4.8.05

Obituary: Georgette Pintado 1924 -2005

Georgette Pintado (1924 - 2005)

Les enfants, les enfants,” whispered Georgette Pintado, when Br. Bede Roselli and his mother Pam found her at Covington High School’s cafeteria, curled in the fetal position on a thin mattress on the floor. “All she could tell me was ‘I’m worried about the poor children,’” Br. Bede said. “We called her Nanan. Anybody she took care of was called Nana’s kids. She even had a personalized license plate on her old Cadillac: NANAN. She took care of my brother and me when we were kids and was one of the first people I confided in that I wanted to be a priest.”
     Georgette, along with dozens of other patients from Pontchartrain Health Care Center in Mandeville, had been temporarily relocated to the school turned shelter. Br. Bede, a monk at Saint Joseph Abbey, didn’t know she was at the school but stumbled on her while distributing Bibles with his mother, a certified surgical assistant from Madisonville, who had been volunteering her service at the shelter in the days following Katrina. “We didn’t know she was at the high school so you can believe how shocked we were when we found out she was there,” said Br. Bede.
     Georgette Pintado was born in France in 1924 and grew up during the time of the Nazi Occupation. As a young woman she had been harassed by SS soldiers at a train station for not having her papers on her; she couldn’t understand them so the German soldiers slapped her and threatened to rape her. Fortunately, she was able to get away unharmed but vowed to emigrate from France after the war. Leaving her family behind, she sailed to New York after the liberation, moved to New Orleans, had a son named George, married Nicholas Pintado, a Coast Guardsman, and moved to Mandeville where she lived over forty years. “When they met, her husband knew how to say, “oui,” and she knew “yes,” which was all the language they needed to fall in love,” said Br. Bede.
     Especially after her husband’s death of a heart attack, Georgette dedicated her life to caring for children at her home in Mandeville. In her two-story blue house in Old Golden Shores, she fed, cleaned and bathed scores of children through the years. “She wasn’t just a baby sitter, she was a real nanny,” said Jackie Lark, whose two children, Brian and Jeffrey, were cared for by Georgette from birth until they were old enough to be home alone. “She did everything for our kids, even baked cakes for them on their birthdays,” she said.
     For twenty-five years, every Wednesday she visited the sick at Pontchartrain Health Care Center as a Eucharistic minister. She was so committed to this weekly service, that if a parent kept their child late at her house on Wednesday they knew to pick them up at the nursing home. It wasn’t unusual for Georgette to arrive at the nursing home with five or six children in tow, assigning them special tasks for the patients. She not only distributed communion to the patients but spent ample time with each person, talking to them and giving out candy or cigarettes as needed. This was the same nursing home where she would move into after her quadruple bypass surgery in 2003. Her condition worsened after her son, George died of a heart attack in 2004. The impact of Katrina worsened her condition even further, along with the stress of relocating, her debilitating arthritis, and poor vascular circulation became too much for her body.
     Georgette was moved back to Pontchartrain Health Care Center three weeks after the storm. Father John F. Talamo, a Salesian priest at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church gave her the anointing of the sick before she went into a coma and a few days later she died on October 4, 2005. Father John declared her a “living saint” at her funeral mass and commended her for her unfailing service to the church. He mentioned that in her final days she still remembered the “Hail Mary” and the “Our Father” even though she was quickly losing consciousness.
     Georgette’s daughter-in-law Marci Tittle of Hickory Creek, TX and her granddaughter, Megan of Seattle, Washington, arranged the funeral and the gathering afterward at the home of Jean Champagne of Mandeville. Many of the children she cared for, the “les enfants” she spoke about before she died, gathered together there and shared stories about their Nanan. Nanan’s kids. Simone. Katherine. Sarah. Brian. Greg. Jean. John. Jeffery. Margaret. “It felt good to share what we remembered about Nanan and to know it was her who brought us all together,” said one of the children at the gathering. Nanan was the glue for these children’s lives — an influence that cannot be easily forgotten, no matter what may befall us.

N.B.: Georgette Pintado's obituary was published in The Times Picayune, Wednesday, October  12, 2005
PDF copy for printing

21.5.05

The Bread Run: When I Delivered Loaves of Bread for Pennies for Bread

The loaves are already “stacked to the back” of our Ford delivery truck in the morning before we leave. The bread was baked the day before by a handful of Benedictines and sliced and bagged by volunteers, mostly retired men, that same afternoon. All the bread, about 900 loaves, is placed in trays for easy delivery.  We have about twelve different stops to make in the city and we want to finish the route before the southern sun becomes unbearable.
     We leave the Abbey early to beat the commuters; I notice it takes a few swipes of the windshield wiper to get rid of the moisture and insects that have collected through the night.  Even with a full cup of coffee in my system I usually fall asleep on the passenger side as Joe crosses the long causeway over Lake Pontchartrain into New Orleans, listening to AM radio.  In the brief moments that I am awake, Joe, in his own words, give a commentary on world and local events and I look out into the lake to see what it looks like this time: either calm and muddy or sometimes the lake is brilliantly blue, like an ocean, but this morning it is dull with an irksome pallor of gray.

