A Day in the Life
Here’s a snippet from real life for you. My wife, my youngest son Thomas, and I all flew south from Washington, DC to Texas to spend Easter with my oldest son Christopher, who is a philosophy professor at the University of Dallas. We were happy to escape the unseasonably cold temperatures forecast for Easter weekend. Unfortunately, it flurried in Dallas too.
But the weather is a digression. We immensely enjoyed our time sleeping on an inflatable mattress in my son’s smallish condominium, attending the wonderful services at the Cistercian monastery across the road, and savoring not only the chant of the monks but the added music of the incomparable University of Dallas Collegium choir, in which Christopher also sings. In addition, we were privileged to share several meals with his charming and intelligent (and young!) circle of Catholic friends. We saw something of Dallas and Fort Worth as well.
The entire trip took only five days, enough time for about a thousand emails (mostly spam) to accumulate in my various accounts, and more than enough for my desk to be piled with mail and messages on my return. Except for Holy Thursday, the rest of our staff had been off as well, so the pile-up wasn’t just mine. But Easter Tuesday would be clean-up day, a time spent clearing the decks for the real work of the rest of the week.
The Flight of Time
There is a certain routine about picking up more or less where you left off several days earlier. Mostly it’s an impossible routine, but we all go through it anyway. We look at everything that’s come in. We delete or discard, file or respond as needed, though most responses are held until the entire body of material is organized. We find a certain satisfaction in this process, but it seems to take, roughly, forever.
Then there are the fresh interruptions we really ought to handle out of turn. The lady who writes in with a follow-up question—which may impact her married life—on my recent “contraception” piece. The good friend whose anti-virus software has failed (and here we see the benefits, in a technical company, of having staff). The client who calls to question some of the items on a bill. And that most welcome donor who emails to ask if I could answer a question for him in return for the $100 contribution he just made on the web site.
The question actually turned out to be quite interesting. He pointed me to a web page on which a Protestant minister had figured out that Christ must have been crucified on Wednesday afternoon and raised on Saturday afternoon. All our customs are wrong, he argued, for the revised chronology is the only way Christ’s reference to the sign of Jonah (three days and three nights in the belly of the whale) can be given the weight it deserves. What, our donor asked, did I think of this theory? (As not all of you have paid your hundred, I’ll leave the question there.)
Then my older daughter came by to use our copying machine, with her one-year-old boy (our third grandchild) in tow. Since the rest of our children and all four grandchildren are here in Virginia, we had missed them by spending Easter in Dallas. Suddenly there was Gabriel hauling his toys into my office and demanding that his grandfather “sit down” (get down on the floor with him). Now I ask you. As a father, I might brush him aside. But as a grandfather?
So that was where I was found, hard at work on the floor with Gabriel, by first my wife, then the newest member of our staff, and finally the boy’s father himself, Ryan, who had brought some reports in for me to review from another office (where he was not, I assure you, playing with somebody else’s child). I think Ryan knew that it was all his fault, but there were no recriminations either way. Anyway, post-Gabriel, I hauled out my Bible to go to work on the loony Holy Week chronology.
By dinner time, I had everything organized: emails deleted, filed or sent; mail in the “outbox” (my wallet closed around the stack of envelopes on my desk, so they won’t be forgotten); appropriate items dispatched to staff; reports reviewed and filed; phone messages dutifully monitored, noted and deleted. Oh, and the good minister’s hobby horse ridden into the ground, whence (I devoutly hope) it shall not rise again.
On to the Day’s Work
Decks cleared, the first priority was to write a column which, had I not taken those few days off, would have been written on Good Friday. Rolling up my sleeves, I was…called to dinner. (Trinity Communications saves quite a lot by having its offices in my basement and spare room. Not everything about this arrangement is ideal, but the commute is wonderful.) After dinner, the evening constitutional reared its ugly head (well, not so ugly when it is still light and there is a sunset); one must keep the old cholesterol and blood pressure under control.
After the constitutional came family prayers, in tonight’s case centering around the reading of chapter three of the second letter of Peter. Nothing on the chronology there, more’s the pity, but St. Peter refers to the letters of his “beloved brother Paul” (who does deal with the chronology) as containing matters “which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.” Okay, okay, best not to get started again.
All this explains how I have come to be writing my column at almost 10:00 pm on a very ordinary Tuesday night in Eastertide. And if you can tell me what it was I was doing last Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I’ll tell you why the Church insists that we repeat it again and again, year in and year out, whether we need it or not—and, believe me, we do.
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