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Friday, February 29, 2008

Who's in Charge Here?

Some of you may remember my post, Let God Love You, wherein I lamented the fact that we bring so much to God...but when do we take the time to let Him just LOVE us?

Well, it's been a rough week for me, what with recovering from a weekend from class by working long hours and getting nothing else done. Not to mention the work and prayer involved in starting a chapter of Lay Dominicans. Which, by the way, seems to be happening, and it seems I'm the one doing the organizing. Which, by the way also, is not my gift.

So, naturally, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed.

I often pray that I will become a Saint. That's my goal, and I'm failing miserably. Really. Just ask my Confessor (except that he won't talk...). And this week, especially I've been lamenting my failure to meet my expectations, assuming, of course, that my expectations of holiness must also be God's expectations, for shouldn't we all be Holy as our Father in Heaven is Holy? Therefore, I have to be Holy to the MAX!

And then I fall into a cycle of being frustrated because I'm not Holy, and I'm upset at my lack of even being SORRY I'm not as Holy as I should be, especially because it's you see where I'm going with this?

I'm not even sure how I ever got into such a cycle, but there it is. I honestly think that God just lets me fall on my face because its the only thing that ever works to knock any sense back into me.

Well, tonight I stopped by Ironic Catholic's place, and she had JUST THE PHRASE for me, and one I will join on to my first phrase of "Let God love you."

What did she have to say, you might ask? Only this:

"Allow God to make you a saint."

That's it. That's all there is. It's not up to me to become a's up to God. I can't do anything but be the sinner that I am, and continually try to cooperate with God's grace. And nothing takes God by surprise; He already knows when we are going to reject Him, and He has a plan in place, a plan built just for us.

Yes, we have to do our part, but ultimately, we don't make ourselves saints. God does. He does ALL the heavy lifting. He draws up all the plans, He sets up the staging area, brings in the nourishment, provides all the direction, does all the documentation, hires all the workers, coordinates all the workers and the necesssary outside interventions, arranges for delivery and shipping, and provides the proper certifications, permits, and Himself is the authority.

What does He ask of us, then? That we show up and follow the plan. He asks only that we take time to meet with Him every day for a consultation, wants to be certain we are healthy and nourished properly, and that if there is trouble, we bring it to Him to work out.

That does not mean we don't suffer, but it DOES mean that we don't suffer alone. If we are slogging around in the pits doing His work, He is actually directly in front of us, dragging us along, or, maybe pushing us. We do not suffer alone. We do not suffer without reason.

And that brings me to another point; I'm one of those people who wants to be a Saint, but without all that suffering. Yeah. No crown without a cross. We cannot build a Kingdom without being willing to sacrifice, sweat, and bleed for it.

Ultimately, it's never about us. It's about God. It's up to God to love us, and it's up to God to make us into Saints. We just have to go where we are led, and if we take the time to just let God love us, it stands to reason that we'll also take time to let God handle the Sainthood part.

He wants nothing more than to make us into Saints; that is what we are ALL designed to do. God created us entirely for Himself, to be unified with Him. Once we become convincted of that reality, we just have to avoid the temptation to want to take over and do all the work ourselves. God knows we can't handle it, we over-enthusiastic children that we are.

"You're too big for your britches!" Mom used to say, and she was right. She still is.

So take a moment, when you are caught between sin and tempation and love of God, and let God love you and take over your desire for more. He has a it.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Calling

My coworker today was talking about the youth she works with. She had told him, "You are a disciple of Christ. But when you respond to His direct Call...then you become an Apostle."

I'd never thought of it that way before, and it startled me. I've never actually tried to define myself in those terms, disciple or apostle. I guess I just consider the Bishops to be the Apostles in the more formal sense of the word, and see myself as just a simple follower. I'm the woman in the crowd, trying to get close to Jesus. The weeping woman who wants to be a Saint...but without the suffering. The woman waiting for the Call...but not really knowing how to respond if and when he calls.

The truth is, if you are reading have been Called. Are you willing to respond? Can't you hear Jesus saying your name?

Today, I read again one of my favorite quotes from John Paul II, and so I'll share it with you again. Read it slowly. Savor every word, and are YOU defining your happiness? And are you really happy? Or are you seeking something more? This passage will speak to you at the deepest level, if you will allow it. Hear it echo in your heart as it has been echoing in mine...

It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness,

He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you;

He is the beauty to which you are so attracted;
It is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise;

It is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life;

It is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives,

The will to follow an ideal,

The refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity,

The courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society,

Making the world more human and more fraternal.

~ John Paul II, Rome, 2000

Don't you sense it? The desire to be more than you are in this moment? The recognition that you have gifts and talents that are not being used? Don't you have a burning sense, when you look around at your life, that there is more than THIS?

John Paul II saw this, and expressed it so eloquently here. He had that same zeal in his soul, the same desire to overcome the status quo, because the bar was set too low.

For myself, although I know that I am currently where God sent me to be, for now, I know it is not my calling. There is a difference. I am in a temporary place, but I know that, ultimately, it's not where I belong. There's something different. Not necessarily greater, but different. I don't know what it is, and I will remain in my place until I am bid to move. For now, it is enough to understand that for now, I have a role to fulfill. For now, that is my Call.

The greatest glory we can give to God is to do His will, in the present moment. But that is not to say that each moment is not a step towards a far more lofty plan, even though we may not understand what it is. We all are called to move forward in faith, or remain where we are in faith, or even take a step "backwards" sometimes. And it is only when we are willing to accept the cross of humility that we can see even a portion of God's divine plan for us.

And it's never about "us". It's always about something greater. And we can't possibly live up to it. Ever.

And that's when we lean on Jesus. That's when He takes over, and that's when we really learn the meaning of "sacrifice" and "charity".

There is no crown without the cross. There is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. Ever.

Are you ready to answer the Call? Are you ready to sacrifice your own will on behalf of the Kingdom of God? Are you ready to be an Apostle?

Lent Meme

Angela M. tagged me for a meme...I hope she isn't too disappointed.

1. What’s been your best Lenten-effort-idea ever?

Hmm....well, every year is dismal, so I honestly have to say I haven't had any good ideas or efforts. Last Lent I started school, and it was penance just to write papers, but it lent (no pun intended) to my discipline. Yet I still failed in my chosen penance.

2. And your worst?

Everything. Sorry, can't be more specific. I'm a complete spiritual failure.

3. What Lenten advice would you share?

Don't give up! No matter what, don't give up. Get up again and again and again, as many times as you have to! Because it doesn't matter how many times you fall, but rather, what you do to continue to pursue Christ. And the very moment you give up...the Tempter wins. Falling isn't the problem. The problem is that we so often give up, and the moment we give up, that's when we really deny Christ.

4. And what will feature this year?

This year the first couple weeks went well, and then I crash-landed again. But I've taken up praying Stations of the Cross daily. I don't know if I'll be taking that through the weekend, but today I was in tears. Which was unfortunate, because I was at work and really didn't want to have to explain to anyone why my eyes were red and my face all tearstained. And thankfully, I didn't have to.

I tag...anyone else who is a failure during Lent.

Grammar and Attitude

You Are a Colon

You are very orderly and fact driven.

You aren't concerned much with theories or dreams... only what's true or untrue.

You are brilliant and incredibly learned. Anything you know is well researched.

You like to make lists and sort through things step by step. You aren't subject to whim or emotions.

Your friends see you as a constant source of knowledge and advice.

(But they are a little sick of you being right all of the time!)

You excel in: Leadership positions

You get along best with: The Semi-Colon

Uh....LOL....NO! This result is a perfect example of everything I suck at.

But this one is more accurate, I think:

You Are 48% Cynical

Yes, you are cynical, but more than anything, you're a realist.

You see what's screwed up in the world, but you also take time to remember what's right.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I don't understand how one can "discern" into something that isn't there. I don't understand how one can feel a call to something they don't see, can't obtain because it isn't present, or just "know" it is where they belong. And it's a far cry from the nihilism that so plagues our society.

For years now, I know that God has been calling me to something. I don't know what, really. I'll admit the door isn't closed on religious life, nor is it closed on marriage, nor is it closed on the single life. On one hand, it seems that I don't know how to close doors. On the other hand, I wonder if they are SUPPOSED to stand open?

Each state in life has a beauty unto itself, a differing relationship with God, each important, equally, in the life of the Church. Each is needed for the holiness of the individual soul and to contribute properly to the Mystical Body of Christ. Each is beloved of God.

Each is a Vocation.

It's been discussed here before, but I still don't accept the idea that the single life is a "Vocation Inactivated." In fact, I find the idea insulting and, quite honestly, narrow-minded out of willful ignorance.

Sorry, I tend to speak bluntly. That's why the parish I work at is making plans to lynch me any day now.

But my words are not without love. Because I could ONLY come to this realization with love, and I can only express it, bluntly, with love. Maybe it's my German heritage. I dunno.

