Thanksgiving: Wherein I'm just a little peeved

My two favorite holidays are Thanksgiving and Easter.

I love Thanksgiving because, no matter what faith or beliefs you have as an American, we all stop one day and collectively give thanks to God for all the goodness He has bestowed on us.

We think about and voice our blessings. Little kids write what they're thankful for on construction paper turkeys they made by tracing their hands.

We tell our family and friends how much we love them.

We realize that, however much or little we have in the way of material possessions, we have much to give thanks for.

Americans make sure everyone gets a Thanksgiving meal: through our homeless shelters, our soup kitchens, our churches. We invite stragglers to our home to make sure they are not alone on Thanksgiving.

We bake and buy food that has meaning to us, our families, our traditions.

We reflect and laugh, get into arguments and love.

Here's where I get peeved:

Thanksgiving is being overrun by consumerism. We now plan our shopping around our Thanksgiving meal. When do the stores open? Who has the best deals? What can we buy for whom and when?

Buy. Buy. Buy. Buy.

My boss, Fr. Robert Sirico says, "The material abundance that capitalism produces does carry with it the possibility that people may begin to identify with what they possess instead of who they are."

Our national holiday of Thanksgiving is now a national holiday of consumerism. We slow down long enough to shovel in turkey and then it's off to the mall. We don't share stories of our wonderful time with family and friends on Monday; we tell our co-workers what deals we snagged.

Maybe we can't reclaim Thanksgiving. Maybe we're too fare gone. But my Thanksgiving is going to be days of being thankful to God, as intently and intensely as I can manage. Maybe you could do the same.

Monday Morning Musings

1. Spent yesterday with my sweetheart. Ate crepes at my favorite downtown Grand Rapids spot: Downtown Market.
2. Saw "Mockingjay." Loved it. Jennifer Lawrence is amazing.
3. Read "Winter's Bone." Now I have to see it, because...Jennifer Lawrence. (By the way, the book is terrific.)
4. Thanks be to God, my monograph on human trafficking is almost done with the writing phase.
5. Trisha Yearwood! Yes, new(ish) album, new single. Oh, I've missed that voice.

Monday Morning Musings

1. Happy Feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Roses and bread for all! We are all royalty in God's Kingdom, sons and daughters of the King.
2. 50 years ago, I was born. That was quick.
3. Accomplished so little this weekend: racked with pain and no sleep. Hopefully, the week will be better.
4. Our deacon gave his first homily at our parish this weekend, and he knocked it out of the ballpark. What a blessing that both our pastor and the deacon are terrific homilists.
5. Snow. A lot of it. And more coming. I can't remember the last time I had snow on my birthday, let alone this much of it. Not really the birthday gift I was hoping for.
6. Making Thanksgiving plans. Cannot wait. I love Thanksgiving - every American celebrates it, regardless of faith, it's all about food and family, no worries about gifts and those expectations.

Not my will...every day...

Every day, every moment, we have to renew our vow: Not my will, Lord, but yours be done.

I don't like that.

It rubs me the wrong way. I'd rather do things my way. I think I'm smarter and I've got a handle on things.

Until of course - everything falls apart. Then, God, if you could kindly step in and fix this mess. Oh, and be quick about it.

How often do I do this? Some days, every minute, it seems. Other days, I get a little closer (not a lot, but a little) to where I'm supposed to be in giving all to God. I inch forward and fall back a foot.

You remember Sisyphus, right? He's the guy he had to perpetually push a rock up a hill. He thought he was the best, the smartest...thought he had it all figured out. And look where it got him.

God wants to pick up the rock for us. He wants to say, "Here, my burden is much easier, and my yoke is a lot lighter than that stupid rock you're trying to shove up hill. Let me have it, and take what I'm offering."

We don't, most of the time. We keep putting our shoulder into that damn boulder and grit our teeth and put everything we have into it....and it falls right back.

God is patient. He'll wait. He won't jump in and do it without our invitation though. We have to assent - the pesky free will thing.

Today, am I going to keep trying to move that damn boulder up the hill, or will I choose God's burden and yoke? Will it be my will or His?

Do the Bishops Know Families?

A few years ago, when I was still teaching religion in a Catholic high school, the U.S. bishops came out with a new religion curriculum for all Catholic high schools. In theory, this was a good idea. It created a uniform program, so that if a kid transferred or moved, he'd be learning the same things. It also meant that the really important stuff got covered, not simply what a teacher liked to teach.

However, it was clear, at least from the first draft of the curriculum, that the bishops seemed to have never met a teenager. "Economy of salvation?" Teaching morality to 11th graders (when the horse had left the barn and was frolicking in a distance field)?

My thoughts are much the same with the recent Synod. Are the bishops familiar with families? Do they know what it means to Catholic parents who are struggling to keep their teens active in church? When their kid decides to "live with" their fiance' and maybe get married in the Church; they haven't decided yet? What about the struggle many of us have trying to be good parish members while earning a living to support our family? Or wanting to put your children in a Catholic school, but knowing that, financially, it just isn't possible on one income?

