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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Novena to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Everyone take notice!

I recieved this e-mail this evening from a friend who was passing it out to members of our parish's Frassati Society. Please read the e-mail and pray the novena following, beginning on this September 1.

I should like us to swear a pact that knows no earthly boundaries or
time limits: union in prayer." ~ Pier Giorgio Frassati

Dear Friends of Pier Giorgio,

In either the recent or distant past, you have corresponded with
Wanda Gawronska about Pier Giorgio Frassati and are listed in her
email address book. She is allowing me to contact you with a special
invitation for everyone in the U.S. My name is Christine Wohar. I
am from Nashville, Tennessee, but am currently with Wanda in Pollone,
Italy, at the Frassati summer home. I am working on creating ways to
assist in your efforts to promote the spirituality of Pier Giorgio
and nourish your existing devotion. (All suggestions and ideas are welcome!)

I would like to begin with a nationwide novena this Friday, September
1st. I realize this is somewhat short notice, but I think there is
still time to get the word out.

If you are interested, here is all you need to do:
1) Email, print, copy, or distribute in any way you can the
attached novena, so as many people as possible will be praying together.
2) When you pray the novena, in addition to your own intentions,
please include the intentions of everyone else who will be praying
the novena around the U.S.
3) If possible, could you make an effort to visit the Blessed
Sacrament during the nine days but especially on September 1 which is
a First Friday?

I will be united in prayer with you by praying the novena here at the
foot of the bed upon which Pier Giorgio died and asking him to pray
for us in a special way. If you would like to email me your specific
intentions, I would be happy to place them on Pier Giorgio's bed for
you. Remember, for the next step in the canonization process, he
only needs one more miracle. Wouldn't it be wonderful if it happened
in the U.S. with this novena?!

Finally, if you are interested in participating and/or receiving
additional email correspondence related to events in the U.S., could
you please help me update my own address book? It would be a
tremendous help if you could email me, rather than Wanda, to reply to
this request. My address is I am
looking forward to hearing from all of you!

Verso l'alto,

Wanda Gawronska
Associazione Pier Giorgio Frassati
Via Anicia, 12 00153 Roma
Tel. 39/065895954 Fax. 39/065816275
www.piergiorgiofrassati. org

I will do my best to post the novena every day. As the intention of the days changes I can not just simply post it right now. Please pray this novena with me and all the others who hope that Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati grants someone the miracle needed for his canonization.

An Abortion Clinic that does not know the difference between simple medical conditions....

Check out this local abortuary, and specifically, the section highlighted below from their "Abortion FAQ" page:

How long is the appointment for the abortion?
The appointment takes anywhere from 4 - 5 hours. You will be asked to fill out paperwork, be given a number of tests including a urine pregnancy test, a blood test to check your RH factor, and a hemoglobin test (to make sure you are not anemic "low blood sugar level"). A hemoglobin test does actually rule out anemia, however, the definition of anemia is NOT "low blood sugar". Anemia is 1. Pathology. a quantitative deficiency of the hemoglobin, often accompanied by a reduced number of red blood cells and causing pallor, weakness, and breathlessness. (from

low blood sugar is HYPOGLYCEMIA, which means, "low" and "sugar".

People, this is an abortion clinic, and not only do they kill babies, but they do not know the difference between one basic medical condition and another, both of which are common. Incidentally, both disorders have similar symptoms on the surface, but any medical professional should be able to quickly tell the difference.

And pro-abortionists proclaim that if abortion were outlawed that women would go back to "back alley abortions" using clothes hangers, which of course is complete mythology. They don't have to wait for that to happen for the incompetence of these "professionals" is pretty clear.

People, if a diabetic is suffering from hypoglycemia and the doctor treats them for anemia, that patient will die. Simple stuff here...yet women go to them, trusting that they know what they're doing, that this clinic cares about their health, and they believe the rhetoric that spouts how "safe" this procedure is. Good grief! Maybe they should bring a medical dictionary with them to read in the waiting room so they can catch the strange errors by the "medical staff".

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Epilogue to my Conversion

And you thought it was over. The reality is that conversion is a process we will all go through over and over and over again because the ultimate goal of conversion is to be united with Jesus Christ...and as long as we are on this earth, we can not be fully united with him...those who are most closely are called "Saints".

In writing my story, I came to realize that it was in my weakness that God found me...and there, He gave me strength. And likewise, it is even today in my strengths of all sorts that I find also my greatest weaknesses.

When I had fallen away, God allowed me to be attacked through the faith I didn't think I had and what could have completely turned me away from Jesus instead was a catalyst which drove me back into Jesus' arms. It was in facing adversity that God's grace was the strongest and I continue to see that pattern every day, not just in my life but in the lives of others.

I also see people struggling along who don't know how to accept the grace waiting for them, which can only be done by embracing one's cross. We all have weaknesses, and in those, we are closest to Jesus. It is in recognizing our weakness that we find humility, and this virtue is what God uses to raise us up to Him.

My conversion has not ended for I am, as they say, still in formation. For what? I don't know, but what I do understand is that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and without Jesus, I'll never be able to walk another step.

We all need the Sacraments, we need the Catholic community, for this is how the Lord designed our road to salvation. Each and every one of us has the choice to stop, run away, and refuse to move on, but when we do this, then we are only harming ourselves and those loved ones in our lives. The only thing we can do is move forward, little by little, praying all the while, and with the understanding that we do not make this trip alone. Ever.

Last year I often wrote in a little jornal at Adoration, and every so often, I turn the page to reflect upon a few little verses that came to me in prayer, and I think this is the appropriate time to share them with you.

It is in joy that we understand our suffering
It is in laughter that we discover tears
It is in recognition that we find healing
It is in acknowledgement that we are led to resolution
And it is in our weaknesses that we finally encounter Christ

Monday, August 28, 2006

Conversion Story Chapter 5

Was it really this hard to really come home? Was it really worth the sheer mountain of words being slathered upon these blog pages just to say, in the end, "I'm a Catholic revert"?

I will leave that to you to judge.

After my Confession, I knew I was home, but I also knew the battle wasn't over...God had won a huge battle for my soul, but I was still the slipperly little sinner, the shrinking violet...the rebellious convert.

I knew it wasn't over, and I agonized quite a bit because I could not step out of my lifestyle. My boyfriend returned home from Afghanistan, and I pretty much lived with him after that.

It didn't help that I was laid off from my job with the Fire Dept-- due to my injury. I left with references from a couple chiefs, including THE Chief...but that didn't really matter when I couldn't even get to the point where I'd be able to provide my references. So I searched and searched and I began writing again. A couple things got published that summer, but nothing of much consequence.

Finally, in August, I got a job with my current employer, and I went to Arizona for training. Most of the new hires were maybe in their low to mid 20's, but there were a few of us who stood out like non-traditional students at a college...and naturallyw e gravitated toward each other. Two of the new friends I met were guys from engaged, the other married and pining after his family.

I had reverted to my pre-conversion stage, largely, and was still involved in the New Age practices. We spent some time at Sedona, AZ a couple times and for those who don't know, Sedona is a New Age Mecca. I loved it, but more for the scenery than for the "religion" which I found to be tacky, but interesting. It was a great temptation to purchase various crystals which were supposed to bring certain "powers" into one's life, but in the end, I just purchased some Native American artwork..some horsehair pottery, among other things.

But I longed to spend more time there, and on one trip, I actually DID visit a psychic, telling my friends it was "entertainment". I paid a lot for that "entertainment", and to be honest, I really was seeking answers...I really was using it as an idol. I need to post on this seperately.

Anyway, I returned to Minneapolis after my 2 weeks in Arizona, and went to the boyfriend's house. The next morning he came in after work and headed out to the base as he had Guard that weekend (military). I figured he'd go out with his buddies for a couple beers as was his usual habit, so I took the dogs to the park, hung out, and returned home when I figured he's be back, cleaned up, and ready to go out to eat as we'd planned. I'd even gotten my photos developed so I could show him how cool Arizona was.

He didn't arrive. I was hungry, but figured I'd wait. I tried to reach him but the cell phone rang and then went to voice mail. I left him a message and went back to watching TV and waiting. It hit 9, then 9:30, and I realized something...that he didn't even think of me. I thought of my new friends from Georgia, and how they looked when they spoke of their fiances, or their wives. I considered the look in their eyes when even THINKING about the women in their life, and I realized that my boyfriend NEVER looked at me that way...and certainly, then he never had that look when THINKING of me. It was clear he didn't consider me at all.

So I gathered my few belongings, kisssed the dogs goodbye, and I walked out the door.

He barely even noticed that I'd gone. I wasted about 3 1/2 years with that man, and to think I thought I wanted to marry him!

This was a turning point in my conversion...I returned back "home" to my apartment with my roommate, and by then she had a boyfriend...and I couldn't stand him. That's another story.

I'd broken up with the boyfriend during the fall...and the following spring, I was getting closer to returning to the Church again, attending Mass most Sundays, and often logging on to my computer in the mornings before work to read the Bible readings for the day. I'd found Catholic websites and was slowly educating myself.

But I was restless. I wanted to get away, so I began looking for retreats, hoping there was something out there for people who wanted to come home. I found nothing but New Agey stuff, stuff for middle-aged women with grown children, and stuff for confirmation students. There didn't seem to be anywhere to go.

