A walk in the Park

Yesterday Jude Meaux, Philippe Boudreau and a I — along with other people spent some time in Godchaux park while my brother John Paul Summers was (as far as I can tell) Director of Photography and Co-Director with Peter Ambrosio who is Director, Writer and Executive Producer on a new project that John Paul and his Infinite Focus business are filming in Acadiana. We got a chance to do some work and the home base for the day was at my parents house nearby.

It was great to see JP work. My general rule in recent years is that nothing ever works out in my life for the best but it was possible to remember better days and I was happy to see JP doing well. I taught him a home school film class when he was in elementary school and I have followed his growing interest in film since then.

Films are always interesting and the project was one which interested me a good bit for a whole variety of reasons. I am tempted to optimism by such events as good day but regular readers will know that the temptations never last long i never succumb to them entirely.

 

But the day was  a good one and local film community players such as UL Professor  D. Broussard were on hand as were many people with whom my brother has developed relationships.  Peter knows John Paul’s (and my own) first cousin Taso Smith who moved out to LA to work with his band Youngblood Hawke.  Tasso also spent plenty of time here (despite being a San Antonio guy)  and thus the connections were made. Jude, Philippe and I have all spent some time in Drama and media and so this was a good opportunity to reminisce

Titles may change and I am not really associated with the project directly nor entitled to speak for them but the whole thing looked great and the lead whose actual name is Sasha was an attractive and commanding presence even before the magic of post production.

While these phone based bandit cam shots don’t really capture the magic they do create a sense of the project. I hope that more films will be made in the area and I salute the ones that are being made. I hope to here more from Peter and JP in the future as they make quite a team. Best wishes from me to all involved in this project.

 

I will highlight this film in this blog when it comes out if I can. All photographs were taken by me in a public park without encouragement  or discouragement  of the dour lurking relative cam…

Counting Down to 62, and thinking back.

If I could collect the money I am vested in for Social Security because of having made the payments necessary to be permanently vested then I would be 62 years old. It would not be a lot and it would be much better if I had a good job and was earning more FICA credits, but there is no reason to hop that anything in my life will improve before 62. If I can survive till 62 then I can perhaps hope for some meager harvest of the crops sown in my still meager but much better days from 1979 to 1995 when I paid the most FICA and the years from 1995 to 2005 when I paid some.  But if I had to guess I think my death benefit will be all I ever collect. Nine years is a long time in a life where things almost always get worse. But this post at 53 is not about looking forward but rather about looking back about nostalgia.

Today I was helping a friend set up a Facebook page for the Table Tennis operation which he feels passionately about. He is quite a bit older than I am and table tennis keeps him in shape and engaged with other people and he finds a way to make a few bucks off the sport as well. Once upon a time I played a bit of the sport but that was a long time ago.  I have little nostalgia about those days but not very much because there are so many other things to be nostalgic about. There are many songs about nostalgia or expressing nostalgia in American popular culture but one of the ones that stands out for me is Glory Days, by Bruce Springsteen. Here are a few lyrics:

I had a friend was a big baseball player
Back in high school
He could throw that speedball by you
Make you look like a fool boy
Saw him the other night at this roadside bar
I was walking in, he was walking out
We went back inside sat down had a few drinks
But all he kept talking about was:
Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days

I suppose that my friend and I have discussed his path through life and his past quite a bit — although we have never shared a beer over it . His journey was accompanied by different music than the Boss’s most of the time. Although I fancy he knows Springsteen a bit. But He is still fortunate to be more involved in many of the pursuits of his  youth than some people — like me for instance  — generally are at an earlier age.

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Rocky Russo remembers the glory days of his life as an outdoorsman and hunter with these photographs.

I was never a Bruce Beast as a few of my friends self described themselves, but I was a the owner of a few albums that I enjoyed listening to. One of Bruce Springsteen’s songs that I liked was Glory Days. For those who want to see a video it should be available here.

Nostalgia takes many forms. Looking back in times takes a different tone because of why one is looking back, what one is looking back at and how one is  looking back at the past.  The

My first cousin once removed, Charles William Massie III died this July.  Among other things he and my Dad cut and suctioned my snake bite and tourniqueted my leg and helped rush me to the hospital. He also helped me wash an eye popping out of my head from an allergic reaction and helped rush me to the hospital again a few years later.  He had a longer obituary in the Abbeville Meridional but here is a link to his obituary at the funeral home where I attended his wake. Big Billy and I shared many experiences outdoors and indoors, hunting, religious and familial over my whole life. Yet we were not that close when he died.

I am entirely sure that life will hold a few surprises in each day that I continue to live and breathe. But this year I have run into a number of women with whom I spent some time many years ago and we have had fairly decent visits,. I am made aware of how much my life is about limits and impossibilities compared to the years in the past when there was more hope and I think some of them are reminded of times when they found social life a bit more exciting than they do today. But perhaps our exchanges are not all that close to the one described in the next part of Glory Days.

Well there’s a girl that lives up the block
Back in school she could turn all the boy’s heads
Sometimes on a Friday I’ll stop by
And have a few drinks after she put her kids to bed
Her and her husband Bobby well they split up
I guess it’s two years gone by now
We just sit around talking about the old times,
She says when she feels like crying
She starts laughing thinking about
Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days

In this year and many years ( twelve to be exact) I have not had any kind of regular girlfriend and the general trend in my life has been towards ever greater isolation of all kinds since I got back from China in 2005. Before China I had been increasingly isolated every year since 1995. So China was just an island of intense social and occupational engagement. But in the years from 1995 to 2004 I wrote for newspapers and taught in public schools as a substitute — recent years have not had those kinds of public engagement for pay. My  Dad has been in the mode of trying to retire more and more and discusses his declining ability to pursue some of his outdoor hobbies. I think of  the next lyrics in Glory Days when I think of talking with him.  Although few of the facts are similar still I empathize with the narrator’s connection of nostalgia across generations. It is something that as it grows in us connects us to older generations.

