Am I missing something?

This billboard has made an appearance in the city where I work, and is causing a stir.  Granted, I live in a very "religious" area - there is a church on every corner, and we have at least five religious colleges here.  However, I'm not gonna get too worked up over this.

First, we live in a country with free speech, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  You wanna put up a billboard touting atheism - go ahead.  (You wanna put up a billboard that bashes particular religious beliefs....then we got a problem....)

Second, I went to this website.  I think I must be missing something.  One of their "course offerings" is designed to help people confront the challenges of living a non-theistic/secular lifestyle in a world dominated by religious belief and pseudoscience.  Huh?  We're living in a world dominated by religious belief?  Where? 

Let's see.  Maybe that religious domination in obvious in our culture.  We could watch MTV's VMAs for proof.  Uh, no, not there.

Maybe we could look to politics.  Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney - those folks are NEVER ridiculed for their religious beliefs.  Uh, nope, that's not it.

One million young people gathered in Spain to celebrate their Catholic faith.  The press wouldn't concentrate on a small group of protesters, right - 'cause we live in a world dominated by religious beliefs.  Suuuuure.....

Look, if you want to try and live your life "without God", go ahead.  I think it's silly, and dangerous, and rather muddle-headed.  It's like saying you're going to try and live without air, because there is air pollution.  Yes, people have done bad things in the name of religion.  People have been hurt and scarred by folks claiming to know the will of God.  Yet, God is good, even when people aren't, and He exists.  Better than that, He loves all of us, even wrong-thinking atheists who believe that "free thinking" means that humans somehow weren't made, they just 'are', and that we invented "good". 

One of their course offerings is described this way: 
What Is the Meaning of Life? If there is no supreme meaning or design for everything, people
can still live meaningful, ethical, and satisfying lives.

Bull feathers, as my mom would say.  If there is no supreme meaning, then what the heck am I doing?  Why should I bother watching out for anyone but myself?  Why bother at all? 

Okay, I said I'm not gonna get worked up, and I'm not.  Mostly I'm just sad.  Show me a happy atheist, who looks forward to death with joyful hope, and I'll get worked up.  Until then, I'm gonna keep plodding along my religious path.

Sacred Place of the Day

Unfortunately, I don't know where this mosque is, but it sure is beautiful!

Because God has a sense of humor....

Actually called a "chinstrap penguin".  Probably created the same day as the platypus....

A little something to think about.....

"The bravest and most noble are not those who take up arms, but those who are decent despite everything; who improve what it is in their power to improve, but do not imagine themselves to be saviours. In their humble struggle is true heroism." - Theodore Dalrymple

Jogging in a Hurricane

Like many of you, I watched the progression of Hurricane Irene over the weekend as she swept up the East Coast.  At one point, the camera caught a person jogging through the streets.  The person was in several inches of water, and being pelted by rain, but on they ran.  I thought,  "What an idiot!"  What could possibly compel a person to jog in a hurricane?

As I thought about that image over the day, I thought about all the times when I have "jogged in a hurricane".  Sometimes, it was doing something ill-advised - I felt I had  to do whatever the task was, even though people around me told me it was a bad idea.  Of course, I KNEW it was a bad idea, but, being the stubborn girl I am, I stuck it out....all the while muttering to myself how stupid the whole idea  was.  But I sure wasn't gonna back down, and let anyone have the satisfaction of "I told you so".  I kept jogging in the hurricane.

More often, though, my experiences of jogging in a hurricane have been when a storm swept around me and I really did have to keep going.  Raising my kids, I often found myself in a storm of circumstances:  social workers, mental health issues, psychiatrists, special education needs, juvenile court, attorneys.....the rains pelted, the winds blew, and I had to keep going.  I wanted to stop, I would have stopped....but I couldn't.  There was a race to be won, and I had to keep running it.  I had to keep jogging through that hurricane. 

That guy I saw on the news must have had a reason for jogging in that hurricane.  Maybe he WAS an idiot, but more likely, he was compelled to run the race that either he had chosen, or was chosen for him. 

