Joy

On the radio this morning, the DJs were talking about joy in the realm of the Christian experience.  "Joy" can be a tough one - we tend to think of it as overwhelming happiness - like how we'd feel if we won the lottery or someone gave us a new car for Christmas with a big ribbon wrapped around it.

But joy is different than happiness, as happiness depends on circumstances, and joy is a choice. I thought this little snippet from Fr. John Hardon, SJ, was instructive:

True joy is the result of having these desires satisfied. But notice, and the word is only those desires satisfied which are truly good. What then is truly good which, once we get it and possess it, we are happy? Your desire corresponds with what God wants. That’s why one of the greatest blessings for the United States would be if the psychiatric profession closed shop. I know, there are some still sane and God fearing psychiatrists, but their number is very small. Happiness does not consist in desiring or acquiring what we want but what God wants. And remember, God does not exist, God does not exist to satisfy our wants, we exist to satisfy the wants of God. And the wants in the word want is meaningless when applied, as we ordinarily use the word, to God. God does not want anything in the sense of need. In English the two words are practically synonyms. Am I clear? Is it what I want is what I need. Is that true? [No] That what I want is what I need? No. Can I want what I don’t need? You mothers with your children, do the children always want what you know they need? That’s why over the years, in taking medication, the label on some of the bottles ‘childproof’. But I’m told it’s almost impossible to manufacture a container which is childproof. Children will swallow anything swallowable and sometimes even things that are not swallowable. True joy then is a result of having those desires satisfied which then we desire what leads us to heaven. And then, by the way is the most fundamental meaning of the adjective, right. What is the right thing to do? That which leads to heaven. [Emphasis added.] And this is where, my own father in God, St. Ignatius, was so emphatic at the beginning of his Spiritual Exercises that we daily examine our consciences and ask ourselves, for example during the past day, all the things that I have chosen to do, have they all been things that will lead me to heaven. If they’re not, I examine my conscience and then I tell myself now this afternoon for me is twice a day. Then I remove from my life things that I may find very pleasant but which faith and sound reason tell me would not lead me to my eternal destiny. So then finally we desire what leads to our destiny and God is the only One, the only One who can tell us what we really need.

Mary Cassatt Monday

Sketch of Antoinette

Cruisin' around Blogdom on a Sunday Drive

Thought I might share a few choice blogs for your Sunday cruise.

Over at The Curt Jester, a fine post about Obama's view of Catholics.

Sr. Helena Burns talks about her process of reviewing a film.  Very enlightening!

Are you a Steve Martin fan? Here are his 10 best comedies. See if you agree.

The Christian Science Monitor, in my estimation, has some of the best photography anywhere, every day.  Enjoy this slideshow.

And because I still remember the pure joy of walking into the Coleman Public Library every week, with the anticipation of the adventures that awaited me there, this ode to libraries from Mental Floss.

Sacred Place of the Day



The St. Joseph The Betrothed is an Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Chicago. It is most known for its ultra-modern thirteen gold domed roof symbolizing the twelve apostles and Jesus Christ as the largest center dome. The interior of the church is completely adorned with byzantine style icons.

Best Baseball Movies?

If ever there was a blog I was LESS likely to read than "The Art of Manliness", I don't know what it would be, but their list of the 15 Best Baseball Movies caught my eye.  What do you think? For my money, #1 will always be "Field of Dreams".

Being Catholic and Infertile

This piece has been in the news this week: a Catholic school teacher believes she was fired because she underwent infertility treatments that go against Church teaching. (By the way, not ALL infertility treatments are morally objectionable; check this out.)

Now, I don't know if this is the real reason this woman was fired. However, from the news reports, it appears that she signed a contract that prohibits such behavior from an employee in that school system, and thus, she violated her contract.

Now, I can speak with some authority on this subject, as I am infertile. First, let me say that I really hate that word: I think everyone's life is fertile. We all grow and "give birth to" ideas, relationships, work, etc. I don't feel infertile. I do know that I could never conceive a child. And that is devastating, especially for a Catholic woman.

From the time we are children, little girls (and especially Catholic little girls) are presented with images of being a mom. We get baby dolls for our birthdays, that we sing and coo to. We play house, and assign our little brother the role of baby (we usually have to bribe him). We doodle the names of our future children when we're bored in social studies class. We want kids.

For some of us, the cruel reality of infertility is hard to take. We think, "Hey, I did everything I was supposed to, God. I waited for the right guy, I married that guy, now I want a baby. Hold up your end, Father!" We figure we are "owed" that baby, and some of us will do just about anything to get one.

There is a lot of flawed thinking here, and I won't try to tackle all of it here. I will share that, early on in our marriage, when it became clear I wasn't getting pregnant, we looked at what was morally acceptable and what wasn't, and decided to adopt. I have two sisters who are both adopted, and it was a really comfortable choice for us. I know many people have a hard time with it ("I want a child that's my 'own' - my own flesh and blood"), but it turned out to be the best decision for us.

So, here is what I would say to this Catholic school teacher, or any Catholic woman struggling with infertility: Pray. Pray hard. Pray for guidance, and don't be afraid to let God know you're angry. It's a sad and frustrating experience, and God knows it.

Be generous. It is hard to watch your friends and family members welcome babies into their lives, and it seems like every time you turn around, there's a baby shower. Don't let your own pain intrude on someone else's joy. Be generous in your presence and your presents.

Be open to life, and study why the Church teaches what it does. The Church has sound reasons for finding some infertility treatments objectionable: they often destroy more life than they create. If you're open to life, you'll see this.

Explore adoption and be open to it as a way to build a family. There are so many ways to adopt today, and many children who need homes. Not all forms of adoption are expensive, and adoption often gets a bad rap in the press, because all you see are the adoptions "gone bad". Trust me, most adoptions - while a different way to build a family - are not horror stories, but stories of love, trust, redemption and joy.

I hope that every woman who struggles with infertility can find peace. It's not easy, but it is possible...with God, because all things are possible in Him.

Something I hope my kids understand

Catholic Cool

There are a lot of things I love about the Catholic faith, but some of the things I love don't really have much to do with beliefs. That is, I love a lot of the extraneous, odd, off-beat, you'd-really-have-to-be-one-of-us-to-appreciate stuff.

I found this website with lots of pics of Catholic gardens and yard shrines. Enjoy a few of the pics here, but go visit the site - lots of fun!

Three Good Things Thursday

1. Sisters and nuns.  The press would like to have you believe that the Vatican is trying to wrangle a bunch of wayward women back into line, whereas others believe the Vatican is simply to trying to assure good community life for religious. Either way, we owe a huge debt of gratitude in this country to the women who built schools, hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes, and other institutions from the ground up...all for our benefit and the glory of God.

2. Chuck Colson.  There has been no better example of "you visited Me when I was imprisoned". He will be missed.

3. Easter! Yeah, we're still celebrating Easter! We Catholics love to draw out our celebrations and parties as long as possible. He is Risen! Alleluia!

Be ridiculous


Long days and short years

Curly-haired Daughter is planning for her senior prom. We had to get a dress. It wasn't a horrible experience, shopping for that. We actually found one relatively quickly, within budget, that we both agreed on, and it does not look like she's a streetwalker...which is more than I can say for the young (ahem) lady in the dressing room next to Daughter.

The really horrible, awful, terrible part of the shopping experience is that we bought said prom dress in a bridal shop. It is bad enough that I was watching my BABY prance in and out of the dressing room looking like a WOMAN, but then knowing that we'd be having the whole wedding experience in the blink of an eye....I felt like I was in a time warp. 

It was just yesterday that that baby girl was sitting on my lap, telling me what animals she saw in the clouds as we enjoyed a snuggle in the evening air, right? It was just last week when she was inviting me to a tea party with her stuffed bears, I know it was.

I admit, when my kids were little, like every other young mom, I wanted them to hurry up and be more independent: tie their own shoes, cut their own food, dress themselves. I shook my head when older moms told me to cherish these times...I was so frazzled and tired and needed so much.

They were right.

The days were long, but the years are short. My Curly-haired Daughter is almost a woman, and it delights and scares me. Maybe this is why God gives us grandkids....we will know, this time, to slow down and enjoy each little minute.

But I'm not ready to be a grandmother right now:  do you hear me, kids?????

Why the Catholic Church is so unattractive...

Loved this post from "Almost Not Catholic" and just had to share it. Apparently, we've got the marketing all wrong....

A dog's life

The noble Newfoundland
I've always considered myself a "dog person", and have had the great joy of sharing my home with dogs my entire life. My childhood dog, Pepper, was a sweet and gentle Border collie mix - a wonderful playmate to grow up with.

I had a collie, Tippi, who saw me through the teen years and into young married life. There was one memorable evening when I was home alone with the dog, and  two shady characters stopped at our rural house and wanted to use the phone....until Tippi literally tore through the screen door at them. They left in haste. Good dog, good dog.

Currently, we share our home with two dogs, Guinness and Finnegan (both named after Irish beers). Finn is an Australian cattle dog mix, a shelter dog, and has a clownlike personality, if a little nervous. Guinness is definitely the alpha dog, a lumbering Newfoundland with a ferocious, chest-shaking bark, and the sweetest eyes in all of dogdom.  He also has terrible arthritis.

It is time to put Guinness down.

Guinness, an anniversary gift from my husband, came to us at a time of great upheaval in our family, .  Eldest Son was going through a terrible time, and eventually had to be removed from our home and live elsewhere. It was horrible for all of us....and having a puppy to chase and play with, laugh at and wander with, was such a tremendous blessing.  That dog saved our minds during those awful months, gave us a positive focus and a joyful presence in a home that was hurting very, very deeply.

I have faced so much grief in the past few months that the very idea of putting Guinness down instantly reduces me to tears. I'm sort of sticking my head in the sand on this one...but my kids - my brave, wonderful, oh-my-gosh-when-did-they-get-so-mature kids are stepping up.  Tallest Son, Curly-haired Daughter and Youngest Son have decided  they will take Guinness on his final car ride (he loves car rides).  They will be the ones to pat him the last few times as he falls asleep, finally in a place with no pain. They will take the lead - Guinness' lead for one last walk, the lead of the family for a hard and horrid decision.

It is noble to share the love of a good dog. It is nobler still to be the one stroking the gentle head of that good dog as he slumbers one last time. Thank you, kids, for being the noble ones in this dog's life.

Be careful: you'll end up on my blog

From Anne Lamott:

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories, just change their height and hair color. No one ever once has recognized him or herself in my fiction. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better.

Total Rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer on the web, all in good spirits.  Just sharing good stuff, not taking credit myself.

I did not have the great pleasure of knowing Chuck Colson personally, but several of my co-workers did.  This link contains the last interview he gave just a few months ago, and it is quite special.  Clearly, this was a man who knew great power, great sin, great redemption.  He was a man who gave himself wholly to serving Christ in His most distressful disguise in the imprisoned.  I pray that Mr. Colson enjoys his eternal reward.

Monday, Monday



I am running on very little sleep, am in pain from a pinched nerve, am passing emails back and forth with a state bureaucrat who can't seem to answer a simple question and got hung up on TWICE by my doctor's automated answering service.

Monday, Monday....

Mary Cassatt Monday

Mother's Goodnight Kiss

Know your rights - and use 'em!

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan is the superior general of the Sisters of Life, a wonderful order of Sisters wholly dedicated to the protection of life from conception to natural death.  Every time I've met a sister from this order ( I've never met Mother Agnes Mary), I've been impressed with their warmth, their deep spiritual life, and their genuine demeanors.  (They also have the most awesome habits!)

Mother Agnes Mary gave this address at the recent National Prayer Breakfast. When Clinton was in the White House, Mother Teresa called those there to task in no uncertain terms that our nation would fall if we didn't get rid of legalized abortion. Mother Agnes Mary's address is reminiscent of that.

While her address is focused on our human and religious rights, it was this paragraph that caught my eye, as it underpins her whole argument:

As we love, we grow in our capacity for love: to love and to be loved and to live out of the truth of who we are. Regrettably, because we cannot see and measure love, we are often immune to the impact which the interior movements of one’s will toward good, or, sadly, toward an embrace of evil, has upon the spiritual and moral climate in our families, neighborhoods, workplaces, congregations and our nation. Evil is a pollutant far worse than carbon leaving craters in the heart and longing emptiness in souls, not just footprints on the earth.
Read her address. It is a smart, savvy assessment of our current state of affairs, delivered with an eye to what is clearly most important: always, always, always - it must be love.

A reasonable case for the stay-at-home mom

This article is clearly stated and well-thought out, engaging the topic of stay-at-home mom vs. mom-who-works-outside-the-home.

Great line: Of course stay-at-home moms can relate to women and the economy. Home is where economics begins. The word “economics” itself is derived from the Greek word for “household management.”

I've been both a SAHM and a work-outside-the-home mom. Both are hard. Both are greatly rewarding. Both are greatly challenging. Neither is inherently evil. Let's talk, but let's be nice, ladies. If we don't support each other, why should we expect the guys to support us?

Biblical Illuminations - Gospel of Matthew

St. John's Bible

Tragedy and Opportunity

art by Daphne Minkoff
It is nearly impossible in the midst of tragedy to see opportunity.  We have no perspective, we are grieving, and we need time to heal.  However, once we are able to find our balance, we can often find that tragedy helps us grow....maybe not in a way we would have ever chosen for ourselves, but grow nonetheless.
This article is written from a business point of view, but has spiritual value. I especially liked, Perfection is boring, and unacknowledged imperfections are dangerous. Now, none of us is perfect; we are all sinners. Sin shouldn't be sin as "fun" or whatever the opposite of "boring" is, since sin is deadly, but our unacknowledged sins are indeed dangerous. 

In the end, the author writes that tragedy can be transformative, and as Christians, we believe that it can transform us for the better.  I wholly believe (and often tell my children), "There is no situation so bleak that God's grace cannot redeem it."

Ted Nugent to meet with Secret Service...that ought to be....interesting...

Did Ted threaten Obama?
“The way that you eliminate bad and ugly is either through activism and policy making that never tolerates evil -- instead of the liberal politically correct policy of accepting evil and accepting other points of views that destroy lives. We the thoughtful, productive people of American have got to take our freedom back.”

Do you know a nun?








 VS.




There is a lot of stuff in the news right now about nuns, most of it in the liberal press screaming that the Vatican is "cracking down" on American nuns.  Let's chat about this.

First, a  little Nun 101.  There are "nuns" and there are "sisters" and there is a difference. "Nuns" are actually women live a monastic life in a cloister.  That is, they have limited contact with the world, and the focus of their vocation is prayer.  A "sister" is a woman who - though she takes vows of poverty, chastity and obedience - lives "in the world".  These are the women who teach, do social work, therapy, write blogs about media, etc.  All this being said, most of us use the words "nuns" and "sisters" interchangeably, and while the distinction is great, no one gets too worked up if you call a nun a sister or vice versa.

Now, on to the Vatican report. A few years ago, the Vatican asked for an "assessment" of women's religious life here in the US.  There were a number of reasons for this.  First, there were concerns over certain religious orders in terms of formation of women joining the order, the order's faithfulness to Church teaching, etc.  Second, the Vatican wants to make sure that women in any religious order were living good lives: not just in terms of religious formation, but that their orders were good, wholesome places to live regarding things like living conditions, community life, etc. (You can read more about this at the National Catholic Register.)

My point is this: do you know a nun (or a sister)? The press really likes to give us the image of the knuckle-cracking witch of old, floating up and down the aisles of the classroom in her bulky and mysterious habit, looking for wayward kids to whack with a ruler.

If you know a nun, you know this isn't true. 

I happen to have deep, abiding friendships with several sisters.  They are deeply religious women, highly-educated women, women of great faith and superior common sense.  They make their livings in various ways, but all ways that serve the greater community in which they live, while living community life with the sisters of their order.  I can say from my experience that these women have held me in times of great pain and sorrow, laughed with me in times of joy and helped me deepen my faith and the faith of my family in ways too numerous to state here.  They are good women.

And I imagine almost every woman who wears the label of "sister" or "nun" is a good woman, and the Vatican wants to ensure that doesn't change.  Don't let the press mislead you: the Vatican isn't out to crack down on nuns.  The Vatican is ensuring that our sisters and nuns continue to lead lives of great faith, living as examples for the rest of us.

Three Good Things Thursday

1. NOT living together before marriage.  As this article points out, there are some serious downsides to this "convenient" arrangement: Jennifer said she never really felt that her boyfriend was committed to her.  “I felt like I was on this multiyear, never-ending audition to be his wife,” she said. Read the piece - some solid points.

2. Fabulous After 40: These ladies have a zest for life and fashion, and are really great at showing ladies that "later in life" doesn't mean "limp, lifeless and lazy" when it comes to style!

3. Flannery O'Connor.  This woman's writings offer me something new every time I delve into them.  An interesting piece over at Dappled Things about the influence of home and community on her writing.


Cryin' in the confessional

Almost every cradle Catholic I know has at least one confession horror story.  I admit: my last confession, after I confessed my sins, I could hear the priest muttering a prayer for guidance under his breath.  Yep, it was that bad.

However, this piece by Rebecca Taylor is laugh-out-loud funny.  Really. Even though she passes out. Hilarious.

Back to the beginning

I was inspired this morning to grab a book off my shelf on my way out the door.  Francis of Assisi: the man who found perfect joy by Michael De La Bedoyere is one of the first biographies I read of St. Francis.  I thought I might find something in there to help me as I struggled with whether or not to keep blogging.

First, let me say too, that I've been mulling over a discussion I was in Saturday morning with a group of women I am friends with, and the Franciscan Sisters who are our spiritual directors.  We were talking about social media. One of the Sisters expressed very strong opinions about how much social media has degraded our ability to communicate, and that while many people have replaced face-to-face communication with social media, it is clearly not the same, nor as good. However, we all agreed that social media is where people are at, and it offers us - especially the laity - a clear opportunity to evangelize in ways that were never possible before.

Back to the book. The author notes that Francis often entered a town by greeting folks with "Good day, good people!", despite the fact that the reception he and his brothers received was often less than warm.  And here he quotes Francis, speaking to his followers:

You will find some [people] who are true, gentle and gracious. They will gladly accept what you say. But you will find far more who are faithless, proud and blasphemous. These will mock and oppose you, and you will have to do your best.

And off Francis went, to do as God had bid him: "Rebuild my church".  I believe we are in a state of re-building today, and while I am clearly a long way off from being Francis, or Clare, it is the duty of all of us to do our part.

And this blog is my part, and so, I will have to do my best.

Bad blogging issues

My blog got crazy-busy over the past two days, and I wasn't sure why, especially since I haven't posted that much.  So, thanks to all the Google stats that are available, I backtracked the hits to a message board where I was being raked over the coals for not giving my daughter Plan B, and folks headed over here to either bash me, or lurk around  - just to see what a horrid person I was, I guess.

This is just the sort of thing that makes me NOT want to continue blogging. I can't figure out why people who already know they aren't going to agree with me would come on over to say mean stuff to me. Would they come to my front door and say these things to my face? No, they wouldn't be that brave. And honestly, a face-to-face discussion requires more civility and you have to look another human being in the face, in the eyes and say something. And it makes it hard to say things like, "I hope you get raped too, so you know what it's like."

Yes, I know having a blog and writing about personal stuff opens you up to this. But the meanness has been over-whelming the past few months...and maybe that's what's getting me down.

Thinking out loud about blogging

As I mentioned, I am thinking/praying about the future of this blog.  I have often found it useful to make a pro/con list when trying to make decisions, and here it is:

Pros of continuing to blog (in no particular order):
  • creative outlet for me
  • honorable voices are needed more than ever
  • Catholic voices are needed more than ever
  • It's personal, and I think people relate to that.
  • It's unique - it doesn't fit any of the typical Catholic blog categories: "mommy blogs", "theological" blogs, etc.
Cons of continuing to blog:

  • time-consuming - it is hard work to create a blog that is unique and good, consistently
  • criticisms are getting meaner, and harder to take 
  • maybe it's TOO personal?
  • While it's unique, that's a "bad" thing too.  People looking for "mommy blogs", theology, etc., don't find it here.  It doesn't seem to "fit" anywhere....hmmmm.
  • After two years of really hard work, the blog is still not where I want it to be in terms of readership, active members, hits, etc. Either I'm doing something wrong, or it's time to move on...

Total Rip-off Tuesday

Still thinking and praying, praying and thinking, but had to share this wonderful post:

Why I blog about mental illness and trying to be pathetically brave:

I have found it difficult to talk openly about this recently, because of the pernicious tactic of using my mental health issues against me.
It’s something that has been happening online with increasing frequency lately, and I’m not here to cite examples, blame folks, engender sympathy, or anything like that. Suffice it to say the general tone seems to be one of attempting to discredit me, because I have mental health problems.
I’m posting this to simply share my struggle with you – especially for you praying types – and to in a sense try to embolden myself, remind myself why I do this, and to say publicly that I will never EVER  respond to such comments, emails, DM’s and so on.
Many of you have shared with me your own personal journeys and struggles and it’s for you guys – as well as for myself – that I do this.

The future of "Kissing the Leper" blog

I've been doing some praying and thinking the last few days about the future of this blog.  I've been at it for over two years, and am trying to discern whether it should continue or not.

So, light blogging for a few days, and I will keep you posted.  Much thanks to all of you who have been supporters, readers, commenters, and even you lurkers!

Being pro-life on Pinterest

If you're on Pinterest, search "pro-life" and see what shows up.  I was a little shocked in that much of what I found was actually pro-abortion (the term "pro-life" was used ironically in a lot of the postings).

If you're pro-life and on Pinterest, try and make it a point to use that medium as a way to promote life issues.  You don't need to be mean, combative or confrontational, but let's be a presence there.

20th Century Papacy

Want to know more about the papacy of the past 100 years? Visit the Vatican Insider. Fascinating stuff!

The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.

Psalm 118: the stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.  It didn't "fit" their plans, they tossed it aside, and Christ became not only part of the "building" but the strongest part, the most integral part.

This made me think: what are we rejecting in our lives that is good? I know many people struggle with Church teaching on a particular subject.  Maybe you've rejected faith outright.  Maybe your faith in Christ is strong, but you find His Church difficult.

Or maybe the rejection in your life is closer to home: a broken relationship, a missed opportunity.

Is it time for you to re-visit something good you've rejected?  Pray about an event, person or issue in your life that you've struggled with and perhaps given up on?  Maybe you will find that what you once rejected will become a strong foundation.

Choose Life...or not

Read Jimmy Akin's article on the 40 days campaign from Planned Parenthood.  He does a great job deconstructing their "philosophy".

Three Good Things Thursday

1.  Pinterest. Ridiculously fun eye-candy.  Can be a serious time waster, but really, it's like having a new issue of your favorite magazine every day. 

2. The Dalai Lama saying nice stuff about us.  Our world would be an incredibly nicer place if we were all this kind and saw the connections instead of the trying to focus on the differences.

3. Encourage-Priests.org. Wouldn't today be a good day to tell your priest thank you, especially after the marathon of Holy Week? 

What does morality have to do with our national budget?

"A Budget is Not Just About Numbers"

It's good to be Pope

The Pope got a giant Easter egg this year.  Too bad it wasn't a bunny - could have nibbled off the ears.  (By the way, it got donated.)

"Look at us"

The first reading today,  Acts 3:1-10, is a miracle story.  Peter and John meet a cripple and heal him in the name of Christ.

But Peter looked intently at him, as did John,
and said, "Look at us."
He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them.
Peter said, "I have neither silver nor gold,
but what I do have I give you:
in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk."


This really caught my attention.  Peter and John look INTENTLY at the man, and say "LOOK AT US".

How often do we miss this opportunity in our lives?  We rush past people, hardly noticing.  We prefer people don't look at us - just give me what I need and leave me alone.  And so, we miss opportunities to heal.  I'm not saying that we have the ability to make cripples walk, but unless we really SEE someone, how do we know what to pray for?

And then, there is the second part:  "LOOK AT US".  When someone looks at us, do they see Christ?  Do they see someone they can confide in, ask prayers from, are attracted to?  Do they see a person who is alive with joy in faith, or someone who grumbles their way through the day?  Is there faith and hope in us?

Today: LOOK.  See others.  See how others look at you.  There will be healing.

Iconographer

Susan VonMedicus, iconographer

Found some beautiful icons at this site.  Please take a few minutes to enjoy and meditate.

Total Rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer, with all due credit, of course.  Just sharin' something good!

Here is some of Pope Benedict's Easter Vigil sermon:

At Easter, on the morning of the first day of the week, God said once again: “Let there be light”.  The night on the Mount of Olives, the solar eclipse of Jesus’ passion and death, the night of the grave had all passed.  Now it is the first day once again – creation is beginning anew.  “Let there be light”, says God, “and there was light”: Jesus rises from the grave.  Life is stronger than death.  Good is stronger than evil.  Love is stronger than hate.  Truth is stronger than lies.  The darkness of the previous days is driven away the moment Jesus rises from the grave and himself becomes God’s pure light.  But this applies not only to him, not only to the darkness of those days.  With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew.  He draws all of us after him into the new light of the resurrection and he conquers all darkness.  He is God’s new day, new for all of us.

Read the entire text here.

Did Lent change you?

It's Easter Monday - a day of thorough joy for Christians.  Most of us spent yesterday in worship and thanksgiving, and (if we are truly blessed) in the company of friends and family. (And if you're really, really blessed, you got to watch the Detroit Tigers pull out an awesome victory.)

Lent is done.  Our Lenten sacrifices are complete.  How did yours change you?  If your answer is, "It didn't, I guess", then you need to re-evaluate.

Catholics are known for "giving stuff up" for Lent.  We give up beer or chocolate, a favorite TV show, use of a website like Facebook.  Why?  Just to prove we can tough it out?  No, we do it so our very small sacrifice may help us be united more closely with the Great Sacrifice of Christ.  We want - in essence - to "help".

I think it was Scott Hahn who gave this example.  A mom is making a cake, and a small child wanders into the kitchen and asks, "Can I help?"  Truthfully, the child can't.  Really - four year olds are terrible at baking.  They can't follow recipes, they can't crack eggs well, they don't know how to measure.  But what does the mom say?  "Yes, of course".  And she pulls a chair over to the counter, lifts the child up and the child "helps".  The experience of cake-making is shared between mother and child.

