Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Thirty-three

I am grateful that God designed us with two arms, because frankly, one arm is a really bad design....

Still only one arm...

Forgive the lack of lengthy posts...I still have one arm in a sling.

Entry Into Jerusalem

artist unknown

In lieu of my not posting...

Please visit a few of the blogs I follow, if you have never done so.  There's great stuff there - just scroll down the right side of this page.

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Thirty-one

Since I currently have one arm in a sling, I am incredibly grateful that, when I got home from work last night, Youngest Son said, "Do you need anything?  Want me to make you a sandwich?"  And he did.  Simple, sweet gesture.

The World of Religions

Ever wonder exactly what  the world of religions looks like?  How many people in the world are Buddhists or Jewish?  Here is a terrific infographic.  It's pretty big, so I couldn't reproduce it here - click on the link.

Light blogging - pinched nerve

I have a pinched nerve in my neck, and am supposed to "refrain from using my arm" as much as light blogging for a day or two.

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Thirty

I am grateful for modern medicine.  See above.

When Castro Came to Coleman

In honor of Pope Benedict's trip to Cuba, I'm revisiting a piece I wrote awhile back about my family's ties to that island nation.  Enjoy!

Meditation: have you tried it?

Woman Praying in Church - Jean-Baptiste Jules Trayer
"Meditation", it seems to me, gets a bad Christian rap.  Either we figure it's some loosey-goosey New Agey thing, or we figure it is for mystics - not mere mortals like us.

But meditation is at the heart of Christian prayer.  Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

 2705 Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking. The required attentiveness is difficult to sustain. We are usually helped by books, and Christians do not want for them: the Sacred Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts of the day or season, writings of the spiritual fathers, works of spirituality, the great book of creation, and that of history the page on which the "today" of God is written.
2706 To meditate on what we read helps us to make it our own by confronting it with ourselves. Here, another book is opened: the book of life. We pass from thoughts to reality. To the extent that we are humble and faithful, we discover in meditation the movements that stir the heart and we are able to discern them. It is a question of acting truthfully in order to come into the light: "Lord, what do you want me to do?"
2707 There are as many and varied methods of meditation as there are spiritual masters. Christians owe it to themselves to develop the desire to meditate regularly, lest they come to resemble the three first kinds of soil in the parable of the sower. But a method is only a guide; the important thing is to advance, with the Holy Spirit, along the one way of prayer: Christ Jesus.
2708 Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him. 

As the Catechism says, Scripture is a great place to start.  But meditation isn't just reading or thinking about Scripture.  It goes deeper than that.

If you're unsure where to start in terms of meditation, try this.  Choose a Gospel story, and read it through.  (Not the whole Gospel, silly, just a story...)  Then go back over it more slowly.  Pick out some details.  As you are reading it again, put yourself in the scene.  Where is this taking place?  What do you see, smell, hear?  What is it you notice around you?  Most importantly, where is Christ?  What is it you notice about Him?  What is He saying to you as you place yourself in front of Him in this particular place and circumstance?  How do you respond?

While this can be a bit of an exercise in imagination, it's more than that.  It's placing yourself in the Presence of Christ, using Scripture as the "tool" (although that's a bit of a crude word for Scripture).

If you've always stuck with a "tried-and-true" method of prayer, and haven't really been able to meditate, try this.  It's likely you will find it a fruitful addition to your prayer life, and with Holy Week coming up, why wait?

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty-Nine

(Wow!  Next Sunday is Palm Sunday!  We're almost there...)

Yesterday was my lovely mother's 87th birthday.  We spent the afternoon with her, and I cannot tell you how much she means to me, and to our entire family.  She truly is a gracious matriarch, and her holy example is a continuing example to us of how to live our faith.

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty-Eight

I am so thankful that Tallest Son has mad computer skills.  After days of me swearing at my laptop, Son has it now running again just the way it should.  He's a good boy.

Getting political on Pinterest

If you're not familiar with Pinterest (you're probably a guy...), you might imagine an online bulletin board where one can "pin" favorite photos.  You can create your own boards (say "Dresses I Like"), follow what others are "pinning", "repin" or comment on someone else's photo and search for photos you want to "pin".  Most of the stuff on Pinterest - at least in my experience - are things like home decor ideas, jewelry, hair styles (clearly, it's primarily a feminine domain).  It's the idea of making a collage online - the stuff you used to put on your bedroom bulletin board or your high school locker.

And then I read the pro-abortion stuff.

I was just casually flipping through photos, and I think the category I was in was titled "My Life".  There was a "pretty" sign that said, "If you don't agree with abortion, don't have one".  (I know: original.)  Perhaps it's the Irish in me, but I just couldn't let that go.  I wrote back:  "That's like saying if you don't agree with child abuse, don't abuse your child.  Would you speak up if someone was beating their child right in front of you?"

Is Pinterest the right place to get political?  Should I have just let it go?   After all, Pinterest is mainly about pleasant pictures and jaunty stuff, a diversion from work or study for a few minutes to look at ideas of things you like, want to try out or might want to have.  It's not about political statements or weighty matters.  It's not about arguments and picking sides.

And yet....

I suppose part of me thinks,  "Say something that stupid (and it IS a stupid argument for abortion) and you're gonna get what's comin'..."  But the bigger issue is this:  isn't EVERY place our mission field?  Aren't we SUPPOSED to be salt and light, regardless of where we are?  Yes, I believe we are.  I don't plan on making it a habit to hunt down things like this on Pinterest, but if I run across 'em....

We have to speak the truth, even if it's on a website for pretty pictures.

"If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." - John 8:31-32

Cardinal: this may be an exciting career move for me....

Women cardinals?  Mark Shea thinks so, and apparently folks like Cardinal Dolan and Fr. Benedict Groeschel are agreeing with him.  I wonder how I'd look in red.....

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty Seven

I am grateful for cheerful people, especially in the morning.  The bus driver I had this morning was clearly "happy to be here", and it made for an enjoyable ride.  We should all talk more, connect more...

What SHE said - we women have a few demands.

From Lisa Fabrizio at The American Spectator:

I'm angry at the way Hollywood portrays women, with a condescending and hypocritical attitude that at once praises us -- particularly our black sisters -- as innately all knowing and all powerful, while at the same time insisting that we must be drop-dead gorgeous; equally able to avenge ourselves against our male oppressors while balancing on spiked heels. Yes, we must be depicted as the fantasies of both man-hating feminists and 13-year-old boys.
Most of all, I'm angry at the majority of my fellow women who refuse to break out of their politically correct chains and stand up for themselves by refusing to be put into the molds their liberal sisters have so malevolently formed for them; allowing groups like NOW and NARAL to speak for them as representative of all women. It's time for this silent sorority to loudly proclaim that we actually want to be wives and mothers and are proud of it; that we are enjoy being career women who have no problem coexisting with, and even liking our male co-workers, rather than seeing them as "the enemy."

The whole piece is worth your time.

The Young Dubliners: I don't think I'll love you anymore

A lovely ballad....and just three weeks until I get to see them live!

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty-Six

I am grateful for the ease of communication that we enjoy today.  I caught a bit of a "MASH" episode the other night, and Hawkeye Pierce asked a fellow soldier, returning state-side, to call his father in Crabapple Cove, Maine, and let dad know he is okay. 

I thought, "Huh".  It struck me how really tough communications were even just 60 years ago, not just for the military, but for everyone.  I had an aunt who believed every long distance phone call was a portend of bad news.

While many of us are inundated by Facebook, email, twitter, voice mail messages and the rest, it is great to know we can speak to friends and family anywhere on the planet with such ease.

"Is He back yet?"

Yesterday, one of my co-workers greeted me in the morning and asked how I was.

"Disappointed," I replied, and he asked why.

"Well, I was really hoping when I woke up this morning that Jesus would have come back, and I would not have to face yet another bowl of oatmeal [my chosen Lenten penance].  But He's not back, and here's the oatmeal."

I suppose there are greater reasons to hope for Jesus' return, but, right now, I'd settle for not having to eat oatmeal.

"Style, Sex and Substance": for the Catholic woman

Check out the new book from Hallie Lord ("Betty Beguiles").  Fun topics, great writers, Catholic perspective:  what's not to love?

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty-Four (25....I lost track somewhere in the midst of Lent...)

I am grateful for allergy medications.  I was thinking about my dad the other day, and how much he suffered during allergy season.  I still get headaches and that awful "sinusy" feeling, but nothing like my poor dad had to endure before we had the plethora of meds. we do today.  Thank you, God, for good medicine!

Give us freedom of religion and let us live out our faith!

Our good bishops are urging us to pray for religious freedom.  Their website has a bunch of goodies on it, including this prayer, under the patronage of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of our country:

O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We ask this through Christ our Lord.


Copyright © 2012, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved.

How did I get here??

And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!
 - Talking Heads, Once In a Lifetime

I met a woman - a lovely Catholic mom of a large family - whose son had committed a horrendous crime.  She told me that as the reality sank in, "I could not have been more surprised than if I had gotten up one morning and my whole family had been turned into giraffes."

Have you ever been there?  Have you ever sat and looked at your life - a life you may have thoughtfully and prayerfully "put together" - and wondered,  "How did I get here?  How did THIS (whatever the "this" might be) happen?  I did A, B and C....and yet...I got THIS.  HOW, God, how?"

You're in good company.  Look at the Bible:  Noah, Ruth, Jonah.  Joseph (both Old and New Testament), Paul.  Think of the saints: Katherine Drexel, Damien of Molokai, Bernadette of Lourdes.  All of them must have said at least once:  HOW did I get here??  How did this become my life??

We live under a delusion - a lovely delusion, but a delusion none-the-less - that if we follow some set of cosmic rules and game plan, we will get "rewarded".  Our reward will be the perfect life we have planned.  We will follow the Ten Commandments and the Precepts of the Church, and all our children will grow to be healthy, shining examples of Catholic education, showering us with grandchildren and respect into our old age. We will be respected by all who work with us and see our magnificent work ethic.  Our home will always be clean.  We - and all we love - will die a peaceful, happy, painfree death at a very old age.

What we don't count on or expect is the hurricane.  Or cancer.  Or an addiction.  A lost job. A tragic death. Bills that can't get paid. An affair. Pick a nightmare, any nightmare:  one is gonna show up.

We can spend a lot of time asking why bad things happen to good people.  We can spend a lot of time asking why me, and trying to figure it out.  We can...but there is no satisfactory answer this side of Heaven.  Bad things happen, good people suffer, God - for reasons we do not know - permits.  And we must struggle on.

There is probably no more clear example of this than the Book of Daniel.  Besides Daniel (who finds himself literally surrounded by lions - hello!), you've got three righteous young men who incur the wrath of a mad man and end up getting tossed into a furnace.  But what's the lesson, in the midst of "How did I end up here" from the Book of Daniel?  The lesson is to pray and praise and trust in God:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
for wisdom and power are his.
He causes the changes of the times and seasons,
establishes kings and deposes them.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who understand.
He reveals deep and hidden things
and knows what is in the darkness,
for the light dwells with him.
To you, God of my ancestors,
I give thanks and praise..."
  - Daniel 2: 20-23

Clearly, when we are in crisis, this is not an easy prayer to pray.  But it is an essential prayer to pray.  It reminds us that - no matter how frivolous, how fruitless, how capricious things seem - God is good.  God is near.  While we may be wondering, "How did I get here??", we have to at least know that God is right next to us.  He might not lead us directly out of the chaos, but He won't ever leave us there to face it alone.

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty-three

I am very grateful for books and the joy of reading.  Books have given me knowledge, taken me to many worlds, introduced me to great minds and characters, coddled and cuddled me, and made me think  hard about who I wanted to be.  For that little girl in Coleman, MI who set out to read every book in the town library, it's been a great love affair.

My son, Chewbacca or Why Wookies Need Moms, Too

I am the mother of a Wookie.

If you're not a Star Wars fan, a Wookie is a 7 foot tall, fur-covered, grunting, technologically-adept, devoted beast.  They are great with weapons...not so great with communication.  They mostly grunt. There are conflicting reports as to what a Wookie eats, but given their size, it is a substantial amount. They don't seem to fit into the world they are in, but are making the best of it. They are a bit of a Lone Ranger - not too many of them around, and they are trying to make things work with a bunch of humans and other creatures that don't quite seem to "get" them. Here's a little bit about Wookies, from "A New Hope":

[R2-D2 and Chewbacca are playing the holographic game aboard the Millennium Falcon]
Chewbacca: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrgh!
C-3PO: He made a fair move. Screaming about it can't help you.
Han Solo: Let him have it. It's not wise to upset a Wookiee.
C-3PO: But sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid.
Han Solo: That's 'cause droids don't pull people's arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookiees are known to do that.
Chewbacca: Grrf.
C-3PO: I see your point, sir. I suggest a new strategy, R2: let the Wookiee win.

Now, my son has not ripped out anyone's arm from the socket (although there have been threats against siblings...), but everything else about Wookies seems to be a pretty fair comparison to a 15 year old boy. 

My boy.  He's eating everything in sight, he seems to be growing at a visible rate, he can't seem to get anyone in the house to understand him, he can defeat any video game in the universe but English class has him baffled....It is tough being a Wookie.

One might think, looking at a Wookie, that he is pretty self-sufficient.  He feeds himself, bathes himself (when necessary), is hopelessly devoted to his friends (and one pretty one female in particular), and seemingly would prefer to be left alone for the most part. But a Wookie still needs a mom.

Wookies need moms because, despite their size, they are not all grown up.  They don't have it all figured out.  Moms can help with things like vice-principals and a girl that won't return a phone call.  Moms can COOK food, not just warm stuff up.  Moms don't know how to fly the Millennium Falcon, but they can teach you how to back the car out of the driveway.

Moms also know about the really tough stuff: sex (I know - Wookies do NOT want to hear about this from their mom, but it's essential), alcohol, God, grades, what Wookies should do with the rest of their lives, whether or not Wookies should attend a dance, why Wookies need to go to church.  Moms also know why "Jersey Shore" is stupid (for everyone, not just Wookies), that Wookies are sometimes a bit afraid and embarrassed, and that Wookies sometimes need a shove in the right direction.  And moms can get away with shoving Wookies.

Star Wars is all about aliens.  And so is the world, as St. Peter reminds us: Beloved, I urge you as aliens and sojourners  to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against the soul. Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that if they speak of you as evildoers, they may observe your good works and glorify God....

It's tough being a Wookie....or a mom, for that matter.  That is why it is necessary and essential that we remember that we are not of this world;  we belong to Christ.  Even the Wookies.

Open letter to parents of teens: what the *^&*% are you thinking????

I am many, many things, but I am not naive.  I know a thing or two about teenagers.  I was one.  I have a bunch of 'em, and I have taught them for years.  I get 'em.

I know that since about the mid-1960s, teens in the US have faced a wall of sin and temptation, usually as soon as they cross the threshold to school every morning.  Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, baby, live and in person. Alcohol flows, condoms are dispersed and everybody's doin' it.

Dear Husband and I have always talked to our kids about all this stuff, and have tried to be really sensible about it.  As I mentioned, since I'm not naive, I haven't ever thought, "MY kid's NEVER gonna....", but the message we have always given our kids is:  No.  No drugs. No sex.  No alcohol.  No. (If you get into trouble at a party, call me.  I'll come get you.  And we'll talk.  Yeah, we'll talk.)

