Saturday, October 08, 2005

I have seen the mountain top and it's a rabbit warren

Well, boys and girls, I just couldn't stay away. The first week of exploratory planning for taking over the West Coast ... ah, er, I mean, of my vaction has been just peachy. The weather here in Oakland has been positively delightful. I am spending my days at St. Albert's Priory, a Dominican operation of the Western Province, basking in their holiness and dedication to the mission of the Church. It has been a funny refrain as some of the student brothers walk up to me and say, "Oh, YOU'RE the Catholic Ragemonkey?!" I guess my normally placid appearance belies the torrent of hostility and snarking that longs for expression. So far, I did a one day tour of the Wine Country (boy, did the makers of Sideways get that milieu right) and saw some of the historic churches in the area. My favorite thus far is the Dominican stronghold in SF called St. Dominic's. It was badly damaged in the 1989 earthquake, but you wouldn't know it to see it now. I especially appreciated the 8 confessionals which all apparently get used simultaneously as they are all already assigned to particular confessors. But there was one experience which beat them all.

Nestled on the hilltop, on the same block as St. Ignatius Church and the Carmelite Monastery (Christo Rey) you will find a lovely little split level home. There is no sign outside its doors to even direct you to the awesome work happening behind its doors. Yes, kids, I found it. I found my way to Ignatius Press.

For the readers of the blog, this might come as something of a revelation to them but there was a time when I was a particularly average Catholic. While on the Spiritual Year in Northhampton, someone handed around a catalog for Ignatius Press and nothing has ever been the same. I would not be the priest and Catholic I am without Ignatius Press and the throughly peerlessly exceptional books that this humble little publisher puts out there. On a whole variety of topics, I found the very best of the Church's authorative teaching and speculative theology all in one convenient stop. I would go so far as to say that I would recommend ANY book published by IP because I know that they don't publish junk.

So, back to the story, as part of the visit, I got to meet and chat with several people with whom I have cooresponded via email and letter but never in person. Jeff Grace, Roxanne Lum (is it too casual to call you "Roxie"?), Paula, Milo, Nellie, and all the rest. It was a pity that Fr. Fessio wasn't in, but maybe that was a good thing, in that I might still be there chatting it up. Actually, I don't think Fr. Fessio would tolerate my nonsense for all that long. I would have been put back on the streets soon enough. Also, my public thanks for the "lovely parting gifts" Roxanne came up with. I left with several very good books which will get some coverage here in the next few days and weeks.

What I really wanted to comment on is how God generally runs things counter to our expectations. In my mind, Ignatius Press was going to be housed in a largish building with track lighting and Venetian marble accents. Instead, it was set up in a former residence with office space maximized wherever it could be found. I needed a sherpa to get up the back steps to the production and art departments and navigating through the basement to get to Jeff's office required knowing the Elvish word for "friend." I am still winded after all that running from the Balrog. In short, the offices would not impress worldly minded people. For those who strive to see as God sees things, it is a different story. We see them reaching out to educate Catholics and others of good will who want the unvarnished fact of the Christian Faith. They do this to the best of the ability and it shows in every book published and produced by them. In the bat-rectory in Alva, there are so many of the title of IP on my shelves because I simply cannot cotton giving them away. I am convinced that I will need them again. So there they stay with an ever accumulating pile of footnotes, underlines, and highlighter strokes. If you get the chance, swing by the Website and see if they can't get you something worth running your mind through.

Yes, I have seen the mountation of the New Evangelization; it's housed in a rabbit warren.

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