The Candles of Advent

                                              

There is no way around it: this Advent is a dark time for me and many in my family, having just lost our beloved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

Yet, that's what the candles of Advent are for: they remind us that there is always Light. That Light is Christ, and He makes Himself known to us in many ways.

In my last post, I mentioned that we experienced many miracles as we spent time with my dying mother. Here is just one.

After being released from the hospital, we moved Mom to a nursing home, and she was placed in hospice care. For the first 6 or 7 days, my sisters and I were with her 24/7, in shifts. When they had to leave, my brother helped fill in.

The nursing home staff was remarkable. They excelled at Mom's care. They called her by name every time they came in the room. They gently bathed her. They apologized for causing her discomfort whenever they had to move her to prevent bedsores. They truly cared for her, and for that I'm eternally grateful.

Beyond that, they took care of US. They brought in a small serving cart from the kitchen, and kept it stocked with hot water for tea, coffee, and snacks, which they replenished daily. They did everything they could to make us comfortable, with encouraging words, a hug, a smile.

About the third day or so before Mom died, two of the aides came into the room rolling a large recliner. They explained that it had belonged to a former resident. It didn't recline anymore, they apologized, but they had covered it with a clean sheet, and said they thought it would be more comfortable than the hard, straight back chairs we'd been using.

I very nearly wept.

That non-reclining recliner was soft and large enough to curl up in. It meant my strained neck and back could relax. I actually napped well for the first time in weeks.

The folks who work in nursing homes don't get paid much, in the scheme of things. Many of the residents can't thank them, due to dementia. Some of the residents are difficult to manage and care for. The staff has to move people, straining their own backs while being on their feet for 12-hour shifts. It's a hard and often thankless job.

I expected that they would take care of my mom, but they also took care of me and my siblings. They didn't have to. But they were lights in my Advent, bearing tea and a broken recliner.

Christ shows Himself in the most unexpected ways.

Christmas In Heaven, With A Few Miracles Along The Way

Yes, I've been awhile. But I have a really good excuse.

First, let's back up. I had decided in late summer/ early fall that it was time to leave my place of employment. I was thrilled when I was hired fairly quickly for a rather new company - pay was great, people all seemed nice, it was meaningful work. All was well.

Then I got fired after four days.

Honestly, I didn't take being fired all that badly, since I never really thought it was my fault. It's not like I poured sour milk in everyone's coffee for the weekly meeting, or took the boss' sports car for a spin around the block without permission. It was just a weird, "We don't think you're a good fit here." Eh, ok. They gave me a generous severance, so I figured I'd have a nice "cushion" while looking for another job.

Then my mom fell. My elderly mom. Three times. And broke a vertebrae.

While getting fired was not fun, I was the one of the four siblings with the most amount of free time. My two sisters were able to help out for a week, but then one had to get back to work and the other had family obligations. My brother is semi-retired, but that means he's also semi-working.

Mom spent about a week in the hospital, where we finally decided to have a "minor" procedure done to help alleviate her pretty excruciating pain in her back. That helped, but it was becoming clear to all of us that Mom was getting ready to die.

She was talking more and more about death, about caring for her grandmother when she died. She insisted that my brother call the priest for Last Rites (which she ended up receiving twice.)

Then, we moved her to the nursing home, and called in  hospice. By this time, she had stopped eating and drinking, so we knew our time with her was fairly limited.

And I suppose, in the scheme of things, it was. However, it isn't not unusual - we learned - that Depression-era kids tend to be quite tough, and they have strong hearts. And my mom's nearly-91 year old heart was not ready to stop beating too soon.

We prayed. We listen to music. I sang. We talked and reminisced. And when she finally decided she had fought long and hard enough, she slipped away - very peacefully.

Her funeral was December 7. I'm trying to get used to the idea of a world without my mom in it. We pray that she will be enjoying this Christmas in Heaven, and that we can all enjoy ours here, remembering what an incredible woman of faith she was.

I'll share more in the week ahead.

Easy come, easy go; Que sera, sera; oh, s^*+

So, dear readers, you may remember that last week started off very well. I nearly skipped with excitement to my new job.  I met the relatively small staff, figured out where the ladies' room was, and started to get settled in.

My rather taciturn boss would stop by from time to time, and mumble that he had someplace he wanted to take me. We would head off to a school, meet the principal and whoever else was available, take a whirlwind tour of the building, then back to the office. This happened several times with different people and places the first three days.

(Let me insert here that I'm not used to this fly by the seat of your pants style.  I'm used to formal calendar invites being emailed, with descriptions of said meetings, their duration, etc.  But, go with the flow, every office has its own style.)

I worked all day Thursday, making arrangements to visit the schools on the other side of the state, getting a calendar for all the schools up and running and setting up my desk, filing system, etc.

At about 4 p.m., my boss asked to speak to me.

And then he fired me.

At first, it was the old "not a good fit" thing, but then he decided to tell me that, the day before at one of our meetings, I had asked "sub-par questions and everyone there knew it" and that I was an "embarrassment."

So.

With a stiff-upper lip, I packed up my desk, put the boxes in my car and went home. I cried for two days, talked endlessly with my girlfriends and grieved.

Now, I'm looking for a new job. I've never been too sure about the "everything happens for a reason" school f thought, but maybe it does. I certainly learned a few valuable lessons, not the least of which is to discuss management styles and problem-solving during the interview.

As John, Paul, Ringo and George would say: "Nanana, life goes on!"

"Who told you you were not wearing clothes?"

I'm at the point in the new job where I wonder if they'll figure out I'm a fraud. You know, I got through the interviewing and vetting process merely on charm and dumb luck, and now, when push come to shove - I won't know what the hell I'm doing. I suppose it's the adult equivalent of dreaming that you've shown up for school naked.

Either way, it's scary.

And untrue.

Remember in the Garden of Eden when God comes to visit (I mean - how ridiculously awesome would that be? After dinner, God drops by for a glass of wine or a gin and tonic, and you chat. Maybe there's a new bird that needs to be named, or a new flower design He's been noodling with....) Anyway, God comes to visit and Adam and Eve hide, because they are naked.

"Who told you you were naked?"

It struck me that my feeling as I headed into work today, worrying about my competency, was not unlike the scene in the Garden. Nothing had changed. God was still omnipotent. Adam and Eve were still naked, and everything was cool.

Until.

Until they tried to outsmart God. Until they hid (like you can hide from God??) Until they thought, "What if things are not what we were told they were? What if it's something else? Something WE'VE thought of, and the big guy hasn't?"

They somehow figured that things were not as they had seemed. God had not been honest with them. They were not who they thought they were.

And things went downhill from there.

As I was praying and pondering my own irrational fears about work, I thought of this. I need to rely on the knowledge God has given me, the person He created me to be, the opportunities He's afforded me.

I don't want to think I can out-smart God.

New Stuff, New Beginnings, New Heart

Some..times the new year starts in January. Sometimes it starts in September. Sometimes - it starts whenever you begin something big and new and scary and fun and wonderful.

I have a new job. It's a big deal. I never thought I'd leave my old job, but I did. And I'm thrilled to have a new place to work that is meaningful, with great people, doing something I love. It doesn't get much better than that.

