Monday, June 30, 2008
One of the characters in the book spoke of death as something that leaves a "hole in the universe." So, when a family member passed away, it left, for example, a "Sophie-mol-shaped hole in the universe."
I loved that imagery, for I read that book after my own father had passed away, and it helped me to define that emptiness in my heart; for I realized it described perfectly what I suffered. I had a "dad-shaped-hole" in my universe. As Catholics, we don't tend to think of things in New-Age terms such as "universe", but rather, our beliefs are far more personal and substantial, just as our understanding of God's love for us is personal and substantial.
And so, when we lose someone close to us, they don't leave a particular-shaped-hole in the universe, but they leave that gaping hole in our hearts, and it is our hearts that we use to love them both here on this earth and beyond. We never lose our hearts for our hearts are joined to our souls.
To this day, I have a "Dad-shaped-hole" in my heart, although at the time of his death, that hole was bleeding and piercing and agonizing in its emptiness. We who have lost loved ones always experience this emptiness, and it is this sensation that is so awful and so wounding. Grief isn't about what is there..it's about what ISN'T there anymore, and because we can't grasp it, we suffer all the more.
We have to find something to fill that hole, that emptiness that has suddenly pierced us with an indescribable pain.
Over time, the wound heals, helped by our belief in the Resurrection, in God, in the sacrifice of Christ, and in our eternal existance. But here on earth, that person-shaped-hole of grief bleeds copiously for a long time. Even after it has healed, the scar remains in the exact same shape, and it is that scar that reminds us of the love we continue to have; as long as it hurts, we know we still love and we keep that person present with us, believing in eternity, hoping we will be reunited in the next life.
But we still need others to be present with us in our grief. They can't fill the hole in our hearts, but they can bleed with us, understanding us through their own losses, and in the lack of their own losses, be present through their love.
In the book of Job, in the very beginning, when Job sat in the ashes weeping, his friends joined him, and they wept with him, silently mourning his losses in union with him. We are all called to do the same.
We cannot understand the depths of another's pain, but we can join them in the ashes and we can weep with them and be present with them, in the moment and beyond. We can't heal the pain, but we can unite our own, and in friendship, love, and limited understanding, we can help the one who is grieving know that he is not alone and will never be alone.
May God bless all those who are grieving, and fill that hole in their hearts with the love of Christ himself.
Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine,
et lux perpétua lúceat eis.
Requiéscant in pace. Amen.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
~ Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence
I'm always worried about holiness, and growing in holiness, and constantly frustrated by my weakness. Some days it seems I can't even go five minutes, or even 30 seconds, without offending God. And then I berate myself for being worried about being holy, because of course I realize I can't sanctify myself...that's God's job. Today, as I picked up Abandonment to Divine Providence again and read the above passage, I realized it was speaking to me, and this very flaw. It's a very deep-seated flaw, one that trapped me hard back when I wanted to return Home to the Church.
I had come to realize I was still Catholic and I truly wanted to live my life as a Catholic. But that meant going to Confession, and that's where my fear shut me down. I couldn't go. I tried over and over again, but I couldn't go. I knew that part of the Sacrament required having a "firm purpose of amendment", and while I WANTED to have that, I was trapped in a life that I knew I couldn't just shut down by saying I was sorry. Big changes were needed. But as Providence had it, there came a time where some of that life was absent, even for awhile, and it fell upon Holy Week. I went to Confession for the first time in 12 years, and near the end of my Confession, I tearfully told the priest that I knew I was going to commit these sins again and I didn't think I could be forgiven. (I'm not entirely sure that last part was really stated or, if so, understood...but he did know where I was going with my thought process!). The priest gently explained that THIS was EXACTLY why Christ has given us this Sacrament, because under our own power, we can do nothing. We may return again and again with the same sins, but we HAVE to return or we'll never be able to overcome them. We need the grace from the sacrament. We can't make ourselves holy, and we can't save ourselves.
Although I left that evening with great joy, it was another three years before I returned to Confession, because I returned to the same trap; I had to perfect myself. I had to stop doing what I was doing before I could go to Confession. It was like a superstition creeping up on me, making me create my own "ritual" so I could get the antidote. It was so backwards! And I was so confused!
Even today, I tend to fall into that trap, although it has morphed from its original modus operandi. It's much more subtle now, much more difficult for me to detect. It's easy for me now to realize that even if I don't think I have a firm purpose of amendment, I will still go to Confession and let the priest decide if my imperfect contrition is sufficient. And all too often, when I get to the Act of Contrition and say the words, "...but most of all, because I have offended YOU...", the tears come, the contrition comes and my sin crushes me. Because that has happened over and over, I now no longer listen to the evil whispers that try to keep me from Grace.
But it happens differently now, and I don't always catch it, and can't even define it anymore. I simply don't even have the ability to articulate how this propensity of mine has changed, and that alone scares me and is one of the reasons I know I need a Spiritual Director...and I'm still praying to find one!
"Never mind weariness, illness, lack of feeling, irritability, exhaustion, the snares of the devil and of men, with all that they create of distrust, jealousy, prejudice and evil imaginings....We cannot help being aware of all these evils, of course, and we cannot be indifferent to them, but let us never forget that ours is not a life governed by feelings. We must live in those upper reaches of the spiritual life where God and his will are active in a process which is eternal and unchanging."
~ Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence
Sometimes I go into the chapel, and I can barely even LOOK at Jesus because I realize how fallen I am. I realize my imperfections and my attachments to the world. I think I'm a disappointment to God and if I can bring myself to lift my eyes to the crucifix, I ask how I could EVER have been worth THAT!? It's hard to grasp how much God loves us, and how freely Jesus went to the Cross...for each of us, individually. Personally.
The Cross changes us; we gaze upon our Lord and we understand that His sacrifice calls us out of ourselves and on to something greater which we can't achieve on our own. We are called to be joined to Him, and as Jesus himself declared, by being raised on the Cross, He would draw all men to Him. As the Cross was raised, and at each Mass, as the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity are elevated, we are drawn to Him, and united, throughout the world. We are called out of ourselves, out of our fears, out of our attachments, understanding that we are in the very presence of the God who died for us and asks us to die to ourselves. We offer ourselves on the same altar of sacrifice, as we are, including our imperfections. We offer ourselves so that Jesus can make us holy.
There is no room for fear, or feelings or worldly distractions. If we are focused on Christ, none of these temporal matters should distract us. We are fallen creatures; we will fall over and over again, but with our eyes on Jesus, we know where to go and our hope will never die.
We cannot go around worried that we are a disappointment to God; Jesus saw all even from his very conception, and still, He chose to be born, He chose to take us all upon his shoulders when He was baptized in the Jordan, and from the Cross, he looked into our souls and decided in both his humanity and divinity that we, individually, were worth it. Each and every last one of us.
The only way we can disappoint God is if we give up and stop trying.
Never stop trying. In the words of St. Paul, we must finish the race.
Friday, June 27, 2008
I can't live on that. I do have another job for the summer, but I don't think it'll be a lot of hours and it likely won't pay much. But I think it's what I'm supposed to do. This coming week I'll have only my 10 hours, and the rest of the time I'll be off on a "vacation" much needed. On the positive side of things, at least I won't be driving 40 minutes each way every day! God is good, is He not?
Throughout this last year, I've been flying by the seat of my pants at every moment. Things have gone well, and maybe it was a lesson on surrender and trusting God, things I have great difficulty in doing. Each time I thought things were crashing, God answered. I'm certain that He hand-picked my volunteers and although I only met these blessed people this year, I feel like I've known them forever! And I love them and appreciate them like my own family!
But often, I've lamented the job I left...in insurance. Yup. It's not that I wish I hadn't quit...I think quitting was the BEST decision God ever made for me. (Yes, you read that correctly.) This year, even flying by the seat of my pants, even with irregular work hours and all the work on my Master's degree, well, I've NEVER been as stressed-out and bitter as I was in my last job.
I don't see myself remaining in my current position for long, but I'll be there at least, in all liklihood, until my Master's degree is completed (another 2 years), God willing. So this cycle will continue, but God gives us the grace to do what needs to be done...He sure did prove it this week, and I KNOW for certain that Our Lady had me by the hand all week long. But that doesn't mean I have a future where I am.
Just as I knew I didn't have a future where I was. I'm not even sure I have a future in Minnesota, but for now, we'll let that idea lie for I don't know where it's going.
This evening a friend sent me an email, and it got me fired up. Because of my last career, I have a certain level of expertise in an area, and now that I'm no longer burned out, I love talking about it. The old excitement came to me...I loved investigation. I loved typing my password into certain National databases and entering the necessary info in order that the database might spit out important records to help me in my investigation. I loved following the threads, I loved learning new things and trying to figure out the crime and I REALLY loved when we caught someone at their game...and roped them in.
