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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Can You Go Home Again?

I'm a little rattled.

Tonight I received a card from my Aunt, my Dad's brother. She's the only relative we have left on Dad's side, and we have an odd relationship with her. It's hard to explain so I won't. I can't.

But I've felt guilty for not staying in touch since Grandma's death a couple years ago, and the the subsequent settlement of the estate (which paid for my new furnace and water heater and a chunk of was a meager amount but it did that much.) So imagine my surprise to receive a card from my Aunt.

In the card, she explained that she and her husband had sold their home in Winnebago and have moved to another location in Illinois, which happens to be across the river from where my brother and I grew up. She is inviting my brother and I to come visit them if we get time.

And I have to admit, although the letter is, as usual, more about her business pursuits than about any real relationship, I sense through her words a desire and a need for connection. She sounds even a bit's hard to explain. So again, I won't.

I mapquested her new address and indeed, it's almost DIRECTLY across the river from our old neighborhood.

We moved when I was only ten, but even today certain sounds echo through my memory, certain images bring me back "home"...and maybe it's because that place was really the foundation of the rest of my life.

I still remember summer evenings in the back yard in the summer heat that never seemed to bother us, listening to the sounds of trucks on old Rural Route 2 across the Rock River, the sounds of their engines making a lonely whine as they passed over the pavement, heading for destinations unknown. We'd watch the boats on the river with the occasional water skier, and learned to predict the weather according to the mood of the river.

We didn't have waterfront property, and those who did were actually flooded out nearly every year when the ice went out. We lived on Rural Route 1, in a little isolated country neighborhood comprised of trailer homes mixed with split-levels and ranch homes, many on acre lots or half-acre lots. Our own home was a ranch-style rambler set in the middle of what might be termed a "block", comprised an entire acre, including the "corner". A neighbor kitty-corner to us on the same block bordered us with her own acre-sized lot, so we were able to look across her garden, onto RR1, across the river, and over to RR2. In my mind's eye, I can still see the old barn that looked gray from that distance, and for some reason, the sight always brought me a certain amount of comfort. Even the sound of trucks all that distance away was comforting.

If we were in that house today, if I were looking across that same garden and the same river and the same Routes, we'd be looking almost straight across to my Aunt's new home, although they are set much further back and would not be visible to us.

If I do get a chance to go visit her, it will be an odd experience indeed; going "home" to visit an Aunt I barely know anymore, across the river from a home we haven't owned for over two-thirds of my life.

And yet, when I think of it, I consider the mid-summer heat, the Illinois humidity, and the sound of trucks, this time on RR1, passing where we used to live.

The neighbors we knew then would likely have all moved away, and I know that many are deceased. Lois and Jim, Ethel from next door(whom I used to visit incessantly and she always gave me candy while her Chihuahua Buffy barked at me incessantly seeming to say the words, "Arf!" and "Bark", eunciating carefully.)

I'm not sure I want to go back...suddenly I'm overwhelmed with grief for the people I loved so much, but lost. I'm not sure I can handle seeing "home" anymore; it's not home. I like my memories of our dear neighbors, and I'm not sure I can handle going back and realizing that Ethel won't be sitting in her livingroom, welcoming my visit, offering me a root-beer-barrel candy and asking me what's happened since 1984.

I'm not sure I can handle remembering the little girl I was, juxtaposed with the woman I have become.

This week I had to find my birth certificate for something for work, and I actually found it and the original baptismal document.

When I was born, Mom was 30, and Dad was 33. This year, I'm still 33, will be 34 in June. We didn't live there when I was born, but moved there when I was about a year and a half, I think. Dad would have been 34 by then, Mom, 31.

We don't have Dad anymore, and I keep sensing that Mom isn't long for this world. Our Aunt who has moved to a location so close to where we were when our family was intact...I'm not really sure how I feel about this. I'm not sure I can go. It will be like visiting a forgotten graveyard which is perhaps best left forgotten, overtaken by nature and left to the dappled shadows and changing seasons.

I'm not really sure that you ever CAN really go home again, especially when everything that ever really made it "home" has decayed into mere impressions and bittersweet memories.

Echo! Echo! Echo!


Where has everyone gone?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Authentic Femininity

Sarah (one of my dear Ohio friends who sends me hugs and baby drool in her emails) has linked to a post about modesty which is actually from another post and then another, so I'm just linking to Sarah. You can do your own legwork to read the rest!

But here's a snippet (from Sarah) that I'm plagiarizing in order to use it as a jumping-off point:

It all makes me reflect on the change of heart I've experienced in the last ten years. It especially makes me think about how FREE I felt after reading Theology of the Body (which is available online too) and I started understanding what authentic femininity really means. It doesn't mean being an object of men's desires. It doesn't mean putting up with sex. It doesn't mean ignoring anything distinctive about the double-X. Oh no, it is so much more than what gender equality (which often seems to translate into "gender sameness") would have us believe.

She's right, and there's a few points here to address.

The first is general modesty. I still occasionally come across photos from about 10 years ago in which I was posing in manners contrary to feminine dignity. I'm not talking "Girls Gone Wild", but just the same, I don't think there's any REAL difference...just a matter of degrees. So what if I didn't "bare all"? I certainly implied what I had, and I KNEW I was being ogled for my looks.

(As an'd never know it now. Youth IS wasted on the young! And I can't believe I just said that!)

Trashy Girl

I had my "party years" fresh out of college, I was healthy, I looked good, and as it was the culture, I flaunted it through short skirts, midriff-type shirts (on the "modest" end), and low-cut tops.

When I lived in Minneapolis with my left-winger best friend, she appraised me one evening as I headed for the door for a night of clubbing. I was clad in a short black mini, heels, and a tight long-sleeved black top.

"Do you want to know what you look like?" she queried sarcastically.

"NO!" I turned and stalked off, out of her sight. I couldn't stand her appraisal...I knew what she was going to say, I knew I looked like a hooker, and I didn't need her to say what I knew was true.

I looked like trash, and even now as I look back upon that night and those years, I feel like trash.

No, I was never into the "one night stands" like some of my friends (most, actually...), but I think it's only by God's grace such a thing was avoided. I've been in many bad situations, placed there by how I dressed and how I behaved, two elements that tend to go together.

On Androgyny

The legacy of radical feminism is an odd monster for it pits the beauty of humanity, trait against trait, warping what is supposed to be beautiful into something quite literally inhuman.

On one hand, while I would never describe myself as "beautiful", I wasn't hard on the eyes, and I knew that at times, I turned heads. And I was proud of that while it lasted. And as I said, I dressed the part, INVITING people to look at what I had, trying to put any discomfort behind me. I didn't want to feel discomfort...I only wanted to feel beautiful, to attract people to me by how I looked.

I was a late-bloomer...if you were to ask any of my high-school friends about me, they'd either say, "Who?" or "HER? Pretty? WHAT!?"

So when, in my young adult years, guys seemed attracted to me, well, I LOVED it!

But that's where the dichotomy of feminism gets its other half, ironically.

It was during this phase of my life that I applied for a Fire Dept., and was subsequently hired and put through training. I had a boyfriend at the time, also a firefighter for the same department, so I approached the Job for the Job...the guys were not interesting to me. And it's fair to say that for ALL of the women, guys were not on the radar screen.

I had come to this also with experience in Law Enforcement, and so the things I'm going to discuss encompass both that and the Fire Department as it relates to women.

To be clear, many women in those jobs remain very feminine in many ways, but ALL have a certain hard edge, which might even be natural either as part of their personality, or an adaptation to difficult you might find in a pioneer wife or daughter of the 1800's. Or the World War II era.

But there's more to it for most women; there is nothing official, but the very culture, both inside and outside of "the Job" encourages androgyny. Men are always men, and are expected to be men, especially in those roles. And women...are ALSO expected to be men...unless it's convenient to be women.

I lost a lot of femininity when I trained for those jobs. I lost a sense of who I was supposed to be, and in fact began to deny my normal female tendencies in order to be more like "one of the guys." My life became about being "one of the guys."

Most of my friends were guys, and really, I loved them and still do. But they got so used to me that they began to complain about women and the female traits they (WE!) have, such as decorating the new house with "girlie things."

What am I....roast duck?


Once I was on the Job, though, especially the Fire Dept., well, an extremely high percentage of women in that field are attracted to other women. I got along with everyone just fine, and I was a bit of a relativist also at that point. But I wasn't comfortable with what was going on...all the female
"love" triangles. (Of course, there were other "love" triangles as well.) It was rampant.

Look beautiful, have a great body...but make sure you act like a guy in all things but the bedroom. The message was clear, was never spoken, but was lived out every single day.

Even some of the women looked like men, making no effort to reveal their femininity in any way. It was as if they were ashamed to be a woman, like being a man is any better.

As my High School English teacher used to say about Freud's ideas about envy, "Who'd want one anyway?"

Exactly! I wished that some of these women had had my English teacher when they were in their formative years!

I think that even today I'm trying to get over the damage of those years. I've always had long hair, wore makeup, had long nails when I could, and when I dress up, I like "froofy-girly" skirts. But most days I'm "frump girl", favoring my old tomboy-type clothing, and that may never change.

Some days I look at other women, longing to be like them, longing to have never denied my femininity, wanting to be truly girly..but I fear it will never be so. But I'm grateful that I don't have to be a "guy" anymore. I can wear my heart on my sleeve, and even as I'm ashamed when my emotions get the best of me, I know that as a woman, it's part of who I am and reveals my humanity. Even as I cringe when I can't do the job of 5 men, I'm grateful when those 5 men step in to help and don't throw me a chainsaw, expecting me to wield it.

And when I walk through a doorway and a man opens the door for me, I'm thrilled to look directly at him, smile, and thank him for his courtesy. Because it's nice to be a woman and to be treated as such. It's freeing to know that I don't have to reveal myself (not that any of you would want me to!), and that the people I love don't return that love for my looks or any other ulterior motive. It's freeing to know that I don't have to be a guy and really, most of the guys I know don't want me to be one.

I love being a woman, and every day, I wake up and thank God for the wonderful gift and privilege of being a woman.


Hidden Life

This month, I'm doing a lot of reading on the Council of Trent, which contains 131 dogmatic canons. It also addresses a life of sanctity among the clergy, although it seems to me this applies also to religious.

There is nothing that leads others to piety and to the service of God more than the life and example of those who have dedicated themselves to the divine ministry. For since they are observed to be raised from the things of this world to a higher position, others fix their eyes upon them as upon a mirror and derive from them what they are to imitate. Wherefore, clerics, called to have the Lord for their portion, ought by all means so to regulate their life and conduct in that dress, behavior, gait, speech, and all other things nothing may appear but what is dignified, moderated, and permeated with piety; avoiding also minor offenses which in them would be grievous, so that their actions may inspire reverence.

WOW! On one hand, I say, "THANK GOD I can't be a priest!" (Nor have I ever desired to be!) I'm not sure I could live up to such a spotlight.

But then again...Sisters and Brothers in habits are under that same spotlight. The world looks to them as a holy example. If that example isn't given, that way of life is not attractive, and it turns away Vocations, and even turns away people looking for Christ in the most basic of ways.

So that leads me to ponder those religious communities who have chosen to dispense with the habit entirely. While I will not say that all of those communities are heterodox (I know of some heterodox communities who wear habits!), there is a trend among MANY of the habitless sisters of pagan practices and other things. It's quite saddening, and extremely destructive.

In considering it in light of the words of the Council of Trent, however, now I look a it a bit differently. For if I was attracted to things I knew were wrong, I would do what I could to keep it wrapped in the shadows so that others could not see, or at least might not automatically associate me with such a thing were I to be seen in public somewhere.

For example...if I were a woman wearing a blue and white habit and veil, and working to practice things such as aura-reading and Gaia-worship under the guise of "Bible Study", well, knowing full well that these things are condemned (rightly!) by the Church as offenses against the First Commandment, well, I wouldn't want to go around being recognized as such a public offender.

And so I would dispense with the thing that would identify me the most clearly. Besides, I'd be aware of the symbolism of the habit and the prayers involved with each piece of clothing...and each day I'd be confronted by my spiritual adultery.

Nope...wouldn't want to wear that habit!

Now, all that said, we are ALL called to holiness, to living exemplary lives of virtue, and we especially are called to this witness in our every movement and action in life as an example of Jesus Christ. If we say we are Catholic and we are not recognized as such, then perhaps our actions don't match our words. Because although I've focused on the clothing (given the passage from Trent), everything that applies to the clergy (and religious) applies to ALL. Except for the fact that the clergy have the greatest responsiblity as they are the most visible, they are our spiritual leaders, and they lead us in the way to holiness. At least, that is what they are SUPPOSED to do.

So, hats off to all you who wear the Roman Collar or don a veil...the entire world is watching everything you do every moment you're in public.

You know...I've been considering becoming a hermit...


Signs it's time for a haircut:

1. You remove your seatbelt and your long unbound hair gets caught in the retractor such that you can't get out of the car without blindly disengaging yourself.

* Corollary: A sign that you are long overdue for a haircut:
Your BOUND hair gets caught in the retractor. Or the window when you close it.

I'm just sayin'

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pilgrim for Life

I don't have a home.

Ok, I have a roof over my head, and I'm paying for it every month, and with the impending recession, I might even lose it...or my car, or default on my electricity. And I call it "home" but it isn't. It's a place were I live, but even as I signed the documents, I never had a sense of "roots." It's just a place to reside and which gives me credibility as a tax-paying homeowner.

This semester as I've read the Letter to Diognetus, both in class and more recently, in the Liturgy of the Hours, I've been struck by the meaning. I've written of it before, but as time goes on, there is more depth and significance to the description.

For most of my life, I really haven't felt "home". I moved to Minnesota when I was 10; we'd lost our home in Illinois thanks to divorce, welfare and foreclosure (in that order), and moved into an apartment closer to Mom's family. And even that was home...but not really. I've lived everywhere, not really having roots. Where I live now, my townhome, which is signed and paid for under my name, is not really "home". It's a roof over my head, certainly, but even as I signed the documents, I have had a sense it's a temporary place; a jumping-off point. I will moving from here into whatever committment I give for the rest of my life.

I think it's my final waystation - until I make some kind of a committment.

Even with regard to my parish, it's still not eternal. It's "home", more so than even my house because it's my spiritual home thus it transcends the temporary reality. Yesterday when I went to my Adoration hour, I felt guilty because I am not as involved in my parish as I used to be. I'm far more involved in my work parish, and yet, it's my work...shouldn't I still be doing something in my own?

But all those things I'm drawn towards take place at my own parish...while I'm working all the way across town! And so when I do happen to be able to come "home" for Mass or for Adoration, I'm there for a retreat of sorts. There are no expectations of me. I can be there just to be there, and I realize more and more how important that is. Because if it were otherwise, I'd be burned out.

Spiritual Pilgrim...Eternal Pilgrim

Today at Mass, at the parish that employs me, I though about religious life. It is a life of pilgrimage. For those who are called to contemplative life, they are drawn to a specific location to live out their days in prayer and sacrifice. I don't feel called to such a thing. Rather, I look back upon my life of constant rootlessness, and realize that I'm not finished and maybe there will never be a set "home" for me. And maybe that's a good thing; I love travel, I love changes in location, and as much as I love my friends and do desire roots, there is something more that pulls at me.

I almost have the expectation that no matter where I am, it is temporary.

The community I am currently considering is diocesan, thus if I choose them and if they choose me, I might spend my life moving from post to post in service to our Lord and His people. It's not contrary to the Dominican charism which I still believe I possess, but rather, it may be a fulfillment of it, for my life would be mendicant. No place on earth is home...only Heaven is home.

So maybe I am called to be a pilgrim for the rest of my life; for our home here is only an illusion. We are granted the blink of God's eye, and then we meet Him for eternity. Why, then, waste time on temporal things, unless our temporal pursuits guide others towards the eternity that awaits them?

I confess to be inspired by the presence of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, who spent even more time with the Sisters who came to him than he did with the seminarians. I was moved by the witness of so many Seminarians, Priests, and Religious who cheered him, who had given their lives to the Lord, and to the witness of our Pope himself who has forfeited his life to the One who was Crucified for us.

It is powerful, and indeed, it draws me into such a witness. In the face of such loving power, the world holds nothing of value. And I realize that if I give my life to Jesus, I in fact gain the entire world and all of eternity, all at His whim and call. Who would not desire such a thing?


I have to add a disclaimer...there are those of you who have left comments and emails that seem to signify that you portend the final outcome of my discernment. Take care!

I'm thankful for your prayerful support, and perhaps my life will fulfill your predictions. Yet I have to caution you for even I don't know the outcome, and I'll be the FIRST to know the true result. I can see a number of outcomes for there is much of my discernment that will NEVER find an outlet on this blog. You get the surface; the interior belongs to God alone.

A few years ago when I started this blog and revealed to people that I felt I might be Called, they gave me some wonderful support. And then I determined that I was likely not called.

EVERY. SINGLE. ONE of my friends, those people who know me the best, told me quietly AFTER my "decision" that they also NEVER believed I was called to religious life.

They know me, they love me, and as such, they kept those deep opinions to themselves for they loved me so much that they wanted me to make this journey without their biased influence. Realize that these friends know me, my hard edges, and my flaws which never seem to end.

I've heard it more than once from them that they truly believe that I am not called to be united so intimately with Jesus. Indeed, I am even now one of the LAST people you would think could be called to such a life.

I must say it again...each one of my friends told me in private that they "knew" I was not Called...but that they felt I needed to explore that and realize it for myself.


Some of you think you know how this will end. So I find it important to say that you have no idea how this will end.

I have two friends who seriously discerned a call to religious life. The first KNEW she was called to it and was only searching for a community. She so desired to live out her life as a Nun, and lived a very holy life in the meantime as a lay woman.

She then met her husband and is happily married, a pillar of our Catholic community, and a dear friend without whom I would be lost.