Of course, it isn't easy. I hated leaving my old job. Hated it. I hated leaving a dear friend (I mean, he's still there, and still a friend, but I'm not seeing him daily.)

And even now, at my age, you feel like the new kid at school - are people going to be nice? What should I wear? Will it be appropriate? Am I really going to be able to do this job, or is this some big cosmic joke?

(By the way, I got the interview for this job on the last day of a novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots. Be careful with novenas: change usually occurs.)

Thus, it begins. And yes, it's big and new and scary. But it's also fun and wonderful. Plus, I figure if our Blessed Mother had a hand in this, I can't argue.

So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. - 2 Corinth. 5:17

"Monday morning you look so fine - Friday I got travelin on my mind - First you love me, then you fade away"

[lyrics from Fleetwood Mac, "Monday Morning"}

1. Scored at Goodwill yesterday: got my Older, Wiser sister outfitted for a black tie event. Cha-ching!

2. Praying hard to Mary, Untier of Knots. I never seem to run out of knots!!

3. There are a few things I'm quite bitter about. Remember "The Jetsons?" (If you don't, look it up.) I still don't have a flying car, a jetpack or a robot maid. And here it is 2015.

4. Yesterday's Gospel was about service. You can't expect to sit near Jesus in Heaven unless you are willing to serve everybody else. Pope Francis is great about reminding us about this. Serve others with love.

An elderly warrior, and the weapons necessary

We moved Mom into an assisted living center recently (well, my brother and nephew - God bless them - did the heavy lifting.) She is sorta settled and sorta unsettled.

Her apartment is great, and thankfully set up much like her old home. Her cat, Barney, made the move too, and that helps.

The "unsettled" part of her keeps moving things around. I'm not sure if its her way of trying to make it feel like her own, or if it's just her aging brain. Anyway, things were muddled the last time I was there, and my brother suggested that I "help" Mom straighten out her closet and drawers. Thankfully, she was open to my gentle offering.

I tried to put her winter clothes together, and tuck away sandals that she'll likely never wear again under the more comfortable slippers she will need. I sorted through lighter tops and folded them away under sweaters.

In her dresser, she has a drawer that I thought was jewelry. There were a few trinkets in there, but mostly, there were rosaries and scapulars. Dozens and dozens. I recognized one rosary as my grandmother's. The scapulars - some were worn and torn, others brand new - were tucked neatly away in small plastic bags and little jewelry boxes.

This was my mom's war chest: her weapons for the years and years and years she has spent as a faithful warrior for Christ. I know all of those rosaries have been fingered and prayed at some point. Mom always had at least one rosary handy - in a purse, in the car, in a bag for traveling.

When I was fourteen, I fell off our horse and broke my arm. My mom, a nurse, splinted the arm efficiently and tucked me into the car to drive me to the hospital - a good 25 minute drive from our rural home (and trust me, an eternity when you have a broken arm.) As we headed out, she handed me a rosary, and said, "It's good to hold onto." When we got to the hospital, they literally had to pry that rosary out of my hand.

That drawer - that war chest - reminded me that our family has been blessed in so many ways by the prayer warrior who has been our matriarch for so long. Now, as she steps closer to death, her mind a bit jumbled, those prayers still spring softly from her lips. The warrior may be old, but her fight continues.

Swinging At Curveballs

Time for change. I can't reveal all yet, but change is coming. Big ones. Littler ones.

I'm not a big fan of change.

You'd think by the time I'd reached this point in my life, I'd have developed a "change is inevitable and I'm used to it" attitude. Oh, dear. No. Not a bit.

I like routine. I like knowing what's going to happen. I'm all for a great, romping adventure in a novel, but I prefer my kitty slippers, a glass of whatever potion I choose to drink and said novel on my lap every evening.

And yet God persists in challenging me. Telling me to stop crowding the plate. No balks, but almost. The change-ups are always circumstances in which to trust Him. I do better sometimes than others.

He does that, you know. Throws you a spiritual curve ball. It's not a test (Will she do it? Will she get it this time?) so much as a way to learn how to swing better. Keep changing up those pitches, and eventually, you can hit 'em all ... well, a lot anyway. But God loves a good curve ball.

Take Mary. Imagine an angel showing  up and telling you you're about to become the mother of the Messiah.

Or Noah. Go build a great big boat. Everyone's going to think you're nuts, but ...

Or Moses. Dragging a bunch of whiny, ungrateful ex-slaves around the desert, knowing the Promised Land is out there somewhere, somewhere.

I'm in the batting cage. I'm swinging away. I'll get there. Keep 'em comin'!

I can't think about Monday I can't think about watching you walk away

[Lyrics from Carole King's "I Can't Think About Monday]

1. It was a glorious fall weekend in Michigan ... and I spent it inside, sick with a head cold. Such is life.

2. We have a big work shindig next week: black tie. The guys cut a deal with a local retailer to rent tuxes for 25 bucks. Geez! My hair is gonna cost more than that! And guys ALWAYS look better in tuxes than women do in evening gowns, just because we're not used to them getting dressed up.

3. From a friend's FB page (he's an Orthodox priest):

When the sun rises and cast its light of the world, it reveals both itself and the things it illumines. Similarly, when the Sun of Righteousness rise in the pure intellect, He reveals both Himself and the inner principles of all that has been and will be brought into existence by Him.

- St Maximus the Confessor, 400 Chapters on Love

Blessing And Blast From The Past

artist Pamela Spiro Wagner
In the summer of 2014, I hit rock bottom in the world of depression. I was making plans for suicide. I didn't really want to die, but I couldn't take the pain anymore. I checked myself into the local psychiatric hospital and got the help I so desperately needed.

The first morning I was there, I woke early. I went into the "quiet room" with my prayer book. I was in there for several minutes before I noticed a person huddled under a blanket in the corner. A lovely face peeped out at me: porcelain skin, sky-blue eyes and the type of blonde hair that you usually see on toddlers: almost white, wispy, soft.

She said softly, "Are you praying?" and I said yes. She picked up her Bible and asked if I'd like to pray with her. Yes, I did.

I'll call her Lauren. She was in her 20s, and she was very, very sick. She spent most days huddled under her blanket, a hat pulled down low on her forehead. She hardly ever spoke above a whisper. Some days, there were easy smiles, but mostly, she was either almost crying or crying. Her pockets bulged with tissues.

Lauren and I talked and prayed. She was suffering so much from childhood wounds, mostly inflicted by her father. These were not the wounds one could see - these were deep, treacherous, trench-like wounds that scarred her heart and her soul.

She thought one day she might be released, but no - she was not ready. She knew it, but it still saddened her. As good as the care was, as important as it was - it's not a great place to be.

I've been maintaining my mental health for more than a year, and Lauren still creeps into my mind and my prayers. She was so sweet, so gentle, so kind ... and so hurt.

Yesterday, my sister and I ran into the local Panera to get lunch - and there was Lauren, at a cash register. I walked up to her, and said softly, "Do you remember me?" She said I looked familiar, and I said, "We were in the hospital together last summer" and then her face lit up.

