Ave Maria

  • Ave Maria at the gloaming

    We are heading back to Washington soon, and spent one of our last nights here walking Ave Maria University’s campus as the sun set and day turned into twilight and into night.

    There will come a time when Ave Maria University expands across this lake, and the spot where is visible the last light of day will be a greater part of the campus. That remains a distant dream, for now.

  • Ave Maria and a mid-day walk

    The vivid brightness of a place like Ave Maria can seem almost unreal if you’ve grown up in a place like the Northeast and consider grey, overcast skies the norm and views like this only typical (if that) at the peak of mid-summer. Yet views like this, from a mid-day walk to lunch, are typical for this place. It’s why Ave Maria and so much of Florida is so attractive: it enlivens.

    We found a place on Ave Maria University’s campus with great cheeseburger meals for about $3.

  • Hollow in a niche

    The sun and the heat of Florida, especially in winter and the still-chilly Northeastern spring, are a joy. We’ve been spending time outdoors and Hollow has been joining us—choosing this spot just off the front porch, in a niche within the shrubs.

    The domestication of wolves was one of our greatest early achievements, no question.

  • Naples and silver linings

    We flew to Fort Myers yesterday and are in Naples today to be with a friend who was hospitalized and is recuperating. Despite the circumstances, I’m very grateful for times like this to have trust and flexibility with work to be able to be here.

    Naples Community Hospital, by the way, has to be one of the best located hospitals in the United States. In between visits/shifts at the hospital, we were able to walk the few blocks from the hospital to Naples Beach. The beauty of Naples and the beach are at odds with the difficulties and uncertainties that so often characterize hospitals—the beauty of the world seems to beckon to us to stay forever.

    It turns out that all this beauty is a gift of God, who intends it merely as foretaste of the beatitude for which we were made.

  • A fun short video that Ave Maria University released featuring Hollow, Ben and Michael Novak’s dog:

    I met Anna Kunza once or twice when visiting Ben in the last year or two. Her experience of Hollow opening your eyes to see a familiar place with new eyes resonates. It’s what all of us can and should do, if we’re living in a way that’s ordered to God and goodness.

    Hollow is great.

  • Walking with Hollow in Ave Maria

    Scenes from last month’s visit to Ave Maria, Florida, walking Hollow through some of Maple Ridge Reserve, a neighborhood very much under construction. The view in the scene below is Ave Maria University’s campus, with the Ave Maria Oratory in the center of town peaking up above the campus structures:

  • Lady Hollow

    Lady Hollow

    As much as Hollow has been Michael and Ben Novak’s doggy, she has been and continues to be a familiar, remarkable, and much loved part of the town of Ave Maria’s community life. Born somewhere in the wilds of Colorado, found by a rancher, and rescued by Michael’s daughter Jana at the last moment at a shelter, Hollow always carried with her a bit of that Colorado ease and agreeableness that I see in my own family who live there. I think of her as basically wolfish in nature.

    Hollow’s an example of the sort of creature that one comes across only every so often in life whose essential nature, temperament, and characteristics are so basically reassuring and pleasant that she makes an impression without even trying to do so. Anyway, I’ve loved Hollow for years. And Ben Novak captured a bit of her spirit a few months ago when he shared this bit of poetry with me:

    Lady Hollow
    Ben Novak

    Hollow does not ask why
    Flowers grow or rivers flow
    Or mountains rise or a bird flies.
    Hollow does not know yesterday
    Or anything that came before.

    Though she remembers
    Who was kind and where she lives,
    What she likes, and who likes her.
    Hollow remembers well the box
    Her milkbones come from,
    And where her bones are buried.
    And where she likes to sleep,
    And what time to wake me each morn
    By crawling across the pillows at 6:00 am
    to nuzzle her snout against my face.

    At other times of day,
    Hollow remembers when it’s time
    To take me for a walk.
    She nuzzles my hand, or straightens up
    On her hind legs to paw my forearm till I stand up,
    And knows exactly where to go and what to do
    when I need to change clothes or
    Put on my walking shoes;
    She knows to jump up on my bed
    And crawl to the edge where I can pet her
    As opposed to lying near the pillows
    When she merely wants to sleep.

