Thursday, September 28, 2017

Alcazar & All That

Close, but no plátano

Fun bits while improving my Spanish-

Years ago I learned the the word pato. It's the name of a Stan Getz song from his bossa nova days. It means duck (the noun, not the verb) in Portuguese and Spanish.

Yesterday I saw the word pavo in a food context. Pavo, pato, not so different. Could it be a bird that one eats? Can't be chicken, that's pollo (like poulle in French, pullet and poultry in English). So maybe it's turkey. Checked later, yep, turkey it is. Nice.

And some kind of food called uvas. Sounds like ovum, Latin for egg. But eggs are huevos. Umm...grapes? Yes! More nice.

A small store in Spanish is a tienda, literally a tent or booth. A big store is an almacen. I kept thinking that almacen was Arabic (starts with al, a big hint) and that it was familiar to me in an etymological sense, that there were words like it in English, but I couldn't quite nail them down. Then I got it: macen is like magazine, a storehouse, a warehouse, a protective place. Al-macen is the-storehouse. And the m- would be the prefix that takes a verb and makes it into the thing that does the verb: jihad/fight; mujihad/fighter. Or adding -ador to a Spanish verb, e.g. matar, to kill; matador, killer. Checking this morning to confirm, yes, almacen is Arabic. The base triliteral (3-letter) root is h-z-n, to protect. So protector would be m-h-z-n with vowels filling in as needed between the consonants (this is way simplified by an amateur). The protector then is al-mahzan (the plural is al-mahzin, like mujihadin) From almahzan/almahzin the West gets almacen in Spanish, magasin in French, magazzino in Italian, Magazine St. in New Orleans, etc.

Also nice.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Our New House

We will be moving to Cuenca, Ecuador this summer. Here is the house on an overcast day, all natural lighting in the photos:

The front. There's a nice view of the historic center of town from the balcony.

This is one of three spaces that were originally open courtyards. They have glass roofs now, so plants do well in them even though they are nominally interior spaces.

The kitchen looking into the space shown above. The glass ceiling over the former courtyard lets light in through the kitchen window.

The second former outdoor space.

And the third.

This now-covered balcony overlooks the third former courtyard, and connects from the main house to a semi-detached bed, bath, and workspace. The climate is moderate year-round, so the house has no heat or A/C systems, which is typical here. The glass roof is open at the eaves to allow for plenty of outside air.

View from balcony.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Real Leer



Have a look at these Spanish words:
They are cognates of these words:
legere (Latin, to read)
credere (Latin & Italian, to believe)
cadere (Latin & Italian, to fall)
patella (Latin, pan)
audire (Latin, to hear)
radix (Latin, root)
In each case Spanish has dropped a consonant but still says two syllables. That is, "real" is said "reh-AHL." Now that I see the pattern, I'll be on the lookout for other Spanish words whose meaning might be sussed out by adding back a lost consonant between two vowels.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Southern Catholic Thing

This post links to Convert Journal

Not Seminary Ridge

Last month I found myself way in the back of the church a couple of minutes before Mass started. We typically arrive about 15 minutes early and sit near the front where I can see without glasses, so the back is a mysterious and alien place.

When I came in, the organist was playing the last notes of the prelude, then stopped. At this point, the whole church was dim, quiet, and packed. In front of me was the priest, a couple of deacons, eight or so altarboys, the censor and the crucifer, all close around the baptismal font, waiting.

Then the church bell rang 11 times. Within a few seconds of the last peal, the lights came up, and the small bell inside the nave was rung once. A second or so after that, the pipe organ let loose a huge belch of sound, the choir and congregation belted out the opening words of the entrance hymn, and the procession began to advance.

For the next few weeks I kept reflecting on that prepared waiting for the moment- it was so compelling in its dark, hushed stillness. It seemed familiar, but not from church...yet I had still imagined aspects of it before. Finally yesterday, or maybe this morning, I remembered- it's this:

"For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two oclock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armstead and Wilcox look grave yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time."- William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust

As Kylie said in Strictly Ballroom, "That was unexpected."

Photo from the vestibule of St Mary's, Greenville SC

Friday, June 17, 2016

Visibly Anonymous

This article is crossposted to Convert Journal
Clayton Moore Lone Ranger and Silver.JPG

My Fabulous Wife and I went out to dinner for Mother's Day at our neighborhood Mexican restaurant. Our adult kids are living in other cities, or were at work in this one; I think it was just the two of us for the first time ever. Monterrey's is a middle-class to working-class place to eat, and a young married couple and their three kids arrived and sat across the aisle from us. I'd guess the kids to be 2, 4, and 6 years old. Mom and Dad on one side of the booth; two littl'uns on the other, toddler in a baby chair. A perfect portrait of modest married bliss regardless of job, income, or mortgages.

It occurred to me that I should pay for their dinner. But I didn't want to be seen getting up and sorting it out with the cashier- they'd figure out who had done it, and I wanted anonymity. But because we started eating first, I could take care of it when we left. That way we'd be long gone when they went to pay. No worries.