I asked her how she was. She said she was good - she had spent most of the last year at an out-of-state women's ministry center, getting intense counseling, and she was doing well. I told her I'd often thought of her and continued to pray for her.

Had the counter not been between us, we would have gently hugged, just as we did the day I left the hospital.

God is good. On a day when I had to get painful spinal shots, I got to see someone I never expected to see again, and she was well. What a gift.

Humility And Humiliation

It can be hard to distinguish humility from humiliation in our world and in our spiritual lives. I know I was scared to pray for humility for a long time, because I thought of it as humiliation.

Humility is a virtue. Humiliation is not; it's a sin.

Humility makes one stronger and more empathetic. Humiliation tears a person down and makes a person focus more on themselves.

Humility helps one grow in service to others. Humiliation makes one turn inward.

The Annunciation - artist Mikhail Nesterov
Humility is always a good. If more of were humble, our world would be better. Humiliation is never good, and it makes our world a sadder, more unwelcoming place.

Humility should be sought in one's spiritual life. Humiliation should be shunned, both in ourselves and in how we treat others.

A perfect example of humility is our Blessed Mother:

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.

And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. 

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer, Only when we humbly acknowledge that "we do not know how to pray as we ought," are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. "Man is a beggar before God."

Do not be afraid to pray for humility. God will never humiliate us, because humiliation is not love. It is distressful, harsh, and tears one down. God loves you too much, and He wants only good for you. Humility is good - it is from God. Ask Him for this grace and do not be afraid.

 

Breaking Through

On my way home last night, I came upon my neighbor carrying his rather large Husky from his driveway to the street. Quinn (the dog) is not disabled, but rather has an electric tether. Quinn never strays from his perimeter, carefully kept from wandering by a thin wire in the ground.

Last night, Quinn's owner wanted to take him for a walk. Quinn's collar was off, but he would not cross that perimeter. Giving up on coaxing Quinn out onto the street, his owner finally lifted him up and carried him across the invisible barrier.

How often do we do this? How often are we tethered by our sins, our failings, our past? We confess our sins, we are forgiven but ... we can't get past it. We are kept from new experiences, new events, new people. We are stuck in a yard of our own design.

Remember Jesus calling out to Peter to walk on the water towards him? Peter tried, and then fear overtook him. He sank.

What if Mary had let fear get the better of her when a mighty angel appeared and asked if she would assent to being the mother of the Savior?

Imagine Paul, in chains. He could have simply given in, given up, allowed those chains to be his reality.

What is keeping you stuck? What fear is holding you back? Most importantly, why are you not trusting God to carry you over any barriers in your way?

Rest

If you haven't yet listened to Matt Maher's Saints and Sinners album, do yourself a favor and do so.

Here's one I needed to hear today (not the official video, but lovely):


Our wounded warriors keep right on saving people

It takes a certain type of man or woman to choose the military. It's a tough life - not only the rigorous discipline, but being away from loved ones, putting yourself in harm's way, and often doing things that seem ... well, pointless (How long have we been in Iraq??)

But there is a program that takes our Wounded Warriors and puts them to work in a very meaningful way:

Dahlia Luallen was forced to leave the Army honorably after 8-years because of a series of injuries. She is now an intern at Homeland Security Investigations in Atlanta as part of the HERO program.
When her military career ended she wondered what she would do next. "For me, when I got out I didn't just want to go back to work," Luallen said. "I wanted to continue to serve my country. It was not by choice when it happened."
That's when she heard from a former instructor about the HERO program and said she jumped at it. "Because it gave me that sense of what I felt when I was in the military," she said. "I felt like I was going to be doing something that was going to impact society."
Luallen is one of four people in the HERO program at HIS in Atlanta, which is overseen by Deputy Special Agent in Charge Greg Wiest. "They get to come here and work with us to bring that same work ethic, same desire, to serve the American public and more importantly to rescue children," he said.
Luallen received three months training and will serve ten months as an intern before being considered as a full-time analyst at HSI. She explained what HERO analysts do. "Whenever they go out on a warrant and they seize computers, I'm the one that goes through the computers and the evidence," she said.
Atlanta HERO analysts recently investigated the case of an Emory University Professor charged with Sexual Exploitation of Children. Epidemiology Professor Kevin Sullivan was arrested on June 15, 2015. A federal criminal complaint says pornographic images of girls, one 4 to 7 years old, were found on a digital hard drive in Sullivan's office at the Rollins School of Public Health.
Computers, hard drives, flash drives and a cell phone were seized from Sullivan's office and his home in Atlanta, according to the complaint. The complaint said Sullivan "attempted to destroy evidence on his desktop computer." HERO analysts in Atlanta searched all those electronic devices for child pornographic images.
Those are images Luallen finds every day on computers. "If you're human, you're going to feel a certain way about seeing these things happening to kids," she said.
But Luallen says finding and viewing disturbing pictures of children on a daily basis is what drives her. Military veterans in the HERO program not only find the evidence, they often are in on the arrests and the rescues of children. "Sometimes you get to see the kids," Luallen said. "So, you know, this is a child that I'm saving."
Hard to imagine doing this work, day in and day out. That's why we call them "heroes."

A Korean View On The Life Of Christ

From New Liturgical Movement:




Manic Monday

1. I was listening to the radio on Friday, and heard a song that quoted Micah:

You have been told, O mortal, what is good,
and what the LORD requires of you:
Only to do justice and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God.

It occurred to me that this is exactly what Pope Francis exemplifies: he speaks to the world about what true justice is, he loves the good in every person he comes in contact with, and he is a humble man. His visit to the US has given us much to think about, pray about, and learn from.

2. Spent the weekend with my mom, who is now in assisted living. It's hard to see such a strong and independent woman become weaker and weaker in body (though not spirit!) For me, it's also terribly difficult in that I've always relied on my Mom as a sounding board. Now, I have to be hers. This role reversal with an aging parent is not one bit of fun. But again, in Scripture, we know that there is a time and season for all things.

3. The ground under my feet is incredibly unstable right now. No details: but I stand in the need of prayer!

4. My dark-haired daughter is so strong and so brave. Yet, PTSD and depression creep out of the cave and overwhelm her occasionally.  She's been struggling. I know she'll be fine, but right now, she too stands in the need of prayer.

5. This theme keeps showing up in my life. That usually means God is telling me something:


Getting Through Suffering

This is such a great post from Robert J. Wicks at onFaith! Please take the time to go over there and read it.

One of the greatest gifts we can share with others is a sense of our own peace, but we can’t share what we don’t have. Spiritual resilience, the ability not only to bounce back from adversity but to deepen as a result of it, is essential to becoming a better person — parent, friend, member of a spiritual community, the list continues.
Today, the world seems to be such an insecure, stressful, and even dangerous place. Spiritual hunger, physical ills, financial pressures, unemployment, and loss of trust in many of the institutions our parents (and past generations) counted on constantly threaten our faith in ourselves and our God.

What to do? Read on.

Monday, Monday: Can't trust that day

"Monday, Monday" - artist M.E. Bailey
1. Verse for today: "Humble yourself before the Lord and He will exalt you." - James 4:10. Praying for humility is a frightening thing, so praying for courage as well.