They saw the works of the LORD,
the wonders of God in the deep.
He commanded and roused a storm wind;
it tossed the waves on high.
They rose up to the heavens, sank to the depths;
their hearts trembled at the danger.
They reeled, staggered like drunkards;
their skill was of no avail.
In their distress they cried to the LORD,
who brought them out of their peril;
He hushed the storm to silence,
the waves of the sea were stilled.
They rejoiced that the sea grew calm,
that God brought them to the harbor they longed for. Psalm 107: 24-30

Total rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I rip-off another writer on the web.  Today's choice is one of my personal heroes, Helen Alvare':

...during the passage of the 2010 health care law (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or PPACA), longstanding, bipartisan agreement to shield the religious freedom of healthcare providers—especially where abortion is concerned—broke down. Democrats in the Senate and then in the House either proposed or ultimately acceded to conscience provisions significantly weaker than those available in past federal laws. Very recently, the Obama administration realized religious institutions’ worst fears by mandating all forms of birth control, and some forms of abortifacient drugs, as mandatory “preventive healthcare” services under the PPACA. Under this regulation, religiously affiliated healthcare institutions that attempt to hire or serve people of other faiths are denied conscience protection. It is almost unnecessary to point out the irony, the shortsightedness, even the cruelty, of such a denial. the struggle over same-sex marriage, some lawmakers are increasingly hostile to moral and practical arguments about the unique goods intrinsic to opposite-sex marriage, and to citizen demands for conscience protections. It appears that lawmakers are responding more to cultural and media elites who express overt hostility to religion, or they are simply confused about the true meaning and purpose of marriage and the family. Some groups and politicians supporting same-sex marriage brand religious ministries to the poor and vulnerable as “bigotry” and threaten the very existence of those ministries, during a time when the government would be hard-pressed to fund additional services itself. Witness the harassment, and in some cases termination, of Catholic adoption agencies that refuse to pair children with same-sex couples.

Dogs on a bus, and crazy family stories

I spent the weekend with my mom.  She's 86, and I realize that time with her is quite precious.  We didn't do a lot, but we spent a lot of time laughing and she told me a few family stories.

The first one is a worthy of any Irish family.  Mom was born in 1925, at home.  Her mother nearly died in childbirth, and the doctor attending her - for reasons known only to him - injected her with whiskey.  It must have "worked" - Mom was born just fine, and Grandma went on to bear three more children.  How grand is this?  We actually have whiskey running through our veins! 

The other story she told me also had to do with my grandmother.  Her parents had purchased a farm, hoping their sons would work hard and enjoy the fresh country life.  They hated it, and my grandmother ended up doing much of the work.  The boys decided to move to Detroit for factory work, and my great-grandfather and -mother decided they couldn't trust the boys in the big city, so they packed up and went with them.  They left my grandmother (who was finishing up teaching school) with an aunt, uncle, and the farm dog, Tig.

My great-grandmother didn't mind the city, but missed Tig.  So, she wrote my grandmother and ordered Tig to Detroit - a good 130 miles, mind you - on the bus.  Can you imagine a bus ride, 130 miles in the early 1920s.....for a dog??   Well, Tig arrived in fine shape, and apparently lived out the rest of his days in the big city.

It was a good weekend.

Oh, how I wish I had your life....

Q: My new husband (second marriage for both of us) absolutely loves bright colors. He is a native Floridian and still has a Sunbelt style and he wears it well: shirts in peach, stripes and even acid green pants for golf. We are in our late 40s and it's not required that we match, but I want to look complementary—at least when we are together. I'm typical for New York, a lot of black in my closet and I don't want to start over.

This was the actual question in the Wall Street Journal's fashion section yesterday.   Really.  Who would make this up.  (I wonder why her first marriage broke up....)

You know what I wish?  I wish this was the biggest worry of my life - a worry so overwhelming, that I felt I had to write to a fashion editor of one of the world's leading newspapers in order to solve the issue.  That's what I wish.

But no.  I have other worries.  At this particular moment in my life, here is a partial list of my worries:

-my elderly mother's health
-a 14 year old starting high school with NO motivation towards school work whatsoever
-a college sophomore who is making really bad decisions (and publishing them on Facebook)
-the need for another car, and money
-the learning curve of my new job
-a daughter with bi-polar disease
-an aging dog who will probably have to be put down sooner rather than later
-Did I mention money?

Ah, well.  I wish the above-mentioned lady all the best.  I'm sure in the world she lives in, color-coordination with one's spouse is a weighty issue. sure ain't in mine.....

A trip to visit Bad Vestments was in order today....

Just to remind us all that Bad Liturgy and Bad Vestments go hand-in-hand.....

Restless tonight....and the next night...and the next....

But the one thing I know: that when I, I turn out the light,
Visions of you, dear, dance in the night.
I've been put down, pushed around, apprehended and led downtown.
Can't help it if I'm full of fire.

But the one thing I know: that when I, I turn out the light,

Visions of you, dear, dance in the night.
I've been put down, pushed around, apprehended and led downtown.
An' I can't help it if I'm out of sight,
'Cause I'm restless tonight.

- "Restless Tonight", by Alison Krauss; lyrics by Robert Lee Castelman

I have "restless leg syndrome".  It can, admittedly, sound like a joke, but it's not  - it's an actual neurological disorder.  Some literature says it is characterized by "unpleasant" feelings in the legs.  Uh-huh.  "Unpleasant" might be too pleasant a word for it.

