Friday, May 29, 2015

The St. Francis of Birdies and Kittens, or the Real Thing?

Pooor St. Francis. He's either relegated to the barnyard, or dancing around in a field, praising the sun. But that's not who he really was. He was a man madly in love with Christ, and wanted others to know that love.

I wanted to draw your attention to two new books about St. Francis that look as if they are worthy of our time. (I haven't read 'em yet, so I'm not endorsing them!) However, they seem to take the saint seriously. We don't do God or his saints any justice by sentimentalizing them.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tuesday Afternoon Musings, Because: Lazy

Why is this baby smiling? She didn't have to clean the grout!
1. Really, sheer laziness.

2. We are getting some long-overdue work done on our house. Hurray! I decided to get a head start by recoloring some grout. I thought it would be a simple, one-day project for the holiday weekend. I don't know why I thought that....

3. Spent the rest of the weekend making bridal shower and wedding plans (all via social media!). A small wedding requires just as much planning as a big one. Don't let anyone tell you differently. I am not complaining; I think  having a wedding planner takes a lot of fun out of it!

4. Finally met both the "in-laws." We had met mom, but not dad (they are now living out-of-state.) I now know why my daughter has such a lovely young man as her espoused.

5. We were kidless this weekend. Dark-haired daughter went camping for most of the weekend. It was a little weird rambling around in the house by ourselves. But maybe we could get used to it....

6. Is it bad that we set our Sunday Mass attendance around soccer? Dear Husband's "team" was in the finals...

Monday, May 18, 2015

Monday Morning Musings

1. Given the Gospel this weekend, I was sort of hoping our pastor would whip out a rattlesnake and give us some Appalachian Gospel. He stuck to the homily routine though.

2. I am struggling with hope. I am trying to discern the differences and ties between theological hope - the virtue - and the hope of anticipating good here and now. I can't seem to bring myself to hope for anything good, because every time I do, I get slammed to the ground by a 2x4 to the head as I round a blind corner. This past week was an excellent example - huge problem with one of the kids that I thought was on the right track.

3. When you have a mentally ill adult child, you have to learn that he/she must manage their illness. You can't. You also have to put up with all the people who think you are being a bad parent by not stepping in and managing something that A) they don't understand and B) you can't do anything about anyway.

4. General thought: it must suck to be a meter reader in the city. You do your job and ruin someone's day.

5. I'm tired. Really tired. For someone with depression, this is not good. I'm trying to drag myself out of the cycle of doing just what I need to do to get by and then sleeping. No fun.

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Citizen of the Nation of Chaos

No, Chaos is not one of the cities in a dystopian youth novel. It is a very real place.

There are a lot of people who live in the nation of Chaos. For some, their citizenship is earned because of a loved one's addiction. They never know if they are going to get Nice Dad or Angry Dad, if Mom will be making dinner when they get home or passed out cold.

In Chaos, we pray our children are safe ... not doing something that could get them arrested. If they do get arrested, we feel a sense of relief, because we know that at least they are safe. And then we feel guilty for feeling that relief.

In Chaos, mental illness is a familiar address. Whether it's the creeping darkness of depression, the sleepless, exuberant nights of mania, or the sinister voices in the mind only one person hears, mental illness makes itself right at home in Chaos.

It's hard to make plans in Chaos. A family might get ready for a vacation, and then someone goes off the rails. A car accident - once - makes one forever leery of driving ... even though it's necessary. If the family does manage to get off on vacation, that one kid in the family will likely have a very public fit that makes everyone else in the family wish they had never left home.

Living in Chaos means that faith, hope and love are always quite tentative. You know they are there, but they always seem just out of reach. It's like those stupid claw games that kids feed quarters into, aiming to get a cheap stuffed animal. You are manipulating the claw closer and closer to faith or hope or love ... and then you drop it, or miss completely. And of course, you don't have any more quarters to feed the machine.

Being a citizen of Chaos means you have your own pledge of allegiance. You pledge allegiance to sticking it out, no matter what, but you know that the nation of Chaos offers no protection in return. There is no military standing at the ready to fight your battles - you are on your own. The nation is easily divisible, as it is often every man, woman and child for themselves. You learn not to count on people who are not fellow citizens too much, as they get very weary of dealing with you and your "issues."

