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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

This is My Country

The Country I Knew

The country I grew up in was an idyllic place; people cared about each other, and even though we all had differences, they took a back seat to simply being human.

The country I grew up in was deeply religious, and while those without religion were looked upon with a little suspicion, when their homes burned down or if they had an accident and needed help and support in the days, weeks, or even months following, everyone was there to lend a hand with casseroles, hotdishes, housework,  yard work, or just a listening ear. Even more so, people got together to make sure Emergency Services could get to them more quickly if such a tragedy happened again, to anyone.

The country I grew up in had its problems, but those problems were not inflicted upon the children; things that belonged to the world of adulthood were relegated to adults, and those things that belonged to childhood were relegated to children, and the lines did not cross.

The country I grew up in was deeply Patriotic and flags flew from most homes, without harassment from anyone except the local neighborhood ragtag group of delinquents. Whom were always known to be from certain families and tolerated, still treated with respect and told where to go when they needed to be told where to go. They also knew they were under surveillance by pretty much everyone and that kept them in line until they got older, and then they went to California and did what they wanted to do and got murdered. True story.

The country I grew up in had respect for other countries and other beliefs, looked well upon people of good will and encouraged learning languages for the purpose of friendship and communication. Racism was not tolerated in my redneck corner of the world, and although it might have been a very "white" place, certain words were never used and we were taught to treat EVERYONE with respect, no matter how different they were. That went for babies, people of few means, people with "mental retardation" (one of whom actually helped me learn how to ride a bike), those of other races, and those who simply were mean old ladies who regarded everyone around her with suspicion. Respect. Always. Respect and kindness were the keys to the world; the Golden Rule:  "Treat others as you would like to be treated."  Pithy saying, but hard truth. Even if treated badly, don't lose that adage.

The country I grew up in had a spine; our past leaders spoke of "Walking softly but carrying a big stick."  Kindness and respect were important, but that did not mean lying down and allowing oneself to be treated like a doormat. Not personally, not professionally, not in terms of sovereignty

The country I grew up in respected Veterans, celebrated our Patriotism, knew our enemies and made no apologies about it.

The country I grew up in had good education that focused on the foundations of knowledge and prepared students for the real world in matters of reason, language, history, science, reading, music....and many other matters. Even though I grew up in a time of transition, I'm glad to have been there then, when education hadn't been taken over by immoral hacks and the foundation was maybe cracked but still intact. That education gave me a respect for my country and the ability to strive for more.

The country I grew up in encouraged subsidiarity along with solidarity so that no one ever had to fight their battles alone, but could do so with their peers.

The country I grew up in believed in the right to free speech, the right to religious observance, and the right to bear arms....all fundamental rights belonging to the human person under Natural Law and basic common sense, and coherent with the ability to live life, freedom, and pursue happiness.

My Country Now

 The country I live in now is comprised of people who are isolated from each other and even in tight quarters, don't interact very much and differences reign supreme and separate us all.

The country I live in now attacks religion (except for Islam, which it idealizes, which even Muslims think is weird especially given what their terrorist factions have done to this country and the people of the world on our soil.). And now if someone's home burns down or someone suffers a tragedy, no one notices or if they do, they go on record to talk to reporters about the person involved, just to be on TV. Not that they ever knew the person to begin with; and if the person involved was "religious" they are painted as a fanatic of some sort because "that kind of devotion is just not normal."

The country I live in now actively inflicts its problems upon our children, and socially indoctrinates the children in adult issues without the knowledge or permission of the parents, inflicting tough moral inconsistencies upon them while refusing to allow the parents to "opt their children out" of such psychological engineering.

The country I live in now actively works to remove the American flag from the homes of disabled Veterans who gave their hearts, souls, and limbs to protect the freedoms we no longer enjoy.

The country I live in now pampers delinquents and criminals while systematically disarming her legal, law-abiding citizens in the name of "public safety".

The country I live in now looks to the worst decisions and practices of other countries and inflicts it through illegal means upon our sovereignty, against the will of We the People, bringing tyranny to our States while telling us we need to be "tolerant", all while refusing to tolerate our very foundations as a country and the right of the People to be heard, to overcome, and to be save in our homes from the tyranny of the government.

The country I live in now creates situations designed to bring division, instigated by the government, fueled by the biased media, and tolerates no dissent against enforced racism and political division.

The country I live in now advocates the outright legally-imposed slaughter of the most innocent among us; unborn children. Especially those belonging to minorities, evidenced by the fact Planned Parenthood abortion clinics are mostly found in neighborhoods with a high demographic of races who are not white, all planned by racist Gloria Steinem, and our government is still saying that this is a good idea and even with an African president, killing his own children, he is being adored. This is the country I live in, killing her children in the name of...what?

The country I live in now is bereft of proper discourse and any disagreement descends into a political and  personal attack, so issues are never properly discussed, but only deflected in hostility. You can see it live on C-SPAN in Congressional hearings right along bi-partisan lines.

The country I live in now pays those serving in the military so little that their families have to live on food stamps in spite of the fact they are serving our country with their very LIVES.  At the same time, "elected" officials are pulling off triple digits FOR LIFE. With no actual risk to themselves other than political lampooning on Saturday Night Live, unless they're Obama Democrats, in which case they're safe from any actual insult.

The country I live in now sells weapons to terrorist nations to be used to murder Christians live on TV, like in Egypt and Syria, just for example. At the same time, my country actively works to disarm loyal citizens who want only to protect themselves and their families from the wolves, yet can't get ammo since it's been confiscated to be sent to Syria to kill Christians.

I live in a country where maybe we can still get guns, but the ammo that makes them useful against home invaders? In Syria and Egypt.

The country I live in now has a very strong citizen population; those of us who have not been compromised by the gospel of obedience to government overlords are wide awake and the knowledge of what's coming makes us lose sleep at night because we know we are no longer protected from the enemy, for the enemy is WITHIN our borders, and has been actively ELECTED in a fraudulent vote by stymied voters. Twice.

The country I live in now looks for handouts instead of looking for a way to work for a living, looking instead for the government to "save" us, even though we're now a sinking ship in an ocean of immorality and deception.

The country I live in now stymies free speech in the name of "tolerance", stymies the free practice of religion in the name of "birth control" and "tolerance", and stymies the right to bear arms in the name of "public safety" even though lawful citizens are already sacrificing for the safety of all, all ready to put themselves in harm's way in order to protect their own family or any innocent person.

The country I live in has criminalized the People and has made us all an enemy of the State, simply for being...Citizens of These United States.

We the People may still be Citizens, and this may still be the Home of the Brave, but we are no longer the Land of the Free.

The country I live in now hasn't geographically changed, but this country is no longer the one to which I was born. And it's time for We the People to take it back. 

Monday, July 01, 2013

After a Long Absence/ On A Path Finally Taken

These beauteous forms, Through a long absence, have not been to me As is a landscape to a blind man's eye: But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din Of towns and cities, I have owed to them In hours of weariness, sensations sweet, Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart; And passing even into my purer mind, With tranquil restoration:--feelings too  Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps, As have no slight or trivial influence On that best portion of a good man's life, His little, nameless, unremembered, acts Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust, To them I may have owed another gift, Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood, In which the burthen of the mystery, In which the heavy and the weary weight Of all this unintelligible world,  Is lightened:--that serene and blessed mood, In which the affections gently lead us on, 
~ "Lines", William Wordsworth 

 Greetings, my dear friends.

I apologize for the long absence, but in life things change, and it's entirely possible this blog has come to an end. It has been a labor of love, a labor of defiance at times, and, for long time readers, an obvious catharsis. It is perhaps because of this blog and time away in prayer and reflection that has helped to open another door in my life.

As an update, at this time I am not considering religious life, and believe that door to be closed. I fully believe Our Lord called me to deeply discern that Call, but in the end, He desired only that I say yes, and be willing, even though He has not allowed my own response to be possible. Although I am saddened in some ways, in others I realize it simply means He calls me on to other adventures, and this is glorious for God always knows where our true happiness lies. It means I continue on, the pilgrim that I am, perhaps now going into "special ops" mode in the spiritual sense of the word. By this I do not imply extreme holiness (since I have no where near achieved it), only, rather, deeper adventure, deeper mission, more covert and hidden operations in my heart and soul than can be shared with the great unknown ocean that makes up the internet world.

In this time of absence here, though, I have been working. It was as if a dam broke, and after a couple years of no interest in writing, I have, in just the last couple months, written one book and am half-way through the sequel, perhaps of a trilogy.

A couple months ago while doing some "nothing" reading, suddenly an old idea clicked in my mind and the story and characters have come to life. I have a couple dear friends who are  helping me with this project, providing support and even professional editing assistance, connecting me with resources (including people to interview) for research purposes, and even more amazingly, God has connected me with a very holy priest who also writes fiction (so far unpublished as he has not sought it yet), who has become the kind of friend every Catholic writer needs.

Just today I spoke with him about story development, and he commented on the recently deceased author Vincent Flynn (Rest in Peace) who was a faithful Catholic who lived what he believed. He noted that Flynn allowed the characters to have "free will", and this is a mark in Catholic writing. Writing is of course an art, and as Catholics, if we are faithful, if we allow God to work through us, even in works that are not religious in nature, our faith shines through.

The books I am writing are not "Catholic" in the religious sense. They are simply stories about people, they are adventure, thriller, action, and romance. They are merely human drama....yet, is there anything "mere" about the drama in the average human life? I'm not speaking here of emotional angst, but some of the deepest yearnings of the human soul, which often play out in ways that seem superficial.

As an aside....

This is why we have fiction. Our very souls are laid out nakedly in fiction; it's why we are drawn to it, identify with characters that do not exist, and engage with a story that never happened. One theologian, I believe it was Fr. Thomas Dubay, once observed that our engagement with a story in which that story comes to life in our imaginations, bringing us directly into it, is actually like a state of contemplative prayer. It is NOT the same thing, but it reveals our ability to engage all of our senses and abilities; and if we can do that with mere fiction, it also indicates we can do so even more deeply, more completely, in communion with God.  I would suggest, therefore, that reading good fiction may very well be a preparation for prayer and help us engage more deeply; that is, if we read the right things.

Moving on...

Getting back to the main point of this post, I haven't been writing a religious work, yet I found, when I completed the first draft, that Catholic themes are present. I cannot write what I do not believe. I can create characters who don't share my beliefs, and I can establish themes and content, but in the end, who I am as a Catholic is still imprinted upon the characters and within the story. Themes of sin, of redemption, forgiveness, sacrifice and eternal union arise in ways that are perhaps unexpected.

In writing seriously, I have found that my characters do truly have "free will", for they don't match what I want them to do, but seem to have minds of their own. Characters I'd like to see go down one path, in an interaction with another character choose a different one...and somehow, details emerge about the importance of the deviation from what I, the author want.

I have found, thanks to brief conversations with my priest friend, that I now have the ability to go back in this work of revision, looking with different eyes at where the free will of the characters emerge, for none of them are clones of me. They don't act as I do, they don't respond as I do. Nor do I want them to do so.

My friend today pointed out that this act of writing is an act of co-creation with God, in allowing the characters to develop, to become who they are and not necessarily what I originally envisioned them to be. It is humbling to think of it in those terms, yet his comments hearken back to the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, revealing the proof of God's existence as the First Mover. A painting points to an artist, and the brush held by the artist, and in any given creation, God is that artist. A book points to the pen and the author, but then, who created the author?

Any truth points to God, if it is really true.

Whether or not my book will be published, I can't say. Although the first draft of the first book is complete, and I've done a read-through and minor correction with the second draft (typos, minor things), the third draft is in deep progress and will take time and additional research as I await one of my  important contacts to come back into the country to be available to assist with special-ops information. (non-classified) ;-)

It's amazing how many people I've already had to involve in just writing the first draft, and now I understand the litany of thanks given in any published book, for no author acts alone or anonymously.

So with that, dear readers, I thank you for the prayers and sacrifices you have offered me over the last several years, and beg for more in this new endeavor (and always for my Vocation, whatever it may be as I enter middle age).

It's entirely possible this blog is not at an end, however, I likely won't be writing much here any more. I can say that perhaps there will be other updates and other actions of God that prompt me to add another post, but maybe the "Tales of Adoro" are largely at an end since the original purpose of this blog has fallen into oblivion.

Thank you for coming with me on this journey, and, God willing, it will continue albeit in a direction I never really expected.

God bless you all, and thank you. From the bottom of my heart and the core of my soul, thank you.

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
 ~ "The Road Not Taken", Robert Frost

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Caged Bird Finally Sings

It's been years. Years upon years since I last sang.

Time takes a toll on the voice, and for so long, I was actually afraid to sing. Afraid that I'd go back to my "diva" attitude which was actually completely unintentional from the start.

But one day at Mass, the choir was so beautiful and I was so taken up into prayer by that beauty that I knew it was finally time to sing again. As if it were a direct message from God, that day at the end of Mass there was an announcement that they were looking for choir members.  My heart rose and crashed at the same time; I am not available, ever, for their regular practice time. I couldn't join the choir.

In hope, though, I approached the Music Director, introduced myself and explained that I wanted to sing, used to cantor long, long ago, and that I couldn't join the choir. Might she have a place for me?

Just then a friend of mine passed by and we greeted each other. She agreed immediately (never having ever heard me sing) that I could Cantor with her. I urged the MD to "audition" me, insisting I might not be good enough. I know full well I don't have the range I used to possess and I, like everyone else, loathe bad cantors who don't know when to step down.

In our culture of entitlement and "self-esteem", far too many people are doing things they simply don't have the gifts to actually carry out.

My first rehearsal with my friend went well and our voices blended well together. That weekend as we sang together, it was beautiful, if not perfect (on my part).  The sound guy approached us afterwards and said he couldn't tell us apart, and expressed that he hoped we'd often sing together for that Mass.

It was a good start, and I was happy.

Tonight I sang again. But this week's rehearsal in preparation didn't go well and I know well my voice is not up to par. Not yet. For all I know, maybe not ever. But the Music Director didn't seem concerned, and I remained grateful to be able to sing with someone else; a friend who is much better than I am!  I knew that I could back off if I couldn't hit the note. She could.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to rehearse together this week, so I let her take all the solo parts. Even though I practiced them, and in fact, because I practiced them, I realized I simply couldn't do it. She was gracious and offered me these solos, but I turned them down in good conscience, out of a desire that the liturgy be beautiful.

Back in High School when I cantored, I admit I reveled in being a soloist. I loved it! Especially considering that I hadn't learned until Jr. High sometime that I actually had a good voice. To put it to use was amazing! And to receive accolades, however informal, was more amazing still!

All of us grow up, though, and having been away from the Church, and from singing for a very long time, I now come back with a different attitude.

First, I don't have the voice I had then, so there is cause for very conscious humility. (And that is NOT an oxymoron!). Secondly, I now know quite well what the Mass is about and Whom is to be honored, and it ain't me!'s a privilege to be able to sing, to Cantor the Mass. To truly pray, in song, the Mass in leading the other worshippers in those prayers.

I've learned that time takes a toll on the voice, but it tempers the soul, and as imperfect as I am, it is good to know that perhaps I still have something to offer. Maybe it's not that pretty right now, and maybe it never will be. But it's something, it's adequate and thank God that He is giving me the chance once again to sing for Him.

Thank you, Jesus.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

In Tribute to Pope Benedict XVI

Today, Pope Benedict XVI stepped down from Office and has entered a monastic life of prayer for the Church. In Tribute, Catholic bloggers everywhere are joining in with Ironic Catholic in posting our favorite paragraphs or quotes from the Holy Father's writings.

