Good Friday: Aboriginal Art

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri painted only this single work of art with a Christian motif, as far as my researches show. The artist, who was initiated at Napperby, but also baptized in the Lutheran religion in Ntaria (Hermannsburg), revitalized his Christian faith prior to a risky eye operation in 1994; the other eye had been blind since his youth. In his work “Good Friday,” which he painted during Easter in the same year, he included the Christian iconography of the three crosses. A crown of thorns is shown at the lower left, between two of the crosses. Three oversized nails complete the Christian symbolism. The three footprints, which lead to the cross of Jesus, are often found in the works of Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. 

The artist painted the background of dotted irregular fields in his characteristic style, which had already emerged in his earliest works of the 1970s. The background reminds one of clouds and shadows. In fact, however, the diagonal white and particularly orange-dotted areas represent the Milky Way. The lightning depicts the wrath of God over the death of His son. (Aboriginal Art)

Three Good Things Thursday

1. I am writing this week's Commentary for work, and it's kicking my butt. I love the writing process! Write, cut, edit, write, remove, change, thesaurus, move, research, write.

2. Almost to Easter - almost to "alleluia!"

3. The sun has been shining here for TWO DAYS. TWO. That's amazing. We don't even care that's it's still 30 degrees out; we're just thrilled to know that the sun still exists!

What are three good things in your life today?

Scholarship Opportunity

Do you know a high school senior who is planning on attending a Catholic college or university? I have family members who have set up a memorial scholarship in their mother's name, and they have 3 $500 scholarships available for the next school year.

If you're interested, leave me your email in the comments (I won't publish it!) and I'll get you the information.

Dr. Jennifer Robach Morse at the Rally for Marriage

This is the text of her speech:

This year was the fortieth anniversary of Roe v Wade. We are gathered here to send one simple message to the Justices of the Supreme Court: allow the conversation about marriage to continue. Do not try to short circuit the debate over marriage the way Roe v Wade short circuited the debate over life.
We need to keep talking about the meaning of marriage. This year, over a half million people gathered for the March for Life. Of course, the Elites of Washington, can’t be bothered to notice the March for Life. But if they had taken the time to look out their windows, they would have seen that the average Marcher was about 17 years old.
The Life Movement is a youth movement.
Why? Because young people eventually figured out that abortion set aside the interests of children for the convenience of adults.
Eventually, young people will figure out that redefining marriage sets aside the interests of children for the convenience of adults.
If the Court redefines marriage, forty years from now, the young people will be asking us one simple question: What were you thinking?
Dad, you and your partner were good parents. I love you. But did you really think I would never need a mom? What were you thinking?
Mom, you and your partner are lovely people. I’m grateful for my life. But the biological connection that was so desperately important to you, did you really think it would never matter to me? What were you thinking?
But all of us who are here today, all of us who couldn’t be here today but who are cheering us on from home, all of us will be able to tell our children and grandchildren:
We were thinking of you and your peers.
We were there at the very First March for Marriage.
The Marriage Movement isn’t going away, America. Win, lose or draw at the Supreme Court: the Marriage Movement is here to stay.
Here to keep thinking of the children.
Here to be the conscience of America.
Forty years from now, it will be clear to everyone that Marriage, one man, one woman for life, is the right side of history.

Has it been a "successful" Lent?

It is hard to judge the success of spiritual endeavors. For one thing, the pay-off is eternal, and we are myopic people. Also, the standards to which we hold ourselves and the standards by which God judges us are radically different. For some of us, we are far too easy on ourselves ("Oh, God loves me no matter what...") and for others, the bar we set for ourselves is irrationally high ("I will never be good enough. I mess  up all the time. I'm a complete screw-up.")

How do we know if we've had a "successful" Lent then? Perhaps you completely blew your Lenten sacrifice...two days into Lent. You were determined to give up chocolate and then found yourself eating just one brownie, one piece of candy....Maybe you were determined to put aside time every day for extra prayer, and you sort of lost your way half-way through the 40 day journey, wandered off and never got back on track. Is your Lent a loss?

On the other hand, may be you kept up all your Lenten aspirations. You stayed away from beer, caffeine and quarreling. You made it to every single Stations of the Cross at your parish, and filled the out a terrific check for the charity of your choice. Is that a successful Lent?

I suspect Lent is more about walking with Christ in the desert than checking off boxes marked "Prayer, Sacrifice, Alms" (although those are mighty important means of walking with Christ). After these forty days, what have you learned about your Faith? What have you learned about Christ? Is your relationship with Him stronger, clearer? Has love for Christ been strengthened in you? Are you more like Christ today than you were a few weeks ago?

