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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Enjoy the New Year With a Toast to St. Thomas Aquinas!

Last summer I..ah.. * cough * discovered...yeah...a piece of the Summa that had been ignored, and published it on my blog. Today I republish the main text of the question of whether beer can be blessed, and found that dear St. Thomas Aquinas indeed has an opinion. Now, mind you, given that this is New Years' Eve, he does address temperance and moderation. Fr. Kyle Schnippel has the Beer Blessing (in Latin, no less!) on his blog.

My personal favorite quote from the good Father Schnippel is this:

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

So read this section of the Summa carefully, take note of the linked Blessing, find a good Priest to invite to your party, and have a Happy New Year!


On Whether the blessing of beer is proper and can be justified?

Objection 1. It would seem that the impropriety of blessing the intoxicating liquid commonly called "beer" should be obvious to one and all who aspire to living a life of sanctity. As beer can be quickly intoxicating and thus eliminate the inhibitions of properly-sober persons, the action of "blessing" the beer would seem to give license not only to intoxication, but also to limited mental faculties that lead one into sin.

Objection 2: Further, blessing beer creates a temptation and an occasion of sin. When sober, a man has the use of full reason consistent with his intellectual capacity, however, the use of beer can diminish what reason he possesses. In the diminishment of reason, one may determine that something otherwise considered to be sinful would in fact be pleasent and "good", and thus, the beer would have lead said person down a path away from reason and towards sin. Such a thing is a temptation and thus the blessing can be termed to be "an occasion of sin."

Objection 3: Further, beer is a beverage not consumed at holy events, but in bars, backyard barbecues, and keg parties for the sake of imbibing great quantities for the intended purpose of intoxication. It should not be imbibed at all, and other intoxicating liquids should also be avoided for one trying to live a life in God's grace.

Objection 4: It is scandalous to the faithful to bless beer.

On the contrary, It is written (Jn 2:3) "When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine'". Even further, it is written in reference to the 30-gallon jars meant for ritual purification, that they be filled to the brim. In this, the first miracle of Jesus (Jn 2:7), Jesus changed that water into wine for the feast, and He provided a quantity fit to intoxicate a crowd of their own volition. Thus we see that although the scriptures mention abundant wine, they do not mention beer.

I answer that, beer was not an ingredient of celebration in biblical times, however that does not imply that the invention of it is ungodly, only different but similar in effects to the predecessor which was wine.

Reply to Objection 1: Good beer was created from earthly ingredients freely given by God for this purpose. Good beer was created from especially tasty elements and was designed not for embarassing consumption but to be sipped in fellowship and enjoyed as with a good wine. The intoxicating properties are limited through the virtue of the one who consumes the beverage. Beer consumed in proper amounts does not inhibit the life of sanctity.

Reply to Objection 2: As in the reply to Objection 1, although beer can be a temptation to sin by some, it is not a temptation to sin for all. I further answer that food can be a temptation for some, but that does not inhibit our need to ask God to bless our food. To argue that beer cannot be blessed because it may be a temptation and occasion for sin is fallacious; for that point to be true, those who are tempted to gluttony must not have their meals blessed, if they eat at all! Thus, blessing beer does not enter one into an occasion of sin.

Reply to Objection 3: I answer that beer is also consumed at fine meals and at family events, taken with food, and limited in quantity. Just as wine with dinner is not automatically drunk to intoxication, thus is beer. Beer is no different from wine in this regard. To argue against blessing beer is to argue against allowing wine to be blessed with the meal. Jesus himself consumed wine at Passover and had beer been created, he would likewise have consumed beer. Yet we do not read of Christ and his Apostles drinking to intoxication at the Last Supper.

Reply to Objection 4: It would seem that it is NOT scandalous to bless beer. As we also bless food and consume it, thus we must also bless beer to be consumed with the food, for its elements too, are gifts from God, as are our friends and family. It must be observed that the blessing must call to mind right use of those gifts, which further enables us to focus on the virtues of temperence and charity, while unblessed food or beer could lead us to treat those gifts and ourselves callously. Thus, we see that the blessing of beer would not only be spiritually advantageous, but could, in fact, draw one into a closer union with God through the increased virtue inspired by the blessing. Especially if the blessing is stated in Latin.

Further, the only thing that would cause the blessing to be scandalous would be if the priest blessed the beer and then refused access to the rest of the present faithful.


The original post and context in which it was written can be found here.

(Gotta love St. Thomas...what a guy!)

Advice on Spiritual Directors

Domine, da mihi hanc aquam!: On Spiritual Directors

I found this post waiting for me this morning, (i.e. via blog following) and given that I know a LOT of people are looking for an SD, too, well, it's worth passing on Fr. Powell's advice.

He recommends "interviewing" your potential SD, and gives a series of questions. All of them are good ones, and I wouldn't have a problem asking those things. I wouldn't have to ask some of them; all the potential SD's I've contacted have been through recommendation of people who know them. For example; enneagram or labyrinth worship wouldn't be an issue.

Father Powell also points out the questions the Spiritual Director would have of any potential directees, and that we would have to know ourselves in order to answer them.

In reading them over, I realize that I really can't answer them. While I've said I need a "Drill Sergeant" SD, that really wouldn't be true. I need SOME of that, certainly, but having been in a couple paramilitary structures, I know that I can deal with some of that, but it certainly wouldn't put me in a mindset to be open. As far as his other questions go...I simply don't know. I've never really had spiritual direction so I don't know what would work with me.

Of course, all of this info is, for me, completely moot. I can't actually find an available SD, and so, it means the "interview process" isn't even going to happen.

But, if there is some kind of miracle and I find one, well, I'm glad for the advice.

So! If you are looking for an SD or maybe have recently found one, go read Fr's post!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Kennedy Hill Crash

I grew up in a small town on the yellow plains of Illinois, north and west of Chicago, south of the breweries of Wisconsin, and like all small towns, we had our stories.

Yes, I know I've previously said I grew up in Minnesota, and that's also a fact. The Truth is in between...I began life in one place, and finished growing up in another. Who didn't?

There are a couple "local" tales that captured my imagination and still take up my memory, both surrounding an area near our town that seemed to be a center for bad things, and an area we had to pass by frequently for most of us had to go to nearby Rockford for various services not available in our town of pop. 2,000.

The first tale involved a ghost. It was one of those "hitchhiker" type stories, and there are variations. The story I heard said that a young woman had been out jogging and was killed by a hit-and-run driver. From that day on, it happened that a young woman with flowing blonde hair would be seen walking or running on the shoulder of Kennedy Hill Road. But once someone passed her, she would disappear. Some drivers became alarmed and stopped, thinking maybe they had hit her, but there was never anyone there.

After this story arose, so did many others, and I've seen/heard several variations. One of my friends in elementary school told of seeing a disembodied hand one night around the time of Halloween. We all believed her and properly screamed in horror at the very idea of what she must have suffered.

Eventually the Kennedy Hill Ghost was debunked and revealed to be a hoax, but somehow, it remained a part of the staunch local folklore. And I don't remember ever driving along Kennedy Hill Road without looking for the ghost, always disappointed that she wasn't there.

Anyway...back at the Riverfront...

Believe it or not, this post DOES have a point, and maybe that point is folklore, too. I recently told this story to someone, but have to admit I'm now questioning it myself. Without names and dates, I can't be sure what I'm about to say is anything more than a story, although it's one told by my mother when she was still in her right mind.

She's lost a lot of her memory these days, and so I can't go back and really verify this story. So I'm telling it from childhood memory, and from that, I've learned a lesson I hope to share with you. A lesson that doesn't depend on the facts, but on the moral of the story. (Yes, classic Adoro. And I'll admit I'm writing this post under the influence of Flannery O'Connnor but without the character development).

As I said, it was a small town. Our region had a lot of small towns, and I grew up in a little neighborhood referred to locally as "The Terrace". We were in limboland between the farm and the town, a little unmapped country neighborhood between Byron and Oregon. When we got beyond the hill, we could see the towers that made up the Nuclear Plant (think "The Simpsons"), just past Lover's Lane (named for the urban legend). We also frequently went in the other direction, where Mom and Dad told us horror stories about people and boats being sucked under the Dam in Oregon. One summer day we were at Lowden State Park, admiring the statue of Chief Blackhawk, and saw an empty boat pass by. Later, we arrived at the Dam in time to see the boat approach it. I don't recall what happened. I think it was stuck in the current, but they snagged it before it gave up and was sucked under and broken into toothpicks under the dam.

