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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Let us Bow our Heads...and then talk about dogs

The Saga of the Breadcrust has come to an end.

I just took my dogs out and checked on the remaining crust. It's gone. Mr. Gray Squirrel returned after I closed the drape and enjoyed his dessert in solitude.

So the crust has gone as quickly as it arrived, as silently, and ultimately, as mysteriously. For we cannot verify the coming of the crust, nor can we verify the demise of the crust.

Let us have a moment of silence in consideration of the crust.....

WELL! That's enough of THAT!

Let's move on to other topics...some of you have expressed surprise that I have a Greyhound. I also have a German Shepherd. Here they are:

I adopted the German Shepherd from the local Humane Society. She gave me "the look", much like the one in the photo. I didn't initially realize it, but it was all over. She was mine. She picked me, but that night my heart was broken because we could not get the paperwork completed before they closed, so I had to wait until TUESDAY morning to go pick her up! It was so hard to wait! In the meantime, though, I prepared for her, got supplies specific to her size and breed, and read over the adoption materials.

The form used to drop her off at the Humane Soecity was heartbreaking. Clearly a child had written it, and it was not the child's choice to give up her pet. Various questions were answered, such as, "Where does the pet sleep?" The child had written in, "With you." Awww...

I read through the form with tears in my eyes. The last line killed me: "What else do you want us to know about your pet?" Reply: "Just take care of her, please."


Tikaani has been the source of both my consternation and my joy ever since I got her, and exactly two weeks to the day that I brought her home, she identified a problem with my furnace. Dogs are good at that.

When I adopted her, her name was "Sugar Bear." Clearly she had been named by children, but that name had to go. I re-named her "Tikaani" which is a native Alaskan language for "Wolf", and apparently a common dog name up there. She also goes by several nicknames.

Tikaani came with me to pick out my Greyhound six months later. I got him from our local organization, Northern Lights Greyhound Adoption, with which I am still involved. We love our meet-and-greets! Anyway, it was down to two dogs... "Davis" and "Fire". I asked Tikaani to choose her sibling. She sniffed Davis, they acknowledged each other, then as though she understood, she went to Fire,and they had some sort of canine conversation. Then she came to heel, sat down, and looked up at me. No choice made. She approved of them both.

The ball was back in my court. I liked both dogs very much, but their personalities were very different. I was considering getting into pet therapy so needed an outgoing Fire was my choice.

This guy's my buddy. His racing name was "Keystone Fire" and when I adopted him, he was four years old, indicating he had a decent racing career. Most adopted greys are between two and four years old; they are sent for adoption when they aren't successful on the track.

I kept his name, "Fire" because he responded to it, and it fit him. He has occasionally been called "Babbaloo", "Mister Hound", and "Buddy", among other names.

I must upload my story about how I taught him how to climb stairs.

I have TONS of photos of my dogs, and now that I have a scanner and know how it works, I promise to upload more photos of anything other than myself.

The Mystery of the Breadcrust

The mystery may be solved.

I was just sitting down at my computer to work on my paper this afternoon, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement which startled me. At first I thought it was a rat. It wasn't, altough some of you may disagree.

My computer is right next to the window, and just outside the window is a small ledge, and the bush containing my own personal breadcrust.

When I saw the movement, I looked up just in time to see a squirrel trundling by just outside my window, pause to glance in at me, and continue on as though he belonged there. He seemed to be quite comfortable with his location and the proximity to my window. After he had run away, I opened my door to see if my grill-cleaning thingie was still on the ledge; it was, but it was somewhat askew.

And the evidence next to it: a breadcrust.

The neighbors just threw bread out again today, this time very close to my door as well. (Which is really annoying as my greyhound always tries to eat that stuff and I'm not always quick enough to pull him away).

I suspect that the squirrel had been trying to take the bread but was attacked by the numerous crows that like to bully all the other suburban creatures. The squirrel headed for the quickest haven, that being the bush and the ledge, but in the process of escape, he dropped the crust.

Of course, that explains the crust that is now on my ledge, but it doesn't fully explain the one in the bush. Maybe the squirrel that put that one there was exceptionally adventurous? Maybe he was also trying to escape the crows and dropped the crust in the bush before scampering away after learning the bush would not support his weight?

You discern.

But anyway, my bread crust has now multiplied; I have two of them and some crumbs.

And bonus, I got a really good close-up view of a squirrel.

I found a camera I forgot about and took a few photos of the crust. If I can get to a one-hour photo place I may scan them in later today.

Thus you will be able to see that the breadcrust is REAL.


I got back from Adoration and errands, photos in hand. When I pulled the curtain back, I saw that the bread on the ledge has changed locations, moving further down and away from the grill brush. I opened the front door and observed that most of the bread is gone and that the adventurous squirrel ALSO ate most of the breadcrust in the bush. And the grill cleaning brush had been shoved a little bit and is precariously close to fallng to the ground.

That is one BRAVE little rodent!

So the infamous breadcrust is still there, lodged in the bush, but it has been discovered, it has apparently become food for my new "pet" squirrel.


While composing this update, I saw movement again. The squirrel came back for the bread on the ledge! I moved slowly and he didn't see me because he was intent on his dinner and his back was to me. Because he was also facing the crust in the bush, I watched to see if he would go for it next. He didn't, but rather, turned to go in another direction. He might have discerned movement behind the glass of the window and spooked.

I sat down again to type, and he scuttered by the window again. I'm a little disturbed by his location and the fact that he seems to be busy at the end of the ledge where I kept the grill brush. Suffice to say that the brush is going into the trash and will no longer be used to scrape/clean the grill.

But the remaining piece of breadcrust is still lodged in the bush. I wonder if the squirrel has given up on it? Or will he come back again yet this evening for dessert? He clearly knows it's there.

So thus the saga of the breadcrust continues, now with the addition of the antagonist, Mr. Grey Squirrel. Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Announcements and Updates

Well, I have completed my discernment with regard to the IPT program at Ave Maria - sorta.

Just to recap; I am currently taking a 1 credit course as a "Special Student"; that is, taking it for credit as opposed to as an audit course, with the intention of applying this credit to my future studies. I had to pay a $50.00 application fee when I applied for this course, and submit a transcript from my undergrad. Anyway, I've been waffling on this issue; should I go on? Can I go on? Do I want to take the full 6 credits offered if I am accepted? What about the torture I'm experiencing now just with writing a PAPER!? What about all the OTHER papers for 6 credits I'll have to complete? Will I have time to do anything else? Will my work at my parish suffer? Do I have to eliminate a few things? And how in the WORLD am I going to pay for this?????????

So it goes, but I've realized a few things: I love what I'm learning, even though I'm having to suffer in intellectual agony in order to learn it and produce results. Further, what I'm learning will benefit others if I am able to present it coherently, which I've already done with RCIA presentations. (You'll have to ask THEM if it was really coherent, though....).

I won't say it's all roses, though. Ave Maria's IPT program is solid and faithful, but there's been some negativity in the upper echelons at the Naples campus which is a bit concerning. Ave Maria is not accredited; that's a concern. Not only does it mean that I can't apply for financial aid as I am engaged in an off-campus program, but it could mean future credibility issues with the degree earned. Yet all colleges have to go through growing pangs; I pray Ave Maria survives theirs.

I realized that I can think of more reasons NOT to do this, from a practical standpoint, but I cannot deny what I have already learned and the very element of formation I've never experienced before. I have come to understand that this is all about trust in God and His Providence. This is entirely in His hands. I have to do the footwork, but if it is to be, He will come up with the funds, He will come up with the time, and He will help me persevere. If it is not God's will, this simply won't work out no matter what I do.

There's yet another factor; the very risk, the precariousness of a new school. What if Ave Maria becomes defunct? I'll be left with a partial education and no degree, yet with significant expense. While that seems to be a horrible dilemma, I am seeing it as a way for me to become smaller, for God can take what seems like a disaster and bring about a greater good.

I realized that it's time to trust and just move forward with this decision; apply and let the chips fall where they may. If I don't turn in my application, I will quite literally spend the rest of my life considering what might have happened, and I already have a long list of "what-might-haves", and I simply have no desire to add to it.

Besides, I already paid the $50.00 non-refundable application fee. I might as well make them review my qualifications since they've been paid to do so!

There are no guarantees in life. Those things worth doing are worth suffering for; we can't run away from it. Every action we take has a subsequent reaction somewhere else, whether immediate or delayed. So I'm taking this risk.

I hope to send everything out by early next week if I can get the small details worked out. My references have the recommendation forms, and I may be able to turn in my initial assignment (which received a good grade) in lieu of a paper. Otherwise I'll later submit the paper I'm currently writing for the April 15 deadline.

Please pray with me that God's will be done in this.

You have no idea how scary this is.

Theology of the Breadcrust

In the beginning was God, and God made the wheat and declared it good. God gave the wheat to Man who threshed it to create sustenance for temporal requirements, and he declared it good. So thus in the beginning was the bread, which came from God who created all things, and the bread was reduced to crust and dwelt among us in the bush outside the door.

I am not God and I am not the bread, but I am a witness to the bread.

The breadcrust remains lodged in the branches of the bush, the mysterious appearance of which has not been solved. It has not been moved, and it is not appetizing to man, bird, nor squirrel. The meaning of the breadcrust is unknown.

We do not know from whence it came or where it is going; we do not understand the meaning of the bread but we know that God created the wheat that forms the bread and that the bread was baked by man. Thus we contemplate the mystery of God through creation of the crust.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Late have I loved you!

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

~ St. Augustine, Confessions of St. Augustine

"Sin" is a term we hear a lot of in this blessed penitential season, and that is as it should be. Yet in our culture, so many don't know what sin is; there is, as John Paul II called it, a "loss of the sense of sin."

According to St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica, sin is "disordered love." We commonly understand sin to be a rejection of God's love and an abuse of freedom. We sin with our free will, in turning away from God, in turning away from holiness. God loves us so deeply he specially created us all to be in eternal union with him; each one of us is precious. He gives us gifts, andit is through this giving that we reject His love, which wounds him greviously.

Why would we do such a thing? Why do we constantly reject God's love?

Perhaps there is a more practical question; HOW do we reject God's love?

We reject him in simple ways, constantly, without even thinking twice about it. We personally sin when we reject gifts he has given us, and we sin socially as well, for every gift is given to us for the purpose of building up his kingdom.

I have always been on the artistic side; those things in which I always excelled surrounded the arts; music, writing, literature, theater. I have always loved beauty. I have always been drawn to that which was true and good and beautiful, but in simple ways. I have always been a romantic, even somewhat of an idealist.

Yet somehow, I rejected all of that in favor of pursuing "a career." I saw no way to "make money" through my artistic pursuits, so I gave them up. I also began to see them as a form of weakness so out of hand I saw no place for them in my life. Out the door they went.

There has always been an ache in my soul, striving to bring me back to what I had thrown away. And truth be told, I have never forgotten those things I always wanted to be, primary of which may not surprise you: a writer.

In second grade, I told my Mom that I wanted to write and illustrate my own books. Period. That's what I wanted to do and that was what I was GOING to do, gosh darn it! Oddly enough, that same year in school we learned how to make "books". We had to write a story and illustrate it on the folded construction-paper pages that made up this project. Being that we were very limited in the format, my imagination was cramped, lending to a very boring factual book about birds. It really was a terrible book. I “wrote” another one for extra credit. That was equally as bad. I'm quite sure I no longer have these books. I hope not, in any case; if I ever do succeed in becoming a famous author no doubt these atrocities would be pulled out and sent to a museum after my death.

But a spark was there, and even through the bad results my teachers encouraged me to pursue these talents and aptitudes that I had. As I matured and became more "driven" and "worldly", one by one, I began to reject my God-given gifts until there was nothing left. No wonder I've been so miserable in my professional work for so long; God gave me what I needed, and I chose to make my own path, cutting with the dull machete of my own willfulness through this jungle that is the world. God, in his infinite grace, has kept his hand upon me, yet He does not interfere with our freedom to reject him, no matter how much that rejection wounds him.

Just lately, I have realized that my rebellion was a complete rejection of God's love; I rejected Him through the gifts he so lovingly bestowed upon me. We all have talents and aptitudes in different things. We all have some sort of gift God gave us for the purpose of sharing it with others in order to build and strengthen His kingdom.

I rejected those gifts so many years ago, and now, I realize the love that went into each gift. I know that some of those will never be returned to me; others, in His infinite mercy, God has left with me, like tools just waiting to be picked up. The Kingdom still needs builders. The Kingdom needs architects. The Kingdom needs laborers, and workers for the vineyard. Our gifts are the tools He gives us for this work, and we are to use these tools with much love in order to fulfill the directive of Jesus to "love others as I have loved you."

I contemplate the words of St. Augustine, so poetic in their bittersweet testimony of love. The romantic in me recognizes the remorse of the great Saint, and my soul anguishes as I realize his very words apply to me as well. I adopt them as my own for he expressed so much better than I the understanding of the rejection of God's love.

In my search for worldly success, I rejected those things God gave me; no doubt at least ONE of them, had I been faithful enough to use it, would have lead me to a special place in which to put that gift to use. I pray it is not too late. I am late indeed, in loving God, but I pray, that in His infinite mercy, He welcomes me back to the vineyard and helps me clean and polish my rusty tools. There must be a place somewhere for me, and for all of us, in this place.

In a way, those of us who have rejected these gifts from our childhood are prodigals; we have rejected or perhaps misused our inheritance. We must be willing to come back to God and re-offer what we have, or even beg for the restoration of what he gave us before we had a chance to reject him. Maybe God has something new for us, or maybe a better version of the old gift. We won't know unless we take a step forward and ask with contrite hearts for another chance to serve Him, offering back to Him in sincerity those things he lovingly gave us so long ago.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Dogs in the Fog

This morning I got up and as is our habit at 5:30 in the morning, my dogs and I went for a walk.

I often don't want to do this, especially when it's dark. I'm a woman. It's not right for a woman to walk alone in the fog. On occasion we pass a solitary jogger (rather, the jogger passes us), this poor soul likely as unwilling as us to be out there.

Yet it must be done; I don't have a fenced yard and the dogs need to do their business. I confess that if I had a fenced yard, the dogs would be left to their own for awhile, and I long for those days. I'd likely get at least an hour more sleep.

But it is not to be; so this morning we headed out into the dark and fog.

The fog was so thick I was actually surprised. I always watch the news in the early mornings, but I did not really understand what they were saying. This fog was REALLY THICK!

I could barely see a few feet in front of me. As we entered a nearby park, I remember having to look down so as to actually see where I was placing my feet, not entirely certain we were walking in a straight line.

I said a prayer to my Guardian Angels and my personal Saints, asking for their intercession and protection; there was something about this morning that contained more oppression than just the closeness of the clouds.

Sometimes we all have to walk through this kind of fog. Sometimes we can't see the next step before us, even if we have traveled this path a thousand times before. It is one thing in broad daylight; it is entirely another when we are surrounded by darkness and confounded by the fog. We cannot see any obstacles, although common sense tells us they are there. We cannot see a thing, yet we are being pulled in all directions while trying only to stay on course.

The spiritual life is like this, but it is in the darkness that God can speak most clearly. The hinderances are removed from our perceptions, our senses are cleared, and we cannot help but strive for understanding in lieu of what we no longer have at our disposal.

This morning, as we began our return trip home, the fog was lifting, and with it the heavy oppression of moisture around us. A hint of light was appearing in the east, a promise of sunrise although it made no discernable difference in the landscape we had to cross.

Yet there was hope; the sunrise would come, and with it, a new perspective.

Just as we crossed the last street near home, a heady floral aroma enveloped me. I sniffed, recognizing lilacs...and roses. Here in Minnesota, while green is beginning to peek through the soil, it is far too early for flowers to bloom. There was nothing to cause such a scent in such darkness and fog. So I inhaled deeply, thanking God for the promise not only of the sunrise, but the companship of the Angels and the Saints as I arrived home safely once again, having passed through the darkness of the hours before dawn.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Theology of the Paper

I am trying to write my paper for my class, but for the last few days, due to my schedule, I've gotten out of the academic roll I was on. Sundays are good study days, normally, but not today.

Today it's beautiful out, if a bit windy. I want to be sitting outside, reading, grilling, walking the dogs, contemplating the breadcrust, etc. But no, I'm inside trying to form my outline. My TV is off, the radio is off...but unfortunately, my neighbors to the right are outside, the kids are yelling, the music is on, and I can hear it through my open kitchen window. I don't want to close the window because I need the fresh air, and the window in my livingroom where my desk and computer are located would shove that music right in at me. Unfortunately, it's not just a matter of the neighbor's radio; the neighbor on my left has a deck with his unit, and he lets his dog hang out on the deck, barking incessently at anything she sees. Not only is that annoying enough, but my German Shepherd does not get along with that dog and every time that demon dog barks, mine reacts in some way which is incredibly distracting to my studying. Thus, I'm not able to concentrate on anything serious.

So for now, I'm taking a break. I'm going to write my outline for the theology of the paper and how writing a paper can be redemptive.

I. Introduction/ Thesis - How is writing a paper redemptive? Why do we write papers? I will show how writing a paper can save not only the writer, but the world.

II. Definitions: What is a paper?
A. History of a paper?
B. Theology of the paper - discuss morality, causes, and effects

III. First theme: Writing a paper is hard.

IV. Second theme: Writing a paper is redemptive.
A. Saves the writer - creates focus, forces intellectual integrity, provides a good grade which leads to a degree and a good career. And the ability to string words together cohesively.
B. Saves the world - a well written paper can present articulate discussions on a topic, which, if relevant to someone, can change their outlook on life for the better. The potential of a paper is enormous in consideration of the rollout effect.
C. Scattered examples of the above.

V. Writing a paper causes suffering, which reinforces redemption
A. Refer back to history and theology for an explanation of suffering resulting from deprivation of formal theological formation.
B. The suffering on behalf of theology, when it leads to a paper, serves as a psychological breakthrough, which changes the writer interiorly.
C. the writer becomes transformed into a student in the process of writing, and this can lead to sainthood if the correct path is followed.

IV. Conclusions: Writing a paper is hard, but it's redeptive and it's supposed to be worth the effort. Writing parody-style outlines is not helpful in formulating the thought processes needed to compose an actual thesis, but it can be a fun diversion. Fun is not really redemptive. Fun is the result of redemption. I haven't been redeemed yet so I am not allowed to have fun.

Friendship is Holy

"Friends are people who love us in spite of ourselves." ~ I have no idea who to attribute this quote to so if someone can please comment on the source, I will update the author. It's one of my favorite quotes, and it happens to be true.

"You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family." That's another one pertinent to today's topic.

God, in all his wisdom and in his plan involving free will, knew that we would sometimes struggle with and against our families, and so He gave us the gift of friendship...that is, forging bonds with others outside of the family. We can't always take our every day struggles to our family without affecting family life; and so a friend is someone with whom we can speak candidly about most, if not all things, and thus share the burden. Likewise, that friend is someone who is willing to share that burden. Is that not a HUGE gift?

I was watching "Monsters, Inc." one night, and in the beginning when Mike, aka "Googleybear"(the little green guy voiced over by Billy Crystal) is covered with a logo on the company commercial, he first expresses what seems to be great disappointment. Sully, aka "Kitty!" first begins to comfort Mike, and then Mike expresses his true emotion by proclaiming excitedly, "Did you see that!? I WAS ON TV!"

Sully sighs in relief and smiles at his optimistic friend, even as Mike answers his phone and speaks excitedly to the person on the other end as though the call is for him. When Mike tells Sully that the caller is his (Sully's) mother, Sully simply rolls his eyes and lets his friend, who really was snubbed, enjoy the limelight he never had to begin with.

That's a great example of friendship. That's a great example of a friend loving a friend in spite of himself.

I'm sure I've been on the wrong end of the eye-rolling myself plenty of times and that scene never fails to make me grateful to my ever-patient friends.

Friendship is a special gift from God and should be cherished. Even those friendships that come to an end for some reason have value for if we reflect upon them, we see that somehow we were blessed during that time period. Maybe we grew somehow, or maybe that person helped us to identify a particular flaw that we would not otherwise have recognized. Only God knows how these relationships are orchestrated for He is the author of all orchestration in this symphony we sometimes only recognize as the chaos that is our lives.

Several years ago, I broke up with a long-term boyfriend and this breakup was devastating because I had thought I wanted to marry him. In the few months after the breakup, I tried to pretend that it was fine and that I was enjoyng my newfound singlehood, but at heart, I was sick. I was sad, and I was a wreck. My friends knew it, and they also knew better than to force me to fact that...because I wasn't ready.

So it happened that I met the new girlfriend. She was a little taller than I, but looked somewhat similar. Her hair was darker, but about the same length as mine. Her history was similar to mine in many ways, and she drove a similar type of car.

It was scary. It was like she was me...but a better version. Had the resemblence not been so strong, I don't think it would have hurt as much. But as I saw it, I was traded in for a prettier model and even as I smiled and as she and I spoke very cordially, my heart was breaking.

Then I made the stupid comment of all stupid comments...I revealed to my friend how I really felt. I told her that at least the ex had traded "up" and took a "step up" from me. I really felt this way, and I expressed it because I was pretending to be strong; pretending that I didn't feel the knife twisting in my back.

I still can't believe that I said this, but I really ended that relationship feeling like a doormat and the feeling remained for a long time.

My friend let that stew, and a few weeks later, when the ex (only six months after he and I broke up), mass emailed his engagement announcement, my friend and I had a little heart-to-heart. We watched "When Harry Met Sally" and in that particular scene in the movie, I went through a box of kleenexes. I suddenly understood in a very deep way what it was all about.

The next time we were alone, my friend brought my comment back to the forefront. She told me that she could not believe I would make such a comment as to say the new fiance was "a step up" from from me; she said that hearing me say such a thing hurt HER so badly that she couldn't even respond at the time.

My friend told me, "You made me so angry the other day! You made me so angry when you said, 'she's a step up.' There is no step up! How can you think someone could be a step up from you? He's not good enough for you! Don't ever say that again, that someone is better than you!"

By this point we were both crying. She was angry with me, and she wanted me to understand why. And through her lecture, and her anger, I understood what it cost her to have waited to respond to my stupid self-indulgent lie to everyone.

She finished her tirade with, "Any step away from you is a step down."

I am still very touched by the sentiment expressed by my dear friend. In that one sentence, not only did she help me to realize how much she loved and respected me, but it took courage to make such a comment. And it took courage because by saying what she did, she made me realize how far I had fallen and how worthless I was portraying myself to be.

It takes a real friend and the intervention of the Holy Spirit to make us face up to difficult truths so that we can overcome the difficulties in our lives. My friend helped me to find my self-respect again, and before our conversation, I hadn't even realized that it had been lost.

True friendship is an extremely valuable gift from God, for He chooses these people to speak on His behalf. He chooses the people who will share the burdens in our lives, and each and every one of us needs to take this to heart.

We have all been on the receiving end of a great we take care to remit the favors to our friends? We have to consider our own roles in these friendships for it's not about what we get out of it or how the friendship benefits us...but about how we mutually benefit each other.

Going back to the example I provided, I am reminded of this for the friend who called me out of my self-pity and my denial was the same friend I had defended against an abusive boyfriend, and in fact, I had been there for her throughout the relationship. When I look back over the years, I realize that our friendship was a special gift for what we experienced from each other we both gave back and continued to give.

To this day, though, I think she did a better job of giving.

In any case, take some time today to consider all of your friendsips and look for the blessings in them. Were you a blessing to a friend? Did their presence in your life bless you in some way? Think about that, pray about it, and thank the Lord for this awesome gift He has provided to all of us.

May God bless and keep you all, and may all of your friendships be true.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Jesus, Remember Me

LUKE 23: 39 -43
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us."
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal."
Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

My parish has Stations of the Cross every Friday during lent, and Mass afterwards; when one is properly disposed, the devotion and pray can offer the best sort of preparation for communion.

Tonight after I had received Our Lord, I knelt, contemplating the huge crucifix that graces our altar. I love to look at this crucifix and consider what Jesus did for us, and try to place myself at the very foot of his cross, trying to obtain a greater understanding.