2. +ArtPrizeGR is about to take over my town. I usually have girlfriends come to town, but our little tribe is literally between daughters' weddings. DH and I are hoping to do a little exploring of our own this year. I love ArtPrize!

3. Had the opportunity to speak twice last week on human trafficking - always a privilege. Check out my friend Pamela Alderman's work:


4. Still can't believe I have a married kid! So happy to have a new son-in-law!

Suicide Prevention: It could be you

I've talked about my depression and anxiety before. I've even talked about my checking myself in to a local mental health facility. But I haven't really talked about suicide.

Twenty years ago, if you had told me I'd battle the urge to commit suicide, I'd never believe you. When it happened to me, I didn't tell anyone. It seemed too dark and too scary to speak out loud - as if the very act of talking about it would somehow bring me a step closer to the act.

I thought about all the pills and alcohol in my house, and how taking them might stop the pain. I thought about crashing my car. I knew a good spot, I thought.

When those thoughts got too real, I checked myself in.

After I'd been in the hospital for a few days, something amazing happened. I sat in a small group and listened to people give voice to the same thoughts I was having. It gave me courage. For the first time, I talked about my struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide. And people listened. They talked to me, and supported me. I felt safe - safe enough to keep talking - and that saved me.

If you're having these thoughts, talk to someone, preferably a professional. If you're not sure where to start, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1 (800) 273-8255. Someone there will talk with you and help you.

Give yourself the chance to speak. It will save your life.

God, the stand-up comedian: Provider of laughter and water

"Blue Water Mirage" - artist Carol Owen
Let it never be said that God has no sense of humor.

I have to get a medical test later today that requires fasting from both food and drink. First,let me tell you I am the worst fast-er in the world. I hate it. All I can think about is food, water, tea, more food. Then, one of the medications I take gives me a very dry mouth. You could say that this sets me up for a lousy morning.

So I settle in to say my morning prayers.

All who are thirsty, come to the living waters!

and

Like the deer that yearns
for running streams,
so my soul is yearning
for you, my God.

and

All who are thirsty, come to the water. You who have no mone, come receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk.

There's a theme there, right? It's not just me ...

Like so many of us, I have a lot of prayers to lift up to the Lord daily. Health issues, money problems, worries about work and kids - all of these are try to give to the Lord in prayer, trusting that He will answer all my needs according to His holy will.

This morning, He providentially reminded me how much I need Him. I need him more than I need food or water. I need to yearn for him, to come to him empty-handed in trust, hope and love. He is the living water, the only water that truly matters.

Soldier, Keep Movin' on

This is my current anthem. Thanks Toby!



Mary, Undoer of Knots Keeps Following Me Around

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for us!
About 8 years ago, a few friends and I were in Minneapolis for a Catholic teachers' conference. My friend Amy and I found ourselves wandering, on a free afternoon, to a large and rather dusty Catholic book store.

The first thing that greeted us was a life-size statue of Mary. It was from Spain, and would have been quite lovely, were it not for the fact that the glass eyes were, well, cross-eyed. I whispered (yes, I know it wasn't nice), "Our Lady of Glaucoma?" and our adventure began.

It was clear that the bookstore had virtually no organization - or none that we could discern - and all of its stock was out for browsing. First Communion gifts were nestled next to priests' collars, books of all sorts were scattered about the store, and items were stocked two stories high.

The office was apparently upstairs, and occasionally, a woman's voice would yell out orders to the man working below. He shrugged in our general direction after one outburst from above: "My sister," he said.

Amy and I (both wholehearted Catholic geeks) were happy to wander about, seeing what treasures we could uncover. Near the back of the store, hanging 10 or 12 feet above the floor was a large picture of Mary. She was holding a ribbon, which flowed about her and the angels at her feet. Neither of us had ever seen this representation of Our Blessed Mother, and we hunted about for some sort of explanation. We finally found it: Mary, Undoer of Knots.

In our combined 90 years or so of Catholic life, neither of us had seen this. But from that point on, Mary, Undoer of Knots started following me around.

I got a prayer card from a nun. A friend of mine on Facebook asked me to "like" a page devoted to this particular devotion. Pope Francis has written a prayer devoted to her. She just keeps showing up.

When Mary keeps showing up in your life, you ought to pay attention. So now, I have a particular devotion to this rather mysterious depiction of Mary. It makes perfect sense though: who better than your Mother to help you untangle your life, your issues, your mistakes, your struggles? Then, with that ribbon of your life smoothed out, you can go before Her Son, Our King.


I run to You, Mary, Undoer of Knots, because I trust you and I know that you never despise a sinning child who comes to ask you for help. I believe that you can undo this knot because Jesus grants you everything. I believe that you want to undo this knot because you are my Mother.




Monday Morning Musings

Yes, we are back! After one hellacious summer, I've had time to catch my breath and I hope I'll be blogging regularly again.

On to my musings:

1. I've been so happy the past four Sundays: Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John is undoubtedly my favorite Scripture passage. Yesterday, our pastor did a magnificent job of weaving in marriage and the need to center marriage on the Eucharist.

2. My doctor put me on a new drug for fibromyalgia, but the darn stuff made me so dizzy I was afraid to drive. That was disappointing, since aching muscles all the time are not easy to deal with. My essential oils have eased some of the pain, though.

3.Curly-haired daughter is getting married in 12 days! [insert slightly panicked scream here] Actually, she's got most of it under control, but Mom still has a bunch of last minute details to cover. Thankfully, I though ahead and took last week off.

4. The godmother of the bride-to-be threw the BEST SHOWER EVER! It was an "I Do BBQ" with the whole family invited. It was so much fun. The decor was perfect, we had actual fun games (like lawn Yahtzee) and so much love and care.

5. Prayers for a couple of things: one a special intention for me, and one that we can get our house re-financed. We had the re-finance all in place, then Dear Husband ended up in the hospital for 15 days. Now with the bills rolling in, the re-finance is looking shaky. We REALLY need this.  Thanks!

Disgusted by Planned Parenthood? Then DO SOMETHING!!!

Miriya is 16, in Michigan and needs a family.
When my kids were little, my minivans had a couple of pro-life stickers on the back. Not anything gruesome or really "in your face." In fact, one of them said something like, "A nation that kills its own children is a nation without HOPE."

No condemnation. Yet, I would get flipped off on a regular basis from women who passed me as fast as they could on the express-way, who would then cut me off.

Oh, well. But now there is something else.

This has truly been on my heart. The videos we've from Planned Parenthood have horrified those of us who are Christian. We know this is an abomination. We are ready to pray and protest.

But I need to challenge each of you: are you ready to welcome a child of an unplanned pregnancy into your home? Are you ready to reach out to one of the THOUSANDS of children in foster care in MICHIGAN ALONE and offer them a family?

These are not perfect kids. They come with bumps, lumps, bruises, scars - inside and out. They will act out. They will try and reject you just to see if you're going to reject them - like every other adult in their life. But deep down: this is a child who needs love, constancy, a firm foundation.

No. These are not perfect kids. And you can easily think of a hundred reasons not to do this. Some of you really can't. But some of you can. And there is support and help and guidance and many other people who've been there and done that.