My old man worked twenty years on the line
And they let him go
Now everywhere he goes out looking for work
They just tell him that he’s too old
I was nine years old and he was working at the
Metuchen Ford plant assembly line
Now he just sits on a stool down at the Legion hall
But I can tell what’s on his mind
Glory days yeah goin back
Glory days aw he ain’t never had
Glory days, glory days

This year and part of the past one have formed a unit as I have been back in Abbeville and living in my grandparents old house and trying to get the grounds back in shape with limited time, energy and resources. Eve the resources to put photographs of the glory days of that house and its occupants seem to be in short supply.  But it is a place of nostalgia. This is the year not of the great parties or the family trip to Sea Island,  Georgia but the  trip to local sites during the greatest flood in memory with an open would wrapped in plastic, a ruined cell phone. The year when one of the highest sites in the parish which did not flood still held a lot of water because I had not yet removed the fallen ceiling and caused me to loose even more equipments and supplies than I would have lost just from the torrential rain damage itself . The glory days of the house were definitely in the past despite it being a high and dry place.  Flood damage came too in the form of cars parking to escape the flood and trying to leave when it was too wet. Flood damage came in opportunities lost when I had just started to find a few after moving in and in time and cost of donated labor treating flood related  injuries and buying cleaning supplies. There were other things too but compared to many others we had nothing worth noticing.

 

The truth is that this year, although I have spent time with family I have spent a good bit of time with two old friends named Philippe and Jude. I don’t give their last names and a great deal of what we talk about is better times in the past. Though we have known each other those were not mostly times spent together so the stories are new  — we are not exactly the same age — but all count Abbeville as our hometown. We rarely drink much together but on occasion Jude and I share a drink. We do smoke together, a much despised habit and one that never held me really in a habituated position until recently.  But we have a few places we occasionally go whether drinking or not. and we are nostalgic together there more often than not.
Now I think I’m going down to the well tonight
And I’m going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it
But I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
A little of the glory of, well time slips away
And leaves you with nothing mister but
Boring stories of glory days
Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days
Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days

 

 

One of the places we have been is Twin Peaks in Lafayette. There the waitresses (Katelyn and Leah in these pictures) have less nostalgia and lives more directed to the future. Of course they are cute too and since I cannot afford to do much or go anywhere very often I don’t worry much about the higher than normal prices (which are not that bad — and the food is good). The young girls smile and chat a little and make you feel the present is a kind of present and I have no qualms of conscience about that, in a society of vast sexual problems and maladjustments in terms of every aspect of identity, relationship and interactions between the sexes there is certainly still room for some to object that the food is served with a side of flirty display. I don’t mind saying I find real girls knowing their cute and making a little conversation as they serve you a hamburger refreshingly innocent. Whether this is up to the date, nostalgic in itself or a trend for the future I DON’T KNOW.  But I do know that   in a life in which the best  is mostly in the past it is fun to go to places like this and hope that the girls have life with a more fun present and future. I know that not all of their experiences are fun. But it is an interesting phenomenon in our society today. Links to the experience can be found here and here.  It is perhaps a bit like getting involved on some of the sets of the hit series Mad Men except in a bar that is a fake lodge. But whatever it is it serves a break from the dismal pervasive feeling I often have about much of everything. I have only been twice so far. The reasons I ended up there are too complicated to put here but if I can I will probably go back. I promised Katelyn and Leah I would post these pictures — so I did.

 

June 2016 to July 2017

I have long been under the certain sentence of ever diminishing expectations. But I do not always blog and act as if that were the case there are happy and good moments to seize and I believe in seizing them. In addition, I am always ready to lay out some of whatever resources i have to make a better future. That always means what I see as a better future for myself and what I see as a better future for  someone and something other than myself.   But make no mistake, those many acts which are good in themselves and fit into some kind of good vision in my mind are far indeed from a plan for success. If by a plan one means a realistic set of steps and initiatives that will lead to a better outcome.

I also have had my moments of happiness snatched from the fires of poorly apportioned idle and busy misadventure which will shape most of those hours that are likely to make up any month in the near future or have made up any months in the past.  Those moments do not all fit one type in a neat way either and not ever one involved in one moment would approve of the other moments. In addition there are relationships in my life which have varied a great deal from one another in many ways and are divided  between those which undoubtedly have great substance that anyone could measure and those which are a combination of fleeting interactions, online connections and third-party interactions  — all of those have been observed differently by different people. People have judgments about how meaningful such connections are and if they grant that they have meaning they may have opinions I don’t share about what that meaning is.  For example my most meaningful relationship in terms of romantic or other connections was with my ex-wife of about eight years but I have not seen her (except in a handful of online pictures), heard her voice or spoken to her since the day she called me to meet at one of our favorite restaurants ostensibly to discuss our separation and a potential reunion but actually to serve me with divorce papers. So she really has  no part in my life present or future. Other people whom I barely know have had some impact on my life in recent years. Most of my relationships fall some where in the middle. But I would say that my capacity for relating to people in general diminishes a bit more and more each year. There are eddies in  that current. But the general trend is towards more isolation.

