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Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Joke's on Me!

Back in 1996, I was in the market for a handgun.

I'd graduated with my B.A. degree, had passed the Police Officers Standards and Training (POST) Boards, and knew that it was only a matter of time before some police department (hopefully) hired me. I needed to be able to practice and I wanted to practice and become intimately familiar with a handgun that wasn't just my own for random range recreation, but something that might be carried as a backup weapon, that of which would also be compatible with my likely duty ammo.

So it was that I demoed an HK .9mm, found it to be far more accurate than the .9mm Glocks we used in training, and decided I'd make it the love of my life (as far as saving it if necessary).  While I'll admit I REALLY wanted the Sig Sauer .45, since I couldn't afford that holy grail of weaponry, the HK was satisfactory enough.

Minnesota State Law required that I apply for a permit to purchase which was good for the period of one year. It was further required that I wait 24 (or was it 48?) hours after submitting the application. So it was that on the prescribed day, I went down to the Law Enforcement Center to pick up my approved permit to purchase the gun on hold for me at the local gun shop.

I went to the window, and as I was a Police Reserve Officer, saw a few Officers I knew who waved at me as they walked by.

Unfortunately, I was on a short schedule and had to return home, but when I arrived a friend asked to see my permit so I pulled it out of my purse to show him. Just before I handed it over, explaining the State Law and the year limit, I saw the date of expiration:  "April 1, 1996".

I burst out laughing as I handed it to my very confused friend for a gander, having finally realized the joke on me. (The next day I returned to the LEC for a replacement permit, and then purchased the gun.)

Given the disposition of my law enforcement career, I find this memory absolutely hilarious, especially as I recall badge number assigned to me when I was sworn in a few months later:  Badge #72.

  1. **   **  ** 

For those who need an explanation:

My permit to purchase expired on the day it was issued:  April 1, 1996.  [Sure you can buy a gun - NOT!]

My badge #72, received the day I was sworn in, corresponded to police code #10-72:  DOA.[Dead on Arrival]


ALMSGIVING! Mystic Monk Coffee!

You may have noticed that I added a Mystic Monk Coffee image to my sidebar.

If you click on the sidebar picture, you will be taken to their website where it will be your great [and decidedly non-penitential] pleasure to peruse their incredible selection of coffee - and purchase it. Your purchase assists these Carmelite Monks, for roasting coffee and selling it is their very livelihood. Even further, they are in the process of building a new Abbey all for the glory of God, to foster prayer to which they are called by God (involving praying for our souls!), and to encompass their growing number of Vocations. Praised be Jesus Christ!

Seriously, it is absolutely BRILLIANT to utilize this great gift of coffee from God to us, to evangelize the souls of coffee lovers everywhere and to cultivate more Vocations to religious life! [and coffee lover-ship}

Fr. Michael Mary recently informed me that they have added coffee subscriptions, for we willing addicts. (Although I do believe they also offer decaf options, for reasons I just don't understand) ;-), and you can go HERE to subscribe in order to have worry-free coffee coming to your house at the click of a mouse, every single month. Never run out of Mystic Monk Coffee again!

You know the old joke:

Two Novices both wanted a coffee while they prayed, so decided to ask their Superior for permission. The first asked, but was told no.

A little while later he spotted his friend sipping coffee and praying. "Why did the superior allow you to have coffee and not me?" he asked.

His friend replied, "Because you asked if you could drink coffee while you prayed, and I asked if I could pray while I drink coffee!"

So how 'bout it? Go get yourself some coffee prayed by Monks, and then you can pray while you drink coffee, too (AND, BONUS...YOU CAN DRINK COFFEE AND PRAY!)

DISCLAIMER: Yes, I DO receive kickbacks from your purchase, although I'd peddle this liquid gold for nothing because it's so good! The fact is, as my regular readers know, that my position at work does not go through the year, doesn't pay me enough but so far I have not found another job. I'm hoping a few purchases from my readers may benefit them with the gift of yumminess and me with the ability to pay this or that bill. MANY bloggers and websites are posting ads for Mystic Monk, so if you're in the market, the choice is yours who will benefit from your purchase - every click from a website will get the host a commission, no matter where you happen to be surfing. I am asking for your click to come from my site. And if you do...I thank you!  More do the Monks who have a LOT more to lose!

Lenten Prayer and Fasting Requests

Lent is a time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving - we are called to do all three, and can offer all together or each in part for particular intentions. Unfortunately although both of these requests were intended by the senders to be posted on Wednesday (yesterday) I was unable to do so - but it's NEVER too late to take up a rosary or penance and leap into battle!

 My friend, Andychrism, is calling for others to join her and her friend in fasting every Wednesday for Life. This is what she has to say:

My dear friend, Rozanne, will be praying and fasting every Wednesday in order to open the hearts of these mothers to the alternatives to abortion. I will be praying and fasting every Thursday to help heal the women who got on that bus because they felt they had no other choice.

Rozanne and I feel called to do this because we are Texans. Roe v. Wade was a Texas case. The first abortuary opened in Dallas. We Texans have a responsibility to this country for the wounds inflicted upon our sisters in the name of Choice. We are the state that has begun 40 Days for Life and we need to do even more. Will you join with two Texans in fasting and praying once a week for life? There are seven days in the week, pick any one.

Our fast is simple: bread and broth for the day with a big serving of compassionate prayer. If you can't fast from food, fast from something else. Help us spread the word. Join us. We can end the need for abortion facilities by providing more than one choice.

Go to her post and show her your solidarity and LOVE with these struggling mothers and their unborn children!

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On to Prayer:  I also received the following exhortation from John-Paul Deddens of Pray More Novenas this week: a novena for the Holy Father!

84,000 Novenas for the Pope's 84th Birthday!
Will you join me in giving the Pope a huge gift for his birthday? Pope Benedict XVI is celebrating his birthday on April 16th and I'm joining up with to get 84,000 people to pray a novena for the Pope's 84th birthday.

On April 8th, we will begin praying for nine days leading up to and ending on the Papa Benedict's birthday. The Pope prays for us everyday so it's time to return the gift to him on the anniversary of his birth.

84,000 Novenas is a lot! So, I'm going to need your help. I want everyone who reads this blog to do the following to help with this birthday gift!
+ Sign up here:
+ Join the facebook event and invite your friends here:
+ If you have a website, post about it there!
+ Email your friends and family and get them praying too!
I'm sure the Pope will love that we are all praying for him! Please help us reach our goal of 84,000 novenas for the Pope!
Remember to sign up to pray here:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Author Unknown: A Poem on the Passion of Our Lord

 Formerly ascribed to Lactantius (source:

Whoever you are who approach, and are entering the precincts of the middle of the temple, stop a little and look upon me, who, though innocent, suffered for your crime; lay me up in your mind, keep me in your breast. I am He who, pitying the bitter misfortunes of men, came hither as a messenger of offered peace, and as a full atonement for the fault of men. Here the brightest light from above is restored to the earth; here is the merciful image of safety; here I am a rest to you, the right way, the true redemption, the banner of God, and a memorable sign of fate.

