Are you praying?

Smack in the middle of Lent:  you're feeling good about whatever you've decided to sacrifice, the Rice Bowl is getting hefty with loose change, you've even managed to get to Stations of the Cross.

Are you praying? 

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving:  the three hallmarks of Lent.  For many of us, Lent seems to be activity-driven:  we gonna do this, give up that.  But are you praying more?  All the activity in the world isn't going to us a bit of good, if it is not rooted in prayer.

Turning to the Lord God our Father almighty, from a pure heart, as far as our littleness is able, let us give him the most sincere and true thanks; praying his singular gentleness with our whole hearts, that he would be pleased at his good pleasure to hearken to our prayer;  that he would drive away the enemy from our actions and thoughts with his great power; that he would increase our faith, guide our minds, grant us spiritual thoughts and bring us to share in his own bliss.  - St. Augustine of Hippo.

Geek Week!

Geek Week continues, and it seems to have been quite popular so far.

Another "real" geek today, a woman I admire and who also fits quite happily into our little world of geekdom:

Condoleeza Rice was National Security Advisor and Secretary of State.  Those are geeky jobs.  Her hobby is classical piano.  She is now a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, a Washington-based think tank.  That's geeky.  Her dream job:  running the NFL.  Cha-ching!

Honestly, I think "Condi" is smart, funny and stylish.  I don't think I've ever seen an interview where she appeared to be caught off guard.  What's not to love about this geek???

Geek Week!

Today's geek may be the patron saint for geeks everywhere:  JRR Tolkien.

Come on:  the guy created his own language for a fictional world:  a real, coherent, speakable language.  That's geeky!

The mind that gave us hobbits, elves and Aragorn was a mind that was also deeply steeped in Catholic tradition and his love of the Eucharist.  He was a terrific family man and a beloved member of the Inklings, a group of writers that included C.S. Lewis.  Again, a triumph of geekiness.

Icon of Edith Stein

I just ran across this;  isn't it beautiful?




















http://orthometer.blogspot.com/2007/07/icon-of-st-theresia-benedikta-of-cross.html

Total rip-off Tuesdays

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer.  Today's choice is from Catholic Dads;  alas, I do not know the author:

http://www.catholicdadsonline.org/posts/7576/2415-the-genuine-article/

Geek Week!

Today's geek (yes, another fictional character) is Bobby Goren from "Law & Order:  Criminal Intent", played by Vincent D'Onofrio.

Admittedly, I don't know much about this actor, but it is sooooo much fun to watch him as Goren.  His twitchy, obsessive detective is not someone you want as a best friend, but he is the guy you'd want investigating a loved one's murder.  He seems to know everything, from forensics to literature to complex math and foreign language.  Plus he seems to have no friends, unless you count his poor partner, Eames.  A modern-day Holmes?  Methinks he's in the running!

Sacred Place of the Day

Shinkyo Bridge, Nikko, Japan

The bridge links two shrines.

Geek Week!

Today's Geek comes from a conversation I had in the car this very morning with Tallest Son.

This (for those of you too young to remember) is Les Nessman, from the TV show "WKRP in Cincinnati".  He was the hapless news director who was prone to self-injury and mispronunciation.  I actually own a stuffed dog named Les, because of an episode where he reported on a dog show, and announced the winner to be a "chi-hooie-hooie" dog (he meant Chihuaha). 

Despite his flaws, Les was extremely kind and lovable.  Here's to our geekly co-workers, family members and friends.  Give 'em a hug....and possibly a Band-aid.

Geeks, Nerds and Oddities

I was pondering some inspiration for the blog, and my mind went to a conversation I had with Tallest Son a week or so ago.  As life would have it, Youngest Son likes a TV show that Tallest Son finds....dumb.  He also likes to make fun of Youngest Son for watching it.  After an exchange that focused on things like,  "That's so stoooopid", I suggested the following to Tallest Son:

"Honey, I hate to break it to you.  You are a geek, in a family of geeks.  Just because you don't like the same geeky things as your brother, doesn't make you less of a geek.  Back off."  Tallest Son laughed, acknowledging the truth of it, and left his brother alone.