Here's is what I don't get.  Curly-Haired Daughter has a number of friends who's parents seemed to have completely abdicated the fight.  Here's the box of condoms.  Just make sure you drink at home so we "know you're safe."  One set of parents even bought their kid an old camper so he and his friends have a place to get high. One kid got an MIP (minor in possession charge), and the next night his mom was dropping him off at a party, after making sure "nobody had any alcohol".  Huh? 

What the *&^% are they thinking??

Honestly, I can't figure this out.  Do the parents just not care?  Are they too tired or busy?  Do they figure it's all so inevitable that there is no way to stem the tide, so they're just going to try to minimize the damage?

To me, it's like telling your kid:  "Shoplifting is wrong.  Very wrong.  Don't ever do it.  Now, that being said, I want to make sure you don't get caught, so here are my tips.  And if you do get caught - no worries.  I'll be there to bail you out."

Parents without backbones - unite!  Time to stop allowing your kid to do whatever he or she feels like doing.  Because guess what?  It's damaging them!!  It hurts them:  mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally.  And the only message they are getting from Mom and Pop is:  don't bother us with this.  Leave us out of it.  It's too hard.

I am the first to admit that raising teens in today's culture is no picnic.  But there is no excuse for well-educated parents to simply give in.  Your kid needs you:  be the adult, be the parent. Be a superhero in today's culture and prove to your kids that you care, you will hold them to a high standard and they can succeed.  Don't just hand them the keys to the liquor cabinet and look the other way.  Your kid - every kid - deserves better.

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty-three

I was grateful for a trip to the art museum yesterday with Curly-Haired Daughter.  It was a lovely afternoon:  beautiful art, beautiful music (there was a free piano/cello concert at the museum), and my daughter.  I can't tell you how much I enjoy art with her;  I love seeing  how she sees art - in a totally different way than I see it.  Watching through her eyes is a treat.

A bit of hope

Most of my praying and pondering lately has been done in my car - not too surprising, as I commute every day this way.  My faith has been quite weak of late, and I've been really angry.  I've been listening to Christian music quite frequently.  It helps, but it has become...not enough.

Something turned yesterday.  I was in the car, and I prayed, "God, you've got to give me something.  I need to hear YOUR voice.  Not someone telling me about you, but YOU."  And I did.  (No, nothing booming.  I just heard that still, small voice and knew.)

And so it is.  A bit of hope.  A bit of light, a bit of faith restored.

We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
2 Corinth. 4: 8-10

The Pope's crocodile?? Who knew?

"Rome bids farewell to Pope's crocodile"

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty-two

I am grateful to be Irish.  If you're lucky enough to be Irish, you're lucky enough!

"I bind myself to You": St. Patrick's Prayer

iconography: Nicholas Markell
I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spic├Ęd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.
Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

"Great minds think alike"

Referencing my earlier post about Confirmation and religious ed., this article from today's Catholic Register has one of our bishops talking about the restoration of the sacraments to the "age of reason":

It’s really problematic when it’s left for the high school years, and it can become a real abuse of the sacrament. Faith formators want to keep it there because it keeps young people in religious education, and they feel that more seeds can be sown. However, because teens are often in their rebellious years, it can build up seeds of resentment towards the sacrament.
Pope Benedict XVI asked what my experience had been between the difference of children in third grade vs. those of an older age receiving the sacrament. The week prior I had celebrated a make-up confirmation for those who had moved into the area or who had fallen through the cracks and not received the sacrament. We had about 50 confirmands between fourth grade up to 24 years of age. They were all lined up by age, and a professional photographer was there to take photos as I asked them questions.

The photographer said that all of the younger kids had their hands up, eager to answer the questions. The older students didn’t want to answer questions. Younger confirmands are like little sponges. They’re very receptive.

Are the kids "happy"?

Harold Fickett, over at Catholic Exchange, noted the recent conversation between Kirk Cameron and Piers Morgan about what either of them would do if a son announced he was gay.  Piers' response was that all he really wanted was for his son to be happy.

I started thinking: do I care if my kids are happy?

Certainly, Scripture is full of "happy"....but not in the world's way of thinking about "happy".  Just read the Beatitudes.  Happy are the poor in spirit?  Happy are the sorrowful?  Really?  Can't I just have a Coke and smile?  A Big Mac?  A new iPad?  Now THAT stuff would make me happy, and the kids too.

I think my kids - now that they are all teens - would frankly be happy if I just left them alone.  No nagging to do chores, finish homework, get up for Mass, let the dog in.  No unrequested advice about how to handle that "mean" teacher or that boss that won't let up.  Certainly no conversations about no sex, no drugs, and could you turn down that awful music?????

Do I want my kids to be happy?  Yes.  Do I want my kids to be happy in the way the world defines happy?  Not so much.  I know enough now to realize that "happy" is fleeting, it can be bought and sold, it comes cheap and it rarely lasts. I guess what I really want my kids to be is joyful, compassionate, and obedient.  And the world doesn't sell a lot of that. 

Happy is he whose fault is take away, whose sin is covered.  Happy the man to whom the Lord imputes not guilt, in whose spirit there is no guile. -Ps. 32: 1-2

I want my kids to live in the truth, and as hard, difficult and counter-cultural as that may be, that is going to be what makes them - and all of us - happy.