I grew up with a horror for river currents. I love the beauty and nostalgia of the river, but I can't ever see one without thinking of the dirty, murky, deadly currents that made up the Rock River, nor can I ever forget about the story that happened at the juncture of the northern River Road (Rural Route 2)where it meets Kennedy Hill Road somewhere northeast of Byron.

Mom told us of a Pastor and his Wife (There!...does that sound like an Urban Legend or what?) who had to go to a conference in Rockford. They drove past our neighborhood from the Methodist parsonage in Oregon, on the 20 minute drive to Rockford where the Conference was being held. It was a Friday night. When they got to the dangerous intersection of River Road and Kennedy Hill Road, they were involved in a serious car accident. Their car was totalled, and they were taken by ambulance to the ER at the nearest hospital, which was in Rockford.

Some friends came to pick them up and take them home. (I always questioned this part as a child...if they were OK to be released, why didn't their friend just bring them to the Conference?).

Well, they decided that they HAD to get to this conference for some reason. It was ABSOLUTELY Necessary. Maybe the good Pastor was a presenter. Who knows?

They were so insistent that a friend finally lent them their own car, and the next day, the holy couple headed into Rockford.

When they reached the intersection of River Road and Kennedy Hill Road, they were hit head-on by another vehicle and killed instantly.

I still remember my mother's horrified expression when she told that story. She always interpreted it, and so have I, that, on that evening, they were meant to die. God had called them Home.

But now, I have a different understanding. Now, I see it as a type of warning. The first accident was discipline. The Pastor and his wife THOUGHT they were supposed to go to the conference, but a fairly serious accident prevented them. They must have been injured seriously enough to deter them.

But then, they reconsidered in spite of their aches and pains, and decided they STILL had to get there. And so they found the means and they went. And that was the end of it. It was clear that they were NOT meant to go. In fact...they died.

Maybe that story happened, or maybe it didn't. But it still has a moral. I know that I've experienced "warnings" and when I failed to heed those warnings, I paid the price. Those warnings can be small, or they can be a deadly car crash.

God's warnings are ALWAYS educational. They make a point; this is found throughout scripture, in both the Old Testament and the New. The prophets are all about warnings bent on education.

Sometimes we just have to open our eyes to see...and heed...the warnings we are given.

I can't tell you if the story of the Pastor and his wife is true. I think it is...Mom was horrified enough, and I recall going with neighbors to that very church, and meeting the Pastor and his wife on an evening not too long before the incident occurred. They knew we were Catholic, and respected that fact. They welcomed us and didn't make a big deal that we were there.

And not long after, they died.

It made an impact on me. I think the story is real.

Maybe I'm just a gullible small town girl now living in a big city...but sometimes even urban legends carry lessons that take us far beyond childhood.

It's Back

My carpal tunnel is coming back again. Over the last few days, I've noticed my right hand getting numb while driving. Last night I woke up with creeping numbness, and I could tell my thumb was "going" first. This morning while driving in, I had to drop my right hand a few times and shake it out to get the feeling back.

I don't know what's worse..the random shooting pains, or the creeping numbness.

Guess it's time to dig the brace out again.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Giving Up

So often, I'm amazed at the pain people are carrying around. If we were to look around at Mass on any given day, and see people as God does, we'd be brought to our knees in tears on behalf of the suffering around us. We wouldn't be able to stop ourselves from reaching out to others, wanting to offer comfort, a bandage, a kind word...anything. Anything to relieve their pain.

And some would reject us, hiding their wounds. Others would finally rest, grateful to be noticed. Others would move away and point towards someone more wounded. And some would be crying out in agony, begging for help...and they have been, for years. But no one has been listening.

On any given day, I am one of those people. We all are.

And the ONLY one listening is God; He is the one one who recognizes us in the disfigurement of sin.

I look at the crucifix, and in seeing Christ, I'm amazed at His sacrifice; He was so moved by our pitiful condition that He became one of us, revealing the depths of His love in the most brutal kind of suffering and death known to mankind.

I still don't understand how God can love me that much. I can't see how I'd possibly be worthy of that kind of love. How could ANYONE sacrifice themselves In all honesty...WHY? I have no redeeming qualities. Or maybe more properly, no qualities worth redeeming. Love? What is that?

But in looking at the cross...I see love. And once I've seen it, I can't unsee it. I can't look away from the gaze of Christ, who bleeds for me, suffering in His compassion.

During my conversion, I began praying, "God, please don't give up on me...I'm trying...I'm really trying!" And I'd break down in tears, terrified of losing the salvation for which I hadn't even grasped. Even after I'd returned to my faith, I continued to pray that God would not give up on me. I'd kneel before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and utter that very same prayer.

A few years ago, on the Feast of All Saints, Father gave a splendid homily, but it was one particular point that got my attention. It was as though he'd been reading my journal, although, of course he hadn't. He happened to look in the direction in which I was sitting, and, glancing up from his notes, he said, "God will NEVER give up on you!"

From that point on, I couldn't stop crying. He repeated that phrase several times, and it was almost an affirmation of the prayer I'd emitted for so many years...a repetition that God would never give up on me to correspond to the number of years I'd made that request in those exact words. Heaven echoing back through the words of my Pastor. And it was clear...he meant every word he said.

I've even heard those words in Confession, even though I've never confessed that prayer.

To this day, I STILL beg Our Lord never to give up on me. Even though I have converted, I still can't fully trust that He won't abandon me. Yes, intellectually I know Jesus is there and will never go away, will never reject me. But because I so often reject Jesus, because I let go of His hand, when I've lost sight of Him through my own fault I cry out and beg He won't leave me alone. I'm still that little child seeking independence, wandering too far away and screaming because I can't find my way back on my own.

Now, when I pray that prayer, I do so with a greater confidence, a reminder to myself that God WON'T ever give up; for every time I fear He will give up on me, He reminds me to place my trust in Him...and not to give up on myself. I have intellect and will; it is I who is fickle and abuses those gifts. God is constant. He is stalwart. He won't move. He calls...I respond. And if I don't respond, He comes looking for me and offers His hand.

I look up from whatever shiny sin has gotten my attention, and am brought to contrition through His wounds. When I reach out and take His hand, blood pours out of his wounds, covering me. I wince and look up at Jesus, but He simply closes His hand over mine and pulls me to His side. Reconciled.

Am I really sorry? Yes. But it isn't long before the shiny bauble once again distracts me and I pull away from Our Lord...and He lets me go. Like any parent. And when it's time, He comes after me again, ever patient. He'll never give up.

He'll never give up. Even if I give up...He won't.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Finding Jesus in the Temple

During class this last semester, in Spiritual Theology our professor introduced us to Plato's cave analogy. In that analogy, Plato describes some men who are bound, facing the wall of a cave. Behind them is a road, and beyond the road, a fire, which provides the backlight needed to cast the shadows that the bound men observe. And in the reverberating voices, the bound men believe that the shadows themselves are speaking.

And then the men are unbound, and made to walk. As they turn, they observe the road, and the people who had caused the shadows represented on the wall, and they see that the voices emit from them, not from the shadows they had cast. The now-unbound prisoners walk up the road, past the fire, and towards the mouth of the cave where the sun begins to light it. Yet they do not know the cause of the light until they emerge from the darkness.

The analogy goes on, obviously discussing something akin to one of St. Thomas Aquinas's proofs of God..the First Cause, the Unmoved Mover. But there is a deeper meaning.

The first Sunday of Advent, I attended my first TLM (Extraordinary Form) Mass, and found it beautiful. Not earth-shattering, but suddenly things made sense. It was proper. It took what I knew intellectually, and made it real, almost tangible. And yet, I was lost. I still had hold of the images, the shadows that have been my life until then. It wasn't until I let go of what I thought I understood (ie divesting myself of images) that I could allow the new understanding to penetrate my soul and intellect.

Suddenly, the Cave Analogy made perfect sense...I was living it.

I have to confess, now, when I attend Mass at my own parish, I'm dissatisfied. The pro populum altar has driven me crazy for a long time...even more so now. The performers on the stage singing Haugen show tunes seem more than ever to be performing. I feel like I've been freed, but then returned and bound, looking at shadows that are speaking to me...but they aren't.

They're speaking to God. And even the shadows don't seem to know that they are supposed to be doing so.

It's getting more and more difficult to focus at Mass. The gestures of the people around me in the pews toward the priest (who isn't speaking to any of us, but only to God) is distracting. The constant intercom announcements to "join in singing" the latest new/old heretical protestant hymn, which is followed by applause for the performers is forcing me to figure out how to properly find God in all this mess.

