Thursday, July 31, 2008
OK, without further ado:
1. How does the world see me? Sweet Sacrifice - Evanescence (The Open Door)
(some of the lyrics...."Fear is only in our minds but is taking over all the time...") Am I THAT transparent? REALLY?
2. How is my life going? Timeless - Selah (Press On)
Time, it’s changing me
It’s hard to see who I am
Touched, I’m touched by many things
So many things I don’t understand
Wow...THAT song is accurate...
3. What do my friends really think of me? The Lighthouse's Tale - Nickel Creek (Nickel Creek)
Hmm....let me assure you all that I'm not going to commit suicide after burying my drowned true love in the sand. Although I might tell the tale of someone else who does that!
4. Do People Secretly Lust After Me? Pure - Superchick (Beauty from Pain 1.1)
I'm not sure if I should feel insulted or comforted...
5. How can I make myself happy? Deliver Me - Sarah Brightman (Brokedown Palace)
Deliver me, loving and caring
Deliver me, giving and sharing
Deliver me, the cross that I'm bearing
All of my life I was in hiding
Wishing there was someone just like you
Now that you're here, now that I've found you
I know that you're the one to pull me through
6. What should I do with my life? Your Star - Evanescence (The Open Door)
And I'm alone now,
Me and all I stood for.
We're wandering now.
All in parts and pieces, swim lonely, find your own way out.
So far away.
It's growing colder without your love.
Why can't you feel me calling your name?
Can't break the silence,
It's breaking me.
Dark night of the soul?
7. Will I ever have children? Anything but ordinary - Avril Lavigne (Let Go)
Sometimes I get so weird
I even freak myself out
I laugh my self to sleep
It's my lullaby
8. What is good advice for me? The Story - Brandi Carlisle
OK, I gotta tellya, this is probably HANDS DOWN my favorite song EVER. It's something I want to sing with a band sometime before I die. (I HAVE sung with a band before...in two different countries! And glass did not shatter!) There's only one part I can't do like Brandi...just guess....
Anyway I'm posting ALL the lyrics on this one!
All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true...I was made for you
I climbed across the mountain tops
Swam all across the ocean blue
I crossed all the lines and I broke all the rules
But baby I broke them all for you
Because even when I was flat broke
You made me feel like a million bucks
I was made for you
You see the smile that's on my mouth
It's hiding the words that don't come out
And all of my friends who think that I'm blessed
They don't know my head is a mess
No, they don't know who I really am
And they don't know what
I've been through like you do
And I was made for you...
All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true...I was made for you
9. How will I be remembered? All I need - Bethany Dillon (Wow Hits 2005)
When the morning comes
And Your mercy is renewed
There's a fire in my bones
I'm not afraid to go alone
10. What is my signature dance song? Courage - Superchick (Beauty from Pain)
I need you to know
I'm not through the night
Some days I'm still fighting to walk towards the light
This song is actually about anorexia...not a problem for me...
11. What do I think my current theme song is? Grace Like Rain - Todd Agnew (WOW Hits 2005)
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I'm found
Was blind but now I see so clearly
Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me
Hallelujah, all my stains are washed away, washed away
12. What do my friends think my current theme song is? Beauty from Pain - Superchick (Beauty from Pain)
My whole world is the pain inside me
The best i can do is just get through the day
When life before is only a memory
I'll wonder why God lets me walk through this place
And though i can't understand why this happened
I know that i will when i look back someday
And see how you've brought beauty from ashes
And made me as gold purified through these flames
13. What song will play at my funeral? Red Light - Johnny Lang (Cities 97 Sampler)
You can run a red light
Give up at a red light
You break the mold
When running through the tolls
Speeding through your whole life
THAT doesn't bode well!
14. What kind of men do I like? What a feeling - Heather Nova (Siren)
Life is only half way in our hands
Years have passed while I was making plans
And I could never find the words
I always felt absurd, and always outside
But now I know I shouldn't care
There's a song already there
15. What is my day going to be like? I can do better - Avril Lavigne (The Best Damn Thing)
Hmmmm....that's not very holy. Maybe I should just plan to go to Confession....
Maybe I'll tag people in the morning...or...feel free to steal this one!
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
The trip to Ohio was incredible and while it WAS all fun and games, I met our Lord there, too. For He seeks us out wherever we are and speaks in quiet moments, and even amidst chaos where we'd least expect to find Him.
Being that we attended Mass both with Fr. V. and again on Sunday with Fr. S., I heard the Gospel of the Pearl of Great Price twice, and, between the two homilies, the full impact of that Gospel was brought home to me. And I really think the events of Friday and Saturday had prepared me for the message. At the Vatican Splendors exhibit, I was stopped in my tracks as I gazed upon the Ciborium and Chalice. It wasn't the artistry or the preciousness of the metal or anything else. It is what they had contained. And right there, silently, unwaveringly, I stared into the chalice and made a confession of faith: "Oh, Lord, I BELIEVE!"
I didn't care about the value of the items, but the Sacrament that binds us, that holds us close to Our Lord. I think, maybe in that moment, one of my personal walls came down as I looked past the material and saw the eternal. How appropriate, then, was the Gospel for Sunday; it was as if Jesus was speaking DIRECTLY to me.
Fr. V., in his homily, spoke of the pearl in the parable in a way I've never heard, although his words carried forth a theme that had also struck me in the past. He spoke of how Jesus sees US as the pearl of great price, and He gave EVERYTHING in order to possess us. The truth of his words hit their mark, and my typical interior struggle began, for, you see, I have a REALLY difficult time seeing myself as "the pearl of great price." Oh, sure, my birthstone is a pearl, but that's just coincidence, right? Yet I can't honestly deny the value of my life in God's eyes...for I could look up and see exactly what dignity He gave me (and all of us!) by dying on the cross in agony and humiliation. Yet our Lord did not die to possess a puny stone obtained from a sea creature; He died for US. To Him, we are worth FAR more than some pretty rock.
At Mass that evening, in the quiet after Communion, Our Lord spoke to me. Not in words, but in understanding. I've written before of my sense of being a pilgrim on earth, having a certain "rootlessness" that I can't really explain. Maybe being away from home and all the responsibilities and attachments of my everyday life was necessary, but right there, I realized I was "home". It's not about the location or the church, but the Mass. No matter where I go on earth, that's as close to Home as any of us will get until we go "beyond the veil". I was, in a true sense, a pilgrim this weekend, experiencing a taste of real freedom, and realizing that whether I am in Minneapolis, or Akron, or Oaxaca, if there is Mass, I'm home. Wherever Jesus can be found, there I want to be.
On Sunday, Fr. S. spoke of the more common translation of the gospel, completing the lesson, calling my attention to the choice between what is material and what is real. Christ is our Pearl, and more valuable than any pearl. When we recognize who He is, how can we not be changed forever? Why in the world would we NOT want to leave everything to follow Him wherever He leads? And truly, the place I call "home" which is really just a box I keep my stuff in, can't possibly contain my most valuable possession.
My attention was drawn to the dichotomy of my life; if I can’t let go of those things I so willingly embrace, I am not free to possess the Pearl, nor am I allowing Jesus to possess me. Both interpretations of this Gospel are needed; both call us to conversion. Both call us to recognize where we are...and WHO we are called to become.
Our lives are not our own; they were given to us as a gift, but ultimately, our lives belong to God and we are called to, in proper turn, offer this great gift back according to our Call.
Maybe this weekend my attention was called to the fact that I already possess the pearl of great price; and I am in turn possessed by Him. I think Jesus already has me, heart and soul, and I know that as long as I have Him, I need nothing more.
For those who read my previous post early on, I updated it this morning to include our foray into the dark tower...um...I mean, the bell tower. But there's more.
When Fr. V. and Fr. S. went into the tower and climbed, I remained at the bottom at first, held back by two fears; my fear of spiders, and my fear of ladders. As a child, I fell through a ladder-hole much like the ones in the tower, and while I felt I could climb up with no problem, I knew I'd have to come back down. And so I agonized. I SO DESPERATELY wanted to climb to the top! I am not afraid of heights, thankfully, and I knew my fears were irrational. And so I struggled with myself, I paced, and truly, I could think of a thousand good reasons to climb the tower. And I knew that, if someone were dying, I'd be up there in a flash, undeterred. So why, I asked myself, couldn't I climb without such motivation? What was I REALLY afraid of, for really, I knew my fears were just ghosts? The Fathers would have cleared away any webs through their ascent. And the ladders were sturdy, much easier to climb than any of our Fire Dept. ladders. And physically, there was nothing holding me back.
