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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Red Zinfandel

Do you know it's possible to actually see agony in another person?

This evening on my way home from work, I stopped off at a local liquor store / wine shop for something I needed. I could quite literally have gone to any number of stores between my work and home, but I stopped at this one. Part of it was practical (they seem to have the best prices), but other than that, I really didn't have a preference of this store over another.

I quickly found what I needed (on sale! yay!) and went to the counter to pay. After the clerk had me sign the slip, the manager, who had been looking at me strangely a moment before, suddenly asked, "Do you like reds?"  [referring to wine].

He went on to recommend a Red Zinfandel of the brand I had purchased, and when I admitted I hadn't tried it  (and in fact didn't know this brand had a Red Zin), he invited me to follow him so he could show me something. When I started to pick up my bag, which had already been in my hand, he ordered me to leave it at the counter and just follow him. I shrugged and did as he asked.

The man led me to the extensive Zinfandel section and pointed out a couple, most top-shelf wines, some less expensive, and when I told him which I'd tried and loved, he pointed out the vineyard they were from. Great! But, he told me, as a fellow Zin-lover, he highly recommended this one particular Zin to me, and kept saying that he'd recommended it to his brother-in-law who swore that no way, it wouldn't be good. Apparently this was a huge point of contention between the two, for they were, as he'd said, "Gallo-men".  (This is a common brand of wine on the inexpensive side.)  But no, this man kept insisting that his brother-in-law try it, he would really love it.

I regarded the wine, saw the price (on sale, about $5.00), know that I will have use for it and so told him I'd go ahead and try it, so, yeah, I'll grab one of those tonight, too.

Smiling slightly, the man said, "I'll do you one better!"

He reached up and took a bottle off the shelf then quickly began making his way to the counter.

I was thinking, "What, a discount?"

He took it to the counter, placed it in my bag with my other purchase, and said, "There's a catch."  he glanced at me, to the wine, and back at me. "Try it, come back, and tell me what you think."

I agreed to those terms, the fact dawning on me that for some reason, this guy had given me a free bottle of wine. It's not unheard of in wine shops when they're trying to promote something, or recognize good customers, talk with fellow wine aficionados, etc., yet I wasn't making the connection, exactly, of what he was trying to promote, other than maybe customer loyalty.

But still, there was something odd about the whole thing and I remained "unsettled", noting how the guy behind the counter maintained a strange expression as he watched this exchange. He wasn't directing his own discomfort towards me, but towards the manager with whom I was speaking.  This clerk, this witness, was oddly silent, not getting in on the conversation, adding his own commentary as is typical in a wine shop.

The manager led me out the door, a cigarette in his hand, shaking a little, still talking about the wine and how good it was, how much he loved Red Zinfandels but this one is by far his favorite.  We stood outside the door talking for a little bit, and as he tried to light his cigarette, he dropped it on the ground. He quickly bent down to pick it up, and this time I could see that more than his hand was shaking. His breath caught in a little ragged rasp. He was clearly not well. I began to wonder if he was a little drunk, except that I couldn't smell anything on his breath.

"I'm sorry," he said, as he began to light his cigarette. "You're the third person I've done this to today."

I was a bit confused as to why he was apologizing and what he was talking about. He inhaled and said in a slightly husky tone, "Today I learned that my Brother-In-Law died."

I gasped a little, immediately started to offer him condolences, but he put up his hand to stop me as he inhaled from his cigarette.

"Hey!"  He expelled, his voice getting a little gruff, "He earned the right. He earned the right!"   He looked away for a moment of silence as I tried to figure how to respond, then looked back at me, straight in the eye. "Try the wine. Just try it!"

Yes, I told him, I'd definitely try it, and definitely come back and tell him what I thought. He told me who to ask for when I came back, and if he wasn't there, tell whoever was whether "it sucks or it's great".  Fair enough.

We chatted a bit longer about wine as he calmed himself down. It hadn't seem right to walk away just yet, and oddly, it almost seemed an intrusion to stay. But...something wasn't finished, so I stood, recognizing grief and waiting it out.

Normally I tell people that I will pray for their loved one, for their whole family. Especially when I'm wearing a shirt with Catholicism splashed all over it; this man knew he was talking to a religious person, at least on the outside (although at the time I wasn't thinking about what I was wearing.)  It was obvious that he was barely holding himself together. I wanted to ask him how he was, how he could possibly be functioning, but then again, it was pretty easy to tell, wasn't it?

He was making his work day a tribute to his brother-in-law. He was using wine to tell people about someone he loved.

I thanked him as I left, and promised, again to come back. I would try the wine.

Walking away with that Red Zinfandel, I was tearing up before I even reached my car. As I left the parking lot I knew I had to go to the chapel to pray, and offer all my prayers for this sorrowing soul. I couldn't get the image of the agony so apparent in his eyes, in his entire being. He was barely holding it together.

That explained the concerned looks from the clerk who worked with him. That explained his shaking hands, his rapid speech, his insistence that I follow him back to look at the Zinfandels, and most importantly, to try this particular Zinfandel.

But it wasn't about the Zinfandel. What he was doing had nothing to do with the wine.

I went to the chapel, offered a Divine Mercy chaplet, and wept for this man's loss, unable to stop the tears, the same tears that continue to flow even as I write this. I can't get his desperate agony out of my mind's eye. I prayed for strength for him, I prayed for his brother-and-law, for his sister who clearly is without a husband tonight.

You never know what others are suffering, or where you'll encounter them. A random errand can turn into an act of mercy and compassion you could never have envisioned

When I left the chapel, I sensed that I should go out through the door that took me around the building. As I walked through the "prayer garden" I passed through the Stations of the Cross, the Sacred Heart, and then past a marble replica of the Pieta.

At the Pieta' I stopped to contemplate it for a moment, marveling at how it captured grief so clearly, knowing how close Our Lady must be to the man I had just met. I didn't even know if he was Catholic, or Orthodox, or Coptic, or whether he'd ever said a prayer in his life. But..I knew Our Lady and Our Lord were very close to him in his own deep sorrow.

Then suddenly, I saw something on the Pieta' that I'd never noticed before.

In order to see it more clearly, I had to step on the cedar chips at the base, but it verified what I thought it was: it looked like blood pooled between the side of Christ where He rested in death, against His Mother. I touched my fingers to my lips to kiss them, then touched my finger to that pool of blood, pondering the blood from the side of Christ; that blood that had put an end to death, paid our ransom, and opened Heaven to us.

As I touched it, my fingers brushing lightly against the paint, I noticed something else about it:

It was the color of Red Zinfandel.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Well, I've REALLY Gone and Done it Now...

This weekend, with my permission, Mom told the extended family of my Vocation.

From what I understand, one uncle, the only one who knew I was even considering it simply said "Good!". Another relative, sitting nearby, for the first time in recorded history, was actually shocked into silence.  (This is good luck; it bodes well for my own future ability to keep silence!).  Unfortunately I think they had to use a crane, a backhoe, and some crowbars to pry her jaw out of the ground. She is recovering nicely and attended the family wedding.  No scarring was noted by observers.