There are so many, but even as he left, Pope Benedict XVI gave us a message of hope, and leaves to go into a life of prayer, so I think it fitting to share with you one of my favorite passages as a highlight of his own lived belief and experience, advice and wisdom offered from the heart of God to us:

I. Prayer as a school of hope 
 32. A first essential setting for learning hope is prayer. When no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, I can always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone to help me deal with a need or expectation that goes beyond the human capacity for hope, he can help me. When I have been plunged into complete solitude ...; if I pray I am never totally alone. The late Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan, a prisoner for thirteen years, nine of them spent in solitary confinement, has left us a precious little book: Prayers of Hope. During thirteen years in jail, in a situation of seemingly utter hopelessness, the fact that he could listen and speak to God became for him an increasing power of hope, which enabled him, after his release, to become for people all over the world a witness to hope—to that great hope which does not wane even in the nights of solitude.
~ Spe salvi, 32

Thank you, dear Holy Father, for reminding us that even when we think we are alone, the reason for our hope is God who will never leave us totally alone for we can always talk to Him, and he never fails to speak to us.

Friday, February 22, 2013


Tonight while preparing my dinner, I was engaged in the very simple task of cutting celery to go into an egg salad sandwich. Suddenly, in the midst of that I was taken back to a time in my teens, when I was lithe and active, hopeful and had the world at my feet. It seemed a random moment and was unfortunately fleeting, for I can't even recall exactly what the memory was about and why cutting celery lead to it.

I returned to the TV to watch one of my favorite shows and was taken again by one of the characters on it who, this time, reminded me strongly of an old neighbor. Perhaps it's a night for nostalgia, so I gave myself over to the bittersweet memories.

Back Down Home

As a child living in a little country neighborhood, we knew everyone and everyone knew us, and I had carte blanche permission to visit those who surrounded us. In some ways, I was like Scout in Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird". I innocently ran around the neighborhood, tomboy that I was, shy that I was, but comfortable in my own skin and with my own people; that to include those who flanked our property.

I'll never forget (I hope!) those hot, humid summer days when I took a break from play to visit the lady next door, Ethel. Sometimes I'd ask if I could go see her, sometimes I'd just go. I'd run around the fence line and up their drive, sometimes pausing to pick up a pine cone or other interesting artifact to present from the enormous pine tree that graced their front yard. The gravel crunched under my feet, ending at the faux grass runner that finished the walk up to the permanent screened porch addition that graced their trailer.

At first I would knock on that outer door and Ethel would answer, but over the years (or so it seemed to me, being so young) that eventually went to a verbal invitation from far inside to a permanent invite to come in to the cooler shade to knock on the inner door and receive the formal invite to bask in the air-conditioned inner sanctuary. We didn't have air conditioning and it was a treat to be invited into such a cool, refrigerated place in the height of the Illinois summer!

Ethel would be sitting in her favorite chair and always exclaim over my visits. She'd ask about my day, how Mom and Dad were doing, how my brother was doing (before I was in school) and sometimes he'd even be with me.  Most often, I think I went alone, although my brother might tell a different tale. He may have his own to share.

In any case...

She'd always offer a piece of candy from her ever-present dish, so much like our Grandpa, and the same kinds:  root beer barrels, cinnamon candies, butterscotch, chewy Neapolitan coconut candies, chewy caramel swirls, strawberry candies with a chewy inside, or fresh hard peppermints or spearmint. We'd never ask for a candy, because Mom taught us that this was rude, and Ethel knew that. Sometimes she'd offer right away, sometimes she'd wait. If the day was hot she'd offer ice water or lemonade, if it was a cold winter day, she'd have hot chocolate with marshmallows. But we never left without a piece of candy there and a piece to take with us "to remember to come back to visit me."

Ah, she was a dear lady! Sometimes her husband Abe was there, too, but as I recall he sickened and died. After that, although we didn't understand death at the time, Mom encouraged us to go visit Ethel when we could because "she could use the company."

And always, always, she was happy to see us. Sometimes she would see me out playing in the summer as I ran alongside our house, and she would call to me through the screen to "come on over, I have something for you!". And she'd have a doll or a trinket and always a piece of candy from her dish and perhaps something to take to Mom. Or maybe she'd ask me to get something from Mom to bring to her.

In looking back, I see now that what she was really seeking was the joy of childhood, because she remembered being a child, too. She recalled playing in the yard, the bright days of summer, and lived in her later years partaking vicariously through us and our own tales of adventure. I know she watched out for us and we knew their house was always a safe one if we needed help.

Ethel never failed to scold if we'd done wrong, and never, ever stopped loving. Most of what I recall about her is her love and her joy.

I don't remember saying goodbye to her. When we moved, we didn't understand permanent goodbyes, and sad to say, I don't know when she died.  I don't even know if I ever so much as sent a postcard to my dear friend.

But I do know this: I know the happiness and friendship Ethel brought to my life and my family back then, and I'm beginning to understand the happiness that perhaps my brother and I brought to hers, especially after her dear husband Abe passed away. I understand why she so welcomed us into her home and her life, and why she always kept the candy around to offer as part of her regular sense of hospitality. We never let her be lonely, and she repaid the favor as best she could to everyone around her.

My brother and I traveled back to our old neighborhood last summer, only to see Abe and Ethel's lot taken over by the same people who bought our house. I didn't expect anything so different, but am sometimes still overcome by the sadness from knowing that one can never really go back and reclaim those beautiful days that live on in our memories. The people we love pass away in this lifetime and we often live with the regret that comes from knowing we let a friendship go, maybe out of necessity or circumstance, but it never stops hurting. Nor should it. Not really.

Tonight, the simple task of cutting celery for egg salad took me back to a happier time in my life, perhaps because of the deprivation brought to me by being sick in the past week. When we are deprived of what we are accustomed to enjoy, we tend to take it for granted. Tonight, for the first time in a week, I could finally taste real flavors, but instead of ruminating on food, God has taken back to a memory of love and sacrifice "down home".

When it comes down to it, food and flavor are NEVER really about food, but about the love that sets the food before us and which we share together out of that very same love.

Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, 
Through Christ Our Lord, 

Rest in peace, Abe and Ethel. Thank you for your love and your friendship. And the candy!

Long Lost...Back Again?

Greetings and Salutations to my long-lost readers! I the long-lost blogger?

In any case, thanks for hanging in there, welcome to new followers, and let me just say I hope to resurrect this ol' gal.

So here we are in the midst (well still the semi-beginning) of the Lenten season, and we've all been hit with the shocker of our beloved Holy Father's impending departure from the Papacy. It truly gives us all something to pray about and for as the conclave nears once again, and offer our Lenten sacrifices for the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the good of the Church.

I don't know about you, but right on schedule, God chose a sacrifice for me since I'm still awful with sticking to my own chosen sacrifices. That's right: I got the flu. Which always happens when I receive the St. Blaise blessing.

This time, though, I think I've avoided bronchitis but it's not over yet so who knows what joyful sacrifice God still has in mind for me to make this year?  I've been sick all week, went to work yesterday and had to leave - just couldn't make it for very long. Came home to nap, brought work home with me, and this morning we're dealing with a snowstorm. It's not horrible but you all know how it is: when you feel awful or just plain exhausted from being sick, the last thing you want to do is head out onto bad roads. I emailed my boss to ask if I could work from home today, and go in tomorrow.

My fear is that she may say I HAVE to go to the Dr. and get a note since I've been out most of the week. However because I went in yesterday and am sorta flip-flopping days off, I might be able to avoid that requirement. Thank you God for a flexible work schedule since I can't afford to go to the Dr. who will only tell me to do what I've been doing:  chicken broth, garlic, lots of fluids like tea, orange juice, water, sleep, lay low, OTC meds, and laying low. We all know how it goes. So...pray for me y'all and I'll offer this particular suffering for you.  (I should add that's a guarantee on my part, whether you pray for me or not!)

Today, because I'm home, am having a mini-retreat and may actually post some of my work, depending on how it progresses. Be well, my friends, be prayerful, and be holy as your Father in Heaven is Holy.

Blessed Lent to you all!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Forgetting About God's Love

I've been going through a long period of spiritual dryness, struggling in prayer and still trying to wade through my days at work. Certainly I have continued to pray, especially the rosary (some days that's all I could really manage), and work in the Lord's vineyard.

Perhaps a side-effect of working within the Church is "being there" for others, preaching about how God loves them, struggling to love others even in their worst moments, and, well, this kind of thing takes a toll.

Today at Mass I received the answer to what has been ailing me. The homily was about Eucharistic Adoration, and because of work, of late I've missed mine a great deal. But this priest, this blessed priest of God gave me a huge reminder as to why we go to Adoration:  because God loves us.

I sat back in my pew, astonished that I'd forgotten such a simple, basic thing. I've been, in my spiritual life, focusing on how I have to love God, and I do love him, and want to love him more. As I listened and pondered and took the priest's words to heart, I realized that in all that loving, all that work, I wasn't at all praying about how God loves me.

This is something I've often struggled with; I've written of it before. But somehow, in the last several stressful months, I forgot that I'm not the one who's supposed to be doing all the "acting". That's God's job. For me to be effective in my work, for my prayer life to bear fruit, to even have a "life", it starts with God's love...for me.

All of us learn to love because we have first experienced love.  John Paul II, in Redemptor hominis, as well as in many other writings, pointed out time and time again, "Man cannot live without love."  Indeed. Everything we are, everything we have, comes from God's love, His very Goodness. If we are to love, we first must know His love. If we do not realize we are loved by God, how can we possibly carry love to others?

We can't. It's as simple as that.

So my advice to you, if you are struggling in prayer as I have been, take some time away from your regular meditations and just BE in God's presence, rest there, and ask Him to reveal to you how much He loves you.  Let him love you for awhile, so that you can learn to love Him more perfectly.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Thank you, my friends, for your prayers.

This week we learned who remains and who had to go. It's been difficult, both in the waiting and in the endings.

As for now, I still have a job. I need to find a new one by next summer, though, and before if possible. Not because I'm being terminated, but because I can't live on nothing over the summer. The bills don't stop coming even though my work hours and paychecks will.

We've had a difficult time and had to say goodbye to people, and that's always hard, especially when it comes so suddenly but with so much anticipation. When we spoke, after the one from our own group was terminated, we found that all of us thought that we'd be the one to go. Our own boss actually, several times, offered her own head so that no one else would have to give theirs. We all, individually, did or expressed the same thing.

We're tight, or we were. Maybe the loss of one makes even tighter. We don't agree politically or even necessarily faithfully (with regard to our Catholic faith), but we work together well, we love and respect each other, we are friends who just lost a very respected co-worker and right now, we're in a sort of mourning.

My friends, know that your prayers for me were also those for our lost co-worker and friend, and know that the Holy Spirit made the decision, and that decision was correct. I can't say why, but it is exactly right, even though knowing that does not lessen our own grief or prayers.

Those of you who have experienced "downsizing" may know what I mean. Please, though, continue your prayers for us and for our intentions...there is much work to be done, and much need of support.

God bless you, and thank you.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Mere Politics?

Recently I had a conversation with a friend who lamented her father leaving the Church because the Pastor in question had gotten too involved in "politics", and he didn't intend on going back until the Pastor in question left.

Interestingly enough, he went to the Lutheran Community down the road, who didn't avoid "politics" but who, it just so happens, had a platform with which my friend's father happened to agree.

Methinks that if one is following a Faith based on politics, one's relationship with God is inherently disordered.

What, you may ask, were the political issues in question?  

 Abortion and Gay "Marriage" of course!

So many people accuse Catholics of bringing Faith into the public square, and condemn us for it. They try to shut us up and send around Facebook Memes designed to shame us into silence. Shame us with profanity into keeping "our beliefs to ourselves."

To those I respond blatantly that since they who are trying to shame us are clearly living their lack of faith so publicly, it gives equal license to we who believe to do the same. We will not be silenced simply because a few people want us to shut up. In fact, we will be more vibrant still, for we CANNOT be silent in the face of injustice.

On the issue of "Abortion", it belongs to the deposit of the Catholic Faith that life is sacred. It belongs to God alone and always has, from the beginning of time. The fact that this issue has for several years now come into the political sphere does not render it political property. We as Catholics believed and advocated the sanctity of life from the very beginning and this is present in the writings of even pagans in observance of the early  Christians (who were only Catholic as there were no other Christian denominations until 1500).

The Other "Political" Issue?

Thanks for asking!

The other "political" issue at hand, at least here in MN, is the push to re-define "Marriage" to include same-sex  couples.

Once again, people of Faith are not being allowed to comment without being shouted down by all sorts of vile accusations.

Why? Because we have logic on our side. The arguments from those who oppose the MN Marriage Amendment argue from emotion, not logic. They argue from mere "feeling" and a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of marriage and the nature of love.

You see, their argument goes something like this (and I used to fall within this belief myself, until I woke up and began questioning the status quo):

* "People should be allowed to love whom they want. No one has the right to tell them they cannot love someone."
*  "How dare someone tell me I cannot be happy?"
* "Telling me I can't marry my same-sex partner is relegating me to second-class citizenship."
*  "You hate me! You're a hater! You're a homophobe!" 

You get the idea. It gets tiresome.

The reality is this: "love" according to cultural definition has NOTHING to do with the nature of marriage. What our culture calls "love" is, in reality, mere lust, mere superficial desire and attraction. It does not desire the eternal good of the other. It does not look beyond this world.

So, to address the first point, people can "love" whom they want. This amendment does not limit freedom of consortium or association. It simply states that such association or consortium does not match the definition of "marriage", which is a union of one man and one woman who are bonded for the ultimate reason of the foundation of society and the upbringing of children in a stable relationship and for the common good.

On the second point, regarding "Happiness", well, don't get me going on that definition. How do you define "happiness"?  I seriously doubt that redefining Marriage to match the definition of "Anything Goes" would really give "happiness" to anyone. No one is being denied "happiness" but for their own personal definition that happens to be temporal and quite transitional. Given the state of "gay marriage" in other states, and the rate of divorce and infidelity, I seriously doubt the MN amendment would do anything other than render more people miserable by definition and give divorce attorneys more of your money.

The charge of relegating same-sex partners to "second-class citizenship" is just plain silly. You see, when compared to slavery and REAL Civil Rights issues, the question was not about the DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE. It was about WHOM was allowed to Marry, and yes, it WAS, back then, a civil rights issue as people were actually not allowed to marry even though under Biblical and natural law it was clearly permitted. Same sex "marriage" on the other hand, simply doesn't exist as it does not meet the basic nature of what marriage has always been and what it intends. A man and a man and a woman and a woman cannot between themselves be fruitful without unnatural intervention. And that unnatural intervention actually opens a whole other Pandora's box as it necessitates the death of many children in vitro. In natural marriage, the miscarriage of a child is a tragedy. In Same-Sex "Marriage" the death of many children is part and parcel to create from a dish, only one child.

On the final inflammatory point, no, I don't hate anyone. I do hate temper tantrums though, and find them to be far less dignified when put on by full grown adults who know better, and I'll treat them in the same way as I treat a child: by ignoring him or maybe, in severe cases, by throwing a glass of ice water on him when he gets to be too loud and tiresome.

I am quite tired of being "hated", however, because I'm Catholic. I'm tired of people accusing me of "not respecting" them. I'm tired of people doing to me what they accuse me of doing to them when I've done no such thing.

I'm tired of the heterophobics and the Catholophobics and am tired of being treated as a second class citizen because I am Catholic. But then again, that's our lot, isn't it? Because we have a LOT to live up to and here is an examination of conscience for all of us who claim to be Christian, no matter what our Faith or Denomination:

From a letter to Diognetus (Nn. 5-6; Funk, 397-401)

"Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.

They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.

Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body's hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Define Irony: Parish Employment and Vocation

I haven't written in a long time about my Vocation because, well, I'm not sure that I have one. Over time I think that's become abundantly clear even to the most casual of readers. Over the last year, although I've wanted to keep the door open, it's one that has been definitively shut.

How do I know?

Because I'm too old, I have way too much debt, and the debt that holds me back isn't educational, but the debt literally created by being paid so little while working for the Catholic Church. I have no hope or even any desire, anymore, of pursuing a Vocation. That's why I haven't written of it. I'm simply...done.