Dearest Husband is an engineer, with a BA in physics.  His hobby is bonsai trees.  I have a Master's in world religions, and I read, blog.  We rock at Trivial Pursuit.  We are geeks.

As a high schooler, being a geek isn't that great.  You're on the "outside", as it is perceived by the social stratosphere of teendom, and it doesn't always feel great.  I've even felt it as an adult, picking up a magazine in a doctor's waiting room and not recognizing myself or my life in some "women's" magazine.  "Who are these women?"  I'll think.  However, as an adult geek, you get more comfortable in your own skin, and find that the most interesting people around are....geeks.

In our family, we are proud to be a little off-kilter, a bit weird, odd, and dancing to the beat of different drums, different drummers, different tunes.

With this in mind, I'm gonna start a little blogging tangent on favorite geeks.  Feel free to jump in with your own suggestions.

My first favorite geek:  Anne of Green Gables.  She knew she was different:  red-headed, orphaned and definitely an outsider.  She had a nerdy vocabulary, a flair for the dramatic and she refused to be bullied or put in a box.  Remember her recreation of "Lady of Shalott"?  Pure geekdom! 


The Woman at the Well

http://iconnewmedianetwork.com/2007/10/18/photini-light-and-living-water

Take a few minutes and read the artist's notes.  They're quite interesting.

Photo for Friday

http://www.csmonitor.com/CSM-Photo-Galleries/Photos-of-the-Day/2011/Photos-of-the-day-03-24/%28photo%29/347717    
What are these guys doing, you ask?  They are entertaining themselves in a sport called goat dragging.  No kidding.  Wonder what the goat thinks?  What could possibly be the point to this game?

It's only the second week of Lent???

I opened up my prayer book this morning, and the thing that caught my eye was next to the day's date:  "Thursday of the Second Week of Lent".  Really??  It's only the second week???

Lent is only 40 days.  40 days isn't much, right?  It always seems do-able.  The week before Ash Wednesday, you're picking out what you're gonna give up, looking at the Stations of the Cross schedule - yeah, you can do this.

Then the reality of Lent takes hold.  You decided to give up Diet Coke, and now have a permanent headache, not to mention a constant craving every time you pass McDonald's.  You get a vicious head cold.  Soccer starts for your ten year old, and you're out in 40 degree weather watching him practice, cheering "Good job, honey" when you'd rather be --- anywhere else.

You know that Lent is supposed to be about getting closer to God - becoming the better person God created you to be.  You know that the prayer and fasting is supposed to focus you on that relationship.  Yet, here we are, two weeks in and all we can think is,  "It's only the second week of Lent??  For cryin' out loud...."

This is one of the reasons that Lent is 40 days long.  Because, the Church, in her infinite wisdom, knows that most of us can be holy and passionate for a week.  It's the second week where we start to lose it, and the third week where we're really tempted to just get the stupid Diet Coke and drink it already.  It's tough.  It's supposed to be tough.  It's not hanging-on-a-cross tough  - Christ made sure we didn't have to do that, but it's human tough. 

So, I'll tell you what I'm telling myself:  suck it up, hang tough and finish the game.  Lent is hard - pray harder.

Defunding Planned Parenthood

Regardless of what you think about Planned Parenthood and its mission, I would hope that you would agree to this:  If I find abortion to be morally repugnant, I shouldn't have to pay for it.

Along those lines:

Finally, we know that Planned Parenthood’s abortion business is very, very lucrative. The organization does a billion dollars worth of “business” each year. Abortions alone account for over a third of this revenue, even though only one in 10 patients come for an abortion. Another third comes from you and me in the form of government grants and contracts. As a result of this profiteering, the organization has built up nearly $1 billion in assets, making it one of the wealthiest “nonprofits” in American history, even as it has made the rest of us poorer by eliminating millions of people from our population. (For more details, see the Defunding Planned Parenthood Fact Sheet developed by the Chiaroscuro Foundation.)

I do not want to pay for abortions.  Stop making me.