On the other hand, when you find another fellow citizen of Chaos, you don't need to explain much. They know. They know the humiliation, the sadness, the lack of looking forward to anything because you know it probably will just get mucked up anyway. They are fellow citizens, and companions on the way.

Once you become a citizen of Chaos, you are always a citizen. You can move away, but you still belong to that place, and it is always a part of you. Everything about who you are and what you do is tainted by Chaos.

In Chaos, there is faith, but you have to carry it around in your very heavy bag. It gets crushed down to the bottom, underneath the water and tissues and medication and snack bars and car keys and phone numbers to every mental health professional in the country. But every once in awhile,  you clean out your bag, and you find it. And it gets you through.

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. - Philip. 4:6-7

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day Monday Musings

1. One of my dearest friends spent her Mother's Day making funeral arrangements for her daughter. Her daughter had battled many health issues since birth, but had made great strides in the past few years: living on her own, getting her degree, landing a job. After a recent surgery, an infection took hold and she just did not have the strength to fight it. Please keep them in your prayers this week.

2. I got a Happy Mother's Day from 3 of my 5 kids. Those are pretty decent odds, given our family.

3. Spent a lovely weekend with Dear Husband doing stuff we love to do: antique shopping, wine-tasting, playing cribbage. Yes, we are dull people, but we are OUR dull people.

4. Our pastor, when he gave the blessings for the mothers at the end of Mass yesterday, reminded women who had conceived and lost a child to miscarriage that they should stand as well. Life begins at conception, he reminded us, and all women who have conceived are mothers. A lovely reminder.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Eternal Rest, O Lord

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Grand Rapids police have identified a body found in the Grand River Tuesday evening.
The body of Terry Douglas Bailey was found around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday near the river's east bank under the Fulton Street bridge.
Bailey, 51, was released from the Kent County Jail on Friday after serving four days for possessing open intoxicants in a city park.
He listed his address as Mel Trotter Mission on Commerce Avenue SW, about a half-mile from where his body was recovered.
Bailey has more than a hundred arrests for misdemeanor charges dating back to 2008, including consuming alcohol in public, disorderly panhandling and trespassing. A cause of death remains undetermined, pending the results of an autopsy.

I don't know this man. I see a lot of men like him every day.

This was one of the saddest things I've read in a long time. I pass no judgement on this man, for I do not know his story. However, he died a sad and lonely death, in what appeared to be a sad and lonely life. No one should go "unprayed" for at their death.

Eternal rest, grant unto him, O Lord,
And let perpetual light shine upon him.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

News Flash: Catholic Church Hates Women!

At least, that's what New York Times writer Frank Bruni says. Oh, he loves Pope Francis, and was overjoyed to hear the pope call for "equal pay for equal work" (which, in the US, is mandated by federal law), but it really doesn't count if women don't get to be priests.

Pay isn’t the primary issue when the symbolism, rituals and vocabulary of an institution exalt men over women and when challenges to that imbalance are met with the insistence that what was must always be — that habit trumps enlightenment and good sense.
Let’s be clear. For all the remarkable service that the Catholic Church performs, it is one of the world’s dominant and most unshakable patriarchies, with tenets that don’t abet equality.

Uh. I'm not sure what to say to Bruni. Oh, wait: I do.

You are wrong.

And you are wrong on many levels.

First, this pope did not decide women can't be priests. In fact, no pope did. Jesus did. If you want to pick a fight with Him, go ahead, but keep in mind that he is the Son of God, the Almighty. But, whatever.

Bruni also claims that
Male clergy are typically called “father,” which connotes authority. Women in religious orders are usually called “sister,” which doesn’t.
Duh. First of all, calling someone "sister" is not an insult. (I hope Bruni has a sister himself to bonk him over the head.) And many women's religious orders elevate their members to "mother" - a woman who guides, prays for, walks with, instructs, nourishes. Yeah, what an insult.

Bruni charges that doors are closed to women in the Church. I don't know what church he's looking at, but it's not my church. I myself have taught children in the faith from kindergarten through high school. I've instructed people who wish to join the church through RCIA. I've helped parents prepare as they get ready to baptize their children. I've taught children and adults who wish to be confirmed. I've helped people with special needs gain better access to the sacraments and to parish life. I lead a congregation in worship as cantor. I am graciously allowed to read the Word of God aloud in Mass.

