Watch out for the tender spots

The back of my hands look like I've been in a fight.  They are both gray-ish green and bruised.  These are the leftovers of IVs I've had put in in the last week.

Dear Husband is awaiting an appointment with a cardiologist, who is probably going to tell us what we already know: that Dear Husband's heart - through heredity - needs some loving care.  And possibly medical intervention.

Tallest Son skipped school today, with my permission.  His girlfriend broke up with him, and in my book, a broken heart is a good reason to say home from school and mope.  If he were a girl, I'd take home a pint of Ben and Jerry's at lunch time for him.  I'm taking him out for lunch instead.

Everything about our lives has been out of sorts for the past couple of weeks.  We've been seeing doctors way too much, I've been in terrible physical pain, our routines (rocky as they are) have gone completely out the window.  We're all walking around bruised and tired.  We feel beat up and lost that tenuous sense of control we carefully maintain - even though it is mostly an illusion.

Paul, in Galatians, tells us to bear one another's burdens.  Just before this, he teaches us about the fruits of the Holy Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  I know that all these things are not "magic".  None of the problems we've been struggling with are going to disappear just because we're being nicer to each other.  But I do know that if we watch out for each other's tender spots, especially now, we can relieve each other of the entire burden.  We can watch out for the tender spots and lighten the load.

We don't know much.....

http://pewforum.org/Other-Beliefs-and-Practices/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Survey.aspx

I know I'm a religion geek and that I get much pleasure out of learning about, talking about and investigating religious trivia of all sorts.  However, I'm also a big believer that, regardless of your own religious beliefs, it is a good idea to know about major religions.  Not only do these things tend to pop up on the news, but the guy in the cubicle next to you might be celebrating Ramadan or Easter or some other holiday.  It's nice to be able to hold an intelligent conversation or at least ask intelligent questions.  The more we know, the more we realize we have in common....and the less we misunderstand....spread misinformation...or hate.

According to the Pew Forum, we don't know so much.  Just for fun, take the quize and see how you do!
http://features.pewforum.org/quiz/us-religious-knowledge/

Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday #:5 Rest


http://www.bellavita-bellasblog.blogspot.com/


 Ah, Friday!  It's been a long week at my house, and I'm ready to unwind a bit.  My take on "fresh" this week:  Rest.

Americans are notorious for not getting enough sleep, and it makes us cranky and less-productive.  It also makes us sick.  My body gave me a very clear sign this week that I needed rest.

Get a couple hours of extra sleep this weekend, take a nap, or just lay down and think sweet, pure thoughts.

Emergency rooms, dates nights and carrying your cross

When my kids were little, I joked that I had my own coffee cup at the local emergency room.  I was there so often, they just figured I deserved one.  Eldest Son was always kind of accident prone, Dark-haired daughter was a daredevil, and Youngest Son had a thing for developing pneumonia - usually at about 3 a.m.

Lately though, it's been me and Dear Husband off to the ER for our own ailments.  He seems to have developed some sort of heart "thing" (we are awaiting word from the cardiologist) and I have an old problem due to a horse-back riding accident that flairs up once in awhile.  Let's just say that the ER staff is considering putting my old coffee cup back out on the shelf.  I've also told Dear Husband that a trip to the ER does NOT constitute a date, despite the fact that we are "out on the town" without children.

I don't suppose that anyone enjoys a trip to the ER when they or someone they love is the patient.  I certainly don't enjoy the pain that typically makes it a necessary trip for me.  However, I have always found the ER to be a really good place to pray.  I mean that.

The hospital we go to is a Catholic one, and it is where the street people of our city typically go, as they know they will be seen there.  Often these folks are just looking for a warm bed, a meal and some attention.  I remember one memorable night when the guy in the "curtain" next to us kept insisting he was a hemophiliac, and they couldn't discharge him until they figured that out.  Given the smell emanating from his cubicle, the hemophilia had apparently developed due to large quantities of cheap alcohol.

Despite his ruse, the staff was caring and professional.  The staff at this ER is always caring and professional.  I enjoy praying for them, even when I have to wait awhile to be seen.

