Total Rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer or artist - giving appropriate credit, of course.  This week, suffering is on my mind, and this is from John Paul the Great:


In his messianic activity in the midst of Israel, Christ drew increasingly closer to the world of human suffering. "He went about doing good", and his actions concerned primarily those who were suffering and seeking help. He healed the sick, consoled the afflicted, fed the hungry, freed people from deafness, from blindness, from leprosy, from the devil and from various physical disabilities, three times he restored the dead to life. He was sensitive to every human suffering, whether of the body or of the soul. And at the same time he taught, and at the heart of his teaching there are the eight beatitudes, which are addressed to people tried by various sufferings in their temporal life. These are "the poor in spirit" and "the afflicted" and "those who hunger and thirst for justice" and those who are "persecuted for justice sake", when they insult them, persecute them and speak falsely every kind of evil against them for the sake of Christ... Thus according to Matthew; Luke mentions explicitly those "who hunger now".

At any rate, Christ drew close above all to the world of human suffering through the fact of having taken this suffering upon his very self.  - from the Apostolic Letter, SALVIFICI DOLORIS.

When I grow up, I'm gonna look just like....

Meryl Streep, 2012 SAG Awards





As I was posting this, my Dark-haired daughter told me, "She is the most beautiful old lady, next to you."  Ah, pride....

Mary Cassatt Monday

Young child in it's mother's arms

"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."

All prayers are appreciated at this time. 


Compassionate and merciful Father, we thank you for this day. We thank you for the shining of your son Jesus, whose Light shines in us and through us, touching every layer of our beings, body, mind and spirit. We thank you for all of the days of peace and love and light that you have given us in the past and we thank you for all of the days of peace and love and light that are to come.
 We thank you for the gifts of the Holy Spirit that you gave us at Baptism: Faith and Hope and Love. Knowlege and Wisdom and Discernment. And Healing. Increase these gifts in us now, Lord. 
 
Heal those who have been hurt and broken, and who are leaky vessels right now.  You love to help all, Lord, so help those most in need now.
Heal victims from the hurt. Restore them to wholeness.  Allow them to see themselves whole and healed, radiant with Your Love, serving You.
I pray this prayer in the Name of Jesus and in the Power of the Holy spirit and I say, amen, it will be so.

My daughter....

My daughter is home, but has been through a terrible ordeal.  Please continue to pray for her as she begins to heal.

Total Rip-off Tuesday

I wasn't going to post anything today, given how burdened my heart is, but this was just too pointed and poignant:


Raising a child with Down syndrome can be demanding. It always involves some degree of suffering. Parents grow up very fast. None of my friends who has a daughter or a son with a serious disability is melodramatic, or self-conscious, or even especially pious about it. They speak about their special child with an unsentimental realism. It’s a realism flowing out of love—real love, the kind that forces its way through fear and suffering to a decision, finally, to surround the child with their heart and trust in the goodness of God. And that decision to trust, of course, demands not just real love, but also real courage.
The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is never between some imaginary perfection and imperfection. None of us is perfect. No child is perfect. The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is between love and unlove; between courage and cowardice; between trust and fear. That’s the choice we face when it happens in our personal experience. And that’s the choice we face as a society in deciding which human lives we will treat as valuable, and which we will not.

From Archbishop Charles Chaput;  read the whole piece here.



Not much to blog about...my daughter is missing

My daughter, who is bipolar and cognitively impaired, is missing.  She left her school yesterday and we have no idea where she is.  Please pray for her safe return.

A pain in the neck, offering up a sacrifice and an adoption story

I woke up with a pain in the neck this morning - literally.  I must have turned my head funny, slept weird...whatever.  I woke up with a gigantic muscle knot - you know the kind:  where turning your head is nearly torture.  I took some ibuprofen and headed off to Mass, but it hurt so much I was nearly in tears.

After Communion, I prayed to offer up my pain.  "God, I don't know which one of my friends or family, my co-workers or acquaintances needs help right now, but I'm offering up this pain for that person.  Please use it, in union with that of Christ on the Cross."

Elizabeth Scalia, in an article for First Things, says this:  Far from being a picturesque and nonchalant “there, there” to someone enduring either a minor inconvenience or a larger concern, “offer it up” is powerful theological advice that comes to us directly from scripture. As Paul writes to the Colossians: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church . . .”