In any case, just look at the single men and women who have contributed to building the Kingdom of God. Consider Blessed Pierre Giorgio Frassati, (a tiertiary Dominican, by the way) who was 24 when he died. He did what he did and lived the life that he lived as a chaste single man. God did not call him to the religious life, nor did He call him to marry. God called this young man to serve His people in the lay state, as a Single. And he rose to his Vocation.

And what about St. Margaret of Castello, another Dominican? She was a deformed child, abandoned, and chosen from eternity to serve Christ and His Church in a special way. She was DEFORMED...clearly she could not be called to marriage. And from what I remember from her story, she was also rejected from religious life but was allowed to live as a Third Order Dominican. I must look over her story again. In any case, if she WAS admitted to the religious life, I do not see a story of a Vocation inactivated. She lived her Vocation in the state that she was given, fully.

The very idea of "inactive" is insulting, demeaning, and I do believe that people are going to be answering to God one day for such malignment of holy souls. No, there is NOT "someone for everyone." And you know it.

Yes, yes, yes, I realize that the term "vocation" can be greatly abused if used in the secular sense, and that sense is sometimes intermixed with the spiritual sense of the word. But I hold that there are 3 legitimate states in life: Married, Religious, and Single, in no particular order. All are necessary. All are beautiful.

And clearly my usage of the term is not in reference to employment, but rather, a state in life, a state chosen by God Himself. Disagree if you wish as that is your perogative. But I will not change this position, nor will I engage in the argument. I am at peace with the idea, and you have the right to be at peace with your own idea.

So, you may be wondering...what am I talking about here, in this ramble of a meandering musing post?

Discernment. It has many forms. Each more confusing than the last.

A few years ago I met a man who wanted to enter a Third Order. It was a fairly new idea to me, and for myself, I did not feel called to it. I did not belive I was called to religious life, and I don't know that I've ever felt a real STRONG call to marriage. Then again, talk to me in a few days and I may say something different. Marriage is beautiful.

I can tell you that it is wonderful to be a single woman, and there are things that I can offer in this state, and can do in this state that I could not accomplish as a married woman. I can also tell you there are things that I WOULD be able to do if I were married and had a man in the house! In fact, at times it seems I'd have MORE freedom by being married.

And while the idea of religious life is still there, it still repels me to a certain degree, which I feel I must discuss. For one thing, while people who know me see my social face, they see it on my terms. When I am feeling social. And indeed, I am a talker, I do like people, certainly...but I can only take so much. I have ALWAYS been very isolative. I was a very shy child and always withdrew to be alone, in silence. Yet sometimes the silence and aloneness (not the same as lonliness) is too much, and I need to be around people. I need a certain balance.

My family fell apart and I know that this contributed to who I am today, because I can't fairly say I am comfortable with community living. I will admit that it draws me like a moth to a light, but at the same time, I am also repelled, as though sensing a ZAP! is coming if I get too close.

I know that the religious life is completely proper to a socialite, contrary to maybe popular opinion. The men and women who enter cloisters and other religious communities tend to be outgoing (although all personality types are called). And it is their outgoing nature that gives them the ability to be in the constant presence of others...the SAME others...most of the time.

I don't think God gave me that gene. I LOVE living alone, but I don't think I could be a hermit.

In other words, maybe I'm telling you that I'm a normal human being with a personality that can go anywhere, with God's grace. But might be more suited to just remaining in the lay state, in the world, but not OF the world. Unfortunately, this reality does not solve my discernment issue.

For a long time now, I have sensed a closeness to the Dominican charisms. Since my reversion, I have recognized an intense thirst and hunger for God, and nothing really quenches it. I continue to desire to study, to learn, and to share those fruits. I can't keep my mouth shut or my keyboard silent. I MUST speak.

And I also feel a draw to be a part of SOME KIND of community, some form of common prayer, something more intimate than the larger Church, but never apart from her.

In short...I need more. I want to give my life to Christ, I want to give all that I am, all that I have, all that I have been, and all that I will ever Him. And for some of the faithful, that means entering religious life. For others, that means getting married and raising children. For others, it means offering themselves as singles.

So even as I need...I crave to BE needed. To fit somewhere definitively. To make some kind of committment.

I already know that my life means nothing apart from the Cross. While certain points of religious life have their appeal, so does living as a single. And more and more, while I love the idea of marriage, I don't think that's where God is calling me.

God created us all for Himself, and Himself alone. He called us out of eternity, formed us, and placed us in the womb of our mothers. He brought us to live in that warm, encompassing environment, already a foreshadowing of the beatific vision. He brought us into the world, already beloved by Him. Our lives have meaning. Every one. Even those of the aborted children, martyrs by conception, have meaning for someone. Everything is ordered toward God. All is His.

I know that I am His, because I don't belong to anyone else.

In December, I feared we'd lose Mom, and that scares me. Because although I don't rely on her anymore, I still NEED her, maybe partially for definition. We lost Dad in 1995, and in truth, we'd lost him long before that. But Mom...we need Mom. When she goes, it will be my brother and I. And I have no one. My brother has his girlfriend (future wife!) and her family. I don't. I have only God.

I know that my singlehood has been a special place. It is through this state that I have become friends with such Saints as St. Joseph (to whom my Mom has always had a devotion, especially after she was divorced) and others. I have been able to "converse" with the Saints by virtue of the fact that there is no one else. I have a sense of being "adopted" and even protected. Speak to any faithful single...God has His hand on us in a special way.

And now enter the idea of becoming a Lay Dominican. Where I fled the idea of the Third Order Carmelites, and shuddered at the idea of the Secular Franciscans, I am more intensely drawn to the concept of being a Lay Dominican.

There is nothing wrong with the Carmelites. It is a beautiful spirituality, and many Carmelite Saints are good friends of mine. I would not be where I am without them. And they will always inform my spirituality. And the Franciscans...LOVE the Franciscans. St. Francis has always been a special friend as long as I can remember. And it's not a mistake that St. Francis and St. Dominic were very good friends...God drew them together for the sake of the Kingdom. Seperate...but just as important.

And of course, St. Augustine. You don't hear of the "Augustinians", but are you aware that the Dominicans live by the Rule of St. Augustine? Several years ago I took a "test" and it told me that I had "Augustinian" spirituality. What I read seemed to fit, and I read the other descriptions as well. I did not know at the time that "Augustinian Spirituality" was also Dominican.

It was St. Augustine and St. Monica who have brought me to where I am. And for many reasons, both have been present in my life, although I haven't always recognized them.

It seems my Saints are all in cahoots. They have brought me here...they will not abondon me here.

Now I am stepping forward in trust. While I have fled the idea of religious life and feel "so-so" towards marriage, I am loving the idea of professing to a secular order. And maybe it's just a step. Maybe God has other plans for me. Maybe He wants me to remain in the world as a single woman, but connected to a certain community. Maybe He will use this to lead me to my future husband. Maybe He will use this as a springboard into religious life.

Maybe it will all come to nothing and there will be an entirely different surprise.

Not to be morbid, but maybe I'll die tomorrow. And maybe it's my "Yes!" today that will make a difference in that moment.

I realized back in November that I wasn't in a place to say "Yes" to God, and that took me by surprise. But nothing takes God by surprise. He knows our hearts, he knows our true desires, and He will do what is necessary to help us come to Him. He is infinitely patient, infinitely merciful, infinitely good.

Maybe I still can't say "yes" unconditionally, but I am willing to take steps, holding tightly to His hand. And maybe the steps I am taking now will bear fruit.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A New Creation

Tonight I watched the show, "Moment of Truth". When I first heard the premise of this show, I wondered how far we as a society have hear and watch the reality of the deepest, darkest secrets of others.

But I watched it tonight, in a sort of horror that made me want to look away...but I couldn't. Because I was the person in the hot seat.

Not because what she was confessing was what I would confess or what I lived, but rather, because I realize the "contestant" is a reflection of us all. I could not condemn her, because I AM her. We all are.

At first, I wondered what sort of person would go on a show that might ask such terrible questions about one's deepest, darkest, most hidden, shameful secrets. And I still wonder. I would NEVER want to be under such a spotlight. Because if someone sat me down and asked me about such awful things, even if there was no money at hand, I would have to make a choice; lie, and make my sin worse, or tell the truth and alienate anyone who ever thought they loved me?

This seems more like a torture technique rather than a game show. In fact, I think perhaps some horror writer such as Stephen King may have written of such an idea...but this is far more horrible than the blood and guts that spill from the pages of his or Peter Straub's works. It is something akin to perhaps Edgar Allen Poe might write for our viewing pleasure, should he have lived in our day.

The Telltale Heart has nothing on this show...but what it does is EXPOSE the telltale heart that we all might feel it beating within ourselves.

And of course, I wondered why I was watching this, and whether I was complicit in sin in doing so? Why am I giving in to the temptation to know the sins of another?

Every single question asked of that poor woman involved a sin. There with her husband watching, her parents, her brother and sister. She had to tell the truth. For money.

What a sensation.

And in the end, the final question, after she had publically confessed to theft, to an adulterous heart (if not action), to adultery in action, finally, the final question she was asked, "Do you think you are a good person?"

She answered, "Yes, I'm a good person."