Last night, there was a baby in the ER somewhere, screaming.  Not crying:  screaming.  Whatever was going on, this poor little soul was in pain and scared.  I can only imagine how the mother felt.  So, prayers for them too.

The halls buzz with EMTs and police officers.  Their jobs are to deal with people under frightening and often dangerous circumstances.  I prayed for them too.

Across town, in another hospital, a friend of mine was in labor for her baby girl.  I knew the pain I was suffering wasn't going to have the delightful end hers would, but I was hoping that my prayers would help ease some of her pain.

Years ago, Archbishop Fulton Sheen said this:

Think of how much suffering there is in hospitals, among the poor, and the bereaved. Think also of how much of that suffering goes to waste! How many of those lonesome, suffering, abandoned, crucified souls are saying with Our Lord at the moment of consecration, "This is my body. Take it"? And yet that is what we all should be saying at that second:






I give myself to God.
Here is my Body. Take it.
Here is my Blood. Take it.
Here is my Soul, my Will, my Energy, my Strength,
my Property, my Wealth - all that I have. It is Yours.
Take it! Offer it! Offer it with Thyself to the heavenly Father
in order that He, looking down on this Great Sacrifice,
may see only Thee, His beloved Son, in Whom He is well pleased.
Transmute the poor bread of my life into Thy Divive Life;
thrill the wine of my wasted life into Thy Divine Spirit;
unite my broken heart with Thy Heart;
change my cross into a Crucifix.


Let not my abandonment, and my sorrow, and my bereavement go to waste.
Gather up the fragments,
and as the drop of water is absorbed by the wine at the Offertory of the Mass,
let my life be absorbed in Thee;
let my little cross be entwined with Thy Great Cross,
so that I may purchase the joys of everlasting happiness in union with Thee.


Consecrate these trials of my life which would go unrewarded unless united with Thee;
transubstantiate me so that like bread which is now Thy Body,
And wine which is now Thy Blood, I too may be wholly Thee.
I care not if the species remain, or that, like the bread and the wine,
I seem to all earthly eyes the same as before.


My station in life, my routine duties, my work, my family -
all these are but the species of my life which may remain unchanged;
but the substance of my life, my soul, my mind, my will, my heart -
transubstantiate them, transform them wholly into Thy service,
so that through me all may know how sweet is the love of Christ. Amen.

I can tell you from experience this is hard prayer to pray.  I think if I was stuck in a room, isolated, I'm not sure I could pray it.  But in the ER, with the flow of humanity in front of your room, the cries of those in pain, the professionalism of the staff that melds into a kind word and a soothing touch, God allows me to pray it. 

Date nights in the ER are the pits.  However, prayer nights in the ER are a great blessing.  I do not wish anyone a trip to the ER, but if you find yourself there, pray a bit.  It is a humbling experience, rich in grace and God's almighty presence.

World Day of Peace

"May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us."

— Thérèse of Lisieux

Talk Like A Pirate

I'm feeling a little disgruntled, as I missed "Talk Like A Pirate Day" (it was yesterday, Sept. 19).  However, one must not let little things like dates on a calendar dictate one's celebrations!  Join in the fun and view the photos at NPR:

http://www.csmonitor.com/CSM-Photo-Galleries/In-Pictures/Arrrrr-you-ready-for-some-pirates

Set Apart

I don't know about you, but I often get overwhelmed with the ideal of the Christian life.  I know it is possible - I've seen others do it - but for me?  I'm so sinful!  Some days, I can't seem to stumble from bed to bathroom in the morning without getting myself into trouble!

These words from St. Clement of Alexandria reassured me today that the Christian life is manageable:

"...the Lord praises the person 'who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the Gospel.'  That person is blessed because he too is going to meet martyrdom simply by living in a way that is different from the crowd, because he is following the rule of the Gospel for love of his Lord.

The truly righteous are set apart from the world because they produce the fruits of grace in their actions.  They do this because they have been able to become a friend of God...."