Stick your indignation and your horror and your outrage and your faith and stick it - stick it into a plan to help a child who needs you RIGHT NOW.

If those videos truly horrify you, DO SOMETHING FOR THE CHILDREN. Don't just get angry. DO SOMETHING FOR THE CHILDREN.

Just lay it out there!

I love the Radiance Foundation. They don't pull any punches.


Monday, Monday can't trust that day

I've neglected you. I know. but life has been interesting.

Dear Husband is home and on the mend. It will be a long mend.

I'm back at work, with a good many things to do, for which I am glad. Busy is good, and having meaningful work is best. I wish I could be with Dear Husband 24/7, but that's just my anxiety talking.

Speaking of anxiety, I had a whopper of a anxiety attack on Saturday. PTSD and anxiety are a bitch. I know some of you don't like that language, but hey: that's what it is. Sitting in the Walgreens parking lot, shaking uncontrollably for no good reason. Nope, it's just your body and your brain saying, "Well, things are taken care of and relatively safe now. It's ok to have a teeny little breakdown." Which I did. For about 40 minutes. Then drove home, praying "Jesus!" over and over again, hands clamped to the steering wheel. Jesus, take the wheel, indeed.

It's not all sackcloth and ashes - it usually isn't. People are kind and generous and helpful and sweet and giving and loving. Above and beyond.

Of course, Hubby still has a big ole hole in his arm, and is frustrated that he isn't feeling  better faster. Me, the queen of pain and surgery, tells him it's gonna take time. And then I go remind myself the same thing.

We have a daughter getting married in a month. I want so much to relax and enjoy this occasion with her, her fiance' and our guests. I hope that by then, we'll be able to really enjoy things, with all this worry just a niggle in the back of our minds.

I've said a lot of Rosaries the past few weeks - I think I said seven of them the third time my hubby was in surgery. They had originally scheduled his surgery for 5:30 p.m. He didn't go in until about 8:30 p.m., and it took about 2-3 hours.

I was the ONLY PERSON IN THE WAITING ROOM. It was the loneliest I've ever been. I clutched my Rosary and prayed. I'm not sure how much of it made sense, but I also know it didn't matter.

Just remember, tonight, when you are climbing into your safe, inviting bed, with a few prayers on your mind, but mostly sleep settling over you, that somewhere - there is a person, sitting all alone, in a waiting room. No one with them. Scared to death. Their whole world on the line. Say a prayer for that person.

As for me, the Lord is a stronghold

For 10 days, a hospital room has been our home. We'll be here at least six more days.

Dear Husband went in for a "routine" (and we will never think of that word the same way again) procedure. He developed a massive hematoma in his arm, and then what they call compartment syndrome. (Look it up; I'm too tired to explain it again.)

He required emergency surgery to save his arm. That meant three large incisions (about 7 inches long) in his right forearm. Two are now stapled shut. The third was left open, attached to a medical vacuum to collect fluids. He then developed uncontrolled bleeding, and here we are.

Today, he goes back in for a third surgery to close the wound, which will require a skin graft.

Here we are again, asking "Why?" It makes no sense.

Worse, we have had so little support. My sisters have been great, and our kids, but that's about it. Prayers are important, but we need so much help, and there have been no substantial offers to DO things. What good does it do to tell a man, "I hope you eat and stay warm, but don't offer food or a coat?"

Well, prayers are truly appreciated. It's yet another tough road. Here's to the hope we may one day find a smooth one.

Okay, this is cool: a tree church


From Mental Floss:

After traveling the world, embracing new sights, and being exposed to various architectural wonders abroad, Brian Cox returned to his native New Zealand full of inspiration. Cox, who grew up as head altar boy in his hometown church and once wanted to be Pope, was heavily involved in religious services. But he had one other special interest—trees.
“People know how much I love trees,” said Cox. So much so, that he started his own company, Treelocations, a group that removes and relocates living trees.
“They call me when there are trees that would otherwise be cut-down or removed. I go and kind of rescue them," Cox notes.

Check out the link - the other photos with the story are amazing!

Monday Morning Musings

1. It has been a long and crazy few days. Found out Dear Hubby needs a stent in his heart. Scary stuff, even though the cardiologist talks about it like you're getting a dental cleaning. Prayers are most welcome.
2. Been doing a lot of journaling/drawing lately. Found a book called Praying in Color that really has helped me sort out thoughts, pray through things and ponder more deeply my relationship with God. Don't worry,  you don't need to be an artist to do any of this; you don't even have to show it to anyone ever.
3. Eight years since we lost our father. Doesn't seem possible. I still always hope I'm making him proud.
4. I was blessed to lector yesterday. The second reading from St. Paul is so powerful:

Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Post Vacation Highlights, Thought and Wonderment





  • My trip to Louisville was grand! First, I found not one, but two possible dresses for Curly haired daughter's wedding. Better yet, I spent less than $100 for both at a lovely consignment shop!
  • Went to the Louisville Zoo, which neither my friend nor I had ever visited. The weather was lovely: high 70s and little humidity. We enjoyed the animals and the little kids enjoying the animals. There was also Lego art displayed throughout the zoo that was amazing! Plus, on our way in, a lady stopped us and said her two friends couldn't make their outing and would we like their tickets! Yes, please!
  • I FINALLY got to visit the Louisville Tea Company! I discovered them on Pinterest almost a year ago, and have been itching to go. Finally got there and was NOT disappointed. Let's just say hubby and I are set for tea for awhile.
  • My trip started off poorly. I made it to Chicago, but then my connection to Louisville kept getting pushed back, pushed back ... then cancelled. The airline reps told us to go to the airline counter and make other arrangements. Now, I was disgruntled, but come on - in the scheme of things, not a big deal. Let's face it, we live in an amazing country: you could catch the train, take a bus, get a rental car, etc. The people waiting in line were acting as if the zombie apocalypse had occurred, and they were only one step ahead of the game. They were also really rude to the folks at the desk - who of course had NOTHING to do with the flight being cancelled. I had only two words for those nasty folks: "Donner party."
  • Visited a sweet little grotto that had been built on a hospital grounds. The hospital's gone, but the grotto is still there, kept up by volunteers. It's tucked away, hard to find, but my friend (who shares my passion for anything Catholic and off-beat) knew right where it was!
  • And yes. We ate. Blue Moon Burgers. Cracked Eggs. I highly recommend both.
  • "Isn't she the one who hates gays?"

    I have some family members who are gay (and I'm sure most of you do, too.) I love them madly. One is creative and smart and building an awesome career. Another served our country and has overcome some really big obstacles.

    One of them was "home" recently and brought his partner. I was told that his partner asked another family member, "So which sister is it that hates gays 'cause she's super-Christian? I heard she won't allow them in her house."

    Um, that would be me. Except of course, that it's not.

    I don't hate anyone. I don't hate any groups of people. I certainly don't hate my family, or the homosexual family members.

    I'm also really upset that somehow this equation has now become true: Catholic = hate.

    Now, I'm happy to say that I met my nephew and his partner for lunch and we had a delightful conversation. I love my nephew and I'm really proud of him. He knows exactly what my beliefs and values are.