For awhile, I had been wanting to return to one of my earliest loves--horses and riding. My roommate kept paying lip service to the idea, saying she'd go...but she never wanted to go when I could. Finally, one Saturday morning, I got up and decided to find a place and go horseback riding. I seemed to be drawn to a particular ranch and called for a reservation. That day I went on 3 hour-long rides, and returned nearly every Saturday for about 6 weeks.

There was something about riding that helped me to connect with God again. I began to enjoy life again...I watched eagles soar overhead as we descended into the river valley, I swayed with the familiar rhythm of a walking horse, and I gloried in a nearly out of control gallop on my first day back in the saddle.

One of the guides had a friend who was leasing a horse...she couldn't afford the horse but didn't want to give him up so was willing to share him. I was introduced to the horse and agreed to the montlhy fee and deposit.

And it was riding that brought be back to Church, every Sunday, again. I got up early to get to Mass so that I could go riding, and I really wanted to give God his due...after all, horses could be unpredictable and it only took a hoof to the head, or a particular fall..and I'd be meeting God face to face.

I was back to my old thing...I was in mortal sin, but going to communion. I wanted to return to confession, but I was also back to my old questions, and my old fears...but they had intensified.

The very thought of Confession reduced me to tears in a major way. I was nearly phobic at the thought.

But I kept praying anyway, asking Jesus not to give up on me, not to turn His back, and to help me come home again...for good.

Well, as it turned out, I was sick of my roommate's lifestyle as I was working at becoming a serious Catholic (her boyfriend was ALWAYS there, she was out until 2 am on weekends, drinking, when I wanted to be sleeping, if I went out I was stuck out until then, etc.). She was sick of me, too. So I found a realtor and bought a townhome, having begged God for guidance.

God answered.

I am only blocks from a Catholic parish, a very large one, and when I first walked in, I asked God, "Are you sure? God, you KNOW how I hate large churches!" It's a modern style, wheras I prefer two rows of pews in a rectangular nave with a large crucifix up front. Well, I was struck by the HUGE crucifix greeting me in this parish, so I gave God my grudging agreement that I'd try this out for awhile. Besides, it was close...I might as well try to get cozy.

Then I met some women who happened to be near my age and shared a wall with me...and I learned they attended this parish, also.

God was making himself known in very small ways.

At first, feeling like a fake, I went to Mass most Sundays (skipped sometimes) and sat in the back. I was afriad to approach Jesus, who I began to understand was truely present on the altar. I was an official "Confessoin Avoider", yet of course, I continued to recieve Jesus at communion.

But God's grace began to work on me...and so I began to stop recieving communion...I wanted to force myself to go to Confession. I knew I needed to go.

Around this time, I found and I joined the forums, and discussed my fears of confession..and learned that I was not alone. There was much encouragement there.

That spring, "The Passion of the Christ" came out, and on they day before Palm Sunday, I was preparing for my family to arrive the following weekend so I was cleaning. But something told me to go...I'd already scoped out the theatres and had one picked out. Suddenly I made a decision, threw on a coat, and left.

I was in awe throughout the movie, and as I drove home, I nearly had to pull over. I couldn't see through my tears. I nearly drove to the church and called a priest, even though it was about 9 at night.

It was months, though, before I went to Confession. Months.

I met a few of the priests at a party at a parishioner's home that summer, and really liked them...and then that added to my fear of going back to Confession.

But I knew I needed to go, and finally, more regular deprivation of the Eucharist was beginning to straighten me out. I picked a day that fall, took that Friday off so that I would be without distraction, and resolved that I would go to confession in the morning.

That Thursday evening, I got off work early and made it to evening Mass. When I arrived, shaking and nearly crying (the Lord was really working on me), I thought I saw a friend sitting in the front row, so I went up to join her. I'd never sat in the front row before, and since I intended not to recieve communion, I really preferred to be in back...but I kind of wanted to see a friendly face. So I went forward and it was only upon genuflecting that I realized that the woman was not who I thought she was. But I would have looked silly turning around to go back to a different seat so I hesitantly knelt down. The priest of the ones I knew. I liked him, but as I was already crying even as Mass began, and standing there right in front of him in the small chapel, I feared he would pull me aside after Mass and ask what was wrong...and I was embarassed.

Overall, I managed to reign in my emotions, but then the consecration happened. The miracle on the altar.

I don't know how to explain adequately what I "saw" that evening. I'd never had such an intimate view of what happened at the altar during Mass but that evening I was riveted. As Father spoke the words of consecration, as he stood in persona Christi, of course I saw him on the altar...but he was not alone. There, beside him, stood Jesus himself. I knew, at that moment, without a doubt, that Jesus was truely present on the altar, that he was serious when He said, "This is my Body" and "This is my Blood". I was not hallucinating, for I didn't really see Jesus with my physical eyes...but it was like a veil parted and I saw something that He wanted me to see but which no words on earth can describe.

I could not hold back my tears any longer...I understood in that moment, of what I had deprived myslf for so long, and how much Jesus loves each and every one of us. I understood that He was really there, He was really present...and that in my state, I could not recieve Him, for I was not pure.

I could not bring myself to attend Confession that night...I was completely out of control of my emotions, but I really wish I HAD gone that night..I'm pretty sure that's what Jesus wanted me to do, but of course, the adversary was fighting hard in his corner.

I went home that evening, and set my clock, asking my Guardian Angel to make sure I got up on time to go to Confession. During the night, I woke up..the light was all wrong for the time shown on the clock, so I checked my watch...and found that my clock had been reset an hour BEHIND...not AHEAD which is what happens when the button is bumped.

There was NO WAY my clock could have been reset 11 hours AHEAD to put me one hour behind.

I would have missed Mass, and confession.

I reset my clock, prayed, and went back to sleep, made it to Mass on time.

I did go to Confession that morning...and it had been 3 years. I was shaking, I was crying, and I went behind the screen in the confessional...but I made a complete confession.

I resolved that day to go more often, and in fact, I did and have continued to do so. It hasn't always been easy, but I no longer suffer the weird, irrational terror which used to overcome me.

Then one evening, I went to the Saturday evening Mass and knelt, praying. I was sitting near the front...I really had come a long way by God's grace. As I settled into my pew, I studied the crucifix above the altar...and the tabernacle with the perpetual candle lit to signify the presence of Jesus...and I realized that I was really Home.

Praise the Lord, I was last.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Conversion Story Chapter 4

My conversion history can be found in my prequel, Ch. 2 and Ch 3. This is the fourth chapter of my conversion story.

I have to apologize as it seems a great deal of my conversion parallels my work history and of course I do not mean to give you my resume. However, it seems that God used my employment to draw me into contact with people who would force me to address that which was lacking in my life.

Some of you will remember my story about my brush with Tarot. I had been pulled into the New Age stuff, and some of this was due to reading various articles in various locations written by various self-described "Catholics", some of which were nuns! It helped to blur the lines even further for me and gave me percieved license to delve even further into the forbidden territory of the occult. This, of course, was nearly my undoing, and that story can be read here.

I left the job with the developmentally disabled to take a supervisory position in a mental health facility which required me to work nights. The cool thing about the job was that it allowed me to take an evening class...EMT, and reconnect with old hobbies such as reading and art work. Seriously...I got to sit at a desk all night and work on charcoals and pastels if nothing else was required of me. And believe me, I went through a lot of books.

I was miserable, though...I could never get any good sleep, and then I couldn't get out of the job! It semed my string of "good luck" had run out with regard to finding my career, and I became more and more frustrated. The terrible nightmares which had plagued me during college returned whenever I tried to sleep on my break in that facility and this drove me back to prayer before sleeping.

There was a Christian woman, a nurse who worked there who said she was raised Catholic and now attends an Evangelical Free Church--which is a local mega-church. As I was seeking God, I sought her out as well and we had many religious/spiritual conversations. She naturally invited me to her church, but something prevented me from going...something in what she believed just didn't ring true, but I didn't know what it was. The reality was that I didn't know my faith but some of the things she described about Catholicism just wasn't accurate and I have no idea what helped me to understand that. Let's just call it the Holy Spirit.

But she did make me think and all considered, she was an ally and since she did not try to convert me to the Evangelical faith, our conversations continued and our friendship deepened.

I also met another co-worker, another used-to-be-Catholic, this one turned Baptist. She belonged to a particular Baptist sect that believes in the Rapture and lent me the books of the Left Behind series. Since I had exhausted my own personal library, I gratefully read the books she provided and I'll admit I was entertained.

But I was also offended. I read the first book in the series and was struck by the blatant anti-Catholicism contained within. But I kept wasn't as though I had anything better to do. I found the writing to be wooden, the characters campy and the overall plot somewhat hokey, but something drew me to continue reading.

Then one evening the co-worker in question and I had a discussion about our respective faiths. I was really not a Catholic in anything other than name...I wasn't even attending Mass on Sundays. She began to attack my beliefs...she attacked Confession first, which was probably my weakest point and maybe the biggest reason I wasn't really a practicing Catholic...sin.

She told me that Confession wasn't Biblical, wasn't Scriptural and the Catholic Church had it all wrong. It was then that I actually drew from a conversation with my Evangelical friend in which she had quoted scripture in a half-agreement with Confession...we must confess with our mouths."

