This Most Unholy Family

Yesterday was the Feast of the Holy Family for us Catholics, a time to reflect on how the family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus can serve as a model for all of us in family life. Our pastor gave an excellent sermon, reminding us that despite the fact that the Holy Family is made up of a saint, a woman with no sin, and God Himself, they faced challenges and hardships.

And then there is...us. This most unholy family. The swampy mess. This everybody-slow-down-at-look-at-the-accident family. Our energy-sucking, money-chewing, would-SOME-body-PLEASE-let-the-damn-dog-out family. This most unholy family.

We don't look much like Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

Except when we do. We pray, even when it's difficult. We forgive, even when our hearts are still hard. We laugh at stupid things that only our family laughs at. We know things are okay when Dad makes goulash or Mom knits something just for you. Life keeps punching us, and we bob and weave. Occasionally, we take one on the nose and get knocked to the canvas, but there are half a dozen people in the corner yelling for us to get up. This most unholy family, trying desperately to be holy. And it is in the trying that saints are made.

The Holy Family did not have it easy. Things were very messy for them. Jesus was born in a filthy barn, surrounded by mud and manure. People wanted Him dead almost immediately. The family had to flee to Egypt - Egypt, for crying out loud. For a Jewish family to flee to Egypt, where the Jews had been captive for generations...well, you know things were bad. A place where Jews weren't welcome, and they had no support.

When we think about the Holy Family, we are very tempted to compare our own most unholy family, get discouraged, and think we'll never measure up. (Here's a hint: we won't. Remember, they had Jesus right there.) But we are closer to them than we think. They knew hurt and struggle and pain and fear and uncertainty. They know all that we know in our families. And they held firm. They held it together. They prayed.

And so must we. Even in our most unholy family.

Monday Morning Art Jam

Holy Family - sculptor Conrad Schmitt

In Hopeful Expectation

Advent is a pregnant time: a time of anticipation, stress, wonder, leaning forward. It's a time when Mary must have been in wonder and awe, but also in fear. What exactly was going to happen? When? How?

We can learn much from Mary. I am SO going to try to be more like Mary in the coming year. I realize, as I look back over this past year, that I have been too reliant on external circumstances for faith, hope and love. I need to remain constant in those regardless of what is happening around me. Mary is a perfect model for that.


Monday Morning Art Jam

From Zibbit: Under Angel Wings Shop

(Come on, red-headed angels: how could I resist?!)

The Church Militant

It feels like we're in battle doesn't it? People are screaming at us to take down our Christmas decorations, a Christian publicly says what Christians have believed for 2,000 years and people call for his removal from public airwaves, we can't put up a cross or a Nativity scene for fear that people will faint in horror. "Merry Christmas?" You might as well slap someone in the face.

We're being told we have to pay for abortions, contraception, and every other thing the Obama administration can sneak into that damn law that no one read until it was passed (hey, Nancy Pelosi, have you had time to read it yet??)

We are bombarded from every angle for our faith. The media makes fun of us, co-workers question us (sometimes politely, sometimes not), and we just want to run for cover.

Well, guess what? It's supposed to be hard. We are The Church Militant, not the Church Fluffy-and-Fun, or the Church Party-On-Dude, or the Church-All-Is-Well. Nope: we are called to battle for our faith.

Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. - Eph. 6:11-17

This is our job. Let's get after it.

My Gaudete Sunday

I love Gaudete Sunday. The rose vestments, the feeling of joy and anticipation, the beautiful readings at Mass: it's a blessing.

I had the honor of lectoring this Gaudete Sunday. We also had a friend of Dark-Haired Daughter's with us, a very sweet girl who is so appreciative and caring. We met a few more folks at our new parish.

Ed and the girls went out in the afternoon and brought home a Christmas tree. (We're holding off on decorating until the older kids are home.) Just when they got the tree up, they called me from my office to come and see it. I stood up, tripped over my slipper and severely sprained my ankle. The rest of the day was spent at the ER.

