Meme: Six Quirks
Better late than never. Eric Scheske from The Daily Eudemon tagged me while I was on vacation. The rules:
1. Link the person(s) who tagged you
2. Mention the rules on your blog
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours
4. Tag 6 fellow bloggers by linking them
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged
6. Wait and see how far it spreads.
1. I love tattoo's and the stories about why people got what they have inked.
2. Am obesessive about what goes in which pockets, but as soon as I am home it comes out. Right Front - Car Key (No Ring) and a rosary, Left Front - Vicks Inhaller, Blistex, House and office keys on a carabeaner so they dont sit in the bottom of the picket and wear a hole. and 8GB USB jump drive. Rear Left Chainge purse, Right Rear Wallet.
3. I drink in phases, for a few years it was single malt scotch, last year was gin and tonic and this has been the summer of tequila.
4. I am an obsessive compulsive reader, and considering I have a dual form of dyslexia this is a little wierd.
5. I collect ties, neck, bow and a few bolo.
6. I like learning just for the sake of learning, I have been in University 20 years this year and hope to never stop taking courses.
1. Jeff & Jeff @ Thursday Night Gumbo
2. Ellen @ Divine Serendipiry
3. Regina Doman
4. Steven & Kit @ Words on Dream Cafe
5. Karen Hall @ Some Have Hats
6. Blazing Cat Fur
We shall see what happens. It has been a while since I did a meme and am interested to see some of the answers to this one.
Wednesday, 30 July 2008
Meme: Six Quirks
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 13:03
Monday, 28 July 2008
(The following is a handout created for a seminar on the pilgrimage of Santiago Compestela, here is a link to the PowerPoint used during the presentation.)
The Road to Santiago
The Road of Compostela
The Way of Saint James
o Catholic Pilgrimages go back to the first millennium
o At that time 3 routs were considered sacred, each offered a series of blessings and indulgences for those who traveled their length
o Each of these ancient routes had names, symbols and places associated with it.
o Jerusalem, to the Sepulcher of Jesus Christ, the Psalmists, with the symbol of the Palm branch.
o Rome, to the grave of St. Peter, the wanderers, with the symbol of the Cross.
o San Tiago, to the remains of Saint James, with the symbol of he scalloped shells. Also known as Compostela, the field of stars.
"A Few of the more wealthy pilgrims journeyed to the Holy Lands, more went to Rome, though the most popular foreign pilgrimage shrine was that of St. James at Compostela (Santiago de Compostela) in Spain."
Pilgrimages in History:
I have found many and varied accounts of how this became a place of pilgrimage. From the various sources listed in the bibliography my conclusion is; that this is a pilgrimage site that has been around since some where around 850CE. In 1123 French priest Aymeric Picaud walked the route as it is known today. There are four traditional French routes that all meet in or near Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or Puente de la Reina on the Spain side.
o French Routes
o Le Pay
o English Routes
o Two ports on the coast of France, and follow the Northern Route
o Portuguese Route
o On the Spanish Side of the Boarder
o From France there are two routes, the main route from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and the northern route.
The pilgrimage traditionally was open to those with the time and or money to pursue them. After the middle-ages, the pilgrimages became more accessible to any person. Though millions perform the pilgrimage there are some more famous pilgrims, in the past and today. From history we have Pope Calixtus II, Saint Francis of Assisi and Isabella of Castile, and more recently, Pope John XXIII, and Shirley Maclean.
The pilgrimage today is done many ways; to count as a pilgrimage for an indulgence one must walk the route or use non-motorized transportation. Today the route is done by horse, bike, and walking. It can also be done as a tourist, by car, motorcycle or tour bus. The University of Waterloo even did a pilgrimage tour a few years ago.
o 1985 this route was named a World Heritage Site, it is also considered a First European Cultural route
o 1996 over 100,000 pilgrims made the journey.
o From the border between France and Spain it is roughly an 880Km journey from Paris it is about
o The current Cathedral in San Tiago was completed in 1082 for the previous one had been destroyed in 977
Packing List: "It is vitally important that you take the absolute minimum amount of stuff with you in your backpack. Everybody takes too much and almost always end up sending it home or forward to Santiago in the mail or even just discarding it. It is surprising just how little you really need to take as the shops in Spain are now very good and have all the "modern" stuff that people want such as Shaving Cream, or Suntan Lotion etc. You don't need to take those things, just buy them as you need them. Personally I prefer to do it this way since it keeps the local economy running as well as keeping the backpack lighter. Some local communities seem to rely on the pilgrims walking through for their lively-hood. Some, on the other hand, hide their shops for the use of the locals only. You need to search out those sometimes when a town or village appears to have no shops.
In general, for clothes, take two pairs of everything, one to wear and one in the wash or drying on the back of your backpack.o Boots - Good ones, well worn in.
- Wool Socks - 2 pairs. Thin Socks - 2 pairs (to wear inside the thick ones).
- Light teeshirt for the day.
- Heavier shirt for the evening.
- Trousers - 2 Pairs (The ones with the detachable shorts and legs).
- Light shoes for the evening to give your feet and boots a rest.
- Shower sandals. (Could combine with the above)
- Toothbrush. Aeroplane style toothpaste (very small).
- Sleeping Bag.
- Paperwork - Passport, money, credit card, credential, maps and a "belly" pouch to put it all in.
- Wide brimmed Hat.
- Sun screen (very important!).
- Personal Toilet Items (you decide).
- Shampoo - does for everything, washing hair and clothes.
- Lightweight backpack.
- Water Bottle (sometimes it is a long way between fountains)
- Wet weather gear, poncho, waterproof trousers. (vital for Galicia!)
- That's It!
Indulgence: "The remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned, which the follower of Christ with the proper dispositions and under certain determined conditions acquires through the intervention of the Church, which, as minister of the redemption, authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the saints" (Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution on Indulgences)."
Penance: "The virtue or disposition of heart by which one repents of one's own sins and is converted to God. Also the punishment by which one atones for sins committed, either by oneself or by others. And finally the sacrament of penance, where confessed sins committed after baptism are absolved by a priest in the name of God. (Etym. Latin paenitentia, repentance, contrition.)"
Pilgrimage: "A journey to a sacred place undertaken as an act of religious devotion. Its purpose may be simply to venerate a certain saint or ask some spiritual favor; beg for a physical cure or perform an act of penance; express thanks or fulfill a promise. From the earliest days pilgrimages were made to the Holy Land, and later on to Rome, where Peter and Paul and so many Christians were martyred. From the eighth century the practice began of imposing a pilgrimage in place of public penance. As a result, during the Middle Ages pilgrimages were organized on a grand scale and became the object of special Church legislation. In modern times, besides Rome and the Holy Land, famous shrines such as Lourdes, Fatimá, and Guadalupe draw thousands of pilgrims each year from the Catholic world."