It actually stopped the Baptist long enough to switch gears and attack something else. But by then my mind was working and I was beginning to realize that all around me were Catholics who had fallen away, many likely drawn from their faith through their weaknesses and lack of answered questions.

Although I had read the books and was still reading them, I did not believe in the Rapture, and although I was surrounded by cradle Catholics who had converted to other faiths, something would not let me go with them...something made me dig in my heels and take a good look in the mirror at the Catholic-at-heart reflected there.

One thing the Left Behind books did for me was to make me realize that I was mortal, and as such, one day I would face Judgment, whether in some tribulation or in death...and I needed to reconcile with God. Mom had given me a CD from the Mary Foundation which had the Divine Mercy prayer. I read the promises in a little pamphlet she also provided and I began to pray each morning before I went to sleep...not Divine Mercy, just the simple childhood prayers of the Our Father, Hail Mary, Gory Be, and Guardian Angel prayer.

I attended an Ash Wednesday service that winter, and during Lent, I listened to the Divine Mercy CD and prayed along with it, sincerly desiring to be reconciled to God.

I had begun attending, on occasion, a Catholic parish recommended to me by a friend from college...Good Shepherd in Golden Valley, MN. I noted that Confessions were held every Saturday from 4-5 pm or by appointment, and several times I went out of my way to drive by the parish during that time frame but I could not get the courage to actually enter the church. I met the priest once at my friend's house as he had been invited to dinner, but I declined the invite as well, a part of me terrified they would "find me out" and realize I was not really Catholic.

Then, after that, having had a discussion with the priest about wine and garlic, which helped me to identify with him somewhat, I nearly called him to make an appointment for Confession. Yet I could not bring myself to actually dial the number. I could not make myself approach what I considered to be the seat of judgment and rend my garments in absolute submission to whatever punishment was meted out. I precieved that I deserved to be punished for the lifestyle I had lived and was continuing to live.

When I came home from work most mornings, I turned on EWTN and watched reruns of "The Journey Home" and "Web of Faith" and found that many of my questions were being asked and answered. I began to go to Mass more regularly, although it still was not every Sunday, and I continued to go forward to recieve communion, and I continued to weep nearly every time. But something here began to change...sometimes I opted not to recieve communion, but remained in my pew, praying, asking for forgiveness.

The struggle for my soul continued. I watched EWTN, thinking the priests to be "very conservative", yet I recognized Truth when I heard it, no matter how much I tried to justify my own actions and reactions.

Then I got the idea that I should buy a book about Catholicism and study it. I had the Catechism, but it was so big and overwhelming, so I started small, realizing that I didn't understand why we crossed ourselves, why we genuflected, and why we used holy water.

It was also around this time period that my boyfriend at the time began to ask me questions about my faith. I didn't know the answers so I looked them up and explained to him what I remembered from what Mom had said and supplemented by what I was reading. The first book I bought was "Why do Catholics do that?" which was a great overview of a lot of things, to include the history of the Bible in summary.

I was living my life in a state of mortal sin, compounded by my reception of communion, and I was nearly back to attending Mass every Sunday. I tried to get other people, other fallen-away Catholics to attend Mass with me, but they would not so I went alone. I tried to get my boyfriend to go to Mass with me, but he refused, citing his "issue" with church. I thought I wanted to marry him, and so I tried to impress upon him how important it was to me that he at least understand my faith. He continued to refuse, so this of course made me realize for myself that no matter what, I wanted a Catholic wedding so I began to pray for his conversion, along with my own.

I began to beg Jesus not to give up on me, that I was trying, and I began to pray that I would not die without Confession. I asked for faith, I asked for Jesus' patience with me, and I asked for absolution even as I continued to commit various grave sins.

My conscience was bothering me, and truth be told, it always had. Yet it was hard to break the chains sin had on me...I had my boyfriend, I had my connections to various occultic practices...palm reading, psychics, necromancy. I actually got really good at palm reading and that's another thing I looked at as entertainment. I began to tell fortunes using a regular deck of cards and at parties, I was a big hit. One Halloween I went out with friends and read the palms of strangers at the bar all night...and I told them things about themselve...things that came to me and were apparently very accurate, but they were NOT "written" in their palms. People were amazed. They thought I was a true psychic, and I was beginning to think so, too.

Somewhere in here my boyfriend, himself a firefighter, convinced me to train for the department's test. He helped me to train, and throughout this training, I continue to pray for God's help, for conversion, and for Jesus not to give up on me. I passed through the grueling process with flying colors, praising God the whole way, and made more diligent efforts to attend Mass. But I still had not gone to Confession. The further I got into the training, the more I realized that this job could kill me, and thus the more I realized that God was still waiting...and I couldn't do this without him.

And the sad thing is, that once I got to the training tower, the tail end of training, I also realized that I did not want to be there anymore. I did not want to be a firefighter. I was in training at the tower when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred (that story is found here), and while that didn't scare me so much, ironically, it was other things that dissuaded me from wanted to complete this training. But I had nowhere to go, so I prayed to God to save me...just as He had intervened and assisted me in completing tasks up unto that date, now I was asking him to get me out of it.

What a spoiled brat I was. How this testifies to the great patience of God, to put up with a Blue Coyote such as myself. I'm still amazed he doesn't just sit back and say, "I told you so." and let me rot.

But no, God intervened. I actually suffered a training injury which turned out to be serious enough to warrant surgery.

I didn't even consider being annointed prior to the surgery, which required a general anesthesia, yet even so, I did pray a great deal prior to the surgery as I had not yet gone to Confession...and as such, I feared dying.

That spring, my boyfriend was deployed to Afghanistan so I house-sat for him. I didn't do a good job in observing Lenten practices, but I did go to Mass every week to a local dissenting parish which sported a female "homilist", yet I returned again and again because it was close by and there was a certain witness in the reverence shown there by the elderly parishioners...and something in some of their music.

As Holy Week approached, I began doing web searches for services and Masses...I resolved that it was time to go to Confession. It was time to come home.

I found a parish in Edina (I think...was it Our Lady of Grace? off of Vernon Ave if I remember correctly?) which had a penance service followed by individual confessions. It was the Tues. or Wed. of Holy Week.

I arrived and picked up a printed sheet identified as an "examination of conscience", which was a list of various sins. I sat near the back of the sanctuary, alone, literally shaking, and when I read the list I began to weep copious tears. I listened to the reading of the Prodigal Son and waited for the instructions as to where the various priests would be located, hoping to be able to go behind a screen. As it was, I found myself in a line to go to a face to face confession. As I stood, I prayed, I read and re-read the examination of conscience, and hoped that no one noticed my distress. I was weeping uncontrollably, knowing that this was it...I had to do this, I had to approach and ask for forgiveness. I had to beg the Lord for mercy and acknowledge that I had not lived the life God intended for me.

And I was terrified. I knew, intellectually, that the priest was not going to shout at me or berate me, although I felt that this was what I deserved. I had grown up in a very dysfunctional home with a very mentally unstable mother (bipolar), and so I had come to equate any kind of "penance" with public humiliation of a sort which usually involved being berated in public.

I must have stood in that line for 45 minutes, begging God to help me stop crying, help me stop shaking, help me go through with this. Finally, it was my turn.

The priest actually expressed alarm at my condition and before we even began he was trying to put me at ease. I sobbed that it had been about 12 years since my last confession and held out the examination of conscience which had been provided. I told him that I was a terrible person.

At this point he interrupted me, explaining that the examination of conscience was meant as a guideline and was not there to heap guilt upon us...he told me that I was the prodigal daughter and had nothing but praise for my coming in for confession and that I should not be so fearful, then guided me through the confession. I was not sure he understood everything I said, especially the worst sins, because I was crying so hard, but he just nodded as I spoke. I confessed that I knew I was going to commit the same sins again and again and so I wasn't sure I could be forgiven. The good Father explained to me that God knows this and this is why he has given us the Sacrament of Confession, and then spoke the wonderful words of absolution and gave me my penance. He welcomed me home.

I think it was as simple as three Hail Marys.

I left the church, feeling lighter, feeling joyful, and although I was still crying, my tears were no longer the symptom of guilt and fear, but of joy. I was home! I had been reconciled, and I thanked Jesus from the depths of my heart that I would have the courage to continue to follow Him.

To this day, I cannot write about, think about, or speak about this wonderful event without tearing up. And the pitiful words available to us in earthly languages can't even come close to the agony and the ecstasy of the experience.

I wish I could say my conversion story ended there, but it didn't...and that's a tale for another day.

For those who have not gone to confession in a long time...GO! But don't do what I did. Make an appointment, and speak to the priest ahead of time...explain that you haven't been for awhile and ask if he can recommend an examination of conscience for you to aid in your confession. Do not be afraid...he is not going to yell at you, and as I have heard over and over again, priests LOVE to hear the confessions of the tenured sinners; they love to guide we the lost sheep back home and my theory is that it underscores the importance of their Vocation. So go, and be reconciled, and don't make Jesus wait any more. If you can't find the courage, send me a note, and I will be happy to add you to my prayers.

Great Blog to check out!

I found this great blog (one of my commenters) and y'all should check him out. Some funny stuff, some devotional stuff. And anyone with an office job, especially those involving computers in any way, will LOVE his most recent posts.

