In 1969 The Doors released an album titled, “The Soft Parade.” Critics do not list it among one of their better albums but, for better or for worse, it was part of the soundtrack for my later years at Penn State and beyond. It is the only Doors album in my collection (I preferred The Moody Blues). It was a concept album in which the title track was placed last rather than the first on the disc. That title track, The Soft Parade, began with Jim Morrison proclaiming “when I was back there in seminary school there was a person who put forth the proposition that you can petition the Lord with prayer.”
He repeated, “petition the Lord with prayer" twice more with increasing sarcasm in his voice. And then screamed
By then the drugs had completely addled his brain. He would be dead less than two years later, most likely of a heroin overdose. He was wrong.
You can petition the Lord with prayer.
You should petition the Lord with prayer.
You must petition the Lord with prayer.
The gospel illustrates how to petition the Lord with prayer. One word comes to mind. Importune. To importune means: to demand with urgency or persistence; to annoy, to beset with solicitations; to be troublesomely persistent. A three year-old’s entire job is to importune. And three year-olds importune very well indeed.
Only the first of the definitions for importune fits when one is considering prayer: to demand with urgency and persistence. One can never annoy or trouble God with prayer. What one would think is too much is barely enough. The entire psalter, from Psalm 1 to Psalm 150, is a long, continuous, importuning prayer. It is a model for how we are to pray.
The widow in the Gospel would not give up. No matter what the unjust judge did she returned importuning until he gave her a just judgment. The judge’s motivations for giving that judgment were less than pure; fear of being struck rather than a desire for justice, motivated his ruling. Today in Massachusetts the fear would be not being reelected to his or her sinecure. The judge's actions recall T.S. Eliot’s observation, “The final temptation is the greatest treason, to do the right thing for the wrong reason.” But God can never be unjust. Jesus asks the rhetorical question: “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?” In the context of this Gospel passage we know the answer.
Given that the roots of this homily played out in Geary Hall (Chris' and my room) and Tenner Hall (Paul and Al's room) at Penn State, (Paul brought the album to Penn State at the start of sophomore year) it seems appropriate to include a few shots from the side-trip to Penn State after retreat. I didn't take as many shots as I thought I would. The skies were very gray and I was tired. However, I did stop a few times along Rt. 45 on the way down. Rt. 45 is my favorite road. Were I to know I had to give up my driver's license I would hope I could take one more drive from Plymouth to Penn State and back along 45. Then I would be ready.
Rt 45 is two lanes all the way from just outside of Danville to Boalsburg. It then breaks at 322 and, after a bit of a dog leg continues west toward Pittsburgh. I've never traveled that part of it. One of my favorite places is driving through Mifflinburg and Hartleton. Hartleton is the location of one of the most infamous speed traps in PA. It is a real hazard driving to football games. The limit drops from 55 to 35. As soon as I see the sign for Hartleton I slow down. Yes, I got a speeding ticket driving through there many years ago. Beginning with Mifflinburg and extending west until the state game lands, there are many Amish farms lining the roadways. And many buggies.
Whenever possible I pull off at Hairy John State Park, a bit further down 45. If I ever get another speeding ticket on 45 it will be on the mountainous state game roads. There is a picnic area in Hairy John that is very popular with people heading to the game early. The first photo is a road that gradually goes up the side of the mountain. The other is a detail of a picnic table in the pavilion. That photo is an interesting survey of texture in natural objects.
I took the first shot of Old Main from the top of the Pugh Street parking garage. Wonder why I never thought of going up there before? Will do so again on my next trip. The second photo is from ground level.
The Rathskellar, universally known as "the Skellar," is on the corner of Pugh St. and College Ave. I haven't been in there in decades but was a regular once I hit 21. It is below ground. If there was ever a fire it would be a catastrophe. But, the beer is cold and plentiful. A custom during my time there was that upon turning 21 a student would go to the Skellar to order "a box of rocks" i.e. a case of pony bottles of Rolling Rock beer from nearby Latrobe. The idea was to drink it all. I did some foolish things at Penn State involving alcohol but nothing quite that foolish. And, I turned 21 during break. By the time we returned the glow was off the event of turning 21. But it was a rush being able to go there in the first place. Finally. Watched most away football games there.
Walked through Whitmore Lab. The second door on the right (open) is where I had organic chemistry lab fall term sophomore year. The aroma in the building hasn't changed. There are rumors that it is going to be torn down. That would be a pity. The second photo is an architectural detail, the kind of which will never been seen again on a campus anywhere.
In the homily I quoted Eliot. Thus the photo of the outdoor pool near the Natatorium. During my last year at PSU my niece Kate came up for a football game with her parents. It was Penn State-Pitt, last game of the season. It was cold. As we walked back to my apartment downtown we passed the pool which, at the time, was brand new. A guy was standing on the top platform ready to jump into the water. I suspect that first, he was drunk and second, he really didn't want to go through with it but the crowd that had gathered was getting impatient. So he jumped and received great applause. My 12 year-old niece was beyond impressed. She decided then and there that she wanted to attend Penn State. And she graduated with her degree in microbiology eleven years later in 1982.
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD