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Monday, December 31, 2007

Last Day of 2007

Well, today hasn't EXACTLY gone as planned.

Yesterday I had a feeling that I should not go to work today, and got permission not to show up.

No wonder I had that "feeling" that I should take the day off. Now everything has been revealed. At least, I hope this is "everything."

There is currently a rental car parked outside my house. You may be asking yourself, "Now, why does Adoro have a rental car? Where's her own car?"

Well, that's a funny story.

You see, today I had only a couple very important errands to run....only a couple. The bank, the vet to pick up some important stuff for my dog, and an oil change. Adn the grocery store and wine shop. If I'd had to work today, I still would have run these errands, and it would have caused me to come in later and a bit frazzled.. Or not at all, as it turns out.

You see, first I went to the bank, and when I left the bank, I realized I'd forgtten the Jiffy Lube coupon for a $10.00 oil change. So I returned home to pick up the coupon. Then I drove to Jiffy Lube...except that it wasn't there anymore.

So instead of doing the oil change first, I ran to the vet to pick up the stuff from the vet, planning to ask them if they knew of a Jiffy Lube near them. I forgot to ask, but found the info in a phone book in my car. I found the place and with great relief, drove my car in and went to the waiting room.

Well, they came in and asked me if there's a "trick" to starting my car. It just starts when I turn the key. That's how must cars work.

Then the other guy came in and explained that they believe my starter is out. No, they can't fix it because that particular operation requires a full service shop. I asked him if he knew if starters were covered by warranty (lots of people in the car biz do know about warranty coverage, through experience and their networking). He thought it was. They got my car started manually, and suggested I drive straight to the dealership to avoid being stranded.

I have roadside assistance, but who wants to be stranded on New Years' Eve, the day before a holiday when the whole world is closed?

* sigh *

So I drove to the dealership, and of course they ask me if I have an appointment. Uh, no. My car didn't send me a memo ahead of time to let me know she was planning to break down today. Otherwise I would have been sure to call ahead for her spa appointment for New Year's Eve.


Well, he checked my warranty and confirmed that IF it is the starter, it would be covered under warranty, which means my rental will also be covered. I did get my car started with no problem while at the dealer, but given it had died when in another shop and they COULDN'T start it, obviously something quirky is happening. It shouldn't be driven.

So I opted to leave the car there an pay for a rental out of pocket, hoping for the best. I didn't want that cost, but it would be a lot worse to not get my errands run (I still had to hit the grocery store and wine shop), and then get stranded in the middle of trying to complete them.

So the dealer called Enterprise for me, they came to pick me up. (As an aside...when my Mom cautioned me never to ride with strangers, she hadn't told me about car problems and rental companies.) Of course, as I used to work for an insurance company and was familiar with the process at the rental company, it was interesting going through it this time as a customer.

So, anyway, after I'd gotten the rental and was almost home, stuck behind an Uncle Ike - type of girl driver in a big boat of a car, I realized I'd forgotten my garage door opener. Turn around and return to the dealership? NOPE! I'm goin' home!

In fact, I had to make a stop at home before I finished my errands. Then I got to the store, and realized I had left my purse at home. I almost went into the store anyway, then realized that the $30.00 in cash that HAD been in my jacket pocket had been transferred to my purse earlier in the day. D'OH!

So I went back home, got my purse, confused the dog again, and left for the store. I ran around grabbing my couple items (most importantly - ricotta cheese for tomorro's menu of stuffed shells...mmmm). Then I got in line. It didn't look so bad. There was a couple in front of me with also only a few items, behind a woman who looked nearly done with a truckload of stuff. Then came the coupons, discussion about the coupons, court held over the coupons, verification of amounts on the product and the coupons, and whatever other problem ultra-frugal people invent as they go through checkout on especially-busy shopping days. The couple ahead of me and I waited patiently, realizing that this sucks for all of us.

Finally, I came home. * sigh *

Right now, I'm sitting down with a glass of wine and will continue hilighting John Paul II's encyclical on the dignity of women. I've been reading it while waiting all day long. And I need to remember dignity again...I'm not sure there's much left based on today's escapades.

Praise God I'm home, though, and not stranded in some odd place.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Holy Family / Holy Trinity

+ JMJ +

Yesterday during my Adoration hour, I was thrilled to see a small Nativity in the front of the chapel. As I prayed my rosary, I concentrated on this trio and their trials, and the significance of family, especially in these dark days.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

At a very young age, I was taught that these three names were a prayer, all by itself, for the names that make up this family carry salvation for us. They are eternal, for our salvation came from the "YES" of Mary and Joseph, and the sacrifice of that very Infant who grew up to be so obedient in his sacrifical love for His Father's will.

I still remember, on hot, stormy nights, as I cowered under my covers, sweating, terrified and shaking, I prayed these very names, "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!" Over and over again. And somehow, I was comforted; in spite of the fierce winds outside, the creaking branches of the trees rubbing against the window, and the rain and hail falling hard against the exterior walls, somehow I was able to sleep again, peacefully, held with Jesus in His Mother's arms. I suppose I spent many a night cuddled with the Infant Jesus, although I didn't understand the power of such a simple prayer.

My knowledge and faith have matured over time, and it leads me to sometimes contemplate not only the meaning of the Holy Family, but also of the Holy Trinity; for isn't the child of the Holy Family the Second Person of the Holy Trinity? Is it any mistake that the Holy Family is a reflection of God, for it is the very love of a man and a woman together that produces a child? For it is not the man or the woman alone that brings life; it is love. It is the productive love of a man and woman that is the reflection of God's image. We cannot, then, understand what "family" means unless we seek to understand the profound truth of the Holy Trinity.

I have heard Catholics and non-Catholics alike tell me that the Trinity can't be understood, is not SUPPOSED to be understood, and so we should not even TRY to understand. To those people, I suggest that they contemplate the Holy Family, and ask Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to reveal God to them. Let the Holy Family teach you about the Trinity; they are a living example, humanized for clearer understanding.

Is it exact? No...the Trinity is so profound and infinite that we as human beings cannot ever fathom the depths of God, and it is true that we are not supposed to understand EVERYTHING. Yet, that is not to say we should not seek to understand; for in that seeking, that is were God reveals Himself to us, little by little, beckoning us through trials and purifications, helping us to understand to the degree that we are able.

I just LOVE the Icon of the Holy Trinity, for it has helped me to understand God a little more, and understand the Saints, for the icon reveals so much. It was after some of the symbolism of the icon was explained to me that I finally understood a concept we had briefly come across in class, but the image solidified this tiny comprehension.

The eye naturally follows in a circle beginning at the feet of the person on the left, travels around and ends on the right. Whether our comprehension follows our eye is a different matter, but as an iconologist explained this to me, let us look at the Trinity in this manner.

We see that the heads of the person in the middle and on the right are inclined towards the one on the left in a show of deference. So clearly, the person on the left is God the Father. Just in case we miss this point, his robes of gold convey his Divinity and Person. God the Father is the First Person of the Trinity. We see that the person in the middle is holding out 2 fingers, to indicate to us that He is Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity. That means that the Person on the right is the personification of the Holy Spirit.

Now that you can identify all of the Persons of the Holy Trinity, trace the line beginning at God the Father's foot. Follow the line of his leg, and as the line continues, up to His eye. His gaze goes straight across to the gaze of the Holy Spirit across from Him. Follow that downward to the foot of the Holy Spirit.

What do you see? A chalice. The chalice contained within the Trinity, that invites us inward to PARTICIPATION in this very Mystery.

Now look at the chalice in the center of the table. It's obvious that this stands for the Blood of Christ. This is further indicated because Jesus Christ is in the center before the chalice, and it makes sense that the chalice is in the center of the table and not His hand...for it is an offering of His blood.

It is through the blood of Christ that we are ABLE to enter into God's presence.

This icon is proleptic of the beautific vision. Do you want to see Heaven? Pray with this reveals all that we need to know in our present condition.

Many of the Saints experienced what are called "Ecstasies" and "Trances" and similar things. People observed that, in prayer, they were able to remain completely still, as they were so ABSORBED with God.

Consider this: At Mass, we pray the Nicene Creed, and some of the words say, "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son."

"Proceeds" is a key word. Have you ever considered what it meant? Look at it again. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

When the Saints experienced their ecstasies, it is understood by great theological minds that they had been drawn into the Divine Processions...they had entered into the Holy Trinity.

When we look upon this icon, we, too, are drawn into the Divine Processions, visually, and we come to see that this happens through the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ, who paid for our passage. It is the Holy Spirit that INVITES us and conveys this understanding, and God the Father who willed us into being, for Him and Him alone. Yet Jesus had to offer of Himself, ALL of Himself, in order that we might experience eternity with God.

The Holy Family is simply proleptic (indicative of a future reality) of what is to come; it is what we should seek to be here on earth. No, not all of us are called into human unions, however, we ARE called into that same reflection of self-giving love, sacrificial love, which proceeds from...the Trinity.

It is a mistake to avoid contemplating the Trinity; it is a mistake to admonish someone that they aren't SUPPOSED to understand such things. Rather, we should be ENCOURAGING each other to seek God, especially through these most sublime mysteries. We are all called to be Saints, even here on Earth. We are all called to participate in the life of Christ...and what is the Life of Christ but the Eternal Kingdom of God, there, held lovingly in the arms of the Holy Trinity?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

MMM....Chicken Curry...

On Christmas, my brother and his girlfriend gave me a very special gift...Chicken Curry, made by them. With their own special label. They specialize in this particular repast, and tonight, it's what I had for dinner.

A week ago, I fortitiously found naan (Indian Bread) in the local grocery store and picked it up, having no idea what was coming my way. So today I picked up more to have with dinner.

What I learned is this: I can't cook rice properly. It's edible, but mushy, no fluff to it. It can't even properly be called "sticky rice".

But my lack of rice-cooking did not affect the immense satisfaction obtained from my brother's chicken curry. And the naan...incredible with it. My only regret is that I don't have a CASE of the curry! Seriously, they could market this stuff, easily.

Now I'm beginning to wonder...perhaps my brother, his girlfriend, and I should go into business together? My brother can't make soup to save his life, but boy howdy, can he make chicken curry! And he cooks a good ham, too, and mashed potatoes are his specialty...outside of curry, that is.

But I'm great with soup, sandwiches, some pastas and a few other random things. I'm not sure what his girlfriend is good at...the curry credit goes to her, too, so she could be the REAL talent there. But I also happen to know she's got a head for numbers, and any business needs someone who can do the figures. I am automatically eliminated from that particular job...believe me!

So...I have to give my brother's and his girlfriend's curry my highest food rating; Food I Would Serve Jesus. Please click on the tag under this post for other foods I would serve Jesus for more information. I believe I also have a tag for foods I would NOT serve Jesus, just for contrast. For example, I would not actually serve Jesus any rice I cooked unless He was THAT desperate. Again it's edible...just not...uh...properly done. The good news is that it wasn't burned, so the Lord likely wouldn't have too much trouble with it.

But I still say that if we are going to be offering our best to someone, well, it had better be our BEST and we shouldn't be satisfied with mediocrity. That's what happened to Cain and why he went down the wrong road. Really. It's all there in Genesis. That spiritual lesson is for another post, though. I MUST go about seeking Indian food again. The last time I ate curry was several years ago at a restaurant named "Caravan Serai". It was actually an Afghanistani restaurant complete with a belly dancer, a tent-like decor, and a local writeup on the place detailed even the history of the family that owned it. I'd been there only twice until one day I went by planning to order my dinner for takeout, only to see that it was closed. What disappointment! I need some good Indian/Afghanistani food...when I can afford it....mmmmm

Friday, December 28, 2007

God's Amazing Mercy

I have never been pulled over by the police before. In fact, the last time I was involved in a traffic stop, I was the cop. When I was the person behind the wheel of the car being stopped...we were in training.

Amazing...that training can really come in handy!

This afternoon I took Lexington Ave. home, as I had to stop someplace en route so this road was a better option than my regular one. It also happens to be a long road with varying speed zones, passing through farmland (in the 'burbs!), past small strip malls, etc. Today the weather wasn't quite nasty, but there was snow on the road. The temps made it mostly wet, but there were slippery spots and the radio was reporting various spinouts on the freeways. I was glad to be on this that point it was a 2 lane, I was going at or just under the speed limit of 50 mph, and there was a good distance between the car ahead of me and myself. On days like this, even when I feel comfortable in driving the limit (usually I'm a granny on snowy roads), I keep a lot of distance and a lookout on what's up ahead in case slowing down is more difficult than it appears. So I assure you, I was driving quite carefully.

But then I saw a squad car, and for years, I have checked my spedometer whever I see a cop...and did so today, not even thinking about it. Traffic was slowing and I was, too, although I was a tad late in doing so as I'd crept closer to the car ahead of me.

And suddenly I got a sinking feeling as I saw the squad check his speed and turn around. Oh, no.

I kept driving, saw the next sign, 35 mph, and slowed down, still keeping my distance from the car ahead. The squad was creeping up. No lights. But I knew what he was doing...if he was indeed after me, he was getting close enough to read my plate and type or call it in. (I suspect they have computers in their cars in that 'burb). Then he had to wait for it to come back. I drove forward when the light changed, and then his lights came on. I pulled over, and sure enough he stopped right behind me.

That's when my training really kicked in; I made sure to pull as far into the right hand snowbank that used to be a curb as I could, and as I did so, I glanced back and saw that he was properly positioning the squad to offset, creating a barrier for his own safety. So there I was...being pulled over and thinking of officer safety!

I also rolled my window down and turned down the radio, pulled out my driver's license and kept my hands where they could be seen.

The officer walked up and, while he took my license, he told me that there was a speed reduction zone that went from 50 to 40 mph and he'd gotten me at 50. Then he asked for my insurance, which I reached over and took out of my bag, moving slowly, again, keeping my hands in very clear view. I knew what traffic stops were like; and what he needed to see from me. He verified that I still live at the same address, and walked back to his car. There was no conversation or room for it. His tone was polite and matter-of-fact.

I knew that the best way to respond in any traffic stop is with humility; if the police stop you, you've probably done something wrong and they saw it. If it was speeding, they have it on radar; as he'd said, I missed a speed zone sigh and was still going 50.

While I waited, I figured I'd be getting a ticket...which I can't afford. Not now. Not ever, but especially not now! And I knew that if I was 10 over, I deserved the ticket, and I would pay it without contesting it. I deserved it, pure and simple.

And I remembered that just the other day, a random thought popped into my head; where was my most recent insurance card? Had I put it in my car? I checked my bag...I had it in my backpack, both cards. I had NOT put it in my car, and as of today, it was still in my backpack. But because of that random thought, today I KNEW where the cards were, which saved me a trip to court to prove that I do, in fact, have insurance on my car. Had I not had that card, I knew, he's be writing a court summons for "no proof of insurance." That's actually not a huge deal; you just have to go to court to proove that you do, in fact, have insurance. Unfortunately, that ticket can often mean an impound...and you have to have proof of insurance to get your car out of impound. So, note to everyone...make CERTAIN that you carry your insurance IN your car or on your person at all times lest you do something stupid.

All of this flashed through my mind in a second, and then I was thinking about the ticket likely being written. I thought about begging God for mercy; it was 3:15 at that point, Friday during the Hour of Mercy. And I was going to get a speeding ticket. Stupid, stupid, stupid. And I had to humbly acknowledge that if he wrote the citation, I was deserving of it, and had to suck it up. But just the same, I prayed a few Hail Mary's, surrendering to what was to be. It was all I could do.

The officer got out of his car. There was nothing in his hands, but my DL. I figured he'd walk up and pull his book out of one of his pockets and hand me the citation there. I did not for one moment believe that I was going to come out of this unscathed.

He handed me back my license...and nothing else. He told me to be more careful next time and wished me a good day.

I was stunned. Just stunned. I DESERVED a ticket. But there it was...mercy.

As I drove away, I considered my own time in law enforcement. We often didn't write tickets in a traffic stop. And in fact, a secret a lot of people don't know, and one you should take with a grain of salt, police officers often don't begin writing speeding tickets unless someone is 10 over the limit or more. Anything under becomes a waste to one degree or another, and the courts often forgive them. 10 and over tends to involve knowledge of the deed, or actual inattention. Now, keep in mind, the Minnesota State Patrol may stop you for even 1 mph over the limit, especially if they are working traffic in a certain area. So, yes, you still can be cited for even minimal offense. So be forewarned.

One of the things I learned in my field training is the reason for citing someone...a traffic stop should ALWAYS be educational, I was told. Explain why they were stopped, to the point. Some people are amenable to education; some are not, but always try. Not every stop warrants a citation, and quotas are a fabrication of common urban mythology. We didn't stop people to make a quota; we stopped people for public safety reasons.

People with a lot of priors were much more prone to getting a citation; because a simple stop apparently never changed their behavior. Financial impact can actually make a difference for some. Other people apparently just like to finance the local government agencies through going too fast or engaging in some other unlawful conduct...willfully. Some people just shouldn't be driving, because they have no concept that their behavior affects others. Oh, wait...that applies to a LOT more than driving!

People with clean records can be a tossup, depending on what cop you talk to. Some officers see those with clean records as the perpetually lucky, and if they get stopped, now they're due. Other officers look at people with clean records as those who likely habitually drive well, and if they are stopped, it is in a brief moment, a speed zone sign missed, simple error versus actual willful breaking of the law. I think more often than not, if the infraction is that minimal, most officers will let people go with a word to take more care.

While I will be eternally grateful for today's experience of mercy, I wonder if the latter situation is why I "got off." My record is clean. Back in 1992 when I totalled my car 3 months after I bought it, I got a "failure to yield" ticket...the accident was my fault. Let me tell you...that accident taught me a LOT! And it lent to careful driving habits, especially when making a left turn. Yet even that incident arose out of a moment of confusion, not criminal intent. But even though I'd previously been innocent, my action caused harm thus I was deserving of a citation. Fault was REALLY obvious. And now, having worked in insurance, yeah, I agree...stupid actions sometimes make it obvious who broke what law. It's been years, though, since then, and as I explained, I've never been so much as pulled over...until today.