The outcome was "false". She probably destroyed her marriage for money, but she did it, just the same. But that answer, that evasive answer. Analyze it.

"Do you THINK you're a good person?"

She answered "Yes, I'm still a good person." Indeed, she didn't mean it, and she knew it. She feels like dirt. And that's why she couldn't answer directly. She didn't answer what she THINKS. She answered what she wants to be true.

I sat there watching in horror as this woman really was seeking what we as Catholics have access to all the time; God's mercy.

And after watching her very public trial, which is going to cause repurcussions for her likely for the rest of her life, along with waves of destruction through her family, I became more and more grateful for the Sacrament of Confession.

There she was, up there proclaiming terrible secrets...for money.

I've had horrible secrets, too. I have confessed to terrible things, some more terrible than others. Who hasn't confessed to these things?

But we have somewhere to go with them. We can be healed. We can bring them straight to the heart of Jesus, who was pierced for our terrible sins...and who loves us anyway.

That woman, she will return to her husband, he, now aware of her divided heart and her infidelity, her family now aware of her dishonesty, and maybe her husband will leave her. Maybe her family will proclaim their love...but keep her at bay.

After her confession, nothing is resolved. Nothing has been gained; she didn't even win the money she went after. She went into the game as though it were a game...and I think she may very well have nearly lost her soul.

Go back to her final answer, the answer determined to be "FALSE." That's right. She lied. Because she DOESN'T feel like a good person. She knows that she is broken, somewhere, somehow. She is lost. And she doesn't know how to be found.

She's carrying around a lot of guilt. During the course of the questioning, she said that it's hard, but she's glad to get these things off her chest. I imagine so!

But who is going to catch her in this free-fall?

Jesus knew what He was doing when He gave his Apostles the authority to forgive sins. He knew what He was doing, because He knew that if he didn't, we all be in a free-fall, spiraling downward, not knowing how to stop. Not knowing where it ends. Wanting to be good, but not able to reach it and stop ourselves.

The truth about what and who we are can be hard, and most of us will never be under a spotlight, publicly, answering these questions. God already knows what we did. He was there. He watched. He wept. He bled.

He forgives.

Throughout the Old Testament, God never ONCE turned down a contrite heart. Jesus especially reached out to those seeking forgiveness, needing mercy.

It's hard for us to face ourselves. It's hard for us to truly examine our consciences and face what we have done. But once we do it, we can run away...or we can choose to be healed. We can unburden ourselves.

We can go to Confession, reveal our very souls at the feet of Jesus, and we can be forgiven. And a funny thing happens; we really ARE forgiven. We are a new creation.

Back when I was really struggling, trying to come back completely burdened by my past, a very holy priest, one with a particular gift, the ability to read hearts, heard my Confession. I don't even know if at the time I could put it all into words, but I really wanted to start over, free from all that STUFF. I was truly repentant, but I wasn't free. And I wasn't able to accept God's mercy; not fully.

He sent me off to read Isaiah, and I had to repeat my penance to him. It was my penance to read over and meditate on a passage from that particular book. He knew my struggle; to let go, to move on, and to accept my inheritance as an adopted daughter of God.

"Lo, I am about to create a new heaven and a new earth;
The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind..."
(Is 65:17)

We live in a terrible world. A world that rejoices in the sins of others and calls them "good." A world that rejoices in the sufferings and destruction of individuals and families. A world that has no time for mercy, and in fact excludes mercy because it holds the lowest standard to mean "good."

I don't know why I watched that show tonight, and maybe I should bring it up the next time I go to Confession.

No, I don't think that woman was a bad person, per se, but rather, she is a misguided person, an adopted daughter of God who has gotten lost.

God Himself knows how lost I was, and how lost I still am. Judge her? No. I'm a sinner, to, no better, maybe even worse. Pray for her? Yes. Because no matter how lost we are, we can always pray for others, and those prayers will ALWAYS be heard.

I thank God for the Sacrament of Confession, though, because at least it means that I will never have to prostitute my sin for money, under the spotlight of primetime TV in order to get something off my chest.

Because no one could PAY me to reveal what belongs only to God, and what He has taken away.

This Lent, pray for the conversion of souls, for suffering souls to return to the Sacraments so that they may know the constant and infinite love and mercy of Christ. And if you can't get them back to the Sacraments...then be Christ to them in whatever way you can. Because you may be the only line to salvation in their lives.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Complete and Utter Exhaustion

It's 10:30 on Sunday night and I'm wiped out.

The last couple weeks have been very tiring and stressful, and last week was the worst of the two, between the ticked-off religious ragers and studying for tests this weekend for class...I haven't been able to sleep well. Then I survived the weekend (although there goes my GPA!), and got through the marathon hours of classwork. On Saturday I was in class between 8 am to 7 pm, meaning my dog was alone for about 12 hours, but she's done very well. And today, we began at 8, Mass was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful (I may need to switch parishes...that one is just HOME to me!), and our class ended at about 4. Then I rushed home to feed the dog and walk her, before rushing off to work to teach Confirmation tonight.

It's been a very long day. Very long. Very long.

But something is happening in our corner of the world. At lunch, there was a lull in conversation, and something made me blurt out, "Does anyone know if there is a Third Order Dominican community anywhere around here?"

One of my classmates looked up and said no, he'd looked into it. There is one local Dominican priest, but let's just say his theology would not stand up to that of the Church's. And unfortunately, if we were to call a legitimate community and ask for a Dominican priest, his is the name that would be given.

As it turns out, a few others in class are drawn to the Dominican charism and spirituality as well. As is our Professor, who was looking into this in his own are (he doesn't live locally).

I don't know where this is going, but there seems to be a bunch of lay Dominicans without a home in this area, and none of this seems conincidental.

Must pray and discern. Personally, I've felt very drawn to the Dominican charism for a long time and I hadn't really considered a secular order...until today, actually. And now it suddenly seems like a good idea. I have no idea why. Yes, I know about third orders, but they never appealed to me before, so I don't understand this sudden change in attitude as well as the discovery that this idea has been occurring to others as well.

Could it be.....the Holy Spirit? Hmmmm.

But I'm not going to worry about it, because I need to go to bed. Although if a dog appears to me tonight holding a torch in his mouth....

Friday, February 22, 2008

God Gave Us the Church for a Reason

The last couple days have been rough. One of my character flaws is that I tend to be oversensitive. This must be distinguished from what is natural sensitivity in women, and goes beyond that gift right into something that maybe I'd unite with pride.

This has always been a battle with me. As a child I was very very, painfully shy, and had to overcome that. But mean-spirited jokes always cut me to the core, even if it was unintentional, a sharp word from a teacher would absolutely CRUSH me, and if I learned that someone didn't like me, I would be upset about it for days.

This flaw has carried into my adulthood, although not quite in the same way. And of course, my years of working towards, and then in, male-dominated fields did help me grow a thicker skin. And I learned to return the barbs, I learned not to "feel" so much, and I did everything I could to either desensitize myself to things or just lie to myself and try to make myself believe that "it doesn't matter."

Well, now that my entire worldview has been given a violent shove into the proper perspective, I find that old flaw creeps back in. So now I do think it's good for a woman to be sensitive, as that is one of our feminine gifts, but it's a struggle not to take that leap.

So, the last few days has been a special kind of struggle for me. Yes, I'm willing to embrace this Cross, and deal with the anger of the parents whose consciences God pricked during my talk last week. And yes, I'm willing to offer it all up. But how to do that and also be human? Where is the balance that allows me to suffer properly but not take it to depths that it doesn't warrant? Because no one likes a whiner. Especially not God.

I was asking myself these questions yesterday, and trying to take an honest look at myself and what I said/did. Could I have offended someone? Certainly. Perhaps a certain phrasing WAS too harsh? Or could it really have nothing to do with that?

This morning I woke up with knots in my stomach, wondering if I'd be having a conversation with Father that did not go as well as the last one. Wondering if I should try to take action against the "sea of arrows" and find some sort of defense? I considered the reactions of some of the parents who thanked me for stating things clearly, and the school teachers who were present and said the same thing. (And as an aside, are also hearing from parents.)

This morning while walking my dog, I was mulling it all over. What is the proper thing to do? Should I just turn the other cheek and accept the criticisms and learn from them or just let them roll off my back, whether they are just or outright lies? St. Therese of Lisieux famously apologized for things she did not do...should I follow that path? Or would that be seen as weakness and undermine the gospel message? Where, truly, is my strength here?

There are many holy paths to take, but really, which is correct? For they are not all correct all the time. Even St. Therese did not choose to do the same things in all occasions. Prudence.

Oh, yeah, prudence. Also a virtue I need to work on.

Then it came to me, my own words. Just after I finished endorsing the position of the Church on the necesity of attending Mass for the sake of their own and their children's salvation, I softened the blow by discussing the importance of the parish community. Because Christ established the Church for a reason. We are not islands. We need to help each other, we need to strengthen each other in faith, and parents may need assistance in getting their children to heaven...and to Mass. We have to rely on each other, and we do this at the behest of Jesus himself.