There are some lights which are focused upon the crucifix in such a way that a shadow is cast to either side and from the correct vantage point, it appears there are actually three crosses there; Jesus is front and center, and then, just below and in profile, two other crosses in shadow.

I could not help but think of the criminals who were crucified with Jesus, and in a flash, I realized that I am one of them.

Suddenly I understood that these criminals are metaphors for all of us; we are one in the same.

But there is a difference in their response to their situation and to Jesus, and this is where we must stop and consider who we are and who we want to be.

I have always had a sort of attitude of condescension towards the criminals, but for Dismas who realized who Jesus was and prayed for mercy. Yet he was a criminal; he is "beneath" us, right?

Nope. He is who we aspire to be.

All of us offend God; all of us sin. All of us, by this definition, are criminals in one way or another. All of us receive our just punishments throughout life, our humiliations, sometimes deserved, and all of us have an opportunity at each occasion to either admit our wrongs and move one...or to nurse our wounds, justly earned, and blame others.

One of the criminals ridiculed Jesus, demanding that he save himself. The other criminal rebuked the first; both were in extreme pain. Both were being punished for their crimes. They were truly suffering, but one, through his suffering, was converted. Even in his suffering, rather than closing in upon himself, he rebuked the one in what can be seen as an opportunity to point him towards mercy personified in their presence, and then he turned to Jesus and asked him for mercy for himself. This criminal was named Dismas; and what I find truly remarkable was that he first thought of his angry companion before he asked for mercy for himself.

Jesus did not deny the requestof Dismas, and he did not address the other man; the other had already rejected him.

As I prayed in front of that crucifix tonight, I realized how often I have been the one to reject Jesus, screaming and condemning and ridiculing in my pain. I also realized how often my suffering comes through my own actions, and how often I am only upset because I was called out on my wrong actions in some way. Rather than owning my sin and admitting my failure, I scream and cry. I am not proud of this fact, and in actuality, I realized that this revelation from the cross came to me just after I had prayed that the Lord show me my true proverty.

Our true poverty as human beings is our concupiscence; our tendency to sin, to turn from God. He shows us His glory, and we turn away, grasping in futility at the world which is only so much dust dressed up in glitter. We are poor; we are criminals. We are so far away from God, yet He is there and willing to lift us up to Him, if we but ask.

Jesus will not refuse our sincere requests for mercy; we must only recognize the poverty in our spirits and reach out to the one who died that we may inherit his Kingdom.

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom. Amen.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Adulterous Woman

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Tomorrow I am the "prayer leader" for RCIA and thus it is my job to discuss next Sunday's scriptures. I've posted a few of my reflections in the past, but usually after the talk. I'm posting this one a little early, and I am covering only the Gospel. The readings for this Sunday are Cycle C and can be found at the USCCB website. (linked)

We really haven’t done a lot to address moral theology, the foundation of which is human dignity, and I think this Gospel does a lot to help us break into that a little bit. We can easily place ourselves in this woman’s position and through that, come to see who Jesus is and what he does for each and every one of us, and that is not just to give us life, but to restore our dignity which is compromised by our fallen nature.

Human dignity is a very misunderstood term; there’s a great number of wishy-washy terms out there that I certainly would not want applied to me. If you read some of them you’d agree. (The Wickipedia definition is especially bad).

All of us have inherent dignity by virtue of the fact that we are created in God’s image and likeness, and we are the only creatures He created entirely for Himself. We are adopted sons and daughters of God, created especially for eternal union with Him. God also gave us free will which is the foundation of dignity, and he will not contradict our dignity by interfering with our free will, but rather, speaks to us through our conscience so that we can turn from our sin and willingly return to His grace. Conscience must therefore be formed, and this takes a lifetime, but it also is an integral part of both our freedom and dignity; we are the only creation of God that has the ability to consciously and willfully overcome our compulsions and propensities in order to choose the good (God), over evil.

When we sin, we reject God's love. Sin can be defined as both a rejection of God's love and an abuse of freedom. God wants to restore us to our original dignity that we had prior to the fall from grace, but he cannot contradict himself or compromise our free will by forcing us to do anything. He will not take control of us; he will only invite and allow us to accept or decline his invitation.

We have to understand that God is love, and the union He desires to have with us involves a true definition of love, which is self-effacing, completely giving, holding nothing back. When we sin, we are rejecting God’s love and we are abusing our free will. God gave us the ability to overcome our willful rejection and cooperate in the restoration of our unity with him. This is true dignity.

In this Gospel, the Pharisees are dragging the adulterous woman to Jesus, claiming they caught her in the act of adultery and by law she must be stoned to death. But we see by their actions that she is just a pawn and her life means nothing to them; they are using her as an object in order to try to trap Jesus. Note the fact that the other party in her sin is not there; the Pharisees are citing the Law of Moses in their little game, but the Law of Moses called for both parties in adultery to be stoned.

Jesus bends down and writes on the ground. This is the only time in the Bible where Jesus wrote anything and it doesn’t say what he wrote. I learned from Father the other day that some traditions have indicated that Jesus was writing down the sins of those who were standing there, but there’s something more to the act for those with the eyes to see - if any of them did. The very finger Jesus was using to write in the dirt was the very same finger that wrote the Commandments - the Law of Moses -on the stone tablets!

Each one of the accusers leaves, so the woman is left alone with Jesus, and he does not condemn her.

Pay attention to this because it’s very revealing; what did Jesus do? What was he doing throughout this story?

He stood between the woman and death.

He defended her from what had been termed “just judgment” under the Law of Moses. He offered her MERCY.

This woman, in her commission of adultery, was rejecting God’s love and was doing what so many people do today; they seek false love from pleasures of this world which only lead to death. The woman is dragged, without her co-sinner, to be used only as a pawn. By the time she gets to Jesus, she is already aware she is condemned; she knows the Law. She has no dignity left and no one even recognizes the value of her life.

Jesus intervenes, and through him, she is saved, her dignity restored; in part. But Jesus shows us something more; she has a part to play, too. She has to cooperate by accepting God’s love and returning it; and she can do this through the simple admonition given to her: Go and do not sin anymore.

In other words, if she is going to accept God’s love, she has to recognize her sin for what it is and instead of embracing what only leads to death, she must recognize her inherent dignity, overcome what pulls her down, and accept the hand of Jesus which will lead her only to life.

We are all in that place; we all have to recognize the dignity that God gave us, recognize ourselves in the adulterous woman, and recognize who stands between us and death. Jesus is calling all of us to come to him, to overcome our abuses and misunderstanding of freedom, and to accept his love by returning it fully. We can only do that if we are willing to reject those things that pull us away from God. He will help us overcome everything if we will only allow him to do so and take his words to heart;

Go, and do not sin anymore.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Grace of Suffering

This morning I woke up with knots in my stomach, already shaking as I considered the job ahead of me - returning to work after my blessed week off. En route to work I prayed my "emergency novena" (rosary and 9 memorares), and confessed to God that I know I have to do this, I don't know why, I don't have a choice, and I don't want to embrace this cross. So I offered him the agony of wanting to escape my suffering and the reality of my own unworthiness. I asked for help in overcoming my unwilling spirit.

God answered, and although the day was busy, there was a certain grace that seemed to accompany me all day long.

During lunch, I did some studying, reading the course notes on Salvici Doloris, which is the Encyclical I read over the weekend.

For the class I'm taking, we have the choice of one of several options for the paper due in April, and I have chosen the topic on what John Paul II says about the meaning of suffering and how it is redemptive. I have no idea what I'm going to say but I have determined that I need to do ALL the reading before even considering my outline because so far, everything seems to work together. Such is Catholic theology; it is a cohesive whole.

But until my lunch break, I wasn't really understanding the message John Paul II was trying to get across; but then came the revelation.

As I read the course notes, suddenly it hit me; I'm LIVING this encyclical, and somehow, I am seeing my journey reflected his words and in the course notes that give an explanation.

John Paul II, in Salvici Doloris, uses a question/answer dynamic to explain the theology of suffering and redemption. Within this, he describes how a suffering person is driven to ask questions about the reasons for the suffering, the meaning of the suffering; in other words, the suffering soul is going to God for the answers to this pain.

