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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night....

This is my obligatory Halloween post.

Today, I saw a post at Happy Catholic, giving the rules of lessons learned from horror movies.

These are especially pertinent:

* Do not search the basement, especially if the power has just gone out.

* When you have the benefit of a group of people, NEVER pair off and go it alone.

Now, while these rules are great, they are very general: for you see, the basement may also mean "upstairs", and "pair off" can also mean "solo".

So, with that prelude, let us begin the entrance music, and the narrative laughter of Vincent Price....


Several years ago, I lived in an old house in Minneapolis; an old two-story house that favored darkly stained woodwork, soft pine flooring, and high ceilings. The upper story sported a couple dormer windows that faced toward the street, had window seats to go with the dormers, etc. You are likely familiar with such architecture.

One summer night, my roommate, the homeowner, was at work. A male friend of mine and I had gone out earlier and returned to my house, planning to spend the rest of the evening watching TV. Our show, "Mad TV" was interrupted by the local weatherman tracking a massive severe storm. Predictably, the storm arrived with a huge gust of wind and rain, and of course, knocked the power out. Realizing it was a lost cause, we moved from the couches to a mostly unfurnished area of the room and made ourselves comfortable on the wood floor as we watched the storm rage outside, continuing our commentary on life and technology in the face of nature.

I had already lit one candle and perched it on the top of the piano before seating myself next to my friend. The flame cast small and rapid shadows across the room, shrinking and elongating our own profiles against the walls and the cold fireplace situated on the northern wall, interrupted only by ultra-bright flashes of lightening.

Then we felt a drip from above. Mind you, we were on the first floor and there was a second floor that contained the bedrooms. I raised my hand, seeking the falling fluid, trying to pinpoint from whence it came. I did not seek in vain.

Although I could not see the fluid, logically I realized that a window must be open. Or maybe the roof was gone, taken away by the intense winds. Perhaps the hail had broken a window.

Or...(cue evil laughter....)

...given the red flags above...maybe it was blood. It wasn't as though we could see what was coming through the ceiling. It wasn't as though the foundation for a good horror flick wasn't present in palpable form.

Either way, as we both looked upward, my hand out, catching the drips, I told my friend (a guy, but just a friend) to light the rest of the candles downstairs. I took the first candle and headed for the stairway.


When I reached the bottom step, I stopped, realizing that what I was doing was against "the rules".

"Hey...if I don't come back down...GET OUT!" I yelled as I began to mount the creaky old wooden stairs.

My friend chuckled and continued lighting and placing candles around the room. (That's in the generic script, too.)

Slowly I climbed the stairs into the darkness of the stormy night, holding my single candle, waiting for the draft that would put it out and leave me in pitch blackness, the complete absence of light, with whatever had caused that awful dripping. The palm that had touched the unverified fluid felt tacky; was the roommate really home, after all?

Slowly, with an outward courage I did not feel, I crept into my roommate's bedroom and found my way, via the candle flame and flashing lightning, to the dormer window. Her gym bag was on the window seat, and in order for me to reach the handle, I had to move it. I took care to be sure the light curtains, although soaked with rainwater, did not touch my candle.

Upon grasping the strap, I recognized immediately the sensation of the driving rain, which had, in fact, caused a puddle to form on top of the waterproof bag. Clearly, as we'd surmised, the window was open. I began to relax.

Carefully, I set my roommate's gym bag on the floor and knelt on the window seat so I could reach out and reel the window closed. Mentally I noted that I'd have to return later with towels to soak up the water on the floor.

On my way back downstairs, having so far been unmolested by the creature that lured me to the darkest place of the house via the open window, I watched the closet...ready to fight or flee. But it remained closed. I listened for creaks...but the floorboards never creaked. I felt for the slain body of my roommate...but never tripped in the darkness.

And all the while the storm raged around the house. I sensed that something was laughing at me.

I reached the stairs, waiting for the scythe to whir through the air towards my throat...but it never happened.

Step by step...each terrible, creaking step, I found my way back to the main floor....and there was my friend.....

...In a well-lighted room, all the candles aflame, as he watched the storm outside, resigned to the hail damage to his vehicle.

I joined him, setting my candle on the pinewood floor, and together, we waited for the lights to come back on. When the storm ended, he left and drove back home.


We're still friends.

My roommate came home the next morning, exhausted from work, and by then, her room was dry and the power was on, and no one was dead.

I never said it was an interesting story.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


I received a wonderful email from Australia and promised to link to the site for JUVENTUTEM.

Rather than come up with my own PSA, I'll quote the message here directly; it's best to quote people in their own words whenever possible.

I work as the U.S liason person with Juventutem
Australia, a non-profit international group for young
people with an attachment to the Latin Mass.

Our website is:
and we have details about registrations and a draft of
our program that we are planning. God willing, we are
expecting quite a few overseas pilgrims from all over
the world, including Africa.

I have heard that some parents have general concerns
about World Youth Day, seeing it as a bit of a
festival and not really 'Catholic', but Juventutem
demands and expects appropriate behaviour from its
pilgrims as befits our Catholic Faith.

So there you have it! Go to World Youth Day. See our Papa, pray a lot, meet lots of interesting Catholics from around the world, and recognize the actual unity that exists within the Church. Spring is go on this pilgrimage and grow in holiness!

Sunday Dinner

So I've been studying all day, but I have a small confession to make...the TV has been on and so I've also been watching movies. I'm amazed I learned a few things. But really, the last part of my studying was just perusing the Pontifical Bible Commission's texts to answer some questions, the answers of which are buried in the text. And I simply can't find it. Finally I gave up...I'm so frustrated right now that I realize I've overdone it for the day. Maybe I'll get some more reading or research in after dinner. We'll see if my brain recovers or not.

And speaking of dinner...tonight I'm making French Onion Soup. And what's really cool about this soup is that it's made in the slow-cooker.

Here's the recipe:

* Onions (surprise!)
* beef broth (I recommend low sodium)
* 2 T flour (white)
* 2 t. sugar (any kind, so long as it's real)
* 1 1/2 t. salt (I use blessed salt)
* butter or olive oil

Slice the onions. The recipe calls for about 3 cups, I recommend more. Cook the onions in butter slowly with a cover over them, approximately 15 min., but what you're going for is the release of the sugars in the onion. I think.

In the meantime, add the quart and a half or so of beef broth to the slow cooker and turn on high. It's best to time this so that the broth is warm or hot by the time you add the onions.

When you deem the onions "done", add the flour, salt, and sugar to the pan, mix them together. (this is very important!). Then add the mixture to the warmed broth.

I also like to add a shot of Worchester Sauce, some majoram, thyme, and maybe other beef-broth-friendly condiments as available. Really; you can play with this soup a little bit, just don't overdo it.

Bring to a simmer, then cook on "low" for 6-8 hours.

When ready to serve, toast some bread and melt swiss cheese over it. Serve the soup and place a piece of the toast over the soup.

I've made this soup before, and can honestly give it my highest rating:

This is food I would serve Jesus if he came to my house for dinner. Unless He was allergic to onions, in which case I'd serve him something else. It would just be wrong for our Savior to die in my livingroom due to anaphalaxis.

To explain this, my highest rating, I must define it as such: "Food I would serve Jesus" is so good that I would not be ashamed to offer it to my Lord. So, if that is true, then it is something I would be pleased to serve ANYONE. Because if it's good enough for Jesus....

I haven't come up with any other categories because so far the recipes I've posted here are worthy of sharing. In order to maintain integrity, I promise to share the next tanker that comes along and deem it "Food I would not serve Jesus."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Define Irony

It's a beautiful Saturday, and quite possibly one of the most perfect day of the entire calender year. It's a sunny autumn afternoon, with fluffy white clouds softly passing overhead. The temperature is in the mid-50's (F), the breeze is light, and the scent of leaves permeates the atmosphere. The best place to be is outside praising God for all of his beautiful colors.

I've been inside all day studying in preparation for an 8 page paper. The subject of today's reading: the comprehensive theology of suffering.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Decision Made

Thank you to all of you who responded to my previous post.

I have decided that this is not the time to go to Mexico, and no, I'm not a bit disappointed.

There are several reasons:

I have been to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe twice, which is far more than most people will ever experience in their lives. Additionally, there is NO GUARANTEE we'd get a chance to go to the Basilica, which is in Mexico City, very much out of the way of the wedding we'd be in Mexico to attend. While we would be going to the Cathedral in Puebla, a building built by angelic hands, well, I've been there before, too. And while Puebla is "home" for me, it will still be there after December. And if not, well, that's in God's hands.

Secondly, while my friend needs a travel companion and is willing to pay for me, that doesn't mean she can afford to, and she may find another traveling partner who is also already bound for the wedding. My going or not going is not a deal breaker for her, and she is still discerning what she is going to do.