I am heir to St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Therese of Lisieux, and Hildegard of Bingen - all Doctors of the Church.

I have had the luxury and awesome blessing of receiving spiritual direction from the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, and I am so honored to call these women "Sister" and "Mother" for they truly are.

My role model is Mary, the humble and obedient servant of God, Mother of Christ Almightly, whose entire existence can be summed up in her Fiat: May it be done to be according to Your will.

Women in the Church can't catch a break, Mr. Bruni? You are running in the wrong circles. Come meet my Church - the women here are incredible!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Monday Morning Musings

Bangkok, Thailand
1. Highlight of the weekend? (Besides the fact that Michigan is finally warm....) Our pastor's homily. So much great stuff to ponder for the whole week. Isn't that what a homily is supposed to be?

2. I'm thinking weddings. Got a bunch of 'em this year, including my own daughter's. Much to celebrate, much to do!

3. I'm hoping to go to Thailand next year, to help out human trafficking survivors and do research for my next book. If you are of the mind to help, you can!

4. Mother's Day is this weekend! And I get to go away with my husband! We've been ships passing in the night lately, what with his work, coaching soccer and my schedule.

5. From Magnificat, Fr. John Tauler, OP: And now let us consider the true way, and the shortest way leading into the very focus of this heavenly light. Briefly, it is unfeigned self-denial joined to boundless love of God - one's own self in not a single particular and God's honor in all things. Very much worth pondering.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Man Down

I left work yesterday, taking my usual route from the office to the expressway. As I turned a corner, I saw a man lying in the street, with another man standing over him. The one in the street did not appear hurt. I think he was either drunk, tired or both and just decided he'd had enough. So there he was, lying in the street.

Well, that won't do, I thought. I pulled over, put my flashers on and was getting ready to call 911. The man who was standing was urging the man down to get up, and just as I started to punch in the numbers, a police officer happened by.

The man lying in the street, with no enthusiasm whatsoever, crawled to the sidewalk, out of the street.

There are a lot of ways to look at this scene. One would be: "Damn old drunk. Deserves to get hit by a car."

Another might be: "The city really needs to do something about the homeless population. We simply can't have this."

I prefer the whole Jesus thing. Not the "what would Jesus do" idea (although that has merit), but rather "that is Jesus in His most distressing disguise" as Mother Teresa famously described the people she worked with.

I hope that I always see Christ in the people I encounter, even if its a drunk, elderly homeless man lying in the street. I hope my first and only intention is to help, granting the other dignity. I know I'll fail at this - time and again - but it is my intention.

Man Down! Jesus needs you!

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me." (Mt. 10:40)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday Morning Musings

[I made it by 9 minutes.]

1. Spent a fabulous 5 days in and around Chicago. Had a work event that was beautiful and engaging. Got to share my monograph with some folks. It was terrific. Then, I had a couple of R&R days with a dear friend. We didn't do anything exciting, but we had the best time.

2. The theme of the weekend seemed to be "The Kindness of Strangers." When my friend and I were shopping, I wanted to see how a sweater looked on me, but there was no mirror to be found. A lady near us said, "No problem! I was a Girl Scout and we are resourceful!" She whipped out her camera, took a couple of pics of me, and showed them to me. The sweater looked great, it was on clearance, and I got it.

3. I took the Metra back from the 'burbs into Chicago Sunday, and I was dragging my ridiculously heavy suitcase. (How have I not learned how to pack light by this point in my life???) A young man graciously offered to get it off the train for me, keeping me from either simply tossing the damn thing down the stairs and likely taking out another passenger or breaking my back trying to lug the thing down.

4. I bought some lunch at Union Station. (Like most other large transportation hubs, there are a lot of beggars and panhandlers about.) A women came up to me with a few dollars in her hand, and said she was trying to get enough to feed her kids. Now, I very rarely give anyone money. But something about her seemed very genuine. I said, "Would you like to share my sandwich?" and she gratefully accepted it. She really was hungry.