It was on account of you and your life that I entered the Virgin's womb, was made man, and suffered a dreadful death; nor did I find rest anywhere in the regions of the earth, but everywhere threats, everywhere labours.

First of all a wretched dwelling in the land of Judæa was a shelter for me at my birth, and for my mother with me: here first, amidst the outstretched sluggish cattle, dry grass gave me a bed in a narrow stall. I passed my earliest years in the Pharian regions, being an exile in the reign of Herod; and after my return to Judæa I spent the rest of my years, always engaged in fastings, and the extremity of poverty itself, and the lowest circumstances; always by healthful admonitions applying the minds of men to the pursuit of genial uprightness, uniting with wholesome teaching many evident miracles: on which account impious Jerusalem, harassed by the raging cares of envy and cruel hatred, and blinded by madness, dared to seek for me, though innocent, by deadly punishment, a cruel death on the dreadful cross.

And if you yourself wish to discriminate these things more fully, and if it delights you to go through all my groans, and to experience griefs with me, put together the designs and plots, and the impious price of my innocent blood, and the pretended kisses of a disciple, and the insults and strivings of the cruel multitude; and, moreover, the blows, and tongues prepared for accusations.

 Picture to your mind both the witnesses, and the accursed judgment of the blinded Pilate, and the immense cross pressing my shoulders and wearied back, and my painful steps to a dreadful death. Now survey me from head to foot, deserted as I am, and lifted up afar from my beloved mother.

Behold and see my locks clotted with blood, and my blood-stained neck under my very hair, and my head drained with cruel thorns, and pouring down like rain from all sides a stream of blood over my divine face.

Survey my compressed and sightless eyes, and my afflicted cheeks; see my parched tongue poisoned with gall, and my countenance pale with death. Behold my hands pierced with nails, and my arms drawn out, and the great wound in my side; see the blood streaming from it, and my perforated feet, and blood-stained limbs.

Bend your knee, and with lamentation adore the venerable wood of the cross, and with lowly countenance stooping to the earth, which is wet with innocent blood, sprinkle it with rising tears, and at times bear me and my admonitions in your devoted heart.

Follow the footsteps of my life, and while you look upon my torments and cruel death, remembering my innumerable pangs of body and soul, learn to endure hardships, and to watch over your own safety. These memorials, if at any time you find pleasure in thinking over them, if in your mind there is any confidence to bear anything like my sufferings), if the piety due, and gratitude worthy of my labours shall arise, will be incitements to true virtue, and they will be shields against the snares of an enemy, aroused by which you will be safe, and as a conqueror bear off the palm in every contest.

If these memorials shall turn away your senses, which are devoted to a perishable world, from the fleeting shadow of earthly beauty, the result will be, that you will not venture, enticed by empty hope, to trust the frail enjoyments of fickle fortune, and to place your hope in the fleeting years of life.

But, truly, if you thus regard this perishable world, and through your love of a better country deprive yourself of earthly riches and the enjoyment of present things, the prayers of the pious will bring you up in sacred habits, and in the hope of a happy life, amidst severe punishments, will cherish you with heavenly dew, and feed you with the sweetness of the promised good.

Until the great favour of God shall recall your happy soul to the heavenly regions, your body being left after the fates of death. Then freed from all labour, then joyfully beholding the angelic choirs, and the blessed companies of saints in perpetual bliss, it shall reign with me in the happy abode of perpetual peace.

Monday, March 28, 2011


This afternoon I was in the Adoration chapel at my parish, spending a wee bit o' time in prayer, when some movement on the floor caught my attention. I peered at it for awhile, trying to determine what it was - an elderly box elder bug? No; as it got closer, I saw that it was a spider exploring the area under the pews.

Uh oh. I looked up at Jesus, then back at the floor. Where was it going? I didn't want it crawling on me...or anyone else, either. The chapel was beginning to fill, slowly, as people arrived for Confessions and Mass.

I looked back at the floor and saw that the creepy creature had moved into the aisle. It was close enough to me..I could stand up and step on it, but I wondered if that would be right. Even though I'm terrified of spiders and knew I'd continue to be distracted as long as I saw the thing, I didn't know if I could kill in cold blood right there before Our Lord's True Presence.

So it was, as I had my interior debate, that I was watching the spider as it wandered the aisle, and I glanced periodically up towards the altar, wondering about the morality of murdering a spider in the chapel - a spider which had not yet actively threatened my personal space.

Then a man left the confessional and as he passed before the Blessed Sacrament, he paused and turned to bow, and in so doing, unknowingly stepped on and squished the spider.

Thank you, Jesus!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Divine Pedagogy: Paths of Love

"Jesus, through the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear."
~ paraphrase of Gaudium et spes, 22.

In Pastoral Theology, we covered several principles, one of which was termed the "Divine pedagogy". Many examples are given throughout scripture, for as we know, Jesus entered history "in the fullness of time." Sometimes people inquire why Jesus did not come earlier, or why Adam and Eve were not immediately redeemed. Why all the suffering and the journey in the desert and the falling away, the repentance, the covenants, the prophets, and all that drama?

Why? Divine pedagogy. Had God redeemed Adam and Eve immediately, there would have been no real meaning in salvation. It would have cost them nothing, it would not have penetrated their intellects and wills, and God would not have been glorified - not as He is now, having wisely, knowing His creation through and through by teaching humanity through experience the necessity of the immolation of the Christ for our salvation.

Pope Benedict, in his second book, Jesus of Nazareth - Holy Week, explains this principal of Divine pedagogy as a "path of love"; a sort of "flexibility" characteristic of God in His relationship with His people:

This "flexibility" on God's part is utterly characteristic of the paths that he treads with his people, as recounted for us in the Old Testament - he waits for man's free choice, and whenever the answer is "no", he opens up a new path of love. He responds to Adam's "no" with a new overture toward man. He responds to Babel's "no" with a fresh initiative in history - the choice of Abraham. When the Israelites ask for a King, it is initially out of spite toward God, who prefers to reign directly over his people. Yet in the promise to David he transforms this spite into a path leading directly to Christ, David's Son. (p. 121)

Pope Benedict XVI is speaking here of how God instructs, and of course, of God's faithfulness to Himself, thus faithfulness to man, whom He created and intended from eternity to redeem in the proper hour. Yet clearly, the people were not prepared and God offered several different "paths of love". Does this indicate that God wavered or was inconsistent? Does it mean that God predestined souls to do certain things in order to bring about salvation? Or can we look more deeply than that?

What it means is that God knows his children, and knows the choices men freely make, contrary to His Will. The different paths are a deep revelation of the Father's mercy and desire for man to fully understand God and himself, and therefore, to comprehend the amazing gift of life and eternal salvation.

