Ave Maria

Ave Maria (n): a prayer to the Virgin Mary used in Catholic worship. The first line is adapted from Luke 1:28. dictionary with letter A

Everyone pretty much insists that they are not bound to be politically correct, even as they correctly utter everything politically.

I understand political correctness. Having a sensitivity for other people’s feelings, ideas, talent and faith is always a noble adventure. And actually, there are very few times when we should make a stand over some issue or terminology simply to prove our point.

I am not Catholic.

Yet when I sat down to write a novel on the life of Jesus, where he shares his own story, and I was compelled to fill in the missing years which are not normally spoken of in historical or scriptural writings, I ran headlong into the character of Mary of Nazareth.

You have billions of people in the world who believe that she was not only the mother of Jesus but also divine herself.

So rather than playing it safe, keeping a Catholic approach to her character, or disregarding those traditions in favor of a Protestant approach, I decided to research it as a writer.

What do we really know about the life of this woman?

My study opened up a vista of possibilities.

  1. She was probably a girl in her early teens, living in abstract poverty, when she found herself pregnant, believing deep in her heart that it was due to the bidding of an angel of the Lord.
  2. In sharing her story, she risked being stoned.
  3. She had the faith that her betrothed, Joseph, would come around and love her and protect her instead of becoming her primary accuser.
  4. She birthed her child in what might be considered some of the worst possible circumstances.
  5. Within two years she was forced into exile in Egypt to avoid having her son murdered.
  6. She returned to her home town, where the rumors of her pregnancy were still circling about.
  7. By my count, she had a total of seven children, counting the names of the ones listed in the Gospels. (Now, I know the Catholics believe these to be cousins, but to each his own.)
  8. She had to deal with her oldest son deciding to leave home, walking away from the family business.
  9. She mistakenly thought he may have turned crazy, and sent her other children out to get him, only to have him turn his back on the whole family to pursue his mission.
  10. She found herself in front of a cross, staring up into the bleeding and dying countenance of her beloved first-born.
  11. She was there to witness the resurrection.
  12. And she was present for the founding of the church that bore the name of her son of promise.

My research unveiled the character of a woman who was powerful, enduring, confused, pondering and finally, faithful.

Honestly, when I got finished, all I could say was … “Ave Maria.”

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Anti-hero

dictionary with letter A

Anti-hero (n): a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes.

Is it an oxymoron or just redundant?

For after all, there are no true heroes who fit the criteria we normally assess to such an honor.

  • All heroes come from nowhere just in the nick of time.
  • They cannot be manufactured–though we have hammered away.
  • They cannot be educated, though classes continue to be held.
  • They cannot be ordained, though religious institutions anoint at will.
  • And they are not born heroes.

One of the greatest misconceptions in our culture is the notion that people are born any particular way. We are all birthed with the need to be born again–emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically–or else to be cast in the role of being mere understudies of our parents’ stage work.

No one would expect a scrawny attorney from Illinois to be the central figure for the emancipation of the black race and the maintaining of the union of our country.

No one could ever have anticipated that a young man who struggled with math would later convince us that E does equal MC squared.

Could anyone have foreseen that a gentleman of great promise who was struck with polio and was confined to a wheelchair would be elected president four times, guiding us through a national depression and a world war?

Looking at a string of poets, musicians, authors, statesmen, inventors and liberators, there is not one of them who was naturally inclined to greatness.

It is those we preen to be heroes who disappoint us and those who we have cursed to obscurity who end up astounding us.

After all, could anyone have thought that a refugee to Egypt, who grew up in a village of less than five hundred people, the son of a carpenter, would be proclaimed the light of the world?

 

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Alabama

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Alabama: (n) a state in the southeastern U.S. on the Gulf of Mexico, capital Montgomery, statehood, Dec. 14, 1819.

A state of mind.

Even though I must tell you, having traveled all over this country, that there are nests of belief, custom, culture and theology that persist or flourish in their particular homeland, the hatchet job that has been done to our fifty states to promote causes, newspaper articles and political agendas is abominable.

Nowhere is this more evident to me than in the perception of Alabama.

I would be amiss if I merely portrayed the “sweet home” aspects of this particular state. Like every other principality which has ever existed on earth, it is riddled with mishaps, bad judgments and incoherent ideas being fostered as “normal.”

But to personify Alabama–or any part of the south–as the hotbed for bigotry, ignorance and inequality is not only short-sighted, but comes from a place of arrogance and a desire to limit the qualities that these dear folks can offer to our country in faith and hospitality.

Some of the worst memories I have of my journeys have been in the south–especially Alabama–and also some of the golden treasures of people and discovery have also been found within its borders.

Here’s the truth: people live where they were hatched, take the best parts of their surroundings and mingle them with tolerance and love to form a workable way of being. No matter where they abide, if they accept the portions of their culture which alienate them from the rest of the world, they have gone down a foolish path. But if they set aside childishness, they gain eternal perspective.

Prejudice was not born in the south. Long before slaves were brought to this country, there were slaves in Rome, Greece, Egypt, China and every corner of our globe. Those who were intelligent, historical and also spiritual learn to recognize the limitations of their upbringing in deference to the mercy that the God of our creation requires of His children.

I love Alabama. I love Massachusetts. I love California–not because of the history book or the spouting of their individual Chambers of Commerce. No, it’s because I have met people in each of these locations–and many others–who have overcome their ancestors to be born again … to newness of life.

 

Aaron

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

1. Aaron: (in the Bible) brother of Moses and the traditional founder of the Jewish priesthood

2. Aaron: Hank (1934- ) U.S. baseball player, full name Henry Louis Aaron. He set the all-time career record for home runs (755) and runs batted in (2,297). Baseball Hall of Fame (1982)

What do these two guys have in common?

People don’t have to have things in common. It’s kind of fun if they do, though.

My understanding is that Aaron from the Bible had a really long beard. Hank Aaron didn’t. A beard might get in the way of hitting home runs.

Speaking of that, maybe there’s a tie-in. Hank hit home runs and Aaron from the Bible was always dealing with people who wanted to run home to Egypt. Matter of fact, Aaron was so weak that he built a Golden Calf for people to worship. That’s when his brother, Moses, came down, took the Ten Commandments and tried to knock the Golden Calf out of the park.

You see? Another connection to baseball.

Must have been tough to be Aaron–the Bible one. Because his brother stuttered or had some sort of speech impediment, he was selected to do all the talking in front of the Pharoah. That had to be tough. Moses whispered in his ear and told him a plague of frogs was going to be sent to the Egyptian people, but HE was stuck with saying it out loud. Tough room, huh?

Hank Aaron had the most home runs for a career. That’s pretty impressive. That’s no flash in the pan. That’s not like hitting seventy in one year. That’s like doing it year after year. So maybe the similarity between these two guys is how different they were.

Bible Aaron did fine when things were great and the pitches thrown his way came right across the plate. Hank, on the other hand, hit ’em out of the stadium regularly, no matter who was pitching.

I guess what we can learn from this is … absolutely nothing, which is often the end result of object lessons. A teacher will work very hard to make a point, which totally escapes the grasp of the student. The teacher becomes more emphatic and the student pretends to understand–to escape getting in trouble.

Peaceful co-confusion.