"Relinquished"

Naomi Arielle, artist

Prevent a tragedy: put Baby Jesus in the crib!

There are two types of Christmas revelers in the world: those who put Baby Jesus in the crib as soon as the manger scene goes up in the family room, and those who keep Baby Jesus tucked away and put Him in on Christmas morning.  There is fierce debate between the two realms.

I put a small Nativity up on my desk at work (yes, I work someplace where this will not get me fired.  In fact, where I work, it's encouraged.)  A co-worker chided me for having Baby Jesus in the scene already.  I pointed out that, in this scene, Jesus was glued in - moot point.

Even if He wasn't glued in, I'd still have Him there.  I'm one of those who puts Baby Jesus in the manger when the scene goes up.  There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, I collect Nativity sets, and I would spend all Christmas morning trying to match up which Baby goes in which scene.  Second, I am trying to prevent a tragedy.

One of my nephews, a few years ago, attempted to have that "perfect" Christmas, wherein  his children would anticipate the birth of Baby Jesus on December 25, and he left the Baby out of the crib  This way, the tumult of opening gifts on Christmas morning could be paused by placing the King of Kings into his little manger.

Except he lost Baby Jesus.

Yep, somehow, during Advent, my nephew lost track of the "safely" tucked away Christ Child.  He's never been found.

Don't let this happen to you:  put Baby Jesus in the crib.

The University of Dayton has an outstanding Nativity collection.  It's a great way to spend a few reflective minutes during Advent.  (And yeah, Baby Jesus is in the cribs....)


"You'll be doin' all right, with your Christmas of white, But I'll have a blue, blue Christmas"


*Warning: severe whining ahead!*

Cyber Monday came and went.  Black Friday?  Oh,  yeah:  we spent $600...on a water pump for our crappy van.  $600 that we had to borrow from my mom.

I'm not feeling Christmas.

Yeah, I know:  Christmas isn't about gifts and spending money and getting and receiving stuff.  But with the glossy catalogs piling up, the coupons pouring into my email box, and the chatter about who wants what, it's hard to get past all that to the Manger.

In my dreams (wild, unimaginable dreams), I'd have a Von Trapp Family Christmas:  we'd all be whittling, sewing, crafting and creating our way to thoughtful family gifts.  However, my kids are not gonna want hand-hewn Xboxes or ear buds.  Trust me on this.  And let's be honest:  I don't want a crocheted Kindle.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I was informed by one child that Dear Husband and I were simply "mismanaging" our money and another child that said child wanted our input on upcoming decisions only "when it was financial". Our rotten finances?  Part of it is the rotten economy.  Part of it is the rotten pile of smoldering debt we owe the juvenile court system (we're talking tens of thousands of dollars here.....)  The crappy van?  We got stuck with it after our bipolar daughter stole and totaled the previous model - insurance doesn't cover it when a family member uses the vehicle in the "commission of a crime".

Humbug.

I'm feeling blue and sorry for myself.  I want to be able to have the kids open up some truly nice, wished-for things on Christmas day.  I want to spend some time picking out just the right gifts for the people in my life, instead of trying to figure out what I can manage on a so-tight-it-can't-breath budget.  I want to not have to fill stockings with toothbrushes and deodorant, but with techie gadgets and gift cards.

I'm trying to stay focused on Christ, but it's tough.  Frankly, it's shaping up to be a very blue Christmas.

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.





Total Rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" something from another website, author, or creative soul.  Not taking credit, just sharing.

Today:  should we all panic at 7 billion people on the planet???Not at all.

Advent in Renaissance Art

www.artcyclopedia.com/feature-2004-12.html

I don't think they've updated this since 2004, but no matter - art is timeless!

Giving birth to an adult

As an adoptive mother, I don't have any horror stories about pregnancy and labor.  (That doesn't mean there isn't pain involved in adopting a child - it's just a different sort.)  However, now that my kids are all older teens, I am experiencing labor pains:  giving birth to adults.

My mom and I hardly ever fought....except for the summer right before I went away to college.  We wrangled all the time.  Looking back, I can see I was scared about heading off to college:  that I'd get lost on campus, that I'd hate my roommate, that I'd be far too stupid to pass any college course.  The fear came out as anger and downright bitchiness at my mom.  I was yearning for total independence and totally freaked out of the idea of independence, all at the same time

Fast forward 30 years.

Curly-haired Daughter, now a high school senior, told me last night that she "just wanted to figure things out for herself" and didn't want my input on anything, "unless it was financial".  (Yeah, I know....sigh....)  She's struggling to figure out the same thing I was trying to figure out 30 years ago - how to be her own woman, but in the process of laboring to bring forth that woman, she's causing me a lot of pain.

What she doesn't realize, of course, is that there is no such thing as a truly "independent" man or woman - we all need each other all the time, and most of all, we need God.  Jesus gives us a lovely example of this in the story of the Prodigal Son:  the young man who decides he just wants the money "owed" to him by his father and off he goes, all bright-lights-and-big-city.  Once the son gets to the point of munching on corn husks, he re-thinks his decision.

We all have our corn husk moments.  We all have a point where we realize that our own decisions and choices have left us in a bad place, and we have to re-trace our steps home.  Sometimes we do it with embarrassment and shame, sometimes with guilt, sometimes just with the knowledge that, in order to go forward, we have to go back.

The father in the Prodigal Son story must have had a very heavy heart as he watched his youngest son disappear over the horizon, pockets loaded with cash, and a head full of ill-conceived dreams.  The dad knew what lay ahead, if only because he was older and more experienced.  And he knew he had to let the son go - birth him into the world, a hard and painful emergence into adulthood and responsibility and choices and duties and constraints and concerns and promises and the weight of all those grown-up things.