So go check out what Tim has to say at Lonely Man's Blog --and I warn you not to be in the process of drinking milk or anything because you run the risk of it comming out your nose.

Fair warning.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Today I finally celebrated my birthday with my family. My birthday was a couple months ago, in June. Yes, I know, this is a commentary on the family.

Our tradition is to take each other out for dinner for our birthdays, at whatever restaurant, at whatever cost. Mom likes Red Lobster, my brother likes Olive Garden, and usually, I like Timerlodge Steakhouse.

But for some reason, today, I was not craving their blooming onion, honey wheat bread and prime rib with red wine...I was craving Italian.

I actually opted for Olive Garden today (they actually have a take-out box for wine, which is very cool). One of the reasons I wanted to go there was that I was craving their wonderful ambrosia of dessert, chocolate lasagna.

For those of you not in the know, Chocolate Lasagna is this decadent delight involving a thin layer of moist cake, a thin layer of buttery white frosting, a thin layer of chocolate fudge syrup with chunks of chocolate followed by a few layers in similar succession. It literally melts in one's mouth.

A few years ago I had this dessert with a friend after Mass, including a "splitter", which turned out to be this dessert with two mini-sparkling wines and to this day, I relish the frienship, the beautious dessert, and the buzz.

In all seriousness, though, I was ready to take this dessert home in a box and enjoy it with my family while watching a movie, sipping wine, conversing, whatever.

Well, I realized upon looking at the dessert menu that Chocolate Lasagna was not listed. I asked our server about it and she explained that no, it was not on the menu anymore...they were no longer offering the dessert.

I asked to speak with a manager. While I hate the business world (not my area, not my gift), I will say that I have learned something by working within it...the customer is always right, especially when the customer is charitable in her complaints and not being petty.

There is nothing petty about complaining that Chocolate Lasagna is not on the menu.

The manager, Barbara was at our table forthwith at the rapid behest of our server (who was also wonderful). I introduced myself and explained my chagrin at being deprived of my favorite dessert. I explained that the removal of this dessert was the worst business decision Olive Garden could possibly have made, and went on to explain that whenever we order their food at work, this dessert is usually requested and of course flies off the pan in record time.

Barb agreed and explained that since they have removed this dessert from their menu, dessert sales have dropped from 51% to 43%! That's HUGE!

They actually have a large meeting coming up and she advised me that she would be happy to register this complaint formally at their meeting and, naturally, request that the dessert be reinstated.

I did tell her that there was nothing wrong with the desserts they had, but the omission of Chocolate Lasagna was a very bad idea.

As it turns out, of course the decision was corporate and I acknowledged's not like a franchise to take it upon themselves to make such a drastic change, and Barb indicated that Chocolate Lasagna was their most requested dessert...very big seller. Why, then, would a company omit it? I'm sure it's time consuming to make, but the drop in sales likely does not justify the removal of it.

Anyway, anyone who knows the Olive Garden, and specifically this dessert, this is an FYI to you, so please call your local OG's, aske to speak to the manager and register your complaint before they go to their conference. Companies listen to their customer base and I can tell you from personal experience that sometimes they are delighted to hear our complaints...because they often agree with us.

In working in the business world, I have realized that many decisions look good on paper when viewed by those in corporate who make the decisions, but they are often out of touch with their employees, their own management framework beneath them, and what customers really want. We do have to be willing to speak up so as to maintain certain status quos to which we have become accustomed.

And that is the end of my PSA for tonight. Bring back the Chocolate Lasagna!

(Not that I'll be able to pay for it once I start school...)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Five People in Five Categories

I got tagged by RobK at Kyrie Eleison for this meme:

Instructions: "If you could meet and have a deep conversation with any five people on earth, living or dead, from any time period, who would they be?" Name five people from each of the following categories:
Saints, Those in the Process of Being Canonized, Heroes from your native country, Authors/Writers, Celebrities.

Then, tag five people.


* St. Padre Pio - because my uncle was a friend of his and I have a letter from him stating that he added my brother and I to St. Pio's spiritual family long ago. The letter is dated prior to his beautification (I think).
* St. Joseph - how can you NOT love St. Joseph!
* St. Therese of Avila - because she scares me and I know she'd take me to task and I need that if I'm ever to be the saint God asks us all to become
* St. Francis - because he'd understand why I have 2 dogs, both rescues and why I won't give them up to make Grad school more convenient.
* St. Augustine - because I identify with him and wish I had his way with words

Do I HAVE to stop at 5?

What about St. Joan of Arc? I LOVE her! So many many restrictions in this meme.....

Those being canonized

*John Paul II - obvious one, there!
*Pier Giorgio Frassati- Patron of young adults, he was a skier (one my my passions), and quite mischievious as a future saint!
*Fulton Sheen - For the record: if I find a way to pay for Grad school, then he is the reason--I've asked him to be my patron in this endeavor. Vatican investigators, take note because I cannot do this without Divine Providence.
* Mother Therese - hers was the first protrait I ever drew and through this I learned I can do portraits. It's hanging on my wall and was blessed by a priest from India.
* Kateri Tekawitha! I admire her courage and her faith!

American Heroes

* My uncle, Robert, a soldier in the Korean war assigned to protect a priest. He was killed by a sniper.
* The firefighters/police/paramedics who died in the World Trade Center- I realize this is a group of people, but on that date I was in firefighter training for a certain city and on that day, I learned what it meant to be a firefighter. On the day that occurred, our class agenda was to learn the process of fighting skyskraper fires.
* Maya Angelou -- I did meet her once, briefly, but I'd love to have a chat with her!
* Picabo Street - She's my ski hero- I want her fearlessness
* Mother Angelica - obvious reasons-- have you read Raymond Arroyo's book?


* Stephen King - easily one of the great American authors.
* Mark Twain - You have GOT to read his story about St. Jean D'Arc
* Gary Jennings - read "Aztec" You'll understand
* C.S. Lewis - obvious reasons
* Michael D. O'Brien - Read his "Children of the Last Days" series. Fr. Elijah, Sophia House, Strangers and Sojourners, Plague Journal, and the current work I'm reading, Eclipse of the Sun. His observations are astute and all too real. If you haven't, pick up his stuff!


* Julia Roberts - I was once compared to her in high school and I like her work.
* Nicholas Cage - Gone in 60 Seconds.
* Jim Caviezel - Jesus!
* Eddie Murphy - Family Man
* Mel Gibson - Cut the guy a break, already-- the man suffers from a disease!

Sorry, I'm not into celebrities so I really have no commentary for this last one. I also reserve the right to edit this list at any time if I think of a better subject!

And the people to be tagged. They ignored me last time, but I'm going to tag the Hadleys again anyway! And because Angela Messenger was paying attention, she's IT! The Recovering Dissident needs to experience her first meme, and Ray at Northland Catholic. If someone else is looking for a tag, send me a note and I'll add you to the official list!

Recovering Dissident

Everyone, may I have your attention please?

Thank you.

I would like to introduce a long-time commenter and lurker, and first time blogger, Cathy_of_Alex and her new blog, The Recovering Dissident Catholic!

(Um...ahem...applause is appropriate here).

Now, head on over and give her a formal welcome! Shoo! (Please come back and visit me, though, too...I don't want to get lonely...)

Catholic Carnival!

Everyone, please be sure to check out Catholic Carnival this week! Some great offerings for the greater glory of God is present for your perusal, ponderment, and meditation.

Please also offer some prayers for Eddie, this week's Catholic Carnival host. He's fighting some spiritual battles and needs our aid!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Catholic Confusion

I have a co-worker who was raised by a Catholic and a Lutheran and by the time he grew up, his head was spinning. He made an observation today that I think we all need to consider; he noted that the Catholic family members in his life are completely "screwed up", that it has to do with Catholicism, and that they are all at one end or the other. They are either rabid dissenters or rabid traditionalists, and none of them agrees on anything the Church teaches.

This co-worker claims not to be anti-Catholic, and I really don't think he is, but without really listening to him, it's easy to miss his point. Initially I was a little offended in that he was blaming the problems of his family on the Church, but in listening further, I realized he was making the same complaint all of us are...that Catholics are confused. He loves his family, he encourages his faith, and when he learned in conversation that I am going to pursue a Master's in Catholic Studies, he told me, "Good! Somebody needs to get in there and fix this!"

I wholeheartedly agree, and you know what, friends and neighbors? It comes down to good, solid, catechesis. It comes down to losing the fear of correcting our "brother" for fear of retaliation or persecution, or hurt feelings. We have to get over ourselves and realize that it's more important to save souls than to be held in great esteem for allowing the same watered-down liturgies, watered-down "catechesis" and made-up "sacraments" (such as "Ashes" or "my work". Yes, I'm serious).

But the thing that both he and I discussed in our coversation was this: the Truth can be taught in charity, without accusation, without damnation, and without complete disregard for the value of the soul of another who may happen to disagree.

My friend is Lutheran but admitted that he doesn't really follow even his faith...he claimed he had to "pick something" and seeing the Catholics in his life at each other's throats made his choice obvious.

People, we are losing souls and we will all be held to account for our own behavior. I'm not saying to spare the words, but we should all take a lesson, no matter where we fall on the spectrum. Being hot under the coller only serves to make us look like a bunch of fools, and look here...I found someone to call us out.