Throughout the Old Testament, the choices, good and bad (mostly bad, it seems) made by men opened up new paths, fully revealing the woundedness of human nature throughout the centuries. It was only in "the fullness of time", when man was ready for the message of salvation, that Jesus would be conceived, Incarnate, in order to take on the ransom to be paid for our sins. God is immutable; He never changes and cannot change, yet, as Pope Benedict XVI points out, He teaches, and He waits for man to make a free choice to follow His Divine Will.

God has always been a Good Shepherd, who watches out for His sheep. The symbolism throughout our history reveals the loving heart of God, who knows we will wander even as He seeks to protect us from danger - like a shepherd gathering wayward lambs. Wayward lambs that are eventually tamed, matured, and come to know the gentle voice of their master.

Jesus used this same Divine pedagogy, utilizing parables, symbolism familiar to the people, and even when direct, prepares them by reminding them of their history. A prime example of this can be found in John 6, the Bread of Life Discourse. Jesus begins by speaking of the history of the Israelites wandering in the desert. He hearkens back to Exodus, to Deuteronomy, to Numbers, reminding them of the manna from Heaven that saved their mortal lives. From there He calls Himself the "Bread of Life" that brings eternal life, and following, makes the connection to the New and everlasting Covenant: that man must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to enter eternal life.

And still....they walked away. All but the Twelve. That wasn't the end, though, was it? It was through those Twelve that the authority of Christ continues to reign on this earth through Apostolic Succession: a path of love, a conduit of mercy, continuing to lead souls through the Cross into eternal life.

Jesus as the Living Water

Today's readings, the 3rd Sunday of Lent, cycle A, are especially pertinent to this theme of Divine pedagogy.

Ex 17:5-6
The LORD answered Moses,
“Go over there in front of the people,
along with some of the elders of Israel,
holding in your hand, as you go,
the staff with which you struck the river.
I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb.
Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it
for the people to drink.”
Note the symbolism in the above reading, the end of verse 5 and beginning of verse 6:  the staff which Moses used to strike the river (turning it to blood as a sign to the Pharaoh) was the same staff used to strike the rock.

Later on, (not from today's readings) in Numbers 20:7-8, the people again thirsted, and in response to Moses prayers on their behalf, the glory of the Lord appeared to him and Aaron, and ordered Moses to speak to the rock in the presence of the people, and the rock would yield its waters. Instead, Moses raised his staff and STRUCK the rock - twice. The water indeed gushed forth for the people in spite of Moses disobedience, and Moses was punished - he would not live to see his people enter the promised land.

Note well that God ordered Moses only to SPEAK to the rock, and the water would come forth to slake the thirst of the people, and this is a very important passage:  this is a step in God's teaching, in preparing people for the message they were not yet ready to receive.

Moving ahead, then, to today's Gospel, the woman at the well:

Jn 4:13-15
Jesus answered and said to her,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

One of the themes of Lent is this theme of water: of baptism leading to the Redemption. In looking back through today's first reading from Exodus, the connection to Numbers 20, and finally, the Gospel of Jesus as the Living Water, we are being drawn inexorably into the Paschal Mystery.

The Pathways of Divine Pedagogy: 

Why are these readings significant? What connects them? Did you catch the symbolism as you read? What was it pointing to?  Who is the Rock?

Keep in mind that there are many layers and senses of scripture. What was being taught at that time to the people was proper to what they were able to receive and relevant to them in their time. Yet there was also another layer, that which we can see today given the totality of Divine Revelation.

Let us therefore review:

To slake the people's thirst, God ordered Moses to strike the rock with the same rod with which he struck the river and turned it to blood. God said he would be standing before him on that rock, and indeed, water gushed forth to quench all who thirsted. Later, in Numbers, they thirsted again and God ordered Moses to speak to the rock. Instead, Moses struck the rock - twice - and was punished.


The Rock stands for Christ, who was crucified (struck) ONCE for our salvation. Jesus later called Peter "the Rock", which hearkens also to this verse, which in proper New Testament context reveals the authority given to Peter as the Vicar of Christ. (Again...layers of teaching within scripture.)

There is more here: at the Crucifixion, Jesus's side is pierced by a lance, and out flowed blood and water. Blood reminiscent of the river, and the blood that freed the Israelites from slavery, water reminiscent of the water from the rock - both struck by the same staff.

God ordered Moses to speak to the rock: this points to Sacramental authority, of the words of consecration uttered by the ordained Priesthood calling upon the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. (John 6).

And finally, the woman at the well in John 4, the woman asking for her thirst to be quenched, and Jesus Himself as the Living Water. The woman, in part, represents the Church, born out of the side of Christ, all of whom are thirsty, all whom hunger for eternal life, all of whom are fallen yet seek for what is lacking to be fulfilled.

And in this revelation, it is not only the identity of the Messiah that is revealed, but we are revealed to ourselves in the face of God and the mystery of His love, and seek to follow Him to our highest calling.

May the Lord reveal to us all which path of love we are to follow, and give us the strength to remain faithful to His Will in every moment. We thirst, O Lord, we thirst....

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Iconography and the Spiritual Life

Outside the wind is blustering, a cold rain is falling and promises to turn into a sloppy mess long before we see the light of day again. But inside, I am blessed to be warm and relatively comfortable as I brush layer after layer of paint on an icon I recently began.

My intent this Lent was to spend more time reading and working on my icons, both things I truly love. Yet this evening at Adoration and through Mass, I could barely focus. I was hungry (although I had not fasted today), I had a lot on my mind, many worries, doubts and in a sense, on the edge of panic. At one point I was near tears, yet thankful I could bring all of that to prayer.

I wondered, though, if I'd be able to focus after dinner, or if my intent to work on my icon would not come to fruition.

Finally, though, I sat down and put my hand to the brush and touched paint to the icon, knowing I must keep this promise, even if only for a short time; it is a promise I made to myself, and more importantly, to God. You see, time spent writing icons is time passed in prayer.

Iconography can be very intimate, like spending time with a dear friend. 

As one should do when reading about the Saints, or trying to understand their writings, so should one do when working on their image in an icon:  converse with them. Pray to them, ask the Holy Spirit for insights into their holiness, into God's grace, and understanding His will. Perhaps there's a reason that *this* particular icon is the one chosen: what is the significance of that? What is one supposed to learn from that Saint or depiction of the Mother of God or scene from scripture?

Even in silence where the prayer doesn't flow in words, there is a divine intimacy, the sense of co-creating with God and the understanding that it is a great and humbling gift to be allowed to enter into such a task.

For lent, though, it seems that this discipline is quite proper, for to write an icon parallels the spiritual life. It is supposed to be done perfectly, and yet, because we are fallen creatures we make mistakes, time and time again. I might go over a line and have to swipe away the extra paint, or perhaps I lean into a fresh spot, destroying it. The mistakes can't be erased, exactly; they remain, there, even if covered by layers upon layers of paint, those flaws become a part of the icon.