Sin: "A word, deed or desire in opposition to the eternal law" (St. Augustine). Sin is a deliberate transgression of a law of God, which identifies the four essentials of every sin. A law is involved, implying that there are physical laws that operate with necessity, and moral laws that can be disregarded by human beings. God is offended, so that the divine dimension is never absent from any sin. Sin is a transgression, since Catholicism holds that grace is resistible and the divine will can be disobeyed. And the transgression is deliberate, which means that a sin is committed whenever a person knows that something is contrary to the law of God and then freely does the action anyway. (Etym. Old English synn, syn, sin; Old High German sunta, suntea, perhaps to Latin sons, guilty.)"
(PowerPoint used during presentation. You can download a free PowerPoint viewer here if you do not have PowerPoint on your machine.)
- A History of the Christian Church: 4th Edition, Walker et. Al. McMillian, 1985, p.414
Walker, Williston. et al., eds. A history of the Christian Church: Fourth Edition New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1985
Egan, Kerry Fumbling: A Pilgrimage Tale of Love, Grief, and Spiritual Renewal on the Camino de Santiago
New York: Double Day, 2004
Coelho, Paulo The Pilgrimage
New York: Harper Collins, 1995
Harrison, Kathryn The Road to Santiago
Washington DC: National Geographic Society, 2003
Moore, Tim Spanish Steps: One Man and His Ass on the Pilgrim way to Santiago
London: Jonathan Cape, Forthcoming August 2005
Gitliz, M. David & Kay Davidson, Linda The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago, The Complete Cultural Handbook
New York: St. Martins Press, 2000
(All Sites available March 13th 2005)
(First written for RS272 Sacred Places Winter 2005.)
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 00:09
Thursday, 24 July 2008
The Journey of a Quester!
One always begins a journey with the first steps. It may often lead you some place you never expected. My journey is such a journey. I was born and raised in Kingston, Ontario. My father was Irish Catholic and my mother was not. How I ever came to become a Christian is a mystery to myself and to many others. Yet this paper will attempt to examine some of the contributing factors.
My father was very active in the Catholic Church until I was in about grade six. He was a third order Knight, in the Knights of Columbus. I remember wanting to be a squire, a junior knight when I got to be old enough. But then my parents started fighting every week about why we went to church. Eventually we stopped going to church because of my parents fighting over it. It was only years later when I discovered my mother's leanings in this area that I understood why. I was an altar boy at this point. In fact I had become a senior altar boy, which meant I lead the other altar servers in helping to officiate at mass. Whenever I hit hard times in life I always return to the Catholic Church, for mass, to say the rosary; both of these always provide comfort and encouragement.
Coming from such a mixed home it is not surprising that I was always attracted to religions and religious experiences, and that I struggled to establish my own beliefs and practices. So in order to examine the quest I have been on so far, I will look at groupings that have had an influence upon the shaping of the man I am today. These groupings are:
1. Events that profoundly affected me.
2. Books or authors who have helped to mould me.
3. People who have poured into my life.
4. Organizations that have helped to shape me.
By examining a few examples from each of these four categories, I hope to understand how I have come to be the man that I am and why certain people, places, or events have had such profound effects upon my development to date.
First, I will do an examination of some events. The earliest, profound spiritual event I can recall is the first time that I was a senior altar server. The priest lifts the Eucharist for blessing, and then the chalice, and then he lifts both, and these three times are supposed to be special times for prayer. The first time that I was a senior altar server, during the lifting of these three, I remember praying, "God what do you want me to do with my life?". I had a vision and heard a voice say to me "Be my priest!", and even at that age I knew how sinful I was and I said, "Not me". Each time the communion elements were lifted, I asked the same thing and the third time, I saw mass being said, yet I was the one at the altar lifting the elements, presiding over mass, not kneeling there ringing the bells. This event has always remained with me. As an adult I now try to serve God and others. My grandmother always called me the spiritual one, and she always wanted me to be a priest. But I never shared this event with anyone until I was a student in campus ministries at Queen's many years later. This event always comes to mind when I must make hard decisions in life. It has helped me to try to steer a narrow path. I have left jobs rather than lie, or compromise my principles. This event comes back to mind, when I have major decisions to make, or paths to choose in this world.
The second event I want to examine is my confirmation. It was a strange time; I had started to doubt the Catholic Church and even the Christian tradition. I was studying martial arts and Shaolin Buddhism, I was in grade eight, and we were never told how, if you choose to not be confirmed now, you could go about it later. So I remember going through the classes and doubting it. Even on the day of the confirmation, I remember thinking, as the Bishop anointed me, "Why am I doing this?", yet going ahead and being confirmed. This event left me doubting for many years - doubting God, Christianity, and even myself. It was like a test and I felt I had failed, and had not had enough faith. My salvation and spiritual life were in doubt for many years after. During any major decision in life I think back upon this event, and try to recall the mistakes I made then by not asking questions and seeking options. Now I try to do both of those things - seek options and continually ask questions about the processes I am in, the paths that are open to me, or the decisions I must make. I ask these questions of myself, my close friends, those who are mentoring me or whom I consider spiritual parents or advisors, and of the Christian community that I am part of at the specific time. I try to use these different sources as a form of discernment in all major decisions - my wife, the men in my bible study, Peter Frick … all the others who pour into my life.
The next event is one of the strangest. Some would call it chance and some people would call it divine providence. I was in the checkout line at A&P in Kingston; I grabbed a Horoscope from the rack and threw it on the belt. The guy behind me, Jeff Forrest, asked, "You don't really believe that do you?" I said, "I don't know, but if nothing else, it is worth a laugh." Then he said, "I believe something and I know it is true - Jesus Christ." Well Jeff and I ended up meeting weekly for a few months, then I came to believe he was a bible-thumping freak. I stopped returning his calls and even changed my phone number so he could not keep calling me. Yet our meetings, and having looked at Matthew in the New Testament together, would have a lasting effect on me. A few years later while I myself was a student at Queens and was involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, I went to an Easter service with Eric Rose, my mentor at the time. There I ran into Jeff Forrest; he was amazed to see me at church. He asked what I was doing there. I said I had become a Christian. He then took me around and introduced me to some of his friends and family, who had all been praying for me since we had first met and discussed the Bible. This event caused me to realize the importance of community; a small community that you care about and help and who care about and support you - prayer being the greatest support you can give to someone else.
