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Thursday, January 29, 2009


It's really obvious I need to write about something fun.  After a long series of serious posts about this and that and technical stuff and automotive stuff, well...let's just say some levity is in order. 



So, given that it's winter and even the southern states are taking a beating, well, let's first accept the fact that we can't do anything about the weather, and in that acceptance, we can find the fun that it is. 

I'm an avid skier, although I can't afford it these days, and I've never been out West, sadly.  :-( 

But I have great memories, and they go back to playing in the snow as a child.  And let's face it...our "horror stories" are the best to tell.  Like the one about the flood that happened while we were sledding in a dangerous area. 

There's another I don't think I've written about, though.  

After my family moved to Minnesota, we didn't get to do a lot of sledding, because, suddenly, we lived In Town.  (That's how we thought of it, capitalized like a title).  

In Town, there were SOME hills...but they were pathetic. Not worth our time.  They were bumps and it wasn't worth dragging a toboggan or sled or carrying it over pavement to get to six-foot (in length) "hill" that bordered a soccer field. 

The good thing was, though, that our uncle was a Park Ranger, and because they lived out at the local State Park, they also had access to great winter recreation...including the simplicity of sledding. 

I was  in maybe 9th grade (so about 14 or so) when we went out to Scrambler Hill on a dark winter evening under a full moon.  

We had to snowmobile to get there as it wasn't a hill accessable by driving.  So we dragged our sleds behind us as we slowly moved through the trails, untill we met the Queen of all sledding hills everywhere. 

This hill had started out nearly flat, with a drop down to the next landing, then to the next and next.  At the bottom was what in skiing terms we called a "compression", which basically means that it flattens quickly and causes the g-forces to press upward.  Not a big deal in hiking, but a HUGE deal when moving at a fast speed!  Compressions KILL ski racers, and I mean that literally.  If they can't "absorb" the compression, they are flung into the air in really creative ways by gravity.  

Back to Scrambler:  in winters where there was a lot of snow, it wasn't a big deal.  It was ALWAYS a fun and challenging hill, but it wasn't necessarily dangerous. 

Well, THAT winter there hadn't been a lot of snow, so of course Scrambler Hill was quite..uh...bumpy.  

That evening, I remember climbing onto the plastic orange toboggan behind my cousin, who was a freshman in college.  Neither of us remembered that thing being so small.  Didn't we used to be able to fit at LEAST 3 of us on it?  

Well, apparently not anymore. 

She sat in front, I was in the back as we stared down this killer hill, the Hannenkam of Sledding.

Without a second thought, we pushed off, hit the first bump, screamed as we went airborn and came down on the slope, hit the second, screamed and went airborne again, and just as we hit the compression at the bottom, diving nose-first into the compression, I remember flying over my cousin. I remember her head striking my knees while I was still weightless, and then I plowed head-first into the thin, now-icy snow at the bottom of the drop. 

I laid there a moment, confused as to how I'd gotten there.  My neck hurt. My forehead had plowed a furrow into the ground, which thankfully allowed me to be able to breathe.  

My cousin was getting up, with her friend helping her. They were laughing, and it seemed so far away. I wanted to get up, too.  But I'd hit hard, head-first.  I knew that was bad.  

I had a sudden, panicked thought:  what if I never walked again?  What if my neck was broken?  

In my panic, I put my hands under me, thrilled they moved, and thought to myself even before the cloud of impending darkness cleared away, "If I don't stand up RIGHT NOW I'll NEVER walk AGAIN!" 

And so I pushed upward, scrambling to my feet, just as one of the guys was asking, "Are you OK?" 


I couldn't see for a moment, and wondered how long I'd be able to stand. 

Thankfully, by then we were out of time, and decided to head back to the house.  We trudged back up the hill and mounted our snowmobiles, leaving the toboggans there to be picked up the next day via snowcat.  

When we got back to the house, both my cousin and I were quiet.  She was a nursing student, so was a bit more aware of what could have happened than I, and insisted on checking my pupils, as she'd asked her mother to do when we'd gotten home.  

It seems we were fine...but lucky.  

But I'll never forget that feeling of weightlessness, just before plowing head-first with all my force into the snowpack, and the moment of wondering if I'd never walk again. 

Now that I think of it...I think that's the last time I ever went sledding.  



P.S.  Years later I started downhill skiing and got into racing...wanna talk about SERIOUS crashes?   Dang, I'm happy to be alive! 
What's YOUR story?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reason to Tweet

I'm new to Twitter, but I've found it doesn't take long to find and follow people, and in turn, people have found and followed me. It can be an interesting place. 

What's the point?  I dunno.  But I've found some great info, great posts, good solid Catholics and Christians of other religions. I've also blocked some nasty spammers from following.  Be Vigilant!

I also have received some assistance with various computer issues (ended up having to go bother my brother, who connected remotely to fix my computer. That's why I HAVE a geek brother, but it's nice to have other people to help where they can so he doesn't bear the brunt!)  

There have been short debates, disagreements,  prayer requests, and recipe sharing. 

Yup, everything you can find through blogging, but in 140 words or less.  Yes, that's good for me. 

But that's not why I'm writing tonight.  I wanted to direct you to GNW_Paul, whom I "met" through Twitter, and he has a wonderful blog post up about following him on Twitter, and I'll post a little of  it here: 

If you are thinking about following me on Twitter, Great. Here is a little about me. I care about having people follow me who are interested in what I am saying, or the same people I am listening to. I don't care if I have 20 or 20,000 followers if they are just following me to boost numbers - don't we ever learn about bubbles people! I generally follow if you look like a real person. The more followers you have, the less likely I am to follow you, unless you particularly interest me.

It's a good post, you should read the rest, and it makes me wonder if I should write my own, so here I am.  

I agree with what Paul stated above.  Great if people want to follow me, but I've noticed a "drop" rate whenever I come out against abortion, or some other issue someone finds offensive to their sensibilities.  

So, let's just lay it out there, whether you're a Tweeter or just surfing blogs.  Here is who I am:

A CATHOLIC  pro-life (absolute) blogger, a gun-toting true feminist according to the original meaning, a possible-future-nun with an unapologetically militantly-Catholic attitude.  I rarely meet someone with whom I can't get along, even if we disagree on things.  I will not compromise on my beliefs, I will not compromise on our Faith, which informs my conscience and, when I do get involved in politics, I can't and won't do away with what I have learned from Christ, who founded the Catholic Church. 

Oh, by the way, I don't do politically correct.  I find inclusive language insulting, affirmative action degrading, and I'm ashamed of our country, although I still love it and hope we can be saved from ourselves.  Although I don't normally write about politics because I'm sick of how EVERYTHING has become politicized in our secularized culture. 

As a faithful Catholic, I believe and accept everything taught infallably by the Church on faith and morals (which is FAR more than "ex cathedra" statements), things that go back over 2,000 years.   And yes, the fact that women can't be ordained is an officially infallable teaching because it belongs to the Deposit of Faith, among other reasons.  

I am not a "Rad-Trad", I am not a "Progressive" nor am  I  a "Conservative"  Catholic.  I have read the Vatican II documents and studied them in depth according to the hermeneutic of continuity - which is how they were written and designed to be read.  I know what Sacrosanctum Concilium REALLY said, and that most Catholic parishes these days are in DIRECT disobedience to it.  

I have experienced both the best and the worst of the Novus Ordo, and even before I knew the worst was wrong, I fled it.   I have been to ONE Mass in the Extraordinary Form (ie TLM, Tridentine, Pre-Vatican II Mass), and I loved it. It made perfect sense, even though I couldn't understand every nuance.  What was important:   who we are in relation to God. If the focus on Mass is not on God, then we're disobeying both Vatican II AND our entire history.    Period. 

I believe in love of God and love of neighbor, with the understanding that "WWJD" is neither because it trivializes what Christ really did, really said, and how He REALLY loved.  

My undergrad degree is in Criminial Justice, and because of that and the accompanying experience (working with prostitutes in two countries, including within the legal system in the US, working in inpatient psych facilities, working with Developmentally Disabled and Traumatic Brain Injury, etc., all both paid and volunteer), I have a lot of opinions in areas that directly are impacted by Catholic Social Teaching.  

I've been a relativist, I've been a fallen-away Catholic, I've done New Age and Occult, and am happy to have survived.  God's Mercy is incredible.  

Who am I now?  I am faithful Catholic first and everything else second, and where there is an objective teaching of the Church through the Magisterium that comes out against my personal opinion...Christ through His Church wins. 

Not through blind faith, but through willful obedience, through study to inform the intellect God gave me, and if I can't understand through those means I'll trust the wisdom of God as expressed through our legitimate teaching authority.  