The only thing one can do is to try to learn from those mistakes, try to correct them as well as possible, and move on, resolving to not make the same mistake again.

We all know how that goes, though, don't we?

Every so often I pick up the icon I wrote last summer, and I see almost nothing but mistakes. So it is as I continue to work on new icons: mistake after mistake. Others may see something different, but I see smudges and ridges and an inability to stay in the lines.

Ah...such is my spiritual life.

The fact is, iconography, especially perfecting the sacred art, is no easier and no more difficult than growing in holiness; one reflects the other. 

I can already see that some of the mistakes I have made have been out of impatience; trying to race ahead to my own little "goal" for this sitting, even though the paint had not yet dried. That tends to be how I make mistakes in real life, too, and where I falter instead of advancing in holiness.

Lent is perfect for recognizing that kind of habitual fault, for now is the time to step back and decide that it doesn't have to be that way. I can grow in the virtue of patience. Just as I work to increase my skill in painting, so I can, at the same time, grow in practicing the virtues. Perhaps, in the end, there will be fewer mistakes.

When one begins an icon, there is a blank slate. Iconographers through the centuries have understood that connection between personal virtue and the end result. When they are complete one icon, having been through a spiritual process all along, they can put that one aside and, realizing they are not yet perfected, pick up another and begin again.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

St. Joseph and the Liturgy

I've long had a deep devotion to St. Joseph, but I've never considered him in the context of Sacred Liturgy. Reginaldus at The New Theological Movement has posted a brilliant reflection on St. Joseph as a model for priests, especially with regard to the Mass.

The following is an excerpt from the post which struck me as especially astute (emphasis mine):

The need for manly devotion in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy

The feminization of the Holy Mass is a serious problem in the modern Church. It is not that the Liturgy must be utterly masculine, especially if this be understood in such a way as to exclude women from participating (remembering, of course, that the truest and most active participation is spiritual and internal). Nevertheless, there is a growing recognition of the fact that the sanctuary is becoming a place where men (and boys) are losing their manhood and becoming more like women – this may then have the odd counter-effect of making some women act like men, but that is a problem for another article.

What are some indications of this feminization of the Liturgy and, together with it, of the men (and boys) who serve at the Sacred Rites? Consider, for instance, the hyper-relational emphasis of the modern Liturgy (rather, of the Liturgy as it is often celebrated in modern times). The focus is all too often turned from sacrifice to salutation, from worship to welcome. Obviously, greeting and welcome have their proper place in the Liturgy, but adoration and sacrifice must not be ignored. This movement from offering adoration through sacrifice to greeting and welcome is certainly an indication of a movement from a masculine to a feminine perspective – not that all men want to offer sacrifice, nor that all women want to build community; but these are certainly underlying drives in each gender, respectively. Nor do we say that one is bad and the other good – it only need be emphasized that the male priest (and the altar boys) are very often pressured to deny the masculine sacrificial focus in order to accentuate a more feminine form of community-building. Indications of this would be the use of modern hymns and modern musical instruments, increased “commentary” and ad lib speaking, the placement of the altar closer to the nave, and (above all else) facing the people throughout the Liturgy.

I couldn't agree more! Please go on and read the rest so as to get the full context.

This section was especially striking to me because I've touched on this topic before and of course with my own growing understanding of sacred liturgy, it is one of the modern problems that absolutely makes me crazy when it comes up at deanery meetings and the like. All too often, it seems like the (generally female) laity "in charge" of various parishes are in favor of stripping beauty, making us "more like other faith traditions" and push female "participation" in various liturgical roles.

Sadly, instead of highlighting the proper gifts of women, it seems to turn well-meaning and faithful women in to puppets for those with an agenda of power and the result, which we witness every day, is the "feminization" Reginaldus describes.

The reality is that the Mass NEVER needed to be "feminized".

Certainly some abuses needed to be curtailed and some development needed to occur, as it has, organically throughout the centuries, but the average person never foresaw the destruction and the "wrath of woman" that has done so much damage to our sanctuaries, our architecture, our patrimony...and therefore our sacred liturgy.

The Church as Bride

The Liturgy is, quite literally, the face of the Church. When we speak to non-Catholics, they know us by the Mass we attend every Sunday, and maybe every day. I've known many people who have attended Catholic weddings, funerals, and that was their only real contact with Catholicism. When they look at a Catholic, they are less likely to see our beliefs, but recall vividly our liturgy.

(Never mind there shouldn't be that kind of disconnect - but there it is.)

The Church is already feminine - deeply, deeply feminine. The Church as a whole is the Bride of Christ, and Holy Communion, the consummation of that Holy and Eternal Marriage. In the Mass, the Bridegroom offers Himself as an immolation for His Bride, and the Bride approaches, open to receive Him and offer fully of herself in sacred union.

This is why many Cathedrals and other churches built in the traditional style have a canopy (Baldacchino) over the high altar; it represents this spousal relationship between God and His people.

Look around you in a beautiful parish:  there is stained glass full of symbolism pointing to the purity of the Saints, the sacrifices they made, colors representing universal understanding of things like martyrdom, betrayal, royalty, purity, chivalry...the list goes on. The light of the sun falling through the glass is an adornment upon the Bride, reflected through the jewels created by human hands for the Glory of God. The statues of Mary, Jesus and the Saints are breathtaking, often adorned with floral arrangements, and established within a parish to give proper significance to them in relation to the people, the parish, and the Church as a whole. These things point to eternity and speak volumes of the sensuality and intuitiveness proper to the nature of women.

The clothing worn by the priests and altar servers are made often by women - nuns who have given their lives to their Lord -Brides in the individual sense, with Him, laying their lives down in sacrifice proper to a spouse. The chausables from any time in history therefore have a woman's touch, a sense of beauty that both pleases the eye and guides one to meditate upon eternity.

Consider the architecture of a great Cathedral or beautiful Church, and compare it to the beauty of a woman, perhaps as described in the Song of Songs. People of many faiths, and none at all, visit Catholic Cathedrals, Basilicas, and Churches as tourists, in awe of the magnificence.  One cannot help, when entering these buildings, but to recognize the feminine nature of our ancient decor.

And then contrast it with the more "feminized" buildings, vestments, and "art" of the modern culture - and wonder if someone drank too much kool-aid and decided to take up the hobby of the destruction of beauty.

The Masculinity of the Priesthood

As Reginaldus discusses, St. Joseph is the epitome of masculine worship. He is a protector, he knows about sacrifice, suffering, and in all that, was a compliment to his spouse and a father to Our Lord.

The nature of the priesthood is both one of service and sacrifice. There is a hard practicality to that sacred Vocation which is informed by the feminine nature of the Church as a whole, yet reinforced with a solid foundation so as to stand as a bulwark against the winds that try to buffet her about.