The final event I would like to look at is a strange meeting at a party at Queen's. At that point I was not practicing any Christian religion; I was doing tarot readings in the pubs on campus to make some extra money. I went to a party and while there I met a 'witch' who claimed to have clairvoyance. She started a reading on me, and while looking 'into my soul', she freaked out, said that I wasn't suppose to be here yet, that I was born a generation early and because I was here now I had to choose; either I would be the black knight and serve the evil one, or I could be a white knight and serve light. This incident really scared me; I knew I was capable of very evil thoughts, and it was always harder to choose to do good over evil. Like Paul in the New Testament, it was easier to do what I did not want to do and always harder to do what I wanted to do. From this meeting with 'Alexis' I knew I would have to be deliberate about my life and spiritual growth, (for it would be so easy to become what I would not like or enjoy) and that I must learn discipline in the mental and spiritual life. As I had previously disciplined my body in martial arts, I now would have to seek a holistic approach to life and my personal development; I would have to develop body, mind and spirit and try to seek balance between them.
Each of these events was a challenge or a test, a time of trial and choice. Through each of them I was forced to grow and choose and learn how to be, and to learn how to be good at being. Each was a tool used in shaping me, as were a series of authors of specific books. We will now examine a few of those.
The first is a group of books - books that I have worked through many times. Some of these were Dr. Neil T. Anderson's books, especially The Bondage Breaker, Harvest House 1990, and Victory over the Darkness, Regal Books, 1990, as well as Mark I. Bubeck's The Adversary, Moody Press, 1975 and Overcoming the Adversary, Moody Press, 1984. These books were worked through again and again, alone, with friends, and with pastors or counsellors. They helped me to break from the past; they helped me to see the possibilities for the future. They helped me to establish my identity in Christ Jesus. They were tools in my healing of both spirit and mind, of emotions and soul.
Next I want to look at the works of John Eldredge, specifically Wild at Heart, and Waking the Dead, both have been extremely useful in helping me to connect to my heart, to learn to listen to it and to learn to live from it. They have been the most recent tools used in my development. I have read them myself, worked through them one-on-one with a friend and pastor, and I have lead a small group that has worked through them. The main thrust is that God has a plan for each person and that plan is revealed by one's desires, and to truly live at one's potential one needs to listen to one's heart and follow it.
Another author who echoes the same sentiment in his books is Paulo Coelho, especially in The Alchemist. It is the story of a boy who has a dream and who becomes persuaded to pursue it. In doing so he has many adventures, and does come to fulfil them. Many times in the book it states, "If you pursue your dream the universe will conspire with you to make it happen." I believe that the universe in this statement could be interpreted as The Holy Spirit. I do believe that if you try to live your dreams you will receive help to make them happen. From both Eldredge and Coelho I am trying to learn to listen to my heart, and to learn to live from it.
C.S. Lewis is also a mentor to me, through his writings of theology or fiction. Every time I read one of his works, or reread them, I am challenged to grow. What first really caught my attention was his statement in his space trilogy that humans were 'bent' . This concept of fallen humans having a bent nature resonated with me. It challenged me to learn how to live in a way that was not bent. His belief that this world is not all there is, that it is like 'looking through a glass darkly' echoes my own feelings of life and spirituality. Thus reading his works is a constant reminder of a spiritual truth I believe and a challenge to live in that belief.
From these authors we will now look at specific people who have poured into my life and their influences in helping me to develop and grow, as a person. First I would like to look at my first mentor, Eric Rose. Eric was on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, and was a worker at Queens my first few years there. I really struggled those years, wanting to change and grow but not knowing how. Every time I cancelled bible study or personal time with Eric, he would stand outside my apartment and pray for me. Even though changes, lasting changes, did not take place in my life and actions for years, Eric was one of the first to really work at helping me become the type of person I want to be. He modelled it by his words, and his action.
Next I want to look at Rob Bartman(not his real name). Rob was a fellow student at Queens, and Ron and I did bible study together over many years. Rob and I both struggled with sexual addictions. Rob fell sexually and confessed it to his church. He was punished by the church and removed from leadership for a year. I stood by Rob through this, and later when I had some problems and struggles, Rob stood by me. He once stated, "What I admire most about you Steven is that you don't give up; you may stumble and fall but you always get up and press on." Rob was always in my corner because I was there for him. Having that support and encouragement even in tough times, helped me to make the changes I really wanted to make in my life. It also taught me to be there for other people, to stand by them through thick and thin, to stick to them, sometimes even when they try to push me away.
Peter Frick is the next man we will discuss who has helped in my spiritual journey. Peter is currently one of my mentors. He receives his spiritual direction from the Jesuits in Guelph at Loyola house, and in turn he provides spiritual direction to me. He is like a sounding board for my emotions, spiritual struggles, intellectual endeavours and my relationships. Peter plays the role of teacher, counsellor, guide and friend. We have met regularly for three years now, sometimes weekly, sometimes every few months as needed. When I call, he always makes time to be there and listen and encourage.
The final person I will discuss is Pastor Bob Bauman. Bob and I met when I was a manager at Starbuck's; Bob was a regular customer. I suggested that we work through John Eldredge's, Wild at Heart together. We did so and are now working on a second book together. Bob is like a brother; he is there for me, but because we travel in different circles, we can share stuff with each other that would be hard to share with those that we know in a different way. Bob and I each play the role of guide and confidant to each other. We both truly seek the best for the other. We are there for when one stumbles or struggles, to encourage, challenge and lend a hand up. Currently, next to my wife, Bob and Peter are the two most important people in my life. I know I could call them at any hour of the day and I believe they know the same about me.
Finally let me move from individuals to organizations. There are a number of organizations that have contributed to my spiritual development. They have each played crucial roles at different periods of my life. Each of these four is a Christian Para-church organization. They are Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC), Promise Keepers (PK), Cursillo and The Navigators Campus Ministry (Navs).
CCC, was instrumental in my becoming serious about being a Christian, about being a man, and a man of faith. It was through Eric and many others that I saw, for the first time outside of the Catholic Church, true examples of what it means to be a man of faith, to try to live that faith daily, to let faith permeate every aspect of your life. There were many examples, from Eric, to different speakers at conferences, fellow students and student leaders at Queens and other schools with whom we interacted.
After many struggles with who I was versus who I wanted to be, I went to a Promise Keepers conference in Detroit Michigan, at the Silver Dome. It was amazing to see 75,000 men in one place, wanting to be men after God's own hearts. At my first conference, after lunch, one of the Musicians started, impromptu, the 'Our Father'. To hear the deep rumbling of so many men praying that prayer as a song together, was life-changing. I went on to be in men's bible studies for the next three years working through different books and studies put out by this organization. That was when real growth and change started to happen in my own life - growth that was visible to those around me with changes in habits and behaviours. Finally my actions started living up to my theology. Choosing to seek out this group and to stay committed to it, was a pivotal point in my development.