If none of these things are a problem for you, by all means, follow me and feel free to disagree. I'm not a debator as it's not my gift.  But I can listen, I can understand different positions, and I've found it's ALWAYS easy to get along with people because there are other "everyday" things we have in common. 

This probably isn't an all-encompassing list, nor is it really meant to be. In fact, it's kinda snarky, but there's something I find when just making a point:  often it comes across as snarky. 

Mostly I'm not snarky, but if I have to draw out definitions, that's the attitude that seems to appear. 

Actually, I'm quite warm and fuzzy, I have a gift in real life for endearing people to me (and vice versa), and even when I was a cop my superiors complimented me on this.   (Seriously, I don't see it.  But people always seem to "adopt" me and I naturally "adopt" them right back.) 

Hmmm...this is one of those posts I'll likely take down as it doesn't really go with my overall blog theme, but then has to live adventerously, right?   ;-) 

New And Interesting

Today on Twitter Patrick Madrid tweeted a podcast link for his posts. 

(Hmmm...random thought: how would that sound if we replaced the word "Twitter" and "Tweeted" with "Smurf" and "smurfed"?  Would he have to be "Patrick Smurf"?)

Anyway...there's a cool widget that you can add to your blog that creates an automatic "podcast", so people can listen to your different posts. 

I uploaded it to my own out of pure unmitigated curiosity, and at least for now, you can listen to my blog by clicking on the little icon below the title that says "Listen".   

It has flaws:  for example, I'm a woman, so please don't think I'm reading my blog as the speaker is actually male or male-sounding.  I also read with a bit more passion than that.  There's no such thing as "nuance", words in caps are spelled out instead of emphasized (DID becomes D.I.D. lol)  

So it's funny, but it won't take long to drive you crazy.  But for now, I'm leaving it up. 

Humor is a good thing.  

More on Discernment Ground Rules

I received several comments, both in the combox and via email, from my "Rules" post;  it seems that a lot of people have had the same experiences as I.  Instead of updating that particular post, I've decided to just post the additional "Rules" here.   

Please keep in mind...these are the rules that protect discerners from being mobbed by well-meaning people who are very excited about promoting Vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life. 

ADDITIONAL RULES (credit is given for each poster):

1. DON'T: Once the discerner has made the decision - DON'T continue to give them information on other Orders! This is happening to me! ~ Lillian-Marie

2. Do - Once a decision has been made, MEGA prayers are needed for the discerner as they move from the secular world into the Order. This is when patience is needed - both with the discerner and family/friends. ~ Lillian-Marie

3. DON'T keep asking WHEN will you enter? When will you enter? When will you enter? We don't know! It's in God's time, not ours. It gets very frustrating having to keep telling people, I don't know. When we know something, we'll definitely let you know.
~ Lillian-Marie

4. DO - write! And sometimes write often! This is one of the saving graces for me. There are so many emotions and thoughts during this time that it is often difficult to get them on paper. Blogging is helpful, but also keep a private journal. ~ Lillian-Marie

5. Here's a tidbit for anyone going as slowly as me-don't tell anyone that you wouldn't trust. When I first told my friends two years ago, they freaked out. One was especially afraid she would not see me again if I entered. ~ Grace

6. Here is another one for the "don't" list. A well-intentioned speaker from the Serra Club was talking at a weekend Mass in our parish. He told the congregation, "If you sense that a young man whom you know may be a good candidate for the priesthood, turn his name in to the diocesan vocations director." I wanted to yell, "No! you'll freak the poor kid out." Just pray for him. If you know him really, really, well; maybe approach the subject in private, carefully, after praying about it. Same could be true of a young woman who may be called to the religious life. But I feel that to do as this speaker suggested is intrusive and may just drive any desire that is there right out the window. ~ Melody K.


One commenter asked me that (with a wink for humor), and shared that he was more subtle in his approach. He gave a young man a rosary with St. John Vianney on the medal in the center, but otherwise didn't say a word. That's not a bad approach at all.

But his question is an important one...are these the RULES according to Adoro, LM, Grace, and Melody K, or are they according to God?

Well, let me put it this way: 

I know a religious sister who also found her Vocation fairly late in life. Meaning, of course, that she wasn't 18, she wasn't 21.  It took awhile.  She had a Spiritual Director, the same one for years, and one day she said to him, "Huh.  I think I'm supposed to be a religious sister." 

The Spiritual Director's reaction?  "FINALLY!"  

He hadn't said a word. He knew the Vocation was there, but that she was the one who had to hear it for herself.  She was already doing the right things...praying, meeting God very intimately in the Sacraments and knowing Him more deeply through Spiritual Direction.  He knew that eventually she would "hear" and verbalize what was going on, so he left her alone with God until she was ready to face that and answer.  

He didn't tell her what she should do or where she should go, and she found her Community...and entered it, on God's time.  

So I ask you...if a Spiritual Director takes such a hands-off approach, what does that indicate for the rest of us?  

It's very easy for some people to hear God's Call and answer it.  It's more difficult for others, and involves a little more all around. For myself, as I'm in my 30's, I own a townhome, a car, a dog, and am owned by a great deal of debt (made suddenly worse by the recent car problem), and I have a myriad of life experiences which in many ways clouds my judgment about some things.  Maybe it helps in some, but I know at a fundamental level that I need to be able to divest myself of certain "images" and grow in virtue.  It'll be really hard to enter a community never having had spiritual direction.  

If that's God's plan for me.  And that's STILL a big "IF".  

God's RULE is simple:  The Call is a very personal thing between the discerner and Him.  He knows what He's doing, and is doing a fine job of guiding the soul all by himself.  No, he doesn't want that person to be an island, nor does he want that person's friends and family taking over and creating a cacaphony over which the person can no longer hear Him.  

There are probably other people out there with even more to say on this issue.  Perhaps with more input, I'll compile these posts and boil them down into one to encompass all the "Rules" from those who have experienced all the agony and ecstasy of discerning one's Vocation.  

Now,  just so you all don't think we are picking on all the wonderful people around us, I'm going to end this post with a comment from Anonymous: 

I went through 3-1/2 years of discernment because of an incredible pull that would not stop. Often I shared this with people and much of what I heard could not be possible for me. My personal rule was to thank them and to thank God that he had me surrounded by people who cared enough to care. ~ Anonymous


And so we do thank all of you who care enough to comment, to offer prayers and other support as we seek to discern God's Will for us. Please keep praying for us, and please keep praying for Vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Was Hungry...

Just for the sake of comparison:

(MT 25:35) 

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.'
Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'


For when I was hungry you gave me food stamps, I was thirsty and you sent me to commodities to get powdered milk, a stranger and you greeted me at the beginning of Mass and never looked at me again, naked and you sent me to Goodwill and Salvation Army, ill and you sent me to hospice to kill me by deciding I didn't need to eat or drink anymore, in prison, and you wrote me off as unredeemable.

As a girl who grew up on welfare, and given that the government is all about making people dependent upon them, well...there ya go.

Jesus asks us to be personal in our assistance to the poor. I have to ask some people if they're afraid they'll break a nail if they get personal?

No wonder people never get off welfare; they system creates dependence, it creates a society that doesn't want to be bothered with the problem of the poor, and a society that would rather build statiums for uber-rich athletes and make sure the homeless shelter across the street from the planned project gets moved so that no one will have to suffer guilt for what they're NOT doing to help.

Thank God people in our lives DID get personal, got involved, and didn't make us feel like dirtbags just because we didn't have much.  Some people did, certainly.  But the people who mattered were the ones who weren't afraid that poverty was "catching".  

And that's all I have to say about that. 

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Many of you are familiar with Jen. F. of Conversion Diary.  

Although I don't comment there much, she writes one of my favorite blogs, and this woman has incredible insights. 

But her post at Prolife Coalition is maybe one of her best, and I firmly believe EVERYONE, without exception, needs to read what she has to say. 

For those who don't know her, she was a a pro-choice atheist.  Quite honestly, the only people who wouldn't want to read what she has to offer now are those who are narrow-minded anti-intellectuals afraid of facing a challenge to their own opinions.  

Find her post HERE

Best. Comment. Ever!

This comment is too good to sit in a combox just rotting away.  In response to my post on Ground Rules for discernment, my friends (real-life ones who attend my parish) had this to say:  

Oh...hold up a second! 

 If you're drinking coffee, or sipping something, put it down.  If you are eating, swallow.  I won't be held responsible for your monitor or keyboard, and I can't call 911 for you if you're choking.   

OK, here it is: 


I feel for you. This is a very personal matter, and your blogging about it is not an invitation for advice. I’m appalled that people can’t help themselves and have to overwhelm you with unsolicited advice.