I feel like a prisoner in my own parish. And yet, even as I feel bound, I'm grateful, for I know that so many others are still completely lost, staring at shadows they don't know are shadows, reacting to gestures that aren't being made to them, but rather, for them. And if they only KNEW the reality of the mysteries for which we are present....!

It fills me with pity, and even with a certain anger, for I wonder how it has come to this?

And then, this evening, I read this while praying Vespers:

Ant. Son, why have you done this to us? Think what anguish your father and I have endured looking for you. But why did you look for me? Did you not know that I had to be in my Father's house?

Read that dialogue over a few times. Enter into it. Isn't that what so many of us ask every week, maybe every DAY? Don't we experience anguish when we see how the theological symbolism has been so lost to us? Isn't it a terrible hardship to have to try to look for God, when we aren't being directed to Him?

One of the things I've learned in my Master's program has been on the theology of suffering. God does not specifically will suffering, but He allows it, and in that is found His will for us. When we enter into suffering, we ask these questions, and Our Lord awaits them, expecting this faith seeking understanding, no matter where we are in life, whether spiritual or temporal.

And He answers, but we must be willing to listen, no matter what the cacaphony around us, be it bad theologically-incorrect-Vatican-II-noncompliant showtunes or the ignorant applause that follows it. We must return to the horror of the birth of Christ, and the horrors that followed in the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, and we must remember that if that is what He suffered, should we not expect to suffer the same?

We have to remember that God gave His only Son to Mary and Joseph...and they lost Him, and had to look through him in the dusty, dirty, uncivilized roads leading to and through Jerusalem. And where did they find Him?

In the Temple.

The Temple wasn't a perfect place...a few years later, Jesus would form a whip and overturn the tables of the money changers, chastizing them for turning the Lord's house into a place of commerce.

We have to see, then, that no matter how bad things might be, Christ is there. He is speaking, even to those who aren't listening or refuse to listen.

More and more, I'm realizing how drawn I am to either the Latin Novus Ordo (which locally is done ad orientum) or the Extraordinary Form (TLM) Masses, but today's antiphon after the Canticle of Mary has chastized me.

My preferences perhaps don't matter; God is present at my own parish. I don't need to look for Him anywhere else; I just have to see Him where He is, and where He has called me at this moment. The anguish in trying to find him is both real and self-inflicted all at once. What is happening to our Church is within God's will, for He is allowing it, perhaps to make us seek Him in the storm.

We don't grow in holiness through an easy road, but through suffering. We can never find Christ unless we endure the Cross.

The other day I wrote about how our romanticized ideal of the birth of Christ obscures the reality of the Incarnation; perhaps that same understand needs to be applied to the Mass. Maybe we have to learn to find Christ no matter where we are. We don't have to love the music; we have to love Jesus. And if He could endure the abuses at the Temple, then we can endure the same kind of thing for His sake and those of His people, those around us.

Maybe the next time, then, that I enter into the cacaphony of the Mass at my parish, I will remember that I need not seek so hard for Jesus, for He is already there, and the more I give in to resentment, the further back I will be in the crowd. And even if the eyes of the crowd are upon the performers, it is my place to keep my eyes and heart focused on Christ.

And THAT is a path to holiness that has been given to most of us.

Pray. Endure. And remember He is Present. Don't let Him be alone.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Common Sense CAN Lead to Survival!

Your result for Survival Test...

Weekend Warrior

23% Death and 70% Survival!

Way to go, you are awesome! Although it has been a rough go, you probably have made it out in one are alive!

If you are a man you are sure to catch the eye of some fair maiden and sweep her off her feet with those skills...good going.

If you are a women look out, some man will snag you up for your willingness to get out there and rough it... Ooo Baby!

You sure do have some great knowledge, but you might want to brush up on a few things to be a "survivalist". Grab a buddy or two, take all you need to survive and then practice in a safe environment. You guys are amazing!

There are many resources on the web for wilderness survival, please check them out. However, my personal favorite is Hoods Woods.... but decide for yourself.

I would appreciate it if you could vote on my test. Thank you

Take Survival Test
at HelloQuizzy

Can I just point out that I'm not a major camper? It's a nice idea, and I love the wilderness, but I work my butt off to own a house and keep it over my head in this economy. Why in the world would I want to go out into the middle of nowhere and pretend I don't HAVE a house?

That said, I do think it's important for all of us to have basic common sense. What if for some odd reason we end up in the middle of the wilderness, maybe because we were headed to Denver and drove off a cliff? The story, "To Build a Fire" has haunted me since 6th Grade. Naked and frozen is NOT the way I want to go. And I've noticed that so much of survival has to do with common sense and basic intelligence. Oh, and overcoming squeamishness. For example, one can eat grubs. (Can't say I could overcome my own reaction, but I could talk others into doing so!). And if one is lost, it's better to follow the stream than to cross it. I've been in that situation before and do you know what we found? Other lost people on the OTHER SIDE!

Nice quiz, and nice to know one doesn't have to be a complete outdoor fanatic to know one could survive with common sense and, of course, the proper mentality; that is, one not involving panic.

Good luck!

Virtues and Defects

"I wish also that thou shouldest know that every virtue is obtained by means of thy neighbour, and likewise, every defect..."

"I have told thee how all sins are accomplished by means of thy neighbour...Self-love, which destroys charity and affection towards the neighbour, is the principle and foundation of every evil. All scandals, hatred, cruelty, and every sort of trouble proceed from this perverse root of self-love, which has poisoned the entire world..."

~ St. Catherine of Siena, Dialogue, revelations received from the Eternal Father.

Spending time with my family is something that, above all makes me realize how far away I am from God. When we come together for holidays or special occasions, we also are joined in our shared history, in all the pain, with all the memories that go with that, and thankfully, even with the joy. I know that my family has seen me at my very worst, and I've seen them at their worst.

It's so odd, though, how sometimes that history is made present when we gather. It's harder to be patient with my family that it is with others, and I constantly discover that old resentments are still present and taint my reactions to the most innocent of things.

In our fallen humanity, even as we seek holiness, we can't seem to get ourselves out of these pits. We are forced to look at ourselves as we have been, and as we remain, and see how far we really have to go.

As God the Father revealed to St. Catherine, our virtues are obtained in this very painful manner. In Dialogue, there is lengthy discussion on how the sins of others make us grow in virtue. Perhaps Christmas is one of those times, for we can't "fake" ourselves. The veneer comes down, our defects are brought forth, and therin, charity is put to the test.

So often, I fail. This very week I sat and chastized myself for my attitude, my impatience, and my obstinance in persisting in defects I recognized, and yet didn't quash by an act of the will. I could have; I just didn't. And I didn't apologize. Yes, there is still time, and perhaps my own slights are already forgotten by my family. Certainly, as of right now, I can't remembr any of theirs.

Yet I often see more charity out of my family members than I do of myself. Perhaps it is that, in them I see the uncondemning gaze of Christ, as they refuse to react to my selfishness or petty misbehaviors. And in that lack of response, I find I can condemn myself perfectly, and that is what brings me to contrition.

Yet it is painful to look upon that gaze and see my failures. Knowing that they see my failures, too, and just choose to do nothing in reaction to them.

Our sins, as St. Catherine tells us, come about through our neighbors, and therein is the key; it is how we react to their sins. Perhaps we have been "victimized" by someone we love. That gives us an option to respond in charity, or to bite back in battle. If we choose the latter, we sin as well, especially if we are aware of what we are doing. If we choose to take the path of love, we grow in virtue.

So perhaps I should be grateful that this week maybe I was the unwitting catalyst for my family's growth in virtue. Perhaps I reacted to things they did with more charity than I realize for myself.

One of the sneaky things about growing in virtue is that we really don't realize we're doing it. God's grace aids us, but He doesn't give anything away.

I am grateful to recognize my failings, and even with those, recognize that in the past, maybe they were even greater. Were it not for those who love me, and whom I love, it would not be so. The greatest acts of charity are most often provided wordlessly so that neither party can recognize that the moment has passed. Yet therein, paradoxically, we can see the hidden hand of God and the depths of His love.

"Now I wish to tell thee further, that a man proves his patience on his neighbor, when he receives injuries from him. Similarly, he proves his humility on a proud man, his faith on an infidel, his true hope on one who despairs, his justice on the unjust, his kidness on the cruel, his gentleness and benignity on the irascible."
~ St. Catherine, Dialogue

Thursday, December 25, 2008

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Today, finally, our preparations come to fruition, and we celebrate the birth of Christ; the union of human and Divine in a tiny infant.