Yet it frustrated me because I knew I was always looking for something negative, and in the midst of an investigation, trying to hold off indignant people who didn't seem to understand the game...that even if they were innocent, I had to ask my questions, I had to do what I had to do and no, I couldn't tell them what I was looking at because it was an investigation and I couldn't compromise it. Most of them only feigned indignance...they knew from day one they were the ones being investigated. Some of them were innocent people who had started out naive and were used to being in control...and couldn't deal with not being in control anymore. Other people really didn't have a clue how the world works and that people commit fraud...and I had to assume everyone was doing this. The trick was to try to keep everyone happy while doing the work in the background. Some days it was incredible...some days it was awful.
Some days I didn't think I could live with myself, even though I was doing nothing wrong. As time went on, I felt we were focusing too much on people who were completely innocent. I developed a "nose" over time, and knew within 5 minutes if someone was lying to me. Yeah, sometimes I got fleeced, which is why "feelings" aren't used to determine fraud. Things were awry...even as the company wanted to save money on investigations, they made us pay stuff that was clearly without merit, and they made me hold off on stuff I knew was clearly legit. And we all made errors.
I'm happy now that I know what I know, and I'm happy that my knowledge can benefit others as well as myself. And let me tell you...I'm VERY protective of claims adjusters. I don't care about the respective companies...in the end, they're all the same. (Although I learned, professionally, that there are certain companies that will NEVER have my business! No, I won't name them.) But the important thing is that they are staffed by people, human beings who are struggling to get the job done, and everywhere there is a very high rate of dissatisfaction. All of the companies are selling out their employees, the people you actually speak to on a daily basis, the people, when you have a claim, that you call, "The Insurance Company."
Individuals aren't "The Company". They are compassionate people with varying levels of experience trying to keep both YOU and their employers happy. They are the ones always thrown under the bus. They are the ones working their fingers to the bone and being villified in the process, being called "incompetent" on behalf of the actions the people above their heads make. Insurance is a very regulated field...adjusters, unless they are independent, are slaves to a system, and in speaking of my past co-workers, they're doing their best. And their work is necessary.
I still get fired up about some of the stuff I learned, and I really get fired up about the people, because if there is ONE thing I learned from my years there, it was to work hard to treat people with respect no matter what the circumstances, whether they were co-workers, co-professionals, competitors, or customers in ANY circumstances. The customer doesn't have to be right in order to deserve respect...they can be wrong and teach you a whole lot about being human.
This post has not gone where I expected, but I hope I said what someone needs to hear, so for now, I'll sign off with a salute to all those who work in the thankless profession of claims adjusting.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
It wasn't that I was out of control or yelling and screaming all the time. It was just that my irritation with everything and everyone was very close to the surface, and at times, rage seemed to bubble just underneath. I knew I would never hurt anyone physically or do anything insane; my anger was always verbal, but always frustrated. Because I didn't know what to do with it.
I had no where for it to go.
One day, finally, something happened that did frighten me, and I won't say what it was. Suffice to say that I went to Confession, in tears, and confessed my problem with anger. I had to do this a few times. One evening it was a face-to-face Confession, and it was as though I hadn't been to the Sacrament in years, even though it had really only been a couple weeks. I was shaking, I was tearful, and I wanted to run away. I wasn't even sure why I was there...I had no major sins to confess, and I felt like I was wasting the priest's time. He seemed to understand there was something else, and finally I just burst out and told him I was angry and it was like I was rebelling and I didn't even know why! I didn't know what I was rebelling against, or whom, or what. There wasn't a cause...I was just...angry. Always.
I can't remember what he said but we did talk for awhile, and after that...I wasn't angry anymore. That sense of underlying rage was gone.
That's not to say I didn't still have a "temper" or that I didn't get angry. For I was a revert and I was still angry about not having been given authentic teachings about Christ and through Christ while growing up and even as an adult when I was seeking all those answers. I was angry with myself for having followed the wrong path and for staying away from God for so long.
And I was angry with people who continued to follow the wrong path and who attacked the Church which I had come to hold so dear. An insult to Christ and an insult to the Church became a personal insult to ME and a personal attack against ME.
It took time to work all that out. I'll admit I'm still often offended when we as Catholics are attacked for our beliefs, and it's especially painful when those attacks come from the hands of people who claim to be "Catholic", yet they clearly reject all that we as Catholics are about. And it's especially painful when I see the betrayal of our faith coming from the mouths and writings of men who were ordained as priests.
Yes, it does make me angry. But I struggle to keep that anger at bay, because anger isn't helpful.
Anger cannot co-exist with chaity. Acceptance of one excludes the other. Anger has its place, but it tends to become a monster if it is harbored, and it grows...anger doesn't fade when we hold on to it. It nudges and pricks and irritates until we mull on it and then it has us. Satan loves to use the emotion of anger to get to us...because then he doesn't have to do anything. We fall so EASILY when we talk ourselves into the idea that our anger is "righteous" and therefore it is OK.
Anger cannot co-exist with forgiveness. We may become angry with a friend or a relative, and perhaps there's a good reason for it. But we have to be willing to let the anger go...if we remain angry, we can't forgive. And our Lord will not forgive us if we are not willing to forgive others. Holding onto anger is another way of refusing to truly forgive.
Anger absolutely has its place...read the psalms! If you are angry or upset, go to the psalms and page through until you find one that matches what you're feeling. Each psalm is a prayer, and each is MEANT to be prayed! No, perhaps we don't want God to have vengeance on our best friend who wronged us in some way, but even as we read the psalm, we can offer our anger to our Lord, and let the words of the psalm talk us back to reason. God knows what's truly in our hearts and He knows we are weak and given to following our emotions. He is always waiting for us to come to him, even with that. We cannot be angry AT God, but we can express our anger to Him, invite Him into it, and ask Him to direct it appropriately or help us to let it go.
I thank God all the time for taking my anger from me. I'm still VERY flawed, and I tend to be very crabby and irritable especially under stress, but that is a FAR CRY from where I used to be. And it's something I continue to work on and try to master. Often, the response of others towards me has humbled me. Even as I snap and snark around, God has surrounded me with calming presences, people who don't flinch at my minor temper tantrums, not even batting an eye. Were the roles reversed and they were snapping at me, I'd be likely to snap back worse. And then feel horrible about it.
There's something to be said for responding to the anger in others with humility and steadfastness. It does a great deal to tame that beast. And all too often, I let that beast in and I feed it. It's the peacefulness of others that starves it and restores me.
Sometimes we must get angry, and there is a difference between reacting to something and harboring the anger, but we must be vigilant that the former does not become the latter.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
After my own real conversion, I also used to become very upset at these people...but for the opposite reason that they are angry with the Church. I was angry because I'd been a dissident, too, and I was angry because I wasn't fed the Truth. I thirsted long and hard for God, and I was fed raw tripe and lead down a path towards Hell. A path I happily followed!
I was angry because other people are out there even now believing the crap I learned and leading others into the same crap and they're all standing on their heads in it and calling it ambrosia. And they think that their form of ambrosia is "Catholicism".
And...when true Catholicism rears its apparently-ugly head in the face of the crap they've deciced to call "truth" they are angry because the Church refuses to conform to their preferences.
I'm not angry anymore, though. Now I understand.
First of all, those dissidents are not Catholic. They may have been baptized Catholic, and they may have recieved some of the sacraments, but sadly, they were never catechized and they don't know what it means to be Catholic...so they've made it up as they've gone, just as their parents did. And they were encouraged by clergy that was not properly formed and thought they were being "pastoral" by indulging the spirit of the age.
They didn't know what monsters of Modernism they were creating.
The local dissidents that are wreaking so much havoc are such "textbook" Modernists that I did in fact use their rhetoric in a recent paper as it illustrated very concisely what Pope St. Pius X was saying about Modernism.
But let's back up a little and define a few terms.
Let's talk about Faith
Faith is a supernatural gift, but it's also natural. All of us can have some sort of natural faith. We can believe in God based on what we see in this world and use our physical reality to determine that there is, in fact, an absolute cause and beginning of everything.
Supernatural faith, though, accepts an objective truth that cannot be known through reason alone, for not all that we know of God is something found in nature, but comes from revelation. The Jews were the first recipients of Divine Revelation, and that Revelation was carried on in Christianity, and given into the custody of what we now recognize as the Magisterium of the Church. Divine Revelation ended with Jesus. However, our Lord gave the authority to interpret revelation into the hands of Peter and the Apostles, and it now rests in the hands of our Pope and the entire teaching authority of our Bishops. Together, they make up the Magisterium.
We obey them because Christ Himself gave them authority, and this is a Divine Revelation. It is not just the Pope who is infallable when speaking ex cathedra on issues of faith and morals, but the entire college of bishops in union with the Pope. Infallability is also contained in Sacred Tradition, through teachings that have ALWAYS been part of our faith since the time of Christ. This would include teachings against homosexuality, abortion, contraception, and female ordination.