The Church needs BOTH of these natures, the masculine and feminine, in order to bear fruit, and do so abundantly.

The disorder we've been both witness to and suffered from in the last 50 years or so has confused the nature of the liturgy and has caused great divisions among the faithful. I truly believe that this is one of the reasons John Paul II wrote the Theology of the Body, and that this series of Wednesday Audiences was the harbringer of Pope Benedict XVI's liturgical reforms.

I have no solutions to offer, but post this only as an observation. I don't speak for any particular faction within the Church, but only as a faithful Catholic woman who has found freedom in the privilege of being a woman through understanding the true nature of the Church and her relationship to her head, the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

St. Joseph...pray for us

Thursday, March 17, 2011

To Amend My Life, Amen!

Have you ever pondered the wording of the Act of Contrition, we pray in Confession, “I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, do penance, and amend my life. Amen.”

I have, time and time again, especially if I’ve just confessed the same laundry list of sins for the 100th time. I’ve even confessed THIS problem to the priest with a fiery statement, “I am NEVER going to commit that sin again! I do not want to have to confess it again!”

Of course, at the time, I meant it with all my soul (or so I hoped), and I further hoped that by stating it within the context of the Sacrament, it would be all the more true, and take on more weight in my own memory and intention to “amend my life. Amen!"

I recall, though, that when I stated those vehement words, the gentle rebuke of the priest who expressed hope that certainly I could do better in the future, to take care not to lose hope should I fall again…and again…and again. He reminded me that’s why we had the Sacrament of Confession; because we are weak and in need of God’s grace.

Recently, as part of my Lenten practices, I have been trying to spend more time in Lectio Divina and I am focusing, of course, on Our Lord’s Passion. Although I started with Luke 22:39 (Jesus’ Agony in the garden), in comparing that account with that of the other gospels, I also found myself meditating on the event previous to His Agony: Peter’s vehement, passionate declaration that even though others would fall away, he never would.

Matthew 26:31-35:
Then Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away because of me this night for it is written: I will strike the shepherd....

“Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered. But after I am raised up I will go before you to Galilee. Peter declared to him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away. Jesus said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.

Read the passage again, paying attention to the bold: Peter, in his zeal, in his deep love for Jesus, in his heart converted and dedicated to the Son of God, spoke truthfully when he claimed he would never fall away. The idea was absolutely repulsive to him, and clearly, his intent was absolute loyalty. Absolute faith. Absolute trust.

Jesus knew better, though, didn't He? He knew what Peter would do, and in revealing that Peter would deny him, Jesus was not chastizing, but spoke gently and with great love. He knew that this, too must be.

We know that Jesus' prediction came to pass, for indeed, Peter denied Jesus three times, stating that he did not know Him.

Luke 22:60-63 :

But Peter said, Man, I do not know what you are saying. And immediately while he was still speaking, a cock crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter, and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

It had to happen this way; Peter had to learn the depth of his weakness.

So must we all.

When we go to Confession, or even in private prayer swear we will never committ a certain sin again, or if we are on fire for our Faith, vow that we will "never fall away, even if others do", we are forgetting who we are. Indeed, such zeal is laudable and even necessary, for we should all be so fired up with love for God!

Yet, as Jesus knows, fall we will, not once, not even just three times, but many.

I love the passage from Luke. Peter hears the cock crow just as he's stated his third, most adamant denial of Christ, and this sound brings him back to Himself. He looks up to see Jesus gazing at him, and recalls the words of Our Savior, and realizes...Jesus knew. And He still went to the Cross...for him.

Jesus didn't have to say anything; Peter was able to recognize the depths of his own weakness and in his grief, "he went out and wept bitterly."

Have we not done the same thing ourselves, in recognition of our weakness? In recognition that without His grace, we cannot overcome our sins?

We promise Him we will stand by Him, but eventually, we all fall and must get back up.

The other lesson I like to take from Peter's denials is this:  if Peter had not been following Jesus so closely, and trying to hard to live up to the promise he had made, to not fall away like the others, he would not have been in a position to deny Jesus.

In other words, Peter entered the battle. He braved the darkness, the hostility of the crowds, risking recognition even as he faltered. Yes, he fell, but had he not fallen, he would not have been able to recognize the depth of his own need, and he therefore would not have been so quick to respond when he sighted Jesus on the shore after His Resurection.

He knew Christ because he risked everything to follow Him, including failure! In fact, it was in his very darkest failure that he found such a deep encounter with Divine Mercy, culminating for Peter personally in his three confessions of love upon the the shore.

Each time we go to Confession, we should remember that we are entering into Love, and in so doing, by admitting our own faults, our sins, our moral failures, we are at the same time confessing a far greater love for God than for our sins.

St. Peter...pray for us!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Accepting the Cross

"Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."

~ Jesus, Jn 12:31-32

Lenten Lesson 2: 

"In his self-offering on the Cross, Jesus, as it were, brings all the sin of the world deep within the love of God and wipes it away. Accepting the Cross, entering into fellowship with Christ, means entering the realm of transformation and expiation."

 ~ Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Holy Week

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tree of Life

"See how the Cross stands revealed as the Tree of Life"
~ Antiphon 1, Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours for 1st Sunday of Lent

Lenten Lesson #1:

Loving Jesus means loving the Cross - whichever one you're given - and embracing it without complaint.

** Photo: Tree of Life, Sacred Heart Chapel, Cathedral of St. Paul, MN.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Brushes With Fame

Every so often, people speak of their brushes with fame.

I've had a few of my own through various jobs or volunteer positions and thankfully, am not exactly disposed to being "star-struck". As it turns out, that's a good thing, but of course, that's not to say I haven't made a total idiot out of myself.

Then again...that kind of thing tends to be on the celeb-side of the aisle, if one pays attention to the paparazzi.

Several years ago I had a friend who, for a time, traveled in circles that brought her into contact with many celebrities, from athletes to movie stars. She recalled going out on a double date with a friend, and her part was being set up with an NFL player.  As she told me, "Decent guy...but...dumb as a box of rocks."

At another party, she told me, a friend pulled her aside and excitedly told her that Emilio Estevez wanted to meet her. My friend wasn't a fan, but she went out of regard for her hostess and respect for her friend and suffered the introduction.  "Nice to meet you" she said to Estevez...and walked away. Apparently he stared after her in complete shock as she left him standing. She wasn't into adoration of movie stars so returned to the friends with whom she'd arrived.

None of my encounters have been so entertaining. 

When I was in college, I had to work security for a few shows:  the Freddy Jones Band, the BoDeans, and Cheap Trick.

I can tell you this:  the Freddy Jones Band was very cool and down to earth, as were their roadies.  The BoDeans were jerks who thought they have made it (and yet few know who they are outside of Chicago -both then and now) and their roadies were even worse.  (I had direct encounters with their roadies that I wish I could forget).