Thirdly; someone brought up the path to holiness and doing a good for a friend. Well, this friend must make her own decisions and she will, but I must also make my own, and discern what God has already called me to do. Is this a diversion from that path? Yes. Because I will be working on things for class through December 15, plus preparing for Christmas with my family, working on other projects for work, etc., well, this trip comes at the worst possible time.

Fourth, and most important; I do not have peace with the idea of going. All it causes is anxiety, especially in looking at the timeline. Only 1 month to prepare, never mind all that I have to accomplish in relation to school and work within that month.

It is not prudent for me to go. This morning I informed my friend that I simply cannot go, and she of course understands and so is looking into her other options. My decision frees her to do what she needs to do and to look in other places for assistance; if it is God's will that she go, He will indeed get her safely to the wedding.

I love Mexico, and it will always be my second home. I hope to go to the Basilica again one day, but for now I am content to wait for God's time. This trip was not about the Basilica, but provided a possible opportunity only. That is not enough to sacrifice so much for something that may not happen.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Discernment Advice Needed

Here's the situation: I have a friend who is hoping to attend a wedding in Mexico. She really needs a travel companion, and what's cool about this is that the flight is into Mexico City...and the wedding is in PUEBLA when I spent the best 3 months of my life.

She's going to my hometown!

The price of the ticket isn't bad, just over $400, which is typical for Mexico City which has mainly business travel. She so wants to go that she is willing to pay my way.

I don't feel good about that; she's paying for the same things I am, including school. But to her, it's more important to be there, she's willing to make the sacrifice. I'm just not willing to accept that sacrifice on her part so would fully intend to pay my own way.

And it sounds like we wouldn't have to worry about hotel or anything so the expenses would be mainly travel in this case.

But then there's the passport; For around $120, I can renew my passport with a rush...which, as the trip is out about 1 month, well, a rush would be required.

I have not kept my passport updated as international travel is not a priority in my life, there have been no opportunities I could afford, so I just never went to the expense.

Now there is a possibility, and a decision must be made soon. If I'm going to get the passport update, it will have to be tomorrow.

Whether I go on the trip or not, it seems like a good idea to update the passport at this point, because one never knows. But if I'm not going to go to Mexico, is the expense justified?

And to be fair, there's another reason I want to go to Mexico again (besides the fact that it's my second home on earth): When I was there before, I was not living my faith, even though Puebla is the "City of Angels". I was in countless churches and cathedrals, and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe...but never attended Mass. Not once.

The wedding is to take place in a Cathedral in which I have been several times as a non-Mass goer, and it is a building built by angels. Truly.

Going in early December is a way to revisit this very special place, in a very special manner, going home, and making it more "home". I'm also hoping to be able to make a real pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, now that I'm a real live practicing Catholic, and have been able to recognize her intercession over the years. I've twice been to Mexico via Mexico City, have been to the Basilica twice...and yet it's never been "real". Hard to explain. But I've always regretted that I was not disposed for the graces that could have been available.

If I weren't in grad school, I'd just go. Period. But given the expense of grad school and my blegging, given the extra expense of having to renew the passport, given the possible expense of having to find someone to watch my dog,'s not prudent.

Or does the possiblity of a true spiritual pilgrimage, with another practicing and faithful Catholic, justify an expense such as this?

I know I must pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and as of now, I'm leaning towards just paying to renew my passport...and offering it to God to do with that as He wills.

Can anyone offer any advice or prayers? I can't guarantee that there will be a pilgrimage to the Basilica, although just the return to Puebla with opened eyes is a pilgrimage all by itself.

But the cost....that is making me want to say "no".

What does God want?

UPDATE: 10:11 pm CST. I can't find my Passport. It was supposed to be in a particular location where I keep other things. It's not there. And I didn't look for my birth certificate, of which I should have 2 (an original is often needed for certain things).

If there is no passport to mail in for renewal, and if I can't find an original birth certificate...well, it's a done deal and God's will is known.

I like it when He makes it simple. If X then X. If no X, then no X. Offer it up.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Kid Stories!

It's time for some fun.

First of all, you must go over and congratulate Sarah on the birth of her second daughter. Then come back and read the rest of this post. And I'll only know if you've been over to greet Sarah if you can tell me the name of her new little one.

Sarah is participating in a Meme, 40 reasons to have kids, and linked to Heather Claypool's list.

Although I don't have children so can't really participate, I DO remember some events from my toddlerhood, so I'm sharing a memory jarred back to life by one of Heather's observations:

11) Privacy in the bathroom is highly overrated!

So...I commented there, but decided to share this story with the larger world.

As I've written of before, I was always a daddy's girl, so whenever he was around, I wanted to be in his presence. I really loved my Daddy! And I still remember toddling around; apparently this is an unusual gift as most people don't remember being that young. At least, not clearly.

Perhaps I don't remember all of my youngest childhood, but one memory stands out so clearly I can tell you where the shadows fell in the light of the day. So I assure you; this memory is a true memory, and hearing about it as I grew up has helped to maintain the memory in high resolution.

One day I was looking for daddy, and found Mom in the kitchen. She told me he was in the bathroom. Great! I started to take off across the kitchen, calling daddy.

Mom tried to stop me, telling me that Daddy was going to the bathroom and to give him some "privacy". But I didn't care about that; I wanted to be wherever Daddy was. I was certain he wouldn't mind. So I ran across the kitchen, Mom's hand reaching out to stop me, just grazing the back of my shirt.

I was very single-minded in my intent!

I ran up the steps, through the laundry room, and to the bathroom. At that time, although the doorknob was over my head, I could reach it just fine, and turned it...and the door opened.

There was daddy, standing, facing the toilet, "going potty".

Daddy was embarassed, but didn't really know what to do...he sorta didn't have much of a choice at that point! Mom was yelling for me as she was catching up, apologizing to Dad.

I just stood there, ignoring Mommy, looking up at him. Dad was saying to me, "I'm going to the bathroom!"

Mom grabbed me, then, telling Dad she was sorry. But I couldn't take my eyes away from Daddy. There was something completely fascinating about what he was doing. My comment?

"Gee! How handy!"

And then Mom successfully pulled me out of the bathroom and closed the door.

My Dad died back in 1995, and this was one of his favorite stories; and much to MY embarassment, he never tired of telling it.

Incidentally, his other favorite story was accompanied by a picture of me sitting on my potty chair with my diaper on my head. That story will NOT be told and the picture will NOT be shared. It went into hiding after my high school graduation party.


This weekend, in conversation with my classmates, the topic of large families came up. One woman's sister happens to have four children, and for some reason, people insist on making snide comments to her about the number and kind of her offspring. They even go so far as to tell her about birth control. The dear woman, who happens to have an M.D. behind her name, just smiles sweetly and thanks these people for their concern about her fertility.

Which always makes her point.

Myself, I tend to be more blunt. If someone had the audacity to comment on my fertility, I'd probably take a deep breath, while considering the proposition of birth control. The conversation would go something like this:

Rude person (RP): FOUR children? Aren't you DONE yet? You know, you can get contraceptives so you don't continue to have this problem.

Me: (deep breath, eyes upward, as though considering.) Contraceptives? You mean "birth control?" (smile sweetly)

RP: (condescending) Yeah, you know, the pill?

Me: Oh, of course. Thanks for your concern about my fertility. And since you brought it you know that contraceptives are an abortifacient? That's a big word that means "causes abortions". And since you're such a fan, I'm just wondering.... (still smiling sweetly)...have you kept track of how many of your children you've flushed down the toilet every month?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Faith Begins at Home

In order to understand the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we first have to understand what "sin" is. Sin can be defined as a rejection of God's love, an abuse of free will, because we turn our backs on God when we choose to sin, or, as St. Thomas Aquinas stated in Summa Theologica, "disordered love."

If we go back to the beginning, back to the Garden of Eden, consider the first thing Adam and Eve did after they ate of the fruit?

They hid from God.

And when God walked through the garden, He called to them, calling them to conversion. Make no mistake; God knew what they had done, but He respected their free will, for he was not going to reneg on his gift of freedom. Would they accept or reject His love? They had a choice, and so God called to them, "Where are you?"

When God did confront them and asked them what they had done, indeed, He knew. But how did Adam and Eve respond?

They blamed each other. They blamed God. So we see that sin drives a wedge in between ourselves and each other, and between ourselves and God.

Maybe this has happened at your house. Maybe, for example, you left your children safely seated in front of Veggie Tales as you ran next door with soup for a sick neighbor. But upon your return, 10 minutes later, the dog or cat had mysteriously colorful markings that looked suspiciously like finger paint. And the dolls were all bald. And the four-year-old's hair was all over the kitchen floor.

And the house is strangely silent.

What's the first thing you say? Might I suggest:


You already know who did it, or at least have a pretty darn good idea. And if they haven't already been hiding by that point, they likely did when they heard your tone. Or perhaps they are back in front of Veggie Tales pretending to be innocent with all their might.

And so you confront them directly. "What did you do?" (Even though what they did was apparent given the evidence of the fingerpaint stained hands and clothing, not to mention the dog, and the badly-shorn head of the 4 year old, and the scissors in the hand of her brother.)

What do they say?

"HE DID IT! SHE DID IT! THE DOG DID IT! IT'S YOUR FAULT, YOU shouldn't have left." And they look at you balefully.

Are you buying it? Not so much.

But there's good news in spite of all of this, because you love your children, and you want them to be reconciled to you, and so you help that process along.

That's how God responded, too. He loves us all so much, that even though we constantly reject his love and act in disobedience, He works to reconcile us to him.

Consider the ministry of Jesus; it was all about forgiveness. Bartimaeus the blind man, the sinful woman at the Pharisee's home, and the paralytic lowered down to Jesus for healing. Indeed, he healed them all by forgiving their sins, but acknowledging what was unseen.

Jesus drew the line in between pious acts with no internal correlation, and brought to the forefront the need of an interior conversion. He recognized, in other words, not what was on the outside, but what was on the inside; repentance, shame, contrition, devotion, faith...all of those things. All that was unseen. Jesus could see what was in the heart.

Just a you can see, when your children come to you with true contrition. You can tell, can't you, when they really are repentant, when they recognize that they have offended, when they have done something wrong? You can see when they are truly sorry, as opposed to when they just look at their sibling and say "I'm sorry" and don't mean it. God can see that, too. Just as you can see when your kids are fudging, God can see when we're fudging.

So that was the mission of Jesus reconcile us, and he didn't leave us alone, but passed on his ministry to the Apostles, and that ministry is still alive and well today.

Consider this; twice in the Bible, God "breathes". In Genesis 2, God breathes life into Adam, and in John 20:22-23, He breathes on the Apostles, saying, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained." In this way, Jesus passed his authority specifically onto the Apostles, and this ministry has been passed down through Holy Orders since that time.

I'm going to jump back to the Old Testament for a moment. Consider this; the Bible is a love story. If you really read it, you see that it's all about love, it's all about mercy, and it's all about salvation. Throughout history, it has always been we who turned away from God. God never abandoned His people; the people always turned from Him, sinning against him in rejecting his love and his covenant. Over and over again, God made a new covenant, and each time, people broke that covenant. Finally, God definitively restored our dignity by coming to us in the flesh, by sending his own Son to die in our place. Justice has been served, in a redemptive act of mercy. If that isn't a love story, I don't know what is.

So we see clearly that God offers do we respond? We have a choice, to accept or reject. The first step is to become aware of the ways we have offended God, and we do this through an examination of conscience. Once we are aware, we get ourselves to a priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and there, we admit to God our personal failings, and resolve to do better, because we love Him.

So when we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (also called Confession, Penance, the Sacrament of Healing, Forgiveness, and Mercy), we meet not just the priest, but Jesus himself. We are alone before God, we are confessing to Him through the priest. Just as the priest stands in persona christi, that is, "in the person of Christ" at the consecration of the Mass, so he is during the sacrament of Confession. And no matter what we say, he can never reveal what we have said; priests have gone to their deaths rather than ever reveal what was said to them in Confession.

You will never hear me say that this Sacrament is necessarily easy, and in fact, it's hard. It's really difficult, especially if you've been away for a long time. And so I think it's appropriate that I share with you my own Confession story, because I used to hate this Sacrament, I didn't believe in it, and in fact, I really wasn't much of a Catholic, either. Call me Bartimaeus. Because this gospel describes me, I'm going to post it here:

(Mark 10:47)

They came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. 47 On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me." 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, "Son of David, have pity on me."
49 Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage; get up, he is calling you." 50 He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. 51 Jesus said to him in reply, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man replied to him, "Master, I want to see."
52 Jesus told him, "Go your way; your faith has saved you." Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way

I was raised Catholic, was very involved in my faith in High School, but when I went to college, for different reasons, I lost my faith. More of the story is here and here. (For the purpose of length, I'm summarizing. Regular readers know this part of the story well.)

In any case, so it was that I realized it was time to come home. I thought I was unholy. I thought that if I went to Mass, I was the most unholy person there so I remained in the back of the church, not wanting to come closer for fear anyone would be able to see through me and see how awful I was. I avoided priests, because I was afraid they could REALLY see how bad I was and make me go to Confession. Because I didn't want to go to Confession. It was my biggest sticking point. God had an answer, though, because he threw a priest across my path; I went to a friend's home one day, and there he was, visiting her family. He and I had a wonderful conversation and there was not a single point where he indicated that he realized how terrible I was as a human being. So I began to think that maybe I could at least go talk to him, maybe make my confession. But every time I picked up the phone to call him, I hung up quickly. So finally I resolved to go one Saturday. I got into my car, I drove to the church...and as soon as I saw it I hit the gas and got out of there! It was a few years before I finally got to the point that I couldn't take living in that darkness anymore. There I was, at the roadside, at the back of the church, praying, "God, please don't give up on me. Jesus, have pity on me!"

And all the while, Jesus was calling. And I fled, just like Adam and Eve. I hid. But God is faithful, and he never gave up on me.

So a Holy Week came, and I wanted to receive Jesus worthily on Easter. I wanted the blindness lifted. I wanted to come home.

So I found a church I would likely never go to again, and attended a penance service. The reading was, of course, all about the Prodigal Son. And as I listened, tears coursing down my cheeks, I held the examination of conscience, and convicted myself of everything on it, even sins I hadn't committed! At the end of the service, they announced where each priest would be, and where to go if desirous of an anonymous confession. Realizing that the line was immediately 2 weeks long, I opted to jump into a closer line, for a face-to face confession. Because I had toiled so long to get here, and fought every moment not to flee again. So I got in line, crying, unable to stop. I stood there for 45 minutes or so, trying to hide my tears, but no one was fooled; but they were sensitive enough not to say anything. Tears are common, more so than you may realize.

Finally it was my turn, and to this day I feel so bad for that poor priest! When he saw my condition he said, "Oh my!"

I didn't remember what to do or say, so I only choked out, "Father, it's been 12 years...." And I waited for my punishment.



He stopped just short of hugging me, although he likely wanted to, and really, it would have been appropriate. He heard my confession, although he likely couldn't understand me, but nodded while listening, understanding I was doing the best I could. And I will never in a thousand years be able to describe that experience of mercy. I will never be able to tell you adequately what it was like to be absolved, 12 years of...YUCK...gone. And I could finally see again.

We cannot free ourselves from our sin; we need God's grace. We need help. But God doen't just come when we call; He answers, but asks us to take a step. Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak, symbolic of casting off his sin, and he walked to Jesus himself. We are called to come to Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation; we have to cooperate with grace.

All of the sacraments are a personal encounter. In the Gospel, Jesus did not heal en masse...he had a very direct and personal encounter with each individual. That has not changed. Of the 3 forms of the sacrament, all require individal grace, even the extreme "General Absolution", used only in emergencies or mission territories. If we survive the emergency, we are STILL required to go meet Jesus personally in the sacrament. In most dioceses, including our own, the Archbishop has declared that the conditions do not exist to validate a General Absolution. While it does happen here, I will not comment; it is between that parish and the Archibishop. We must act according to what we know, and follow what is right. And who doesn't want that personal encounter with Christ?

But it's so important to know that faith begins at home; faith is learned at home. Parents are the foundation. In 20 years, your children will not remember their catechists, their teachers in school, or the sacramental books they have to write in. But they WILL remember your lived faith, and in later years, that's what makes the difference.

Even though I rebelled, and I had no problem criticizing the Church, I could not criticize Mom...not with regard to her faith. She lived it out, and she revealed through action, no matter what disasters were happening, Mass and Confession had priority in her life. So I saw Truth there. And in the face of that, I knew there were answers to my questions and doubts.

Remember; it is YOUR job to instruct your children in the faith. While it is learned and reinforced in school also, it is truly learned at home. If you have questions and don't know the answers, don't worry! None of us knows everything! But there are resources. We all want our children to be as intimite with Jesus Christ as possible; we all want them to experience the joy and the forgiveness and relationship with Jesus we have all had through this sacrament.

When First Reconciliations come up, there will be several priests available, and we encourage all of you to attend with your children. Just as you help them prepare and share your own joy, it's even better if you go to the sacrament as a family, then keep that habit. We are given the ability and grace to become saints; but that road begins in the home, and I'm living proof of the importance of that example. John Paul II and Mother Teresa, both spiritual giants, went to Confession DAILY. I have to wonder; what are the rest of us missing that we don't?

The best way to become a Saint is to live like one; today is the day we should start, and pray that the children follow our example.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The End of a Crazy Week

First of all, thanks to those of you who offered prayers and encouragement this week. The second parent orientation went very well! The group dynamic was different, which was immediately apparent; while the Tuesday group was glum and hostile, this group entered the building, joking, smiling and basically seeming to take things in stride. And that made me relax a great deal as I as able to meet their joviality.

The DRE also stuck around long enough to introduce me this time, she made her announcements and then told the group that I would give a talk on the sacrament and that Tuesday's was "phenominal".


But it was a nice intro, and I think that it helped because she does a great job with the Emcee duty...I'm not so great at that part. Just not my gift. And having a smooth introduction usually softens the crowd.

All day today, I was dreading this event, but since Tuesday, in speaking with some people and teachers in the school, I got a few ideas and took them to Adoration this afternoon. After some quiet prayer, I took to my outline and interjected a few things in strategic places. I laid it all out there for Jesus...I was nervous, I was ready for the hostility, and I prayed for divine assistance.

Just before I made my final preparations, I went into the church, which was dark, and knelt down near the tabernacle, offering myself to Jesus once again, while asking for help. I have been exhausted all day, have a lot on my mind, and really, truly dreaded the event. So during that prayer time I also sent my Guardian Angel out to meet with everyone. And while the DRE made her beginning announcements, I asked all the Guardian Angels in the room to help. And they did!

I also think this particular group was just better disposed, and I actually knew a few in there already, which also helped.

And this one went really well. The additions I made actually brought in a little laughter, and the parents were really open to what I had to say. So it seems that Jesus wrote a great speech and a polished delivery, huge doses of prayers, divine assistance and lots of Guardian Angels at work made the evening a success! homework is done. I just emailed my completed assignments for Vatican II and Spirituality, and decided to stick a fork in my Synthetic study. I am just short of the required number of pages, but I just can't do any more. As it is, I'm not sure I did the assignment correctly so I'm going to suck up the bad grade and let the prof correct my errors so I don't make the same mistakes next time.

Sometimes ya gotta shoot a hostage. The name of my hostage is "Synthetic Bible Study".

So there it is. Tomorrow morning I'll get up for work, I have only a few hours to fill, and then I'll come home and take a nap before class begins tomorrow evening.

One good thing about class weekend...while we are in class and learning the entire time, the evenings are free. No homework. And no guilt for it. So in spite of the fact there is a massive influx of great information, the evenings are for processing, relaxing (finally!), and mentally preparing for the next few weeks of homework.

I'm exhausted, and I'm going to sleep now. Good night, God bless!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Teaching the Parents

Tonight I had my first experience with the parents of the sacramental class this year. In this parish, while the children are enrolled in a weekly program of formation (or in religion class in the school), the sacraments themselves are taught at home, by the parents. So tonight was an orientation for the parents.

Father, the DRE, and I agree that this is a grand opportunity for formation for the parents, many of which are not really practicing Catholics; they belong to that demographic that sees Confession as being a hoop for their child to jump through just to get the great experience of the pomp and circumstance of First Communion.

Now, there are also a lot of parents who are dedicated Catholics and could teach circles around me...and so they should. But still, they attend, and my guess is that these parents likely help the others.

Tonight was the orientation for First Confession, which will happen during Advent. For weeks, I've been trying to figure out what to say. A couple weeks ago I walked down the hall, into the Adoration chapel with the red USCCB Catechism, thinking to write an outline as though for RCIA, hitting all the main points. And that's when Jesus spoke.

I learned last year that when preparing a lesson, it's very important to go to Jesus for input. What does HE want taught in that class? Who needs to hear certain words? I don't know that...but Jesus does. What if I don't understand a relevant matter. Jesus can explain it.

So although I figured to use the book the bishops recommend, Jesus had other plans. My routine in these situations is to go into the chapel and just pray. If I don't have words, to just kneel in silence with the Lord, and offer him my lack of direction. He will answer when it is time. Well, I thought it had to be time because I was really STUCK! Nothing I wanted to do seemed right, it was uninspiring, too elementary...or too theological. (Being a grad student does that).

Well, Jesus answered that day. Although my catechism was next to me, suddenly a starting point came to me. What is sin? A rejection of God's love. Disordered Love (St. Thomas Aquinas), an abuse of freedom.

What did Adam and Eve do when they sinned? They hid from God. Great point! That's what I did, too. That's what we all do.

What was Jesus' mission? Forgiveness. Mercy. Definitive love. The gospel is full of Jesus forgiving sin, and each is a personal encounter. Bartimaeus, the paralytic (a few of them!), and the sinful woman who washed and annointed his feet. Jesus recognized and drew attention to the interior, recognizing faith, repentance, contrition, belief...all of that...

Jesus passed this ministry onto the Apostles. How? He breathed on them, just as God breathed life into Adam. He gave them the power to forgive sin.

The Bible is a love story, all about God reaching out to reconcile his people to him, his people who run and hide when they reject him. God does not reject us; we reject him. And so God continues to reach out, and he did this ultimately by sending his own Son to die, to overturn the sin in the Garden of Eden.

How do we respond to God's mercy? We have free will. Free to run and hide. Free to come to him in tears and repentance...and we do this in Confession. The priest is in persona Christi, so it is Christ who hears us, always.

As I was writing all of this, I knew as I had from the beginning that I had to tell my 12 year Confession story, my identity as "Bartimaeus". And so it was important to read that particular gospel.

And the connection...the parents must teach this to their children. They are called to holiness, to live that example, every day. They are the primary catechists. Not the school. Faith is learned and reinforced in the home, and in 20 years, the kids won't remember their catechists at faith formation, they won't remember the books...but they will remember the actions and living faith of their parents.

I explained how my Mom's faith affected my conversion, and told them that now is the time to act upon is the time to toe the line, to be that example.

So, all this was written in the Adoration chapel. It was Jesus who wrote it...not me. I could not have done this. I didn't know what to say. Jesus did.

That day, I left the chapel and put the scribbles in my notebook into a coherent outline, and something told me to bring it to Father, for a few reasons: I am new. While he trusted me enough to hire me, he still needs to know what I'm teaching. While the DRE is indeed my boss, so is he, and when it comes to the sacraments, it's more important that he is involved than the DRE. So I found him in his office and we sat down with the outline. He liked it, felt that it covered what needed to be covered, and made some suggestions for things to add to the presentation...but he didn't suggest anything more for the content of my talk.

And that's the other reason I went to him; one was a trust issue, that he should know what is being taught. The other is a practical issue; I needed to know that this plan was what was expected, what he envisioned needed to be done, and I needed direction if there were missing elements. Which there were, and I took all of his offered suggestions. He said he would not be present for the orientation, which was also important for me to know. Fine.

So...tonight was the first of two orientations for the parents. And I've never spoken to such a hostile crowd.

Yup. You heard me correctly. Not everyone was hostile, but there were a few, and it was written all over them. They didn't want to be there. They were offended that it is their duty to teach their children the faith. Some were bored...simply not interested in engaging. Some looked angry about what I was saying. Some just had poker faces that gave nothing away, although by their body language I could see they were more hostile than interested.

But I wasn't speaking tonight to make myself look good; I was speaking because these people needed that message of mercy; that Jesus isn't just there for their children; he is there for them as well, and waiting for them, all the time.

And I'll admit; it was difficult at times to realize that my words were being rejected. But when I told my confession story, well, I could see heads nod. I could see some of them coming to life, but most...still hostile. They didn't like where I was going. I was not telling them what they wanted to hear. Thank God for that.

Those who were nodding and smiling, I'll tell you right now they gave me strength, identifying themselves immediately as allies, people of faith, people who understand the grace of the sacrament, people who have experienced God's mercy.

Overall, it went well, and didn't take the whole hour as planned, which is fine. There was time for questions (I didn't answer them all adequately or correctly, with regard to some of the process regarding the books), and I have things to follow up on. Only a few people were clearly unhappy, but the DRE was there and did assist with some of the questions, and for that I'll be eternally grateful. She won't be around for Thursday's group, though. And she added her own confession story, for she is a convert...I think the next group will be sadly deprived.

One of the things I did to prepare tonight was to ask my Guardian Angel to go around and speak with everyone present, to help smoothe the waters. I spent some time in Adoration a couple hours ahead of time, and afterward, I went back to the chapel to thank Jesus. After all, these are His people; they are his to convert, his to teach, his to calm. But this wasn't done without some adversity; the microphone did not work, and we tried a few of them. Nuthin'. I had to "project". (Thank God for my time in theatre!). But of course, I'm getting a cold, and wasn't sure my voice would last.

Can we say "spiritual battle"? God prevailed.

I may post my presentation in written form at some point, but not likely this week, In any case, please pray for this parish, the parents who are teaching, the children who will be receiving the sacraments, and for hearts to be open to the Holy Spirit and converted.

All I am is a voice in the wilderness, speaking from a wilderness of my own. I can boast of nothing but my weakness, and of nothing other than Jesus Christ. He is the words on my lips, the song in my heart, and the fire in my soul.

And even in my weakness, He has called me to speak for him...and I am humbled. The hostility of a few just makes me love him more.

Please pray for this class from tonight, and for the class on Thursday evening, and please pray for me. I can't do this without a lot of divine assistance.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I Have a Jewish Family

Tonight I spoke with my long-lost Jewish sister.


Here's the story:

My Mom grew up in southern Minnesota, on a farm. I'm not sure how it happened, but she became a nanny for a Jewish family in St. Paul when she was young, and lived with them for a few years. I grew up hearing about her "Jewish mother", and while she was always very devoted to the Blessed Virgin, she was not the Jewish Mother she referenced.

I remember one summer day, Mom was very excited because we were in St. Paul, and we were going to visit her Jewish Mother, Mom's second home. I still remember B., her welcome to us, her sincere joy at seeing my mother, all grown up with two of her own. I remember B.'s curly brown hair, her smile, and her ability to make her house ours for awhile.

For as long as I can remember, Mom has spoken of her Jewish family, and has, as a result, shown my brother and I nothing but the highest regard for those who follow Judaism. As we were growing up, whenever she read from the Old Testament, we knew she was speaking of her "other family" and their beliefs, which we share. Yet she reminded us there was a difference, and explained the difference in simple terms that we would understand. So I guess it's not surprising that I've always had a special affection for those who follow the Jewish faith...they've always been family to me.

Respect. That was key. And if that family was respected by Mom...well, that was good enough for us. (Take note, learn respect from that which you show respect).

This last weekend, my brother and I took Mom out to celebrate her birthday, and as one would expect, we all discussed our lives. I mentioned that because of my Old Testament class and some other things I've read, I'd like to attend a Synogogue and see what the Jewish service is like. Mom mentioned that she exchanges "Christmas Cards" with one of the girls from her Jewish family, and would mention to her that I want to attend Synagogue. She said I should call her and meet up.

I was's been years since I've heard of them, so to hear Mom bring them up...well, I was a bit cautious. Was Mom in close contact or would her request for her now grown-up charge to babysit her own grown-up daughter be...well, weird? But Mom was insistent...she wanted to put us in contact with each other. She seemed quite joyful at the prospect.

Tonight Mom called. She spoke with S. and told me I should call her. I found out that her "Jewish Mother" passed away suddenly only a few years ago, but the daughter told her I should call, she might be able to attend Synagogue with me.

After cross-examining my mother to be sure this wasn't an intrustion, a "mother-thing" (you know how mothers are, especially "Jewish mothers"), I discerned this was the real ex-nanny, adopted into a family informally, bringing in her own daughter by proxy. And vice versa. OK.

So I called S., and can I say...she's my sister. Our conversation just FLOWED.

All we had to do was talk about Mom (I was DYING to know what she was like when she was younger), which morphed into discussing religion, and in the end, S. said that although she doesn't attend very often, she'd love to meet me there and then go out for coffee or whatever. She was raised as a Conservative Jew, and sees herself now as a Reformed Jew...and the customs are different. According to S. many of the Jewish people no longer observe kosher or other laws, the Rabbis are women, etc. She feels the Conservative and Orthodox Jews are chauvenistic.

Fun fact: S. married a divorced Lutheran with a couple children who were born Catholic. So they determined to raise them Catholic, and both, although neither has converted and have very different beliefs, have done their best to make sure those children were raised according to their birthright; Catholic. It was a fascinating conversation. And thank God that they are so willing to try to do what is right for the children, according to how they were baptized as opposed to the belief of they, the custodial parents. Even if it's not perfect, I think we can all agree that this is parental sacrifice (and maybe a some relativism, but God can still act within that).

Anyway, while I want to attend a Synagogue that is most faithful to the Old Testament, and then, secondly the Conservative faith, I am also willing to attend the Reform Synagogue with my "sister" who hasn't been there in years. There's something about family, even pseudo-family, that helps us to go in directions we never anticipated.

Please pray for B., my Jewish "co-madre", God rest her soul and the soul of her husband, and for their daughter, S. whom I finally "met" tonight, a Reform Jew with Catholic children. I didn't grow up with them, but if Mom calls them family...they are family. I only wish I had met them before this.

God is so good, isn't he?

Oh, and this gets better. In tonight's conversation with my Mom, S. found out that she used to work for my cousin, who was the CEO at her last job. And they are currently neighbors and good friends. S. is going to call my cousin and discuss our familial relationship. LOL!

Small world.

Is there anyone out there????

It's been oddly silent of late. Not just here, but everywhere. It seems most of my favorite haunts are on somewhat of a hiatus. Which is fine, of course, but things are just...mellow.

Yeah, I'm really busy myself, too much to do, not enough time, but life is still good, right? Anyone? Can I get an "Amen"?

Is it the weather, the encroaching darkness, the skeletal brances, the winds blowing in a new season? Is it the clouds that constantly seem to hang over Minnesota? I'm not sure we have the sun anymore, but we don't need it...we have the Mass. Amen?

I'm waitin', y'all.

Can someone please share some uplifting and joyful news, random comments, or...something?


I'll go first:

I got my Vatican II paper almost done, I put it aside so I can tweak it if needed before I send it...and maybe add a quote from Lumen Gentium to finish it off. My stuff for my Spirituality class is done...but again, I want to give it a "once-over" before emailing it.

And my synthetic study...well, let's just keep this uplifting, 'kay?


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Getting there

Well, I'm still panicked about all I have to get done by class time next weekend. But my essay questions are nearly done; they just need some tweaking and I can send them in. My Vatican II paper needs editing and apparently, some incorporation of material from the John Paul II course I took last spring (that info that applies to my topic and Vatican II), but I just started my last page. So basically I'll need to finish my final point, write my conclusion, and it'll be done! What's really cool is that I have endnotes this time, and it's my first experience with using them. I found that some sections of the Vatican II documents really needed to be quoted, but doing so would have been unweildy, so I summarized or quoted a part, and then put the entire section into an endnote. Of course, the prof won't care; I think he has Gaudium et spes memorized.

But my synthetic study....oy, how tedious! I can only work on that in bits and parts because it's putting me to sleep. It's fascinating, but "sin" is also so repetetive that just looking up all the passages and notating them for my summary paper is just....ugh. I'm tired just thinking about it.

But for this weekend, nothing else will be done. I have to go help teach confirmation this evening, and even if I was going to be home, my brain is fried.

You theologians and other grads of theology, (esp. grad theology)....did your brain fry when you were studying this stuff, too? Why is that? Is it because the material isn't some dry 2-dimensional topic, but it changes us as we go? Seriously...I think I'm a totally different person since I've begun this program. (Unfortunately, I don't think I'm any holier...just more knowledgeable about how holy I'm NOT). * sigh *

I'm so tired. And the clouds don't help.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

No Greater Love...

Via Angela Messenger:

In the spirit of St Gianna Beretta Molla, Dr. Ellice Hammond of Australia gave her life to save that of her unborn daughter, Mia. Dr Hammond was diagnosed with Hogkins Lymphoma in the 21st week of her pregnancy and refused the chemotheraphy which might have saved her life. Instead she had mild chemo just to protect Mia (the baby) and then they induced Mia at the 31st week. Mia is being cared for in Monash Medical Centre's neonatal unit and doing well. Ellice died three weeks after Mia was born. As can be expected, there was an American press silence on this story.

Holy lives of quiet heroism are being lived out every day; but as those lives are not politically correct, they are brushed under the rug, only to certainly resurface later to reveal the condemnation and hypocrasy of the current day.

May the Lord have mercy upon us all, and may Heaven open to recieve a woman who loved God so much she was willing to forsake her own life for her child.

St. Gianna Molla, pray for Dr. Ellice Hammond, and pray for us all!

Conscience, Dignity, and Prayers

This morning I headed out to Caribou Coffee in order to get out, get some caffeine, and organize my Vatican II paper on "conscience". When it comes to crunch time and I still have 3 papers due in one short week, well, I find that if I try to do this at home it's too easy to putz around with the computer or other household duties. Amazing....I hate cleaning house, unless my other option is to do some serious intellectual work, and then I'm right in there with the scrub brush and the detergent!

So I took my books and my notebook and went methodically through my notes, trying to figure out the major themes and how to organize them. And then I came across this gem:

16. In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged.(9) Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths.In a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor.(11) In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals from social relationships. Hence the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality. Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin.