In any case, a rejection of Divine Revelation is a rejection of God, and through this, one, if they ever had it, loses the gift of Supernatural Faith. They can STILL have NATURAL faith, but they are limited, for they are refusing to see with the mind and heart of God. Grace is still available to them...but until they are willing to accept objective truth, that is, a Truth that transcends their own person and subjective personal beliefs, they cannot pass beyond natural faith.
Dissidents have only natural faith. They have rejected Divine Revelation. They do not have Supernatural Faith. They are earthbound.
WHAT IS MODERNISM?
The following is from my paper:
St. Pius X called Modernism the “synthesis of all heresies”, for indeed, it embraces heresies condemned in the early Church and by the First Vatican Council. Modernism is built upon the agnostic philosophy of Kant, who divorces metaphysical knowledge from reason, denying that we can know anything about God through reason. His philosophy makes everything subjective to one’s own experience and “mental categories”. This is contrary to the Catholic understanding, for we realize that we can, in fact, know God through His work and we have the ability recognize the signs of credibility that reveal God through creation and through history.
Modernists reject the idea that God can be known from without; they embrace the concept of immanence, that religion comes from within man, and comes from a certain personal experience. It is completely subjective, so lends to the next logical conclusion that in fact, all religions must be the same and equally valid, for no one can argue with another person’s personal experience. Additionally, there is the idea of “evolution”; modernism has an evolutionary character, meaning that over time it develops in response to man’s own subjective beliefs or needs or desires. They equate a “living religion” with a constant state of fluidity, and in fact, much of what we witness in modernism can be called “New Age”, for it leads one towards a certain “divinization,” making themselves God, deciding for themselves what is right or wrong not according to an external and objective “deposit of faith”, but rather that internal evolution or divinization. The additional factor of modernism is one of a collective unconscious, and this is what forms dogma. The big question is where the world is going and what they should do to look to the future and be “prophetic”.
DOES THAT SOUND FAMILIAR?
The reality is that those who are currently protesting the Archbishop are not protesting him, but Christ himself. This isn't news. These people have rejected Divine Revelation, although I have to wonder if they ever KNEW what they were rejecting? They've likely never been taught. And that's what makes reaching them so difficult. They're not defining terms to anything other than political alignments as they have no concept of theological terms separate from the politicization they have thrust upon God. They have no theological terms that apply to the human person; all that they believe and hold dear is divorced from metaphysics...to them, nothing transcends the present reality and it is only what is immanent that is "real" and "definitive".
For someone to come from "outside" and suggest that their own personal decisions are somehow incorrect is an unimanginable violation! They simply can't comprehend how the Archbishop can come along and suggest that those who don't follow Catholic teaching aren't really Catholic! For they have defined Catholicism (and every other religion) according to their own personal terms and they have not met with much resistance. That resistance that they HAVE met has been counteracted by affirmations from heretics or unbaptized pagans within their own groups who ascribe to the same fundamental philosophical and theological errors.
I'm not angry anymore...I don't have the time. Or the patience. Anger is wearing, and the more anger I see from that side of things, the more I realize how we, as those with the gift of Supernatural Faith must be willing to listen, even as we disagree.
I'm not a debator. It's not my gift. I can share my faith, I can live my faith, but I will NEVER be a person who gets "down and dirty" with people who want all the answers RIGHT NOW. I can't give them. I'm more "contemplative" and I need to think before I speak both for reasons of intellect and reasons of virtue. It's one of the reasons I write and will never make an effective Apologist.
We have no right to be angry with the dissidents; they don't even understand what limb or sense they are missing because it has either never been granted to them on this earth or it has been lopped off by those who went before them and did them such injustice. We might as well be angry with a blind person because they can't see a roadsign!
Our response must be compassion and certitude in what we KNOW to be TRUE. We cannot argue ANYONE into the Church...we love them into it. We stand firm in what is true, right along with the Archbishop, and we must be matter-of-fact. Those who disagree will disagree and that is their right; for God gave them free will.
They can reject God if they want; our job is not to be angry, but to love as Christ loved and to be crucified as He was crucified, even at the hands of those who hate Archbishop Neinstedt and the rest of Christ's Church.
Are you willing to be angry...or are you willing to be Catholic? There is no middle ground.
Yup. I'm leaving Minnesota. Only for a weekend, though. It's been a long time since I traveled anywhere, and when I did, it was for training, and it was on the Company dime. And I had little time for fun. Although we did take an evening to go to Yborr City in the Tampa area, and I got a tattoo.
I will NOT be getting a tattoo in Cleveland.
Here's what's ironic....for nearly 5 years I worked for a company based in Cleveland, and never went there. And never wanted to go there. Now that I don't work at that company, I am flying out to Cleveland and I CAN'T WAIT!
How's THAT for irony?
I've just got to figure out what to bring my friends from Minnesota. This morning I was surfing a little and saw a sign:
"Unattended children will be given espresso and a free puppy."
I'm just looking for an excuse to buy that sign and give it to someone. If I can think of a reason, I'm going to buy it and give it to some lucky friend in Ohio.
Well, off to clean up for work! 3 days left.
And come to think of it...I need to call on my second job...I think they want me to start Monday, and next week is a short week. And I NEED to get 10 hours in at my "real" job, because that's where my benefits come from.
So much to do! So little time!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Myself, I haven't felt like writing. I've had a lot of things to mull over and many things I'm not likely to discuss here or anywhere else. And I need to go back to reading...books. Not heavy theological tomes which will be used to write papers, but books for entertainment, for relaxation and renewal of my own spirit.
I'm still praying LOH, although now it tends to be light on morning prayer and more regular evening prayer as in the mornings, I'm insanely busy and don't have the luxury, as I did before this week, to go to the church or chapel. After this week, though a new routine will be born and we'll see what happens.
For quite a while I was out of the habit of going to Daily Mass. I often wanted to go but wasn't able to because of my schedule. Now, gratefully, I should be able to go every day this week, and hopefully throughout July. There will come a time when it will be impossible again, but for all things there are seasons, and that applies to our spiritual lives as well.
For now, though, I have nothing more to say, and so I sign off and wish you all a blessed night.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
A few days ago, I felt the familiar sharp pangs in my hands, right in the center of my palms, that tends to prefigure a carpal-tunnel flare-up. And indeed, if I moved too quickly the pain shot up my arms, making even my skin feel inflamed for a moment, sensitive to the touch.
I've learned to associate this pain with the Crucifixion, and even thank the Lord for it, as it draws me closer to Him especially in understanding His suffering. It made me think of His invitaton to all of us to suffer with Him, to unite our trials with His.
This often leads me to the consideration of mercy, learned in my class on the Writings of John Paul II, in which we read in Dives in miseriacordia:
"Christ, precisely as the crucified one...is the one who stands at the door and knocks at the heart of every man, without restricting his freedom, but instead seeking to draw from this very freedom love, which is not only an act of solidarity with the suffering Son of Man, but also a kind of 'mercy' shown by each one of us to the Son of the eternal Father. In the whole of this messianic program of Chjrist, in the whole revelation of mercy throught he cross, could man's dignity be more highly respected and ennobled, for in obtaining mercy he is in a sense the one who is at the same time 'shown mercy?'"
It is Christ in His extreme suffering that elicits mercy from us, causing us to seek to offer consolation. We cannot help but be affected when we regard the blood that penetrates our own hearts, sluicing through the open wounds ruptured through the scourging that we deserved, pouring through and over the thorns to which we were sentenced, and opening in a floodgate by the spear that we only hope will pierce our souls so opening us to the grace God has ready for us.
When we see His suffering, we cannot help, even in our own sinfulness, but desire to reach outward to Him to wipe the blood from His divine countenance, to wrestle the thorns from His head, to remove the nails that pierced His hands and feet. Yet we find, when we reach out in a pure desire of consolation, that the thorns rip cruelly into our own flesh. We find that as we seek to remove His nails, we ourselves become impaled upon the wood of the cross, united with Christ in a way we could never expect. It is in our own sufferings that we are finally united with our crucified Lord and find ourselves on Calvary, given the option to offer solidarity...or derision.
There are no other options. We can either carry on our work of consoling our Lord through our own sufferings...or we can refuse His grace and suffer in derision without seeking redemption. He who reveals His mercy to us also solicits our own via his path to the Cross, and demands that we accept our own crosses and follow Him yet all the while respecting our free will to deny Him and walk away. It is a consolation to Christ whenver we do what we are called to do. Even our small obediences are a victory, even our small pains accepted with willingness lead us closer to the mystery of God.
Christ can do a lot more with us when our feet are pierced and bleeding in solidarity with Him than He can when we are fleeing His own consolation in favor of what we think is solid ground. We cannot find Christ unless we are willing to reach through the thorns and let them rend our own flesh, allowing our own blood to mingle with that of our beloved Savior.
On Thursday about mid-afternoon I was hit with some kind of a bug, which I suspect may be some form of food poisoning. The weird element to it, though, was the joint and muscle aches...it was just awful! So between thinking food was killing me or maybe I got the flu, I didn't know what to do.