This is how we "help" Christ.  Our giving up Facebook does not save anyone from sin, but it does allow us to draw closer to Christ, to share in the experience of sacrificial Love.

So the question is:  how did your experience of sacrifice change you during Lent?  If you pulled the chair up to the counter and helped bake the cake, what difference has it made in your life?  How are you closer to Christ because of it?

We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song.  The path we took to get to Easter is an important one.  How did your path, your Lent, change you?

Mary Cassatt Monday

Profile of an Italian Woman

At the tomb at 4 a.m.

I was awake at 4 a.m. this Easter morning, and I started thinking about Mary Magdalene.  Was she awake at 4 a.m. that first Easter?  Was she wondering what life held now that Christ was dead, buried?  Was she afraid and lonely, or full of hope, remembering his words?  What moved her to go to that tomb in that earliest of hours?

When she found the tomb empty, what could she possibly have thought?  "They've taken Him...." That tomb, which held all the Hope and Love and Truth of the world....now was empty.

What Mary Magdalene did not know, but we do, is that the Lord had not been taken;  He is Risen. This world could not keep concealed and locked away the Hope and Love and Truth of Christ.  There was no tomb solid enough, deep enough, large enough for that.

On this Easter morning, as we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, pray about what you have locked away in a tomb that needs to be let go of.  Is it a past sin, confessed, that you still feel weighed down by?  Is it a bad relationship that needs healing or perhaps simply a letting go?  Is it a necessary change in your life that you just haven't had the courage to make yet?

The Light is now upon us, and Christ is Risen. The tomb is empty, and He is truly Risen.

Bullying

The documentary "Bully" has opened.  Thanks to some very brave kids, who allowed the pain in their lives to be made so public, I am sure that this will create a lot of buzz, and hopefully, some good.  If one kid steps up and says "Stop", or one community says "Not here", then the film will have done its job.

No one deserves to be treated with anything less than dignity and respect, because we are all children of God.  The color of one's skin, the ability of one's body or brain to function normally, one's appearance or one's sexual orientation notwithstanding, we all have the right to freedom, safety and love, even if we don't like each other.

And that goes for pro-lifers and Christians as well.

I just wanted to share with you a bit of bullying.  You know, it happens to adults too.  Oh, most adults aren't gonna harass you in open - but the internet: that's a whole different thing.

Two months ago, Dark-Haired Daughter was repeatedly sexually assaulted.  We made the decision not to give her Plan B - our "choice" for all those pro-choicers reading this.  A couple of young women (who read a blog post I wrote about this) began a Twitter campaign of bullying aimed at me:

I hope you find out what it feels like to brutally raped then have all choice taken from you. 

You do not deserve to call yourself a good mother, or even a mother.

Lets hope karma bitch slaps you like you deserve.

Open your mind a little, and stop blindly following a god that doesn't exist.

There were other messages, some even more brutal.   One of these women turned our family in to Child Protective Services, telling them that I had "with-held" medical care from my daughter, and we're being investigated.

I'm a big girl, not a pre-teen on the back of the school bus getting beaten and harassed every day.  But no one deserves to be treated this way.  You may not like a pro-lifer, a right-wing conservative, a Catholic, a homeschooler, a.......you fill in the blank.  You may not like atheists or queers or people with body piercings.  But God holds each of us in the palm of His hand.  Remember that the next time you have something to say.

Musings for Good Friday

A great post from a co-worker.

Prayer of Dismas

The Pardoning of the Good Thief - James Tissot


"Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!"

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Thirty-nine

I am very grateful for Good Friday.  Not only because of Christ's Sacrifice for us, because that is the MOST important event ever, but I am really grateful for Good Friday services, especially our beautiful Catholic liturgy.  It's deep and somber and solemn and thoughtful and just glorious.

My spiritual journey: dark and wandering

"Wood for the Trees" - Natasha Law
I was given an assignment for Easter Sunday by the Franciscan Sisters I hang out with.  (By the way, it wasn't just me, it was all the adults in our lay group.)  The task is to create some sort of representation of our spiritual journey to date, including our reception of various sacraments, important events, etc.

I cannot do it.

I mean, I CAN, I'm just struggling.  Part of it is time - it's sort of a big task, and I'm swamped this week.  Between taking over a new job at work, trying to get ready for Easter and still nursing a pinched nerve, I'm short on time.  But I know that's not everything.

My spiritual journey right now is somewhere in the Dark Forest of Doubt, Anger and Fed-Up.  I took a hard left turn back in January when my daughter was assaulted, and now I'm wandering.  I'm not lost.  I'm not scared.  I'm just here.  It really doesn't make for a fun-filled "let's show off our spiritual journey" scrapbook for Easter Sunday.

I know; that's not all there is to anyone's spiritual journey.  But it's not a lot of fun to celebrate all this when I'm standing here in the deep, dark forest.  I keep wondering what Easter morning will be like:  will I finally see the sun shine, or will I still be so deep in the forest that the warmth of the sun won't reach down to forest floor?  Will the tomb be empty for me, or will I be there, in those dark hours between the Crucifixion and Sunday morning, alone and wondering what is next?

Will there be an alleluia, an amen or just a sigh?