~ Gaudium et spes, Vatican II document on the Church in the Modern World

I've read this before, but something about it today convicted me, stopped me in my tracks, and made me put my head down. And then I read on:

17. Only in freedom can man direct himself toward goodness. Our contemporaries make much of this freedom and pursue it eagerly; and rightly to be sure. Often however they foster it perversely as a license for doing whatever pleases them, even if it is evil. For its part, authentic freedom is an exceptional sign of the divine image within man. For God has willed that man remain "under the control of his own decisions,"(12) so that he can seek his Creator spontaneously, and come freely to utter and blissful perfection through loyalty to Him. Hence man's dignity demands that he act according to a knowing and free choice that is personally motivated and prompted from within, not under blind internal impulse nor by mere external pressure. Man achieves such dignity when, emancipating himself from all captivity to passion, he pursues his goal in a spontaneous choice of what is good, and procures for himself through effective and skilful action, apt helps to that end. Since man's freedom has been damaged by sin, only by the aid of God's grace can he bring such a relationship with God into full flower. Before the judgement seat of God each man must render an account of his own life, whether he has done good or evil.

~ Gaudium et spes, 17

And then, when I finished my sudden attack of conscience in recognition of my sinfulness, I happened to look up. There in front of me was a coffee display, which, of course, in a coffee shop is not out of place. It would be odd had the display not been present. It wasn't the existance of the display, then, but WHAT the display supported, and it seems that I will nevermore darken the door at Caribou Coffee.

Caribou is offering a coffee called "Amy's Blend"; apparently Amy was a roastmaster who succombed to breast cancer, and in that, I ask you all to offer prayers for the repose of her soul. However, Caribou has decided that the proceeds from the sale of Amy's blend coffee and other specific items will be donted to the Susan B. Komen Foundation.

On the surface, that's not such a bad thing; we all agree that breast cancer is horrible, and breast cancer research and prevention are good things. Being that I had my own scare a year or so ago, I am all for the search for a cure; but not at the cost of support to Planned Parenthood. I'd give up both my breasts to whatever horrible disease, and even my life, if it meant an end to abortions.

There is a very well publicized link between Susan B. Komen and Planned Parenthood; the former has donated over $400,000 (as of 2002, I think) to the latter, ostensibly for breast cancer screenings. However, given the other obvious link between contraception and breast cancer, abortion and breast cancer, Planned Parenthood and the slaughter of innocents (to include their mothers), well, that kind of support cannot be justified.

Right now I feel literally ill. I should have dumped my coffee and walked out.

So I am now asking for all of you to contact Caribou's corporate offices and voice your concerns, and your willingness to go elsewhere for your coffee until such time as they choose to donate the money from Amy's Blend to a research organization that does not also happen to cause the very disease and death that killed the woman they are tying to honor.

Additionally, I'm also requesting all of you to offer Divine Mercy prayers on behalf of the soul of Emily X, a pseudonym given to proud abortionists and workers at Planned Parenthood. "She" obviously believes in what she is doing, and why not? Consciences are deadened in this world, and with what she sees every day, what she does every day, in reality, she HAS to be dead to it! One day, by the grace of God, she will realize with indescribeable horror what she and her cohorts have done. Pray that we as a pro-life community will be there for her when this happens for she will not be able to pass through that horror into the mercy of Jesus Christ without other hands to assist her through that dark passage.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Original Solitude

This morning I attended a small conference, which meets every month, designed for DRE's and Youth Ministers. The topic was with regard to Theology of the Body, the speaker was wonderful, and as usual, I was struck by the simplicity of the concepts...and how they apply to all of us.

A couple things hit me; the first was with regard to "the call" given to those who serve in ministry in some form, be it priest, religious, or lay ministry. Always, when someone talks about us being "called" to where we are, I am completely humbled...what am I doing here? God called ME?

It's shock. Complete shock. I look back upon my past, I see in a flash the last several years...and I can't feel anything but a mix of relief, humble recognition of my sinfulness, and the love of God. The focal point behind the speaker was a large crucifix; and every time I heard the word "call", my eyes and heart shifted to that image.

Seriously. I don't really understand how I got here. I have no idea how I went from where I was to where I am now; a student of Graduate Theology, staff in a parish, a faithful Catholic. How did God do this?

And of course, the speaker began then, and at the beginning, she spoke of, naturally, the beginning for us all, the beginning of John Paul II's Theology of the Body.

The first concept was original solitude; God created Adam, in His own image and likeness, and bade him to have a blast in naming the animals. This Adam did, and indeed, had a great time. So there he was, in the company of the animals, recognizing the gifts of God, recognizing all that he had, recognizing that God's creation was wonderful. But upon reflection, he realized there was no one like him, and he recognized his lonliness.

Man was alone; he saw that he was different from the rest of creation, he saw that he had the gift of self-determination, something all the animals did not have. He saw that he had an inherent dignity in his relationship with God that was not possessed by the rest of Creation.

He stood alone before God; he stood naked before the Lord, realizing who and what he was, and God also recognized that it was not proper for Man to be alone.

Skip ahead a few millenia, and we look at our world today. Things are a mess, are they not? Our fallen nature has lead us through disastrous catastrophes, with the current culmination of the slaughter of thousands and millions of children upon the altar of the god of self-loving inconvenience. We have seen the wars, the destruction of life, the loss of our sense of who we are because we cannot see God, and our society simply doesn't care.

Today I also realized that not only have we fallen so far, but this lesson is even more personal. It was a moment of that self-knowledge that comes only by the grace of God, right on the heels of the sense of "calling".

In reflecting, I realized that God has called me to my own personal "original solitude". In answer to my prayers and struggles of the past, God has taken me through years of sludge and rejection of Him, has helped me redefine happiness, and has delivered me from the darkness of those years. Where has He brought me, exactly?

To the beginning. To original solitude.

I live alone. God saw that I was alone, and so gave me a dog, which I named. But she is not like me; I must train her, I must feed her, I must care for her, because she can do none of this on her own. In her original nature, she does not have the ability to care for herself or even think beyond a short period of time. I love her and thank God for the gift of this pet, and it's nice to come home from work to a joyful greeting. She makes me sleep better because she is protective; she reminds me of God's love in moments of isolation, and she makes my life better, if not easier.

But then enter the solitude; she is not like me. It is not natural that a woman (or man, for that matter) be alone. The natural world is a gift, but it is not a substitute.

Every so often I stop and realize that I am alone and totally dependent upon God, and while He has been very good to me and in his faithfulness to Himself will continue to be so, I am still alone.

I do not look at this only from the perspective of marriage because the reality of our human existance covers so much more. Instead, I consider that, throughout history, it was never proper for women to live alone. Single women lived with their families. Married couples lived with their families. There were provisions to care for widows, especially widows with children.

We all suffer from the Fall, and Jesus came to ransom us with His blood, but the effects of the original sin remains in our natures. Our disobedience is ingrained; our understanding of love is twisted, and our definition of happiness is warped beyond recognition.

And although Jesus died for us, our sin have continued from generation to generation. It is a domino effect; once it has begun, it cannot be stopped, so the sins of the fathers are visited upon the next generation...and the sins of their sons have effects to the next generation, and the sins of the grandsons...and the effects continue. From the Fall, there has been a snowball effect, for each generation suffers and reacts to the sins of the previous generation.

It is ongoing. Jesus saved us with his blood by opening the gates of Heaven; without his blood, without his own fulfillment of the covenant, there would be no Salvation. Yet God allows us to live out our decisions, watch the effects of our sins, and stands ever ready, ever reaching for us, ready to offer us mercy.

Yet in this warped world, things have gone so awry; our dignity is constantly undermined. We damage each other and call it "love" when it is anything but love.

And in this world, even as we seek the company of others, we still stand alone before God, naked, ashamed, but unable to look into His eyes.

I have come to see that the Single state was never intended, just as Death was never intended; indeed, it is unnatural to be alone. We are meant to love and be loved, within God's original and fully self-sacrificing love. We are meant to live for others, not for ourselves, but the battle that rages within us is between the love of God and the love of the world.

The very reality of the solitude so prevalent in our socity is nothing short of disturbing, for at its core, it shows how far we have fallen. How is it that the evil one has managed to separate the ewes from the flock; the better to take them down?

And we have cooperated.

I do not believe that all women are meant to marry, nor are all men meant to marry. I believe that the majority of people are called to the priesthood, religious life, or married life. But there are some souls God calls to His own purposes, and they have existed since the Fall. Yet it seems unprecedented that people live alone in houses with their pets.

It is unnatural.

That solitude is a lonliness; not in the pithy lonliness of poetry and prose, but a deeper lonliness which recognizes that solitude before God is something we all experience. We recognize that we all stand alone, and in that lonliness of solitude, we see who we are, and who God is; and we are convicted in His love.