Yesterday morning I was still miserable, but unfortunately, I don't currently have the luxury of calling in sick; I HAD to be at work as this is one of the biggest weekends of my year, going into the biggest week from Hell of my year. Apparently God saw fit to make me suffer even more for it, so I struggled to "offer it up" and I think I failed miserably. But we made it, and we all got a lot accomplished. More to do today, and some things I realized I forgot.
Today I'm feeling better, and very excited that I can drink coffee again! I'm convinced that the worst possible torture is to be deprived of coffee AND have to go to work and keep smiling.
It's going to be several crazy days, so right now I'm just thankful that perhaps I can begin eating something other than chicken broth and a few saltines.
Last night my Mom called, of course, and she was aware that I was sick and really not interested in food; I was both torturously hungry from not having eaten solid food in over 24 hours, and paradoxically, the idea of eating was worse than a thousand deaths?
So what was her first question? Where do I want to go out to eat when we celebrate my birthday? I nearly fell over just trying not to think about food! I told her we could talk about it later. And then, typical Mom-style (YOU know...!), she goes on talking about a friend of hers and where they went to eat and began to detail the restaurant...
I had to cut her off...I could not listen to more about food! I think she managed to abstain from that topic from that point on. Thankfully.
Today I think I can contemplate eating, even if I find I can't really eat. I'm just excitd to have a cup of coffee! Yay!
Hmmm...apparently there IS something to fasting, especially one brutally enforced. This morning, even in the remnants of sickness, the world is more beautiful than it has been in...well, a few days at least! And I have so much more appreciation for the small things.
God is so good...maybe this sickness really was a special birthday gift to me, straight from His heart to mine?
Thursday, June 19, 2008
He won't remember me...I'm really a forgettable person, don't stand out in a crowd (um...except for my current bright fuscia streaks in my hair), and he's of course overwhelmed by the numbers of people at our parish. So as I introduced myself, I did explain to him that no, he won't remember me, and our last Associate just introduced me as "a thorn in his side", so that's apparently my job. (Yes, it was a joke, and I turned it on the last Associate when introducing him to my mother a few years ago!)
In all seriousness, though, we've been extremely blessed at our parish. Because we're huge, a lot of new priests pass through for a couple years and then are moved on to other parishes, some going on to become Pastors. All of them have been wonderful, each has been an inspiration to me personally in some way (and have been to others as well) and I've always been sad to see them go. Yet when one is moved, we know another is coming who may have new insights and an entirely different method of inspiring the faithful to greater holiness.
I have the greatest respect for our priests, I'm so thankful for them, and so appreciative of the gifts they bring to our parish. Without those who have been at my parish both present and previously, I would not be where I am today, both spiritually and in temporal matters. God bless them all. I'm only one soul...how many others do they affect on a daily basis?
Please remember to pray for your priests every day. We ask for their prayers all the time...they need ours even more.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Today at work, (yes, in all the chaos) a conversation came up; someone learned that I was once in Law Enforcement, and she asked what it meant to be a Catholic and be wearing a gun. Sadly, I was not a practicing Catholic at the time, but admittedly, that career was one that brought me closer to God in a multitude of ways. I can still hear the sound of a round being jacked into the chamber of an SKS as I stood on the other side of the door realizing my vest would not protect me.
That person asked me...what about now? Now that I am a practicing Catholic? Have my views changed?
No. Because unfortunately, sometimes the police have to pull the trigger. They don't want to. But they train for it, and all that is needed is for training to take over. In the end, it's not really the cop that shoots the perp; it's the training that does it. A wealth of knowledge and understanding that takes hold in a fraction of a second, for the purpose of defending life. And even at that, it's not an easy decision; it's a necessary one.
A devastating one for all involved.
Most people don't hear the real stories of the shootings that you see and hear about on the news. Most people just dissociate themselves and depersonalize all those involved, for that tends to be the nature of crime reporting.
When I was in training, I remember some guys talking about shootings as though they were a good thing. I knew a lot of guys who never aspired to the Job (thank God!) who spoke of police killings as a feather in one's cap, a badge of honor. And indeed, oftentimes, an officer who finds it necessary to pull the trigger and is justified (after a lengthy and in-depth investigation) is often given that proverbial badge-made-reality. But he doesn't want it. She doesn't want it.
Killing people is never a good thing. Even in self-defense and with the authority of the State on behalf of the lives of others. But it's better than allowing innocent lives to be lost. Judge, jury and executioner...in the hands of someone you hope and pray is properly trained to make that decision.
And in reality, there is no real training that can prepare one for such a result. That's part of the reason why cops are taken off the Job for awhile after a "Critical Incident". It's not just for the investigation; it's about the officer's sanity.
I'm glad that even before I was deeply into my training I met that Trooper with the "thousand-yard stare". It gave me a depth of understanding and made me truly consider how I'd feel if I were called upon to make that terrible call.
But yes, as a Catholic, a practicing Catholic, I could pull that trigger. I still own a gun, and I have no doubt that if it came to it, I could take a life. But I'd be changed forever.
Talk to Veterens. Talk to ex-police officers. Speak to those who have seen the worst. They'll tell you stories and they'll tell you all sorts of gory things you've never wanted to know. But they won't talk about THAT. They won't discuss it. It goes too deep, it has changed who they are and has placed a scar upon their souls that cannot be healed in this life.
Pray for police officers. Pray for soldiers. Pray for all those who are called to those fields. You'll never know the stories and you'll never see the scars, and that makes your prayers all the more necessary.
Next week when it all comes to an end, if I don't post or if I can't be found on my Facebook account (yes, I gave in and got one), send someone to look for me at work. I'll probably be curled up in a corner crying and twirling my hair and quoting random lines from "The Princess Bride" or maybe "Monty Python's Holy Grail".
I have tomorrow off, even though I do need to be at work. But if I don't take tomorrow, which is the ONLY POSSIBLE day I can take between now and when it ends next Friday, I'll go crazy in very short order. As it is, I'll be working 8 days in a row, all of them very stressful for me. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad for someone who loves this kind of thing, but I'm not that person.
But God is good and He has answered many prayers and sent to me many many very gifted people. But still, thosse gifted people still need my direction because that's my job. This morning I already thought I was going to explode; our computer servers were FINALLY up, and I had a few emails to respond to from volunteers. As I pulled up a page, I saw I had 2 voicemails and began to listen to them...both very very long and including details that were not relevant to ANYTHING and just wasted my time. Then my cell phone rang while I was trying to get to the end of the first other voice mail message so that I wouldn't have to listen to it again. Then two or three volunteers showed up needing things, which we'd been working on but they needed further direction and had to get out the door in short order to make other appointments...and still the first message was going on. And on. And on. And my volunteers were waiting. But the messages were also from two VERY important volunteers without whom this program couldn't happen. It couldn't happen without ANY of them!
And then my co-workers started in on things, and we had an office volunteer in so they were looking for me to find work for her, but I wasn't prepared because I was on the phone. And as soon as my volunteers left the office so I could get stuff for the office volunteer, my phone rang again and it was a different subject but something very necessary and related to my other larger job, my overall job.
But it took a lot of time, time that she needed, and I gladly gave it even realizing that the minutes were ticking away.
So then the office volunteer came in and handed ME more things, not understanding that I was on the phone and couldn't deal with her at that moment (and she's not prone to waiting even when it's obvious).
And then..and then..and then...
And so on and so forth. So there I was, swamped. So overwhelmed I didn't know what to do next or how to do it. But a task came to mind so I set about doing it (and will have to work on it tomorrow, too...because I need supplies and tomorrow is the only time I can get them). And then another volunteer came in with some stuff and wanted more info and more info about things until I finally realized that she was asking about something another volunteer was in charge of, so I just threw up my hands and said, "I don't care! That part isn't my responsiblity right now! Talk to Mrs. X.! She's in charge!"
Thank God the volunteer I said that to is a Saint with a sense of humor! And dang, that felt good to officially delegate something that I really don't have to worry about!
And I just realized I didn't return one of the long messages. I tried but couldn't reach her and never got back to calling her.
But that last volunteer, God bless her was trying really hard to help and she's done so much and I just love her to pieces. And she told me that the program is an impending success, God is in charge, He wouldn't send me so many participants if we weren't ready, and that my gift might not be organization but it is overseeing.
Except that it's not. I know it's not my gift because it's so overwhelming I can't take it. And I don't like it. I know for a FACT it's not a spiritual gift because I took that test and I was overwhelmingly NOT gifted in: leadership, mercy, administration, or anything pastoral. (Yes, those are all spiritual gifts.)
The same kinds of things I'm struggling with now are EXACTLY the things that destroyed my previous career in Insurance; too much coming at me at once, too many things to handle over a prolonged period of time.
