Purgatory-on-earth: 8th Grade

The Church may teach that Purgatory is a possibility after death, but I know the truth:  8th grade is the real Purgatory.

I hate 8th grade.  And I'm not talkin' about my own 8th grade experience (Coleman Middle School, 1978-'79, bad fashion year, bad hair year, bad self-esteem year).  No, I'm talkin' about the fact that, for my own kids, 8th grade seems to be the year when their brains leave for vacation at an amusement park, their judgement gets left behind in the dust, "you're grounded" gets said so many times that my dogs start thinking that I've changed their names and come running and it's a toss-up as to whether that the kid is gonna make it to 9th grade...literally.

I know that it's no fun for my kids.  They are trying to navigate the treacherous waters of middle school society in a leaky boat.  Nothing on the elementary school scene prepares one for things like note-passing, pre-algebra and that teacher that really gives "zeroes" for not turning in homework.  You make a bad choice, and suddenly, there are consequences:  you lose your cell phone, your ability to hang out with a friend or you get dish duty for a week.  (That's always the dreaded punishment in my house.)  However, it's even less fun for the parents:  who wants to have a grumpy 13 year old boy stuck at the house, moaning about nothing to do?  Not me.

But Dear Husband and I keep at it.  (Thank God, this is our last 8th grader.)  Why?  Because their brains come back, they start to realize that A+B=C every single time, and Mom & Dad WILL find out.  Because, as much as I hate 8th grade (and I HATE 8th grade), I love my kid.  I love my kid enough to get through 8th grade...again.

Sacred Place of the Day

The Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth

Advent

If you're like me, one of the first things you do in the morning is sit down at the computer.  If you're going to do that, then why not make it a time of prayer and preparation for Christmas (which despite all of Target's and QVC's intentions, is not here yet)?



Creighton University offers a terrific daily Advent site - visit often, and make this a year of true preparation for the Coming of Christ! 

Cuba

This is a beautiful country.  I wrote before about my family's ties to Cuba (http://www.kissingtheleper.com/2010/08/when-castro-came-to-coleman.html), but thought this beautiful photo essay from The Christian Science Monitor was a great way to "visit" the country that is one the last bation's of communism.

Extravagence

What constitutes "extravagence"?

I was re-reading a few sections of The Value-Driven Life by Fr. Benedict Groeschel.  He takes an "old school" approach and looks at the cardinal and theological virtues and how they can and should be lived out in the Christian life. 
At one point, Fr. Groeschel strongly speaks against living extravagently, and says that this lifestyle should "never" be a part of life for a follower of Christ
However, he isn't very clear what "extravagence" means. 

I was showering the other morning, and it struck me:  I get to choose what I smell like every day.  I can choose vanilla, orange, lime, plain ole' soap.  Not only do I get to shower daily, I can choose my aroma.  With millions of people around the world with NO access to clean water for drinking or sanitation, is my daily shower extravagance?

Any one of us can point out instances like this:  our daily stop for coffee, eating out several times a week, a closet full of clothes that we may or may not wear.  We can also point out where we pinch pennies, I'm sure, but clearly, the life of the average American is one that begs the question:  what IS extravagence?  Even more importantly, we need to ask ourselves if our "little" extravagences come at the price of someone truly in need.  If I skip my shower scents, and saved that money, could I donate it?  Of course. 

Not only do I have to ask myself,  "What is extravagence", I need to ask myself,  "When I find myself being extravagent, am I willing to change?"  As a follower of Christ, we need to be willing to search our souls -- extravagently.

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy


Sacred Place of the Day

The "Ark" - Catholic Church in Nowa Huta, Poland.  Nowa Huta was a city built by the Communists as the first Polish city without a church.  The people didn't like that, and under the leadership of then-Cardinal Karol Woltya (John Paul the Great), this was built.

Phobias for everyone!

From Demotivational Posters:  this is mostly for my nephew Andy, who has one of those clown phobias, but it made me laugh!

A time to be thankful

Check out "Of Such is the Kingdom" and the Week of Thankfulness!

http://suchakingdom.blogspot.com/

I have so much to be thankful for it's ridiculous!  What are you thankful for?

Lest you think....

...that world news consists of Charlie Sheen, Justin Bieber, and a royal wedding...