And....I met the lead singer of Cheap Trick before the show while he was looking for a restroom on a tour around the premises.

Some months or so after that, maybe a year, I was plainclothes security for Maya Angelou and although she didn't meet with fans or sign autographs, she invited her security backstage to thank us, so we all had the opportunity to greet her personally.

As I shook her hand and said something inane about the pleasure of hearing her speak, she looked at me, smiled and said, "Oh, how pretty you are!"

*blush*  "Thank you!"

It seems, though, that my most interesting encounters aren't publishable.  

When I was in EMT training I met a Blues celebrity in the ER, and we had a heyday chatting with him. Only a few weeks prior, I'd encountered the man in a local club with his band and really enjoyed his music. It was a joy, therefore to meet him in person and find him to be such an affable sort, albeit the circumstances were not so happy for him.  I remember wanting to go home and tell other friends (also fans) that I'd met him...and not being able to do so, because doing so would break confidentiality. 

There's yet another, and this one, not so positive in the end:

Several years ago, while I was working in insurance, I had a customer who claimed to be a past-member of a famous band. At the time, I was unfamiliar with the group and because he was clearly a criminal, we passed him off as "full of it" anyway. As it was, even if he was a celebrity, past or present, it was clear he was lying to us and we wouldn't have handled his claim any differently.

In the end, we verified fraud and denied his claim, with many checks and balances in place. In fact, shortly before I left my position, I received a call from another insurance company checking on an NICB (National Insurance Crime Bureau)  hit, and told him to send me an immunity letter so that I could send him the file. Without that letter I couldn't say much but I did tell him to investigate the claim completely.

I can't say much about the investigation or the guy, but I recall him, in a deposition, telling us about his time with the band, and he's one I remember well, personally, because he was a funny guy, he matched the "character" he portrayed, and he reminded the co-worker who transcribed his initial recorded statement of a SNL sketch - an image that has never left my mind.

Today I heard a song by a band that sounded familiar, so I looked them up. As soon as I saw the name, I recalled my customer so did a little research.

And you know what?

By golly, he was telling the TRUTH in that case! My customer actually WAS a member of that group!

Dang it. He had talent...a real gift. He shoulda stuck with it.

Fraud didn't pay well a-tall.

We all make choices, don't we?

And there, but for the grace of God...go any of us.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ash Wednesday and the Entrance into Lent

What is it about Ash Wednesday ashes?

For days afterwards, I am rubbing my forehead.

The priest who gave me ashes yesterday was very deliberate, as always, and the pressure of his thumb was consistent, drawing the Sign of the Cross out as far as it would go, even into my hairline.

I was raised not to wipe off the ashes, but to leave them because the very discomfort of their presence itself was a penance. Our foreheads, whether exposed or covered by bangs are sensitive to the touch and when something is there, we tend to feel it.

As I child, I recall trying to surreptitiously trying to rub or scratch off the ashes for not only did they crumble into my eyes, but I could feel them there, like a big, unwelcome sticker placed upon my forehead like a mean joke that could not be undone. In my innocent and therefore sensitive state, those ashes drove me crazy.

As an adult, it became easier, and I've found that the hardness and insensitivity of my forehead has grown consistently with the calluses that have gradually taken over my heart and soul over the years.

After I was "ashed" around mid-day yesterday, I had no problem with the ashes - they did not disturb me, and by nightfall, they were still there - noticed intellectually, but not through sensitivity.

It has been my custom for years to allow the ashes to remain overnight, as a reminder when I first awake. If they are not on my pillowcase, at least then I hope to be startled by them in the bathroom mirror and wash them off then as the first act of my day - it is symbolic. So was my custom, in spite of my faithless state, carried on this morning.

All day long, though, even though I'd scrubbed my forehead, I "felt" the presence of the ashes, like Lady MacBeth trying to rub out the blood upon her hands. Over and over again I've rubbed at my forehead, as if they are still there, as if my sin is revealed to all. All day long (and this will go on for longer), the weight of the ashes remain, marking me in a way invisible to others, yet tangible to me...and to God.

We all carry the weight of guilt upon our souls and for me, I carry it on my forehead like the mark of Caine; and here I merge with him and with Lord and Lady MacBeth, pondering the deep psychology of guilt as presented by Shakespeare, but revealed in the common Ashes we receive at our entrance into Lent.

MacBeth, Act II, Scene I:

Lord MacBeth:

Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but(45)
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,

Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.
Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going,(50)
And such an instrument I was to use.
Mine eyes are made the fools o’ the other senses,
Or else worth all the rest. I see thee still,
And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
Which was not so before. There's no such thing:(55)
It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to mine eyes. Now o'er the one half-world
Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
The curtain'd sleep; witchcraft celebrates
Pale Hecate's offerings; and wither'd Murder,(60)
Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,
Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace,
With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design
Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,
Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear(65)
Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
And take the present horror from the time,
Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives;
Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives. A bell rings.
I go, and it is done: the bell invites me.(70)
Hear it not, Adoro, for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven, or to hell.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Neither Ashes Nor Cross

Usually I look forward to Lent, but...not this year.

This year, I'm not ready, and the fact that it is late is a great mercy to me, for as we count down the final hours, still I am not ready. This year, I don't want Lent to come.

It is not that I haven't prepared, or that I haven't chosen my penance. Rather, it is that I am not ready to repent and I dread both repentance and the penance I owe, even knowing the depths of God's mercy and the fact that my penance can never match the depths of my sin and the ends to which I am drawn should I continue on my present course:  Hell.

This year, I shudder at the sound of Lent,  and I want to flee, but I cannot flee, for as Psalm 139 says, even if I fly to the ends of the earth He is there, to the depths of the sea and to the skies above...He corrals me like an untamed mustang.

I can do nothing but surrender.

For the last several weeks, I have been working my way through LOST and tonight, I finished it, right on schedule. For weeks, between LOST and four seasons of DEXTER I have been pondering human frailty and the reality of life without Faith.

As it turns out, in my real life I have also been struggling with my own Faith. 

For a couple weeks now, although I know I need to go to Confession, I have not gone. I desire to go, but because I am dealing with some questions and issues of unbelief, I have chosen, directly, not to go.


Because in spite of my deep queries, I believe in the Sacrament and the Authority of Christ.

And because I have not gone to Confession (and need to), I have not received Our Lord in Holy Communion  for a few weeks now.

I am grateful for the graces of Spiritual Communion, but for now, I cannot approach and receive Jesus from the altar; I am not either objectively or implicitly disposed.

Yes, it IS hard to stand aside to let others leave the pew while they glance at me in askance, but I will not go forward even for a blessing, for, quite honestly,  this is the wrong time for a Blessing stolen only to deflect my Pride in the face of the unasked questions of strangers regarding the state of my soul.

We all fall short. We all sin. We are all LOST.