Another friend made her Call known to me in the beginning my own discernment a few years ago. You would have to know this woman...there has rarely been such a pure soul. Just a single look into her eyes, and one could see Christ. She had heard her call through bells, and as she told her story, her eyes shone. A dear priest I know had looked at her in a special moment and told her, "Yes...I see it." An affirmation from a source so highly respected by us all.

She had narrowed her search for home and found a few communities, visited them, chose one, applied, was accepted...and was awaiting her entrance.

And then she met her husband...and is now happily married.

Some of you may think you have me figured out; realize that a great deal never makes it to my blog. Realize that there is more to this story, most of which will never be made public. Perhaps I am to remain single, or perhaps I am called to marriage.

I have a theory; the friends who came so close had made a decision. They loved Jesus and still do, but they arrived at that point where they were willing and able to make a decision. Their "YES!" to the Lord for what the perceived did not just encompass one Vocation, but them all. God tests us, and calls us, even to what we do not think we want.

Sometimes there are obstacles, but if we can overcome our obstacles and give our unconditional fiat to the Lord, then, finally, He can work with us. I think that's what happened with my friends. They gave their acquiescance to His will...and He rewarded them with the desires of their hearts.

So, don't be too quick to say you know how this will end...the ending may be a surprise to us all.

Hee Hee!

You Would Be a Pet Cat

Independent and aloof, you don't like to be dependent on anyone.

And as for other people, you can take them or leave them. You often don't care.

You live your life by your own rules. And you have deep motivations that no one truly understands.

Why you would make a great pet: You're not needy or greedy... unlike other four legged friends.

Why you would make a bad pet: You're not exactly running down to greet people at the door

What you would love about being a cat: Agility and freedom

What you would hate about being a cat: Being treated like a dog by clueless humans

Well, that's somewhat true, but I don't think I'm aloof. But I'm not an "entertainer" although I've been known to entertain others here at my home. And I DO love my freedom and independence. And it's true that I bristle at being treated badly, although sadly in the past I allowed myself to be treated badly.

Your 80s Hunk Is

John Stamos

LOL...I LOVE John Stamos! I used to have a huge crush on him. (I'm over that now.)

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Well, I now smell like smoke. Not cigarette smoke, because that's yucky and nasty. But rather, I smell like good ol' charcoal grill smoke.

It's currently snowing in my city, and there's a little light drizzle, but I decided that it would not deter me. Because earlier today I got the idea in my mind that I want shish-ka-bobs, and the ONLY way to have them is on the grill. Mmmmm....

So I'm grilling, and I don't care if it's only a few degrees above freezing! Take THAT winter!

Other More Interesting News...

Yesterday morning, five men were ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of St. Paul, and you may read about them both in an official article in the Catholic Spirit and through seminarian Gregory's post on Future Prists of the Third Millenium blog.

Congratulations to our new priests, consolations to our empty-nest syndrome seminarians, and admonitions to ALL of you to keep praying for more priests!

More news...

The sun just came out!

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Today I was watching Saving Private Ryan, a movie that never fails to move me to tears.

Earlier in the week, I was praying my rosary en route to work, and something from that movie came to mind as I contemplated the heresy of salvation by faith alone (sola fide). The movie popped into my mind, and I considered the scene where Capt. Miller, dying, said to Prvt. Ryan, "Earn This."

I remember, shortly after the movie came out, there was discussion about that scene. What did he MEAN by that? Some thought that it was a terrible thing to say. I didn't take it that way; there was a deeper meaning, which I understood to be a loving challenge.

All week, since class, I've been thinking of that scene and today I was unable to stand it no longer; I watched the movie, while reading about Martin Luther. Watching it not only in light of what I believe, but in light of the heresy to which Luther fled in the face of his own demons.

Today, as I watched that scene, I saw how Capt. Miller lay dying, his expression even almost peaceful. He was resigned, he was committed, and he was obedient. Private Ryan approached him there on that bridge, kneeling near him, watching the "angels on their shoulders" flying overhead, rescuing them from this awful apocylatpic battle.

Captain Miller drew Private Ryan near to him so he could hear, and looking him in the eye, hands shaking, and earnestly entreated him, "Earn this.....Earn This."

He was not condemning. It was a blessing of sorts, a dying man realizing he was losing his life for the right cause, desiring that this "son" of his be saved through his actions and the actions of those who had crossed France to send him home. It was a moment of adoption...a recognition that this was his progeny of sorts, a "sending forth" from the sacrifice of the battlefield, made both for him, and in conjunction with others for even a greater cause.

I won't say the movie was theologically correct, nor, if we really go into depth, would it be so. However, if we take this scene with the premise above, we still see truth.

And I'm not at all surprised that the response of some to Captain Miller's line would cause such angst. Not in light of the world we live in today...a world that denies the need of sacrifice in order to obtain salvation.

Captain Miller began his mission with skepticism as did all those hand-picked for the mission. And yet they left one horror for another, and their presence in Rammala indeed saved the lives of others, including that of the destined Private Ryan.

But Private Ryan was not going to step down because these men had been through so much to save him; he was going to participate not only in his salvation, but the salvation of others. He would not stand by; he was a soldier, and no soldier stands by in a battle. To do so would be a contradiction of his oath, his mission, his very being; it would be a denial of the value of the lives of his own brothers and the freedom he'd sacrificed so much to obtain on behalf of others.

And thus it came, the final scene, where Private Ryan met his Savior, and his Savior said, "Earn this."

It's a heavy cross to carry, and indeed, Private Ryan carried it throughout his life. For we see, in the closing scene, a fade to his advanced age where he visits Captain Miller in Arlington National Cemetary, bringing his family; those who would not exist but for Captain Miller's mission.

He speaks to his very respected, deceased Captain, asking, "Have I earned this? In your eyes...have I earned this?"

A heavy cross to bear, knowing that his life was spared and his family exists, thank to the efforts of this man and those he lead. But it was Captain Miller who gave his fiat; it was Captain Miller who chose his apostles, and many of them, especially Capt. that he might have life.

From the cross, indeed, Jesus did not say "Earn this." He didn't need to; He had said it before but in different words. And His gift is indeed free, for we can't merit it in any way. However, He invites our participation, and in fact, REQUIRES it, just as Private Ryan realized his participation was required in the final battle that saved his own life.

And this is where theology and the movie part ways; for in the movie, Ryan is given a direct order to stand down but he disobeys. In real life, Jesus gives us the command and loving invitation to follow Him. As such, Capt. Miller cannot truly be a Christ figure but in the most liberal sense of the word. Miller, sadly, is a figure of Luther's misunderstood conept of the Christ who gives freely...but with animosity which comes from his union with the aloof and wrathful God the Father.

Ironic...I never expected to see that.

And yet, the truth wins out, for Ryan carries that Cross through life, "earning", or, perhaps being "justified" in his life through the actions of his life. And in this sense, the movie is indeed secular, for when Jesus Christ told us to "earn this" he did so in a way that had a far more profound meaning. For Captain Miller, it was about a legacy here on earth, and for Private Ryan, that is the cross he carried; the legacy of Capt. Miller. It was Miller's success in life that would give meaning to the life and death of the good Captain. Thus..."Earn This." The words of a dying man, calling his son to nobility, to something greater, pointing to the need for sacrifice of his own will on behalf of another; he who dies for him.

We are all called to sacrifice our wills for another, He who has died for us.

Just as Christ died for us, so that we might have eternal life.

And we are indeed justified not just by faith, but by works, for Jesus demanded that we take up our crosses and follow Him, He demanded that we unite our sufferings to His, and He taught very clearly that our actions could cause us to lose our salvation.

It's not just in the book of's in the Gospels themselves. We are not saved by faith alone...the ONLY place in the Bible where the words "faith alone" appear have the words "not by" directly in front of them. And it's not just a matter of's a matter of omission, on the part of mentally ill Martin Luther.

We are not saved by faith alone, and we are not saved by works alone...we are saved through faith AND works, and I KNOW that many of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters believe this even though they say differently. For they live it out and live holy lives, more Catholic than many Catholics I know. For the Truth can't be stymied by bad philosophy and theology; the Holy Spirit works within us to direct us all to what is good and true, and draws us into participation in our salvation that we may deny even as we carry it out.

No, from the cross, Jesus did not say, "Earn this" and He does not need our devotion in order to validate His sacrifice. But WE need to complete certain works in order to be justified and be saved. Just as Private Ryan fought in the battle for his company and his life, so we are called to arms by Christ Himself as a participation in the salvation He brought to us through His necessary sacrifice for the atonement for our sins. It is our works that glorify God the most; for through His GRACE there is an interior conversion, and this reveals that sinners can become Saints through our cooperation, or rather...our works in conjunction with His invitation.

God loves us so much that He invites our free will participation...and just as by our cooperation we are saved, so through our lack of cooperation we are lost.

The choice, ultimately, is ours. Jesus already made HIS choice...but His choice cannot change our free will...we have to accept or reject salvation on our own.