Before you get your undies in a bundle and call me a "liberal", though, or seek to "comfort" me, hear me out because there is irony here, and this is where God reveals part of His hand.  

When I began my employment in a Catholic parish, I was in vocational and Vocational limbo. It fell into my lap and although I had absolutely zero desire to work for a parish, friends encouraged it and even pointed me to the job posting, the only one that gave me an interview. Literally the ONLY one. I even called to speak to the DRE (Director of Religious Education) hoping she'd say that no, I didn't possess the basic qualifications.  Instead, she told me to submit a resume' and cover letter and see where it went. So I did, and when I was bottoming out and ready to give up, they called me for an interview.

I interviewed for the position on the Feast of St. Monica, August 27, 2007.  They called me back exactly five years ago today, on the Feast of St. Augustine, to offer me the job.

I had been praying, incidentally, even before I knew about this particular job, through the intercession of St. Monica and St. Augustine. Because of that, even though I really didn't WANT the job, I had no other options and was at the end of my money. I said "yes" both because of the obvious connections and for practical reasons, even though it was only a 10-month position, with PT hours in the summer.

I thought maybe it would buy me time to find another job, but with an income, no matter how meager, I decided to let God work and see what happened. I had already been accepted to Ave Maria's Institute for Pastoral Theology and thought maybe God would somehow come through in some way.

As it turns out, He did...but not in the ways I expected. 

I suffered three years of coursework while working an irregular schedule, and I am a person who NEEDS structure. As a result, I only graduated Cum laude at the end of the program. I think it's a miracle to have that honor, given what my necessary parish work schedule did to attack my ability to focus on studies, given my own private intellectual needs. (I think I'm borderline ADD). Most of my classmates graduated Summa Cum Laude or above, in spite of their own personal struggles. It was great to be part of such a gifted class of individuals - they taught me so much!

 On topic, though, I can thank a couple of Religious Sisters who came to speak at an event I had to organize, and through their connection to Padre Pio, and through their friendship and invitation, I began to actively discern the Call in the depths of my soul, to seek Our Lord through a Holy Vocation as a Religious Sister. And as a result of prayer, I sought out the contemplative life. Because of many people I have never met and probably never will, I visited three communities, two far from me, requiring airfare.(One was the Motherhouse of the Sisters who got me started). The other was close enough to drive, but that summer, my mortgage was paid by a long-lost friend I had met ONLY because I was working in a parish and we crossed paths at a Youth Event.

It has been the blessed result of my parish employment that both drove and allowed me to pursue God in a way visible to others, and which hopefully, edified them also in their own greatest adventure as a human being.

Yet there is still a dark side. I completed my Master's in Theological Studies, and the grad loans through a secular company, have no mercy. As it was, because I was paid so little through the parish, and not eligible for a raise until I had been there for four years, and because life goes on, my debt has increased. From the beginning, I couldn't even get an oil change without putting it on credit. My car has weird problems and although I paid it off in the last 5 years, just after I did so my car cracked a head. Not a head gasket, but the aluminum head itself, costing me $1800 at an independent shop (far down from the $2700 the Saturn dealership, when it still existed, quoted me).

I've had to buy underwear and socks on credit, and my favorite place to shop is Goodwill these days. Not than anything ever fits and if it does, I still come out looking like I shopped at Goodwill.  By the way...I have always hated shopping with a passion. The reality is that clothing doesn't look good on me, never has, and the only reason I shop is because I'd look worse naked.  Besides, being naked is both offensive to others and just plain immodest, therefore immoral (unless it's proper like, say, in the shower).

Ha! I digress!

So now, 5  years later, I've nearly gone into foreclosure once, was saved by family as a "loan" and'm about to lose my job. 

I'm not supposed to talk about it, but in reality, I have been because I need prayer. I know it's time to move on and my parish is "restructuring" the staff, and our own office of four will be losing two. They (and by "they" I know they are quoting the Business Administrator who is PC to the max) say they are cutting "programs, not people" but we all know it comes down to people. Just call it what it is already! We are not stupid and know that the parish, as a result of people in the pews not contributing, means programs and therefore the people running them, are being fired!

That's life. I'm not even angry about it because it's happening everywhere and I'm one of those Catholics in the pew not contributing because I can't afford it, either. I think I gave $10.00 when I got my tax return or when I was anticipating it. Seriously, over the last 5  years, my contribution statements from my own parish have been humiliating. I'm dead weight upon the Church simply because I work for her and haven't anything to give.

So it is I can't blame the people because they don't know how much the parish is suffering, and well, they don't have the money anyway.

 I don't have the guts to go to the Pastor and offer my head. I've prayed about it and I've struggled with it, but I simply can't just quit, no matter how easy they're making it to do so. I have nowhere to go, and really, quitting a church position is exceptionally difficult because the people with whom we bond become like an extended family.  It's impossible to stay aloof. I have to wait this out and let the chips fall...and then protest if they don't fall where I want.

Amazingly, I want my own head to be chopped here. I don't belong in parish ministry. It's not my calling and I knew it even before I applied. I've been mystified for 5 years, exactly, and just hope that in some way my work has been a benefit to the parish as a whole. Some will be thrilled to see me go. Others will be scandalized. Others may leave because they will see the cuts being made (not because of me) as a total betrayal.

I want to go and think it's time. I hope it's my Pastor who fires me so that I can offer all this to him, for he is in a terrible spot and I don't want him to feel badly. I want him to know, definitively, that he is making this easy for me to go and that it's a serious gift from God.

The scripture I  pondered, all the time in reference to Our Lord was, "To Whom will I go? You have the words of everlasting life!".

God knows what He is doing. I have been there for a reason and would not ever have pursued Jesus at such great lengths had I not been called to work, for a time, in this particular capacity within  our Faith. 

The reality is, though, that parish work has also been my greatest obstacle, both in education and in pursuing my Vocation. The place I want to go (Vocational)  has meetings every month, yet I am required to be at work that very same weekend, so I can't take the time off to go. And there isn't anyone to take my place, nor can I demand that my coworkers cover me as they are also otherwise engaged with work and home demands.

I don't feel badly about losing my parish job, but do beg your prayers. Please pray I can find something, and specifically something in the secular world, where my degree will actually do some good. Please pray that God's will be done, and even though I'm old and have given up, please pray for my Vocation. As long as I have breath in me I have vows to give and long to give them to holiness in some specific and sacrificial way.

Thanks for hanging with me, my dear readers and friends. I guess the adventure continues!

God bless all of you! 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Home Again

This summer has been busy. In July I spent a week studying iconography again, came home for two weeks, and left on a long-awaited road trip with my brother, destination: mid-western family loop.

We grew up in Illinois and moved when we were young, but old enough to consider ourselves as having "grown up" there.

Several years ago, our aunt, our Dad's only sibling and surviving member of his immediate family moved to a home near where we'd lived. We've been wanting to visit, but our respective schedules have been difficult to coordinate. But this happened. Finally.

We left a week ago and arrived to find our stoic uncle working on a project and an ecstatic aunt I haven't seen since my Dad's funeral in 1995, rushing out of the house to greet us. After a whhirlwind few days of conversation and "childhood tourism" we moved on to another state to visit more family, and I haven't had a moment to just rest and pray about what has happened and all that I learned within the bonds of "long-lost" family and home.

I have a lot to ponder about this trip and our visit home but haven't the energy tonight to write all that is in my heart and on my mind.

Please be patient with me while I sort out some of the profound things I have encountered during the last week of visiting family in a few states; I hope to be back to writing again soon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Prayer For the Government

Last week I was on retreat and as Mass was in the Extraordinary Form most days, I  used me St. Andrew Daily Missal.

It was quite providential, then, to discover on page 562, a prayer I'd never heard or seen before, but is so needed in our times. It is abridged from a prayer composed by Archbishop Carroll circa 1800. We should all be praying this every single day and after every single Mass.


We pray Thee, O almighty and eternal God, who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy; that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue, with unchanging faith, in the confession of Thy name. 