An unnamed person (whom I suspect to be a certain cousin) reacted thus:  "Cool! The family is going to have a nun that can shoot!

NO, I am NOT making this up!  He didn't even KNOW about the deputy who was teasing me while I was in high school, telling me I should become a nun. "A nun with a gun," he said with a chuckle.

So, now that the family knows and has had time to react and comment, I guess you can know, too:  I have made my decision, have asked to enter a certain community and have been given a yes.

Now, mind you, I've done no paperwork, taken no medical exams, no psychological tests. I've not jumped through any hoops and nothing is certain until the proverbial fat lady sings. (Where can I get a helmet with horns so that I can sing?)

Anyway, I'm not yet ready to announce where I am going, God willing.  I have thousands of dollars of debt between student loans and credit cards (which were used to pay for everything my paycheck didn't for the last 3 years), and my house, even IF it sells, has about $50,000 in negative equity.

No worries; I'm not in default on anything and haven't yet gotten to the point where I think bankruptcy is a good idea.  I'm hoping to come out of this scraped up but not completely squashed, but then again, I'm leaving my life as I know it in order to become united with Our Lord, so I guess being crushed is part of that whole plan. be it.

So! I hope, if it does actually happen and I do actually enter as we all plan and hope for, that once I am clothed as a Novice I can go home to visit my family. That way, I can fulfill my cousin's enthusiasm, go out to the farm or a range and go shooting, full habit and all. He might die of joy at the sight.

Heck, if a Friar can use a guitar and a Monk can ride a skateboard for souls, who's to say a Nun can't use a gun?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Strength Before the Lord

Today at Mass, before the Gospel was an exhortation to pray to be strong enough to stand before the Lord (in judgement):

Although I dutifully repeated the words of the prayer, knowing what they meant in the most transcendent way, the strength required to get there, the strength required to even be able to be present before the LORD in full knowledge of Who He Is, still, I pictured my day of Particular Judgment. I imagined, in my mind's eye, the Angry Jesus.  (Pictured above, mosaic at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception)

No, I don't want the strength to stand before the Lord;  standing is far too often, in the Latin Church, a sign of obstinate dissent flung into the Face of God Himself. [Especially in our American culture,] In the Latin Church (i.e. Roman Catholic) it is not a sign of reverence and awe to stand, and in American culture in general, standing, in particular, is a sign of  outright rebellion. Standing in the Latin Tradition is a sign of dissent, of "MY" desires to the detriment of the rest of the community of Catholics who kneel in reverence, recognizing by the worship of their bodily expression of humility in the face of God.

There are exceptions;  those *Religious* communities in the Benedictine Tradition may stand at certain points, however the worship belonging to a Rule of Life often does not properly translate to parish life and was never intended for such a thing, for most lay Catholics are NOT formed and schooled in the theology of the Benedictine Tradition.

I do not want the strength to *stand* before the Lord when I go before Him!  

Instead, I pray for the wisdom, humility, and weakness to fall at His feet, begging for mercy for all I have done to offend Him and all His Church, with full awareness of the harm I have caused to all.

I want to fall at His feet like Esther into the arms of the King, her spouse, praying not just for my own salvation, but that of all fallen souls.

None of us has strength in and of ourselves; all our strength comes from Him, but we must be humble enough not just to accept it, but to ASK for it.

"Oh, God, If I have found favor in your sight, please let me speak. Have mercy on me, O Lord, have mercy! I  am all alone and have no one but Thee. Help me O Lord in your goodness. If I have found favor in your sight please hear me and grant my petition.  

I am all alone, and I have no one but Thee."

 (prayer written during Cistercian retreat, based upon the prayers of the fallen Queen Esther) 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vocational Advice Married People Need


Before criticizing your wife's faults, remember she could have married Jesus and laid down her life in an offering of love, praying for your eternal salvation with every breath she takes. Nothing is more intimate and worthy than that kind of sacrifice.

 Before criticizing your husband's faults, remember that he might have become a Priest in an offering of love and saved your soul through the Sacraments. Nothing is more intimate and worthy than that kind of sacrifice.


You BOTH settled for a paltry, worthless [if you don't understand the sacrifice it symbolizes] ring, and an even more worthless "unity candle" (if you used this stupid symbol) taking Eternal Vows to lay down your lives FOR GOD and TO EACH OTHER in the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and nothing is more intimate and worthy than that kind of sacrifice, and nothing else lays the foundation for other Vocations.  What? Do you think Priests and Religious drop in a hailstorm, flow down the Nile and end up in the local school teaching your kids about Salvation?

Get over yourselves and stop your bitchin' about each other.  We children of divorce are tired of hearing about your tiresome adolescent angst. What, are you still 13?

Grow up!

If you're not called to the Holy Vocation of Marriage, don't have sex (ever!) and don't take the Vows of Marriage! If you're already married, you made a decision and a Vow before God and you are Called, formally, to GETTING EACH OTHER TO HEAVEN!

Stop whining!  It was your bed; lie down in it and either have children or live a celibate marriage, but stop making the rest of us suffer for your adolescently-inspired decisions.

And don't scream at me in the combox for slapping your hands.

You're lucky I don't slap something else with something much harder!

That's all I have to say about that. My divorced mother and deceased father would approve. And before you accuse me of being a hypocrite, please let me invite all fellow hypocrites such as yourself to Mass with me this weekend; there's always enough room in the pew for one more!

A Few of My Favorite Things

I have a mischevious nature and sometimes I just love to let it loose. For example:

I have a couple tattoos. Most people don't know I have them, including my mother. As most people have no idea and it's not typically a topic of conversation, I don't usually have need to announce the fact, and I'm not into swimming anymore (unfortunately, but can't afford the membership), that fact about me remains hidden to people who know me. 

Many of my friends are very solid, very traditionally-minded Catholics and Protestants, and most of them have very strong opinions about many things. Usually when one of us goes off on a rant about something, we're all ranting together in full agreement. 

Until it comes to tattoos. Then, this is truly one of my favorite things to do:  I let them go off on their anti-tat rant. When they are sufficiently into it and have properly denounced not just the artform, but those who practice it, engage in it, become a canvas for it, etc, I will quietly pipe up and say, "I have tattoos."

This is my favorite part:

I love to watch the colors that particular ranter turns when they hear my little confession. They are typically shocked right on down to their little bitty toes and back, and clearly have NO IDEA what to say or how to reach. I love the look of horror that comes over their countenances when they realize what they said, and in fact, their very personal attacks actually applied to someone in their presence they consider to be a friend (and good Catholic). I especially adore the sputtering sound that comes out of them as they try to backtrack, even apologize for what they just said...

And there I sit, enjoying the show, smiling, not offended one bit. After all, they're entitled to their opinion.

But if they are entitled to their opinion, it seems to me that I am likewise entitled to a bit of harmless entertainment at their expense.  ;-)

Ah, yes, life with Adoro.

An Invitation to be Considered

Yesterday I received a letter in the mail.

It was from the Vocations Director of one of the communities I visited, giving me an update on the local Sisters, and I was happy to learn that a couple I met during my visit are now in the area!

