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A Good and Faithful Servant

It's funny how you can know a piece of Scripture and yet be completely oblivious to its meaning. As Catholics, if we read the daily readings every day, we will read nearly the entire Bible in three years. And the parables of Christ are memorable: they are stories, and we love stories.

As a lifelong Catholic, I've heard and read today's Gospel ... a lot. A rich guy is leaving. He calls his three trusted servants together and gives each of them money. "I trust you will care for this."

The first two double the money, returning twice the original amount to their master. The third, who has the least amount, was worried about losing the money he had, so he buried it. Kept it safe. And returned exactly the same amount back to the master upon his return.

What I never got was why the last guy was punished. He didn't lose the money, he didn't gamble it away. He kept it safe, right?

Today, we had a Paulist priest celebrate Mass with us, Fr. Costanza. He said a beau…

Let's Not Be Rash

The past few weeks, I've been battling a skin rash.

This is nothing new for me. Dealing with allergies my entire life, and having sensitive skin, hives are a pretty common occurrence.

One day when I was about 8 or 9, we'd been picking strawberries at my Aunt Doris'. I was rewarded with a bowl of strawberries. Sitting at my aunt's dining room table, I dug in.

"Stop."

My mom reached over and told me to stop eating. She could see that I was breaking out in hives as I ate. And that ended my ability to eat strawberries.

Strawberries: God's gift to the world of fruit. I mean: such decadence! Eat 'em plain, throw 'em in champagne, dip them in chocolate. And I'm allergic.

I joke that one of my first questions upon entering Heaven will be, "Hey, God. How come I couldn't be allergic to Brussel sprouts?" And I'm hoping that at this point, strawberries and cream will be served.

Right now, I've had a rash on my arms and legs. It'…

The Resonance of Teaching

I'm pretty sure all of us can name one teacher who changed our lives. Perhaps it was a Sunday School teacher, or your 10th grade science teacher or even your piano teacher. Whatever it was, they were the person in the right place at the right time with the right message for your life.

Unless you've been a teacher, you wouldn't know that the opposite is also true. One's students leave indelible marks on the soul of a teacher.  Perhaps this is more true of a religion teacher, as we deal with life and death issues. And while our 15 year old students often stare at us blankly when we mention Purgatory or frankly disbelieve us when we talk about mortal sin, they still listen and absorb and think and ruminate.

I haven't been in a classroom in a few years, but many of my students remain a part of my life, even in a small way. I'm sure they still roll their eyes when I tell them I pray for them, but I do. And I pray harder for some then others. I hope that whatever tr…

Where is my heart? It was just here

Almost 2 decades ago, a dear friend of mine had a baby girl. It had been a rough pregnancy and I tried to make her bedrest at least interesting, with frequent light-hearted mail.

And then: baby girl! That baby became my god-daughter. I wrote her mom a letter about motherhood that, said at one point, "now you'll know what it's like to have your heart walking around outside your body."

I've always thought that line was one of the best descriptions of motherhood (No, I didn't write it.) Your kids, even when they are all grown-up, will always always be at the core of your very being. Even now, as adults, your heart hurts when they do. You wish you could navigate young adulthood for them. You ache when you don't hear from them.

One of my babies, my oldest daughter, decided (with her hubby) to move 800 miles away. It's been so great for both of them, but especially for her: she's matured so much. They are exploring and having fun. I'm so happy for …

I'll just be crying in the bathroom...

Most women will admit to having a crying jag in the ladies' room at work at some point or another. Yesterday was mine.

No, I didn't actually cry in the bathroom, but that is only because of an iron will. And I wasn't sure - for most of the afternoon - whether I wanted to cry or needed to throw up.

I'm on my second week of a new job. Yesterday was a calamity. I felt like I was doing everything wrong, creating more work for me and/or someone else, and doing most things 2 or 3 times. Objectively, I know that nearly everyone has a day like this at a new job. You not only have to do the work you've been assigned, but you have to remember the names of co-workers, who sits where, where the copier is and how to negotiate delicate office issues. (For instance, if the next department over has treats out, can you snag one?)

