More Friday Fun

Freakin' Friday Fun

It's Friday, folks: no need to be so serious!!

 In the words of the cowboy genius, Lyle Lovett: I don't go for fancy cars, diamond rings, or movie stars. I go for penguins. Oh Lord, I go for penguins.

Enjoy your day!

Three Good Things Thursday

1. Pope Benedict has named a record number of women to the synod on the New Evangelization, including Sister Paula Jean Miller, a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist and professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston - one of "my" Franciscan Sisters.

2. I found - through a co-worker - a Goodwill "boutique". The Goodwill stores in the area gather up the best stuff and bring it to their boutique store, which happens to be just down the street from where I work. For a thrift store maven like me, this is Nirvana!

3. The Detroit Tigers are in first place. And that is good.

What are three good things in your life today?

"I am helpless"

"Let Them Be Helpless" by Mariana Tcherepanova-Smith
I was praying for Youngest Son today, asking his patron saints to pray for him as well, and saying to them, "I feel so helpless". I stopped and thought: "No. I AM helpless."

I am a card-carrying, pledge-swearing, grammar-correcting perfectionist. I am willing and able to tackle any and all problems, whether they concern me or not, because I KNOW I can take care of business. Get out of my way, watch my smoke, applaud my success.

Except...I am helpless.

I can't control stuff. I can't control my kids. I can support, cajole, discipline, advise. I can some degree. I can pray. I can tell, ask, model and listen. But I cannot control.

What a damn let-down for me. Because, I was sure, until just a few months ago when the ugliness of sin and evil in the world punched our family hard in the gut, that I could and would control.

I am helpless.

I have always thought this prayer from St. Ignatius of Loyola was the scariest prayer in the universe, because it acknowledges what I crave most: control. And yet, I am willing to pray this prayer; I am helpless.

Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it
all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more.

Total Rip-Off Tuesday: Dorothy Day

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer on the web. Not taking credit - just sharing good stuff.

Today's choice is about Dorothy Day's "dynamic orthodoxy" from First Things:

“She was utterly faithful to her vocation. There was nothing at all inauthentic about her.”

Often overlooked, he said, was her self-discipline. “If you study her diaries and letters, and meditations, what you find is an incredibly structured Catholic spiritual life, which to me, as a priest, is very impressive.”

It is something all Christians can learn from, and seek to emulate.

Because of her unusual love, Day always looked for the “better” in people, even when she knew they had flaws. Her daring political views—about war and economics—brought her into conflict with Cardinal Spellman, yet she always defended his honor. “If anyone spoke against him, she’d always stand up for him,” said friend and biographer, Jim Forest, to author Rosalie Troester:

And it wouldn’t be in generalities. She told me once that Spellman had priests who didn’t like to receive calls to go down to the Bowery to administer last rites. He told the person answering the phone, ‘If any of those calls come through give them to me personally.’ Dorothy knew things like that about people, and she would tell them to show their good side. She was quite different than most of us. If we decide we don’t like somebody, we make it a kind of hobby to collect reasons to not to like that person. We develop quite a number of reasons to justify our irritation. Dorothy had a lot of reasons to dislike Cardinal Spellman, but it was more her hobby to find out things to admire about him.

Dorothy’s goodness of heart and her “radical idealism,” as Father Kennedy calls it, achieved immense things, but also caused her to occasionally lose her footing. Though most of her social views were soundly rooted in the Gospel, the saints and papal encyclicals, she sometimes made imprudent political statements (particularly about Fidel Castro), which today make one wince. Some people accused her of being a tool of the Communists, or at least a naive fellow traveler. But it is important to remember, even as we acknowledge her mistakes, that her purpose in founding the Catholic Worker was to draw people away from Communism and into the arms of Christ. In this, she succeeded, as we know from converts she influenced. And Dorothy was the first to admit her errors and those of the circles in which she walked.
 Take a moment to read the entire article; it's very good.

Untangling the knots in my soul

Going through therapy for depression is like untangling a vast, knotted ball of string. There are so many things to pull and tug, fidget with, frustrate one's self with. My counselor (a wise Franciscan Sister) reminded me last night: it is easiest to untangle a knot when there is slack in the string. The more tension we place in the string, the tighter the knot becomes, and thus, the harder it is to untangle.

One of the knots I struggle with is my continuing struggle to pray. Don't get me wrong: I pray every day, but mostly I am saying my prayers, and not praying my prayers. God is silent for me, and distant it seems.

My boss gave me an assignment on Friday that has to do with selling a book. It is a rather daunting task, with a very tight timeline and I'm a bit stressed over it. Yesterday, I decided to see who was the patron saint of book sellers, in the hopes of garnering some Heavenly help. Lo and behold: it is St. John of the Cross. If you're not familiar with him, he is a Doctor of the Church and the author of The Dark Night of the Soul, considered a Christian classic. It's about the soul's journey through the "dark night" of purgation - the stripping away - of all that is not of God, in order to reach a place of union with God.

Bl. John Paul II, as a doctoral student, wrote his dissertation on this piece, so he was quite familiar with St. John's struggle. Here's just a bit of what the former Pope had to say:
Our age speaks of the silence or absence of God. It has known so many calamities, so much suffering inflicted by wars and by the destruction of so many innocent beings. The term dark night is now used of all of life and not just of a phase of the spiritual journey. The Saint's doctrine is now invoked in response to this unfathomable mystery of human suffering.
 I refer to this specific world of suffering about which I spoke in the Apostolic   Exhortation Salvifici Doloris. Physical, moral and spiritual suffering, like   sickness—like the plagues of hunger, like war, injustice, solitude, the lack of  meaning in life, the very fragility of human existence, the sorrowful knowledge of sin, the seeming absence of God—are for the believer all purifying experiences which might be called night of faith.
"The very fragility of human existence, the sorrowful knowledge of sin, the seeming absence of God—are for the believer all purifying experiences which might be called night of faith" - what an exquisite explanation of the suffering of the soul as it yearns its way towards God. My goal is to try and let that yearning happen as God wishes, not as I do. The more I tug and pull, stretch and fidget, the further away I seem to get - because I want it on my terms. I need to relax, and allow God to untangle the knots in my soul.

Modern Art Monday

Artist Ed Riojas

Saw this at ArtPrize this weekend, and was particularly taken with it.

Off for a couple of days

I'm gonna be "ArtPrizing it up" this weekend with a couple of girlfriends, so no posts til Monday.

By the way, I hate this year's poster but somehow felt obligated to use it in the post. It makes my eyes hurt....

The blessing at the bus stop

His clothes weren't very clean. He walked with a pronounced limp. He wore a lot of years on  his face, but I couldn't really tell how old he was.

He approached the small group of women waiting at the bus stop, including me. When he was within a few feet, he shouted out quite merrily, "Have a great night, ladies." The women around me stiffened a bit, looking away. "Don't make eye contact, don't make eye contact", you could almost hear them muttering to themselves.

I turned to him and said, "You have a great night, too."

He stopped and said, "You know, no one ever says that to me. You made my night. Some people think the world is going to hell in a hand basket but I don't. Thank you."

I said, "I don't believe that either."

And he walked on.

The lady standing next to me smirked, and remarked, "Well, you made his night", rather sarcastically.

Perhaps none of them knew, and I really can't blame them. Hardly anyone in our world today knows. But, by the grace of God, I knew: that man was Christ in His most distressing disguise. One of the little ones of the world that Christ keeps close to His side. And He wished me a great night - a blessing at a bus stop.

Total Rip-Off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer on the web. Not taking credit, just sharing good stuff. Today's choice is Fr. C. J. McCloskey on why God only forgives with our repentance:

The answer simply is that we owe God everything, including our life and redemption and the possibility of eternal life in heaven. On the other hand, we will be given mercy to the extent we extend it to others, even if they do not reciprocate in asking our forgiveness.
Remember, of course, that all of salvation history from the fall of our first parents is the story of God’s mercy. As St. Paul says in one of his epistles, “God is rich in mercy.” Bl. John Paul wrote one of his first encyclicals, Rich in Mercy, on this topic.
In my old office at the Catholic Information Center in downtown Washington, DC, I prominently placed a large framed photo of the pope’s meeting with the man who had attempted to assassinate him.  (I checked recently and the photo is still there!)  Of course, we do not know whether his attacker asked for pardon when he met the pope, but we are certain that Bl. John Paul forgave him in any case.

Modern Art Monday

artist Parker Fitzgerald

The Holy Father in Lebanon

Part of the Holy Father's sermon from yesterday:

The vocation of the Church and of each Christian is to serve others, as the Lord himself did, freely and impartially. Consequently, in a world where violence constantly leaves behind its grim trail of death and destruction, to serve justice and peace is urgently necessary for building a fraternal society, for building fellowship! Dear brothers and sisters, I pray in particular that the Lord will grant to this region of the Middle East servants of peace and reconciliation, so that all people can live in peace and with dignity. This is an essential testimony which Christians must render here, in cooperation with all people of good will. I appeal to all of you to be peacemakers, wherever you find yourselves.
Service must also be at the heart of the life of the Christian community itself. Every ministry, every position of responsibility in the Church, is first and foremost a service to God and to our brothers and sisters. This is the spirit which should guide the baptized among themselves, and find particular expression in an effective commitment to serving the poor, the outcast and the suffering, so that the inalienable dignity of each person may be safeguarded.

I am a failure

I spent the weekend on retreat with our beloved Franciscan Sisters. One of the many things we do (my husband and I, and the others lay folks that work with them) is to individually discuss  what we call our creative process, which includes how we deal with crisis. We start with our initial reaction to a crisis. Mine is: "I am a failure".

On the first night of the retreat, we were asked to come up with something from our Franciscan lives, without too much thought - first thing that came to mind, to share with the group as an icebreaker. Mine was "I am a failure".

Now, that's not as horrible as it sounds. I mean, it's only the first step in a long sequence of steps that I go through whenever I face a crisis in my life. It really does get better. But that's always where I start.

There are a lot of reasons for my starting at this place. Most of it has to do with the perfectionist tendencies I have and the willingness to take on the burden of everything in my life, whether it's my responsibility or not. It's where I start. It's not where I end up.

At certain times in my life, this "failure step" is a place I get stuck. It feels like I can't do enough, be enough, talk enough, get anything accomplished fast enough or good enough. I'm betting a lot of people feel like this. The Psalmist David did:
Hasten to answer me, O Lord, for my spirit fails me. Hide not your face from me lest I become like those who go down into the pit. (Psalm 143:7-8)
I cannot think of a more apt way to describe what I've been feeling of late: a failure of spirit, God hiding His face from me, being in a pit. It is an easy place to get stuck.

What's the remedy? It's pretty simple, yet very difficult: staying close to Christ in the sacraments and in prayer. I don't want to pray. It's hard to pray. I feel like a failure even at prayer, but it's the only ladder out of the pit.

The Exaltation of the Cross

A Cross in the Blizzard - Josef Chelmonski
I've heard it said that it would be extremely odd for a person to wear an electric chair or guillotine around their neck, yet many of us proudly wear a cross - a symbol of torture. And today we exalt that symbol of torture.

Because it's also a sign of hope.

I often tell my kids that no situation is so grim that God's grace cannot enter in and redeem it. How hard that must have been to believe and understand to the loved ones of Christ as He agonized on that cross for hours, after having to drag it through the streets, undergoing a grueling physical and spiritual test.

And we exalt it as a sign of hope.

We are told that we must all carry our cross if we want to follow Christ - He's very explicit about that. Choosing a life in Christ means a burdened life, a difficult life, a life that goes against the stream of the culture around us.

And that cross is still a sign of hope.

I must admit, with my recent struggle with depression and all the issues my family has been facing these past few months, I don't feel like I'm carrying my cross: I feel like I'm being beaten into the ground by it. It's enormously burdensome.

Yet, it's still a sign of hope.

The only reason that the cross - a symbol of torture and death - is a sign of hope is because that is what Christ chose as His means of redeeming our sins. He could have done it in any way He chose, but He chose a sacrificial, horrible, torturous method - perhaps as a way to show us that we can endure in our own pain and suffering.

Today, we exalt the cross. Today, we pray "We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You,  because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world."

Three Good Things Thursday

1. I get to see Curly-Haired Daughter today! She's been at college a few weeks now, and geez, I miss her!

2. The Acton Institute (where I work) is getting a new home: take a look here.

3. I get to spend most of the weekend with our dear Franciscan Sisters and their lay friends learning about the Year of Faith and evangelization. Food for brain and soul.

The Holy Name of Mary

Today we Catholics celebrate the Holy Name of Mary. I was going to try and find some awesome art to post, but then I ran across this blog dedicated to Mary's Holy Name. It has some gorgeous vintage holy cards like the one below. Take a moment to visit the site.

Ave Maria monogram

"Radical Acceptance"

"Acceptance" - artist Jess Hurd
Dark-haired Daughter and Dear Husband have been doing a therapy program weekly. It's not voluntary on our part, but I think it's been helpful in some small ways.

A couple of weeks ago, the lesson was on "radical acceptance" - the idea that there are just some things we have to accept whether we want to or not, and we can't let those things control and consume us. I've been thinking about that idea a lot these last few weeks, as I've been traversing my way through depression, anxiety and anger.

I don't want to accept the fact that no one wants to do anything about my daughter's assault - not the cops, not the courts, not an attorney. No justice.

I don't want to accept that I have a sister who works two blocks from where I work, but never has time for a cup of coffee or lunch.

I don't want to accept that my kids have had such a rough time growing up, despite every effort on Dear Husband's and my part. We are not a "normal" family and that's that.

I don't want to accept that someone I trusted, considered a friend, and mentored as a youth minister violated the trust of a young woman and molested her.

I don't want to accept that I have bones collapsing in my neck and it's looking like I'll probably need surgery.

But if I don't accept these things - not "like" them, not think they are "okay" or "right" - but accept them as reality, then the depression, the anxiety and the anger will consume me, and that's not a choice.

Dark-haired Daughter seems to get this whole thing better than I do. She has done a remarkable, a heroic job, of moving on after her violent assault and abduction in January. She's somehow made peace with it - not that she still isn't fearful and has times when it comes back to her, but she's been a marvel to me. She's happy and working hard at learning new skills like cooking for herself and budgeting, going to school and getting things done. She's got this "radical acceptance" thing down.

What holds me back from accepting these things? Unfortunately, I think I have this image of myself as being this crusading mom who WILL get what her kids need, and no ONE, no THING, is going to stop me. And most of the time, that's worked for me. But not always. And not now. I can't do some things. And I hate to admit that. So I will say it again: I can't do some things. I just can't.

Radical acceptance of my inability to do it all. Oh, that's gonna be tough.

Imagine Sisters

This is such a lovely and enthusiastic organization. Imagine Sisters, whose new website proclaims "One Sister Can Save the World", proclaims with great joy the consecrated life. Visit their site and share it with those you know.

For myself, I know deep and abiding friendships with good, holy Sisters has been a tremendous blessing for me and my family. Pray for more vocations.

Total Rip-Off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer. Not taking credit, just sharing good stuff. Today's choice is from Kathleen Norris' Acedia & me: Marriage, Monks and a Writer's Life. If you're not familiar with Kathleen Norris, she is one of the finest spiritual writers around (not Catholic, but with a great affinity towards the Church).