But they finished first! Aaack! Off they went to the cashier. Too late to treat them on the sly. I got up and and went over to the counter. I said to the mother, "Are you having a good Mother's day?" She was indeed. I asked the kids, "Are y'all being nice to your mama today?" Yes they were! I turned to their father and said, "You have such a lovely family, I'd like to pay for y'all's Mother's Day dinner." He gave me quizzical look. "Really?" I said, "Look, I know what's it's like to take a family out to eat. But all my kids are grown, and I'm past that expense now. So y'all take off and enjoy the rest of Mother's Day." And you would not believe how happy the parents were- just beaming from this little unexpected treat. "Wow...thank you so much!" "Truly, it's my pleasure, 'bye now!" "Bye!"

Here's my point- I was wrong to think I should have done this without being seen. The human aspects of the exchange would have been missed, and that would have been a loss for all of us. I'd say that the act of freely giving and accepting this small gift counted for more than the meal itself. At the same time, although they saw me and spoke to me, I remain anonymous.

And without a doubt it was the best dinner I ever bought.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fiat Mihi Too

This article was originally posted at New Evangelizers, and links to Convert Journal

I first heard the Bamboo Parable when I was a kid, I imagine most of you have heard it too. No? It’s the story of beautiful Bamboo, who freely allows its Master to chop it down, hack it open, and use it to bring life-giving water to parched land. Here’s an effective retelling. Whatever its origins, the Bamboo Parable inevitably reminds me of Jesus, and the necessity of each Christian to imitate Him, that is, to die to self:  “Verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it stays alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit.” You know about that unpleasant side of Christianity, right?

I never cared for that story. Its implications were too inconvenient. I bet folks such as Mother Teresa liked it just fine; but then, I found Mama T to be on the inconvenient side of Christianity as well.

And this little prayer: “Lord take me and do with me as you will.” A riff on the Bamboo Parable: beguiling and beautiful; but scary, too. I’ve heard umpteen versions of that prayer for decades. But I would never say that prayer because if I did, what dreadful thing might I be getting myself into?

In 2004 my parish published a pamphlet called A Simple way of Life. Only 8 pages long, but with a respectable, substantial cover, which made it too nice to throw away. Pages 6 and 7 elaborated on some hallmarks of being “a faithful disciple of the Lord Jesus,” who:

Prays every day.

Worships at least once a week in the Most Holy Eucharist.

Studies Sacred Scripture every day.

Confesses one's sins regularly in the Sacrament of Penance.

Serves others in the Name of Jesus Christ.

Shares one's personal gifts, time, and money with the Lord and His Church.

Connects with other disciples in the Christian community.

Evangelizes the world through words and deeds.

Isn’t that a pithy list? I love it. I’d re-read pages 1-7 a few times a year, see how I was doing. Pretty good, I’d say. But page 8 was problematic- like the Bamboo Parable. This is what page 8 says:

By the grace of my Baptism and with the help and mercy of God, I commit myself to strive to live according to this Simple Way of Life.

Name of Disciple


I would not sign and date page 8. That’s asking for trouble. I’m no Father Damien. I don’t invite bad stuff to happen. Careful is good, cautious is better. But badstuff happens despite care and caution; and I learned that enduring the badstuff with a Jesus worldview makes it not just bearable, but…worthwhile. And in 2012, more than 8 years after first reading A Simple Way of Life, I signed and dated page 8.

That’s a few years ago now. I can’t say that I’m a better Christian today, but I do ask God to use me as he will; I try to bust out of my comfort zone; and I accept that being the Bamboo would hardly be the worst thing that might happen to me.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


This post links to Convert Journal
Like my car, it's old; but nowhere near needing replacing.
In 6th grade Catechism class, we go through the Bible chronologically, Genesis to Revelation. In the first four months, the kids learn all sorts of Old Testament stuff that will connect to what’s covered in the last four months. What sort of stuff? Stuff such as this bit of Exodus 3:
“I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses said unto God, “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them?”And God said unto Moses, “I AM That I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”
We talk about how God’s title, YHWH, is related to the Hebrew word for ‘I AM,’ and says something important about God’s existence in the Eternal Present.  As the Glory Be puts it, “As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.”
Then a few months go by. We leave the O.T., and eventually Jesus becomes an adult, and drives the Pharisees and scribes so crazy they want to kill him. Here’s a good example from John 8. Jesus’ critics ask:
 “Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? And the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?…Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?” Jesus said unto them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM.” Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
I ask the kids why people would want to stone Jesus to death. They make a few guesses. I write “I AM” on the board. “Where have y’all seen that before?” Little brains percolate; then, “That’s what God told Moses his name was!  Yes, genius! Somebody tell me about it! It was when Moses saw the Burning Bush! Yes! So why do folks want to kill Jesus when he says “Before Abraham was, I AM?” More percolation, and boom, “Because he’s saying he’s God?  Yes, that’s it! Nobody thinks a human being can be God, and to suggest that you are God will offend many people. It’s a serious sin aimed right at God Himself, what we call blasphemy. Jews would stone such a person to death.”
In that first case I have to help them a bit with the I AM business. Then last Wednesday, Jesus was arrested:
The high priest asked him, and said unto him, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I AM: and ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, “What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye?” And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.
This time all I said was: Tell me about it. And within two seconds, a child responds, “He said I AM again like he’s God. And is Jesus God? Yes, but they didn’t believe him. Yes- what doesn’t the high priest have? Faith. Yes, good. Of course faith is a great gift; but nobody has to accept it.”
In Catechism class, if I let the Bible be the Bible, it can teach the kids about Jesus almost by itself.