Monday, October 21, 2013

Remembering Dr. McArthur

When I was a freshman at Thomas Aquinas College, I had a very lowly work study job, or at least it felt like it. I came with pretty strong secretarial skills, so they put me in the "Development Office", which at that time (back when there was only one permanent building on campus) consisted of a small, four-room temporary building which housed the offices of the president and vice president of the college, and two work rooms, all in one row. There was one entrance, through one of the workrooms, and you had to walk through those rooms to get to the office on either end.

(Here is a picture of the TAC campus from up on the hill, with the same basic layout as when I arrived - labeled with the accrediting agency for some reason. It sure looks different today!)

The reason it felt so lowly was that, because of the cramped space, the student workers were only able to put in their work-study hours outside of business hours. So we did our work at night and on weekends, communicating with the office staff almost entirely through memos. And on top of those complications, as I was one of two primary student typists (the other, by the way, was Margot Davidson of Hillside Education) who couldn't work at the same time as each other, I often worked alone in the building.

So, anyway, I was rather surprised one cold evening, as I sat cross-legged on the workroom floor all by myself with an enormous pile of papers that I was alphabetizing on my lap, to have the school president, Dr. Ronald McArthur, walk in and greet me on his way to his office. It's hard to express how funny this encounter was - this immensely tall (I've heard he was six foot seven, and I believe it!) imposing, yet grandfatherly figure greeting this lowly office worker who was pretty much glued to the floor because of the pile of papers. We exchanged a friendly greeting and I casually mentioned that I thought we had had a little bit of snow in the air (very unusual at that elevation, though we sometimes had snow on the peaks of the mountains adjacent to the school, it may have happened only one other time in my four years at TAC). In his friendly, but gruff (and slightly distracted) manner, he said, "No, no, I don't think we had any snow here." (I can hear these words in his voice as I type this). He went into his office briefly and left. No big deal. I wasn't the least bothered by his skepticism. But about an hour later, he poked his head back in the office (and probably walked all the way up from the Hacienda to do so) - just to tell me that I was right about the snow! It's such a minor thing and a little story, but it touched me deeply and it's one of my clearest memories of him.

There are many other great (though fuzzier) memories of him. He used to give these little mini-speeches to the students on minor occasions or to address particular needs and they were wonderful. I think it was especially at formal dinners that he gave these talks. I'm not a strong auditory person by nature, so I don't generally enjoy listening to people talk, but these were marvelous; little expositions about education and the Faith that were beautiful, motivating, inspiring and to the point.
 
One of my favorites was after a little spat had erupted among some of the students because of a few students espousing some silly ideas about girls not belonging on campus, dances being merely mating rituals or whatever. I can't remember his exact words, but they were along the lines of the importance and beauty of friendship and intellectual engagement between the sexes and ended with a slam (or maybe slam-dunk!) that anyone who thought otherwise must think that the only point of interaction between men and women is sex. Wow.

Dr. McArthur was a great teacher and a great man. That didn't necessarily mean that I agreed with him on absolutely everything, but his convictions about the value of a classical great-books education (which included a deep faith, true humility and a broad mind) and how they played out in my educational experience at TAC have had a deep impact on my life, especially in how I choose to encounter others in my life on a day-to-day basis. I had him as a professor for Senior Theology and also joined an informal study group he put together to read Pope John Paul II's recently-published encyclical On the Dignity and Vocation of Women.

He had a wonderful sense of humor and I loved how he engaged the students in class. My favorite humorous jab that I remember from his class was, "Don't let any ideas disrupt the free flow of your conversation." ;)

Here's a nice piece I found on YouTube that might give you a sense of what I'm talking about (this video is from April 2012):





But there also were some fun points of commonality. Dr. McArthur also hailed from the Bay Area (his mother-in-law was actually from my hometown of Los Altos) and was a die-hard San Francisco Giants and San Francisco 49ers fan. All the 49er fans on campus very much enjoyed the hospitality of Dr. and Mrs. McArthur at their lovely home on campus for back-to-back Superbowls in 1989 and 1990.

Dr. McArthur died last Thursday, October 17, 2013, at the age of 89. Rest in peace Dr. McArthur!

Here are some other tributes to Dr. McArthur:

Larger than Life by Tony M.
In Memoriam: Dr. Ronald P. McArthur (Thomas Aquinas College Website)
Thomas Aquinas College Founder Remembered for Humility (Catholic News Agency)


(will be adding to this piece)



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sherlock Van Hecke

Our family has been on a Sherlock Holmes kick lately because of the BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. They are terribly entertaining (and at times astonishingly faithful to the original stories), but with some definitely not family friendly scenes and/or episodes - so be sure to preview before sharing with your kids (especially episode 1 of season 2 ). The series has led a number of us to dive into the original stories - most of whom had never done so before.