Objectively, I knew I wasn't in danger of losing my job. Objectively, I know that my co-workers are more than happy to answer questions and help out.

Straggling Towards Sainthood

Jesus told us that the path to Heaven was narrow. I'm sure He meant to add that it's also rocky, dizzying, and disturbingly lonely at times. It reminds me of all my childhood vacations spent lost because Mom couldn't read maps and Dad couldn't follow directions.

Earlier this week, I was so sad. I was talking myself out of bed in the mornings. I couldn't come up with any good reasons to get going in the morning. No job, no money, nobody to care for: couldn't I just spend one day in bed? Deep down, I know that "just one day in bed" would become a habit, and not a good one.

We all get knocked off our feet by life. A spouse dies. A child moves away. We get sick. A friend has cancer.

"That's not fair! This is not what I bargained for!"

It's easy to look at the lives of others and imagine they "have it easy." Perhaps it's a friend or family member who has loads of money, and a life punctuated by fabulous travel and a gorgeou…

Some Franciscan Thoughts on the Feast of St. Francis

St. Francis of Assisi has a lot going for him. He's hugely popular with kids, mainly because of his affinity for animals.

He certainly was a rebellious young man, which can appeal to teens. He also had big hopes and dreams for himself, something most young people can understand.

He was in great physical pain much of his adult life. Those of us in that stage of the game know what it's like to hurt so badly and ... still get out of bed and do what needs to be done.

First and foremost, Francis loved Jesus. Whether it was the simple love of an eccentric mystic or the grounded love from which grew a mighty order of men and women service God, there is Francis.

That love, Franciscan author Ilia Delio, is central to understanding Francis and ultimately Christ.

We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ; rather, it means becoming the image of th…

Extra helpings of humble pie

One of my favorite saint stories is about St. John Paul II. At one point (says biographer George Weigel) the pope had to call a young priest in the Vatican to his office. The pope had the task of reprimanding the young man for some error that went beyond an "oops" but was rather an error in judgment and conduct.

After the pope finished, he stood and walked from behind his desk. He knelt in front of the young priest and said, "Now, will you hear my confession?"

Humility.

Fr. James Farfaglia likes a definition from St. Teresa of AvilaShe said that humility is living in the truth ("andar en la verdad").

This makes sense. If we are pompous, we are not living in the truth. If we see others as "less than," we are not living in the truth. And if we believe ourselves to be horrid and ugly and unlovable, we are not living in the truth.

 If humility is the virtue, pride is the vice. When we act pridefully, we place ourselves in higher esteem than others…

Families And the Ties That Bind

A number of years ago, I interviewed for a job. When I was hired, the guy who would be my boss told me: "We will treat you just like family." I hesitated. I mean, no matter how a great a family is, there are some bumps in the road. If you're from an Irish family, being treated like family can mean anything from getting terrific gifts for your birthday to getting un-invited from a reunion because you forgot your 2nd cousin's anniversary.

In our family, we've had a couple of small weddings in the past few years. Typically, our family weddings are all-out bashes, sending out invitations to everyone from Mom's great aunt Clodagh to your cousin, his wife and their 10 kids.

Smaller weddings are certainly understandable. It's expensive. A lot of our family members are footing the bill themselves, rather than relying on Mom and Dad. And, honestly, some of our family members don't know each other too well. If you're trying to be frugal, the guest list has…

Family Dinner (and why there is a kitten on my head)

With our kids now grown (one at home), it became obvious to me this past year that unless we made a specific effort to be together, it wasn't gonna happen. Thus was born Family Dinner.

It's simple: we host dinner the last Sunday of every month. Bring a date, bring a friend but be there. Dear Hubby likes to cook, so it's win-win. And the kids responded. It's became rather sacred to all of us: "Oh, sorry. I can't. That's Family Dinner."

We hosted a Special Edition Family Dinner yesterday, as Curly-Haired Daughter is home for a family wedding next weekend. As Hubby laid-out a roasted pork loin dinner, I was happy to have the table set and extended, a couple of extra chairs rounded up, and kids surrounding us.