But there was more.  Sister Vocations Director invited me, once again, to come out East to visit them, or, she offered, even better:

 "Enter as a Postulant on September 8!" 

"Something to pray about," she said with a ;-).

My knee-jerk reaction was to scoff. September 8! That's only a couple weeks away!  I have a house and I'm completely owned by my debt! Even if I COULD sell the house (right! Not in THIS market!) it would be of no help, for the negative equity is probably more than the house was ever worth.

So, of course, my initial reaction was to reject the entire idea out of hand.

But, I continued to think about it. What about the psychological entrants are required to make before entering a community?  How would Sister even know I would pass?   A friend of mine offered that some don't require the psychological; it becomes apparently very quickly if someone is not...uh....cut out for that way of life.

I also began to wonder if I was rejecting an experience of true Grace.  What if God WANTS me there on September 8?  Can't HE make things happen that quickly?

I've never been a Pollyanna, and have to admit that I have a hard time believing that anything like that could happen, especially to me. I don't deserve such a huge miracle, anyway.

Oh, right...none of us does. None of us merits ANYTHING, but Jesus suffered and died for us anyway, didn't He?  This is certainly much less than the ransom He paid for each of us. My current situation isn't even a speck of dust in God's eye.

So...ok, I'm praying about it. I'm considering it. I had not planned to apply to or enter this community as I am neither a nurse nor a teacher (seriously, I do NOT have the gifts and have no desire to be a teacher or a nurse, as I have written of before, in depth).  But it still comes down to: what does God want? Doesn't He know more about me than I do? Didn't He create me and call me into being from eternity to fulfill a particular purpose?


It seems that this door is not closed, and I have a very very direct invitation to walk through it.

Truly, if I could get rid of my house, my debt, my stuff, and find a home for my dog, I would go. After all, I have nothing to lose. My situation now can't really get much worse, and I'm on the verge of losing everything anyway. Such is life for anyone who works for the Church. Just ask around; we're all in this same boat.

I have nothing to lose by entering religious life, even with a community I would not have chosen for myself. Then again, I would not have chosen any of the communities I visited, and yet God sent me to them, and I'm GLAD He did, each and every one.  I'm also grateful for the doors He gently closed as He ushered me through discernment.

I have nothing to lose, but everything to gain, and everything to give. Obviously they see something in me to offer to their Community and to God, as "worthless" as I think I would be...there must be something.

So there it is; I must take this seriously and pray. As of yesterday, discernment is being kicked into overdrive with the shift of a single gear.

So....there? Out East?  Or one of the others I visited?

God will show the way. If out East, there is also a February entrance date. It wasn't listed in the letter from yesterday, but I know about it.

I believe that within the next year, I will be entering religious life at one of the communities I have already visited. I made the decision this summer to not visit any more; God has given me enough to consider and has closed further doors. He has made Himself clear in that regard. I'll be entering with the one that just invited me, or one of the others, if they will accept me.

OK, God....Thy Will be done.

I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Thy Word.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Remember Lepanto!

Let us remember what made the Battle of Lepanto NECESSARY, for what happened then in Europe and what they defended so valiantly against is FINALLY, NOW overtaking Europe like a virus and is, as we speak, encroaching upon American soil, threatening ALL of our CHRISTIAN RIGHTS and FREEDOMS under GOD and under our Constitution.

"Those who cannot learn from the past are condemned to repeat it....."
( George Santayana)

...This time while lying on our backs and spreading our legs like dogs.

Gosh! At least the Europeans of yore had backbone and put up a fight! What the Hell happened to them, and is happening to we Americans, who preach freedom but are so willing to give it up in the face of passive impending Sharia Law?

Remember Lepanto and to Whom the Victory belongs...and place your allegiance, and your PRAYERS for both Europe and America there!

White founts falling in the courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard,
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips,
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross,
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half-attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young.
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world,
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spain - hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.

Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri's knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunset and the seas.
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees,
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye,
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king.

They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be;
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground, -
They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.
And he saith, "Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk may hide,
And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done,
But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces - four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not 'Kismet'; it is he that knows not Fate;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey in the gate!
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth."
For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
Sudden and still - hurrah!
Bolt from Iberia!
Don John of Austria
Is gone by Alcalar.

St. Michael's on his Mountain in the sea-roads of the north
(Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.)
Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
And the sea-folk labour and the red sails lift.
He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes
And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
And Christian dreadeth Christ that bath a newer face of doom,
And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,
But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.
Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
Trumpet that sayeth ha!
Domino gloria!
Don John of Austria
Is shouting to the ships.

King Philip's in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
(Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
The walls are hung with velvet that is black and soft as sin,
And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in.
He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very soon,
And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day,
And death is in the phial and the end of noble work,
But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
Don John's hunting, and his hounds have bayed -
Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid.
Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah!
Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.

The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in a man's house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plumed lions on the galleys of St. Mark;
And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
They are lost like slaves that swat, and in the skies of morning hung
The stairways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.

They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on

Before the high Kings' horses in the granite of Babylon.
And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign -
(But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate's sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.
Vivat Hispania!
Domino Gloria!
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!

Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
Up which a lean and foolish knight forever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade. . .

(But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)

- G.K. Chesterton

Do not let America become the definition of "spoils"!

 We have shed far too much blood over the Centuries for this country to become the spoils of the Sultan's bearded Losers of Lepanto. And we Catholics have fought them a LOT longer than you mere mortal secularist Americans, who don't even know what's coming and refuse to acknowledge your (and our) defeat to them as a possibility.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Blogging Quotes for Today

Please enjoy another installment of my new feature, requested by my regular commenters.

Please note that NONE of the quotes are directed at or about any particular person, but rather, are meant to poke fun at we bloggers in general and what we do, whether virtuously or vicefully.  (Yes, I made that word up. I'm a blogger. Dictionaries don't apply to me.)

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"Great Moments in Blogging:  In 2008, a popular Catholic blogger attended Mass and witnessed liturgical abuse, but out of a moment of charity, decided not to blog an outraged rant about it upon returning home." 
 ~ Inspired by a Guindon cartoon caption about Ernest Hemingway

"Blogging largely consists in saying 'Lord Jones is dead' to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive"  
~ slightly edited quote by G.K. Chesterton

"Bloggers should be read, but neither seen nor heard."
~ Inspired by Daphne Du Maurier

"If you haven't got anything nice to say to anybody, come write at my blog!" 
~ Inspired by a famous quote from Alice Roosevelt Longworth 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

First Formal Act as a "Theologian"

Earlier this week (or was it sometime last week?) I experienced my first formal act as a Theologian.

Right. A "Theologian."

We were working on organizing and cleaning a storage room which was mostly housing stuff from our suffer  ah...I mean...summer activities. yes, that's right. Summer events. [As if they don't involve massive suffering the likes of which few human beings outside of youth ministry have ever seen.] 

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Anyway.... *AHEM*

On that afternoon, the Business Administrator (who himself actually carries a Ph.D in Business Administration among other qualifications for his job) came down and asked if any of us knew "the formal title of the Pope."

I asked what he meant: Diplomatic title? Letter salutation? What?