It's funny (in a God sort of way) that a day set aside for joy is one where I got injured and spent the day in the ER. God always reminds me that joy is not about happiness - which is fleeting and depends on our circumstances, not our internal spiritual state - and He is good for that.

Gaudete in Domino Semper! — Rejoice in the Lord always; Again I say rejoice! The Lord is near (Entrance Antiphon; cf. Phil 4:4-5)!

I tripped...

I tripped. Over my slipper. And now I have a very swollen, unusually colored ankle. Haven't been blogging much because tending to the rest of my life takes so much time on crutches! Hang in there with me!

"I just can't see"

This past Sunday, a friend told me that she'd been having problems with her new glasses. She couldn't see: they were giving her headaches, she got dizzy wearing them, she felt disoriented when she took them off. They weren't a high prescription: the glasses were a slight adjustment for distance sight and bifocals on the bottom.

She went back to the place she bought them twice, thinking they needed adjustment. She was told she just needed to get used to them; there was nothing wrong with the glasses or the fit. Still, the problems persisted.

Finally, she decided to visit an eye specialist. She told him how terrible she felt wearing the glasses, about the headaches. She told him, "I just can't see."

The doctor looked at the glasses briefly, and said, "I can help you." What great relief! She asked what needed to be done. The doctor told her, "The lenses are in upside down. I just need to put them in properly."

It's a funny story, but it applies to our faith lives, I believe. How often do we struggle with something, telling ourselves we have to endure, gut it out, get used to it...only to find out that what we really need to do is make a slight adjustment in what we're doing?

For instance, many people love Gregorian chant. They play it all day if they can, allowing the music and words to seep into their bones and their soul. It truly lifts them to God. And of course, many of these people tell you, "You HAVE to listen to this! It's so beautiful! How can you not see the value of this?!"

I like Gregorian chant. I appreciate it. But if I had to listen to it all day, I'd be like my friend with the upside-down lenses: I'd be disoriented. It doesn't fulfill me in the same way that it does others.

Now, contemporary Christian music: that lifts me up. It helps me focus on God, on my relationship with Him, on my attitude for the day. It a slight adjustment: one type of music vs. another, but that adjustment makes things clear for me.

Don't walk around with your lenses in upside-down. To see God clearly, we have to be able to focus on Him, and we can't do that if our vision is obscured.


Monday Morning Art Jam

There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.
On that day, the root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
the Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

An Advent thought

From Liuan Huska:

Our God did what every mother would shudder to do. He sent his child directly into the heart of evil with no protection, save faith, hope, and extravagant love. God the Father did not shelter Jesus from the terror and loss of living in our broken, bleeding world. He chose instead to be present with us, to enter into our pain. During Advent, as we prepare our hearts for the arrival of the vulnerable Christ child, our call is to likewise look pain and darkness full on.

Freakin' Friday Fun

I mean, if it's gonna snow, you might as well have fun, right?



Help with legal fees


We are still seeking help with legal costs surrounding the abduction and assault of our daughter in 2012. We have raised about half of what we need. If you are able to give, thank you. Also, please feel free to share this sign with others.

We are most grateful.

Praying so hard I think I'm bleeding...

Sometimes, I feel very close to Christ in the Garden, where he spent agonizing hours in prayer. I'm so tired and stressed, and the holidays always make me feel even more insufficient as a parent.

We are working on getting guardianship of our 18 year old daughter, which isn't that big of a deal, just a lot of paperwork and gathering information. Youngest Son is in a pit of trouble right now, and instead of grabbing hold of the ropes we keep throwing him, he grabs the shovel and continues digging.

O Blessed Saint Monica, after a lifetime of tearful prayers, fasting and sacrifice, you were at last granted the happiness of witnessing the conversion to Christ Jesus and His Church of both your son and husband.

Intercede for us that we might experience the same peace, faith and acceptance of God's will so that we may live all our years in serenity and go joyfully to our heavenly home secure in the knowledge that our loved ones are on the way of Christ. Amen.

Survivor of our modern Holocaust


And now a word from our Holy Father....

