Do the Good

The Good Samaritan, artist Ferdinand Hodler
It is so easy to get caught up in our own worries and woes. I belong to a Catholic moms group on Facebook, and every day there are prayer requests: a baby in the hospital, a car that died, no money in the bank, issues with in-laws. The worries range from the almost hum-drum (It's raining and the kids are driving me crazy!) to the very serious (A teenage son whose asthma is so severe that every virus turns into a near-death experience.)

We worry about our woes. But we still need to do the good.

Every day, we get a chance to do the good. Do we take that chance?

It's no secret that I live in a lot of pain. Now, I've got this rather worrisome cyst on my spine. I'm waiting to see a specialist. Waiting.... Waiting... Today, two of my co-workers stopped what they were doing and came to "check on me."

"How are you feeling? Do you need anything?"

They did the good. They probably don't feel like it was much, but it gladdened my heart so much. Now, I know that when I'm having a bad day, I have a couple of shoulders here at work to lean on. That is so good. It cost them nothing but a moment of time, but it means the world to me.

Where can you do the good today?

Can We Be Honest?

"No. You are not wearing that. It's hideous and that's the truth."
Honesty is tough, isn't it? We lie to ourselves ("I'll get to that chore later.") We lie to each other ("Sure, that looks great on you!") We'd lie to God if we thought we could get away with it.

One of the hardest things about NOT being honest is keeping track of your lies. Did I tell this to Mary or Jake? Did I mention this to Caroline at work or my neighbor?

And then there are lies of omission. We just keep our mouths shut when we should speak up. We just "conveniently" leave out information.

I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.

Jesus didn't use "truthiness" when He spoke (check out yesterday's Gospel as evidence.) He wasn't uncharitable, but He was honest.

Have you ever seen a celebrity on the red carpet in an outfit that just does her no justice? I'm not talking about being half-naked, or testing the laws of physics. I mean, just something unflattering. Ugly.

I have a theory. This type of thing happens when the celebrity does not have a sister. You see, a sister will sit outside the dressing room, and when the celeb comes out in the ugly dress, the sister says, "Uh-uh. Not that. No way. It is not flattering. Go back in and try again." Now if the one trying on the dress hedges and says, "But I like the color..." the sister is ready. "No. That dress is wrong. I don't care what color it is; you don't look good. And we are not sending you off on the red carpet in an ugly get-up."

Alas, the celeb (with no honest sister) is surrounded by people who are paid to tell her she looks FABulous! Astounding! That unique piece is HOT! Go for it!

I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.

Normally, telling the truth is easy. "No, I can't come to your party. I have another commitment. But I'd love to see  you; let's plan on lunch."

Normally, families don't worry much about dishonesty and lying, unless it's become a pattern. "No, kiddo. You lied about where you were last weekend. You are grounded."

We want a work atmosphere that is honest. I've had the great misfortune of being in a job where machinations, plans and sleights of hand were being performed behind my back, all the while being told, "Everything is fine." It wasn't. it was toxic.

So why this post on honesty? Because I have a friend who isn't being honest. She hasn't been honest for awhile - I'm not really sure how long, because: lies.

She isn't being honest with herself. She's certainly not being honest to those closest to her, and people who are incredibly qualified to help her think through some major life changes she's decided to make. She's not being honest with God.

I've tried a couple of times to speak with her. I've been honest but as charitable as possible. Doesn't seem to have done much good. She has created a narrative that she is now bound and determined is the "truth," whether it actually is nor not.

Lying is toxic. It poisons the liar. It poisons the relationship with the person being lied to. For children, lies from parents are devastating. The child never knows what the truth is ("Uncle Bob is an alcoholic. He drinks too much and it's making him sick" is a whole lot easier for a kid to deal than "Oh, Uncle Bob was just being funny. He didn't really mean to say that stuff to you. Just never mind him.") Lying makes every conversation with the liar like a game Truth or Dare, only you won't know what the truth is and the person is daring you to believe them at your peril.

Being lied to hurts. We've all had that experience. We need to guard our thoughts and words so that we focus on loving truth, being charitable and expecting honesty. When we are lied to, we cannot just brush it off. Truth is too important. Jesus said so.

I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.

Be Careful What You Pray For


I am weak and sinful. (Aren't we all? The key is recognizing this in ourselves and not just others.) I pray. I don't pray well, nor do I pray often enough. But I pray.

I have been praying for persecuted Christians everywhere. I see pictures in my head of the Syrian children clinging to life in tiny boats, and one small body washed up on the shore. I hear the screams of terror from the slain Sisters of Charity. I weep for those who've lost loved ones in the violence that pervades our own society. I pray for peace and understanding.

God always takes our prayers seriously. I know this, not only because of my own experience, but the experience of the many, many souls who have come before me. One of them is St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

She was born Edith Stein, a German Jew. She was exceptionally bright, going on to study the philosophical field of phenomenolgy. (Look it up. It's tough stuff.) As a woman and a Jew in the early 20th century, she could not find a teaching position at the university level.

She also was a convert to Catholicism. Her intellect guided her: she was seeking Truth and nothing but. She also longed to join the Carmelite order, but her conversion was very difficult on her mother, a devout Jew. Edith's spiritual director told her to delay her entrance into the monastery for the sake of her mother.

