Monday, October 31, 2011

Faith tested in fire

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time. In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,as you attain the goal of [your] faith, the salvation of your souls.  - I Peter 1:3-9

This was what I heard last night as I gathered with friends for Vespers - Catholic prayers in the early evening.  I needed to hear it - I heard it - I just don't wanna do it.

Who wants to suffer - at all - let alone over and over again, even if we are promised glorious and indescribable joy?  That joy seems so far off in the future, and the suffering, well, here I am, mired in it.  The "pay-off" it seems, just isn't worth it.

Ever have those moments where you're driving home, and you look at the gas tank to see how far you can run away on the gas you have?  Maybe you haven't.  I have.  I had this moment on Friday, as a matter of fact.  For better or worse, I only had a 1/4 tank, and no money, so I wasn't going to get very far.  And even if I could run away, the suffering would follow.

Instead, I had a little bitty breakdown on Saturday, and had the good sense to call a friend who is both a therapist and a Franciscan Sister (really, everyone should know at least ONE sane mental health professional).  She listened, then told me to take a hot bath, go for a walk and sit in God's presence for a bit, although not necessarily pray, just sit.  I did - I figured if Sister told me, I had to.  I sure wouldn't have done it on my own - I was just a big ball of slobbery mess at that point.  And I'm glad I did.  Moving around, acknowledging God - it helped.  It didn't fix anything, but it helped.

So back to Peter.  He knew, perhaps better than any of us, that Christ really is with us in suffering, and that the only faith worth having is that which has been tested, and tested by fire, at that.  Peter, lest we forget, abandoned Christ.  Peter refused to acknowledge Him.  Peter ran away, just like I wanted to on Friday night, with the fire licking at his heels.

But he came back.  He relied on that faith, he rejoiced in Christ's promise of inheritance.  I will too....as soon as I beat back the flames.

Mary Cassatt Monday

The Barefooted Child

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sacred Place of the Day

Roadside chapel - Holland

Trust in God

Beatrice Billard

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make our paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What are you willing to do to save another?

If you're a little squeamish, or you just don't like reptiles, don't watch this.

Gecko Saves Friend From Snake On Wall - Watch MoreFunny Videos
I found it really fascinating, though.  It made me wonder:  what are you willing to do to save another person - from sin, from addiction, from whatever it is that is the person has found themselves wrapped up in?

I have had to be tenacious in getting help for my kids from time to time.  It seems the state adoption 'system' is often so concerned with saving money, that the people in charge just keep saying "no", with the hopes that most parents will just give up and go away.  I do not.

I wonder if we're really that tenacious about sin, though.  It seems that for me, sometimes being wrapped up in the snake is...okay, even comfortable.  We all need someone to recognize that we are stuck in bad patterns and evil ways, and get us the heck out of there.

I now have a huge battle on my hands for Dark-Haired Daughter.  People who've never even met her are charged with making decisions about her, and Dear Husband and I don't think they are good decisions.  It's time to go on the attack.  Because she is worth saving.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's been a long week, and...

I need a little something.  If I ever make it to Ireland, I'm dancing with my darlin' to this one:

Don't be jealous of God's mercy


From St. Augustine of Hippo:

And who's the sort of person who perishes from hope?  I'll sketch  you his portrait:  the kid of person who says to himself,  "Now God has promised to pardon all who turn away from their sins - the very day they are converted he will forget all their iniquities.  So I will do whatever I want, and whenever I want to I will have a conversion, and what I have done will be blotted out."  What are we to say to that?  That God does NOT heal the repentant whenever they turn back to him?  God does forgive everything that has gone before.  If we deny it, we contradict the divine indulgence, we clash head on with the words of the prophets, and we are struggling against the utterances of God.

Reminds me of Matthew 20, where the workers hired at the end of the day are paid the same wage as those hired at the beginning of the day.  Let us not be jealous of God's mercy, lest we struggle against God himself.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Occupying Greed

In Catholic teaching, we have a much fancier name for greed:  avarice.  The Catholic Encyclopedia says this:  Avarice (from Latin avarus, "greedy"; "to crave") is the inordinate love for riches. Its special malice, broadly speaking, lies in that it makes the getting and keeping of money, possessions, and the like, a purpose in itself to live for. It does not see that these things are valuable only as instruments for the conduct of a rational and harmonious life, due regard being paid of course to the special social condition in which one is placed. It is called a capital vice because it has as its object that for the gaining or holding of which many other sins are committed. It is more to be dreaded in that it often cloaks itself as a virtue, or insinuates itself under the pretext of making a decent provision for the future. In so far as avarice is an incentive to injustice in acquiring and retaining of wealth, it is frequently a grievous sin. In itself, however, and in so far as it implies simply an excessive desire of, or pleasure in, riches, it is commonly not a mortal sin. 

Why am I thinking about greed?  Because I'm thinking about the chuckle-heads occupying Wall Street, and their demands that people with money give it away to those with less money.  Eldest Son called Dear Husband last night, and was extolling the virtues of the Occupy Wall Street gang (be kind, he's young), but said the chief problem with "Wall Street" was greed.