Our Blessed Mother


I don't know the origin of this picture, but I thought it very pretty.

Not just another job

There is certainly more than enough controversy surrounding the priesthood these days, and I do not want to add to it.  I simply want to reflect on the role that priests play in our Catholic faith.

The parish I belong to has been blessed with some wonderful pastors over the years.  When my husband and I were going through the adoption process, our then-pastor was such a wonderful support to us:  praying with us and for us.  He gave me the Anointing of the Sick before a major surgery, and the peace that brought me was immeasurable.

Our current pastor is celebrating 40 years as a priest this weekend.  His sense of humor is enough to make us love him, but when our family was in crisis several years ago, he was an absolute rock of faith for us, really going above and beyond what we expected in supporting us and our children.

When I was teaching full-time, I would often ask my high school students what they thought a priest did all day.  "Pray" was the answer.  Yes, many of them really thought that a priest sits in church and prays all day.  Many priests I know would love to do that, but rarely have time!  Do you know what a parish priest does all day?  Visits hospitals and nursing homes, gives spiritual counseling, meets with staff on various programs, studies ways to implement the new Roman Missal, answers phone calls and emails, meets with grieving families, sits on various committees for the parish and the diocese, prepares homilies, prays the Office, says Mass, meets with engaged couples....well, you get the idea. 

It is a tough time to be a priest.  The media and often parishioners look down on priests.  It is certainly not a "job" that warrants a lot of press or recognition if it is done well.  It can be down-right disheartening, because priests receive an enormous amount of complaints and criticisms from all sides.  They are on call 24/7, and often are with people during the worst times of their lives.

Pray for our priests.  Thank your priest for the ministry he provides and the work he does.  Let him know he is appreciated.  It will mean more than you know. 

Sacred Place of the Day

Obelisks at Axum, Ethiopia

A day in the life of a Tibetan monk

http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2010/09/17/129930953/monks

The photos are amazing.  The monks of Tibet are revered by their countrymen and treated harshly by their government.   Learn a bit about their lives.

Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday #:4 Scripture


http://www.bellavita-bellasblog.blogspot.com/


When was the last time you opened up your Bible and read it?  Today's the day!  Spend 15 minutes with Scripture on this Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday.

If you're not used to reading your Bible, let me give you a couple of ideas.  Psalms is always great for a short meditation.  It's the most emotionally-charged book in the Bible, and there's a Psalm for virtually every mood, whim, life circumstance and event.

There are four Gospels, and they are each distinctive, although they share similar traits.  (Like, they are all about Jesus...duh....)  Read a bit of one.  They all contain great stories, insights and happenings to pray over and meditate on.

Dust off that Bible, baby!!

A little corny, but it made me smile!

An Irish priest is driving down to New York and gets stopped for speeding in Connecticut. The state trooper smells alcohol on the priest's breath and then sees an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car. He says, "Sir, have you been drinking?" "Just water," says the priest, fingers crossed. The trooper says, "Then why do I smell wine?" The priest looks at the bottle and says, "Good Lord! He's done it again!"

Museum of Bad Art: it's a sick obsession

"He was a friend of mine" by Jack Owen



If you have yet to visit the Museum of Bad Art, there is no time like the present.  It is a diversion of epic proportions, and you will certainly find something that captures your attention.

Sacred Place of the Day

Ellora Caves, India

Just the way I want it

The question is:  do I really mean what I pray?

Doing "church work" is sometimes an odd thing.  (Actually, a LOT of the time it's an odd thing...)  Some of the stuff I do is pretty routine:  paperwork, answering emails, planning, making phone calls:  the sort of stuff many people do when they are at work.

On the other hand, church work is a totally different animal:  I'm not selling a product, I'm not distributing a "thing" or balancing income and outgo.  The work I do is leading people to Christ, helping them define and delineate their relationship with the Living God. 

How does one measure "success", then?  Since I've taken my new job, my prayer has been,  "Please God:  prosper what you want to prosper here, and keep me out of Your way."  The most important line in the Our Father prayer, I believe, is:  Thy will be done.

