The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

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The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

A nerd geneticist went looking for a wife using the latest scientific advances. Yes, the story involved DNA analysis. The Rosie Project skulked through the dark recesses of the human mind where behavioral genetics loomed even more fantastic than sci-fi. The protagonist, Donald Tillman, PhD reminded me of Spock and Data from Star Trek, and Christopher Lloyd’s portrayal of Doc Brown in Back to the Future, but with less empathy. Don projected innocence with his strict adherence to data based, rationalistic ethics and morals, his health and environmental consciousness, and his constant avoidance of behavioral “objectification” of other humans, especially persons of the opposite gender. Unfortunately, many of Don’s close associates lacked his moral compass, leading Don into conflicts.

Don came into sharp focus when he delivered a seminar on the genetics of Asperger’s Syndrome to a group of parents in the company of their Asperger’s Syndrome children. The facilitator complained that Don’s presentation was too technical, meanwhile the children understood and probed with sophisticated questions. The facilitator described Asperger’s Syndrome as a “fault,” prompting Don to respond (in the voice of Christopher Lloyd), “Fault! Asperger’s isn’t a fault. It’s a variant. It’s potentially a major advantage.” The seminar ended with the children standing on the chairs and tables with raised fists, shouting “Aspies rule!” Don became their hero. The parents were less enthralled.

Admit it! Deep down inside, you know you’re not normal. Really, no one wants the “average” label. Don was neither normal, nor average nor conventional.  He and we all have something that makes us different from the norm and therefore uniquely valuable. Thank God!

The bulk of the novel described Don’s hunt for a suitable life partner, using the best scientific tools available. This may sound far fetched, but several recent statistical analyses have described successful approaches to maximizing the predictive value of on-line matchmaking services. Don’s adventure flew him the equivalent of twice around the world and he literally climbed a wall in quest of his “impossible dream.”

The author, Graeme Simsion earned tremendous credit for his faithful description of the university environment and the complicated skill sets the author had first to master to a degree where he could convince his readers of Don’ performance levels. Simsion bids us to reflect on ourselves and our idea of “normalcy and convention,” inviting us to appreciate the vast diversity within ourselves and other Homo sapiens. In the Rosie Project, he reminded his readers that they each have something special to offer and that they can work with their uniqueness, including their quirks to contribute to society, while maintaining their identity. Simsion extolled the value of good friends to whom Don was both a blessing and a burden. In particular, Simsion raised awareness of Asperger’s Syndrome: especially that this form of autism, although a variation from the norm, is neither a disease nor a defect. Actually it has tremendous benefit to society if it is understood and maximized.

A brief scene from the novel was set in the subway station depicted above.

Simsion, Graeme. The Rosie Project. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2013.

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A private or community meditation for use during Lent.

Stations of the Cross

Leader:                                     Let Us Pray

Response:         Lord, you accepted this journey for our benefit and in our place. Help us to recognize the depth of your love for us so that we may set that love as the framework for our entire lives. Many see your journey as the ultimate foolishness. Help us to become fools in your image by recognizing the world, and our lives, through your eyes. Guide us; strengthen us to love the people of that world, as does your Sacred Heart.

Response: Amen.

Leader: First Station – Jesus is condemned.

Leader: Jesus, you stood in our place before the judgment seat.

Response: We thank you Lord.

Lector A:          Pontius Pilate, procurator and judge faced the crowds milling beyond the limit of the Praetorium.  His wife warned him she had suffered much in a dream because of this Jesus. Scourging Jesus did not satisfy the crowd and now they wanted Jesus dead. They seemed on the brink of riot. Pilate feared an embarrassing report would reach the Emperor. The crowds chanted their loyalty to Rome-We have no king but Caesar. This Jesus seemed harmless enough, but if Pilate lost favor with the Emperor, his career path would detour toward disaster. What was more important, the career of Pontius Pilate or the life of Jesus?

What is more important to us, our careers, worries, distractions, life-long habits, or the life of Jesus in us? Consider your thoughts on this question. (Pause a minute for reflection.)

Leader: Sacred Heart of Jesus,

Response: Have mercy on us.

Leader: Second Station – Jesus is made to carry the cross.

Leader: Jesus, you took upon yourself the painful burden that rightly belongs to us.

Response: We thank you Lord.