Remember that over 2 million people are still displaced in Haiti from earthquakes and hurricanes, and that cholera is claming lives daily.


http://crs.org/countries/haiti

Save or Splurge?

I have come to believe that there are two kinds of women (when it comes to receiving gifts, at least):  savers and splurgers.  Here's what I mean:

If I give the Middle Sister a bath-set for a gift, I can guarantee that it will sit in her bathroom for a decade or two, gathering dust.  It's not that she doesn't appreciate it, she's just "saving" it.  Because, in  her world, every day life doesn't require Wild Orchid-Jasmine-Bubblicious soap, scrub and lotion.  That would be for something else....sometime down the road....but not just for getting up and going to work.  She was the one who never took Barbie out of the box, so there the doll remained, pristine and prim.

Then there's me.  Give me a bath set, I'll rip it open right here, right now, try out the lotion, and head home to take a bath just to be surrounded by bubbles, not because I need to get clean.  I'll use it up in a week, and not feel a twinge about it.  My Barbie was the one that got pierced ears and a bob haircut.  (By the way, she couldn't pull off the short hair.)

Why is this?  What makes some of us think that something better is coming, so I better wait, hold out, and save up?  Then there's the other kind:  ooooh, this is great, I'm gonna grab it while I can, no holds barred, use it up and enjoy every moment?

I suppose some of it is a rather childish mixture of impatience and indulgence on my part.  I admit that.  But I also wonder what the "savers" are wating for?  When will a day be good enough?  What makes one wake up and say,  "Today is important enough"?  My point of view is that if I treat the day as special, it WILL be, even if all I do is the normal routine of family and work.  The "savers" seem to be of the mind that something needs to happen in order to make the day special.

I'm gonna go splash some perfume behind my ears and celebrate the day.  What about you?

Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday: Catch Up

http://www.bellavita-bellasblog.blogspot.com/
My two sisters and I have been trying to get together for dinner at least once a month this year.  We're doing pretty well, and it's becoming a great tradition for us.  It's just time to catch up on our lives and our families' lives, plus a terrific way to unwind.  Is there someone in your life you need to catch up with?    Make a date today!

Remember

http://www.csmonitor.com/CSM-Photo-Galleries/Photos-of-the-Day/2010/Photos-of-the-Day-11-17/(photo)/5



No matter what happens today, you did not have to paint a monkey's face.  (And the Christian Science Monitor has amazing photos every day...check them out.)

Small Successes Thursday


http://www.faithandfamilylive.com/blog/


  1.  I managed to make Sunday a day of rest.  I pushed aside all thoughts of work and other impending deadlines, and really rested. 
2.  Had my first acupuncture treatment, and am going for my second one on Friday.  It was really relaxing, and I have since cut one of my med. dosages in half.
3.  I have increased my water intake.  I'm still not carrying a water bottle around with me 24/7, but I am drinking a lot more than I was.

Old, but not forgotten

When wandering around antique shops and junk stores, I always wonder about old photographs:  Who are these people?  Why didn't their families keep these photo?  How did picture end up HERE?

This is the foundation of this great blog I found:  http://forgottenoldphotos.blogspot.com/.

"It must be nice to work at a church.....

....so nice and quiet."

Have you ever thought that of your pastor?  The lady that works in the church office?  Let me tell ya....

I got to work today and had about 15 minutes to sift through email.  Then off to Mass.  After that, women's Bible Study.  That was almost my entire morning.

Afternoon:  ate lunch at my desk, a meeting with our director of religious education, then a "meeting" with our youth minister - although mostly that is shooting the breeze.  I finished a talk I'm giving to a young adults' group tomorrow, tried to track down a couple of speakers for our senior citizens' group that meets once a month, talked with two women who are in the process of joining the Church about some little issues, worked on a prayer service, sent emails and returned phone calls, talked to the woman who creates our lectors' schedule about a new lector, went through a bunch of donations to find some kids' winter stuff for a needy family, read a new directive from the Diocese - and that's just today.

On any given day, I may have phone calls about baptisms and people wanting more information about the parish or joining the Church.  People are in and out of the office all day, and some just want to chat.  Some want to chat for a long time.  Last week, I had a meeting every night of the week:  parents preparing for baptism, class to teach, two committees.  I also help families plan funerals, which is a part of my job that I'm honored to do. 

