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Elizabeth Bonwich :
15 article(s)

Elizabeth Bonwich writes from New York City.
April 12th, 2004
Buddhist Monk Teaches Kindness, Compassion, and Christ

I never understood the washing of the feet.
For newcomers, an explanation: each Holy Thursday at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, there is a ritual washing of at least twelve people’s feet in imitation of Jesus doing the same to his disciples at the Last Supper.
Holy crapIn CCD classes many years ago I was told that Jesus’ washing the disciples feet was significant because in those days people walked either on the bare earth or with a minimum of footwear, and, as sanitation was often lacking, there was a good possibility that the disciples had fecal material on their feet. So what Jesus did was probably pretty icky. I hope that at the time there was more to the CCD explanation than that, but none has lingered…

February 19th, 2004
Or, How I Cleaned My Way to Cosmic Harmony

I’d been cleaning for weeks. It started the week before Thanksgiving; I had nine coming for Thanksgiving dinner and was damned if I didn’t have a clean and organized apartment (or at least living room) to show off to my family and friends. So I cleaned and cleaned and having met my goal of a tidy living room, I found myself still cleaning.
And loving it.
I was liberated with every bag of garbage tossed. An organized closet became a cause of celebration. To the dust bunnies hidden in dark corners for years, I was the Terminatrix with a vacuum hose.
I could feel the newfound vitality rushing through my body. First one corner then another, then a whole room. I couldn’t sleep after the bedroom was done; I…

January 12th, 2004
Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Just READ

The turning point was not being able to find a pew without a direct view of the dead saint’s remains in that crystal coffin under the altar. The experience was so bad that I walked right out of Mass and, having no other church in my immediate area, I simply stopped going.
But other things weren’t going well either. I had been through a period of debilitating illness, had a job I detested, had recently suffered the loss of a boyfriend who I thought I might marry. Instead he moved out of the country for a new job, and I was in an unhealthy rebound relationship.
Out with Mr. Wrong, in with St. Right
Mostly in an effort to get out of rebound-ville, I decided to give the Church one last try, albeit in a parish without the…

January 2nd, 2004
Stunning Tales of the Ultimate Sacrifice

Martyrs: Contemporary Writers on Modern Lives of Faith
Edited by Susan Bergman, HarperSanFrancisco (1998), 333 pages.
Bad martyr vibes
It used to be that when I thought of martyrs,
I immediately thought of a book from my childhood, Miniature Stories of the Saints . It had a picture of the young Saint Catherine of Alexandria holding the spiked wheel with which she was to be tortured to death; the image had burned itself into my youthful mind.
So when a friend gave me Martyrs: Contemporary Writers on Modern Lives of Faith, a 20 essay collection of the lives of 20th century martyrs, I was in no hurry to delve into it.
My mistake.
More faith, less masochismMartyrs is an amazing volume chronicling
the lives of people responding…

December 25th, 2003
Celebrating Christmas Polish-American style

It’s not Mary giving birth or the baby Jesus Himself that brings it to mind, but standing in the window watching for the first star to appear in the sky so that we can commence Wigilia, the Polish Christmas vigil and meal.

Just my jobIt’s the job of the youngest child to watch for the first star, and, sans procreation, thirty years later that is still my role in the process. One generation removed from the “old country” my aunt keeps up the Wigilia meal tradition and cooks the meatless dinner.
The meal begins with the breaking and sharing of the oplatek, a rectangular wafer of much the same consistency as the host in church, with an image or scene of the Baby Jesus imprinted on it. There’s…

November 29th, 2003
A Stowaway Computer and the Mellower Me

My computer died, taking my last article—a tirade on the prevalence of thongs and stilettos in everyday women’s wear—with it.
The PC that came to dinnerIt’s a good thing I’ve been storing a friend’s computer and stand in my apartment for almost the past year. It wasn’t supposed to be for that long but one month led to two, then to four and six and now eleven.
It sits in the bedroom of my crowded Manhattan apartment, and I alternatively forget it’s there and then notice it, cursing it’s owner for dumping it on me with a year’s worth of promises of its eventual removal. Finally it’s come in handy.
But I’m still pissed off that it’s here at all.…

November 23rd, 2003
In Maine with the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped

Gather forty strangers in one house and give them ten days to three weeks to learn music, dance routines, scenes, and monologues for a show open to the public.
Is this reality TV? No, it’s just reality, spending the summer with cool and talented people in coastal Maine, as a student at NTWH, the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped.
Those people.That’s of the disabled, not
for . My fellow students came from all over the country and all over the world with their wheelchairs, crutches, scooters, guide dogs, and personal care attendants (PCAs) in tow. The Maine campus is fully accessible but what we do there isn’t about rehab, charity, or pity. Pity connotes something weak or someone inferior.…