    I just wish the rest of the family and world knew too. Catholics don't hate homosexuals. And the reason we don't is because God doesn't hate them, and we are striving to be like God as much as possible.

    Monday Morning Musings

    1. Another Acton University in the books. I'm not gonna lie: this year was tough. AU under the best of circumstances is hard (we have a small staff and a BIG conference), but this year, the pope decided to release an encyclical in the middle of it all! I was a teensy bit ... overwhelmed? Crazed? Exhausted? Yeah, all that.

    2. Two high points: I have a wonderful friend who attends the conference every year and we got to spend Friday lunch together, catching up. My only regret is that we don't live next door to each other; she is such a joy to me.

    Another friend grabbed me on Tuesday evening and said, "I have someone I need you to meet!" It turned out to be a woman who has been working in the area of human trafficking for years. This woman's feet aren't just planted in Scripture, they are cemented in. She is funny, bold, sweet, sassy, faithful ... I know I have a new best friend and mentor. That was truly a Holy Spirit thing!

    3. I'm going to Kentucky! Every year I take some time right after AU to go visit one of my dearest friends. And I get to go see her this week!! I'm so excited - she and I will talk and laugh until our sides ache. I cannot tell you how much I love her and how much I'm looking forward to seeing her.

    4. From my prayers this morning: "God is my mighty shield and my strong support." That will be on my heart today.

    Closed for the week





    I'm not going out of business, but I'll be working at Acton University for the remainder of the week. Too busy to blog here!

    God bless you all!

    Why I remain Catholic

    Elizabeth Scalia, the blogger-extraordinaire at The Anchoress, has challenged her fellow Catholic bloggers to answer the question, "Why do I remain Catholic?" This is my attempt to answer this.

    For me, being Catholic has never been a struggle. I have no amazing conversion story, I'm not a prodigal who has run home to the loving arms of Mother Church. It's kind of boring, actually; I've always been Catholic.

    I knew Jesus was real in the Eucharist from a very early age. I was allowed to make my First Communion a year ahead of my classmates.

    Despite the fact that I have both an undergraduate and a graduate degree in world religions, I've never been tempted to "jump ship." (I do have an abiding fondness for Buddha, but simply because I admire his tenacity in wrestling with life's Big Questions. He didn't get it all right, but he wasn't all wrong, either.)

    I love the saints. I feel a strong and passionate connection and friendship to many of them. I talk to them all the time.

    In my mind's eye, I can still see the black and red drawings in the Baltimore Catechism that neatly summed up huge theological truths in a way I could understand.

    When I was 15, my parents sent me to Fatima, and I pledged myself to Our Lady. She has been far more faithful to me than I have been to her.

    I vividly remember St. John Paul II being elected pope, and I became an adult in the church under his tutelage.

    I love the liturgical calendar, the seasons of the church, that allow for mourning and celebration, temperance and conviviality.

    Why do I remain Catholic? I remain Catholic because I believe Jesus is who He says He is, and that He founded a Church. I believe Christ gave us the sacraments. I believe in the powerful words of John, chapter 6: "I am the bread of life." I believe that Christ appointed Peter and his successors to guide us in the faith.

    Credo: I believe.

    Monday Morning Musings

    One of the WAR, International artisans
    1. I spent most of last week dealing with a muscle spasm in my back. If you've never experienced one, it's like a charlie horse that won't stop. And yes, it IS as much fun as it sounds. It's slightly better now, but I'm also heavily medicated.

    2. Took Curly-haired daughter out to shop for wedding jewelry. Big shout-out to Women At Risk, International and their beautiful War Chest Boutiques. We got the bride's jewelry, narrowed down options for the bridesmaids, table decor and I've got my eyes on a few pieces for the upcoming nuptials. Plus, all this shopping goes to support survivors of human trafficking here in the US and around the world.

    3. Feast of Corpus Christi! Is there a more beautiful feast? I'm so thankful that our priests have revived the tradition of the procession with the Eucharist and Adoration for this great day in the Church calendar. "I am the bread of life!"

    4. 2- 1/2 weeks and I'm off on vacation! Whoot! I hope I have energy - I don't want to go on vacation and nap it away....

    No place at the ... camp?

    I must admit: I am disappointed. Dark-haired daughter, last summer, went to a camp for high school students sponsored by our diocese. It was a HUGE step for her: she has not been away from home since being hospitalized after her abduction, and it was a tremendous step for her not to give into anxiety and fear, but to trust.

    She loved camp! She was there with "normal" kids, who embraced her and loved her. She loved the counselors and the entire experience. Since last summer, all she could talk about was going back to camp this year.

    Yesterday I got a phone call from the camp that she couldn't come. She is now 19, and although she is still in high school, the camp board has declared that only 14-18 year olds can attend, due to diocescan guidelines on adults being with  minors without having gone through "safety training."

    I explained to the young woman that called that this issue had come up with our daughter, as she volunteers in our parish nursery. The person in charge of this training for the diocese, along with the diocesan director of faith formation, had told us that so long as our daughter was still in high school, she could forgo the training. In addition, at such time the training was needed, we could arrange a private session for her, given the nature of the training, and her past assault.

    I told the young woman from the camp that I was not telling her this to change her mind, but simply to inform.

    And then I had to tell daughter she couldn't go to camp.

    And that makes me sad. I am sad that so many children have been hurt in our church by those entrusted with their safety. I am sad that those in charge at the camp cannot be more flexible for someone with special needs. And I am sad that my daughter is once again told by the church: there is no place for you here.

    Secrets to being the parent of a special needs child

    What is blogging if not ripping off good work from other blogs? One of my favorite sites it The Mighty; they focus on the lives of people with special needs and those who love them. This list is from 35 Secrets of Being a Special Needs Parent:

    “You have no idea how much potential you both have to exceed your expectations.” — Becky Hirsh Carroll
    “Your child with special needs is a child first.” — Erica Conway-Wahle
    You are not weak when you get angry and upset.” — Amy Sherian
    You know your kid best. Don’t be concerned with what others say. Trust your gut.” — Nancy Walchak-Body
    “It’s lonely. But when you meet someone who gets it, it’s transforming.” — Melody Statham Cameron
    You have to also take care of yourself.” — Amy Streater Bazerghi
    14.Pencil it in on the calendar, never pen. Be flexible.” — Kodi Wilson
    15. “It’s about progress, not perfection.” — Melissa Cote
    16. “My kid takes longer to ‘grow up.’ Secretly, that is sort of awesome.” — Rebecca Smith Masterson

    Monday Morning Musings

    1. This was a rough weekend. My elderly mother, who is a fiercely independent and strong-willed woman, now has a body that is weak. She can't be on her own any more. Oldest Sister and I spent the weekend with her, and her rather rapid decline was startling and hard to manage. Very emotional.

    2. Now, it's Monday. And I need a weekend to recover from my weekend.

    3. June is going to be busy. I know it's Ordinary Time, but it feels like a holiday - much to plan for and pray for.

    4. Feeling a bit sad? Emotional? Nostalgic? for having a child around. Met an 8 year old in foster care that I nearly fell head over heels for.

    And then I thought, "What are you THINKING????"

    (Proving that adoption and having kids is rather addictive.)