I know Curly-haired Daughter has a lot of dreams and hopes and ideas for herself - some ill-conceived and some very thoughtfully planned out.  And I have to watch her bolt over that horizon, away from me and what she sees as my meddling ways.

Sadao Watanbe
Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come    to  life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began.
(Luke 15:17-24)


Mary Cassatt Monday

The Letter  1890-1891

Praying Advent

There are a lot of ways to pray through Advent, but one resource I particularly like is from Creighton University.  These are online (great for work!), short, thoughtful and insightful prayers and reflections.  For those of us who like to prepare for Christmas in a prayerful manner, this is a terrific resource.  Check it out!


I did it! I found the stupidest article on the New Roman Missal!

Certainly, enough ink has been spilled on the changes in the language of the New Roman Missal that even most non-Catholics and nominally religious folk have heard about it.  Some of the stuff that has been written has enlightened, some entertained, and some, well....has been stupid.

This is one of the latter.

If you're not aware, we Catholics are adjusting some of the language of the Mass.  When the Mass was first translated into English from the Latin following Vatican II, some of the translations were sloppy.  Now, we're adjusting.  Honestly, the new language (while clearly going to take us a little while to get used to) is lovely and poetic and beautiful.  Unless you're her:

But Monica Malpezzi thinks the new language is stilted and confusing and will only create a barrier between people and God. "If we have to scramble for understanding in what our prayer life is, I think that will make it harder for us to feel that God is right there with us."

I'm sure Monica is a lovely woman, but guess what?  It doesn't make one bit of difference what you FEEL.  You can FEEL grouchy, happy, slovenly, or courageous:  God is there regardless.  And yeah, the language is going to FEEL a bit stilted and confusing until we get used to it.  That doesn't mean it's "bad".

Then there's this:

Bishop Donald Trautman, former chairman of the bishops' committee for the liturgy, says the priests now have to recite some sentences that are 90 words long. He also dislikes the formal tone. For example, in one funeral Mass, the priest implores God to give the departed "kind admittance to Your kingdom."
"If your mother or father or brother or sister died," Trautman says, "would we want one of us to say, 'Welcome into Your kingdom?' Or do we want to say, 'Give kind admittance into Your kingdom?' I have [an image] of someone being a ticket-taker at the door giving out tickets to enter, giving kind admittance."


Really, Bishop?  'Cause if I am standing outside the Pearly Gates, I'm gonna be begging for kind admittance.  Begging.  On my stupid, sinful, unloving, uncharitable knees: begging. Would I "like" kind admittance"?  Yeah, but I sure don't deserve it.  No one does:  Heaven is granted to us by God's kind admittance - so why not say it?

On the whole, Mass went well this morning.  Our pastor got a bit lost once, and we all stumbled a bit over a response or two, but the language is beautiful and uplifiting:

"Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom." 

And isn't that all that matters?




Holiday harrassment and family funkiness

The day after Christmas, on the liturgical calendar, is the Feast of St. Stephen, who was martyred.  The Church wants to remind us not to get too caught up in all the trimmings and warm-fuzziness of a baby in a manger, Midnight Mass, and carols.  The day after we celebrate Jesus' birth, the Church reminds us that we have to be willing to die for the Faith (ain't being Catholic grand?)

One of my favorite Christmas songs is "St. Stephen's Day Murders."  Elvis Costello did it with the Chieftains - you can listen to it here, but some of the lyrics are:

I knew of two sisters whose name it was Christmas,
And one was named Dawn of course, the other one was named Eve.
I wonder if they grew up hating the season,
The good will that lasts til the Feast of St. Stephen

For that is the time to eat, drink, and be merry,

Til the beer is all spilled and the whiskey has flowed.
And the whole family tree you neglected to bury,
Are feeding their faces until they explode.

Chorus:


There'll be laughter and tears over Tia Marias,

Mixed up with that drink made from girders.
’Cause it's all we've got left as they draw their last breath,
Ah, it's nice for the kids, as you finally get rid of them,
In the St. Stephen's Day Murders.



We all have a vision of sugar-plums and joyful family celebrations....and sometimes we get this.  We get the harried rush of family visits, the over-bearing uncles, the stress of meal-planning and travel....It's a wonder there aren't more St. Stephen's Day murders.

The trick, if there is one, is to keep a balance.  That's why the Church gives us Christmas and then a martyr's feast day:  balance.  We have to balance the food and the drink with the virtue of temperance, the rush of visits and parties with time to pray and reflect, the frustration and hurts with family members with love and patience and humility.

As we enter into the holiday season, let us all bear this in mind, lest we end up celebrating St. Stephen's day in too-realistic a way.



A Thanksgiving Prayer

This Thanksgiving let those of us who have much and those who have little gather at the welcoming table of the Lord. At this blessed feast, may rich and poor alike remember that we are called to serve on another and to walk together in God's gracious world. With thankful hearts we praise our God who like a loving parent denies us no good thing.



From Songs of Our Hearts, Meditations of Our Souls: Prayers for Black Catholics, edited by Cecilia A. Moor, Ph.D., C. Vanessa White, D.Min., and Paul M. Marshall, S.M.

"It gets a little strange after that..."

There are many Christmas movies and shows, but really only a single Thanksgiving show, in my heart and mind.....

http://www.kewego.com/video/iLyROoafYtDe.html


Blessed Miguel Pro

I was going to write something about Miguel Pro today, as it is his feast day, but my friend over at Linen On the Hedgerow did such a fine job, I'll just send you there.


