Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Out and About - August 2010

Above and right: My dear friend Carol celebrated her 70th birthday recently, and on August 7 she and her husband Ken hosted a wonderful party in the backyard of their South Minneapolis home. The event also served as a fundraiser for Women Against Military Madness (WAMM), an organization with which Carol is actively involved.

I lived with Ken and Carol for five years (1998-2003) before moving across the river to St. Paul to caretake the house I currently live in. I still see them on a regular basis as we share a meal together at least twice a month. In addition, for a number of years now, Ken and I have delivered Meals-on-Wheels every Thursday. Both Ken and Carol appear regularly in my "Out and About" posts (see, for instance, here, here, here, here, here, and here). I consider them my surrogate American parents, and I love them both dearly. Happy Birthday, Carol!

Ken and Carol met my Mum and Dad in the summer of 2005. For a picture, see this previous Wild Reed post.

Above: I took this portrait of my friend Terence Dosh for the program booklet of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's upcoming Synod of the Baptized: "Claiming Our Place at the Table." Terry is a highly-respected church historian and co-founder of the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC). He's also been actively involved in numerous church reform organizations, including CORPUS, the International Federation of Married Priests, and Call to Action Minnesota.

At the September 18 Synod, Terry will be one of two recipients of CCCR's inaugural Adsum Award. The other recipient will be my friend David McCaffrey, co-founder and current president of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities.

I've been working with others on preparing the Synod booklet, and following is what we say in it about the Adsum Award.

Adsum is a Latin word which means "I am present and listening." Whenever the participants in Vatican II were gathered at St. Peter's Basilica their traditional prayer was the exclamation: adsumus - "we are present and listening." It is now our turn to say Adsumus, to be present and attentive - and the Spirit will not fail us.

The Adsum Award hereby recognizes those individuals who have made their extraordinary commitment to be present and attentive to the Spirit, to be partners in re-creating the face of the church here in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

To learn more about CCCR's Synod of the Baptized and/or to register, click here. But don't wait too long as we're rapidly approaching our capacity of 500 participants!

On Sunday, August 15, I hosted a house Mass for members and friends of Cornerstone Old Catholic Community. We gathered to celebrate the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God.

Left: Robert Caruso, pastor of Cornerstone Old Catholic Community, and his partner John.

Above: After the Mass we shared a wonderful meal together. From left: Phil, Brittany, Mary, Emily, John, John, Paula, Robert, and Doug.

For more images and commentary on this event, click

Above: Doug and Quinn – August 20, 2010.

I feel so fortunate to have met Doug on Sunday, August 1 at Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ. We've spent the past month getting to know one another, enjoying each other's company, and developing a very special relationship. And, of course, it's always great to spend time with the adorable Quinn!

Above: My friends Angie and Bryan by that part of the Mississippi River not far from my St. Paul home – Saturday, August 28, 2010.

Above: At my favorite spot by the river – Saturday, August 28, 2010.

Above: On the evening of Saturday, August 28, some friends and I traveled to Miesville, MN to hear our friend John (center) sing and play piano at the Gopher Hills Golf Club.

Right: Jim, John and Paula.

Left: John and Noelle.

John's friend Timothy also entertained with both singing and dancing!

Above: Members of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform gather at the Ramada Plaza in Minneapolis for a staging rehearsal ahead of September 18's Synod of the Baptized: "Claiming Our Place at the Table" – Monday, August 30,2010.

Left: Finalizing particulars with friends and fellow Synod organizers Mary Jo and Mary.

Much of my time and energy over the past several months have been spent on helping plan and organize CCCR's Synod. Although it's not an official Archdiocesan event, the Synod's definitely going to be a major event within the life of the local church of St. Paul-Minneapolis. I feel very honored to be working with so many enthusiastic and dedicated individuals and groups to make real a Catholic Church that, locally and universally, radiates Jesus' core teaching of radical equality, unabashed inclusivity, and transforming love. That, in a nutshell, is what CCCR and its Synod are really all about.