    5. Another round of shots at the pain clinic this Wednesday. Is it sick that I'm looking forward to it, just so I can have a day to rest?

    The St. Francis of Birdies and Kittens, or the Real Thing?

    Pooor St. Francis. He's either relegated to the barnyard, or dancing around in a field, praising the sun. But that's not who he really was. He was a man madly in love with Christ, and wanted others to know that love.

    I wanted to draw your attention to two new books about St. Francis that look as if they are worthy of our time. (I haven't read 'em yet, so I'm not endorsing them!) However, they seem to take the saint seriously. We don't do God or his saints any justice by sentimentalizing them.

    Tuesday Afternoon Musings, Because: Lazy

    Why is this baby smiling? She didn't have to clean the grout!
    1. Really, sheer laziness.

    2. We are getting some long-overdue work done on our house. Hurray! I decided to get a head start by recoloring some grout. I thought it would be a simple, one-day project for the holiday weekend. I don't know why I thought that....

    3. Spent the rest of the weekend making bridal shower and wedding plans (all via social media!). A small wedding requires just as much planning as a big one. Don't let anyone tell you differently. I am not complaining; I think  having a wedding planner takes a lot of fun out of it!

    4. Finally met both the "in-laws." We had met mom, but not dad (they are now living out-of-state.) I now know why my daughter has such a lovely young man as her espoused.

    5. We were kidless this weekend. Dark-haired daughter went camping for most of the weekend. It was a little weird rambling around in the house by ourselves. But maybe we could get used to it....

    6. Is it bad that we set our Sunday Mass attendance around soccer? Dear Husband's "team" was in the finals...

    Monday Morning Musings

    1. Given the Gospel this weekend, I was sort of hoping our pastor would whip out a rattlesnake and give us some Appalachian Gospel. He stuck to the homily routine though.

    2. I am struggling with hope. I am trying to discern the differences and ties between theological hope - the virtue - and the hope of anticipating good here and now. I can't seem to bring myself to hope for anything good, because every time I do, I get slammed to the ground by a 2x4 to the head as I round a blind corner. This past week was an excellent example - huge problem with one of the kids that I thought was on the right track.

    3. When you have a mentally ill adult child, you have to learn that he/she must manage their illness. You can't. You also have to put up with all the people who think you are being a bad parent by not stepping in and managing something that A) they don't understand and B) you can't do anything about anyway.

    4. General thought: it must suck to be a meter reader in the city. You do your job and ruin someone's day.

    5. I'm tired. Really tired. For someone with depression, this is not good. I'm trying to drag myself out of the cycle of doing just what I need to do to get by and then sleeping. No fun.

    A Citizen of the Nation of Chaos

    No, Chaos is not one of the cities in a dystopian youth novel. It is a very real place.

    There are a lot of people who live in the nation of Chaos. For some, their citizenship is earned because of a loved one's addiction. They never know if they are going to get Nice Dad or Angry Dad, if Mom will be making dinner when they get home or passed out cold.

    In Chaos, we pray our children are safe ... not doing something that could get them arrested. If they do get arrested, we feel a sense of relief, because we know that at least they are safe. And then we feel guilty for feeling that relief.

    In Chaos, mental illness is a familiar address. Whether it's the creeping darkness of depression, the sleepless, exuberant nights of mania, or the sinister voices in the mind only one person hears, mental illness makes itself right at home in Chaos.

    It's hard to make plans in Chaos. A family might get ready for a vacation, and then someone goes off the rails. A car accident - once - makes one forever leery of driving ... even though it's necessary. If the family does manage to get off on vacation, that one kid in the family will likely have a very public fit that makes everyone else in the family wish they had never left home.

    Living in Chaos means that faith, hope and love are always quite tentative. You know they are there, but they always seem just out of reach. It's like those stupid claw games that kids feed quarters into, aiming to get a cheap stuffed animal. You are manipulating the claw closer and closer to faith or hope or love ... and then you drop it, or miss completely. And of course, you don't have any more quarters to feed the machine.

    Being a citizen of Chaos means you have your own pledge of allegiance. You pledge allegiance to sticking it out, no matter what, but you know that the nation of Chaos offers no protection in return. There is no military standing at the ready to fight your battles - you are on your own. The nation is easily divisible, as it is often every man, woman and child for themselves. You learn not to count on people who are not fellow citizens too much, as they get very weary of dealing with you and your "issues."

    On the other hand, when you find another fellow citizen of Chaos, you don't need to explain much. They know. They know the humiliation, the sadness, the lack of looking forward to anything because you know it probably will just get mucked up anyway. They are fellow citizens, and companions on the way.

    Once you become a citizen of Chaos, you are always a citizen. You can move away, but you still belong to that place, and it is always a part of you. Everything about who you are and what you do is tainted by Chaos.

    In Chaos, there is faith, but you have to carry it around in your very heavy bag. It gets crushed down to the bottom, underneath the water and tissues and medication and snack bars and car keys and phone numbers to every mental health professional in the country. But every once in awhile,  you clean out your bag, and you find it. And it gets you through.

    Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. - Philip. 4:6-7

    Mother's Day Monday Musings

    1. One of my dearest friends spent her Mother's Day making funeral arrangements for her daughter. Her daughter had battled many health issues since birth, but had made great strides in the past few years: living on her own, getting her degree, landing a job. After a recent surgery, an infection took hold and she just did not have the strength to fight it. Please keep them in your prayers this week.

    2. I got a Happy Mother's Day from 3 of my 5 kids. Those are pretty decent odds, given our family.

    3. Spent a lovely weekend with Dear Husband doing stuff we love to do: antique shopping, wine-tasting, playing cribbage. Yes, we are dull people, but we are OUR dull people.

    4. Our pastor, when he gave the blessings for the mothers at the end of Mass yesterday, reminded women who had conceived and lost a child to miscarriage that they should stand as well. Life begins at conception, he reminded us, and all women who have conceived are mothers. A lovely reminder.

    Eternal Rest, O Lord

    GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Grand Rapids police have identified a body found in the Grand River Tuesday evening.
    The body of Terry Douglas Bailey was found around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday near the river's east bank under the Fulton Street bridge.
    Bailey, 51, was released from the Kent County Jail on Friday after serving four days for possessing open intoxicants in a city park.
    He listed his address as Mel Trotter Mission on Commerce Avenue SW, about a half-mile from where his body was recovered.
    Bailey has more than a hundred arrests for misdemeanor charges dating back to 2008, including consuming alcohol in public, disorderly panhandling and trespassing. A cause of death remains undetermined, pending the results of an autopsy.

    I don't know this man. I see a lot of men like him every day.

    This was one of the saddest things I've read in a long time. I pass no judgement on this man, for I do not know his story. However, he died a sad and lonely death, in what appeared to be a sad and lonely life. No one should go "unprayed" for at their death.

    Eternal rest, grant unto him, O Lord,
    And let perpetual light shine upon him.

    News Flash: Catholic Church Hates Women!

    At least, that's what New York Times writer Frank Bruni says. Oh, he loves Pope Francis, and was overjoyed to hear the pope call for "equal pay for equal work" (which, in the US, is mandated by federal law), but it really doesn't count if women don't get to be priests.