1.5.05

Poem: "Ordinary Childhood"


Fontanna della Barcaccia - Spanish Steps, Rome, Italy
brushing past the crêpe myrtles,
their slim, shedding bark legs entangled
on the shadowed front yard of this house,

i see rebecca and her children
hidden in the silence
of their pacific northwest camper trailer,
parked against a red brick wall of a church

my grapes of wrath family laugh and play checkers,
swatting mosquitoes
hoping for a better licorice stick,
praying to god for a sturdy black mailbox.

And even at stan’s funeral the other day
mom and dad with their stoic, but engaged stares
singing remember me when you come into your kingdom
as if they had been with us all along,
comfortable pictures,
hands
firmly embraced on roger’s shoulder,
his ordinary childhood shaped and formed,
sifting sand and dirt through his green hands,
shoveled onto the pine box we have chosen to gather around, singing our songs of christian burial,
quickly rubbing our eyes from the bright daylight −
too much light and not enough darkness

too much information and not enough silence

we all dispersed quietly,
but the children who had lingered,
fascinated by a dead body they once knew,
wishing to sprinkle their own earth over him,
instead ate sandwiches and sprite later on at supper,
their collection of forks and knives piled up in the newly acquired yard of louisiana,
remained silent and grinned,
helping themselves to a bag of chips, tater tots,
hamburgers

© 2005 Greig Roselli

24.4.05

A response to a new pope

The following is a brief response to 
newly elected to the papal throne.
Ratzinger squashes individuality; Roberts questions his rash stamp-out.
Papal Conclave, photo credit: reuters

 
It is true; the church is not immune to the laws of human nature, but according to the church, strict individualism that is separated from objective truth, that attempts to construct its own truth denies human nature.  Roberts champions individuality, the freedom to express one's point of view, to be an individual; Ratzinger sees individuality as a threat, liable to "dissent," tantamount, for him, to infidelity.  
Is individualism to be respected? - or seen as a suspicious slight to Christianity? Has modern individuality silenced human communication with the gods?
 

We are individuals, unique beings created in the image and likeness of God.  God gave us a mind and a heart so we should use it to stumble upon goodness and truth.  I disagree with  Cokie and Steven's use of the word "condemn"; It is not true that this pontiff condemns individuality, but he and his predecessor worry that unbridled individuality separated from truth will cause more damage than good in this world. I can see unbridled individuality divorced from reason as a poison, like an inexperienced student who thinks they know more than the teacher, but really they know nothing, or the kid who spouts out ideology his parents taught him rather than speak for himself.

But, I disagree with Ratzinger more; It is not true that individuality serves only "ego and desires".  The Church needs to realize that individuality is not going away, and maybe honor individuality a little more (just like the Copernican Revolution never went away) and the rest of the world needs to realize that objective truth and goodness should never be separated from individual conscience.

1.3.05

Theology: On Augustine and Pelagius

A Review of Gerald Bonner on Augustine and Pelagius

        Gerald Bonner has written extensively on the Pelagian Controversy in books and scholarly articles. Two chapters of his book on Augustine are dedicated to the Pelagian controversy. He also has two later articles on the subject in Augustinian Studies, “Pelagianism and Augustine,” a two-part series.  Also, his article “Rufinus of Syria and African Pelagianism” in the same journal is worth reading.  In these writings, Bonner writes on the origins of Pelagianism, not as a negative force in the church but rather as a positive movement that had intentions of building up, not destroying.  Bonner’s thesis is that if we begin from this positive point of view then, in the end, we can see if there are negative attributes of Pelagianism.[1]  It is a certain methodology Bonner follows: to start from “seeing what is right” about the Pelagians to a conclusion about what may be wrong about their positions; how they themselves would have looked at their movement, from the inside out, not outside in.[2]
        The problem is that we view Pelagianism through the lens of Augustine which distorts what Pelagianism actually stood for.  Looking back at a centuries-old problem, we can fail to see the man who began it all, Pelagius himself.  What did Pelagius actually say and what has been merely been attributed to him?  This is the task of the historian, to be as objective as she can be in the presentation of the facts, to steer clear from any biased retelling of history as far as possible and to sometimes relook history from the lens of another key figure.  In this case, let us look at the Pelagian controversy through Pelagius’ eyes rather than Augustine.  Of course, this task is never perfect; for, even the historian, merely reporting the story, informs history from their own vantage point, not only personal vantage point but the perspective of her time in history, the culture the historian writes from and the intent of the article.  Bonner is suggesting that history has been in favor of Augustine; so, do we get any new insights taking a retrospective look in the shoes of Pelagius?  

