Dorothy Cummings McLean

Dorothy Cummings McLean

Dorothy Cummings McLean is a Canadian writer living abroad and the author of two books, Ceremony of Innocence and Seraphic Singles.

Dorothy has an MA in English literature from the University of Toronto, an M.Div./STB from Regis College and spent two years in doctoral studies in theology at Boston College.

Because I write about issues that concern Catholic singles, I have received well over a hundred e-mails asking for advice. I find these requests very moving. It is inspiring to read how determined my readers are to be faithful to the will of God for their lives, even though they are unsure of what that might be. It is humbling that they turn to me for help.

Many of my single readers, particularly those over 30, are wistful about their place in the Church. They note the emphasis on “youth,” as in World Youth Day, on vocations to the priesthood, on marriage preparation and on families. They feel left out. It would be nice if priests would preach at least once a year on the single life. The majority of Catholic priests have personal insights into the single life that might prove helpful and inspiring to long-term single people. Simply acknowledging the existence of single, childless people over 30 would make them feel less invisible in the pews.

{mosimage}I dropped into The Register for a chat and came away with two DVDs to review. They looked depressing, so they sat on a corner of my desk collecting dust and crumbs until I forced myself into a wild bout of documentary watching. Both of them were much more enjoyable than I thought, although one was indeed very sad.

July 28, 2008

A political messiah

{mosimage}American Saviour: A Novel of Divine Politics by Roland Merullo (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, hardcover, 320 pages, $27.95).

In American Saviour Jesus Christ appears to a TV news reporter and announces His intention to run for president of the United States. Jesus has been reborn of a woman, a Navajo this time, and studied in India, Tibet and Nepal. He is cool with premarital sex, down on those who condemn it and spends quite a lot of his campaign in California, which he calls “the area of enlightenment.” He talks of “karmic weight” and other New Age concepts. He is not here to save all humanity but to save the United States of America. At one point He refers to the Jews as “my people then.” Apparently Americans are the chosen people now.

{mosimage}In Boston, I was so homesick a psychotherapist recommended drugs. Instead I sang a patriotic song to myself. Well — I exaggerate. I didn’t know any patriotic Canadian songs, so I sang Gilles Vigneault’s “Mon Pays” instead. Under all that romantic stuff about snow, it is about a nation without borders, which basically describes my Toronto neighbourhood where the Persian signs are outnumbered only by the Korean signs. 

Once upon a time, all Canadians knew the song “The Maple Leaf Forever.” I’ve often wondered why I was never taught this song in school. 

{mosimage}Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness by Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier (InterVarsity Press, softcover, 115 pages, $10.20).

I opened Living Gently in a Violent World in a St. Hubert’s restaurant in downtown Montreal. I was steaming mad. A snowstorm was howling, my fiancé’s Scottish debit card had ceased to work in Canadian bank machines and I had had an argument with the francophone ticket seller in the bus station. I suspected that the woman was giving me a hard time because I was an anglophone, and I said so. We missed the bus.

We agreed I would sit in a restaurant to calm down while Mark found a bank that could help him. When I restlessly flipped open the book of essays by Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier, my eye fell on the following passage:

{mosimage}I was at a dinner party in Edinburgh. Icons glowed from the walls.

“A rare edition of Stephen Leacock arrived today,” said my English host. “Have you read Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town?”

I thought back over my education in literature Canadian and foreign.

“I don’t think I have,” I admitted. “When was it published?”

“Nineteen-twelve,” said my host. 

{mosimage}Before she added “McLean” to her byline, Catholic Register columnist Dorothy Cummings wrote a book called Seraphic Singles: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Single Life, published by Novalis. It was accepted for publication a week after her wedding. Seraphic Singles was compiled from blog posts Cummings wrote during her last year at Boston College. Seraphic Singles will have its official launch on March 25 in Toronto (7-10 p.m. at the Duke of York Pub at 39 Prince Arthur Ave.) It is available at www.novalis.ca . The Catholic Register has reproduced two excerpts.

A 40-something woman once asked me how you can stay seraphic when you are an older single and when it seems that marriage mightn’t happen. I pondered this question while travelling; while my train roared and screamed across the countryside, I came up with a list.

I have just arrived in Toronto from the University of Notre Dame where I gave a  talk on the single life. My invitation came about in an amusing way: on my blog for single Catholics, I asked jokingly who wanted to invite me to Notre Dame; before nightfall I received an e-mail from the Edith Stein Project committee inviting me to Notre Dame. Ask and ye shall receive.

The Edith Stein Project sprang up in the controversy surrounding the performance at Notre Dame of Eve Ensler’s undignified little raunch-fest known locally as “Those Monologues.” In 2004, a group of undergraduate women felt that it was time to discuss women’s inherent dignity in the light of Mulieris Dignitatem, and began to plan a conference. The women chose for their patron the great philosopher-saint Edith Stein, whose thought on “the Woman Question” influenced John Paul II and current Catholic discourse on femininity.
All my life I have pondered Catholic identity. Instead of going to the nearest school, I went to the Catholic school. Instead of going to a church my Protestant grandmother might have liked, my family went to a Catholic church.

I made my debut at Mass when I was five days old, and I was baptized after Mass when I was three months old. The first time I deliberately missed Mass—which, incidentally, is a serious sin—was when I was 17, because I couldn’t bear to face the little monsters whom I catechized afterwards at Sunday school. St. Francis Xavier may have looked down from heaven and sighed at what a wimp I was. Eventually I crept off to Confession.

What struck me most about being Catholic, when I was a child, is how we were told one thing in religion class and experienced another. We were told that we were all supposed to be going to Mass on Sunday, but I very rarely saw my classmates at Mass. I assumed that they were going to another parish church, and in some cases they were. It was a while before I realized that many of them weren’t, and definitely not every Sunday. Their parents had enrolled them in Catholic school, but they couldn’t be bothered to take them to Mass. I found this very odd.
All my life I have pondered Catholic identity. Instead of going to the nearest school, I went to the Catholic school. Instead of going to a church my Protestant grandmother might have liked, my family went to a Catholic church.

I made my debut at Mass when I was five days old, and I was baptized after Mass when I was three months old. The first time I deliberately missed Mass—which, incidentally, is a serious sin—was when I was 17, because I couldn’t bear to face the little monsters whom I catechized afterwards at Sunday school. St. Francis Xavier may have looked down from heaven and sighed at what a wimp I was. Eventually I crept off to Confession.

What struck me most about being Catholic, when I was a child, is how we were told one thing in religion class and experienced another. We were told that we were all supposed to be going to Mass on Sunday, but I very rarely saw my classmates at Mass. I assumed that they were going to another parish church, and in some cases they were. It was a while before I realized that many of them weren’t, and definitely not every Sunday. Their parents had enrolled them in Catholic school, but they couldn’t be bothered to take them to Mass. I found this very odd.