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A Perfect Mess

I've said here before: I'm a recovering perfectionist. Since my young teens, I've wanted everything planned, thought out, well-executed and: perfect. Yes, it's an unattainable goal, but dammit, I was up for the challenge.

That meant never giving my parents a moment of worry. Striving for the Dean's List and making it. Having that paper done weeks in advance. Making sure my kids were not only dressed well, but well-mannered.

What I never bargained for was that the Universe is not geared toward "perfect." It's geared toward "good enough," "survival of the fittest," "natural disasters," but not "perfect."

I was always missing the mark. And I was always unhappy with myself. Why, God, did you make me crave "perfect?"

This week, I got what I wanted. And it is really, really painful.

I took a job a few months ago because I really needed a job. I told myself that the place I worked would balance out the fact …
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"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

People say that when they don't know what else to say.

"It's always darkest before the dawn."
"There's a light at the end of the tunnel."
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

It's not true.

Your heart is shattered into a million pieces. Your grief overwhelms you. You can't eat or sleep. Everything you know about your life now seems wrong.

But, hey! Perk up! In a little while you'll be stronger.

This has not been my experience.

When you are grief-stricken, down on you knees and weeping, you are not getting stronger.

You may be getting more empathetic.
You may be getting more faithful.
You may be getting clarity on what really matters in this world.
You may be getting bitter and angry.

You are not getting stronger.

No one handles tragedy well. Some of us crumble, some of us remain resolute. But stronger?

When you drop a piece of china, you do not make it stronger. It breaks.

You can do one of two things. You can sweep up …

Hate your boss? Hate your job? Welcome to the club

I've got a relic of Bl. Solanus Casey over my desk. I pinned a note next to it: "'Sacerdos Simplex' yet still a saint." He strikes me as a genial fellow, but he must have felt some sense of disappointment when he finally graduated, was ordained and then told, "Yeah, you can't do a bunch of priestly stuff. But you can answer the door!"

While St. Damien of Molokai volunteered to head to Hawaii and care for the lepers, he really had no idea what he was getting into. The living conditions when he arrived were about 7 steps below squalor. Over the years, he helped his people build homes, a church, organized choirs and planted gardens. I'm sure he had his moments - he could not possibly have dreamed as a child that he would travel to a tropical paradise, only to find it full dreadfully sick people.

Whenever a pope is elected, he is asked if he will serve. If he assents, he is taken to the Crying Room, where 3 sizes of white robes await. And those men…

"What's so special about today?"

One perk of my job is that I'm within a 3 minute walk of the Cathedral of St. Andrew. It's a beautiful church, and it's always a blessing to worship there.

Last Friday (which was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and a holy day of obligation), I went over for noon Mass.

[An aside here: the following sort of thing happens to me a lot. A lot. My spiritual advisor says some of us attract unbalanced people, lonely people, those on the outskirts. It's like I have a neon sign on my forehead: "SAFE PERSON!"]

I had just entered the church itself when a young woman came up to me, very close. I thought perhaps she was someone I knew, but she was not familiar. She said, "What's so special about today??"

I have to admit that my first thought (and this is how you know I was a religion major) was, "Hey, that kinda the first line of the Passover Seder. The youngest asks, "Why is this night different from all other nights?"

The young woman …

Death, where is thy sting?

I've felt the sting of death too much this week.

My Aunt Frances passed away. She was the youngest of my mom's three siblings, and Mom's only sister. Her very last days were a lot like my mother's: stubborn Irish women who clung to life, but also longed for Heaven.

With my aunt's death, my generation becomes the eldest. Really? That doesn't seem right. We are still kids.

It was good to see my cousins, and it was a good reminder to stay in touch.

Yesterday, we learned that a college friend passed away. It was a stunning piece of news, an untimely and apparently lonely death.

He was a brother, a fraternity brother, but really: a brother. He was quick to laugh, loved a good debate (and he and I had MANY!) and a trusted soul. How could we lose someone so vital, alive?

Today, we've been sharing memories and pictures. Remembering is good but - oh, how I wish we'd been able to be more in touch.

I pray. I pray that we all remember that time is short and life i…

"The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want...and want...and want..."

Today marks the end of the liturgical year. Next Sunday, we enter into Advent as we prepare for Christmas. We end the year with the feast of Christ, the King of the Universe (which, I admit, sounds a bit like the name of a boxer with "the Universe, universe, universe" resonating in the arena.)

Or maybe that's just me.

Anyhow, today's psalm is easily the best-known: Psalm 23. We sang today: The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. The psalmist not only recognizes the Lord in his life, but recognizes that the Lord is the only thing necessary for his life.

This is a deeply ironic thought, given that we just celebrated our nation's premiere holiday: shopping. (Sure, we had Thanksgiving, but mostly it's about shopping.) On Thursday, we gathered around the table and gave thanks for all of our many blessings. On Friday, we went out and bought stuff that we didn't mention at all on Thursday, but now seemed to be of the utmost importance.

I'm n…

A Good and Faithful Servant

It's funny how you can know a piece of Scripture and yet be completely oblivious to its meaning. As Catholics, if we read the daily readings every day, we will read nearly the entire Bible in three years. And the parables of Christ are memorable: they are stories, and we love stories.

As a lifelong Catholic, I've heard and read today's Gospel ... a lot. A rich guy is leaving. He calls his three trusted servants together and gives each of them money. "I trust you will care for this."

The first two double the money, returning twice the original amount to their master. The third, who has the least amount, was worried about losing the money he had, so he buried it. Kept it safe. And returned exactly the same amount back to the master upon his return.

What I never got was why the last guy was punished. He didn't lose the money, he didn't gamble it away. He kept it safe, right?

Today, we had a Paulist priest celebrate Mass with us, Fr. Costanza. He said a beau…