I am NOT cut out to direct, manage, or lead. But for better or worse, God has placed me in this position and I'm doing my best to live up to it. Before I left work this evening, I went to the office to make sure I had no mail that needed to be dealt with as I won't be in tomorrow. There was an envelope for me and initially I cringed.
It was a Birthday card from the secretary, signed by her only, so not an office card, and the second I read it I nearly burst into tears! She didn't say anything special, it wasn't a big deal, so that just tells me how overwhelmed I really am. I KNOW I bit a few heads off today and this week when everyone has been so nice and so helpful to me. And then reading that in an abandoned building after everyone has gone home...
I have more to say on that but this is getting long and I'm so stressed out I'm ready to cry.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
This afternoon a coworker and I were discussing the reality of why we do what we do. I mused on this further as I drove home this afternoon, realizing more and more the depth and truth of these words. I did not go to Mass today, and I had not yet read the readings...until now. Yet I am not surprised that the Gospel reading for today matches our topic of today's random discussion, for that happens all the time. The Holy Spirit is always close and guides us even in the small things.
Funny how the small things, though, are really the big things in the metaphysical sense of the word.
We live our lives in accordance with the love we have for God. It all flows from Him. He is our source, He is our font, He is our goal. All comes from Him, and all is ultimately reflected back to Him.
We do not love our neighbor because we necessarily find our neighbor to be pleasant. We love our neighbor because we love God, and thus our actions towards our neighbors are a natural overflow from the love we give to God. He is like a fountain; He pours His love out upon us, and we must be open to receive it. In fact, we seek to return that love, which results in a massive overflow that must go SOMEWHERE, and because God loves us all, our overflow cascades upon others. We see only God...but our neighbor benefits.
All passions are tamed when we consider that God is our only audience. All trials become easy when we realize God has gone there before us and beckons us onward. All things become bearable when we understand that we carry only the tiniest burden. Our lives are only dust, even tiny motes in God's eyes...and yet in the context of love we realize that if we are dust motes in God's eyes, we are jewels in His presence for eternity.
The Daytime Prayer for today carried this message:
Law finds its fulfillment in love.
But what is love? Our world knows little about love. In California today, they declared marriage to be legal between same-sex couples. That's not love. That's indulgence, profanity, blasphemy and insanity. It's completely contrary to the natural order of things.
The Law of this world and the Law of God often clash in such ways, and we can only truly find our freedom in following God's Law, which has its foundation and result in Love, which is God Himself.
True love is contrary to self-seeking and personal preference. It is wholly sacrificial, it overflows from the virtue of humility, asking us only to take a back seat so that God can do His work. There is no room for anger or envy when one's focus is God. There is no room for dissent, as love wholly focuses on the other. Good is defined through the actions and definitions of God, not our own relative opinions. Love is objective; our distortion of love causes the blindness of dissent.
EVENING PRAYER, Romans 12:9-12
Your love must be sincere. Detest what is evil, cling to what is good. Love one another with the affection of brothers. Anticipate each other in showing respect. Do not grow slack but be fervent in spirit; he whom you serve is the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient under trial, persevere in prayer.
Sincerity is fully lacking in our world today. We are a lost people, but not a people without hope. And we may even find joy in our impending sufferings, as all of us who truly seek God's face will be put to the test in union with the cross of Christ; the ultimate message of Love's victory over Death.
Something is coming. Trials we have never before experienced in this country will befall us, and our only recourse will be to find refuge in the Sacred Heart of Jesus as we accept the martyrdom of the Cross. If we do not go to our crosses with a sense of sacrifice on behalf of those who hate us, we will not find our Lord waiting on the other side. What must define us is love, a love that requires us to die to ourselves in order to live for others.
It was Jesus who revealed this true meaning of love...are we willing to even try to live up to it?
Monday, June 16, 2008
As I did so, I clicked on random posts either because I wasn't sure what they were about or their title reminded me of some particular trial or experience. So I read through them, amazed. Because one should be advancing in holiness....not backsliding. I'm backsliding. The more I look back on my journey, the more I see a disconnect between where I seemed to be heading...and where I am now.
It seems I was a better Catholic and far more attuned to God one year ago than I am right now.
I am so lost...here I was, hoping I was doing better, really even having MORE tools now to approach holiness, and yet, I am so far away. I'm not even CLOSE to being a Saint! Not that I was a year ago, either, but now...even further.
Thank you, Jesus, for this lesson in humility, a reminder that I have to keep striving, and that, without You...I can do nothing.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
From a treatise on the Lord's Prayer by Saint Cyprian, bishop and
When we pray, our words should be calm, modest and disciplined. Let us reflect that we are standing before God. We should please him both by our bodily posture and the manner of our speech. It is characteristic of the vulgar to shout and make a noise, not those who are modest. On the contrary, they should employ a quiet tone in their prayer.
Moreover, in the course of his teaching, the Lord instructed us
to pray in secret. Hidden and secluded places, even our own rooms, give witness to our believe that God is present everywhere; that he sees and hears all; that in the fullness of his majesty, he penetrates hidden and secret places.
...For God hears our heart not our voice. He sees our thoughts;
he is not to be shouted at.
A few years ago, subsequent to attending a Life in the Spirit seminar (about 4 months subsequent), I began to attend the Charismatic group's prayer meetings, which I continued to do for about six months or so, I think. Maybe a bit longer. I never felt it was truly "my place", but at the time, it felt like I needed to be there for some reason. But over time I just stopped going; a need, whatever it was, had been filled.
The people were wonderful, most attended Daily Mass and I would see them in our Adoration chapel from time to time. It was and remains a good group of faithful Catholics. God bless them!
However, I continued to have an extreme discomfort with their style of worship. Charismatic Masses made me cringe, even as I tried not to. I didn't like having a band performing at Mass, I felt it was an abuse for people to be praying in tongues at the Elevation, and I've NEVER been given to waving my hands in the air - except in law enforcement training when I was the suspect.
But I sincerely tried out this particular spirituality. At the time, I worked into the evening so usually missed the first half hour of the meeting, which was just fine...because it was "praise and worship", which meant..yup...hand-waving, singing in tongues, etc. It all seemed so "1970's" to me, and I preferred, if I had the time, to spend it in the chapel in silence. I NEEDED that silence, and it was in that silence that the Lord spoke to me and I to Him. After a stressful day at work in a job I hated, I needed silence, not more noise.
Yes, I enjoy Contemporary Christian music and listen to it all the time. But my form of "praise and worship" actually resembles the description given by St. Cyprian above, as opposed to the innovations of the CCR and Protestant forms of worship.
I am NOT slamming the Catholic Charismatic Renewal! I'm only saying that it wasn't for me; it wasn't my style of worship and never would be. And perhaps that's why I was drawn to the group; to reveal to me what I was and what I was NOT called to do.
I have had some people suggest to me that God pushes us out of our comfort zone and maybe I'm supposed to be a Charismatic. I disagree; God does force us outside of our boxes, but that doesn't mean we are to constantly experience spiritual discomfort. What was I doing in a loud prayer meeting when I desperately needed to be silent at the feet of Jesus in the Adoration chapel? I can't enter into true prayer after a bunch of songs. I have learned through experience that the only way for me to really encounter God and enter into a conversation with Him is through being quiet. Even in Adoration, often that conversation can't even begin until my hour is nearly up.
On one occasion, when one of the people in the prayer group asked me why I was always late, I explained that before I came, I was spending time in the chapel with Jesus. That person asked me, "Don't you think Jesus would want you to be here with us praising and worshiping him?"
I wish I'd had a copy of St. Cyprian's treatise to hand that individual. What I was doing WAS praising and worshiping Jesus. Every time we act in accordance with God's will for us, it is an act of praise and worship.
Somehow, people have gotten the idea that "Praise and Worship" means screaming (sometimes) bad music at the top of one's lungs while waving one's hands in the air and speaking in babble. And for some people...well, maybe that's what God wants them to do. But that doesn't apply to all of us. Clearly, the Church Fathers would have something to say about the true meaning of praise and worship, and how it originates from within, from that interior connection to God. And St. Cyprian did say that very thing, using David and his psalms as an example.
Prayer doesn't have to be noisy. It shouldn't be noisy, as far as I'm concerned. We're standing before GOD...my guess is that if we TRULY realized what happens at the consecration, we'd all fall prone to the floor, in an awed silence.
Only a fool breaks the silence in the presence of a King. We are all fools...every one of us. We can't comprehend what is before us and Whose presence we are in. We have only a tenuous grasp on this mystery, even if we can argue and explain the theology. If we TRULY understood....
Please don't fill my combox with a defense of the CCR. I'm not attacking it. I'm only explaining my own spirituality, towards the silent, ordered, and contemplative versus the charismatic style of vocal prayer.
To each their own, and the Church is big enough to hold us all. But give me a few minutes in the chapel any day with Jesus and spare me from the contemporary definition of "praise and worship."