For months now, some radio stations have been playing Christmas carols, perhaps we've only had them on in the last week to "help us get into the spirit", or perhaps we finally sing those old hymn at Christmas Eve Mass. The stories these songs tell paint beautiful pictures of serenity, trying to capture the miraculous, to instill a sense of joy, and increase our wonder at God become Man.

On that day, God actually entered our history, and since then, everything has been different. The Messiah has come, just as the prophets told, to save us from our sins.

And now, 2,000 years later, at this time of year we scramble around to buy gifts, make cookies, find just the right dress or shoes or hat and scarf to wear to church or to our various gatherings. We hear all about the "Christmas Spirit" and while trying to find it, we spend a lot of time cursing at other drivers in the overcrowded mall parking lots. Or maybe at our families, who are driving us crazy in their own Christmas frenzy.

Advent is SUPPOSED to remove us from all that silliness to help us focus on what Christmas is REALLY about. But has it worked for you this year?

Finally, Christmas has arrived, and I have to wonder how many people are now pulling their hair out because the day isn't perfect. Maybe the dog got sick on the carpet at 5 am. Maybe the lights on the tree stopped working. Maybe the two-year old got into the gifts and had a heyday.

Maybe the turkey or ham or what-have-you is still frozen and you won't eat exactly on time.

Maybe the cantor at Mass at dawn wasn't very good. Maybe you have a cold.

A thousand things could go "wrong" to disrupt our idea of what Christmas Day should be like. We are told to get caught up in the joy, and yes, we should, but we should NEVER lose sight of the fact that the day of the birth of Christ was not one of luxury, but of hardship none of us can really imagine.

First, although it was a time of political stability, it was also a time of oppression and fear. Joseph and Mary took the 8 or 9-day trek to Bethlehem not to find a good place for a family portrait, but because they HAD to go...and because the reason for that census was to find and kill the King Mary carried in her womb.

When after this terrible journey, which must have been incredibly uncomfortable especially or the very-pregnant Mary, they finally arrive and can't find a place to stay. We know the story; there was no room at the Inn. They could not get out of the cold. Mary, ready to give birth, had nowhere to go.

We commonly see images of a stable, which brings to mind romantic and rustic images of sweet-smelling hay, and a sweet looking ox, maybe a donkey. (From Isaiah: "even the ox and the ass know their master.")

But that's not the real story; Christ wasn't born in a wooden stable. He was born in a cave on the outskirts of Bethlehem. For you see, even before He was born, He was rejected, and had no place to lay His head. The caves of Bethlehem can be observed to this day, and are still used now as they were then; as shelter for the flocks at night. They are filled with animal dung and all sorts of unimaginable filth. They weren't cleaned regularly as would be the stables we know today; thus Our Lord was born into one of the nastiest places on earth.

Consider THAT symbolism and what that means with regard to His Divine mission.

Further, we are told that Christ was placed in a manger; indeed. He was placed where the animals ate. It was filled with camel and sheep spit. But at least it was off the dung-ridden floor.

It seems that although the birth of Jesus is a cause for joy, it is also a cause for reflection, for we must see that the wood of the manger is also the wood of the cross. Christ came into this world to suffer, and did so even from the moment of His birth.

We worry so much about having a perfect Christmas day; but if that is our concern, then we have missed the entire point. Today, as we celebrate with our families, with our parishes, with our friends, we should take some time to reflect upon the historical reality of this day, and be willing to enter into the Mystery of the Incarnation through our own trials and sufferings.

In remembering His great gift, let us also give Him the gift of ourselves, and pray that our own conversions bring us ever closer to to Him, even as we kneel in the dung in a cave of Bethlehem, knowing the sorrow and triumph of the cross still looms.

Let us be joyful in knowing what He endured for our sake, and be willing to carry that Divine Infant in our own purified hearts throughout the Christmas season and beyond.

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Remember These Guys/Girls?

The Brothers and Sisters of Perpetual Discernment are BACK!

I just got word they have returned from a mission trip following a monastery "tragedy". Sr. Caprice has a couple of posts up, but I'm sure there are more to come.

Is blog reading light lately due to impending Christmas? It seems maybe there will be some very entertaining reading at the Unnamed Monastery!

But there is some bad news...Sr. Perpetua is apparently in prison either in Mexico or El Salvador. Or for all we know, some other country. Sr. Caprice is, as always, confused.

Go have a look and discern for yourself!

I Have Proof!

I offer you clear evidence that Our Lady has a special place in her heart for her Dominican family, and so may I introduce you to:

Our Lady of the Dominicans!

(I took this photo last Saturday during the snowstorm.)


And if you'll kindly observe the next photo, which was taken in August, we can see the obvious popularity of Our Lady's protector:

St. Joseph has a Fan!

(And if you're wondering why Jesus isn't contained in this's because Our Lady of the Dominicans and St. Joseph with a Fan are still on their 8 or 9 day journey to Bethelem. (Kinda makes you think of a Novena...doesn't it?)

Monday, December 22, 2008


Today I received a voicemail from Ave Maria, with a request to call back. She said she was going to call my cell also...but there was no message there, and other than the callback request, no indication of the reason for the call. That's freaking me out.

The absence of an actual message is what concerns me. It could be anything, so here are the options:

1. Registration was due on Friday. Mine was sent in, but it perhaps didn't arrive in time. That may mean I'll owe a late fee of $100, and/or that they are just checking to be certain it's been sent and that I DO intend to register for second semester.

2. It's possible that I received a final grade of "C" in my Christian Anthropology class. If that's the case, that means I'd have to repeat the class. (It would also have to mean I failed the final...that would be the only way to get a C in that class, I think.)

3. If the above is true, there's an outside chance I'll lose my scholarship. That's a HUGE deal, but I think, unlikely. But possible. Maybe. (And that would make me question proceeding...I can't afford the loans as it is...let's just not think about that.)

4. There's some other problem with my registration, a form missing, something simple to resolve but too complicated for a voicemail.

5. It's actually good news. Last year, I learned an anonymous donor gave THOUSANDS to Ave Maria, to give $1,000 each to the students who indicated a financial need (ie going on loans, etc.). I'm still amazed by that kind of generosity and hope that maybe one day I can imitate it, too.

So, please pray for me. In my experience, a voicemail left early in the day (10:30 am) asking for a callback with no further info given has been bad news. And given that Christmas is this week...and as this is a solidly Catholic institution, whose focus is PASTORAL THEOLOGY, it could be bad news that can't wait until later to be broken.

Or maybe I'm just being my worry-wart self. I hope that's it. In any case, prayers needed for that, too.

I'll call first thing tomorrow morning, guaranteed while seated and with shaking hands.


UPDATE ~ I called the University this morning, and it was an error in my application. I miscalculated the total, and so I need to cough up $884 to complete the semester's payment. So I called the loan company, they can't add onto a loan, I'll have to apply for that amount...and it's a pain in the arse, but doable. But you know what? I forgot my password AGAIN! So I have to go through 10 EXTRA steps just to get to the point to apply for the new loan!

Oh, well. It was a simple mistake, this isn't so bad.

As a side note: there is a reason I never pursued a degree in accounting...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Update on Rewriting My Conversion/Reversion Story

The other day I posted to notify any of my readers of the impending deletion of my Conversion story, and I've been amazed at how many people think it should be left.

It's badly written, wrought with typoes, and even if it's honest,'s unweildy and full of irrelevant things. I really question how many have actually taken the time to read it. Not all the posts are linked together, making it even more difficult for someone to read.

I have taken the comments under consideration, but I DO still intend to delete it, and I want to give some solid reasons why:

1. It's unweildy in its current form. While the "Blue Coyote" story is cute, it's not relevant enough to keep. I can use that metaphor differently and take it out of the story completely.

2. If I don't take it down, I won't re-write it.

3. Out of respect for people who either don't have the time to read or don't have the attention span, I need a testimonial that can appeal to a broader audience. Just because I love to read and so do others does not mean everyone does.

4. Conversion stories have been helpful to me at all stages of my own re-entrance to the Church, and strengthen me even now. If my own can't appeal to those who need something more akin to a "snapshot", well, then it's not effective enough.

I also respect the fact that maybe some of you have been touched by my story, and I sincerely thank you for your comments. It is my prayer that my own experience has helped to bring someone else to Christ. Many of you are converts yourselves, or "reverts" like me, and I deeply respect your opinions and advice.

And so I have this to say:

* The story as it is now, is going to be taken down by the end of this month (December 2008)

* I will re-write my Conversion Story, which will take the highlights of the original, and the journey, and incorporate it with what has happened since. It might still be a couple posts, but it'll be a lot more coherent and to the point. (Believe it or not, I can be concise.)