I guess that means I am going to keep nagging.  My kids will be thrilled....

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty-one

Youngest Son, at age 15, is closing in on 6'4".  He is eating.  A lot.  He has complained of his joints and bones aching - yeah, ya think?  I am very grateful for his health and that we can keep feeding him.

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty

I have to admit, I'm having a hard time being grateful this morning, as I am in the midst of a vile bout of insomnia.  However, I do have something:  it's day TWENTY.  That means half-way through Lent.  This Sunday is Laetare Sunday.  Amen.

"Like" Kissing the Leper on FB and...

be in the running for an gift certificate!  100 likes, and someone wins - only 13 more "likes" are needed!

Maybe I'll become Amish...oh, indoor plumbing...

Fr. Z's blog

A few days ago Sr. Mary Ann Walsh at the USCCB Blog posted this:
Friday, March 9, 2012
Amish, Ok. Catholics, No.

The Amish are exempt from the entire health care reform law. So are members of Medi-Share, a program of Christian Care Ministry. Yet, when the Catholic Church asks for a religious exemption from just one regulation issued under the law – the mandate that all employers, including religious institutions, must pay for sterilization and contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs – the Administration balks.

The President sees the Catholic Church as a threat. The Catholic Church is an obstacle to his money-saving-through-baby-reducing agenda. Doubt that?  It is an obstacle to his plan for the state to grab control of vast swatches of the economy and social institutions which help people.

Read the whole piece - it's something to think about....

Overachiever? Then this is for you - listen up!

A lovely post from Bradley J. Moore directed to all of us who think we can always cram in one (or two or three) more things into every minute of every day:

Sometimes all we need is a little reminder, a sort of self-permission slip that allows us to take care of ourselves. So here you go.
You have permission to come in to work an hour later after being out at that meeting until 11 pm the prior evening.
You have permission to stare into space and do nothing for several minutes per day.
You have permission to wander in bewildering confusion for a period of time.
You have permission to take thirty minutes a day to do something you love.
You have permission to be gripped by fear for a few moments before taking that next step.
You have permission to take a day off, for no apparent reason.
You have permission to shut the office door and take a nap right smack in the middle of the day.
You have permission to put your health and family above all of your work and career demands.
What is it you need to give yourself permission for? And what is stopping you?

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Nineteen

Spring!  Maybe you don't live in an area where there are really distinct seasons, but in Michigan we do.  We didn't have a harsh winter, but that first week of sunshine and warm weather is always heartening, and lovely!

Confirmation and American religious education

Frankly, this has been a sticking point for me for a long time, and Andrew Sciba's post is a good one.  It has never made sense theologically (to me anyway) that we separate Confirmation from Baptism (and Eucharist).  In the US, Confirmation has become some sort of  "right of passage" for young people, which is not a valid understanding of the sacrament.  Even worse, as Sciba points out, we use it as a way to keep young people in religious education classes.

First of all, the way religious education is taught in most places is a tragedy.  I know most of the folks doing it mean well, but I've sat through enough of these classes, both as parent and as administrator, to know:  they are BORING. 

Second, it is a false separation of a Sacrament of initiation to be randomly plopped down at grade 8 or grade 10 or whatever.

Finally, the hoops we make kids jump through to finally get to the Sacrament can be overwhelming:  hours of community service, two years of classroom preparation, letters to the parish asking for the sacrament, etc., etc., etc.  We don't ask couples getting married to do this much work!  (Yeah, I know, maybe we should....)  We don't do this for any other Sacrament.  It's as if we are panicking:  "This may be the last chance we get to catechize this kid!  We're gonna stuff as much into his brain while we've got him!"  The problem is not that we need to stuff so much into his brain, but that this MIGHT be our last chance.  Why is that?  Why do so many kids and parents view this as the penultimate sacramental moment....until a marriage or burial is needed?  THAT'S the problem.

Okay, rant over.  Seriously, though, in America, we need to look at how we deal with Confirmation.

Is someone you love dealing with depression? offers these 10 things you SHOULD say, and I thought they were spot-on!

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Eighteen

Today I am thankful that I persevered with knitting, as tough as it was in the beginning to learn.  I enjoy it, it really is relaxing, and you get something useful at the end.  I do wonder about the woman who "invented" knitting:  "I've got two sticks and some string.  What can I do?"  Is that how it came about??

Fashion as a way to forge peace?

I first saw this story in Mental Floss magazine, and am just fascinated!  The men, "sapeurs", are ordinary guys who use fashion, style, elan, as a way to lift the spirits of their countrymen in the Congo - a place where most people know little but war and strife.

These well-dressed gentlemen aren't African big men slapping each other on the back to celebrate just-consummated deals. They're Congolese everymen—taxi drivers, carpenters, gravediggers—assembled here on this sunny Sunday afternoon because they're what locals call Sapeurs, men who believe in the uplifting, redeeming, beatifying effect of dressing well. (Read more:

Enjoy the photos as well:
And another site with great photos.

Keep your cross to yourself....

Linen on the Hedgerow covered this the other day, and now the Telegraph UK is now reporting:  the European Court of Human Rights will decide if a Christian has a "right" to wear a cross or crucifix at work.