I got news for you, kid:  greed knows no bounds.  It ain't just "Wall Street" that's greedy.

Every year on Thanksgiving Day, our local newspaper publishes a special section for wishes.  People write in, for themselves or on behalf of others, and ask for donations of items and services.  For the most part, it is pretty altruistic:  someone writes in on behalf of an elderly neighbor who needs a roof repaired....that sort of thing.  But every year, there is an onslaught of this type of entry:  "I'm a single mom of seven.  My kids are doing really well in school, but I don't have a job and can't afford to get them the gifts they deserve at Christmas.  My 16 year old would love an iPad, my 12 year old wants an XBox, my 7 year old would adore a Barbie Jeep....."

Ray Nothstine, in the most recent Acton Commentary, notes that government is a greedy goblin as well: 
Today the Occupy Wall Street movement and its echo chamber in the media denounce corporate America. But a smaller headline in Bloomberg News about Washington edging out San Jose, Calif., as the wealthiest U.S. metropolitan area raised eyebrows, too. The total compensation package for a federal employee in the beltway now exceeds $126,000. There are many hard working and patriotic federal employees, but as the federal government payroll increasingly coincides with a diminishing private sector, government employees are rapidly moving closer to the 1 percent.

 The point is:  greed is a human vice.  Anywhere you go, you'll find it.  If you hang out with the Occupy Wall Street folks, someone will point out to you who has the better protesting spot, the better tent, the best fleece.  We can't help it.

Whether we are jealous of someone's new car, their penthouse on 5th Avenue, their job, their well-behaved kid or their bank account, it's all the same thing:  greed.  And we're all guilty of it.  What the Occupy Wall Street folks need to understand is that they're being greedy....and that ain't good.  But they are in good company:  you, me and the rest of humanity.

Edge of Autumn

We are at the edge of autumn here in Michigan, and it is a long season.  My birthday is in November, and I always find it a dreary time - all greys and browns, dim light and short days.  Edna St. Vincent Millay sums it up nicely:

THE DEATH OF AUTUMN
When reeds are dead and a straw to thatch the marshes,
And feathered pampas-grass rides into the wind
Like aged warriors westward, tragic, thinned
Of half their tribe, and over the flattened rushes,
Stripped of its secret, open, stark and bleak,
Blackens afar the half-forgotten creek,--
Then leans on me the weight of the year, and crushes
My heart.  I know that Beauty must ail and die,
And will be born again,--but ah, to see
Beauty stiffened, staring up at the sky!
Oh, Autumn!  Autumn!--What is the Spring to me?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Missing a kid who isn't really gone

artist unknown
I just can't believe it's so
And though it seems strange to say
I never been laid so low
In such a mysterious way
And the course of a lifetime runs
Over and over again.

But I would not give you false hope

On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away
Oh the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away.


 - "Mother and Child Reunion", Paul Simon

I was sitting on the couch the other night next to Curly-Haired Daughter.  We were doing our nails and trying to decide if the TV show we were watching was really cool or really stupid.  It suddenly struck me that she was going to be gone, very, very soon:  off to college, a new and exciting part of her life.  And a little piece of my heart fell out.

Dark-Haired Daughter, as regular readers know, has been gone for months, living in a treatment facility for bi-polar illness.  It's a different absence with her:  her presence at home was so tumultuous that having her gone has been a blessing in many ways.  And yet, when I talk to her on the phone, it's not enough.  It's still a bit of my heart missing.

I have to admit that my relationship with Eldest Son is poor right now.  He's making life choices I really cannot abide, and our last phone conversation ended with him angrily telling me,  "Stay out of my business."  I am befuddled to know how any child's business is not the mother's business, but he is 19 and naive.  Anyway, we are not really communicating, by his choice.  And the heart is broken.

How must Mary have felt that day when Christ left their little home, ready to begin his public ministry?  She knew all would be good, all would be well, all would be blessed.....and yet.  She was going to miss Him.  How could she not?

It's the age-old duality of parenting:  preparing them for independence and then weeping over them as they leave.  A mother's heart swells with pride, even if the heart is missing a piece or two.  Paul Simon is no prophet, but his words still give me comfort: 

No I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away



Sacred Place of the Day

Not sure where this mosque is, but it is lovely.  I saw on TV last night that TLC is planning a series on being Muslim in America....should be interesting. 

Total Rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer.  Today's choice is John Zmirak, whom I find both hilarious, creative, and rather in-your-face...and I like that:

The prudential arguments Catholics have on subjects such as immigration, welfare programs, and government spending all too often descend into mutual, willed incomprehension — in which each side holds fast to its caricature of the other and insulates itself against learning a scintilla from the “enemy.” While this is counterproductive, it’s also kind of fun. So I’m not suggesting that we stop. Or not precisely. As long as we’re pelting each other with lemons, I’d simply like to step in and make some sorbet.
First, to my favorite art form — public detraction. A tea-party Catholic like me is tempted to begin and end an argument suspecting that “social-justice” Catholics:
  • resent not just the rich, but even the middle class;
  • don’t so much love the poor as they fetishize poverty, wrapping what is objectively evil (involuntary suffering and deprivation) in the mantle of St. Francis of Assisi;
  • blindly refuse to understand how wealth is produced, and how big government gums up the works;
  • are either hostile or indifferent to the just claims of the thrifty, the hard-working, and the prudent — hijacking biblical parables like that of Lazarus to serve their agenda of toxic envy;
  • recklessly disregard the solemn duty of citizens to make rational, patriotic decisions about the best interests of their country and their descendants; and
  • apply a degrading double standard to the rich and the poor, the white and non-white — holding the “privileged” to a high, Christian ethic of selflessness and tolerance but winking at greed, sloth, envy, and tribal racialism among the less fortunate, as if the latter were hardly human.
Conversely, social-justice Catholics make it abundantly clear that they believe we tea-party types:
  • smugly take credit for our comparative success and prosperity, when in fact we have inherited many of our advantages over (say) recent refugees arriving at Kennedy Airport from Kenya;
  • indulge without compunction in sinful habits fueled by consumerism and materialism;
  • callously spend our wealth on luxuries and entertainment, which could otherwise be redistributed to the starving or even the disadvantaged;
  • either practice or wink at white racism, unjust male privilege, American jingoism, and an individualist Protestantism that marked our country’s founding, and which has been condemned repeatedly by several popes; and
  • covertly identify with figures in the Bible such as the rich young man who “went away sad,” the older brother of the Prodigal Son, and the workers in the vineyard who’d labored the longest hours — preferring justice to mercy because in our sinful pride we don’t think we need much mercy, and we don’t care to dispense it.
Given the fact of original sin, it’s safe to assume that both sides are right. Let’s grant for the sake of argument that the great divide on political issues between Right and Left is indeed a confrontation between the Pharisees and Barabbas. Each of us could stand a political examination of conscience; a test for the toxins we’ve absorbed from the world, the flesh, and the devil; and a look at the log in our own eyes.
I’m preaching the bad news today to clear away the nonsense that takes up most of the time in political arguments, wherein we assail each other’s motives and sternly defend our own. Instead, let’s assume and admit the worst, get the ad hominem attacks over with, and try to face the practical problems at hand.






Monday, October 24, 2011

No, thanks. I'd rather have a boy.

Yesterday, I posted a story that alluded to gender-selection abortions in India.  If you think this is something that happens only in "other places", think again.  In fact, four US states have enacted laws to guard against gender-selection abortions.  However, since the Supreme Court has upheld a woman's right to abortion, the question is:  is this ban constitutional?

Are such bans constitutional, under the Supreme Court’s decisions creating a right to abortion? The question such laws present is a dramatic one, challenging the underpinnings of Roe v. Wade in the most fundamental and direct of ways: Does the U.S. Constitution create a right to abortion, even when the woman’s reason for abortion is that she does not like the sex of her unborn child?
Sadly, the answer, under the Supreme Court’s absurd, through-the-looking-glass constitutional law of abortion, is yes. Under Roe and the Court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a woman has a constitutional right to abort for any reason up to the point of “viability,” when the child could live outside the mother’s womb. Even after viability, a woman may abort for any “health” reason, an exception that ends up swallowing the rule: The Court’s abortion decisions define “health” justifications for abortion to include any “emotional,” “psychological,” or “familial” reason for wanting an abortion.


Read Michael Stokes Paulsen's entire piece at Public Discourse

Mary Cassatt Monday

The Child's Caress

Sunday, October 23, 2011

From "unwanted" to "rock solid"

More than 200 Indian girls whose names mean "unwanted" in Hindi have chosen new names for a fresh start in life. A central Indian district held a renaming ceremony Saturday that it hopes will give the girls new dignity and help fight widespread gender discrimination that gives India a skewed gender ratio, with far more boys than girls.

and...

"Now in school, my classmates and friends will be calling me this new name, and that makes me very happy," said a 15-year-old girl who had been named Nakusa by a grandfather disappointed by her birth. She chose the new name "Ashmita," which means "very tough" or "rock hard" in Hindi.
There is a lot going on in this story:  cultural mores, gender discrimination and the horror of abortion.  However, it is good to remember that God's grace is abundant, and this organization is trying to address these issues.

This is why I love being Catholic...

'Cause you get a church like this:
This is Notre Dame du Rugby.  Apparently, the Catholics in the south of France are so rugby-crazed, they built this chapel.  Check it out:

Yes, that IS Baby Jesus with a rugby ball, and Mary over-seeing the scrum.  Gotta love the Universal Church!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Big bully!

Bullying is when a person or group repeatedly tries to harm someone who is weaker or who they think is weaker. - from MedlinePlus

Bullying begins in the womb. There, in the first home of the human race, children are brutally bullied to death. An entire class of persons relegated to the status of personal property can be disposed of for any reason by those more powerful. Mother Teresa was right, "Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. ...I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child."

- Deacon Keith Fournier


Hard to imagine that our country will make much progress in stopping bullying in schools unless we address the worst bullying of all: abortion.