Sacred Place of the Day

Plymouth Rock

Acton University

For those interested in religion, economics, and a free and virtuous society, the Acton University experience every June is incomparable.  Here is some great new information about how you can register and also take part in an online version:

Last week, the Programs Department launched registration for two exciting projects: the 2012 AU conference and AU Online. For those of you who don’t know, AU Online is an internet-based educational resource for exploring the intellectual foundations of freedom and virtue. Attending an AU Online lecture gives participants the chance to watch a live, online video presentation and interact with faculty and other attendees from around the world. 

We’re currently accepting registrations for the four-part pilot series that covers the foundational lectures that you’d normally attend at any AU or FAVS. The Foundational Series is scheduled to run twice a week, Dec. 6-15 at 4:00pm EST. 



Total Rip-off Tuesday




Wherein I "rip-off" another writer, whose prose seem more fitting than mine.  Today, President Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation, which first made a day of national thanks and repentance (yes, repentance!) our holiday:






 The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed.
 PRESIDENT LINCOLN'S THANKSGIVING DAY PROCLAMATION, OCTOBER 3, 1863.

Interfaith Ingloriousness or how to bring an ecumenical prayer service to a screeching halt

I live in a small town.  Not an-everybody-knows-your-name small, but small enough that I know the pharmacist by her first name, I sing in the church choir with one of the loan officers at the local bank, my kids have all had the same 5th grade history teacher.  Small.

Small so that, every year on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, the local churches get together for an evening of mutual praise and worship.  It's mostly music - those congregated sing a few hymns together, and each of the participating churches has their choir or vocal ensemble perform.  One of the churches has a handbell choir that does a few hymns.  The local ministers each offer a Scripture reading or prayer;  it's lovely and ecumenical and a worthy endeavor.  We hold it at our church since we have this lovely pipe organ that sounds wonderful with the choirs.

However, last night's service was marred for me.  The two Lutheran churches in our area performed a piece together called "Faith Alone/Sola Fide".  Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with the inner-workings of Christian theology:  them's fightin' words.  That is, this is a BIG theological sticking point between Catholics and some Protestant denominations.  Volumes have been written about it.  Theologians argue over it.  Luther left the Church and started his own denomination because of it. 

It is tantamount to asking the Muslim neighbors over for dinner, and serving pork.  Or joining the local Jewish congregation for a meal and asking the blessing in the name of Christ.  That choice of hymn was either a huge, ignorant blunder on someone's part, or the person who chose the piece was simply being rude.  I'd prefer to think it was the former....

Well, I'm not sure what can be done, if anything.  Maybe next year our choir will just have to sing the "Ave Maria" and get all up in their face with our Catholicism.  But that really isn't the point of the service, and that's why it was all a little sad to me.  Those Lutherans missed the point....



Mary Cassatt Monday

Lydia Leaning On Her Arms

Ikebana IV

artist unknown

Covered with the flowers,
Instantly I'd like to die
In this dream of ours!
              - Etsujin

Retreat!

No, not a weekend in Vegas - I really am going on retreat.  I'll talk to you, dear readers, next week!

Ikebana III

artist unknown


Flower-Gathering  
Robert Frost
I LEFT you in the morning,
And in the morning glow,
You walked a way beside me
To make me sad to go.
Do you know me in the gloaming,
Gaunt and dusty gray with roaming?
Are you dumb because you know me not,
Or dumb because you know?

All for me And not a question
For the faded flowers gay
That could take me from beside you
For the ages of a day?
They are yours, and be the measure
Of their worth for you to treasure,
The measure of the little while
That I've been long away.

Time to be thankful!

What are you thankful for this year?  I am thankful that I am not related to the writer of the following Thanksgiving missive (and yes, as far as my sleuthing can tell, this is real, albeit a couple of years old...):


From: Marney
As you all know a fabulous Thanksgiving Dinner does not make itself. I need to ask each of you to help by bringing something to complete the meal. I truly appreciate your offers to assist with the meal preparation.
Now, while I do have quite a sense of humor and joke around all the time, I COULD NOT BE MORE SERIOUS when I am providing you with your Thanksgiving instructions and orders. I am very particular, so please perform your task EXACTLY as I have requested and read your portion very carefully. If I ask you to bring your offering in a container that has a lid, bring your offering in a container WITH A LID, NOT ALUMINUM FOIL! If I ask you to bring a serving spoon for your dish, BRING A SERVING SPOON, NOT A SOUP SPOON! And please do not forget anything.
All food that is to be cooked should already be prepared, bring it hot and ready to serve, warm or room temp. These are your ONLY THREE options. Anything meant to be served cold should, of course, already be cold.
The Mike Byron Family
1. Turnips in a casserole with a lid and a serving spoon. Please do not fill the casserole all the way up to the top, it gets too messy. I know this may come as a bit of a surprise to you, but most of us hate turnips so don’t feel like you a have to feed an army.
2. Two half gallons of ice cream, one must be VANILLA, I don’t care what the other one is. No store brands please. I did see an ad this morning for Hagan Daz Peppermint Bark Ice Cream, yum!! (no pressure here, though).
3. Toppings for the ice cream.
4. A case of bottled water, NOT gallons, any brand is ok.
The Bob Byron Family
1. Green beans or asparagus (not both) in a casserole with a lid and a serving spoon. If you are making the green beans, please prepare FOUR pounds, if you are making asparagus please prepare FIVE pounds. It is up to you how you wish to prepare them, no soupy sauces, no cheese (you know how Mike is), a light sprinkling of toasted nuts, or pancetta, or some EVOO would be a nice way to jazz them up.
2. A case of beer of your choice (I have Coors Light and Corona) or a bottle of clos du bois chardonnay (you will have to let me know which you will bring prior to 11/22).
The Lisa Byron Chesterford Family
1. Lisa as a married woman you are now required to contribute at the adult level. You can bring an hors d’ouvres. A few helpful hints/suggestions. Keep it very light, and non-filling, NO COCKTAIL SAUCE, no beans of any kind. I think your best bet would be a platter of fresh veggies and dip. Not a huge platter mind you (i.e., not the plastic platter from the supermarket).
The Michelle Bobble Family
1. Stuffing in a casserole with a serving spoon. Please make the stuffing sans meat.
2. 2.5-3 qts. of mashed squash in a casserole with a lid and serving spoon
3. Proscuitto pin wheel – please stick to the recipe, no need to bring a plate.
4. A pie knife
The June Davis Family
1. 15 LBS of mashed potatoes in a casserole with a serving spoon. Please do not use the over-size blue serving dish you used last year. Because you are making such a large batch you can do one of two things: put half the mash in a regulation size casserole with lid and put the other half in a plastic container and we can just replenish with that or use two regulation size casserole dishes with lids. Only one serving spoon is needed.
2. A bottle of clos du bois chardonnay
The Amy Misto Family (why do I even bother she will never read this)
1. A pumpkin pie in a pie dish (please use my silver palate recipe) no knife needed.
2. An apple pie in a pie dish, you can use your own recipe, no knife needed.
Looking forward to the 28th!!
Marney