For me, first of all, it isn't always a sensation just in my legs.  It affects my arms as well (not that unusual).  It is uncontrollable muscle movements, usually in the early evening or at night, or any time I might be still for a longer period of time (like a car ride).  It can feel like a creepy urge to move, as if something is crawling under one's skin.  The only way to deal with it is to get up and move around.

Last fall, I went through a rather extreme period of insomnia, mostly due to the restless legs (although I wasn't completely sure of what it was at that point).  It got pretty ugly - a continuing cycle of trying to sleep, waking up, almost falling asleep again, having my legs jerk me awake....over and over, night after night.

I would wake up in the morning and my legs would ache.  It felt like I had run a marathon in my sleep.  I would drag through the day, and then go through the whole damn thing again.

Finally, after doing some internet sleuthing, I went to see a sleep specialist.  I knew my dad had suffered from this, although it wasn't diagnosed until late in his life.  My mom used to complain about what a restless sleeper he was, but that was about it.  (RLS is inheritable.) The sleep specialist also checked my iron levels, which were REALLY low.  For some reason, not yet known, the low iron levels and restless legs go together quite frequently, although it's a chicken-and-the-egg sort of puzzle.

Now, I'm on iron supplements, plus two meds. to help with the restless legs and with sleep.  It still bothers me, but not nearly to the degree that it did last fall.

I think all physical ailments have some sort of spiritual dimension.  I'm not talking about making yourself sick with worry, and "you deserve to get AIDS 'cause you're a sinner" sort of thing, but that we can't separate our physical from our spiritual and emotional.  The whole idea of being restless at a time when I'm supposed to be resting is intriguing:  why won't I allow myself to sleep?  What's going on inside that makes restorative sleep such a battle?  "I'm tired, but I've got stuff to do and I'm not going down without a fight!", I imagine my brain saying to my body.  "You can't rest;  who will take care of....everything????", my soul screams. 

I've always been one who has a hard time "shutting my brain" off at bedtime, and now it seems that has flowed over into my body as well.  It's a constant struggle to relax - I have to consciously think about doing something that most people do quite naturally.

I also wonder if it's my mind and body's way of dealing with the complacency we all tend to feel sometimes in our lives, that "Is this all there is?" sort of thing.  You know, that wanderlust that says, "Let's just sell everything and go!"  Apparently, my body is ready and willing to go...and go...and go...

Finally, of course, St. Augustine comes to mind:  "Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they rest in Thee."  I'm always gonna be a little restless, because this isn't Heaven.  It is a vale of tears, and restless legs, and headaches, and too much work, and buttons that fall off, and cars that need repairs, and....well, you know.  I'll be restless again tonight, I'm sure, and for many more nights, until I reach a final, peaceful and most blessed rest.

Total rip-off, part two

I'm ripping off  "The Digital Hairshirt" today.  She took some time off this year, but she's blogging again and she's got her mojo back.  Her post today is calling upon God to smite a few folks, and see if you don't agree.

On Wednesday, August 17, child advocates Matt Barber, Vice President of Liberty Counsel Action, and Dr. Judith Reisman, a visiting law professor at Liberty University School of Law, attended a Baltimore, MD conference hosted by the pedophile group B4U-ACT. Around 50 individuals were in attendance including a number of admitted pedophiles – or “Minor-Attracted Persons” as they prefer to be identified (MAP “sexual orientation”) .
MAPs, really?  Not MPPs - Minor Preying Persons?  This conference was about how pedophilia needs to be revised in the DSM-IV, the manual of psychological disorders used by the field.

Drawing Autism

Autism is a strange, befuddling, awesome syndrome.  While books and movies almost seem to romanticize those who are autistic, the day-to-day life of an autistic child and his/her family can be draining, frustrating, and puzzling.

I did find this website, Drawing Autism, that offers some artwork by those with autism.  It is definitely worth sharing.

Mark Twain House with the Diamond Eclipse and Venus

Sacred Place of the Day

Roussanou Monasstery, Meteora, Greece

Wonder how his second and third children feel about this?

In China:  "You have no safety net. Your policy has been one which I fully understand -- I'm not second-guessing -- of one child per family," Biden said, according to the official transcript of the event. "The result being that you're in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable." 

Sacred place of the day

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington, DC

Total rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer on the 'web.  Today my choice is Max Lindenman, over at "Diary of a Wimpy Catholic".  His musings about World Youth Day for the hopelessly anti-social certainly gave me a chuckle, and also reminded me that the Catholic Church is a big, big church, and we must always remember there is room for everyone, even if they are sitting alone, chain-smoking.