God welcomes these questions, and is of course prepeared to answer them, for He draws very near to suffering souls. Through their suffering, He directs them to Jesus Christ and the cross that redeemed us; he points to the words of Jesus, he who asks us to take up our crosses and follow him. That is to say, the invitation of Jesus to us all to unite the sufferings of this life with his, and it is through this surrender that we find the answers and we come to understand how suffering is salvific.

God does not give simple answers, however, I've found that when we are truly open to those answers, they are simplicity in themselves, for the understanding is not temporal but spiritual, not intellectual, but interior.

Through my work, I have been regular readers will testify to my whining, my angst, and we are all in agreement that I need to get away. But every time I turn around, I find I am penned in with nowhwere to go. I can't just quit; I have to pay for my mortgage. I know that God lead me to the home I now "own" (which of course owns me!), I have to consider my dogs, those lives I have agreed to steward. I have to be responsible; God does not ask us to walk away from obligations - such actions are folly. So I find I am trapped.

While yes, I am seeking a way out, I have been spending far more time in seeking God's will and asking those very questions detailed by John Paul II. Why am I suffering? Why is this so difficult? Why do I have nowhere to go? What is the MEANING of this? And ultimately, my question is narrowed down to, "Is this all there is? What does my life mean? Where does God want me to serve Him?"

I have posted a few times about seeking spiritual direction and my agony over this; my unwillingness to pursue recognition of the need for it. I am a lost soul, I am a suffering soul, and I have come to realize that without God, my life has no meaning.

I cannot go on this way. On Sunday after communion I couldn't seem to pray so I looked up at the crucifix, trying to understand more clearly what Jesus did for us. Suddenly I felt so far away from him, the seperation was almost tangible. I recognized my unworthiness and my own inability to overcome my own sinfulness. I fought hard to hold back the tears, suddenly understanding how far I am from union with God. I became absolutely THIRSTY for this unexplainable union with God; and this, the source of my agony. The seperation from God, the desire and need for union with Him.

So today, as I sat at my desk, staring at my course notes, all of this was running through my mind and I realized that God was using my employment to drive me into asking those questions; the deep questions where the answer will be found if I will only find the courage to go deeper. The answer to all of my questions is found on the Cross, and the only way to understand the Cross is through suffering. The only way to find the answers is to suffer for them, suffer in them, and offer that suffering on behalf of something or someone better. To look for the meaning in that suffering, where God draws near and provides the answers to a soul that is finally listening.

Ultimately, my questions and the answers to them are not about employment, the house, or the stuff I own. It is not about the angst that is my daily life. Rather, it is a spiritual affair, leading down the path to holiness if I should be willing to walk that path. That is not to say that I should be a doormat and not seek another position more in line with my true gifts. Quite the opposite! What I came to realize is that if I am not first seeking God, I will not find the answers, I will not discover my true gifts or my true Vocation UNLESS I am willing to surrender my will to wherever God wants to lead me.

I cannot do this alone.

This weekend I realized that my angst about finding a spiritual director is the same torturous experience I had when I was fighting God about returning to Confession; it was all about fear.

Who is the author of fear?

So I sent a note to a priest I highly respect and whose advice I trust, deciding that this is the first step in submission to God's will; to find someone to hold me accountable and help me stop fighting God so hard. To lead me through this suffering to the answers which will never be found in another job. I would trust him and, if he sees fit, I would trust his recommendation to another. I submit this decision to God alone.

Ironically, I sent the note before I read the encyclical and I think this was key; I first had to overcome my fear and take the first step before God would reveal to me WHY I was taking that step.

I do not know what is going to happen at work or with my potential spiritual direction, but I do know this; this afternoon when I realized the meaning of my suffering, suddenly I was filled with a sense of peace and joy that I could not deny. Somehow, in the midst of my suffering, there is a certain amount of peace and I can only pray that this peace continues as I am truly seeking God's will through this.

Many of you have expressed that you are praying for me. Thank you. Prayers are powerful.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I'm a Manly Woman and Proud of it!

I have just been informed that I have been named the Manly Woman of the Week for my post on Inclusive Language.

See? This guy totally GETS IT! He understands that we women can do the jobs, too, and we need to work at it, and we need our men....but contrary to the title of his post, we don't need to be MEN in order to be real WOMEN! And in fact, he totally understands that we LIKE being women and we really need to be treated like the ladies that we are, consistent with our dignity as women.

The world needs more guys like this. Go give his site a glance. The world needs more real men and women who can help men be real men.

Consequences of Contraception

Sometime in the late 1900's people decided that it would be fun to sleep with as many people as possible without the "consequences", and this mentality resulted from the mass acceptance of the innovation of "The Pill" and the passage of the right-to-kill-your-infant laws.

Sadly, some Catholic clerics outright rejected Pope Paul IV's Encyclical, Humanae Vitae, yet we've seen that his words are prophetic.

17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

Yup, that's happened. What woman hasn't had the experience of being out on a date with some guy who gets "overly friendly" and when his near-assault is met with resistance, he askes, "But you're on the Pill, right?" or "Are you a virgin?" (this latter translating as: you're a whore so why can't I have some?). The former question can be translated to mean, "If you're on the pill, then I should be able to gratuitously inflict my testosterone upon you because you're a convenient receptical."

Yup. Women have become objects of desire, and we're actually EXPECTED to "give it up" upon demand or risk facing a life of "lonliness". Sadly, I remember a girl in college who didn't really want to sleep with her boyfriend, but she felt like she had to. This she expressed by saying, "If he doesn't get it from me he'll get it from someone else."

Thanks, rabid feminism. You're "sexual revolution" has made us slaves to the very thing you said we'd be liberated from. How uplifting to know that we're expected to spend our nights on our backs with anyone who finds us attractive. We're all assumed to be a bunch of whores.

And never mind those consequences; what about the health and spiritual consequences?

The FDA makes the pill manufacturers publish info about blood clots, strokes, and other things, a "warning" that comes as an afterthought of every commercial. By then they've build up the product to such a degree of "carefree living" that no one is even listening anymore.

But the FDA won't force them to warn women of the later consequences; that of actual infertility resulting from the use of artificial hormones for years and years. The consequence of moral questions such as mine and that of thousands of other women; could I have killed my baby?

This is information that doesn't get out very much, but the Pill does, in fact, cause abortions. Yup.

You say that you support the use of the pill but you're against abortion? Hypocrite! Get thee to a medical tome and educate the ignorance out of yourself!

The Pill works first by suppressing ovulation. Should a woman ovulate in spite of the unnatural hormones which have been inflicted upon her, the secondary "safety" of the pill is to think the uterine lining, making it uninhabitable for the newly-formed life. Thus that tiny life is just flushed away, and only God knew he or she had been sent into the world and rejected. It's like a tiny Jesus, rejected in complete brutality.

Thousands upon thousands of woman are unknowingly and uncomprehendingly flushing their children down the toilet. Many of these woman do not believe in abortion and would be horrified at this thought, and well they should be.

And then there's the affect upon marriage; when you stand before God and proclaim your vows, you are saying that this is a reflection of God that you intend to live out; it is a sacrament of sacrificial love, which is all-giving to the other. It is a mutual self-giving, for love is not love without actual sacrifice and suffering on behalf on another. And just as love is givng, it is receptive. This is how we are designed; this is how God created us to be and to live.

Yet when we use barriers such as contraception, what we are saying is, "I give myself to you...except that which will make us whole." It rejects the love and designs of God in favor of self-fulfilling pleasure, it rejects life in favor of recreation. It does not unite a couple; it creates an artificial union in which there is no true sacrifice.

No wonder so many marriages fall apart; when even married men and women reject each other in their most intimate moments, how can they possibly remain in each other's company?

Contraception is not about love; it is the antithesis of love.

And it just gets worse; no one will talk about abstinence to teens who have been taught to be "free" - to even suggest it is worth nothing more than a derisive laugh. They have gone so far as to try to legislate a required vaccination against HPV, which is a sexually transmitted disease. This is not like measles, cholera, or any other commmunicable illness; HPV requires action on the part of the person who gets it in order to get it! It involves at risk behavior!