Finally, thoroughly disgusted with myself, I didn't climb the tower; I attacked it. It was all-out assault. And once I began and got to the first level, I knew I'd finish; because it isn't in me to quit once I've taken that step. The ONLY possible outcome for this was to reach the top. Nothing else was acceptable.
(Granted, there was a certain non-virtue of Pride...my cyber-bros were up there and I couldn't let them show me up!)
The next day, 30,000 feet or so above the midwest, I suddenly saw the bell tower in a new light. There, looking out the plane window at the earth below, I asked God to reveal His will for me, to help me understand Him and what happened this weekend.
He didn't reveal himself...he revealed me.
The tower, my agony at the base of it...that is my spiritual life. That's my discernment. That's what I do. He just made me live it out physically.
One of my biggest battles is this: I don’t tend to focus on what is immediately in front of me, but rather, the entirety of an obstacle. Sometimes this is a gift, but when it comes to something important, something personal, I can't seem to break it down. To use the bell tower as a parable, I don’t see only one story; I look at one portion and see what is required for them all. The entire spectrum pushes me backward and I plummet to the ground, terrified I’ll never make it – so why even try?
It’s not one thing with me; it’s several things. It’s not what’s exterior; it’s what’s interior. The battle is not with the elements that surround me; it’s with myself.
God spoke to me this weekend, very quietly, very personally, forcing me to see who I am and who He created me to be. And who am I to turn Him down? I know where my treasure is and I know that I should stop at nothing to possess it.
Thank you, Jesus.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I know that my local friends are DYING to know what happened on my recent trip to Cleveland (very little of which actually took place in Cleveland!), so maybe it's time to finally get started. The photos are (mostly) uploaded on my end, emails have gone back and forth, and I already miss my friends. But life must go on...which is good, otherwise I'd never have time to write about it! And I have to say that if it were not for Fr. V., I would not have been there; he's the one who invited me, connected me with CK (my hostess and now great friend) he's the one who set it all up for all of us. You should all know that he really sacrificed to make this weekend happen and I can speak for ALL of us when I say we are all grateful and appreciate the work he has done in spite of everything else going on in his life. And because of him, I have a whole bunch of new friendships (all of whom I hope to see again, in Minnesota or elsewhere!). So...thanks, Fr. V.! And also special thanks to my other dear friend and hostess, CK!
DISCLAIMER/ PSA: I do NOT advocate flying across the country to meet people you have never met! Although that's what I did, there was email and blog contact with these people before I met them, I know they were who they claimed to be (no doubt at all - verifiable info), and truly, it was more like attending a Catholic conference than some random connection. There was discernment involved in this trip so that when I left, I was not worried about my safety. Other than a potential plane crash. The plane(s) didn't crash. All was well.
BACK TO THE STORY...
I was nervous. I have written that I was a VERY shy child, and somewhere over Michigan's Lower Peninsula, I realized that although I FELT like I knew these people, I'd not met a single one. Although we'd spoken on the phone...they're not real friends until we meet! I realized I am insane (as though THAT were any epiphany), and that I was going, and that the person meeting me at the airport was likely nervous, too. After all...CK was not only meeting me at the airport, she was to be my hostess! What if we didn't get along? (Yes, unimagineable, but still possible!)
I got my baggage and didn't see anyone apparently looking for someone, so I opened one of the pockets of my luggage, beginning to organize a couple things. And that's when it happened...my nail caught...and snapped - right across the center of my right index finger. And it was bleeding. Painfully. Great. It figures. I realized immediately what that meant...I'd be using my hostesse's bandaids. * sigh*
CK (a guest blogger on Adam's Ale) arrived shortly after the traumatic encounter with my luggage pocket and we headed off to the Akron Zoo...um...I mean...St. Sebastian's. Father Schnippel was arriving that afternoon, too, and called me en-route. Being that I wasn't local and wanted to give him some kind of ETA, I looked around for a sign of our location.
"We just passed a sign that says '55 MPH' Does that help?"
It didn't. I confess I was very nervous. Although I've long overcome my shyness, I think there's still a shadow of it that plagues me, and in reality, who WOULDN'T be nervous at meeting a lot of people for the first time in person?
But the good Fathers were gracious and did not make us walk to the entrance to the zoo...uh...I mean, the door to the rectory, but rather, came out to greet us out front before welcoming us in. And then we got the GRANDE TOUR of St. Sebastian's, to include the rectory, church, school, old convent, and grounds. It was BEAUTIFUL, and as CK had told me, "Oooh La LA!" And, to be sure, Father V. looked very proud of his new home and I can tell you already that he's a wonderful pastor to his new flock.
Unfortunately that evening he had duties pertaining to his state, and so Fr. Schnippel, CK, and I headed out to Luigi's for dinner, and then back to the rectory for a screening of "Bella", which, amazingly, did not make me cry. I think my only excuse was that there was so much coming at me this weekend that I maybe wasn't yet "myself." (It was an AWESOME movie, and actually, I got teary-eyed a couple times...ESPECIALLY in the abortion-clinic scene. And I think had I started, I might have kept going...)
A cool thing, though, that I HAVE to mention; before we headed out to dinner, Fr. V., Fr. S., CK, and I prayed evening prayer in the beautiful Church, and it was only the second time I've prayed Liturgy of the Hours with others (the first was with the Sisters last spring).
Well, CK and I drove back to Cleveland area to sleep, with the plans to meet the Fathers and LM at the Lourdes Shrine in Euclid the next day. For those who aren't aware, the shrine is especially dear to LM's heart for she will be joining the Sisters there next May. It was a blessed tour around the shrine, and ended in the chapel where Fr. V., Fr. S., LM, CK and I prayed Daytime prayer and a rosary in the chapel. We sang my favorite hymn (badly... * sigh * ) as we left. I send my apologies to Jesus and St. Thomas Aquinas. (Fathers..I TOLD you I can't sing anymore...good thing I'm not a cantor.)
That evening, we went to LM's house where we met her parents, Fr. Schnippel blessed the beer, as promised, in Latin no less! As we all stood around chatting and joking and drinking blessed beer, Uncle Jim and Aunt Roz arrived from Indiana, and I have to say...I felt like I was at a family reunion! After all we had Father(s), a Sister (to be), an Aunt, and Uncle and other people who FELT like long-lost relatives! We closed the evening with a special screening of "The Princess Bride" which was nearly quoted line-by-line by your favorte nerds: me, LM, Fr. V., and Fr. S. Uncle Jim was grinning ear-to-ear, not at the movie, but at OUR antics! And even though I've seen the movie many times, I'll still never watch it the same way again!
Saturday was another busy day; we met up at the Vatican Splendors exhibit, the main premise for my trip (even though it's coming to St. Paul), where I FINALLY got to meet commenter MJ, her son and his friend, and another commenter, Sylvana, from Fr. V.'s blog. The exhibit was WONDERFUL and there were a few moments where I was stopped in my tracks, the most prominent of which took place at a splendid ciborium and chalice. I stared at them, enclosed in a plexiglass case, realizing what they have contained, and in that moment thought, "Oh, Lord, I BELIEVE!" And there was no doubt in my mind. None.
Although there was an audio tour, for the most part I turned it off in favor of listening to Fr. S. as he provided many details about the various items in the exhibit. So, for those of you here in the Twin Cities...when it comes to St. Paul....GO! Who knows? I may go again! (Fr. V., Fr. S., LM, CK, MJ, Uncle Jim, Aunt Roz....wanna come to MN?)
After the museum, we headed to Little Italy for lunch, and then down to St. Sebastian's for Mass with Fr. V. CK and I stopped at her house quickly to grab a salad she'd made for that evening's dinner at the rectory, and then drove the 45 minutes to Akron, where we arrived just in time for Mass! And it was beautiful, and it was amazing to be present there at St. Sebastian's with the famous Fr. V. presiding.
For those of you who haven't seen the church...the photos can't do it justice. Fr. V. is an artist and so has an amazing eye for beautiful images, but there is no technology on earth that can truly engage in participation with divine designs created by human hands. The mosaic in the front is enormous..you can't IMAGINE the scale and truly, I couldn't keep my eyes off of it! I was constantly seeing something new! Same for the stained glass windows and the various things, such as the altars and statues in the church. I truly wish I could have spent an hour by myself alone in the church, just wandering around, praying, and soaking in the beauty.
And holiness...I need a HUGE dose of holiness....
Oh, sorry, did I get off track?
After Mass, CK, LM, LM's parents, Uncle Jim, Aunt Roz, MJ and I went with the Fathers to the rectory to socialize and have dinner. And a special treat; Fr. V's sister Mikki (who is just a DOLL) and a friend of his and her family joined us. It was yet another evening of much laughter, good food, good wine, and amazing friendship. Maybe I can't speak for everyone, but it was as if we'd all been good friends for YEARS! And again, it felt more like family. (Or maybe I just need to attend one of my own family reunions for once? Hmmmmm....)
Sunday most of us traipsed down to Akron again for Mass with Father Schnippel, which, again, was just incredible, and left a certain hilarity. Father, always the Vocations Director, worked to recruit the altar servers. One of them gave the ENTIRE CHURCH the "deer-in-the-headlights" look and sat perfectly straight, apparently convinced that Father was going to immediately drag him off to the seminary to the great amusement of us all. (Seriously...poor kid! But his expression was CLASSIC!)
Fr. S., LM, Uncle Jim, Aunt Roz, CK and I all went out to eat after Mass, and then saw our dear Aunt and Uncle off as they headed back to Indiana. The rest of us returned to Akron and St. Sebastian's. Fr. V. was not available that day, so we headed to an art show, where we worked up such a thirst in the summer afternoon sun that it was necessary to hydrate at Beer O'Clock! (That wasn't the place..it was the time...)
We returned to the Akron Zoo...um...rectory and went downstairs to hang out in the cool undergroundness that is specific to finished basements especially those with furniture ripe to make a FORTUNE on Ebay. Fr. V. returned from his life, as exhausted as the rest of us (and probably even more so). We weren't ready for dinner, all of us agreed "hanging out" was just fine, so after some languid afternoon conversation, we headed up to play a game of Bocci (what is that in Slavic?) behind the church.
Father Schnippel...did you and I win? I think we scored the winning points with our joint effort didn't we?
Then Fr. V. got the bright idea that we should explore St Sebastian's bell tower which, we were to learn, meant we had to pass through a hobbit door and then climb 6 rusty ladders from hell bolted to the walls. And don't even TALK to me about the spiders I KNOW were there! As Fr. V. noted, it took me awhile to battle my own stupid anxiety before I finally just DECIDED to climb. One thing Fr. V. didn't know, though...one of the reasons coming back down is so hard is, well, climbing down is always the most difficult, but I once fell through a hole just like those that were in the tower. It was NOT a pleasant experience. I gotta say, though, had I not climbed the tower to join the good Fathers at the top, I would have regretted it. And the view WAS as beautiful as Fr. V. says it is!
After the tour of the bell tower, after which we STILL forgot to ask to see Fr. V's supremely cool chalice, we returned to the basement for a lively game of trivia, thanks to my gracious hostess, CK. (What was the actual name of that game?) It was electronic and we played by a couple different rules. I'm ashamed to say that a couple times I got carried away and helped the other team (how embarassing!) and once realized the obvious answer when the time was done, and a couple times had "blonde" moments...but so did EVERYONE ELSE!
I'm going to spare everyone the embarassment of their own moments, especially considering that those of us who were there are the only ones who will think it funny.
Although, I have to say this: while I waited at the gate in Cleveland yesterday afternoon, on the loudspeaker they paged some guy named "Jeremiah". And in my head began the tune, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog..." yet my ADD brain substituted simultaneously, "PROPHET!"
And I'm STILL trying to find the similarities between Cashmere and Leather.
And for the life of me, I can't figure out how someone has never heard of "Fraggle Rock". Or the "No Spin Zone".
All in all, it was an incredible weekend with incredible friends, ones I hope to see again, and I'm still concocting plans to get back to Ohio...and Indiana. And come to think of it, I have a cousin in Lexington...maybe I can get there by way of Cincinnati....
Personally, I'm only disappointed in one thing. I figured, flying into Cleveland, that I'd be met at the gate by Drew Carey and his tribe, handed a couple of microbrews, and heckled all the way to the baggage claim.
But, that failure of Ohio etiquette notwithstanding, Cleveland DOES rock!
What do you think...will Ohio have me back?
Monday, July 28, 2008
I was coming to Ohio to visit several people I've never met in person, only via the internet. And let me tell you...I do NOT recommend that anyone do such a thing! And two of my friends, Fr. V. and Fr. Schnippel (who, by the way, also had never even met each other before that day) chastized me greatly for taking such a risk. And from that point on, a great time was had by all!
Also prominent among the "strangers" who are now friends were Uncle Jim, Lillian-Marie, and some monikered commenters such as MJ and guest blogger at Adam's Ale, CK, who also joined into the fray.
There is much to tell...but you'll have to wait. I'm still mulling over the adventured of the weekend, and besides...I haven't had any coffee yet. My gracious hostess, CK, has a coffee machine that, as she said, requires an Engineering degree in order to run, and the dear lady is still asleep in her exhaustion from the weekend. (So am I, so are we all!) In any case, I can barely form thoughts in the morning, much less run a complicated coffee maker!
Late this afternoon I'll get on a plane (a puddle-jumper, actually) and return to Minneapolis, sad to be leaving all of my friends in Ohio. But I've got a suggestion from Fr. S. to visit Cincinnatti, a hint from Uncle Jim and Aunt Ros to visit Indiana, and have to promise to return before Lillian-Marie enters the convent next May. No word on whether Fr. V. looks forward to my return... OH! And of course, I'm also expecting these friends to head up to my neck of the woods at some point in the future.
More to come...after I get home...and get some photos developed. For now...I'm headed to the kitchen for the coffee that is now brewing.
See ya back in the Land of 10,000 Lakes!
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
It's been a crazy couple days just preparing for this trip. Of course, it wouldn't be so bad, just throwing some stuff in a suitcase, but because a friend is coming to stay at my house to dogsit while I'm away, I spent a long time cleaning, making sure it was set up for another person with my junk and clutter out of her way.
Gotta say...just taking the dog to a kennel is a lot easier, but my dog doesn't eat in captivity...something I learned when I first adopted her. So keeping her home is the best for her and besides...she loves visitors! Although I KNOW she's going to take advantage with Alpha Dog being away and I'll probably have to really crack down when I get back!
Such is life with pets. But it's worth it!
I haven't taken a trip anywhere in a long time and I need this vacation away from everything and plan to enjoy it!
Have a great weekend!
Monday, July 21, 2008
There are a TON of Catholic bloggers out there, and even MORE Catholic readers, faithful people, questioning people, Christians and non-Christians from all corners of the world, all somehow landing on Catholic blogs. And sooner or later, they'll find a blogging priest. There's a lot of blogging priests, too, and several I read.
But there are TWO in particular I follow most closely, and I know they follow my blog as well. And over the last year or so, they've both become friends, they've both given me snippets of advice here or there, and they've both made some pretty profound statements on their own blogs.
Recently I was joking with one of these Fathers, suggesting he was my blog chaplain. As soon as I sent those words in an email, I realized they were true, and there's an entire world of Catholics out there who may also claim these priests as "chaplains."
When I first began blogging, it opened up a world of Catholicism that is hidden from daily life, and I saw how important it is for us to maintain a web presence. Clearly, many priests and religious also see the value of the use of technology in this culture, and the resultant connections with Catholics from the local area spreading around the world really displays the universality of the Church.
The priests who blog have opened a door, one they likely never imagined was there, even as they turned the knob and pushed it open. That doorway takes them beyond the real-world parish or position they hold, and expands their ministry into cyberspace; they are Fathers of a cyber-parish that has no name, and because of their willingness to reach out, they have spiritual children they have never met.
Just as the people they see every day call them "Father", so do we, their readers, for they are Fathers to us as well.
And, I have to say, they've become Chaplains of a sort, and so I turned an idea over in my mind, sensing a need to recognize what they do and the importance to all of us. When I first began exchanging emails with one of these priests, I felt very guilty; he was faithful in responses and I feared I was being a pest, taking time away from those he was called to serve. Yet, ever gracious, a few simple questions or comments has turned into a friendship. The other priest was also gracious in his comments and various emails, even becoming a resource of sorts for me when I started a new position in a church. From hobby and random comments to...professional networking and real friendship.
The priest is not his own..although, typically, they remain in their assigned diocese, shepherding their flocks, each of which becomes family. The blogging priests, though, help us to realize that everywhere we as Catholics go, we have Shepherds, we have Fathers, and we have a home. Each and every priest is a Father to us all, even if we don't live in their diocese and regularly attend their parish. We could travel to Jerusalem, Minsk, Ocotlan, and still know that we have somewhere to go and we will be embraced as the spiritual children...and in turn, we will embrace these priests as our own Fathers.
The point is this; a priest's parish is not his only parish. His ministry goes far beyond, and, when they enter into cyberspace, they are also embracing the universality of the Church, giving a special fiat as they recognize that their parishioners are not limited to the walls of their specific assignment.
It is with great honor that I finally bring this post to its point: in trying to figure out how to honor those priests I've adopted as "my own" and in recognition that I've likewise been adopted by them, we've developed a new title. This is NOT a Meme. This is not a Blog Award. It is a Title, one given both in fun and all seriousness all at once, and one that will remain as a special gift to two priests I greatly respect and am proud to call "friends".
They are... the Blog Fathers.
I, in speaking also on behalf of Lillian Marie and Uncle Jim, as well as other bloggers and readers, known and unknown, give this Title and Honor to two very special priests, in no particular order:
Father Valencheck of Adam's Ale
Father Schnippel of Called by Name
For first saying "YES" to God, for providing us with an example of holiness through the use of blogging, for adopting us as your own "families", for your humor, your faithfulness to Christ and for walking on the proverbial water to bring the Gospel to those who need encouragement and those who have never met Christ. We definitely see Him in you.
...and countless others who also call you "Father". You are Chaplains in a non-traditional sense, but Chaplains just the same. Thank you, Fathers.
You have won the right to post the icon on your blogs and we hope you'll do so with pride!
God Bless you, Fathers!
Sunday, July 20, 2008
1. Where is your cell phone? table
2. Your significant other? Huh?!
3. Your hair? ponytail
4. Your mother? home
5. Your father? deceased
6. Your favorite things? whatirememberwhenfeelingsad
7. Your dream last night? work
8. Your favorite drink? wine
9. Your dream/goal? God
10. The room you’re in? livingroom
11. Your church? Catholic
12. Your fear? Hell
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Eternity
14. Where were you last night? home
15. What you’re not? Saint
16. Muffins? Chocolatechip
17. One of your wish list items? GarrigouLagrange
18. Where you grew up? smalltown
19. The last thing you did? email
20. What are you wearing? clothing
21. Your TV? DVD
22. Your pets? GSD
23. Your computer? DUDE!
24. Your life? Unfinished
25. Your mood? introspective
26. Missing someone? Gianna
27. Your car? Ion
28. Something you’re not wearing? Hat
29. Favorite store? St. George
30. Your summer? unemployed
31. Like (love) someone? Jesus
32. Your favorite color? Blue
33. Last time you laughed? today
34. Last time you cried? today
35. Who will re-post this? Hmmmmmmm
This morning, when Mass ended, as soon as Father walked by, a woman sitting a few rows up and across the aisle from me glanced over her shoulder, just waiting...and surely enough, she and her daughter darted from the pew, not even bothering to bow or even genuflect. And once this began, it continued, more and more people leaving Mass as quickly as they could, not even seeming to realize that the King of Kings was present, not giving Him another thought.
Maybe it's unfair for me to assume they don't know He is present, but then again; we tend to pay attention to those things we think are important. Is it fair to suggest, that, given the lack of reverence, perhaps people don't realize that Christ is Truly Present in the tabernacle? I won't say it's a deliberate snub towards Our Lord; the behavior of all too many Sunday-Mass-attending Catholics simply unfortunately suggests that if they have any faith at all, it is lukewarm and it is something they do not understand.
I say this because even a small understanding of what happens at Mass and WHOM is present is a life-changing realization, and the first thing we tend to do once we realize that Jesus is really there is to do things outwardly as a signal of what has gone on inside of us. As in genuflect, or bow, or make the sign of the cross. It may be small, and doing this might make us feel weird if we have had this conversion experience; for we might wonder what our friends or family will think of us if we suddenly realize that we've been ignoring Christ and experience even a small change in behavior that signals an even greater change in our hearts.
But, I have learned, it's not easy to be Catholic, even in a Catholic church! Those who actively pursue holiness are often regarded as being "odd" or "a fanatic" or even "holier-than-thou", a catch-all phrase that encompasses all the disdain and disrespect in the world. God forbid that someone receive that ultimate insult!
It is for this reason I question why people don't genuflect; is it that they don't believe or don't understand, or is it that they are afraid of being seen as "holier-than-thou"?
I suspect that the answer leans more towards the former, although I'm certain there are a great number of Catholics afraid to practice their faith outwardly, completely suppressed by the culture of secularism that surrounds them and tells them (and all of us!) that "faith is personal".
Yes, faith IS personal...and it is also social. For if the social aspect isn't expressed, then faith dies from simple disobediece to Our Lord's commission to us all....to spread the gospel. If we're afraid to even genuflect because of what other Catholics might call us, then how can we possibly take the next step and be willing to verbally proclaim Christ in even the most mundane ways?
We have a problem in the Church, and the problem comes from within, thanks to pressure from without. I learned a harsh lesson last fall, when giving a talk to people who claim to be good Catholics; "good Catholics" become VERY agitated VERY quickly when in a Catholic Church being provided with Catholic teaching by another Catholic. There is a VERY dangerous culture even within the Church that suggests that those who dare to believe what the Church teaches and follow what has always been true, and even worse, to PROCLAIM it, that those people must be silenced as quickly as possible.
The culture of the lukewarm is in charge. The "lukewarm" are those who claim to be "good Catholics" because they attend Mass "most Sundays and some Holy Days if convenient", send their children to Catholic school, support the school and church sometimes and if it's fun (and convenient socially!), but pick and choose what they want to believe. Because of their high status as "church-going Catholics" they also get to sit in judgment and gossip over those Catholics who spend more time working hard to BE Catholic as opposed to talking about or thinking about what good Catholics they are.
The Lukewarm Catholics are those who work hard to suppress any good Catholic teaching, for they have become comforted by the secular status-quo; if someone or something calls to their attention that they have to do more than just show up when they feel like it, they can't bear the discomfort. And, as it is natural to seek to escape that which causes pain, they first try to deny the Truth. When they can't deny it, they attack the messenger; for that messenger MUST be quashed! They seek to discredit, to villify, and will go so far as to outright lie about what was said and how it was said.
For, you see, the culture of lukewarmness must be preserved at all costs!
In reality, most Lukewarm Catholics aren't so vile; most simply disregard those things with which they have chosen to disagree, and refuse to be affected by what happens at Mass. They can't be bothered to sign up for Adoration, for...why would they? What a waste of time! To sit for an hour in the chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament? That's for religious and fanatics!
And so they go about their lives, not even considering that they should be genuflecting when they arrive at Mass and when they leave...for they don't even realize Jesus is Present. They don't go to Confession because they think Vatican II "did away" with the sacrament.
There is only one way to TRULY fight the culture of lukewarmness...be unabashadly Catholic. Genuflect. Make the Sign of the Cross. Go to Confession...frequently. Let Christ into your life and your soul, and let Him change you. Quit worrying about what anyone else thinks...if they have a problem with YOUR seeking holiness, they truly only have a problem with a lack of their own. Ignore them and let them wallow....it's God's place to change them. It's YOUR place to be a humble example and place your focus on Christ, not your social circle.
We also ALL have the responsibility to educate ourselves; we all have questions. The bad news is that the Church is over 2,000 years old, with theology that goes back to the beginning of time. The GOOD news is that all of the questions we have, in reality, have been asked before. The most common questions are those too many people are afraid to ask...yet if they did, they would be changed forever.
There's a lot of fear out there among the Lukewarms. It's ALL ABOUT fear for them; about what their friends and family will think, about having to change, about those questions they have about the answers they think they should know...but have never been taught.
Catechesis needs to happen, but we have a couple of lost generations out there, adults running around knowing that they should go to church, wanting to raise their children Catholic, but having NO IDEA what it really MEANS to be Catholic! The result is a sort of spiritual paralysis as these adults struggle to live a life of faith in a culture that says faith (and life!) has no value.
Speak to anyone who works in a church; they'll lament the vast majority of parishioners who refuse to get involved, who refuse to engage in conversation, who refuse to attend events. They may be fine people, pillars of the community, wonderful parents...who have placed their souls in the backseat. Because that's what the world says to do. And so they show up to Mass on occasion. Or maybe they are the type to bring their children for the sacraments, and maybe for the major holidays, but otherwise, they refuse to darken the door of the church.
