19 January – the Feast Day of St. Gudule and Martin Luther King

gudule-and-barbaraSaint Gudule, it is said, carried a lighted candle to church each visit. The devil repeatedly blew out its flame, but could not extinguish the light, for the flame always re-ignited.

As U2 sang yesterday, at the Inaugural concert for Barack Obama, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in its emotive song “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, the same could be said for Martin Luther King. “Early evening / April 4th / Shots rang out in a Memphis sky / Three blasts: They took your life / They could not take your pride.”

It is a Beautiful Day. Happy Birthday, Martin.

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18 Jan 09 – Feast Day of the Chair of Saint Peter

my-friend-abrahama1How did we ever get to this place, this moment, this shared bit of civilized pavement where we meet as friends and mutual-created family?

Didn’t it short time ago seem unlikely, so much a sappy-sweet sophomoric-simple dream? Something we would deflate and deride in irony-laden moments of eye-rolling chatter.

Yet here we meet and greet, bumping into one another, warm and unhurried, turning to greet our new neighbor with a smile rather than the hard glance of challenge and turfsmanship.

We. Are. Here. Together. To make change.

How extraordinary when you even pause a minute to think of it – and yet, in retrospect, how simple and ordained.

Like: What was All that Fuss about? 

Today, on the Feast Day of the Chair of Saint Peter, the day that commemorates the chair where the Apostle Peter sat to oversee services after Christ’s death, tens of tens of thousands gathered before the Lincoln Memorial, under the sage vision of the seated Abraham Lincoln, as Barack Obama inaugurated the inaugural celebrations of his ever so imminent inauguration, with song and praise; a celebration in song and spirit of hope an renewal.

pete-seeger-brucespringsteen_lAnd, just a tiny Thank you, God, for preserving Pete Seeger long enough to have this final, powerful validation of his pure vision.

We may never fully know what today meant to him; but i think we can imagine and be grateful.

This land, truly, is your land, mine, and ours.

Let us preserve, protect, and renew it. Amen.

Published in: on 19 January 2009 at 12:37 am  Comments (1)  
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The Feast Day of Saint Reinhold and the Passing of Robert Graham

robert-graham-reliefFrom what I knew of the man, Robert Graham would have enjoyed this little tale.

 

Saint Reinhold was a tenth century bishop, assigned to oversee the construction of an abbey in Cologne. No mere supervisor, however, Reinhold threw himself into the abbey’s stonework with such skill and zeal that his carving soon outshone the handiwork of the stonemasons under his care. Disgruntled by this turn of events, and envious of the saint’s superior craftsmanship, the stonemasons grabbed their hammers and beat him to death.

 

Ah, the tempestuous art world.

 

Last Wednesday, on the 1048th anniversary of Saint Reinhold’s final, crushing critique, hundreds of us gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, in Downtown Los Angeles, to honor the gentleman carver and sculptor Robert Graham.

 

I came alone and sat near the back – as misfortune would have it, I had yet another memorial service to attend, and would need to leave before the final benediction. Even so, when that time came, the rows all around and behind me would be filled: Frank Gehry in the row before me; Donald Sutherland across the aisle; Harrison Ford passing in front. Really, though, the mind registers the faces and names, then rapidly – especially in such a setting – readjusts to the realization that we are all, at base, small and frail human beings.

 

Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. For me the twin moments were the human ones at, or near, the beginning and end of the service:

 

Noriko Fujinami, Graham’s studio director, presiding quietly and comfortingly from the center aisle, moving over to place her hands on a mourner’s shoulders from behind; silently embracing a newcomer.

 

And then: As the service began, we were asked to join the choir in singing “Amazing Grace,” a song that hadn’t passed my mind in decades, as Cardinal Roger Mahony and entourage entered with the casket from the rear. Looking up from the printed lyrics – “How sweet the sound / that saved a wretch like me” – I caught the cardinal reaching into the fount of holy water at the rear of the cathedral, and taking great handfuls and literally pouring out great draughts of it, repeatedly: the holy water cascading over the beautiful wood, as though Roger was trying to exorcize some deeper personal pain at the loss of his friend.

 

Much later, after Communion, and before the Eulogies would restore a sense that our life, at least, goes on, Robert’s widow, the actress Anjelica Huston, was escorted by Msgr. Kevin to a podium, from which, veiled in black, she read William Butler Keats’ poem “He Bids His Beloved Be at Peace.”

 

First, what a joy it is to hear poetry read by someone who knows how to do so. But of course, how fraught with emotion and meaning this was, given the context. As Anjelica came to the sixth line – “The South is pouring down roses of crimson fire” – her voice broke, became hoarse holding back her tears, as ours poured down. She struggled to regain control over the next two lines, and then spoke the rest quietly, tarrying softly over the half-benediction / half-plea of the final four lines:

 

“Beloved, let your eyes half close, and your heart beat
Over my heart, and your hair fall over my breast,
Drowning love’s lonely hour in deep twilight of rest,
And hiding their tossing manes and their tumultuous feet.”

 

Whatever followed seemed superfluous.

11 Jan 09 – Feast Day of St. Peter of Alexandria, from whom San Pedro Bay Derives

castratiWhat with the recent spate of dour local arts news – downsizing, near bankruptcy, layoffs, and cancellations – the three brochures for local arts organizations tumbling out of Sunday’s paper bestowed an aura of belated Christmas gifting.

 

Printed in full color on good card stock, they advertised the schedules for, respectively, the Los Angeles Art Show (Good for a $5 admission discount);  REDCAT at the Disney (A true keeper, chockablock with detailed info on great programming); and the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage, at Santa Monica College.

 

Over 150 worldwide art galleries at the Convention Center in two weeks; opera, Cajun, and jazz at the Broad through the spring; and experimental cinema, theatre, dance, music and ideas at REDCAT through the year – all give rise to hope for the arts scene despite the economic downturns here and ahead.

 

The stunning kicker, though, is this: All three tumbled out of, not the Los Angeles Times – which offered, instead, the usual Target, Best Buys, and CVS adverts – but the local edition of the New York Times.

 

One couldn’t help thinking how their placement in the NYT must register as yet another none-too-subtle dismissal of the cultural relevance or importance of the handful of critics still soldiering on at the LAT. So sad.