I want to buttress your statement by offering the obvious; it is deeply insulting for some to presume that this is okay. I think it’s a sign of the inordinate opinion people have of their own advice. They are clueless. And I’m sorry you’re being put through this.

The best way to rid yourself of this scourge is to speed up your discernment. I would recommend a pilgrimage to the Grotto Shrine in Portland, OR. Begin a novena to St. Thomas Aquinas prior to your arrival, and fast for three days beforehand. Arrive on a Saturday, and only bring enough money to last for a day. Then vow not to return until you have your answer. I’m certain that this will provide the desired results.

Something that also might help is not narrowing down your options to strictly Dominicans. Have you ever considered the Carmelite order? They are wonderful, and they produce saints like crazy. Edith Stein, the Little Flower, Bernadette, Simon Stock, Elijah (I just found out about him this morning)… Hey, they are doing something right. Think about it. Well, unless you don’t like them.

If you’re still stuck on Dominicans, here’s an awesome community that you might have missed:

Those nuns are really cool. How could anyone not feel at home there? The best part is, they don’t have habits, except for getting arrested. Wouldn’t it be a whole lot more comfortable if you didn’t have to wear those heavy, itchy habits in the summer time?

Anyway, I want to be the first to wish you well on your pilgrimage, and good luck finding a kennel and house-watcher while you’re gone.
~ John and Dawna

ROFL! Thanks. And YOU guys owe ME a new monitor!

Ground Rules on Discernment

I've been writing about discernment, both my own, and in general from experience for a few years now.  And I'm reminded of why most people in my life don't know about this. 

I've written before on the "do's" and the "what not to do's" with regard to discernment.  Not directed towards those who are discerning, but to those who think they're being helpful.   

I have some new readers, peolpe who haven't not been "present" for most of my discernment, and so I can very clearly see what's coming based on prior experience.   If I am going to continue to be write about this topic on my blog, there has to be some ground rules.  If you think this is about's not.  This is the same thing I say to people in real life who are tempted to want to take charge and offer directions. I'm just putting this up so that I can continue to write about my discernment without having to explain myself over and over again.  


1.  I've been discerning/exploring religious life off and on for a few years now.  Therefore, I don't need advice on how to do it.  If I need advice, I will ask specifically, usually of someone even MORE specific to the situation, and it won't be something I publish.  

2.  The fact that I am writing about one community should not be taken to infer I have not looked at every other religious Order, community, and congregation in America, and some outside of our borders.  

3.  Discernment is difficult enough.  Please don't send me every link you find to some very cool religious community.  Yes, I agree they are cool.  But if I don't bring them up, it could be because I'm not interested in them.  It gets really tiring repeating to people that I'm not interested in their favorite community, and some people actually take that personally. It's not. It's between me n' God.   
  ***  If you have a relative in a community and want to share that link, the above Rule does not apply.  Please feel free to share with all of us those you know who have been called by God and chose to say Yes to Him.  :-)  

4.  I like Dominicans, and that is my default position. I fully believe that I have Dominican spirituality, although not all of my very focused search includes Dominicans.  I'm also considering the Cistercians.  Really. No, they're not Dominican, they follow the Benedictine Rule.  It doesn't make sense, but God's ideas don't usually make sense to us. 

5.  Dominican, Benedictine, Carmelite, Augustinian, and Franciscan communities are all very different, as each has a different spirituality.  All are wonderful, all are beautiful, and the Church needs them all.  However, those who are discerning may first need to figure out which spirituality calls to them.  I, for one, know that I am not Carmelite or Franciscan.   That does not mean I don't like them, only that they aren't appealing to me because God has given me a different spiritual approach.   Now that I know that approach, it also means I can eliminate many communities from the radar screen. 

6.  I currently have a plan in place and am in contact with Vocation Directors at 2 different communities.  Yes, I am going to go visit them, when the time comes. It hasn't come yet for a myriad of reasons.  One community is sending me information and has told me to contact them again when I've gone over it, and then we can talk about a retreat.   Please don't send me emails and comments ordering me to "JUST GO!"   I can't "just go".  There is a schedule to follow and it isn't just set by me and the demands of my life and work, but by Vocation Directors at the respective communities.   Again...I'll go when it's time and that time is coming, hopefully soon.   

7.  The fact that I am putting my thoughts out there should not be taken to mean that I'm "dragging my feet".  Far from it.  See  #6.    I write because I HAVE to write, and I do receive emails from other people in discernment who tell me that it's helpful to them as they have similar thoughts.  See the Rules below...I am not on your time schedule, but at God's will.    

Thank you.  


People in your life may be discerning the priesthood or religious life, and they MAY be doing so because you suggested it to them.  AWESOME!  Keep encouraging people to see if God is calling them!   The following are the Do Not's and the Do's.  I'm ending on a positive note so that you know what you can and SHOULD do to help!  


1.  Do not overwhelm a new discerner with every cool site you come across.   Given this age of technology where everything is on the web, it can be very scary and overwhelming. 

2.  You are not the discernment police.  Do not hold a stopwatch and demand that the discerner take certain actions and do certain things according to your preferred schedule.  

3. What's happening to a soul in discernment is between them and God.  If they share something with you, count it as a privilege and ONLY offer advice if it is asked.   Otherwise, if they have found a Spiritual Director, take it as a matter of course that all advice will be covered.    If they don't have a Spiritual Director, do not assume that role.   

4.  Don't force your own preferences upon that person, i.e. habit vs. no habit, Franciscans vs Carmelites, etc.  

Now, on to the postive steps!  


1. Offer prayer and encouragement

2.  If the discerner has a pet, if you can, offer to "pet-sit" or help find someone who can.  Kennels are expensive, and completely impractical if the discerner is going on a lengthy visit.  The discerner does not want to give up a dear companion in order to question a life they may not be called to live.   

3.  If the discerner has a house, they may need someone to check on things or stay there while they are away.   

4.  If the discerner needs a ride to the airport and back, can you help them find willing people to fulfill that simple role, if you can't do it yourself?   

5.  If the discerner doesn't have the money to purchase a plane ticket and the community is a few thousand miles away, you may be able to help them either raise the money, find donors (ie through the Serra Club, etc.)   If they don't have the cash, they can't go.  Airlines require payment and won't take IOU's from God.   

6.  Pray that God's will be done.  People in discernment need lots of prayers, it can be a confusing time, and spiritual battles can really heighten.  Just knowing that you're praying is often enough.  If you have experience, share your own experience and how you came to your own decision.  

7.  Remember always that it's between the soul and God. 

There will be more added to these "Rules", but that's the stuff off the top of my head for now.  

If you're interested, here is a much longer post I wrote some time ago explaining WHY these groundrules are necessary.  Also, if you click on the "Vocations" or "Discernment" tags at the bottom of the post, you'll be taken to a page showing every post I've done on these topics. Some are inane, some are more specific, but it's all there.   

Some of my readers are ALSO in discernment...please offer your own rules, your own do's and don'ts, etc.  in the combox.  I'd LOVE your input!  

Saturday, January 24, 2009


My vocational discernment is not taking me to comfortable places.  

I think that when one considers the idea of discerning one's vocation, it leads to the impression of "warm fuzzies", of finding one's mate, or of finding a joyful happy religious community, or the amazement of the priesthood.  And of course, all of that is true, and so it's valid.  But it's only part of the story. 

Sometimes discernment is very uncomfortable, whether it pertains to a vocation or something else in life.  We pray that we are following God's will, that we are open to His will, and that we'll be obedient enough to follow where He leads, even if we don't understand where we are going.  

The problem is, that once we ask God to help us be obedient, and once we express that we're open to whatever He desires of us...He answers.  When we sincerely pray, and sincerely intend to do as He asks, when we make that prayer of trust, the revelations that come aren't always what we want to "hear."  

Sometimes they're the opposite.  

I still don't know what God is truly calling me to do, although I'm more and more convinced that religious life lies in my future.  And the closer I get to the answer, the more I learn, the more I realize I don't even know all of my options. 

I thought I was Dominican, and perhaps that IS my spirituality, but I am not drawn to most of the Dominican communities, even the really popular ones.  There's nothing wrong with them;  they are faithful to the Magisterium, they preach, they teach, they wear habits, they're not mislead radical feminists out for politics instead of holiness.  And I've looked at Dominican cloisters.  They are beautiful, but not a single one has "spoken" to me. 

My friend Mary has become a cloistered Benedictine nun, and she, too thought she was Dominican in spirituality. I have her Liturgy of the Hours, and can testify to the abundance of Dominican holy cards found within the pages.  And the Benedictines also don't pull me in. Yes, I recently read a book about a Benedictine monastery, and enjoyed it, but it didn't make me want to run out and join them.  