* I will republish my original story, however, it will be edited, cleaned up, and unnecessary details removed.

So, I put it out there again; those who wish to read the story in it's original format have just over a week. It's going bye-bye, mistakes and irrelvance and all. That's final.

Hopefully the new, shorter version and the edited old version will continue to be true and honest.

One commenter wrote that often rewrites are less honest, and I have to agree; when I wrote my original story, I both didn't have a lot of readers AND I was anonymous but for maybe one or two people whom I had met. Now I know personally many of my commenters and some readers who don't comment at all; it's not a huge leap to realize I might be tempted to sugar-coat the formal re-write. But I'll do my best.

If any of you who know the original feel I'm not being honest in the rewrite, please share your thoughts with me once you see it. You'll probably be decent judges on that matter and I'm willing to submit to that. I'll also try to retain a backup of the original-original so that, if my editing job is butchery, it can be restored.

Will that make a difference?

Maybe my final thought is this; my own conversion goes on and will continue to do so, for that is what is meant by "growing in holiness". I hope I am progressing. And because of that, I need to take a look back at where I've been and how I got to where I am now. Thanks to all of you for following along with me, and thanks to you other bloggers and commenters who have also taken me along on your own journey.

It is a privilege to be a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, and you ALL remind me that NONE of us really lives for ourselves, and many of our experiences are shared, even if we're unaware of our solidarity.

God bless you, and again, here is the link to my original story. Scroll to the bottom and begin there. I will remove it on December 31st, 2008, and post the new one either on or after the New Year.

I Believe

It's been a very difficult Advent for me as I've battled my own sin, my own failings, and have been often brought to the throne of Mercy in the Sacrament of Confession. I can't even call it a purification of any sort; to do so would be pretentious. There has been no victory on my part, only great recognition of my own need, and in that is abundant and undeniable Grace.

As we approach Christmas, I find myself finally entering into the joy and anticipation of the season; it's been completely absent this year.

I've often thought of the Incarnation this Advent; considering how God became man, uniting both the human and the Divine. When I look around the world, when I see the filth around us, the sin, the reality of our lives, the reality of our social decisions, and the reality of our physical and spiritual weakness, I can't help but ask, "Why would HE want to become like US?"

I would NEVER have chosen this. Ever.

Let us all be thankful that God does not think as I do. For He created us to be in union with Him; when Adam and Eve fell from grace, they started the ball in motion that has brought us to where we are today.

God did not wash His hands of us and leave us to ourselves, but loved us so much that He remained involved. God has NEVER left humanity; it is always humanity that has chosen to leave God. He looked down upon us in pity, knowing what we chose and what we didn't choose. Knowing our hearts even better than we knew our own. He punished in order to convert; and never did He spurn a repentant heart. Ever.

Finally, He fulfilled His plan, and sent His only Son. We who believe in the Trinity know that Jesus is God Himself, the second Person of the Sacred Trinity, and even though our minds cannot grasp this Truth, we accept it. Christ Himself told us, "He who sees me has seen the Father" (paraphrased).

And constantly, through my devotion to the Infant of Prague, I've constantly tried to meditate, if imperfectly, upon the Incarnation. God become man, through the most unimportant of peoples, through the downtrodden, born in a dirty cave and laid in a manger encrusted with camel spit.

Most of us were born in hospitals, or homes. Maybe even cars.

Not the Messiah. And that was only the beginning of His suffering on our behalf; for we MUST see that the wood of the manger is the same wood of the Cross, and the same wood of the tree from which Adam and Eve ate, and when we consume the Body and Blood of Christ, we partake in the New and Everlasting Covenant that has redeemed us.

Twice this week, an infant boy has been placed in my arms, and I couldn't help but consider how this tiny human being was himself a reflection of the Divine Infant. So innocent. So sweet. So perfect...and so human.

So God entered the world, to save us from our sins and bring us to eternal life. So a child has led us, even unto the Cross.

The ONLY way to Heaven is through the Cross, and if we ignore that fact, we cannot call ourselves Christian.

I recently revealed my own struggle with belief this week, and in a form of reparation, I want to share with you some thoughts that have come to me over the course of my Old Testament classes in the last two years. Maybe my own denial of God was private (not everything was in the blog post), but because I am a baptized, Confirmed Catholic, I know that it is my place to "prophesy to the nations". And so I do, in the name of Christ Himself:

What I believe

I believe that Adam and Eve fell from Grace through Pride, and that the Garden of Eden was a true physical place which is now guarded by a fierce Cherubim.

I believe that Abraham is our father, and that the promise of the Lord to him has been and is being fulfilled even as we speak.

I believe that Joseph was sold into slavery, was given the keys to the kingdom, placed in position to redeem his family, and humbled in the experience.

I believe that young David killed Goliath armed with only a sling and a stone.

I believe that the 9-foot-thick walls of Jericho fell to the sounds of trumpets.

I believe that Ezekiel prophesied as directed to the valley of dry bones, and those bones rose, took on flesh and were resurrected into a great army; and that this army fortells both the Resurrection of all the dead and the reality of the Church Militant and Church Triumphant.

I believe that the Prophets were privy to the Divine counsels and prophesied not only to their own generations, but foretold the coming of the Messiah.

I believe that the Law is written on the hearts of men (as stated by Isaiah), and that those who fail to heed it are lost by choice, but are not without hope of conversion and subsequent redemption.

I believe in the Immaculate Conception, that Mary was conceived without sin.

I believe in the Virgin birth and the Incarnation of Christ.

I believe that God became man, a complete union of human and Divine, and that He had the beatific vision from His very conception and suffered all that man suffers...but without sin.

I believe that the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith are one and the same and cannot be destroyed by bad scholarship.

I believe. In spite of myself and my own doubts, I believe.

And if I could be present at His very birth, I would prostrate myself even in the sheep dung that defines my very life, and worship Him who died that I might have eternal life.



Prayer Without Ceasing

We are often reminded to "pray without ceasing", and for most of us, this can be quite a challenge. Far too many don't even pray the simplest of childhood prayers, or even remember Christ at any point in their day.

Some look at prayer as a chore, something their parents used to make them do, just one other "duty".

For those who do have a habit of prayer, perhaps regular morning or evening prayers, or a rosary, they still may struggle to "pray without ceasing". But we have to remember that God is present in the smallest moments of our lives, the most humble of tasks, and even in the most menial necessar chores.

It's easy, in some ways, to pray costantly, and we do that by making Christ the center of our lives. We keep pictures of Him about, crosses, crucifixes, statues of the angels and Saints, all to point us towards God. Perhaps we're scrubbing the kitchen floor and have to actually get down on our knees to reach an area under the stove or refrigerator, and in so doing, find that someone dropped a Miraculous Medal. There, down on our knees, completing the most menial task...we're immediately reminded to pray. Our Lady had to scrub floors, too, and Christ was most certainly the center of her life.

We can take a hint from that. Actually....we need to embrace that reality and live it out ourselves.

But no one can do that in an instant. It takes time, it takes a re-ordering of priorities, and real discipline...or does it?

It starts simply, maybe with a simple prayer: "Come, Lord Jesus". Maybe small professions of love for Our Lord. Maybe a random meditation on His life.

Our work cannot be our prayer, per se, however, if we remember that our work is being done for the glory of God, no matter what the task, it infuses those things with purpose, helping to sanctify even the most humble moments. Our goal is to never allow Christ to slip from our view, never to allow that "mystical" conversation of prayer to stop. For as long as we remember the presence of God, we cannot help but constantly pray.

We can only do so much as laity, in all the distractions of the world, but there are some who are called to constant prayer; their lives are dedicated to living that ongoing conversation with God, on behalf of the rest of the world. It is a life of sacrifice, a life of beauty, and a life of humility.

This morning, I stopped in at Vultus Christi, where Don Marco (Fr. Mark) has posted the schedule that reveals how the world is constantly covered in those called to the task.

Pray for them, as they pray for YOU, for all of us, without ceasing:

"The Church's Blanket of Prayer

It is comforting to recall that the Church in her wisdom has woven a blanket of prayer that covers all the hours of the night. The great Orders of the Church relay each other in keeping watch for the coming of the Bridegroom. Should the Night Office ever cease being celebrated in monasteries, which God forbid, the world that night will die of the cold. The repartition of the nightwatch is, more or less approximately, as follows. In some instances, individuals may prolong the Night Office in solitary prayer.