But I'm still upset when I plan a meeting for particular ministry team and only two people show up.  "Okay, God - what's going on?  I did this for You, ya know."  I did all the planning, the copying, the organizing.   Heck, I even bought apple cider and snacks.  "Why didn't you make THIS prosper, God?"

That means, I want God's will, but MY way.  Huh.  I don't think that is what "thy will be done" means.  My conclusion:  I'm not really meaning what I pray.  Even though I want what He wants, I still - very often - want it MY way.  I want my vision and my success.  And that is a hard truth to face about myself.

The only way I know how to fix this is to get back on my knees.  And keep praying,  "God, prosper what you want to prosper, and keep me - and my big, stupid, bumbling ego - out of the way."

Mad for Plaid

First, how cool is it that there is a blog by a "tartan historian"?  Then, add in the fact that the Scots have created a lovely St. Ninian tartan just to honor the Pope's visit!  Awesome!!

I'm not Scottish, but having attended a college with strong Scottish roots, I love a man in a kilt, the sound of bagpipes makes me weep with joy, and caber tossing beats football any day!

Check out the tartan blog and photos:   http://kiltmaker.blogspot.com/2010/09/st-ninian-tartan-created-to-honor-papal.html

Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross

"It is the cross and only the corss that provides a constant point of reference in the chaos of our world, because there is all our poverty and helplessness and pain, all our yearning and all our mutual injustice, taken up into the stillness of God's everlasting love and made into the instrument and revelation of his unchanging will."  - Father Simon Tugwell, OP

Holy Name of Mary

"Seven Sorrows", MB Hopkins
Yesterday was the feast of the "Holy Name of Mary".  I've been meaning to share the riches of this website from University of Dayton, so this seems like a great opportunity:  http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/mostholyname.html

Take some time to roam around; there are some great things here!

Memorial of St. John Chrysostom

Prayer should be the means by which I, at all times, receive all that I need, and, for this reason, be my daily refuge, my daily consolation, my daily joy, my source of rich and inexhaustible joy in life.


- Saint John Chrysostom
 

Oooh, lookie what I found!

Was digging around for some sites on church architecture and found this blog:

http://northamericanchurches.blogspot.com/.

Here are a couple of treats from this site:


St. Ann's Episcopal Chapel, Kennebunkport, ME









San Xavier del Bac, AZ

When the Saints Go Marching In

Saw this over at http://www.catholicculture.org/
In an attempt to curb liturgical abuse at funerals, Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne has issued instructions banning “romantic ballads, pop or rock music, political songs, football club songs.”



The archbishop explained that a funeral should be devoted to prayer for the soul of the deceased. Australia’s ABC television network inaccurately reported that this represented a change in the Church’s understanding of the purpose of funerals.

I do not have the same distaste for much of modern liturgical music that many of my blogging collegeagues have, but I do believe if you're in church, you should have liturgical music.  My all-time favorite in the category of "Really?  That was your best musical selection?" was a funeral my mom attended, for a woman named Irene.  The recessional hymn:  "Goodnight, Irene".

Yeah....

Sacred Place of the Day

Great Synagogue, Budapest

Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday #:3 Clean, but just a little

http://www.bellavita-bellasblog.blogspot.com/

I don't know about you, but huge cleaning jobs often seem overwhelming, and sometimes I just ignore 'em.  So, today, clean.....but just a little bit.

I look over at my bedside table and it's a bit messy.  Today, I'm gonna clean that...just that.  Maybe that will inspire me to clean something else. 

Maybe....

Burning Books and other idiotic American pastimes

Some guy in Florida wants to burn the Qu'ran.

I've never thought book burnings of any kind were a good idea.  Too "Fahrenheit 451" for me.  (If that reference eludes you, go to your nearest library.  And thank the librarian for not burning the book.)

There are a couple of things that really bother me about this particular book burning.  First, you have the Army guy in charge of things in Afghanistan saying,  "This is going to make things tough for our men and women in uniform."   Gee, that doesn't seem like a nice thing to do?