Pondering the crucifix, and the immensity of what Christ endured, we wonder what could possibly be ‘lacking’ in his afflictions. But then, gazing upon His outstretched arms, we see an invitation. If we accept that no act in human history can begin to match the power, the healing, the victory and the justice that was achieved in the crucified suffering of Jesus of Nazareth, then attaching our own trials, minor or major though they be, to that still-resonating act of generosity and self-abnegation exposes them to all of the good contained in Christ’s sacrifice, and it assists in the salvation of the world.


When I got home from Mass (we went in "shifts" today), Curly-Haired Daughter told me that her friend C., a fellow high school senior, had gone to the hospital in labor.  C. had decided months ago to make an adoption plan for her baby, and she and the adoptive parents were at the hospital, waiting for a baby boy to make his way into the world.  And I knew that my pain in the neck was assisting, in a very small way, for good.


Today is the sad anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  We remember all the lives lost to abortion, all the women harmed by this desperate procedure and all the men who will never father their child.  We also give great thanks to all the women like C. who made the choice to give the gift of life to their child and adoptive parents.  I'll keep offering up my little pain in the neck;  maybe you have something you can offer up today as well. 

Sleepy Saturday

my own photo
Working on a couple of books, and preparing a talk to my parish high school youth group on the New Roman Missal.  Little nap, curled up with the cat.  All is good.

Thinkin' about Lent

So here we are, about halfway between New Year's Resolutions and Ash Wednesday.  Of course, the goals of these two are not necessarily the same, but they both give us the chance to take stock and move forward on becoming better at what is our most important task:  realizing our fullest potential as God's creation.

It's good to plan for Lent.  It's good to think about what you really need to work on spiritually.  Are you lagging in your prayer life? Has it been a while since you've done any reading for your soul?  Are you spending too much time away from your family due to a hobby or work? 

Remember, Lent isn't about losing weight or simply trying to rid yourself of a bad habit.  Lent is a call to convert (which is never a one time deal, but a lifelong quest for God), and conversion means that we stop in our tracks and assess where we are in relationship to where we want to be, and where God is calling us to be.  Where we want to be (presumably) is in good standing with God, our souls bright, our will in union with His.  Lent offers us the chance to check ourselves:  are we on- or off-track?  Where do we need to adjust?  What needs to change?  What do we need to add, and what do we need to get rid of?

Start thinking about Lent. 

"May knowledge become clearer in us that we may know the breadth of God's blessings, the length of God's promises, the height of God's majesty, the depth of God's judgments." - attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

Parenting "hard children" and making hard decisions

I've had a few conversations in the past week or so with another adoptive mother who is struggling to raise a teen with several severe emotional and psychological issues.  The mother, in our most recent conversation, was trying to come up with a plan for her child, who was expressing suicidal thoughts.

My suggestion to the mother was that she seek hospitalization for her child, get the child medically stabilized, and then call a mental health professional I know personally who treats traumatized children and teens.  The mother was reluctant, as she said her child had "bad side effects" from medication tried before, and she wasn't sure she could "get her teen" to agree to the plan, and didn't think her child would "like" being hospitalized.

My response:  "I am sure it's hard.  You know, chemotherapy has horrible side effects, but if my child had cancer, and I was trying to save her life, that would be the choice I'd make.  You're in this battle to save your child's life.  You'll have to say, 'This is the plan.  It's going to be hard, and you may not like it. I'll be with you every step of the way, though, and it's the plan we're going to make.' "

Dear Husband and I have had to make many (too many!) hard decisions, parenting special needs kids.  Some of those decisions have been universally disliked, but necessary.  There is no fun, let me tell you, in dragging a kid to weekly psychology sessions where someone is holding them accountable for their actions.  It's not any fun to see your child hand-cuffed and let away by a sheriff's deputy.  Making plans around medication schedules is not pleasant.

We do it anyway.

None of these decisions have been lightly or without prayer and strong spiritual guidance.  We also have always wanted to think long-term:  we are raising adults, after all, not children.  What lessons do we want them to learn?  What is most important for them, spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, in the "long-haul"?  Sometimes that dose of bitter medicine in the here-and-now will relieve them of dire and deadly consequences down the road. 

We know, as Catholics, that we must discipline ourselves spiritually in order to grow closer to God.  We fast, we pray, we take part in the Sacraments.  We want to sleep in on Sunday:  we go to Mass anyway.  We want to indulge in just "one more drink": we choose a bottle of water instead.  We turn down an invitation to go out with a friend or colleague because we sense it might lead to an improper situation.  We give up the fun, we postpone a gratification, we do the hard, and we make progress.