I think back to a young John Paul II, before he was John Paul II and was a parish priest and a young bishop. He went hiking and back-packing with his friends - young married couples with children. He talked to young people and their struggles with their faith. He was a pastor who didn't sit in an office all day, but made it a point to truly be with his parishioners.

I know bishops have many duties, and that most are good, holy men. I just wish they made it more of a priority to know families. It would be great to know that they really knew our concerns.

Monday Morning Musings

1. One, holy, catholic and apostolic. The four marks of the Church: that is who were are now; it is also our legacy to preserve.
2. Sometimes I think I have an invisible "C" on my forehead that only "crazy" people - people with issues, if you prefer - can see. I attract them. Doesn't matter where I am: church, bus, parking lot, store: that "C" is blinking bright for some folks...
3. Heard Christmas songs on the radio this morning. NOOOOOOO!
4. I've been learning a lot about essential oils for health. I have to say, I'm quite impressed. Impressed enough to start my own business. You can visit my new blog at Flask of Oil and follow my journey, ask questions, learn with me.

Nowhere to rest His head

On my way into work this morning, I saw three homeless people sleeping in the doorway of an office building.

Our city has plenty of homeless shelters and missions, but sometimes they are full. Sometimes folks who could use the help don't like the rules, and would rather find shelter somewhere else.

It doesn't really matter. Huddling in the doorway of a building, trying to sleep on cement when it's freezing....Most of us don't even let our dogs sleep outside.

When a group of would-be disciples enthusiastically told Jesus they would follow him anywhere, he replied: “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” 

I see a lot of homeless folks every day. I work only a few blocks from the street where most of the shelters and soup kitchens are. I see people carrying all their belongings in garbage bags, people who stop you and ask for just $1 for a cup of coffee, people lined up outside the public library starting at 8:30, waiting for it to open at 9. At least they will have a warm place to sit for a few hours.

Like most of you, I will go home this evening and put on warm clothes, enjoy time with my loved ones, maybe watching tv or just chatting. I'll pour myself a cup of tea and knit or read. When I am tired, I'll put on pajamas and lie down in a soft, warm, safe bed, with pillows and soft blankets. I will sleep with no worries about being assaulted or poked by a cop and told to move (where??) or simply harassed. I won't worry about being cold and uncomfortable on my bed of cement.

Whenever I see a  homeless person, I think of Mother Teresa and what she said about the people she worked with: Jesus in his most distressing disguise.

Pray for the Jesus huddled in a doorway, the Jesus who needs just $1 for a cup of coffee, the Jesus who sleeps his day away on a bench.


Hear our prayer today for all women and men, boys and girls who are homeless this day.

For those sleeping under bridges, on park benches, in doorways or bus stations.

For those who can only find shelter for the night but must wander in the daytime.

For families broken because they could not afford to pay the rent.

For those who have no relatives or friends who can take them in.

For those who have no place to keep possessions that remind them who they are.

For those who are afraid and hopeless.

For those who have been betrayed by our social safety net.

For all these people, we pray that you will provide shelter, security and hope.

We pray for those of us with warm houses and comfortable beds that we not be lulled into complacency and forgetfulness.  Jesus, help us to see your face in the eyes of every homeless person we meet so that we may be empowered through word and deed, and through the political means we have, to bring justice and peace to those who are homeless.  Amen.

Living the Beatitudes

artist Jeff Gregory
27+ years ago, as Dear Husband and I were planning our wedding (with a VERY recalcitrant priest), we chose the Beatitudes as our Gospel for the wedding.

The priest harumphed, "Well, that's not a very good reading for a wedding. It's just not very...celebratory."

We explained that the message contained in the Beatitudes were how we wanted to live our lives together as a married couple.

The priest allowed it, but he wasn't happy about it. (Just for the record, this poor guy wasn't happy about a LOT of stuff.)

When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me.  

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you." 

Let me say first: be careful what you pray for. We told that priest this is how we wanted to live out our vocation of marriage and God has provided ample opportunity for us to live out each of these.
Second, we just started a couples' Bible study at our church. It's based on the Beatitudes. The couples we met on the first night all have very different backgrounds and marriages - but we all know the struggles of living out the beatitudes. It will be very interesting to see where God leads this group.

Monday Morning Musings

Henry Ossawa Tanner
1. I am thanking God that Halloween is over (I'm a Halloween Scrooge) and that we have only one more day of those *&%&*(@ political commercials.
2. So grateful that I finished the first draft of the introduction and first chapter of my human trafficking monograph. They're off to the editor!
3. Enjoyed lunch with 3 1/2 of my kids yesterday! We celebrated the girls' birthdays', Tallest son was there, and Curly-Haired Daughter fiance' came, but had to leave early for work...so 3 1/2 kids...It was still great to have time to eat and laugh and talk.
4. Let's remember to pray for the souls in Purgatory this month. So many of us die a good Christian death, but need to be further cleansed from sin before we can enjoy the Presence of our Almighty God. Pray that they will soon be in our Heavenly Father's presence.
5. It's also a good month to be thankful! Every day, consciously think of at least three things for which you are thankful. Today: hot tea, music, and my beautiful Dark-Haired Daughter (it's her birthday!)

Going "All In" With Jesus

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