November 1st, 2003
Especially if a Juror Has a Plane to Catch

The big red stripe ran the length of the white envelope proclaiming, Juror Summons Enclosed.
Jury duty.
I decided to take a positive attitude. Why not? They do pay forty bucks a day; it’s a good way to get a view of the justice system; and if I don’t do it, how can I expect anybody else to?
What I didn’t plan on was the weird community that develops in a group with a shared secret—the details of the case—nor on the visceral nature of jury deliberations. Not to mention the huge brass letters on the wall above the judge’s head, “In God We Trust.“
Be careful what you wish for…
I was selected for a jury on a mugging trial my first day. Getting home late that night I caught the last…

September 18th, 2003
New Book on a Spiritual Approach to Finding Your Direction

Getting a Life: How to Find Your True Vocation by Renée LaReau, Orbis (2003), 158 pages.
It seems to me life improves drastically after you hit 30.…

May 1st, 2003
The Consequences; Surviving Cancer at 30

With my tongue outstretched and her hand on my pulse, the acupuncturist fired questions and conclusions at me:
“You worry too much. You think too much. Are you angry?”
I groaned to myself; she knows way too much for someone I’d just met.
“Uh…”
“Are you angry?”
“No.” I lied.
The heart of the matterShe picked up on the thing I avoid the most and, thus, the thing that causes me the most pain. I’m 30 years old and in the last 15 of them have battled three different types of cancer a total of five different times. I have every right to be angry but I’m usually better at hiding it.
I’m angry about the fallout of illness. The lasting physical…

February 7th, 2003

I read the reading from Genesis three times before I picked up on the rainbow. “I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” The bow I kept seeing was the kind one uses in conjunction with an arrow, not a rainbow of light. But once I did see it that way, the power of God’s repentance, revelation, and healing just blew me away.
Imagine it, God just annihilated almost all of his creation, the one made in his own image. Picture Noah, with family and animals, first coming out of the Ark when the seas had subsided and the land dry. I see Noah, tired, hungry, his jaw dropped open and a hand rubbing his head in shock at what he sees, or fails to see around him. His whole world has…

January 5th, 2003

I stood on the corner looking into
the children’s playground. At one o’clock on this chilly afternoon I found it empty after my walk in the park. Past the dry sprinklers were the two tire swings. Do I dare? I wondered looking around at the quiet empty streets around the playground.

I walked in self consciously and picked a tire swing. Dropping my crutches to the ground I tightly grabbed two of the three chains on the swing. Lowering myself down I felt my butt touch the tire and my feet lift off the ground. Cautiously I spun the tire swing , first one way then another. My braced leg stuck out straight in front of me as I leaned my head back through the chains and lay back looking up at the empty tree branches above me.…

November 28th, 2002
A Supermarket Surplus Demands That We Share

Propped up against the wall of my tiny kitchen, absentmindedly chain eating Entenmanns’s chocolate chip cookies, I was engrossed in an article from the Catholic Worker about the life of St. Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Redemptorist order of priests.
As I shot my hand into the box for yet one more cookie, I was confronted with Bishop Liguori’s response to famine in 18th century Italy: “When people are hungry, everyone should fast.” Caught red-handed in the cookie box, I paused and looked from my hand to the paper and back again. There was no way to hide it; Alphonsus had busted me as Part Of The Problem.
For me, gluttony begins at the supermarket. Aisles upon bright aisles of choices,…

October 31st, 2002
The Redemption of Jack O'Lantern: A Fable

Jack O’Lantern sat in the glow of Hell’s ember, carving yet one more pumpkin in replacement of the rotting moldy one currently housing the Devil’s coal. Having been rejected by Heaven and doomed by Hell, Jack had walked the Darkness between them for uncountable years with only the light from Hell’s fire to guide his way. He had lost his soul, but he still retained the gift God gave him—his artistic talent.
Over the years his pumpkin lanterns grew devastatingly beautiful, but Jack couldn’t see it. So instead, his astounding artistry contined to be displayed in the toilet paper designs left on neighborhood trees and in the spray paint designs covering the windows of local businesses.…

September 11th, 2002
Taking to the Skies and Trusting in God

“Turbo props are ok. They won’t hijack a turbo prop,” my ex-boyfriend insisted as I squirmed and looked for more reasons not to fly to my upcoming family reunion four states away. “There’s not enough fuel on a turbo prop,” he continued, “they need a lot of fuel.”
I haven’t flown in a year and I can’t believe that deliberating about whether or not my plane is a good one to hijack and fly into things with is what travel has come to. I used to love flying. Especially flying cross country. I’d stare out the window (I always got a window seat) and watch the rolling eastern green hills pass into the rigid squares and rectangles that bespoke the Midwestern…

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