So, there was my answer. I had to realize that I have rights here, too. And so does Father. He's hearing all sorts of things from upset parents, including all sorts of misquotes. Shouldn't he hear the good, too?

As soon as I got to work this morning, I saw I had 2 messages. Thankfully, they were from EXACTLY the people that I needed. The first was one of the teachers who needed a little info to pass on to a parent. I reached her directly and asked for a she was present, would she be willing to talk to Father about whatever she felt was GOOD about that evening? She knew the context of this question, and was very willing to do what she could. The next was a parent, and while she hadn't been present, her husband was. They are a solid, faithful Catholic family and are very familiar with the program as they have several children. Her husband is apparently one of my fans. Yes, they are willing to tell Father that they liked how things were going. She and I chatted for awhile as usual (she's such a sweet person!), but then she had to run to keep her 1-year-old from pulling the lamp down.

The last was another parent, one who works in the school, and she was one who spoke with me the day after, herself complaining about the behavior of some of the parents who were there. She promised to call AND email Father. She also assurd me that I hadn't said anything harshly or inappropriately, and her feeling on this entire thing is that some people need to grow up.

So...I'm feeling better today because, while I know this isn't done, I've got people in my corner who are willing to stand up and be counted. Not on my behalf, but on behalf of the Truth, and they also feel that Father needs to hear good things that are happening in the parish.

Maybe this was part of the lesson for me, to help me learn to lean on others. Certainly I learned today that people are ready and willing to stand up, and are just waiting to be asked. And these same people, if they are unhappy, are the same ones who would not hesitate to advise me if I'd done something wrong. In other words, they are actually friends.

Thank God for the Church...there's no way I could carry out this mission on my own.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Cross and the Blessings

As indicated in my previous post, I started out with a rough morning. Ihave to admit, it smarts a bit when you are slandered and someone tries to discredit you. It IS hard not to take it personally. And I don't: because the anger of certain parents is not about me. It's about God, it's about the Church, and it's about themselves and what they know to be true. In their battle against God, they lash out at convenient targets.

I did wonder why, today of all days, they complained? And then I picked up my Magnificat and went into Adoration for awhile. Sure enough, there were the words I needed to read, right before the morning Psalm 31. "Before they hated you, they hated me..."

There I knelt, at the feet of Jesus, reading His own words, offering Him the harsh beginning of my day. And there He answered, in the quote from John, in the Psalm, in the readings for Mass. He spoke to me personally today, and while I recognized this "attack" for what it was, it still helped to know that I am understood by my Savior, that I really do feel those barbs that come from doing His work, and that they are a call to conversion for me just as my words were a call to conversion of others.

I had to examine both my actual words and how they might have been so misconstrued, and I had to examine how I really felt about was said about me...and how it's not about me at all. I had to stop and recognize the cause for joy, even amidst those barbs, and to try to understand that it's fine to be human and have hurt feelings, but still be joyful because that's all they are...feelings. And to consider what our Savior experienced, the slander, the attacks, the attempted stonings, and ultimately His Passion.


But my day wasn't done. I went to speak with Father, because even though he knew what I spoke about last week, I naturally felt badly that he should have to suffer for it. I am happy to be held accountable for my own words and actions - no one else should be punished. Father was fine, the person who spoke to him was actually not angry, just needed clarification. He was behind me, and said that he's just happy I knew what people were saying and that I was also fine with it.

So, that was my morning of "curses", all joined to blessings. So although it was a rocky road, I can't say that it was a bad morning.


At the time, Father was preparing for a Benediction for the school children, so I planned to quickly run into the church so I could study the servers, as I would be doing their job this evening. Before I left, though, I asked Father when he wanted to train me, so he immediately invited me back in, showed me what to do with the incense, explained the different parts of this very simple Benediction, and then mentioned almost casually, "Oh, I forgot to arrange for servers for this. I was going to do it myself, but since you're here, do you want to or are you too nervous?", what a way to be on the spot. And I put myself there. But, realizing that this really was a gift because the group was very small, well, no better time to risk error. So I said yes, and before I knew it I was walking into the church, followed by Father, as we approached Jesus at the altar.

It went well; I did not trip, I did not drop anything, I did not sing the wrong words to the Tantum Ergo, I did not set the alb on fire, I did not set the Humeral Veil on fire, and there are no incense burns in the new carpet. So although it was very cool to be that close to Jesus, and I just LOVE incense, well...I was more focused on what I was doing than on Jesus. But I think He understood.

This evening was the originally scheduled Benediction involving my direct participation. This time there were two of us, and when Father knelt next to me he said something about the incense. He pointed off to my right, where I finally got the message the incense itself was on the holder. Earlier in the day because he'd set things up to be able to operate without servers, he'd had it in front of him. Small detail! So I went to go get it once I got a clue, and the rest went smoothly. And later on we joked about my brain lapse, that really important element! Thankfully, no one else was the wiser to Father's and my whispered conversation.

And in case any of you are worried, no, I'm not suddenly going to become a liturgical liberal. While I'm not a rad-trad, I lean in that direction, but I'm also very practical. If something needs to be done, if it is legitimate, and if it is something I can do and have been asked to do, it is proper to respond, well, it's logical to step in. I never in a thousand years would have thought I'd be involved in a Benediction, and as a child, I was never an altar server. Never had the interest, even though girls were allowed. I thought it strange. But the Church allows it and I will be obedient to that no matter what my preferences. (I don't think I'd be willing to serve at Mass, though.)

Tonight went well, overall, and although it was a strange and rough day, there have been great blessings. After all, I was blessed by Jesus today three times, at three separate Benedictions, two of them while kneeling at His very feet, surrounded in a cloud of incense. That HAS to be an experience of the Beautific Vision. And it makes me love Him more.

The Blessing of the Cross

At the end of the day, a co-worker revealed a story she'd heard from a man she knows who nearly died. He had some sage spiritual advice; accept every cross that comes to you, without question, and with much joy. Because it is better to have a cross than to not have one.

The idea of being hated and slandered is a cross for me. I tend to be sensitive to those things, and so I've always struggled in trying not to be overly-sensitive. But today, I was given that very Cross, and I knew it was coming, although it arrived in a way I hadn't entirely considered. In the end, though, I was blessed through the support of my coworkers, the teachers who were present at my talk, our priest, and the school principal. So I gladly welcome that cross, because I'm not done carrying it, and there will be a new one on the same order next year.

Then also, the idea of serving at the Benediction was somewhat of a Cross for me, but it has become a true blessing, in all sense of the word. At the heart of every single Cross is the love of the Father, and each day, He sends a bit of love our way. Some of those things may be painful, but they carry a message, and sometmes they bring us so close to Him that we can't see anything else, and don't WANT to see anything else. Every so often, His lessons converge in one place, and instead of feeling burdened, we realize we are free.

God, grant me blessings and crosses like that every day, and help me to recognize them for what they are. So often, they are one and the same.

I love Benedictions, and the ones we planned for today are motivated by something I just sense deep in my very soul; it's the only way to bring people home. I can stand up in front of a room and talk about the sacraments and the catechism and what Holy Scripture says, but maybe nothing will happen. Even if I am speaking with the authority of the 2,000 years of the Church, it means nothing if the people refuse to see Jesus.

But if I can get them in the PRESENCE of Jesus Himself, and He can offer them a Blessing, well...that's conversion territory. Because it's not a lecture, and the one we did today was very short and simple. Just a few minutes with Jesus...that will bear fruit. If we do nothing else this year but get people to Christ, well, things will happen.

I can't convert people. I can't even convert myself! But Jesus can.

Everyone, here is the secret to true conversions; Jesus. He is there. He is waiting, and He can convert hearts at an instant...he just needs that doorway, that few moments, and people will be changed forever.

The Effect of the Truth

Today Fr. V over at Adam's Ale has a great post where he addresses things of concern to all of us as faithful Catholics.

But sometimes homilists feel as though they are preaching to the choir in the same way some priests yell from the pulpit, “You people better start showing up for mass!” What good is it yelling at those that are there? They’re there! In the same way it is presuppose those at mass know that to be Catholic is to be pro-life.
What should we do?

Please go and read his entire post, and offer your thoughts.

I find this to be very timely. Just as I got into work, the DRE, who arrived at the same time, told me that she spoke with Father AND the school Principal this morning. They mentioned that last night/yesterday they were accosted by a couple of parents who were concerned about what I'd said about their salvation if they don't go to Mass every week. (And it sounds like he may have taken what I said out of context as well). In any case, Father backed me up and reiterated the Church's teaching, but likely in a very gentle way. (It is an art with him.) Anyway, one of them apparently also heard from one of the parents who was upset by the Blessed Imelda story. And that parent outright LIED about what I had said in a subsequent conversation before the entire group of parents about that story.

As a side note, she was the parent I KNEW would be upset about hearing about Blessed Imelda, and she was, right there in the meeting. And she was also one of my "hecklers" from the fall parent orientation.

What's really ironic about this is a comment I made in Fr. V.'s combox:

"...And if you shake them up a bit in that process....GOOD! THAT'S THE BEGINNING OF CONVERSION!"