That is what parenting the "hard" kids is about.  (Oh, for Heaven's sake, it's not all gloom and doom: we laugh and play, too!)  We know there are harsh side effects, but we choose the medication anyway, knowing that our child requires it.  It's a matter of life and death, health and sickness, good and evil.  And we pray to Almighty God for guidance, because more than anyone, He has our child's best interest in His heart.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
on your own intelligence do not rely;
In all your ways be mindful of him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes,
fear the LORD and turn away from evil;
This will mean health for your flesh
and vigor for your bones. -Proverbs 3:5-8


3 Good Things Thursday


1.  Just can't figure out how to put together a decent wardrobe that suits your lifestyle and budget?  The answer may just be Betty Beguile's e-book, "Dressing With Intention".  Really, I shared it with a friend struggling with this, and it  helped her figure things out.  Click on the link to see how to get yours!

2.  Be still my geeky heart!  The Vatican Insider offers the "Vatican, A to Z", a glossary of Catholic terms.

3.  Awkward Family Photos...it's nice to know everybody's family is crazy. 

Blurring the lines between humanity and technology

Truly fascinating study from Latitude about  how kids view technology, particularly robots.  Kids tend to see robots in a very human way.  They see robots as helpful, fun, and as having personality.  Take a moment to look at the study;  I think it's very telling about how technology has affected the way we see machines.


Vatican news site: have you visited?

 
Since June of 2011, the Vatican has had a new website for their news agency.  Have you visited?  It's quite good, well-laid out, and thorough.

Biblical Illumination

Donald Jackson, illuminator

From the St. John's Bible - the first days of creation.

Martyrdom and Christianity

Found these cool graphics at Christianity Today's "Imago Fidei" site and thought I'd share:



Total Rip-off Tuesday

Where-in I "rip-off" another blog post, writer, or artist on the web - giving due credit, of course!  Today's choice:  a boxing champion changes his life, based on a dream...from the Vatican Insider:

For once it was him who was knocked out, but this time it was a dream that threw him to the ground. Manny Pacquiao is the first boxer in history to have won ten world titles in eight different boxing weight divisions. Pacman, as his numerous fans call him, has crushed many adversaries, breaking a number of records, including that of best paid sportsman in the world, with an annual income of 32 million dollars.

But what knocked the 33 year old Filipino boxer and politician (who in 2010 was elected as MP for the Province of Sarangani) to the ground was not another man, but a dream. A dream which, as he himself stated on the Philippine website ABS-CBN News, led him to turn his life around. Pacman has stopped gambling, drinking and womanizing and even declared that he has given up his favouring fighting cocks.

His reason for doing this is this: He had a dream about God. “If I had died last year or two years ago – the boxer said in a statement – I am sure I would have gone directly to hell.” The “vision” came to him one night last November, after his final combat with Mexican colleague Juan Manuel Marquez. “I was in a beautiful forest – he said – when a blinding light illuminated me and I heard a voice say: “My child, why are you moving away from me?” I woke up in tears.”

From that day on he started reading the Bible and says he found the answers to the dream he had had, in there: “In the past, God spoke to his people through dreams. So I really became convinced that the time had come for me to change my life. But I did not just change because I wanted to, but because God wanted me to. Being Christian means recognizing Christ as your saviour. Without Christ I would be nothing.” 

Blogging about blogging

18 Key Observations about the State of Blogging in 2011 at JeffBullas.com is a fascinating read for those of us who blog, or even those who love to read blogs.  He notes what he's learned in the past year:

  • People want more Infographics
  • The continuing evolution of an increasingly “visual web” that communicates quickly and efficiently with images.(Pinterest and Tumblr)
  • People “love” sharing
  • Social media has supercharged blogging
  • People’s continuing obsession with Facebook
  • Twitter is still an enigma
  • The contagious leverage  of “liquid content“
  • People’s thirst for learning
  • The power of a competitor to drive change as the success of Google+ has increased the speed of evolution at Facebook
  • The mobile Internet cannot be ignored
Really interesting stuff for those of us who blog for fun and/or profit.

Remembering the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am where I am today, partly due to the Rev. Dr. King.  As a freshman in college, I read his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and it was an epiphany.  I remember that today.

How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To
put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

Mary Cassatt Monday

Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa, Reading

Adoption - a few things to share

Oh, so many things about adoption popping up.  First, the Sisters of Life are presenting "You & Me", an exhibit to coincide with the March for Life.