 

There has never been a time when I was a total recluse and there has never been a time when I felt myself to be completely adjusted to and engaged in the world in a way that I thought really fit me. But I have also always known that I was not alone in that experience. Many people have found a better sense of fit and place in life and many people have not. One struggles to make the best one can of what one is doing in the world, struggles to survive and thrive, to deal with responsibilities and help those one cares about and to try to make a difference in the bigger picture.

It’s not all that easy to say how the world is doing this year.  My most recent post was on North Korea and I have a lot of personal connections to the subject matter of that post that I have tired to describe. But not all my posts in this blog are of that type.  I have recently posted largely about Saudi Arabia — with which I have little connection. The world is a big and complicated place. It’s pretty clear that I can observe a mixture of good and bad things going on in my own life. I hope that anyone reading this feels that he or she can tell a few things about the direction of his or her own life. That’s mostly the kind of blog post this is.  Just some imagistic remarks and picture in a blog that has fewer readers than it once did and is less connected to other influential blogs than it once was.  But there has been a history of ups and downs and the blog might possibly have another upswing some day. But when its readership narrows my political and social blogging tends to diminish in ambition and scope. I don’t delete the old content but in the newer content there is a more confined tone.  It’s political here from time to time but even in the discussion of politics each post is mostly a reflection on my own life. My life had more followers on this blog at some times in the past than it does now.  I can’t really say if that could be said to be good or bad. I only know that declining blog readership is one of many factors defining my shrinking life.

The month of June is not the most  electoral or political month of the year. June is the month of my birthday and Fathers Day. It’s a season for me personally to keep  track of the progress or lack thereof in my life. The year in the title of this post is the year that I was 52 years old. The year has been one of extraordinary failure and reason for despondency even in a life that has known very little hope for a long time. I am driven or drawn to commenting and posting on why that might be and how that bleak reality plays out. Of course, my life has a political context but really it is very  hot and humid and the grass and weeds grow very fast and I struggle at times to keep up with the outdoor things I try to take care of with the limited resources that I have and that makes me feel  less preoccupied with politics in many ways.

 

This is the first post I have mentioned that I am supposed to be presenting another presentation at an academic conference this year.

I have made some progress but I have not gotten as much done as I would like but I have a huge foundation of work on the subject. Of course, my very pessimistic point of view reminds me that it could fall through despite assurances to the contrary. I feel a keen limitation in needed resources and then there are the distractions of life. But in the meanwhile there are hopes that by October it will be a good and worthy presentation. That also falls into the middle ground between daily survival and the larger scope of social and political aspiration.

I also experienced three significant  deaths in my life this past month,  the deaths of Charles William Massie III and Monsignor Richard Von Phul Mouton were both deaths of people who at various times had been very close to me.  In looking for Big Billy’s death notice I discovered that my friend Christian De Prinz had died months earlier and it had escaped my attention. That and a few other significant events have shaped my perception of the world more than the political scene has this last few months.  I suppose that the situation in national politics worries more people than usual. But how many more and how much more the situation worries them is not clear. I suppose that I will be alone with my thoughts many times before the world changes its perception of its own situation a great deal.

The shooting of Steve Scalise hits fairly close to home as I received numerous emails purporting to have been written by him and we have many mutual connections — although I actually do not know the man. So we are back into my life of ambiguous relationships. This has been a remarkably tough year as things go. but perhaps the future will be better.

North Korea, the USA and a few thoughts from me.

This will be a blog post with a few bullet point lists. That is often a sign of not having fully absorbed the material or not being willing to aim it at a very particular audience or readership when one creates such a list. A well written prose paragraph has many advantages. The real lead in this story consists of a seven point bullet list below the big group of pictures. I have my reasons for burying it a little bit. But any reader may skip to it and find the points that I think I most have to offer this discussion of North Korea.

I realize that only the President of the United States can deal with the US foreign policy as regards North Korea. I also know that there have been many surprised by both the ICBM capacities of North Korea among those in intelligence and among media experts reporting on North Korea. Articles discussing this gap in knowledge and it meaning can be found here and here. beyond merely being an ICBM program the North Koreans of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea have demonstrated a mobile ICBM program. Mobile ICBMs are harder to wipe out completely as they can be continuously moved. In addition, North Korea has a network of fortified tunnels as a large part of it defense obsession — probably a tiny percentage of these can accommodate the huge trucks that carry these ICBMs,  but if they have 1,000s of miles of tunnels (and I have heard credible reports and seen images that make my believe that they do then perhaps they have a few hundred or even a hundred mile of key tunnels ready to accommodate these large vehicles and help them move in and out of air attacks and back and forth to different launch sites. Whether they can miniaturize atomic warheads, guide ICBMs to precise targets for small scale nukes and how long it will take them increase the range to affect not only Alaska but the rest of the United States — these are things we cannot now be sure about.

America has strong and historic interests and some or other treaty obligations in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan. None of these countries is in exactly the same state of being nor the same relationship with the United States. But they are real and important interests. President Donald James Trump is facing new challenges with North Korea as manifest in their ICBM test. His tweets on the occasion of the recent test do reveal something about what is on his mind.

 North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea….and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!