The next organization I would like to look at is the Navigators. When I was a student at Queen's I lived in the Navs' house on campus with six other Christian men. Later, as a part-time mature student at the University of Waterloo, I worked for The Navigators Campus Ministry for three years. I was responsible for student and staff development across the country. This included running retreats, conferences, short term and long term missions' projects, and overseeing the day-to-day support of the Campus staff across the country. This was my first major ministry job. I was now doing what my heart desired, working to serve others and pour into them as I had been poured into by so many others. It was a challenge, in that working in ministry, your life comes under a microscope. You must live above reproach. So many people have fallen while in ministry or leadership positions, and hurt the Church's name or Christ's name. I did not want to be one of them. So I needed to apply what was learned through individuals and groups discussed earlier, on an even more vigilant level. This has continued to help me to realize that every aspect of my life must fall in line with the word of God, and must be for the good of God, others and myself if it is to be fruitful and worth the effort.
The final organization I would like to look at is Cursillo. Cursillo is a renewal movement that started in Spain, in the Catholic Church. It came to North America, via some pilots that were training with the U.S. military. Since coming to North America it has spread, and there are now Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and other chapters. Cursillo is a four-day retreat weekend, with guided talks and discussion. Its focus is on the fact that as Christians, we are all called to live a spiritual life and to be involved in practicing the spiritual disciplines, that we need to meet with small groups for accountability and large groups for fellowship. It also has a strong focus on the fact that we are to serve - serve God, our Christian community and the world. Throughout my Cursillo retreat weekend in 1997, I filled a whole two-hundred-page journal. I came to see my life as a whole and not compartments - the work Steven, the church Steven, the jock Steven - but just Steven a Christian, called to live and love, to laugh and cry, to serve and allow myself to be served. If I had chosen not to go on this retreat I could not be here in school now studying for the ministry. I would probably be dead in a gutter somewhere. Cursillo was also pivotal point in my seeking wholeness in my life, instead of living different fractured and contradictory lives in different circles.
It is difficult looking back at where I have come from; there is a lot of pain and hurt there. Yet I have always been surrounded by good people, caring Christians who have supported me, challenged me and called me to be more than I believe I could be alone. God deserves the credit for that, and the people who were open to being used by Him.
TimeLine of Steven R. McEvoy
- 1970-Present Member Roman Catholic Church
- 1970 February Baptised in the Roman Catholic Church
- ? Learned to do Tarot Readings by grandmother
- 1980 1st time as Sr. Altar Server
- 1985 Made Senior Rugby team in Grade 9
- 1984 June Confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church
- 1986 February Rugby Tour of UK
- 1987 Jeff Forrest
- 1989 Spiritual Gifts Course in Catholic Church
- 1989 Met Alexis - Witch @ Queens Party Tarot Cards
- 1989-1993 Student @ Queens University Waterloo
- 1989-1998 Involved with Campus Crusade for Christ @ Queens University, Carleton University, University of Guelph
- 1990-1993 Attended Pentecostal Assembly's of Canada Church Kingston
- 1990-1993 Involved with Navigators Campus Ministry @ Queens University
- 1990-1993 Involved with St. Mary's Catholic Youth Group
- 1990-1995 Counselling for abuse, Kingston, Cambridge, Ottawa, Guelph
- 1991 Steubenville Franciscan University Charismatic Catholic Conference
- 1993 Member Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec in Ottawa
- 1993 Promise Keepers in Detroit MI
- 1994 Member Fellowship Baptist Church in Kingston
- 1994-1998 Member Presbyterian Church of Canada, Guelph, On
- 1994 Promise Keepers in Detroit MI
- 1996 Cursillo, Toronto Presbyterian
- 1998 Week of Divine Healing, Youth with a Mission Course at Jacobs Well Ministries St. Petersburg, ON
- 1998-Present Student @ University of Waterloo
- 1998-2000 Member Congregation at Renison College University of Waterloo
- 1999 Staff at Waterloo MB Church
- 2000-2003 Work for Navigators
- 2000-2002 Member St. Michael's Catholic Parish Waterloo
- 2003 Member Lincoln Avenue Church Waterloo,
- 2003 Return to Catholic Church
- 2005 Started attending meditations from Opus Dei
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 00:03
Tuesday, 22 July 2008
Quest, Pilgrimage and Sacred Place
For my pilgrimage, I must go back a few years. My pilgrimage began years before the actual journey and has yet to be completed. It began with a name, the name of Thomas Merton. In my readings, I kept running across this name, references to this man, his body of work, quotes by him. It seemed that every time I was intrigued by something, it was somehow linked to Thomas Merton. Then in my first year here at the University of Waterloo, I did a course with Dr. Michael Higgins, "Faith Quests". One of the books we did was Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander; it was the first Merton book I was to read, though definitely not the last. My pilgrimage is three-fold. The first was into the writings of Thomas Merton and the writings about him. Second was a growing desire to visit Gethsemani where Merton was a monk. Finally, is the continuing desire to return to that place for a longer time. In examining my quest, we will look at Merton the man and the Monk. We will look at my journey to Gethsemani, and we will look at the hunger to return.
Thomas Merton (1915-1958) was an enigma. He was a monk, a man and a myth. He created the myth with his bestseller The Seven Story Mountain and then spent most of the rest of his life trying to change that story. Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind, states: "The discovery of culture and the folk-mind means that there cannot be universal principles of understanding. Reason is a myth that makes mythmaking impossible to comprehend." This was one of Merton's problems. He made the myth, but the myth was no longer the man. In a previous essay, I examined the man, the monk, and some of his writings on monasticism. Monks have often been on the leading edge of religious life, and theological reform. The earliest desert fathers were trying to get back to a truer, purer form of Christianity. Then the Benedictines were an attempt to return to the fathers. The order Merton belonged to, which was founded in about 1100A.D., formed a stricter, more austere form of the Benedictine monasticism. Merton Himself continually pushed the boundaries; he was a monk who rebelled, but rebelled respectfully. Michael W. Higgins said it best, "Merton's life was fraught with contradictions, polarities and wild paradoxes." Yet the legacy of his writings continues to affect new generations of readers. Many of these readers like myself have been drawn into pilgrimage to Gethsemani.
There have literally been hundreds of books and articles written about Merton and his works. I cannot do justice to that industry here, but I will summarize some of the key points in his development, in hopes that understanding his development can help us understand why others are drawn into his works, and through that to this special place. Also, it explains why I have been drawn into this quest.