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Tonight I was in the kitchen preparing dinner when suddenly I missed my Dad, 11 years in his grave. I wanted to tell him about Grad school, and all the possibilities. I knew that if he were still alive, he'd immediately be bragging to his friends about his little girl, all grown up and what she's doing. I knew that he'd be proud of me, supportive of me...and that even though I'm "all grown up", I'm still Daddy's little girl. Because that's the way it is.
There is a very special bond between fathers and daughters, and God designed it that way.
When I was a little girl, I used to follow my daddy everywhere. I didn't care what he was doing...I wanted to be with him and I wanted to be like him. When we went to visit his parents in Michigan, we'd go out to the pier and go fishing, and this was our very special time together.
I remember how daddy used to bait the hook for me for a twofold reason; I did not like to touch the worms, an issue that faded with time, and secondly, more importantly, he did not want me to poke myself with a hook. So he carefully baited my hooks, explained the "sinkers", how to handle the line, what to do with the reel...and how to be patient and WAIT for the fish to bite.
We passed hours that way. It was our special time. I'll never forget the smell of Lake Michigan, the breeze constantly blowing across the empty pier, the cement canals, the metal, oval-shaped moorings which never seemed to have anything to anchor. Seagulls soared overhead, piercing the air both with their wings and ther squeals, puncturing the low clouds which were forever present in the northland along the lakeshore. I'll never forget the fish we caught, or more importantly, the time we spent together. They are treasured moments. They are from a time in history when I was "daddy's little girl", from when daddy taught his little girl how to fish. I know for a fact that my dad treasured those moments perhaps even more than I.
I miss you, Dad.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a Dad, to be able to call him with my successes and failures, to either relish or put up with or reject his advice. I listen with longing to my friends as they discuss their parents, both living, and while I share in their joys, I have to admit that I still feel a twinge of jealousy, or envy, or even sadness for what I don't have. I do not begrudge their moments; rather I wish I could merely identify.
In talking with a friend tonight, though, a big realization hit me; I am not so fatherless as I thought.
We were talking about God, and evangelization, about teaching others the Truth, and I commented that God doesn't need us; rather, he allows us to participate. My friend talked about his own father allowing him to "help" do different things, and in looking back he's realized he was likely more of a pain and a hinderance than anything, and yet his dad encouraged him, gave him tools, and let him "help" things on their way. His dad loved him so much that it didn't matter if he messed things up because Dad could always put things back alright and he knew that as his son grew, so would his skills, his knowledge, and his abilities. And even if he proved to be inept, it didn't matter because he was his son.
It struck me, right around that moment, that even though my earthly father is no longer here, I am still a daughter of God, and he has a true presence in my life. God was there as I rebelled, had my spiritual tantrums, and had later conversations as I began to learn the language of prayer. When I go to Adoration, I am sitting with my Father in Heaven, mimicing the time spent with my earthly father while we waited for fish to bite. During those times, Dad and I would discuss a great number of things, just as, in prayer, Jesus and I discuss a great number of things.
I would not be so presumptive to think that Jesus has been proud of me; rather, I tend to think I offend him and cause him grief more often than not for I am only a spiritual toddler (and even THAT might be too advanced for me!). Yet just because I can't walk a few steps without falling on my face doesn't mean that God is less present...rather, he sees my vulnerabilities and is likely more solicitous, more patient and ready to pick me up, brush me off, and send me on my way.
I've come to realize that in those times where I have been standing in front of an RCIA class, those were "Father-Daughter" moments. I know that God stood there with me, beaming, happy to see his rebellious daughter finally taking up the family inheritance and sharing the wealth. It is a parallel to, perhaps, my first fish. Right now, I'm only fishing off the pier of my home parish...and maybe someday, God will lead me to a boat and we'll go together out to deeper waters and he'll teach me how to drop anchor and fish for the big ones.
It hit me tonight that God is really there as a Father to us all; and as a father beams when his little girl begins to find her voice, so does God stand back, beaming, when we begin to take on the mission he has set us upon. He does not abandon us, but stands there, smiling, his hand ready to catch us because we are only children and thus it is inevitable that we will fall. We will cry, and we will go running to Him to make it all better.
I understood tonight, that as I post on this blog, each post is really me just dropping my hook into the proverbial waters of cyberspace. But my bait is only those nuggets of truth dating back centuries and millenia. God is carefully baiting each hook and handing it to me to drop into the waters, waiting for the next fish to come along. So as I write, God is here beside me, letting me be, whether I am overeager, nonchalant, or even completely oblivious. And funny thing.....even if my attention wanders from the task and I miss a "nibble", God is always there, like a good father, to take up the slack and bring the catch to the light. And like a good father, he always lets me think that it was my idea.
But I'll tell you a secret...all this is God's idea. I'm just his daughter, and proud to say that even today, although I am a full grown adult, I am still Daddy's Little Girl.
Friday, June 13, 2008
This particular story was written back in 2003, if I recall the year correctly, and as it was fresh, it was "present tense". A true glimpse into the person Adoro was at that time. Unforunately, my personality and the constant disasters of my life have not really changed. With no further ado, I offer you:
DON'T CLOSE THE DOOR!
OK. So I'm at my ex-boyfriend's house tonight to take care of the dogs, Phoenix and Saber...first time in a long time. Just for a little background; we broke up over a year ago, we have "joint custody", and I live in an apartment, so when he has to go on a military trip, I come over and take care of the dogs. Just until I get my own place, and can take the dogs with me.
So anyway, I order a pizza, thinking a few things...the restaurant (Shakey's on Lake Street) is a really good one and not a chain, so I can't get it at home; it'll encompass tomorrow's lunch and dinner, and then I don't have to dirty any dishes or anything.
So the pizza arrives, and two disturbances simultaneously occur: I give the delivery guy 11 bucks instead of $14.21 plus tip, and when I open the box, it's pepperoni...not sausage and mushroom. So he and I arrive at the front door at the same time...and exchange. He makes a call, re-orders a pizza, apologizes (he already dropped mine off), and leaves. Genuinely nice guy, older than your average delivery guy, (probably a second or third job) and is trying to do what's right. I am very forgiving and just want my order...nothing more. He comes back awhile later with my pizza, I pay him properly, adding to the tip (mistakes happen, we all know), and he leaves.
I have closed the door from the house to the porch as usual to keep the dogs in. They are prone to either taking off out the door or overwhelming the visitor. So I had closed it like so many times prior, making sure the dogs can't push the heavy oak door open.
But there's a problem: the knob unscrews in one direction and doesn't move in the other. I look at the beveled glass set into the thick wood, the two panes into the house to my right, and realize that if the door opens with more pressure I don't have to break the livingroom windows in order to get back inside. So I twist the knob really hard in the direction it's stuck and ram the door a few times with my shoulder, doing nothing more than cause immense pain.
I study the deadbolt lock and realize that Saber probably locked the door when jumping up and scratching on it in effort to see me on the porch with the tasty food.
So I ram the door again with my shoulder and realize I'm being a guy, so I stop, conceding my defeat. But that didn't stop me from praying desperately for divine assistance. God didn't answer...apparently he didn't care. I envisioned myself well-fed but thirsty and cold in the morning, calling work from a neighbor's home to explain I'll be late because I've been locked out all night...from a home in which I don't live.
I tried again to get in; nothing. I'm locked out. The back door was locked...I remembered locking it when I let the dogs in last. So I was locked out. With a pizza.
(As an aside--there IS something in Hemingway's style!)
So I popped my head out...the delivery guy was standing by his car, still talking on his cell phone. I asked him for assistance and he came back, still on his cell, telling someone he was delivering a pizza. I didn't hear the rest - I was desperately searching the locks on the windows and the stuff on the porch suitable for breaking glass.
Hmmm...skis...ski boots...a chair...picture frames...
Well, we located an unlocked window, and the delivery guy (a father...I'd heard him mention his kids in his cell conversation), suggested I go in head-first rather than step over as I was doing. I was actually trying to be modest. (As IF!)
With the couch hindering my progress, I realized he was right. He was holding up the outer glass, held slightly by an aluminum hinge at the top so that I could get in. So there I was, crawling through drapes, pushing the dogs back, my rear in the pizza guy's face, getting tangled in curtains, getting slobbered on by dogs...realizing that THIS ISN'T EVEN MY HOUSE!!!!
And as much as I need to tell the homeowner (my ex) that his front door is broken, I cannot think of a single way to break the news without exposing HOW I FOUND OUT!!!!! I don't even think my dogs respect me anymore.
Here's what I learned today:
1. Go through the doorway, but don't close it behind you or you might lock yourself out
2. Pizza delivery guys may be your only hope, so tip well.
3. If you don't tip well, then at least be ready to show them your rear as you go through the window into the house you are occupying.
4. Don't tick off God. He'll lock you out of your house.
5. Make sure the locking mechanism can't be locked inadvertently by your dogs.
6. Learn to be humble...there's nothing to teach humility like locking yourself out of a house and asking for help from someone who happens to have just delivered a pizza to you twice in the same night (and in REALLY crappy weather at that!).