The Strasbourg case hinges on whether human rights laws protect the right to wear a cross or crucifix at work under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
It states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
The Christian women bringing the case, Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin, claim that they were discriminated against when their employers barred them from wearing the symbols. 

It's getting harder and harder to be a Christian in public.....

Very funny, God, very funny.

I wasn't looking forward to Mass yesterday.  Mass has been really difficult for me lately, and I kept thinking, "Just get through it".  Then, as I walked into church, our pastor grabbed me and asked me to lector.  The man who'd been scheduled couldn't do it, and our pastor knew I could do it without too much prep.

Very funny, God.

And then, just to make sure that I REALLY got the point, the Gospel was about righteous anger, as if God wanted to point out that my anger was okay with him.  And then, to REALLY, REALLY make sure, the Gospel said:  "....he [Jesus] knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature.  He himself understood it well."

Uh, I got it.  Very funny, God, very funny.  I am trying.  Thanks for the reminder.

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Seventeen

After switching to Daylight Savings Time, I was thinking that this morning, I am grateful for caffeine....However, I wanted to be a bit more reflective.  One of my sisters was with me almost all day on Saturday, mostly to  help me with a home decorating project, but in reality, to help me manage my on-going emotional rollercoaster.  I am extremely grateful for her support.  Nothing like sisters!

It's okay, I'm sure it was an accident.

Counting Bricks

You may have noticed, dear reader, that of late, I haven't been posting much. I've been really angry.

Anyone who traversed the '70s is at least fleetingly familiar with the five stages of grief, a la Elizabeth Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. For the last couple of weeks, following my daughter's assault, I've been angry. I'm angry at myself for not keeping her safe (and yes, I know that's irrational. Don't bother trying to talk me out of it.) I'm angry at God and all his angels for not keeping her safe. I'm angry at the cop who has a hard time believing her because she can't remember things in the right order, time and time again. (If you think the follow-up to a rape is just like "Law and Order" where dedicated cops pursue the truth with a vengeance and see the case through to the end....well....not so much.) I'm angry at the school that just let my daughter...walk out. No parental pick-up, no nothing. I'm angry.

In my anger, I've found it hard to be reflective, write, pray. Hell, I can't even sing, and singing is my favorite way to pray. At Mass, I'm like a drunk, three days sober, who just got invited to the family barbecue where the beer is flowing. I'm white-knucklin' it all the way. In fact, two weeks ago, the only way I made it through the sermon was to count the bricks behind the altar. It didn't matter that I kept losing track - I just kept counting over and over and over, anything to keep from listening to something I couldn't handle or from fleeing. I'm hoping it will pass soon.

 I'm beginning to wonder if I will have an Easter this year, or if my Lent will simply continue on and on. I hate to think of Easter Sunday as a day of counting bricks. Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and writer (who clearly has much more to be angry about than I do), once said, “I have not lost faith in God. I have moments of anger and protest. Sometimes I've been closer to him for that reason.” I completely understand, and I know that God doesn't mind my sitting in church, counting bricks. So, I will keep doing it, until I don't need to do it anymore.

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Sixteen

I am grateful for laughter. It's been tough finding things to laugh about lately, but time with old friends this week has reminded me it is possible. Naomi Judd once said her favorite emotion was laughter through tears, and that's been my experience of late.

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Fifteen

Today, I am grateful to recognize that so many of my "problems" can cheerfully be referred to as "First World" problems: I can't get my manicure to last all week, I ran out of toothpaste and have to make an unexpected trip to the pharmacy, having too much food. It is good to remember that so many of these "issues" are something most of the world never experiences, as so many of our brothers and sisters are trying to hard every day just to survive.

Every Catholic is suspect

Do you remember right after 9/11?  Yeah, we Americans pulled together and flew our flags, but Muslim women who chose to veil were....edgy.  It was scary to wear such a blatant sign of the religion that the bombers allegedly followed.  Even now, Muslim women who wear traditional dress will often report they believe they are targeted at the airport, poor service in restaurants, etc.

Are you Catholics ready?

Got a rosary hanging around your rear-view mirror?  A window sticker for St. So-and-So's school on the mini-van?  Wear a crucifix around your neck?  Someone may have it in for you.

The debates on Facebook are getting heated, and people have chosen sides.  If you don't want to pay for sterilizations and think gays simply can't be married, you are "out".  Is there a lion and a coliseum in our futures?

We have a government that mandates what pro-life counselors must say. We have a government now that mandates that Catholic institutions pay for things it considers sinful. We have a government that now says the cost of being an American is to abandon Catholicism.
Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska in response to the Obama administration’s contraception mandate said, “We cannot and will not comply with this unjust decree. Like the martyrs of old, we must be prepared to accept suffering which could include heavy fines and imprisonment.” (see the article at National Catholic Register)

You know we've heard it all our lives:  we have to be ready to suffer and die for our Faith.  Well, guess what?  We're gonna get the chance.

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Fourteen

My mother cannot read maps, and my father could not follow directions.  To say the least, my family is directionally-challenged.  The fact that I now have a GPS system on my phone makes me giddy!  (Of course, the news just told me that solar flares may interrupt GPS service today due to solar flares.  I'll stay home, just to be safe.)