We have all these organizations formed to help victims of at-risk behavior, but none of them consider actually suggesting that the at-risk behavior stop. Oh, no, we can't do that; we can't suggest that someone change their lifestyle and give up their lusty habits.

We demand that people stop smoking, we demand that they stop drinking, using drugs, what have you. But there is no greater cause of suffering in our modern world than irresponsible sex, which is, by definition, any sexual union outside of the context of marriage.

Instead of addressing bad behavior, we address how to enable bad behavior and redefine the behavior as "good".

And now we come full circle and we see and experience the consequences of this behavior; and in no way can we call it "good."

When will people wake up out of their self-induced hypnotism of denial and realize that the consequences of their actions are far greater than what they can see?

When will women everywhere wake up and realize that they are killing their children?

St. Patrick's Feast Day

In the Catholic Church, throughout the year we celebrate the "Feast Days" of Saints as a way of recognizing their sanctity, their holiness, and as a way of helping us to walk in their footsteps. Saints are held up as an example to us all in how to live, love, and follow Christ, even unto the death.

To the best of my knowledge, though, St. Patrick was not a drunk.

Why, then, does our society insist upon dying beer green and drinking it to excess?

Amazingly, the "holiday" is also celebrated in secular schools, but of course with no attachment to the life of the man in whose name they celebrate, or in the name of the Savior in whose name St. Patrick lived. A thousand years from now, archaeologists are going to dig out our cities and find some preserved "St. Patrick's Day" items and stare in amazement at this odd holiday that takes the name of someone who died in the 5th Century, but doesn't mention him. They'll look at the bizarre rituals of green beer, dyed rivers, obsession with green and shamrocks, and come to the conclusion that, in fact, our culture has no taste.

Of course, that won't be a surprise to them because given the course our own society has taken over the last couple centuries (especilly the 1900's), taste has in fact taken a downturn so they'll perhaps be looking at us through the sterile eyes of Huxley's "Brave New World."

Oh, wait...I think we're almost there even now. And anyway, I digress.

Perhaps the best way to honor St. Patrick is to say his prayer and invoke it against the secularism that continues to drown our true heroes in green oblivion:

Christ shield me this day:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me

My friends, the way to celebrate the feast day of ANY Saint is through prayer and learning more about them so that one day, we can follow their footsteps straight into Heaven.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Hee Hee

You got 100% correct

You are a Church history expert. You know more than the average Catholic. You probably even have a love of Latin. Which your knowledge, you should consider teaching religious education classes, if you don't already.

How well do you know the history of the Catholic Church
Create a Quiz

Are you all in agreement? Do you think I should teach religion classes of some sort?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Skiing and the Spiritual Life

A couple weeks ago, an old friend called me up during the blizzard and his first words to me were, "That's white gold falling out there!"

I agreed. I love skiing, but I haven't gone in over a year. If I don't make it out this season, it'll be two years that my beloved sport is being neglected by me. That just isn't a good thing.

We planned to go to a local ski area this week, and I went to sleep that night with dreams composed of carving arcs on bright white snow, the feeling of the frigid air on my cheeks, and the sound of the rushing wind whistling in my ears. The rememberance of my last race, the flashing gates, the sound of my edges holding an impossibly small margin as I extended briefly into the apex of my turn in order to be kicked smoothly into the next. The power contained in the balance between control and loss of control - soaring...seeking...flying...

Pope John Paul II was also a HUGE fan of skiing, and I suspect that he found the same freedom in the sport that all we enthusiasts do; there is a purity in the movements and in the sport itself arising from the very cooperation with God and His Creation. We utilize Creation and the elements and in doing so, we soar, we are joyful, and the only thing we can do is praise God for the beauty of the earth He created and the fun we can create out of what would otherwise be nought but a hardship.
I love skiing. Did I mention that?

But there are lessons to be found in skiing that go beyond the sport. Father Corapi likes to use military metaphors, which are easily understood, but perhaps don't appeal to everyone. I like to use skiing metaphors, and admittedly, those won't appeal to everyone, either, but much of what I learned from skiing can be learned from other sports as well.

Some of the lessons I learned from skiing which also apply to the spiritual life::

* Always ski with someone who is better than you are; it keeps you humble, it forces you to go beyond your own bounaries in order to keep up, and it forces you to grow in ability and mastery of your skills.

* Don't be afraid of crashing. If you're not crashing, you're not trying hard enough.

* If you want to be good, you need the right equipment; if you're not willing to invest yourself you'll never make it. But don't go overboard; to do so makes you a slave. Elitism only makes you look like an idiot.

* People are just moving slalom poles. Plot your course, maintain control, and be prepared to react quickly when something suddenly comes your way.

* If you crash into or because of someone else, even if it's their fault, apologize and help them pick up their stuff.

* When you get off the ski lift, don't stop where you are if your're not ready to move on. Get out of the way and let others pass you.

* If you find out that you are in over your head, just keep a good lookout, go slowly, fall back upon the basics, and don't be afraid to ask for help. It's better than pretending you know more than you do and end up being carted off in a toboggan.

* If you come upon an accident and are in charge of marking the spot by setting your skis into the snow in an an upright "X" pattern, make sure you're wearing gloves when you do so. Those edges are sharp!

* Take care of your equipment; use the approprate wax, wipe the skis down after use, and be sure to keep them in top form. Proper care of the fundamental tools can prevent injury and even save your life.

* Don't be afraid of pain; when it hurts, it means you're doing something right, especially early on in the season. Just remember; there is such a thing as "good" pain and "bad" pain. If you can't figure out which is which, then find a coach to train you properly.

* At the top of the hill as you begin your run, fix your eyes on your goal and don't ever lose that focal point. You will thus be able to see and react to everything between you and that point and be able to react accordingly. Your focal point affects your form, your course, and directs your abilities as well as your attitude.

* The feeling of fallng is normal if you're in the correct position; it's what drives your forward movement. Trust is key.

* Always remember that no matter how much you know, there is still more to be gained and further progress to be made. No one is ever done learning, no matter how phenomenal they seem to be from the outside.

* Always be ready to learn from those you instruct.

* Skiing is not about rewards; if you're doing it for rewards you're missing the point.

* If you are true to the sport, do it with integrity - people will follow. Don't set out to change other people - be good and people will change to be like you. (Fr. V.)

* If someone of lesser ability asks to ski with you, welcome them along, don't push too hard, and be prepared to eat their powder; if you teach them correctly and with integrity, they may surpass you in ability in knowledge. Let them go, and be humble enough to follow in their tracks.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Inclusive Language and Affirmative Action

Last week I was speaking with a baby boomer who happened to be reading through one of my answers to the questions I had to turn in for class. John Paul II uses the term "man" throughout his works and so I adopted his same terms in order to answer the questions in the proper context and of course, without unweidy extra letters and words.

The woman turned to me as she read it and said, "And by MAN it also means WOMAN, right?" She nudged me conspiratorially and said sotto voce, "We have to update these men!"

I, of course, as typical of me, opened my mouth and gave my immediate opinion: "I HATE inclusive langage."

She was shocked and stared at me as though I were some sort of creature under glass. "Really?!"

I nodded, looking her directly in the eye, my blood already boiling. "Yup. I think it's incredibly offensive, and I'm speaking as an ex-cop and ex-firefighter."

I have always hated inclusive language. I grew up hearing the term "man" as a description of all humanity, and I did not have a problem with it. I remember the song we always used to sing in church, "Let there be peace one earth, and let it begin with me....with God as our Father, Brothers all are we...." was changed to some hokey phrase that, in my opinion, wrecked the meaning of the song. I NEVER felt excluded by the term "brothers" because I had always understood this to mean "brothers and sisters." But when I heard the "inclusive language" I felt EXCLUDED in such a way that apparently attention needed to be drawn to my "difference." It didn't make any sense to me.

Was I just a genius? No, not really. But I do look back and realize that I did have a certain amount of common sense which had not been disrupted by the lowest common denominator.

The understanding of language and context has always come easily to me, so perhaps I should not be so hard on those to whom it does not. But let's be realistic; the use of inclusive langue implies that women are too stupid to understand context and theology.