Could we regard repetition as a saving grace, one that keeps returning us to essential understandings that we can discover in no other way? The human need for routine is such that even homeless people establish it the best they can, walking the same streets, foraging in the same dumpsters, sleeping in the same spots, in an attempt to maintain basic relationships with people and places. For any of us, affluent or not, it is by means of repeating ordinary rituals and routines that we enhance the relationships that nourish and sustain us. A recent study that monitored the daily habits of couples in order to determine what produced good and stable marriages revealed that only one activity made a consistent difference, and that was the embracing of one's spouse at the beginning and the end of each day. Most surprising to Paul Bosch, who wrote the an article about the study, was that "it didn't seem to matter whether or not in that moment the partners were fully engaged or even sincere! Just a perfunctory peck on the cheek was enough to make a difference in the quality of the relationship." Bosch comments, wisely, that this "should not surprise churchgoers. Whatever you do repeatedly has the power to shape you, has the power to make you over into a different person - even if you're not totally 'engaged' in every minute."

So there. So much for control, or ever consciousness. let's hear it for insincere, hurried kisses, and prayers made with a yawn. I may be dwelling on the fact that my feet hurt, or nursing some petty slight. As for the words that I am dutifully saying - "Love you" or "Dear God" - I might as well be speaking in tongues, and maybe I am. And maybe that does not matter, for it is all working toward the good, despite myself and my most cherished intentions. Every day and every night, whether I "get it" or not, these "meaningless" words and actions signify more than I know. Repetition... helps us to be more honestly and fully human. It knows us better that we know ourselves.

Get a Crucifix

Read this yesterday from The Anchoress; it resonated with me.

If you are anxious and despairing and worried, here is my advice: get a crucifix.

Not a cross, a crucifix. Get a small one you can keep in your pocket; and another you can keep discreetly at your desk; get one for your home.

Keep the crucifix before your eyes, and it will teach you everything. It will train you to the longview.
The earthly goings-on that make us anxious and full of despair are a manifestation of the wholly spiritual war that proceeds apace — continually,though unseen – all around us. When we buy into it and lose hope we are opening ourselves up to a spiritual oppression meant to cast us into the darkness and away from the light. Because the main battle is supernatural, we recognize it in our spirit; we feel it in our spirit, and then, when the pain is too great, we either try to numb ourselves to it, or allow the spirit to collapse, completely.

Better to arm the spirit. Feed it through Eucharistic Adoration and Holy Commuion; strengthen it with the sacramental grace of confession, so that regardless of what happens, despair never enters into the equation, never enters into you — because you understand that God’s hand is still a part of things; we are not abandoned; so much of what is spinning past is illusion and if the rest is real, it is nothing to be afraid of.

You can read the entire piece here.

Modern Art Monday

Ethiopian Icon - artist unknown


I guess it was Freud that said anger turned inward is depression. I can't say Sigmund got much right, but apparently he nailed this one for me. I'm mad at everybody.

I am plenty mad at God, and He knows it.

I am mad at everyone involved in my daughter's assault, from the men who violated her, to the cop who took 30 minutes to interview her and then said, "She won't make a good witness" and refused to do anything further with the case, to the school staff that allowed her to walk out the door without a parent signing her out, to the ER doctor who acted as if she were treating a plague victim.

I am mad at myself for not protecting my daughter.

I am mad at the birth mother of my children for giving them cocaine as a way to start their lives.

I am angry that bad things happen to the innocent and there is not a damn thing I can do about it.

Now what?


Yeah, I haven't posted in awhile. Truthfullly, I am battling depression. It's been big, dark and scary. It's shaken me right down to the core. (Yes, I am getting professional help.)

If you've ever battled depression, you know the lethargy that can come with it. It is taking tremendous effort for me to just get through the day. I long to write here, but it's not possible for me most days.

The worst part for me is that the depression has robbed me of the ability to find solace in my faith, which has always, always been a place of peace and hope for me. It is hard to write about faith when I just ain't feelin' it.

I am going to make the effort to keep up here, but please know that it's really a struggle for me right now. Prayers are appreciated.

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 ...