Birthday of Blessed John Paul II


Clearly, the life of Blessed John Paul II gives us much to ponder.  Here is my favorite story, from George Weigel's Witness to Hope:

Wojtyła disciplined young priests in a distinctive way. He once had to call in an assistant pastor who had committed what the priest later recalled as a “serious misdemeanor.” In a lengthy session in his office, Wojtyła told the curate in no uncertain terms about the gravity of the offense and reprimanded him severely. The cardinal then led the young priest into his chapel so they could pray. The older man knelt so long that the curate became nervous. His train was scheduled to leave shortly to take him back to his parish. Finally, Cardinal Wojtyła stood up, looked at the young man he had just chastised, and
said, “Would you please hear my confession now?” Stunned, the assistant pastor went to the confessional, where Wojtyła confessed before him.



Friday, October 21, 2011

Oh, sweet humility?

"Molten Humility" - Malik Rahman
Humility does not disturb or disquiet or agitate, however great it may be; it comes with peace, delight, and calm. . . . The pain of genuine humility doesn’t agitate or afflict the soul; rather, this humility expands it and enables it to serve God more.
--St. Teresa of Avila 

It is clear that I am no St. Teresa of Avila.
You remember, in middle or high school, when you knew that everyone was waiting for you to leave the room so they could talk about you?  Or that time when you got reprimanded (warranted or not), in a most ungentle way, in front of others?  That was my day yesterday.

And I gotta admit that, unlike St. Teresa, this agitates and afflicts me.  It feels more like humiliation than humility.  I'm not saying it was - that is just how it feels.

The great Fr. John Hardon, S.J., says this:   
The moral virtue (humility) that keeps a person from reaching beyond himself. It is the virtue that restrains the unruly desire for personal greatness and leads people to an orderly love of themselves based on a true appreciation of their position with respect to God and their neighbors. Religious humility recognizes one's total dependence on God; moral humility recognizes one's creaturely equality with others.

I lay in bed last night wondering if I deserved it, if I was being prideful, if I was making much ado about nothing.  Was I being humiliated, or being humbled?  I'm still not sure.

I do know that it makes me mindful of how I treat others.  I want to try and make sure that I build up and not break down, that I do not disturb or agitate, but try to lead others to that orderly love.  I'm sure I'm not doing that all the time, but at least my treatment at the hands of others yesterday bore this fruit in me.  And that is good.  I guess you could even say it was humbling.



Thursday, October 20, 2011

How can we make it easier to have a strong family?

Strong families make for strong, healthy societies - no argument about that.  What are some "real-world" ways to help families be better, stronger, healthier in the coming decades?

10 Policies for renewing family life has some ideas.

Yeah, it's my life!



Light blogging for a few days - I actually have a full social life through the weekend! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Artist Ran Hwang

Two Love Tree



Thought Ran Hwang's work was quite lovely.

But protesting is so much FUN!

Why is a month-long slumber party in a public park more heroic or newsworthy than getting up daily and going to work? “I’ve been here a week and I’m lovin’ every minute of it,” a jagged-toothed, self-described vet leaning against a planter in Zuccotti Park told me on Sunday. One of the biggest decisions that he and his fellow occupiers have to make each day is whether to eat vegan or to scarf down some saturated animal fats in the Dunkin’ Donuts that regularly make the rounds, thanks to the bounteous food donations that pour into the park on an hourly basis. (The most critical decision, of course, is which local establishment to invade for your sanitary needs.)

Read the whole article here at City Journal.


http://hopenchangecartoons.blogspot.com/

Feast of St. John de Brebeuf, St. Isaac Jogues and companions

Jesus Christ is our true greatness;  it is he alone and his crosses that should be sought in ministering....If we seek for anything else, we will find nothing but bodily and spiritual afflictions.  But if we have found Jesus Christ in his cross, we have found the roses among the thorns, sweetness in bitterness, all in nothing. - St. John de Brebeuf

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

There's name-calling, and then there is NAME-calling

So, Susan Sarandon called the Pope a Nazi.  Probably get a little press, a little buzz, and then it will go away.  After all, she's an elite Hollywood actress and he's just a Catholic pontiff.  "Nazi-schmazi", right?

Let's go back a few months, when Dior's John Galliano ranted "I love Hitler" on video.  What happened then?  The lovely Natalie Portman, a Jew and the face of one of Dior's fragrances, publicly dismissed him and refused to have anything to do with Dior.  Applause, applause!  Cheering and kudos for Ms. Portman!

Something stinks in Hollywood.

A laugh from across the pond.....