It’s hard to imagine Flannery O’Connor at World Youth Day. As a child, she marked the jacket of her journal with the warning “MIND YOUR OWN BIDINIS.” As an adult, she thrived in places like Yaddo and Andalusia, where people, by and large, did exactly that. Of the crowds on the New York City subways, she wrote, “Although you see a few people you wish you didn’t know, you see thousands you’re glad you don’t know.” It would be unwise to hope that her reaction to the festivities in Madrid would be much different.

Stage one: complete!

Thanks to my wonderful readers for nominating "Kissing the Leper" for

Voting will commence on September 17.  Don't worry - I'll remind you!

Where do you serve God?

One of my co-workers just posted this, and it's terrific!  Don't miss the video.

Time for a new game plan

No matter how you look at it, good parenting is a challenge (bad parenting is easy....).  You have a million opinions on how to raise one kid, what works for that kid doesn't work for another, and you don't really have any idea how things will turn out for decades.

The challenge Dear Husband and I are facing now is parenting older teens.  We've got one starting his second year of college (he's living away from home) and one starting his freshman year at college - living at home.  The rules just changed.

Eldest Son is making a lot of choices that we know are bad.  We know they are going to have deep and severe consequences, and that the choices are going to be regrettable.  He doesn't see it that way.  I don't want every conversation to turn into a fight, so finding some balance of admonishment and empathy is proving to be very difficult. 

Tallest Son is choosing to live at home as he starts college.  Fine with  us - we love having him around.  However, he's sort of an adult, sort of a to parent him?  It doesn't seem fair to track his every move - if he were living in a dorm, we wouldn't do that.  However, since he's home, it's only fair for him to let us know his plans.  Plus, he's living rent-free, so he's got chores and responsibilities to take care of, and I still have to nag.  We had a conversation yesterday about this new playing field we find ourselves on, and we're all still trying to negotiate it.

The key, it seems, is like a lot of things in life:  listening.  I have to listen to them, they have to listen to me, and then we have to make our own decisions.  I also want my kids to know that I'm navigating this new territory right along with them:  I don't have it nailed down, and we need to work together.

I'll let you know how it all turns out.  Probably ten years from now......

Mary Cassatt Monday

Contest: "...and this is the thanks I get."

In the words of my wonderful Aunt Doris:  I do and do and do for you people, and this is the thanks I get.
Why bring this up now?  Well, I AM under appreciated, but it is time for:

Here is where you come in, dear readers.  First, I need someone to nominate "Kissing the Leper" for  Best Under Appreciated Blog.  (Do it right now, before you forget.  Go ahead;  I'll wait.)

Then, vote.  Vote a lot.  Pretend you're in Chicago and follow the "vote early and vote often" rule. 

By the way, there is no monetary gain in this for me.  There's actually very little prestige either, but I do get to display a wicked Cannonball icon on my website for the next 12 months. 

If you're one of those people who enjoys my blog, consider nominating and/or voting.  Today, tomorrow and the next day. 

That's what I like about Sunday

Sunday in the Park, Seurat
One of my Franciscan Sister friends was telling a group of us the other night about a photo essay on Sunday.  The photographer was doing a study on what Sunday meant to people.  I think this is a lovely idea, and can't wait to see the result of his work.  It also made me think of what Sunday meant to me.

First, Sunday means church.  It anchors my week, makes me feel connected to God and others and generally sets the tone for my week and my life.  I can never figure out what people who don't go to church do on Sundays (one of my friends said, "sleep");  it would seem like just another day, and that seems rather sad.

Sunday means rest to me, too, or I suppose an excuse to be lazy.  I can choose to do whatever I choose to do, as long as it isn't "work".  That's so lovely!

Sunday also means family - a day to hang out together, even if you're not doing anything special.

What do you like about Sunday?

At least he's creating jobs, right?

President Obama, in his quest to get more Americans back to work, is talking about creating a "Department of Jobs".  Huh?  Don't we already have a couple of departments doing this work??

Here’s a paragraph on the U.S. Department of Labor. It details the history of this federal agency, now approaching its one hundredth year of existence:
The organic act establishing the Department of Labor was signed on March 4, 1913, by a reluctant President William Howard Taft, the defeated and departing incumbent, just hours before Woodrow Wilson took office. A Federal Department of Labor was the direct product of a half-century campaign by organized labor for a “Voice in the Cabinet,” and an indirect product of the Progressive Movement. In the words of the organic act, the Department’s purpose is “to foster, promote and develop the welfare of working people, to improve their working conditions, and to enhance their opportunities for profitable employment.”