    Pay isn’t the primary issue when the symbolism, rituals and vocabulary of an institution exalt men over women and when challenges to that imbalance are met with the insistence that what was must always be — that habit trumps enlightenment and good sense.
    Let’s be clear. For all the remarkable service that the Catholic Church performs, it is one of the world’s dominant and most unshakable patriarchies, with tenets that don’t abet equality.

    Uh. I'm not sure what to say to Bruni. Oh, wait: I do.

    You are wrong.

    And you are wrong on many levels.

    First, this pope did not decide women can't be priests. In fact, no pope did. Jesus did. If you want to pick a fight with Him, go ahead, but keep in mind that he is the Son of God, the Almighty. But, whatever.

    Bruni also claims that
    Male clergy are typically called “father,” which connotes authority. Women in religious orders are usually called “sister,” which doesn’t.
    Duh. First of all, calling someone "sister" is not an insult. (I hope Bruni has a sister himself to bonk him over the head.) And many women's religious orders elevate their members to "mother" - a woman who guides, prays for, walks with, instructs, nourishes. Yeah, what an insult.

    Bruni charges that doors are closed to women in the Church. I don't know what church he's looking at, but it's not my church. I myself have taught children in the faith from kindergarten through high school. I've instructed people who wish to join the church through RCIA. I've helped parents prepare as they get ready to baptize their children. I've taught children and adults who wish to be confirmed. I've helped people with special needs gain better access to the sacraments and to parish life. I lead a congregation in worship as cantor. I am graciously allowed to read the Word of God aloud in Mass.

    I am heir to St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Therese of Lisieux, and Hildegard of Bingen - all Doctors of the Church.

    I have had the luxury and awesome blessing of receiving spiritual direction from the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, and I am so honored to call these women "Sister" and "Mother" for they truly are.

    My role model is Mary, the humble and obedient servant of God, Mother of Christ Almightly, whose entire existence can be summed up in her Fiat: May it be done to be according to Your will.

    Women in the Church can't catch a break, Mr. Bruni? You are running in the wrong circles. Come meet my Church - the women here are incredible!

    Monday Morning Musings

    Bangkok, Thailand
    1. Highlight of the weekend? (Besides the fact that Michigan is finally warm....) Our pastor's homily. So much great stuff to ponder for the whole week. Isn't that what a homily is supposed to be?

    2. I'm thinking weddings. Got a bunch of 'em this year, including my own daughter's. Much to celebrate, much to do!

    3. I'm hoping to go to Thailand next year, to help out human trafficking survivors and do research for my next book. If you are of the mind to help, you can!

    4. Mother's Day is this weekend! And I get to go away with my husband! We've been ships passing in the night lately, what with his work, coaching soccer and my schedule.

    5. From Magnificat, Fr. John Tauler, OP: And now let us consider the true way, and the shortest way leading into the very focus of this heavenly light. Briefly, it is unfeigned self-denial joined to boundless love of God - one's own self in not a single particular and God's honor in all things. Very much worth pondering.

    Man Down

    I left work yesterday, taking my usual route from the office to the expressway. As I turned a corner, I saw a man lying in the street, with another man standing over him. The one in the street did not appear hurt. I think he was either drunk, tired or both and just decided he'd had enough. So there he was, lying in the street.

    Well, that won't do, I thought. I pulled over, put my flashers on and was getting ready to call 911. The man who was standing was urging the man down to get up, and just as I started to punch in the numbers, a police officer happened by.

    The man lying in the street, with no enthusiasm whatsoever, crawled to the sidewalk, out of the street.

    There are a lot of ways to look at this scene. One would be: "Damn old drunk. Deserves to get hit by a car."

    Another might be: "The city really needs to do something about the homeless population. We simply can't have this."

    I prefer the whole Jesus thing. Not the "what would Jesus do" idea (although that has merit), but rather "that is Jesus in His most distressing disguise" as Mother Teresa famously described the people she worked with.

    I hope that I always see Christ in the people I encounter, even if its a drunk, elderly homeless man lying in the street. I hope my first and only intention is to help, granting the other dignity. I know I'll fail at this - time and again - but it is my intention.

    Man Down! Jesus needs you!

    “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me." (Mt. 10:40)

    Monday Morning Musings

    [I made it by 9 minutes.]

    1. Spent a fabulous 5 days in and around Chicago. Had a work event that was beautiful and engaging. Got to share my monograph with some folks. It was terrific. Then, I had a couple of R&R days with a dear friend. We didn't do anything exciting, but we had the best time.

    2. The theme of the weekend seemed to be "The Kindness of Strangers." When my friend and I were shopping, I wanted to see how a sweater looked on me, but there was no mirror to be found. A lady near us said, "No problem! I was a Girl Scout and we are resourceful!" She whipped out her camera, took a couple of pics of me, and showed them to me. The sweater looked great, it was on clearance, and I got it.

    3. I took the Metra back from the 'burbs into Chicago Sunday, and I was dragging my ridiculously heavy suitcase. (How have I not learned how to pack light by this point in my life???) A young man graciously offered to get it off the train for me, keeping me from either simply tossing the damn thing down the stairs and likely taking out another passenger or breaking my back trying to lug the thing down.

    4. I bought some lunch at Union Station. (Like most other large transportation hubs, there are a lot of beggars and panhandlers about.) A women came up to me with a few dollars in her hand, and said she was trying to get enough to feed her kids. Now, I very rarely give anyone money. But something about her seemed very genuine. I said, "Would you like to share my sandwich?" and she gratefully accepted it. She really was hungry.

    5. The Catholic church near my friend's house is one I have attended a handful of times. This time, I went to the Saturday evening Mass. That affirmed for me what I had experienced there before: everyone in attendance, including the priest, seemed to want to get this thing over as quickly as possible. I would say a good 1/3 of the congregation left immediately after Communion. There was not one bit of reverence that I could see anywhere around me. It made me very thankful for my home parish.

    Monday Morning Musings

    1. It was First Communion at our parish yesterday, as it was in many parishes. Our pastor reminded us, in his sermon that Christ is truly present - Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity - in the Eucharist. He also spoke to the children, reminding them that it was an important day, but it was the beginning of a life-long relationship with Christ in a new and special way.

    2. Dark-haired daughter had her prom on Saturday. She looked lovely, and had an "awesome" time. This year, the "Best Prom Ever" (for teens and adults with disabilities) had almost 900 attendees. That also means a boatload of volunteers and generous donors. What a blessing!

    3. I was wholly selfish yesterday. Dear husband was gone for his godson's First Communion.  Dark-haired daughter was not feeling good (too much excitement and food at the prom, I'm thinking), so after Mass, I hunkered down. She slept most of the day. I read, finished a few chores, watch TV I never, ever get to watch, read, and generally did whatever the heck I wanted in a very quiet house. Aaaaahhhhh, introvert bliss!

    4. The dress that Dark-haired daughter was given for the prom needed some alterations. We have a friend who is, among other things, an amazing seamstress. She nipped and tucked and hemmed and made it a bit more modest. Everyone needs someone like this in their lives and we so appreciate this friend! As Dark-haired daughter said to her, "You rock!"

    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,...