Catholic Media Day Redux

http://www.promotecatholicism.com/?page_id=41

The link above gives you a list of all the Catholic media that participated in Catholic Media Day last week.  Why not pick out a few and check them out?  You'll be amazed at the great writing, terrific variety and passionate attitudes for the Faith!

Sick and tired

Pick one:

It's Lent.
It's early-spring-mud-season in Michigan.
Ice storm a-coming.
My body has been exposed to every known cold virus and done a valiant effort of holding them off....until now.

Either which way, I'm sick and tired.  As in:  I could my head down on my desk and nap the day away tired.

Ugh. 

If the LORD were not my help, I would long have been silent in the grave.  
When I say, "My foot is slipping," your love, LORD, holds me up.
When cares increase within me, your comfort gives me joy.  Psalm 94

Total rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip off" another writer.  Today's choice is this thoughtful defense of the Catholic Church by, of all people, a Jew:

http://fratres.wordpress.com/2008/06/24/redemption-comes-through-the-jews-jewish-businessman-sam-miller-whaps-anti-catholic-bias-in-news-media-full-text/

SPRING!

Two roads

I read the other day that the hardest choices in life are not between what is good and what is evil, but rather between what is good and what is best.  My old friend Robert Frost knew this, as he stood at a crossroads, looking at two divergent roads on a snowy evening.

We all have choices to make, and there is no magic formula for making good ones.  The best we can do is pray, talk to others who know us best, do our homework.....and then take that leap of faith.  As cliched as that might be, it really is a leap...you hope your feet find solid ground, but you aren't sure.  You hope you'll see the ground just before you land, but you can't be sure.  You hope it is a leap not just of faith and knowledge, but of surety and safety.....but you just can't be sure.  It's faith.

This Lent, I find myself  in just such a spot.  There isn't a horse shaking his harness bells at me, but sans that minor detail, I'm right there in the woods, peering down two perfectly good paths.  And I know the choice will make all the difference.

My favorite Irish prayer

May those that love us, love us.
And those that don't, may God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn't turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles,
So we'll know them by their limping.

Sacred Place of the Day

Mary, Queen of Ireland Chapel, National Basilica, Washington DC

Catholic Media Day!

Today, March 15, is Catholic Media Day - so here are a few of my faves (other than the illustrious "Kissing the Leper", of course!):

The National Catholic Register

American Papist

The Crescat

Catholic Exchange

InsideCatholic.com

Those are just a few of the many great Catholic websites and blogs in cyberspace.  Check 'em out!

Total rip-off Tuesdays

Wherein I "rip off" another writer on the web.  Today's choice is Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Acton University last year.

http://www.ruthblog.org/2011/01/26/an-open-letter-to-emerging-adults-worldwide/comment-page-1/#comment-18287

Broken and afflicted

The church where I work was destroyed over 40 years ago by a tornado.  There really wasn't much of anything left, but at some point, a few pieces of the crucifix were found.  Actually, it wasn't even the crucifix, but just the corpus (body) of Christ that hung on the cross:  the torso, head and arms (not even the hands survived).

Now that it is Lent, our pastor decided to take down our beautiful Resurrection Jesus, in our re-built church, that hangs over the altar and replace it with this broken, battered, afflicted Christ - a survivor of both man's beastly torture and nature's force.  It is a fitting focus for Lent.

All of us have moments where we feel "dismembered":  outside of a community or family situation, where our body appears to be out of control with illness or addiction, loneliness, depression, emotional estrangement or pain over a situation out of our control.  It is a horrible and dark place to be.....and yet, it is where we are most like Christ.

We know, from the very beginning of Scripture, that we are made in God's "image and likeness".  That means we get all of God's best - His love, compassion, mercy, justice, courage, grace and ability to be creative.  But we also get His suffering.  Where else would we learn the compassion, mercy, and courage?   Where else would we know His depth of love for us?  It is only when we are dismembered that we can be made whole - only when we realize our brokenness that we can understand our total reliance of God's love to hold us together.

In a whirl of wind and debris, that corpus of Christ was torn apart, and then someone lovingly searched through rubble, bricks, shards of wood and glass to find what was left and reveal the broken beauty left behind.  This Lent, pray that God will do the same for you in your life:  search through the debris of sin and nonsense that clutter and destroy, find what is good and of Him, so that on Easter morning, you may shine with broken beauty before Him who saves.