For more on CCCR and its Synod of the Baptized, see the following (chronologically-ordered) Wild Reed posts:
Introducing the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform
Many Voices, One Church
"Something Exciting and Joyous"
Preparing to Claim Our Place at the Table
CCCR Responds to Censure by Chancery
An Exciting Endeavor
A New Phase
The Spirit of Pentecost is Very Much Alive in the Church of St. Paul-Minneapolis
Taking It to the Streets

See also the following Progressive Catholic Voice posts:
In What Sense Are We Progressive Catholics?
CCCR Work/Study Groups Underway
CCCR's 2010 Synod: A Progress Report
Chancery Issues Statement on CCCR
CCCR Responds to Censure by Chancery
A Point of View
CCCR's 2010 Synod: A Second Progress Report
Let Our Voices Be Heard!
Rosemary Radford Ruether on Creating a Liberating Church (Part 1)
Rosemary Radford Ruether on Creating a Liberating Church (Part 2)
Rosemary Radford Ruether on Creating a Liberating Church (Part 3)

Europe 2005

Part 1: London

I have to say that 2005 was a very good year for me.

In fact, the Christmas letter I sent to family and friends that year - one complete with numerous pictures of the year's events - is still on my refrigerator door!

As I note in this letter, one of the highlights of the year was my Mum and Dad's visit to the Twin Cities from Australia. They stayed with me in my St. Paul home for about ten days in mid-July before journeying to London to visit my older brother and his family who at that time were living in Weybridge, just outside the British capital. I joined them shortly after for a two-week long "Highlights of Europe" coach tour.

Given that it is now five years since I shared this wonderful experience with my parents, I thought I'd share a few photos and journal entries from my time in Europe - starting with my journey and visit to London.

Monday, August 8, 2005
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, 6:50 a.m.

It took ages to get through both check-in and the carry-on check point. I managed to get about ten minutes sleep last night. There were so many little things to do! I hope David and Michael remember to water the plants!

Late yesterday afternoon I rode my bike down to the river and sat at my favorite spot. I prayed for a fearless heart, a heart full of courageous compassion. It's my prayer this morning as I sit on board the first of two planes that will take me to London.

I feel embarrassed that I'm so nervous, so fearful. I guess it's because here in a plane one is totally not in control. Plus the finality of any mishap! And so I ask God to be control - control of my spirit, my heart. I long for a heart full of love and courage, one that has no room for fearful thoughts and scenarios. Be with me, God, on this journey and all the journeys I'll be undertaking in the next four weeks.

It already feels strange to be cell phone free! Strange but good. I'm confident that all with CPCSM will be fine over the next month. I hope the newsletter gets printed and mailed out without any hitches.

I am so tired! I feel as if I could drop off to sleep right now. Unfortunately, there's no head cushion!

. . . Wide awake and airbourne. I feel calm and at peace. This always happens once the plane's taken off. Yet I still pray for a continued sense of God's presence.

Chicago, 11:00 a.m

Because the flight from the Twin Cities to Chicago was delayed, I missed my connecting flight to London. I've been put on a later flight today which means I'll get into Heathrow at 6:15 tomorrow morning. It also means I have to spend all day here in Chicago at the airport.

I need to somehow let [my brother] Chris and [sister-in-law] Cathie know of this change of plan. I asked a guy with a laptop if I could use it when he's done. He said yes and so I'm wanting for him to finish so that I can send an e-mail to Cathie. It's kinda calming just sitting here on the floor watching people go by. But then again, I'm very tired.

Some time later . . .

Flying over Quebec with five-and-a-half hours to go before arriving in London. I have no idea what the local time is but in London it's about 1:00 a.m., Tuesday, August 9. I've been reading Jamie O'Neill's At Swim Two Boys. I started it between dozes at the Chicago airport.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005
5:57 a.m.

It seems appropriate to be reading At Swim Two Boys while flying over Ireland and the Irish Sea. In fact, we've just passed Dublin, the setting of the book. In less than an hour we'll be landing in London.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005
11:30 p.m.

Cathie and [my eldest nephew] Ryan met me at Heathrow yesterday morning. I then spent the rest of the day reconnecting with my nephews . . . and trying to stay awake! I was dead tired - having very little sleep in 48 hours.

Today Ryan and I went into London from Weybridge and did the shamelessly touristy thing of taking a sightseeing bus around the city's most popular areas. Actually, it was very informative and a great way to get an initial experience of the sights, sounds, and general atmosphere of the place. The highlight was probably our stop at St. Paul's Cathedral and our climbing of the 500-odd steps to the very top of the dome where we were treated to magnificent views of the city.

Thursday, August 11, 2005
11:00 p.m.

Earlier today I explored Westminster - by first making my way through Green Park to Buckingham Palace. As I walked along the Mall I came across the Duke of York Column [left] which I recognized from the film Mrs Dalloway.