Second, burning books is just dumb.  It doesn't prove a darn thing, it makes a huge mess, and mostly it intrigues people to read the very books you are torching.  Duh....

Finally, this is a sacred book to millions of people.  And if this Florida pastor had taken a few minutes to peruse the Qu'ran, he'd see that A LOT OF IT IS JUST LIKE THE BIBLE.  I don't mean, it sort of resembles the Bible in literary technique, or it looks like the Bible, I mean:  the stories of humanity ARE THE SAME.  Same beginnings of humanity, same Mary, same Noah's ark.  Yup.  Really.  I would not lie to you.  Pick up a copy and read it.  Don't burn it.  Read it. 

If, after you have read it, you wish to engage a Muslim in theological discourse, go for it.  Buy him or her a burger and chat.  THAT is how we'll advance Christian/Muslim dialogue.  Put the matches down and talk. 

Today is the Feast of the Nativity of Mary

"Holy Kiss" by artist Nancy Bradley

Sacred Place of the Day

Mecca, Saudi Arabia
(photo credit: Christian Science Monitor)

It's even funnier when it's not supposed to be.....

This hilarious compilation of unintentionally bad Christian videos will make your day, I promise!

http://www.christiancollegesonline.org/blog/2010/10-unintentionally-hilarious-christian-music-videos/

I can't decide what I like best:  "howl-le-lu-ia" (oh, you'll have to see it for yourself), dancing by the whitest people in the world, or the really horrid production values.

Check it out!

"The Way" - movie to watch for

http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1003573.htm

Emilio Estevez, actor and director, has a new movie - "The Way".  It follows four people making the pilgrimmage to Santiago de Compostela - the Church of St. James in Spain.

His father, Martin Sheen, stars and also seems to have nagged his son into making the movie.  It has the potential to be a great film.  The link above gives some more detail.

"We are all more alike than we are different"

That quotation-as-title is from my favorite psychology professor in college.  He used it to let us know that we could find empathy with those suffering from even the cruelest forms of mental illness.  As I studied all forms of religious expression, I have found that saying to be useful:  we really ARE more alike than we are different, and if we can find the commonalities, the differences become less and less grandiose.

Check out this on NPR:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129611281

I've got the joy, joy, joy down in my heart

My favorite high school teacher was a man of many words.  He taught English, and loved the language, from Shakespeare to Salinger.  I learned to love writing - both as an activity for myself, and enjoying the good writing of others. 

Despite the fact that I went to a public high school, this teacher and I often talked about religion.  One of his lessons for me was,  "Beware of long-faced Christians."  These were the people who'd heard the Good News, embraced it, and got not one ounce of joy from it.  You probably know some people like this:  folks for whom the Gospel message meant a life of dour belief, sour expressions, and the power to threaten others with eternal damnation.

For years, I've had a little sign hanging in my bedroom, a simple cross-stitched message:  "Sursum corda".  In Latin:  "Lift up your hearts."  If you're Catholic, you'll recognize this from the Mass - the priest says it, and the congregation responds:  "We lift them up to the Lord."  To me, those two words summarize the whole of faith, hope and love:  the virtues we need to navigate through this life to the next. 

I am not talking about "happiness".  I have nothing against "happiness" - I like it as much as the next girl.  But happiness is rather fleeting, and typically depends on one's circumstances:  I'm happy because I'm comfortable, warm and fed.  I'm happy that I got a new pair of shoes.  I'm happy because my day went well.

Joy is different.  It doesn't depend on circumstances, because it is based on something that never changes:   God.  Regardless of what happens to me and around me, God (and His love for me) remains.  Now, I might have some trouble mustering joy when my circumstances are hard, but that doesn't change these facts:  God is.  God loves.  And God yearns for my eternal joy.   And so, I lift up my heart, in joy...today and tomorrow.  Even when I don't "feel" joy, I choose to lift up my heart to the Lord.  I can smile about that.