I suspect that the officer was actually running traffic in a problem area. A lot of people don't realize that when they set up speed traps or tend to stop people more often in certain locations, it's because of something brought to their attention by citizens. We used to sit in the briefing room every morning at the start of our shift, and listen to the letters sent in by citizens REQUESTING that the police dept. work traffic in certain areas where they live. This happened so much that the department established a traffic unit and purchased an unmarked car for the purpose. What does THAT tell you?

The next time you hear someone complain that the cops should be going out and catching "real criminals" instead of handing out tickets, tell them to take their complaints to the people who live in the location where he was they can set him straight.

In my case...yeah, I was in the wrong, 50 in a 40, but my error came not from willfully speeding, but simply missing the speed reduction sign, and not by much. But still - it was what it was. He would have been just in handing me that piece of preprinted cardstock.

I'm happy, though, having that experience of mercy. Now I know how people felt when I left them with just a verbal admonition to be more careful. Yeah, I'll be more careful, too, especially on that stretch of road!

See? Education works!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

What a Feelin'!

Just last week, I met a guy who is converting to the Catholic faith. (Unfortunately, he is doing so at a parish that often doesn't provide authentic Catholic liturgy, so we can only pray the catechesis is even somewhat solid!)
In any case, at this parish, he is catered to in his "feelings" because while he is very learned scripturally, he is also very much involved in his non-denominational Christian worship. He does not want to leave his friends and family behind. (Apparently he forgot that Jesus admonishes us to leave our families and friends behind when we are called...)

His entire basis and spiritual point of reference was of "feeling". So I told him that it's not about "feeling". That there's more, and it goes far deeper than feeling and emotion. He acknowledged this, said that he is converting because he believes in the Catholic faith and he FEELS "peace" when at Mass.

Granted, that says a lot, but at the same time, for someone whose most important factor of worship and knowledge of God is "feeling", well, his barometer needs readjustment.

I know that God uses emotion to draw some of us to Him...but it's not emotion that draws us in deeper.

I tried to explain spiritual dryness, but he never let me finish...he always interrupted, said that people have told him about dryness, but he just "feels" that what he is doing is correct, etc. He was all about the warm and fuzzy feelings in his spiritual life; and because of this, no one else's advice or information, including the Saints, was valid.

And I was fine with the fact that his "feelings" were valid, and told him so. My pure advice to him was this: At some point, you are going to come to a spot were there is no emotional response. And because you're so used to that fire in the heart, when the first episode of dryness hits, you're going to think you're doing something wrong because you're not actually "feeling it" anymore. And going to church on Sunday is going to be a chore (whether you are Catholic or Protestant), and you'll go not because it feels good, but because you love God. It's the conviction of faith that keeps you, not the emotional support of good fuzzy feelings.

He didn't want to hear it. Thank God, Father, who was present at the time and had apparently been listening to at least some of this conversation, broke in. He used his Vocation story; his sense of peace with his call to the priesthood, as well as the dry periods. But it was the "peace" that never stopped...even when the emotions have. Because "peace" goes beyond feeling. He acknowledged the purification of spiritual dryness, but that peace of Christ overcomes all of it.

What some people don't understand, though, is that "peace" isn't an emotional response to anything; it is devoid of emotion. "Peace" is purely abstract, purely objective, and purely of God...because one can experience (not "feel") peace even amidst the worst of the storms life has to offer.

There WILL be spiritual and emotional tumult; but when we are within God's Divine Plan...there will always be peace, even when we are not able to sense God's presence in the very darkest of trials.

Please keep all converts in your prayers, all of those fighting spiritual battles, and all those who are truly entering the "dark night."

Purify us, Lord, in thy mercy.


I'd Like to Thank the Academy...

"In weightlifting, I don't think sudden, uncontrolled urination should automatically disqualify you." ~ Jack Handey

And I don't think that for graduate studies, grades consisting of B+ and A- are a bad thing!

Praise God! I still haven't seen my Spirituality paper or my synthetic study, but I pulled a B+ in Spirituality for the semester, and an A- for Old Testament, so both assignments could not have been lower than a "B" for the final grades to reach those peaks. :-)

So all I can guess is that both papers should be en route to me...or in the case of Spirituality, it may not have gotten through so I'll send a note to the prof. The other is coming by mail so I'll wait. After all, the ink is barely dry on my grade report.

And do you know what this means? It means that I get to keep the scholarship! Yay1 Were it not for that, I would not be able to continue.

So...ongoing thanks to those of you who have been so supportive of me in my studies. I will hopefully be able to continue to do this well second semester...God willing. (Um...I still have to get my registration in...)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

There's No Need For a Trial...

This idiot is guiltier than sin, if that's even possible.

I'll post the text I'm referring to, but for those of you not local, you may not know the story. So here it is: Last week there was a car fire in an alley in south Minneapolis, which isn't so odd. Cars burn all the time for various reasons. It's not news. But of course, the FD discovered the body of Kristine Larson (age 19) inside. THAT'S news. A dead body in a burning car. Hmmmmm....

Last night, or maybe the night before, the news channels interviewed the girl's family. Ms. Larson apparently had a child and the boyfriend (or ex-bf?) was apparently a suspect, which is natural in such a weird death. Well, the family was denying it across the board - "No way, not him. They had their problems, I'm sure, but he wouldn't do anything like that. No problems at that level."

So jump to today, the story to be found on

Prosecutors on Wednesday charged the ex-boyfriend of a murdered woman with strangling her, then starting a car fire and leaving her body inside.

19-year-old Kristine Larson is the mother of 21-year-old Zachery Matthews' two year old son, Darion.

Matthews claimed to police that he found Larson already dead when he arrived at his home in Saint Paul last week.

He told police he found her in a closet, placed her in her car and drove it to an alley on 24th Avenue South in Minneapolis.

But he denied setting her or the car on fire.

Larson died the same day she went to Matthews' home to pick up their son.

Matthews originally grieved with Larson's family late last week, but police arrested him on Sunday. Larson's family members say they are simply horrified by Matthews' arrest.

"For the three days before he was arrested, he's been here, crying with us, hugging us, falling to the floor, sleeping in her bed. We thought his tears were like ours, tears of sorrow and apparently they were tears of guilt," says Michelle Sveiven, Larson's sister. "Her child is left without a mother. Her mother and father are left without a daughter and our entire family has lost somebody very dear to us that can never be replaced."

Court documents outlining the charges did not spell out a motive for the murder. The couple's relationship ended several months ago.

Larson's family members say they were concerned Matthews' behavior was becoming dangerous. Her sister describes arguments and unexplained bruises on Larson's body.

A year ago, Matthews was charged with assaulting Larson's mother. Family members say she was injured trying to protect little Darion, during an argument between Larson and Matthews. At that time, Matthews was ordered by the court to take anger management classes.

Kristine Larson's funeral will be held Thursday, December 27th.

OK. Did you get all that? Let's look at this part again:

Matthews claimed to police that he found Larson already dead when he arrived at his home in Saint Paul last week.

He told police he found her in a closet, placed her in her car and drove it to an alley on 24th Avenue South in Minneapolis.


OK, that's a completely logical chain of events, just what ANYONE would do in the same set of circumstances.

He arrives home and finds his BabyMama (that's a real word) mysteriously dead and stuffed in a closet.

So he does what ANY reasonable person would do...he takes her lifeless corpse and puts it in her car, which was ostensibly parked at his house (the article doesn't say but we can logically - using REAL logic - surmise that as she was at his house and she had gone there to pick up their child, well, she obviously must have driven there.) So anyway, she's dead. No big whoop. What to do?

Put her in her car. That makes sense. It just doesn't DO to have the murdered corpse of the BabyMama hanging out in the closet. The next girlfriend might complain.

So he puts her in her car, and drives her...where else? To an alley in south Minneapolis.

And leaves her there.

Isn't that how people take care of their dead? Of course. Perfectly logical. That's just what anyone would do if they were thinking straight. And telling the police all about it, no doubt with a poker face, a lot of sweat, grumbling, complaining, and con-man simplicity.

Only thing is, his story is completely idiotic.

People, seriously...if you are going to kill someone, at least have a good story. This would be funny if it wasn't so completely tragic and heartbreaking.

"But he denied setting her or the car on fire."


Well, that makes it better. He took his dead girlfriend, loaded her into her own car and brought it to south Minneapolis and abandoned it there. But some unknown stranger happened along, saw that a woman was "sleeping" in a darkened Minneapolis alley, and took the next logical step...of buring the girl and the car in some weird tribute to...what....the god of urban decay?

This guy is guilty. I've never said this before and likely will never do so again, and I'm in the wrong county anyway, but I would LOVE to serve on the jury that hangs his sorry ass. That guy deserves to burn.

OK, I just went to Confession tonight, and now I have to go back. Minnesota does not have the death penalty, and truth be told, I'm against it. But there IS such a thing as righteous anger, and let me just say....let Vengeance be God's. Yeah, I know I should be praying Divine Mercies, but this ticks me off so much that for now, I can't.