Thomas Merton was born in 1915 in the south of France to an American mother and a New Zealander father. He died in 1968 in Bangkok of accidental electrocution. His life was a constant oscillation between retreat from and attack on the world. When he was 6 years old, his mother died. At age 10, he was enrolled at a private school; often being sick, he spent most of his time alone and in nature exploring abandoned monasteries. At 15, he moved to England and was soon after orphaned. Then, at age 18, he visited Rome; he found himself drawn to churches, and there he discovered Christ. He attended Cambridge and then Columbia University. He graduated in 1935 from Columbia and then he taught at a junior college. In 1941, at age 26, he entered the Trappist Monastery of the Abbey of our Lady of Gethsemani. In 1949, he was ordained as a priest. The year before this he published The Seven Story Mountain. Yet all of these are just facts. Who was the man Thomas Merton? He was a seeker, a quester, and a pilgrim. Michael Higgins in Heretic Blood states: "He knew that the route to human authenticity was lonely, full of risk, a pilgrim's terror." Merton the man was such a pilgrim, willing to face pain and trials, to follow the quest. In following Merton's journey I have been on a quest myself.
Yet Merton was much more than just a man; he was also a poet, and as a poet, he saw his role to be a reclaimer of words: "Merton saw the scar of the fall in language and he came to understand the poet's role as nothing less than the restitution of the word; the restoration of its sacredness, and its liberation from the uses of deception, slick rhetoric, and ideological manipulation to become once more the quiet servant of truth." Also, "The word must be cleansed. As we are made whole by the Word, so words are made whole by the poet." But he recognized the constraints in that he was a monk who took a vow of silence, yet he could not stop the flow of his words. This is summed up by Higgins: "His diaries communicate his earnest struggle with the many contradictions that defined his life; the writer who is vowed to silence; the Columbia bohemian who is a consecrated religious; the solitary man compelled to address the public order; the "hidden one", marked by fame." He not only recognized these contradictions within himself, but he worked at resolving or balancing out the ones he could.
Merton was an intellectual, he was probably brilliant or even genius, but genius is often seen as madness. He was not a typical theologian; he was more of a religious thinker. Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind, states: "I must reiterate that Rousseau, Kant, Hegel and Nietzsche are thinkers of the very highest order. This is, in fact, precisely my point. We must relearn what this means and also that there are others who belong in the same rank." Merton was such a man. He did not think for us but he wrote to make us think. Yet we only saw what he wanted us to see, or what he was willing to show us. "The masks of the Gethsemani diarist are many: there is the monk as a rebel, the monk as visionary, the monk as artist, the monk as divided self, the monk as conscience of the nation, the monk as troublesome charge, the monk as renegade, the monk as dutiful son, and the monk as guru. As an assemblage of masks, of personae, they tell us something about the essential Merton. They tell us what he would have us know." And this leads us to a second view - Merton as monk.
Our Merton was not only a man, he was also a monk, and a monk of the 'strict observance' at that. The problem with Merton is that once you have categorized him, the next piece of his writings you read breaks that mold or box you have just put him in. Michael Higgins describes him this way: "Merton was, and remains, a phenomenon, an utterly engaging figure, controversial, iconic, the paradigmatic monk for our century." As such he draws seekers, or questers, into his body of work or into relationship with Gethsemani.
Now that we have looked at the man and some of his writings, let us look at the place. Gethsemani was founded in 1848 by the Trappists (an order of Cistercians founded in 1098 in France). It is settled on more than 7000 acres of land outside of Louisville Kentucky. It is a place of great beauty, and profound spiritual impact. From the first of Merton's books I read, I had wanted to visit Gethsemani. I received the chance to make this trip by chance. A friend of mine had moved to Texas after graduation; he worked there two years, but did not enjoy living in the States. He asked me to help him move back. He didn't have a license to drive and I did. He flew me to Texas and we rented a UHaul to move him back. My condition for helping him was a side trip to Gethsemani. We loaded up in Texas on a Wednesday morning. We drove all day and through the night. We arrived at the monastery late the next afternoon. We were greeted with a sign:and again at the door to the visitor's center:
and we were received like as Christ. We only had a few hours. We were given free rein of the public places on the site and we walked, prayed, and stood silently. As we were leaving, my friend mentioned to me that though he grew up in a tradition that did not consider place or buildings sacred, he did feel something very different here in this space. We drove away in silence for many miles, both caught up in our thoughts and our prayers. This short visit gave me an even greater thirst for Merton's writings and for things monastic. Now we return to the man, Thomas Merton.
When Merton entered the monastery he had clear ideals and views. As time would pass, things would become less clear to him. As can be seen from two final quotes, in his own words: "It is true that when I came to this monastery where I am, I came in revolt against the meaningless confusion of a life in which there was so much activity, so much movement, so much useless talk, so much superficial and needless stimulation, that I could not remember who I was." And "When I first became a monk, yes I was more sure of 'answers'. But as I grew old in the monastic life and advanced further into solitude, I became aware that I have questions. And what are the questions? Can man make sense out of his existence?" Merton was thus a spiritual quester whose quest began in earnest when he thought he had reached the grail. We can all learn from Merton. We can apply the essence of the contemplative no matter where we are.
And in that spirit, I know I will return to Gethsemani for a weekend, a week, a month. And I know I will again leave the place changed and transformed. To begin again the quest and pilgrimage back into the world.
(Here is a power point I used while presenting this material.)
- Bloom, Allan, The Closing of the American Mind, New York: Touchstone 1987, p.307
- Higgins, Michael W., Heretic Blood, Toronto: Stoddart, 1998, p.9
- Higgins, Michael W., Heretic Blood, Toronto: Stoddart, 1998, p.180
- Higgins, Michael W., Heretic Blood, Toronto: Stoddart, 1998, p.133
- Higgins, Michael W., Heretic Blood, Toronto: Stoddart, 1998, p.150
- Higgins, Michael W., The Making and Remaking: The Many Masks of Thomas Merton Michael Keenen Memorial lecture, Second Lecture 1988, Muenster: St Thoman College, 1988, p.10
- Bloom, Allan, The Closing of the American Mind, New York: Touchstone 1987, p.240
- Higgins, Michael W., The Making and Remaking: The Many Masks of Thomas Merton Michael Keenen Memorial lecture, Second Lecture 1988, Muenster: St Thomas College, 1988, p.9
- Higgins, Michael W., Heretic Blood, Toronto: Stoddart, 1998, p.2
- Merton, Thomas; The Monastic Journey Ed. Brother Patrick Hart London: Sheldon, 1977, p.424
- Merton, Thomas; The Monastic Journey Ed. Brother Patrick Hart London: Sheldon, 1977, p.424
Aprile, Dianne The Abbey of Gethsemani
Louisville, KY, Trout Lily Press, 1998
Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind.