Then I "discovered" the Cistercians (who are also Benedictine). In looking at a website, in reviewing a Trappist booklet sent from Iowa, in surfing a Cistercian website in Wisconsin, something has drawn me there.  There is something so beautiful about their way of life.  There is something about the pull of silence, of the idea of chanted prayer, ongoing, in a particular cycle. 

I'm going to be honest:  I don't WANT to be a cloistered nun!  

It's one thing to enter active religious life and be apart from the world but within it. I'd still have certain contact with my friends, even if restricted.  I'd never again be hanging out in someone's backyard playing Bocci with a drink in my hand.  And climbing bell towers...fogeddabodit!   There won't be regular blogging, if at all, or just deciding to do certain things.  But overall, it would be a life a lot like the one I live now, enough to be able to adjust reasonably well. 

I love the idea of not owning a house or a car in my name. I love the idea of simplification, of getting rid of all my clutter, most of which is useless (if not all).   

And I'm not ruling out an active/contemplative community. It's still possible. They're still on my radar screen. 

But something about the austerity of the Cistercians draws me, when it didn't before. 

This is shocking. 

A few years ago, I was in contact with a gentleman, a friend I'd met through Ave Maria Singles (yah, did the website thing), and he was serious about holiness.  He wanted to be a Saint. He was looking into lay communities, and knew he was called to marriage although he'd seriously discerned the priesthood.  He was hoping to get married, and then enter the permanent diaconate.  Let me tell you, this guy is the reason I looked into grad school, and I'll never forget how he expressed that he wanted to be a Saint.  

I wasn't, at that time, ready to say I wanted to be a  Saint. I didn't think it was possible. My favorite sins were even MORE favorite than they are now, and I didn't even know that some of the things I did then on a regular basis were sins!  

But he inspired me, he apparently served the purpose in my life that God wanted him to serve, and although we're no longer in contact, it wasn't out of poor regard, just life in general.  I actually wish I could thank him.  

My point?  I was uncomfortable with the idea of becoming a Saint. It meant I had to change. I had to give up stuff I liked and focus on God. 

That's what's going on now, too, but to a different degree.  I now know what he was thinking then;  I want to be a Saint, too.  I'm also looking at a lay community, even to help start one!  

But even more radically, I'm sincerely interested in the Cistercians, and if we had them in America, I'd want to visit the Carthusians.   Really. 

Remember the movie "Into Great Silence", about the Carthusians in France?   I own the movie, I enjoy it, but it didn't really get my attention on the discernment front. 

Maybe because they're men and not women. 

Who knows?  Suddenly, that austerity, that silence, that life of prayer and everyday work is appealing. 

But there's another dimension, one of which I've spoken before:  purgatory on earth.  I have sensed for a long time that I'm not "long" for this world. I don't have any fatal diseases that I know of, although anything can happen at any time.  When God calls, we will go, that's the simple fact. But sometimes God calls some people early, but to serve while on Earth. To pray for a world that won't pray for itself.  To live in penance but without all the fire of purgation.  

I realize that if I were to enter a cloister, it would truly be as if I've died.  I'll leave my friends, I'll leave my family. I'll no longer have a life to go back to. No home, no car, no stuff. Everything I've collected over life...either in the trash or given away or sold.  

It IS like death, a life of chosen isolation, but joy if that is what God has chosen a soul to do. 

I'll admit I don't want to go to such a life.  I don't want to be a cloistered nun. I don't want to sleep on a hard bed, I don't want to live such a harsh penance. I don't want to be silenced for so long. 

The last couple nights I've dreamed of the Great Silence, and it seemed natural to a certain degree. I do think I'd like a lot of it.  

But then I wonder at what I'm doing now;  what is the point of my degree?  Why am I in Grad school?  Why have I been a cop and a firefighter and why was I an insurance investigator?  Why do I have so much debt, and a house that I won't be able to sell in this market?  

I don't know what I want, and I don't have a good track record of choosing things for myself.  When I do what I want, it usually ends in disaster.  

I don't want that to be the case in this discernment, and so I keep praying for a Spiritual Director. Someone who can help me figure out if I'm attracted to the Cistercians for the same reason I was attracted to law enforcement;  because it's tough. Because it means having to overcome myself.  Or maybe if my background was part of God's will in order to prepare me to enter such austerity. After all, I have learned in training what I'm capable of both mentally and physically, and I've learned my weaknesses, which is even MORE important than knowing strengths.  

After all, as St. Paul said, we can only boast in our weakness.  Our strength is Christ, and we ONLY find Him through weakness. 

For now, I don't have to make decisions, and I don't know where this will go. I know my next step, I'm working on it, I'm actively doing what has to be done, but some of that action is fully dependent upon God. I can only deal with what's in front of me.  And maybe if I go step by step, it won't be so bad as I think. 


Friday, January 23, 2009

Whatsoever You Do To The Least Of My People...

The first time I debated Abortion, I was a junior in High School. My opponent, arguing "Pro-choice" was, sadly, a "Catholic".

We were both kids, with radically different viewpoints. And, I have to admit, radically different perspectives which may have arisen not just from our upbringing, but from our social status.

She was a popular girl from a well-to-do family. I was an unpopular girl who had grown up on welfare, and as it was a small high school, EVERYONE knew our social status.

And yes, social status matters.  Don't kid yourself. 

As it was, I knew going in that I was the underdog because the class would listen to her before they'd listen to me. I knew that no matter what, I was automatically "wrong".

But I prepared, just the same, hoping that facts and morality would win over social popularity.  I did my research, I spoke with local women involved with MCCL, they gave me resources, they gave me opposing arguments, and using all of these things, I prepared my end of the debate.

It was structured so that we'd each have an opportunity to speak. No rebuttal. Not every student in class was doing a debate, just a few of us on particular topics, and the teacher had taken volunteers. I was the ONLY student willing to speak for the pro-life side. That's not to say that other students only says they were more terrified than I was to stand up in front of the class and speak.  Not that I wasn't terrified myself. Let's be clear about that. 

When the day came, I was, in fact, so nervous I couldn't eat. But I had my notes, I knew what I was going to address, and I expected the popular propaganda to be put out there.  My opponent did not disappoint. She trotted out the same ignorant statements that has continued to this day to be used by the left:  that children resulting naturally from sex are "punishment", that it's unreasonable to expect a teenager to take on the responsiblity of a child, that it's better to kill a child than allow that child to come into a world as messed up as ours, that population control "demands" abortion, that pregnancy wrecks lives, that women should have a right to decide what to do with their bodies, etc.

I responded to all of these things, BEGGING my audience to understand the very definition of life, reminding them even of what we'd learned in Biology, only a week prior where a video we'd watched stated very clearly, "Life begins at conception."

In the end, the class IMMEDIATELY decided that my opponent won the debate. Why? Because they agreed with her because they liked what she said. What she had told them made them feel comfortable.

I had pulled in facts, figures, biology, and....logic. Sure, I made a certain emotional appeal, but given that it was a debate, passion gave me courage to stand up there dissenting against the class. But it was facts that made me believe and should have made others believe.

I learned a hard lesson that day; that just because you're right and you have the truth on your side doesn't mean anyone is going to care.

Next Debate....

I went through my own period of being "pro-choice", but when I emerged from that fog of idiocy, I realized how wrong I'd been, and found myself entering another debate. This one was more informal, but much more true to life. It took place at a website I frequented, in the form of a "Survivor" competetion, where we'd all choose our sides, enter the debate, and at the end of a set time, we'd vote people out of the debate who hadn't contributed much, etc. It was a good idea, and was largely well done as it was a wonderful forum for lots of ideas to come together in a very safe way. The participants "knew" each other, so friends often disagreed with friends. These "relationships" actually helped to keep the debate very civil. Usually.

The first debate in the series guessed it....abortion.

I was making my own slow re-entry into the Church at the time, and found the need to look to the Catechism (CCC) to aid me in my argument.  In this debate, I kept it handy, made some notes, and wandered into the fray. While I was not making my argument specifically from a Catholic perspective (since I didn't actually know what it was), I did recognize that I could use the words of people wiser than I to make my point. Other people were using their own resources and quotes with proper references, so I set out to do the same.

I quoted the CCC, then, with regard to when life begins, and a few other sources, and gave the references so that they could be read by others.