I don't think I can recover from this one.
Update from June, 2008: I never did tell my ex-boyfriend about the broken door. I ended up renouncing my claim to Phoenix and Saber, which broke my heart. Saber died a couple years ago unexpectedly (that was the last time I've spoken to my ex), I adopted a German Shepherd and a Greyhound, and put the latter to sleep last summer. I take a key with me everywhere I go. And I always tip well when a pizza is delivered!
And the pizza place..it closed. That's one of the reasons I ordered that pizza that evening, as I knew I'd never be able to do so again. And I was almost relieved when it closed, even as I was sad as it was a Minneapolis staple. Minneapolis residents who knew the place would understand.
I got a wonderful haircut from a girl named Lindsey, and then I spoke with Bridget and she braided in an extension or two. And man, does that HURT when they do that! But I have little peeks of that bright color, althoughI completely don't look like the kind of person who would get streaks, but there they are, and I love them!
She said they'll last anywhere from a week to a couple months, so I imagine that it will depend on how I treat them.
But...I got home to an email from a friend telling me about a girl who needs client points for graduation, so I'm going to call to check on her pricing for real hair color. If it's reasonable, then maybe I can still do something fun with color...something that won't involve synthetic extensions. I can only do cheap fun things these days. But today, this color is a gift to me.
Somehow, pink hair just makes everything better.
How's your Friday going?
In one week, I'll be 34. I used to think 34 was old. But I don't feel old.
This last year has truly been a grace-filled year in which God really answered many desperate prayers and opened my eyes. Last June at this time I was just swallowed up in darkness; I was watching my career crumble around me, I was miserable, I had nowhere to go. But I had Jesus, I had a tiny hope, and I knew I was going back to school. And finally I placed my trust in Him and I jumped...and as other things crumbled around me, I did not fall. Because the Lord was there to set me on another path.
It's been a difficult year in so many ways, but new beginnings usually ARE challenging, and they should be.
But today...today is my day. I have to work next Friday, and all weekend, and throughout all the week after, so this is my only time to celebrate the end of one year of life and the beginning of another.
What am I doing? I'm getting my hair cut. I really really want to get it colored, too, but that's expensive and I can't afford it. Not unless I find a REALLY REALLY good deal! Which isn't likely. The kind of bottle-job I want (which isn't blonde!) is fairly complicated as I first would need overall color (black), and then they'd have to bleach it and then color the bleached areas with the bright red streaks I want.
Yeah, I like to play with my hair. I'm 33 and I'm still not a grown-up. I admit it.
But unfortunately I'm wiser now and more practical and would prefer to spend the pittance I have on paying bills and not frivolous dye-jobs.
Still, it'll be nice to get a hair cut today. It's been almost a year since the last one! And oy, I'm looking raggedy! Not cool!
So it's time to end this rambling post and be on my way. Hope it's as beautiful in your neck of the woods as it is here today in Minnesota!
It is a WONDERFUL day to be ALIVE!
Thursday, June 12, 2008
My parents divorced when I was eight, and among their many differences was religion; Mom was Catholic, Dad was Lutheran. Dad's parents HATED that Mom was Catholic, and Dad was not in love with Mass, to say the least. But he agreed to raise us Catholic, and Mom, at least, was faithful to that promise. Thank God for that! Dad gave a pretense, but it was always obvious that his heart wasn't in it.
And yes, children see this. Children are young and innocent; they're not stupid.
We moved to Minnesota, and a couple years later, Dad followed. And so it was that we didn't attend Mass on weekends we had with Dad, although he lied and he encouraged us to lie about going. We didn't care that it was one of the custodial obligations of our being able to go with him on his weekends, which is why he was so insistent on not telling Mom that we weren't going to church.
As I got older, though, this became more and more of a problem for me. My brother never really cared, but I did. And I didn't know how to deal with it. I KNEW we needed to go to Mass, even though I didn't understand why. And I did love God..I did! But I was embarassed at my budding devotion, and put off by my Dad's ridicule of Mom for her devotion and insistence on our attendance every Sunday. I didn't want my Dad's ridicule.
Even though I was growing up and apart from my Dad, I always had a bit of that "Daddy's Girl" in me and so the idea that Dad might laugh at me because I agreed with Mom was absolutely heartbreaking. And so I remained silent.
Dad moved to Minneapolis, and Mom must have been aware at some point (likely because she was wise) that Dad was not taking us to Mass. So a few times we went to the Basilica in Minneapolis. It was a beautiful church, as you'd imagine, but Dad wasn't very particular about when we arrived. We'd enter through a side door or something, find the nearest pew, and be seated. About fifteen minutes later, we'd leave. I think that once we got there in time for Communion.
I felt horrible about being late, I wanted to be there for the whole thing, I hated how people stared at us especially after this happened a few weeks in a row, and I wanted to remain at Mass for the entire time. But I had no control, Dad and my brother were clearly on the same page, Dad was making fun of Mom and saying that "she'd never know" and that we really didn't need to go anyway if it weren't for a court order. And he didn't care about the court order. Again, I was sworn to silence.
It's a silence I've never broken, until now. And now it doesn't really matter...or does it? You decide.
Over time maybe I became a bit numb to all of this, and God drew me to Himself in a different way; through music. I believe that at the time we popped in and out of the Basilica, I was involved in my own parish, and was often at Mass once on Saturday and twice on Sunday, either as a musician or a cantor or in the choir. I didn't really understand what was going on at Mass, but I sensed deeply that it was important. And I WANTED to be there. It was my whole life. I do believe it was the ONLY place where I felt any peace at all in my chaotic life. Maybe it was that peace that drew me, but I felt safe there, and really, I WAS safe there.
But I couldn't have articulated that nor could I have explained it to anyone at the time.
It was as I got older that I stopped going to visit my Dad on weekends. There were many reasons, and in looking back, Mass attendance was one of them. I knew where I needed to be, and unfortunately, it was not with my earthly father. Unfortunately for him, and somewhat for me, but truly, in knowing what was happening in those years, I know without a doubt that I did choose the better part; to sing at the feet of Jesus. And He did call me to do so.
This morning I was musing about all of this and considered our trips with Dad to Michigan to visit his parents. I don't think we ever ONCE attended a Catholic church there. We were taken to the Lutheran church, and Dad's opinion was that we could do so as it was his church, he was taking us to church, and it was pretty much the same, anyway.
But I KNEW it wasn't the same, although I couldn't say why. I knew what was happening was wrong. I knew I was being deprived of something, and I sensed that loss very deeply. And still, I had no control. I do think that once I tried to argue to go to the Catholic church, and maybe even my brother had a twinge of conscience in that regard, but Dad was stubborn and we went into the red-carpeted How-Great-Thou-Art singing Lutheran church. And it wasn't the same. At all. Something HUGE was missing...or should I say...someONE?
What's Happening Now? Do Dads Matter?
Sometimes I try to take a step back and I wonder why my brother's and my paths were always so different. I can see some of the reasons on the surface, but there's so much more to us all than what is so readily apparent.
My brother is not practicing his faith...I don't think he has any faith at all. And knowing what I know now, I have to wonder if his Confirmation was valid, as I don't think he was willingly Confirmed. I think Mom forced him. He used to argue up a STORM about Confirmation, and Mom argued back louder and longer.
I'd go to my room and slam the door, trying to get away. He was older than I by two years, and I didn't understand why he didn't want to be Confirmed, but it didn't seem right that Mom was forcing him. Sometimes after those arguments I'd talk to him and ask him why. He didn't know. He just didn't want to be Confirmed. He didn't see the point. He didn't know what he wanted. And I think that some of this was his passive rebellion; if Mom wanted it, he didn't. He was just as torn between our parents as I was, although somewhat differently.
Now I see that he was adopting Dad's lackluster attitude; in spirituality he was like Dad. I was more like Mom, although even I rebelled against her intense devotion and wanted to be NOTHING like her in any way. This made my own faith that much more difficult for I had no one to emulate.
And my brother...neither did he, because I don't necessarily think he really agreed with Dad, either. And Dad himself was so lost in so many ways.
To this day, I'm the religious one in the family. My brother is the apathetic one, and attends Mass only with Mom or if he's at my house on a Sunday. He no longer complains, and maybe he's coming around. But who's to say? Only God.
A Father's Betrayal
I still remember, every Christmas when I'd be playing something special on my flute for the Christmas program just before the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass, I'd hope and pray that Dad would come. But he never did. And he didn't come at Easter. I always hoped that at least on holidays he'd be willing to drive an hour to be with his family. And he was never there.
In his absence, Dad didn't just send a message to me, but he sent it to my brother as well...loud and clear. And for each of us, the message was different, but just as clear.