We pray Thee, O God of might, wisdom, and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist, with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude, the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides, by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of the Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government; so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge, and may perpetuate to us the blessings of equal liberty. 

We pray for his Excellency the Governor of this State, for the members of the Assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare; that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability. 

We recommend likewise to Thy unbounded mercy all our brethren and fellow-citizens, throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge, and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union and in that peace which the world cannot give; and, after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal. 


Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Desire to be Known and Loved

Having worked with and around children for a several years now, I have an observation I've been pondering for quite some time.

A few years ago, the Pastor at the parish where I am employed went to visit the Kindergarten class. They had some questions to ask him; simple but VERY important things that told them all they needed to know about him, such as, "What is your favorite color?"  "What is your favorite animal?" "What is your favorite sport?". There were more, of course, but those questions told the children all that was important about Father as a human being. They were relational questions.

You see, the children already loved and respected Father but they wanted to know things about him to which they could relate. It was of IMMENSE importance that they learn about his favorite color, animal, and sport  to see if those things were also THEIR favorite things!

Of course, each time Father answered a question, all of the children would pipe up with THEIR favorite things and start telling him all kinds of stories about their own favorite colors, animals (pets!) and sports, and naturally, that required them to expound greatly in detail.

Father, being  a very organized sort, had a very difficult time getting a word in edgewise and left that particular class session just a little rumpled in spirit.

I remember him telling me about this and all I could do was laugh at the mental image. "Father, they just want to make sure you know them as well as they know you!"

This is what I've been pondering for so long. Yes, it's clear to anyone that the children wanted him to know them and that they wanted to know more about him. But why?

The answer is simple:  Love. 

Think about it. This is "Human Nature 101".  When we love someone, we want to be known by them. Maybe we already know them or think we do, but it becomes of the utmost importance to also be known. To be recognized. To identify with them on some level. To be loved back.

This is the foundation of friendship. First it is superficial (identifying with another on favorite ie superficial  things) and then it goes deeper. Before it can go deeper, though, one must learn about things specific to that person and help that person recognize things that are specific to us as individual human beings.

Because I am an adult employee in a church, and therefore must lead many events and come into contact with many youth volunteers, sometimes I become the focus of a particular need. When one of our youth come to me for direction on a project or offer to work with me, even if I'd rather handle that particular thing alone and delegate them elsewhere, I have learned to let them help in some way. It might be painting a decorative mural for the wall for Vacation Bible School. . It might be asking them to carry this little box of pens (that I could handle myself just fine)  to that location. It might be just to be patient and answer their various questions about the simplest or most unrelated things. It might be just to listen and encourage an interest in a particular subject.

In the end, their questions and their tales about themselves and their families (from age 5 or younger on up to teens!) isn't about the event at hand. It is rather a simple request from one human being to another:  "Please recognize me. Please love me and let me tell you what I want you to love about me and how God made me!"

What I've noticed especially is that children love to talk. When they have learned to trust adults in their lives, they reveal everything. They latch on to their favorite people and tell them as many tales as they can about everything they know. They try to imitate that adult (or teen, even!). They will reveal their very souls and all this is really just an elaborate way for one human to connect with another. To say, "Please love me as much as I already love you!"

This behavior doesn't end with childhood; it's part of what adults do every day, too, although the form it takes is much more refined. 

Do you know why it's so hard to get volunteers for ANY given event, and why some need a personal phone call? Because a general call for volunteers isn't enough for some people. They need a little extra "I love you and know you so I'm calling you personally to take on this task."

We live in a world of broken families; families that have bourne children, now adults, in need of love that a shattered family simply couldn't provide when it was most necessary in their individual formation.. When a child comes to you and shares their heart, be open to them. Smile, even if you are sad about something. Smile, even if you are angry or stressed out. Take a moment  to enjoy the happiness of a child who is expressing that they love you and love you so much they want you to love them, too.

Do the same thing with adults because they, too, are the children they have always been, and they, too, are looking for someone to love them and to know them for who they are as fellow children of God.

As with young children, know when to encourage, know when to correct, know when to discipline. Human relationships can be very complicated, but everything comes down to one simple thing:

 What does the sacrifice that is true love for another human being, knowing they have been called to life with Christ for eternity, demand of you right now? 

And pray...

Pray for Our Lord to help you discern that answer in union with His Most Sacred and Merciful Heart!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Unhappy Endings

I used to wonder how I'd react if I was ever bitten by a dog. Would I be angry? Furious? Demand the death of the animal? Be fearful? Just of the dog or all dogs? Freak out completely?

As it turns out, none of those things. Inside of the shock of the experience, there was only a deep, terrible sadness. Even as I staunched the blood, I knew my wound would heal but for the was fatal action.

A couple months ago I wrote about my foster "Aslan", named for his mane of fur. I wrote of his aggression and the fact I was going to work with him and with the behaviorist's recommendations. For the last month or so, that's what I've been doing. And Aslan had been doing well...or so I thought.

I noticed other forms of aggression I suspected might also be Retriever-snottiness, testing me, and because I wasn't sure which behavior was aggressive, if I was tripping a trigger, I actually asked last week if he could be moved to a foster home with more experience with aggressive dogs. Maybe someone who could perhaps reach through and have success with him.

But it wasn't to be. On Tuesday night, while I was brushing him, Aslan turned and bit me. No warning. I wasn't touching his nails. I wasn't trying to muzzle him. I wasn't doing anything to trip his trigger. He just decided to bite and followed through on the impulse.

I could feel his teeth puncturing my flesh - there was an actual sensation of it, followed by the white-hot pain, and hot on the heels of that...the shock. And then the emotion - I knew in that very moment that it was a death sentence for him. I stood there, hand over the wound, knowing that as he laid there, ears flat out to the side, teeth bared, that it was over.

I was shaking a bit, and already crying, my breath rasping in my throat. I forced myself to calm down and do what clearly needed to be done. I went into the kitchen, grabbed a paper towel to soak up the blood, got a look at it, and took some photos of the bite - pretty hard to do but managed to get a few. (I did this partially to document, partially to, at some point, get an objective look at it later.) After that I washed the wound with soap and hot water - gently. And sprayed the hell out of it with Bactine. At some point I managed to wander into the bathroom and grab my old Ski Patrol pack with all my First Aid supplies, pull out some sterile pads and tape and patch myself up. I had to use a bandanna for a bit of a pressure dressing.

Doing this forced me to focus for a while, clear my head (well, as much as one can clear one's head when one is bleeding), and think about how best to proceed.

I called Aslan's adoption representative to let her know of the incident and asked her to call me in the morning. She called back immediately, and we discussed what would happen in all likelihood. I said that I wasn't angry and it was the truth; I wasn't. But I also was very clear in that I felt Aslan could not be adopted. He was too unpredictable - he would really hurt someone. I stood there bleeding, knowing the consequences of every possible course of action. None of them good.

And I was crying, and I was upset, and dang it, that bite HURT!

And then I had to act as calmly and normally as possible, for I don't have a fenced yard. I had to take the dogs out to do some business. It went fine.

Wednesday morning, when I awoke and changed the bandage, I realized I had to go to the doctor. No avoiding it - I needed a tetanus shot and likely a round of antibiotics. Although had I gone in immediately there probably would have been a couple stitches, as I waited until the next day it was too late for that.

Later that day Aslan's representative called me. His case had been discussed at length and sentence had been passed. He had to be euthanized. 

I knew that would be the verdict and yes, I agreed. Not out of anger, but out of realization that he was too unpredictable to be adopted. When a trigger can't be isolated, when every little thing becomes the trigger...that can't be helped. It can't be trained out of the dog. He made his decision, his terrible, terrible decision.

Unfortunately, it couldn't happen immediately. I had to wait and so my heart has been heavy and I've been weeping off and on for the last two days. Even amidst the stress of my professional life, I've had to push back the tears and profound sadness. At home I was on egg shells, careful not to make eye contact with the dog, careful not to trip on him or set him off. He was clearly also on "different" behavior, always watching me with a wary eye. Not baleful, just wary, as if waiting for a counter-attack.