Lector B:          Jesus, you told us, “Take up your cross and follow me.” The Father tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac. The boy carried on his shoulders the wood destined to feed the sacrificial fire that would consume him. You stopped Abraham and praised him for his willingness to lovingly obey you even to the point of sacrificing his son.

God our Father, you went beyond the love and fidelity of Abraham. You did not withhold your son Jesus as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. The wood of the cross consumed Jesus in the sacrifice of crucifixion. We must ask ourselves, “Has the sacrifice of Jesus convinced us of God’s intense love for us?” When we feel the weight of our own cross do we doubt God’s love for us? Reflect on several ways that we can strengthen our faith in God’s love for us. (Pause a minute for reflection.)

Leader: Our Father…

Response: Give us this day….

Leader: Third Station – Jesus falls for the first time.

Leader: Jesus, you fell to the street under the burden that rightly belongs to us.

Response: We thank you Lord.

Lector C:          Jesus, as the foot of the cross dragged behind you through Jerusalem’s rough and the twisted cobblestone streets, it vibrated, hammering its rough mass upon your shoulders, neck, and back. Cuts and bruises already covered your skin, from your beating. The cross pushes against these wounds and the crown of thorns. Its splinters slid into your body. Suddenly, the shoving and whipping by the guards cause you to lose your balance. You fall on the stone paved street. The cross crashes onto your back and head. How can you regain your balance? The soldiers pull on the ropes around your waist and neck, roughly lifting you to your feet. No one shows mercy. Those who delighted in your sufferings added to them by mocking you, spitting on you and cursing you.

Jesus loves even those who torment him. Pause to consider how can we follow Jesus’ example of loving us, by our loving those who hurt us? (Pause a minute for reflection.)

Leader: Lord, have mercy

Response: Lord, have mercy

Leader: Christ, have mercy

Response: Christ, have mercy

Leader: Lord, have mercy

Response: Lord, have mercy

Leader: Fourth Station – Jesus meets Mary, his Mother.

Leader: Jesus, even in your pain you share your Mother Mary with us.

Response: We thank you Lord.

Lector A:          Mary, our Blessed Mother kept her faith through trials, contradictions and now this dreadful sight. She shares the agony of the Son she knows to be the Messiah. Her faith tempers her profound sorrow. The Holy Spirit dwells in Mary, maintaining hope despite the tragedy about her. Even in this terrible moment and those moments soon to follow, Mary knows that the covenant with God’s people is about to be sealed with the Blood of the Lamb of God. This will be the Passover that joins the Old and New Covenants.

What it would take for us to remain joyful when our hearts are pierced and broken? (Pause a minute for reflection.)

Leader: Hail Mary, full of grace…

Response: Holy Mary, mother of God….

Leader: Fifth Station – Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross.

Leader: Dear Jesus, Simon shows us the way to share with you that burden that rightly belongs to us.

Response: We thank you Lord.

Lector B:          By this time, Jesus looked as if he was no longer capable of carrying his cross to his place of execution. Roman law allowed the soldiers to command a by-stander, in this case Simon from Cyrene in North Africa, to carry the cross in place of Jesus. Simon found the cross to be heavy and rough. His shoulders, arms and hands filled with splinters, but something happened between Jesus and Simon on the rest of the climb to Calvary. Mark’s Gospel tells us that Simon’s sons were known within the early Christian community. How did Simon and Jesus form a lasting bond so quickly?

When circumstances force you to help a stranger, do you act as if you are helping Jesus?  (Pause a minute for reflection.)

Leader: Glory be to the Father…

Response: As it was in the beginning….

Leader: Sixth Station – Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

Leader: Jesus, Veronica shows us the way to share with you that burden that rightly belongs to us.

Response: We thank you Lord.

Lector C:          Who was Veronica? The name Veronica means, “True Image” or “True Icon.” This woman’s compassion for the distressed Jesus left her with an imprint on her veil and upon her heart. It was a simple act, but under the circumstances it was an act that required courage, sacrifice and personal risk. Where were the apostles and disciples of Jesus at this time? Why, of all the people along the path to Golgotha did Veronica reach out in this way? What did it cost her? What did she gain? Did the image of Jesus on her veil then imprint within the soul of Veronica? Is this image truly reflected in your soul? When we see someone in distress, do we reach out as if that person was Jesus? (Pause a minute for reflection.)