I then proceeded to Trafalgar Square and then down to the
Houses of Parliament. After walking across Westminster Bridge, I made my way past the London Eye to Waterloo Station. It was quite an enjoyable walk and I'd like to do more such wandering around the city next week.

Sunday. August 14, 2005
11:45 p.m.

An interesting and enjoyable afternoon today at Hever Castle, childhood home of Anne Boleyn. I could have skipped the jovial display of jousting, but the little castle itself, surrounded by its moat and imbued with centuries of history, was fascinating. The surrounding gardens, pools, and lawns were very elegant and thoroughly English.

The highly manicured grounds boasted sculptures dating back 2000 years, and in one garden courtyard I believe I found
Antinous, in all his naked glory. He seemed to be ignored by everyone - except for an elderly woman who gleefully rubbed his buttocks as she passed by! I guess when you get to be a certain age you can do as you please.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Spent most of the day in London with [my nephew] Liam. We visited Chris at Shell Centre, walked to Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Oxford Circus, and took the Tube to Kensington (Holland Park Station) so as to find the house were Dusty Springfield lived for a time and which is marked by a commemorative plaque. After locating and photographing Dusty's former residence, we took the Tube back to St. Paul's Cathedral where again I climbed to the top - though this time accompanied by Liam rather than Ryan!

Monday, August 22, 2005
8:30 a.m.

I'll miss spending time with my nephews. Yes, my time in Weybridge with them and Chris and Cathie has passed. Last night after a wonderful meal of black bean chicken and stir-fry vegetables and noodles that Cathie and I prepared between sips of Pimms, Mum, Dad and I made our way into London where we stayed at the Crowne Plaza London-St. James. This morning at 5:30, we boarded our Insight Tours coach for our "Highlights of Europe" adventure! I write now abroad the Pride of Kent, the ferry that will shortly transport us from Dover to Calias. From here we'll journey to Brussels where we'll spend the night.

The best part of my time in England? First and foremost, spending time reconnecting with my brother and his family. It seems as if I had endless games of Cheat, Memory, Snakes and Ladders, and UNO with Mitch and Brendan. I exchanged music with Ryan, while Liam accompanied me on my quest to find the house where Dusty Springfield once lived. It seems as if I also watched with all four boys countless episodes of Teen Titans, Samurai Jack, and Wild Boyz!

The second highlight was exploring and experiencing London - or rather central London.

Third, I enjoyed meeting and spending time with Paul Howes and his partner. Paul [whom I'd interviewed in 2002 for my Dusty Springfield website, Woman of Repute] generously made me a DVD of Dusty interviews and videos from the time of her Reputation album.

Another Dusty-related highlight was the trip to Henley-on-Thames that Chris, Cathie, Liam, Mum, and I made on Saturday. Here we visited Dusty's grave [left], enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of this peaceful riverside town, and had lunch by the Thames at the Angel on the Bridge pub and restaurant.

We're casting off! When the boat gets a bit further out I'll take a photograph of the famed white cliffs of Dover!

NEXT: Part 2: Bruges and Brussels

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
London Calling
Good Times, Happy Memories
Remembering a Very Special Time
Stealing Away

Monday, August 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

Individually, most Tea Partiers probably are nice people, trying to do what’s right, motivated by good intentions that extend from their faith in God and in their understanding of what this nation stands for. And individualism is exactly what the rhetoric of [Glenn Beck’s August 28 Tea Party] rally was all about; from the website: “throughout history America has seen many great leaders and noteworthy citizens change her course. It is through their personal virtues and by their example that we are able to live as a free people. Our freedom is possible only if we remain virtuous.” Mirroring their Christology, salvation for themselves and for the country is an individual act.

The convenience of individualism is that others cannot be held accountable for personal failures, nor can an individual be held responsible for the actions of another. The problem with individualism is that it fails to connect the dots between a movement or ideology and how one person might interpret that ideology, thereby taking a course of action perhaps incongruous with the party’s original intent.

Individualism is beneficial for leaders to peg success or failure of a movement on each person’s virtue rather than the power of the collective to effect change. Individualism is focused on personal attainment, personal happiness, and personal livelihood, and fails to see how each relies on a system that empowers, privileges, or dispossess either the individual or others in the process. As I discovered at the rally, to shift the conversation from “I” to “we” in speaking of a collective liberation was quickly flagged as anti-American and dismissed.