I don't do the same thing two days in a row, which I really like.  I work rather flexible hours, which I really like.  I still get to teach and answer questions about the Faith, which I love.  But please, please don't tell me how lovely it is to work at church, and how quiet it must be.  Instead, tell those that make your church seem like a lovely and quiet place "thank you" for all the hard, behind-the-scenes work they do.

This explains why I can't lose weight....

Cutting me down to size

Dear husband does bonsai - those little Japanese trees.  When people unfamiliar with the art see one of his trees for the first time, they have two questions:  "Is that real?" and "Do they just grow like that?" 

Yes, and most definitely no.

You can make just about any tree into a bonsai tree, although some trees are much easier to work with than others.  We joke that the art of bonsai is buying a $200 tree, lopping off $175 worth and then selling it for $400.  It does take time, practice, patience and a lot of effort.  You trim the tree and let it rest, trim it and let it rest.  It's a rush of anxious activity and then dormancy.  It's a very real tree, with a lot "done to it".

In essence, you must harm the tree.  You have to cut off branches and roots, make the tree grow in a way that is unnatural and that the tree is not necessarily willing to go.  This is exactly what God does with us.  He trims us and prunes  us, makes us stretch and grow in ways we never wanted to or thought we could, lets us rest and pushes us towards our ideal selves.  We could never do this ourselves - we don't have the perspective to stand back and see where we need the most work, and where we need to be left alone.  Only our Creator sees us this way.

In the Catholic Church, when we see someone who has lived his or her life in the most beautiful and authentic way, we call them "saints".  These are the people who have stretched and grown, been patient with the trimming and pruning God did, and allowed themselves to be created day-after-day.  If we ask, "Is that person real?", the answer is "yes":  he or she is human, with sins and sorrows.  And just like with bonsai, if we ask,  "Did they grow like that?", the answer is "no" - it took time, patience and effort, and the Master hand of God.

Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday: Reach Out

http://www.bellavita-bellasblog.blogspot.com/
"Fresh, Clean" is back after a tech. problem last week, and I am glad!  This blog hop always forces me to look at where I can make a fresh start, clean up my act, and purify a problem.

This week, reach out to someone you know is having a hard time.  Maybe it's a new mom who's still adjusting to a new schedule.  Maybe it's an older person in your neighborhood who is struggling with loneliness.  Perhaps it's an overwhelmed co-worker.  Invite them for a cup of tea, drop off a plant (although don't do that for the new mom - she's doesn't need another living thing to keep up with!), Write a note that says you care.

Enjoy your weekend!

Small Successes Thursday

http://www.faithandfamilylive.com/blog
1.  I remembered it was Thursday and time to make this post.
2.  Although I made my husband give me my birthday present - a Kindle!!! - early, I've only purchased one book.  I'm on a budget.  I shall follow it.  I promise.  Really.
3.  I've had dinner on the table every night this week.  Last night was pizza, but that's a Wed. tradition here, and every other dinner was home-made and on time.

Caritas

"IN ESSENTIALS UNITY, IN NON-ESSENTIALS LIBERTY, IN ALL THINGS CHARITY." - St. Augustine

There is some discussion as to whether or not this quote is really from St. Augustine of Hippo, but the point remains the same.  No matter what, we need to be charitable.  (If you don't know the definition of "caritas", look it up.  If you think it means being nice and giving stuff to people who don't have stuff, look it up.)

Dear Husband and I were visiting a friend this weekend, and joined her for worship at her Episcopalian church.  Her pastor, in the sermon, brought up the fact that (in an anonymous comment, of course), someone said,  "The pastor is a waste."  That was it:  "a waste".  There is NOTHING charitable in that comment.

I often have to work with people who want to join the Church, get their spiritual lives in order, have a marriage annulled or blessed and their past spiritual lives are...messy.   Irregular.  Charity is the first order of "business".

I also talk to people all the time who think I am wrong, and/or I think they are wrong, in theological issues.  Some people think sheer bombasticy (Is that a word?  Tis now.) will win the argument.  Charity goes right out the window.