Ultimately, though while the behavior involved belongs to the individuals, the cause of the confusion is the responsiblity of poor catechesis. While we cannot necessarily change a person, we CAN work to educate others, and we can do so in charity, by planting seeds and letting them fall where they may. We have to remember that it is not our job to convert others to Catholicism--that's God's job.

I do think it says a lot when an "outsider" can look through the window at the people he loves and put his finger on what's wrong with them and why they behave as they do...they are confused.

I know that confusion...I've been there, but not everyone knows where to go to find answers, and not everyone is ready to hear the truth or read it in black-and-white on the pages of the catechism.

That's why our own behavior, as well as knowledge, is SO IMPORTANT. St. Frances is famed to have said, "Preach the Gospel--if necessary, use words."

AMEN to that! I'm guilty of this, but sometimes words aren't enough, and most of the time, they fall on deaf ears. That's where "loving thy neighbor" comes in to play. It's hard to hug the lepers in our lives, but we have to do it...we have to learn to remain calm when maybe we are attacked, we have to learn to respond in love and charity when we feel anything but, and we need to be able to speak calmly when our faith is challenged--even when, in the confusion we inherited, we don't know the answers on the spot.

Y'all, the Catholics around us are confused. They don't know their faith, they don't know their history (how else would "Duh-Vinci" have taken such hold?), and when fighting against the culture's death to usurp morality, without strong catechesis, patience, and understanding, souls will continue to be lost.

Please pray for my co-worker. He's not anti-Catholic although he seems to be on the surface, as maybe many people do in our lives. Let's be prepared to hear them all out and take their criticism to heart in all humility. By listening to our critics, we might be able to see the issues we might have missed, and we may miss clues into how to "fix" the problem.

Let us all work to educate ourselves and each other, keep easy references on hand, and be prepared to defend our faith gently and with the authority Jesus passed on down to His Church. We do not need to be ordained in order to speak with authority...but we do need to be informed, and we do need to remember to listen before we speak. A soul may depend upon that.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Intercession of the Blessed Mother, Undoer of Knots

A very good friend of mine suggested the other day that I offer a particular novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots. I have been praying with all my heart and it's a very simple novena involving Memorare's. (I love that prayer).

As you all know, I've been agonizing over this seemingly-sudden decision to apply for Grad school, and I've reallized that I really need to just trust Jesus...if it is meant to be, He will open the doors. But that sure doesn't mean that we should just not pray.

Several things are required for admission: 3 references, one required to be a profesor.

Well, I called, and since I've been out of school for 10 years, they are waiving that and will accept professional references, or priests, etc. Done. My Manager (he actually graduated also from my alma mater), our Pastor, and the Assistant Pastor--I actually spoke with him briefly today and have to make an appointment to come in and speak with him a little further as he wants to know a few more things about me before he completes the letter. But he told me he'd write it.

I can't express to you what it means to me to have the support of the priests at my parish in this endeavor--I love and respect them dearly and of course, the problem has been solved...which one to ask? BOTH! (We actually have 4 priests but I don't know the other two as well).

And the thing that made my day....

As you remember, I was wondering what to write my paper about. Being out of school for so long, I was very concerned about having a paper to submit. Most people go to grad school before they hit their ten year anniversary. I'm a late bloomer. So what?

I have wondered over and over what to write and many topics came to mind, yet I dreaded writing the's not like blogging. This is for real. I do NOT want to come across as a hack.

Yesterday I went to adoration for awhile and prayed for help, prayed for some peace, prayed for an idea I could run with. Jesus told me to him handle it. So I went home and I didn't brainstorm...I just waited.

This morning as I was getting ready for work, I could not shake the desire to go into my spare room (currently a storage room in complete disarray) and look for a paper. I argued, thinking, "I gotta get to work! I don't have time to dig around in that mess!"

My storage room is a disaster area...ever since I began the throwing-away process, it has been a catastrophe and I shudder every time I pass of these days I need to complete what I started but I don't want to. It's too much work. I'm paying for my negligence now.

Well, I had to go into that room to close the window, which I don't leave open when I'm not home, especially with the threat of rain. Just under the window was a milk crate containing various odds and ends. While I shut the window, I idly pulled a folder back to reveal what was behind it.

It was a notebook from my college. Suddenly I didn't care about work so much...time stopped. I briefly paged through the looseleaf papers and packets stored in that notebook. Nothing...but there was another notebook from another class behind that...and there, I found my paper.

It is a paper about Borderline Personality Disorder, written for my Abnormal Psych class my sophomore year in college. I was working in a psych facility with many patients with this disorder, and more than once they sent me to the doctor as a result of their assaultive behavior. I was fascinated by the course and as I always read the histories and the Axis diagnoses, it was great to finally piece it all together. And since those borderline personality kids were such a challenge, I wanted to learn that's what I wrote my paper about.

I think this was the paper that caused my prof, himself a Criminal Psychologist and court expert, and beg me to change my major from CJ to Psych. Or even double-major.

I refused, and really, I'm glad. I think I would have been as caught up in Freudian-Jungian Psychology as many of the mislead "doctors" out there and given my spiritual state at the time, that would not have been a good thing.

And so I have a paper, one for which I recieved an "A", and it doesn't matter that I think the psychology behind it is bunk and the "solutions" ridiculous. When I'd called the university the other day, they only expressed they want to make sure we know how to do research...fine...done. I might, for good measure, "fictionalize" one of my current investigations and provide that as an example of real-world research including my "legalese" which now seems to classify my business letters. (yeech..I need to get out of this job).

What a weight off my mind! Mary, Undoer of Knots, has undone some minor tangles and a large knot standing between me and admission to the Master's program. I have a paper, exactly 12 pages in length excluding the bibliography....and now all I need to write is a 700 word essay about why I want to enter the program. Oh, and order my transcripts.

Thank you, Blessed Mother, for your intercession! Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for us!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Conversion Story Chapter 3

I apologize that Chapter 2 of my Conversion story was so long but I'm not sure any of you would have really understood the humiliation of the experience had it been broken into parts. Granted, I was broken into pieces as a result, but that part continues here.

I was given a choice...resign or be fired. It wasn't "quitting" anymore...I had a chance to save face, but only with anyone who didn't know me, so I wrote a very nice "resignation letter" and I brought it in at the same time I turned in my uniform. I learned later on, via bumping into various officers in other places that as far as they knew, I had moved on and was already working in a different field.

I didn't tell them that I was unemployed, but I did let them think my resignation was voluntary.

No one saw my true one, other than God, understood my suffering.

All the way through college, my family (mostly extended) worked to dissuade me from this career...they argued that women weren't supposed to work in such dangerous fields. A cousin who was close to me was approached and asked to talk me out of becoming a cop. Rather, she was one of my only staunch supporters...God bless her!

Then when I "resigned", I realized that I really had not "saved face" at all; in fact one of my uncles, one who had worked the hardest to prevent me from my goal actually had the gall to pointedly ask me, "So you're going to find another department, right? You're going to get another job soon doing the same thing?"

You would not believe the absolute pressure to go back to the same job...after all their fighting against me...after all the energy spent trying to force me into something else...anything else...and once I left they suddenly decided that being a cop was the thing I was supposed to do?

I was actually speechless and when I tried to explain my reasons for "leaving", my family only suggested I try another department. As words fell on deaf ears.

I continued to pray...this time for another job since I needed to pay my rent. I was facing my worst nightmare...the prospect of having to go on welfare. I had been raised on welfare and I had vowed that I would never live that life. I would never apply for that particular aid...I was going to find anther job come hell or high water, and I would survive.

I did attend Mass here and there and seemed that I always heard the message of the prodigal son. I continued to cry when I did attend Mass yet sometimes I could not disobey the pull to attend.

It was around this time that I began to explore New Age, psychics, palm reading, and crystals. I read books, I bought candles with special intentions, telling myself it was harmless and "couldn't hurt" to light a candle for the intention to bring in money or romance..or something.

I found a job working with the developmentally disabled--I was making maybe $1200 per month before taxes, and my rent was $600...sometimes I could barely pay my bills. It was a long, cold, precipitous winter and I continued to pray for another job, more money, the ability to survive...and then I got sick. Really, really sick. But I didn't think I had any sick time so I continued to drag myself to work...not to do so meant the potential of not eating, or not making rent...which of course would lead to eviction, which of course meant even deeper humiliation.

As it was, I had gone from being a police officer to literally changing diapers...yet even so, I was learning something. I was learning about the inherent dignity of each and every human life. Within me, two powers fought one another, although I was not aware of the battle...on one hand was my Catholic upbringing and of course, God. On the other hand was the Evil One who sought to bring me fully into his own camp.

Even as I learned to love the people I served and began to accept my humiliation, I began to question my pro-life stance. I expressed to a friend (who had always been politically liberal, a complete secularist, and of course, pro-abortion) that I was seeing the "pro-choice" platform and now believed in "a woman's right to choose abortion". Yet even though I expressed this, I wasn't sure I really felt that way. The guilt was nearly overpowering and deep inside, I realized I had not explored this position far enough. I prayed for guidance but continued in my life of sin. I wasn't sure where God was in all of this or even if He cared.