Since when did “we the people” become synonymous with Socialism? How can we convince people that “loving their neighbor” means more than just praying for them, that it means supporting a system that raises each of us up through access to education, health care, jobs, and a livable life? How can we encourage people to stop thinking of themselves as living in subdivisions and start living in neighborhoods? How can we shift from the Jesus of the comfortable to the “sell all your possessions” Jesus?

– Alex McNeill
“Me” the People: A Day with the Tea Party
Religion Dispatches
August 30, 2010

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Bishop Spong on the Tea Party Movement

Recommended Off-site Links:
Glenn Beck's Redemption Song – Robert Jensen (CommonDreams.org, August 30, 2010).
Glenn Beck Rally Sparks Debate Over Crowd Size – Michael Calderone (
Yahoo! News, August 30, 2010).
White Fright – Christopher Hitches (
Slate.com, August 30, 2010).
Neo-Supremacy: Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin 's Tea-Scalding of MLK – Pierre Tristam (CommonDreams.org, August 29, 2010).
The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party – Frank Rich (New York Times, August 28, 2010).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Valiant First Effort, Wouldn't You Say?

Did you know that the first article I ever had published had nothing to do with theology or politics or gay rights? Rather, it was about the adventures of a fictitious Viking prince in the days of King Arthur!

I remember I bought a nice jumper (that’s a sweater for my American friends) with the $40 I was paid for this article – one that was published in The Canberra Times in April, 1987. It was also an article that I submitted to the professional writing class I was taking at that time at the Canberra College of Advanced Education (now the University of Canberra). My instructor awarded me a “credit” grade, and noted that my article was “topical, interesting, and well-researched . . . [with] a genuine enthusiasm evident throughout.” He also observed that I “occasionally lapse into over-long sentences” – a habit that dogs me to this day!

In a future post I’ll share how I first became interested in the subject of this first ever article of mine. But for now I simply share (with added links and images) what I wrote back in the Australian autumn of 1987, when I was just a beardless youth of 21.


Valiant Prince Turns Fifty

By Michael Bayly

Canberra Times
April 1987

An old witch once prophesied that a certain young and adventurous prince would never know contentment in his life. Whether or not the witch’s prophecy has been fulfilled is hard to ascertain, as contentment, like wealth, is one of those difficult concepts to measure.

Yet to the thousands of faithful readers, the writer and artist who labours to bring the prince to an exquisite degree of life, and the syndicate which has the right to publish this life in over 300 newspapers worldwide, I dare say the prince in question is a source of great contentment indeed.

He is, of course, Prince Valiant – knight of the Round Table and heir to the throne of Thule, who this year celebrates fifty years of existence. Valiant, of course, is not fifty years of age. It has just taken that length of time for the two writer/artists who have been involved in his creation to chronicle his life so far.

Prince Valiant the comic strip was created by Hal Foster in 1937. Foster, an accomplished commercial artist, was not new to the world of comics. He had previously written and illustrated Tarzan and the Apes. Yet it would be Prince Valiant, with its rich illustrations and detailed attention to the King Arthur legend, which would bring Foster international renown.

“God in his wisdom endowed me with certain imperfections,” Foster once declared, “but I have made Prince Valiant as I wish God had made me. He’s sort of my body with muscles.”

Prince Valiant was introduced to the Sunday comic pages as a five-year-old boy, the son of the Viking king, Aguar, and his Roman-born wife. Fleeing the sword of a usurper, Aguar and his household settle into exile in the Fens district of Britain. It is here that the young prince’s mother dies and the witch, Horrit, makes her grim prophecy.

In a matter of weeks, the strip depicts Valiant’s aging to his late teens, thus beginning to chronicle the lad’s many adventures.

“The most fun was establishing the legend of Prince Valiant in the early strips,” said Foster. “The hardest thing . . . has been to keep Val human. He has to be good and virtuous but I try to keep him human also. He has faults and frailties like everyone else.”

Leaving his father’s household, the youthful Prince Valiant attaches himself to the court of King Arthur. Roaming across Britain, Europe, and the Holy Land, often as squire to the noble Sir Gawain, Valiant bravely, though sometimes recklessly, fights for the oppressed and for his own renown against invading Huns, Goths, and Saxons. During one adventure he is presented by Prince Arn of Ord with the Singing Sword. “Invisible is he who uses it in good cause,” Arn tells Valiant, who quickly validates the claim.

In time he is rewarded and becomes a knight of Arthur’s legendary Round Table.

“The medieval period gave me scope, that’s why I picked it,” Foster once said. “I have a leeway of almost three centuries [as] with the decline of Roman civilization in the fifth century, written records ceased being kept.”