I don't know if it's because of all this Sherlock or out of sheer desperation, but we managed to solve a very minor, but very frustrating mystery last night in such a surprising and classically deductive way, that I just had to write it down.

We've had a lovely summer with Ria home from college. Unfortunately, she managed to lose her cellphone almost immediately after she got home and we've been desperately looking for it ever since. I have offered rewards and we all did lots of cleaning and organizing, all the while wondering if it wasn't permanently lost somewhere away from home.

Last night Gus came up with the idea of looking her account up online, where he found a record of calls. It turns out that there was a flurry of calls on the last day it was used, just a few days after she got home from school, back in May. We realized that she had gone to her younger siblings' track meet that day, which involved multiple cars and people hopping around to different places. This caused the kids to do another, and even more thorough, search of both cars - to no avail.

Next, Ria was trying to figure out which tote bags or backpacks might have gone to the track meet that day. Gus came up with the idea of looking at pictures taken that day and spotted a familiar little red freebie backpack. Unfortunately we own four identical bags of this particular sort!

But they were happy to have a lead, and the scramble was on. After tracking down several cellphoneless bags , Ria finally spotted one hanging in the game closet of all places - and there it was - cellphone and all. :)

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Facebook for Prayer Warriors

I realized a few months ago, from following a friend whose son has cancer, that are a number of Facebook pages you can follow for children who are fighting cancer. The idea is to keep them in our prayers (we have a prayer list we read aloud each night during bedtime prayers and then say a Memorare for the whole bunch) as well as encourage them in their battle. Naturally, even for those who aren't particularly religious, it can be an opportunity to provide moral support as well as gain some perspective on our own lives. So I've been meaning to share this for awhile. We've found it to be a beautiful family endeavor and of course it's such a happy thing when I can share good news with my family about those we have been praying for.

For example, at my kids' insistence, we've been praying for the policeman injured in the shootout that came after the Boston Marathon Bombing. We also discovered that you can follow his progress on Facebook (where we also learned that he recently got to go home!!!).

Wounded Boston Police Officer Dic Donohue

And here are a few of the kids with cancer that we follow and pray for. Once you follow one, you will find that the various pages will link to each other and you may soon have a long list like us!

Help Jayson Brown

Prayers for Emma

Hope for Holley

Saving Sweet Savannah

Amazing Austin

Bless Our Baby Beth

Brady's Mission

My plan is to make a little chalkboard-paint chalkboard on the wall in the upstairs hallway where we generally say nighttime prayers. Will post pictures when that actually happens. :)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Dismantling My Google Reader Feed

So, I heard awhile back that Google is dumping Google Reader - much to the chagrin of many.

But I have a confession to make. Google Reader never really worked very well for me. It was more of an occasion for feelings of guilt because I could never plug through everything I wanted to. And once I scrolled past it, it felt like it was gone forever.

What I've decided to do, and might actually work better for me (you can check it out in the sidebar here!) is re-expand my list of blogs that I read with Blogger's nice little "Blog List" widget. This provides the title of the latest post on all of my favorite blogs, which allows me to skim and meander at my own pace.

These are all the blogs that I would ideally like to follow (though I am probably missing some), with the exception of blogs that I tend to read via Facebook.

All of the blogs on my list are ones that I'm interested in reading. It's as simple as that. Some because they are friends or relatives of mine, some because I find interesting insights that are helpful to me, etc. A few have not been updated in awhile, but I'd still like to check them out when they are updated. One will, sadly, never be updated again, but I like to go back and meander around there sometimes too. That's the one that was written by dear friend Katrina, who passed away last November after a long struggle with ALS.

Just thought I'd post a little invitation to check out the blog list (though it makes it feeling like I'm going "back to the beginning" because that's pretty much how my sidebar started when I first started blogging). Please feel free to post in the comments any suggestions for blogs I may have forgotten or may enjoy reading.

Blessings on your day! :)

Fr. Emil Kapaun receives (posthumously) the Congressional Medal of Honor

(cross-posted from Living Differently)

This is an amazing story, told in summary (but clearly with admiration!) by the president at the presentation ceremony...

Monday, April 08, 2013

Happy Feast of the Annunciation!


A Blessed Feast of the Annunciation! I don't have much time for blogging right now, but I thought it would be a good time to share a post I wrote about the Incarnation for Melanie's Blog Series on the Creed:

"Was Incarnate of the Virgin Mary"

Saturday, March 23, 2013

More Papal Coolness...