From Linen on the Hedgerow, a chuckle this morning:

Can an atheist get insurance against 'acts of God'?

and
 

There are 3 religious truths:

Jews do not recognise Jesus Christ as the Messiah

Protestants do not recognise the Pope as head of the Christian faith
Baptists and Methodists do not recognise each other in the off licence (liquor store)

Total rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I totally rip-off another writer.  Today's choice is Blessed John Paul the Great, and his apostolic letter, "Salvific Suffering":

In the Paschal Mystery Christ began the union with man in the community of the Church. The mystery of the Church is expressed in this: that already in the act of Baptism, which brings about a configuration with Christ, and then through his Sacrifice—sacramentally through the Eucharist—the Church is continually being built up spiritually as the Body of Christ. In this Body, Christ wishes to be united with every individual, and in a special way he is united with those who suffer. The words quoted above from the Letter to the Colossians bear witness to the exceptional nature of this union. For, whoever suffers in union with Christ— just as the Apostle Paul bears his "tribulations" in union with Christ— not only receives from Christ that strength already referred to but also "completes" by his suffering "what is lacking in Christ's afflictions". This evangelical outlook especially highlights the truth concerning the creative character of suffering. The sufferings of Christ created the good of the world's redemption. This good in itself is inexhaustible and infinite. No man can add anything to it. But at the same time, in the mystery of the Church as his Body, Christ has in a sense opened his own redemptive suffering to all human suffering. In so far as man becomes a sharer in Christ's sufferings—in any part of the world and at any time in history—to that extent he in his own way completes the suffering through which Christ accomplished the Redemption of the world.
Does this mean that the Redemption achieved by Christ is not complete? No. It only means that the Redemption, accomplished through satisfactory love, remains always open to all love expressed in human suffering. In this dimension—the dimension of love—the Redemption which has already been completely accomplished is, in a certain sense, constantly being accomplished. Christ achieved the Redemption completely and to the very limits but at the same time he did not bring it to a close. In this redemptive suffering, through which the Redemption of the world was accomplished, Christ opened himself from the beginning to every human suffering and constantly does so. Yes, it seems to be part of the very essence of Christ's redemptive suffering that this suffering requires to be unceasingly completed.


Monday, October 17, 2011

The rosary and art

Thought this was lovely - from Crisis Magazine.

Gauguin - Agony in the Garden

Storming the castle with the Green-eyed Monster

I've really been trying to figure out the whole "occupy Wall Street" thing.  I can't for the life of me figure out what this sit-in is supposed to accomplish - but that may just be because I'm more about action than sitting around crying about a problem.

Then I started thinking that this really isn't a new problem;  it's a really, really old problem.  It's called Envy.

I know it when I see it:  because I suffer from it.  I'd love to be able buy really expensive (REALLY expensive) shoes.  You know those women who have house-sized closets?  I want to be one of 'em.  I drool over designer fashions, shiny magazine ads, expensive makeup, and glittery jewels.

I shop at Goodwill.

That's reality.  I deal with it.  I have a nice wardrobe, and consider myself quite well-dressed.  What I wish I had is not going to happen, so I get what I want within the realm of my reality.

Is that what is going on with the folks occupying Wall Street, and all the other baby-occupations that have sprouted up?  Are they simply envious of what others have and they don't?  As I said, I'm still puzzling over the whole thing, but I'm betting envy is part of it.  After all, we humans don't keep inventing new sins - we simply recycle the same ones.  Isn't that the problem that Adam and Eve had, after all?  They simply wanted what God had:  omnipotence.  That snake whispered that it was within their reach, and they snatched that apple.

Maybe they should have just staged a sit-in....

Mary Cassatt Monday

In the Omnibus

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The yin and the yang, the bitter and sweet

Two complementary principles of Chinese philosophy: Yin is negative, dark, and feminine, Yang positive, bright, and masculine. Their interaction is thought to maintain the harmony of the universe and to influence everything within it

[from Chinese (Peking) yin  dark + yang  bright]
World English Dictionary
Despite the fact that multitudes of twenty-somethings now have this tattooed on some part of their bodies, I have always liked the yin-yang symbol - it resonates with me.  (And please, don't say "ying"-yang;  it makes Dear Husband's ears bleed.)  I don't think it's a perfect symbol, as it breaks down when stretched too far (God is good; He is all good.  There is no darkness in Him.)  However,  the symbol does work.

There seems to be a lot of this yin-yang going on around the house right now.  Curly-haired daughter is enjoying her senior year of high school, but almost lamenting the fact that she didn't enjoy the first two years, when she chose to be a bit of a social recluse.

We just sent Youngest Son off to his first semi-formal dance last night.  It was fun watching him struggle into a tie and tuck in his shirt repeatedly, but I couldn't help but wonder how in the world he managed to get so....old.  He's my baby, you know?


We are struggling financially (which seems to have been going on since the beginning of time), and yet, we both have good jobs, food in the house, a roof over our heads (please, God, don't let the roof leak!).  It's a constant source of stress and yet, we are....okay.

Marriage certainly has its yin-yang moments:  one spouse is stressed and negative, the other tries to balance that - a constant search for harmony and balance.

Even the seasons here in Michigan are getting in on the act.  We had a glorious Indian summer, and now it's truly fall - blustery, blowy, rainy, chilly.  We know what's ahead, and are trying to stretch out these autumn days.

Of course, Scripture acknowledges this very thing in Ecclesiastes:
A time to give birth, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to tear down, and a time to build.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;

a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.

A time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away.

A time to rend, and a time to sew;

a time to be silent, and a time to speak.

A time to love, and a time to hate;

a time of war, and a time of peace.