Then I was sent to a location dealing with very severe disabilities...people who couldn't feed themselves, who wore diapers...who had no hope of improving. Yet I observed and was a part of their compassionate care and even though I really hated the work, I loved the people.

When it came time to chart, I came across one DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order after another, and upon inquiring, I learned that EVERY SINGLE RESIDENT had one of these orders. EVERY SINGLE ONE.

On one hand, I understood...their care was expensive and their quality of life...low. Yet on the other hand, I began to wonder who was the judge of "quality of life"? It certainly wasn't the people this judgment affected. Rarely have I ever seen such joyful people. It was as though they were not really aware of their "disabilities". As far as they were concerned, this was simply life, and their perception of the world allowed them to take delight in the most amazing things...things the rest of us take for granted.

I noted that residents in their middle age actually appeared to be much younger...they did not have the wrinkles, the gray hair, and certainly not the cynicism that most of use possess by those ages. I realized, partially in conversation with my "liberal" friend that they lived lives without the same stressors the rest of us experience...and this helps to keep them young, in spite of their alleged "suffering".

My friends, those "disabled" people suffer less than you or I and their lives have a much higher quality...for I am convinced that they are closer to God than most of us will ever understand.

I will end this chapter here...for I'm not sure that any of you, patient as you are with my long-windiness, has any interest in such a lengthy post as the last one.

Teachings of the Apostles

I'm constantly amazed by certain groups out there who try to put their own spin on Sacred Scripture, such as suggesting that the Old Testament tale about Sodom and Gomorrah was not about sexual perversion, but rather, about inhospitality.

The proponents of such teaching, of course, have an agenda and like to claim that our modern day teaching of morality is wrong was goes completely against what the Apostles taught or what people believed in that time.

Well, I beg to differ; we actually have documents which are not part of the Biblical Canon but demonstrate the first Catechism; that is, the teachings of the Apostles.

I am reading a FASCINATING book right now entitled, "FOUR WITNESSES The Early Church in her Own Words" by Rod Bennett. This book tells the tales of Clement of Rome, Ignatious of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus of Lyons. It demonstrates how the teachings were handed down from those four early fathers, and I encourage EVERYONE, Catholic and Protestant alike to read this book.

Anyway, it refers to the Didache, a document which was referred to in the book as an early Catechism; a summary of the teachings of the Apostles as handed down to them by Jesus Christ himself. And my friends, the morality found within this document is the same moral teachings as taught by the Catolic Church today. (Protestants...I'm sorry, I can't comment of the moral teachings of your various religions).

As an example, here is an excerpt:

Chapter 2. The Second Commandment: Grave Sin Forbidden. And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born. You shall not covet the things of your neighbor, you shall not swear, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not speak evil, you shall bear no grudge.

and another excerpt:

Chapter 3. Other Sins Forbidden. My child, flee from every evil thing, and from every likeness of it. Be not prone to anger, for anger leads to murder. Be neither jealous, nor quarrelsome, nor of hot temper, for out of all these murders are engendered. My child, be not a lustful one. for lust leads to fornication. Be neither a filthy talker, nor of lofty eye, for out of all these adulteries are engendered. My child, be not an observer of omens, since it leads to idolatry. Be neither an enchanter, nor an astrologer, nor a purifier, nor be willing to took at these things, for out of all these idolatry is engendered. My child, be not a liar, since a lie leads to theft.

And finally, my favorite part:

Chapter 5. The Way of Death. And the way of death is this: First of all it is evil and accursed: murders, adultery, lust, fornication, thefts, idolatries, magic arts, witchcrafts, rape, false witness, hypocrisy, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness, depravity, self-will, greediness, filthy talking, jealousy, over-confidence, loftiness, boastfulness; persecutors of the good, hating truth, loving a lie, not knowing a reward for righteousness, not cleaving to good nor to righteous judgment, watching not for that which is good, but for that which is evil; from whom meekness and endurance are far, loving vanities, pursuing revenge, not pitying a poor man, not laboring for the afflicted, not knowing Him Who made them, murderers of children, destroyers of the handiwork of God, turning away from him who is in want, afflicting him who is distressed, advocates of the rich, lawless judges of the poor, utter sinners. Be delivered, children, from all these.

The Didache does also move away from the negative and gives clear teachings about what we are to do versus not do:

Chapter 4. Various Precepts. My child, remember night and day him who speaks the word of God to you, and honor him as you do the Lord. For wherever the lordly rule is uttered, there is the Lord. And seek out day by day the faces of the saints, in order that you may rest upon their words. Do not long for division, but rather bring those who contend to peace. Judge righteously, and do not respect persons in reproving for transgressions. You shall not be undecided whether or not it shall be. Be not a stretcher forth of the hands to receive and a drawer of them back to give. If you have anything, through your hands you shall give ransom for your sins. Do not hesitate to give, nor complain when you give; for you shall know who is the good repayer of the hire. Do not turn away from him who is in want; rather, share all things with your brother, and do not say that they are your own. For if you are partakers in that which is immortal, how much more in things which are mortal?

The document is not long...I really do encourage EVERYONE to read this and do so often. The link to the Didache can be found here.

Friday, August 18, 2006

My Conversion Story Chaper II

My faithful readers will remember the first part of my conversion story, which is found here.

Tonight I'm going to share with you a very painful part of my which still hurts and likely will for the rest of my life. It is a tale of failure, yet even now, as much pain as it causes, I realize that what I perceive as failure really was a great blessing from God, one I likely have not fully ascertained. And because I know that everyone has experienced failure, maybe this is a story with which all can identify.

I apologize in advance that this is so long, but I have found that once this story has begun it must go on until the bittter end.

If you'll recall, at the end of Part 1, I had described how I was in tears whenever attending Mass with my friends, and I had wandered for a long time like this. So I will begin with my first career:

I graduated early from college as I had spent a summer in Law Enforcement Skills training as part of my B.A. degree in Criminal Justice. So it was that I was able to take the MN State Licensing Exam, (P.O.S.T. Peace Officers Standards and Training) that spring and by May, the formal graduation with my University class, I had a job offer with a suburb of the Twin Cities Metro Area here in Minnesota.

It's important to note here that not a single member of my family, immediate or extended (save my brother), was supportive of my chosen career as a Police Officer. Since my Dad had passed away a year and a half before, and he was the only one who was really "proud" of the fact that his daughter was embarking on this endeavor, I was pretty much alone when I moved to my new city of residence...the city in which I was to work. In fact, a cousin was approached by certain members of my extended family (to include my Godfather) and asked to discourage me from my career. As though the lack of support wasn't discouragement enough!

I moved into my first apartment and I was living alone...a small town girl in the Twin Cities. Thank God I had another friend in the area, and for the first few weeks of employment I lived with her because I was required to have a working phone, and my apartment did not have such immediately. I had no one else. It was me 'n God, and I really wasn't giving a lot of attention to God at that stage.

I still remember my swearing-in ceremony: I remember standing before certain members of the City Council in the briefing room, my Field Training Officer (FTO), my Mom, and my uncle, (himself a Park Ranger), and some other officers, raising my right hand to swear to serve and protect, and clipping my badge onto my belt. I had not yet qualified at the range with the .45 Smith & Wesson semi-automatic carried by the department, so I was in street clothes. It wasn't long before I qualified, and I'll never forget the pride I felt when I donned the symbols for which I had struggled all the way through school: The uniform of the department of which I was now a part - so new I could still smell the dark blue-black dye; the shiny badge, pinned right over my heart; and the shiny gun, settled in the black leather holster over my right hip.

Because I didn't have a vest yet and I was no dummy, I became more aware of my mortality and that I had forgotten God for too long. I knew I had to pray, and indeed, I knew I needed God.

I had never really left God...I had only left the Church. Sorta. I didn't see why I couldn't just worship on my own; I didn't see why I had to go to Mass. But I knew that I needed to pray and that the Bible was the Word of God. I had actually read something once which had discussed two police officers; partners who had prayed Psalm 91 together, and so I took up that practice and read this Psalm every day at the start of my shift. I prayed for protection; I prayed for God's hand to be upon me and to guide me and to keep me from death at the hands or weapon of a criminal. Even today I am convinced God placed that little story into my hands and helped me to keep tight to His hand via the humble words of scripture.

In the beginning, things went well. My first FTO called me a "sponge" and I learned a lot. The geography of the city was no problem for me. But even then, I recognized a problem; I started my new career on day shift, and they used to joke that the officers were "retired on day shift." Every morning, when I arrived in the briefing room, I remember this sense that a black cloud hung over everything and the cynicism was so thick I could hardly breathe. I remember one officer, an investigator, actually telling me that since I was so young (22), I could retire at 42 and have a second career, along with my pension.

His enthusiastic words faded into the background as I thought to myself, "20 years? 20 YEARS? I have to do this for 20 MORE YEARS!?"

It was only my second week on the job. Already the life I had thought I wanted was losing its shine.

It wasn't long before everything went all to hell. I became very nervous before my shift, wondering what I'd be thrown into for the day; I began to struggle although I'm not really sure why. I hesitated, I was terrified of making mistakes, even small ones, and whole areas of the city seemed to "disappear" from my mind when we rushed from one place to another for an emergency. I began to make really dumb mistakes and really second-guessed myself in everything I did.