I think that there are lots of good reasons to seek to cooperate with China in meeting the North Korean threat, lots of great things about China generally and lots that the U.S.A. and China can do at people to people, business to business, military to military intelligence to intelligence, and  at the highest levels of government. But I also believe that while academic, religious and commercial outreach to China is in the interest of all Americans and of the Chinese we should remember that they see the Korean Peninsula and the Yellow Sea very differently than we do and that they are a very different country.

Yantai where I lived and taught in China was 258 miles from the Capital of North Korea and about 200 miles from the relevant part of the Korean coast for accessing North Korea. It was there that I lived and had a chance to observe the way that North Koreans interacted with their neighbors from China, South Korea and  Russia within the context of Chinese society. It also was a good place to observe how Chinese and China’s government viewed Korea. However, that was in 2004 and 2005 and so many things will have changed.  Most things have changed in ways that are less promising for the kinds of pro-American visions I could see as worth working for at the time. But some underlying conditions are the same.

 

 

However, I think that the main thing I learned from interacting with North Koreans and those who knew them when I lived in Yantai, China is that they are stuck in ways and to a degree that virtually non of our rhetoric allows for…
Public rhetoric and internal agency policy may be different but when rhetoric goes on for decades it is policy.
1.North Korea is a racially and ethnically hyper-conscious regime that sees in the mingling allowed in South Korea a kind of defeat that makes their regime superior. This is rooted in Korean history.
2. China and Russia both use North Korea as an actual and potential cat’s paw for confrontation with the United States. They wish a force to balance US interests in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines and North Korea fills that bill.
3.Korea’s economy is crippled in large part because it spends so much on defense — perhaps more as a percentage of GDP than any other country in the world. That is more of a factor than any other aspect of their many problems.
4.Their economic crisis and international sanction regimes which never ends keeps them dependent on private funds from all secret enemies of the USA, aid from China, aid from Russia (mostly employment and covert aid) and involvement in activities not allowed by international law .
5. The ongoing crisis keeps the centralization of power a practical arrangement and China will not easily allow a collapsed state with millions of refugees into China or an American led invasion of the north.
6. They do realize war with the USA could be as close to suicide as one can get but they hope to deter it without losing their position and they have made decades of preparations including very sophisticated worldwide networks of operative of many kinds, cyberwar capacity, a hope to blackmail key players in crucial Asian countries, networks of fortified tunnels, massive artillery arrayed against South Korea, propaganda assets ready to deploy misinformation and the cultivation of huge units prepared for suicide missions.
7. It is certain that we do not hear reporting here on there most unique human assets and whether that is good or bad I am not sure but the absence of such reporting makes those same assets more impressive to those with whom they interact daily. In another way of saying it, they seem like invisible supermen because nobody talks about them and when they show up in any setting that makes them more credible.

We think far too much of North Korea as isolated and its leadership as crazy. That is pleasant for us. But we have to tell our military that they may have to fight, kill and die for a conflict with a less isolated and crazy regime than they have been told they were fighting. Battle commanders can tell young infantry whatever it takes to get them fired up in the field  but North Korea is a regime supported by many in South Korea as an alternative to total American dominance int he region my guess is as many as 25% would rather have North Korea continue to exist than have a Western Dominated Korean Peninsula. The Chinese and the Russians will never really support a Greater South Korea solution. North Korea has support from terrorist networks, despots and isolated states who want their weapons and expertise and are willing to return favors for such help with their own problems. There are also many Koreans who would like to see a new kind of North Korea or united Korea more like the South Korean Republic of Korea but find almost nothing helpful from the West in that decades long struggle. I support with passion a US military presence in the Far East. As corrupt as I find our society to be it still offers some support to Christians, orderly world commerce, women’s institutions,  and Americans traveling abroad. Those are all things worth fighting for. But Korea is deeply rooted in a sense of its own Korean race, culture and tradition on both sides of the DMZ. They also have deep traditions of meaningful ties to China and Japan. Those relationships are ancient and profound and full of chapters of problems we can legitimately exploit to gain Korean support but most Koreans see their country in terms of being between those two countries in lots of meaningful ways.

So there is very little chance of mobilizing a sense of wiping out the crazy North Korean regime. The regime is often able to exploit our very poor understanding of the situation.    Their commitment involves millions of people including skilled linguists with athletic ability and cosmetic surgery planted across the world. It includes hundreds of thousands  perhaps even millions who are by Western standards chronically suicidal. In addition there are things they are right about and we are wrong about. They do some things well and cherish some great values. Yes they have a society of mass killings, brutal slavery, incredible militarism and other horrors but they are a society full of millions who love their country and culture and who see that that they have patiently worked for and waited for a process of peaceful unification. They are real people in a real country whom we will have to interact with as such.

Monsignor Richard Von Phul Mouton, Obituary Post

Monsignor Richard von Phul Mouton of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette passed away Wednesday. He was 86 years old. The press has remembered him already and so have many of the institutions with which he was associated. His official obituary in the Daily Advertiser is here. More or less the same obituary appeared in other papers. I attended only the wake for complicated reasons but expect the funeral to be a grand and deserved tribute.