We want to cling to the now and the known, but we can't.  We wish to hold onto and keep, but we can't.  We would lose all sense of balance and harmony, all sense of appreciation of the now, and even worse, the joy of memory (exactly the reason Alzheimer's frightens us so badly).  We have to learn to stand right here, in the wavy line between light and dark, known and unknown, harmony and cacophony, negative and positive - and still be joyful.  We have to balance the yin and the yang, the bitter and the sweet - and know it is where life it lived.



  








Thursday, October 13, 2011

A good problem to have!

The order of Franciscan Sisters that I am associated with has a good problem:  lots of new, young sisters....but not enough room at the Mother House.  They are starting a campaign to add on to the House.

If you are in a position to make a donation, large or small, I can assure you this group of vital, orthodox Sisters will put it to good use.  Please contact me if you would like more information!

Sacred Destination of the Day

Rock Church, Helsinki, Finland

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lone Ranger joins the team

No matter the job, when it's new, there is going to be a learning curve.  And I've been sliding up and down the damn thing for the past few months.

I'm working in an environment and in a job that are completely different from anything I've ever done.  The biggest challenge for me is that I've always been used to having a lot of autonomy:  I make decisions and execute them.  With this job, I'm part of a team, and I can't do that.  I have to ask a lot of questions, check and re-check things and consider how my actions bounce around with the rest of the team.  Even though I've had to learn a TON of new material and topics, this part of the job has been the hardest thing for me.  I have to really keep my natural tendencies to take charge in check.

There has never been a team sport that I wished to participate in.  I hated group projects in school.  While Dear Husband belonged to a fraternity in college, I never had any desire to join a sorority.  I am not a team player.

And yet, here I am.  On a team.  At work.  With a bunch of people. Focusing on a common goal. That's a team, right?  Not my most comfortable spot.

I thought it would get easier, but so far, not so much.  And that's okay.  I know that I have some rough edges that God needs to soften, and clearly this tendency to be the Lone Ranger is one of them.  Even St. Paul, who was a Lone Ranger himself, saw this:  Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love. (Eph. 4:15-16)

Clearly, the struggle I have is not being part of a team, but with my own selfish interests and desires.  I want to make the decisions AND take the glory. I want to be the center of attention - heck, I want ALL the attention.  And that's not how it's supposed to be.

Thus, the Lone Ranger had Tonto, and now I 'm on a team.  I'm learning about being joined and supported,  my part of the whole and everyone else's, with the goal being not MY proper functioning, but the functioning of the whole team.  Maybe I'll become a team player after all.  But it's still not going to be easy.

A thought for the middle of the work day

Labore meo caritatem aparere facio. 
Through my work I make love visible.

Protesting Capitalism

I'm not really sure what to think about the Wall Street protesters.  I understand the fury of money being mis-used by anyone, but especially those in power.  However, I really don't get the idea that capitalism is somehow at fault for our economic woes, nor how sitting in on Wall Street is going to fix a darn thing.  (I keep wanting to tell those people to go volunteer somewhere if they can't get a job...)

Then, I heard last night that the protestors were going to march in front of the homes of the NY wealthy.  Huh?  What's inherently wrong with being wealthy?  Why does that need to be protested?  Which one of us wouldn't want to be wealthy?

And why, if being wealthy is such a sin, aren't these folks picketing the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker and Conan O'Brien?  They're rich.  They've made money "off of" people.  Isn't the entertainment industry greedy?? Grab your sign and let's go....

Or is that not cool?  Is there a pecking order of capitalism that must be adhered to?  I'm just pondering here....no answers....but the choices the protestors are making are....interesting.



Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Book Review: "The Pope and the CEO"

Let's face it:  sometimes our spiritual reading is a bit like eating our vegetables.  We do it because we know we should, it's good for us, and we might even like it.  We even acknowledge,  "I like peas" and really mean it.  But it's still veggies;  it's not a plate of warm chocolate chips cookies.

The Pope and the CEO, by Andreas Widmer, IS a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies.  It's a true delight and still good for you - what could be better?  Widmer, a former Swiss Guard and now co-founder of the Seven Fund, offers up tasty lessons learned at the service of Blessed John Paul II.  Each lesson is bolstered with insights from inside the Vatican along with Widmer's own extensive business experience.  The lessons are both practical and spiritual:  meant to be used by those in leadership position, but also designed to deepen one's relationship with God.  In fact, Widmer insists that one without the other will leave both personal and business lives empty.

I don't want to give too much away, since the stories of the great former Pope are so delightful.  Suffice it to say that Widmer learned about everything from ethics to "people skills" to using humor to treating your team like family during his tenure at the Vatican.  Each lesson/chapter asks the reader some penetrating questions at the conclusion, in order that the reader might apply the lessons to his/her own life.

Clearly, Widmer's focus is business, but the lessons in The Pope and the CEO are applicable to anyone in leadership:  a parent, a coach, an office manager.  You don't have to be running the Catholic Church or a Fortune 500 company to utilize what Pope John Paul and Widmer offer here.

Grab some cookies and a glass of milk, and settle down with this book.  You'll really enjoy it.
http://www.amazon.com/Pope-CEO-Leadership-Lessons-Young/dp/1931018766/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318384820&sr=8-1


Irish Beauty

I was visiting St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Blog, and I couldn't keep this eye candy to myself.  Click over there to see the full posting, but here's a preview of what you'll see:



I'm doing my part...