Reads pretty much like a Jobs Department to me. Has anyone talked to Labor Sec. Hilda Solis about any new “Jobs Department?” What is she supposed to do, how is she supposed to labor, if we have another Jobs Department?

Then, of course, we have the U.S. Commerce Department. The Mission Statement of this department makes it sound like it, too, is a Jobs Department.

The U.S. Department of Commerce promotes job creation, economic growth, sustainable development and improved standards of living for all Americans by working in partnership with businesses, universities, communities and our nation’s workers.

Reading these official statements—cranked out by people whose salaries we all pay—reminds us of Ronald Reagan’s famous line. The closest thing to eternal life we will see on this earth is a government program.

It seemed like it would work....

I've been at my new job for three months now.  It's been a challenge.  I often feel like this cat - thinking I'm on to something, and then finding myself in a tight spot.  It seemed like it would work...

It's kind of strange to be at this point in my life and having to learn so much.  I thought when I started teaching full-time a few years back that I had found my niche, and that's where I'd be for, well, a long time.  I loved every minute of teaching, even the moments when I had to restrain myself from doing bodily harm to a teenager, and I would have been quite content to remain there.

Life happens.

I really love my new job.  I love the team I work with, and all the new challenges.  However, it seems like every day, I do something wrong.  I step on someone's toes, overstep a boundary I didn't know existed, forget a step in some process I learned the day's endless.  And it's tough.  I like to think of myself of quite competent, but my new career is making me see otherwise.  I have to check and re-check, ask lots of questions, go back over things, make sure the hole I'm sticking my head into will also accommodate the rest of my body, as Kitty above failed to do.  It's tiring.

This sounds whiny, and I don't mean it to be.  I'm quite happy.  First, I'm happy to  have a job, and second, I'm happy to have a challenging job.  It's just that most days I feel like I still haven't quite "gotten it" yet.  I hope that day comes soon.

Have just discovered "Johnny Optimism"

Humor for the definitely-NOT-faint-of-heart!

Getting your daughter to wear decent clothes

Saw this headline on the other day:  "How to get your teenage daughter to wear what YOU want". 


Here's I how I do it.  I buy the clothes.  She wears them.  If she wants something I find immodest or distasteful, I don't buy it.

This method works.

Really, parents:  there should be no argument over this.  You hold the purse strings.  If you don't want your daughter to wear crap, don't buy it. 

Now, that doesn't mean she has to look like she's one of the von Trapp kids either - with a "modest" dress made from leftover curtains.  There are plenty of ways to be fashionable, fun and in good taste.

But stop arguing.  You're the parent.

If I'm mentally ill, am I still a reflection of God?

From Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan's "Looking at Mental Illness from a Holistic Perspective:

...I would like to move a step further and venture a statement that might shed light on the issue, from the point of view of Moral Theology. The statement is that: the mentally ill person is not a deformed image of God but, rather, a faithful image of God, our Lord. Such a statement intuitively finds confirmation in the thought of our Lord when he says: “The Kingdom of God is within you” (Lk17, 21) and “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles man” (Mt 15, 18). “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man” (Mk 7, 20).
The Kingdom of God, the existence of the Holy Trinity in each one of us, may be found in our heart, the heart seen as the ultimate source of decisions that give form to our whole existence; not only that which was previously defined as the fundamental option, but also the whole meaning of this option, with all the actions we perform to realize it. In other words, the heart represents all our dynamism at the service of the mission that God has entrusted to us.
The Kingdom of God enters into the loving knowledge and in the decision made in the deepest intimacy of our person, which are then realised by the power of the Holy Spirit, who leads us by the hand like Children of God, and by the total collaboration that give form to our existence, according to the Law of God. If we want to separate from the Kingdom of God, we can do so only with an evil heart, to which Christ our Lord refers, and from which all the sins come.

"I'll take just a scrap"

Sunday's Gospel from Matthew is one of the most interesting ones.  It's a story told in Mark, as well:  a woman comes and begs healing for her daughter from Jesus, who seemingly rebuffs her, telling her that He came for the children of Israel.  She is Canaanite in Matthew's Gospel, Syrophoenician in Mark's - not a Jew.

I don't pretend to have any idea what is going on with Jesus here.  I DO know what is going on with the woman though - she is a desperate mother, and those are shoes I've walked in.  She's willing to be humiliated, willing to be talked down to, willing to challenge:  this is her last hope.  And it works.  Her willingness to take a scrap turns into a banquet for her child - and that was all that mattered.

I've walked this hard road as a mother more than once.  Sometimes I feel like I'm begging God for something that is right;  why won't He just give it over?  I don't know.  It's not an easy position to be in. 