Of course, I'll never be chosen for jury duty for such a trial as that; the Defense would preempt me off just given my background and education.

But just the be a fly on the wall during his court proceedings would be a blast. His story will go down in dumb criminal history.

And the poor orphaned child won't grow up to know his mother or his father...please keep that child especially in your prayers this Christmas season, and the grieving family.

As my regular readers know, a year ago I was a claims investigator, and my specialty was fire and theft claims. This is exactly the type of claim that used to land on my desk. While the basic investiation usually revolved around detecting and ruling out fraud, this one would be paid quickly unless the idiot in question was also on the title.

And fatalities are always handled delicately. Say what you will about insurance companies, but while I was there I saw a great deal of compassion on behalf of people who suffered great losses. We had to be obedient to policy language, but if there were loopholes that allowed us to pay things to grieving families...we did it. I digress, but two weeks after I began my position as an investigator, I handled a claim involving a guy who had burned to death in his car. It happened on November 30. It was a suicide, but we never officially ruled it. Instead, we called it a mechanical accident (on the evidence we had on the car itself) and ignored the human factor that had caused the mechanical "accident." If we had done otherwise, the claim could have been denied. We didn't want to go there, because then the grieving family would suffer that much more.

I thank God every day that I don't have to deal with this stuff anymore, but at the same time, handling such things and sitting across from real criminals has also made me quite crusty. It's no wonder that people in such fields become jaded very quickly; the sorry state of human nature is all too apparent, and the vile acts covered by innocent smiles and deceptive platitudes become all too obvious over time.

Please pray for Kristine Larson and her family, especially her child - their own trial is just beginning and there is no end in sight.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Ghost of Christmas Past

I think many of us are "haunted" by our pasts. We perhaps have had a terrible childhood, or maybe an idyllic childhood that was disrupted between then and now, or maybe we fear that we never really HAD any kind of foundation. Maybe we consider the years in our own self-imposed exile, and as a result, remember only the negatives. Maybe our photographic flashes of memory are in negatives, sepia-toned with whited-out eyes, to match the horror-story prelude to the horrors our own lives have actively engaged, with or without our acquiescance.

We grew up in an old riverside rambler (across the highway from the river...this wasn't flood land!), and as my brother pointed out, the original homestead was still there at that time. It had been built upon and built upon, coming to be the dissociated ranch house our family came to inhabit.

In spite of some of the weiredness of that house (long story) and our childhood, some of my best Christmas memories took place in that house.

Somewhere I still have a photo of my parents in front of our Christmas Tree, in the corner by the big bay window. I remember when the photo was taken; Mom was in her green velour dress, and we were about to leave for Christmas Eve Mass. We were all dressed up. Dad was in his suit, my brother and I were in our best, and we knew that night that Santa would come. And we were praying for snow.

I will never forget that green velour dress, the scent of Mom's perfume, the bustle, the bitter winter evening air, or the poinsettias at Mass. I'll never forget coming home to sit at the base of the tree and open our gifts. I'll never forget being hustled off to bed, our stockings hung over the fireplace (a REAL one!), the dog stealing cookies from the tray on the coffee table, and the milk we insisted on setting out, in spite of Mom and Dad's protests.

They were still married, then. Even in the house that was a prequel to the Amnityville horror, we had happy times. And on Christmas Eve night, even though we slept with the covers over our heads as usual, we kept an ear out and an eye half-lidded, hoping to catch Santa in the act of emerging from the chimney.

I do not mean to say that the birth of Jesus Christ was unimportant; we were raised to believe that Santa worked for Jesus to help express His love. So a visit from Santa was a visit from Jesus. So it was that on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, nothing could harm us; for the Lord himself visited our home, even in the form of a simple messenger.

My goodness, the wisdom of my parents, especially our mother, when it came to religious instruction!

I still look upon the idyllic Christmas as the one with our family, whole, posed under the Christmas tree before Mass.

Since that time, my parents divorced, Mom was diagnosed with bipolar in a never-ending struggle, Dad died when I was 20, and all of us have been flung to the four corners of the globe....and yet, we are still hanging on. Dad's not with us anymore, but still maintains a presence, to the very blessing at the table. "Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed."

Ironic that even as we lived among the ghosts and they terrorized our daily lives, our brightest and most important moments took place. God's grace abounds even in the most desolate of places and conditions.

This Christmas was not idyllic, but it was real. It was fun to be with my family. We were comfortable with each other. We were tired...but there was peace and relaxation, a recognition of exhaustion on all parts.

I have no doubt that Mary and Joseph were fully exhausted and at the end of their strength when Mary went into labor. They had nothing more to give...and then Jesus was born into their hands.

I am fully convinced that it is when we are at the very END of our ropes that God becomes truly present, and while He does not take away our burdens, He places them in perspective and enables us to see His loving hands in every detail.

So even as I have been forced this weekend to contemplate the ghost of Christmas past, I see the blessings of Christmas present and thank God for His guiding hand throughout the years. We may have suffered ghosts and hauntings, we may have suffered a broken family, the repurcussions of which are still embedded today, but overall, the ghosts have made us stronger in our suffering.

Even if you think you are alone at Christmas, please know that you can never be alone; even in your moments of greatest abandonment, God is with you.

Have a Blessed Christmas Season - it has just BEGUN!


Good morning, everyone!

Christmas is finally here, and while Christmas morning doesn't convey the wonder that it did as a child, it's probably even BETTER now than it was then.

My brother and I were up until 3:30 am watching movies, chatting and sipping vino while indulging in cheese and crackers. It was wonderful. His girlfriend was absent but will be down today so we can exchange the rest of our gifts and have a big ol' dinner.

Oh...I just remembered I have to wrap one of her gifts...

The dog has been very good, although she did get my attention with a big sloppy kiss! Yuck! So I just retreated under the covers and ignored her for awhile longer.

Many of you are likely living out similar mornings wherever you are.

Have a very Blessed and Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve 2007

The sky is blue, the sun is shining brightly upon the newly-fallen snow, and the icy streets gleam wickedly under the coating of salt and sand. The bitter temperature is rising as the winds shift from north to south, and the friendly neighborhood squirrels are alternately chattering and running along the old wooden fence that borders the property.

My German Shepherd is curled up on the couch as I write these words, her long nose tucked softly under her bushy tail. My Christmas lights shine brightly and especially highlight the picture of Our Mother of Perpetual Help that graces the wall in the corner next to the tree.

The gifts are wrapped and await only bows and ribbons. My food contributions are in the refrigerator, and the wine for tonight and tomorrow is cooling in the garage. I have yet to wrap the two special bottles of red wine for my brother and his girlfriend, who will be joining my family for tomorrow's feast.

I had to run out this morning to complete just a couple simple errands, and let me tell you, the roads are still just awful. However, with the warming temperatures today, by the time I must journey down to the home of my dear brother, the main highways should be fine. Just the same, I will be taking extra care.

Mass this afternoon begins at 4 pm; I plan to arrive a little early so as to spend extra time in prayer and preparation to receive my Savior. Last year, unfortunately, this Mass was a Life Teen Mass, and it was so disruptive to any attempt at contemplation that I left completely rattled; yet grateful to be able to celebrate the birth of Christ.

This year, while I pray the Mass doesn't involve drums and other inappropriate non-liturgical instruments, nothing will disrupt my joy. For just a few weeks ago, I thought I was going to lose my Mom, and this very night I will see her and rejoice not only at the birth of Christ, but her own continuing presence in our lives. And people, this world is a better place because my Mom is in it. This docile yet fiery matriarch of our tiny family is teaching me more about living sacrificially than I'll ever be able to read in the lives of the Saints. It will take me the rest of my life to unpack what she has taught me and continues to teach. And so the greatest gift this Christmas is my mother.

Thank you, God, for another Christmas with Mom. I couldn't ask for anything more.

And so today's Mass will be offered in thanksgiving for her life and her sacrifices. After Mass I'll head home, pack up the car, feed the dog, and we'll journey south, mouth watering for the old family tradition of oyster stew and various treats, and the newer tradition of wine and cheese, great conversation and relaxation in front of a good movie.

Mom has already told me she got gifts for my dog...three squeaky toys to drive us all crazy, likely accompanied by treats that I won't give her at any other time of the year. But we've discovered that her presence in the home, curled up on the rug in front of the fireplace, completes the scene of family contentment making us rather resemble a painting from the Saturday Evening Post. Especially considering that my brother's and my own antics juxtaposed against the peacefulness of the dog and the Christmas tree and the serene mother is reflective of Christmases past, and hopefully, future.

It has been a difficult Advent, a true period of waiting. I did not succeed in my Advent promises, but at the same time, the sacrifices that were made were some I could not have planned and did not understand until it was complete. So as we began Advent with a certain hope, travelled through that dark valley and came out the other side, always our companion has been hope. Even admist the darkest trials, because the Savior of the World has come, we are not alone. We come to realize that even when we feel most abandoned, that is when we must behold the face of Christ, for it is only in our suffering and patience that we are able to most resemble Him. And even when we can't understand it, we learn that just as the Blessed Mother cradled her Son in that cave so long ago, so she now cradles us and directs our own gaze to the Star of Bethlehem.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Fondue Pot

The Anchoress has a post about a conversation she had with Chinese immigrants, and how this conversation has inspired her. In turn, she has inspired me, for my life, also, has been touched by immigrants.