5. The Catholic church near my friend's house is one I have attended a handful of times. This time, I went to the Saturday evening Mass. That affirmed for me what I had experienced there before: everyone in attendance, including the priest, seemed to want to get this thing over as quickly as possible. I would say a good 1/3 of the congregation left immediately after Communion. There was not one bit of reverence that I could see anywhere around me. It made me very thankful for my home parish.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Monday Morning Musings

1. It was First Communion at our parish yesterday, as it was in many parishes. Our pastor reminded us, in his sermon that Christ is truly present - Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity - in the Eucharist. He also spoke to the children, reminding them that it was an important day, but it was the beginning of a life-long relationship with Christ in a new and special way.

2. Dark-haired daughter had her prom on Saturday. She looked lovely, and had an "awesome" time. This year, the "Best Prom Ever" (for teens and adults with disabilities) had almost 900 attendees. That also means a boatload of volunteers and generous donors. What a blessing!

3. I was wholly selfish yesterday. Dear husband was gone for his godson's First Communion.  Dark-haired daughter was not feeling good (too much excitement and food at the prom, I'm thinking), so after Mass, I hunkered down. She slept most of the day. I read, finished a few chores, watch TV I never, ever get to watch, read, and generally did whatever the heck I wanted in a very quiet house. Aaaaahhhhh, introvert bliss!

4. The dress that Dark-haired daughter was given for the prom needed some alterations. We have a friend who is, among other things, an amazing seamstress. She nipped and tucked and hemmed and made it a bit more modest. Everyone needs someone like this in their lives and we so appreciate this friend! As Dark-haired daughter said to her, "You rock!"

Friday, April 17, 2015

Dancing at the bus stop

I woke up in pain this morning. That's pretty typical, but this morning, it seemed a heavier burden. "Why? Oh, God, why?" is not how I like to start my day.

I'm struggling with one of my kids right now; we just seem to be totally unable to communicate. It's like one is speaking English and the other Klingon, and the sub-titles are not working.

Dear Husband is going to be gone for three days, to visit a godson for his First Communion. I'm glad he is taking the opportunity to go, but having him gone is always hard. Plus, we are in the midst of soccer season, and we are not seeing a whole lot of each other anyway.

Dark-Haired Daughter has her prom this weekend, and that means a lot of prep. If you've ever gotten a teenager ready for prom, then you know it's at least a day-long affair.

This all adds up to one long weekend, which really won't be a weekend.

On my way to work this morning, a lady in a minivan cut me off, and then flipped me the bird for taking up part of "her" lane. Okay, whatever. I flashed her a big smile and the peace sign, and prayed for her through gritted teeth.

As I was getting close to work, I saw a teenage boy and girl, clearly in love, waiting at a bus stop. They were cuddling, teasing, pushing, laughing. Suddenly, the girl started dancing - pure abandon. I couldn't help but smile. She saw me and smiled back, then waved. I waved back.

That's the image I want in my head this weekend. Even if you have to wait for the bus in the early morning cold, you can dance.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Is Easter Still In Your Heart?


The chocolate bunnies are long gone. Maybe there is still a stash of jelly beans somewhere. The white patent leather shoes are on the top shelf of the closet, set aside for Sunday dress. The Easter ham has been eaten, leftovers are gone.

Jesus is Risen! Alleluia! Or have you forgotten?

The Church gives us a long Easter season, and we should use it! We are an Easter people. Death no longer has a hold on us. Our lives are redeemed, we are truly blessed.

But a week and a half out from Easter, we are all probably just going about our business. We've left behind the grace of the Easter Vigil, the heartfelt singing of "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today," and we're back to "normal."

The thing is: Christians aren't "normal." We belong to Christ, and Him crucified, dead and resurrected. There is nothing "normal" about that.

Pope Francis:

Where is your sin? Your sin is there on the cross. Go and look for it there, in the wounds of the Lord, and your sins shall be healed, your wounds shall be healed, your sins shall be forgiven. God's forgiveness is not a matter of canceling a debt we have with him. God Forgives us n the wounds of his Son lifted up on the cross.