It was inevitable that Prince Valiant should meet his match, yet it was not in the guise of a warrior or sorcerer but a petite, golden-haired maiden – the young queen of an Aegean kingdom. Aleta, Queen of the Misty Isles, had been falsely accused of witchcraft and murder. Prince Valiant, having dragged her from her throne, vows to take her as his captive back to Camelot and to justice.

“Who had enslaved whom?”, Prince Valiant would ask himself years later, for it soon became apparent that the two were hopelessly in love. And so after an epic adventure involving Valiant rescuing Aleta from a fiendish tyrant, the two young lovers were married.

Foster once stated that he originally wanted to do a strip which would permit him to do fantasy. “I wanted to show magicians, ogres, dragons, and knights. However, after Prince Valiant began, the characters in the strip became too real to do much fantasy.”

Yet what the strip may lack in fantasy, it more than makes up for in adventure. In the decades following his marriage, Valiant embarks on some of the greatest quests of his career. His young bride by no means disappears into the background. On one occasion, Aleta is abducted by Ulfran, the famed Viking raider. In pursuit, Prince Valiant is led to the shores of the New World where he defeats Ulfran and is reunited with his wife. The winter is spent in America with Valiant’s Viking crew and friendly Indians. It is here that Arn, Valiant and Aleta’s first child, is born.

Prince Arn, named after Valiant’s adolescent friend, was the first of five children. Twin daughters, Karen and Valeta, came next; then Galan, heir to his mother’s throne; and finally Nathan. This youngest child almost never knew his family, having been abducted moments after his birth by agents of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Prince Arn eventually rescues his infant brother and restores him to his rightful family.

Although much of Prince Valiant’s appeal lies in its skillfully written and illustrated adventures, there is something else equally responsible for the strip’s classic status. For as well as the brute strength of his opponents, the scheming evil of despots and sorcerers, and the treachery of the strip’s arch-villain, Mordred, Prince Valiant, the man, also confronts a variety of situations that call him to draw upon his strength of character and a moral code that, more often than not, challenges him to put others first. He is not a pillaging Viking thug but a gallant, if at times proud, nobleman intent on establishing peace and justice. Not an easy task in the brutal epoch of the Dark Ages.

Even before Hal Foster’s death in 1982, Prince Valiant was being illustrated by John Cullen Murphy [left], the two artists having first began collaborating in 1970. The text of the stories, written by Murphy’s son, may be more detailed but the fundamental qualities remain, and thus the strip’s popularity.

Combining elements of adventure, romance, and Arthurian lore, Prince Valiant has enthralled readers for half a century – a feat with which Valiant himself would be quite content.


I’m happy to report that Prince Valiant continues to this day! Since 2004 the strip has been illustrated by Gary Gianni (right) and written by Mark Schultz.

For an excellent overview of the history of Prince Valiant, I highly recommend The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion by Brian M. Kane.

The Prince Valiant Page by Gary Gianni is also an informative and entertaining resource – one that looks at the artistic style and method of Gianni, the third and latest artist to illustrate Prince Valiant.

In the Twin Cities, Prince Valiant is published in the Sunday edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Above: "A dragon! A dragon awaits Prince Valiant!"
Val and his youngest son Nathan are given a mysterious warning
by "three weird sisters" in a 2005 story by Gianni and Schultz.

For more of Prince Valiant at The Wild Reed, see the previous posts:
"A Valiant Effort"
If I Could . . .

Recommended Off-site Links:
Michael Bayly Reveals the Faces of Resistance – Lydia Howell (Pulse of the Twin Cities, May 31, 2000).
King Features Syndicate's Official Prince Valiant Page
Don Markstein's Toonopedia: Prince Valiant
Prince Valiant: Hal Foster's Vision Realized ToysPeriod.com (July 4, 2010).
A Review of Prince Valiant: 1937-1938 (Vol. 1) – Steve Donoghue (OpenLettersMonthly.com, 2009).
A Review of Prince Valiant: 1939-1940 (Vol. 2) – Rich Clabaugh (The Christian Science Monitor, July 27, 2010).
Another Review of Prince Valiant: 1939-1940 (Vol. 2) – Chad Derdowski (Mania.com, August 5, 2010).
No Knights Who Say "Ni," Neither – Josh Fruhlinger (The Comics Curmudgeon, August 9, 2004).
Triumphant Return: An Insider Expounds on Prince Valiant – Cullen Murphy (Vanity Fair, September 21, 2009).