It didn't help that the department had exceptionally high standards; they usually hired from within, but with a lack of Community Service Officers (CSO's) and a need to fill positions immediately, they had to hire out of their ranks. Normally they didn't hire those fresh out of college as their program was tailored to those who had experience. One Captain, seeing me struggle to overcome my rookie-ness and newbie weaknesses, actually told me that had a certain officer (hired ahead of me) not been a CSO first, then she never would have made it through the FTO program. And officers I knew outside of my city told me the same thing; that officers even with five years of experience or more had failed with that department. I still can't figure out why my Captain thought that this bit of information would be an "encouragement" to me...rather I believe it was a not-so-subtle discouragement...just another blow to weaken my cracking foundation.

I quickly grew tired of carrying my stomach and heart in my throat...there just wasn't enough room in that small space.

Then came the formal second-guessing and undermining perpetuated upon me by those who were supposed to lead me to success. One FTO had some major family issues (father-in-law was dying) and was, as a result, was forced to take time off. What of his rookie? No matter. I was switched to different shifts and different FTO's on an almost daily basis. Thankfully, one experienced fill-in FTO in particular was very helpful and on days I worked with him everything I touched turned to gold. He explained that he was trained as a teacher and had learned that for every criticism, we need 10 affirmations in order to balance that. He did his best to fulfill this and predictability, I relaxed with him and my days were a success.

Unfortunately, he was a substitute only. The committed FTO's seemed bent on my destruction. Other female officers in the locker room confessed to me that they had sometimes actually broken down and cried while going through FTO; but they assured me I'd get through it.

I wasn't so sure. I remember one incident in which my FTO had been telling me to stop second-guessing myself and commit to my decisions. We went to a loud party call in which, surrounded by four other officers, I explained to the offending tenant why we were there. I let him vent in the hallway about how he worked nights and other people were noisy during the day. I pointed out to him that it was 3:00 am and we worked nights, too, and the ordinance was a 24 hour ordinance. He actually began to calm down and understand we weren't going to ticket him and the visit was only educational. He nodded calmly and started to ask a question in a normal tone of voice. My FTO suddenly leapt into the man's face and began shouting at him. The man was naturally startled, offended, and placed on the defensive by this unwarranted attack. He expressed that wanted to continue to talk to me. While my FTO screamed at him and threatened to take him to jail, he dodged, trying to make eye contact with me in order to continue our productive conversation. The FTO finished the "conversation" with a shouting match and we all departed. All I could do was shrug at the poor guy as we went on our way.

When we got to the squad car I asked my FTO why he had jumped in. Usually he did that when I had screwed up once again. Having gone over it and over it in my mind, I never saw my alleged error.

"What did I do wrong?", I asked, honestly confused.


"But I must have done something wrong. You jumped in." I was perplexed

He told me I had done nothing wrong and that he just wanted to start a fight.

So at that point, thoroughly confused, my second-guessing increased, terrified he would undermine me yet again. I thought I had things figured out...he taught me that night that I had no idea what was even coming.

I moved on to a different FTO for another phase of the program. Same thing; I continued to be forced to work a rotating schedule.

The stress, the constant criticism, all was wearing on me. I left every single night wondering if I'd done anything right all day (or night) long. I never heard a positive word or any sincere encouragement. And since we departed at 3 A.M., the FTO didn't want to go over my critique for the day; he saved them for first thing in the morning.

Let's look at this psychologically; starting each new day with the mistakes of the day before. Who wrote this program? Who could succeed? What I was taught to view as a form of mercy (note the hour of Mercy) was really the hour of the ultimate punishment and I didn't even have the gumption to protest.

I started forgetting the smallest details. Roads I had known in the past began to "disappear" in my mind, especially when driving to an emergency. I couldn't answer questions and I had no idea how to respond to some situations. I couldn't sleep at night and when I did, I was plagued with nightmares. I prayed every single day before my shift for approximately half an hour, paging through the Bible, especially the Psalms, for the right words. I cried myself to sleep each night, struggling with this career to which I thought I had been called. You have no idea the anguish I felt as I wondered if I should just quit or continue on? But somehow, I continued, knowing that, having worked so hard, fighting against chauvinism, fighting against my very family..I could not quit. And of course the ultimate reason...I had grown up on welfare and I REFUSED to ever be forced to live as an adult on that terrible system. I could not quit...I had nowhere to go.

The meetings began. The remedial training began, with the platitudes that they wanted me to succeed. I was pulled into the conference room, faced with the shift commander, the assigned FTO, the sergeant in charge of FTO's, and told how awful I was. They explained to me that no one else in my circumstances could do it and that I wasn't "getting it" and that they wanted me to succeed. They went out of their way to tell me that no other officer in the history of the department had ever been put through this remedial training and this should prove that they were working for my success. I saw through their words, though, and I realized that the eyes are indeed the windows to the soul. I could see the lies for myself, but through my own pride, I wanted to believe; and so I continued. But it was plain by their actions that they did not want me to complete the program. And it was clear to me that I no longer wanted to succeed myself. Yet there was no easy way out of this cross I had chosen to bear. Even as I fought the current of blood, sweat, and tears, I was drowning and I had no one with whom to share my struggle; no one knew, no one understood, and not a member of my family thought I should have been there in the first place.

It was obvious that I had to remain to the end, whatever sort of garrote awaited me.

I couldn't quit; I rationalized to myself that maybe I was just having a temporary crisis. Maybe it was the fact that I was living in my first apartment alone, footing all my bills without a roommate and didn't know many people in the city. Most of my co-workers were married or had other things going on so I never became close to them. I was trying to learn the real world when fresh out of college. I needed to give it a chance and continue...maybe the bulb would go on and I would pull through. Then, at least, if I still wanted to quit, I could do so with my head high and options open.

So I'd go in to work, my stomach in knots, and again told to work the shift, leave, and return only 12 hours later. I did not have regular days off; I did not have regular sleep. I was made to feel that what they were doing to me in that training program was normal. I have compared notes with other rookies in other places; what happened to me was far from normal.

But I never quit. I felt that I had to see it through until I was beaten to a bloody pulp. And so it was.

I remember my last night; I was going home early that night and we were called to a violent domestic. It was a rainy, freezing night the week after Thanksgiving and icy slush covered the roads and cars. I got out of the squad, asking my FTO if he wanted me to stay to go to the call. The FTO shook his head, did not look at me, told me to go ahead and end the shift as planned. I knew that it was over.

The next day I went in to work, specifically called to the Captain's office. He delivered the news; they were letting me go. He explained to me that I was being fired, but I had the option to resign and they would pay me for two more weeks. Call it severance. The record could reflect that I left voluntarily or I left because I had no choice; it was my option to choose what the record would reflect although we both knew the truth.

I took a deep breath and listened as he preached that they were concerned about me and wanted to be sure I turned over my weapon. I thought to myself that if they were really concerned they would take the one I had at home, too. The one not assigned, but purchased when I was in college. If I wanted to do something stupid, I could do it without their weapons and without their useless platitudes.

I remained silent.

It was the moment I knew had been coming. I was being stripped of the symbols that I used to define myself. Being a cop is an identity unto itself; it is a way of life, a way of thinking which permeates ones very soul. It is a calling, and even the experience changes the individual forever. I had come to see myself as cop first, woman second, and all else...following. It was who I thought I was, but as it turned out, I was wrong; I didn't know who I was or where I belonged...only that it wasn't what I thought.

So I first removed my badge and handed it to the Captain, although he started to tell me I could turn it in later. I just shook my head; I didn't want to remember that I would never wear it again. I carefully removed the .45 from the holster, pointed it down and away from him, dropped the clip, ejected the round from the chamber and handed the gun to the captain; unloaded, slide back, butt towards him; a proper hand-off. It was one of the first things I learned in relation to gun handling. If nothing else, I was going to do that correctly.

I stood, shook his hand, and left his office in silence, completely numb, not allowing myself to feel what was just below the surface. I was taken to the Chief's office, seated, and he closed the door.

"Have you been happy here?", the Chief questioned, honestly concerned.

I had no beef with him; the Chief had had nothing to do with my training and at the moment, he was the only person in the hierarchy I actually liked.

I wanted to be honest with him; I wanted to tell him that I'd never been so miserable in my entire life, and that included the suicidal days of my early teens. I wanted to tell him that I might have succeeded--in some other department, but that the rug had been jerked out from under my feet and that his very FTO's had trampled me underfoot like so much trash. I wanted to tell him that any confidence that I had so carefully built through college was only a remnant of a thought.

"Yes." was all I said.

I can't recall the rest of our conversation...I was too focused on willing the tears back into their ducts. I remember my strained voice and the control needed to maintain my composure...I remember the direct gaze of the Chief, a good man as far as I could tell, a puzzled man near his retirement who likely couldn't understand what had gone wrong with such a promising candidate and who likely knew I was lying through my teeth. Happy cops don't get fired.

There was nothing left to say. I stood, shook the Chief's hand, thanked him for the opprotunty (as I'd shaken the Captain's hand after I gave him the gun), turned and walked out of his office, a condemned woman. The station seemed abandoned. It seemed that everyone was gone. I'd faced my judgment, had faltered, and I was not going to fall any further than I was; there had to be something left somewhere.