I have come to realize that my current state in life is related to this original solitude; God has taken me to a place where I can face Him and Him alone, I stand, in lonely solitude. Even as He sends me into the world each and every day, to serve Him and His people, in the end, I am alone before him. Single. Solitary.

And from the depths of this solitude, from the depths of my sinful soul, from the depths of my disordered sense of love, from the depths of my warped idea of happiness, I thank God for seeing me for who and what I am...and leading me ever closer to knowing the true definition of what it means to look into His eyes and understand what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sin in the Pentateuch

Blogging will be slow for the next few days, in all liklihood. Unless inspiration hits me so hard I don't have a choice but to put something up. That's usually the way it works.

I'm working on assignments for my 3 classes (5 credits). In Spirituality, I can't seem to answer the essay questions although I've done all the reading. And re-reading. I'v chosen "conscience" in my paper on the Vatican II documents, and I think it's supposed to be a 5 page paper. That topic goes nicely with my research on "sin" in my synthetic Bible study in Old Testament.

Seriously....go and look up "sin" in the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible), and just put it together. We are SO Jewish! And all that is taught in the New Testament, about sin being inward, not just outward acts....incredible. If you read the passages in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, you'll be blown away by the parallels to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

While in my study I can't draw the connections to the NT, as we are studying the OT first on its terms in order to come to a proper understanding at this point, I don't think any of us can miss what we already know as the revealed truth in the New Testament. I go, back to my books. I don't have a lot of time before next week and I'm going to be losing literally DAYS of viable hours for study due to my work schedule and events this coming weekend (Mom's birthday dinner, word Sunday night). So please pray for all of us in this program...all of us are struggling with the workload and the papers.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Did I Kill My Little Girl?

This was originally posted on the ides of March, and I took it down. I am putting it up again in honor of Respct Life Sunday. It may come down again soon.


I am terrified to write this post. There are some parts of my past that I have alluded to but have never come out directly to admit, and part of that is pride; I want to be seen as a "good Catholic girl." The truth is that maybe today I'm mostly a "good Catholic woman" but in the past, I was not. I got lost and I bought into our culture, and it's terrifying and even humiliating to admit the mistakes I made while I was wandering around in the desert of my own creation.

But I am even MORE terrified that someday, I may meet another woman with the same questions I have now, and she will ask me why I never brought this up. She will ask me why I didn't warn her and why I didn't try to save her babies. I can't undo my past, but I CAN influence someone else's future.

A few years ago, I was involved in a "long-term relationship", and we used contraception. I remember my willful ignorance, most of which I gained from "informed" sources, even when that information was contradicted. I had a roommate, a left-wing liberal Democrat social worker, who told me that contraception does, in fact, cause abortions. It does this because contraception cannnot necessarily suppress ovulation. And if ovulation occurs, and a child is conceived, that zygote cannot be implanted. Contraception makes the womb uninhabitable and flushes the new life out and away and into death.

I rejected what she said because I didn't like it, even though it struck me as truth. She let me live out my denial. After all, it was nothing to her; she was pro-"choice" to the core. She would have been the first in line to drive me down to Planned Parenthood for an abortion (and she expressed this to me on one occasion). Yet truth can come even in these unlikely packages. My friend told me the truth because she was my friend and she knew that I didn't believe in abortion. It must have cost her to somewhat compromise her own liberal agenda out of love for me, her friend, to help me not carry out something she knew was against my own values.

People are puzzling, aren't they?

But I still didn't listen to her. Not then, anyway, but even today, I hear her voice, and I ask questions. I have to wonder; in those years, did I kill a child that was supposed to come into the world?

One day at work as I counted down the night-shift hours, I saw a black-and-white photograph of a little girl and I KNEW I needed to reproduce this image. I took out my art supplies and carefully began to draw. I tenderly began to form the features that made up her face, her eyes, and her hair. I put deep, deep love into each and every stroke of the pencil and then of the charcoal. And then I carefully colored in her own personal hue, trying to infuse life into her pudgy baby-fat cheeks. I kept the sadness in her face, the solemn gaze in her eyes, and the subtle pout to her lips.

This child spoke to me. This child could have been mine.

I don't have a lot of my own art work on my walls, but this is one that was destined from its conception to face me every single day. Several people have asked me if she is mine, if she is related to me, or if she is someone I know. These questions have always amazed me because I do not see any outward connection to me, especially given her skin tone (I'm white), yet by their questions they prove to me that some of the artist goes into each work of art; just as part of the parent goes into each new life. This is why, when I look at this picture, I see what might have been. I see myself and I see her father. And by the comments of friends, they see us, too.

I see my little girl. A little girl who never came to be because I might have killed her.

Please, please, I beg you from the bottom of my heart and the depths of my soul to throw away your pills, your condoms, your sponges, your IUD's, and, please, don't kill your baby.

Can you really look into the eyes of this child and deny her life?

The Manly Meme with a Girly Twist

Orthometer directed me over to Catholic Caveman, and there, I was inspired.

Are you tired of those sissy "friendship" poems that always sound good, but never actually come close to reality? Well, here is a series of promises that actually speak of true friendship. You will see no cutesy little smiley faces on this posting. Just the stone cold truth of Caveman friendship.

Thank you. As a matter of fact, I AM tired of the trite poetry that filters through my inbox in chain form. (Oh my goodness, can't break the chain!) Pa-leez! My friends, I apologize, but this "meme" has brought out my crusty side, my "rough around the edges" side obtained from my years in pursuit of happiness via law enforcement and is my "inner male". (Hey...if in pop psychology, guys have an "inner woman" then we get to have an "inner man").

1. When you are sad -- I will help you get drunk and plot revenge against the sorry bastard who made you sad.

This is true. I can't tell you the number of times my friends, both men and women, stepped in to comfort me...with a bottle of something. I remember, 9 months after my Dad died, I finally hit the wall. I grieve very strangely, and it literally took me that long to face some very difficult facts. I couldn't study. I couldn't read. I couldn't work out. So I found a friend as I wandered aimlessly around campus and burst into tears. While we were talking, two of my guy friends happened upon our location, and their solution? "Let's go out to the bar. We'll get you drunk. Our treat." And I ended up going with them, because what I was facing was too painful, and I needed to get "away". So I cleaned up and headed out with my guy friends. And they were perfect least in the sense they didn't treat me like a lady. They treated me like "one of the guys." They bought me shots, a couple beers, belched, farted, and tried to make me forget my misery. Thanks, guys. I love you, too.

2. When you are blue -- I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you.

OH! So THAT'S what he was doing!? That explains a LOT! He could have just handed me a kleenex. Note to self: don't date guys in EMT or Paramedic training. Or Med students.

3. When you smile -- I will know you are plotting something that I must be involved in.

This is true. Very, very true. * SMILE * Wink *

4. When you are scared -- I will rag on you about it every chance I get.

That's why my guyfriends never learned how arachnophobic I am. I already HAVE a brother...I don't need that many more. Throwing spiders at me does NOT heightens. Bad news.

5. When you are worried -- I will tell you horrible stories about how much worse it could be until you quit your damn whining.

That never phased me. But it DID make me add my own horrible stories, and some of them were TRUE!

6. When you are confused -- I will use little words.

Riiight....but those are words that aren't proper in polite company. Or any company. In fact, they should never be uttered. Ever.

7. When you are sick -- Stay the hell away from me until you are well again. I don't want whatever you have.

Paybacks are due, my friend. Shake my hand like a real man. Oh...sorry...guess your debt is paid. Here's a kleenex and some Sudafed. Ta-ta!

8. When you fall -- I will point and laugh at your clumsy ass.

And the next time I wear heels, I'll accidentally step on your delicate feet. Repeatedly. Next time give me a hand on the ice, ********! Oh, and the next time I pass you, expect a kick behind your knee. Buh-bye!

9. This is my oath.... I pledge it to the end. "Why?" you may ask; "because you are my friend".

Yeah...I love my friends. Guys and girls both. But guys, let's face it...while you may be physical, you ARE cavemen, and we got you beat. But we love you anyway, and I'm proud to say that some of my best friends have been men.

Meme this to 20 of your closest friends. Then get depressed because you can only think of 2.

Um...I can't send this out to many people. I'm not like other women. And I think it might scare men. So...let's just keep this between all of us, ok?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Crazy Name Meme

Angela tagged me for a meme, and this one is HILARIOUS!

