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.
 

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,...