I've watched the entire series now, in only a few weeks, hoping to be done by the start of Lent. While I enjoyed it and didn't "get" some of the stuff imposed upon it or supposed from it, I will say this: there is one line that broke through my own heart, and it's something I take with me into Lent, and hopefully beyond.

In the final season of LOST, Jacob says that he chose them not for who they were, but for who they were not. (Not his exact words).  He chose them because they were all flawed. They were alone, they were already lost, and they were already broken. He chose them in order to give them something for which to live...and for which to die.

I admit I was brought to tears by this for I, too, am flawed, alone, lost, and broken. 

I can't pray the prayer of Queen Esther without tears, for whenever I give voice to it I am desperate, even though it speaks to my constant condition: "Help me, Lord,l for I am all alone, and I have no one but Thee."

Esther cast herself upon the Mercy of God, who chose her not for her status, but for her lowliness. He heard her prayer even before she prayed it.

That struck me in the script for LOST: even though it wasn't a religious  show by any means:  the reality is that God does indeed choose us for our humility, but never for our Pride.

We may be chosen for the purpose of purification but in the end, we learn to choose Him through sacrificial love. Not love of ourselves, but love of others, for their good.

That is true charity.

This year, I enter into Lent unwillingly, but still with the intention to observe the penances and sacrifices. This year it will be harder than ever, for I also enter without Faith. I enter Lent, this year, with nothing to offer, and truly, neither am I open to receive.

I enter this Lenten Season as Judas for even as I profess to follow Jesus, I cannot claim to be one of  His Own. 

My kiss, right now, to Jesus is one of betrayal. I know He chose me out of my solitude and brokenness and reached out to me because I am lost. Yet all I have to offer is a kiss of betrayal.

My only prayer, this Lent, is that by the Triduum I will come to Him with absolute trust in His Mercy.

For now, I have a long ways to go.

I am grateful for these 40 days to give me a chance to take back my kiss, to take back my stolen 30 pieces of silver and to instead, embrace the shadow of the Cross that falls over me.

Judas was lost because he appealed for mercy to the wrong authority. It wasn't because he wasn't repentant, but because he refused to speak to the One whom he had offended.

Tomorrow, I will receive Ashes, and with the watered-down admonition to "Repent, turn from sin and believe in the Gospel".  This is all well and good, and I might have to actually, through my work, impose those words upon another, should Father (my boss) tell me to do so. I will be obedient to that should he conscript me into that service.

What I prefer and want to hear, though,  and want to impose upon others is this, the harshest of introductions into Lent and that which helped me grow up:

"Repent, man, for you are dust and to dust you shall return." 

If we lose sight of our final ends, that of eternity, Lent has no meaning whatsoever.

No one around me, priest or layperson has, in recent months reminded me of my final end. To do so is politically incorrect.

If Lent doesn't do it...then I have no reason to repent. If Ashes have no meaning for me, neither does the Cross.

If neither Ashes or Cross have meaning
...why should I repent?

Monday, March 07, 2011

Bucket List Meme

I saw this Meme over at Aussie Coffee Shop (a blog you should all be reading) and decided to do it just for fun. So should you!

Directions:  Copy this list and then bold the stuff you've done

shot a gun
gone on a blind date
Skipped school
watched someone die
Visited Canada
Visited Hawaii
Visited Cuba
Visited Europe
Visited South America
Visited Las Vegas
Visited Mexico
Visited Florida
Seen the Grand Canyon
Flown on a plane
Served on a Jury
Been lost
Traveled to the opposite side of the country - (kinda - I'm in the midwest - been to CT and AZ)
Visited Washington, DC
Swam in the Ocean
Cried yourself to sleep.
Played Cops and Robbers
Played Cowboys and Indians
Recently colored with crayons
Sang Karaoke
Paid for a meal with coins only
Made prank phone calls
Laughed until some beverage came out of your nose
Caught a snowflake on your tongue
Had children
Had a pet
Been skinny-dipping outdoors
Been fishing
Been boating
Been Water Skiing
Been Downhill Skiing
Been Hiking
Been camping in a trailer/RV
Been camping in a tent
Flown in a small 4-seater airplane - (8 seater-Cessna. In Mexico)
Flown in a glider
Flown in a helicopter
Flown in a hot air balloon
Walked on a glacier
Driven a Motorcycle
Been bungee-jumping
Gone to a drive-in movie
Done something that could have killed you?
Done something that you will regret for the rest of your life.
Visited Africa
Rode an elephant
Eaten just cookies or cake for dinner
Been on T.V.
Steal any traffic signs
Been in a car accident
Donated blood
Bailed out of Helicopter/Plane
Ran in a Marathon
Went Curling

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Catholicism and the Art of Home Maintenance - The Sequel

I've said it before and I'll say it again; the worst decision I've ever made was the decision to purchase a house. In my case, specifically, a town-home.

Case in point:   Some of you will recall my comic escapades a few years ago when I attempted to replace a simple toilet-seat. 

I thank God for the good sense not to have purchased a single-family home. Although I looked at a few, those in my range (back in 2002) were true crack houses needing to be flipped.  Not my market in any way, shape or form. But...that meant the best townhome I could get was among those built shortly after the Dharma Initiative was invaded and destroyed by the Hostiles.

The problem with home maintenance is that it doesn't end. 

In the time since I've purchased my home, I've had to replace the furnace and water heater, both of which were done, providentially, the winter after my grandmother died and left me a small inheritance. (Thanks Grandma! Please say a prayer for her, y'all!)

Other things aren't so expensive, but they add up over time, stuff breaks down, and people like me...well....I'm helpless. I can start a circular saw and I can start a chain saw and operate a Hurst tool, and give me a sledge hammer and your old garage will collapse in 5 minutes as we flee the catastrophe, but gosh darn it, when my toilet breaks someone better call an expert for me right quick!

A few months ago I got a letter from the City stating they detected a small leak in my house and gave instructions as to how to identify the source of the leak.

Obviously I knew by mere observation that no water was leaking out of any of my appliances or accoutrements, therefore I set about trying to follow the very simple instructions.

In fact, I recalled that my garage spigot seemed to have a small leak (or was that from the hose that is still attached, rusted to the spigot itself?).  So I tried that...after I couldn't twist it any more and didn't want to actually turn it ON as it was -20 outside, I wrapped the hose around an old recumbant exercise bike tipped up against the wall and...VOILA'! No more leaking!

I went inside to my furnace-water-heater chamber and tried to reach the internal shut-off for my garage spigot.


Can't reach it.

At all.

When my water heater was replaced, it was replaced with one that was taller and wider (yet somehow more "efficient"?) and as I am  a minimalized-statured individual, it seems that my water heater is not politically-correct enough for me to actually reach the piping and twisty-thingies behind it that are supposed to turn things off.

I have a backup plan in case a pipe breaks somewhere:  Flee the house, knock on every door in the vicinity until someone either tall enough or tiny enough responds to save the day. 