Our "entertainment" was the newest edition to the family, a tiger-striped kitten named Galway Girl. She has yet to learn that the table is not a playground. Her preferred sleeping spot is either my shoulder or the top of my head. Who know…

What to do at the end of your rope? Hold on tight and cry.

In some ways, things are looking up. Curly-Haired daughter is home for about 10 days, as she is matron of honor for her cousin. Esther, her cousin, is 90 lbs. of dynamite. She's a bit off-beat, and the wedding is going to be a bit off-beat, but I'm still excited for her.

I've got a job! I'm keeping it a bit low-key as I interviewed for another position Friday. I'm 99% sure they are going to offer me a job, and I don't want them to read about me taking another job on Facebook. More on the job and the process of getting there later.

I'm also going to be doing some freelance writing for extra money. Busy girl.

Yet, with all this, my heart is filled with dread. Our bank account is in the negative numbers - 14 weeks of my being unemployed has added up. Our expenses have not increased (and in some ways, they've decreased) but here is the sad fact: we can't pay our rent this month. We honestly could be evicted. I've hit up a couple of people for a loa…

BE something or DO something?

As my anxious mind was over-working itself in the wee hours of the morning, I was interspersing worry with prayer. "God, what do you want me to DO? Three months of job searching and I still don't know what you want me to DO!"

We like to DO. We want to be busy and to contribute and to look back and feel accomplished. But that often isn't what it needed, necessary or good.

A dear friend is sitting vigil with his mother right now. She is dying of cancer. I've been there. At some point in the care of the loved one, the discussions move from "what do we do" to just being. There isn't anything we can DO in the dying process - God calls us to simply BE with our loved one. And anyone who thinks this is easy or not helpful or not unsettling has never done it.

In Genesis, Jacob/Israel wrestles with "a man" whom Biblical scholars say is God. When the man tells Jacob to let go, Jacob refuses. He won't let go until he gets a blessing. Now, if this …

A change in perspective

I'll admit it: I was getting a bit frantic in my job search. SEND OUT ALL THE RESUMES! SOMEONE HIRE ME!

Kinda like that. It wasn't good.

Providentially, I went away for the weekend to visit a friend. It was only supposed to be an overnight trip, but I was so relaxed and enjoying the company so much...I stayed. (Just as I was discussing this with my friend, Dear Husband sent me a text to say, "Stay another night if you need to." He really is the best.)

My friend and I actually stayed with her aunt and uncle, as my friend was visiting from out of state. I enjoy their company as well. They have a beautiful home and quite a collection of art. I feasted with my eyes.

I should probably mention that my friend's family are news and political junkies. They lean hard left; I don't. Watching MSNBC for HOURS: yikes! I do find this whole thing quite entertaining, though.

And then there was the Gospel this weekend: Who do you say that I AM?

It would seem that God is tryin…

In the midst of craziness

While my life just feels like my life, I am constantly reminded that others don't view it as "normal."

In the past couple of weeks, I've had not one, not two, but three friends who know me well explain the exact same thing to me. I start complaining about not being able to find a job. Each one of them - at different times and settings - said, "Elise, you have had a horrible two years. So much loss! God just wants you to rest."

I'm slow. It took three times. Ok, I promise: I'm trying to rest. Relax. Read. Pray. And not get TOO hung up on the job hunting.

We had a family get-together a few weeks ago for a nephew's 40th birthday. Lotsa fun, food and little kids running around on a perfect summer day. One of my nieces, whom I don't get to see very often, asked where my hubby was. He had a soccer tournament that day. She asked how he was. I told him that he was busy - being an engineer by day and soccer coach at night.

I also told her that he…

I'll just be over here...waiting...

Most people will tell you, I believe, that they are not patient. Certainly none of us likes waiting. Check out the folks in any urgent care center: Why haven't I been called? Hey, that guy came in after us!

Some of us are so impatient we pull out our phones at red lights, hoping to kill a few seconds.