Ikebana II

artist unknown
My lover has come down to his garden,
to the beds of spice,
To browse in the garden
and to gather lilies.
My lover belongs to me and I to him;
he browses among the lilies.
Song of Solomon 6:2-3

Ikebana

I studied a form of martial arts for a number of years.  As part of my studies, I took a class in ikebana, which most people think of as Japanese floral arranging.  The connection between arranging flowers and martial arts may not be readily apparent, but they are deeply connected.

Ikebana relies on balance to make a pleasing arrangement: the elements must balance each other, the container must be balanced against the contents, and so forth. There must be tension and a dynamic element, but it is a still life, with flowers.

Ikebana is also an art form that relies on both instinct and rules.  There are rules and forms that have to be learned, but there's also a point where the person creating has to trust his/her own instincts - rules be damned.

It also requires one to be very aware of one's own surroundings - what will work, what won't, and how to manage the materials you have to work with.  You don't always like what materials you have, but you have to make them work.

In all these ways, ikebana is also like our spiritual lives:  balance is necessary, there are rules (commandments, precepts, etc.), awareness of what is going on both inside and outside.  Both require constant self-awareness, and a sense of making the impossible possible.

Ikebana is a beautiful and varied and simple and complex and gentle and frustrating and time-consuming and momentary.  Just like our life in Christ.

For the rest of this week, I'll be featuring a photo of ikebana.  Enjoy.

Artist: Baiko



Total Rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer.  Today's fine choice (if I do say so myself) is G.K. Chesterton, from "Obstinate Orthodoxy".  Now, I know it's kind of long, and the writing is a little "dusty", but read it.  You will not believe how "current" Mr. Chesterton is!


…it is the sceptics who are the sentimentalists. More than half the "revolt" and the talk of being advanced and progressive is simply a weak sort of snobbishness which takes the form of a worship of Youth. Some men of my generation delight in declaring that they are of the Party of the Young and defending every detail of the latest fashions or freaks. If I do not do that, it is for the same reason that I do not dye my hair or wear stays. But even when it is less despicable than that, the current phrase that everything must be done for youth, that the rising generation is all that matters, is in sober fact apiece of pure sentimentalism. It is also, within reason, a perfectly natural piece of sentiment. All healthy people like to see the young enjoying themselves; but if we turn that pleasure into a principle, we

are sentimentalists. If we desire the greatest happiness of the greatest number, it will be obvious that the greatest number, at any given moment, are rather more likely to be between twenty-five and seventy than to be between seventeen and twenty-five. Sacrificing everything to the young will be like working only for the rich. They will be a privileged class and the rest will be snobs or slaves. Moreover, the young will always have a fair amount of fun under the worst conditions; if we really wish to console the world, it will be much more rational to console the old. This is what I call facing facts; and I have continued to believe in most of these traditions because they are facts. I could give a great many other examples; for instance, chivalry. Chivalry is not the romantic, but the realistic, view of the sexes. It is so realistic that the real reasons for it cannot always be given in print.



If those called free-thinkers are sentimentalists, those called free-lovers are open and obvious sentimentalists. We can always convict such people of sentimentalism by their weakness for euphemism. The phrase they use is always softened and suited for journalistic appeals. They talk of free love when they mean something quite different, better defined as free lust. But being sentimentalists they feel bound to simper and coo over the word "love." They insist on talking about Birth Control when they mean less birth and no control. We could smash them to atoms, if we could be as indecent in our language as they are immoral in their conclusions. And as it is with morals, so it is with religion. The general notion that science establishes agnosticism is a sort of mystification produced by talking Latin and Greek instead of plain English. Science is the Latin for knowledge. Agnosticism is the Greek for ignorance. It is not self-evident that ignorance is the goal of knowledge. It is the ignorance and not the knowledge that produces the current notion that free thought weakens theism. It is the real world,that we see with our own eyes, that obviously unfolds a plan of things that fit into each other. It is only a remote and misty legend that ever pretended to explain it by the automatic advantage of the "fit." As a fact, modern evolutionists, even when they are still Darwinians, do not pretend that the theory explains all varieties and adaptations. Those who know are rather rescuing Darwin at the expense of Darwinism. But it is those who do not know who doubt or deny; it is typical that their myth is actually called the Missing Link. They actually know nothing of their own argument except that it breaks down somewhere. But it is worth while to ask why this loose legend has such power over many; and I will proceed to my suggestion. I have not changed my mind; nor, indeed, have they changed their mind. They have only changed their mood.