Most of us descend from immigrants; my family is mostly Northern European. My Mom's side came over from Ireland as a result of the potato famine, and married into the French and German ancestry that created our current tribe. My Dad's side was all Swedish. In fact, we are...what...2nd and 3rd generation? My grandfather's parents immigrated and settled in the US, and he ended up in Escanaba, MI, (The Upper Peninsula). My grandmother came to America as a child, and in fact she tried to study Spanish but they kicked her out of class because her Swedish accent was so thick that they despaired of her attempts!

But this post didn't make me muse about my family, but rather, others I have met. Down the road is a little liquor store I frequent when looking for good wines. The "new" owners are Hmong, I think, or possibly Vietnamese. I confess I'm not certain, but their nationality does not make a difference in the regard I have for them. They are just the sweetest couple, are quick to make recommendations and always recognize their regular customers. Just yesterday I stepped in to look for some wines to bring to my brother's house tomorrow, and the dear lady and I again discussed a new wine I had not tried. After I had paid for my purchase, she reached under the counter and handed me a little bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, saying, "This is my gift to YOU. Merry Christmas!"

So I learned something...I have the impression that this family is Christian, and is proud to wish their customers a blessed Christmas, rather than a canned greeting. Or perhaps she is simply observant and remembered the crucifix I often wear. In any case, their religious affiliation is not important; rather, their ability to be so personable is what makes a difference. They also are proudly American; in a prominent location they have an article posted about the Hmong community and this community's involvement in the US military. They are EXTREMELY proud of their sons and daughters who are serving in defense of this country. A visit to this shop leaves no doubt that this family loves both the homeland they fled, and the homeland they have adopted, and which has adopted them. I wish them all a blessed and Merry Christmas - may they have many more. One day I must remember to ask them their story.

Just before I left my last position, a customer from Russia came my way. Her car had been stolen and I obtained the standard recorded statement (per our investigation process) as she detailed what had occurred. She was just the sweetest lady, and I really LOVED her accent. And naturally, because I am nosy (I was an investigator, after all) I asked her where she is from.

And the woman gave me her story; she is from Russia and has been in the United States for 15 years. During a time of change in their government, she took the opportunity to flee the oppression of her country and got into the Ukraine with her son. They stayed there with either relatives or friends. (I forget). When they could, they came to America and have since built a life here. I asked her what drew here here, of all the countries in the world? The opportunity. The freedom to do so much, the most impact that this would have upon her son. She did not want him to experience the tyranny she had lived under for so many years.

But there was a deep sadness in her voice; she was planning a trip to the Ukraine, and had been back there a few years ago. But because she'd fled her homeland, she can never go back; they consider her to be a criminal, just for fleeing. She was going to be within 6 miles of her homeland, but can never go home to visit her family there. She fully expects she will never see them again. If she attempts to cross, she will be arrested.

I don't pretend to know the full circumstances, but I don't believe the issues are truly criminal, rathr political. She defected, she sacrificed a great deal in order to live in the United States, and she sees this country as home, even as she misses the land that saw her birth.

And that leads me into another topic, which relates both to immigration and ecumenism. Here in the Twin Cities, we have a HUGE Somali population, the vast majority of which are Muslim. As you'd expect, their presence has a mixed reaction, but in my observation, they are mostly a people just trying to make a foreign land "home" and live their lives in peace.

I have mixed feelings about Islam, which I will not be discussing here, but I have found the Somali people to be just like anyone else, even if we have our cultural differences on occasion.

Just recently, a co-worker explained how she had gone to the store a couple years ago to order a special cake for the priest at the parish where we work. (I was not working there then). The young woman at the bakery was wearing a head covering, was obviously Muslim, and didn't speak a lot of English, although she was trying really hard. So my coworker, who for some reason had a photo of the priest with her, showed it to her and managed to explain that the cake she was ordering was for him, for a special occasion the parish was honoring.

The girl became very excited, exclaiming, "Oh! A Holy Man! A Holy Man!" She completely understood the importance of this cake, and literally bent over backwards to make everything perfect. Even though she was lacking in English, her heart and soul made up the difference. So much so that my coworker (now friend, actually) went back to the store later to make sure this girl received the praise she deserved for working so hard.

Say what you will about the Islamic faith, but I suspect you'd find there the same things you find in Catholicism; the snark on one extreme, too much permissiveness to the degree of heresy/schizm on another, but ultimately, these people are just like us. They practice their faith, the believe that their faith is true, and they respect the fact that not everyone shares what they believe. And yet, my guess is that we all have a certain respect for "Holy Men" of all religions, whether we agree with their beliefs or not.

In my lifetime, I've met some courageous immigrants, and I've met Americans who have lived in places such as Saudi Arabia, and received the Sacraments in hiding for fear of death. I know a priest who lost most of his family while fleeing SW Asia. I've met people from other countries who love America and are thrilled to be here, but still remember their homeland and fight to maintain that important connection, lest it be lost in this fondue pot we call the United States.

The Ancoress has inspired me once again to remember to ask immigrants about their stories; what brought them here? All too often I get so irritated with the political culture, the agenda of death, the anti-Christianity and specifically the anti-Catholicism, that I lose sight of the fact that we have more freedome than most countries of the world. Yes, we have to fight and argue and stand up for ourselves even within our own countries, but overall, we are not fighting for our lives. We are not dying to practice our faith. We have not had to flee our homeland in order to celebrate and live out the dignity that God gave us. We are not barred from our borders and labeled "criminal" just because we disagree with the regime.

With all the problems this country faces, I must say that the immigrants help me to remember why I'm here and why I've never left; because there is noplace else to go. The grass may very well be greenest here, and the most important facet of this country is our religious freedom. In spite of persecution, we are strong and can be strong in our faith. We have a right to speak up and condemn all sorts of immoral things. Even Canada doesn't maintain that right anymore.

Thank God I'm American, and thank God for immigrants!

Sunday Morning Musing

This morning I literally woke up laughing. Really. I was having an odd dream about working at a youth event, where I was a speaker. And I was complaining that the kids spent more time on "break" than in actually doing anything to learn about God. For example, each speaker had 5 minutes...and then thre was a 10 minute break. Speed catechesis.

Well, Uncle Jim was in the dream and said something hilariously funny. I have no idea what it was, but suddenly I was awake, laughing. In that moment I still remembered the joke, and oddly enough, in the real world, it wasn't a bit funny. (No offense, Uncle Jim). But in that dream, it made me laugh, a laughter that carried me into the early morning darkness. And when I realized I was laughing at a joke that didn't happen, given by a person who wasn't there and whom I've never met, and that I was really laughing...well, that just made me giggle. LOL!

So it was a good start to my day and has placed me into a fabulous mood.

Mass was beautiful, the homily was excellent, and there is joy everywhere.

And then I went to the store. That wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, either. I beat the rush, although tomorrow I will have to venture out. I considered making a quick run to a certain store today, however, the weather has made me reconsider.

It is quite literally a skating rink all throughout the city. They have sanded and salted, but it's not doing a thing.

Yesterday night and morning it was very warm up here, and so the couple inches of snow that fell was of the very heavy, wet variety. Shortly after sunrise, the wind picked up and the temperature began to steadily drop. The plows came through quickly, however it was too late...all that snow got compressed into very smooth ice. The driveway of my townhome complex very literally looks like a snow-swept skating rink. I am seriously tempted to take my old almost antique skates off the hook where they hang and take a few turns and leaps around in the driveway.

The roads even locally are just atrocious. Today it's very windy and it's bitterly, bitterly cold. It wasn't this bad when I was walking the dog this morning, but again, the temps are dropping and the wind is blowing some fresh snow around. They're predicting a couple inches today yet, but we won't really see the accumulation as the winds are going to blow it all into Wisconsin. There's already a drift against my garage door. Insulation!

So anyway, as I was leaving the store I had to stop to wait for traffic. There's no snow on the road (maybe a little), but it's all ice. And although my car has traction control, it had no effect. I was just spinning my wheels, envisioning trying to get out and push....and how could that work? You cannot walk or drive on this stuff.

Those skates are starting to look more and more useful.

So in the end I realized it's best to just go home because I don't have time to shatter my car today.

Darn. I forgot to pick up hot chocolate.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


I have been contemplating this term a great deal recently, both because of the paper I handed in a week ago, and because it grates on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard.

I've been wondering; what is my problem with this word?! "Eucharist" is a completely licit and necessary word of any Catholic's vocabulary. It means "thanksgiving", and indeed, do we not give thanks for the sacrifice of atonement Jesus made for us upon the cross?

Ahh....that's it. Allow me to explain.

At work, as it is my job to coordinate the first sacraments, I have a whole bunch of books labeled "Eucharist". Which is fine. I also have a whole bunch of files I inherited marked "First Eucharist."

I'm cringing just thinking about it.

You may be wondering what my problem is. So did I. Until yesterday when I realized there's a HOST of reasons this phrase grates on my nerves, so I'm going to try to coherently lay it out.