From 9:00 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. -- Carmelites and some Benedictines
From 11:30 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. -- Carthusians
From 12:00 midnight until 1:30 a.m. -- Poor Clares, Dominican Nuns, Franciscan Friars of certain reforms, and some Passionists in Greater Solitude
From 2:00 a.m. until 3:15 a.m. -- Benedictines of the Primitive Observance
From 3:00 a.m. until 4:30 a.m. -- Trappists
From 4:00 a.m. until 5:30 a.m. -- Cistercians
From 5:00 a.m. until 6:30 a.m. -- Benedictines


Even as we sleep, there is prayer. Maybe we can't pray without ceasing, and so we should take comfort that there is always someone praying. If we wake up in the wee hours of the night, perhaps we should take some time to interceed and give thanks for those whose practice is to sacrifice their own sleep to interceed for the world.

Indoor Plumbing!

The temperature is 12 below (F.) this morning, meaning our windchills around aroud 35 below.

My German Shepherd is getting used to this cold, and only had to stop and lift her paws a couple times for me to clean snow out of them. But she quickly did what she was supposed to do, and as we walked back home, I mused that we should all be happy we get to do our "business" indoors.

Then it hit me; it wasn't always so. I had a friend in high school who lived in a big ol' farmhouse, and they STILL used an outhouse. Even when it was 15 below. Or colder.

Seriously, you people up north here....have you ever stopped to realize that this very simple everyday thing that we do multiple times per day, our predecessors had to go outside to do? In the worst of weather? (Yes, I realize there were things called "chamber pots", but they needed to be emptied, didn't they?)

* shiver *

Thank God for indoor plumbing!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Deleting My Conversion Story

I love reading conversion stories, and have read many of them. I think many of my readers are converts or reverts or...'verts like me that don't really fit into any category. We just know that we were introduced to God, left Him somehow, and then realized we were idiots and came back.

Back in 2006, I wrote My Conversion/Reversion story, and labeled it as such. As it stands, the "chapters" of that story are mostly a written "thinking out loud" kind of thing, and so I think I'll probably delete them. They are filled with typoes, the format is unweildy, and in all honesty, the chapters are very badly written. Rather than go through and edit a bad product, it might make more sense to just start over and get rid of all the useless details.

My conversion wasn't dramatic; it was average, really no different than that of many faithful Catholics today. Yet, because I know I love conversion stories, and because I began reading them because other people love those stories as well, I realize the importance of sharing that part of myself.

However, the current form needs to go, and quickly. So, if you have any interest in reading the long, detailed, drawn-out, boring version of my conversion, click here. Scroll to the bottom of the page, and begin reading there in oppposite-world. (And it makes sense...a conversion starts at a low point and thus can ONLY rise...)

There are a couple posts after my story under the same label, but which won't tell you anything new; they are akin to John Paul II's Theology of the Body, which is really an in-depth treatment of what he'd already written in Love and Responsibility. As such, they aren't officially part of my story, but offer "depth" if needed. Otherwise, ignore them. The Chapters are labeled from Prologue through the Epilogue.

If you think the conversion story as written should be left, please either comment here or send an email; otherwise they are going away, and probably quickly. In any case, whether that version remains or not, I hope to write a better testimonial of my conversion to appeal to the soundbite-mentality of today's world. And of course, for people who want to know the story but don't have time to read a novel.


So, here I am, sitting at my computer, sipping coffee, and wishing I were still asleep.

I woke up out of a really weird dream: I was heading out to someone's house in Shakopee, having just spilled vegetable dip in a teacher's classroom in the school while she was telling me about a problem child. (Why she was telling me, I had no idea...he wasn't my kid!). So, there I was, driving out to Shakopee, on the freeway, but for some reason I had to leave the freeway. Apparently my car, too. I was climbing up a very grassy embankment, as it was getting darker and darker.

When I got to the top of this very sleep slope, I looked to the East, and there was nothing but dark clouds. It looked like a massive storm was coming, but there was no thunder or lightening. There DID appear to be a tornado, however, the tail of which was descending from the clouds. I was standing on a gravel road, and started running to the West to get away from the storm, although I knew I'd be caught in it anyway. And I wondered why Minnesota was having tornadoes in December, and why the grass was so nice and lush.

Hmmm...on second thought, maybe I'm glad I'm not still sleeping. Tonight...I may begin my Christmas shopping, although I won't be able to get it all done. There is a mall I can pass if I take a certain route home, and there are a couple stores there that I know have gifts for my family. * hee hee * These are stores I go into only for a purpose. As a general rule, I HATE shopping (yes, you heard me correctly), but Bed, Bath, and Beyond is an amazing place that makes it not feel like shopping, such that one can leave with far more than that for which they came. And: Bath and Bodyworks. That stuff is so pricey that you'd think it consisted of gold flakes, but it smells wonderful. I shop for my brother's girlfriend there. I find something I like, and know that she'll like it, too. Over the years, we've often found that we nearly got each other the exact same things! (There have been enough differences so that it's not weird, though!)

I still can't figure out what to get Mom, though. * sigh * Or my brother, this year. I need to call him to see if he needs anything. Besides, hafta find out what he wants me to bring for the Christmas meal, too.

And you know...I STILL don't have plastic on my windows. Had it not been so snowy and dangerous this week I would have gone to the store to get plastic. That's also priority for this weekend!

I never said this would be an interesting post, but somehow I suspect that, outside the dream, I've probably given an example of everyone else's weekends and gift-type-thoughts, too.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I have a few announcements to make, so listen up!

There have been some changes in the world of Catholic blogging, and you all need to know about them.

First, my new hero, "Fr. Hulk", has found blogging to be apparently cathartic, and so he will no longer be turning green and ripping all of his clerics to smithereens. Now he is to be referred to as "Fr. Cranky", and can be found at his new blog. Please update your links. (Hmm....I just realized I'll have to update my links, where I linked to him, too. Now I'M cranky!)

I'll offer it up.

Anyway, it appears all the old blog posts have been migrated to the new blog, as the old one will be disappearing.

Secondly, my old blog friend Owen aka Onionboy of Luminous Miseries has begun blogging again, has a health update (the surgery went well!), and can thus be found again. He ALSO moved and is blogging at wordpress now. I, for one, missed him a lot and am glad he's back.

Thirdly, my other old blog friend Warren has ALSO begun blogging again after a years' hiatus, and I'm also thrilled to see him again! His new blog doesn't have any posts yet, but you must trust me when I tell you that his blog is worth reading....when he starts writing in it again, I mean. :-)

LM (yes, I have female friends, too, and this one I met in person in July!) has a blog specificially for those souls most in need of prayer...the Purgatory Pages. Please send her the names of your dearly beloved so she can add them to the list of those in need of prayer.

Owen also has an apostolate, A Month for the Souls in Purgatory, which I meant to post sooner but time has gotten away and I've been hugely remiss. Check out the site, and as with LM's site, add your loved ones to the list!

That concludes our announcements for tonight. Go check out those links!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stupid Comment of the Night

Tonight was crazy-busy at work, but it was fun, because it was "Christmas Party" night, where we had some fun activities for the children, including taking pictures of them as a living Nativity scene.

I was running around in a Santa hat, just trying to be festive and fun, which prompted one of the children to ask, "Why doesn't Santa have to get your picture taken?"

I explained (while carefully stepping far outside the range of the camera) that "Santa" wasn't present at the Nativity but appeared years later. He seemed satisfied with that explanation, and the class disbursed to move on to their next activity.

After they left, I commented to the DRE, "I don't really look like Santa. He didn't have long hair like I do, but maybe his beard was as long as mine."


Oops. I KNOW I'm going to suffer for that one!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Can't Help It

I can't.

I keep staring at my skis, drooling. I keep opening my closet door, staring at my boots. The next step (excuse the pun), is to don the boots and get the feel of them again.

I grew up desiring greatly to learn to ski, but all I had was a sled, and I enjoyed it immensely, let me tell you!

But when we moved to Minnesota, I learned how to cross country ski at a nearby State Park, where my uncle was the Park Ranger. (Random fact; he was present when I was sworn in 12 years later as a Police Officer in a suburb an hour to the north.)

Anyway, my favorite part was navigating the downhills. And then, happily, I had the opportunity to race Nordic in college, for I joined the Nordic (Cross Country) Ski Team, and still have the sweatshirt and photos to prove it! My favorite there in the bluffs was also the downhills, especially if there were hairy turns!

But my REAL love...ever since I first experienced the terror and the ecstasy when I was 17...was Downhill (Alpine) Skiing. That had ALWAYS been my dream, even from early childhood.