I do know that many times in the Gospels, Jesus praises and responds to particularly persistent women.  First, it's His own Mother at the wedding at Cana.  He tells the story of the judge finally worn down by the woman who badgers and badgers him.  Jesus praises the widow's mite, and here, He is overcome with compassion for this mother who will NOT be turned away.

Mostly, this story reminds me not to give up.  Prayer isn't always what it seems at our end, and we cannot fathom the mind of God.  Although Winston Churchill did not have prayer in mind when he remanded the British people to Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy, he may well have been speaking of prayer.  That's what I learned from this unyielding woman from so long ago as well.

Total rip-off Tuesday

Don't worry.  It's not him;  it's us.

The Crumbling Cult of Obama -

Similarly, Jacob Weisberg of Slate wrote that because of "intellectual primitives" on the right, "compromise is dead" and "there's no point trying to explain complicated matters to the American people. The president has tried reasonableness and he has failed."

I feel so dumb.....

Where children sleep

I found this blog post about the book Where Children Sleep, and found it both fascinating and heart-breaking.  Photographer James Mollison traveled the world to record the conditions under which children slumber.  Just look at these two examples.

The top photo is a young Romanian boy who shared this mattress with his family.  The second is an 8 year old boy American boy.

Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary

Fresco from a Swedish church
We are inspired by the certainty that your eyes, which wept over the earth crimsoned by the blood of Jesus, are yet turned toward this world racked by wars and persecutions, the oppression of the just and the weak. From the shadows of this vale of tears, we seek in your heavenly assistance, tender mercy, comfort for our aching hearts, and help in the trials of Church and country. - Pope Pius X

Sacred place of the day

The view towards the crypt at the Basilica of Santa Chiara, Assisi, Italy

Feast of St. Clare

As a Franciscan, I love learning about St. Clare.  She was young and impassioned, but a strong leader.  Most of all, her Faith was focused in the face of opposition from nearly everyone around her.

There are several images of Clare with the Eucharist, and others with a cat, so I chose the one above with both.  At one point, her convent was being over-run by the Saracens, and she is said to have driven them out holding the Eucharist in a monstrance, shielding the building and her Sisters.

She also had a affinity for cats.  One writer suggests that cats, as pets, are good contemplative companions, and any of us that live with cats can agree to that, I think.  They are wonderful playmates and provide lots of entertainment, but are also perfectly content to sit and well, contemplate.  No wonder Clare enjoyed them!

Most high,
glorious God,
enlighten the darkness
of my heart, and give me, Lord
a correct faith,
a certain hope,
a perfect charity,
sense and knowledge,
so that I may carry out
Your holy and true command.
- St. Clare of Assisi

Nothing worse than a bad hair day

Worst. Haircut. Ever.

It's what I like about Buddha

For a nice Catholic girl, I have a somewhat strange fondness for the Buddha.  I'm not really in love with Buddhism, as I don't find it an especially compelling philosophical cult (and I don't mean that pejoratively).  I do like the Buddha though.  That picture above is the Buddha that sits on my desk at work, reminding me to chill, to breathe, to take a moment and pray.

The Buddha got a lot of stuff right (yeah, he got a lot wrong too....I know).  He did recognize that suffering in our lives was inevitable, and that we are way too attached to things.  Learning how to let go of "stuff" in our lives - even emotional "stuff" - is a good way to avoid a lot of unnecessary suffering.  I don't believe we can get rid of all attachments - we humans are meant to be in relationship with each other, and it hurts when we lose those relationships, whether through a break-up, a relocation, a misunderstanding or death.  We shouldn't abandon each other just because of this, though, and that's where Buddha goes a bit far. 

Speak or act with an impure mind and trouble will follow you.

This is just the sort of thing that Buddha says that I can agree with, and it doesn't in any way conflict with my Catholic faith.  Thankfully, the Buddha never set himself up as a god, to be worshiped.  He knew he was just a guy looking for answers, and he thought he'd found some.  I admire that:  the humility he had, the longing for answers for hard questions, the simplicity of his message.

It's what I like about Buddha.

Another glass here, please!

"If the Lord can turn water into wine, surely he can turn debt into wine -- which is good, because we're gonna need a drink." -- Stephen Colbert

Just the sort of geeky, religious stuff I love!

High noon: How the sun and moon guided prayer times and liturgy

A long granite strip running from the ancient obelisk through St. Peter's Square at the Vatican serves as a meridian, a line that indicates when the sun has reached true or solar noon and is at its highest point in the sky. (CNS/Paul Haring)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Hidden among the paving stones of St. Peter's Square there is a simple clock and calendar. All you need is a sunny day.

The 83-foot stone obelisk in the middle of the square acts as a sundial that can accurately indicate midday and the two solstices thanks to a granite meridian and marble markers embedded in the square.