And if one prays for patience (a dangerous prayer!), God will most certainly give one plenty of opportunities to grow in patience. 'Cause he's like that - more like a dad than a genie in a bottle.

We all know that patience is a virtue. We're happy to remind other people of this, but we certainly don't want to hear it when we have to wait.

I am no more patient than anyone else. I'm often more prepared: I'll bring a book or knitting if I know I'm going to be stuck in a waiting room for any length of time. But this doesn't make me more patient, just less bored.

I have now been without a job for just over 16 weeks. 115 days.

Oh, I've had interviews. I…

The weight, the darkness of our Hinterlands

I've been watching "Hinterlands" - a BBC show on Netflix. It follows Tom Mathias and his detectives as they solve murders in rural Wales. (Really, really rural.)

Mathias, the lead character, is a man being crushed by the weight of guilt and sin in his life. It has forced him to live alone, in a shabby trailer. When he's not working, he's running - literally.

The whole tone of the show is dark. A woman who knows she works too much, but still tries to reach out to her teen daughter. A wife who knows of an affair between her husband and sister, the pain of which drives her mad in a way that Shakespeare would have been proud to write. "Home" for these people is not a sanctuary, despite the glorious scenery. No, home is truly the hinterland, "an area lying beyond what is visible or known."

Mute and silent before the wicked,
I refrain from good things
But my sorrow increases;
my heart smolders within me.

The notes for Psalm 39 tell us that this lamenta…

Whispering "Dream Big"

For reasons to complicated to explain, I found myself in the ER waiting room today. This particular hospital is the one in our area that gets many homeless guests, so the waiting was at least interesting.

The ER entrance for folks off the street features security guards. You have to pass GO before you even check in.

A mother with three children came in. She was tiny; her daughter (whom I'd put at about 10) was already taller than mom. The family was Hispanic. There was also a doctor entering at about the same time - a lovely lady with a wide smile and wooden clogs (You're gonna do a 12 hour shift in wooden clogs??)

The family stopped to speak to the security guard, and it was clear that one of the boys served as translator for Mom. The doctor paused, listened, and then entered.

Mom went to the desk to check in; she had to wait for a few other people before her.

The doctor went swinging down the hall, then stopped and came back. She went over to the three children, who had tak…

Be Transfigured

From today's readings: 

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the and his clothes became white as light.

...we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Today we celebrate the Transfiguration. For whatever reason, Jesus brought three of His disciples to Mount Tabor to witness this miracle. They weren't sure what they were seeing, but they knew enough to throw themselves to the ground in the presence of Almighty God. St. Peter (who never did anything halfway) excitedly declares that he will erect tents on the mountain as a way of memorializing the event. But Jesus tells him and the others that they are not to tell people what they witnessed - at least not yet.

In the second reading, the requirement to be quiet has bee…

Mea Culpa and Updates

Sorry I've been MIA from the blog. I've had a number of things going on.

The first has been the job search. Yes, it's been two months since I lost my job AND I'M STILL LOOKING. I have a second interview for a position on Monday, and am continuing to pray for God's will.

I will look forward to getting rid of all the job search bookmarks and emails. However, they have been a source of much amusement. Most of these tell you they will send you job updates and openings that are "tailored" to your background, experience, etc.

Why am I getting job alerts for hi-lo drivers? What about me says, "social worker?" Geez....

I have been chief chauffeur for-t dark-haired daughter, who is working part-time. It's been great for her, but I'm hoping to work out transportation for her, should I get a full-time job.

If you need prayers, head over to Broken Mary. This site tells the story of a friend of mine, Kevin Matthews and of Broken Mary. Kev is a praye…

Ain't No Hollaback Girl!

Some of you may recognize the title here today. It's from Gwen Stefani. You don't need to check out the song or the video (both a little raunchy), but know this: Gwen is speaking for a lot of girls and women, saying: "I'm a lot tougher than you give me credit for. In fact, meet me after school at the track, and I"ll show you. I'm not going to yell beck you, 'cause I ain't no hollaback girl."