God is love.  We should be too.  That doesn't mean we don't offer to turn people around, to guide them on the path of righteousness, or sit them down and tell 'em the truth.  But we should always, always be charitable.  Nothing good has ever been accomplished through mean-spirited anonymous comments, harsh treatment of sins and mistakes, or blasting someone in an argument.  Be kind, be truthful, be charitable.

Sacred Place of the Day

Today is the Feast of the Lateran Basilica in Rome.  It's not so much a celebration of the a building (although it is an awesome building!);  it's a celebration of Christian unity, as symbolized by this "first Vatican".

Light blogging this week: too many meetings!!

Sacred Place of the Day

The Basilica of la Sagrada Familia - the Holy Family - just dedicated in Barcelona, Spain.

Church hats, and entering the court of Christ the King


http://www.harlemsheaven.com/church-hats
 Dear Husband and I spent the weekend in the Detroit area, visiting a long-time friend.  DH and I decided to take a tour of the African-American Museum of History.  We were both pleasantly surprised by the lovely architecture, the interesting and informative historical features and the incredibly friendly staff (kudos!).  If you get a chance, go!

However, my heart beat a bit faster when I realized that one of the temporary exhibits was "church lady hats".  Anyone familiar with the African-American community knows that they (for the most part) take dressing for church on Sunday seriously, and that one of their traditions is for ladies to keep their heads covered....in the most spectacular ways.  The exhibit featured both vintage hats and modern designs - and I made DH go through the exhibit twice.  (He is a long-suffering man as far as my fashion penchant is concerned.) 

One of the ladies who'd contributed to the exhibit was quoted as saying,  "I always wear a hat to church.  I want to look my best for the Lord."  Oh, how I wish we could all have that attitude!  No, I do NOT think we should all be sporting hats and suits, but I think we should all look our best when entering into the Royal Banquet of Christ the King.

I did NOT say THE best;  I said OUR best.  If your best is a pair of jeans and a clean t-shirt, then that is exactly what you should wear.  I do not believe their is a dress-code for Heaven, otherwise, St. Francis of Assisi, barefoot and ragged, wouldn't have made it through the gates.  However, most of us put more thought into what we wear to a concert or a class reunion than to what we wear to be in the Presence of Christ.

I could rant on and on about the casualnes of our society, wearing pajamas to the grocery store, (really, I could rant on and on.....), etc.  Let's just say that you should be nicely dressed for church.  Nice enough for a funeral, nice enough for dinner at a upscale restaurant, nice enough for an evening out.  If God doesn't rank that high up on your list of "things to get dressed up for", then your priorities are out of whack.  No, God probably doesn't care what you dress like, but you and I know that how we dress affects US:  how we walk, sit, carry ourselves, and generally how our clothing sets the tone for occasions.  Church should be different than a fast-food restaurant, a sports event or the grocery store.  We are in the presence of God....and "I want to look my best for the Lord."

Taking a few days off

Gonna take the carriage for a spin and enjoy some real "down time" this weekend.  Hopefully, I'll have some adventures to fill you in on next week!

Meet my cats

I admit it:  I've never been a "cat" person.  I've always found the personality of dogs much more companionable and attractive.  (More on this later.)   I've been around cats my whole life:  Domingo, Adam and Eve, Snowball, Puff-n-Stuff, some feral cat my sister dragged home that never settled down enough to be named but dropped a bunch of kittens on the front porch.  None of 'em ever appealed to me.  Until now.

We currently share living space with two cats.  One cat is Arwen, named after the graceful Elf of The Lord of the Rings fame.  She (the cat) has the long, flowing black hair of Liv Tyler.  Arwen (again, the cat) chiefly resides outdoors, but when the weather is cold and/or rainy, she prefers a nice warm lap.  She's our hunter, and keeps mice out of the garage.  Unfortunately, she also keeps birds at bay.  She's a bit skittish, and hates our other cat.  She has the best darned tail - tall, straight and fluffy - in all of cat-dom.

The second cat is Imogene, known by most of the family as Mojo.  Mojo is a rescue and considers all the house her personal play space.  She loves grocery day, which (I think) she thinks of as "bag day": she equally enjoys plastic bags and paper bags.  One of her favorite games (and she has many) is to hide under the tablecloth and bat the dogs as they walk by.  She's chatty, snoopy, relentless and funny.  She also thinks it's jolly fun to chase Arwen around the house.  I'm not sure she really enjoys the chasing so much as the annoyance it causes Arwen.