The Life of Pelagius

        From 408 - 431 are the years of Pelagianism, but it must be remembered that Pelagianism was not like other theological movements that found disfavor in the church because it was a local phenomenon and not systemic to the entire church at the time.  It basically sprung up in Rome, northern Africa and other pockets of Europe where Pelagius’ followers traveled.[3]   Bonner calls the modern retelling of Pelagianism “the demolition of what may be called the monolithic view of Pelagianism”.[4]   Nascent Pelagianism was not as grand a scheme as people make it out to be. Really, it is Augustine who brought the teachings of Pelagius into more universal awareness.  If it were not for Augustine’s extensive writings against Pelagius we probably would not know about it, but because Augustine spoke out against it so vehemently it has stood the test of time.[5]       
        In 408 Pelagius first comes onto the stage in Rome.  It arose first in aristocratic circles of women in Rome because Pelagius was a spiritual advisor to many women there. Demetrias, the daughter of Anicia Faltonia Proba.  Melania the Younger. All devout women of high rank -- like Jerome before him Pelagius courted single, young women of the bourgeoisie.[6]     About 410, around the same time as the Donatist movement (which is closely related to Pelagianism, sometimes confused with one another) is when Augustine began to preach against Pelagius.  Actually, in 415 The synod at Diospolis declared the writings of Pelagius to be orthodox but in 417 Pelagius was condemned in Rome.  The final stake in the Pelagian coffin was in 418 at the Council of Carthage, with over two hundred bishops under Augustine's leadership, Pope Zosimus pronounced Pelagianism heretical.[7] 
        Pelagius was a monk (although it is not quite clear whether he really was a monk or not) from the present day British Isles and came to Rome where most of his influence was felt; he was well-educated with “a profound knowledge of the bible” so he attracted the higher echelon of female society in Rome.[8]   He was probably born in the latter half of the of the fourth century.  He is different from other infamous dissidents in that there are no scandalous accounts attributed to his name, no grisly tales, and lecherous behavior: He did not die a horrible death, nor was he accused of licentious behavior with the young.[9]   Even Augustine, at one time, attested to his character.[10] Probably Pelagius was not searching for glory and fame; he was not a rabble-rouser dissident but actually a quiet man who tried to stay out of the public eye as much as he could and avoided publicity.[11] Augustine was quite pastoral in his letters to Pelagius which were later used to conclude falsely that Augustine was favorable to Pelagius’ cause.[12]   It is good to note here that Pelagius himself was probably closer to the truth (to orthodoxy) than the followers who took up his name. The third council of Ephesus condemned Caelestius, not Pelagius, who was considered apart of the Pelagian party (but to call the Pelagians a party is misleading because there is no evidence to support that they represented a strongly connected band).[13]   Maybe in the eyes of Augustine, but in reality, the movement was much more provincial than widespread.  Sometimes we tout certain ideas as from Pelagius but when really they are words from his admirers, like Caelstius and Rufinus.[14]
Actually, this is true of many movements in the church.  Jansens is less Jansenistic than Jansenists. Luther was less a Lutheran than the Lutherans.  Pelagius himself did not deny the need for grace nor did he dismiss baptism as essential.[15] 

2.2.05

Poem: "The Pope and Mr. Murdoch"

Others say the pope should quit
to a monastery
to live out the rest of his days,

but I say look at the gnarled hands that scoop up soup on
a Saturday afternoon at the old folks home,
insistent on doing it himself, murdoch says,
dribble of reason coagulates on the tip of his chin

and the pope rolls on like murdoch,
both stubborn in their resolve,
clutching oversize spoons,
suffering from influenza

and doesn’t he look beautiful
sitting alone during bingo,
munching on fried rice
that I had brought him
despite the MSG −

once a six pack −

and now he asks the orderly for a Splenda,
which he brings −
he tears open the package himself,
as if following a medieval rubric,
gingerly pouring the contents into his mug that reads:

what do you get when you work like a mule?

O L D 

stenciled across the porcelain
in a marker felt type.
 
© 2005 Greig Roselli

Poem: "when i get home from work"

i sit in the car and let the engine run when i get home from work

so i can breathe again

before easily letting go of the ignition,
sighing as the car dies,

having heard the cries of the kids splashing in the pool,
i realize i have not yet sloughed off the ink of my nine to five,
not yet ready to slip into this domestic ilk,
so i breathe again,
feeling the in-between-different-things feeling,
the uncomfortable transition from work to home:
the unique expectations,
the feeling that I still have not yet left, that i am somewhere else and part of me has run ahead of myself,
stuck somewhere on the corner of eighth and palmer,

unable to make a distinction between human resources
and the simple question of do you love me or not
can you help me with my homework
can you talk to me about this
can we talk about this
worrying about if the silence emitting from the backyard
is one of my kids drowning in the newly chlorined pool
or if mark, who is making supper for us all
really needs my help or his own space

so i breathe again,
letting greg catch up from his jog around the block,
his dress shoes and socks on top of the kitchen table;
the concentric circles of reality: the kids are inside, dry and
by the time the scrambled eggs and jambalaya are done on the front burners I can reset the clock, expectantly

© 2005 Greig Roselli