I grew up with the term "Communion". Certainly I heard the word "Eucharist" but "Communion" was the predominant term, especially in my household. And through the use of the word "Communion", or even better, "Holy Communion" I was given to understand that through this sacrament there was a special joining to Jesus Christ.

This completely meshes with the term "Eucharist", of's all over the Catechism of the Catholic Church, after all. You will not find me arguing with that very important and wholly scriptual document! The CCC is my friend!

Perhaps my problem is this; the term "Eucharist" is tossed around and used to mean many things, not all of them holy. I have heard and read of "doing Eucharist" in reference to certain crazy women who have dubbed themselves "priests." I've seen the phrase "We are a Eucharistic People" especially in connection to particular "Catholic Communities" that tend to de-emphasize the holy and fully emphasize what appears to be a political convention in what is SUPPOSED to be, properly, a church.

While the former is completely un-holy, and the later is legitimate, it is still annoying...because all too often the term "Eucharist" in those places emphasizes the "table" where we share the Body and Blood of Christ, and links it to a certain lateral theology, effectively removing the emphasis which SHOULD be upon the Sacrifice of Atonement.

I have no problem with the fact that the Mass is indeed a feast; it must be, for this is the fulfillment of the final Covenant. Jesus is the Lamb of God, and just as the proleptic passage of Exodus discsses the fulfillment of eating the flesh of the lamb, so we follow suit. The Covenant involving the death and resurrection of Jesus is not really fulfilled until we CONSUME the flesh of the Lamb. Thus, the theology involving the Paschal Feast is indeed proper. The term "Eucharist" used in connection with this is fine, but it's gotten out of control.

Because of the over-usage of the term "Eucharist" and "Eucharistic", it seems tjat the people of God have really been done a HUGE disservice. I keep seen statistics that cite only a small percentage of Catholics actually believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. But a whole lot of people sure do show up and labor for open Communion. And it's so ironic that in that context the term "Communion" is used, because these same people use the term "Eucharist" almost exclusively except when discussing ecumenism. And suddnenly it's not about going to dinner, but rather about being hospitable to people who don't share Catholic beliefs. But then again, I suppose I can understand the confusion...if Catholics don't believe in the True Presence in the Eucharist, why WOULD they have a problem with sharing what they only perceive to be a symbol? In effect, many Catholics have Protestant beliefs, and they have these beliefs due to very poor catechesis.

Some non-Catholic denominations use the term "Eucharist" also, and this may also lend to the poor catechesis in Catholic circles. I can say no more about this because I simply do not have any factual information on those differing beliefs; suffice to say they do not believe what we as Catholics believe.

In any case, when I hear the term "First Eucharist" I think I'm cringing because I envision a program that denies proper catechesis, placing the emphasis on the wrong things, or at the very best, providing an imbalanced catechesis that avoids exactly those things that made people walk away from Jesus in John 6, too.

Lots of people argue that some aren't ready to hear the truth; I will argue that if we who know the truth don't provide it, then we become responsible for not imparting it. It is not up to us to decide what others do or don't feel, or what others will or won't do. If I tell someone, for example, that they must eat the flesh of Jesus Christ, and that Holy Communion is the consummation of the Paschal Wedding Feast and they walk away (after providing much more explanation), well, I'm not responsible. They are walking away from Jesus, not from me.

Am I suggesting that information should be presented without due care? No! Far from it! However, I will not withhold information because I fear a Catholic might walk away because they are "grossed out" by theology. It simply means I will be careful to preface anything "scary" with proper education. And still, people might walk away. That's between them and God; they cannot come to know God if they are not provided the education that enables them to accept or reject him. Ignorance is NOT bliss.

So, after all this rambling, I will say I prefer the term "Holy Communion." Because that's what it is; pure and simple.

The emphasis on the "table" is misguided, although understandable. For the Holy Eucharist" was establised at the Last Supper, a Passover meal. But doesn't that say something? It was about consuming the flesh of the lamb...and on that night, the Lamb of God explained that the bread was His flesh, the wine was His blood. This meal component of Holy Communion is EXTREMELY important. However, the Last Supper setting was actually NOT the Mass itself, and it was not the Covenant. It was, in fact, pointing to something greater, something far more important, and it was a link!

The Last Supper was proleptic of the Sacrifice of the Cross. "Proleptic" is something that is indicative of a future reality. For example, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is proleptic of the Beautific vision.

So the Last Supper is not, in fact, the sacrifice of the Mass, but it contains a very important component, for, as I stated, the flesh of the Lamb must be consumed...and we do that. AFTER the consecration.

The Eucharist itself, Holy Communion, is the Sacrifice of Atonement. The Consecration is the death of Jesus upon the cross. It makes the sacrifice at Calvary present; when we kneel in that moment, we are kneeling at the very foot of the cross. The Mass is a SACRIFICE; it is an act of PENANCE, it is an act of REPARATION, it is an act of REDEMPTION for us all! And we CONSUMMATE this act by eating of the fruit of this cross, the flesh and blood of Christ Himself.

And that is why it is a Eucharistic meal; for if we aren't giving thanks to Christ for what He did to redeem us, we shouldn't be receiving at all. If we think that this is a hoe-down barn-raising meal to be shared with all comers and don't understand that this very FLESH of GOD came to us out of a horrible sacrifice that WE inflicted upon Him so viciously...we shouldn't be receiving.

So as I teach others, I will use the preferred term "Holy Communion" in my catechesis; and I will be using the term "Eucharist" very sparingly. Not because it's wrong, but rather, because people don't understand the theological implications of this reality. And when terms are not understood, they get redefined by whatever human disorder makes the word "feel good."

When we receive Holy Communion, we are offering ourselves to Him, we are accepting His sacrifice of atonement on our behalf, and we are agreeing to follow Him...even unto death. We are agreeing as a people to be His Bride; we are, in fact, in a very deep communion in joing our flesh to His in this very holy act. We should indeed be giving thanks! The word "Communion" is indicative of our desire to join our wills to that of the Lord, to follow Him wherever He leads, agreeing that in fact, we believe heart and soul all that the Church teaches. This is COMMUNION. And the fact that this communion is in relation to the standard of holiness, God himself, that makes it "Holy Communion."

However, if our "Eucharist" is divorced from sacrifice and repentance...then our "Eucharist" is nothing more than a word. And words are cheap.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


I woke up in tears this morning.

Not exactly immediately, but it began when my first thought was not to glorify God, as has been my habit. For at least a year now, maybe more, I try to make my first thought of the day a prayer, an acknowledgement of God's infinite glory. Sometimes it's simple, sometimes it's the "Gloria" from Mass. Sometimes I sing it, if even in my thoughts, and sometimes it's some other tune. And that's a great way to start the day.

This morning though, I was exhausted for some reason (working until 9:30 on Wednesday nights, getting home after 10, and to sleep even later is NOT conducive to a good night's sleep for me). Well, my German Shepherd greeted my groggy self with a Fire-patented "hug". She ducked her head against my chest and stood quietly so I could rub her neck and scratch behind her ears. She doesn't have the same "hug" as Fire did, considering she doesn't have his elegant form and long, sleek neck, but she learned this particular gesture from him. And that started me off thinking about the day I had to put him to sleep.

I came downstairs in tears, feeling somewhat ridiculous, but figuring that with all the stress of the semester now at an end, with all the stress of last-minute Christmas preparations upon me, perhaps I was just overwhelmed. Ever since my Dad passed away I get a little weird like this as we get closer to the anniversary of his death. (Jan. 3).

I went to check my email while sipping my morning coffee and listening to the news on TV, and found Ma Beck's post about "Pigeon Man", Joseph Zeman.

I was already primed for more tears, and this story did me in. I've never seen the man, but there are echoes in his story that speak of someone who understands that life is beautiful, life is precious, and God cares for those most consider to be "vermin".

And of course, the man was pronounced dead at St. Francis Hospital.

My dad's last words were "St. Francis! St. Francis!", and at a hospital by the same name, he spent his last moments and passed away.

St. Francis, indeed. St. Francis, pray for us all.

Thank God I didn't spend my day in that same melancholy; the storm of tears passed as quickly as it was upon me, and I went about my day in good cheer, although somewhat addled just from being tired. You all know what that's like. (Are Thursdays the worst day of the week for you, too? They are almost worse than Mondays!)

I've been back on the search for a Spiritual Director, and a few weeks ago, after a particular incident involving some religious sisters with a connection to Padre Pio got my attention, I met with a local priest. I'd heard of him and know him by reputation only, and made an appointment. He had told me up front that he couldn't take on any other directees, but I realized I needed to take some kind of step towards Spiritual Direction, and sometimes God just sends us links. He was very kind and invited me to make an appointment, even after I expressed that I knew he was busy and I feared wasting his time. In the end the appointment was set and I went.

He was helpful, gave some advice for some steps to follow, some people to contact, etc. And then he said something that surprised me: he said that he'd told me before that he can't take on anyone else, but he agreed I am in need of spiritual direction, no doubt. So he told me to keep searching, and if I really can't find anyone, to call him back, because he doesn't know what God is asking him to do. He doesn't want to close the door if it also means closing the door on God.

