March 20th, 2006

Strider/All that is gold...

Personal: As Dull a Spring Break as One Could Conjure

It has been really good to hear the freshmen across the street coming back into McCormick Hall again today after a week's absence. The University just doesn't seem to be alive without the students, and I find that even though I love a certain amount of quiet, I miss the pulse of their life animating the school.

Well, this was as about as low-key a Spring Break as I could have pulled off. I mean, Spring Break is more an undergrad thing than a grad school thing, I suppose. Most grad school breaks I've had--and I still mourn that Marquette doesn't have a full week's Fall Break like Notre Dame did--have been opportunities to "catch up," with a little relaxing thrown in on the side. I did more with my high school teaching Spring Breaks, I think, than with my graduate school ones, taking in Rome, Tunisia, England, Wales and Ireland over the years. In fact, the only people to even ask me what my Spring Break plans were were both undergraduates--undergraduate women in Theatre, to be exact, now that I think of it, which makes me wonder about the optimism of that particular demographic. Of course, they both guessed that I'd blow the break reading, so maybe they're more perceptive than optimistic.... Actually, I had intended to visit my Mum a bit in there, too, but she announced that she was off to visit my sister, Jim and the little girls on the weekend I intended, and though I thought of then just going down there myself and joining up with them, it was clear to me that my sister wanted to get some one-on-one time, per se, with Mom, which I totally understand, so I stayed out of the way.

My first duty was really to finish my DDO: my Doctoral Dissertation Outline. Professor Fahey had really wanted it by the end of February, but it took me too much of February to realize that I had over-committed myself with extra work, like the massive amount of reading needed to participate in the seminar on Augustine's De Trinitate. I'm still sitting in, but I had to give up being able to keep up with the reading or else the dissertation ended up coming in third behind it and the undergrad class on the Theology of Martin Luther for which I TA and have to keep up on all the reading. I got the bulk of the Outline done in that timetable even so, but then there was so much going on at the beginning of March that it seemed I could never sit down with it, whether the Luther class or random events like the Kelly Lecture, and the like. Time just went >poof!< So that was good to finish up in the first day or two of break, which was all I needed. Now I just have to catch Fahey so that we can go over it and whip it into final form for the various committees. I guess he's out traveling: I sent him a note Tuesday and haven't heard from him yet.

Not to say that there weren't sufficient little bits of festiveness: Julie and I had a mutual 90-minute window in our schedules on Friday at the start of break, so we got to hang a bit before she left to spend a nontraditional Spring Break visiting her grandmother with her Mom. I somehow managed to spend all that time talking and not getting to any of the things I had flagged to talk with her about: 90 minutes is self-defeating for people with the gift of conversation. So I hung with Mike and Donna for the rest of the night, Dan and Amy being out of town. Despite all the grief that Donna gives us for over-discussing the sci-fi that has long been part of our regular group Friday nights, I couldn't help but note that it was her who have a bit of a shriek at hearing that the next season of Battlestar Galactica wouldn't pick up until October, whereas I hadn't even noticed that part of the next-season teaser. Wednesday was then sort of a rushed Friday-reprise when Dan and Amy got back into town, with a taped group showing for their benefit. There was a great cookout dinner in the hours beforehand with Dan venturing outside in the not-too-cold warmer spell to grill chicken breasts that Donna had marinated in a great Italian dressing/cayenne pepper combo that managed to be very flavourful without being overpowering to the chicken. Group-wide top marks all around. Thursday featured another long chat with Diane at Collector's Edge East until she closed up shop. One fun point was that she's thinking of taking her forensic skills, which is the current focus of her work in anthropology, and applying to the FBI Academy. That ended up being the basis for all sorts of interesting topics, not least of which was her recent acquisition of the physical-performance requirements, and attempting to start to get in shape for them. As a former runner, I found it odd that she wouldn't think anything of walking a dozen miles, but that running more than a few intimidated her out of reason. In the spirit of those "who can no longer do," I tried to be encouraging along those lines. Also on Thursday came the news from Donna's morning ultrasound that it is a boy that she and Mike are having in August. That continues the pattern of "matching babies" between them and the Lloyd's, with Dan and Amy's little Anna only a few months younger than Renee, while the Lloyd's little boy is due in six weeks and so will have a similar lead on Mike and Donna's boy. Fun for everyone in the crew. Donna and Mike also tried to explain to Renee (who is now 21 months) that their names were "Donna" and "Mike." Since she already knows that my name is Mike, they told me that she thought they were being marvelously silly and refused to give their words on the subject any weight whatsoever.

So lots of moments like that provided more than enough entertainment for what was in its form a rather dull week. Now things are more normal: Sunday night saw Mass, a late dinner, laundry and Luther; and the new chest of doors is still unassembled and my living room looks like a woodshop. Probably "normal" is more than dull enough for most people, but it'll keep. I suppose my "New York Times" bit in the middle of the week was unusual enough, as well as getting text messages from my frequently-odd friend Kevin while he was having dinner with President Bush. I'm actually surprised any communications equipment worked. So, anyway, halfway done for this semester: dissertation adventures will commence.
Chi-Rho Seal

Theological Notebook: John Allen Following Up Dropping of the Papal Title "Patriarch of the West"

Last week (and a brief note from this week) saw some follow-up in John Allen's column to the Vatican quietly dropping "Patriarch of the West" as a papal title. Lest this be taken as my unnecessary attention to some obscure old-European piece of self-aggrandizement, the nature of the "patriarch" title is a particularly important one regarding relations of the Roman Catholic Church to the Churches of Eastern Orthodoxy, all of which are organized under various Patriarchs. For people interested in questions of Christian unity or even reunion, the move is then an interesting one.

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