Leader: Lord, have mercy

Response: Lord, have mercy

Leader: Christ, have mercy

Response: Christ, have mercy

Leader: Lord, have mercy

Response: Lord, have mercy

Leader: Seventh Station – Jesus falls the second time.

Leader: Jesus, you have fallen again despite the help along the way, but as you fall, you raise us up.

Response: We thank you Lord.

Lector A:          Jesus, even without the cross on his back, fell again. Although the morning was still young, because of the Passover, the executioners felt pressure to complete the crucifixion process before sundown. The Roman soldiers pulled and beat Jesus. Simon the Cyrenian likely set down the cross to lift Jesus to his feet. Sadness filled Simon’s eyes. Jesus reached out to touch Simon’s shoulder and healed his heart. Simon nodded and said, “Thank you.” Simon then picked up the heavy cross and began to walk ahead.

Jesus, even though you are the son of God, you can’t do it all. You need our help, as weak as we are. Even though we are far from perfect and have made so many mistakes, Lord we want to help you complete your mission.

Consider how we can stand in for Jesus among those we know and meet? (Pause a minute for reflection.)

Leader: Lord, have mercy

Response: Lord, have mercy

Leader: Christ, have mercy

Response: Christ, have mercy

Leader: Lord, have mercy

Response: Lord, have mercy

Leader: Eighth Station – Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.

Leader: Jesus, you warn the daughters of Jerusalem, and warn us at the same time.

Response: We thank you Lord.

Lector B:          Women in the crowd followed Jesus and the other condemned men. They wept at the tragedy unfolding before them. Jesus in turn took pity on these women warning them that in their old age, they, their children and grandchildren in Jerusalem would fall to the Romans in a slaughter of unimaginable proportions.  Jesus would have gathered Jerusalem to himself, like a hen takes her chicks under her wings. It all could have come to a different conclusion had Jerusalem opened to the message of Jesus. How have we failed to recognize God’s plan for us?

What does God want us to do and how should we respond? (Pause a minute for reflection.)

Leader: Lord, have mercy

Response: Lord, have mercy

Leader: Christ, have mercy

Response: Christ, have mercy

Leader: Lord, have mercy

Response: Lord, have mercy

Leader: Ninth Station – Jesus falls the third time.

Leader: Jesus, you are exhausted. Let us come to your aid. In your exhaustion you give us strength.

Response: We thank you Lord.

Lector C:          The deterioration of Jesus concerns the Centurion. He has also noted the interactions of Jesus with Mary, Veronica, the group of crying women and especially Simon. Nevertheless, his soldiers have to bring Jesus to the top of Calvary just a hundred yards ahead. Rather than pulling Jesus by the rope around his waist and neck, the Centurion helps him to his feet. They make eye contact. The Centurion begins to wonder about this man. He is so different from the hundreds he has crucified-What is so unusual about this one?

What do we find most remarkable in the suffering Jesus? (Pause a minute for reflection.)

Leader: O Sacred Heart of Jesus,

Response: Have mercy on us.

Leader: Tenth Station – Jesus is stripped before his execution.

Leader: Jesus, you lost everything though crucifixion so that we could have everything.

Response: We thank you Lord.

Lector A:          Crucifixion was developed to completely degrade a human with pain and humiliation. The three prisoners were stripped and each was thrown down on his cross. Their executioners divided and even cast lots for whatever possessions remained. The condemned, in their nakedness were exposed to public humiliation, vulnerable to the biting insects and defenseless against the intense sunlight. Privacy, dignity and their last possessions vanished. They had nothing and in the eyes of their executioners, they were nothing. Jesus gave up every worldly possession, every comfort and freedom for us.

Do we have a limit to our generosity toward Jesus? (Pause a minute for reflection.)

Leader: O Sacred Heart of Jesus,

Response: Have mercy on us.

Leader: Eleventh Station – Jesus is nailed to the Cross.

Leader: Jesus, as you became helpless on the cross; you opened your arms to us.

Response: We thank you Lord.

Lector B:          By this time the two men condemned to be crucified with Jesus made their last desperate struggle to break free. The soldiers were ready for them, kneeling on their arms and legs as the nails were driven through their hands and feet. Then the soldiers could relax as they watched their victims writhe in pain. They all knew that the worst was yet to come. Jesus did not resist. He certainly reacted to the painful stabbing of his hands and feet, but he didn’t curse or plead. Instead he prayed a psalm beginning with the words: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” The Centurion and his troops looked at each other. Their eyes asked, “Who is this man? Why is he so different? Does he seem like a criminal to you?”