We were still working, not realizing it was a serious question.  I offered a few titles for the Pope:  Pontiff, Holy See, Holy Father...

He told me that there was a woman on the phone with the Bookkeeper asking for the information. He didn't know what she meant but thought I should come talk to her.

As I left my task to walk back with him to the office, he said, "You are the Theologian; this is your area. We don't want to give her the wrong answer."


When I arrived at the Bookkeeper's office (I STILL have no idea why she was talking with the Bookkeeper about this), I heard said Bookkeeper say to her, "Benedict the 16th?" She had an expression of completely confused panic on her face.

The moment she saw me enter the door, a look of absolute relief crossed her countenance. She repeated the name of the Pope and said that I was there to talk with her and could give her the answer for certain...then handed the phone to me, proper introduction and all.

All I had to say was "Hello!"

The frail, crackly voice on the other end of the line immediately endeared me to the caller.  (I got a soft spot....shocking, I know!)

She said to me, "Oh, hello!  I just want to it Pope Benedict the 16th? Is that right?"

It sounded to me that it was quite possible she had been around at the time of Pope Benedict XV (and gosh, I've often mistaken that Pope's numerals for our current one at a glance and in terms of theology), so I was immediately understanding.

She didn't want the Pope's "formal title". She wanted the Pope's name!

"Yes, Ma'am.  Pope Benedict XVI".

Elderly Lady:  "Oh, thank you so much! I just wanted to be sure as I write this down!"

"Oh, you're welcome, you're absolutely right."

"OK, thank you, goodbye!"


GOSH! Being a Theologian is HARD!

I hope the questions don't get any harder than THIS!

But I gotta tellya, I'm glad to know that if anyone wants to know the name of our current Pope...I got THAT one in the bag!

So glad my degree is going to use!  And God bless that dear lady who called. No idea why this was a question or what she was writing down, but it was enough of a concern to have to call her local local parish, which, much to her surprise, apparently was located in Mayberry and run by the Keystone Cops!

I can't figure out where Opie was that day, though....

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Out of Sorts and in Pieces

For the last few weeks, I've been very "out of sorts". Discombobulated. Disconnected.

Yeah. "Out of Sorts" says what I probably most need to say. Such an imprecise idiomatic phrase and accurate as to my ongoing present condition.

There's been a lot going on in my life personally, spiritually, practically, even physically. Some my fault (sin!), some the impact upon me of the sin of others, some spiritual get the idea. In other words, it's life.

My story isn't any different than anyone else's. 

Last week, my co-worker/friend's father passed away. Even though it was expected and there have been many close calls over the recent years, she had a hard time with it. Not a "hard time" she is really sharing, but knowing our friend and her aversion to suffering and grief, well...she's gotten extra prayers.  From experience I know to let her grieve in the way she must, and to not "pen her in."  I've done my best to be "normal" around her, which is surprisingly easy, and having been there before I know that I was most grateful when people didn't fawn all over me, but rather let me be in that moment, whatever it was at the time.

The hard thing with grief is this: it is transitory. It is sharp one moment, and like a distant memory in the next. It never really "goes away" for the one who was loved and is no longer there is still loved and still present, if in a different way.

This particular co-worker/friend and I share a particular aversion to being emotional in public. We'd prefer our tears to be in solitude. We don't mind admitting having shed those tears, but we prefer they remain between us and God, that our grief and weakest moments be with Him alone, for only He can truly console us.

So ironic, then, the other day as we spoke of grief in general terms. I was fine, and spoke of losing my Dad when I was 20, having to miss the first day of class  of a new semester in college because of Dad's funeral...and then being immediately thrust back into college life as though nothing had happened.

As if it didn't matter.  But it did.

My friend lost her mother long ago, when she was young, and now, losing her father....grief beyond words and mere understanding.

As we spoke, sharing, quietly, our own stories of grief and loss, I felt fine. I empathized with her and spoke of my own past grief in even clinical terms. We both knew that grief is real when it comes and goes; it is surprising in its sudden agony in unexpected moments, ebbing and flowing, losing its sharpness over time, and yet...still able to twist in the very core of the soul making it once again fresh and unrelenting. What changes over time is the surreal quality of it; grief can perhaps be experienced more deeply over time, just like the fresh-turned earth over a new grave.

That evening, I told my friend the details of my father's loss, and how, when I went to school, I was angry in general. My entire persona was anger; I felt little but anger.  I wanted to talk to someone, but whenever anyone offered a shoulder, I fled, holding back the tears.  The VP of my college, whom I had come to know because of his visit to our study-abroad group while we were in Mexico, was a particular confidant, and he made it clear that his door was open to me. Yet whenever he tried to get me to open up about my grief, I found a reason to leave, yet I always thanked him for the invitation, telling him I was fine.

I was lying and he knew it. I'm not sure many others knew I was running about with such a burden, but Brother C. knew, and I give him a great deal of credit for being so available to me, even though I didn't take him up on it.  I know he has no idea how much help he was to me back then, but for various reasons I'm not sure I'll ever be able to tell him.He probably doesn't remember me anyway; I was one student among many and Br. C. tended to have an open-door policy, always taking time for those who came knocking on his door.

Even though Dad died more than 15 years ago, at times I am still almost taken by surprise, and in fact, the other night was one of them.  As my co-worker and I shared our experiences, there, as we stood in the office, having just discussed the transient and surprising quality of grief, I told her of how lost I was when I went back to college after Dad's funeral. I told her how it took 8 months of anger before I actually "lost it" in the presence of another.

That evening, suddenly, I couldn't study. I couldn't focus on my assignments, and even reading for pleasure could not engage my attention. I tried to work out, I tried the computer lab, thinking maybe a little internet surf might be helpful. I looked up grief and its effects, finding nothing. I tried humor sites but could not laugh.

I gave up and headed back "home" to my dorm. En route through the college center building I passed the piano room, where a good friend of mine was practicing.  I walked in,  closed the door, said hello, and sat down.

She asked me what was wrong.

Nothing, I said.

She was silent, staring at me, waiting.

"My Dad isn't going to be there when I get married."

I burst into tears. "This is so stupid! I don't even have a BOYFRIEND!"

"No", my friend told me. "He's NOT going to be there when I get married, or when I graduate, or have any other huge event in my life where he would be an honored guest".

His seat would ALWAYS be empty. 

I'm not sure she said THAT, but that was the image in my mind.

The other night, when I spoke with my coworker about this conversation, at the very moment I said, "My Dad isn't going to be there when I get married", suddenly, unexpectedly, without any prior notice, tears overflowed.

I don't know where they came from. They were just...THERE.  Suddenly I was crying.

I have shared this experience many times, I have thought of emotion whatsoever. But the other day, and right now as I write this, I confess, I couldn't/ can't seem to stop the flow of tears.

Even as we laughed about grief, about the very POINT my own sudden squall of tears made about the transitory and fickle nature of grief, there was consolation in simple understanding. I prayed mightily that no one would enter our office. As it was the squall faded away and God's Providence kept the office door closed.

When someone did finally enter, both of us were as dry-eyed and normal-looking as we'd ever been, and joking as usual.