Mouton died at 2:21 p.m. Wednesday at Lafayette General Medical Center among those attending to his last illness was his brother, Frank Anthony Mouton. He is preceded in death by his father, Scranton Alfred Mouton, Sr., mother, Inez Genevieve von Phul Mouton, brother, Scranton Alfred Mouton, Jr., and sister-in-law, Margaret Apple Mouton. He is survived by his brothers, Frank Anthony Mouton and Marc Gilbert Mouton, Sr., sister-in-law Betty LaCour Mouton, and numerous nieces and nephews.  The Mouton family is a prominent family in the region and Alfred Mouton, at least for now, still occupies a central place on a statue in the center of Monsignor’s hometown. The Mouton House is a museum not far from the Cathedral  where Monsignor lived out much of his last phase of life since July 1, 2007, Monsignor took up residence as a Senior Priest at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. This nearby Mouton house seems small compared to other Plantation owners homes in the South but this  was the town house (not the larger country home) where  Governor and General Mouton — father and son– stayed over to attend mass at the nearby St. John’s  Church in Antebellum Lafayette.  The Mouton connections among Acadians (such as the governor and the General) and the non Acadian French are indeed extensive. Monsignor Mouton was very aware of his heritage though not one to harp on it with people who were not aware of it.

Richard Mouton was born on March 17, 1931 in Lafayette, Louisiana. He was baptized on March 25 of the same year at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, where he would later attend  the Cathedral primary school and receive the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation. He was ordained at this same Cathedral on June 4, 1955 and assigned as Associate Pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Abbeville –which has always been my real home parish where I was baptized, made my first communion and was wed — but Monsignor did not officiate at any of those sacraments and was not pastor there in any of those years.  I did not know him as Associate pastor.

When I met him he was the intellectually mature Pastor of the Parish who had returned from completing his doctoral degree in Rome. His doctoral thesis was entitled “The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Mass,” Father Mouton returned to Louisiana and was assigned to Immaculate Conception Parish in Lake Charles, the current Bishop of Lake Charles Glen Provost was one of his Associate Pastors at St. Mary Magdalen in Abbeville and they distinguished themselves as a team with their deep love of the liturgy. Monsignor had also gotten an international status as a priest before he was pastor — this was because in 1962,  he attended the Second Vatican Council, in the company of Bishop Maurice Shexnayder, and was subsequently appointed Peritus Concilii Vaticani Secundi (Expert of the Second Vatican Council). Still before I met him and when I was in fact two years old, In June 1966, Father Mouton was elevated to Monsignor Mouton. Like Monsignor Ignatius A. Martin with whom I lived in Duson and who had a major role to play in my parents return to the faith of their youth when he was a  Pastor at St. Mary Magdalene — Monsignor Mouton would also serve as Superintendent of Catholic Schools from June 1967 to the time he received his first assignment as Pastor at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Abbeville in 1973. It was during that period that I got to know him. Many people knew Msgr. Richard Van Phul Mouton better than I but nobody knew him exactly as I did. His official obituary did not mention founding the Christian Service Center in Abbeville, the work he did with liturgy in parish life, hosting the Lay Evangelist Training and Commissioning Program for the Diocese of Lafayette or his significant involvement with the Fr. Conley Bertrand’s Come Lord Jesus program, the ground work and development of the Catholic is the Name Weekends, fostering Perpetual Adoration, or any of the other ways in which our paths crossed most publicly. He also officiated at my great grandmother’s funeral where I read one of the readings and based on that encounter he asked me to serve as lector which I did most of the time when I was in country and he was pastor was it was my turn. Many of the friends of my youth had him as a teacher at VCHS, they told me. I never did. But despite eating hundreds of meals with priests, I was somehow closer to Monsignor than all but a tiny few. It is odd, I suppose. But my real connections were more personal and complicated, he twice asked me to enter the seminary and I twice regretfully declined — that was a long time ago, before I was married. I considered the priesthood at other times but really at those particular times I felt certain that I could not seriously pursue that option. Monsignor was also my confessor and spiritual director for some but not all of that time, I found him an insightful and serious man with whom anything could be discussed.

In February 1987, Monsignor Mouton was assigned as Pastor of St. Pius X Church in Lafayette in a an unusual swap with Fr. Donald Theriot who was the celebrant at my wedding.  Theriot came to St. Mary Magdalene from Pius X. During his time as Pastor, Monsignor participated in the development of various pastoral ministries, most notably the development of St. Thomas More Catholic High School and the founding of St. Pius X Elementary School.  I would later teach at St. Thomas More High School of which St. Pius is a Corporate Parish and would move there during my year of teaching and then away to Baton Rouge to pursue my M.A. but my parents would move there with my younger siblings and  he would remain their pastor and he would be someone I had much occasion to see. When I was teaching at St. Thomas More High School we did have some interactions. Mostly those related to crises in the school administration at a school which is normally stable but was having an unstable year. STM was in the official obituary whereas virtually nothing from Abbeville  was in it except merely his pastorate. However, it is not a matter of question that St. Pius Elementary School there is one of his greatest achievements.  He saw Catholic education as a key part of preserving the Faith and the right kind of Christian intellectual development. But he was a Ragin’ Cajun as well and continued his studies at the local secular university and not only at St. Joseph’s Seminary and the Pontifical College. He saw the light of Divine Truth in all learning, although I don’t have the particular courses at hand I am pretty sure that I remember that. He lived a faith in his time.  To quote the official obituary:

If the loss of faith is a life’s greatest tragedy, then surely its preservation is a life’s greatest triumph; Monsignor Mouton was certainly a great guardian of the Church and preserved Her teachings through his ministry to the many who loved him. 

“I value the priesthood I have been graced to share in…I have happily done what I was asked to do by my Bishop, ministering to his flock, hopefully, with zeal and charity. God knows and I praise Him for the graces I believe He gave me in doing so. All the good I have done I have truly done by the grace of God.”

