Pastoral dilemmas with observing Mother’s Day

by Ken Sehested

            Those of a certain age may share my childhood church experiences of Mother’s Day. During the service, the oldest and youngest mothers present were recognized. All women were offered carnations to wear, pink if your mother was living, white if deceased. And of course, families took Moms out to eat lunch after church, so she wouldn’t have to cook that Sunday(!).

            This was in a time—long ago in a galaxy far, far away—when restaurant visits among my social strata were rare. In my rearing, the only eating out was occasional trips to the Dairy Queen for burgers, a few times on vacations (which were still burger events for me), and Mother’s Day.

            Nowadays, the average American eats out an average of 5.9 per week. Read more ›

St. Patrick and his Day

Connecting the saint to his Irish context, especially the 19th century "Great Famine," a very human and political disaster

by Ken Sehested

Commemorative Issue
St. Patrick

St. Patrick Day festivities are many and varied. Even in my distance from all things Irish while growing up in a small tex-mex town in West Texas, and a slightly larger town down the Cajun swamps of South Louisiana, wearing green was a thing on 17 March.

            Elsewhere, though, St. Patrick’s Day is a happening. In Chicago, since 1962, the Plumber’s Union has dumped green dye in the city’s Chicago River to commemorate the day. —watch this time-lapse video (1:36) of the river’s dyeing Read more ›

Worried about increasing US-Iran tensions?

You should be

by Ken Sehested

Worried about increasing US-Iran tensions? You should be. The stakes are high, Trump is recklessly impulsive and currently in need of a public distraction from the Mueller investigation. It’s not likely to be an all-out war, but some limited strike—maybe backing Israel to do so, as it did in 2007—that would further escalate belligerence.

(Remember: This year is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I which began with one assassination, in a country few US citizens had heard of, igniting what was then the deadliest war in history, due to a complex web of international alliances, planting the seeds of World War II, then the Cold War, and on and on.)

Hatred—as e.e. cummings said—bounces. Read more ›

“Peace, like war, is waged”

A personal remembrance of Walker L. Knight, in light of Advent's threat and promise

by Ken Sehested

My mentor-cum-friend Walker Knight has died. It wasn’t a surprise—his health has been poor for several years. For him, and his family, it is likely merciful.

Acknowledging as much, though, doesn’t ease what appears to the living as a certain dimming of the light. Read more ›

“Undo the folded lie”

Notes on the reckless folly of our season

by Ken Sehested

“I believe the light that shines on you will shine on you forever . . .
though I can’t guarantee there’s nothing scary hiding under your bed.”
—Paul Simon, lyrics in “Father and Daughter”

This Advent I feel more like the dumbfounded cleric Zechariah, of Luke’s nativity drama, than any other character. I have little more to say to supplement the abundance of commentary on this season’s reckless folly. Here are but a few footnotes. Read more ›

Jeremiad rising from a Santa Clarita schoolyard rampage

by Ken Sehested

Another school shooting. Sirens wail. First responders race.

Video shows the now-common recessional, with rifled law enforcement escorting a parade of students from school grounds. So oft repeated it’s now a kind of ritual liturgy.

Then a repeat of the predictable press conference, where scads of local elite get their turns in repeating the mantras. Sheriff, police chief, mayor, FBI agent, school superintendent, hospital administration, all chiming in: awful, tragedy, distress, heartbreak, failure, regret, unimaginable. Read more ›

Quotes about saints

A collection

by Ken Sehested

§ "Don't call me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed that easily.” —Dorothy Day

 § “The world is waiting for new saints, ecstatic men and women who are so deeply rooted in the love of God that they are free to imagine a new international order. . . . Most people despair that [it] is possible. They cling to old ways and prefer the security of their misery to the insecurity of their joy. But the few who dare to sing a new song of peace are the new St. Francises of our time, offering a glimpse of a new order that is being born out of the ruin of the old.” —Henri Nouwen

§ “[T]he difference between being at peace and being complacent is one of the most basic lessons saints can teach us.” — Charles Mathewes Read more ›

Labor Day

Quotes, quick-facts, extracts

by Ken Sehested

Introduction

This collection of material is especially designed for use in planning a Labor Day observance—but also more: on work in general, both the productive and destructive varieties; on sabbath-keeping, which is so much more than blue laws; on discerning vocations and callings; on the terrorizing disconnect between commerce and the flourishing of every living thing; on the increasingly barbarous treatment of immigrants and refugees.

On this Labor Day, make a commitment that, in the coming year, you will strike up conversations (maybe even friendships) with people who work with their hands. The greatest failure of progressive movements—churched and unchurched alike—is our cultural alienation from working class folk. There can never be a sustained movement for fundamental change until this failure is admitted, renounced, and rectified. Read more ›