I have to say, I've been down on myself for not having a very "successful" Lent. My chosen sacrifice flew out the window. The sacrifices God chose for me were burdensome indeed. I spent quite a bit of Lent physically suffering. I found a form of meditation I hadn't used before to be very helpful, but I didn't plan it. I'm very sad about some family issues, and those won't go away after Lent is over.

Has it been a successful Lent? I pray so. I know I'll be trying to sing my "Alleluias" and "Gloria" with heartfelt love for He Who Has Risen. My Lent may not have been successful in the way I wanted it to be, so I must rely on Christ's Success. It's the only success that counts anyway.

Total Rip-off Tuesday: Mom or Margaret Sanger?

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer on the web. Not taking credit; just sharing good stuff. Today's choice: Ryan Bomberger, telling the tale of two women, his mother and Margaret Sanger.

The difference between my mother and Margaret Sanger is simple: God. My mother’s life could have resulted in a path that saw human existence mired in misery. Instead, she saw beautiful Possibility. She didn’t see others as defective but deserving. She didn’t see marriage as a funding source to launch a cause, but a source of security and devoted love to unleash Purpose.
My mother’s life may not be immortalized in history books, but she has made history. She personifies strength, grace, wisdom, and most importantly, love. She (and my father, of course) have rewritten the narrative given to ten children who were wrongly thought to be “unwanted” and “unloved.” Margaret Sanger personified brokenness—a woman who couldn’t see the pieces she was making of millions of lives. Sanger thought her Birth Control Crusade would achieve perfection through destruction. My mom never claimed to want or be perfection, but she was the perfect one for ten adopted children whose lives are still unfolding, whose families are still growing, whose dreams are still coming true, and whose actions of love and compassion will be felt for generations.

Read the whole article - it's terrific!

Confession: I am a terrible Franciscan

Our lovely new pope chose the name Francis, after Francis of Assisi, and my heart was warmed. As a Franciscan myself, I am grateful that Pope Francis seems to intend to consistently call our attention to the poverty in the world and to do something about it.

Now, I am indeed a Franciscan. I can't show you any credentials; you'll just have to take my word for it. But I am a terrible Franciscan.

I really love fashion, and clothes, and shoes. I have two boxes of make-up, and a drawer full of hair "stuff". I like having nice things surrounding me. My home and cubicle are filled with mementos of travels, family, friends, places I've been and want to go to, hobbies and memories. I have a lot of books. As Franciscans go, I'm pretty much a "fail".

Of course, Francis wasn't just about poverty of material goods (although that certainly was a big part of his life); he was about poverty of spirit. He wanted nothing to hold him back from being in relationship with God. He wanted none of the trappings of his wealthy upbringing to keep him from spreading the Good News - and he was well aware of the temptations those trappings held for him. If he had a book, then he'd need a place to keep the book, and then a house in which to keep the shelf for the book, and so on...

How are we to be poor? What is it that our Holy Father and St. Francis want us to know about poverty?

One of the first reasons was Francis’ love for the poor. How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just. But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “tyranny of relativism”, which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth. (emphasis mine)

I own too many shoes for one girl, but I also am working hard to know the Truth of Christ and live it out every day. Hopefully, Francis won't be too upset with me...

Extravagence

Mary extravagantly anoints Jesus' feet in today's Gospel. She bends down, pours out precious oil, cleans the feet of a man whose been out traveling, his feet dusty from long walks on filthy roads. She wipes the oil with her hair, caressing the calloused feet of her Savior. She weeps, knowing that he is tired, and yet perhaps she knows how much further he must go yet. She weeps for the man who has raised her brother from the dead, the man who is scorned and hunted, the man she has come to know as Friend and Savior. He is resting for a moment or two, eating with friends, steadying himself for what lies ahead. Mary's gesture is a gesture of pure love, willingness to offer all she has for that one moment in time for her Lord and God.

Judas is angry. He sees Mary's gesture not as one of love and offering, but of waste. Yes, he knows this man is the Messiah, but why bother pouring out precious oil on one who will soon die? Why waste the money on something like this, when a bowl of water will do? Judas, of course, is not truly worried about the gesture, but that there will be less for himself. If Mary means to offer this Christ, will there be any left over for Judas?

Put yourself in this scene. Are you the one at the feet of Christ, offering what you have in one single extravagant moment? Do you pour out whatever it is that you have to offer, not thinking of holding back, but trusting that what you do will be all for Christ's glory?