In honor of the historic meeting today between Pope Francis and our Pope Emeritus...


Thus, the dialogue had already started, even though the the personal, physical meeting had not yet taken place. Let us also remember that the retired Pope had already expressed his unconditional reverence and obedience to his successor at his farewell meeting with the Cardinals, February 28, and certainly in this [morning’s] meeting - which was a moment of profound and elevated communion –will have had the opportunity to renew this act of reverence and obedience to his successor, and certainly Pope Francis renewed his gratitude and that of the whole Church for Pope Benedict’s ministry during his pontificate”.
 Read the whole article on the Vatican News Website. 

Photo from The Youth Evangelization

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Habemus Papam!

I know I'm a little behind on blogging this fact, but it seems so perfectly congruous with this particular blog (I do blog at several other places where this fact has been mentioned) that I figured I was better late than never.

We are thrilled about our new Holy Father, who seems to offer an amazing continuation of our last two popes. This is especially clear to me as a big fan of Pope Benedict's writings. It seems to me that the Christian message that was so beautifully articulated in his writings are also beautifully embodied in Pope Francis' spirit and personality. I rather liked this photo collage on this continuity concept, which I found somewhere on Facebook...

 I was amused and touched by this picture of Pope Francis riding the busy back to St. Martha House with the rest of the cardinals. :)


And this picture is simply beautiful...

  

How exciting to have the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople present at the Pope's Inaugural Mass (with much credit to Pope Benedict XVI too!)



And I love this video of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist finding out about the new pope. The novice who brings in the message of "white smoke" is a homeschool grad whose mom has been an Internet friend of mine for years.



I have to say we were this excited too! I was over at our parish school with two of the kids just finishing up our weekly chess excursion with the school kids at lunch when I got a call from my 17 year old. I actually didn't have a chance to answer (I was busy untangling the visitor badge from my scarf!!!) but I knew it must be about the white smoke, which was confirmed seconds later by someone in the school office. My kids were beside themselves to hurry home as quickly as we possibly could. We were strangely stunned by the expected news. (There was some discussion about wanting to use the "A-word" even though it's Lent because they were so happy and excited. One of them finally blurted out, in an exultant voice, "A-word!". LOL.) It did seem very quick. Waiting to find out who the new pope was very hard (we finally started a board game to help pass the time).

When we finally heard the announcement about who it was, we were a little confused because we were using the list of Latin Surnames of the Cardinals from the CNS Blog and the first entry under "George" was so long that I at first didn't realize that there were quite a few Georges. ;)

Anyway, we are all very joyful about everything we've seen and heard about Pope Francis. Love the tribute to St. Francis of Assisi (it even surprised me in a way that there hasn't yet been a Pope Francis already), love the Jesuit connection and love his unique bridge-building capacity between orthodoxy and social justice (which certainly do belong together!).

And so God Bless Pope Francis! Viva il Papa! :)


Oh, and I almost forgot. Ria showed up on the CBS Evening News, who filmed a little piece at Thomas Aquinas College on young peoples' reactions to the new Pope (she's in a few of the still photos)...



That's her on the upper left before you start the video.

Favorite authors maybe?

G.K. Chesterton and Pope Benedict XVI take the cake for a whole shelf-full each, though I must admit to having a lot left to read on both shelves.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cardinal Newman on Joy

I recently ordered a handful of back issues of Communio Magazine, which are handily organized according to topic. And thus what I ordered were a few backissues on topics of particula interest to me. The one I dived right into was on "Joy" (dating from Summer 2004) and I just had to ot down this lovely thought from Blessed John Henry Newman that is quoted within:
Gloom is no Christian temper; that repentance is not real which has not love in it; that self-chastisement is not acceptable which is not sweetened by faith and cheerfulness. We must live in sunshine, even when we sorrow; we must live in God's presence, we must not shut ourselves up in our own hearts, even when we are reckoning up our past sins... We must look abroad into this fair world, which God made 'very good,' while we mourn over the evil which Adam brought into it. We must hold communion with what we see there while we seek Him who is invisible; we must admire it while we abstain from it; acknowledge God's love while we deprecate his wrath; confess that, many as are our sins, His grace is greater. Our sins are more in number than the hairs of our head; yet even the hairs of our head are all numbered by Him. He counts our sins, and, as he counts, so can He forgive; for that reckoning, great though it be, comes to an end; but His mercies fail not, and His Son's merits are infinite.
 I think this is not just a lovely thought, but an important one!