We are all soldiers, faced with a choice...die in vain or unite ourselves with the sacrifice being made on our behalf?

I've been remiss

I have a couple things I promised to post about, and on one of them I'm SERIOUSLY delinquent.

The first, then, is a review of the book, "Words of Light, Inspiration from the letters of Padre Pio." Being that he has just been exhumed and is now on display for veneration of his relics, perhaps it is in fact appropriate that I post on this book at this time.

The book takes excerpts of St. Pio's letters, giving us a glimpse into his heart and soul for our own spiritual enlightenment. Each chapter is divided into different topics, such as, "I pray continually", "I do not wish to ever offend God again", and "Our beautiful Virgin Mary."

I have not had the time to read through this book cover to cover, however I have found that it is one I can pick up, page through, and find some nugget of wisdom pertinent to my own spiritual formation at that given time. As a result, this book has actually served to help foster my own already-existing devotion to this great Saint and has helped me to come to know him even more dearly as my Spiritual Father. We should be grateful to Father Raniero Cantalamessa for compiling this book and for his introductions to each chapter.

Today, several priests were ordained not only here in our diocese, but in others, and so I will provide a shortened excerpt of this book that serve to exhort us all to pray for all priests:

283: "'My Heart', says Jesus, 'has been forgotten. No one is concerned with my love anymore. I am continually saddened. My house has become for many a place of entertainment. This is so even for my ministers, whom I have always regarded with favour, whom I have loved like the apple of my eye: these should confort my heart filled with bitterness and help me to redeem souls. But who ould believe it? That from them I should receive ingratitude and a refusal to acknowledge me. I see, my son, many of them who...(here he grew quiet, the sobs caught in his throat, and he wept in secret)...under hypocritical appearances underfoot the light and strength that I continually give them...'.

284: On Friday morning, I was still in bed when Jesus appeared to me. He was all melancholy and disfigured. He showed e a great multitude of regular and secular priests, among whom there were different eclesiastical dignitaries. Somewere celebrating [Mass], some were vesting, and others were talking their sacred vestments off.

The face of Jesus in distress pained me greatly, and so I asked him why he was suffering so much. But I got no reply. However, his gaze went back to those priests. Shortly after, almost horrified and as if he was tired of looking, he turned his gaze away and lifted it towards me. To my great horror, I noticed that two tears were running down his cheek. He moved away from the mob of priests and looking greatly sickened he cried out: 'Butchers!'

He turned to me and said: 'My son, do not believe that my agony lasted only three hours, no. I will be in agony until the end of the world because of the very souls that have benefited most from me. During the time of my agony, my son, you must not sleep. My soul searches around for a drop or two of human compassion; but, alas! they leave me alone under the burden of indifference. Ingratitude and the greatest of my ministers render my agony terrible indeed. Alas, how badly they respond to my live! What distresses me even more is when some add scorn or unbelief to indifference.

For those who have a devotion to Padre Pio, this book is on a list of ones that must grace your shelf, or more importantly, your nightstand. Such wealth to be found in its pages! It can be purchased from Paraclete Press


Earlier this week, I received an email from Neven Pesa, a young man who has discerned his call to the priesthood but can't enter the religious community until he pays off a great amount of debt resulting from his studies. His vocation story has appeared in many places, including Catholic Exchange.

Please do what you can to help him become a priest, and for clues as to how to do this, click on his name to be taken to his web page and his music which is available for purchase. He's not just begging...he's got a contribution to the world of Catholicism and wants to work to pay off his debt! He tells me he is also working with the Laboure Society, but if nothing else, he is always in need of more prayers!

So, in the spirit of this auspicious day in which we welcome many new priests, let us keep up the prayers for those in waiting, who have given their fiat, but can't take the next step until the obligations of the world release their binds.

(And as an aside...I keep hearing from people and seeing people I "know" being published on Catholic Exchange. How do I get published there?) :-)

Where did spring go?

I got home last night after midnight, and it was still raining out. And just last night in conversation I said that I hoped (and we all agreed) that we were done with the snow. It's time for spring.

So this morning I woke up and as I glanced out the window, something looked wrong with the treetops. There was something white on them. Huh?

I stepped over to the window...and saw that we have a blanket of fresh snow covering our fresh green grass!

It's about an inch. I'm not happy. I don't want to look at snow...I want to look at fresh grass!

And I might have to turn my heat on again, too.

* sigh *

UPDATE!: I just got back from walking my dog. It was a short walk today. The wind is atrocious, nearly blew us away. And it is driving the stinking snow into our faces...we didn't like it at all. It's DEFINITELY winter.

I want spring back!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spring in Minnesota

The weather has been beautiful of late...upper 60's to mid-70's, was nearly 80 the other day, I think. And that evening we had a round of thunderstorms, and a lightning strike near my house. That was fun. It even scared me dog who came and laid down between the bed and the door, as opposed to taking up her post at the window. Even I could feel the electricity in the air that night.

The grass is green, and already the landscaping company I'm paying my left ear for (Association fees) was out to do some spring cleanup. And while walking my dog yesterday morning, I saw that some of the bushes in the park already have tiny green leaves.

But none of those are actually signs of spring in Minnesota. Oh, no, here it's far more dramatic. This is a schizophrenic state...we go straight from -20 all the way to 80 in the span of 24 hours. And back again.

A few years ago, when I was in firefighter training, we began our academic portion in May. It was perhaps mid-May, and the morning was cool..maybe 60 degrees or so. It was slightly warmer that afternoon when we headed over to city waterworks to get some experience in dealing with the different hoselines. We were wearing our turnouts (trousers, coat, helmet, gloves, hood), and I remember suddenly feeling really really HOT. I was sweatng as I fought to keep the stream of water directed where I wished, and after awhile, literally began to feel weak.

As it turned out, the temperature, within a span of about an hour, shot up to over 90 degrees. And I had a mild case of heat exhaustion.

That's the most dramatic and rapid temperature swing I can remember...perhaps because of the bad timing that had such an effect on me.

Back to spring in Minnesota. Do you know how we REALLY know it's spring? OK, I'll tell you. In the course of a single weather report, we will find that every element is directing its fury towards us; 75-80 degree temps, humidity, likihood of thunderstorms, severe storms, followed by snow.

I remember one year we had a day of warmth and humidity, culminating in severe storms that spawned destructive tornadoes...and the next day we had several inches of snow.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Epitaph Meme

Angela tagged me for this meme and I've been mulling it over, trying to be clever...which I'm not. Trying to be funny...which would require being clever. And witty. So I went with spiritual. (Is anyone surprised?)

Here's the official rules:

Write a memoir of your life in just six words.
Post it on the blog.
Tag 5 others.

Soooo...without further ado, here's what I want on my tombstone; a summation of life and eternal life:


Oh who, oh whom shall I tag?

I tag...

Uncle Jim
Mrs. Jackie Parkes MJ
Ma Beck
and one of you know who you are.....

Monday, April 21, 2008

Synthetic Connections

Many many moons ago, back in the summer between high school and college, back when I was focused on a future career in law enforcement, I went on several ride alongs with the City police department and the Deputies. And I usually rode with one Deputy in particular for I knew he and his family well.

That was a terrible summer, but wonderful just the same. It was the summer Mom attempted suicide and went into the hospital with my signature drying on the document that sent her there. It was the summer I learned that "home" doesn't really have any meaning for me, and the summer that gave me a taste of adulthood I shouldn't have had for many years, inagurated through the tragedy that was my family.

But that deputy and his family was one that took me under their wings, so no matter where I went, I had ready-made "families" who truly wanted the best for me. I'd always been a good student in school, I was never in any real trouble, and now, looking back, I believe that these wonderful people looked at the shambles of my family and the promise that seemed to be in front of me...and decided I might be a worthy cause.

That deputy was one of those people, and I was often able to go on ride alongs with him, which actually sort of surprised me. He was a stoic type, not prone to smiling but had a dry humor that one had to be quick, and even somewhat mature, to catch. But he had a heart of gold, and even as he didn't reveal affection for others in his speech, it was written all over the most profound actions in his life and the decisions he made.

Tonight, as I pour over the vocation materials sent to me by Sister J. all the way from the East Coast, I can't help but smile.

Because many years ago, while sitting in a squad car on a hot Minnesota summer day, he suggested to me, out of the blue, "You should become a nun." He paused there, and added, "A nun with a gun." And chuckled.


I never knew when he was really serious, but on that day, he looked at me quite seriously but I saw the mischevious glint in his eye, along with an expression of honest appraisal.

"No way!"

"Yup" he said, turning his eyes back to the road we were watching. "A nun. With a gun." And he chuckled again, softly, only to later return to this topic. I pretended to pout, and let me tell you...I had NO intention of becoming a nun! I was gonna be a cop...with a gun...maybe protecting nuns but that was it!

Fast forward seventeen years.

Last Saturday as the Sisters and I chatted after dinner, we discussed (very briefly) some of my history, and they learned that at one time I was indeed a cop, wearing a uniform and driving a squad...and carrying a gun.

Sister appraised me for a moment and then asked, "Do you still have a gun?"