I remember feeling the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders, the heft of the weapon gone from my hip, the drag from the badge safe in the Captain's desk. But never before had my heart been so heavy or my steps so final. Never before had I felt so crushed.

Ironically, my badge number was 72. In police radio 10-codes, a 10-72 is a DOA (Dead on Arrival). Such was my career as a police officer.

I walked down the stairs to the locker room for the last time, still holding my tears as I cleaned out my locker. There was nothing left of me; I had defined myself by my goal, and was destroyed completely in the process. Everything I knew and thought I believed went up in flames and fell as dust at my feet...and it was a long time before I was able to pull my life together again and find my true identity.

Even now, when I think back to those days, all I can do is sing a shattered lullabye to the person I worked so hard to become; the identity I tried to hard to impersonate, only to crash to the ground, completely smashed to smithereens.

I will never forget the drive home that morning, realizing that I had been fired from my "dream job".

I didn't even want it was a matter of pride and it was the sense of failure I'd never before experienced. I had always worked very hard and doors had always semed to open for me..although that's not to say that there wasn't effort involved. Yet I had been completely humiliated and I wondered, where, in all this, was the God I had been praying to all along? Where was he? Why hadn't he saved me from this mess? Why hadn't He helped me to succeed?

It was a turning point in my life, and as such, this is the place to end the chapter. My conversion story continued on, however, Blue Coyote that I am, but since none of you wants to read a book tonight, I will leave you to ponder the brokenness of falure; the humiliation of knowing that one does not actually die from this type of tragedy, but life goes on in spite of our feelings and sensations, and somehow, that is worse than death. True death leads to true judgment, and in that is hope; for the Lord is merciful and someday I will fully understand the mercy suffered on my particular day of deathles judgment.

More importantly, ponder this; even in the midst of such suffering, there is redemption, and I promise to show you how that happened to me; pathetic, broken, prideful soul that I was there in the hard winter of 1996-1997 in my 22nd year of life.

For even when we forget about God, he does not forget about us.

To be continued....

Conversion Story Chapter 3

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

How to Write an Research Paper out of Common Household Catholic References

Well, I've made a decision, with regard to my returning to school.

I'm going to apply, and I'm going to take it step by step. There's actually an informational meeting about the degree I'm seeking on September 27th, although I have to wonder why they're having it so late in the game when the deadline for Spring admission is November 1. However, I hope to go. Maybe I'll have my app in by then, or maybe not but I still think it might be worth attending.

I downloaded and printed an application off today for the Master of Arts in Catholic Studies, and read the requirements. I've been ten years out of college and they want me to provide three references by a professor. I doubt any of my profs would remember me, especially after 10 years of other students, most likely far more interesting than I. However, I did have many wonderful chats with the Brother who is currently the President of my University...perhaps he would remember me and be willing to spare a kind word to help a future teacher along? In any case, UST is willing to make allowances for those such as myself who have been out for many years, so my reference search is going to happen closer to home.

I have to also turn in an essay, 700 words or less, regarding the reasons I care to pursue this degree. I guess my conversion story will be too long?

Then I have to submit a 10-12 page "writing sample" which displays research, critical thought, and writing ability. I considered the summeries of investigations at work, with the names removed, however even those are too short although they otherwise meet the criteria in a real-world legalistic sort of way. (Lots of quoting state statutes and such). I'm sure that for this purpose I'd be able to submit an old college paper, but I don't think I have any that long...I'll have to see. The likely result here is that I'll have to write a research paper.

Any ideas for topics I should research? I have a growing Catholic library and know lots of solid online sources, although I would like to keep this project simple. If possible, I'd like to put to use the things around my house...perhaps a summary of how we got the Bible and the different translations available to both Catholics and Protestants? A dissertation on Luther and his "sola scripture, sola fide" nonsense? Oh, wait...we're not to the doctoral dissertation yet...I'm just applying for admission to a program which might lead to a Master's degree.

Ultimately, I have decided that this might be a test of faith to me. I have come to realize that when we are walking around in our homes, offices, shopping malls...what have you, we first recognize our surroundings. Then we look for the doorways leading to certain goals we might have in those given surroundings. After we identify the doorway, we approach it but it never opens until our hands are on the knobs, or pushing where it says "push", or pulling where it says "pull". Only then do we walk through the doorway, and sometimes we have to dodge people rushing out, or bail out of the way of people stampeding to get through the same door.

The reality is that life is like this...God isn't going to open the door until we are standing in front of it reaching for the knob. I think Grad School is the same way. I have recognized my surroundings as being...confining, and I am looking for a way out. God knows where it is but I need to spend more time doing something other than spinning my wheels. So now I recognize the doorway and the only way to approach it is to filling out the application. This is my door. Maybe it leads to a closet, and speaking as someone who has wandered into these proverbial closets, I'm kind of sick of the experience. As it is, I think I'm stuck in a walk-in closet. Maybe UST is the doorway to something else I have not considered. Maybe it's what God wants me to do.

But I will never get anywhere without taking the risk. After all...if I don't take the steps, I'll never enter. And what about financial aid? Nothing. I'm going to have to trust here. One thing at a time. Fill out the app. Get accepted. Then worry about payment, and quite honestly, God is the guy with the checkbook and if he wants me there, he'll pull it out and write out the funds to UST in my name. He's done it before for me and for others I know...why not now? And if not, then I'll have lost nothing.

Even the time I have to spend on a research paper will be time well spent...after all, I'll be learning something! Yay!

I do ask you all for continued prayers, and tonight I leave you with one of my favorite yet least-followed sayings:

Pray, Hope, Don't worry. ~ St. Pio

Monday, August 14, 2006

Praying about returning to school

Everyone, I'd like to ask for your prayers, and believe me, if this is to happen I need a HUGE miracle.

It has been on my heart for a long time to go back to school...even before I got my B.A. degree, I wanted to go to grad school. However, I realized I didn't know for certain which area I wanted to study and I think I finally least, down to two specific, and one broad but with more info likely to be pinpointed. Oh, and I just thought of a third area I learned about today.

Today I'm off work, recovering from our camping trip. This afternoon I took a nap...just couldn't keep my eyes open. During that nap, I had a dream about returning to school and it seemed it was going to happen. I woke up with the understanding that I'm never going to go back if I don't take a few steps towars the possible goal.

I'm in a job in which I have no future. When I first started, I *knew* where I wanted to go with the company, but now I'm simply not interested. Already, I'm burned out as it is. It's not for lack of internal opportunity...opportunities abound as the company is profitable and is constantly expanding and restructuring. But I'm not interested in any of it. Clearly I have not found my niche professionally.

I think I want to teach, and I've wanted to study theology. Ironically, when I was in high school an uncle of mine offered to pay my way through college-any college or university without restriction--if I would become a teacher. He was on the board of trustees of a school he helped to found out East and I was thus pretty much guaranteed a job. I refused and although he did assist me in paying for school, I funded the rest myself via scholarships, grants, and student loans. I'm still paying for that--every month.

And another irony...when I went to school for my B.A. degree, I considered then studying theology, but I was so focused on what I thought I wanted to do that I didn't give it much thought...and perhaps it wasn't the time, anyway.

Now, here I am, 10 years later, wanting desperately to return to school for a grad degree.

Right now I'm looking at St. Thomas for a Master's degree in either Education (teaching), Catholic Studies, or a joint degreen in Catholic Studies and Law. As my B.A. degree is in Criminal Justice, the latter option might be a good one.

But here's the problem--or rather, several problems:

* I own a house and I'm paying for a mortgage, a car, and all the utilities. I don't have enough space for a roommate.

* I have dogs, thus the expense and the necessary time required for running home from work to feed them and let them out, etc. Giving them up is NOT an option. Do you have any idea how many pets are euthanized because there are more homeless pets than available homes? That, and as far as I'm concerned, they are family, AND I made an agreement to be a responsible owner. That means not giving up on one's best friends because they suddenly become inconvenient on a whim.

* I have no money left over at the end of the month..not for ANYTHING. That's never a good thing.

At this point, I think what needs to happen is that I need to find a financial package that will pay for my expenses (and debt), to include the dogs while I attend school full time, and find a part time job with benefits to save my parish from having to take up a collection to pay my medical bills should disaster befall me. Because of the dogs, I could not just take evening classes without effect because I would not have time to run home and then to class in the evening--I live too far away from St. Thomas...not to mention the gas money! Oy Vey!

I'm not sure I'd qualify for a fellowship...sadly, I didn't work hard enough when I got my BA degree, although I did well. But I would not refer to my GPA as "outstanding". It was good and I think I was in the top quarter or third of my class, but I did not graduate cum laude. One of the other options might work but it would certainly not cover my expenses.

So you see, if I go back to school, I need something major to get me there. I need a scholarship, I need Divine Providence, and honestly, if God wants me to go back to school, He will provide the means for me to quit my job and pay for the classes.

I'm asking you all to pray for me. At this point I'm thinking of becoming a teacher--a religion teacher, specifically. You all know how I love my faith! And after the watered down crap I (and so many others) were fed for so long, I want to be part of the solution of solid formation. I'm not sure what I'd do with a joint degree in Catholic Studies and Law, but I may contact the college to find out what those grads do.

If anyone has any ideas or know anyone in a similar circumstance who pulled something like this off, please let me know. I'm in need of a little hope and a huge miracle!