Planned Parenthood speaks for itself

from JillStanek.com

Lenten reading

Perhaps, like me, you like to do a little Lenten reading.  A book about a saint, some Scripture study - something edifying.  Might I make a suggestion?

Go to Amazon right now and buy John Zmirak's The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins.  Lest you think this is all jokes and bluff, Zmirak digs into the seven deadly sins and corresponding virtues in a way that would make the authors of the old Baltimore Catechism proud.  It's all there:  gluttony and lust, envy and wrath.  Not just the old-fashioned stuff either (although there's a lot of Thomas Aquinas' writings thrown around).  No, Zmirak wants to be clear that all this surround us now, in very real and sinister ways.

The great thing about this book is not just the dead-aim, take-a-look-at-your-soul scrutiny, but the incredible amount of fun you'll have doing examining your foibles, sins and shortcomings.  Zmirak is (as my mom would say) "a hoot".  He's got a section on the "Amazing Catholic BS Generator", how skunks are like humility (there are pictures), and a quiz on your "road whore quotient". 

It's vastly entertaining, and yet will still count as uplifiting spiritual Lenten renewal.  What more could you want?

Prayers for Japan

Our Lady of Akita, please pray for Japan.  Beg your Son for mercy on the souls lost, and courage for those who must now rebuild, repair and restore.  Amen.

Only one tragedy in life

"Saints are not freaks or exceptions, they are the standard operating model for human beings. Because, as Leon Bloy put it, "life holds only one tragedy, ultimately: not to have been a saint." In fact, in the biblical sense of the word, all believers are saints. Saints are not the opposite of sinners. There are no opposites of sinners in this world. There are only saved sinners and unsaved sinners. Thus holy does not mean "sinless" but "set-apart:" called out of the world to the destiny of eternal ecstasy with God." - Peter Kreeft

Sacred Place of the Day

Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

Well, my Lent is off to a terrific start

Remember how I mentioned the other day that Lent usually finds you?  Well, it did.

Tallest Son has a friend - a warm, funny, talented young lady, with a flair for style and a passion for art - who is also quite vocally pro-abortion.  She often posts things on Facebook that support her stance.  It appears that she has a number of friends who share her position on this topic.

Last night - Ash Wednesday - she posted a "hurray, the Senate voted to continue funding for Planned Parenthood, time to party".  Ahem. 

At least one of her friends supported her "party" attitude.  And that made me sad.  And mad.  So, in true can't-shut-my-big-Irish-mouth fashion, and in defense of women everyhwere, I posted:  "It isn't much of a party for the victims of sexual molestation, human trafficking and abuse.  Clearly, Planned Parenthood isn't interested in helping them."

Her reaction was to remove my post, and then send me a message:  "Please stop posting hateful, anti-choice messages." 

With tremendous self-control, (and yeah, I'm probably breaking my arm patting myself on the back) I didn't respond.  But I am now.

Here we go:
Abortion is murder, and is evil.  Social justice begins in the womb.
Capital punishment is evil.  We can protect ourselves from criminals without killing them, and that type of "justice" belongs to God alone.
Marriage is for one man and one woman, primarily because that is the best environment for both the adults involved, but because it is the best environment for children.
I like Sarah Palin (I'm not sure I want her as President, but I would love to live next door to her - she's adorable!)
Public servants who refuse to do their jobs, or do their jobs in a painstakingly slow, who the hell are you to tell me what to do manner make me want to scream.  And punch things.  My inner bitch (which is not buried too deeply to begin with) comes out.
There is right and wrong, and it doesn't matter who you are, what circumstances you find yourself in, how old you are, or what your daddy did to you as a kid.  Right  and truth are absolute.
Hot dogs and oatmeal are evil.  I shudder and gag.  (Yes, I realize these are not social justice issues, but they are a big deal to me.)

I truly don't believe I am hateful.  I know many of you who read this blog on a regular basis don't agree with me.  I hope that I've never been hateful to you in expressing my views, but I'm gonna keep on saying it.  I believe civil discourse is possible, but I'm also willing to take my lumps.

