Reflections……….is mama dead?*

get-attachment.aspxThe sounds of silence only meant one thing, stay out of the way of mama. Mama was the matriarch of the family and was filled with wise sayings and philosophy.   Familiar quotes went like this; “you will not get any dessert until you have eaten everything on your plate,” “put a belt on and pull your pants up,” “don’t wear your hat when you are inside,” “when you get home this afternoon we’re going to the barber shop,” “if you do that again you get a whipping,” “go get me a switch,” “polish those shoes before we go to church Sunday,” “don’t you dare sit down when a grown-up comes in the room,” “It’s ‘yes’ sir not yea.” “look at me when I talk to you,” “when we get there I don’t want to hear a word out of you.” These were not comments indigenous to a specific family but to a culture. (editors note: In America there were two dominant cultures. The common colloquialism describing these groups was,  white folks and colored folks). The matriarch of all families was the ‘black’ (African-American was not a word during this time) ‘mama’.  History clearly describes the positive impact the black Mama had on the culture and the family unit. In both cultures mama was mama and debates and negotiation took the back seat.

While Mama’s daily quotations may seem, shall we say direct, there was no greater love than the love of a mama for her children.  She had the best hugs you could imagine. She was the ultimate psychologist which could be seen with her comments such as; “the first dessert  goes to____because he has been a ‘good’ boy”, “come here child, mama wants to give you a hug”, “come sit in my lap”, “hold my hand”, “let me tell you what ________did at school” or, “let mama kiss it.”

In the opening scene of the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan’ screams for life could be heard on the beaches as young men were being shot. More than once you could hear these young soldiers calling for ‘mama’. When television first began to interview individuals, invariably the person being interviewed wanted to say, “hi mom.”  A favorite commercial by AT&T has Bear Bryant in his office telling the audience to call their moms. He closes the commercial saying “I wish I could call my mom.” It was later in life when we learned that my older brother, who was in the Army during World War II, had sent a letter home every week and these letters were the result of a sergeant who made the ‘boys’ write their moms.

The family unit in America is having a difficult time. Roles within the family are changing. Participatory management, debates, setting your own agenda are becoming prevalent. Family meals together have become “we don’t have time.” The art of conversation has gone by the way. Moms, dads, and children are like ships passing in the night. The culture of home has gradually given way to the culture of worldliness. Core values that were once the hallmark of children because “Mama” made sure they were learned, displayed and incorporated into life have faded. What has happened to Mama?

A thought to ponder; are the ills we are presently witnessing the result of Mama being dead?

* the term “Mama” is a concept and does not refer to an individual.

Reflections…………………………..The Stations

I have had the good fortune to travel extensively. In my travels to Great Britain, France, Switzerland, Canada and throughout the gary's blog pictureUnited States, I have developed a love for old churches. I am fascinated by the architectural design and in many cases how the design reflects the culture and, in large part, the religion of the church. Throughout Europe churches were built to the ‘Glory of God” and reflected the very best in architecture. Designs were magnificent and in most cases there is not an absence of exquisite decor nor beauty. The European flair followed many of the Pilgrims to America and you can see much of the same church beauty throughout New England. The Anglican church is prominent in Canada, and their churches have tall belfries and gables producing purity in their appearance.  In small town America usually the first building completed was the church, and it stood in the middle of  town with a steeple representing the tallest structure in town.

Inside the Chapel US Naval Academy

Inside the Chapel
US Naval Academy

Recently June and I, on one of our “meandering mornings,” visited Bell Buckle, Tennessee.  While walking through town, we came to an old abandoned church which happened to be the oldest structure in town.  It had beautiful stain-glass windows that you see in so many of these old churches.  Surprisingly, the door was open so we cautiously went inside and stood in silence and disbelief.  The old pews were in place but the roof leaked and birds had made it their home.  One of the stain-glass windows was on the brink of falling completely in and hymn books and other materials were scattered about the floor, pews and elsewhere. We were heartbroken at the sight before us and wanted to find out why this beautiful building had been deserted and left to rot. Interestingly,  our walk through town brought us to the historian of the town who informed us the congregation of this church felt this old structure had ‘served its purpose’ and had abandoned it and were now meeting in a newer structure next door. If I could have found the letters for the old marquee in front of this once beautiful structure, I would have placed “and Jesus wept” on it.

Within these beautiful churches you will see architectural designs intended to bring attention to certain scripture or religious practices.  It was upon visiting a Catholic Church I first became familiar with the Stations of the Cross.  The first time I walked the Stations it had a profound impact upon me. My personal experience  was followed shortly thereafter when I accompanied a group of Seventh Graders during a church activity who were also learning about the Stations.

This church activity came about as a result of questions being asked of the Bible teacher concerning the Stations of the Cross of which they had heard from some of their Catholic friends.  Strangely enough, the Bible teacher could not answer the questions the students were asking and had to visit a local Basilica at St. Mary’s church to observe and study before he could adequately respond to the students. What happened next was beautiful. The Bible teacher decided to arrange the Stations inside the gymnasium and invited his students to participate. He laminated the name of each Station and posted the name surrounded by six small candles . Next he invited the students to come that night and walk the Stations. They could take as much time as they wanted.  He only asked they respect those around them as they walked.

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Inside the chapel, University of the South

As might be expected with early teens, there was some giggling, and some of the students almost jogged around the circuit. But for the majority the response was overwhelming. They loved it! Many of these 12 and 13- year-olds who had been hearing about Jesus for years in Sunday school felt like they really experienced His suffering for the first time. Several of them reported they finally understood what Jesus went through.

Since the early days of the Church, Christians have traveled to Jerusalem to retrace the path Jesus took as he carried His cross from Pilate’s house to Golgotha. According to tradition, this path has become known as the ‘Via Dolorosa’ (Way of Sorrow).

Upon my arrival at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, the announcement was given at the beginning of Holy Week (Easter), that on Friday faculty and students could observe or walk the Stations of the Cross along University Avenue.

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All Saints Chapel, University of the South Sewanee, Tennessee

Several participants were chosen to play the part of the actual people including someone assigned the role of Christ carrying a cross. At each Station along the way, scripture was read corresponding to the Biblical account. It is always a solemn occasion. Each year people who participate and the spectators who line the street speak of what a meaningful and spiritually- moving event this is.

I have a challenge for you. As Lent leads us into Easter, locate a church that has the Stations. Most Catholic churches do. Monasteries have them outdoors along a prayer path. Some churches have  “Living Stations of the Cross” during Holy Week. If neither of these is available, create your own by going “on line” and gather more information so that you can develop a personal approach to the “Via Dolorosa.” You will be glad you did.