To my utter  shock, one particular debator on the opposing side suddenly began berating me in the most bizarre way. She started out by "screaming" at me (all caps): "STOP SHOVING YOUR CATHOLIC DOCTRINE DOWN MY THROAT!" and wanted to be clear that she "HAD THE ARMOR OF GOD ON, SO BRING IT ON!" Through that rant and unsubstianted claim, she would in some way, apparently deflect anything I said. It was a diatribe dripping with pure, irrational, absolutely demonic hatred.

I was completely taken aback, and responded that I wasn't shoving anything down anyone's throat, but apparently she was shoving her hatred down mine.

To my amazement, people on BOTH sides of the abortion debate came to my defense. The opposing debators said they disagreed with what I'd posted, but understood my position better because of it, and emphasized that I had a right to use the resources that had formed my values, etc, because that's what everyone else does, too.

All of the debators, with the exception of a very small minority, absolutely, as a whole, condemned the vitriol of that one woman and in fact, she received several votes at the end of the debate (to be voted out), because of her completely illogical attack upon my position based upon my faith, especially given that my resources weren't polemical, but spoke for me in a logical way. 

I even received emails from more than a few people apologizing for that person's behavior.

But the damage was done. I was terrified after that to use Catholic sources, no matter what wisdom was contained. If using that affected my position...then what? So I did my best to make coherent arguments, using the sources to inform me, but not using the exact wording so as to avoid citations that would cause another such reaction.

The scary thing is...

...that the vitriol these days is pretty much unchecked. If that same debate took place on that same site today, I'm convinced that there would be no defense, but rather, it would turn into a slaughter. The anger and hostility of the liberal anti-religious left has gone unchallenged for so long that they have become conceited in their "enlightenment" and even as they preach "peace" where there is no peace, they make war upon those who simply seek to live Truth.

I know that I'll go on debating abortion and speaking out against it, and that people will continue to not listen. Babies will continue to be slaughtered in the name of Moloch...uh... "Convenience" (as his current incarnation happens to be.) But I'm grateful for my early high-school lesson, and that of the web site from several years ago. The reality is that until abortion comes to an end, there will continue to be a debate, and there will continue to be nearly-violent backlash against anyone who dares to speak out against the unmitigated slaughter of children in the womb.  

Truth is on only ONE side, and that is the side that honors Life. We are going to continue to be beat up by people who disagree, but their vile tactics only serves to discredit them and reveal their lack of foundation. Let them flounder. Let them spew their bloody agenda until they choke on it and drown...maybe then, they'll look through blood-encrusted eyes and see things as they really are.

Until then, keep fighting the good fight, keep praying, keep loving, and keep debating to the best of your ability. We know how this story ends.

Our Lord said clearly, "Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me. " (Mt 25.40)

Those are the words that reveal Truth...and the words that condemn those who choose death for the unborn, the "least of His people."

Prayer Request

I'm a huge fan of downhill skiing, and today discovered that because of a horrific training  crash in Kitzbuehl,  Austria,  Swiss downhill racer Daniel Albrecht is in rough shape and has been placed in an induced coma.  Please pray for his full recovery, and for his family, friends and teammates.  

THE CAR - The Saga Ends


I got my car back today, while debating whether to call and get a rental vehicle even for one day. I weighed the cost of a cab ride versus vehicle rental, and they came out about the same.  

Then, around 10:00 this morning, the shop called.  Lori said that I'd be pleasantly surprised, as the total bill came to just over $1,800, not the $2400 she quoted me.  She explained they replaced the head gasket, reconditioned head, changed the oil twice, and didn't need the other gaskets they had initially thought would be toast.  

I was nearly giddy on the phone with her, and of course, couldn't believe that I could actually be HAPPY about an $1800 bill.  What am I in, opposite world?  

But then again, when compared to the original quote of $2600 (via the dealer), who WOULDN'T be happy?   

No, I don't have the money, and my significant debt load has just increased by $1800.  But I'll take it.  The repair had to be done. 

I called a cab, he came more quickly than I'd expected and I told him so. He was happy to hear that; often he'll arrive within minutes and people literally ask what took so long.  I can believe it.  We had a nice chat en route to the shop, and when we arrived, my cab bill was nearly $27.00.  I handed him $25 and was reaching into my purse for the rest, and he said no, that was enough, and he'd take $25 for the trip.  I thanked him, completely shocked, as of course I was also going to offer a tip.  

But he didn't want any more.  

You just never know what kind of nice people will come your way, and you know...the smallest kindnesses are the ones that seem to mean the most and are the ones we most remember. 

So I got my car back...and am {not} looking forward to paying the $1800 I put on a credit card today.  

Such is life.  You've all been there. You know.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

To What Do We Agree?

In the last couple years, I have received a great deal of help in both large and small things, from both people I know and people I've never met.

And in that time, I've reflected on the generosity and love of such people, which has made me also reflect on my own lack of generosity, or my own lack of helpfulness to others. I've mentioned before that I'm often lacking in the "hands-on" form of charity, at least, in my estimation. I also realize we are all called to different things at different times. As members of the Mystical Body of Christ, we all must fulfill our roles, none of which excludes the others, but rather, incorporates them while maybe one particular portion is what we have been designed to complete.

Lately this has been my struggle. I have one co-worker who is very service-oriented, and I used to be as well. But my life has pulled me into more of a contemplative stream, one involving more prayer and study than actual hands-on service. It makes me feel guilty. I have to keep reminding myself that the time may come where literally feeding the poor in homeless shelters might be my role, and of course, I would love it. Or maybe it'll be caring for the sick and injured.

Or maybe I'm already fulfilling that role, in caring for the spiritually poor, which is the REAL deficit of our nation. Of all nations. Ever since I added the widget to my sidebar and have seen all the people from all the different nations who have passed through my blog at one point or another, I've realized that I'm fulfilling the command of Christ as He ascended into Heaven: to preach the Gospel to all Nations.

As Catholics, that is our command, and we all do this in different ways, according to the gifts we have been given. Everything we do should be ordered towards spreading the Gospel. Perhaps we're not well versed in the Faith, but know Christ enough to act in love and maintain a strong moral stance as an example to others. Maybe we don't have the words to preach, but we have the hands, and we have our very lives to lay down as an example to others who may ridicule what we say, but can't ridicule the joy of our lives and our hopes. And in that, there is a door opened through which they may enter.

Several years ago, a friend of mine and I were discussing the lack of morality around us. Neither of us were exactly living moral lives ourselves, and we regretted our actions. My friend, after a long pause in our conversation, said to me, "Once you've said "yes" to one guy, it's harder to say "no" to someone else."

It had to do with a loss of moral ground. A loss of dignity. From the other side, a judgment of a lack of fairness: "You're not a virgin. You slept with that other guy, what's wrong with me that you won't do the same thing with me? It's not like it means anything!"

And yet, it does, and we all know it. My friend knew it, and she carried her warning with her. Once we've compromised by saying "yes" to the wrong thing, it's harder to fight in the right battle. One becomes disoriented, unable to truly discern any longer, especially when the culture around us all defines certain behaviors as proper, even as our souls scream at us to stop for a moment and reconsider. To use our intellect and wills, to look upwards towards what is good, to flee from what is only debasement and injury.

Jesus Himself tells us to make our "yes" mean "yes", and our "no" mean "no". There is no middle ground; not in oaths, not in our moral choices. In everything we do, even in the small things, there's an absolute. A small compromise here leads to a larger compromise there. A strong stance here becomes a stronger, more fortified stance there.

We see this in many ways. Recently I observed to a friend that sometimes it's hard to step out and help another person, especially a stranger. But we can be safe about it, and truly, once we are willing to break out of our self-absorbed bubble on behalf of someone else, it is easier the next time. Once we say "yes" to the right things, it's as though the wind fills our sails and helps us to engage more quickly, and with more confidence the next time someone around us needs our charity.

The converse is also true; when we say "no" to someone, it becomes easier to say "no" again and again to the needs of others, and in that process, our hearts become more hardened. That's what happened to the Israelites in Isaiah; they said "no" to God, and as a consequence, their hearts were hardened. They had free will; they chose to disengage from their relationship with The Lord. And because of their willing rejection, they continued to reject all the blessings that came their way.

Nothing has changed; we still have this same nature. We tend to say "yes" to the things that debase us, and "no" to the things that make us holy. We are prideful if we go about "helping" others, but don't see the moral poverty that we must address, and so what do our good works mean if they are divorced from the morality and holiness that should be driving all of it?

So it happens that when we give our acquiescence to the wrong things, we end up giving obesience to even more things, until we are slaves of the world rather than lovers of God.

But when we give our obedience and love to our Lord, we are lead into active accord with not only charity to our neighbor in whatever form is needed, but to a higher morality that seeks to elevate the sinner towards God and out of the mire rather than to tell the sinner (ourselves, mostly) that the mire is actually a "good".