I appreciate that, and completely understand!

There was two things he suggested; I have been able to fulfill one. The other involves a retreat, which was not time-bound. He is extremely familiar with the issues in this area, he understands the problems with cost in flying out to attend discernment retreats, and so it's not something I'm sweating at the moment. At this point, I'm considering a private, silent retreat for lack of anything solid or that I can afford, and it's best to be IN spiritual direction at that time.

For a long time now I've been seeking and waffling about spiritual direction, and there really is nowwhere to go...but to him. I'm still praying, but I think I will be calling him back. At least to start out. It's not as if I'll be on his doorstep every week. (It's not as if I actually have the TIME for ANY of this!)

God's grace. That's all I can lean on. That's all I have. And even as I know this priest is extremely busy and overworked, (as are all great priests in our area!) I think I have to be open to the same thing he is; God's call to obedience. If there is no one else, it must be him. Until God says different.

I'm so conflicted about many things. And I'm not necessarily talking about discernment of religious life here. I've found that with a grad program, coupled with a long-time search for an SD, well, the ante has been upped, and I can't reach holiness without assistance.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Top 10 Meme

Cathy_of_Alex meme'd me on this one, and let me tell you, it's a tough choice!

The Mission: Find your ten best posts

While it often happens that what I like and what others like is not the same thing, some of these garnered some comments, others did not. But I still like them for some redeeming qualities here and there. So, without further ado:

Here's my 10:

Do Whatever He Tells You ~ This is an exposition on the Wedding at Caana, peeling back the layers of this gospel to reveal the true meaning of the passage.

Stick to your guns! Truth is not determined by a popular vote! ~ The Church would not garner more followers or more respect by acquiescing to the demands of an unholy public.

Rich in Mercy ~ Having a front seat to a conversion is a blessed event indeed!

The Belief of Children ~ Children are willing to be fools for Christ; when do we adults lose this trait?

Love Desires Union ~ We are a people in exile; this is not our home. Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they rest in Thee.

Daddy's Little Girl
~ No matter how old I get, I will always be Daddy's little girl.

Centering Prayer vs. Contemplative Prayer ~ A synopsis on the different types of "prayer" and an explanation as to why Centering is not prayer, nor is it Catholic.

Made to be Sin... ~ Written while sorting out info for my first grad school paper, and realizing WHY Jesus Christ had to die for our sins.

You Cannot be Christian and Support Abortion ~ It is scriptural to support life from conception. Support for abortion is denial of Christ. Can YOU live with that decision?

The Bible is Patriarchal and Oppressive to Women ~ Looks at some "problematic" problems from a position of reality, exposing the feminist anti-Christian agenda for the fabrication that it is.

Bonus Posts:

Holy Terrors ~ I used to suffer from Padrephobia. I'm feeling MUCH better now.

Faith Begins at Home ~ A talk I gave to parents of children preparing to make their first Confessions. What a blessing!

Now...I tag....

Fr. V. over at Adam's Ale

Fr. Schnippel at Called by Name

Sara at Snoring Scholar

And I think everyone else I've read lately has been tagged. I'll update as I get caught if you'd like to be tagged, just note that you're doing this Meme and I'll link to you!

Suffering Reveals Love

Classes are officially done for the semester, and indeed I'm joyful, but not for a reason you might expect.

I received a HUGE grace today. As you know, it's been a rough Advent, but God is merciful and things are working out according to His plan; and today, God graced me with some understanding. He has taught me a lesson I could not have learned in any other way.

On Thursday evening, I turned in my Spirituality paper, knowing that I was turning in a bad product but resigned to this fate; I have never worked so hard to produce such a piece of crap. And no, it's not false humility. I know a bad paper when I write one. And today in class, during the lecture I recognized several errors that are in my paper. I am very embarassed, but the deed is done.

That's when God's grace entered my morning. Just before Mass, the professor was lecturing on the topic of suffering; a big point of this lecture is that suffering reveals love.


And that's when my eyes were opened. None of what was discussed was new to me; I'd read the course notes, I've read Salvifici Doloros, and I knew the subject matter. It makes sense to me. But today, I was fully convicted of the truth.

Suddenly the reason for Mom's suffering was revealed; because suffering reveals love. I have been so worried about her, a couple weeks ago I thought Mom was going to die and we'd be planning her funeral. And that's when I had to recognize that I was suffering, too; and had been all along. Her suffering has revealed a great deal of love, both of my love for her and our family's love for her. She was never without company. She was never without prayers. She was never alone in her suffering, one way or another. Mom KNOWS she is loved, and she dearly needed that lesson in her life.

Her suffering was ALSO redemptive in that it unified our family in different ways, to include our extended family.

I was the one who called so that she would receive the Sacrament of the Sick; and when I learned that the priest had visited her and had greatly lifted her spirits, I felt a great deal of peace and relief. And that was another lesson; that sacrament does a lot more than just touch the one who is sick. The grace affects those who love that person. And that grace is very healing.

That was my first lesson this morning, then we went to Mass. God wasn't done with me, though. Apparently Mass was an opportunity to recover from the morning revelations, but in the afternoon, the floodgates of grace were opened again.

The bad paper I turned in has been on my mind, especially as the lecture and text revealed my omissions and other errors in connections or definitions. The dream of the failing grade is seeming more and more like reality. And I wondered what that paper had to do with all of this; why was I not able to make the connections? Why was I not able to write a decent paper.

And that's when it hit me; I couldn't write it because I was LIVING the subject matter, therefore, I couldn't see it.

Why couldn't I see it?

Because I was suffering badly; I had rejected the cross God was giving me. God brought suffering into my family's life for a reason, and whenever I began to ask those ever-important questions, I decided the timing was wrong and tried to escape. When at Mass the last couple Sundays, I was alternately planning a funeral and questioning why Mom was suffering. And then I decided I was "distracted" and needed to pay attention to the liturgy.

Today, I realized that those "distractions" were actually God inviting me to dialogue; He was INVITING me to address my questions to Him, right there, in person. And I refused to engage; I did not recognize the action of the consolation of the Holy Spirit. God was ready to answer my questions, but I did not take the time to ask. As soon as Mass was done, I was bolting home to go work on my paper. I was thinking about Mom and distracted by that, and thought that was the reason I was struggling.

NO! That wasn't the reason! But because I didn't take the time with God, I did not see that the experience of suffering was what the paper was all about! Every single connection I wanted to make was being lived out, although the conclusion was today. It was the Mass that was drawing me to ask the questions I needed answered so desperately; and it was the Mass that gave me the grace today to see the big picture.

But I was asking the wrong questions. I was praying "Thy will be done" all the while I was focusing on MY will and rejecting the grace God had waiting for me.

As all of this was crashing down on me, I realized that my sin was in not trusting God, not listening to God and not obeying God. And through this gift of self-awareness, I was lead to a conversion experience today through true repentance. And I am humbled; I see that I deserve a poor grade on my paper. Not because I didn't work hard, for I did, but rather because my poor result came from my willful distrust of God.

All of these graces come through the sacraments, especially through Holy Communion. God did not allow me to see the entire truth until I was ready, and I could only be ready through union with Him. The biggest and most puzzling pieces of this revelation today came after Mass - this is very revealing in and of itself.

Everything we did in class this semester has culminated in this wonderful lesson from God. As painful as it is, I am so joyful to be given this grace. I am joyful to be chastized and shown my errors. And it's so clear; Mom's suffering, my suffering in union with her, even suffering badly, is proleptic of the Paschal Mystery. I was only able to understand it through the participation of the Paschal Mystery, and this lesson reveals the greatest thing of all; God's mercy and love.

Confronted with that brought me to a moment of conversion and an experience of true humility; both because I could see my errors, and because God was so merciful as to reveal this to me in the context that he did. Suffering indeed reveals love, and there is no way to truly know God without this experience.

Thank you, God.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


I was going through some old things today and came across these medals:

Can anyone give me any general info about them? Please feel free to forward this post to anyone who may know what they are.

The first one, with the purple and gold, depicts what appears to be an eagle in front of a star. It makes me think of a Phoenix with the overall design. On the back it reads: "United States of America * Meritorious Service *"

The second one with the green and white is silver and depicts a silhouette reminiscent of looks like it has a crown of laurels. There is nothing written on it, front or back.

The third has a black band, is a symbol of the United States - it has an eagle behind a shield. The shield has stars on the top portion, vertical stripes underneath(like an interstate symbol). In looking at it from the front, it reads " E PLURIBUS UNUM". The "E" and the "UNUM" are split from the "PLURIBUS" by the wings of the eagle. Nothing is written on the back.

I suspect these medals came from my Dad, because I found them with a bunch of stuff from the Masons and Shriners, mostly cufflinks. My Dad was never in the military, although my Grandfather MAY have been, although it seem unlikely to me.

Can anyone help?

Is there any way to find out if these medals belonged to someone in my family? They were not in cases, and I have no idea whatsoever why I have them.

Friday, December 14, 2007


You've all had them. Every single one of you. I haven't had a dream like this for a long time.