    Oh, she remembers it all for the next hour,
    Where I walk and where to turn and where I stop,
    Whether we take one route or another.
    She remembers how we cross the boulevard,
    Where she always stops beside my leg,
    And does not move till I say “Heel,”
    Though she has forgotten what it means to heel,
    And merely runs ahead.

    And she remembers where I am
    As we walk each morn and eve,
    Follows me or runs ahead and
    Rummages through the bushes,
    But always with an eye on me
    To run up from behind
    Or when she runs ahead,
    To stop, turn around and catch my eye,
    And wait till I catch up.

    She remembers when I sit down along the way,
    To come back and lie down nearby,
    And jump up when my rest is done,
    To continue on our walk.

    She remembers how I like to sit each morn,
    Usually just before dawn,
    And smoke a cigarette, or two, or three,
    On the stone bench by the fountain
    In front of the Oratory,
    Where she lies down nearby,
    And together we watch the sun come up,
    And the joggers run by,
    And the cars drive by
    On their way to early work.

    She remembers to walk with me
    Along the sidewalk all the way to where,
    We turn to go between the houses
    Back to the alley toward our home,
    Where she is free to leave me
    And run through the neighborhood
    To check out everything,
    Stopping at the lady’s house
    Who gives her a morning treat,
    And visiting the Campbells for her
    Morning slice of American cheese,
    And to be back scratching at my door
    Within ten minutes or so.

    And she remembers to eat daintily, like a lady,
    Who gingerly takes the treat I offer,
    Then drops it,
    Just like ladies in olden times
    Would drop a handkerchief
    To allow a gentleman to pick it up for her;
    Just so, Hollow drops her treat and looks at me
    To pick it up and offer it again
    So that she can, oh so lightly, take it
    As though she is doing me a favor.

  • Ave Maria pit stop

    I arrived in Washington earlier this morning, but not before a short visit to Ave Maria last night, where I got to catch up with Ben Novak along with two students and a townie. I also got to see Hollow, and the great illustration of Ben and Hollow that his niece Alston drew. After sleeping a few hours, I hopped in the rental car and drove to Fort Myers for my 6:55am flight.

    I’ll be in Washington until Friday morning for Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network purposes, then will head to New York for Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture’s Vita Institute seminar. Keeping an eye on the snowstorm that approaches.

  • A few years ago I was in Ave Maria, Florida visiting Ben and Michael Novak.

    One afternoon, I was out walking Hollow, their incredibly wolf-like shepherd/husky. We were walking Annunciation Circle around Ave Maria Oratory, and as we neared the “Bean” coffee shop I met a young student named Peter. Peter knew Hollow immediately, because he knew Michael and Ben. Peter was sitting outside with his books studying; I think he was a freshman or sophomore at the time.

    I asked what he was reading, and he said in the most casual way something like: “Oh, well I’m working on translating this language of ‘the Word became flesh’ from the Latin. It’s super interesting, because the older language is far more literal.”

    “Right, I said. What does that even mean to people now: ‘Word became flesh?’”

    “The more literal understanding of scriptural language around this stuff is something closer to the idea of God ‘pitching his fire’ among men. In other words, a more literal act of God the divine joining the ‘camp’ of men, maybe like a traveling companion might join a camp for a night.”

    I’m butchering this somewhat, because Peter’s language was much clearer in that moment than my memory of it is now. But whatever precise point he was making, the essence of it has stuck with me ever since. When I heard him relate these thoughts, it was like a strike of lightning to me—this image of the Creator pitching a tent among men, firing the light of the campfires with the sort of power that doesn’t flicker or fade.

    It’s a much simpler way, and a more arresting one, I think, to understand the principle that “God became flesh” and that the logos and the Word became man. In joining our camp, divinity came to relate to us in a new way—not as the God upon the mountaintop or an abstracted and necessarily distant power, but ultimately as a brother and a son and a person. In this, there are a whole world of implications for how we related to one another.

    I’ll be thinking about this for the rest of my life.

  • We seem determined to let no part of nature remain truly natural—for no part of the environment to remain truly untouched by our hands. Even our natural spaces are increasingly tamed and managed and planned, which means they’re not really natural spaces any longer.

    So I thank God that we still have the experience of rain showers to provide a sense of the natural and timeless and lovely amidst our landscapes.