Monsignor Richard von Phul Mouton

By the Grace of God

Beyond those public ministries, going back to the family comments made at the start, Monsignor was a full and thorough example of commitment to the priesthood but he was also a man with all the connections of a man of a particular, place time and lineage.  Msgr. Mouton had a circle of not very close friends with some common regional interests and I helped people a few times with translations of Heraldic and ancestral documents because they met me when I was discussing such things with this son of Acadiana. He also had great capacity for saying a lot in a few words about places he’d been. I have probably traveled with a hundreds priests, some bishops and a few cardinals — I never remember being in the same vehicle with Monsignor. We were at many receptions together over my lifetime but only shared a meal at table perhaps four times.

Monsignor knew many challenges in life. One of them was a bit vicarious. One of his closest friends in life was also ordained Jun. 04, 1955   and Msgr. H.A. Larroque was the brilliant Canon Lawyer with whom he could discuss many ideas and concerns. Before the explosion of the child abuse crisis Monsignor had (hard as this will be for many to believe) discussed with me his concerns about safe environment issues and the need to do more in preventing problems related to sexual behavior through priestly formation. But the conversations were related to our discussions about my concerns with some seminary environments I had encountered in the world. I had no idea he was dealing with real problems among priests close at hand and not as effectively as he probably should have and felt he should have. His really good friend was caught up in dealing with religious and secular legal matters, world wide media scrutiny and countless other moral issues and it was an ordeal. With me Monsignor never pretended he or his very close friend had perfect answers to any of these crises. I was proud of the fact that the Church paid huge damage awards, sponsored programs, organized safe environment training, struggled to weather the storm and did lots of other things. I often said that while I excused nothing of the worst abuses the Church paid mostly the price of being a responsible and enduring institution in the society of shirking, dissolution and changing  names which characterizes the modern world.    But truthfully the child abuse  scandals did change something about our conversations.

Monsignor and I were both strong personalities, he was clearly the more successful of the two and much older but we held very little back in our really private conversation although they were ALWAYS  cordial they could be both heated and cordial intense and measured. During my later life we corresponded almost entirely about grave and confidential matters and enjoyed only a few brief friendly conversations. Virtually none were related to child abuse or other issues that make a lot of ink. But they were issues we both took seriously.

I considered him a great man and a good priest. Sometimes, I considered him a fairly close friend. That’s not something I find as easy to explain. I lived with Msgr. Ignatius Martin and was a close companion of a Jesuit Missionary priest named Joseph Stoffel in the Philippines. Both were friends and I knew them in more ordinary friendly ways. But Msgr. Mouton and I had some common concerns that I shared with few other people over my lifetime. We didn’t always agree. But the void he leaves cannot be filled by anyone else I know. Life has taken many turns since the days since Monsignor Mouton and I knew each other best.
I have usually posted a kind of obituary on my blog for prominent people who were also significant in my life and I am doing that again for Msgr. Mouton. For as long as the blog exists it helps me organize these memories. People have often revisited these blog entries over the years, so someone else gets something out of it as well. But Monsignor is not likely to slip my mind often for very long.

Whip Steve Scalise and Others Shot

Today is President Donald James Trump’s birthday and tomorrow is mine. That is just one pair of several reasons why I am not covering the shooting up of the Republican Congressional Baseball Team practice as well as I otherwise might in this post relatively late in the day of its occurrence.

Violence is not new to American political life. The shooter in this case appears to have been a very highly politically aware citizen with a penchant for violence. He was deeply antithetical to Republicans, he was armed, homeless and living near the park in his car. As it happened this was a park where Congressional Republicans gathered on many occasions to practice for a charity softball game against Congressional Democrats. Congressional women play against the female press corps. Both games are important events in and around our Nation’s Capital. Steve Scalise  as majority whip had a security detail. Thus it was a gunfight and not a slaughter. But the shooter appears to have been a terrorist out to kill Republicans.

I am praying for the recovery of Louisiana’s own Steve Scalise and for his family. He’s a man of small government, pro-life and cultural conservative principles. A staffer, a lobbyist, two Capitol police officers and the shooter were also transported injured from the scene. I hope to post more about this in the future.

But for now, it is surely another sign of trouble.

Ascension Memorial Day Weekend

Happy Feast of the Ascension as usually celebrated in the USA. Thursday was the real festival of the Great Commission but today (or yesterday evening in my case) is when it is really celebrated in most Catholic and some other Christian churches. At the mass I attended Fr. Louis Richard did a nice job of tying together this great feast and the national holiday of Memorial Day. Both holidays have meant a lot in my life.
Missions has a special connection to the Feast of the Ascension. Memorial day has many meanings for me, including remembering relatives I never met like Simon Drago killed defending Pearl Harbor in a hazardous training maneuver and not on the famous and infamous day. However, in recent years Memorial Day means remembering my cousin Severin Summers. Killed in action in Afghanistan, Sev is missed more than I deserve to miss him but less than he deserves to be missed. My great grandfather died of combat wounds in World War I but he died closer to World War II and after seeing my maternal grandfather ready to serve or having served in that great conflict as a bombardier instructor . But I never knew Kildren Gremillion, though I grew up with a lot of stories about his life, service and how long and hard it was for him to die of poisonous gas from serving as an American soldier in the trenches of Europe’s deadly ordeal of an earlier generation.  Sev I did know.

I could say a lot of things from my own experience about the Ascension, Jesus’s command to proclaim the gospel and make disciples is heard by all Christians. I am not devoting much time and space to this post  but I have a Facebook friend who is an Episcopalian pastor  and am sharing his post which offers a different perspective.