No one understands grief as mightily as Our Lord, and I think He has a special regard for those who weep out of such a deep love and loss.

Grief isn't everything, though...

I've also been out of sorts because I've been feeling, once again, that I'm being torn into pieces. 

While I was in college a friend once told me that I suffered from "option overload".  I had so many options I didn't know what to do. Every door was open to me, and every door was legitimate.

It's different now, and yet...the same. I am once again suffering from "option overload". Once again, there are too many doors opened to me, all are good, all are legitimate. The doors aren't as prolific, the options not the same or as lucrative.

It's a whole new game now,'s not a game.

This time it's for keeps, and I'm long past my expiration date in that regard.

This Old Maid, stuck with, as we used to call it in the midst of the game, the "cute card!", has landed in my hand.

I never knew such a stupid and pop-culture card game could become the icon of my life.

As long as I hold this particular card, I am losing the game that isn't a game; no one is called to be an "Old Maid".

God has a plan and Vocation for EVERYONE.

But this particular Old Maid is partially ripped and torn away.

Yeah. I'm out of sorts. I'm a bit melancholic, I'm a bit lost. This will pass.  The pieces will come together. Eventually. 

The only thing I'm trying to do right now is hold on. As a Confessor said to me recently, the only thing I can do is hold onto prayer like a dog holds onto a bone.

Prayer is the only thing I truly possess.

The just fluff.  Transient bits of cosmic hiccups.

I don't even know where to store that!

Guess I'll just keep chewing on my bone......

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stuff I'm Against

Terry Nelson at Abbey-Roads tagged me for a meme several days ago (I KNOW!) and I'm finally getting around to getting it done. 

He posted a whole slew of stuff (well, 3 things) he's against and has invited the rest of us the do the same. So batten down the hatches and hold on to your toupees, here it comes:

What Adoro is Against:

*  I'm against stupid drivers. If you don't know where you're going, coming to a sudden stop on a  busy freeway in order to BACK UP in order to turn onto an exit ramp you missed is NOT the thing to do! Further, if you're going to screw up, do it quickly and get out of the way. Oh, and if you rear-end someone, do NOT explain to your insurance company that the guy you hit, yeah, the one who came to a stop perfectly safely only to be sent to the hospital by YOU, did not "give you enough time to stop." Really?  Ever hear of maintaining a safe distance?'s State Law.  Did you actually PASS your driver's test or did you steal the test out of the hand of a 16 year old who actually studied for it? 

*  I'm against schnockered and pickled jerks-for-neighbors with apocolyptically-loud motorcycle engines revving them (yes, REVVING) in the red-line for extended periods at 3 -3:45 am early on a Tuesday morning when most of the world is sleeping. (I'm against this same BS in the middle of a nice afternoon, too. There is no reason for that kind of idiocy.)

* I'm against ice storms that pack so much ice down on the sidewalks and driveways that it is necessary to turn the neighborhood into a luge course just to get around. 

* I'm against mandatory pickles on hamburgers. What is UP with that?

* I'm against "modern art". It may be modern but it sure ain't Art! It needs to go the way of "Art Deco" which also wasn't art and shouldn't have ever become "deco". And don't give me any flap about the popularity of "Retro-crap". It was crap then, it's crap now, and the only reason to do something in "Retro" is to make fun of it.

* I'm against the terms "Liberal" and "Conservative" in conversations about Catholicism as the terms are political and have NO PLACE in Catholic conversation.  I resent having to use those terms just to be understood and to constantly, when using the terms, have to state why they are inappropriate, and what's more, I hate the fact there are factions within the Body of Christ and I wish people would wake up and stop trying to politicize that which is supernatural, holy and so far beyond politicization that doing so just makes the "camps" look stupid.  (See my last bullet point before you comment.)

* I'm against Abortion, Planned Parenthood, the moral depravity that made this obscene horror "legal" in our country and keeps it going, and the outright battle to rip and shred innocent children and harm their mothers in unseen but agonizing ways while supporting the salvation of seals and whales and the Arabian Ocean Fig Bush growing somewhere in the Alaskan tundra. Seriously, life is so devalued here that even stuff that never existed has more legal protection than any given human life!

*  I'm against "grooming" dogs to look like other animals. Seriously?  Your golden retriever is NOT a lion and is completely embarrassed by that weird clip-job you gave him. Have some respect for your best friend!

* I'm against the high price of sushi only because the high price means I can't afford to eat it very often.

* I'm against bloggers who do nothing but rant all the time. Or even sometimes.  Right. I'm completely against what I'm doing right now.

* I'm also against hypocrites.

I'd talk about more stuff I"m against, but as I'm a faithful Catholic, was a Firefighter on 9/11 and watched 300 fellow firefighters die that day, and have clearly stated my position on many issues of Faith and Morals in the course of this blog, if I said anything else it would be redundant.  I agree with everything Terry said on his blog as far as what he's against, and he said it better, anyway.

As far as tagging, well...the feisty bloggers have already been tagged in one fell swoop.  So if you're feisty, mad, and damn it, you aren't gonna take it anymore, go ahead and tag yourself, leave the stuff YOU'RE against in the combox or a link to your own blog regarding the stuff you're against!

And don't  yell at me if you disagree with my list. Just add me to your list of stuff you're against.

I need the notoriety and attention your sputtering anger will bring to my blog.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Does Modern Catechesis Focus Too Much on the Wrong Thing?

We are a Church in Crisis. It's not a crisis of vocations or belief, but of catechesis...and whose fault is it?

Fingers are pointing everywhere. 

The "Progressives" are all about "feeling" wheras those who claim "Traditonalism" are pointing to the intellect.  One side cries for people to have more "compassion" while the other cries for people to have more knowledge. 

Neither side denies the need for both intellect and feeling, and yet, this is a battlefield within the Catholic Church, and really...within Christianity in general in the United States. The thing is this; neither side is wrong according to these very simplified positions. In the classic Catholic position, it is not "either/or" but "both/and"!

In pondering this, I think I see at least a part of the problem; to no one's surprise, we haven't yet found the middle ground that will emcompass the extremes along with the objective Truth.  

For once, this is not going to be a long post, for I really have nothing to offer, but only an observation. 

For the "Baltimore Catechism" crowd, the problem in the Church is completely intellectual.They are heaven-bent on winning souls for Christ through the intellect, through presenting Truth academically through homilies, teaching in parishes and in fact, informal teaching whenever the situation presents itself.  They are sure that if they raise their children to memorize the Catechism, their children will become (hopefully living) Saints by the time they reach the age of 13 and the hormones are raging and destroying their brains.  

The "Love, Justice, and Peace" crowd doesn't think they have much use for dogma and doctrine, and think that people need to experience the love of Christ through emotion and hands-on experience. They in fact, haven't much time for the knowledge part at all, for as they accurately ascertain, people usually come to Christ not through the intellect, but through the emotive powers.  

 Yet we know that the purely intellectual is not an answer to the world, for many people are not intellectual, couldn't care less, and actually, find the Baltimore Catechism and those who use it to be elitist, snooty, and, well...impossible to understand. And those who are more intellectual reveal to us that the "Emo" crowd isn't the answer because purely emotional "conversions" are NEVER lasting, for they are based on something superficial and prone to change, second by second.  