It is Lent, after all.

Mardi Gras!

I have to admit:  I love Mardi Gras!  Not that thing on Bourbon Street, but the honest-to-goodness Catholic celebration.  I love the license to eat a bunch of fatty-yummy foods, the get-it-out-of-your-system attitude and the sheer joy of having a day-long party.  Yeps, tomorrow is fasting, prayer, penance, and ashes, but today:  we party!

So, eat ice cream sundaes for dinner, throw on some tacky beads, pick up donuts for the office staff, relax tonight with your favorite ale.  Enjoy!

Total rip-off Tuesdays

Wherein I "rip off" another writer on the web.  Today's choice is a piece by Jim Forest, a writer at Incommunion, the blog of Orthodox Peace Fellowship, and this amazing story of bravery, resistance and holiness during WWII.
Bl. Alexander Schmorrel

And thus it begins...

I'm thinking Lent. 

I'm thinking Lent because I just led a pre-Lenten retreat for the candidates, catechumens and sponsors at our parish.  It was a great day, and a good way to get everyone ready for the rigors of Lent.

That being said, I try not to plan my Lent out too much.  This is from hard-earned experience.  As a friend of mine (who happens to be a nun) told me on Tuesday,  "Lent usually has a way of finding us."  This is her way of saying that God has a plan for our Lent, and relying on our own plan too much will usually get us derailed, bewildered, and downright upset:  "Hey, I was gonna pray the Rosary every day, and give up chocolate and Diet Coke, and go to Stations of the Cross every Friday, but then I got the flu and well, my Lent was just awful!!!"

Uh, maybe YOUR Lent was derailed, but perhaps GOD'S Lent for you went just as planned.

It's good to have a plan for Lent.  It's good to assure yourself that you're gonna pray, fast and be generous with your time and talents and money.  It's good to be concrete in how you plan to do that.  It is pig-headed to believe it's the only way, or deny that God may have something else planned.

I'm thinking Lent, and I've got a plan (my plan, by the way, is no meat).  However, I've also got an open heart and an open mind for God's voice and will.  Maybe He'll go with my plan, but I'm pretty sure He'll have a few Lenten options He'd like me to take part in.  And I will think about that as Lent unfolds.

Educational Paradigms

You may not agree with everything he has to say, but it is provoking (and fun!)

Winter of my soul

If you live in the northern climes, this is the time of year when you really start grumbling:  "More snow?", "I hate winter", "I can't wait until spring", "I just wanna see something green".  None of the other seasons engender such distaste, outright hatred or intense complaining.  (Really, when was the last time you heard someone say,  "I am so sick of the brilliant fall leaves" or "I just wish it was time to put away the patio furniture"??)

I'm right there with all the winter-haters, even though I enjoy winter.  It's a commanding season:  you HAVE to pay attention.  Snow and ice, cold and crisp all demand your mind and soul.  Still, by March 1st, we are weary.  We want a rest from the alert state.  We want the ease of spring.

I think this all speaks to our souls.  We have times when our souls need to be snapped alert, just as we are snapped alert by opening the door to a -3 degree morning.  We need a heightened state of prayer, of awareness of God's presence in our lives, of our need of redemption and reliance.  But it's hard to live that way all the time.  We also need rest and comfort, ease and time to breath.  It's hard to breath when it's freezing outside:  you have to bundle up and steel yourself against the air.  We need times when we can just open up our lungs, our soul and inhale deeply, easily.

Catholics love soulful rigor;  heck, Lent is next week!  But we also need to remind ourselves that God wants our company, not just our sacrifices.  We can rest easy in Him, be with Him, in the ease of green and fresh growth and renewed life.

Total rip-off Tuesdays

Wherein I rip off another blog post.  Today's choise is Msgr. Charles Pope, on the devastating effects of abortion on the African-American community: 


Read the article.  It makes me weep.

There is a bike in my dining room....

Really. There is a bike in my dining room. DH got obsessed with cycling after we bought our first house. You know: young, married, no ki...