Christ is Risen! He is Truly Risen! Alleluia! Now go out and be a person of Easter.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Faith & Family

Our diocesan magazine did a little story about our family. You can read the online version here:
http://faithdigital.org/grandrapids/GR0415/

Monday Morning Musings

My heart is so full! We enjoyed my mom's 90th birthday this weekend with family and friends. I don't think it could have been better!

I had five of my six kids there (with one kid engaged I now have a bonus son!), my sisters, and my foster sister. She flew in from NY City, and I don't think we could have laughed and cried and hugged any more. What a blessing!

The party was a typical family party for us: a thousand (give or take) kids running around, my nephews making me laugh, food, laughter, drink, laughter.

My wonderful cousin Kathy (who is the family historian) brought a huge bag full of photos and documents and family memorabilia - my mom enjoyed that so much! What a treasure, and my cousin is so wonderful to keep such great care of family history.

We had the foresight to hire a photographer, and even though family snapped a lot of pics, it is great knowing we will have professional photos to remember the day. Our photographer was fantastic, patient, good-spirited and wonderful to work with.

God is good. We treasure every day we have with Mom, and the party yesterday will yield memories for many years.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Monday Morning Musings

My beautiful dark-haired daughter and me on Easter
1. First, Easter Vigil was incredible. Our priest is so reverent, so joyful - he makes every liturgy  such a prayerful experience. Plus, we had about 15 people join the Church.

2. Our Easter was lovely. We spent it with the Franciscan Sisters, the Apprentices and their families. First, Mass and then a Polish brunch. Way too much good food!

3. At the brunch, we always take time to share Miracles that have happened over the past year - big and small. One of mine was that one of the Franciscan Sisters who had been in Lowell, MI and then had moved away is now "home!" I was so thrilled to see her!! I didn't know she was back until she walked into Mass. What a joy!

4. This coming weekend, our family will be gathering to celebrate my mom's 90th birthday. Cannot wait to see family and friends, and enjoy the celebration.

5. Spring is tentatively making its way into West Michigan. A bud here, greening grass there, people heading out with only a jacket on...I know Michigan will probably throw one last blast of winter at us, but for now, we remain hopeful.

Friday, April 3, 2015

I serve at my King's good pleasure

I have an uncanny knack for getting sick during Holy Week. I'm done with some stomach virus this year. In some ways this is a great disappointment: I've been practicing music for weeks, it's the holiest time of year and the greatest time to worship in communion with the whole Church, and the Triduum liturgies are incredibly special.

But I serve at my King's good pleasure. Should He want me home, sick, then that is where I shall serve.

I have a warm, safe home in which to live. I have every medication for my ailments readily at hand. I can go to any church in my area and safely worship.

In many parts of the world, none of this exists for our fellow Christians. They are murdered and martyred, displaced, refugees, torn from their families, their homes, their churches. They have lost their homes, their fathers, their mothers, their pastors. And still, the name of "Jesus" remains on their lips.

As I sit in my office, praying the Stations and gazing on Christ Crucified, the puniest thing I can do is offer up my suffering in union with that of Christ, and remember the great sufferings of so many of our fellow Christians this Easter.

I serve at my King's good pleasure. Should that be in sickness, then that is where I serve.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving: Almsgiving


Monday Morning Musings: Holy Week

1. If you're Catholic, you know Holy Week is a marathon. This goes double for priests, deacons, parish workers and choir members. Pray for them! (Really - pray for us. The choir has no idea what we're doing.)

2. If' you wake up forty minutes before your alarm is going to go off, and you're wide awake, that's Jesus saying, "Go pray your Rosary."

3. Took Dark-Haired daughter to get a prom dress yesterday. A nearby bridal shop has offered to outfit (for FREE!) young ladies going to the prom for special needs high schoolers and adults. Warehouse full of dresses. Could NOT find one that fit her. (And why do all the plus size dresses look like clothing for the ugly stepsister?? Not cool, designers; not cool at all.) Daughter was ready to quit, and one saleslady said, "I have a dress that I PROMISE will fit." I told her: you better be damn sure, or you are gonna break my daughter's heart.

It fit! My daughter says she looks like Elsa from "Frozen." Which, I guess, is a good thing.

4. Been beating back depression a bit lately. Hate that monster - won't allow him out of his cave again. Eat rights, sleep right, exercise, get out and do stuff. Seems simple, huh?