It comes down to this:  Catechesis is Classic Catholicism:  It is "Both/And".

Each "side", if you will, has something to offer, but is incomplete in and of itself. 

So while the Liberal/Progressives have a portion of the Truth, what they are lacking is the foundation of knowledge; this crowd tends to be either completely uncatechized or reject the intellectual portion of Catholicism almost completely, if only because they view the other side as being political, not truthful.   

On the other hand, the Conservative/Traditional crowd tends to emphasize the intellectual side of Catholicism, to the detriment of the foundation of service to fellow humanity, if only because they view the other side as being political, not truthful. 

Do you see the parallels?

Having been on both sides, and now fighting to maintain the center ground, which is Christ Himself, I have to offer these observations.  

What I see as the  main problem is this:  BOTH sides forgot about the SOUL. 

BOTH sides forget that the enter purpose of the coming of Christ, His Passion and Death that we can spend ETERNITY with Him. 

Yes, we are Body, and it is our obligation to tame our passions so that we might become Holy while here on this earth. And because the Body is important, we are called to care for the bodily needs of others; for so did Jesus. Jesus never disdained the importance of charity to the body of a person, for He both suffered in His actual body, but continues to suffer in His Mystical Body. 

It doesn't end there;  we are also Spirit. We have been created with an eternal soul, and we are, by our very nature, drawn to eternity, drawn to God, so as to live with Him, in Him, and through him not just now, but through Eternity. Our Souls are given to us at our very Conception; this is when life begins. Not just in this world, but for ETERNITY.  

The problem with "Conservative vs Liberal" and "Progressive vs Traditional" is that neither side goes far enough; BOTH sides forget the importance of the SOUL, either to the detriment of the will or the intellect. or both combined. 

It is so easy for us to forget that what we are doing here on earth has eternal consequences. It is so easy to forget that our intellect serves a purpose, and our hands, the same purpose; the salvation of SOULS. 

We say it every Sunday:  we believe in the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting. 

If we really BELIEVED it, we would not go to extremes and seek to politicize our Faith.  

So, in short, YES, Modern Catechesis DOES focus on the WRONG things, for it forgets the purpose if all of it: the only two extremes that really matter:   Eternal Life or Eternal Suffering.  

We DO have a choice and it has NOTHING  to do with politicized extremes. It has EVERYTHING to do with true Faith.  

Choose carefully, pray sincerely, and know that Hell is real...and eternal.  Know that Heaven is real...and eternal.  

God never promised us happiness on earth; he promised us happiness in eternity if we would follow HIM. 

Jesus never forgot our souls...He died to save us, body AND soul.  

But He left it for us to choose, and left those moral parameters to be offered through His Side and through the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  

Yeah, modern catechesis is wrong; it denies grace, it denies fidelity, and refuses Truth. Most modern catechesis borders heresy.  

Why should we, then, be so shocked that so many people are both confused and heterodox in their belief and practice?  

/Random Ramble 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

As part of my Master's program, we had a course in Mariology. I have to admit that I hadn't been very keen on taking this class-elected option, however, as I was to find, it was probably one of the most valuable courses in my graduate studies.  We studied all of the Marian dogmas, how they developed, and where they were found in scripture, whether explicitly or implicitly.

I have copied/pasted below the content of one of the exam essays written for that class. Although there is more to the dogma of the Assumption than is contained in this brief essay, you may also read the Apostolic Constitution which defined the dogma, Munificentissimus Deus

*        *        *

God willed that Mary be exempted from the rule of death and corruption because of her entirely unique privilege in which she overcame sin through the singular grace of her Immaculate Conception. This was an extremely unique privilege granted to Mary alone, as she was to, and did, bear the Son of God in the tabernacle of her body, requiring a particular purity. It is not a denial of the Redemption of Christ, but rather, more fully reveals who Jesus was; for only God could afford such a privilege to his creation. Mary was the new Ark of the Covenant, a living parallel to the Ark of the Old Testament which had been constructed of incorruptible wood. This was proleptic of the incorruptible body of Mary. Her freedom from sin is key in this dogma, for it is sin that gave us the corruption of the grave.

We recognize here, before we consider the fittingness of the Assumption, that the dogma is intimately tied in, not only with the Immaculate Conception, but also as Mary as the New Eve. She was a New Creation, prepared by God to be a vessel for Christ, and instead of Eve’s disobedience, she, through her obedience to the message of the Angel, was revealed to be the one to untie the knot of sin, making way for the Savior. She is the reversal of Eve and her sin, the preparation of the Savior of the World. There is a further connection that links Mary as the New Eve to her role as Co-redemptrix, referring to Genesis 3:15 as the Woman who crushed the head of the serpent. She was so united with her Son in the work of Salvation that it would stand to reason she would share in some of the privileges which would be consistent with her role, to which she gave her fiat at her very Annunciation.  "Let it be done to me according to Thy Word."

It is fitting, then, that Mary was Assumed into Heaven on several points. First, because she was not subject to sin, it would not follow that she should suffer the penalty of sin, that being the corruption of the grave. Secondly, given that she was the Mother of God, prepared to be a pure vessel, having contributed her flesh to His Incarnation, it is fitting that she should be like her Son, who also did not suffer corruption but resurrected in his glorified body. Mary’s privileges do not point to herself, but rather, more fully reveal God’s glory and the truth of the Incarnation. Her Assumption is fitting because it was not done out of merit for her, but reveals her consecration to God in the work of salvation, pointing to the miracle of the Incarnation and identity of Jesus as God’s Son.

The Assumption of Mary was defined after careful research into the history of the claim that Mary was Assumed into heaven, as it was found that it had been revealed by God and belonged to the deposit of the Faith.

It was actually requested by 400 Bishops, 80,000 priests and 8,000,000 laity. A statement was sent out to the Bishops to inquire whether they believed the dogma could be defined as being revealed by God and belonging to the deposit of the Faith. Of 1,181 Bishops, 1,164 signed the statement giving their acquiescence. The research was carefully undertaken by theologians considering testimonies, writings, scriptures, liturgical texts, etc.

The early Church Fathers spoke of the Assumption in their sermons and homilies, speaking of it as though it was something known to the people. From the sixth and seventh Centuries, there were liturgical celebrations commemorating the Assumption or Dormition of Mary, citing that she could not be held down by the bonds of death. Additionally in 1972 archaeological excavations in Gethsemane in Jerusalem revealed that there was evidence revealing liturgical veneration of Mary’s tomb and Assumption.

 St. John Damascene wrote that it was fitting that Christ’s mother should possess what belonged to her Son, that being freedom from the corruption of death.

St. Germanus of Constantinople wrote of Mary as the dwelling place of God, stating that it would not be fitting for her body to be corrupted.

 St. Albert the Great had amassed scriptures and other works, including theological reasoning, an noted that the Angels’ greeting to Mary as “full of grace” was exceptional, revealing that she was exempt from the four-fold curse of Evil.