As Edith's spiritual life was deepening, her nation was collapsing. Hitler became the leader of a Germany that was coming undone. She taught for awhile at a girls' school, and then eventually entered her beloved Carmel.
In 1930, Stein wrote of her foreboding sense of divine mission. “After every encounter in which I am made aware how powerless we are to exercise direct influence, I have a deeper sense of the urgency of my own Holocaustum.”
 Stein’s use of the word Holocaustum in 1930 was radical. What did she imagine was the urgency of her “own Holocaustum”? She literally saw herself as offering her life as a sacrifice, but a sacrifice to what, and why? Was she a mystic who saw the end of German Jews? Stein first wrote about the meaning of her future death in her last will and testament, composed on June 9, 1939: I pray to the Lord that he may accept my living and dying ... as an atonement for the Jewish people’s unbelief and so that the Lord may be accepted by his own and that his reign may come in glory, that Germany may be saved and that there be peace in the world.
 As I said, be careful what you pray for. Stein was wholly aware that she would die at the hands of the Nazis, but wanted to offer herself up as atonement.

I won't get into all the theology of this idea of atonement, especially in Jewish thought. However, die she did, along with her sister, in Auschwitz.

Back to my prayers for persecuted Christians. I am no saint, although I aspire to sainthood. God has gifted me with some suffering to bring a bit more "bang to my buck" when it comes to these prayers. I have cysts on my spine that are causing me a great deal of pain. I have been referred to a state university neurosurgery center for treatment of these rare cysts, known as Tarlov cysts.

I consider Edith Stein to be a close friend, a sister in Christ. I beg her intercession for my health, but I also follow her lead in offering up suffering for those around me. Be careful what you pray for.

The Best Response To Criticism Is Joy

The past few weeks were rocky. An attorney decided that it was a good idea to call my Dark-Haired Daughter horrible names. As much as I tried to shield my daughter from what was swirling around her, she found out and was understandably devastated.

I assured my daughter, as she cried tears of both anger and pain, that none of this had anything at all to do with her, and everything to do with the attorney who chose to act in this manner. But my balm was weak against these mighty wounds. The familiar sounds of PTSD were howling at the door of my daughter's heart.

Yet, we had a party to put on. Dark-Haired Daughter has completed her formal education, and a celebration was in order. In the scheme of things, it wasn't that big of a deal. In fact, you couldn't miss the dozens of handmade signs and balloons marking dozens of houses in our small town this weekend. It's that time of year.

But, as we all know, it IS a big deal. And for Dark-Haired Daughter, it was an even bigger deal. She had seen her brothers and sister have such parties and she thought this would never happen for her. But it did. And we threw a party.

Cake, lemonade. Cards, gifts. Coleslaw, kids. People spread out over our yard, our house. Kids colored with sidewalk chalk and a soccer ball got kicked around. Our friends rejoiced with our daughter, who glowed all day.

Yesterday, for awhile, she felt no sting of the pain from two weeks ago. Yesterday was all about joy: the joy of an accomplishment, the joy of thanksgiving for loved ones, the joy of seeing a daughter grow. While no major world problems have been solved with cake and lemonade, I can tell you that one girl's pain was eased and that meant the world to us.

Where is Christ? Take Me to the Alley

My worldly life is one of ownership: a house, a car, furniture. I have way too many shoes (but I'll keep on buying them!) and a lot of jewelry, which tell a story about me. I love clothing and fashion.

My spiritual life is Franciscan. Yes, I acknowledge: I am either the world's worst Franciscan or God has a delightful sense of humor (it's both.) The world has it all upside-down: "stuff" is not to be our focus. Our focus begins and ends at the foot of the Cross.

I'm not sure if Gregory Porter realizes it, but his latest album has what I consider (like Gregory Porter cares about my opinion....) the perfect Franciscan song. And I have not been able to get it out of my head.

Where is Christ? Where must we go if we are to find Him, accompany Him, learn from Him? We must go to the alleys. The dirty places. The lonely places. The places where the lost and forgotten gather. Where hope goes to die.

Take me to the alley.



"A Good and Spacious Land"



Ring of Kerry, Ireland: author's photo
Isn't that a beautiful phrase: "a good and spacious land"? It's from Exodus 3:8, as God is giving Moses his commission to help free the Israelites.

I think it sounds like the title of a great book or story, maybe something by Flannery O'Connor. Of course, if it was something she wrote it would be a rather dark look at the good and spacious land.

We need to remember that Scripture is not dead - it's not simply stories of long ago, or lessons to people in another place and time. Scripture is the living Word of God. It has meaning for us, here, now, today.

There was something about that phrase that resonated with me as I was praying the other morning. "A good and spacious land." God promised that to the Israelites, and He promises it to us. (Keep in mind it took the Israelites a hard 40 years to get there.)

Last year was a very difficult year for our family. My husband and I hoped this year would be better, and it is. Yet, our lives are not simply made up of segments of time: a good year, a bad year. They are made of moments (the joy of our daughter's wedding, the love we share with our goddaughter) and made up of events, rites of passage, our friends and family. We live our lives - if we are faithful - in this good and spacious land.

Even in a land that is good, spacious, and flowing with milk and honey, there are bitter herbs to be tasted, chewed, gulped down. Like the Israelites, we have to struggle to figure out where God is leading us, why He has chosen the route He has for us. We often don't see the good and spacious land because we are so caught up in "bitter herbs" that dot the landscape.

We also have an interior life that God desires to be a good and spacious land. Our sense of God who resides in us, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, should we be in a state of grace. Our connection with God through prayer and meditation. The grace of the sacraments. The realization of blessings in every moment of every day.

"A good and spacious land." God desires this home for us eternally as well.

A good and spacious land. How good is our God!

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