Did you know:  dry white wines should be consumed within one to three years of its production year and inexpensive red wines should be consumed in the first 1 to 2 years?  No more saving that stuff!

Total rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer on the web.  Today's choice:  Matthew Hanley at Crisis Magazine about the down-side of all the breast cancer awareness funding.  Betcha didn't know....

Most pink campaigns avoid any hint of these factors like the plague; the Susan G. Komen Foundation, a prominent advocacy and fundraising group, vehemently and unequivocally denies the link between abortion and breast cancer, citing Beral’s shady “study”. Komen is evidently content to ignore mounting epidemiological evidence along with current knowledge of breast physiology which makes such a link all the more creditable.

Curiously, Komen also funnels millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood — already a recipient of considerable governmental largesse. By doling out tons of contraceptives and providing for more abortion than any other outfit in the country, Planned Parenthood virtually ensures that the breast cancer epidemic will persist, not shrink.

You don’t have to be a cynic to find this cozy relationship a bit fishy.

Monday, October 10, 2011

There are cults and then there are CULTS....

The word "cult" is getting tossed around a bit these days - Mitt Romney's Mormon faith is being called into question as a "cult".  It might do us a bit of good to step back from the word for a minute and see what it means.

"Cult", in our society, is a pejorative term, bringing to mind images of drinking the Kool-Aid and Charles Manson.  However, it is a perfectly fine academic word, and is used to describe religious organizations of almost any ilk.

Here is Merriam-Webster on the topic:

1
: formal religious veneration : worship
2
: a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
3
: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents
4
: a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator cults>
5
a : great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b : the object of such devotion c : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion 
 See:  a perfectly good word, used by religion scholars everywhere.  And, as one can see, it applies to nearly everyone, from us Catholics to voodoo adherents to Moonies to Muslims.
The questions seems to be whether or not Romney is a part of some sort of dastardly organization that does harm to its members and society in general.   While I believe much of the Mormon religion is wrong both in content and practice, I don't believe it's evil or is plotting to harm the United States by setting up one of its own as leader of the free world.
Let's just all take a breath, shall we, and think about the words we use, and how we actually mean them.  If you want to judge Mitt Romney on his faith, go ahead, but don't be hateful about it, even in a back-handed way.

Autumn Haiku

Ray Morimura
In my own thoughts
a sudden shower of leaves
realizing the season.

haiku author unknown

Mary Cassatt Monday

The Fitting

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Dying women don't need contraception"

This post from Simcha Fischer is so great, I'm just gonna post the whole thing for you to read:

According to The New York Times, a new study shows that injectable contraceptives popular in Africa are making HIV infection rates rise.
The most popular contraceptive for women in eastern and southern Africa, a hormone shot given every three months [probably a generic version of Depo Provera], appears to double the risk the women will become infected with H.I.V., according to a large study published Monday. And when it is used by H.I.V.-positive women, their male partners are twice as likely to become infected than if the women had used no contraception.
You may think that the rise in rates of HIV transmission comes because couples using hormonal contraception are less likely to be using condoms also, but this is not the case:
The researchers recorded condom use, essentially excluding the possibility that increased infection occurred because couples using contraceptives were less likely to use condoms.
The progestin in injectable contraceptives appears to have a physiological effect, scientists said.
They may also make HIV more severe in women who are already infected.  So the WHO is scratching its head, trying to figure out whether or not it makes sense to start pushing a different type of contraceptive.
“We want to make sure that we warn when there is a real need to warn, but at the same time we don’t want to come up with a hasty judgment that would have far-reaching severe consequences for the sexual and reproductive health of women,” [an epidemiologist with WHO] said. “This is a very difficult dilemma.”
Why is it is important to put all of Africa on birth control?  Well,
Hundreds of thousands of [African women] suffer injuries, bleeding, infections and even death in childbirth from unintended pregnancies.
Let’s step back for a moment and talk about unintended pregnancies.  According to Planned Parenthood’s Guttmacher Institute, about half of pregnancies in the United States are unintended.  You can add me in there, Guttmacher:  some of my favorite babies came as a complete surprise to me and my husband.  So I challenge, with all my might, the assumption that “unintended” is the same as “shouldn’t have happened.”  And no, it’s not different for me because I’m white and went to college.  Africans love and need their babies, too, and can grasp the concept of caring for a child whose conception was unplanned.
Now let’s return to the statistics about what happens when women actually give birth.  How many American women suffer injuries, bleeding, infections and death in childbirth?  These numbers are harder to come by, but this comparative chart gives you the general idea:  the maternal death rate in the US is about 8 per 100,000 women.  In African nations, the rate is as high as 1,100 per 100,000.
The global community spends billions of dollars per year flooding Africa with contraception.  WHO pushes and pushes to change centuries-old African love for large families.
The NYT article says,
Dr. Ludo Lavreys, an epidemiologist who led one of the first studies to link injectable contraceptives to increased H.I.V. risk, said intrauterine devices, implants and other methods should be explored and expanded. “Before you stop” recommending injectables, he said, “you have to offer them something else.”
I agree.  How about offering more aid for safe childbirth?  Maternal and neonatal death is often easily preventable with basic care.  The postpartum African woman who is septic or hemorrhaging to death does not need a shiny new type of contraceptive.  She needs help.  She needs basic medical supplies. 
She shouldn’t have to choose between barrenness and death.