When I was in about 2nd grade, there was a boy who delighted in tormenting me on the playground. One time, he put his head down, and made a running start, hitting me square in the stomach. I was home for a few days, feeling ill. Finally, my mom (one of the gentlest people I've ever known) told me, "Bullies are really cowards. They only pick on you if you let them. When you go back to school, you clean that boy's clock."

(As an aside, this was 35 years ago. It was an age of simplicity and wonder. At school, you still COULD clean a kid's …

On giving up dreams and having your skin ripped off

One of my nieces sent me this video of a Liberty University Convocation address a few years back. The speaker is Phil Vischer.

Who, you may ask?

You may not know the name, but you most certainly know his work. He's the creative genius behind Veggie Tales. (Let's all sing a little of "Oh, Where Is My Hairbrush?")

Mr. Vischer is certainly one of the best known animators ever. He certainly was very financially successful.

Until he wasn't. (Go ahead; watch the video. It's worth your time.) Let me just say that Mr. Vischer found out that his plans and God's were wildly divergent.

At one point, Mr. Vischer references this passage from C.S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  Eustace - a very unlikable boy - was changed into a dragon. He finally, after a very miserable time as a dragon, allowed Aslan to help him:


Then the lion said — but I don’t know if it spoke — You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was …

Don't open that door!

Growing up, my older sister had a "Mystery Date" game. I have no recollection of how it was played, only that, at the end of the game, you had to open the door to reveal your date. You wanted to get one of the handsome guys, dressed for a day at the beach or a formal dance. You lost if you got the "dud."

My other memory of this is that my sister rarely let me play the game, as I was "too young." This meant I had to sneak into her room and play by myself. I guess that was better than nothing. (By the way, I'm sorry,  Michele,  for trespassing.)

Dear Husband and I visited some friends from college a few weeks back. We were discussing all of the traumas I/we have had to deal with over the past year and a half, including losing our house. In many ways, it's been a blessing to have the apartment we found, and being relieved of the burden of too much stuff.

I didn't realize until I was speaking the words out loud, but I really did not like our old …

Looking through the wounds of Christ

I enjoyed lunch with a friend yesterday. I've known her and her husband for some years, and they are both delightful people. However, we rarely see each other, as he is busy with his ministry and teaching, and they live quite a distance. However, they are in Grand Rapids this week, and she reached out to me: Would you like to have lunch? And I did!

In the course of conversation, we spoke of our children - who are all adults now, but our children, nonetheless. My children have had many challenges, and she shared that their youngest was also an addict. They tried all the things you're "supposed" to do, but eventually just had to tell him to leave the house. He chose a treatment facility, and since then has lived what his mother calls a "vagabond life." They occasionally get a phone call, a text, and email. That's it.

Is he clean? They don't know. Is he where he says he is? Shrug.

Then she said a remarkable thing: "I learned that I have to look a…

Be Brave

A few years ago, it came to my attention that a young family member was struggling with anxiety and depression. I was able to share with her a bit of my own struggles, and let her know she wasn't alone.

A few weeks after our talk, I saw the movie, "Brave." It struck me that the young protagonist, Merida, modeled a great quality. She was indeed brave.

Being brave is not about recklessness. It is not about confidence. It's not about being foolish, or looking for glory in the eyes of others.

Bravery is about doing what is right, even when you are a quivering mess. It's about knowing that things may not turn out the way you expected, but forging ahead anyway. Being brave is standing by the hospital bed while a loved one is dying, and all you really want to do is turn back time. Bravery is standing up to a bully, when your legs are screaming for you to run. Brave is doing what needs to be done even when you're scared and tired and feeling helpless and hopeless.

I …

Old men with a lot of money say selling children for sex is fun and profitable!

I realize the title of this post is quite blunt. Trust me, it's much nicer than the ads you'll find online on Craigslist and Backpage. There, you can order up your choice: a 15 year old virgin? Sure! Want to spend some time with a 12 year old dressed in lingerie? No problem.