It is clear that this dogma did not simply arise out of a moment of pious devotion, but rather, through archeological verification, scriptural indications, liturgical celebrations, theological reasoning and divine revelation which has been present from the time of the early Church. As Pius XII wrote in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, the Assumption of Mary was the culmination of her privileges in her preservation from the corruption of the tomb, and like her Son, she overcame death to be taken body and soul to Heaven where she sits as Queen at the right hand of her Son.

Luke 1:46-55:

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”

Saturday, August 14, 2010

God Loves Stupid Teenagers

It's time for "Story Time with Adoro"! Today's story is especially inane, so grab a cuppa-somethin', sit back and join me on a trip through memory lane.

Back in high school, although my best friend was sometimes a little wild, we really weren't bad kids and really didn't get into a lot of trouble. (Seriously, as an aside, she wasn't even with me the night I almost got arrested by the cop most kids called "Dick the pr*ck". And on that night, we were all the bookish-type kids who NEVER got in trouble. Um....Mom STILL doesn't know about that night. Or the story I'm about to tell. Both are filed under "stuff Mom doesn't need to know. Ever.")

So, anyway, now that we've established the fact that we were pretty normal kids, one beautiful Saturday afternoon, tired of staring at our own streets, we decided to head out to one of the nearby lakes. I was probably 16 at the time, she would have been 16 or 17, and had her license and her own car. Without telling anyone where we were going (other than "the lake) we headed the few miles out of town to Lake Mazaska. Because the beach was sure to be crowded and annoying, we decided it would be fun to hang out at the dock and watch the activity there. We really didn't care about swimming; we just wanted a place to hang out, talk, and maybe get our feet a little wet in the cool water.

Before long, we were helping boats in or giving them a friendly shove-off, joking with people here and there and just having a great time in general. One particular family came in to gas up and refill their cooler, and while chatting with them as they waited for their dad, they asked us if we liked water-skiing.  Both of us had recently learned how to ski and of course, loved it. Upon learning this, they invited us into the boat for an afternoon of skiing.

My friend looked at me, eyes shining at the prospect.  "Should we?"

Me, just as excited, said back, "SURE!"

As I recall...I'm not even sure I was wearing a swimsuit that day, not planning to swim. But what I had on was fine for the water and of course, this family insisted we wear our life jackets at all times. No problem; we'd been raised that way, too.

It was a wonderful afternoon of skiing, crashing, and near-drowning. I think I actually lowered the level of the lake a few inches because of all the water I took in that day. The oldest daughter on the boat, in helping me in after a particularly-bad crash, asked me, "Thirsty?"

"Not anymore!"

I agreed to sip on a pop (as we call carbonated beverages here in MN) anyway, if only to get the taste of the lake out of my mouth.

Late that afternoon, we returned to the shore, helped them pull their boat in and thanked them for inviting us to water-ski with them.  They told us that they'd be back the following Saturday (weather permitting) and we were welcome to join them again, about the same time we were there that day.  Again we thanked them and said we'd try to be there next Saturday, too.

As we returned home, my best friend commented how nice those people were, and she thought it was cool they weren't drinking or anything. They didn't have anything harder in their cooler than a Pepsi!  That very fact had made us both much more comfortable with the arrangement.

After awhile she asked me, " do you know those people?"


She glanced at me with a weird look on her face and turned her attention back to the road.  "How did you know those people? Did you  know they were going to be there today?"

"Um....I didn't know those people! I thought you did! I've never met them before today!"

This time we exchanged glances that were a mixture of shock, horror, and happy surprise. (Try doing THAT one in a mirror!).

"So..." she said, musing, "We just got into a boat with perfect strangers...."

"Yeah."  I mused silently on our stupidity.  "That was dumb."

"I thought you knew them!"

"Well, I thought YOU knew them!"

Hilarity erupted.

And, of course, we were back at the dock that following Saturday to join our new friends in one of the best summer sports on earth.

I think God loves children and stupid teenagers.

The End.

Disclaimer:   Kids, do NOT do what we did, although we only did what we did because we mistakenly thought the other person knew the strangers in question. We got very very lucky. No one knew where we were and if these had been bad people we would have probably ended up dead and washed up in a river somewhere.

Saturday Blog Quote

Please, Lord, teach us to blog again; but God, don't ever let us forget that we had blogger's block. 
~ inspired by Bill Wilson

(The original quote: "Please, Lord, teach us to laugh again; but God, don't ever let us forget that we cried."

Monday, August 09, 2010

Sacred or Profane?

When we as human beings consider Art, whether we recognize it or not, we are faced with two very fundamental questions.

Which question we ask reveals a great deal about us as individuals and in fact, may very well reveal our souls.

Secular art, that is, most especially that art that speaks of the physical world and the reality of humanity, even by its method of creation asks the fundamental question:

 "Where do the shadows fall?  Where does the shadow lie?" 

In that form of art, it begins with light and is darkened to reveal the shadows that give form and nuance to the subject.

Sacred Art, on the other hand, as in, most specifically, Iconography, begins in the darkness and asks the question,

"Where is the light?  From whence does the light emanate? How are we drawn to the light?" 

We should use this as a spiritual barometer. Are we most drawn to the shadows or to the light?

Do you know that it is IMPOSSIBLE to look at the shadows that encroach upon us when we have fixed our gaze upon the source of the light?

That is why the Saints, and Christ Himself, tells us to focus our gaze upon Him, and Him alone, for only if we focus on Him can we avoid the shadows that seek to trap us through misleading questions and lying shadows.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


I feel like such a hypocrite so much of the time.

In the last few years, I've had to give a few talks on Vocations, and did recently, once again.  Each time I've had more to add, more to say, better ways to express certain concepts, better ways to make certain points. Usually I'm working with other speakers and using their own talks for material, offering what I have to bolster their own messages.

It's a great exercise in Catholic unity, and always very interesting, but tonight I was reflecting on the information I've provided...and the reality of my own discernment.

When I go in front of a group, I try hard to make sure that what I have to present is appropriate to the ages in the audience; it's important to reach them where they are. For some, Vocation and discernment are new words that must be properly defined. Others are more advanced, and yet for still others, it is the culture of their family.

What I present is solid information and advice. Very little comes from me, and of that which does, it is a repeat of advice from others, long ago, that has resonated over the years and got my attention when I was ready for it. I present the advice of Saints, the advice of theology in general, the facts according to our world today, and the foundational necessity of prayer and openness to God's love and compassion...and His Call.

Yeah, I'm a hypocrite; I preach what I've struggled to follow, although I've done my best to follow it.  I preach and make it sound SO EASY to just follow God's will, when I know for a fact that for some, that Will is easy and for the rest of us it's an uphill inside-out battle that takes no prisoners.

Vocational discernment may be the most important thing a soul can enter into; but it might also be the hardest, heart-and-soul-ripping experience they'll ever face.

And I wish I could say it was all downhill from there, but I suspect that's only the beginning. Soon to make my own decision, I know that the real heartache hasn't even begun.