It's an outright battle for the souls of Catholics (and I know it happens in all the Christian religions) and those on the frontlines are taking a beating most people can't even imagine. How do we inspire conversion in those we love, those who can't seem to break out of the relativism and apathy that holds them bound? Some get ticked off and leave the Church if they are provided with authentic teaching. Some get ticked off and, through argument and discussion, eventually convert. Others simply disconnect and practice their faith with all the passion and understanding of a headless zombie.
I don't know what the answers are; I'm constantly wracking my brain trying to figure out how to reach people through the barriers they've put up, and even the most gently phrased teachings have placed me on the wrong end of a marginally-Catholic person's ire. And I'll do it again, over and over again, because at least anger is a reaction - anything other than that blasted apathy that grips so many self-proclaimed Catholics!
I can't help but think of the early martyrs, and all the martyrs throughout the history of the Church, even those of today. They were and are Catholics like all of us, but whose practice of the faith led and leads to death in horrible ways. They were men and women who stepped forward even as their bishops were torn apart by lions, and there, in the face of that reality, in that very presence, they were not afraid to declare themselves to be Christians and follow the bloody footprints into the arena.
Many of us fear the rolling eyes and deprecating comments of our contemporaries, and yet...our ancestors didn't even fear the ripping, tearing, bloody-gory deaths that came just from CLAIMING to be Christian. Never mind what happened to those actually CAUGHT IN THE ACT of practicing their faith!
I'm going to make a bold statement, one I thought I would never make, but I'm gonig to preface it with a brief exposition. Firstly, I can tell you right now our country is headed to hell in a handbasket called "secularism". We sacrifice our faith on the altar of political correctness, and we continue to give quiet obesience to those who desire to quash the voice of Christianity. When we do speak, we speak through the political arena where compromise is the game and the only definition of that word means "leave God's laws at the door". Thus, it is no wonder that the secularism of our culture has fed the lukewarmness of "practicing Catholics."
When I consider where we're going and the state of Catholicism in this country, I think that maybe the BEST thing to happen is for the charismatic political candidates win. Let them win. I won't vote for them, but if they win, I hope they bring about an even greater persecution of the Church. I think ONLY if the practice of our faith is punished will the zombic-majority be converted; when their friends are imprisoned for speaking their beliefs, when priests are imprisoned for preaching the gospel, when Catholic teachers are imprisoned for daring to suggest that marriage is between a man and a woman...then people will open their eyes. When the housewife next door is forced to send her children to a substandard-school that teaches things contrary to her values, or when the everyday-dad loses his house to legal fines for simply speaking to a group in a church somewhere about objective truth...when people can't go to Mass anymore because churches will have to close due to a loss of tax-exempt status, and the practice of all Christian religions resembles those of China....then people will convert.
I hope we get the leadership that feeds the Church once again through the innocent blood of the martyrs.
Do I think I'd be strong enough to be one of those martyrs? I don't know. I hope so. Because I think it's coming and those of us who believe all that the Church teaches and try to embrace it, and seek to preach it and live it...I think we're going to suffer. And maybe that needs to happen.
Nothing in this world is permanent; we are here in order to prepare for eternity. Let's get on with it!
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
And so it happened that I was on the wrong end of flying spiders being tossed in my direction, the recipient of a shoe-print to the face (although THAT was a bona-fide accident) and various other things. He was often subtle in his tortures, most often blaming me for things that he did, and our Mom, who should have known better, often fell for his expression of innocence while I was the one with the face screwed up in anger at the injustice of whatever it was he had just done to me in that given moment.
But over time, even as we drove each other crazy and had arguments, we also began to enjoy some of the same things, roll our eyes at each other's friends, and still find the ability to sit down and watch a movie together. Yet, I don't think we could really finally call ourselves "friends" until sometime in college, around the time our father passed away. Although Dad had not lived with us for years, and in fact, had been living out of the state for years, his loss changed the dynamic in our little family, and I suspect it affected my brother the most.
Sadly, though, although my brother lives in the same metro area I do, he's still about 45 minutes to an hour away, so we don't really see each other that often. Our schedules never seem to work out according to plan; if I have a weekend free, he doesn't. But his house has become the landing zone for major holidays, and happily, my dog is welcomed there.
Tonight, I'm headed down to visit him and his girlfriend. In reality, as he finishes painting his garage, she and I will likely hang out in front of a movie, sipping "vino" and chatting. Because that's what girls do best! My brother will be welcome to join us whenever he gets around to it.
Ahhh....family. And it sure is nice being friends with my brother; it defintely beats the childhood rivalry which Mom never did seem to figure out how to handle!
Thursday, July 17, 2008
This precious little baby spent months with us in the classroom as her mother carried her, and then, at three weeks after her birth, she was already sitting at the feet of great theologians as we learned about life, death, limbo, purgatory, and heaven. And she returned, making cute baby noises the following month, the last of our semester. She was so well behaved, so sweet, and we all rejoiced as she grasped and held our fingers in her strong grip, and for those who were blessed enough to have time to hold her...well, these are now just memories.
All of this passed through my mind this morning as I approached her tiny coffin, the tears in a waterfall. It occurred to me that this is one of the world's unknown Saints; for she'll likely never be canonized. Yet she is without sin in the innocence of her infancy, and she has received all the sacraments; she has gone home to the Father a perfect being. So as I said goodbye to her, I kissed the tips of my fingers and laid my hand on her for the last time, realizing that I was crying because, like everyone else there, I loved her, too.
Even during his homily, Father spoke of heaven differently than he would in a funeral for an adult; usually, he said, he encourages people to pray for the deceased, but today, he suggested it may be more proper to tell us to pray TO this little one for we know that she had lived to experience the fullness of grace available in this life.
He also spoke of the Cross, and what her life taught us all about picking up our Crosses and following Christ. He spoke of the prayers; for in the last several days people have asked him why their prayers weren't answered? They prayed, they fasted, they sacrificed, they offered Masses, they prayed novenas...and God allowed her to die. And yet, Father pointed out, those prayers were answered, although not in a way we can understand. God hears every prayer, and He responds to every one; there could be miracles yet unrecognized.
This child was, from the day of her birth, unified with Christ in a way most of us will never be; she lived, as it were, crucified, and her parents along with her. They were both crucified and kneeling at the foot of the Cross, knowing suffering, embracing suffering, always trusting in spite of the agony of their impending loss.
This is the second child they've offered back to our Heavenly Father, and yet, the parents witness even in their grief the hope that remains and the love they have for God. I spoke briefly with her mother, my friend this morning about the theology we learned in class, and we both acknowledged that although it's great to know the theology, it doesn't make the grief any easier. Grief is powerful, but as this family has taught us all, Faith, Hope, and Charity can overcome it, and those virtues were in abundance today from all sides.
The Cross may seem to be a folly to the world, but even in the greatest darkness, we can see the glory of it that draws us all to Jesus Christ. In Him we find our Hope, in Him we are granted Faith, and in Him we learn true Charity. Life and Death make no sense without the Cross.
Today as I gazed upon that tiny infant in a coffin that should have been a cradle, the brutality of death came home to me in a way that it never has before, even though I've suffered the losses of my own loved ones. Death was never intended; it is the result of the entrance of sin into the world, and eventually, we are all called to this brutal reality. But it doesn't end there; the Resurrection reveals eternity. Even as we spend our days in tears, we know we are not at the end and we know the grief will fade and become manageable.
I was grateful today to be present with this dear little child, so dear to God that He called her home to be embraced in his arms for eternity. And I was grateful to share the tears of her parents who loved her so much that they are willing to let her go, knowing that there is glory in suffering, and love is revealed profoundly in death.
Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine,
et lux perpétua lúceat eis.
Requiéscant in pace. Amen.
Ora pro nobis.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
For you see, the seat cover on the commode in my upstairs bathroom, which is a full bath, has one of those old wooden seats and it happens to be cracked. And the crack has gotten suddenly worse…using that particular toilet could be an experience no one would want to discuss especially upon a trip to the ER to repair the damage. Thus, the seat must be replaced.
Of course, we could not avoid the hilarity as we wandered the aisles at Home Depot, looking for toilet seats. At first, as we were unable to find them, but DID find a sign for “Restrooms” we discussed going THERE to get one. And then we, being Catholic, discussed the ensuing sacramental Confession we would have to make, having committed theft…of a toilet seat….