Pope Benedict XVI proudly pointed out the hidden timepiece during an Angelus address he gave on the winter solstice a few years ago.

"The great obelisk casts its shadow in a line that runs along the paving stones toward the fountain beneath this window and in these days, the shadow is at its longest of the year," he told pilgrims from the window of his library.

In fact, at noon on Dec. 21, the obelisk's shadow falls on the marble disk furthest from the obelisk's base, while at noon on June 21 -- the summer solstice -- the tip of the shadow will fall just a few yards from the obelisk. In between are five other disks marking when the sun enters into which sign of the zodiac.

A long, thin granite strip running from the obelisk toward the pope's window and through one of the fountains acts as the meridian: a line that indicates when the sun has reached true or solar noon and is at its highest point in the sky.

The pope, in his solstice soliloquy, reminded people that the church has always been keenly interested in astronomy to help guide and establish fundamental liturgical days and the times of prayer such as the Angelus, which is recited in the morning, at noon and in the evening. While sunrise and sunset are easy to figure out, sundials could accurately tell midday, he said.

(Click on the above link for the whole story - if you're a geek like me!)

Feast day of St. Edith Stein, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Edith is a great friend of mine, even though she is miles smarter than I.  For today's "total rip-off", I'm going to let her speak. 

My favorite writings of hers are on the feminine, the vocation of women in the modern world. 

It would not be difficult to mention women in the most diverse professions who have achieved excellence, but this would not prove that their occupations were specifically feminine ones. Not every woman is a pure embodiment of feminine nature. Individualities are not simply variations of feminine nature but are often approximations of masculine nature and qualify, thereby, for an occupation not regarded as specifically feminine. If the care and development of human life and humanity are women’s specific duty, so the specifically feminine vocations will be those in which such efforts are possible outside of marriage as well. I do not wish to enter here into the question of domestic service because here it is not a question of specifically feminine work, and in many respects it produces tasks other than those which the woman of the house must fulfill. It is more important to clarify the significance of occupations outside of the household, occupations which were denied women for some time and have only become available for women gradually through the struggles of the feminist movement.

Contest Update

Well, let's just say it didn't go as well as planned, and I'm devising some new strategies for gaining more followers.  I'm reserving the right to hold off on the contest (maybe around the holidays I'll do it....hmmm....).  I do appreciate the few new followers I gained, and I hope you stay with me!

Bleh: Monday

One way of looking at it

I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.  - Albert Einstein

The Anti-bucket list

As you well know, many people have a "bucket list":  the things they wish to do before they die.  I read recently one writer who was developing an "anti-bucket" list (actually, he called it by a name that starts with "f" and rhymes with "bucket", but my mom reads my blog sometimes, so.....)

I think an anti-bucket list is brilliant.  There are so many things that people have told me I MUST do, SHOULD do, HAVE to do, can't believe I haven't done....and frankly, I don't care. 

Here in part, is my anti-bucket list, and I reserve the right to add to it as I see fit:
  • Learning to drive a stick shift.  Isn't this why the automatic was invented?
  • Eating squid.
  • Sitting through any Adam Sandler movie.  Ditto for Pauly Shore.
  • Any "show on ice".
  • Camping.   I don't like.  I don't want to do it.  Ever.
  • Finishing a bad book.  I used to make myself read an entire book, but frankly, life is too short.  If the author hasn't gotten me in the first chapter or two, I toss it.
  • Same with bad wine.  If it doesn't taste good on the first sip, it is not going to get better.
  • Getting "abs".  It ain't gonna happen.  Yeah, I know there are those commercials on TV where a woman of a "certain age" tells me it can be done.  I just don't wanna.
  • Feeling guilty about my shoes.  Yes, I need all of them.  Yes, I wear all of them.  Yes, I need another pair of black shoes.  (This is directed towards Dear Husband, who is unclear as to why any woman would need more than one pair of black shoes.  Silly man.)
  • Feeling guilty about liking fashion.  Okay, maybe it's a bit shallow, but I like pretty clothes.  I like looking at the creativity of designers. No, it's not rocket science, and I'm okay with that.
  • Never giving a rat's ass about actual rocket science.
  • I don't care about cars.  I don't intend to.  Does it get me from point A to point B safely every day?  Brilliant!
  • I hate fantasy "art".  There.
  • Putting up with bad service.  Recently, I've had a rash of run-ins with service people who think they are comedians.  They were wrong.  I don't wish to be entertained.  Just give me my money back on this item, please.
  • Extreme couponing.  Yeah, I realize I could save a gazillion dollars.  I would also have to give up everything else in my life.  Not a decent trade-off.  Besides, what the hell do you do with 800 toothbrushes??
  • Hosting any party where stuff is sold.  You want me to come to yours, I'm game.  But I'm not gonna host a party to get 20% off jewelry, plastic storage containers, make-up or anything else.  Don't ask.
Okay, your turn!