I was a little taken aback by her question, but answered, "Yes, I still have a few."

She fired again, "Are you a good shot?"

I couldn't help but laugh. The other Sister was looking at the first in a peculiar manner, but also clearly amused.

When I didn't immediately answer, she asked her question again...she was really serious!

So I answered, "Yes...I used to be a good shot, but the last time I went shooting now was a couple years ago."

There I sat, in a convent, taking part in maybe one of the must unexpected conversations of my life! And yet I was amused...because as any police officer, former or current can attest...the general public is FASCINATED by the life and experiences of a cop.

And briefly, across my mind flashed the memory of the squad car and J., the deputy, saying, "..a nun with a gun."

It seems his voice echoes a bit.

And clearly, religious sisters maintain the same fascination as anyone else. Our conversation didn't go far...there's a lot more I could have said about guns and shooting, but yet it seemed that it was such an odd location for that conversation. After all, we'd just been before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, we'd had a wonderful meal...and suddenly we were speaking of a tool of my past, even part of my attachment to the world. For I still own my gun, and I still enjoy shooting although I can't afford to go very often. Even a box of reloads are expensive to me.

And I have moral qualms to a certain degree; because I learned to shoot at human silhouettes, which was proper for my training. And I still like to shoot at silhouettes, for if I ever use my gun in self-defense, I won't be shooting at a bulls-eye...I'll be shooting at an attacker and I still need to train for those deadly shots.

How warped I am, in so many ways.

Oh, look....I've gone off track again.

Today I was thinking about the connections we make with the past, and how God speaks to us through our pasts, and how those things echo into the future we can't see...but He can. And how the Lord must chuckle at the unintended humor in our lives and choices.

In class, we speak of the synthetic connections that reveal the Messiah through scriptures, and we speak of great Saints such as St. Thomas Aquinas, who was able to synthesize all the early Church Fathers within his great works. All of life is a doesn't just apply to theology.

Things from our past often point to our future, and our memories...they aren't accidental. It's not to say that a particular memory or situation or even synthesis reveals the final outcome, but rather, it points us towards a greater Divine plan in our lives, something that far transcends us and makes us look back somewhat sheepishly as we consider words and attitudes from long ago.

Here I am, eating my words, considering becoming a nun, I still have my gun, and you know...I have a couple tattoos, too. How bizarre.

No, I don't know where this is going, and I don't know what I'm gong to learn in the upcoming months, or even years. But I DO realize that things are unfolding according to God's plan, and it is my job to walk along, taking the next reasonable step. Am I supposed to be a Sister? I don't know. Maybe, Maybe not. Or maybe not now, but at some point in the distant future. Or maybe next week I'll meet the man destined to become my husband.

Or perhaps I'll be hit by a cement truck while mailing a letter and find that I am a pilgrim no longer.

Life is fascinating, is it not? We all have stories, and they contain such depth and so many dimensions. A few years ago, for a short time, I did have a spiritual director, and he told me to learn to look at my life as a story told by God, and see it through his eyes. I think that's still happening, and I pass that advice on to everyone. We get so locked into our own perceptions, but there is another perspective, if we are willing to allow God to show it to us. It doesn't happen instantaneously, but over time, we begin to make connections. And always...those connections bring us closer to the God who loves us so much that He called us from eternity and into being.

It's amazing to begin to see life from new eyes. It's amazing to realize that we can ask for this gift and if we are patient, God will reveal the synthesis of our very lives.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Caring and Sharing Hands and the Corruption of Minneapolis

The CITY of Minneapolis, that is.

For a great summary, check out Cathy's post...she gives us a solid testimony about what the City is trying to shut down.


Nothing like looking at good ol' fashioned New York-style city corruption in a place like our backyard. Seriously...the employees of the City of Minneapolis don't get NEARLY the concern for their "safety" that the City is now expressing about the people who are served at the shelter.

Their real concern has nothing to do with codes or shelter or the has EVERYTHING to do with marketing.

They're building a controversial new Stadium across the street from Sharing and Caring hands, a local homeless shelter funded and lead by Mary Jo Copeland, which has been there for several years. This is a shelter that is IMPERATIVE for the survival of thousands of Minneapolis residents every year, and given the state of the economy, YOU could be next. I know that I'm certainly on the short list as I stare down a period of unemployment this summer. All I need is a major medical problem and a missed mortgage payment and I'll be bankrupt for the rest of my life.

Mary Jo, here I come!

Make this personal, people....because it's not about the nameless homeless that you don't's about YOU. It's about people you love. It's about people you haven't met yet because they're receiving services from the shelter because last week they were ejected from their homes, and in a couple years you might meet them when they get back on their feet. And maybe you'll get their story and realize that you could have helped by making a simple call.

I can say the above with a certain authority; I grew up on welfare and actually was formally "homeless" for awhile. It was only the grace of God that led me to people who provided me a roof and a place to go and relatives who cared. Not everyone has that very seemingly simple benefit. Some maybe have homes...but they don't have food. Or anywhere to keep their kids during the day while they work bottom-dollar jobs to keep the roof over their heads.

You may be asking yourself what I'm talking about, and should! The City of Minneapolis is threatening to shut down Sharing and Caring Hands by removing their restaurant license, allegedly for "security issues" which were pretty obviously set up for the media to film...just after the plans for the new Stadium were announced.

Oh, and did I mention that the Republican National Convention is coming? It's in the best interest of the City to make sure the squeaky-clean Republicans don't see that Minneapolis has a dirty secret. (The homeless!) Because it's not good for tax dollars to see that the plight of people in a city as shiny as Minneapolis still exist.

I gotta say...for a city that is largely blue and prides itself on all sorts of pride, it's a sad state of affairs that they are choosing this particular attack against this particular shelter with all the political goings-on in this state. If they would only realize what Copeland's work would do to showcase what the City is willing to do for the downtrodden!

From a marketing standpoint, Sharing and Caring Hands is the City of Minneapolis's Ace in the hole with regard to the political convention. It's a political diamond and free for the taking, free for media shots of politicians kissing babys, washing feet, giving soup to the homeless, and garnering publicity so that not only would they win, but Sharing and Caring Hands would win, more would donate money to the shelter after all the publicity, they'd have volunteers coming out of their infinitum.

But no...that leads me to believe that the issue really isn't politics; it's about the money. The Stadium money. Because no one wants to feel the guilt through spending a fortune on prime seats for the Twins Game while looking at the poor people across the street - people who might not even have shoes. Might as well shut them'll be better for the Twins and the general city economy if there is no dichotomy between the rich and the poor. It's all dust under the rug.

Read more facts and links over at Abbey Roads, Abbey Roads 2, and St. Monica's Kneeler.

PLEASE! If you haven't done so - come to the aid of Caring and Sharing hands and make your objections known to the City of Minneapolis. Please call today or before April 25 Mayor R.T. Rybak's policy aide: Erica Prosser 612-673-2133 or

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Grief is a strange animal.

I attended a funeral today, and I think the anticipation was almost worse than the funeral itself. Ever since my Dad died, I've dreaded funerals, for a myriad of reasons. And this one, today, for a father who left behind children was even harder. It was too easy to identify with them. That old edge of grief returned to me, cutting me, reminding me that it's never really gone, and Dad's loss today is still as hard, sometimes, as it was in the beginning.

I know something of what that family is going through; and yet, I can't fathom the depth of their pain. And I know that there are no words that comfort or reach through the cloud they walk within.

There is no balm to soften the sharpness of that razor's edge.

There is nothing to stop the deep, resonating sting.

There is nowhere for the sadness to go.

In the book of Job, as he sits, grieving for the loss of his material wealth and, more importantly, his family, his friends approached him. They joined him in his grief, sat with him, and wept with him.

That was the ONLY right thing they did. And it's what they should have continued to do.

Today I almost felt guilty, thinking of my own father's funeral, and yet, it's my grief for him that has allowed me to feel so much for this family. Our own losses give us the ability to emphathize with another, and therefore, in some sense, sit with another in the ashes of their lives and grieve with them, weep with them, and join our sorrows, even in silence.

And on the day of the funeral, it's easy to tell someone we are there, but in speaking for experience, we need to know that people remain there even in the weeks and months to come.

I think that's why I had such a hard time with my Dad's death; just after he died, I returned to school, "life as normal" but it was anything BUT normal. Certinaly, it's important to have a routine, but I literally had no support network. I had no one to go to. I didn't trust anyone, not even God.

In essence, there was no one sitting in the ashes with me, and although there were a few who were maybe willing, I didn't know how to let them in. I think that's still something I struggle with.

So my prayer for this family is that they remain close to each other, that their friends remain close to them, and that, in the weeks and months to come, their needs are met by all those who love them. Because without others around to show the grieving the very love of Christ, the lonliness of that time can be too much to bear.

If you know someone who has suffered the loss of a loved one, don't be afraid to check up on them every so often, and renew your offers to be of assistance in some way, and even share your memories of the deceased. The little things mean the most, and you may find that the little things build trust, which leads to hope, which may lead that person to finally come to you when they hit the inevitable wall.