New York: Touchstone, 1987
Downey, Michael Trappist: Living in the Land of Desire
Mahwah, New Jersey, Paulist Press, 1997
Higgins, Michael W. The Making and Remaking: The Many Masks of Thomas Merton
Michael Keenen Memorial lecture, Second Lecture 1988
Muenster: St Thomas College, 1988
Toronto: Stoddart, 1998
Merton, Thomas The Monastic Journey Ed. Brother Patrick Hart
London: Sheldon, 1977
The Hidden Ground of Love. Ed. William H. Shannon
New York: F, S & G, 1983
A Vow of Conversion.
New York: F, S & G, 1988
The Pasternak Affair.
New York: F, S & G. 1960
Spiritual Master. Ed. Lawrence S. Cunningham
Mahwah: Paulist, 1992
McEvoy, Steven R. Thomas Merton, The Man, the Monk, on Monasticism
U Waterloo, 1998, Essay for Peter Frick
(First written for RS272 Sacred Places Winter 2005.)
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 00:25
Sunday, 20 July 2008
One of the first courses I did when I went back to school was RS100C Faith Quests, taught not by the usual professors but by Michael W. Higgins. This was a hand out I created for a seminar I presented. Each student had to choose two of the people profiled in the book Brave Souls: Writers and artists wrestle with God, love, death and the things that matter edited by Douglas Todd the book is a collection of profiles and interviews with famous people broken into the categories of Atheists, Doubters, Questers and New Mystics.
One of the world's most financially successful authors. Who didn't start a writing career until after he was 50 , and even then it was something that fell in his lap, more then was pursued. He made more then $10 million from his first book alone. All I really needed to know I learned from kindergarten: uncommon thoughts on common things. Which is on the New Your Times all time best seller list.
He has been called a Philosopher king, which he considers a crock. Yet he does have a strong philosophical bent, in all of his life. While in a Unitarian seminary in California, he had to write a personal statement of faith each year and defend in. This has shrunk over the years and is now summed up in the saying " YOUR CREDO IS WHAT YOU DO!" Do is something he does a lot of, he had given away more then 50 % of his income. He had dedicated all the royalties from True Love a recent book to habitat for humanity, he has also given the royalties from "Words I wish I had wrote ", to The Human Rights watch. As well he believes in supporting anything worth while. He gives diversely as can be seen by these examples , planned parenthood, ACLU, green peace, Christian churches, Public radio and television. As he states, as he gets older, his words get fewer, and his sense of action increases.
A lot of critics have written him off as overly sentimental, yet a deeper look reveals a real content to the person, and to an extent in the writing. He struggles with what are the most profound issues.
He states that Kindergarten rules are tough to live up to, personally, nationally, and as a world. To Put things back, if we break it fix it, share, ...
What he is really concerned about is who is our neighbor, (the Good Samaritan story fascinates him).
Yet he is a risk taker, willing to attempt anything he believes in. He is drawn to the open minded spirituality of the Unitarian church, which is such a difference from The SBC, one of the most conservative theological denominations, and the largest protestant church in the us. In which he was raised. Not that we can tell it by Bill Clinton's membership.
Though he has many degree's, he learned more in 3 years of bartending about people and human nature, then in all of his schooling. For him all of existence is fire borne. And God is immanent. God is at all places at all times. To Him Jesus was the most provocative teacher of all time. Yet Buddha is just as central for him as Jesus.
He is full of contradictory impulses, and realizes that he reaps benefits from what he has not sown.
We can all learn from his writings if we take the time to seriously pounder, what is beneath what is being said rather then the words them self.
Evelyn Lau was born in Vancouver to Chinese immigrant parents, who wanted her to become a Doctor. She at age 14 ran away from home rather then live up to their expectations. And because of her desire to become a writer. While on the streets she ended up addicted to drugs and was a prostitute. When she was 17 she wrote her most famous book, Runaway Diary of a Street Kid. Which was later produced into a CBC movie.
All through her life she has had a psudoGod, a God of writing, who would look after her writing, and ensure her success. If she didn't ask him for anything else. She could never go to him when she was hurting, hurt , cold. But would praise him and talk to him when things were going well with her writing. This God is like a made to order guardian angel. And her writing often acted as a talisman of protection.
And Yet she clings to and still has a Rosary she got from Pope John Paul II, that he gave to her in 1986. Like a little Icon it followers her around and has always been where she was since she got it. She claims to keep it as a reminder of the writing prize she won to meet the pope. But it seems like more than just that.
However if you ask he she claims to be an atheist, though based upon what she says this is probably not so. She claims to be still sorting out her beliefs. But there is traces of Gnostic thought in her words "I was trash, I was a slut, I want to disown this body now, cast it forever to the winds. It is too gross to be mine." Which she claims in contrast to her desire to write has always been pure. Gnostic believe that The spark of divinity within us is released and fulfilled through knowledge.
She used to write to generate compassion for the pour, outcasts, those on the fringe of society. Now she writes to illuminate language and to articulate experience.
She claims to be vulnerable in her writing and in interviews like with Todd. But is it real vulnerability, real intimacy, or is it more like pseudo intimacy and self exhibitionism. She admits to being addicted to prostitution, to the money and sense of power in giving pleasure. Is her writing just a continuation of this?
Or is she as she appears a fragile girl trapped in a woman body, yearning for relationship, yet believing herself unworthy?
Then again she admits to being very selfish, and always looking out for number one.
The Great Contreversary
W.P. Kinsella and Evelyn Lau dated for 2 and a half years as I touched upon earlier. Now there is a great law suit going on between the two. It is a case of "he said, she said". It all started with a short story written by Kinsella entitled "The Lonesome Polecat" that portrays a may-December relationship, between an older man and young Vietnamese woman, who was a former prostitute and drug user. In response to this Mrs Lau wrote an article for a Vancouver magazine entitled "W.P. and Me". In which she belittles him, reveals things about their relationship, and suggests that she was disgusted by his age, infirmity, body and sexual powers. And yet they were together for close to 3 years. In relation to faith quests this applies 2 ways, first Mrs Lau, is true to her statement of not believe in good or bad. Or at least she doesn't care about being good, fair and nice. This is further stresses in her most recent book "Other Women", about a may -December affair that ends badly and has admitted it is about her. Also in regards to Kinsella, based upon Kinsells'a dreams that Mrs Lau reveals in her article , he is not quite the atheist he makes himself out to be. maybe even his atheist persona is a shield to separate himself from the softness seen in his books.
I would Like to end with a Quote from Robert Fulghum, on a much more positive note: called I Believe
"I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge
That myth is more potent than history
I believe that dreams are more powerful than facts-
That hope always triumphs over experience-
That laughter is the only cure for grief
And I believe that love is stronger than death.!"