"My friends avoid me like a leper"

That line is from Psalm 38.  It certainly is fitting meditation for today, as Christ is abandoned, alone, and afraid.  The Great Healer of lepers is now outcast, just as a leper would be.

O Lord, do not forsake me! My God, why do you stay afar off?  Make haste and come to my help, O Lord, my God, my savior!


There is nothing more clear in Scripture to describe the past few months of my life.  The assault on my daughter has shaken my faith in a way I never would have imagined.  Beside the fact that my daughter is still reeling emotionally and psychologically from all this, the whole experience has isolated me from God, and made me wonder why He is so far off.  It has been a Lent of suffering, open and oozing wounds, raw flesh and brokenness.

It is fitting to join in the Church's prayers during the Holy Week, especially pondering Christ on the Cross.  While I can in no way fully understand his Sacrifice, I can feel the pain of isolation and abandonment.

Keep praying fervently during these holiest of days that our hearts can be as pure in love as that of Christ's.

 

HOW much did you pay for that dress? WHY?

From my "work blog".

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Thirty-eight

Dear Husband got a new job a few months back, and it has given us this wonderful circumstance:  we actually have money left between paychecks.  It's been a long time since that's happened, and I'm grateful.

"I declare myself Pope"

...There is an encrypted webpage to vote for the successor of Pius XIII, AKA Father Lucian Pulvermacher, the “pope of Montana”, who was elected with white smoke on a ranch in 1998 and who died three years ago. “All electors and those who could be elected pope, please enter your username and password to enter…” In the meantime in Canada, on the 12th of January, another pope was elected, he is father Mathurin. In Italy, in Gavinana, in the province of Pistoia, father Gino Frediani, a parish priest who claims of to have been chosen directly by the heavens to be pope Emmanuele I, has founded the Chiesa Novella Universale del Sacro Cuore (Universal Novel Church of the Sacred Heart) and after his death his successor, another priest, started managing the community.  

I love these sort of nutty characters....enjoy!

Contest for bloggers

http://www.oncallinculture.com/blog-contest

In the spirit of transparency, this is a work project for me.  Also, Kuyper is a wonderful theologian, but not Catholic.  (I'd recommend the book in a heartbeat, though! Much food for thought there!)

St. Clare of Assisi on Christ

Romare Bearden - artist
Gaze upon Him, consider Him, contemplate Him, as you desire to imitate Him.

Loneliness

How alone our Lord must have felt these few last hours of His life before the Crucifixion.  His closest companions cannot stay awake to lend Him comfort, His betrayal before Him, and a path of pain laid out.  The prophet Isaiah must have been forefront in His mind:  I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.

We've all been alone, and we've all been lonely.  We usually choose "alone" - a time set apart to pray, reflect, just re-charge.  I can remember a time when my kids were quite young when my husband took them all out for the day, and I had the house to myself:  glorious!

But lonely?  That's an existential horribleness.  You can be surrounded by people, even people who love you, and be isolated.  And that's where Christ was in these last few  hours.

Look around today.  Is there someone who seems lonely to you?  A young person in your life struggling?  An elderly person who maybe appears alone but perhaps is struggling with loneliness?  A co-worker or friend who is "out of sorts"?  Reach out today, and let them know that there is someone who is willing to keep watch, be a companion, offer comfort.

See, the Lord God is my help; who will prove me wrong?

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Thirty-seven

(Oh, my gosh, we're almost there!)

My alarm woke me up this morning.  For someone with middling-to-severe sleep issues, this is rare, and I was grateful!

Bl. John Paul II and St. Edith Stein

From Bl. John Paul's sermon at the canonization Mass for Edith Stein:

"Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth! One without the other becomes a destructive lie."

“Let’s tear down the walls of intolerance together”

picturesfromearth.com
The Vatican Insider reports that in the Vatican's annual message to the global Buddhist community, they address those who practice Buddhism:  By their genuineness, they encourage us to find an answer to the most fundamental questions about life and death, justice and peace, the meaning of suffering, and the reasons for hope. Thus they help us to progress in our pilgrimage towards Truth. By their dynamism, as builders of the future, they put pressure on us to destroy all the walls which unfortunately still separate us. By their questioning they nurture the dialogue between religions and cultures.

One of the Church's prayers on Good Friday is for all those who are people of good heart, but still do not believe in Christ.  A good way to engender that belief is just this type of dialogue.

I am your servant

Isaiah the Prophet
The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother's womb he gave me my name.
He made of me a sharp-edged sword
and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.
He made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
You are my servant, he said to me,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.

Though I thought I had toiled in vain,

and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
Yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.
Isaiah 49

The Gospel is compelling today - no doubt about it.  It's about betrayal and hope, and fortitude of Christ to finish what must be done.  But it's the first reading from today's Mass that grabs my heart.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a big-mouthed, big-hearted Irish girl who doesn't like to to be wrong, and doesn't want to take "no" when "yes" is the only acceptable answer.  This doesn't always serve me well, but in terms of raising my kids - all of whom have special needs and challenges - it's been a blessing.  I had to be the "polished arrow" in their lives, a two-edged sword to make sure they got, and get, exactly what they need.

Unfortunately, it often seems in vain.  You know that feeling, don't you:  "I've done everything right, Jesus!  Why is everything so very wrong??"  We want a reward, even if it's only pat on the back or an acknowledgement of hard we've worked.  We've done all the right stuff, and all the wrong stuff lays at our feet.  We've toiled, as Isaiah says, seemingly in vain.