I compare it to "Affirmative Action" which implies that women and other designated "minorities" are too stupid or unqualified to get certain jobs. While Affirmative Action hasn't been all bad, it does get to a point where the goals it sought to meet have changed and in fact, are no longer needed in some places. I have come to loathe the term and the use of it. Why, you may ask?

Because, as I stated, it implies that I, as a woman, cannot possibly qualify for some things without something to help me do so. Inclusive language is the same thing. Not only does it change meanings of things, it's unweildy and insulting, and by its use, it sets apart those it professes to "include".

When I was first getting into Law Enforcement, I worked my butt off, knowing that I had a lot to overcome. At skills training, I put in extra time in the gym, I paid attention in class, and truth be told, I excelled both academically and physically. I actually take great pride in the fact that I did very well physically, far exceeding the "passing" requirements on the physical tests, especially considering that most of it catered to tall people and things that came easily to most men. I learned to adapt (some things with the help of my male counterparts), and for those things I could not seem to find a technique to overcome I worked extra hard to obtain the required strength. And to be fair, the skills program I went to actually had some standards that were more stringent for women, in recognition of the differences in the female body and thus our abilities for certain tasks.

I have constantly met people who claimed that I only got into skills, or, when I was done with my formal education, got hired as a cop because of "Affirmative Action."

All I can say to those people is a very uncharitable "Bite me!"

I worked HARD to prove to myself and to the world that I could do the job; and considering that I was then and am still only 5'3", and managed to not only compete with but beat many of the men in my class...take that "benefit" of Affirmative Action and stuff it where the sun don't shine.

(I may remove this post or edit this later, so read and comment now while it's hot!)

I got really SICK of being told that I only did what I did because of some legislative BS. It was a complete denial of the reality of the hard work I put in to legitimately qualify for every goal I sought. I did it on my own merit, on the network of references that I built through solid work ethic, and of course, by the grace of God.

Maybe some women are comfortable with the idea of coasting along on some kind of legislation that permitted laziness and lawsuits for alleged "discrimination." I knew some women like that and I did my best to distance myself from them. They make all of us look like a bunch of fools. And amazingly, every woman I knew in that particular category was a rabid feminist who couldn't be bothered to put in the extra effort in the gym or with the books or whatever was required to take them out of their myopic navel-gazing worldview.

Then I was hired as a cop and still heard the same old BS from the ignorant; "You only got hired so they could fill a quota."

Is there anything that attacks anyone's professional and personal dignity more than such an idea?

Move on to firefighting; I've also run into a bunch of ignoramuses who suggested that women in firefighting can't do the job because they don't have to work as hard in training.


Yeah, I gave those people an earful, too. (I used to cuss like a sailor and I didn't hold back when provoked. I'm not proud of it but it DID make people think twice before saying such inflammatory things.)

The reality is this; women CAN do the job, and admittedly, it comes a lot easier to men because men are built for it. But they suffer for the job, too. I can give you lists of names of men who have wrecked their knees, their shoulders (shoulder injuries are common to firefighters and can be very debilitating), their lungs, hearing, etc. No one is made for that job, but it is necessary and we should thank those who do it, men and women both. The fact is that although women can do the job, we have to work THREE TIMES AS HARD as men in order to do it, and our bodies really are't built to take that kind of physical stress.

In my early days on the job, I ran into one of the first women hired by the department. She told me to get promoted as soon as possible and get off the rigs; she explained that her body was worn out, she had worked hard for nearly 20 years to keep it up, and she'd been quite the feminist, but finally, she had to realize that she couldn't do it anymore because she'd never been designed that way. She couldn't seem to get the politics to get promoted off the rig so she worked for the "cushiest" possible job in the station, that of Fire Motor Operator (FMO), and was counting down the days to retirement while praying to get through the next physical checkup. She needed the pension she'd worked so hard to earn and was so close!

Radical feminism has done nothing more than destroy women; it's destroyed our bodies, it's destroyed our hearts, its destroyed our consciences. It's introduced trash such as inclusive language in an attempt to also destroy our intellect.

So we come full circle, don't we?

Let me be clear; I'm a feminist. I do believe that women can and should have the same opportunities as men in most cases. Yet that does not mean that I have checked my brain at the door. I know that when the Bible says "man" it also includes "woman" in the plan of salvation. No one needs to spell that out to me. The context is there and the inherent dignity we all have is written not only into the pages, but upon our hearts and souls.

If we look at other languages, we see that inclusivity isn't even a part of their culture. Apparently only Americans or other English-speakers are dumb enough not to understand actual context.

In Spanish, the use of -o or -a at the ends of words signifies the genders of the words. Some words are feminine even if applied to men, some words are masculine even if applied to women. And then there is the use of direct objects and words that apply to mixed company. What to do?

Let's take the term: todos. Everyone.

Todas - everyone (applied to a group of females)
Todos - everyone (applied to a group of males)

Todos - applied to a group of mixed men and women.

In Mexico, I never met a woman who was offended to be included in a group referred to as "todos".

The reality is that language by its very nature is already inclusive unless the context excludes a certain group. It does not take a brain surgeon to figure out context.

We do not need inclusive language in the Church; we do not need rabid feminist propaganda to wreck what is not broken. When we women go to Mass, we see images of the women who have gone before us, primarily Mary, our Mother, who paves the way to Jesus Christ. Our femininity is not denied, but is included in the worship and is in fact an integral part the Mystical Body of Christ.

Inclusive language denies our dignity as women by the implication that we have to be set apart. We MUST not be set apart from the whole for it is men and women who complete one another.

And what does Affirmative Action have to do with this? Nothing. I just felt like spouting off about a secular insult to the integrity of women everywhere.

I'm a woman. I get to do that kind of thing. It's in my nature. Deal with it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Breadcrust Again

A few weeks ago, I lost my rosary ring. It's a small ring with a crucifix and 10 little rounded nubs which I wore all the time. Part of it was the visible crucifix at all times, part was the discomfort caused by the little nubs against my other fingers - they reminded me to pray, and they reminded me who I represent.

I lost the ring one Sunday morning. I remembered having it before I left my house for Mass, but it was at Mass that I realized it wasn't on my finger. I thought maybe I'd dropped it when taking it out of my pocket as I got out of my car.

I realized in that moment that it was gone and I would ever find it. I did send up a prayer to St. Anthony, sort of half-hearted, but it was there. But the ring hasn't left my mind.

Part of my attachment to the ring is actually sentimental because the blessing upon the ring itself was an answer to a spiritual need.

I had purchased the ring during the week, and on Friday that week, I ran to the Adoration chapel to spend a little time with Jesus. I was feeling very unloved, very disconsolate, very frustrated with life in general. I really needed to know and understand God's love, so I went straight to the source and offered all of this up.

As I left the chapel, a priest, a local hospital chaplain, was coming out of the sacristy. He's from Africa, and has the BEST smile I've ever seen, which of course, really stands out! I didn't really know him, but his smile reassured me of his approachability, so I asked him to bless my ring.

I carefully held it in my hand and he exclaimed, "I can do more than THAT!"

So Father blessed my ring, and then placed his palm against my forehead and blessed ME!

I thanked him with tears in my eyes; God had answered my prayer, He had displayed His love for me, the reassurance of his presence and fidelity to us in even our smallest crises.

After that day, every time I looked at that ring, I saw not only the love of Christ who died for us on the cross, but the personal love for each and every one of us.

Then, this morning, as I was bringing the dogs in from our walk, I took a look at the bush containing my own personal breadcrust. It's still there, still lodged within the branches. I wondered if it would turn green or just disintegrate eventually?

From there, my eyes happend to drop downward to a stone at the base of the bush. And next to the stone, directly beneath the breadcrut, was a glitter of silver. I looked more closely...and it was my ring!

How on EARTH did it get THERE!?

I have no idea. I wasn't wearing the ring at the time I last passed through that door on the day I lost it. I don't wear the ring on dog walks, but only don it upon leaving for work or other things because of the design which has a propensity to get caught on things. I know for certain that on the day I'd lost it, it was not on my finger, and further, I'd been wearing gloves which I did not need to remove in order to open the door.

So how did the ring get there? Right there, with the mysterious breadcrust marking the very spot?