Thank you and are there any questions?
(First written for RS100C Faith Quests Summer 1998.)
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 00:08
Thursday, 17 July 2008
To understand my approach to the study of the psychology of religion, I must first have working definitions of what each of the terms mean and what they mean together. After I know what I believe that they mean, then I will know how I will approach this subject. I will define the term's religion and then the term psychology. Then I will attempt to synthesize what the two mean together.
I understand religion to be the synthesis of both the internal and external life. Religion is both personal and corporate; religion is personal in that it should help the individual become what he is capable of being, and corporate in that sustaining or achieving that change can only be done in community. Saint Irenaeus stated, "The Glory of God is man fully alive." That glory is becoming what one was intended to be; maybe even becoming more than what you believe you can be. Religion should help our actions live up to our ideas. It should help us discover our true heart and to learn to live from that heart. Religion should include what one believes, and why one believes what one believes. Those beliefs should enable us to become what we were meant to be; it should affect all of our relationships, and all aspects of our lives. In my opinion, if a person is truly religious, their actions will live up to their beliefs. It should have a positive impact on their relationships, their work and their play. Religion should be viewed as a quest; a lifelong quest to ever be reaching higher and striving harder to achieve the goals of that religion. Religion will incorporate standards that should lead people to have standards of personal behaviour. Religion should also be active; it should impact body, mind and spirit. Religion is mind, in that we study what we believe and how it should influence us. It is body in that it has a creative element, in art, poetry, story, music, painting and sculpture. It has elements of the spirit in prayer, meditation, and the mysteries.
Story is an integral part of all aspects of religion. It can teach and encourage and challenge. The ultimate intent of story is to provide hope. It is to entertain, and challenge the reader to see anew the world around him. Madeline L'Engle sums it up this way: "We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes. In literature the longing for home is found in the many stories of paradise, of the forgotten place where we once belonged." This longing is filled through story, and as such, story encourages and challenges all aspects of spirituality.
Religion is a glue that is used as a tool of reconnection; reconnecting people with God or the divine; connecting people with community or others, and it should help reconnect people with their true selves. C.S. Lewis in his space trilogy speaks of the human nature as 'bent'. We are people of a broken nature and religion should help us to learn to be straight again.
For me, psychology is the science that deals with mental processes and behavior; the emotional and behavioral characteristics of an individual, a group, or activity. Psychology is an action or argument used to manipulate or influence another. Psychology looks at why people do what they do, and factors that shape the determining factors that drive the person.
Psychology of religion is the field that studies the soul, the mind, and the relationship of life and mind to the body. Psychology of religion is an attempt to understand religious people, religious movements and religious organizations. This study is done through observation and through research. It is done in conjunction with history, sociology, and theology.
I would like to use a story to sum up my understanding:
"The Reason for Religion is not Reason:
A student, clearly troubled by something Jacob had said, followed him as he left the bakery. "Jacob, did you say that what is Holy has no beginning or end?"
"Yes" replied Jacob.
"But that is not possible," said the student. "That is because only the possible can be measured," said Jacob.
The student struggled to understand. "Jacob, you are not making sense."
Jacob nodded in agreement, then placed his hands in front of the student, covering his eyes. "You see," said Jacob, "reason explains the darkness, but it is not a light."
The psychology of religion should help us see the light and be able to understand and explain it.
- John Eldredge, Waking the Dead: Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2004. p.10
- Madeleine L'Engle, The Rock of Higher: Story as Truth: Wheaton: Shaw, 1993. p.24
- Noah benShea, Jacob the Baker: New York, Ballantine Books, 1989. p.20,21
L'Engle, Madeleine The Rock that is Higher: Story as Truth,
Wheaton, Shaw, 1993.
Eldredge, John Waking the Dead
Tennessee, Thomas Nelson, 2004.
Noah benShea, Jacob the Baker:
New York, Ballantine Books, 1989.
(First written for RS 270 The Psychology of Religion Fall 2004.)
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 00:41
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
Greetings again, it is once again time for me to share with you some of the resources I find very useful on the web. This time my focus is specifically Catholic resources, those sites that I find have a great resources or tools or function that makes them exceptional.
The first time I reviewed 4 resources, 2 Author sites, and 2 resources sites.
Next I am focused on Catholic Resources on the Web some sites that for the most part I have discovered in the 2006. I looked at a number of sites ranging from the first three are collection sites - that is they collect and compile links and resources for you in one convenient place. To the last 3 which are author sites.
Then early in 2007 I looked at some Catholic Publishing Companies and profiled them.
This time I want to focus on some sites for Catholic writers and for bibliophiles like myself. Two of these I only found reciently, one thanks to Regina Doman only this week.
The Catholic Writers Guild
Though I only found this site a few daya ago, it looks like a great place for writers and people who have an intereste in books, publishing and media from a distinctly Catholic Perspective. I have not decided if I will join or not, but it is very tempting. Regina Doman wrote about this site which is how I dound out about it. (Regina is the author of some awesome books. I am only done one and part way into a second but I can not recommend them enough.
The Catholic Writers Lounge
This site I found out about from Eric Scheske on his blog The Daily Eudemon I have not stopped back nearly iften enough. The few times I have stopped by there always seems to be great stuff to see. (If you have not checked out Eric's blog do so, it is great!)
The Catholic Carnival
Jay at Living Catholicism coordinates the Catholic Carnival, and it gets moved around the blogsphere by volunteer's who choose to host it from time to time. It is a great place to link up your own blog posts and writing. It is also a great place to see the plethora of opinions and views within the the Catholic blogsphere. Every week there are submissions from various blogs. Each week there are at least a few gems.
So check out these sites and happy surfing.
Peace and Strength!
Yours, learning to be
Steven R. McEvoy
http://mcevoysmusings.ca My Homepage
http://bookreviewsandmore.ca My Blog
CompTIA IT PRO, A+ ITT, A+ DT, A+ RST, Network+,
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"The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can't help it."
- Leo Rosten
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 00:09
Monday, 14 July 2008
Check out this picture here. Author Laurie Halse Anderson on her blog Mad Woman in the Forest Posted a link to this picture asking if it was "True? Snarky? Where do you fit in the spectrum?" My response was:
I kind of fall off stage, I started reviewing books for publishers when I worked for the largest book store chain in Canada. Then I thought I am already reading the arc's why not publish the reviews in my university paper http://imprint.uwaterloo.ca After that some friends who did not have access to the paper wanted to see my reviews, so I started a blog as an archive of published and un-opted reviews. The content has grown and changed over the last 3 years at http://bookreviewsandmore.ca I mostly only review books I like, I usually do not finish books I am not enjoying. For a while one of the book columns I write for was published a s Love It/Hate It and ran two side by side. So I did finish some I did not enjoy or that hand endings I really did not like.