1. YOUR ROCK STAR NAME: (first pet & current car) - Sassalina Saturn (LOL!)

2.YOUR GANGSTA NAME: (fave ice cream flavor, favorite cookie)- Coconut Oatmeal Chip

3. YOUR “FLY Guy/Girl” NAME: (first initial of first name, first three letters of your last name) - A Dev

4. YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal) - Blue Horse

5. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first) Dev Ad

6. SUPERHERO NAME: (”The” + 2nd favorite color, favorite drink) - The Red Margarita

7. NASCAR NAME: (the first names of your grandfathers) - Everett Edwin

8. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME: (Your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter) - Whillock Washington

9. SPY NAME: (your favorite season/holiday, favorite flower)- Autumn Rose

10. CARTOON NAME: (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now + “ie” or “y”) Raspberry Shortsy

11. HIPPY NAME: (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree)- Zip Maple

12. YOUR ROCKSTAR TOUR NAME: (”The” + Your fave hobby/craft, fave weather element + “Tour”) - The Charcoal Snow Tour

13. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you were born) - Marie Rockford

14. WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother’s & father’s middle names) - Marie Roland

I tag: Uncle Jim and anyone else who wants to play...especially those of you without blogs! Post in the combox! :-)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Rich in Mercy

The most amazing thing happened yesterday.

I recieved a voice mail from the mother of a girl who need to recieve the Sacraments of First Communion and First Confession.

That's not so amazing. In fact, that's my job, to work with such parents and their children. But this call was different. Her question applied to an older child, one who is beyond the typical age.

I returned her call and after some chatting, I requested to know their background so as to know how we can best answer their needs. She was a bit hesitant, and explained that when her children were babies, she and her family fell away because the babies cried so much during Mass. And so, even as the children grew, she and her family just never returned to Mass, and admittedly, she was ashamed of this.

So I explained our current process for the Sacraments and that I will have to get back to her with an answer as to what to do specifically, but we will work with her. She was fine with that.

But our conversation continued as she explained that she hasn't been going to Communion since she has been away for so long, and doesn't feel that it's right to recieve.

My excitement was growing...this woman TOTALLY GETS IT! I affirmed her feelings; as she's been away, it is NOT proper that she recieve Commuion, and I commended her on doing the right thing. Then I just about fell out of my chair when she asked me, "How do I come back? What is the process I have to follow?"

So there, from my humble position on the floor under my desk, bursting with excitement, fighting to keep a measured tone, I simply affirmed what I'm certain she already knew...she had to go to Confession.

Quietly I said to God, "You're sending me an easy one! She already gets it!"

I did not allow too much of a lapse in our conversation, because I know from experience it's so hard to come back. And she's not coming back for herself; she is coming back for her children, and her return is a resistance to her husband who does not want to come back. So I looked up the hours for Confession at this parish, and explained she can come anonymously and has a right to do so. But I also recommended very strongly that she make an appointment with Father, and then...enter the testimonial.

There was no detail to my testimony; only enough so that she knew I understood her fears. She herself commented on a sense of shame and guilt for having been away so long. I told her I understood, I'd felt the same way...but that we want nothing more than to have her come back into communion with the Church. And that when she went to Confession, that it would be the was that way for me. I emphasized that it SEEMS scary, but it's not, and that all she needed to do was to say it had been awhile, and Father would walk her through it.

I also recommended an examination of conscience. Unfortunately I did not have one immediately linked, but promised to get back to her with one; she accepted this.

One other issue that came up; she is not so familiar with the parish as it's been so long. She hasn't been to Confession in a long time, and was apparently never much of a member, so didn't know where the Confessional was. I gave "directions", but realized they didn't make a lot of sense to someone who doesn't know the geography of the building. Remembering that this was also one of my issues, I offered to meet with her to give her a tour of the church to help her feel more comfortable.

Because I've not spoken of this before, I feel it's proper to mention; one of the things that keeps people away from Confession is the lack of knowledge of WHERE the confessionals are! They aren't marked anymore in many places, they aren't obvious, and sometimes people need a MAP to get there! Some parishes have Confessions regularly, and so it's easier, but still. Even in my home parish, it's not obvious. Other churches have traditional confessionals, others have "Reconciliation rooms", and the lack of consistency is very confusing to people who have been away for a long time.

So I recognized in her the same fear I've had; where to go? What to do? When?

She didn't ask all her questions, and I didn't want to overwhelm her, so I just told her that if she has any questions, to call me, that I'd be happy to show her around, and encouraged her to call Father...because that's what I wish I had done.

What a wonderful lady. You should have heard the absolute relief in her voice! When our conversation began, there had been an edge; she was unsure. She had questions, not just about her children, but about her own status. She wanted to know what to do, but wasn't sure really how to ask. She wanted a map...but didn't know where to look for it. She had a clear sense of what was right and what was wrong...but wasn't certain that this was correct. My goodness, what an example of humility!

And if you could have heard her tone when she spoke of not recieving Communion...there was an ache there. She'll do anything to come Home. She was terrified that I would say something to build her sense of shame, and because I know that feeling, all I did was welcome her. All through our conversation, in the back of my mind, was the story of the Prodigal Son, and John Paul II's Dives in misericordia. All I could do was reach out to her, wanting to bring her and her family home.

I could hear her very desire to be reconciled; she knew she wanted to come Home. And I wanted to offer her that reconciliation; but I couldn't. I don't have the authority. I'm not a priest.

So I did what God created me to do; I reached out to her...and directed her onward, to the one with the authority. I can offer a welcome...but I can't offer her complete absolution.

And in the moment, I realized the power of the authority carried by priests; the ability to truly welcome us all home. I don't want to be a priest, and as a woman, I cannot be a priest. There are good, theological reasons here, and even those reasons came home in a different way today.

As a woman, my goal is not just to be like Christ, but to be like Mary, as my model, for she ALWAYS points to her Son. Today, someone came to me, and I got to point her to Christ, via the one who stands in personal Christi, the priest who was given, via ordination, the power to bind and loose. What a blessing! I never before considered the very Vocation of woman to stand "in persona Mariam". To always point to Jesus.

To all of you you REALIZE how AWESOME and INCREDIBLE this is, to be able to welcome people home, and by the very authority of Jesus Christ, to WELCOME them back HOME!????

Seriously...if I was a guy, I'd have called the Vocations office this afternoon and asked what I need to do to become a priest.

This is powerful stuff. Having a front row seat to conversion does amazing things.

And as I'm a woman, I'm going to take this to the next level; I'm not going to demand to be a priest; instead, I'm going to work as hard as I can within my state in life to help more men answer the call to the priesthood, and for women, the call to religious life. What woman would settle for being a priest when she could work to answer the need to cultivate a THOUSAND priests? As one person, I can do nothing; but if one day, a thousand priests and religious stand as witnesses at my Judgment and say I had a positive effect on their choosing or reinforcing their Call...well, I choose that. Let me stand "in persona Miriam", and do all within my ability to point people straight to Jesus Christ.

Sometimes...... don't know if you want to drink, eat, or work out.

Why should you have to choose?

I think I see Terry, Cathy, and Ray in that mix.

Here's a few more characters:

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Morning Meme with my Coffee

Since I have to work a late day today, I am up prepared to study this morning. When, what to my astonished eyes should appear, but a tag for a Meme, compliments of Christina. So instead of a biscuit or pancakes or cereal with my coffee, I'm having a Meme:

Here's a fun quiz made up especially for bloggers. The rules are easy. Just post the quiz on your blog and answer the questions, then pass it on to five other bloggers, and link to them in your post. Be sure to link back to the one who sent it to you.

1. Do you attend the Traditional Latin Mass or the Novus Ordo?

Novus Ordo. The closest Tridentine Mass is about 50 min or so away from me. I have attended a Latin High Mass (Novus Ordo) a couple times, which is only about 30 min away.

2. If you attend the TLM, how far do you drive to get there? See above answer.

2. If you had to apply a Catholic label to yourself, what would it be? Faithful

3. Are you a comment junkie? At times. But now that I'm back in school with a pretty heavy course load, I don't have time.

4. Do you go back to read the comments on the blogs you’ve commented on? Again, if I have time. Lately...not so much.

5. Have you ever left an anonymous comment on another blog? Yes, but not flaming comments, and I still sign my name "Adoro", usually. I only do this if I'm not already signed in.

6. Which blogroll would you most like to be on? The Pope's

7. Which blog is the first one you check? Adam's Ale

8. Have you met any other bloggers in person? Yup. I've met the Recovering Dissident, Ray Marshall, Mitchell and Judy at Our Word, and MGibson at Veritatis Splendor.

9. What are you reading? (deep breath) Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, The Documents of Vatican II (specifically Dei Verbum and Sacrosanctum Concilium this month), parts of Summa, by St. Thomas Aquinas, Uniformity with God's Will, by St. Alphonsus de Liguori, and several books of the Old Testament.

10. Bonus Question! Has your site been banned by Spirit of Vatican II? If it has, who do you think Father Tim really is?

I can proudly say my blog was one of the first to be banned! As far as Father Tim, well, as a contributor...I can honestly say.....that.....Father Tim is....


The Wizard of Oz.

I tag anyone who wants to answer this quiz. If you are a commenter without a blog, go ahead and post in the combox. :-)