Come and follow me, (not like THAT...)

It seems as if I've been picking up some new readers here and there.  If you'd be so kind as to officially "follow" me, I'd really appreciate it!  Just scroll down until you see the box on the right that says "followers" and click the "join this site" button.

"Home is a place...."

In Robert Frost's brilliant poem, "Death of a Hired Man", he writes:  "Home is a place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."  In the poem, a farmer and his wife are struggling with what to do about a broken-down hired man, who's returned to their farm to die.  The farmer doesn't want the responsibility, and his wife reminds him that their farm is this man's home, despite the fact that he has family close by.

Is this true?  Do we HAVE to take someone in, if it's home?  Dear Husband and I are struggling with this very thing right now.  Dark-Haired Daughter, who has bi-polar and a host of cognitive disabilities, has been out of the house since January.  It was then she assaulted me and two of our other children in a manic episode.  She was in detention for quite awhile, and now has been living in residential treatment, which has been very good for her.

The thing is, Dark-Haired Daughter does REALLY well in a highly-structure environment - a place with a staff of people who help her with day-to-day tasks (like grooming and taking meds), who encourage her socially, and can step in at a moment's notice when things go awry.  No matter how much Dear Husband and I have tried to emulate this, we are only two people, not a staff of folks, and our home is not this type of environment.  Over the past 5 years, we've watched this cycle of Daughter live and do well in a structured environment and then, at the insistence of experts (many of whom have never met my daughter), get returned home and things fall apart.  We then have to fight and claw our way back to a structured setting, where the experts say,  "See how well she's doing??  Let's get her back home!" 

Not this time.  We are preparing Dark-Haired Daughter for a different home now - hopefully a group home setting where she can enjoy as much freedom as she can possibly handle, but still be surrounded by a staff of folks who can guide and watch over her.  Because that is what she needs.  It will be a different home, but a home nonetheless. 

What we're struggling with is not that we don't want her "home", but which home is best for her.  Our home, with two adults who work full-time and is a place where she would be alone a LOT, is not a good place for her.  It's not that we can't or won't take her in, it's that we would be doing her an injustice by doing so.

Does that sound like a rationalization?  Maybe it's just the aching of a mother's heart.  Maybe home is a place where hard decisions are made, where people always put your needs first, and sometimes that means you have to be taken in somewhere else.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

So, am I really "stoopid" and naive?

One of blog pieces got picked up by a fellow blogger, but she was less than impressed.

My question to you, dear readers:  Is she right?  Let's converse about this one!

Mental Health Awareness Week

Regular readers know that mental health issues, especially as they affect young people and families, are near and dear to my heart.

October 2-8 is Mental Health Awareness Week, and the following is just a bit of information from the National Association of Mental Illness: 

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) takes place October 2-8 and is an opportunity to learn more about serious mental illnesses such as major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Mental illnesses are medical illnesses. One in four adults experiences a mental health problem in any given year. One in 17 lives with serious, chronic illness.  

On average, people living with serious mental illness live 25 years less than the rest of the population. One reason is that less than one-third of adults and less than one-half of children with a diagnosed illness receive treatment.

When mental health care isn’t available in a community, the results often are lost jobs and careers, broken families, more homelessness, more welfare and much more expensive costs for hospital emergency rooms, nursing homes, schools, police and even courts, jails and prisons. 
 I'll be sharing some information specific to bi-polar disorder tomorrow.
  

"People like that shouldn't be allowed to have kids"

Read Calah's blog post.  It's raw and honest.

Sacred Place of the Day

Germigny-Des-Pres Oratory, Centre, France

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I kinda wish it was Lent...

This is how you know you're really Catholic:  you start wishing it was Lent, just so you can get some stuff done. (And  yes, I know that is not the point of Lent...)

I've been feeling badly lately about how little reading I've been doing, and I know I could get caught up if the penitence of Lent were forcing me into better time management.   It seems I can hardly keep up with the mail, let alone the stack of books, magazines, and articles I've got piled next to my bed.

My time hardly seems my own right now:  work, kids, chores, exercise, grab some sleep and start it all over again.  I try to keep a handle on it, but I either end up feeling like a sloth, or a hamster on that little squeaky wheel.  Where's the balance?

Okay, so Lent is months away, and I'm gonna have to impose some regulations on myself.  I'll let you know how it goes.

From the mystery of nothing
we come by the breath of God.
From a valley of darkness walking,
yearning for Christ without talking,
from dimmer to brighter,
from shorter to longer,
the steps of this path
a cadence grows greater,
the pulse of Creator,
the beat with His heart,
to faith that is stronger.

 (from "The Rhythm of Lent" by Virginia M. Kimball, STD)