you'd like, you can read the entire interview here.

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