Fried, frazzled and frustrated

artist: Jordan Recchia
That describes my emotional and spiritual state right now.

I have had, by all accounts, a horrible couple of weeks.  Let's just run down the list, shall we:

1.  Five teenagers.
2.  Dark-haired daughter, who is bipolar and has been violent in the past, is being ordered by the court to be moved home by Christmas.  Despite all our protestations to the contrary, a bunch of people who HAVE NEVER MET MY daughter, are insisting that this be done.
3.  Talking to a lawyer to see what are options are about #2.
4.  A meeting to make educational plans for Dark-haired daughter, again with people WHO HAVE NEVER MET MY daughter.  They are charged with deciding where she'll go to school if she returns home. Let's just say the list of schools that will take her is....short.
4.  Severe hot flashes (why not?).  These include night sweats, so not a good night sleep in a while.
5.  A stalker.  Yup, that's right:  an honest-to-goodnes-won't-leave-me-alone stalker.  This was a person that I had met on my last job, and this person somehow, some-why got infatuated with me.  Won't leave me alone, calls and calls, send dozens of emails a month, send me gifts, won't give up:  a stalker. 
6.  A visit to the court to get rid of said stalker.  Chunk of out my work day, and my work day is PACKED.

Crap.  (Only, that's not the word I am thinking of.)

Honestly, I'm struggling right now:  tired - no, weary - exhausted, stressed.  Wondering when the heck all this will stop.  Grinding my teeth at night, shoulders hunched over stressed.

It's almost - almost - impossible to pray when I'm like this.  Thanks be to God I'm Catholic:  I have the Liturgy of the Hours, the Psalms, memorized prayers, and  most especially, the Mass.  I just have to immerse myself in that.  I don't have to think:  I just have to pray.  Put myself in God's Presence, and pray.

And this was my prayer this morning:

Give ear to my words, O LORD;
understand my sighing.
Attend to the sound of my cry,
my king and my God!
For to you I will pray, LORD;
in the morning you will hear my voice;
in the morning I will plead before you and wait.
Then all who trust in you will be glad
and forever shout for joy.
You will protect them and those will rejoice in you
who love your name.
For you, LORD, bless the just one;
you surround him with favor like a shield. (from Psalm 5)

I am fried, frazzled and frustrated, but I am not faithless.  

I do need a drink, though......




"Are they real?"

That is what one of my co-workers asked me yesterday as we watched this. She's a very bright woman, but English is not her native tongue and there are subtle forms of humor that escape her.  Sadly, I assured her that these young people were very real.

My Dark-Haired Daughter has a host of mental health issues, and even she is not this bat-shit crazy (with a nod to The Digital Hairshirt, for borrowing the particular phrase):



Oh, you KNOW he's Catholic....

All this is lacking is Mary standing in a bathtub....

After a veterinarian saved his dog Chico, Pete Pantoja, 76, said he had a dream inspiring him to build a shrine to thank Jesus outside his apartment at 1041 Grandville Ave SW. Here, Pantoja watches traffic from the shrine Sunday, August 7, 2011. He hopes the shrine will be a symbol of Jesus' love to the community and spends much of his time sitting there. "Maybe it will open up their eyes and make life easier for them," he said. The right side of the shrine predominantly has animal figurines while the left side has religious statues. (Cory Morse | The Grand Rapids Press)

On the menu this Friday....


Be ye perfect....

Maria Soto Robbins
I am a recovering perfectionist.

I try and try and try to get things right...just right...perfect.  And I fail.

Boy, do I fail.

I think some of us are just genetically wired this way, and it serves some people well (Martha Stewart, are you reading this?)  I also think that circumstances support this type of behavior.  For me, I was pretty convinced, when I was in high school, that if I was perfect, my parents would be content, happy and stress-free. I was going to try my darndest to make that happen, and thus was born a raging perfectionist.

I've gotten better.  Really.  God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, gave me five wildly imperfect kids to balance things out.  I still get really uptight sometimes, and the kids still are messy and forgetful, but we're a happy lot, most of the time.

However, Matthew 5:48 has always puzzled me:  So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. This comes at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Christ's incredible gift to us as to how we're to live as Christians.   This verse, though, is like a call to arms for us perfectionists:  I've got to be just as perfect as God.  Jesus says so.  It seems like a confirmation of my unhealthy tendencies and my most annoying traits.

What is Christ telling us here?  No one can possibly be perfect, so is Christ just setting us up for failure?  That can't be it.  Consider what Fr. Ray Ryland says:

Consider the word we translate "perfect." In Greek, teleios does not refer to abstract or metaphysical perfection. It is a functional term. To be perfect a thing must realize fully the purpose for which it has been produced. comes from the noun , which means purpose, end, goal.
"You must be perfect" means each of us must strive to develop his unique potential, under God, to the fullest possible extent. These words are both command and promise. The imperative is laid upon us who follow Christ, but we know that only the grace of God can bring about this process of sanctification.