“Father forgive me for I have stolen a…a....toilet seat…..”
Neither of us could walk upright for awhile as we considered the implications of theft of public restroom facilities. And having to confess this sin. (Ironically, I REALLY had to GO at the time…)
So you see, one cannot be Catholic without our faith entering even into the most mundane of tasks...which, as I said, today involved purchasing a toilet seat.
We were not reduced to theft, however, for we found the aisle with the seats and so I was able to purchase one from my hard-earned funds.
Now, you would THINK that replacing a toilet seat is easy….RIGHT?!
But NO! You’d be WRONG!
It LOOKS easy…first you get a screwdriver and twist the bolts in the existing seat and lid, then once they are removed, you take the new seat and replace the new screws and anchors. NO PROBLEM!
The screws in the old seat are rusted. Which from the exterior seems fine, for they twisted with no problem. And therein lies the problem; the screws turn but won’t come out. I tried prying the anchor with the head of one screwdriver while twisting the screws with the Phillip’s head screwdriver…still nuthin’.
I REFUSE to call a professional to replace a toilet seat! I am one of those people who SHOULD NOT own a home, because I’m completely helpless when it comes to tools and maintenance and the like. But come ON! A toilet seat? A three-year-old could do this!
I did give up for now, because I feared saying some words that would drive me back to Confession, which was so thinly avoided this afternoon when faced with the temptation of public-restroom toilet-seat theft. In fact, I may call a friend whose fiancé does home remodeling; he may have some suggestions as to how to deal with this problem.
I tried WD-40 already…it helped clear away some of the rust. My next attempt will involve getting out the duct tape. Because, as I’ve always heard, WD-40 and Duct Tape can fix ANYTHING…..can it fix this?
My other dear friend, Fr. Schnippel, apparently is an expert both in Catholicism and the Art of Home Maintenance. So, although he was laughing hysterically at me, he provided some useful advice and, although I was terrified of spiders, I reached underneath the toilet and found the nut that was just letting the bolt spin. Ironically, the bolt that looked the worst was the easiest - the other bolt needed a blind dose of WD-40.
And I'm thrilled to report that I did not find any spiders...they apparently find the underside of toilets to be nasty and useless locations, too.
There's no word on whether Fr. Schnippel will hear my confession and provide absolution for the earlier temptation and the words I almost said earlier this evening.... I thought them even though they did not emerge from my mouth. (Although I hold that I would have been justified....)
For now, though, my upstairs toilet looks like one in Mexico; seatless. I took the opportunity to clean the area really really well and let any moisture dry before I install the new seat.
Yes, gentlemen...now you know why women REALLY want the seat down! Because, guaranteed, we're the ones to do all the hard labor to replace it, and thus, if YOU don't move it up and down as intended, then our labours (note European and Canadian spelling) go unnoticed.
So...the moral to the story is this: You CAN be a good Catholic and replace a toilet seat without theft and using bad language, and if you are struggling (with home maintenance) call or email a priest and he will explain how to fix the problem.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
On the other hand...
There is the heat and humidity, and once again, today, the humidity begins to creep up.
And speaking of creeping...the summer bugs are always apalling (although I'm grateful the June bugs have gone their way).
And speaking of bugs....even they are so desperate to get out of the sun that they have the audacity to fly into one's nose and make themselves at home, such that the unwitting victim of their insinuation must find it necessary to posture madly in all sorts of ways in order to evict the new and unwelcome resident, who apparently finds it necessary to tap-dance its way around the sensitive nasal passage.
Monday, July 14, 2008
During nap time, our babysitter, Mrs. R., directed my brother and I into her livingroom, and further directed us to "Go sit on the davenport."
Mrs. R. had already begun to busy herself with something in the kitchen or maybe in the playroom as my brother and I stared at each other, confused. I was the shy one, but even my brother was afraid to ask the question. So we remained rooted to the spot, in the dining room, looking into the livingroom, trying to figure out what a "davenport" was.
I asked my brother in whispered terror, "What's a davenport?"
"I don't know. But go sit on it!"
I didn't move. Mrs. R. was coming back towards us and we were almost relieved, thinking maybe she'd figure out we had no idea what she was talking about and change the word. She didn't. She stared at us and with impatience said, "Well, go sit on the davenport! I'll be right in!"
We knew it was a privilege to join Mrs. R. in the forbidden territory of her livingroom, but she was a severe person and questioning her authority was not something that was done - by anyone. Even asking questions out of turn was bad form. It was far better to stand rooted to the spot than risk sitting on anything other than whatever the "davenport" was.
Mrs. R. was coming back again. In desperation my older brother said to me in a louder, more desperate whisper, "Go sit on the davenport!" Then he turned and looked expectantly towards the door, as though he had considered a typical question, one that could not get him in trouble: he was going to ask her if he could go to the bathroom. He was going to leave me alone with the davenport problem.
When she appeared, finally she was headed into the livingroom, and surprised again that we had not done what we'd been told. So she escorted us into the room and said, "I told you to go sit on the davenport! I don't understand why you wouldn't just follow a simple direction!"
And we figured out, finally, through her pointing finger, that the mysterious "davenport" was in fact the large couch against the wall, the one with the afghan draped on it. It wasn't the small couch (the love seat), or the chairs. It was the couch.
Our agony over, we were seated and although we never met another person who used the term "davenport" we were prepared for that particular survival scenario should that ever appear again. And my brother in fact, hadn't been able to get his saving question out about going to the bathroom, so in the end, I was not left alone to look stupid by myself.
So it was later that summer when on a trip to Iowa to visit relatives, we saw the sign for "Davenport". Mom couldn't figure out why we burst into laughter that lasted as long as we saw an exit sign for the city, or why we were straining our eyes (or pretending to) for couches that must be found somewhere in the city limits.....
Saturday, July 12, 2008
That evening I was assigned as his “One to One”, a Staff person assigned to a patient who was in need of extra supervision. He was a fairly new patient so we were on a locked unit. At the time, we were in his room, with the door open according to policy. Also according to policy, I could not be outside of an arm’s length from him. The only time he could be alone was in the bathroom. At the end of this conversation, a male staff would be assigned to him as he’d no longer be able to go into even the bathroom by himself.
Troy* had accepted my presence with docility, and seemed to be a nice kid. He was soft-spoken, with a willowy stature that promised to eventually make him a tall man. At the time, he was maybe 15, maybe a little younger. His pimpled face betrayed his adolescence, while his eyes seemed both very old and very young all at once. Although I’d been working there for a couple years and knew most of our patients had experienced agonies the average person couldn’t even imagine, I’d never seen such pain before. It was almost hypnotizing.
As he was a new patient, and given his mild manners, I wondered how the other patients would accept him. Troy didn’t seem strong enough to stand up for himself. Guaranteed he’d be bullied, and if he wasn’t, he’d be one taken in by the bullies and “converted” to their ways. He seemed ready to conform to whatever the place had to throw at him, just as a form of passive survival. Troy was a wounded creature, and I was about to find out just how wounded.
I knew some; he had been abused and he must be an abuser because he was not allowed off the unit or near the children’s ward. He was a risk to himself and to others, although they weren’t sure in what ways, exactly, which is why I (and other staff on other shifts were assigned to him.)
Troy asked to speak to me in his room, and acknowledged the need to have the door open. He also knew that whatever he told me would be reported; this boy knew the system. I was on my guard, but he did seem sincere. He was near tears and the shaking in his hands became more pronounced. But I told him he could speak to me and I would listen.
He sat at the foot of his bed. I sat on the other, which was not assigned to any other patient. Consistent with the rules, I was in sight of the doorway and within an arm’s reach; the building was constructed with this in mind. I had a radio on my hip, out of his immediate reach, and the other staff on the unit knew we were there. Yet they could not hear what was said, so Troy could speak as though in confidence even though he knew I’d be making a record.
Troy told me, haltingly, that he’d been abused…sexually. Severely. He didn’t get graphic, but the shame was evident. He had told this story before and knew that we were aware of it, so he didn’t need to provide details. He even verified that I knew and seemed to take comfort that I did; for that way, he didn’t have to reveal the worst details. But that’s not why he wanted to talk. He seemed to want to lift a weight from his shoulders and reveal who he really was. He told me how awful the abuse was, how it made him feel, and how it made him want to die. But as he got older, he found himself with other kids, and he started doing the same things, compelled to do so. He hated himself for doing it, and even more, wanted to die. He knew he was making those kids feel like he had felt and STILL felt.