So it was. It's a long story, but I inquired one day about the Ski Patrol during the spring I completed EMT training. I learned I'd have to complete their Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC) training, which was like EMT but specific to winter conditions, and I'd have to take Hill Training to learn how to transport patients. It wasn't long before I spoke with the Patrol Director and was enrolled for Fall Classes.

They never asked me how many times I'd been downhill skiing.

As of the day I inquired, on-site at the ski area: Three times.


I'll not tell that story tonight, but suffice to say that the Patrol and Ski Instructors "adopted" me, and even though I'd started out barely able to get down a hill in one piece, I took the Hill Test that early February and passe. In an El Nino winter, with only six weeks of preparation. (That speaks a LOT more for my instructors and supporters than it does for me, but's a longer story).

Not only that, but I also began racing that year, and by the end of the season I'd won my first Silver Medal and got a 4th Place medal at the State competetion. (Don't get doesn't mean as much as you think it might!)

It was all like my own personal Disney movie, but without all the cheesy music. And there were no dancing trees or talking chair lifts.

I volunteered as a Ski Patroller and continued racing for four years, and realized I had to quit for many reasons. But I loved that time, I left with hope of being able to return one day, and I long to take out the skis that grace my ski-bag and hit the slopes. I miss the camaraderie, I miss hearing the urgent call of "Ski Patrol! Ski Patrol!", and I even miss transporting patients down icy slopes.

I never minded mopping up blood from kids who had taken a failed risk, face-planted and got bloody doing so. We often sent them back out reminding them, "Hey, you just remember...!" (They would get quiet and scared at this point...) "Next time....LAND IT!"

They came in scared, maybe crying...and left laughing and enthused.

I don't think I can count the number of wrists or knees we splinted, or the record number of times the local ambulance came out to pick up what we'd hauled off the hill...or the guy who'd wandered into the shack asking for help. It usually wasn't that bad, but there are a couple that leave a bad taste in my mouth. I don't miss those.

But still, overall, it was fun, but I have to admit; we ALL did it because we loved skiing.Volunteering as a Ski Patroller "financed" our ski habit, so we could blend something relaxing with something fulfilling; it's a great combination.

So it is, this time of year, when it's cold, when it's snowing, I feel guilty because I'm NOT heading up to the Ski Area, and I miss everything about it. My weekends were ALL ABOUT skiing. I miss my fellow Patrollers, people from all walks of life, all levels of experience, all sharing something fun and helping others while doing so.

But really, although it's selfish, I admit I really miss the pure feeling of flying down a slope, riding a thin edge, an accelerating arc, constantly going faster, but maintaining exquisit control. It cleared my mind, it calmed me down, because, in those brief moments, all I could focus upon was the present moment. Anxieties and worries could come back to me on the ski lift, but for a few moments, I was free, I was joyful, and I was happy to be alive.

Now that I'm working on my Graduate degree, I can't afford to go skiing....not the money, not the time. But for a few weeks, I'm without the same obligations. I'm considering heading up to my old ski area, and maybe if my old shift is still there, they'll let me join them for an evening. Or if not, I'd be content to ski on my own, take a day of "retreat", enjoy this very contemplative activity, and remember what it feels like to really be free...if only for a few moments in time.


I wonder if maybe the Ski Patrol will take me back one day?

Who is God?

I'm not sure I'm going to be able to articulate myself at all in this post, but I'm going to try. And if you are struggling in your faith, don't read this post. Maybe I shouldn't even be writing it.

OK, here goes:

I don't know who God is.

Maybe I'm still under the influence of my New Age dabblings, or maybe I never have really had a relationship with God. Maybe the relationship I fancy I have with Christ is really just a fabrication of my active imagination.

Yes, I know God is a Trinity, I know He consists of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I know that He entered History about 2,000 years ago and since then everything has been different.

I know these things with my intellect, but do I really know them with my heart? Do I know them with my soul?

Do I really have a soul?

Do I really have a heart?

Is it possible for your heart to be divorced from your soul?

I can't seem the grasp the idea of God actually caring about us, about intervening in our lives. Or calling us. I can understand Jesus, because He was human (although I also have a hard time really grasping His reality). And the Holy Spirit...yes, I've been to Life in the Spirit, even spoke at one of the seminars, but even He seems so impersonal to me. A mighty wind, tongues of flame...a force that directs us when we are open to God's will?

And here's what REALLY disturbs me: I've experienced bona fide miracles, some of which I won't put on my blog, but those close to me know of them and have seen the evidence. My life has changed since my return to the Faith.

For you Carmelite-minded readers, this is NOT a withdrawl of consolations, this isn't the illuminative way, etc etc. And for those of you who dabble...this is also NOT the Dark Night. (Given the proper definition and context I learned on Sunday in class...oh, boy, is that idea misunderstood by the vast majority of people who claim to recognize it in themselves or another!)

I'm not sure what this is, but I know what it's not. Grad school is good for that.

Sometimes I ask myself if I really believe in God. Sometimes I think I don't. I look for God, but I can't see Him. I look at Christ...and see a statue. I look for the Holy Spirit and see an idea.

I feel almost paralyzed by this.

But I can't deny this: when I walk into the church, as I will tomorrow morning, and see the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance, even if I have no emotions, it never fails that my heart LEAPS, and I'm immediately grateful to be there.

I ask myself if I really believe, and so often, I think I don't. But I can't deny something like that which cannot be explained. I know that my intellect can't grasp the mystery of God, and it's not supposed to. And my intellect can't grasp how bread can be changed into the Body and Blood of Christ.

But there's something within me that believes, even when my intellect says it's impossible.

So here I sit, wondering if there's a God, wanting to know that there's a God, even wanting to deny His existence.

But I can't deny the evidence of a miracle that I can observe daily, I can't deny what happens to me when I see the Blessed Sacrament, no matter what the state of my soul.

I don't know who God is. I can't prove He exists. I can't prove He loves us.

But I can make a decision, to believe or not to believe. All the miracles in the world maybe aren't sufficient...or necessary. And so I'm choosing to believe, because no matter what my earthly experience, I also can't believe that this life is all there is. I can't look around the shambles of my own life and decide it's meaningless. I can't help but see that we are all drawn towards and designed for something greater, something beyond ourselves.

What that is, no I don't know. I can't tell you because I don't understand. I don't know who God is.

But I know I want to meet Him.


I don't know what happened. One minute I was just checking out blogs and meditating on the fact I need to finish sending Christmas cards...and the next minute I was overcome by curiosity.

That's how I got on Facebook, too.

Only with Facebook, I have a real-type name. On Twitter, I'm AdoroteDevote. (I forgot to capitalize the "T"). Dang it.

But now that I'm there, I am not really seeing the point. But I got the widget and I did a background and uploaded a pic.

You see, it starts with blogging. And then maybe other blogs, or Wordpress, or something else. Then MySpace (ugh!) or Facebook. And the next thing you know, you're on Twitter and wondering why you're twittering and inventing new grammatical categories for a word that used to just be slang. And still is, actually.

That's what happens. Be careful!

Curse for Us, Blessing for Another

I was grumbling about the 10 below 0 temperature this morning, grateful not to be living further north. The black ice on the highways is causing accidents all over the place. My dog and I are taking very short walks...for her because her paws can't take it. And me, well, the ice makes it difficult to navigate while remaining upright.

But there's another way to look at this cold and the snow that is coming again today.

Many of us are really unhappy about this weather, but what about those who benefit from it?

As a skier, I rejoice that the ski areas can make some really great snow in this kind of weather, and in spite of the temps, they'll be pulling in unbelievable business.

All the winter-oriented industries really NEED this boon, especially in this awful economy. I'm guessing that this bitter cold is going to keep a lot of people employed that, if we were having a "comfortable" winter, might well end up in a box outside of Sharing and Caring Hands.

So today, as I drive to work praying to make it safely, and as I drive home on snowy roads, I'm going to try to remember those who are benefitting. Most of us up here, especially who have to drive in the Cities, really HATE this stuff. We're suffering. Maybe this is really creating a wonderful opportunity to "offer it up" for the sake of those who see it for the blessing it is.

Maybe we all need to be more willing to "suffer" for the benefit of others.

God's will is being done; we really have no right to complain about anything.

Adoro's Meditation of the Day has been brought to you by bitterly-cold temperatures.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Straining at Gnats to Avoid Charity

Let me be very clear; what I'm about to say is going to tick a lot of people off, but so be it. However, I'm going to preface my scathing rant with a little context lest some random person come along and think that it's about them. It's not. I am not writing about a particular person, but rather, a widespread behavior that NEEDS to change. Dear readers...condemn yourself or exempt yourself. Myself...I'm doing both.