Imagine my relief:  I don't have to be perfect, I just have to be me.  "Me" in the best, most holiest sense, but "me" nonetheless.  Of course, St. Paul figured this out as well (I wonder if he was a recovering perfectionist?):

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Weakness I have, in abundance.  And my only hope, as a recovering perfectionist, is that I will be made perfect in that weakness, given Christ's grace.  And I will be most content with that.









Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord

Bil Keane, creator of "Family Circus", passed away at the age of 89.  What joy he brought to the world with is little cartoon family.  He was a Catholic, and his fans will miss him.

The new Mass responses for kids

A great resource to download and print from Catholic Icing!  And, it's free!

What happens when you walk into a Catholic church?

I've taught everything from CCD to formal high school religion class to RCIA, and I always love talking about what happens when you walk into a Catholic church.  (Those of you who know me are thinking,  "She loves talking about ANYthing", but it's an Irish thing, so....)

Why is walking into a Catholic church different than walking into any other building?  I mean, there are a lot of really nice buildings around - art museums, lovely houses, enchanting stores and restaurants, even other houses of worship.  Why is a Catholic church different?


Because when you walk into a Catholic church, you enter into eternity.

You enter into a place where time has no meaning.  It simply is.  It's the place where God dwells, and God is eternal, so there is no time.  At least, not "time" as we humans understand it.  There's no clock next to the crucifix, no timer going off to let you know that "time is up", no schedule that tells you when to come and when to go.  (Yeah, I know that there is another Mass on Sunday morning, but you don't have to clear out.  You can stay.)

Christ is present.  No, not just "I feel warm-and-fuzzy-close-to-Jesus-when-I'm-here".  He is actually present:  Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Tabernacle, and made Present in the Sacrifice of the Mass.  As close to you there as if He were standing in front of you.  You won't be any closer.  And Christ, in His Divine Self, exists outside of time:  He is Eternal God.  You get to be there with Him, in this timeless place we call church.

It is an awesome idea that, on Sunday mornings, when you're worried about whether your son combed his hair, or if you're going to jog down the aisle just ahead (or just after) the priest, or whether you forgot to write a check out for the collection basket, that as soon as you open that door:  you have entered into eternity.  You are present with God.  You are no longer in Sparta, or in White Plains, or in Sacramento or Paris, or in Santo Domingo.  You're in an eternal space with God.

I suppose that those of us who are Catholic always "feel" a certain something when we are in a Catholic church, regardless of where it is.  It feels like home.  And this is part of the reason:  God is there, always.  A Catholic church is a step out of the mundane, the ordinary, the profane.  It is Heaven on earth.  And it is right down the street.  Go.

Feast of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, or "why should I care?"

Perhaps, you don't.  However, if you're Catholic, the Basilica of St. John Lateran is a really big deal, even if you aren't familiar with it.  Why?

Note what Fr. Tommy Lane has to say about it:
On the fa├žade of the basilica there is an inscription in Latin which reads, “the mother and mistress of all churches of Rome and the world.” One might think St. Peter’s Basilica is the head of all the churches but in fact it is the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Every bishop has a cathedral and the Pope’s cathedral is the Basilica of St. John Lateran not the Basilica of St. Peter.

Yes, St. John Lateran is the Pope's church, and the "mother of all churches".  (That sounds a little naughty, doesn't it?)
Triclinium of Leo III
 In addition to all this, if you're a history geek, you can't beat this place:
The wooden altar on which St. Peter celebrated Mass while in Rome is inside the main altar. The heads of Sts. Peter and Paul were once believed to be inside busts above the main altar. Part of the table on which the Last Supper was celebrated is said to be behind a bronze depiction of the Last Supper. At one time the Holy Stairs which is nearby was also in the Lateran, the stairs in Pilate’s house on which Jesus is said to have walked during his trial. It is a marble stairs and is now covered with wood to protect it. Pilgrims ascend the stairs on their knees contemplating Jesus’ Passion and on the way up drops of blood may be seen on the marble stairs beneath protective glass. The stairs was brought to Rome by Constantine’s mother St. Helena.
Scala Santa, or Holy Steps

This is why the universal Church today celebrates this place:  its historical significance, its importance to the papacy, its beauty, and the fact that it is (even if we've never been there) our church.

Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity

Today's saint is Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity, of whom I knew nothing.  I searched out a bit about her:  

The Carmelite Order celebrates the feast of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity on November 8th. Elizabeth was a beautiful soul who tasted the delights of contemplating God in the depths of her soul and invites us to do the same.- from Praise of Glory blog

My All, my Beatitude, Infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I lose myself! Immerse yourself in me so that I may be immersed in you.

Total Rip-off Tuesday

Ooooh, there was so much good stuff to rip-off today, I had a hard time making up my mind. I decided to go with NPR's  "A Global History, Told Through 100 Objects", a book by Neil McGregor- fascinating stuff!

 ...MacGregor sought to include objects used for pleasure. One such object is from America's own backyard: a North American otter pipe from Ohio.
"One of the great pleasures for a lot of humanity has been smoking. It's not something one should say very loudly in public, but for most of history it appears to have been true," he says.
The otter pipe was found among a collection of little stone pipes that were interred 2,000 years ago in burial mounds in Ohio.
This particular pipe, which is about the same size as a kazoo, was carved in the shape of an otter. MacGregor guesses that the pipe's otter design was intended to add something extra to the user's smoking experience.
"As you smoke it, you're eye to eye with this little animal that appears just to have bobbed up from below the water, he says."Tobacco was probably mildly hallucinogenic, so presumably you and the otter really got going into some kind of relationship as you had your smoke."

Make sure you click on the link above and check out the photos.