I know it seems incredible, and the thought of such a thing makes most of us want to turn away. Disgust. Horror. How can this be?

Please watch the movie, "I Am Jane Doe." You'll get a front row seat to the battle that is raging in our courts and on our computers. You'll hear from victims, parents of victims and attorneys fighting to make sure we are not a nation that tolerates the sale of children for the sexual proclivities of adults. You'll even hear from a former pimp who helps law enforcement by educating them about pimps. (I'm sure this man cut a deal with some court. He made my blood run cold.)

Who will you NOT hear from? The old white guys who live in big houses, who may n…

Just hangin' out

I'm trying to remember when I had time to work. Honestly, I've been so busy!

Dear Husband and I spent the weekend Chicago-way to celebrate the birthday of a dear friend. She's a foodie, and we got to experience this incredible restaurant. (I had a goat cheese tart I refused to share.) We spent most of the weekend just hangin' out. And that was just fine.

I really have been busy. Dark-haired daughter just got a job, and we are navigating the early days. I've been chauffeur. And that is just fine.

The State of Michigan has wanted some of my time, re' unemployment. Actually, that was just fine: the lady that helped me today was very pleasant and helpful. Not what one expects from a government employee...

I'm helping a friend promote his book, Broken Mary, and his website. He is actually a former DJ, who was on a local rock station for many years; Dear Husband and I were big fans. Now, he's moved on (not necessarily willingly!) to a different role: helping…

Time is getting short

''I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear: I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go. 

Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever. 

Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.'' ~ BrenĂ© Brown

Trauma Mama

Dear Husband and I both enjoy certain medical shows, such as "ER" and "Code Black." ("St. Elsewhere" was another fave!) These shows revolve around trauma: humans who'd been ambushed by life: a car accident, a fire, and abuse, as examples.

More often than not, these shows also highlight the trauma the doctors and nurses needed to deal with. Having a patient die is always offensive to a doctor: they are charged with saving lives and losing one is the ultimate failure. Nurses spend more time with patients, and can forge strong bonds with people that may be in their lives for just a few days.

But trauma doesn't always look like a bloody body being wheeled into an emergency room, or a house surrounded by fire trucks and police cars. Trauma comes in many forms.

According to one website, trauma can look like surgery. It can look like moving. Trauma can be losing a beloved spouse or more horrifying, a child. Trauma can also be chronic pain, loneliness, m…

Be still

Be still. Rest.

Those are the two thoughts that came to me at Adoration yesterday. As you may have guessed, being "still" is not one of the weapons I usually carry. Blessed to be Irish, "still" just isn't there. "Talk" - oh, that I can do in my sleep (and often do, as apparently I can't get enough in while I'm awake.)

But "still?"

Several people close to me have suggested this as well. It is a time to rest. So, I will. I've made a mental list of things I've been wanting to do and people I've been wanting to spend time with. And I'm making plans.

But that isn't exactly "still," is it?

No, "still" means quiet. Downtime. Not keeping oneself busy, even with good things. "Still" means to be listening intently, even when it's quiet. "Still" is when the soul opens, the mouth closes and God makes Himself known.

I have writing to do. I'm going to make that a priority. But I …

Time to wander in the forest a bit

My eyes are gritty and my feet are sore. My heart aches for all that had to be left behind. And yes, even as a woman of strong faith, I cry out to Abba, "Why?"

Yes, I know that so many others have suffered far more than I: the Syrian Christians, the people of Turkey, the mother whose child has been hospitalized for more than a year with a rare illness.  Their suffering has been enormous.

Now is one of those times in my life when prayer becomes a gaping yaw. There are often no words, just tears. I cling to my rosary, talking to Mary.

My biggest concern right now is that I have lost all trust in people. My last two jobs, I had bosses who've nurtured and taught me professionally, pushed me when I needed it, were stringent regarding my writing and were so very kind to me.

Until I got booted.

Now, I'm wondering if I can ever trust someone in management above me again. I'll always be second-guessing myself, trying to figure out if what they are telling me is some sort…