Perhaps you are the one worrying. You can't bring yourself to offer everything. You worry about not having enough to sustain yourself. You know that in your sin and weakness, you can't possibly give everything; what will keep you going. What will you have left for your own journey?

Today's Gospel is about you. Are you going to offer all you have this week, starting today, to be at the feet of Christ? Or will you hold back, afraid that what you give will never come back to you? Will you be the one who can't quite give yourself to Christ, who gives all for you? Will you be extravagant or miserly? Will you give all you have, or keep something back because you can't fully trust your Lord?

Monday Morning Art Jam

artist unknown

When things get hard, just give up

Where I live, Rob Bell is a bit of a celebrity. He used to pastor a mega-church in the area, and even though he's left, he still gets a lot of buzz around here. Now he's getting buzz wherever he goes.

First, he wrote a book that questioned the existence of Hell. You can imagine how that played out amongst the conservative evangelicals that were his primary audience. Now, in a Huffington Post interview, he has put his stamp of approval on gay marriage.

What are his theological reasons for doing so? He doesn't really  have any. Has he made a committed study of Scripture and come up with sound reasons for making this claim? Nope. Here's what he said:

"I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it's a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs -- I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are...I think that when you're in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it's very painful. You sort of die or you adapt."

That's it: we Christians have to adapt to the world around us or die...and for Bell, the death part isn't a choice. Nope, we must "affirm" people wherever they are at, and if that means overlooking sin, so be it.

We just had an incident in our family with Eldest Son. He did something egregious. He's been on a very bad path for over a year now, and nothing we say, suggest, or discuss makes a darned bit of difference to him. He knows best, and we are idiots. It came to a boiling point, and we (that is, Dear Husband and I) had an intervention with him. We told him that until he gets straight with some legal problems, is receiving consistent counseling and spiritual direction on a regular basis, he can't be in our home. (Trust me, it was that bad.)

I wonder what would happen if Rob Bell were in this situation. Would he "adapt"? Would he "affirm" our boy where he is? (And just let me say, where our son is is a very bad, dark, and dangerous place.) Would Rob put aside everything he knows is right because the alternative is doing something so hard, so difficult, so against the grain of a parent's love that he would rather adapt than die that little death of saying to a child: "You are self-destructing. We love you. We pray for you. We will not help you in your self-destruction and we won't allow you to hurt your siblings."

Tell me, Rob, is that the love and affirmation you're talking about? If so, maybe you better read the Gospel again. Really focus on the parts where Jesus tells people, "Go and sin no more." There's nothing there about adapting and affirming.

Three Good Things Thursday

1. A weekend with dear friends. Can't say we didn't anything extraordinary, but the comfort we bring to each other can't be replicated anywhere else. It was restful, joyful, abundant.

2. Almost Easter! I am so ready for that celebration!

3. Talking to my mom about her cat. She and Barney have become such good buddies, and it's great to hear how much enjoyment she gets from his company.

What are three good things in your life today?

Dignity of Work for Human Trafficking Victims

The USCCB continues to lead the fight against human trafficking. They have developed a work program, and we need to spread the word! Too often, the government is the one providing "help" to victims of human trafficking, and that "help" includes abortions and abortificients.

Check out the USCCB site for more information and for eligibility.

Total Rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer on the web. Not taking credit, just sharing good stuff. Today's choice is Philip Jenkins, who thinks that green beer as a remembrance of the great St. Patrick is an abomination of the message of the Gospel:

With all the patience at his command -- which was not immense -- Patrick told his critics about his extraordinary labors in a frightening and often dangerous pagan society, while they were living comfortably. He also stressed the practical realities of operating in this very different kind of emerging Christian society, where gift-giving was a standard part of life. Had he made gifts to influential leaders? He certainly had, and would do so again. I may be ignorant and unlearned, he says, but in winning this country, never doubt that I am doing God's will.

The defensive tone of the Confession is utterly lacking in Patrick's other surviving text, his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus. After years of struggle, Patrick had won many Irish for Christ -- not the overnight conversion of popular mythology, but more than enough to be proud of. Suddenly, though, the ruthless soldiers of the British king Coroticus attacked these Christian settlements, and right after a mass baptism ceremony. Patrick's fury is easy enough to understand, all the more so when we recall his own history. He knew at first hand what it was like to see your homeland devastated by soldiers, and to be carried off into slavery. Everywhere he looked in Ireland, he saw enslaved Christian women who had been seized from their British homes. But these latest horrors were the work of men who claimed to be Roman and Christian....