Then, this lovely piece from Truth & Charity, that details one couple's journey to adoption.  The story features this quote from Bl. John Paul the Great:  “…the existence of so many children without families suggests adoption as a concrete way of love. Families like yours are here to say that this is a possible and beautiful way, despite its difficulties; a way, moreover, which is even more feasible than in the past, in this era of globalization which shortens all distances.”

And finally, (and yes, I'm bragging a little), from my own beautiful Curly-haired Daughter, who posted this on her Facebook:

Day 14: A picture of someone you could not imagine your life without.
My Daddy has a pretty wife. She did not "bring me into this world" or any of my siblings, but she sure as hell kept us in it.

Caught in the gaze of Christ

I fully admit that sometimes when I pray, I feel like I'm talking to myself.  That's when I pray.  Sometimes, I don't pray;  I have what seems like a million other things - some worthy, some not - vying for my attention.  All in all, it is easy to forget that Christ is there.

Today's readings at Mass are all about listening for and responding to God's call.  First, it's Samuel.  I love this story;  it's so sweetly naive.  Samuel is loyal, but clueless, until Eli finally points out to him that God is the one calling to him in the night.  Then it's Andrew and Simon Peter, called by Jesus not only to "follow" but into a new life, new relationships, new identities.

Here is what Dom Mauro Giuseppe Lepori has to say about what lay before Peter:  "Jesus gave him no explanation, no plan.  The only perspective he had to offer was the gaze that he fixed on him, seeming to cast him out toward a boundless future in which his new name - Simon Peter - would find its full meaning and completion."

How easy it is to forget that we are in the gaze of Christ.  We want an explanation, a road map, a detailed summary of everything that lays before us.  We fail to trust that Jesus' perspective, His plan, His boundless love for us.  We fail to live in the gaze of Christ, caught up instead in the limited line of sight we have on our small lives.  Today, remember:  you are caught in the gaze of Christ, where you are safe, loved and where your soul will have its most complete meaning, here and in eternity.

Winter, finally

photo by Dan Harvell
I

It's a bit disconcerting to live in Michigan and not have snow this time of  year.  It finally showed up, and it's beautiful!

Adventures in Prayer

How do you like to pray? 

I have a lot of prayers on my iPhone, including my Magnificat magazine.  I also have an app. that reminds me when it's time to pray the Angelus.  I like these prayers for a couple of reasons.  One, they connect me to the universal Church.  Two, they are habit-forming, and three, I think they are good "warm-ups" to having more intimate conversations with God. 

I do pray "off the cuff" - those little moments when I thank God, or ask for favor or grace, either for myself or someone else.

How do you like to pray?

3 Good Things Thursday

1.  This post from George Weigel: 
You don’t have to be an intellectual to appreciate this “symphony of truth,” however. For Catholicism is, first of all, an encounter with a person, Jesus Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). And to meet that person is to meet the truth that makes all the other truths of our lives make sense. Indeed, the embrace of Catholic truth in full, as lives like Blessed John Henry Newman’s demonstrate, opens one up to the broadest possible range of intellectual encounters. 

Viewed from outside, Catholicism can seem closed and unwelcoming. As Evelyn Waugh noted, though, it all seems so much more spacious and open from the inside. The Gothic, with its soaring vaults and buttresses and its luminous stained glass, is not a classic Catholic architectural form by accident. The full beauty of the light, however, washes over you when you come in.


2. Being a lady:

myvintagevogue.com


3.  Heroic Military Chaplains - here's to heroes!
 

Sigh...such beauty!

"Agony in the Garden" - Bellini

Biblical Illuminations

I've been looking at these lately...they are too beautiful to keep to myself.

From the Oxbow Books site, depicting a unicorn from the "Book of Beasts".  According to the website, this was a "curious medieval genre" of Biblical illustrations.

What's in a name?

Beyonce just named her baby Blue Ivy.  In the realm of celebrity baby names, it's not the worst (think Apple, Moxie Crimefighter, and Jermajesty...and no, I'm not making any of those up).  It's just...weird.

Naming a child is an awesome responsibility.  Think about it: you are creating an identity for a person that will carry them throughout their life.  It's what their kindergarten pals will call them, their college sweetheart will whisper in their ear, and what they will print on their business cards.  It forms, in part, the core of their personal identity.

My name is a bit off-beat.  "Elise" is  far more common now than it was when I was growing up, but I still get "Elsie" ALL the time.  (My apologies to all "Elsies" out there, but...yuck.)  However, I love my name:  it's who I am.  It's me.  My parents carefully and joyfully chose my name for me.  And for the record, I was named after a Sister of St. Joseph - my mom's favorite teacher.