A favor from my readers, please

You'll notice the StumbleUpon button at the right.  If you happen to like a particular post, can you please hit the button?  I'm trying to drive some new readership.  Thanks!!

Sacred place of the day

Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome - Feast of the Dedication is today, August 5

Book review: "Islam Without Extremes"

From yours truly.

Soundtracks to our lives

We all have music that we feel should be part of the "official soundtrack" to our lives - music that got us through a tough time, music that was playing during a pivotal moment of our lives, music that made us laugh or cry.  My mom and dad always said "Peg o' my heart" was "their" song, although it isn't a song I'm really familiar with.

I've always like Melissa Etheridge's music, and "Ain't it heavy" is a particular favorite.  It seems to sum up a lot of my life.  There are a lot of days when I get out of bed and know that the fury and the agony is going to start up all over again - another battle to fight, another lesson to learn and to teach, another banner to be unfurled ahead of the troops.  And quite honestly, I don't want to do it again most days.

I'm feelin' kinda loose I'm feelin' kinda mean
I've been feeling kinda wild since I turned seventeen
Or is it madness
Tell me where can a woman find any kind of peace
When does the fury and the agony cease
How long have I got to say please
There's a hole in my jeans I only wanted to fade
I've been ripping out seams
Somebody else made tonight

 Where CAN a woman find any kind of peace?  Good question, Melissa.  I struggle with it daily.  It seems like I'm always doing something wrong, and peace is elusive.  Once in a great while, I get a glimpse of it, usually when I'm in church, it's quiet and I see God there, right in front of me and then....gone.   And it's back to the fury and the agony.

Oh, well.  At least the soundtrack to the battle is good, and one day, I stand in hope that peace will be all that there is.

Here's hoping you have no need of this, but just in case....

The Narrow Gate

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.  How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few. (Mt.7:13-14)

Total rip-off Tuesday

Decided to go with something more light-hearted for Total rip-off Tuesday.  Thanks to my niece, Emily, for sharing!

Birth control for everyone! No cost! No responsibility!

Q:  Just what disease does birth control prevent?

 Yes, that right.  Children are now a disease.  They must be prevented.  And I'm gonna have to pay for it.  So are you.

This is an actual question and response from the above website, an ABC poll re' the "free birth control" movement.  The responses on the site are chilling.  I am keenly aware that there are a gazillion knuckleheads that freely mouth off on every topic, regardless of their level of competency on said subject.  However, it is clear from this poll that this is not an isolated opinion:  children are a disease, they are nothing but trouble, they cause nothing but heartache, they are a huge economic expense....frankly, children have no redeeming value and they must not exist.

Go ahead, read the responses and see what you think.  We've come to a point in our nation where children are bad.  They must be prevented.  If we can't prevent pregnancy, we'll abort 'em.  

Small wonder our kids are cutting themselves, are depressed, are contemplating suicide, and seeking love through sex.  We've done a very good job telling them how much we don't like them.

Ireland on my mind

Rock of Cashel Cathedral, from mid-13th century

Ireland's on my mind.  Dear Husband and I are hoping, praying, scrimping so that we can go next year to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  I've decided (God help me) to learn some Gaelic.  (I can now say "yes" and "no" with the utmost ease...impressive, huh?).  We're going to see an Irish band tomorrow at a local watering hole known for bringing in great Irish talent.

Sigh....I hope I get to Erin next year.

Understanding Ramadan

Ramadan is the month-long fast undertaken by Muslims annually.  It is rigorous (for you Catholics, Lent is a cake-walk compared to Ramadan).  For Muslims in North America, Ramadan starts today (Ramadan is  "moveable" as it depends on the lunar schedule.)  I found this article at Patheos to informative and easy to understand:

(Click on the quote to get the whole article.)

What is important to know about Ramadan?
Ramadan (also written as Ramazan, Ramzan, Ramadhan, Ramdan, Ramadaan) is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset. Fasting is meant to teach the Muslim patience, modesty and spirituality
Ramadan is a time for Muslims to fast for the sake of Allah and to offer more prayer than usual. During Ramadan, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds. As compared to the solar calendar, the dates of Ramadan vary, moving backwards about ten days each year as it is a moving holiday depending on the moon. The Islamic calendar follows a lunar cycle. Ramadan was the month in which the first verses of the Qur'an were said to be revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

My baby, he wrote me a letter

One of the casualties of our post-modern age is the handwritten letter. Can you remember the last time you received one? We hardly even s...