God is not a gray object. He desires that we are clear in our intent, one way or another. A "yes" to Him is a clear "no" to the winds of fickle popular culture. A "no" to an immoral act is automatically a "yes" to the Most High and His love.

We must be clear in everything that we do, at every moment, surrendering to God in even the smallest things. It is the smallest sins that lead us to the bigger ones that rupture our relationship with God.

To what, then, are we giving our agreement every day? To things that are holy, or to things that debase us?

We must choose. We must examine ourselves.

What do YOU choose today?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Better to Keep Silence

There's more than one kind of solitude. And they don't all mean the same thing.

I've been wondering about my attraction to the Cistercians (Trappists), trying to figure out why this Order is so amazing to me.

I thought I was Dominican in spirituality; certainly, no "decisions" have been made. And the Dominican spirituality is not in conflict with that of the Cistercians. It's just interesting to me that although I have looked at Dominican cloisters, they don't attract me. And although in the past I've been in contact of the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist...I no longer care to visit them. Maybe because they're too big.

Too noisy. Too popular.

I've always hated crowds and noise. I've never been interested in what's popular, preferring what's silent.

Growing up, I was always the "quiet girl". Clamming up has never really been a problem for me. Yes, I have my social moments, but it's not constant. I'd prefer not to talk to people in the morning right away, or just before I go to sleep. Talking to God is just fine. Interacting with others all the time?

Lemme alone.

I think it's the balance of community and silence that is attractive. The balance of solitude with God, and interaction with the "world" of the monastery that makes sense to me.

I've never been one to have a flock of honking friends. It's always been a few close companions, meaningful friendships, built on something real, not superficial. I like people; I don't like shallowness. I believe in making connections, and being present for people in need. But not in building "friendships" for the sake of numbers.

People I met long ago remain with me, their images burned into my memory. Like the little girl in Mexico City late one evening. She was maybe a pre-teen, wearing a soiled yellow tshirt with a soiled pink mini-skirt, wiping windshields. As she finished the job on the car ahead of us, she accepted a peso or so, looked around, flat affect, and then moved through the stopped traffic, onto the sidewalk, and disappeared into the darkness of the slums of Mexico City. I'll never know her name, but I'll never forget her; we "met" that night and I can't forget her story, even for that moment.

On Facebook, I have found high school "friends", people with whom I existed in those hallways, but who were not my friends. I look at their lives now, get glimpses of who they've become...and I don't want to know them now. They weren't friends then, they aren't friends now, and they will never be so. We have nothing in common. It is not that I don't love them; rather, the opposite is true. It is just that we'd have no words to pass between us to break up the silence.

Better to keep silence, then. To honor good will, or place good will in the silence where in the past there was only animosity.

There is wisdom in silence. There is wisdom in communication without words. There is honor in solitude, especially when that solitude is a more perfect union of love that transcends anything we can understand through our senses.

I worry about telling my mother about this Call I may have. She has an inkling, and and we spoke of it a few years ago. But not since. Mom fears I will leave her and never return.

Dad had the same fear. It wasn't unfounded. I can't do that to Mom. Her solitude is forced; mine will be chosen.

I worry about my brother. He won't understand. Even though he seriously considered the priesthood at one time, now he's fallen away, and the idea of living in cloistered austerity is so alien to him, I fear he'll think he's been betrayed. I want to be able to entrust him to someone; maybe a Catholic friend with whom he could discuss his fears, and his own sense of abandonment.

Because it'll be there. It's not about me per se, but about having a sister, an only sister, and then she's gone. I think I'd better understand "losing" him to a monastery than he could understand "losing" me to one.

Even though our family isn't that close, the connection is there, the importance of family is there, and our love is there.

I don't have to make these decisions tonight, or reveal these secrets to those who can't yet understand them. But the day is coming. So as I discern, I know I can't focus on myself, but I must be sensitive to the most important people in my life.

Christ said that we must let the dead bury the dead, that we must leave brother and sister, mother and father behind. But sometimes He DOES want us to wait. We have to trust HIS timing, and not our faulty understanding.

Right now, I think I'm experiencing a certain kind of solitude. Although I share some of what I'm experiencing, the deepest things are reserved. I have no spiritual director, unable to find one as of yet. It would be helpful to talk these things over, and maybe some of those things I don't want to speak but perhaps maybe should.

Step by step, God calls, but not until He decides we're ready. We may hesitate, but He knows the time, He knows our concerns. And if He won't abandon us, we know then that He won't abandon those we love.

The hour groweth late, and I must go, pondering these things, ever more deeply.

Until the time for action is upon me.


I have a lot to be grateful for.

There's all sorts of people in my life willing to schlep me around so that I can get to work and back home, and school, and back home.

I'll be without a car for another couple days; they didn't have a remanufactured cylinder head, so they're having to rebuild and replace my valves, will take a couple extra days. So it'll still cost me $2,400, and I was prepared for that. I asked if it was possible it would be worse?

No. They won't charge more. They're sticking with the initial quote. They could put a used head in, she said, but she fears I'd have the same problem, and I agree. I can't afford do do this once, much less twice.

I don't have a problem with used parts in general, but if I were to pay for this job and a year down the road the used head cracks again, well...let's just not think about it.

If my car were older and had higher mileage, maybe it wouldn't matter so much. But it's a 2003.

Anyway, none of the schlepping drivers in my life have taken any money for gas. I've offered everyone, each said no. And if it were me, I wouldn't have wanted money, either. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be offered. I was ready if someone DID need gas money.

Last weekend when I went to Confession, the priest offered me some wonderful advice; he told me to focus on the present moment, and work more on that. Maybe this car problem is part of that. I can't make my own plans; I'm dependent upon others. That does a LOT to keep one in the present moment.

I like being independent and just getting stuff done according to my own schedule and preferences. Scratch that this week. I can't do any of it on my own.

So, as awful as this financial issue is, as awful as it is to have to suck it up and ask for help, well, it's a good thing. And it's making me more depending upon God. As each new need appears, there seems to be someone set in place to help me take care of it.

No one is doing anything for me necessarily, just helping me to get to where I can get it done.

God's hand is all over this.

Maybe we can never know how small we are until we have to reach up for that big unseen hand that's always nearby...and see how close He is, all the time.

No wonder we call him "Abba."

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Know Why He Went Away Sad

17As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 18 Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: 'You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.'" 20 He replied and said to him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to (the) poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." 22 At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

I know why the young man went away sad.

His question posed to Christ, asked in desperation while on his knees, is the same one we all ask, throughout our lives. And the answer given is a call to hardship, which we will only hear if we are truly open to hear it.

Notice that first Jesus told him what he already knew, just as we all hear over and over again what we already know; to follow the Commandments. In essence, he told the man to walk in holiness. And He does this so that the man will ask for more; this simple answer isn't enough, and Jesus knows it. He's setting him up to ask the question, "What more can I do?"

But that's a dangerous question, isn't it? If we had been present at that scene, we would have seen a young man desperate to know the next step, to do the next thing, to grow in holiness, even though he didn't yet know what that meant.

Until Christ explained that he, the rich young man, was lacking. Yes. He was lacking. The Commandments weren't enough.

I love the next line: "Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him..."

Profound. Jesus looks at us all in this manner. When we come to Him, desiring more, desiring to know Him, we have already responded to the grace to come and kneel at His feet. He looks at us, and He loves us.

All day long, everywhere I've looked, that message has come home to me. Over and over again. In scripture passages. In articles I read at work while putting a project together. When I said I couldn't find God in something, His action was pointed out by other people.

We all want to know that Our Lord loves us, but when He reveals His love, and we see what that really means, it can be terrifying in its strength, in its purity, and in the necessary sacrifice that reveals it.

Jesus told the young man what he must do; not just obey the commandments, but give up EVERYTHING to follow Him. The man wanted to follow Him, but didn't understand until then that doing so would require everything of him. Nothing in reserve.


He had to be willing to offer his life, fully and without reserve.

Jesus, looked at him, loved him.

Today, Jesus looked at me, and loved me, too.

And the words He speaks terrify me.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!

Jesus doesn't mince words; following Him is a life of sacrifice. Entering the kingdom of God means we must surrender our "wealth", even if what we have is pitiful. If we're attached to it, it means we give it value; that makes it wealth. And as long as we hold it in reserve, we can't really follow Christ. We have to be ready to let it go.

Possessions possess us.

26 They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?"
27 Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God." 28 Peter began to say to him, "We have given up everything and followed you." 29 Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30 who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.