I had no idea that I'd be hearing about this opposed to last week. So on one hand, I know I said the right things...because it shook some people up. And some parents came up and thanked me very much for laying out the Church's teaching clearly, and for providing the documentation to back it up. (Canon Law and the Catechism).

My DRE emphasized that Father wasn't upset at being accosted, but suggested maybe I tone it down next year. We do have plans to change the way things are done, by adding time to the meeting for discussion, clarification on these kinds of points, etc. Because our faith is too important to water down, and sadly, too large a population of today's Catholics are completely uncatechized. Which means they need the basics, and they need to know the WHY of those things that will lead them to salvation.

Faith and Reason have ALWAYS gone together...and so we must take care to keep them together when in a position to share the Gospel truth that we strive to live by.

So on one hand I'm cringing a little because I KNOW Father will have a conversation with me later today. But I'm also thankful he was aware of what I'd be discussing so he wasn't caught unaware when confronted by a couple of upset parents. God bless him, and them.

And please, people, pray for priests! All the time!

UPDATE: The conversation with Father was fine and I also spoke in depth with the Principal, both of them were fine with what was truly stated and were willing to back me up. And the Principal had told people that if they had a problem with what I'd said they should be speaking to me. Absolutely. I will stand by what I said, because the Truth doesn't change. But if someone needs further clarification, I'm thrilled to take the time with them for that, as much time as they need.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Oh, Goodness, Catholics Please Step Up!

I was just browsing looking for how to bake a potato (I know how, but sometimes I need direction on the oven temp.), and found a really interesting web site:

How To Do

It seems to be a fairly new site as it doesn't have a lot in the way of archives, especially under Christianity.

There are a few articles, but I see that Catholicism, the ORIGINAL and ONGOING Christian religion is not represented AT ALL. And I have a problem with that. Why is there an article in how to join the Baptist religion, but no article about how to enter the Church founded by Christ Himself?

Now, I love our Baptist brothers and sisters...and in fact, a few of them helped me come home to the Catholic Church, God Bless them! But really, we should step up to the plate and get in on this.

The site is looking for writers, and has a big APPLY NOW! button on their homepage. Many of my readers, whether they have blogs or not, love to write, love the Church, especially love Jesus, and could contribute a great deal. Please, for the love of God (really!), will some of you please apply and start posting your work?

Currently, there is a "How to understand who wrote the books of the Bible." Which is all well and good...she got most of it right (As a Protestant, though, she is missing 7 books, to include Tobit, which is referenced in a dialoge with Jesus, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, and Maccabees 1 & 2, among others), although the article could use more infomation, such as: HOW do we know this? And WHO put the canon of scripture together? And HOW did they know what to include and what not to include? The Bible didn't just drop from the sky, you know. It was handed down, and we know the canon through Apostolic Tradition, which is still intact in the Church today. But how is the author of the linked article to know that if no one tells her?

I'm honestly curious...I know there are converts who read this blog. Can you tell me what your teachers and professors and parents told you about the origin of the canon of Holy Scripture? OK, I digress.

Websites are great for a synopsis of things, so if you're good at being brief (I'm not!), and you can convey snippets of info in a powerful manner...well, you have a gift you should use for the good of the unity of the Church. Get out there!

I am drawn to this, of course, but do I REALLY need to add something on to my plate? But you, especially those of you without blogs, those of you who love to know who you are....go!

And just as an FYI, a fun site I learned about when I worked in Insurance is:
How Stuff

Great site for a lot of things. I often used it professionally to assist me in understanding engines and cars and anti-theft systems.

Would You Like Soup with That?

I've been so grateful to have today off from work, because I've needed it to work on my stuff for school, due next weekend. But I think I'm done for the day...I just can't do any more. No, I'm not done. And I need to study the 24 questions I've answered, praying they are the right answers (and complete!) because I will be tested on 8 of them next Sunday. Of course, I don't know which 8. And I don't have the answer for one of them. And I can't find the answers for a couple questions for my New Testament class, although I've read and re-read the text several times, it's not popping out at me. And the take-home test for the other class has me baffled as I can't seem to formulate my responses properly. I sent the prof an email for some clarification, and he responded, but I think this is one of those things that will be a "learning experience" and I'm going to spend the rest of the semester trying to recover my grade. And remember...I NEED good grades (a B average) in order to maintain the scholarship.

But I'm fried for now.

And I'm going to share with you a dream I had last night, because it says so much, and has reminded me to have trust. Because God will never throw us to the wolves, no matter how bad things seem to be sometimes.

I dreamed that I was in a huge house which apparantly was a part of the Church where I work. And I had my own room, and so did everyone else. We had to, because we were staying, for some reason, there with Father. And he was very concerned for all of us because outside, we were being attacked, these guys were trying to get in, so Father ordered a special security company (SEAL-type guys) to fend off the attackers. And we were to take care to lock the doors and windows, especially at night, and to leave only with an escort. Father was very much a father in this dream...his entire focus was to protect us all from these outside forces. And I remember feeling very comforted by that, sensing that he could be trusted to defend us, his "family", for we had all become a sort of family there in the church. In fact, we were right at home.

That dream doesn't need a lot of interpretation, does it? The meaning is there on the surface, right where I needed it. The, love of the Father, home, belonging, protection...and elements of reverence which are harder to explain. You kinda had to "be there."

Yeah, I have a lot of angst about the Church, about things that are happening, and concerns about the spiritual things in my life and how they are impacting or are impacted by my professional life. But in the end, I know that we must all trust. Because God has our best interests at heart, He is always there, and even when the wolves are at the door, we are not alone. And our safety is also in our numbes. Indeed, we are family, and as all families do, we battle each other. But I'd still argue that when the chips are down, we find our common ground and raise a united front with our leadership and with each other.

Anyway, that's enough pontificating for now. On to the food!

Last night, I made a favorite, Roasted Red Pepper soup. It's very easy, and while I have a recipe, I actually just used it for guidelines.

The first time I made this soup, I'd found a web site that explained how to roast peppers. But I couldn't find it yesterday, as most of what I saw was about how to PEEL peppers by roasting their skins.

So I'll try to go step by step with what I did and used:

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Roast Red and yellow peppers and the Garlic and hot pepper (serrano).
Or use few jars Red sweet roasted peppers
1 Small jar yellow sweet roasted pepper or fresh-roasted yellow sweet pepper
1 to 2 red Serrano peppers
3 cloves of garlic (roasted)
1 tbsp olive oil
1- 14 1/2 oz Chicken broth
1/2 cup Whipping cream
Fresh Basil leaves

1. To roast peppers, remove the core and stem, rinse away the seeds, and slice into strips. Brush the skins and flesh with olive oil (light coat) Place on cookie sheet or some other proper baking device in 400-degree oven. Watch for the skins to turn a little black/bubbly, turn over to roast other side. (I'm not good at this so turned them a couple times before I was satisfied that they were properly roasted.)

2. I used a combination of fresh and canned (in a jar!) Peppers. I had 2 large jars of red peppers, one of them with garlic. I used 1 fresh roasted yellow pepper and 1 jar of yellow peppers.

3. In a sauce pan combine Red and Serrano peppers, garlic, basil and broth. (Because I used so many peppers, I increased the broth, to 2 - 14 oz cans of vegetable broth and 1 can of chicken broth. I think my chicken broth was low-sodium. I also used chopped roasted garlic from a jar)

4. Bring to a boil, Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 7 min or till liquid reduces by one-third. (OR you can just let it simmer for awhile...with all the extra broth, I first put a lid on the soup in order to just let the flavors blend, and then I took the lid off and let the soup reduce.)

5. Cool slightly. Meanwhile in Blender combine yellow pepper and 1/4 cup of cream, blend, place in bowl and chill. (I used a hand blender, which comes with a cup. This works WONDERFULLY. I did chill it, but the chilling part is more geared towards this as being served as a cold soup. So if you don't have time to chill it, don't worry.)

6. In same blender (after rinsing out), place batches of red pepper mix and blend until smooth. (I just rinsed off the blender and stuck it in the pan to blend all the chunks of pepper. Another plus for the hand-blender!)

7. Strain if necessary. Put back in pan and add the rest of the cream. Heat though. Swirl yellow pepper cream in soup. Serve!

This is a really wonderful soup that can be served hot or cold. It is supposed to be a thicker soup, but because I added so much broth, mine is a bit thinner, but still tasty. I also added some Thyme, Marjoram, chili powder (I used only 1 serrano), celery salt, and some other herb mix of garlic and onion.

The cool thing about this soup is that you can make it from stuff in the jar, you can make it with only 1 14 oz can of broth, you can make it vegetarian, and you can make it in less than 20 min if you follow the original recipe. I just like to let things simmer a bit because I think it enhances the flavor. But if you don't have time for that or you don't want to experiment, you'll still end up with a great soup.

So, now, on to the rating portion.....this gets my highest rating. If Jesus came to my house, I would not be afraid to serve Him this soup. Thus, this post earns the tag, "Food I would serve Jesus". (My lowest rating is, "Food I would NOT serve Jesus). As Jesus is the standard, if it is acceptable for Him, it would be acceptable for anyone. Because we should always offer to God our best.

And I have a lot of soup, so if He comes to my house tonight, or tomorrow, I'll be happy to hand Him a bowl!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bloody Crucifix

Cathy has a great series of interesting posts on the Cross, and as a result I find that I must offer some thoughts on this subject as well.

Lent is the perfect time to regard the Cross, with or without a corpus, whether we are following the Carmelite tradition of placing ourselves upon that cross to unite ourselves with the suffering of Christ, or whether we need to be faced with His extreme suffering on our behalf. (Please note: I mentioned the Carmelite tradition as they follow a very austere life and thus their cross is not representative of the Resurrection, but rather is its own spirituality of suffering taken on by each soul. Thus their "corpus" is still present.) As Cathy points out in her posts, for the rest of us, we as Catholics need to see the corpus of Christ on the cross, for there is no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday. I would like to take this theme a little further, however.

When I lived in Mexico, although I never attended Mass there (which I will forever regret as long as I live), I went to a lot of churches. And in many of them one can find Jesus laid out as though in a tomb, but covered by glass. There were prie-dieus (kneelers) so that the faithful could kneel and meditate upon their Savior, focusing on His terrible wounds. He was bloody, he was bruised, and He was a horror to behold.

I was fascinated, of course, although not at the spiritual level that this was meant to prompt. Thankfully, though, part of our education there, through a Catholic college, involved understanding these images and models of Christ. Why do they exist in Mexico and not the United States?

Our professor explained that it went back to colonial times, when the missionaries were trying to convert the Aztecs and other native communities. The wise missionaries realized that simple catechesis was not sufficient; they had to find a point of identification with the people. The native peoples of Mexico had no problem with the idea of the Virgin Birth, or the Resurrection; in fact, these ideas existed in their own pantheon of deities. Thus, they were points of identification. But there was something else the people understood, and had always understood; bloody sacrificial death. Chosen sacrifices. Fasting.

I'm not sure how it happened, but I believe the missionary (or missionaries)with the proper intelligence commissioned an artist to create Jesus in as bloody and realistic a fashion as possible, and lay Him out in his mask of death. They did this also with the crucifix.

And of course, centuries later, there I happened along to witness this image, and it has never left me. I can't "unsee" Jesus in that condition. It struck me to the core, although I didn't really understand it at the time. And while some of my classmates shied away, I was drawn in, seeing something that maybe I hadn't before, although I couldn't have told you what it was.

To this day, I LOVE the bloody crucifix, and the more I learn about theology, the more I love it, and the more meaningful is every element.

The Suffering of Jesus Christ

Several years ago, I was suddenly hit with carpal tunnel in both hands. It appeared one night while I was sick with a viral thing, so at first the pain running up my arms and the numbness in my hands was misdiagnosed as related to the virus. Then the next night was quite sleepless as first my hands went numb, and then a piercing pain ran up my arms, through my elbows, and up to my shoulders. It was horrible. The only thing that stopped me from going to the ER at 3 am was the fact that I could find a pulse in both I knew it was the nerve. But it was like fire in my arms.

I don't remember when I learned it, but a couple years ago someone on the radio was giving a description of the suffering of Christ from the nails in his hands, or wrists. The speaker described the horrible, torturous pain of the weight of Jesus' body rubbing on the sensitive nerves in his arms, and the exquisite sensations it sent up his arms and throughout his entire body.

I know similar pain. The very thought makes me tear up, because I know the pain I experienced with the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome can't COMPARE to the suffering of Christ...from the nails in his hands alone. When I consider this horrible sensation, and take time to meditate on it, I cringe, I cry, I flinch, knowing, to some degree, what it was. And it was such a small pain in comparison to the rest of His wounds. So I have to admit, I don't think about it a lot, because it's very difficult, and at times, I can actually FEEL that pain again.

So it seems I NEED that bloody crucifix to make me understand the pain I have caused Christ through my sin.

But it doesn't stop there, for recently, I became aware of some of the symbolism of blood, from the beginning of time.

The Significance of Blood

You've read the passages in Genesis; when Cain killed Abel, God confronted Cain and cited the blood of Abel crying out to him from the ground. You've read the passages about the sacrifices offered to God on altars, in which the blood of the chosen animal was let to fall to the ground, so that the sacrifice would be offered in the proper way. You have read about the Mosaic dietary laws, the proscriptions as to how animals should be killed, for to consume the blood was abhorrent. For blood belongs to God alone; it is symbolic of life.

In Exodus, the Israelites were instructed to mark their lintels with the blood of the unblemished male lamb they were to slaughter that night; thus it was by the blood of the sacrificial lamb that they were saved.

We understand that same meaning; it is by the blood of Christ that we are saved. It is by His very blood, shed for us, that the ransom for sin has been paid. Jesus has answered to the Justice commanded by the Fall.

Thus, although some people say that they don't need to see the bloody crucifix, they don't need to see the blood Christ shed for us all, I respond that if they do not accept the blood, how can they understand Christ?

Our society has a great fear of blood, and perhaps this is part of the tactic of the evil one, for our abhorrence is not through respect as it was for the Israelites, but rather, out of irrational fear. In our world today, blood carries atrocious diseases, and those of us who may come into contact with blood or other body fluids that may contain blood are bound to protect ourselves with masks and goggles and gloves and even condoms. (I give you myself...just don't expose me to your blood.)

We are a culture of barriers. Even as we beg people to "Give Blood!", we close our eyes so as not to see the fluid passing through the tube. Even as we know that blood saves lives, for indeed, life is impossible without blood, we are squeamish and we flinch back from it. Those who are fascinated by blood are attracted to the terrible facets of symbolism found in horror flicks...this is unnatural. This latter, I would argue, is indicative of the fallen state of humanity. For even as we realize the importance of blood, we either shy away from it or we bathe ourselves in it inappropriately.

I would so argue that those who suggest we don't NEED to see the blood on the crucifix need a little more understanding as to the spiritual and real properties of blood; for it is the very blood of Christ that gives us life. And had not God breathed life into Adam, that life that coursed through him, bound to his blood, had not God become Incarnate and spilled His own blood for us in His Passion, and if we did not consume the flesh and blood of Christ at each Mass, we would have no life in us.

Blood is akin to life, and it is the gateway to Eternal Life.

I completely understand those who say they prefer a more sterile representation of Christ from the perspective of art or propriety for children. And I understand that some people are incredibly sensitive and such images are difficult for them for various reasons. However, barring such obvious scenarios, I honestly believe that mature Christians at least need an appreciation of the significance of blood, especially in relation to the Passion and Crucifixion in order to have a proper spiritual orientation to the suffering of Jesus for our salvation.

So for those who previously thought that you don't "need" to see a bloody crucifix...please reconsider, and spend some time meditating upon the importance of the blood that has set you free.

Litany of the Precious Blood of Jesus

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven,
have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit,
have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God,
have mercy on us.

R. Save Us

Blood of Christ, Incarnate Word of God...
Blood of Christ, of the New and Eternal Testament...
Blood of Christ, falling upon the earth in the Agony...
Blood of Christ, shed profusely in the Scourging...
Blood of Christ, flowing forth in the Crowning with Thorns...
Blood of Christ, poured out on the Cross...
Blood of Christ, Price of our Salvation...
Blood of Christ, without which there is no salvation...
Blood of Christ, Eucharistic drink and refreshment of souls...
Blood of Christ, river of Mercy...
Blood of Christ, Victor over demons...
Blood of Christ, Courage of Martyrs...
Blood of Christ, Strength of Confessors...
Blood of Christ, bringing forth Virgins...
Blood of Christ, Help of those in peril...
Blood of Christ, Relief of the burdened...
Blood of Christ, Solace in sorrow...
Blood of Christ, Hope of the penitent...
Blood of Christ, Consolation of the dying...
Blood of Christ, Peace and Tenderness of hearts...
Blood of Christ, Pledge of Eternal Life...
Blood of Christ, freeing souls from Purgatory...
Blood of Christ, most worthy of all glory and honor...

Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
graciously hear us, O Lord
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.

Thou has redeemed us, O Lord, in Thy Blood,
And made of us a kingdom for our God.

Let Us Pray

Almighty and Eternal God, Thou hast appointed Thine Only-Begotten Son the Redeemer of the world, and willed to be appeased by His Blood. Grant, we beseech Thee, that we may worthily adore this Price of our Salvation, and through Its Power be safeguarded from the evils of this present life, so that we may rejoice in Its Fruits forever in Heaven. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pieces of Life

On School:

This is my last weekend to study for class for next weekend, and I'm not even close to being done. I know what I have to do, but I'm struggling with some concepts in Fundamental Theology, as I do not have any background in philosophy, save what I learned in High School. That was a long time ago.