As a Catholic, we get the opportunity to choose names for ourselves as well.  How many 14 year olds are right now trying to decide on Confirmation names:  Hubert or Francis, Therese or Mary?  We do it to honor saints, grandparents, beloved family members - both immediate family and the family of Christians we belong to.  We choose it because we want to model that person's life, behavior, spirituality.

The community of Franciscans I belong to bestow names on us as well, the lay people who receive spiritual formation from them and support them in their endeavors.  Mine is Ruth, the heroine of the Jewish people, remembered for adapting to and adopting a people "not her own".

We know that God's name is to be used honorably and with great love.  We speak His name in reverence, in charity and in devotion.  Names are important, not frivolous.  They are not ornaments - like designer handbags or $200 sneakers - but a designation of our eternal identity, and not just children of our earthly parents, but our Eternal Parent.  That's why the Church gives us, as parents, some guidelines:

2156 The sacrament of Baptism is conferred "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." In Baptism, the Lord's name sanctifies man, and the Christian receives his name in the Church. This can be the name of a saint, that is, of a disciple who has lived a life of exemplary fidelity to the Lord. The patron saint provides a model of charity; we are assured of his intercession. The "baptismal name" can also express a Christian mystery or Christian virtue. "Parents, sponsors, and the pastor are to see that a name is not given which is foreign to Christian sentiment."...

2158 God calls each one by name. Everyone's name is sacred. The name is the icon of the person. It demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it.
2159 The name one receives is a name for eternity. In the kingdom, the mysterious and unique character of each person marked with God's name will shine forth in splendor.
(The Catechism of the Catholic Church)

THAT'S what's in a name: dignity, respect, the sacred, the eternal.  A child deserves the very best a parent can bestow on him or her - the "mysterious and unique character" that will shine throughout all eternity.







But that's so mean!

While I was peacefully minding my own business a couple of days ago, someone passed on to me - quite innocently - what another party had said about me.  And it wasn't flattering.  (Now, before you jump to conclusions, the person who "told" was a child, so it really was quite innocent.)

I've been turning over this unflattering statement about me in my head ever since.  Ugh.  Who wants to hear something mean, unflattering, critical about themselves?  Oh, I suppose we have to hear it sometimes - maybe a job review or standing in that three way mirror in the dressing room when your friend says,  "You can't wear those pants in public."  But at least we know it's coming - we're set up for it.  We've sort of given "permission" if you will, for another person to take a critical view of us.

But what to do when it comes out of "nowhere"?  Suddenly, I hear that someone whom I consider a friend said something rather...mean.  And it hurts.  It feels like a little betrayal. 

I have often wondered what life was like for the little Holy Family.  Settled in a small home in Nazareth, inside their home must have been warmth and love and joy.  But what did the neighbors say?  Did they make snide remarks about the timing of the child's birth?  "You know, I heard she was pregnant before they were wed...."  Did Mary's humility draw the ire of those less charitable?  Did Joseph's quiet ways make him an easy target for bolder, less-honorable men?  And Jesus...well, He always drew the attention of those quick to judge.

Please don't get me wrong:  I am NOT comparing myself to the members of the Holy Family.  I am saying, though, that they knew must have known how it felt to have critical, mean, judgmental things said about them, and I find comfort in that.  They knew what it meant to be hurt by a neighbor, a friend, a colleague. 

"The Family of Nazareth was the first model of the Church in which, in the presence of Jesus and thanks to His mediation, a filial rapport with God came to transform even interpersonal relations". - Pope Benedict XVI

Let us pray to the Holy Family that we can transform all our relationships into ones that are good, holy and honest.

Total Rip-off Tuesday

Usually, I "rip-off" another writer (hey, I always give credit!), but today, a little something different.  In a bit of pure, unadulterated Catholic geekery, I present Mike Aquilina's quiz, "Which Church Father Are You?"  What could be better than this??

Support your local blogger!

I'm looking to increase my fan base, and am willing to pay you for the privilege!  When I hit 50 followers, I'll choose (at random!) to win a $25 Amazon.com gift card!  If you're already a follower, you're still in the running, so encourage others to follow!

I'm running a similar event on the Kissing the Leper FB page, so "like" me there and have two chances to win!

How does the pope get to be pope?

I found this fascinating: bet you will too!