Who is Jesus to us? What makes him so different from us? Is it God who abandoned Jesus, or did we? (Pause a minute for reflection.)

Leader: Twelfth Station – Jesus dies on the cross.

Leader: Jesus, you died for us so that we may live.

Response: We thank you Lord.

Lector C:          One by one the feet of the three crosses were dropped into their prepared sockets in the hill top and wedged in place. The body of Jesus and the other two dropped so that the nails tugged against their hands and feet. Over the next hours, their flesh pulled against the nails enlarging the wounds. Their muscles cramped. Breathing, actually any movement increased their pain. The three knew they would hang for hours. Their blood loss increased their thirst. The executioners offered vinegar flavored with gall so that the condemned experienced every possible misery.  In his bitterness, one of the condemned heaped insults on Jesus. The Centurion noticed that Jesus offered comfort to Dismas, the other condemned man. Jesus continued to pray the psalms until, after many hours, he breathed his last. Sadness and wonder struck the Centurion. He could not help but remark, “Truly, this Jesus was a good man.”

What are your thoughts when you look at the image of Jesus suspended on the large crucifix above the altar? (Pause a minute for reflection.)

Leader: O Sacred Heart of Jesus,

Response: Have mercy on us.

Leader: Thirteenth Station – Jesus is taken down from the cross.

Leader: Jesus, before you died you had given us your mother Mary as our Blessed Mother. Now, your mission completed, you came to rest in her arms.

Response: We thank you Lord.

Lector A:          Mary had followed the deadly procession through Jerusalem.  She had come close enough to walk beside Jesus and exchange glances and a few words. On Golgotha she moved ever closer to her dying son. Mother and Son suffered each other’s pain. And now, in the short time before sundown, she held the lifeless body of her Son. She was not surprised by what had happened, but still she could have never been prepared for this reality. During her life, her Immaculate Heart had been pierced by seven swords. The pain was unbearable, but her faith, hope and love undiminished. She knew that in spite of everything, Jesus would reign as Messiah and King. She was wise in the ways of the Lord. She had experienced God’s quiet power before. She knew it would act again.

When everything seems lost, do we still have faith in God? Do we call upon Mary to help us understand? (Pause a minute for reflection.)

Leader: O Sacred Heart of Jesus,

Response: Have mercy on us.

Leader: Immaculate Heart of Mary,

Response: Pray for us.

Leader: Fourteenth Station – Jesus is buried in the tomb.

Leader: Jesus has given his life for us and seems to have lost everything so that we may live.

Response: We thank you Lord.

Lector B:          The religious law was clear. Jesus had to be in the grave before sunset. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had worked behind the scenes to prepare Joseph’s own tomb for Jesus. The need to quickly bury Jesus added to the anxiety of separation. Soon his body was wrapped, but not properly covered with spices according to the customs. The stone was set in place at the entrance of the tomb and those very few, the several women and John the apostle who had followed Jesus through his sufferings on this day and had seen him die, now stood weeping in the fading daylight. They were ushered out of the cemetery as the sun slowly set. Painfully, they made their way toward the upper room where they would wait until the completion of Passover. Only then could they properly prepare their Lord for burial.

 

How do you keep your faith when Jesus seems to have completely vanished from your life? (Pause a minute for reflection.)

Leader: Glory be to the Father…

Response: As it was in the beginning….

Leader:                                     Let Us Pray

Response:         Lord, on your journey to the cross and the grave you continued to touch everyone around you, deeply affecting Simon the Cyrenian, the women you met, Dismas the thief and even your chief executioner, the Centurion. You gave us your blessed Mother as a comfort in our desolation. You forgave those who deserted, betrayed, condemned and executed you. You gave us hope through your mercy. You amazed us with your victory over death. Give us courage to set your example as the model for our behavior. Help us to live as your faithful disciples, sharing your love and compassion with friends and enemies alike so that all may come to see you as the Christ, our Messiah on this earth and our beloved brother throughout eternity.

Amen.

Second Edition Copyright © 2014 held by Saint Mary’s Church, 41 Harding Street, Fairhaven, MA 02719 USA. All rights reserved. Should you make copies for use in community prayer, please make a suitable donation to Saint Mary’s Church ($0.50/copy).

Thanks to Nancy Ward and Shirley France for their editorial contributions to the second edition.