He had nightmares of jumping through windows, of hanging himself, slitting his wrists…everything. And he wanted to follow through. He wanted to die. He’d rather die than ever abuse another kid. He wanted his compulsion to end. And he would kill himself if he got the chance. Troy didn’t want sympathy; he wanted to be condemned and he wanted to die as quickly as possible and felt he deserved it. He said he knew he didn’t deserve to be abused and neither did his victims.
He was just a kid…and when his eyes met mine, they were direct; he meant what he said, every word.
I didn’t say a word as he spoke. I wasn’t surprised by what I heard, although I was moved. I knew I was sympathizing with a sex offender, but he was a sex offender who was still a child. He was both adult and child in the same person, and all I could see was his humanity.
He wasn’t a danger to anyone at the moment; he was on a locked unit and he was there for help, admittedly help he didn’t want for he thought his help could be found on the edge of a razor or in the barrel of a loaded gun.
I thanked Troy for speaking with me and telling me what he was thinking. I asked him if he realized what I had to do; he did. He would not be allowed to go to the bathroom alone, he would have someone within an arm’s length for as long as the powers that be decided. But he said he was glad he had spoken. Troy went with me willingly to the supervisor’s office to obtain the orders necessary to protect him.
To this day, when I learn of sex offenders, I am torn. On one hand, I think they are vile, they are evil, they should not be suffered to live. There are too many horrifying stories of lives destroyed and of brutal murders. And I worked with so many victims of those offenders; children…just children. Then, I remember Troy, his dark eyes anguished, both adult and child, and I realize that EVERY sex offender was once a child, and they and Troy share the same eyes.
I can’t divorce the humanity of the offenders from their offense. I don’t sympathize with their crimes, only their humanity. They were children once, too. They were abused, they were terrified, they were alone and they were destroyed. It was their destruction that created monsters they became. But within those monsters, there are still children that were so wounded they could never overcome the injuries.
And yet...others suffer because of them. Excruciatingly. Lives are destroyed.
Of those offenders that are not violent in the bloody sense, their actions are still violent given what they do the heart and soul of another. Some of them hate themselves, and still, there is no treatment.
I remain torn when it comes to the issue of sex offenders. People need to be protected from them, and thus, they must be isolated from the ability to offend again. Yet, they are human beings, wounded souls more in need of mercy than many of us. Not all of them are psychopaths, and we pray that their victims don’t follow in their footsteps.
I believe in justice….strongly. In fact, I tend to align more with prosecution than with defense, if given a choice. When I considered going to Law School, I considered that if I pursued Criminal Law, which was the area of the greatest interest for me, I wanted to be a Prosecutor. What stopped me? I’d have to spend time working in Defense. I did not want to defend criminals.
Yet my very life brought me into the position of defending those who have committed the most heinous of crimes…this very post is an example.
I also believe in Mercy; for I have been the recipient of Mercy, over and over again. I still don’t deserve it. I have also been a victim of crime. Yet…there is no Justice without Mercy.
We all need to find the balance. We all need to be rational, look at facts, weigh them carefully…and then we have to be careful not to remove humanity from those facts. All of our judgments in life impact others.
Maybe I’m wrong in this philosophy. But whenever I think of justice and mercy, I remember Troy and realize that it’s only by God’s grace that I never went by the same route.
God have mercy on us all.
* Troy was a real boy but this is not his real name. Incidentally I don’t think I ever had a patient by that name.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
But there is one moment that I continue to ponder, and that makes me realize how much I need a Spiritual Director as I move on with my own vocational discernment.
One of my friends (who was at the barbecue) recently had a baby, a dear little girl, and I have now twice proudly held her, so happy for my friend! I have another friend who, maybe a year ago, lost her unborn little one, the first conception she was aware of although she's been married for several years now. She suffers from a genetic disease, nothing apparent from the outside, but I know that this disease concerns her for every pregnancy would be high-risk for her. I don't know how widespread is the knowledge of their loss, but on Friday, I couldn't help but remember her pain when someone commented that she and her husband were "the ones they were waiting for."
She didn't say anything, just smiled, and I know they want children, and I ached for her, knowing what she's suffered and what she fears. But she answered graciously if diminuitively, and from that point, my own thoughts wandered a bit.
Even as we observe the pain and the joys of our married friends, we as single people are on the margins. It is not that we don't revel in their wonders and grieve with them. Rather, it is that we are not a part of "the club". Any club. And as much as they do to make us feel like family, we as single people will always be on the outside looking in. It's the reality of our lives, simple as that. I'm neither happy nor sad, although maybe it seems a little bittersweet to me.
As others were joking with my friend about the child we are all waiting for, I happened to catch upon their wording. "you're the last one." I realized I wasn't even in the running. It wasn't that I was being ignored; far from it! I am not married, and this is a wonderful group of Catholic families, and we all believe the same thing; that children come after marriage. (To be certain, this group would also be supportive of unmarried mothers and rejoice in the children...we are also a VERY pro-life crowd!) . Yet, in the natural order of things, the banter with my friend was gentle, not demanding or rude. It was banter among friends, among married friends who know the lingo and the questions. And it was beautiful.
But it was a moment to be captured for me, as I realized I was not a part of it and may never be. I am an unmarried woman and I have a sense that no one will EVER ask me that question and I might never have a child of my own.
And I'm going to say something shocking..the idea isn't really that disturbing to me. Bittersweet...but I can't decide if it's more bitter or sweet.
Is the Past the Past?
As a little girl, I used to talk about what I would be like as a mother. I played with dolls, but as I got older, it wasn't babies I wanted, rather, I wanted to be a hero. My childhood fantasies were never about abandoning motherhood, although as I got older, I didn't think of motherhood; I thought of a career. Even as I began my working life by serving in child care and I did love children,I did not see myself as a mother. During college I worked in adolescent psych, and it was there that I decided motherhood was not for me; the kids there, from children (5 and up to around 23) were so messed up, and I got so beat up verbally, emotionaly, and physically in that job that I decided I would never have children.
I was terrified I'd mess them up just as much as those I served. And I think I hated the parents who had done so much to wreck the human beings they had brought into the world. I could not be something I hated.
But there was another dimension, something I haven't often voiced; the very idea of childbirth is abhorrent to me. It's awful. I'd rather be disembowled (even though the experience is similar). I'm not sure where this fear came from, but there it is. I had it LONG before I took an EMT class back in 1998 in which I cringed in my seat as we watched a few births. I was a puddle on the floor, and my instructor took note. I was otherwise a star student; give me anything, I could handle it...blood, guts, and eyeballs, I could give the textbook treatment. Give me the textbook births, I could cringe and recite the facts, but give me the reality...? That's what my instructor did as our class practiced scenarios. My fear was obvious to everyone. Mothers in the class tried to help me, to no avail...I decided that children and childbirth weren't worth it. Yet, I knew that one day I could be called upon to help a woman in labor; I knew I needed the facts but I never wanted the experience.
And yet...I belived, even though I wasn't a practicing Catholic, that children were a gift. I believed in life. Even as I practiced death, both professionally and personally in my relationships.
For awhile, there was a man I thought I wanted to marry, and I was at my turning point; I knew I was Catholic and wanted to come Home. That also meant that I wanted to be married in the Church, and I had to be "open to life". I was struggling with a number of issues, and my boyfriend was not interested in going to church, although he was interested in learning about what I believed. I think God used him to help me in my own questions, and made me ask...am I willing to give in to my greatest fear in order to live life with this man I think I love?
I decided I'd have a child with and for him, and trust God to get me through it. Because, rationally, woman have been doing this for millenia...who was I to have such a stupid fear?
Yet it was not to be...not with him, maybe not ever.
When I returned to the Church, for a short time I had a Spiritual Director, and while I never confessed my DEEPEST fears, I did share with him my hesitancy about children, around the time I confessed I thought I was called to religious life.
This priest told me that one must be called to motherhood and religious life both; meaning that good Sisters and Nuns are ALSO good mothers. You can't hate children and be a good mother to anyone. You can't hate children and be a good priest. It was across the board; he wasn't picking on me.
And his words have not left me. I still wonder about them. I've grown, and no, I don't hate children. I think they're wonderful. And the idea of labor...well, it's not pleasant, but knowing about redemptive suffering helps a great deal.