Tonight I spoiled him with his last leisurely walks, hotdogs with his food, no longer concerned with his weight.

I drove to the vet clinic and played the song I always sang to him, "Little Red Riding Hood", realizing this big bad wolf had shown all his cards. All I could think about was the old folk tale about the snake who said to his savior, "You knew what I was when you picked me up."

Yes, I did. On some level, I did, and then after seeing him in action, yes, I knew. But I kept him anyway, hoping things could be different for him.

Tonight we said goodbye to my foster and I remained with him. I sat with him, I petted him, I forgave him. This evening before leaving home I actually looked into his big hopeful brown eyes and told him I forgave him. I apologized, too, for whatever I did to make him bite me. I apologized for what we were about to do.

It didn't matter to Aslan that I forgave him. He didn't know the difference, but I do. I knew I could not be in that room with him as he was put to sleep if I was angry. He had experienced far too much of human anger in his short life, and for me, I knew anger would only do more damage to my very soul. In truth I forgave him almost immediately, but I had to speak it. I had to say it out loud while looking into his eyes. 

And I prayed, too. I offered him back to God, Aslan's creator and my own. I know that even though animals do not have immortal souls, God cares about them. He has shown me that over and over again. [Note: please don't try to argue this point in the combox. I'm not in the mood and you won't get anywhere. Just let it go]

One of the things I resolved about about fostering animals is that, if they are in rough shape in some way, they will leave my hands in better condition than that which they arrived into my care. In some ways, Aslan was better. He'd lost weight, had more energy, was far happier than when he had first come to me. He wasn't in pain all the time. He showed me his best side, I think, in his clownishness and in his clear desire just to be a normal dog.

Oh, the tales I could tell!

As this was not a happy ending, though, I'm not sure if I can claim that kind of success with this particular dog. He didn't leave my hands better off. Healthier, longer living. Yes, it was the decision that had to be made, but I hardly call this a successful foster experience. I think the best I can say is that I tried, we all tried, and even in its imperfection, the last several weeks of Aslan's life were probably better than they had been before.

We'll never know, though. We can only guess.

Dammit, Aslan, you big fat  stupid butterball of fluff with teeth, I loved you and I miss you! Rest in peace, my friend. You will never ever have to be afraid ever again.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Man in Relation to the Angels

Hello, friends, long time no see!  Tonight I am answering a couple questions the very patient Jose' asked me MONTHS ago!

Here is his question:

The question is on the Angels and where we stand in relation to them in the "Great Hierarchy". 

When I speak to most Protestants I find that they believe that it is man's destiny to surpass Angels and stand nearer to God than they. Essentially, that Angels are closer to God FOR NOW because of man's fallen nature, but that man was once closer to God than Angels in the time of Adam and Eve, and that humans shall be raised higher than Angels once again one day. Man, as God originally made him, is higher than the Angels. 

Yet, as I watch EWTN I often find individual Theologian's often putting Angels closer to God than man, by nature. In Psalm 8 we find a line that says "Only a Little lower than the Angels you made us", and that to me sort of sealed the deal in favor of Angels, by nature, being closer to God. Recently, though, I have found that not all translators say the same in that Psalm. Some Translators actually say the PSalmist writes "Only a little lower than GOD you made us." ...That tips the scale in favor of my Protestant friends' belief that MAN has the higher nature, fallen as it currently is. What do you think?

Great question!

To answer it I looked not only to Sacred Scripture, but also to the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas who, of course, is far wiser than I am!

First, to Scripture. I went to my  1966 Jerusalem Bible and inquired there first, with the passage in question:  Psalm 8:5.

The Psalm states:

YHWH, our Lord,
how great your name throughout the earth!
Above the heavens is your majesty chanted
by the mouths of children, babes in arms.
You set your stronghold firm against your foes
to subdue enemies and rebels.
I look up at your heavens, made by your fingers,
at the moon and stars you set in place -
ah, what is man that you should spare a thought for him,
the son of man that you should care for him?
Yet you have made him little less than a god,
you have crowned him with glory and splendour
made him lord over the work of your hands,

set all things under his feet,
sheep and oxen, all these
yes, wild animals too,
birds in the air, fish in the sea
travelling the paths of the ocean.
YHWH, our Lord,
how great your name throughout the earth!
Now that we have the Psalm in front of us, we can consider the proper context. Notice first that the word "god" in this translation is not capitalized. The footnote for verse 8 states, ""The author is thinkin gof man in comparison with the mysterious beings that constitute the court of YHWH, Ps 29:1+, the 'angels' of Greek and Vulg. see Cf. Ps 45:6+"

With those directions, I look to Psalm 29:1:

"Pay tribute to Yahweh, you sons of God,
tribute to Yahewh of glory and power,
tribute to Yahweh of the glory of his name,
worship Yahweh in his sacred court." 

Psalm 45:6  
"Your throne, God, shall last for ever and ever..."
Then I went to look at the margin to see what directions this Bible gives me for  understanding Psalm 8:5.

It references Gen 1:26-28:
"God said, 'Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wold beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth."

and Wisdom 2:23:
"Yet God did make man imperishable,
he made him in the image of his own nature;
it was the devil's envy that brought death into the world,
as those who are his partners will discover."

and Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 17:1-4
"The Lord fashioned man from the earth,
to consign him back to it.
He gave them so many days' determined time,
he gave them authority over everything on earth."

Taking all those scriptures into consideration, it is clear that God did not establish Man to be above the angels. First, in looking at the Psalm itself in its full context, the Psalm indicates Man was granted dominion over the earth and the creatures of the earth; to wit, all the works of God's hands here on earth. Man, too, was fashioned from the earth he rules.

Looking also at the fact that the word "god" is not capitalized, the footnotes in the Bible ring true; the word is not referencing the Lord, and doesn't use the Tetragrammaton as it uses throughout the rest of the Psalm when speaking of the Lord. Rather, the reference to "mysterious beings" and the common language of the Greeks for "gods", used poetically to mean "angels" in the Hebrew context does make sense. Therefore, the Psalmist was not saying that Man had ever been higher than the angels. If so, where is the reference to Man being set above the angels? It isn't there.

Secondly, then, I looked to St. Thomas Aquinas. In the Summa Theologica, Q108. Article 8, Reply 2, he states, "The angels according to the order of nature are between us and God".

Now, that brings us to your second question:

I am aware that there is ONE human being that has risen above the Angels. That is, of course, the Queen of Angels the Holy Virgin Mary. Yet, I must consider that she is hardly the answer to that question. She is, after all, a VERY VERY SPECIAL human being. God touched her nature in a very special way at her very Conception. She had a very special relationship to God in His human life on Earth. And of course there is her EXTRAORDINARY virtue to consider. She has the whole package in a way no other human, that isn't also God, has had or will ever have again. If we were talking math and statistics, I would consider the Virgin Mary an OUTLYER than skews the results. I can't help but think, "Yeah, SHE is held in Higher esteem by our Lord than the Angels, but....Who ELSE could God hold closer to our older brothers, the Angels, than she? There can't be anyone else."

The Angels were created as pure spirit and in the beginning, had free will. It was the creation of Man and God's plan of salvation that brought about the division of angels and demons;  those who, led by Lucifer, cried out, "Non serviam! I will not serve!" made their final choice in that moment. That was the, for lack of a better term (in my vocabulary in any case) the particular judgment of the spiritual beings we call "Angels".  After that point, Angels no longer had free will because it was not and is not necessary.  Angels are more intelligent than we are, they are always privy to the Divine Processions, always gaze upon the face of God, and always did.

Man was not created with the intelligence, or even the capacity for the intelligence of the Angels. Man was never higher than the angels (except for Mary).

As you alluded to, through the action of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, God did indeed create Mary immaculately, preserving her from the stain of sin, and to her, He gave jurisdiction over the Angels. This is why she is called "Queen of the Angels" in one of her titles. It is why in art that the Archangel Gabriel kneels before her; the art is revealing this truth of who she was and more importantly, who she was asked to bear. It was her fiat that brought salvation into the world, and for this reason, she has been elevated the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Queen of Angels, Queen of Heaven.