Patrick had probably never heard of St. Augustine, who lived a generation before his time, but the questions he was asking would have been familiar to the African saint. How could a state or a king boast of Christianity, if their every action betrayed the faith, if they showed neither mercy nor charity, even to fellow believers? If Coroticus did not live according to the church and its laws, then he was worse than a pagan, worse than a savage. His was not the City of God but the City of Hell. Christian kingship -- Roman kingship -- was a title that had to be earned. Christians? No, they were "rebels against Christ."

As for the murdered Irish Christians, they would dwell in Paradise, and "rule over wicked kings."
This March 17, then, forget the snakes and the green beer. Think of the prophetic Christian leader who demanded that rulers live up to the faith they professed, and who had no hesitation in damning violent oppressors to Hell.

Could you at least look at me???

I went to Mass at a parish that was not my home parish this weekend. I was visiting a friend out of state (friend is not Catholic) and just picked the parish closest to her house for Sunday morning.

It was as if the entire congregation, including the pastor, decided: "Let's just get this thing over with."

I was disappointed on a lot of levels. The Gospel yesterday of Jesus helping the woman caught in adultery is such a rich, poignant story, I was hoping for a truly insightful sermon. On another level, no Mass should be anything less than magnificent, and that's on all who attend.

One of my biggest pet peeves is, at the Sign of Peace, when people around you give you the dead fish hand shake, mumble something, and move on to the next person without even looking at you. I mean, come ON, people! If you are really, truly, going to wish the person next to you the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, do it consciously!! Be present! Look me in the eye!

I know: Christ was present, Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity. That is great. But yet, it wasn't great. It was...eh. It was...bleh. It was an unconscious, not-wholly-present, I've-got-better-things-to-do Mass.

We can do better, can't we?

Monday Morning Art Jam

artist unknown: Jesus and the woman caught in adultery

Total Rip-off, part 2

Saw this over at Sr. Helena Burns site, Hell Burns. (If you haven't visited her site, it's a must. Especially if you have teens.) She is great at explaining Theology of the Body, and savvy about media.

Thought this was worth sharing:


Total Rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer on the web. Not taking credit, just sharing good stuff. Today, the gregarious Cardinal Dolan on his trip (thus far) to Rome:


Remember the way Good Pope John explained it on the eve of the opening of the Second Vatican Council?  The faith of the Church is a gift that cannot be altered, he remarked.  But, the way this gift is “wrapped” can!  That is always a challenge for a Pope.
In other words, the how of our teaching can change; the what of it cannot.
Because, as Billy Graham used to say, the aim of life is to change our lives to conform to God’s will, not to change God’s will to match ours.  We let God re-create us in His image; we do not attempt to create God in our image!
Finally, some tease me that we are here to elect a “new boss.”  Yes, while I look forward to pledging my obedience to our new Holy Father, I also recognize that his ancient title is “servant of the servants of God.”  Following Jesus, he will be elected to serve, not to be served.
And, he will hardly be a “boss” who tells us what to do, but a shepherd who invites us to walk with him on a journey to eternal life in company with Jesus and His Church.  As Blessed John Paul II observed, “The Church proposes, not imposes.”
There you have a view of the misunderstandings.
Keep us in prayer, please.  Let’s hope we get home soon – – I’m running out of socks!


"She conveyed strength and a positive and confident spirit.”

I have a thing for nurses. My mom is a (a-hem) retired R.N. (Nurses never, ever retire.) I know what a tough job they have, especially now, what with 12-hour shifts, more patients assigned to them, tougher medical situations and a plethora of medications to keep track of.

I ran across this story of a nurse, Bl. Maria Restituta, a nurse who was killed by the Nazis.A member of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, she strongly objected to the Nazi regime.
Blessed Maria opposed Nazi efforts to remove all crucifixes and replace them with the swastika.  She also promoted the “soldier’s song,” which contained a message about peace and democracy in Austria.
 After being denounced to the Nazi secret police by a doctor, she was imprisoned, condemned to death and beheaded in Vienna at the age of 49, together with a group of Communist operatives she accompanied during the final moments of her life....
While in prison, Blessed Maria wrote: “It doesn’t matter how far away we are from everyone, it doesn’t matter if they take everything away. Nobody can ever take away the faith we carry in our hearts. This is how we build an altar in our own hearts.”
I do like a gal with moxie.

What to do with the Prodigal Son?

artist Max Beckmann
We all know the story of the Prodigal Son. The best part of the story is that it ends so nicely. The Son comes home, gets a big party, and even though the "good" son's nose gets bent out of shape, he comes around when the all-understanding and ever-loving dad explains his love for both boys. Yay, family life!

