Walpole Catholic priests back Pope pick

WALPOLE —In the first weeks of his Papacy, it is unclear where Pope Francis will steer the Catholic religion, but local priests are hopeful that the newly elected Pope is the right man for the job.

“I think it’s a great choice. I like some of the subtle changes he seems to be making, like celebrating Holy Thursday at a youth [jail],” said Fr. Tim Kelleher of Blessed Sacrament on Diamond Street.

Breaking tradition of holding Holy Thursday Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica or the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Pope Francis will go to Rome’s Casal del Marmo jail for youths today to kiss prisoners’ feet.

In line with his Holy Thursday plans and past record working with the poor, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s chosen Papal name reflects his dedication to a simple lifestyle. St. Francis of Assisi, the Pope’s namesake, was the patron saint of animals, merchants and ecology. Although he came from a wealthy family, St. Francis remained poor and working throughout his life, giving up all material possessions in dedication to the Lord.

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, the new Pope declined living in the bishop’s residence, opting for an apartment and public transportation.

“I think it represents his commitment to the poor,” said Rev. Donald R. Delay of St. Mary’s Parish on Washington Street, about the Pope’s name choice.

The new Bishop of Rome has even chose to forgo the fancy red shoes of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI who stepped down on Feb. 28, in favor of less ostentatious black footwear.

Delay chuckled while admitting he wasn’t exactly sure what that choice symbolized, but he respected the decision.

As the first Jesuit to hold the position, Pope Francis is staying true to his faith. Jesuits take a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience, much like St. Francis of Assisi.

Kelleher had similar sentiments as Delay.

“I love the idea. Obviously it reflects the simplicity of the life that he has lived in the past, and I suspect how he wants to affect the future,” he said.

The priests praised having a Jesuit Pope. Kelleher is trained in the Jesuit faith and Delay thinks it is wonderful to see a Jesuit as the Holy See.

Both church leaders were unsure of what changes the new Pope will make.

“I’m still getting used to the idea that we have a new Pope,” said Delay. “I know very little more.”

“I can’t say,” said Father Kelleher on what changes he expects Pope Francis to make. “I admire what he’s done so far.”

Published in the Walpole Times, 3/31/13




Review: Domenica Ruta’s With or Without You

Editor’s note: This review was published on the Boston Phoenix’s Page Views blog just days before the publication’s end.  I am thrilled to have contributed one last time before the 60 year old paper came to a close.

Domenica Ruta’s With or Without You is the autobiographical tale of a junkie’s daughter, who navigates her mother’s needles and pills on the way to adulthood only to end up with an addiction of her own. It’s like Roald Dahl’s Matilda, but without the magic or happy ending.

Ruta writes about her childhood with detached sadness. Growing up in Danvers, Massachusetts, she lives with her mother, Kathi, in the basement apartment of the family house.  Everyone knows Kathi as the town drug addict, and the memoir opens with Kathi trying – and failing – to smash a car’s windshield with an iron poker. It tells you all you need to know about her:  she’s violent and passionate and very, very crazy.  Outbursts like this came frequently between periods of extreme happiness. While Ruta waits in fear of her mother’s next episode, she also encourages them. Ruta remains ominously addicted to her mother, barely able to escape Kathi’s gravitational pull even when she moves across the country.

Although With or Without You has the telling bumps of a first book, it clearly conveys how addiction affects a family.  Every town has a Kathi. Ruta gives readers a glimpse into the life of the girl with the crazy mom, the girl whose house you weren’t allowed to go to.

With that background, Ruta’s own downfall seems inevitable, as she follows in her mother’s footsteps. She does pills with her mom and becomes a functioning addict, trudging her way toward an MFA in writing.  Yet even while riding her own pill high, Ruta looks down upon her mother, promising herself never to be like her. It is often hard to stomach Ruta’s hypocrisy, and hard to watch her justify her addictions. The book’s saving grace comes when Ruta realizes she has a problem and heads for recovery.

Ruta often leaves the reader wondering what’s happening and why it’s happening. Jumping around in the narrative, she invites confusion. At times this seems unintentional, but it also replicates for the reader Ruta’s own chaotic experiences of her mother’s intense, passionate and confusing love. Kathi praises and holds her daughter one minute, and berates her the next. The family goes from inexplicable wealth to abject poverty without warning. As hard as it is for the reader to make sense of this, it was probably harder for Ruta to live it, and to sort it into a memoir. Just as she couldn’t escape ending up like her mother at one point in her life, she couldn’t help but make the memoir in Kathi’s image.

Domenica Ruta will be at the Brookline Booksmith on March 13 for a With or Without You reading, Q&A and signing.

Published in the Boston Phoenix, 3/13/13