Almost two thousand years ago, last Thursday, Jesus Christ, having lived about thirty years in the Roman Province of Palestine (and sometimes in its Jewish puppet-state, Judea), and having been arrested, tried, crucified and buried, and having on the third day after risen from the dead, and having associated with his Galillean hillbilly disciples for another seven weeks thereafter, ascended into Heaven to be with his Father, God Almighty. He’s there, now, interceding for us, his imperfect and all-too-human brothers and sisters. Tomorrow morning at 8:30, we’ll celebrate that fact at Christ Chapel in Fairdealing, and we’d like to invite you to join us. There will be no 10:30 service there, as it’s the last Sunday of the month and Fr. Hiter willl be at St. Mark’s Anglican, in Benton, whose people are between clergymen at the moment. If you’re in (or closer to) Benton than Fairdealing, you might join the folks of St. Mark’s. They’d love to have you.

The point is that we all have missions of consequence. Americans and Christians and especially Christian Americans are reminded of those missions in a special way this weekend. I hope that we all rise to the occasion. I hope we all honor those who have.    But whether we acknowledge them or not, sufficiently or not  — the duty and  the sacrifice for a great cause has a reality beyond our making.

The New Era Continues

Rex Tillerson told Chris Wallace on Fox’s Sunday morning show that the video of him seeming calm and experienced during a Saudi sword dance appeared the way it did because this recent sword dance was not his first sword dance. Indeed AmericanOil companies — like Tillerson’s former bailiwick of Exxon Mobil have plenty to do with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The oil industry has been an imperfect bridge of communications but it is a bridge and conduit for a great deal of communication between the  United States and Saudi Arabia. Aramco, a Saudi oil giant tries to make its voice understandable abroad in communications such as this piece.

 

But it is not any less a fact that terrorist funding, Islamic teachings openly hostile to America and many other things besides oil have flowed from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and some of its neighbors for a long time.

Today, in Israel trump has his speech to the Sunni Arab nations behind him and will visit Christian and Jewish holy sites in Israel such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Bethlehem and the Wailing Wall.  But when one considers all that was being said about the anti-Islamic nature of our President’s views as President Donald John Trump was quietly preparing for a trip to Saudi Arabia it seems unlikely that the man who just closed this enormous arms deal which will strengthen Saudi defense and bolster the US defense industry is as rabidly anti-Moslem as some of his critics have suggested.. That relative success he enjoyed in Saudi Arabia will mark one leg of his trip to reach the sites near the center of the great Abrahamic religions. His visit to Israel and Vatican City will be well watched.  But the trip to Saudi Arabia came as a chosen starting place. Much can be said about how this relates to positioning vis-a-vis Russia, Syria and Iran. But many American constituents have concerns about Saudi Arabian influence in the world as well. Concerns which are not going away any time soon.

 

Meanwhile, back in the United States social discord is widespread and it is not at all easy to measure where it is going or how intense it will become. I myself am fairly deeply alienated form many aspects of our society and that allows me to take in the fact that Confederate monuments in New Orleans are coming down in relation to one act of terrorism in South Carolina while we cuddle up to the country where 9-11 actually germinated and where Osama Bin-Laden has his roots and had many supporters.  Of course terror in the deep south was not unknown before the South Carolina church shooting. But different terrors are overlooked and minimized at different times.

The President has confronted the issues of Islamic Terror but made peaceful gesture to the larger cultural networks around the terrorists — in distant Saudi Arabia.But meanwhile back here, nearer to my home, New Orleans is being transformed. There is no doubt that the removal of Confederate Monuments will remake the city’s image in some way. Not that there was not room for improvement, but this change has a distinct context. I believe that context will have a cost.

I am not blogging as much about politics as I once did. I am also preoccupied with other struggles and my success or lack thereof distinguishes me more from Tillerson and the Arab princes than our positions in geopolitics. Change keeps marching on and it is good for most of us to remember both the good of our country and our own self interest when we try to judge the significance of that change.

The Long Road: Unresolved and Continuous Stories

For anyone who can still buy a ticket this is the day of the Move Beyond Tour with Derek and Julianne Hough going to New Orleans. I had hoped to get there myself  — although it was never likely. However I think it will be a good event at the Saenger for those who can. I spent my morning at a rosary and funeral for a distant cousin — Agnes Motty. Her brother James and I were pretty close friends decades ago and I was very happy to see him again after not seeing him for decades. However, I did not monopolize him on his return trip to the homeland he does not visit that much. James was a very accomplished artist when I knew him best and says that is not much a part of the life he lives now. His sister Agnes I barely knew and there were a few of his brothers I knew just a bit mostly Louis. But it was clear the long held love they had for the sister who never married was a powerful bond among them as they gathered for the funeral.

This is being typed in part on May 18, 2017 which is my sister Sarah’s birthday. While I am a lot older than Sarah she is next in age to me among my full siblings and living siblings. Also, I have known her much longer than I knew my deceased half-brother Paul. We still spend a decent amount of time together and I called her today  she had just returned from a trip celebrating her oldest daughter Alyse graduating from Mount Saint Mary University in Maryland with many honors. Sarah and I already celebrated her birthday a bit along with an early Mothers Day and me entrusting her with a graduation gift for Alyse which she delivered in Maryland we did that over a coffee and play session we often share with her children at McDonald’s in Abbeville on Mondays. Sarah is a person who exists mostly and largely with little reference to me she has issues and concerns and autonomy that have little to do with me. But she is also one of the great long stories of my life — not to make her feel older than she is.