Most importantly; just be present.

I observed tonight, in speaking with some coworkers that grief doesn't really go away or get better; we only learn how to deal with it. They have also lost parents and know what it's like. And that experience unites us, wherever we are. Inevitably we all have to face our own grief while grieving for and with another, and it helps us to remember what we lacked so that we can fill that need in another. We can look into their eyes and maybe know that no words are necessary because a hug says enough. And we maybe can see that they need a comforting word, or a memory to share or even a friend to stand near for a moment or two. These are important lessons, which can only be learned through our own suffering.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Romans 12:12

Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Someone quoted that verse to me yesterday, and it's one we should all take to heart. For even in our greatest tribulations, we have hope, and our hope is sustained by prayer. And a lot more can be said, but for now, I'm going to leave it at that.

Tomorrow I am going to a funeral; it was a tragic death of a single father, leaving behind teenaged children. I did not know the deceased, but I do know a relative, and ever since I was informed of the loss, my heart has been breaking for that family.

I know the theology of suffering, but this is one of those situations none of us can answer. That entire family will be asking the very deepest questions of God, and we must all pray that they have the courage both to ask the questions and to embrace the love of God as he is united to them in their grief.

Funerals are always difficult; tomorrow's will be especially so. Please keep that family in your prayer intentions.

Spring...and a Fever

Ok, I don't really have a fever. Even Spring Fever.

It's gorgeous out. Yesteray was really windy and warm, and today the breezes are still gusting. But the lilac bush outside the building has tiny buds, some of the trees have tiny buds, and I finally saw red-winged blackbird the other morning. He was just hanging out in a tree, silent, but he was there. And that convinces me that finally, spring has come to Minnesota.

Unfortunately, so has a spring cold. I just felt awful yesterday, nothing real specific, just a kinda scratchy throat and generally really tired. I thought maybe it was because I didn't sleep well Monday night, or ate something that disagreed with me (I went through Tums like you wouldn't believe yesterday morning!)

But as the afternoon wore on, I felt worse and worse, and by the time I got home, I couldn't even study. The book in front of me made no sense, so I finally gave up. And all I have left is 2 essay questions! And I work both tonight and tomorrow evening...I'm down to no time left.

Last night, predictably was a miserable night (I just HATE spring colds!), but I think I'll make it through today. Thankfully.

Hey! At least it's spring!

Oh, and all of you with pets...I met someone last week who found a tick on her dog. Already. So if you haven't yet, get out the Frontline or whatever you use, to keep those nasty disease-carrying parasites away!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Welcome, Pope Benedict XVI! We love you!

His Holiness has landed on our soil, and our dearest Papa has brought the Holy Spirit with him. It's been a whirlwind day, and the Holy Spirit is making connections all over the place, and I, for one, have been amazingly blessed.

There are too many things to discuss here, but let's just say that a couple prayers were answered for me; I received a relic of John Paul II, the Liturgy of the Hours (Thanks, Mary! I promise to wear it out completely!), and found a book about Padre Pio...which was written in 1954 while he was still walking the earth. Maybe more on that later.

Because, more important things are happening....the Pope is here!

The media, as usual is a circus and are focusing on the negatives because riling people up and ticking them off is how they get ratings. But in reality, we love our Papa, we respect him, for the Holy Spirit chose him to be the Vicar of Christ. All the Church is united under him; for, as the earliest Church Fathers said, "There is one Bishop..."


And I already feel like we've been deeply blessed from the moment his plane touched down on American soil. We are a spiritually impoverished country, hidden amidst this material wealth that is so deceptive. We need this visit, and we must all continue to pray for the mission and the safety of Papa Benedetto.

Monday, April 14, 2008

!Nos Acercamos y Casi Nos Robamos!

Yes, that says what you think it does.

It means I'm going to tell another story. Are you shocked or what?

I need to lay down a few truths about Mexico:

1. The people of Mexico (los Mexicanos) are bonitos, simpaticos, amables, and some of the most friendly people you will ever meet. If you go to Mexico, you will fall in love with the people and their hospitality, and you will love them forever. If you don't, something is wrong with you.

2. The Government of Mexico is ALMOST as corrupt as the Government of China. And whiile, in the US, "the Policeman is your Friend", in Mexico, "the Policeman is Satan".

I wrote of this before, but let me rehash a little history: I spent a semester in Mexico back in 1994, an election year. I was ther when Vicente Fox was elected Presidente. That was a really big deal. I was also there when propsition 987 was passed in California, and thanks, subjected me to the Immigration Agent from Hell. I hope you have to meet him, too.

Anyway, in college, I majored in Criminal Justice, so while I was in Mexico, I sought to learn about their police. It was a curious phenomena; while in the US we tend to idolize, to a degree, our police (see shows like COPS), in Mexico, they are the scum of the earth. I remember visiting the Museo Antropological de Historia Americana in el D.F. (The Historical Museum of American Anthropology, located in the Federal District of Mexico City "el De Efe"), and the police guarded the doors...holding sawed-off shotguns.

I tried to get a photo, and it seemed they knew...every time I raised my camera, one of those Nazis would look straight at me, so I'd pretend to be looking at something else.

Sawed-off shotguns are outlawed in the United States. Sawing off the barrel causes the shot to spread, and this, of course, is deadly and unpredictable. While I was there that semester, I met a bouncer who was an ex-cop, Geudiel, ousted when the new governor came in. He explained, in a very matter-of-fact statement, that the cops carry sawed-off shotguns because they are more effective in crowd control. They kill more people.

I was so shocked that I asked him to repeat what he'd said. It wasn't a big deal to him at all. Those guns were MADE to shoot into crowds IN ORDER to kill more people.

Welcome to Mexico.

So it was that I came to see the mentality of the police force in Mexico. Their divisions were also different, and designated differently. And there was no coordination in between the ranks...they all had separate jurisdiction. A city cop could not respond to a call for a crime belonging to the jurisdiction of a different type of cop. But that didn't stop ANY of them from forcing bribes (mordidas) from anyone they came across. For any reason.

When I lived there for a semester, I worked in a practicum adjoined to the Delegacion (police station), and so I came across many cops. While I was curious, I wasn't stupid; they were not approachable, and as a light-haired (at the time) American, I knew I couldn't approach them without paying a price that I was not willing to pay. Just take a guess. As it was, I was once mistaken as a prostitute because I worked with them. That's a different story, too.

In any case, I was there for a semester, I returned home, and in 1996, I returned, with a friend who did not speak Spanish. We stayed in Mexico City with a friend of mine, and she and her cousin dropped Linda and I off at the TAPO, a bus station in Mexico City that would take us to Puebla, where I'd lived. We didn't have hotel plans, for I knew where to stay and didn't need a reservation. It was my city. It was home.

But just the same, my friends didn't wait with us as they had to go, but I saw them speak to the gate agent, pointing us out, likely asking that she make sure we understood the incomprehensible gate announcements when we were to board our bus. I saw the woman smile and nod, and then Vanessa and Quique left. I thought nothing of it.

It was broad daylight, and we were two clean-cut young woman. What could possibly happen?

Oh, right. The cops.

I was antsy, excited to see Puebla again, and Linda was seated on a bench against the wall, reading, trusting me to handle things.

So it was that as I paced, two middle-aged men approached me, both wearing jeans and flannel-patterened shirts. They looked like regular guys, and as I saw he was making a beeline, I figured at first that he was a guy who wanted to practice his rudimentary English. And hit on us. That happened a lot. (Keep in mind...I was 22 at the time, my friend was maybe 24 or 25.)

So I stopped, and waited, a polite smile already frozen on my face as I figured out how to deflect these guys considering that we were stuck while waiting for our bus.

He said, "?Hola Somos la Policia Federales. Tienes algunas drogas o narcoticas y puedo ver sus pasaportes?

(Hi, we are the Federal Police. Do you have any drugs or narcotics and can we see your passports?)

Just like that, in a rush of words. And keep in mind...I don't know if it's true now, but at the time, passports were not required in order to visit Mexico. But I had one and had recommended my friend get one. And upon entry, a tourist card was stamped and kept with the passport. I was so glad I'd advised my friend of this.

I knew about the Mordida , although when I'd lived there before, I'd never had to pay one.

And there we were...two young American girls, with a one-way ticket to Puebla, maybe $20.00 in American money (and almost no Peso) between us, no one expecting us at a specific one knowing when we would come back to Mexico City.

I was certain we were about to disappear.

But I was a college grad then (quite fresh..the previous week), and I was a future cop....I already had an offer in hand. And although I was terrified, I wasn't about to let my potential identity go unnoticed. It was the ONLY bargaining chip we had. So, I bet my knowledge, and I bet my career for both of us. I had no other choice.

Standing straight, at first refusing to be intimidated, I asked our accoster, "Tiene alguna identification?"

He stopped, shocked, angry. I'll never forget his expression...and thought maybe we'd be facing Mexican prison by the end of the day.