Sacred Place of the Day


Oura Church
Nagasaki, Japan

Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday #2: Unplug





Just as last Friday, I'm taking part in "Fresh, Clean and Pure Fridays", hosted by fellow blogger at La Bella Vita.

My act for the day:  unplug.  Take 30 minutes today to unplug - no media, no music, no cell phone.  Enjoy 30 minutes of quiet.  Peace!

The Golden Legend

Everyone of us knows what it's like to browse through an old family album, enjoying stories and photos of people who have gone before us, and left us with great family legends.  We've got a photo of my dad fishing off a pier in China in his Marine uniform, a picture of my rather-uptight grandmother posing coquetishly in a bathing costume, and tons of pictures of me, my cousins and siblings in various stages of awkward teen-hood.

In the Church, we also have a family album.    A rather long time ago, in Genoa, a bishop by the name of Jacobus da Voragine put together an album, with lots of stories of our faith family, called The Golden Legend.  You know that story about St. Christopher carrying the Christ Child across the river?  That's from The Golden Legend.  It's a terrific and fun read.  You can find an online version here:  http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/golden000.htm

I stumble and fall

I fell the other day.  Down the stairs, at work.  I don't really know how.  I wasn't carrying anything, wasn't wearing high heels, wasn't hurrying.  I just slipped...and fell.

Two days later, and my leg is telling me it hasn't fully recovered yet.  Apparently, I pulled my hamstring, and I'm walking around with a decidedly ungraceful limp, on my toes.

I feel ungraceful.  Clutzy.  Dumb.  A little old.  Mostly, though:  ungraceful.

This little incident reminds me of sin.  Most of us don't struggle with BIG sin:  murder, embezzlement, extortion and such.  No, we are petty, gossiping, rude and thoughtless.  We tell that little white lie and overeat a bit.  It's not the big stuff that gets us:  it's the little slips, and then we fall.  And then we have to walk around, rather ungracefully, and make concessions and adjustments because of those little sins.

Whenever we injure ourselves, it makes us very aware of our bodies.  You suddenly realize how many things you do with that hand when you've got a couple of sprained fingers, or how you never pay much attention to getting off the couch until your back hurts.  You are aware of the tenderness, the swelling, the bruise and are thankful for when things return to normal.

I wonder what it would be like if our sins caused us bodily injury, if you got a bruise every time you raised your voice to your kids, or you got a pain in your back when you flipped off that guy in the car next to you.  I am sure I would be one large, aching mess.  By the grace of God, this is not the case. 

I am now, of course, vigilant on the stairs.  I suppose I will be for awhile and then, I'll hurry and forget, and probably slip again.  Just maybe, however, I'll keep being vigilant and I won't fall.  Maybe I'll hold on to the rail and remember the pain I had before.  What I will think is,  "Steady my feet, Lord, in accord with your promise;  do not let iniquity lead me."  (Ps. 119:133)  And I'll remain graceful;  I will not stumble and I will not fall.

Sacred Place of the Day

Thorncrown Chapel, Eureka Springs, AK

What he said.....

I was trying to get at this the other day, but Archbishop Chaput puts it more deftly than I:

Relativism is now the civil religion and public philosophy of the West. Again, the arguments made for this viewpoint can seem persuasive. Given the pluralism of the modern world, it might seem to make sense that society should want to affirm that no one individual or group has a monopoly on truth; that what one person considers to be good and desirable another may not; and that all cultures and religions should be respected as equally valid.


In practice, however, we see that without a belief in fixed moral principles and transcendent truths, our political institutions and language become instruments in the service of a new barbarism. In the name of tolerance we come to tolerate the cruelest intolerance; respect for other cultures comes to dictate disparagement of our own; the teaching of “live and let live” justifies the strong living at the expense of the weak.

This is from his speech in Slovakia.  The entire piece, which is well-worth your time, can be found here:
http://www.zenit.org/article-30180?l=english

Going "All In" With Jesus

One of the joys of being Catholic is that there is always new stuff to learn. And if you do run out of new stuff, there are plenty of new ...