Thank you, St. Anthony. Yet another miracle to testify to God's love an fidelity.

Thank you, Jesus.

Blessed Mother Teresa- my first portrait

When Mother Teresa died in 1997, I was working nights and with nothing much to do, I rediscovered my love of art. I had never been able to take a serious art class so I didn't have much to work with, so I could only call upon the very basic mediums with which I was familiar; pen and ink, and charcoals/pastels.

In 8th grade art class, the teacher recognized that I had a certain ability and he wanted me to develop it further, and I'll admit that his encouragement remains valuaable to me even today. Sometimes we don't know that we have certain gifts unless someone actually sees that spark and asks us to take it further, perhaps coaxing it into a flame.

Well, my sights were set on studying Spanish, so I studied that, to the detriment of the art which remained an innate part of my soul. I don't regret studying Spanish; rather, I wish that there had been other, greater opportunities to study art more seriously and in greater depth.

I was never good at portraits and I didn't like having to work from the models and modes they suggested; I felt hampered by it. For example, in order to draw a face, we'd have to use a ruler to draw the lines where the eyes would be, where the nose would be, etc. I struggled and struggled with this. I was able to do well in capturing the shape of someone's jaw, but the "line" method actually seemed to hinder me from seeing and replicating what was there in front of me. I'll never know why that is because this is a great method for drawing portraits. But when I began to do portraits, I began with whatever line happened to stand out to me, usually the line of the brow.

So when I was rediscovering my apptitude for art, I also happened to be struggling to come back to my faith. Mother Teresa had long captured my imagination and my respect; such a small woman, such a large faith! I knew people who had gone to India and they'd actually been able to meet her, and through that were transformed.

When she died, I suffered real grief, realizing that I would never meet the saintly woman; she had left for eternity.

Point to make about artists; we express ourselves through art. We take the grief, the joy, whatever emotion happens to have fallen upon us, and we translate that into our chosen mediums. At that time, I was suddenly hit with an inspiration to draw Mother Teresa.

There were some photographs of her in a biography I was reading, and so I opened the book and began, painstakingly, to try to capture the essence that was Mother Teresa. I fell in love with her all over again as I drew the picture below, capturing the line of her brow, the wrinkles that made up her face, her care-worn hands. Through such an intense study of her physical appearance, she came alive at the tip of my pencil, and I began to truly see the wonder of the design of humanity. As I drew her, I also drew closer to God, in complete wonderment realizing that as I reproduced every single wrinkle and the curvature of her fingers in prayer, that God knew of each and every wrinkle, had designed each and every bone that made up her structure, and He knew her deeply beyond the face and the veil that so captivated the world.

And I realized that if He could know Mother Teresa so deeply and personally, then He also knew ME that deeply and personally. So I continued drawing with a newfound joy, and when I thought I was done, I realized that I had not finished the picture; there was room for a second image, resulting from the first, and in the end, the first image actually AROSE from the second.

I was struck today by this image; Mother Teresa was who she was because of prayer; it was prayer and union with God that transformed her from a simple, everyday woman to the spiritual giant she became, and the strength she provided in her very presence. She absolutely RADIATED Jesus Christ. Now, when I look at this image, I realize that we are ALL called to do what she did; we are all called to give ourselves utterly to God, which can only be done through deep conversation with God in prayer, and through the Sacraments, and allow Him to live through us.

Blessed Mother Teresa, Pray for us.

Ahhhh....sweet, sweet vacation

I woke up this morning secure in the knowledge that I did not need to go to I went back to sleep. I could have gotten up to go to Mass, and I am suffering admitted guilt over not doing so, especially considering that, when I went back to sleep, I had a terrible dream.

For some reason, I was driving a 1999 Honda Civic, and myself and some co-workers and friends were meeting at a barbecue restaurant for some ribs. When it was time to go, I was delayed by some activity I had to do, after which a friend and I walked to our cars.

My car was parked in the corner of the very well-lighted but nearly-empty lot, and as it came into view, I saw that a band of car thieves had also just arrived and were quickly dismantling my car. There went the hood! They had the doors opened and were going to work on the interior.

I began yelling and running towards them, demanding that they get away from my car. They wouldn't leave, just calmly kept working. Somehow, I entered into some sort of dialogue with the thieves. I asked them why they were doing this and they explained that they were working on the orders of a popular shop called "Lo-Max" (doesn't exist in reality, people, don't look them up in the phone book). Apparently this shop was dealing in stolen goods, an idea that did not surprise me, but I was surprised by the fact that the ringleader was so candid about this.

The short of it was that they were going to take my car and all its parts and I was simply not going to terrify them with threats of 911. I realized that during this dialogue, the thieves had both myself and my friend surrounded...and there were no witnesses. It was a bad situation. Somehow we managed to get out of this "ring" around us and escaped to the other end of the lot. I didn't have a cell phone and when I saw people, I asked for help. Finally a "large" half-naked man told me he had a cell in his back pocket and I was welcome to use it to call the police.

Then I couldn't get through to 911 and I tried repeatedly. Finally I gave the phone back, somehow got home, but STILL, every time I called 911 I got either a busy signal or an automated voice that told me that they were busy and I would have to call back. I was thankful I wasn't dying.

Then I woke up. So that's the start of my vacation.

I'm going to enjoy my week, firstly by realizing that I don't have a 99 Honda Civic, so it's not likely to be stolen. I also don't have any plans to go to a barbecue restaurant.

Today they are predicting 55 degree temps so I'm going to grill the first steak of the season while enjoying an adult beverage of some sort. I'm going to do my reading for class, walk my dogs, and make appointments to have my taxes done and my hair cut. I really need a haircut, and maybe I'll get a manicure, too. Not something I typically indulge in, but there is something about these little beauty rituals that gives we women a boost. And my regular readers know how desperately I need a boost.

I'm going to go to Confession this week, too.

And I'm going to do LOTS of reading for my class; the first two books are Dives in miseriacordia and Dominum et vivificantem. And possibly the Vatican II document Gaudium et spes for one of my papers. Salvici Dolores is also on tap if I do the paper on mercy...basically I haven't chosen my topic yet, but because of my free time this week, I'll be able to study and plan, which is why I'm taking this vacation. And of course, to get away from the stress at work because I hate my job with such a passion.

And I'll be seeking other employment this week, too. Please pray for me...I need a miracle in very short order!

In any case, I'm already loving my time off and I'm thanking God from the very center of my soul for this blessing!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

First Judgment

Today I go to face my first judgment; we have our second 6+ hour class on the Writings of John Paul II. I don't want to go. But of course, I want to go because I want to learn, and I NEED to go because I can't run away from the unpleasant business of being graded for my work.

And of course, this may factor into my discernment as to whether to continue on, submit my application to Ave Maria for the MA in Pastora Theology, and apply this credit towards my academic future. Or....let it go?

Today I may know. Lord, have mercy.

But the good news is that the breadcrust is still there guarding my door, so while I'm facing my judgment and the next challenge, it will be keeping watch in the bright, sunny longing-to-be-spring weather.

UPDATE! 7:24 pm

I just got home from class a little while ago; good news and bad news. The bad news is that I did not receive my judgment today and may have to wait until Friday. The good news is that everyone else struggled as much as I did and we all feel inadequate.

More good news; I'm completely blown away by what I'm learning and so much is coming together for me, both intellectually and spiritually. As we went through the class, I'm not so much forming my mind as my heart and soul (well, GOD is doing the formation, to be accurage), and WOW, the amazement and joy of coming to a greater understanding of God and man!

What's also extremely cool is that Thomas Aquinas is frequently cited and quoted, and of couse, he's my patron. Remind me to read Summa as soon as I get done with this class.

And still more good news; for our paper, the bibliography is not needed unless we are using outside sources (other than the assigned texts), and minimal citations are needed. The work will still be challenging, of course, but I love and welcome the challenge, especially given the great spiritual benefits.

EVERYONE should be reading this stuff and taking this class! I hope in the coming weeks to provide my own fledgling catechesis to all of you with regard to what I am learning. I can't explain this theology as clearly or coherently as our professor, but if I can even impart a fraction of this information, then it will be well worth it!