I cannot (gulp) imagine our household without either of them.  That's a lot from a bona-fide dog person....but I think the dogs sorta feel the same way.

"How Big Is The Moon?"

http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2010/11/04/131063948/moon

Check out these whimsical, lovely pictures at NPR!

Small Successes Thursday


http://www.faithandfamilylive.com/blog/


Time to celebrate the little things in my life!

1.  Successfully navigated both my daughters' birthdays and Halloween without overdosing on chocolate.  It is one sugar-filled week at our house!
2.  Successfully cut my Diet Coke intake down to one a day, with the goal of not having any daily.
3.  Successfully completed and check off EVERY item on my "to do" list at work yesterday.  Yay!

Sacred Place of the Day

Unity Temple, Oak Park, Illinois
Frank Lloyd Wright


Poured out as sacrifice

Today was the school Mass at the parish where I work.  I'm not a big fan of the school children lectoring, as I don't think 3rd graders know what "libation" means and lectors should understand what they are proclaiming, but the little girl that did the first reading today had such a delightful lisp, I could see God smiling.

A "libation", according to Meriam-Webster, is a "liquid poured out, usually as a sacrifice".  St. Paul, in this letter the Ephesians, says this is exactly what he is:    "...I am poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial service of your faith".  This is such a strong image, and also a clear indication as to how we are to live out our Christian faith.

As any little kid knows, when you spill the milk, it goes everywhere.  What was once contained now spreads.  One way to describe a great party is to say,  "The drinks flowed!"  Jesus turned water into wine, allowing a family to keep serving their guests, instead of having to send everyone home.  All of these images and ideas are "packaged" in what St. Paul says:  poured out as a libation in sacrificial service to your faith.  What would happen if we poured ourselves out, no longer contained, in sacrificial service to everyone we come in contact with?  What if our love of Christ flowed out of us like drinks at a party?  What if we knew that God would never allow us to "run out", but would renew our reserves of faith just as we needed?  What if Christ flowed from each and every one of us that bears His name?  Oh, what a party THAT would be....

All Souls and All Saints...and cleaning up for Heaven

These two celebrations seem to be confusing to people, even lifelong Catholics.  All Saints' Day celebrates all of those who enjoy the bliss of Heaven - those the Church officially recognizes (like St. Francis of Assisi) and those who are known only to God.  All Souls' Day is a day to remember all those who have died, and whose afterlife is uncertain to us mortals.  Ultimately, we just don't know where people "end up" - judgement is left to the Judge, our Lord God.  Our "job" isn't to judge or guess;  our job is to pray.  We pray - and hope - that all our beloved (and not so beloved) dead will know God's mercy, and that His perpetual light will shine upon them.

Most Catholics believe that Purgatory is true - not simply because the Church teaches it (although that's a darned good reason), but because it makes so much sense.  Despite all my attempts to be good, I'm not.  I sin day-by-day, minute-by-minute.  In spite of the help that the Church offers me (in the graces of the Sacraments and the prayers of all the faithful), I am not in any shape to meet my Maker.  I love Him, I try to serve Him, I trust in His mercy, but when I have to stand before Him, I want to be in as good as shape as possible.  I may just need a chance to make some final preparations, even though I strive every day to stand in His grace.

A local gym advertises a "bridal boot camp", offering to get brides into top physical shape before the walk down the aisle.  Although a little superficial, it is understandable:  every bride wants to look her best for her groom.  We dress up for job interviews.  We clean the house for company.  We splash on a little perfume or cologne before a date.  Why would we NOT want to do the same for God?  Purgatory offers us a chance to "clean up" before our debut in Heaven, should we need it.  And I, for one, hope for this chance - if I fall a little short here on earth.  Because the alternative is....damned frightening.


Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

Well, this is a good sign: restoring sanity, little by little

Thought you might enjoy the sign from Saturday's Sanity Rally;  I sure did:  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130953793

Solemnity of All Saints

John Nava:  Tapestry for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, CA

The holy one of the Most HIgh shall receive the kingship, to possess it forever and ever.  (Dn. 7:18)

Always Faithful

We went to Mass last night, and had an older priest. In his homily, he exhorted us to "semper paratus:" Be prepared. The Gospel,...