But no; he pulled his badge out of his pocket. It was black with red and gold, and upon it was written, "Policia" across the top, and underneath, circling around the oblong, "Federales Judiciales" I'll never forget it. I even put my hand on it, as if to test its authenticity, to be sure it wasn't from a Cracker Jack Box and these guys were not just a couple of punks. I'm not sure what made me reach out...I should have been terrified. And I was...but if this was a fake, I needed to know because I would not suffer for a fake.

It was real. He pulled it away from me, glaring at me balefully, amazed that I had DARED to ask for credentials.

It was then, when I looked into his eyes, that I saw the truth; and that we weren't in America, and that this guy wasn't playing fair. We didn't have Civil Rights, and in fact, by demanding ID, I'd just ticked him off.

We came to a non-verbal understanding, and I turned and walked towards Linda, who still sat, absorbed in her book, glancing at me in surprise as I backed into my seat on the bench next to her.

By then, another guy joined the first one. I knew this scene...I'd seen it from the outside. I knew these guys thanks to my research in 1994 and my friend Geudiel.

The Federales are bad..the Federales Judiciales (Federal Judicial) they are the worst. They have the "most" education...which is a far cry from even our "least educated" police in America. And The Federales Judiciales...they live on torture and mordidas. They know the law enough to manipulate it the most to their benefit. They know how to make people disappear, and how to cover their tracks.

It's a common scene in Mexico...the cops robbing someone. Give them your money willingly or they'll take it by force.

And Linda and I had no money. I'd thought we'd be safe at the bus station. We looked like college students, both recent graduates, and really, we didn't stand out from the crowd, not traveling on a Sunday afternoon.

Until the Federales came our way.

I sat down, shaking, pulling my purse open, pawing for my passport and tourist card. Linda stared at me, surprised, asking,

"They want our passports?"

She saw my shaking hands, but she hadn't seen this coming and had no idea why I was scared.

"Si! Passaporte! Si! Passaporte!"

I couldn't speak English so I resorted to rudimentary Spanish, the only important words. But I showed her mine as an example as I handed it over, and she, too, pulled hers out. She asked me if we SHOULD hand it over...would we get it back? How did we know these guys were for real?

I didn't say anything...I only looked at her, saying, "Si" as an indication to hand over her documents.

I knew they might keep them...but it was a chance. And if we refused, we'd be immediately taken into custody...and no one would know. We'd disappear. We needed a miracle.

I'm not sure which cop took my documents and hers, or if they both looked at them. I kinda think the first guy took them both as the second guy stood behind him as the secondary indimidation factor.

The red flannel-looking cop stood before me with an expression of interrogation. He asked me where we were going.



Because I lived there for a semester in 1994 and I was returning for a visit.

Does my friend speak Spanish?


He was silent, flipping through my passport...the same one I'd used in 1994.

I knew it was coming...the mordida. But we didn't have enough. And I knew it was time to volunteer information; I had to find some way to identify with these guys. I knew it was our only way out. (I'm pretty sure it was my Guardian Angel's idea).

So while Corrupt Federal Cop #1 was looking at our documents, I told him that I, too, was going to be a cop, and that I'd been educated to be so.

He asked me where.

I gave him the city and state.

He said something else, but I didn't understand the words he used, so I asked him to clarify, explaining I didn't understand.

He started yelling at me, speaking rapidly, screaming...I had NO IDEA what the man was saying. At that point, I could not have understood either English OR Spanish, and this guy was going on a tirade. I fought to maintain my composure in the face of his verbal onslaught.

Then the other guy spoke up. I saw immediately, amused in my mode of terror, that they were playing "good cop. bad cop". The guy who was playing "Good cop", when he could get a word in edgewise, asked me simply, "?Que tipo?"

His tone was comforting, as well as his simplicty of words. The other guy had steam coming from his ears.

I didn't trust him one bit, but at least I could understand him. (He reminded me of my Jr. High science teacher...that was weird).

So I explained that the police in Mexico are far different than the police in the United States, and here, we have City (Ciudad), County (Condado), and State (Estado), and that I was going to be a police officer for a city, beginning in September. (That fall).

The Federale playing the "Bad Cop" role snapped our passports shut, handed them both back to me, and stomped away. In the meantime, the "Good Cop" told me all about Puebla, where to go, what to do, and admonished us to have a good time.

I know he said more, but I was so far beyond understanding that all I could do was nod in accordance, trying to maintain a semblance of composure, hoping he would leave, wondering why he was telling me about the city I already called my home.

Finally he thanked us and walked away.

Linda kept looking at me strangely, and I put my passport away, still shaking. She didn't say anything.

The dear woman at the gate ran up to us as soon as the plainclothes cops rounded the corner.

Her approach was both motherly and professional as she chattered and helped us gather out things, ushering us out to the sidewalk outside the gate.

The metal detector went off; I stopped, waiting to be searched. She ushered me through, and Linda too, telling us it didn't matter. We protested that our bus wasn't in...she said it was due any moment. So we walked through to the shrill alarm.

It was maybe another 15 minutes before the bus arrrived, and we were searched by metal wands before we entered. As we finally were seated, Linda noticed I was still shaking...I couldn't even tell her why. I told her it was the Fedrales Judiciales...but she didn't understand. And I don't think she ever did. And she didn't need to. Because, somehow, we got away both without a mordida..and with our freedom.

And I still thank that unnamed woman at the gate; I fully believe that had she not sent us through, the Federales would have come back and our story would have a different ending.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lil' Black Dress

What Your Little Black Dress Says About You

You are lively and outgoing. You are naturally friendly.

You enjoy meeting new people and making new connections.

Your style is whimsical and unique. You're good at putting together interesting outfits.

If you were a shoe, you would be: High heeled boots

This one is TRUE! LOL! Just ask my co-workers about my high-heeled boots! (I have a love/hate relationship with them. Love the way they look and how they bring a look together...hate walking in them. They must have been invented by men or maybe a Barbie Doll. I hope she tripped.)

Oh, but I'm not good at putting outfits together. That part is wrong. I just have "staples" and sometimes they work. I'm very boring and usually tomboyish in dress.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dangling Participle

Discernment is a difficult thing, especially without a Spiritual Director. For a long time now I have known that God has been calling me to something, whether Vocation or some particular point of service. Some things indeed He makes obvious to us, but other things, we have to figure out. It's part of how we come to know God and how we are conformed to Christ, and how we work to unify ourselves with His will.

I want with all my heart to be able to say "YES!" to whatever God is calling me to do, but I know that I'm not "there" yet. There is something holding me back, and it's not just not understanding; there's something that I'm holding in reserve for some reason. And until I can figure out what that really is, I'm going to continue to be out here floating around, a spiritual dangling participle.

From the outside, maybe it looks like I've got things "all together", but in reality, I'm a mess, and I'm out of place. I know it. Everyone knows it. People all over the place who know me are taking bets on where God is leading me. They're watching this quiet drama play out in front of them, I'm the main character...and I have no idea how this is going to turn out. How can they? But thankfully, I'm surrounded by people who are willing to make their bets quietly and not try to tell me what to do. Even an SD would not tell me what to do...he or she would work to guide me to realize for myself why I can't give my Fiat.

Last fall, I was invited to a local Convent to join the Sisters for prayer and dinner, and in the last couple weeks, that invite was renewed. Although life has been crazy busy and this is my only weekend to study, I suddenly knew it was time...and I accepted the invite.

So, tonight I joined the wonderful Sisters in a Convent they share with another Congregation, but I will not name either of the Congregations, or any of the Sisters in this post. Suffice to say they are local, they are faithful to the Magisterium, they are holy, and they wear full habits. And they are not Dominican although they do love Dominicans and one of the Sisters was a Lay Carmelite for 10 years. So...they are truly inclusive and love everyone!

It was wonderful to see the dear Sisters again, and this time, to spend more time in their company, really getting to know them. They do pray the full Liturgy of the Hours, and I was there for rosary and vespers. Sister M. saw right away that I didn't have a breviary, and I told her, somewhat ashamedly, that I've never prayed Liturgy of the Hours (LOH), ever. She quickly set up the breviary for me, told me where to sit in the chapel, and a couple things about when to sit or stand. But I'd be next to one of them and they would prompt me. And if I stood when I should be seated...who would know or care? There was only three of them. And Jesus.

The rosary...yup, that part went well. I know the rosary! And I just watched Sister next to me for the next thing. Sister M. had color-coded the sections of the LOH according to stoplights to help me remember what was next, and when I did get lost a couple times, the other Sister was watching and was able to quickly direct me. So, I have to admit my prayer was likely not very efficacious because I was so busy reading for place and for responses, worried about the next thing, when to stand or sit. And they also had special prayers for their congregation, which Sister M. gave me in a little book and marked the pages. Which the other Sister still had to help me find at the proper times.

But it was nice, and during the rosary, especially, because I was free in that prayer, I could take in the atmosphere, so to speak. And although the large chapel only contained the three Sisters and I, well...I can tell you we were not alone. That chapel was FULL; the presence of adoring Saints and Angels was nearly palpable. It literally felt crowded. I am convinced that when Sisters pray, although they are only few in number, the presence of the entire Church, past and present, fills the room.