Desert time

I've been struggling for a number of months now with a terrible sense of "taking to myself" when praying, of God not being present, of little consolation in my spiritual life.  I found this very sensible treatment of the issue from Fr. John Bartunek:

....desolation can flow from God’s direct action on the soul.  God can take away the consolation of his presence, without actually taking away his presence.  This is a method he uses to purify the soul and to increase the soul’s capacity for love.  If we can keep following God’s will in our lives even when we are passing through “a valley as dark as death” (Psalm 23:4), we will emerge with a much more mature faith, a more vibrant hope, and a deeper love.  These are the theological virtues that unite the soul to God – and union with God is what we were created for, and what God yearns us to achieve and deepen.
 
So when he takes away interior consolation in this way, we can rest assured that his wisdom and goodness will permit us, when emerged from the darkness, to undergo greater consolations than we ever imagined, because our soul’s capacity to experience God will have been increased by God directly.  These periods of purification initiated by God are often called the “dark night.”  We can have dark nights of the senses, of the spirit, of the intellect… It is when God, the doctor of our soul, lays us on the spiritual operating table and takes direct action.  Our job in this case is to trust and endure by continuing to seek and embrace God’s will in our lives (the commandments, the duties of our state in life, etc…)

Mary Cassatt Monday

Woman Sewing

"There are so many things wrong with this," she said, sadly shaking her head

So, Jeff DeGraff in The Huffington Post is belly-achin' about the changes to the language of the liturgy.  He likens it to the reformulation of soda:  the "new Coke", if you will, of the Vatican.

Bull-feathers! (As my mom would say.)

First, he says it's as if someone changed the lines to a beloved Broadway production.  Then it's a Michael Bolton cover of a Ray Charles classic.  Finally, he slaps down the trump card.  It's the greatest marketing blunder of all: "New Coke".

To further "prove" his point, he calls on Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (a politician, not a theologian), who wrote a piece called "Out of step with the flock" in the Atlantic.  DeGraff's comment on her piece:  The Church doesn't belong to the Vatican, Cardinals or Bishops. It belongs to the faithful who are capable of interpreting the tenants of their faith for themselves. In short, we didn't ask for this change to the Mass and from all indicators didn't want it.

There are so many things wrong with this;  it's like an idiot's smorgasbord.  


Let me first point out the glaringly obvious:  the Mass, the Sacred Liturgy, the most perfect prayer is NOT a Broadway production meant for us to watch, enjoy, bask in the glow of, and then go out and get a martini and a steak.  It is meant for us to encounter Christ, and enter into Eternity, however briefly, participating in the most Holy Sacrifice of Christ's Life, Death and Resurrection.  It should be as good as we can make it, humanly speaking, and if that means tweaking the language, so be it.

It's not a concert, where we get to critique the "cover" of a hymn by the choir, or a re-formulation of a treat like a soda or a candy bar.

Then, there's the perhaps not-so-obvious.  The church belongs to the faithful.  Uh, no it doesn't.  It belongs to Christ.  It's His.  He founded it, He runs it.  We get the great blessing and responsibility of belonging to it, but it ain't ours - at least not in the proprietary sense.  Ms. Kennedy Townsend's piece is laughably titled, "out of step with the flock".  What shepherd lets his flock lead the way?  Sheep are idiots!  They'll all follow each other merrily into a pack of wolves, left to their own devices.  A few will straggle off into the woods, where predators lurk.  No, the sheep have to stay in step with the shepherd, not the other way around.

Mr. DeGraff states:  I suggest that we say our prayers in our own voice. If that's the old way, great, or if you are feeling particularly creative maybe you make up your own words - just like the big shots do. Or we can just leave the translating to God.  That, sir, is the Tower of Babel.  You might want to pull out your Bible and read about it.  It didn't work out well.

What does work well?  Obedience.  It's not about liking the play we're watching, preferring one brand of soda over another, or being mad when someone with authority over us does something we prefer he not do.  It's about submitting to the will of God, walking behind the Shepherd and not in front of Him just because you think you know better.  It's hard.  And it is exactly what we are called to do:  My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

3 Good Things Thursday

image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy
1.  2011 is done, thanks be to God.  I was ready for a fresh start, weren't you?
2.  We are still celebrating Christmas!  In fact, my family has a party this weekend with our dear Franciscan Sisters.  For those folks who throw their tree out on the curb on December 26, they miss the on-going celebration of the Incarnation, poor babies....
3.  I was gifted a Kindle (to replace the one I lost last year, I shamefully admit).  The world of literature at my fingertips once again.  Do you know about Pixel of Ink?  They have a TON of free stuff for Kindles.  (Admittedly, some of the books are a bit trashy for my taste, but they offer a variety of stuff that is definitely worth looking at:  free!!)