Yet...I don't think I'm called to motherhood. I have a sense that I will never be married, but I'm not sure I'm called to religious life, either. I look at different communities and consider their lives, especially given that I work in a church. But none of it attracts me. This afternoon I realized that I love my solitude, yet it doesn't fulfill me.
I love the idea of marriage and being married, and I'm willing to accept all that goes with marriage. But I have to wonder if I'm still romanticizing marriage? I know that our lives here are only temporary. There is no marriage in Heaven.
Yet, then I consider religious life; nothing really attracts me. I am attracted, like marriage, to the IDEA of religious life, and think it beautiful. Yet it still involves something foreign to me; life with other people; people you can't get away from. And maybe assignments that one cannot refuse.
The community I visited for prayer and do intend to visit for a weekend could send me to a parish or a school or a nursing home...and I won't have a say in where I go. Will I be happy? Knowing that, really, I'm not fulfilled even where I am? Am I too set in my ways? Am I fit for such a life? Can I be obedient or has my life of survival-oriented philosophy destroyed my ability to conform to a community of any sort?
I'm in a tough position...I like children, but I don't feel that "biological clock" ticking away. Just a small sadness that no one will ever ask to see my child. And I look at religious life, rapidly passing me by as more and more communities are eliminated the older I get, and I hear the echo of the priests words; that I must be a Mother even to be a Sister.
Does my lack of desire for motherhood destroy the potential vocation to consecrated life?
The odd thing is, that in vocational discernment, one knows they are giving up one thing for another. I'm giving up nothing, and it's paralyzing me.
I have nothing to sacrifice.
It's not a sacrifice to give up motherhood when I don't really feel called to it and haven't since I was a child and considered it the only option in life.
It's not a sacrifice to give up religious life when I'm not sure it's where I belong, anyway, or if I could handle it.
It's not a sacrifice to give up the single life, because I don't live it like "Sex in the City" anyway, and I don't think I'm fulfilled in this state even as I do live it out. I don't at all feel called to be a "Consecrated Virgin". And don't mention Regnum Christi..I won't discuss it.
Yet this year, I was told I was a mother, by a woman who is a grandmother. And in the next moment, congratulated by a mother with a few of her own, for the children I don't have but "might" in the future.
What's really sad is that I know my agony is not my own; it doesn't belong to me. It belongs to an entire collective of disenfranchized women who have grown up in an atmosphere of hatred towards motherhood, hatred of holiness, and hatred of anything other than self-fulfillment through temporal means.
I haven't found happiness in this world, it doesn't exist in this world, and yet...we know we belong in this world because God brought us into being. How can we find where we really belong? We are not a sum of our dysfunctional families, but as I pointed out to a Sister I spoke with today...how do we know God's will when the foundation He established has been destroyed for so many of us? How do we know where we belong when nothing seems to fit?
How do we answer a call we can't hear because we don't know the language?
How can we overcome cultural indoctrination that has destroyed the foundation that is supposed to build us up?
Can you hear the echoes of the culture of fragmented family reverberating between the walls of objective reality? Is it any wonder so many souls have been and continue to be shattered by a culture that seeks only itself to the detriment of our own humanity?
But today, we start with Desperate Irish Housewife, who is learning Spanish and whose daughter met an Anchovy. Said daughter advances the idea that the Anchovy spoke to her and explained that he didn't believe in God, nor does his mother. Who knew that pizza condiments could speak? And one would think that any creature about to be baked into cheese on a slab of bread and tomato sauce would be forced into SOME acceptance of a hereafter. But apparently anchovies aren't too bright (which expains how they end up on pizzas...). But really, we must ask...who IS that anchovy, REALLY?! And is he as desperate as the housewife?
From anchovies to absent...uh...fish...we go to a little corner of Chicago, where, regrettably, Ma Beck has handed in her resignation. Her farewell post went up on Monday, May 26, and to this day we mourn her loss to the world of the ever-turning blogs. But her memory cannot go unremembered, and her blog, unread. The words remain, even as the woman behind them as fallen silent, taken back into the life outside of the cyber age. Fare thee well, dear friend!
Moment of silence for the lost blogger.... Taps begins to mournfully sound...)
Moving on to those who still walk among the blogs, we find the Curt Jester, lively as always! He first points out the lack of logic and continued defiance on the part of the "Women's Ordination" crowd, which, it must be observed, is very much akin to the rhetoric used by drunk drivers or even speeders when they are caught and must accept the consequences of their poor choices. (They love to claim "entrapment", quite indignantly, avoiding the entire concept of their own behavior and decisions leading them into the radar of the authorities). The good man also points out the only Mass translation that will make the US Bishops happy, and suggests that we all become very comfortable with Dick and Jane, for, clearly, American Catholics must be idiots as must be any of the clergy below the level of bishop. So...Dick and Jane untie! Uh...I mean...UNITE! (Which wrod is rite?)
Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
Adrienne is mowing her lawn, which is a great rest after hosting this week's Catholic Carnival! (Although, seriously...who knew she was a cat?! Wow!) Way to go Adrienne...such a good kitty, such a good kitty to type and mow the lawn! Would ums like some catnip? Sure! Sure ums would! Good Adrienne! Such a sweet kitty...such an aggressive kitty when cutting the grass!
Oh...ahem...excuse me...I uh...let's move on...
Here in Minnesota, the infamous ironic professor announces the group that is left behind and out of this summer's activities, and is working to advance World Old Day! She also brings us a story about a parish that gave up the ship and began worshipping the flag on the 4th of July, scandalizing many, bringing others to indescribable patriotic ecstasy. We must ask...last time, the good professor explained that her field of study was trashy sex with aliens...but now, is she working on another field? Old people and idolatry? (She should interview Curt Jester...he's got great research material for her...)
And what of the nun headed to the cloister? As it turns out, Mary Gibson of Veritatis Splendor was indeed blessed and in love with Jesus Christ and entered the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, on June 11, where she joins the ancient ranks of women who have always upheld the Church by living a hidden life of prayer and sacrifice for the sanctity of souls. She will be praying especially for priests, and in turn, needs the prayers of all of us for her and her intentions.
Speaking of priests and religious...
We next go to Cleveland, on a more serious note, where Father V. has become pastor of his own parish and discusses the return to communion on the tongue and rules for seminarians back in 1947. Having recently lost his own father, he also posts his homily from the funeral Mass, words that will surely warm the hearts of all those who have loved ones who struggle in the throes of disbelief. Please remember Fr. V., his father, and his family in your prayers.
Next we move on to the joyful news brought by another priest, Fr. Schnippel of Called by Name. When we last left him, he was building an ark, but now, he is extolling the beauty of new life given to two families close to him. Read more for the update! And further, he praises the courage of the Chinese Martyrs, whose feast we celebrated yesterday. In the good Father's words, "Would that we all had the same courage and conviction as this young man."
Amen, Padre. And it's still happening in China even as we speak, and all over the world.
And what of the Brothers and Sisters of Perpetual Discernment? They've been quiet lately...what's going on? Most people don't realize, because the rest of the world seems to shut down in the summmer for "vacation season" that this is when the Church really ramps up. It's not certain that even Pastors and Parish Administrators realize what's going on, between Mission Trips, Vacation Bible Schools, and other youth events, how thinly stretched are their staff in these hot and humid months. Even as the corridors of the Catholic schools fall silent, the same children and youth are learning about how to live for Christ through various summer activities, most not held within the walls of a church or school. But have no fear...the Brothers and Sisters of Perpetual Discernment have come to the rescue of their local parishes, and with hilarious results! It seems the Monastery still doesn't have a new name, Sister Caprice is as confused as ever, and Brother Gus is, as usual, up to his regular tricks. Brother Brit seems close to a decision, and Sister Perpetua seems to have found her style and has red hair.
What will happen to the perpetual discerners? Will they ever learn to discern, or will their hectic summer schedule keep them from discovering God's will for them?
Speaking of God's will....
The Recovering Dissident is on a hiatus and wants to be alone, but took a break from her break to ask that we pray for the return of valuable Church artifacts that were stolen from Archbishop Nienstedt on the weekend he was in Rome, receiving the pallium.
In the world of Catholic blogging, life goes on, ranging from the tragic to the heartbroken to real crimes, to the most joyful of events. These blogs of our lives reveal the hearts of real people living the faith with humor and grace in a world that has gone mad...or is it WE who have gone mad...?
Until we meet again, this has been another episode of....Blogs of Our Lives...
(Ending credits and music....Ave Maria....gratia plena.)