 

RITE OF ACCEPTANCE INTO THE CATECHUMENATE AND MEETING WITH CATECHUMENS
AT THE CLOSING OF THE YEAR OF FAITH


In the Bible God always appears as the one who takes the initiative in the encounter with man: it is he who seeks man, and usually he seeks him precisely while man is in the bitter and tragic moment of betraying God and fleeing from him. God does not wait in seeking him: he seeks him out immediately. He is a patient seeker, our Father! He goes before us and he waits for us always. He never tires of waiting for us, he is never far from us, but he has the patience to wait for the best moment to meet each one of us. And when the encounter happens, it is never rushed, because God wants to remain at length with us to sustain us, to console us, to give us his joy. God hastens to meet us, but he never rushes to leave us. He stays with us. As we long for him and desire him, so he too desires to be with us, that we may belong to him, we are his “belonging”, we are his creatures. He, too, we can say, thirsts for us, to meet us. Our God is thirsty for us. And this is God’s heart. It is so beautiful to hear this.

Monday Thoughts

Christ in Majesty at the Last Judgment in a fresco in the Orthodox Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights, Essex
Our pastor gave us a suggestion yesterday in his sermon, and I think it's a good one. It is to reflect on the "collect", the opening prayer of the Mass. This Sunday's collect was:

Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
 

Where are the feminists and why are they crying "Exploitation!"?

Do you know many young women, strapped for cash, trying to pay for school, turn to egg donation? And do you know how dangerous and damaging it is?


And now a word from our Holy Father...

 
APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION
 
 

1. THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.

I. A JOY EVER NEW, A JOY WHICH IS SHARED

2. The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.

 
 

Parenting through tough times: Five tips

It's sort of funny when I look at this post title. It seems that ALL our parenting time has been tough. If it's not one kid, it's another. Or two at once. Or all five. We've had normal challenges (bedtime woes, weird eating habits) and really tough things (mental illness, criminal activity). It is hard to stay sane. It is hard to stay faithful. It's hard to parent when you're really mad at your kid.

What to do? Here are five ideas.

1. Pray. I know, it sounds trite. I know it sounds obvious. Believe me, it's not. When things get really hard, it can be tough to pray. You want to blame God; you want Him to fix stuff NOW. Or, He feels so far away that you think, "Why bother?" Remember, prayer isn't for God; it's for us. Prayer will keep you connected to Him, help you to remember to rely on His grace and mercy and ultimately, remind you He is in control. If you can't pray spontaneously, then use a prayer book or spiritual reading.

2. Get help. If you are dealing with a big problem, you need big help. Go to a professional. That might mean a psychologist, a psychiatrist, your family physician. If it's spiritual help you need, find a good priest or religious. If your kid needs help, don't delay or deny. If you need help, get it. If the parent is sick and tired, the family will suffer. There is no glory in playing the martyr - get help.

3. Stay connected. Stay connected to your spouse, your friends, your parish family. You need social outlets and time to have fun and relax. Get out of the house and socialize, even if for a short time. Do it frequently - once a month is not a healthy social life.

4. Be honest. Be honest with yourself and your kid. If there is a big problem, don't pretend it isn't there. Tackle it. If your kid needs professional help (therapy, medication, etc.), do your best to explain why while remaining honest. If friends and family ask what's going on, be honest. You don't have to give a big sob story, but you can say, "Johnny is dealing with depression. We're working on it, but we'd appreciate your prayers."

5. Focus on your own health. Exercise, eat right, take your vitamins. Make sure your own health issues are addressed. Find a hobby that helps relieve stress and gives you something healthy to focus on. The healthier you are, the more energy you'll have to tackle the issues facing you.

Okay, one more: Don't blame.  Don't say it's the teacher's fault, your spouse's fault, your kid's friends fault. Blame won't solve the problem, and that's your objective. Focus on the issue, not finding someone to blame it on.

Monday Morning Art Jam

Christ Enthroned as Heavenly King. Basilica di San Vitale. Ravenna ITALY. 547


Praying with Flannery O'Connor

I admit: it took me a long time to "get" Flannery O'Connor. Her writing seems weird, wild, without boundaries. However, once you understand the Catholic framework that undergirds her writing, it all makes sense.

A Prayer Journal has just been released, which is a short, sort of train-of-thought journal she kept from the late 40s to the early 50s. It's quite lovely. 

At one point, she prays, "Will I ever know anything?" Another time, she prays, ""I say many many too many uncharitable things about people everday. I say them because they make me look clever." All I could do was nod in agreement...

It's worth your time - especially with Advent right around the corner.

Freakin' Friday Fun

To mark the 50th anniversary of the death of C. S. Lewis.


Judaism and the Crucifixion in Art

White Crucifixion - Marc Chagall
One of my favorite books is My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok (who wrote some remarkable books.) Asher Lev is the story of an Orthodox Jewish boy who has incredible artistic talent. He begins to paint nudes and the Crucifixion, which you might imagine doesn't go over well in his community. But Asher believes he is being true to himself and his faith.

At First Things, Tom Wilson explores the art of Marc Chagall, the Jewish painter of the 20th century and his crucifixion paintings.

More important, it seems, is the way Chagall uses the crucifixion as a symbol for not just human, but specifically Jewish, suffering.

For Chagall places the crucifixion amidst contemporary scenes of anti-Jewish persecution. Jesus is unmistakably Jewish: a Jewish prayer shawl in place of the more typical loincloth, the addition of phylacteries to the arm of the figure upon the cross. In one, Apocalypse in Lilac, Capriccio, it is even a tailed and swastika-wearing Nazi, rather than a Roman soldier, that we see carrying out the crucifixion. Chagall even included the crucifixion in paintings of the tin-pot ships that carried holocaust survivors to the holy land, sometimes sinking while attempting to avoid the British blockade.

How are we to understand these paintings as Jewish? From paintings such as Exodus, begun in 1952, in which a huge crucifixion image of a distinctly Christian Jesus, haloed and illuminated, towers over the fleeing and sorrowful Jewish masses and their burning shtetl, it’s tempting to reference the theology of St. Augustine. After all, the appearance of the crucifixion alongside so many instances of Jewish suffering might well conjure thoughts of exiled Israel as blighted witness.

Yet, it seems that for Chagall, images of the crucified and noticeably Jewish Jesus were a very immediate way of evoking the inhumanity of anti-Semitism. In his particularly mournful 1944 picture The Crucified a number of Jewish men are shown on crosses throughout a devastated shtetl, the men with placards around their necks, evocative of his 1938 painting White Crucifixion in which one figure wears a placard reading ICH BIN JUDE—I am a Jew.

Both Chagall's work and Potok's writings are worthy of contemplation, remembering that for Catholics, the Jews are our elder brothers and sisters in faith, and the Covenant we have in Christ is rooted in the Covenant God has with the Jewish people.

Coming home, or just come check things out

Have you been away from the Church? Maybe you just stopped going. Maybe your work schedule got weird and getting to Mass was near impossible. Maybe you were hurt by someone at a parish - they didn't listen, they were cruel, they said or did something hurtful.

Now is the time to come back.

There are a lot of reasons you can think of to stay away. But there is one reason to return: God loves you. He wants you at Mass. He misses you.

You see, our celebration at Mass is not complete without you. Yes, YOU. You have gifts, talents, and a soul that no one else has or can provide. Your presence is crucial. We need you.

Just come to Mass. Sit in the back. Sit up front. Come with a friend. Ask someone to drive you. But come. And then come back next week.

Listen to the Word of God and the sermon. I guarantee God will speak to you.

I invite you. But more importantly, God invites you.

Are human beings simply a collection of body parts?

There is nothing simple about Bl. John Paul II’s writings, and yet, his work collectively called the Theology of the Body offers a remarkable chance to reflect on the unique creation that is man. In modern culture, we see humanity reduced to a collection of parts (a lung to transplant, a womb to be rented) or as an instrument to be used (for lust or for slavery.) The human body has become “treachery”, as George Orwell notes in 1984, not a beautifully rendered creation. John Paul II:

There is a deep connection between the mystery of creation, as a gift springing from love, and that beatifying “beginning” of the existence of man as male and female, in the whole truth of their body and their sex, which is the pure and simple truth of communion between persons. When the first man exclaimed, at the sight of the woman: “This is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Gn 2:23), he merely affirmed the human identity of both. Exclaiming in this way, he seems to say: here is a body that expresses the person!

Read more...

And now a word from our Holy Father...

From Pope Francis' Nov. 4 Papal Mass homily:

We have listened to the words of St Paul: “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39).

The Apostle presents the love of God as the deepest and most compelling reason for Christian trust and hope. He lists the opposing and mysterious forces that can threaten the journey of faith. But immediately he states with confidence that even if our entire life is surrounded by threats, nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love which Christ himself has obtained for us by his total self-gift. Even the demonic powers, which are hostile to man, stand powerless before the intimate union of love that exists between Jesus and whoever receives him in faith. This reality of the faithful love that God has for each one of us helps us to face life’s daily journey, which sometimes passes quickly and at other times is slow and laborious, with serenity and strength. 

Only man’s sin can break this bond, and yet even in this case God will always seek man, he will run after him in order to reestablish a union with him that endures even after death; indeed, a union that reaches its culmination in the final encounter with the Father. This certitude gives new and full meaning to earthly life and opens us to hope for life beyond death.



This is what happens when you're Franciscan


artist Michael D. O'Brien
If you are a follower of St. Francis - trying to emulate his love of God, his devotion to prayer, his intensity for spreading God's word - you also have to deal with the whole poverty thing. Now, for Francis, poverty wasn't simply "let's just give away everything we own"; it was a total reliance on God for one's needs - physical and spiritual.

Dear Husband and I have found - sometimes in the hardest way, sometimes in the oddest way - that God takes us seriously when we call ourselves "Franciscan."

My mom typically gives her kids $25 for their birthday, which she did for me yesterday. She gave me cash, as I was visiting her this weekend. And off I headed for home. I stopped at the local McD's and got my Diet Coke and hit the road.

Halfway home is another McD's, which we typically use as our "rest stop" on the trip to my mom's. And I did, taking only my keys into the restaurant with me - I wasn't going to buy anything, just "rest."

I got back out to my car, and discovered my car key had fallen off my key ring. It was sitting on the front seat, shiny and beautiful....in my locked car. Along with my phone.

I pondered for a moment, and then went back in and asked for the manager. I told her my predicament, and she said, "There's a guy we call for this." She scurried back into the recesses of the restaurant, and reappeared momentarily. "He's just getting off the expressway; he'll be here in a minute." And he was, literally.

He popped open my car door and retrieved my keys. 30 seconds.

"How much do I owe you?" I asked.

"25 bucks," he said.

Happy birthday to me. Thank you, St. Francis!

Monday Morning Art Jam

Our Lady of Perpetual Help - artist Daniel Mitsui

Freakin' Friday Fun


My birthday is this weekend, and I think "gangster" pretty much sums me up.

I stand with Thomas Peters

Thomas is a fellow Catholic blogger in need of help. Nearly four months ago, Thomas was left in critical condition after a horrific swimming accident. Read Thomas' powerful reflection on his journey thus far and on what is to come: “Reflections on my time away." You, dear blog readers and friends,  have been steadfast in your prayerful support of Thomas since that time. But today, we're asking you to do a little more!

The next TWO MONTHS of Thomas' recovery are crucial! According to Thomas' doctors, the majority of mobility/independence returns within the first six months following the injury. Well, folks... we've got two months till the six month marker. 
The day has come! It's #IStandWithThomasPeters Day! Will you join us? 

PRAY
Join us and thousands of others in prayer for Thomas' full recovery, for Thomas and Natalie's perseverance while carrying this cross, for all those with similar injuries, and in thanksgiving for all the blessings God has bestowed on Thomas and Natalie. Please, join us in prayer!

SUPPORT
On #IStandwithThomasPeters day, we hope to raise funds to help Thomas and Natalie during this new transition and for Thomas' continued recovery. The medical bills, the transition home, and Thomas' continued recovery are extremely expensive, and we want to help.


Checks may be sent to Thomas Peters Recovery, c/o National Organization for Marriage, 2029 K Street NW #300, Washington, DC 20006. Write #IStandWithThomasPeters in the memo line! All checks will go directly to Thomas.



 SHARE 
Help us spread the word by sharing on Facebook/Twitter using the hashtag #IStandWithThomasPeters! Change your profile pic! Share Thomas' story with the world!




Thank you for all your support of Thomas and Natalie!


Pay Attention!

"Winter Woods" - artist Lawren Harris
It snowed here this week, which is not unusual for mid-November where I live. However, that first snow always makes everyone a bit crazy. Everyone exclaims about it, groans about driving, wonders if it's going to "stick." If you live somewhere where "cold" is 45*, then you probably don't get this, but it's kind of funny: this is only the beginning of a very, long cold stretch of weather. But that first snow...

I love winter. I like the cold and snow. It's beautiful in ways you cannot imagine. It demands attention. You don't walk out the door, out of the comfort of your warm home, into a 3* day with a wind chill of -15* and not notice. It's like a slap in the face. When you live 30 miles from Lake Michigan, you also have the joy of "lake effect snow," which essentially means that when a storm passes over the lake from Wisconsin or Illinois, it picks up steam from the relatively warm waters of the lake and drills you with snow. It's...attention-getting.

There is a magic to winter that no other season has. My foster sister, who had (until she came to Michigan at the age of 6) lived in the tropical paradise that was 1950s Cuba, still talks about the first time she saw snow. She HAD to go outside and dance around in it. She says she still feels the same magic at the first snow every season.

Nobody gets really excited about a nice, warm, calm, sunny day in July. We expect it. We notice that first blush of leaves changing in the fall, and anticipate the football games and sweaters we dig out. We love seeing a bud pop open in April. But nothing gets our attention like that first snow.

For nature, it's a time of dormancy - a death of sorts. It's a stillness. There is no quiet like the quiet of being in the woods in January, stomping through the snow and breathing hard that cold air. For many people, it's difficult - they don't like the dark, the cold, that stillness.

Yet, we NEED that stillness in our lives today. We have so much noise in our lives, and we are afraid of that dormancy, that stillness. And it's in that stillness that we can hear God's voice. In fact, it is ONLY in that stillness that we hear God's voice. God demands our attention in stillness...and we fight that. We want to fill it with music, and tv, and conversation, and the computer, and work, and anything to fend off the dormancy.

Just like winter demands our attention, so does God. Let the stillness of a January day be part of your prayer life. Be still. Be still and know God.

And now a word from our Holy Father....

From his Nov. 3 Angelus address:

There is no profession or social condition, no sin or crime of any kind that can erase from the memory and the heart of God even one of his children. "God remembers", always, he never forgets those who he created. He is the Father, who watchfully and lovingly waits to see the desire to return home be reborn in the hearts of his children. And when he sees this desire, even simply hinted at and so often almost unconsciously, immediately he is there, and by his forgiveness he lightens the path of conversion and return. Let us look at Zacchaeus today in the tree: his is a ridiculous act but it is an act of salvation. And I say to you: if your conscience is weighed down, if you are ashamed of many things that you have done, stop for a moment, do not be afraid. Think about the fact that someone is waiting for you because he has never ceased to remember you; and this someone is your Father, it is God who is waiting for you! Climb up, as Zacchaeus did, climb the tree of desire for forgiveness. I assure you that you will not be disappointed. Jesus is merciful and never grows tired of forgiving! Remember that this is the way Jesus is.
Brothers and sisters, let Jesus also call us by name! In the depths of our hearts, let us listen to his voice which says: "Today I must stop at your house"; that is, in your heart, in your life. And let us welcome him with joy. He can change us, he can transform our stoney hearts into hearts of flesh, he can free us from selfishness and make our lives a gift of love. Jesus can do this; let Jesus turn his gaze to you!

Listening Intentionally

I've been trying very hard the past few weeks to listen very closely to the sermon, and find some bit or nugget I  can focus on during the week. Then, I write it down and put it on a post-it note on my computer screen.

I've also been trying something new, in that I've been doing an "art" journal on this sermon bit - although calling it "art" is a stretch. Mostly it's just a way for me to really think about what I've heard and try to visualize it and remember it better.

This week, the Gospel mentioned we'd be "like angels" in Heaven. Father Lam (our new pastor!) did a terrific job helping us understand what that meant. Here's my attempt at journaling it.


Monday Morning Art Jam: Part Two

Treasure Trove! Check out the work of this artist, Daniel Mitsui.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary - feast Nov. 17

Monday Morning Art Jam

Pilgrimage - photo from NPR

Our priest mentioned the pilgrimage we are all on as we make our way to Heaven, and that really resonated with me. Stop and pray today on your pilgrimage.

Great interview with Audrey Assad

If you're not familiar with this Catholic artist, you should be. Her meditative and thoughtful lyrics have enriched my prayer life, and her voice is...well, to-die-for. From an interview with The Catholic World Report:

As you stated, the music on Fortunate Fall is intended for personal devotion and public worship. I envision it being incorporated into anything from prayer time in the car on the way to work to Adoration and even, in some cases, Mass -- based on the Church’s guidelines, we did our best to notate appropriate usages in the liner notes. Hopefully that’s helpful to those who pick up a physical copy! 


Freakin' Friday Fun

Yeah...my life....

Actually Kissing the Leper: Pope Francis

Pope Francis embracing a man plagued with boils.

What's keeping me busy?

I know I haven't been doing a lot of blogging lately, mostly due to work responsibilities. Also, I'm trying to get some knitting done for the holidays, and add some more exercise time to my schedule.

Things weighing heavy on my mind right now:
  • Youngest Son who is struggling so much right now
  • Getting guardianship for Dark-haired Daughter, as she just turned 18, and getting her into the adult mental health care system
  • Work & research on Obamacare and on human trafficking for work
  • Trying to get a re-do of the laundry room off the ground
  • Money, money, money: the furnace just died, I need new tires for the car, kids need stuff like food...
  • Stupid eye/sinus infection thing - argh!

Why we decided to change parishes

I went to the same parish from the time I was born until I was in my early twenties. As Catholics, we're taught that you stick with your parish, regardless of whether or not you like a particular priest. The parish we've belonged to is one I've been a member at for about 20 years.

(If you're Protestant, you may not know that we do things a bit differently. The bishop picks the priest for each parish in his diocese, and typically the priest is there for 8-12 years. If a parish doesn't like him, there isn't much they can do. On the other hand, a beloved priest can get moved and again, the parish doesn't really have any say in it.)

Your parish is your home. It's the center of your Catholic life: spiritual, social, philanthropic. You baptized your kids there, watch 'em grow, receive sacraments, join the choir, teach religious ed., go to the parish picnic. It's your place.

Until it isn't.

We've decided to change parishes. It's been a terribly hard decision, and certainly not one we've taken lightly. We've prayed, talked, searched for guidance, and finally decided.

Why did we do this? There are a host of reasons, but I'll try and boil it down to five.

  1. The pastoral associate at our parish (the person who works with the priest and is sort of the "right-hand" person at the parish) treated our children with such total disregard I can only describe it as wholly un-Christlike. It was intolerable.
  2. It seems to us that many of the parish programs are just "getting by." "Good enough." "It's the way we've always done it." There's little passion to do the very best, up-grade and/or improve.
  3. For the many years, as stewardship time rolls around, my husband has signed up to work with the RCIA program. As a convert, he loves this ministry, and was a catechist for many years. For the past several years, he's never been contacted about it. No reason, just ignored.
  4. When we've tried to address issues, nothing has changed.
  5. Our family's spiritual life is far too important to sit around and wait for things to get better.
My heart is a bit broken, and yet I'm excited about the new possibilities that Christ is leading us to. As I tell my kids, every Catholic church in the world is home.

Monday Morning Art Jam

Zaccheus in the tree - artist Leif Sodergren

Freakin' Friday Fun


Blessed Feast of All Saints

Oh all ye saints and angels, who see Him face to face, Whom I here receive under these humble veils, and thou, most especially, ever blessed Virgin Mary, in whose sacred womb He was conceived and borne for nine months--I most humbly beg the assistance of your prayers and intercession, that I may in such a manner receive Him here in this place of banishment, as to be brought, one day, to behold Him with you in our true country, and there to praise and bless Him for ever and ever. Amen.

Hope And False Hope

photo: Christian Slanec
I had an interesting conversation with Curly-haired Daughter this morning. We were listening to a local Christian radio station in the car. They are in their midst of their fund-raising effort, so they were sharing stories from listeners.

A week or two ago, a mother had called in, crying. Her 16 year old son was getting involved in drugs, not going to church (oh, how this sounds familiar) and generally going off the rails. She needed prayers and encouragement. This set off a flurry of phone calls - people calling in and saying "I've been through this" or "My kid did the same thing."

This morning, a man called in and said he wanted to reach out to that mom. He said he was 43, had been sober for three years, and he had "been that teen." He said "I know I put my parents through a lot" but he was now a Christian and trying hard to be faithful.

My daughter said, "I think that's false hope." I asked what she meant. She said, "Well, that mom is looking for help now. This guy is saying she's going to have to wait 30-some years for her kid to get straightened out."

I thought about it for a minute, and then said, "I don't think that's false hope. God has His own time. We don't like it; we'd prefer to get our prayers answered when we want, the way we want. I prayed a long time to have babies. I did, but not in the way I wanted. Now, looking back, I see God's hand in all of it. Hope means being assured that God is in charge, not that things will be perfect."

False hope is relying on our own choices and desires; real hope is putting yourself at the feet of the Lord.

Of course, I have to remind myself of this all the time as well.

Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. - Romans 12:12

Discerning, Discerning, Discerning

Wouldn't it be nice if God simply took out a billboard along our daily route that stated in 5 foot high lettering the answer to our prayers? Alas, not so.

Dear Husband and I are still discerning what to do regarding our parish situation. We've visited a new (really, a brand new!) parish near us, and the pastor himself warmly invited us to join. We do like it there, and the pastor is not only inviting, but a sound homilist. We also know that as a new parish, our gifts of time and talent will be welcomed.

But it's so tough to leave our old parish. Our friends are there. We've celebrated so many sacraments there. It's a good place...but perhaps not the place for us.

We don't want to straddle the fence. We want to make a decision. We just wish it were an easier one.

Maybe that the point: God is showing us the way, but it's a hard way and we are still resisting a bit. Another narrow path, another road that requires carrying a cross.

And now a word from our Holy Father...


From recent remarks about families:

A saying of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew speaks to us: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Life is often wearisome. Work is tiring; looking for work is exhausting. But what is most burdensome in life is a lack of love. It weighs upon us never to receive a smile, not to be welcomed. Certain silences are oppressive, even at times within families, between husbands and wives, between parents and children, among siblings. Without love, the burden becomes even heavier. I think of elderly people living alone, and families who receive no help in caring for someone at home with special needs. “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden”, Jesus says.
Dear families, the Lord knows our struggles and the burdens we have in our lives. But he also knows our great desire to find joy and rest! Do you remember? Jesus said, “… that your joy may be complete” (cf. Jn 15:11). He said this to the apostles and today he says it to us. Here, then, is the first thing I would like to share with you this evening, and it is a saying of Jesus: Come to me, families from around the world, and I will give you rest, so that your joy may be complete.

Always Faithful

We went to Mass last night, and had an older priest. In his homily, he exhorted us to "semper paratus:" Be prepared. The Gospel,...