As the mother of five wildly imperfect children...

I wholeheartedly concur with Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk and his essay on parents desiring "flaw-free children".  (Before you jump all over me, I am wildly imperfect myself...and am made aware of that every single day.  Thankfully, my kids put up with me.)

Practically, this means overturning our culturally conditioned attitudes toward “imperfect” children and accepting every child without preconditions. We must push back against the almost ubiquitous pressure that counsels us to ensure that our children are born without defects.

Keeping in mind that each of our children is a gift from God, even when we are dealing with mental illness, teenage angst, zits, car accidents, bad grades, and defiance is a challenge....but we accept them without preconditions.  May God continue to bless us in our imperfections.

Light blogging, but a thought to ponder

I'm on staff retreat today and tomorrow for my job, but here's a thought my boss gave us at the end of the day:

 "For our part, what we desire is not a class struggle but a class encounter, in which 
the rich save the poor and the poor save the rich." - Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
 
 

Perhaps, if you really HAD read my blog, you'd have saved yourself some time.....

Got this email today:

Hi Elise,

We recently published an article that you may be interested in entitled, “10 Weird But True Facts About Kissing”.


After having followed your blog for a while, I feel that this one article would align well with your blog's subject matter. I thought perhaps you'd be interested in sharing this article with your readers? Thanks, and keep up the great blogging!


Sincerely,

K.

My reply:

Dear K.,

While I appreciate the attention for my blog, if you had really been following it, you would realize that your article has absolutely nothing to do with my blog's content. My blog focuses on Catholic spiritual life, parenting and social issues  from a Catholic viewpoint. 

Thanks anyway, and here is to better research!

Elise 

Musings on the Universal Church, the dead and the living

"Communion of Saints" - Elise Ritter
When we talk about the "universal church" as Catholics, we often take it to mean the Church all over the world - you know, the Catholics in Sao Paolo, San Francisco and Singapore.  But we REALLY are talking about the UNIVERSAL Church - all its members, those on earth and those "asleep in Christ".

I spent the weekend with my 86 year old mother.  She is clearly closer to the end of her life than the beginning, although, thanks be to God, she is healthy and vibrant.  However, the last few times I've been with her, she has spent a lot of time reminiscing about her father, her mother, her grandparents, and extended family.  She grew up in the Depression and her closely-knit family struggled together to make ends meet and manage tough times, deeply grounded in the Faith.  (Oh, it wasn't all wonderful.  They threw things at each other and argued;  we are Irish after all.)

It seems to me that there is a wistfulness in her memories - that she is, in part, longing to be with those people again in a very real way.  Most certainly, she misses my dad, who has been gone four years now.  They were married almost 60 years, and her heart still aches at the loss.

She's not sad, though.  There is hope - hope that she will indeed see all those loved ones again.  And, in a way, her telling these stories about them "puts flesh on their bones" for me, my siblings, cousins and our children.  These folks of her memory are real to us, despite the fact that many of them were gone long before we were born. Her hopefulness is borne of a very real faith - that there is something after the death of the body, and that that "something" is eternal life in Christ.

John Donne, in his Meditation XVII, poetically relates this same hopeful longing within the Universal Church:

The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does, belongs to all.  When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that head which is my head too, and ingraffed into that body, whereof I am a member.  And when she buries a man, that action concerns me; all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie open to one another; as therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come; so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.

"One chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language".  It appears that this is what my mother is doing now in her life - translating her childhood, her memories, her life, into a new language for the next few generations.  She is "translating by age", as Donne says, her advancing years giving her a perspective on life and death she did not have before. 

When we ponder the Universal Church, we will do well to remember that the saints in Heaven rejoice over every baptism with us, grieve with us in our struggles and losses, and long to be reunited with us in Eternal glory.  The Universal Church isn't just the parish down the street or St. Peter's; it's our friends and family in the pews with us and those who have died and are awaiting us with Christ.  "Universal":  Heaven and earth united in faith.

Lessons learned from Nancy Drew

At work, right next to my desk, I have a copy of "The Mystery of the Ivory Charm" - a Nancy Drew mystery.  It's a 1936 edition, a gift from a friend who loves to give books like this.