The New Roman Missal or Maybe You Haven't Heard

Yes, the Mass is changing.  No, it's not really changing.  What does this mean?

The language of the Mass, for us English-speaking folks, is getting a tune-up, in case you haven't heard.  When we (meaning the Universal Church) made the switch from Latin to the vernacular, some of the translations were, well, hasty.  Bad.  Ugh.  And now, it's time for a tune-up.

On the first Sunday of Advent (that's November 27, in case you don't have your liturgical calendar in front of you), the language of the Mass will be changing.  For us (that is, the people), the changes are pretty minimal.  The priests, on the other hand, are going to have to do a lot of work - their changes in language are significant.

Even though the language of the Mass is changing, the Mass itself is not:  it is still the most significant prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  It's just going to sound a little different.

Most parishes will have "cheat-sheets" or worship aids to help us along, but I'm sure you'll find, after a few weeks, the changes will become second nature.

Check out the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' website for what the changes are going to look like, comparing what we say now, to the new translation.  For those of you who have a smart phone, there are a few free apps with the changes as well. 

Mary Cassatt Monday

Sleepy Thomas Sucking His Thumb

Toasted worms and spiritual mis-direction

A number of years ago, I had piled the kids into the van on a cold winter morning, and we headed out.  After a few miles, I said,  "Is everyone toasty warm now?  I'll turn down the heat...." and a bunch of voices chorused, "Yes."  Then, after a long pause, Tallest Son said, very innocently,  "Why did you ask us if we were  toasted worms?"  "Toasted worms" is now part of the family lexicon.

Yesterday, I discovered that a bottle of liquid had spilled all over in a drawer in my bathroom.  I hollered at Youngest Son to bring me a roll of paper towels.  He showed up, a moment later, with said roll in one hand and a bowl in the other.   I took the paper towel and thanked him, then turned to clean up the mess.  Youngest Son said,  "Aren't you going to take the bowl?" and I replied, "I don't need a bowl, just the paper towel."  And he said,  "Then why did you ask for a bowl and paper towels?"  Uh, I didn't....?  Roll, bowl....you see what happened.

It made me think of how many times we mis-hear God.  How do we know that we know exactly what God is telling us?  It often seems that we hear one thing from Scripture, another from a sermon, someone on the internet has another opinion....how do we know what's right?  How do we keep from getting "toasted worms", spiritually?

As Catholics, we always have the assurance of the Magisterium.  We can always trust the Catechism, and that's a good place to start.  So is a good Catholic study Bible.

Beyond that, if you're really serious about your spiritual life, you should have a spiritual director.  Ideally, this should be a priest, but very few priests today have time to do solid one-on-one spiritual direction.  However, you can always ask.  If there is not a priest available, many religious orders offer sound spiritual direction, and that's a terrific way to discern God's will in your life.

There are also a few things NOT to do.  Don't trust everything on the internet, the radio or TV.  Just because someone has a blog, a video channel on YouTube or a program of some sort, it doesn't make them a spiritual advisor, or even a trusted source of wisdom - and yes, that goes for me too.  If someone says something that goes against the Magisterium, Scripture and the Catechism, don't trust 'em.

Also, beware the "cult of personality".  Just because someone is a great writer or speaker, a charismatic individual, they aren't Christ.  As Christians, we follow Christ, and none other.  To become enamored with someone else, even someone who is holy and good, is to be led astray.

Finally, if someone keeps telling you only what you want to hear, it probably isn't good spiritual direction.  Spiritual direction is sometimes hard.  It directs us away from sin and towards God, and that often rubs us the wrong way.  Spiritual direction should always affirm us in truth, but sometimes that means we have to confront our own misconception, behaviors and ideas that are....wrong.  If you're nodding your head "yes" all the time, it probably isn't sound spiritual advice.

It is sometimes hard, in the world of noise and distractions to hear God's voice, and it is always good to have a plan to discern His voice.  Otherwise, you end up with toasted worms and a bowl you have no use for, and who needs that?


A visit to the Awful Library

When my kids were little, we went to the library every week.  Not only was it is chance for me to get out of the house, there was always the chance it *might* be an educational experience.  Thankfully, all my kids loved books, loved the library, and loved to read.   As a bonus, they actually behaved at the library, which was an unusual experience for us as a clan.

Now, there was the stint where Youngest Son would ONLY read what we referred to as "digger truck" books.  These were the 8 or so books in the children's section that featured front-loaders, dump trucks and such.  Youngest Son would get two or three of these, bring them home for the week, return them, get the next two or three, return them, get the last few, return them and start the cycle over again.  ONLY those books. EVER. For - I don't know - two years.  I'm not kidding.   Dear Husband and I could recite those books from memory.  That's part of the fun of having ADHD kids who hyper-focus on stuff.  Plus, Youngest Son was just weird.

Anyhow, I love the blog "Awful Library Books", as it represents both the joy of the library (Free books!  Quiet! People who love reading!) and the horror it can sometimes hold.  This particular choice from Awful Library Books is a great example of the latter:
I mean:  how many things can possibly be wrong with one book??  The topic REALLY deserves an entire book?  Not just a manual for someone to shove in their desk somewhere?  And this was TRULY the best photo?  Were there other, worse, choices that didn't make the cut?  Did his mom choose the picture?

If you haven't visited the library lately - go.  There are riches you have not even imagined.