On Technology (or lack thereof):

And it's going to be a busy day. Remember my cable issues from January? Well, even though all I have is local channels, the problem is just continuing. And even though I am constantly losing my service, I haven't called because I don't want to hear the useless platitudes about the line shrinking and expanding due to the fluctuating temps. But this week, it's been out since Monday morning. That's not a huge deal, since it's Lent, I've been working long hours all week, and all I wanted was the newst/weather/traffic in the mornings. I got the latter on the radio and just offered it up. But yesterday I called so they would make a note that I have no service, because I shouldn't be paying for something I don't have, even if it IS only $12.00 a month.

Well, the customer service rep this time told me that what the other reps have told me prior is compete BS, and that even though my cable line is currently fully exposed to the elements (not buried as it should be), I shouldn't have complete interruption in service. She explained that it would be reasonable to expect some pixellation and slight interruption with picture and audio, but not what I've had. So we did set up a trouble call. And of course, yesterday I had a signal again, and this morning I have the pixellation/interruption. Which in the past has actually preceeded a complete loss of signal.

They are coming this morning, where no doubt they will tell me that there's nothing they can do, etc etc.

What's really frustrating about this is that THIS is the ONLY complete weekend I have in February to do my work for class, Which is why I'm so behind in my work. EVERY SINGLE SATURDAY save today, this month, I've had to work. Meaning I'm working 6 days in a row. Yet Saturdays are typically one of the most productive days, homework-wise, because those are the days I go to the coffee shop to get away from home distractions. And I NEEDED that today. But no...I'm going to be sitting here waiting for the cable guy during my coffee/study time. And yes, I can still study, but only amongst the very distractions that slow me down. The dog, the phone, the house desperately in need of cleaning.

On Adoration, Celebration, and Lent:

And then I have Adoration, and then I'm heading out to celebrate my brother's birthday. It was back in early January, but our family hasn't been able to get together. And I'm going to make a confession; one of the things I gave up for Lent I'm going to have today because of the birthday celebration tradition my family has. So I'm giving up something alternative today. My brother is not really a practicing Catholic, and his birthday celebration IS important, so for today, although I feel very guilty, I'm going to just go celebrate and keep evangelizing him. Even though he doesn't realize that's what I'm doing. Please pray for my brother.

And yes, I'm a bad Catholic. Every Lent I'm a bad Catholic. And much of the rest of the year. Stop lecturing me...I've been doing enough of that to myself. Thank you.

General Synopsis:

So today will be a great loss in much of the study department, because I've got to run some errands and get a quick workout in before the cable guy appointment. I would be upset about not having time to lift weights again, but last weekend I tried to do too much and pulled a muscle in my bicep. It's not really recovered yet, so by pushing myself I caused the very setback I wanted to avoid. Oh, well.

Right now I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed, but extremely grateful that I will have Monday also to study as it is a holiday. No work! Woo Hoo! I can be a geek all day!

On the upcoming Benediction and my service at the altar:

Oh, and about the altar server thing with the it turns out, Father still wants me to serve. I went to tell him that he doesn't need to train me since I found someone. He actually looked a little disappointed, and of course, being a woman, I can't help but respond to an expression of disappointment, no matter how subtle. So naturally, I said uncertainly, "Um...unless you still want me to..." And Father suggested that the other server handle one portion, I'll handle the other. I agreed and just told him I'll do whatever he wants me to do, I just need to be trained. Instantly he was happy again. Father takes his Benedictions VERY seriously, and so I think he just wants to be sure all the elements are in place. Although I can't for the life of me figure out why he seems so interested in my direct involvement, but there it is. And I'm going to be obedient, and probably quite humbled to be that close to Jesus in a Benediction. And as I know there is certain sanctifying grace available from such participation, I see it as an opportunity to offer this grace for others.

But I'm very nervous and really hope I don't set my alb, the carpet, or Father's humeral on fire.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


I can't stand Valentine's Day. Not just because I'm single and all the gushing and superficial show of romance is just sickening, but because it's a commercial holiday that has nothing at all to do with St. Valentine. Besides, today is the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, very important Church Fathers.

So the geek in me prefers the practical and interesting to the...lack thereof.

So, here are some links to anti-Valentine's cards for you to send those you REALLY love. Because chances are, they hate Valentine's Day as much or more so than YOU do.

MSN has a few, including one that allows you to shoot cupid in the butt with arrows.

Cafe Press has some great cards. You can send this one to the chick at the office who gets a funeral's-worth of flowers each year.

Or if your're the depressive-type, you could freak your friends out with this little attention-seeking piece of work. Use caution, though, because you may end up on a 72-hour hold, and by "hold" I don't mean "hug".

For my single self, tonight I plan to come home, make spaghetti, and read about St. Cyril and St. Methodius and answer the study questions about them.

Happy Feast Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Obedience in Faith

God's sense of humor is always striking, that is, when it's not subtle. And sometimes it's both, because He often uses irony. At least, with me.

While I would not call myself a rad-trad by any means, I definitely lean to the right. For example, I don't like Contemporary Christian music in the Mass, and while I can tolerate SOME Haugen-Haas, an entire Mass of bad theology in music does make me go cross-eyed. But I've seen what some of the Christian rock-type music has done to draw some kids into the church and help their faith increase, even they outgrow the music and begin to beg for the timeless polyphony that many of us crave for its truth and beauty, and honor given to God.

And I don't believe that girls should be alter servers. Yet if they are allowed in a particular parish, I just accept that fact. For I see that all the girls fall away and go on to other things, while the boys remain, become seminarians, and often an adult man serves Mass when no alter servers are otherwise present.

Further, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are overused, in my not so humble opinion. And I have never felt called to that particular service, although earlier this year Father mentioned that he could train us. But it hasn't happened, and I've been relieved.

In any case, I far prefer to fade into the background in the church, to organize what I have to for work, but during Mass, take a back seat, be present, and pray. But not be visible. Because holiness doesn't depend on what others see us doing during Mass up in front of everyone.

But over the last couple days, given some of the questions that arose at the parent meetings, I came to see that being trained at that parish as an Extraordinary Minister could have value. Because I could answer questions as to how things are done at that specific parish.

Yet I'm still not willing to just volunteer to Father and ask him to train us, although he would do it in a heartbeat. I actually have the impression that he WANTS us to take on that role at Masses we attend there, or are involved with, thought he hasn't come right out and stated it as such.

Well, last night, I went into the chapel, and again today, I said the same prayer...I told Jesus that although I don't want to serve in that particular capacity, if Father asks me to do so, or any other capacity, I will take it as a request from the Lord Himself, and I'll obey. I'll surrender to God's will in that, and just asked for direction as to what He wants me to do.

Well, today, God answered.

At work, we are planning a Benediction, which I had to discuss for logistical purposes with Father today. And he mentioned the need for altar servers. Great! I told him I'd get him a list of the kids in the classes so he could tell me which are trained for this. He first suggested to me, "Well, you could do it."

Huh!? Serve? Ring the bell? Incense? Huh?!

But....I'm a girl! A girl who does NOT want to be at the altar.

So I counter-suggested we find the kids first, and then see. We literally have NONE in our evening program. So I looked to the high school students who would be there. None available because they have other obligations for that time slot.

So I called Father back, gave him the news, and said that if he wanted to train me, that would be fine. Of course he first gave me instructions over the phone. And while I've attended several Benedictions, and he's well aware of that, I've not really paid that much attention to what the server was doing and when. So I asked, "Uh....can I PRACTICE this before we do it?"

Sure. The day of, we'll run through it.

I got off the phone and told the DRE that I was going to be the altar server for the Benediction. She thought it was cool (and I know that SHE wouldn't want to do it, herself. She feels as I do about these things.)

So I went into the church for awhile to pray, and realized that Father's request of me today was a direct answer to the prayer I offered to God last night. And when I was asked to serve....I found every excuse possible to refuse. And grasped at straws. And tried to get away. And realized that I could not go anywhere to escape. And only THEN did I surrender to God's own will for me.

I was quite chastized today. Clearly, I have a HUGE problem with obedience. I seriously felt like I had to go to Confession, seeing my complete propensity to reject God's will in the most simple of things. Even after making a promise to obey.

So there, I surrendered, and I said "yes" to His Divine Plan, hoping I wouldn't set the alb on fire, and then the church.

But the story hasn't ended.

Tonight I had to recruit servers for a second Benediction, and in talking to the classes, a girl volunteered, a girl I know to be a real holy kid. And another boy volunteered, too. Perfect. But the girl asked to speak to me, and asked if we needed a server at the other benediction?


Father had told me he preferred two, but could work with one, and he's in fact done this by himself before.

But now we have one....and I am off the hook.

Tonight, God made His point. Thankfully, it appears He doesn't REALLY want me to don and alb and kneel next to Father at the altar and ring the bell. Rather, He wanted me to see my flaw, to surrender to His will...and only THEN did He reveal His entire plan.

And of course....if something happens and my lone server can't attend, well...I just hope no one has a camera.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I'm not a Martyr...tonight

Thank you to everyone who offered prayers and Mass intentions for myself and the parents and First Communicants.

The evening went well. I don't think my speaking ability was great by any means, but a couple mothers approached me afterward and thanked me for stating that they MUST go to Mass. Period.