It means a lot to me, not simply because it was a gift.  I was one of those girls who grew up on Nancy Drew; they are fun stories, adventurous, with a gal full of moxie right in the thick of things.  And I learned a lot from that little blond detective:

1.  Dress well.  You never know what the day will bring and dressing like a lady means you'll always fit in, whether you're suddenly invited to a spontaneous dinner by a potential beau or sleuthing through an old house full of clues.  If you're wearing ratty sweat pants and an old concert t-shirt, you've seriously hampered your choices for the day.

2.  Reliable transportation is a must for every girl.  Now, I don't have a sporty little roadster to get around in, but I try to make sure my car is running well.  No sense getting stuck in the middle of nowhere on a dark and stormy night.

3.  The best way to get through life is with a few good chums.  A cute boy - well-mannered and attentive - helps too.  However, one's life doesn't need to revolve around him;  a girl has things to do, after all!

4.  It's occasionally necessary to make a scene if you're trying to prevent something bad from happening or attempting to get justice for someone.  Normally, I wouldn't suggest a lady run around yelling her head off, but sometimes, you have to!

5.  It's okay to be the smart girl.  In fact, it's downright fun to be the smart girl.

I keep this book by my desk because, some days, it can be a little tough juggling all the things I have to do.  Nancy and her mysterious ways remind me that I've got the charm, the moxie, the wardrobe and the brains to do what I need to do.

Holy Name of Jesus

I have to admit, swearing doesn't bother me all that much.   I do think, as my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Lee, told us, that foul language is the sign of a poor vocabulary and a small mind, but in the scheme of things, it doesn't get me too riled.

I HATE when I hear God's name, the name of Christ, or any version thereof, used in vain.  It makes my ears bleed.

There was a charming older gentleman at our parish, who has now passed away, that kept the lovely tradition of bowing his head at the mention of the name of Jesus.  I confess I am not that reverent, but I always admired the man for it.

In the Orthodox monastic tradition, they have the "Jesus Prayer", which they attempt to ceaselessly pray:


The Jesus Prayer is the traditional practice of ceaseless prayer in the Christian tradition. The standard formula of the Jesus Prayer reads: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” In practice, a variety of forms can be used. For example, the designation “a sinner” may be added to the ending: “have mercy on me, a sinner.” Likewise, the invocation “have mercy on me” may be expressed in the plural, that is, “have mercy on us.” Some omit the title “Son of God.” Or the prayer can be simply shortened to the following invocation: “Lord Jesus, have mercy.” The shortest form is simply “Jesus.”

Today is a good day to have the name of Jesus on our lips in love, in prayer and in homage.

Coffee with Jesus

Don't know the origin of this, but it sure is worth sharing!


Total Rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer or artist.  Not taking credit, just passing on some good stuff.  Today's choice, St. Francis of Assisi, whom I aspire to follow:

Listen, sons of the Lord and my brothers, pay attention to my words. Incline the ear of your heart and obey the voice of the Son of God. Observe His commands with your whole heart and fulfill His counsels with a perfect mind. Give praise to Him since He is good and exalt Him by your deeds, for He has sent you into the entire world for this reason, that in word and deed you may give witness to His voice and bring everyone to know that there is no one who is all-powerful except Him. Persevere in discipline and holy obedience and with a firm and good purpose fulfill what you have promised to Him. The Lord God offers Himself to us as to His children.
 
Therefore, kissing your feet and with all that love of which I am capable, I implore all of you brothers to show all possible reverence and honor to the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in whom that which is in the heavens and on the earth is brought to peace and is reconciled to the all-powerful God.

Ah, how lady-like!

Spent last night oohing and aahing at PBS' "Downton Abbey".  It was humorous, soap-opera delicious and oh!  The clothes!

Peace for 2012

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

I am not sorry that 2011 is done, and am looking forward to the New Year.  Let us pray that it is a year of peace:  in our hearts, in our homes and in the world.

Here is a lovely reflection on peace from Cardinal Sean Brady of Ireland:


We Christians believe that God created the visible world in all its
richness and beauty.  The human person is the summit of the work of
the Creator – and human life is sacred.  When God’s original plan of
sharing the happiness of Heaven with the human race was sabotaged by
sin, God prepared another plan.  He would send His Son to reveal his
merciful love for all of us.


Today we honour the part played by Mary in the fulfilment of that
plan.  With her ‘yes’ to the proposal that she become the Mother of
God, she went along with God’s plan and made herself available to play
her part.  She teaches us the importance of putting our trust in our
Creator, who is our first beginning and our last end.  She teaches us
the importance of the Gift of Faith – a gift to be requested and
treasured.

Mary Cassatt Monday

The Cup of Tea I

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,...