I KNOW that my brother's lack of faith stems DIRECTLY from Dad's "intervention" and direct actions to prevent us from receiving the sacraments. His derision towards Mom and towards our beliefs had a profound effect on my brother for sons learn from their fathers. And daughters are crushed by such deep betrayals.
I've never spoken of this until now, maybe because I buried the idea and the pain of remaining quiet out of obedience and fear of ridicule.
Dad never knew how these things affected me, and I don't know what his reaction would have been if he did. So I won't delve into that for he can no longer defend himself or his actions.
I do believe that Dad believed in God and that he had a certain faith. But he wasn't interested in our spiritual formation, just as many Dads today aren't interested in their children's spiritual formation.
Fathers are key in children learning about how to relate to God, who is our Father. Fathers are NECESSARY in teaching their children respect for their mothers, respect for authority, and respect for God.
It's not surprising to me that my brother has no faith; is it surprising to YOU?
Dads, take note; it doesn't matter if you are divorced from your wife and have custody of your children. If you agreed to raise them in a certain faith, you are obligated to that promise. Even if you don't respect the covenant of your marriage, then at least respect the souls of the children you brought into the world and please do your best to see them on the pathway to Heaven. Because ultimately you will be standing before God answering to HIM, not your ex-wife, without whom those children would not exist.
Fathers matter. Everything a father DOES matters! And even what seems like a small lie can disrupt a soul for life and send it spinning off into a darkness it was never meant to experience.
Fathers, if you love your children, practice your faith, set the example, and teach them that it takes a REAL MAN to lead others to God. Be that man.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Please keep her and her new life in your prayers. We will forever be in hers.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Each day, especially when I've been as stressed as I have been lately, I find my way to the chapel, to the only source of strength and comfort that I really have in all this mess. And as I open the tome, each day's readings are speaking to me so profoundly that I want only to remain and pray silently in the presence of Christ.
Today I opened to Morning prayer and read, "Surrender yourself to God, and he will do everything for you."
I think I stared at that simple phrase for five full minutes before I moved on.
Commit your life to the Lord,
trust in him and he will act,
so that your justice breaks forth like the light,
your cause like the noon-day sun
Surrender to God, and he will do everything for you.
But that wasn't all:
Wait for the Lord to lead, then follow in his way.
Psalm after psalm, reading after reading; it was as though I was the only person in the world, and God was speaking ONLY to me today. Every single word. Never mind that throughout the entire population of the Church, thousands and thousands of people are reading the exact same prayers; and yet, they were the very words I needed the most. Without them, today, I would have been completely lost.
Even the Office of Readings was among my favorite; from a letter to the Romans from St. Ignatius of Antioch as he approached his martyrdom:
My earthly desires have been crucified, and there no longer burns in me the love of perishable things, but a living water speaks within me, saying: "Come to the Father"
I take no delight in corruptible food or in the pleasures of this life.
I want the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of David's
seed, and for drink I want his blood, the sign of his imperishable love.
I certainly cannot live up to that last, for I am so attached to things of the earth. And yet I aspire to be like St. Ignatius of Antioch in his incredible humility and faith. And in his own words, he also speaks to me, saying, "Come to the Father."
Currently I am only at the beginning of an immense project at work, far beyond my capability and each day brings new challenges even as I struggle to knock down the obstacles that have been in the way for months. I am blessed to have very gifted assistants, but they cannot do my job and I cannot step down to do theirs. I am and always have been a "worrier", which is so draining, but I can't seem to be able to let go and let God do the worrying! And so God continually calls to me to come to Him, to surrender, to let Him lead, and still I hold the reins, worrying, terrified.
Another part of the readings today spoke even to this, referencing Jame 2:24-26 and Hebrews 11:31:
A man pleases God by what he does and not by faith alone.
And so it's not enough to just let go...I have work to do, too. And I have to surrender and be willing to let God direct, but as long as I worry so much, I'm not listening. I can't listen in such a state of agitation. Prayer has done so much to help me calm down and see God's hand in all that we are doing, but I'm still not sure how to let go, or let go of how much?
And again I say...how did I survive before I began praying Liturgy of the Hours? It is such a blessing to me as I learn to let God speak so clearly through His directions, as though only to me. I love the prayers, I love the readings, I love building this relationship with God and knowing that Christ awaits me in the chapel whenever I need to retire in silence or to pour my heart out to Him. I could not survive my present trial if He was not there to hold me up.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
I'm not very good at abandoning myself to God. I've asked myself all the big questions: Do I believe in God? Really? Do I believe that Jesus died for me, personally? Do I believe that God desires and has a personal relationship with me? Do I believe that God loves me? Do I believe that God is who He claims to be?
I've answered those questions, and sometimes I waver on them. Sometimes I can't believe that God really loves me...because I often find myself pretty unloveable. And I believe that Jesus did indeed walk the earth...but sometimes he just seems historical, and not real.
And here's a biggie: I know that God is a Trinity, and that Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, resurrected and is seated at the right hand of the Father. Therefore, although I can only see Jesus under the appearance of bread and wine, and I can only read His words in scripture, I can't see Him bodily as He was when He walked the earth. However, Jesus rose from the dead; somewhere, He remains intact, both human and divine. Jesus has a human body. Jesus has dignified the flesh and His flesh remains immortal. Yet I can't get my mind around that. I think I'm Thomas...I need to touch His wounds, to walk His footprints, scoop up His blood...the list goes on. I believe...but it seems even my belief has certain limits. I am ashamed, yet I know that I am not alone in this. And that's where Faith steps in and fills the gaps. Faith is a gift, and also an act of the will. Yes, I choose to believe even these things, even though I can't see them. But that doesn't mean I don't sometimes struggle to believe.
And sometimes I do feel abandoned. A few years ago, a new friend said to me, "It's clear that you've been set aside." I actually misinterpreted his words, thinking "set aside" to mean a version of "pushed aside" or "abandoned", and I was somewhat insulted. Yet he didn't mean it as an insult, and in moments where maybe I'm feeling lonely or lost, his words come back to me. "Set aside" means someone set apart for a particular purpose, and thus, included more fully in God's plan. That's not nearly the same as being "abandoned". And yet, we must all learn to abandon ourselves in order to reach God.
Earlier today I wrote of the necessity of abandoning ourselves to God's will. Last Fall, for class we read St. Alphonsus de Ligouri's "Uniformity With God's Will", which is an incredible treasure, as well as a sword of conviction.
This work contains so many treasures, and works so well with Jean-Pierre de Caussade's "Abandonment to Divine Providence", which I am reading now.
Earlier today, after Mass, I wrote of the need for us to abandon ourselves into God's hands. Given that this is my struggle, given that this is the message of today's Gospel, is it any surprise that I took up my place in this book only to read this:
Holy Scripture contains one part, and the workings of the Holy Spirit within the soul do the rest, using the particular ideal reserved for you. Now it is surely obvious that the only way to receive the impress of this idea is to put oneself quietly into the hands of God, and that none of our own efforts and mental striving can be of any use at all. This work in our souls cannot be accomplished by cleverness, intelligence, or any subtlety of mind, but only by completely abandoning ourselves to the divine action, becoming like metal poured into a mold...People often rely on their intellect in their efforts to become holy, but it is not necessary. It may even hinder them. We must use only what God gives us to do and suffer.
The passage goes on, convicting me word by word. I have been fighting God for years, and I continue to do so, seemingly unable to stop. And yet He is ever-patient, ever-present, leading me step by step. I get so frustrated because I'm NOT holy, and so I read here, over and over again, that God is not frustrated with me...nothing I do will ever take Him by surprise. It is HIS job to make me Holy, and all HE asks of me is to abandon myself to Him.
It is clear to me that I don't trust God, and I do believe that not trusting God is a sin. It's a sin I can't seem to overcome, I don't know how to overcome it, and the ONLY answer is to do that which makes no sense...abandon myself to Him. In other words, take a leap hoping against hope that I will not fall into some abyss.
Abandonment seems so easy, but when we realize our true attachments and our true fears, we realize that this surrender is so impossible that only God Himself, working in and through us, can ever bring us to the pinnacle of true surrender.
It is not surprising, then, that God became Man, for it was Jesus who revealed the true meaning of Surrender! He went to the Cross, and asked us to "Follow Him", to embrace our crosses, which alone is a form of surrender, and by necessity, abandonment. We MUST be "abandoned" with our crosses, for if we are not, then we cannot be purified and we cannot be united with God! He revealed how to die to ourselves and, as Hebrews 4:15 states so succintly, "We do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses...." Jesus was fully human, and yet abandoned himself to unspeakable torture, even unto death.
If ever we need a measure of our own holiness, we need only look to Christ and consider His sacrifice. We cannot measure up. Not through will or intellect or any other attribute; we can ONLY approach the Cross if we are called...and more importantly, if we answer that call. We all have a choice; surrender to the call, abandon ourselves to the love of God even unto the Cross...or resist God and try to make our own way, which leads only to death.