Advice to remember

Several years ago when working with a very difficult family that seemed to argue with everything I said (in misguided overprotection of their father who was Pastor of a local Baptist church), I remember apologizing, yet again, to the dear elderly Pastor. I believe the family was originally from the Chicago area, and they almost had an air of the young gangstas protecting the elder Patriarch, yet only daring to go so far. Every dealing I had with them, seriously, I waited for the racial slurs followed by gunshots; I could tell what those older sons were thinking about me, and they didn't understand that policy provisions had nothing to do with race.

I was doing my best.

It was a hot summer day as those sons got into my face threateningly and I did my best to appear unintimidated. I took care to direct my comments and assessments to the Pastor, the owner of the car, and for his part, he never raised his voice even as he disagreed with some of what I was saying while explaining what my company could and could not do.

Ironically, it is his words that often come back to me when I'm in a tough spot. Whether I feel like a hypocrite or whether I'm just trying to offer something up but failing miserably.

I remember vividly how I brushed my hair back, wiping the sweat away, as I gripped my clipboard, apologinzing to the Pastor.  "I'm so sorry about all this. I know it's really hard on you and it's not something easy to resolve to anyone's satisfaction."

He had been in the process of walking away, even somewhat angrily, but at those words he turned around, leaned towards me, looked me directly in the eye and said softly and authoritatively, counteracting the fighting words of his sons, "He never said it would be easy;  He only said He would be with us."

Indeed. It bears repeating; the truth echoes through eternity and has given me comfort in the darkest hours of the night, whether physical or spiritual.

"He never said it would be easy. He only said He would be with us." 

Yes, I'm a hypocrite. And yes, life is hard in general and vocational discernment sometimes makes it like some level of Hell. It ebbs and flows and sometimes God calls this or that soul to a more difficult path for reasons known only to Him.

Yes, I've done it under the watchful guidance of Jesus Himself and I have the bruises and scars to prove it. It is my hope that when I speak to groups about Vocations and discernment, that the lessons brought home to me are bearing fruit in their lives.

But still, every now and then I have to remember what that Preacher told me:  Jesus never promised it would be easy; He only promised He would be with us.


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Self-Hating Catholics

Earlier this week Cathy_of_Alex had a great post about Catholics with an Inferiority Complex. Her post reminded me of an incident I witnessed a few months ago.

Early this summer I had to attend a meeting related in part to my work at a parish. This meeting encompassed both Catholics and Protestants, and we met over lunch, which of course, involved saying grace.

As a firmly practicing Catholic, I am accustomed to saying grace in public, including making the Sign of the Cross, and even given the "mixed company", although it was led by a Lutheran, I of course did as usual. At the completion of the prayer, as is our custom, I again made the Sign of the Cross. A woman sitting across from me hastily did the same, seeming embarrassed to be doing so.  As she finished, she apologized to the Protestants at the table, "I guess I'm still a little Catholic..." and a couple other words of apology.

I was quite taken aback. After all, this woman was there representing a Catholic parish, and her position is one in religious education! Was she not actually Catholic? To my knowledge, her position requires that her religious faith be Catholic, consistent with her teaching role. So...why was she apologizing!

Really, I had no idea how to respond so I just burst out, "I LOVE being Catholic!" *insert big smile here*.  She stared at me balefully, and as I later learned, badmouthed me to the co-worker I was actually covering for that day.

This isn't the first time I've come across someone apologizing for being Catholic, and it won't be the last. The Protestants at our table didn't bat an eye at my making the Sign of the Cross; they obviously would expect me to do so.

So....what is there to be embarrassed about?

I can't figure it out.

Why do some Catholics so hate their faith that they are embarrassed to share it in the simplest of ways?  

Some, of course, don't know much about their beliefs due to the lacking catechesis over the last 50 years or more (even prior to Vatican II religious education was lacking), and so when in the presence of Protestants, may be afraid they'll be questioned. Clearly, this should not have been the case at this particular event I detailed above.

Some Catholics may fear debate, for they are not debaters by nature (I am not a debater myself so I understand) and may think that in "mixed company" they may be forced into a debate or perhaps made to look foolish.

Some Catholics avidly disagree with Catholic teaching and yet are held in by the "cultural Catholic" connection, much like that of the infamous Kennedy's or the, sadly, average Catholic in the pew who attends Sunday Mass on occasion "because it's what my parents did".

I suspect some of the fear and the "self-hating" comes from a misunderstanding of ecumenism.  Having often sat through deanery and other archdiocesan meetings, I constantly have heard of parish "leaders" demanding we become more like the Protestants, doing what they are doing to be "relevant", not realizing in the least that the Church is not called to be "relevant" but TRANSCENDENT.

"Relevance" is according to whim. "Transcendence" absorbs relevance, elevates it, and in the end, creates holiness without ever having to become profane.

I don't really have an explanation for self-hating Catholics. I can only offer the fact that I am saddened by such an attitude and hope that those who find the need to apologize for something as simple as making the Sign of the Cross in public and in the presence of Protestants do some real soul-searching and find their way to a good Catholic education class, maybe even seeking out a good RCIA program that truly passes on the eternal Truths of our Faith.

Jesus isn't made present among us every day in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass so that we may tuck our tails and apologize in embarrassment.

We are called to be Saints and Martyrs....not mangy curs. If you're going to act like a mangy cur and pledge shame for your "faith", then you aren't Catholic. Period.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Devotions Meme

Ironic Catholic tagged me for the latest Meme: One's 5 favorite devotions.

So, in no particular order:

1. Eucharistic Adoration. I belong to a parish with Perpetual Adoration and I am perpetually thankful for the chance to perpetually throw myself at Our Lord's feet on demand.

2. The Jesus Prayer:  ever since I learned it, I have found myself praying it constantly, especially in times of frustration, trouble, or absolute adoration (as in during the Consecration and Elevation at Mass)

3. The Sacred Heart of Jesus - I grew up with this devotion, left it forgotten as it was "Mom's" but experienced the Sacred Heart for myself one summer when I sought Christ...and He answered. It is a quiet, but profound devotion.

4. The Passion of Our Lord:  when I pray, I pray through the Passion. When I suffer, when I want to understand the hardship of life, I flee to the shadow of the Cross and embrace the bloody wood. Nothing else suffices. Give me Our Lord crowned with thorns, those thorns originally meant for my own flesh as punishment for my own sin, or give me nothing at all.

5.  Iconography:  I'm still learning and will be for a lifetime (God willing that I continue).  It is contemplative, forces one to live (and pray!) in the present, reveals all flaws, drawing one on to greater holiness with every step. It is a liturgical experience not just of the Creation narrative, but of liturgy itself, for it is a sacred ritual, intending to do what the Church does, meaning what the Church intends, opening a window to Heaven, and, deeply entering in.

** Please note that the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours are not devotions. They are Liturgy, and in the case of the Mass (especially every Sunday) it is NECESSARY.  Both the Mass and the LOH are the formal prayer of the Church. While I also pray the rosary as a devotion, it is the Liturgy of the Hours that supersedes it in importance in the life of prayer in the Church and the world.  This should suffice to explain why I listed neither in my 5 favorite devotions.   :-)  

I don't know who to tag as I think everyone has already done this one. So...tag thyself and note thy self-tagging in the combox!