A few years ago when I experienced my conversion, I was so thirsty for knowledge that I just devoured what I could. I went to Catholic Answers forums, and many wonderful people there answered many of my questions. It was overall of great benefit to go there, and I often found myself in a forum with regard to liturgy. I am drawn to beauty (through my artistic side, perhaps), and even in my time of dissent and simply being lost, I avoided bad liturgy when I could, which ultimately protected me from becoming involved in parishes that had the worst abuses. (I'll not name any names.)

In any case, once I learned the truth, once I learned objectively what was proper and that my own instincts had been correct, I became quite angry. There I was, a "revert" (for lack of a more precise term), and was angry that for so many years, proper catechesis had been kept from me. In trying to come home, I'd been subjected to horrendous liturgical abuses, and quite likely, invalid communion. (Ironically, on that occasion that was likely a good thing...I was in mortal sin.)

So it was that I went through a very angry stage, being quite resentful at what is wrong in the Church, taking personally different things that should not be occurring in liturgy, in catechesis, etc.

I began this blog when still in that stage, and many of those early posts are still up; I've left them as a testament to my own journey as I've progressed as a Catholic. Those who go back and read what I've left may even think I'm a different author now. And that's as it should be.

Early Conversion

I've observed this same kind of anger in others...both in reverts and converts from other faiths whose eyes have been opened to both the glory of the Church...and the shadows. It seems to be a more or less "normal" stage in conversion, and I have a theory on this.

When someone finally comes to the Fount of Mercy, when they finally recognize Christ for who He is, when they fall in love with Him and His Bride, the Church, well, quite honestly it becomes spiritually, emotionally, and even physically painful to see that beauty diminished by practices that are truly abusive; such as a priest changing the Eucharistic prayers, "dancers" contorting like Herod's daughter, social statistic reports by some GI-Jane-looking DRE in place of a homily about the scriptures, etc. It's terribly painful to recognize that the liturgy, that time of worship owed to GOD has become a celebration of the people, a hoe-down which has as it's theme song "See-how-great-we-art!"

I suggest those people are RIGHT to be angry, and that anger is just, for when something is wrong, often anger inspires the desire to do something to correct the problem.

I went through this stage, and my goodness, I was nasty! At the time, I had not experienced a Latin Mass, either Novus Ordo or in the Extraordinary Form (TLM). And I have to say...I thank GOD for that!

My parish isn't bad. I have my complaints, all of which has to do with the modern architecture of the church (it's ugly and laterally-focused), and the music (McHaugen with a side of Haas, served with the optional Joncas). But our priests are holy, orthodox, and if I were deaf, I would see nothing but God's glory on the altar at Mass.

Now, with that context....

Last night on a blog that has to do with liturgy, I got into a discussion with someone else with regard to a very common abuse...holding hands during the Our Father. And referenced the Orans position as well. NEITHER belong in the Mass; they are innovations that make no theological sense.

My comment with regard to that was that I was forced into that a few years ago. I was visiting a parish for a conference, and was in maybe the 2nd row, so not twenty feet from me was Christ Himself on the altar. The man standing next to me was staring at me intently and expectantly, waiting for my hand. I realized that this was one of THOSE parishes, and had to make a decision. He knew I saw him. Had I just closed my eyes and folded my hands, it would quite literally have been rude.

The man didn't know me; and clearly, he thought this was proper practice. He didn't know any better. Had I done what I preferred, he might have thought it was a rejection of him, who knows? I looked at the altar, and realized that Jesus Himself also waited for my decision; follow the letter of the law, or act in charity and give the soul next to me the benefit of the doubt?

I opted for charity, even as I squirmed.

And I'd do the same thing today, and yes, I'd STILL squirm inwardly.

My friends, let me tell you, when I shared that incident, not only did the other person disagree and insist the ONLY thing to do was to follow the rubrics and not hold hands, but someone else decided to jump all over me and ask if I also support the priest changing the words of the consecration or other Eucharistic prayers.


And yet, that has often been my experience in issues surroundign liturgy. One cannot have an opinion unless it lines up with the black and the red TO THE VERY LETTER. Never mind that it's a situation in the pew, not on the altar.

Now, before some random person shows up and adds another non sequitor argument, understand this:




We cannot follow the law unless we also remember the rule of charity; if we forget the latter, we make the former completely without merit.

It's the same thing happening today as in the time of's exactly what the Pharisees did.

Oh, yes, I went there.

So often, bloggers, commenters, etc., (I am speaking ONLY of laity here) will speak their opinions on liturgy as though they have the ultimate authority. They are so bound by the exact words and almost seem to have a fear of offending God if they do or say anything that might in the slightest be a departure from the rubrics.

Personally, I'm sick and tired of all that anger and bitterness. It's one of the reasons I will read the blog of the author in question, but haven't commented much, and tend not to read the comments. I can't stand the arrogance.

And one of the reasons I REFUSE to be a Rad-Trad:

Over and over this semester, in class, reading the Saints, they emphasize that love of God necessitates love of neighbor. If we love the law so much that we ignore the needs of our neighbor, then we have also failed to love God. The two cannot be separated!

This is NOT "lateral theology" but scriptural truth!

Yes, we NEED to make sure we follow the rubrics that apply to us as the laity, we NEED to continue to work for proper liturgies and reforms that involve proper adherance to what Vatican II REALLY said (ie Latin, Gregorian Chant, etc.) We NEED to honor Christ in the way He deserves. We NEED to be faithful, to follow the directives given by the Church in her wisdom, and we need to honor God through these means.

But that does NOT give us permission, on a small thing, to sacrifice charity in order to check a box stating that we followed the rubrics and prayed the Our Father properly. THAT IS SPIRITUAL PRIDE! It has NO PLACE at Mass!

Now, my parish doesn't hold hands. Some families maybe do, and the occasional visitor who doesn't know any better. Sometimes we have to meet people where they are at. If a visitor comes to your parish and takes your hand during the Our Father, thinking it's what she is supposed to do, what is better? Pull away with a scowl and fold your hands and close yourself off? Or smile, take her hand, and then afterward, wish her peace? The visitor isn't an idiot...she would recognize during the prayer that this parish doesn't do that, but would be comforted that her gaff was accepted and covered by the stranger next to her. And maybe your charity would open the door to a conversation later if she wanted to ask why your parish DOESN'T hold hands?

You can't have a teachable moment unless you open the door to the possibility.

Spiritual Pride is a real problem for all of us. We ALL fall into it. I do, you do, and we all need to guard against it.

That's why I don't want to be a "rad-trad". It's one of the biggest things that pushes me away from the traditional form of the Mass; in too many of the devotees, I see the Pharisees, not Christ. I see a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon to strain at gnats, but not a lot of people willing to be open to the possibility that there might be a bigger lesson.

Even errors glorify God in ways we can't immediately observe.

Our Church is very divided, my friends. It doesn't have to be. Like it or not, we are the Mystical Body, we do all have a place, there IS a way to remain faithful and loving at the same time, to maintain the integrity while not forgetting the soul of our neighbor.

We have our problems..but do we need to make them worse?

The theological virtue of Charity is foundational to our spirituality; if we're angry and bitter and arrogant and making non-sequitor attacks, we don't have charity. If we're focusing on following each little letter of the rubrics to the detriment of an individual in a specific circumstance, then not only are we obsessive-compulsive, but we're Pharisees.

We cannot advance in holiness if we don't have charity. Yes, sometimes charity means being harsh. But we need to remember that God NEVER reveals sin without revealing His Mercy. If we're going to criticize sin (which we should!), then we need to remember Mercy, and that can only come about if we have charity.

I would be a rad-trad if I could; but with what I see from the liturginazis on that side, I can't associate with them without fearing I'll go back down the angry path where too many of them seem to remain, paralyzed in spiritual obsessive-compulsion.

So for now, I'll stay where I am, continue to work on my own spiritual pride and try to focus on loving my neighbor (where I gravely fail myself).

If you care to begin, here's a match....let the flaming begin.

I Have Been Remiss...

...and a really bad friend.

There's a new blog on the block, and it belongs to a friend I met for the first time last July. She recently took the leap from being a reader/commenter to sharing her own thoughts on her own blog, and most recently, has a beautiful post directed towards her son, who just turned 21.

So, please allow me to introduce you to my friend MJ. Go enjoy her posts, comment (come back and visit me sometimes, though!), and become a follower.

Oh, and Minnesota people....she has connections to MN so it's actually entirely possible we could adopt her into our own little network. :-)

OK, what are you still doing here? Go read MJ's Musings!