 

Part of this post was typed on Mothers Day, May 14, 2017 with the view to it appearing whenever it appears.  My own mother was with my Dad and others sort of separately but also with Sarah on a trip principally to visit with others in the family who are attending her granddaughter (my niece)’s graduation from Mount Saint Mary University.  It turns out that much of the family were able to gather for that event. I was happy to celbrate Mothers Day early on May 6, 2017 with most of my siblings and my mother. For all of us our relationship with our mother is a truly primal on and for me as for many it is a very long running one as well.  I was not on this trip but we have been on many together — my mother and I. The picture below is of my parents and my sister Susanna sharing a meal in the oldest building in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania which was built during the end of the colonial and the start of the revolutionary period in American history. History which has long been a pursuit of mine constantly reminds us of a long set of ties to things which themselves have been around for a long time. This is the theme of this post.Family in Gettysgurg

This month I have stayed abreast of space news and watched with interest and increasing distance the discussions on the future of space exploration in which I was once a more active participant.  Time has not been kind to that involvement so far but it is an interest which has been on of the long-running interests in my life so far.

The truth is the theme of continuity has been one that has been on my mind this week, the way we all attempt to carry on in various ways. I am carrying on less successfully every year by many measures but I still hold out hope for an uptick in some trend or another. I still hope for a better life trajectory than I see before me.

 

That brings me back to my original concept for this post today. Although Julianne Hough is young I have been her fan for a long time.  I admire the fact that she had a long career in the performing arts before I became aware of her when she was still a teenager. I suppose she is just one of a lot of possible famous and nice looking people that one could take an interest in but there is more to it than that. There is a kind of message in her life that contrasts with a lot of what I do not like in the world I live in.
Julianne Hough is very attractive, but she also works hard at being human. That is not all I could say but it is a start. I would have liked to see her tour for various reasons and maybe one day I will but it is not today.

Love is a strange thing and so is family and so is friendship. In fact sex in all its permutations of attraction and disillusion is a bit odd at times as well. The handful of very famous beautiful young women who get the kind of attention Julianne Hough gets also have real lives to live and she is rooted enough to maintain a close relationship with her family. Not only doing this show with her brother but that is most notable.  Family love reminds us all that life is largely about the long run.

So here’s the deal…. I spent a little time with James mourning his sister, I called my  sister to wish her a happy birthday and I missed seeing Julianne perform with her brother. But I was aware today that each day one has to try to make life connect to the day and people who were there in the past and will be there in the future.  I also tried to trust in God for some things to work out in plans I make. But I know nothing has worked out in a big way in many years. Small successes are getting harder to find — but the show must go on. Not just for those of us in show business but for all us who live this life on any kind of stage. And we all do live out a kind of performance for those who observe our lives.

May the Fourth Be With Us All

George Lucas created the fantastical world of Star Wars after showing he could make films by creating the successful realistic film American Grafitti. He was deeply interested in mythology and also in a particular scholar of Mythology — Joseph Cambell. I read a lot of Campbell and learned from him. But we have very different points of view on many things that matter. I am for example a Christian.  Campbell was not.
I like Star Wars,  I really do and I have seen all of the films and almost all of them more than one time. But I also enjoy a wide variety of science fiction and a wide variety of other forms of art, literature and entertainment. It is certain that to me Star Wars is not my religion or my principal path through life but rather is  among my  preferred entertainments. But in a year when I am posting very few entries to this blog and in which I am not setting up a lot of holidays as thoroughly as I could I am posting on May the Fourth which is a Star Wars Fanday because it sounds like the famous blessing of that Galaxy Far, Far Away — “May the Force be with you.” Joseph Campbell was involved in the creation of the Star Wars Universe in ways both direct and indirect and was involved in promoting it directly through his series of television interviews with Bill Moyer titled The Power of Myth.  Besides being a popular television series for something of its type it was also a widely distributed book. A quirky take on the connection between Campbell and Star Wars can be found at the link here. Star Wars is not mostly about science then and is not largely hard science fiction but it is not very anti-science either. In addition it may well have had an element of challenging Christianity in the culture but some of the most devout and active Christians I know enjoy Star Wars quite a bit.  Tonight the second volume of Guardians of the Galaxy comes out on movie screens across the United States and this is an example of the impact that Star Wars has had and also the fact that in the abundance of new science fiction blockbusters Star Wars is only one element one can forget how fresh and different it was when New Hope, the first film appeared. Chris Pratt has also done another science fiction role besides that of Peter Quill in the film Passengers with Jennifer Lawrence which was a great piece of hard science fiction and did fairly well — for hard science fiction. But Star Wars helped to create that audience as well.

I am not blogging frequently these days. I am working on a variety of other things but not at all with the assurance that most of it will be a fruitful and worthy expenditure of energy.  But I am occupied or preoccupied with a variety of other things. Our lives and our society are full of images and events with resonate with the Star Wars universe.  It opens us up to be spiritual, social, scientific members of our society and also to escape into a world that is not ours at all.

 

 


So we can look at the time we spend watching movies (and I watch a lot of movies) as having a special place in our imaginative lives. Perhaps for Christians like me whose lives have been adventurous but presently are not so adventurous and whose quests seem out of flow — there is something to remember in Star Wars today that will make us better at living the lives we do live and following the quests we are on.