Carpe Kairos

I just read an entry on the Huffington Post by Glennon Melton (please read this link before posting attacks about the author, because I will, unusually, delete comments on this post), who blogs on her own site, Momastery.

I love her use of theological language to talk about the experience of parenting, and I also think it’s relevant to my experiences of liturgy. Last semester in one of my classes we discussed the fact that liturgical discipline includes worshiping when we’re not worshipful, in hope that (to use Glennon’s words) kairos will explode out of our ordinary experience of chronos. When it does, whether in the grocery store or the sanctuary, grace is there.

I also like her reminder that contributing to the (often significant, but invisible, and thus not known to you as an observer) guilt of mothers and of churchgoers does not deepen their relationship with their children or with God. Let us be gentle towards one another.

Do you parent, or do you attend church, seeking kairos? What do you do when you show up, but (to your knowledge) it doesn’t?


  1. Craig is a software salesman. It’s a hard job in this economy. And he comes home each day and talks a little bit about how hard it is. And I don’t ever feel the need to suggest that he’s not doing it right, or that he’s negative for noticing that it’s hard, or that maybe he shouldn’t even consider taking on more responsibility. And I doubt anybody comes by his office to make sure he’s ENJOYING HIMSELF. I doubt his boss peeks in his office and says: “This career stuff…it goes by so fast…ARE YOU ENJOYING EVERY MOMENT IN THERE, CRAIG???? CARPE DIEM, CRAIG!”

    Of course, up until recently when social scientists began to have people keep time diaries, we did not even count housekeeping and parenting as a significant part of life. Even today some don’t think of them as part of the real economy. Of course for some scientists even leisure is part of the economy, since leisure creates jobs for other people.

  2. The person who would attack this lady for admitting what every parent knows [i.e. that most days you’ll have at LEAST one moment of wanting to throttle your offspring, and likely more] is almost certainly not a parent. And if that person IS a parent, what a pity.

    1. Lynn
      I suspect that you overstate it: we can be very cross with children and sometimes regret the constraints that are imposed on us by putting their interests before our own. But threatening their lives, which I am sure you do not mean even in jest, risks cheapening our respect for life.

      1. Peter,

        I’m guilty of a degree of rhetorical hyperbole, yes. But sometimes it’s more hyperbolic than other times.


  3. I find the tone of Ms Hope Belcher’s post where she threatens to delete comments rude and schoolmarmish and inappropriate for this blog. Carpe kairon would be better Greek.

    1. Perhaps you could read it again with more charity. I asked people to read a bio and remind themselves that the poster was a human being who might read remarks about her before posting anything attacking her.

      This comment is a good example of the kind I was concerned about. I’m glad to find it directed at me instead of at her.

  4. I was just about to post a comment asking how long it would be before someone brought up the accusative “kairon” thing. It raises an interesting question – is “kairos” only a Greek word which should be declined, or is it also an indeclinable English noun by now? I suspect it’s the latter.

    As for threats to delete comments – I support Kim on this one. I speak as one who has had to spend (I’m not saying “waste”) many hours reading and deleting inappropriate comments, and as one who just posted an excellent article by Max Johnson – with comments closed at his request.


    1. It’s not the deleting of comments I object to. (We know that that’s a poster’s prerogative here.) It’s the sequence of the steps which lead to that decision. Everyone knows if you articulate a negative expectation of others (especially as an opening salvo), they will inevitably live up to it, not to mention the regrettable tone such an action sets.

    2. German syntax frequently declines certain Latin nouns so that their Latin form is of the same case as that which they would have in German. Das Blut [Jesu] Christi is a case (no pun intended) in point.

  5. “Carpe kairon” would not actually be better Greek, since Carpe is Latin! Should Latin govern Greek?
    I like the idea of Kairos can explode out of our ordinary experience of Chronos. When preparing a homily, one of the challenges I try to answer is how to embed some “time-bomb” (in a blessed sense) into the content so that, some time during the week, perhaps even one person (which could be me) will realise that an experience can become, assisted by a remark in the homily or an element in the Liturgy, a realisation of Kairos or of Shekinah. (Am I permitted Hebrew as well?)

    1. I don’t mean to divert this excellent post into the grammatical side issue – but I can’t resist!

      Oh, I think Latin would govern Greek, because that’s how it works with ‘macaronic’ texts with such languages. I recall being told for my dissertation that when I included German terms with the English article “a/the,” I should assume that the English article has the force of a German article, and thus use German weak endings for what follows. “The Deutsche Hochamt,” not “The Deutsches Hochamt.” I’d be fascinated to hear other thoughts on this.

      A bit of back-explanation on German: you say either “Das Deutsche Hochamt,” or, when there is no article (“das”) indicating gender, the strong form of the adjective to indicate the gender (neuter in this case): “Deutsches Hochamt.” The argument was that English “the” has the grammatical force of “das.”


      1. I do not understand why anyone would flame this article. It is a honest and unvarnished self-assessment of parenthood. In fact, parents should write more about how parenthood has changed their understanding of belief, faith, and liturgical participation. It is important to remember that wrestling with God, like Jacob, is not a matter of shame. The article you have shared Kim captures this “wrestling” well.

        re: Anthony Ruff, OSB on January 18, 2012 – 3:07 pm

        I speak German with a colleague of mine for practice. I avoid the weak endings as much as I can. I also never use the simple past tense (preterite). Every past verb is in the compound form. Perhaps I would be more at home in Vienna or Munich rather than Berlin 😉

        In Latin or Greek, I have been taught to use the nominative singular when referring to a concept. However, if I am analyzing text, excerpts will be presented without change. Often it is best to give a preliminary definition of the terms in their “dictionary form”, present and translate the excerpt, and then discuss the relationship between the translation and the nominative singular terms.

        As for the plurals of some Latin and Greek neuter loanwords — anathema, -ium Latin words, I have read that the English -s is acceptable.

  6. I find it hard to have patience for people who watch the clock during liturgy. I have a few family members, who while showing up every time the church bell rings, gripe and complain if Mass crosses that magical 60-minute mark. “Fr. Hurryup gets you out in 35 minutes, why can’t Fr. Talkstoomuch do that?

    I’ve been telling people for years–if you are in the habit of leaving Mass before the end of the closing hymn, you have to make up every one of those verses in Purgatory. If you skip 2 verses 52 times a year for 70 years, that’s 7,280 verses you’ll have to make up!

  7. Do you parent, or do you attend church, seeking kairos? What do you do when you show up, but (to your knowledge) it doesn’t?

    You’re right that kairos is there whether we realize/recognize it or not, but kairos has a way of catching up to you (or, at least, to me). Sometimes the kairos appears out of the blue later in a quiet (or noisy) moment of chronos.

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