Catholic Apps for smart phones

Tis true:  I love my iPhone!  It helps me stay organized, connected and educated.  I thought you might enjoy a plethora of apps for Catholics - be sure to check out the comments below the main story, as well.  Lots of good suggestions!

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Thirteen

I am busy re-doing Dark-haired Daughter's room (Sh! it's a surprise!), and that means paint.  Today I am grateful for the human being who invented paint+primer.  Hurray - no double and triple coats of paints!  My mom always taught me to buy good paint, but this stuff is the best.

Total Rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" some choice writing from another blog, website, or news report - with due credit.

Having a dog in this fight, I thought Chelsea Zimmerman covered the topic of the Church and infertile couples with dignity, grace and understanding.

...never forget that no prayers go unanswered and all suffering, given over to the Lord bears fruit in some form.  I know that you are hurting, but, I pray the following words of your Holy Father last Saturday can give you at least some small comfort in your pain:
“So I would like to remind the couples who are experiencing the condition of infertility, that their vocation to marriage is no less because of this. Spouses, for their own baptismal and marriage vocation, are called to cooperate with God in the creation of a new humanity. The vocation to love, in fact, is a vocation to the gift of self and this is a possibility that no organic condition can prevent. There, where science has not yet found an answer, the answer that gives light comes from Christ”.
Whether you seek to welcome a new member to your family through (ethical) fertility treatment or even the always loving option of adoption,  remember that children are a gift, not a right. Keep the focus of your marriage on you and your spouse giving and receiving the total gift self while loving God and trusting Him for the timing of children – if they should ever come.

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Twelve

I was just a bit surprised yesterday as I left work.....and it was still quite light out.  For those of you who don't have to deal with northern weather and Daylight Savings Time, you don't know how big a deal this is.  Spring:  it's coming!

Slings and Arrows

Rush Limbaugh, never one to be accused of subtly and gentleness, has stepped in it.  He used a not-very nice word to describe a woman he didn't know personally.  It's a word no woman I know would wish to be called.  Now, he's apologizing, which is good, but once things are said, you can't get them back.

Name-calling is not nice.  We seemed to have lost all sense of civility in our society.  Look at what passed for insults in Shakespeare's day: 

  • All that is within him does condemn itself for being there
  • A slippery and subtle knave
  • I know she is an irksome brawling scold 
Now, maybe William would be mad to apologize for these today, but I don't think so.  We used to take pride in witty repartee, and subtle comebacks.  Now, we settle for just plain mean.

I wrote a piece recently that got a lot of press, and most of the people who responded to it were quite vile to me personally.    Some folks not only disagreed with me, they wished great harm to me.  Here is one "conversation" from a young woman who describes herself as a mountain woman, flower child, dreamer, proud liberal, lover of all things beautiful, whimsical, and shiny:

People like you make  me sick. I hope you find out what it feels like to brutally raped then have all choice taken from you. No human decency and you do not deserve to call yourself a good mother, or even a mother. You did not protect your daughter, you took away her right to choose her own life, and replaced with with your own psycho right winged agenda. Lets hope karma bitch slaps you like you deserve. I know that you will rot in hell, there is a special seat reserved for you....I just cannot get over how much you disgust me as a human being. You realize you call yourself a christian but you t nothing like Christ would have? You should be ashamed of yourself for even using his name. Hypocrisy at it finest....On that note, can't wait until the day "god" judges you for being a horrible person in that situation. I do good things because I WANT to, not because I am trying to earn brownie points with a god. Have fun wasting your life on a sham....What is one good hing you have done lately? And don't give me worshiping god or donating to the church. Kindly go f*^% yourself, like 
 arguing with a kindergartner. Open your mind a little, and stop blindly following a god that doesn't exist.

I feel very sorry for any public figure.  I can only imagine that someone like President Obama, his wife, Rick Santorum, actors, celebrities, etc. must have to deal with this ten-fold.  
Regardless of one's political and religious beliefs, we humans have always managed to agree on one moral stance:  treat others the way you wish to be treated.  It is a maxim that runs through every major religion, philosophical treatise and culture.  And yet....

We enjoy free speech in this country.  It is a right, but no right comes without responsibility.  That would include the ability to disagree with each other without being disagreeable.  I fear we have lost this ability in our current culture.

I concur:

A successful spiritual life

Woody Allen once said,  "Eighty percent of success is showing up."  You can apply the same thought to much in life.  We show up at funerals, baby showers, weddings, family barbecues - and it counts that we simply are there.

Is this true of one's spiritual life as well?

Last Sunday, I was at Mass, and trying desperately not to break down in tears.  The whole situation with my daughter - her being missing for two days, the sexual assault that took place - and the aftermath that required me to try to balance work with her almost overwhelming needs and being present for her as she tries to collect the pieces of sanity she tentatively had a hold on, has taken a toll.  And for me, part of this toll is the inability to really pray, and finding Mass to be incredibly difficult.

I'm angry.  Since I can't be angry at the people responsible for this great evil (they have not - yet- been found), I'm angry at God.  He's a big God -  he can take.  I know He's not responsible, but there you go. What's a mother to do?