In the meantime, I'll have lots of towels on hand and maybe some teflon tape and...well, duct tape and WD-40.

WD-40 and duct tape fixes everything, you know.

Adventures in Home Repairs

A week ago I realized I was in real trouble and I had a choice: build an ark or call for help.

The unknown small leak has been weighing on me with great anchors for months now, and added to that was a leak that sprung beneath my kitchen sink. That one seemed to be contained after I discovered it one morning on the way to work. (Why are these things always discovered when one has to be somewhere else and has no time to deal with it on the spot?).

So I put an old dog dish under the leak, pulled out plastic bags intended for dog refuse and tried to dry them off - any that weren't already petri dishes for penicillin - and headed off into the big frozen white yonder.

And then...last weekend, as I headed to work, I got ready to go as usual. While drying my hair I noticed that the bath mat where it butted up against the tub was SOAKED.


Quickly I soaked up the water with an old towel and ran downstairs. Sure enough, the water had leaked through the ceiling into my downstairs half-bath! Dirty, nasty water that had been un-filtered through the infrastructure and fan fixture.


So I cleaned THAT up and headed for work after ensuring the leak was not happening so long as I wasn't taking a shower.

I was certain I would come home to an aquarium and a very wet, cold, and pouty German Shepherd.

Time to call for help...

This weekend, my brother, in response to my desperate calls and emails, heroically strapped on his carpenter's belt and quested to save me in my ivory tower.

(Well...actually...after I sent him an email complaining about water dripping through the ceiling, he offered to get into his car and help me with my minor elementary-level  home repairs in the hovel within which I reside as long as the bank allows me to do so. )  

My brother arrived with a box of chemicals and tools, a shopping list and ideas while we inspected the biggest problem areas needing immediate repair.

As it turned out, the toilet leak was a flapper dancing improperly in my toilet. She was removed and re-employed by the department of sanitation and replaced with a more flexible model.

The rubber ball was rubbing against the wall (get your mind out of the gutter - we haven't gotten there yet!), so the arm had to be bent back to center and the screw  had to be adjusted a little for a more proper flow.

Once we fixed THAT problem (or so we thought), my brother tried to show me how to scrape off the old cauk and clean the grout in the shower. It was petrified and the tool...useless.  The best we (meaning me, actually) could do was clean it up along the base, and within the tub, spray mildew/mold killer, which, much to my surprise, did a lot to whiten up the grout! There are still problem areas, though, so we determined that all we could do was caulk the base for now - which is the area that was leaking.

So...I have a new skill! I can caulk the base of a bathtub like nobody's business, and then clean up the mess! Yay!

Of course, in this process I learned that no matter what guys do, they leave a mess behind. Ladies, all the stereotypes about men and women are true.

Case in point: Brother stood on toilet seat to reach the malfunctioning fan overhead. Dust and dirt and foulness came down - right into the basket where I kept my brushes and lotions, etc.! Could he maybe have either moved it or asked me to put it elsewhere before he "cleaned" above?

No, apparently not.

He'd already observed that my upstairs sink was draining slowly and in need of a snaking or drano. So what did he do? He rinsed the nasty grate in the sink, which will be GUARANTEED to completely stop it up! Oh, and when the water drained, there was all that nasty stuff in the sink that naturally, he didn't wipe up himself.

I stood, stretching out my aching back, demanding to know what he was doing by dumping that crap in my otherwise clean sink.

"I'm a guy", sez he.

Yeah. "Idiot" sez I. Glaring, I wiped it up.

As I went about my house, I realized that everywhere my brother went, he left a trail of dirt from weird sources and I was constantly cleaning it up after him.

Even when we re-arranged my livingroom, dusting and vacuuming electronics as we went, when he was finished, there was STILL stuff on the floor where he had been kneeling, making electronic connections. Where did THAT even come from?????

It didn't help that the living room was in utter chaos as we rearranged it, moving things temporarily to this and that spot, moving sacred images and statues, sacramentals and books, research materials and old paperwork that needs to shredded.

Indeed, the dog had to quite literally get into the mix so she could see what was going on. Unfortunately, because of the constant state of flux, she didn't have any place to BE! As it turned out, this was not a good thing for her...or us.

As I vacuumed up old dog hair and dust from behind the areas previously covered by furniture, a terrible smell arose. My  brother, seated on the floor, commented upon the stench of the dog who seemed to have burped nastily in his face.

This being unusual for my dog, I stopped to inspect her and indeed, she smelled...pukey. As did the air in the  livingroom. Very pukey.

I took her outside, then once we were back in, the wave of stench nearly knocked me backwards.

I peered around the apocalyptic "living area" in confusion,  finally spied the source of the stench: indeed the dog, anxiety-ridden by the sudden upheaval of the main room, added her own upheaval in the form of what was left of the dinner she'd eaten 5 hours earlier.


Already, we had the windows open upstairs and fans blowing to clear the area of the fumes from the mold/mildew cleaner.

Already, we had the door and windows open downstairs because that same chemical smell and those fumes from the WD-40 for other projects was permeating our senses.

And now...the smell of sickness. The terrible, terrible smell of sickness, and the realization it was sickness that was destructive to some historical documents which then had to be thrown out, for they could not be preserved.


By 3:00 am or so, the order and normal scent of the house was more or less restored, the dog's anxiety calmed by the stability of at least some of the objects with which she was familiar, and it was time to retire to our rooms and finish up as much as possible the next day.

Final Status:

I'm happy to report that the toilet seems to no longer to leaking, the doors  no longer squeak, there is not a flood to be found in my house, and the caulk is curing as we speak.

The dog kept her breakfast and dinner down just fine, and in the production of the event and subsequent blog post, no bad words were used by either my brother or myself. ;-)

Now, there's only one thing I didn't do this time, so I guess I completely contradicted the advice given in my post from a few years ago:  I didn't call a priest. Maybe next time.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

How Long, O Lord...

How long, O Lord? Wilt thou forget us for ever?
How long wilt thou hide thy grass and flowers from us?
How long must we bear the ice and snow,
and shiver down to the bone in frigid cold all the day?
How long shall winter be exalted over us?

Consider and answer us, O Lord, our God;
lighten our skies lest we sleep the sleep of hypothermia
lest the winter say; "I have prevailed over global warming."
lest the snows rejoice because we are buried beneath.

~ Psalm 13

Yesterday while sliding on ice while walking my dog, shivering in the negative temperatures, I heard the song of a spring bird. Crazy, stupid, lying bird. No visible presence, just the lie of that song, trying to lull me into believing winter will end. At the same time I heard the call of the late winter birds, calling back and forth, probably laughing as I trundled along in hopes of remaining upright.

Don't listen to the birds; they lie.

This long winter has no intention of ending any time soon.

The groundhog lied, too.

Stupid, lying, groundhog.