Now, I realize this is a parable and not a novel, so the grittiest of details are left out. We also really only get to see the story from the Prodigal's point of view. We don't hear of the heart-wrenching nights the father spends looking out the window, praying for his son's safety and wondering what he had done wrong as a dad. The servants must have spent plenty of time gossiping about their versions of "what went wrong". We get a hint of the sibling rivalry; was it always there?

My family has its own Prodigal. We pray, we weep, we counsel, we talk, we listen. Nothing seems ever to have worked for very long. He has his own way of viewing the world, and it is wholly "self"-centered. He seems bent on self-destruction at some points, at other points seemingly wanting to destroy family relationships. It's sad, and it's infuriating.

As a mother, I want my Prodigal to return to me, but what I really must hope for is that he returns to God. In his current mindset, I am afraid there is no room for God. That's the real tragedy.

For now, we watch and pray. We wait and hope. Being in the midst of a parable is not as satisfying as being at the end of one, but at least we know what we're aiming for.

Monday Morning Art Jam

Kathy Bozzuti-Jones, artist

Sorry, faithful fans....

I haven't been blogging much. I have been dealing with shingles...in my mouth. Avoid this turn of events if you can.

All I can say is: it's Lent. There's that papal conclave you may have heard about in Rome, a dear friend's father just passed away (a man who was always lovely, hospitable, and sweet to me - he will be missed), and my compatriots and I are all adjusting to a new (wonderful! awesome!) work building.

My pain was so bad this weekend I ended up with a trip to the ER, and spent Sunday conked out on pain meds. I missed Mass, but the Gospel was on the Prodigal Son. More on that later...

It's Lent!

Three Good Things Thursday

1. New building! New office space! We have so much natural light, such a beautiful and HUGE new office. I couldn't be more thrilled.

2. Shingles. No, shingles are not a good thing. They are incredibly painful, and yes, I have them. However, they do give me the opportunity to pray and offer up suffering during Lent.

3. Sunshine! March here in Michigan has decided to open up with sunshine. It's still cold, but unless you've lived in this climate, you never underestimate the power of the sun this time of year.

Life with an Irish Catholic Mother

I wrote a while ago about things my dad had taught me. My mom, who is still alive and kicking, has taught me a lot too. My mom is a lot different than my dad. My dad was definitely a quieter guy, fun to be around, but not gregarious. He kept a lot to himself.

Mom, being an Irish Catholic, has lived her life with a completely different set of rules. Here are some of them:

1. Don't go anywhere without a Rosary. And pray it; it isn't there for decoration.
2. Whiskey is medicinal.
3. Do not suffer fools lightly.
4. The Catholic Church is yours. It is not the domain of the priest, some nun dressed in an ill-fitting suit, or a renegade bishop. Don't let any of them hijack your faith.
5. Never pass up the opportunity to hold a baby.
6. The first rule of a successful marriage is knowing when to keep your mouth shut.
7. Mothers are mothers, not friends.
8. Be a lady. But keep in mind that "lady" does not mean push-over, patsy, idiot, or doormat.
9. Dress for church.
10. The greatest gift you can give is your prayer.
11. Baseball is a great sport. Her addiction has been passed down, mostly to the ladies in the family.

She's a pretty incredible woman. 

Have yourself a merry little Lent

I have to admit: the past few days have been a serious challenge. A dear friend of ours - best man at our wedding - just learned that his father is dying. Another friend is struggling with horrid anxiety. I've got some sort of infection in my mouth that isn't resolving and is quite painful.

Last night, as I was waiting and hoping for the pain meds to kick in, all I could do was pray: "Thank you, Jesus." I know that Christ is allowing me the great grace to suffer with Him as I journey through Lent, for whatever reason. We know we must be purified from our sins, that we must recognize how much Christ chose to suffer for us, how much we must rely on Him. It's only in this recognition and our gratefulness for it that we allow Christ to work in us.

Thank you, Jesus.

Freakin' Friday Fun

Whew! What a week!

As I mentioned earlier this week, I knew it was gonna be a Lenten kind of week.  Curly-haired Daughter had her wisdom teeth - thanks be to God, that went smoothly. We had to postpone Dark-haired Daughter's procedure until our financial depletion gets respite.

Our office moved. I was only a minor character in that whole drama, but it was draining and bittersweet. Our new building is almost indescribably beautiful but there are lots of unknowns and many things to learn.

My neck and shoulders are giving me fits, so I have that to unite me with Christ for the moment. A friend of mine was struggling with anxiety too, and it seemed like a very Lenten week.

And that is good.
16

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,...