I'm almost disappointed there wasn't a lynching. Really, it's the only chance I have at Sainthood. Maybe tomorrow. Or next year.

In all seriousness, though, I have to admit that tonight I felt privileged to be able to stand up there and speak for Christ. To tell people about Him. To speak authoritatively about the True Presence of Jesus Christ and back it up with scripture. To tell of stories of the Saints, and of Eucharistic Miracles.

And most of all, to proclaim in this manner my own love for Christ.

It was an honor to speak for Him, an honor I don't deserve, and that Jesus doesn't need. The Lord doesn't NEED us at all. Any of us. But He allows us to participate in His plan of Salvation, and for that, I will forever be grateful.

Tomorrow I'll give the same talk to the second group of parents. Please continue to keep them, and their children in your prayers.

HUGE Prayer Request!

Today, I go to my martyrdom.

Really. I think.

This evening, and then, if I survive the lynching, tomorrow evening, I'm giving a talk to the parents of First Communicants, and I'm going to tell them something they don't want to hear: That they MUST go to Mass...EVERY WEEK, they MUST practice their faith, and if they have no intention of doing so, ever, then they should either change their intention or not set up their children for failure in the life of grace by pushing them through this sacrament. Because Holy Communion is not a hoop to allow them to get married in the Church in 25 years or so.

And I've decided to open with this paragraph so that I can give them the reasons WHY it is so important, and it's going to be scripturally based.

I actually think most of the parents who will be there have nothing to worry about; some may not be perfect Catholics, but they're trying and maybe just need a fire lit within them. But I do know of others who have placed God on a shelf and don't really care. At all. And those are the ones who will rebel. I also know of one who will shrug off what I say, but she understands that it is my job to say these difficult things. So I ask you to pray for her; she has reason, but not faith. Faith is a gift, if she'd be open to it. If they'd all be open to it.

So here is my prayer request: That the Holy Spirit overshadow us all today and tomorrow, that we all be open to God's grace and the gifts He has for us, that I speak out of charity and not frustration, and that I won't be so overzealous that I scare them away. My desire is for these people to intimately know Jesus Christ and fall in love with Him so that they can effectively lead their children to Him.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

St. Ignatius on the Eucharist

Today I was doing my reading for one of my classes which delves into the Church Fathers, and I found the following quote from St. Ignatius Martyr (ie St. Ignatius of Antioch):

My Love has been crucified and there burns in me no passion for material things. I take no delight in corruptible food or in the dainties of this life. What I want is God's bread, which is the flesh of Christ, who came from David's line; and for drink I want his blood: and immortal love feast indeed!

St. Ignatius Martyr gave us many writings from the time he walked the earth, immediately following the time of the Apostles. He was a direct disciple of St. John the Apostle, and bishop of Antioch after St. Peter.

In another quote, he instructs us on unity in the Church under the hierarchy which was clearly already established:

Be careful, then, to observe a single Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and one cup of His Blood that makes us one, and one altar, just as thee is one bishop along with the presbytery and the deacons, my fellow slaves.

St. Ignatius was fed to the lions on behalf of Jesus Christ. After his arrest, as he journeyed to Rome, he begged the people to allow him to go to his death, for he noted that to allow this gave greater glory to God; for, "Our God Jesus Christ, indeed, has revealed himself more clearly by returning to the Father." So he also desired to go to the Father, so that he could allow his death to be his final statement as to the truth of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and His presence in the Eucharist.

Even the Stones are Silent

Every Friday my cable goes out. Like clockwork. Which, really, is fine although when all I want at the time is the news and weather (especially the weather and traffic reports!), well, I'm a bit annoyed. But otherwise if I'm doing my reading for class, I don't like to have either the TV or any music on.

But lately, being forced to be without the TV has been driving me crazy. Last night I went so far as to put a movie on, because I had no signal all of yesterday, either. And I was working on my homework, deafened by the forced silence, which in turn made me get up and clean the kitchen. Anything to stop the silence. I vacuumed both levels. I cleaned the kitched and put the dishes away. Then returned to my books. By then it was 7:00 and I switched to TV just to check the signal, and found myself watching "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Or whatever it's called. And was entertained. By then my brain had had enough studying, anyway as I really had been at it for a couple of hours.

Today during Mass, though, it hit me; the reason this particular silence is driving me crazy: because it's not my choice. I love the silence and often crave it. But when it's forced, when I can't interrupt the silence at will, or focus my attention on something other than my books, I am forced to look at other things. Yesterday afternoon it was the condition of my house - what a mess! Because I couldn't look at the TV I had to confront my mess. And I couldn't study until I had at least done something to straighten it up. Then there was a little peace.

It's not about the TV or how much I do or don't watch it; it's about having to confront myself and my own flaws. It's about needing to be home and silent, and willing to be directed to the things that need my attention, whether I choose those things or not. It's about surrender.

Yesterday morning I went to the Cathedral, and it was perhaps the third time in my life I've ever been there. I was there in high school for the Chrism Mass, and a couple years ago, went with a friend to attend a Latin Mass in the Sacred Heart chapel.

But yesterday, I was struck by the world outside...and God inside. Yesterday as I wandered about, fascinated, gazing upon the statues and symbols in the stained glass, I knew that I was Catholic. I was SURROUNDED by Catholic. This place couldn't get any more Catholic. The four pillars that hold up the dome are graced with the statues of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Most of "my" Saints were named or featured in the stained glass windows, if not in statues themselves, and there, beneath the baldacino, was Jesus, Himself, part of the presence of the Trinity symbolized in form and matter, there in actual presence.

Yesterday, I was in heaven. I thought that perhaps I could live there. Even as winter raged outsides, there within the presence of God, in this huge testament to the history of the Church, built for the glory of God himself, built for the presence of Christ who dwells there always, I was dwarfed. I was humbled.

In high school, when I was there for the Chrism Mass, I admired the art for the sake of art. Yesterday, I admired the art for the sake of the Glory of God. Because the art is not there for itself; it is there to draw us all closer to the Lord, to direct our gaze to Him, to reveal the eternal truths that will never change, no matter how hard the world tries to do so. Yesterday, all I could do was glorify God, there in the presence of the angels and the saints, I walked.

The Cathedral is built to represent Heaven, as much as it can, here where we are bound to the earth. And if that is Heaven...I don't ever want to leave. Yesterday was such a gift, one that truly directed my gaze straight to God.

Today, then, as I went to my own parish for Mass, I was struck by the stark walls, the harsh contrast against the Cathedral. There, I felt as though I was in Heaven. Here, in my home parish, I felt like I was in a cement block tomb. How lenten.

And my parish isn't bad; we have stained glass, we have some statues, we have a HUGE crucifix. There is holy water in the font, and proper lenten decorations. But in comparison to the beauty of the Cathedral, it is flat and meaningless.

It was a penance to go to Mass today, seeing the complacence of the modern Catholic world as it has moved away from the beauty of ages past to embrace the heresies of modernism even unto the forms of the buildings with which we are to glorify God with all our hearts.

We are not all meant to be Trappists and Carthusians; we are not all designed for that austerity. Most of us aren't holy enough to dispense with the beauty in favor of harsh nothingness. We need to touch and see and smell and gaze upon beauty in order to understand who we are as Catholics, as human beings, created for God alone.

Yesterday, in the silence of the Cathedral and even my own home, I was confronted with God, and then with the dust that I am. And in my own parish today, I was confronted with the inner decay caused by modernism. That decay does not speak to or for the faith of the people who come to worship God, and who worship everywhere they go, but it is a decay that must be cleansed. It is an attitude that leaves people who would be faithful in complete ignorance, bereft of who they were designed to be.

It is one thing to be in the depths of a sacred silence, but there is one place where human silence should remain; yet the walls and the art should still be speaking volums in both shouts and whispers. Sadly, in far too many churches, even the walls maintain their silence, for there is nothing there to reveal the truth of God in images and statues.

No wonder there is a crisis of faith; those who need to see the writing on the wall are given only a bare wall and forced to create their own. And they are forced to speak, because there is nothing there to speak to their hearts. And they do not know the Lord, because they do not care to read.

Irionic, in a world bombarded by images and snippets of words, in the very place in which is most needed, the profundity of the images and the depth of the language has been abandoned.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Christ has Called Another...

Go visit my dear friend, Mary, at her blog, where she explains her own Call from Jesus Christ to follow Him.

Pretty much everyone I have spoken to about this discernment has asked "How do you know?" All I can say is, during my time there, I truly heard the call of Christ to come before Him, asking me to return all that I am, and all that I have been given, to Him as a free gift and loving sacrifice, or to choose to return to the blessed life I have been leading. My heart leapt, and with both solemnity and joy I said "yes!"

Please go read the rest of post - it will be well worth your time. Have you ever wondered what kind of woman enters a cloister, or why? Mary may have some of those answers for you.

Mary has a great deal of college debt to erase before she can enter on June 11, so if you are a person of means and find supporting Vocations (especially during Lent!) to be a worthwhile cause, I urge you to do what you can.

Please keep her and her intentions in your prayers.