Last night I turned in my (really bad) Spirituality paper. (This part is not the dream). The premis of the paper was the spirituality of the Church as it relates to the Eucharist as source and summit. The way I went about it was to begin with the theological definitions, including "sacrament", discuss how the sacraments open us to grace, how we must have the disposition to receive the Eucharist, and finally, I discussed the Eucharist. But the Eucharist (as are all of the sacraments) are also a cause of grace, thus the source, and it is related to liturgical prayer (all prayer is fulfilled in the liturgy-important point in the paper), and we also need private prayer in order to have an ongoing dialogue with God. Which of course leads to ongoing conversion, increase in virtue, etc, self-knowedge, which leads us back to the sacraments for the disposition required to receive the Eucharist as the source of nourishment. And the final point...the mission of the Church to bring Christ into the world. We couldn't do any of that; we are fully dependent upon God to draw us to Him and to nourish us in order to carry out His will.

It SOUNDS like a solid plan, doesn't it? But no, it's too much to have to hit, it is a synthesis of the entire course, and pulls in info from our Vatican II course. So it's a synthesis of two courses in one. In 8 pages. (Mine is about 8 1/2, plus endnotes.) And it's the most dismal paper I've ever written. You think I'm kidding, but I can tell you the theological definitions are not there, thus I missed connections, I missed important points from the course that I KNOW the prof will be looking for, and really, it's just a jumble of information no one but a theologian can follow; and errors anyone can see.

So I turned it in anyway, realizing I was fried, I worked on this disaster for three weeks, and all I have to show for it is this rag of a paper.

Then the dream....last night I dreamed that I handed my paper to the Prof. He glanced at it, set it down with a groan and with a bright red pen gave me my grade: "F ! " And underlined it. And wrote some really nasty comments about my work.

I was shocked and begged him to change the grade; I told him he hadn't even read the rest and mentioned the points I did hit...she he changed the grade to a "C" which didn't make me feel any better because he only changed it because I begged...not because the work deserved better grade.

I am SO glad that it was only a dream! Although I don't really feel that much better because, in fact, I won't have the grade back for a couple weeks, and I do think a "C" is a good possibility. And I don't consider that to be an acceptable grade.

Yeah, I know, no one in the future is going to ask me what my grades were like in Grad school, and when I die and go to my judgment, God is not going to ask me about that "C". (He's more likely to ask me who I ran over to get a substandard grade!)

So I'm just goign to go about my day now. This is our last weekend of class and then I'll have about 6 weeks to not have to worry about writing any papers.

That must be God's gift to our class for Christmas. Thank you, God.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

O Come O Come Emmanuel...

Today I attended an "Advent Day of Reflection" designed for we who work in parishes, and found it to be very refreshing and enlightening. It was exactly what I needed, although it was actually at Mass that I had my "special moment". And because it was a retreat, the moment was allowed to continue.

The communion meditation was "O Come O Come Emmanuel", and, never before had I so clearly understood the hymn. Never again will I hear it the same way.

This week, I more or less completed my synthetic study on God's mercy in the Old Testament, and saw numerous references to a coming Savior, a Redeemer to free the Israelites from their captivity.

Indeed, that is part of the song, and although I had realized these elements before, I now have more theological and biblical understanding, culminating in a moment of divine enlightenment. And in that moment, I was convicted.

Israel...rebellious Israel. The coming Messaiah was fortold even in the book of Job ("I know my Redeemer lives..."), for God's greatest attribute is His mercy, His faithfulness to himself, His faithfulness to his covenants. God promised a Redeemer, He promised to wipe away suffering and death; it would be no more.

The people were expecting a warlord to deliver them from the captivity and oppression of the Roman empire. They were going about their lives looking for one thing, while in a humble town, the Word became flesh, and dwelt among them.

But they couldn't see him, because they were looking in all the wrong places.

Doesn't that sound familiar?

The way Christmas is celebrated in our culture is the worst possible thing that can happen. Consider; this is Advent, a time to prepare our hearts and souls for the coming of Christ. It is a time of repentance, it is a time of renewal, it is a time to detach ourselves from all the things that hinder our ability to welcome the light of Christ into our lives.

But what are we doing? We are running around, we are captivated by all the shiny objects and blinking lights. We are indulging in feasts and treats and all sorts of things. We are perhaps asking for gifts of entertainment and distraction, we are purchasing those same things for others, and in the end, what do those things do?

They take us away from Jesus Christ, because they are mere baubles; they are distractions that cause us to give our time and our focus to anything other than God.

So during this season of Advent, instead of retreating into our private rooms to pray to our Father in heaven, rather than spending moments of quiet and reflection so that we can remove things that are incompatible with God's grace, we are adding to the barriers between ourselves and Him.

And so it will be that when Christmas comes, instead of resembling the Shepherds who watched the flocks by night, we will be the rebellious people, turning our backs on the light so that we can focus on the emptiness of the world. We are choosing to blind ourselves.

Where is the sense in that?

It's still Advent, and it's not too late to withdraw from the world and examine our relationship with the Lord. Most parishes offer regular Confssions or even a special day of Reconciliation. Two parishes near me will offer individual confessions from 12 or 1 pm to 9 pm at night with many priests available, and I know of several other parishes doing the same thing.

There is still time; examine your life, and if you're not ready to welcome the Christ know what to do.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It Must Be Advent

I'm still struggling to get my stuff done for class this weekend. I'm supposed to be (or * ahem * was supposed to be at a liturgy commission meeting tonight at my church, but because I have class Friday night and need to leave early, I couldn't leave early tonight. Besides....I have my papers still to do.

* sigh *

Last night I THOUGHT my synthetic paper on God's mercy was done. But today at work I took it out in relation to a discussion between a co-worker and I, and realized some huge omissions in scripture...and that MUST be remedied before I turn this in. Besides...I found a few more errors. And so did my dear friend Cathy, bless her heart! So...back to editing.

Tonight I've been working on my spirituality paper. I think I might be a heretic....I can't seem to summarize/phrase some of these important points about the Eucharist. Mind you, it's not a doctrinal paper, but it has doctrinal elements just out of necessity and for the purpose of important theological definitions. But I'm now done with 5 pages....3 to go...oy, this is torture! I'm not sure if it's worse for me or God...especially given the heresy contained within my bad attempts to explain spiritual concepts. Massive editing will need to be done.

3 pages, though, sounds easy, doesn't it? Nope. Not at all.

I once read a quote that seems apt in my situation: "Writing is like squeezing blood from a rock." Maybe it would be better to say that "Writing is like squeezing a rock so hard the the blood squeezes from your OWN pores."

Or maybe I'm a rock-head?

On to other things now....

Mom is better, and is now out of the hospital and recovering at my Aunt and Uncle's home. She can't take care of herself and can't go up stairs, but thank God she doesn't have to spend Christmas in a nursing home! We don't know yet what will happen for Christmas, but if she goes anywhere, she will have to be driven as her surgeon will not be able to clear her until the first week in January. So our Christmas plans will change to some degree, but perhaps in a way that will allow me to go to Midnight Mass for the first time in my life. Although I'd rather go with plan A and be with my family that evening as opposed to driving down to have a crowded Christmas with about 5 families while I can bring only a few meager gifts according to my lack of income.

Yes, they'll understand, but's hard to not have anything to offer in the face of massive generosity.

Oh, and the next batch of brightening news: my brother went in for his evaluation today, and it didn't turn out as expected; they are cutting him loose. He is a consultant and the company is changing directions so has no need of his services. He doesn't get a severance package because of his employment status as a consultant, however they are having him work part time until the end of the year, but paying him full-time wages. This gives him a chance to look for another job. Thank God he has an interview tomorrow already, so may be able to land on his feet.

He's actually not that upset about this change in course, especially because he is leaving with references and a valuable set of skills to offer his next employer. Please keep my brother in your prayers.

In all of this, although my family has been experiencing all sorts of catastrophies, God's blessings have been with us, and those blessings seem to keep on coming. We all just have to trust.

And today, God even gave me a little gift! As (I hope!) my papers will be done by the weekend, and this coming weekend will be the last set of classes for the semester, I will finally have some time to read some stuff...and not have to write a paper on it!

So I was thinking of reading "Abandonment to Divine Providence" OR "Imitation of Christ" for what is left of Advent and through the Christmas season. But which? A coworker has both books and said she could bring them in for me to borrow.

Then I went back to my desk, which is a disaster, by the way. It's a sign of genius, I am told. Well, I moved some papers over, and there I found....Imitation of Christ! by Thomas a' Kempis. So there you have it...sometimes God is very clear in what he wants us to do. This particular version is published by TAN books, and the binding isn't even broken - it's never been read!

I think it is one I snarfed from a box of donations to the parish library. We were sorting through it, and Father told us that if we found a treasure, we could help ourselves. I must have "helped myself" to this book and tossed it aside as I have no time to read it currently. Although I don't really remember picking up the book, but I must have done so because there it was, under that stuff.

Well...this might be part of God's plan for me. We'll see. He always has a plan, though, and I don't believe in coincidences, especially when they happen like that.

OK...I am determined to finish page 6 before I go to bed! God bless and good night!