Today I received an email from the Vocation Director at the Cistercian community I had contacted. She is sending me information and has encouraged me to continue to discern whether God might be calling me in that direction, believing our contact was providential.

This evening in speaking with a friend, I told him that I really do want to visit the Cistercians, and told him how crazy this idea is. It's completely insane. And all he said was, "Don't you realize that's how you know it comes from God?"

I don't think he had any idea how hard that statement hit me. I truly hadn't thought of that.

It was one thing to be considering religious life; many communities really don't live that much differently than I do already. Yes, I have stuff, and I'd be happier without it. The idea of getting rid of my possessions really isn't so bad. There are things that would be difficult, but I know I could do it and ultimately they would not prevent me from following where Our Lord calls.

But there are things I hold in reserve. My own private stash of personal wealth. It's not money. It's not jewelry, or anything else.

It's my life. I'm still guarding it jealously. Jesus wants it, everything, without reserve, and I'm still screaming, "It's mine!"

But no, it's not. It's a gift, and as such, he'll let me do what I want with it. So on one hand I have my perceived definitions of happiness and freedom; I think of the little things in life, and the bigger things, like my friends, the ability to travel to visit them, a so-far unrealized desire to visit the Holy Land. Things I want. Things I'd miss. My family, my small immediate family.

But I'm being drawn towards the Cistercians. Austerity incarnate. Giving up EVERYTHING, even the smallest of pleasures. No more comfy bed. No more cushy job.

Obedience. Penance. Chosen suffering.

After living so long on my own...obedience in small daily matters, my will given for the glory of God, to another. For holiness.

And not just for myself, but to die to myself, and live for others. For their salvation. To be free to carry out sacrifices on their behalf, offering what they cannot.

I have wealth to offer, although I've never seen it as wealth before.

Myself. I can offer myself.

And that's why the young man went away sad; because he knew what Our Lord offered him so generously, and what he had to offer in return.

And he wondered if the price was too great.

And so he went away sad.

We don't know if he ever returned; we assume he did not, so we'll never know the end of that story.

But we do know that Jesus loved him, and the man went away sad.

And therin is what we all need to think about; how can one profoundly realize the love of Jesus, and then choose anything less?

That's what makes us sad.


Fr. Cranky

I'm sad. I just learned that Fr. Cranky has restricted blog access to invited people only, and apparently I'm not on the A list!

It's scandalous! And just after I tagged him in a Meme so he can have his inagural meme experience.

Oh, well. I'd write to ask for an invite, but of course, he doesn't have an email associated with his blog.

I hope that he starts blogging publicly again, although I can certainly respect his "silence".

Mantilla twitch to Ignorant Redneck for the info. I'd only noticed a lack of updates, so didn't realize he'd closed up shop.

Here's to hoping he comes back soon! Or at least invites a few of us!

Thirsting for Our Lord

"Like the deer that yearns
for running streams,
so my soul is yearning
for you, my God.

My soul is thirsting for God,
the god of my life
when can I enter
and see the face of God?"

~ Psalm 42

Sometimes I love Our Lord so much that it feels like my heart will burst. He's all I want. He's the sum of my desires. He's everything...He's my very life.

And I wonder how I can love Him so much, and yet, choose things that are less?

I see how far away I am from Him, and see that I can experience this love...and how insignificant it is in the face of His own Sacrifice of Love for me. I look at my life and where I am, and almost despair of ever finally meeting Him face to face, for eternity.

And then I realize that Our Lord does not want us to look at where we are, but where He is calling us to be.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Canon Law and Grad School

This morning while sitting in class, I was becoming more and more excited.

Canon Law is significantly different than American Secular Law (Civil and Criminal) but it inherently makes more sense, for two reasons: it focuses on the individual (i.e. NOT the "State"), and all cases are interpreted according to the Law itself. A "strict" interpretation means that it's not interpreted broadly, for often a broad interpretation removes freedom.

I wish I could go into great depth, but I can' notes are back in the classroom as I left my notebook there for tomorrow's class, so I can't remember the exact Canons, and I'm afraid to define important terms as I don't want to make errors.


I know that some of my blog followers, and some of my real-life friends are homeschoolers, and may be interested in this:

One of the discussions that came up in class regarded Homeschooling. For example, CAN. 798 states, "Parents are to entrust their children to those schools which provide a Catholic education."

Yes, that's true. If that were given a broad interpretation, one could surmise that it means Catholics must enroll their children in Catholic school (if they have the means). However, look at the actual wording, i.e. a strict interpretation:

Nowhere is the term "Catholic School" used. A Catholic parent, therefore, who is homeschooling AND providing a Catholic education is fulfilling their duties and also fulfills CAN. 793 Section 1: "Parents and those who take their place are bound by the obligation and possess the right of educating their offspring. Catholic parents also have the duty and right of choosing those means and institutions through which they can provide more suitably for the Catholic education of their children, according to local circumstances."

There have been those who argue that homeschooling parents are acting in a manner contrary to the Magisterium. However, CAN. 18 (which is one I've been told to memorize) states, "Laws which establish a penalty, restrict the free exercise of rights, or contain an exception from the law are subject to strict interpretation."

Basically, what that means is this; you WANT your case to be judged according to the letter of the law. It's personal. It's about you. It means that one can't look at it as one looks at secular law and apply all kinds of things that aren't there. What do the words actually say? If a penalty, it means that it can't be broadened beyond what it says to indicate a greater penalty or make sure you receive a certain penalty. If it restricts a right, it means that it can't be interpreted broadly in order to remove your rights.

This is a good thing. It's fair. It's not relative to someone else or some other precedent (which is often detrimental in secular law).

Secular Law does interpret the laws broadly. In criminal law, the prosecutor argues for whatever is beneficial, the defender argues for whatever is beneficial, and both rely not on the law itself, but prior precedent! It's NOT fair. Not in the least! No matter what they tell you in school!

Our American system of law is based on bad philosophy (ie John Locke, among others), and it departed from its origins. The Roman system recognized people as individuals, and as such, they would be amazed at our current system; that the State is the "victim", not the Person.

Canon Law has been in effect for 2,000 years, is the longest-standing system of law in existence.(it has changed but the principles have remained the same and it's been consistent), whereas we're watching our own American legal system both explode and implode at the same time.

I know that some attorneys read my blog even on a semi-regular basis, and I'd be interested in your input, if you don't mind, or your own posts on this matter.

At this point, I've forgotten a great deal (i.e. MOST!)of what I learned while obtaining my Criminal Justice degree, and I'm only beginning in Canon Law. But I can't help but be excited...this is Law that makes sense. This kind of law doesn't deny the person, and this kind of law isn't relative to whatever happens to be popular for the moment. It hasn't imploded, and it won't....ever. Because human nature doesn't change. Culture does, and culture is relative. Humanity isn't EVER relative.

Now, don't go suggesting I become a Canon Lawyer...I'm only hoping to get through the next weekend! ALL of us in class are excited by our Professor (for his enthusiasm and engaging style), and I honestly felt like I was back in my Criminal Law class, reading the laws and answering scenarios in which to apply the law. I was at home.

In the beginning of class, the professor asked if there were any attorneys present.

No, I didn't raise my hand, because I'm not an attorney.

Yes, I've studied Law to a certain degree, I've worked with the Law in different capacities, but I don't think I'll be an asset to the Professor, who also holds a secular Law degree. I did tell him after class that I was excited, that his approach made me feel like I was back in Criminal Law, and, smiling, he told me that it's only going to get more exciting for us! Yay!

My goodness...this is even BETTER than Criminal Law, and even I thought this class would be dry!


Please don't start "arguing" with me; I'm not a Canon Lawyer, I'm only posting some basic info and how we're learning it, and as my professor said, I'm not doing this to "practice law". If you have real questions, find your local Canon Lawyer. In the coming weeks or even days, I may post info about common questions as we've covered them in class, but do NOT look at me as a resource...only a bottom-level student.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Your parish Priest is probably not a Canon Lawyer, either , so don't treat him like one. He has to call a C.L. for help on different things. Some C.L.'s are Priests, some are laymen and laywomen, some are Bishops, etc. Some questions are simple to answer by looking up the different Canons, some are more difficult and cross many categories. In my observation so far, most is common sense, although I now see why Common Sense isn't so common; because the legal system to which most of us are accustomed is not based on common sense.

Oh, and as Taxes are due soon, take a look at tax law if you have a complaint about the thickness of the Canon Law book.

Just sayin' Canon law is a heckuva lot less burdensome than the stuff we deal with every day in American society. Our European, Asian, South American, Central American, etc. friends can speak even more to that, probably...


It is cold, it is dark, and it is morning. I want to go back to bed.