After Vespers, Sister told me I could stay in the chapel if I wanted as they got dinner ready, and after a bit she came to get me...inviting me to either spend more time with Our Lord, or come out and chat. And while we can always spend time with Our Lord, well, I was there also to visit the Sisters, for a reason. So we took our leave of Jesus (only to go down the hallway), and sat in the parlor. And Jesus remained with us.

I was not in the convent proper, but only the parlor where they receive guests, so I can't describe what that might be like. We enjoyed a wonderful supper, and their superior came in during desert. She'd popped in to greet me and welcome me before prayer, and then had otherwise disappeared, only to return again later just to thank me for coming. The Sisters explained that she wasn't feeling, please keep superior Sister M. in your prayers.

Our discussions were all over the place, and of course, Vocations and discernment, in general, was a large part woven throughout. The Sisters have invited me back soon, for a weekend if I can, or at least an overnight so they can invite me into the Convent itself, and, of course so I can get a better feel for their life.

Or, if another visit and supper works out, they are open to that, too.

I have promised to bring chocolate...the Sisters LOVE chocolate...especially dark chocolate. And they also love dogs. And the motherhouse used to have German Shepherds.

Tonight, I was there to visit, and I was very much a visitor. I've never been in a Convent before, and such a place is as mysterious to me as a seminary. It's part of a "hidden world" most never get to see, mostly because they never ask.

And there is another door, one I'm willing to open and walk through, for it is only a trial, only another visit, but one that means something more. It demands more of me, and if I enter, I must give at least that small acquiescence to God's invitation, extended through the Sisters.

I know God is calling me to something. I don't know if this is it. I don't know if this is the place or the congregation or if maybe I'm really supposed to get married. Or remain single. But I think tonight was the first real step in trying to figure that out.

Before I went to the Convent tonight, I had my weekly Adoration hour, and I realized how accomodating Jesus really is. Not only is it all about God's timing, but He also works with the limitations of our lives and our hearts.

Not ready for an entire weekend? How about dinner? OK!

Not ready to say "YES" to taking a serious look? How 'bout you come and meet some of my family? OK!

Ultimately, I don't know where this is leading. But I know I love Jesus, I love the Sisters, I know that leading up to tonight I was at peace, and all through the evening I was at peace. I asked myself a couple times if this is where I belong, or whether God was calling me to this, and all I have is a huge Question Mark. But then again...I'm still not ready to give my fiat, so it's proper that the Question Mark remain.

After all...I'm just a dangling participle. We hang out just fine with Question Marks until someone comes by with a big red pen.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Rookie and Drunk IPS

I'm bored tonight, so I've decided to repost one of my "cop stories", which was briefly posted and taken down a year or so ago. Everyone loves cop stories. I'm not really sure why; they actualy aren't that interesting. Believe me, I lived them.



One night my FTO (Field Training Officer) and I were en route to...somewhere. Maybe just driving around. It had to be around 2:00 am; we were on "dog watch" until 7 am.

My FTO spotted a guy stumbling down a dark street, so we stopped. He didn't do anything to indicate he knew any details about the guy, and just directed me to approach him and talk to him.

So I did. I asked to see some identification. The drunk guy told me he wasn't doing anything wrong, was just walking down the street.

I explained that we were concerned for his safety because he wasn't really "walking"; he was "staggering", thus he must see why we had to stop and talk to him. He allowed as how he could understand such logic.

He had a hard time getting a yellow piece of paper out of his back pocket, and was very apologetic about this. I waited patiently, nodding understandingly while eyeballing him like a hawk in case he had a weapon. Although I could see the paper he was struggling to grasp. To make small talk to cover his ineptitude, he explained he'd been at a friends' house, and was on his way home. I nodded, waiting, watching.

He handed me a license renewal form,finally, and explained he didn't actually have a license and had no photo ID on him, but that the paper was his and it was his name and DOB. And I could check that information out and find that the description matched him. Fine. I wrote it down in my little notebook.

The man was swaying as he stood, finding it necessary to stagger here and there and to and fro in order to remain upright. He continued to answer my questions and cooperate with our sudden roadside "investigation". He was not in custody; this was merely a chat. It was almost a dance. I almost expected my FTO to start blasting a Waltz out of the car's PA system.

I asked the man to remain where he was (as well as he could) as I ran his name and DOB in the MDT (a computer in the car, likely obsolete now).

My FTO asked me what I was going to do; what was my plan? So now I have to explain the options:

Option 1: The man had clearly pickled himself. Detox was an option. We could do that. But one of the things they'd instilled in me was the need to document, document DOCUMENT if we were going to deprive anyone of their freedom, for we'd have to be able to articulate why that person needed to be deprived of said freedom. The key phrase was "unable to care for self", and that had to be clearly defined via objective observation and documentation of behavior. And if we happened to be recording the conversation in which someone displayed an inability to be reasonable, that was good to have in court.

(MN state law as it applies to this case indicates only 1 person needs to be informed of a recording taking place in order for said recording to be admissible in a court of law.)

Option 2:
Let the man go his way, stumbling down the dark street and potentially into the path of...well...anything that might kill him, making us thus responsible for his untimely demise.

Option 3: Give the guy a ride somewhere. Anywhere...just off the road and somewhere to cover our behinds.

Well, I weighed my options. This guy was beyond hammered; did I have the right to deprive him of his freedom? He needed to go to Detox, but as he'd lost his license due to other alcohol offenses, was it likely to do any good? And the key question: Was he capable of caring for himself?

To an extent, no, for he was staggering haphazardly down the sidewalk. But he WAS, in fact, ON THE SIDEWALK. Not in the road. And he WAS cooperating with me.

So I figured we really didn't have the legal right to haul his sorry pickled butt away to holding and call for the detox van.

OK, fine. Let him go on his way? Nope. Option #2 was ruled out quickly.

So I had his address, asked him if it was where he was headed? Yes, so...ok, fine. We'll give you a ride home, then.

The man looked at me as though it was a ploy. I told him it wasn't and explained the logic. He nodded, not able to understand logic in his situation, still distrustful. He was making me promise that I was not going to try to handcuff him, and I promised that as long as he behaved himself, he was only going home. That's when the real negotiations started.

He wanted to ride in the front seat.


He wanted a hug.


I opened the door, and talked him sweetly into the back seat. He wanted me to sit in the back seat with him while my FTO drove.

I closed the door and walked around to the driver's seat.

My FTO seemed angry for some reason I didn't understand. He was always telling me to make decisions, and I did! I realized he disagreed, but he let me make the decision. But his silence was deafening and it freaked me out and made me wonder what I had done wong. Procedurally and legally, nothing at all. And I knew it.

We got the guy to his apartment complex and dropped him off.

My FTO remained in the passenger seat, brooding sulkily. I went around the car to let my drunk out.

He wanted a hug.

I refused.

He begged.

I refused, but offered my hand and wished him well.

He thanked me profusely, I told him goodnight and watched him stumble away, shaking my head.

My FTO brooded all the way back to the LEC (law enforcement center) until we called in 10-8.

The silence continued and finally I yelled "WHAT!????"

Finally he told me: This guy was a frequent flier. Every contact any officer had EVER had with him had ended in a physical fight.


Because he was drunk A LOT. And he caused a lot of trouble, not just through disorderly behavior, but drunk driving and any other imaginable offense committable by a man out of his mind.

And keep in mind...the city I worked in was a pretty large city; it wasn't a small town with a carriage run for a main road and a couple of stores with a flagpole between them. It was significant that all 80 officers knew this man well.

All of the other female officers had also met and fought him to the ground not just once in their careers, but several times during their rookie year alone.

Apparently he was the unofficial litmus test of any given rookie. Poor guy.

I suspect that everyone else had also sentenced him into Detox, and perhaps that's what I should have done, too, because that's really where he belonged. But as he had been coooperative, I realized that he was, in fact, making a good decision for himself. He was not argumentative, he answered my questions, even if somtimes incoherently, and willingly sat in the squad car as directed. I couldn't in good conscience send him to Detox, not with the key phrase I'd have to put on the report.

I can't comment on what had happened before; for all I knew, this guy was normally a belligerant drunk who picked all the fights he was in. But I can say with certainty that my FTO was looking forward to a fight and it never happened. As it was, we returned to the station, I wrote up the report and filled out a driver evaluation form; The man's license status was "Cancelled IPS" (Inimical to Public Safety), with the restriction that any alcohol use would cause his license to remain revoked. I filled up the form to prevent his license from being reinstated. I hope to God the State of MN got the form and stamped his application "DENIED". That man maybe didn't need to go to Detox, but he sure didn't need a license, either!

I know that God was with me when I was on the Job, and that was one of the incidents that remind me of that fact; every other cop had got into a physical altarcation with the man, while I did not. It wasn't me; it was God who set that up.

I got another story about why God loves cops, too...but I'm not going to tell that one tonight.

Lord, have mercy, not just on the drunks, but on the cops who have to deal with them, and on the rookies who have FTO's who like to fight.

That's another story, too.