Keep in mind that Mary also had free will; she could have refused the Angel's message. She could have said "no". But no, she bowed her head and in joyful humility proclaimed, "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy Word."

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

We know how this story ends!

I hope that helps, Jose, and I hope my very brief, in-a-nutshell explanation suffices! Please let me know where I have been unclear or of course, if I botched an explanation. This, of course, is not meant to be an entire theology of the angels, but there are some wonderful books out there that cover the subject. I believe. Fr. Groeschel has one and I can think of a few others as well. Unfortunately I can't recall their titles so hopefully someone will happen along and help us out!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Big Bad Wolf

I'll never forget taking my first dog I adopted as an adult to an obedience class. The instructor informed us in no uncertain terms that we have taken wolves into our homes and we should expect them to be...wolves. Not human babies. As strong as the temptation is to want to "humanize" our pets, it's the worst thing we can do, because of course, they don't think the same, they don't "feel" the same, and, well...their genetic makeup is fully canine.

He was right. 

Now that I've had several dogs, both my own and fosters, come through my home, I've come more and more to understand what he was talking about. Especially now.

A couple weeks ago I took in another foster, a mix of a couple of the most beloved breeds, and things were going well - until I took him in to the groomer. His nails were terribly overgrown and he was clearly in pain so I insisted we get this taken care of as soon as possible, and certainly before a pending adoption.

Unfortunately, the grooming didn't go well. I'd warned the groomer that he was sensitive about his nails and she was ready for him. She gave him a chance, he snapped at her so she went to get the muzzle. The groomer approached him with the muzzle, didn't even touch him when, without any warning whatsoever, the dog  lunged and bit her, drawing blood.

She's fine, but the dog's future is in question. I got him into the Rescue's vet this last week to get his nails trimmed, but because of the bite risk, the appointment was nearly as traumatic for me as it was for the dog. Both the dog's placement coordinator and I were careful to caution the staff not even to approach him with a muzzle or someone would be bitten. They prepped the sedatives and took even more precautions to ensure he wouldn't bite when the needle went in. (I think he's fine with needles but when a dog has bitten the logical thing is to ensure it doesn't happen again, especially when the dog is already stressed.)

My foster had to be given drugs twice and STILL had fight in him when it came to the muzzle. He was completely out...but when the muzzle approached he leapt into action. Actually bit the Vet Tech once, forcing him to have to get the "cat gloves" and the hapless (and brave!) VT would have been totally torn up without them by the time they were finally successful.

Indeed, the dog's nails were finally clipped, and the good Veterinarian did indeed deem it to be "medically necessary", even prescribed painkillers for what may be an arthritic knee. She was able to do a good exam while he was out cold (and muzzled), and I'm thankful - because he almost bit me a couple days later when I barely and unintentionally brushed against his bad knee.

So as it goes, my foster, whom I am calling "Aslan" because he has a huge mane and, well, isn't a "tame lion, you know", has a behavioral evaluation tomorrow. All the rescues are temperament tested before they go to a foster, but when problems are identified, they get more intense scrutiny.

Life in the Balance

I grew up hearing from our Mom that if our dog ever bit anyone, she would be "put down". No question. My Mom was raised on a farm and it was unacceptable for a family pet (usually kept outdoors in their case) to bite a human being. I don't disagree with that standard. However, I have come to realize there is room to allow for hope, and that also comes from the same Christian upbringing. While Jesus did not die for animals, he did give we humans dominion over them and the ability to use reason - and training - to properly steward these creatures.

Sometimes humans do horrible things to animals and cause behaviors the animals themselves would not choose if not completely traumatized. Some of those things CAN be overcome. A dog is not a shark; the taste of blood from a bite does not automatically mean that a dog will start biting indiscriminately. They don't have interest in that; they bite for a REASON. Find the reason and perhaps they can be saved.

That is the case with this dog. I'm sure of what happened to him:  his paws and nails were never handled and were totally neglected for care. When it came time that they HAD to be done, they didn't work with him, decided to muzzle, forced the muzzle on (again without training), took him down and hacked off the talons, probably causing pretty major pain. This probably happened more than once, and NOT by professionals, but by whoever owned the dog.

His aggression triggers seem to be limited to any kind of ongoing pain, his nails, muzzle - and anything that would be painful. This is a scary thing. Right now he can't be trusted; even I won't push him if I'm not sure how he's going to react. I'm careful to watch every bit of his body language so as to avoid setting him off.

Tomorrow, I'm taking this boy to the Rescue's Behaviorist for an evaluation. My understanding is that the Behaviorist will trip "Aslan's" triggers with what we know and I guess, push the envelope in other ways as well. She will determine if we can work to desensitize him and give me instructions as to how to go about it.

Years ago I had a dog who was both fear-aggressive (nonspecific triggers) and had major separation anxiety. While it's nice to have had that experience under my belt, and while that past experience helps me to have no irrational fear about the dog in my care now, I claim no expertise. This is very much a learning experience and as this is not my dog but merely a foster, his LIFE depends upon tomorrow's meeting and what I am able to do, with the Behaviorist and the dog going forward.

So...I realize many people have had bad experiences with dogs and may have grown up just as I did, with the equation of "Bite = Death". Please let me introduce this dog to you in the way I see him every day:

"Aslan" is the perfect gentleman inside the house.  He sits on command, is completely housetrained, stays in my room at night and remains quiet even when my usually-quiet GSD barks at something.  I usually wake up to find "Aslan" lying directly next to my bed waiting to greet me. When I do arise he tries to circle and is only hindered by his girth as he's about 30 pounds overweight. (He should weigh 50 - 60 lbs max but weighs over 91 lbs).

"Aslan" has probably lost a couple pounds since he came to me, and LOVES his walks. In the beginning he struggled with the short ones but now tries to lead the way and I have to keep him from crowding and "herding" me on our regular walks. On bad days, as he has maybe a little arthritis in his knee, he lags and may sit - that's become a cue to me to take him home.  For now he's on anti-inflammatories which hopefully will help and I think already have done so!

"Aslan" defers to my GSD (as Queen Bee of this house!) and prefers the floor to the dog bed but still finds his way to the dog-designated futon when it suits him. He's directable and loveable. He loves attention, wants to be petted, knows how to "shake" and takes treats so perfectly an infant could offer it to him without a mother's moment of worry.

The other day I discovered "Aslan" likes it when I sing, but tonight, I learned his favorite song is "Lil' Red Riding Hood", Amanda Seyfried's version. The very moment I began singing he sat up, after awhile started to vocalize every time I stopped, and when I sat on the floor, still singing, he came over, laid his head in my lap, rolled over so I could rub his (considerable!) belly, and then stood only so that he could turn around and sit in my lap to be petted.

This is a wonderful dog and it breaks my heart that he has been so traumatized that his fear has driven him to draw blood from human beings. "Aslan's" nature is to be someone's buddy. He's protective, he's cuddly, and he's obedient.

And his life is in danger; not because of the Rescue or because of me, but because some people in his past have so traumatized an innocent creature to the degree that we may be unable to un-ring that particular bell.


There are some who think the lives of animals mean nothing, or try to compare the lives of human babies to those of animals. There is no comparison. As a Catholic, I know it is both-and. While I give far more weight to the life of a human child, that does not mean that some of us have not been called to the area of Catholic Social Teaching in the area of Stewardship for Creation. I am not a mother, I do not have children. I am Pro-Life and work professionally with religious organizations that promote the end to abortion and contraception.

But in my personal time, because I am able, I find I can help some animals, I have gifts in this area, and right now there is a life in my care. Some human beings in this dog's past put his life in danger through really horrible abuse, and all the work I do with this I offer in reparation on behalf of those who hurt him. I have hope that this dog will respond to training and hope that tomorrow's evaluation will go well. I am assured of support from the entire Rescue.

Everything I do for animals I do even more for human beings, for every service to the former is ordered to the eternal life of the latter.

And since now I know "Aslan's" favorite song, I will sing it to him as often as necessary to tame the bad wolf within him.