However, I'm not. I'm going to class, and it's a consolation that the class is fascinating!

Last night we started Canon Law, and I was struck by the different perspective Canon Law takes versus Secular American Law. Even the term "civil law" has a different meaning in the Church.

I don't have my notes at home, but we were given a history of Canon Law, and in that was a discussion of Roman Law, upon which Canon Law is based. In Roman Law, a "crime" was an offense against a person. In American is an offense against the State.

In Canon Law, each case is taken on its own merit and judged according to the letter of the law. Each person is an individual and thus each set of circumstances has the law applied to it individually.

In our secular laws, everything is based on a precedent. For example, an attorney may argue that in a prior case with similar circumstances, the decision was X and if the attorney liked that outcome, he or she may argue for that same decision not based on the merits of the present case, but because the relative prior decision has become a "precedent."

The more this was discussed the more I realized our very legal system has, in part, inherently caused the rampant relativism we see today. Our system has caused activist judges that don't look at the law and the Constitution as something to be interpreted based on what it says, but by what decisions were made about it in the past. This is why we get Supreme Court decisions that have nothing to do with the actual black-and-white words on the paper.

My undergrad degree is in Criminal Justice, so of course I studied the roots of our secular laws and the system upon which it was founded, and then changed to fit our country. This class is a reminder of those things I've not thought about for a long time, and in looking at it through Catholic eyes in light of the philosophy of the Church and Canon Law, the differences are really highlighted.

I'll probably have more to say on this, but I need to finish my coffee, walk the dog, and get cleaned up for class. Besides, I'm not sure this post makes sense...I'm not quite awake yet.

One other thing: Latin is the ONLY language of Canon Law, because some things can only be accurately expressed in Latin, and it is a universal Law that applies to the Roman Church. Although translations are allowed, they are ONLY allowed in order to aid in understanding.

So we may be learning some Latin this semester!

Friday, January 16, 2009


This week my worries have been mostly dominated by my car and the bill, but at the same time, I know God's hand is in this and that somehow, it'll work out.

After all, this is also the same week He sent me a roommate to help with the cost of living.

So although I've been worried, even that hasn't been as bad as it could be. (Although maybe when I hand over my credit card to pay the bill the shock will hit me hard...maybe I'm in denial now.)

But here's the thing; I can't really feel sorry for myself. There's a LOT of suffering going on out there. I know of at least THREE people in surgery today, ranging from minor to major. I know of people suffering terminal illnesses. All of these people have loved ones worried about them and praying for them.

I know of other people experiencing major financial issues like I am, but in their case, it has come in the form of Assessments from the City...upwards of $2,000. They can't afford it, either.

I further realize that the fact I have good credit and can put my own car repairs on a credit card is a big deal. There are an awful lot of people out there who don't even have that and truly can't pay even their monthly bills at all. And without a car, they'll lose what meager things they already have. And perhaps they don't have people around them willing to go out of their way to drive them around, even in the short term.

In assessing my own situation, although it isn't pleasant, and yes, I hate cars even more than before, well, it's not so bad. Big deal. I'm inconvenienced, and maybe this means I won't get to go to Ohio or visit a certain community I've been hoping to get to for months (over on the East coast). Maybe it means I won't get to pay down my debt as I'd hoped. It's kinda going the wrong way...up! But that's OK. God is in charge. He knew this would happen, He allowed it, and for a reason.

Maybe because it's forcing me to depend on others for assistance. I like being independent and not asking for help, but it's clear I can't do what I need to do without help. I hate inconveniencing others for my sake, but here it is...I've asked, and some have offered to be inconvenienced.

Somehow this will work out...for me, and hopefully for all the others who are suffering worse things. I guess I'd rather have car problems than major surgery.

So I'm offering up my own pitiful suffering on behalf of those who are experiencing worse. Maybe I can't control what happens, but I can control how I react. And I really need to be grateful for all those in my life who are helping me in some way with my current crisis. Because of them, it's not really a crisis. Just an inconvenience.

That's not so bad.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More on the Car Saga

I really hate cars.

Yesterday I drove it to work and home as usual, worried because of the cold weather (subzero), but it got me home fine. This morning it was -20 F., and I planned to drive to work as usual, although I was worried about a breakdown.

So I checked the oil...a little low. As I hadn't needed to add oil since I discovered the problem on Saturday, I tried to remove the cap to add it, realizing the leak may be worse now.

I couldn't get the stupid cap off. I grabbed a rag to help twist.. Would. Not. BUDGE!

I considered asking my new housemate, but she had a hard time managing my dog's well-worn-in prong collar. I knew she wouldn't have a chance at this cap.

So I stopped and considered for a moment. Was it wise to attempt to drive in this cold? The crack could get suddenly worse (as the shop had warned me), and extreme temps followed by a warm engine and more extreme temps....well, an engine in GOOD condition takes a beating in this weather. Mine is just plain primed and ready to blow up at any moment.

My decision made, I headed back inside, got the phone, and called my supervisor, who lives nearby and knows of the problem. She'd told me to let her know if I needed a ride. Thankfully, she hadn't left (I usually come in earlier than everyone else). So I got a ride in and tomorrow I'll work from home, brought an impending project with me that needs research.

I'm still working on getting to class, and I MAY still need to get a rental. Will see...God often answers in the last moment.

I also called my lienholder today, GMAC, to inquire whether I could apply for a loan for the current repairs, and add it onto my current loan. I have only $1300 left to pay on my car, but it's at a 6% interest rate, as opposed to the variable credit card rate.

GMAC was not helpful...told me to call the dealership, and then gave me the number for the warranty company. I explained my warranty had expired. She insisted on giving me the number to get a warranty. I explained calmly that the damage was already done, it was a manufacturer defect, and that it would not be covered if I purchased a warranty on top of the repairs.

Have I mentioned that I hate cars?

What's wrong with horses? They're interesting, they're pretty, they are good companions, they can be trained, and their poo fertilizes fields. They also come with built-in seat warmers, they're cute and fuzzy in the winter, and they generate methane which would really help us actually realize global warming and get rid of these dang record subzero temperatures most of us are experiencing!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Abandon Hope - Car Report

I had the car back at the dealer as scheduled this morning at 9 am.

It's better than the worst case scenario but worse than what we originally thought.

They confirmed the backside of the cylinder is cracked, and said it'll be about $2600 to fix.

Ouch. The part itself is $800. The rest is all labor.

So I called a recommended shop, and am waiting on a callback for a quote. They're going to try to find a reconditioned cylinder. If their price is better, I'll schedule the repair.

The dealer gave me a couple quarts of synthetic oil in case I need to top it off, so if the leaking gets bad, at least I'll be able to get by for a short period. Right now the oil level is fine, but I have no intention of waiting on this, even though I'm going to have to put it on my credit card. Waiting could make it seriously worse.

So, here we go. Every time I think maybe I'll be able to get out of debt, another financial distaster strikes.

The good news; it's only about a 24 hour repair job, so I'm going to try to get it done before this weekend. Otherwise I'll have to get a rental car to ensure I'll be able to get to class this weekend.

Talk about bad timing! This is the WORST timing ever!


UPDATE: I called another shop this morning, they have a couple part options, won't know which they can use until they get into the job, but said $1700 to $2400. They can get me in on Monday. I did some more web research and found other 03 Saturns with this problem, so clearly it IS a defect. So I'm going to call Saturn corporate headquarters (which will probably mean calling GM) and see if I can get them to pay even a portion of the work.

I guess it'll take 2-3 days for my car to be repaired. :-(

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I think I've lost my mind.

This week I received an email from a Cistercian community in Wisconsin, and today, a packet and a letter from a Cistercian community in Iowa. The latter has a retreat in mid-March, which I can't attend due to class. The Vocation Director there, Sr. Martha, invited me to call or email with any questions.

I responded to the community in Wisconsin first because I think they are closer and because they contaced me first, and asked a few questions, also letting her know that I'm not at this point serious about entering a cloistered community, especially one so austere!

I can't believe I'm actually considering visiting one of them. Firstly, I'm not Benedictine, and the more I learn about them, the more I realize that. Cistercians follow the Benedictine Rule, but are much more strict than Benedictine communities.

We'll see what happens...a discernment visit isn't necessarily discernment to that community, but discernment of God's will. And who knows? Maybe the austerity even at the short term could be a good thing for me. I could just go on a silent eremetical retreat, but I don't think it would be a good idea as I'm not disciplined enough for it, and I don't have a spiritual director. I'd waste the time in some stupid way and learn nothing.

Something specific, even with difficult hours, would likely be the best type of retreat for me; purification is always a good thing.

Let's just see where this goes...