The circus that is Kim Kardashian

I've been trying to nail down exactly how I feel (other than complete disgust) about the whole Kardashian-reality-wedding-divorce-idiocy.  I think this article sums it up quite well:

Mr. Barnum would have had a higher regard, I suspect, for the other humbug in the news this week, Kim Kardashian. But he would have been a little perplexed at the general reaction to the news that she wants a divorce: Mr. Barnum always maintained that the public doesn't mind being swindled as long as it is entertained. Why then all the outrage? The conceit has been that Ms. Kardashian's television show captures something approximating the reality of her ludicrous life. The tube pretends to be a telescope even more powerful than the one attributed to Herschel, a lens that lets us spy, from a distance, exotic life forms. Here the humanoid on display was a rapaciously acquisitive creature engaged in elaborate and expensive mating rituals. Now it turns out that, though rapacious acquisition was an honest enough expression of the creature's nature, the mating ritual may not have been in earnest.
People seem to be upset by this revelation. Does it mean they were bamboozled in the first place? Now that's hard to believe.
No, I think people are annoyed because the burlesque wasn't nearly entertaining enough—they were cheated out of the spectacle that had been promised. The divorce was a given. But jumping right to it showed a disregard for the craft of reality TV. Where were the nightclub screaming matches? Where were the inevitable infidelities that would have pushed the tawdry plotline along to its natural conclusion?
We hope for a better standard of hooey from our reality performers. We expect their hoaxes to be more competently executed. In these plastic times of ours, even the fakes are phony. Is it too much to ask for artistes of con who can come up with bat-men on the moon?

In the spirit of Friday silliness...

"I like to pick up hitchhikers. When they get in the car I say, "Put on your seat belt. I want to try something. I saw it once in a cartoon, but I think I can do it."- Stephen Wright

Friday laugh


Liking this blog!

Just found this one, and I think it has some great ideas.....

A Cyberpilgrim's Blog

Check out her discussion about using Facebook during Advent - some refreshing ideas.

Sacred Place of the Day

Ever since I was a teen and read Brideshead Revisited, I've been enchanted with the idea of having a chapel in or near my house.  I guess that's why I like tiny chapels so much.  This one, I believe, is in Texas.

Spiritual Burn-out

The lives of saints are full of stories of the dark night:  a spiritual emptiness so whole and deep that the one in the midst of it feels no relationship with God whatsoever.  The great souls like John of the Cross and Bl. Teresa of Calcutta soldier on in the face of this desperate spiritual situation.

I'm not talking about that here; I'm just talking about plain-ole, tired burn-out.  Can't seem to jump start the prayer life, can't seem to find a reason to praise, can't seem to focus on God.  You're tired - and it just doesn't seem to matter.

What do you do?  What helps you when you're stuck in a spiritual rut?  Well, I'm no spiritual guru or even a spiritual director, but I do know a few things.

1.  Rest.  One of the best things we can do when we're burned out is to rest - sleep, nap, snooze or just drift.  Don't expect anything profound - just rest.
2.  Try something different.  If you're used to praying the Rosary, read Scripture.  If you always pray the Hours, try listening to some spiritually uplifting music.  Change things up.
3.  Don't push it.  God isn't going anywhere, and so long as you're available, He'll make Himself known.
4.  Trust the Sacraments.  Even if you don't "feel" like going to Mass, go.  Just showing up counts.
5.  Pick a saint, any saint.  Reading the life of a saint can help - there is usually something you can relate to, even the fact that your spiritual life is stalled.  Plus, the life of a saint can help keep you focused on God, even in a round-about way.

We all feel burned-out sometimes - the trick is to find a way to keep the light of Faith lit, without enduring incineration. 

Prayer for All Souls' Day

French holy card from Our Lady's Tears
Dear souls of the dead,
you are still remembered by my family;
you are most worthy of our perpetual remembrance,
especially you, my grandparents, my parents,
also our relatives, children,
and everyone whom death
took away from our home.
I invite you to this annual feast.
We pray that this feast be agreeable to you,
just like the memory of you is to us. Amen.

(I believe this prayer is of Lithuanian origin, but whatever it's history, I found it lovely.)

All Saints' Day

We should never think for a moment that devotion to the saints gets in the way of our relationship with God.  The saints have nothing at all of their own to give which they have not received from him....There is no mercy in them apart from the mercy of God, no charity, no forgiveness that is not his.  Even if, like Moses, they seem to stand sometimes in the breach to protect us from God, even that is only by his appointing.  - Father Simon Tugwell, OP

Total Rip-off Tuesday

I have lost my Kindle.  I'm sad about it.  However, I'm being a big girl about it (and by being a big girl, I mean:  "Please, Santa, bring me a new Kindle.  It's all I want.  Really.")

In the spirit of being a big girl, I've "ripped off" this post from the Christian Science Monitor:

Borders didn’t change with the digital times, as Barnes & Noble seems to be doing. And for every loss, I’m convinced, there is a gain. Sure, I am saddened and worried that the Internet is killing newspapers, civility, and church socials, but the Net has brought us unimaginable access to information, people, and goods and services. If bookstores are joining record stores as the latest bricks-and-mortar losers, our digital options are only getting better. Once you start using an iPad, Kindle, or other e-reader and experience the almost-instantaneous download of a book you just heard someone praise, it is hard to go back to browsing the aisles or waiting for the mail carrier to arrive.
You don’t need a physical book, though it is a beautiful thing. And a good bookstore is about more than books. Even if shopping-mall bookstores are not warm and fuzzy places, they are places where a certain amount of serendipity reigns, where you encounter other people taking pleasure in ideas. Bookstores are part of what sociologists call “third places” – destinations that are neither home nor office, places to linger without feeling that the meter is running or another customer wants your table.


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,...