And thus I found myself, last Sunday, not listening to the sermon, but counting the bricks behind the altar.  Over and over, just so that I wouldn't cry.  I was "there", physically present - I'd showed up, but I sure wasn't "present" or paying much attention.  Did my just showing up "count"?

I haven't stopped praying or attending Mass, but it is a struggle to read every word, respond to prayers at Mass, sing a hymn.  It is as if my throat were clogged with the ashes heaped upon our family this Lent.  I pray, but not without tremendous struggle, and with very little conviction.

But I keep showing up.

And yes, I do think it "counts".  I believe that God understands the heartbreak a mother feels, the disbelief that such horror could be visited upon a child, the exhaustion that has set in and taken hold of my very soul.  He knows that the only way I can get through a sermon right now is by counting bricks, and His hand rests upon my shoulder as I do it.

One day I will wake up and I'll be able to do more than just show up, but for now, showing up will have to do.

Tough quotes for tough times

Pray! Pray, but with faith – with living faith! Courage! Onward, ever onward!
- Don Bosco

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Eleven

Good manners:  use 'em!  I ride a shuttle bus to and from work every day, to an outlying parking lot.  This morning, the two gentlemen that were at the same stop as I stepped aside to allow me to board first.  Apparently, somewhere in their up-bringing, someone taught them "ladies first".

No, not because we are weaker, or deserve better seating, or have to get off our high-heeled feet more quickly.  Good manners are about recognizing the humanity of another, acknowledging the "other", making him or her feel at ease and allowing another to precede you out of deference, respect, and well,  good manners.  "Do unto others...."

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Ten

Old friends:  there is nothing better.  We speak the same language so nothing gets lost in translation.  We can be honest - even brutal - if necessary.  We have a history no one else shares.  We know, to the very depths of our being, that when one says, "Call me if you need anything", she really, really means it.  And we do.

Leann Rimes said it well:
A good friend and a glass of wine
Someone to say it's gonna be alright
A good friend and a glass of wine
A little pick me up to get me through the night
We talk trash n' we laugh and cry
That kind of therapy money can't buy
Every now and then, every now and then
Every girl needs a good friend and a glass of wine

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Nine

Good priests.  I am grateful for 'em!  I have learned from many, worked for a few, and admired all.  Our current US bishops stack up among the best.  They pray over us, counsel us, laugh and weep with us.  They hold our secrets and our sins, bless us, marry us and bury us.  They stand by bedsides and coffin-sides, administer parishes and schools, run orphanages and manage dioceses.  They stand next to soldiers, the bereaved, the bewildered, the mentally ill, and anyone who needs prayer. They have charted unknown territories and lost their lives trying to save souls.  The Roman collar stands as public witness to the truth, the power, and the promise of the Gospel. Truly, they are in persona Christi, making the sacraments that sustain us possible.

Cardinal George: If forced to make a choice, we will.

Francis Cardinal George has stated that if the the Obama Administration tries to force Catholic organizations into paying for medicines and procedures that offend the Catholic conscience, it will "force our  hand" into closing the many charities and organizations the Church runs.

What will that look like?  Ask Ed Morrissey at The Fiscal Times.  He ran the numbers:

  • The Catholic Church has perhaps the most extensive private health-care delivery system in the nation. It operates 12.6 percent of hospitals in the U.S., according to the Catholic Health Association of the U.S., accounting for 15.6 percent of all admissions and 14.5 percent of all hospital expenses, a total for Catholic hospitals in 2010 of $98.6 billion.
  •  Compared to their competition, Catholic hospitals take a leading role in providing less-profitable services to patients. They lead the sector in breast cancer screenings, nutrition programs, trauma, geriatric services, and social work. In most of these areas, other non-profits come close, but hospitals run by state and local governments fall significantly off the pace. Where patients have trouble paying for care, Catholic hospitals cover more of the costs. For instance, Catholic Health Services in Florida provides free care to families below 200 percent of federal poverty line, accepting Medicaid reimbursements as payment in full, and caps costs at 20 percent of household income for families that fall between 200 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty line.
  •  The Catholic Church runs over 7500 primary and secondary education schools in the US (where over a third of students are non-Catholics), educating more than 2.5 million students.
  •  Catholic Charities would also have to close its doors if the bishops refuse to comply with the HHS mandate.  In 2003, the latest data available, they provided emergency food services to 6.5 million people, temporary shelter to over 200,000 people, and a range of other assistance to another 1.5 million people, including assistance in clothing, finances, utilities, and even medication. 
Is this how Obama really wants things to play out?  Is this how YOU really want things to play out?  You may think this is an issue about birth control, but it is much, much bigger than that.  

Tough quote for tough times, from a tough lady

"We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials." -- St. Teresa of Avila

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Eight

Today I am offering gratefulness to God for our animal friends.  I've always had a dog;  right now we have two dogs and two cats.  They are terrific companions, and we appreciate their steadfast friendship very much.

Even more than that, raising special needs kids, I believe our pets have been therapeutic.  Oh, none of our animals are those lovely trained service animals - they're just regular ole pets.  But their calming presence, and always welcoming attitude have soothed more than one kid around here over the years.  They have truly been a blessing.

The Best Laid Plans...

About 20 years or so ago, I stopped giving up things for Lent. It's not that I didn't find it a worthy practice; I did. It's ...