Hoever I do change my writing style considerably depending on the publication I am trying to publish the review in. I often even change it for different sections of the same paper. If I am reviewing for arts I take one style, if for science and technology or health and lifestyles I take a very different tone.
So my question to you other book reviews out there what do you think?
The picture comes from Finding Wonderland: The WritingYA Weblog used with permission.
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 00:03
Saturday, 12 July 2008
Robert Buettner's long-awaited third book in the Jason Wander series is finally here. Delays because of a Publisher closing and debates over rights to the book have made this a much-anticipated and long-delayed book. However it was worth the extended wait!
Jason Wander became a hero, not by trying but out of necessity and circumstance. He is a hero of the human-slug war; he was field promoted to the position of Major General, a position he kept because of morale back on earth. In the previous two books Orphanage and Orphan's Destiny Wander grows and develops into the military leader that he reads about in history. However he often doubts himself and his own leadership ability. In this book Wander and a small group of earthlings are thrown well across the universe while doing some testing on a captured slug ship from the previous war. Once more into the breech, Wander and his compatriots find that they must struggle against the slugs. This time he is on an alien planet, well behind earth's technology, and he must make three different clans come together if he is to save his friends, himself and all human life on this alien planet.
The three clans are the Tassini, the Casuni and the Marini. These three tribes hate each other and, other than at the time of the fair, would rather kill than look at each other. Now under Wander they must come together and learn to not only tolerate each other but to work together if they are to have a hope for a future. In this volume Wander learns the burden of leadership; as a soldier he could sacrifice and die if needed for others, but as a leader he must learn how to send men to die. It will not be an easy lesson.
Orphanage was originally written in homage to Robert A. Heinlien's Starship Troopers. I believe Heinlien would have enjoyed Buettner's original offering and this latest installment. Buettner is developing a unique voice and a great writing style. The reader is transported into the events as one reads. This is a great work of science fiction and a commentary on war and the burden of leadership. And we have at least two more installments to look forward to - Orphan's Alliance and Orphan's Triumph both forthcoming.
Jason Wander Saga:
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 00:29
Friday, 11 July 2008
This past month about 200 people descended upon the UW campus, and specifically the Optometry building. The people came for a number of reasons, but all tied to the Optometry Board exams. UW is one of two schools in Canada where the Canadian Examiners in Optometry / Examinateurs Canadiens en Optometrie (CEO/ECO) run by the Canadian Standards Association in Optometry (CSAO) take place. This is usually an annual event, but this year so many applicants applied for the board exams it was split over two weekends, one in April and this past weekend. There are a number of different characters in this event - the Examiners, the Candidates, test subjects and volunteers or support staff. Each character type comes for different reasons, and plays a different role.
The Examiners are members of the Optometry profession; they come for a few reasons. First as part of their profession they must take continuing education courses to keep up their own certification to practice. Coming and helping with this weekend, meets some of their requirements in this field. Also their travel costs and accommodations are covered, therefore the event is not a loss financially for them. Also they receive an honorarium for their aid in the process. There are 24 examiners per day to make this event successful. The chief examiner this year was Dr. Jonathan Arnel, a hulking man who led the weekend with a joyful smile and strict attention to details.
The second category is the subjects; these are people who meet specific needs for the practical eye exam, or who have normal eyes and are part of the basic eye exam assessment. Subjects can come for a half day, full day or both full days. They are paid $60 per half day plus parking if they drive and park at UW. I met subjects that had been doing this for a dozen years now and had no plans to stop volunteering in this way. There are 30 subjects needed each day, and at least 24 each session. Subjects are needed who meet each of the four sections of the practical exam in Clinical Skills Assessment. Plus they need spares for each test type in case of a conflict of interest, or a subject needing a break. Subjects arrive early on their first day or part day and are examined by two Examiners who create the baseline the Candidates will be judged against. One session I had to spare because the student was from UW and knew the subject, creating a conflict of interest. Subjects are approached and recruited by UW's own Nancy Yowski.
Nancy Yowski also coordinates the support staff and volunteers who help make the event successful. Without these people, what needs to happen would not happen, at least not in such a timely fashion. On their walkie talkies they make sure that for every session every examinee and Candidate and Examiner are where they should be when they should. They also look after the needs in the facilities - signage, set-up, take-down and other support roles. Nancy helps to run a tight ship that stays efficient.
The Candidates come next, for all the other people are there to test them to see if they have learned enough in 6 or 7 years of school to become an Optometrist. There were 91 candidates this past weekend and 59 the weekend in April. They come from all over Canada, the US and from abroad. Anyone wishing to practice Optometry in Canada must write these board exams. I met candidates from around the world, and many from home. This session had many students from UW. I met 3 cousins from Calgary who had all studied in different schools in the States, had written their US boards the week before and were all hoping to practice close to home in Alberta. I met others who also planned on writing the UK boards to keep future options open.
Now that we know the players, what happens next? As mentioned, each subject has a baseline created for what the Candidates' answers will be compared to. The Clinical Skills assessment consists of 4 exams: binocular vision, ocular health, refraction/case history and contact lenses/glasses. If a candidate fails a section they can reattempt that section during the next set of exams; the same for a second failure. If however they miss a section a third time, they must do a remedial year, apply to a committee to redo the boards and they must redo all 4 sections. The candidates have 40 minutes for each section, with a break in between. They move from station to station until they have completed all four sections. Yet even when they finish these practical exams their week is only beginning.
After the practical exams, they move on to written exams. This is composed of 3 exams spread over 5 sittings. The 3 exams are Optometric Knowledge, Ocular Therapeutics, and Clinical Judgments. The exam on Optometric knowledge is written in 3 three-hour sessions over two days and is comprised of 280 multiple choice questions. The Ocular Therapeutics is 120 multiple choice questions done in a three-hour exam. The final exam in Clinical Judgment is 100 multiple choice questions done in one sitting. Yet even after passing those five written exams and the clinical exams from the CSAO, they are still not yet licensed to practice. Candidates still have to write a Jurisprudence exam for each province in which they wish to practice, in Canada.
So even though 200 people descended upon UW this week, of the 91 Candidates, who knows how many will be practicing Optometry soon. Yet it was a fun weekend for the examiners with a catered dinner Friday evening, and breakfast and lunch catered on Saturday and Sunday for the support staff, subjects and examiners. But after all those exams and at least six years of school, you sure better hope you enjoy the work once you get into the field. So farewell till next year to the examiners, and good luck to the candidates - hopefully we will not see you again next spring.
(First Published in Imprint 2008-06-27 as 'Eyeful of Testing'.)
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 00:05