But read just one more line:  "My reward is with the Lord."  Waiting for the pat on the back?  You'll get it;  just not in this world.  Waiting to see how all your hard work, all your swinging of the sword plays out?  Okay, just be patient.

I know that's not the answer we want, but there is such a huge promise here.  Remember that Gospel story, in Matthew?  His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ 

Holy Week is hard, but we do not toil in vain.  Let us hope that on Easter Sunday, we can celebrate with the true joy of good and faithful servants, having spent our strength to be with Christ richly in prayer and sacrifice this week.

Forty Days of gratitude: Day Thirty-six

Yesterday, I enjoyed a beautiful day to and from work in the lovely city that I work in.  The river was flowing, the trees were in bloom, and things were bustling.  It was terrific to enjoy it all!

The Wounds of Christ

Five Wounds of Christ - source unknown
“Show me your hands. Do they have scars from giving? Show me your feet. Are they wounded in service? Show me your heart. Have you left a place for divine love?” - Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

The Pope: Palm Sunday Sermon

The Pope said that this question of Jesus’ identity is at the heart of today’s feast.
“What idea do we have of the Messiah, what idea do we have of God?” he asked. “It is a crucial question, one we cannot avoid, not least because during this very week we are called to follow our King who chooses the Cross as his throne.”
“We are called to follow a Messiah who promises us, not a facile earthly happiness, but the happiness of heaven, divine beatitude.”

"Praise the Lord with Gratitude"

Being extravagant

Mary at the feet of Jesus/mixed media - artist unknown
Today's Gospel, from John, tells the story of Mary (some believe to be Mary Magdalene) literally throwing herself at the feet of Jesus and anointing his feet with costly perfume, wiping them with her hair.  It's a striking image.  Of course, Jesus will shortly imitate this as He washes His disciples' feet and directs them to do the same for each other.

Jesus is chided in the Gospel for allowing for such waste, and He replies that Mary is not to be disturbed.  Her action is not wasteful.

One of my sister's is a "saver".  If you give  her a gift basket with bath oils and a candle, it will sit on her shelf...possibly forever.  She's "saving it".  Of course, many of us have dishes we use only for "good", or a dress we've worn only once to a special occasion.  We don't want to risk the extravagance.

Why?

Why isn't today good enough?  Why isn't our family worth the good dishes, or our husband worthy of that special dress and a lovely dinner?  What exactly are we waiting for?

I know this isn't the most theological explanation of the Gospel, but think of it this way.  There is someone in your life who is worth a bit of extravagance today.  Maybe it's just playing Chutes and Ladders with the little one.  Maybe it's a card to cheer a co-worker, or an email to an old friend.  Pick up the phone and call that elderly relative or take a plate of cookies to the lonely old man down the street.  Those folks....we won't always have them with us.

Forty Days of Gratitude: Day Thirty-five

I have a friend with whom I have HUGE theological differences, despite us both being Christians.  However, we've been friends for almost 30 years, and he has always been kind, sincere, and well, Christian to me.  I appreciate that.

The Passion of Christ

El Greco

"Crucify Him, crucify him!"

As Catholics, we begin Holy Week today, beginning with Palm Sunday.  You could take all our prayers and liturgies this week as sort of re-enactments or mere remembrances, but that would be an weak understanding.  While we of course never want to forget Christ's Sacrifice for us, Holy Week is more than "play-acting".  We enter into eternity:  His Sacrifice and Death are as much for you and me today as they were for the folks walking around Jerusalem and Galilee 2000 years ago.  He is saying "yes" to that cross for you, for me in an eternal - God's time - response to our sin and our desperate need for salvation.

Which leads us to today's Gospel.  As Catholics, we read what is called "the Passion" today - the whole story of Jesus entering Jerusalem as a hero all the way through his Crucifixion and Death.  The entire congregation takes part in this narrative.  At one point, Pontius Pilate is trying to figure out what to do, and the crowd (that's us) shouts, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!"  The hero they had just welcomed into town in glorious waving of palms has now been sentenced by a jury of his peers to death.

I would dare say that most of us don't like shouting this out.  We'd like to think we wouldn't, had we been standing in that crowd 2000 years ago.  We'd like to think we'd do anything to save our Lord and King.  But we also know that it is our sins - my very real, every day sins - that nail him to that tree.  We shout "crucify Him" with our actions every day.

The man thought to have killed Trayvon Martin has had to go into hiding, fearing his life.  No charges have even been filed, let alone guilt established.  How about the thoughts you have about the co-worker who makes you look bad in a meeting?  What about the anger you take out on a family member due to an old grudge or a new grievance?  We make snide remarks about the guy near the express way holding the sign that says, "Please help.  Hungry."  We "know" we are just a little bit better people than those folks down the street - have you seen how their kids act?  That gay guy, that woman who's admitted to an abortion, that child abuser:  crucify 'em all.  We are stingy and rude and thoughtless and sinful:  we shout "Crucify Him!" every day.

What can you do this week to change that "crucify" to "care for" or "pray for" or even "acknowledge"?  Where will you see Christ this Holy Week and choose not to be part of that mob shouting "Crucify Him"?

Going "All In" With Jesus

One of the joys of being Catholic is that there is always new stuff to learn. And if you do run out of new stuff, there are plenty of new ...