Visitors - Come on in and say hello!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How Long Must I Wait?

Love is so hard to comprehend. I don't understand it it all.

Yes, I've written about it theologically, and I believe that God's love is personal, but for some reason, I can't internalize the depth and witdth and breadth of Our Lord's love.

Growing up, I heard over and over how God the Father loves us, how the Holy Spirit loves us, and how Jesus loves us. We sang about it in songs. Yet, the words and chintzy tunes weren't enough. They revealed...nothing. God always seemed in some sense, impersonal and aloof. Certainly I agreed that His Sacrifice on the Cross was personal, but in my mind, it was personal to us collectively and He didn't really know me. He was like a celebrity, one who might be very kind to me if he met me, but would recognize me no more than would, say, David Hasselhoff. I was just one of millions saying, "I love you Jesus!"

Even as an adult, it's hard to grasp such deep, personal, and truly passionate love. Even though I have the theology and can express Thomistically and in Augustinian language the fact that Christ's Sacrifice was personal in the most intimate sense, this truth is something that hasn't yet truly brought me to my knees.

I've experienced bona fide miracles, and all the time I witness answers to prayers, both of mine and those of my friends. Little prayers are often answered in big, obvious ways. Even so, I simply can't grasp that God's love for us is truly tangible and real.

Honestly, I can barely even write about how personal is His love. Over and over, when I've written on this topic, I tend to make it impersonal, using terms like "we" and "us". Certainly that IS true, and in using those terms I do want to help others understand that this love is for them, maybe if I was being honest I'd have to say that the personal pronouns are too difficult. I need to "diffuse" this love of God to spread it out, because it's so strong that to understand it would bowl me over.

As it stands, I have a hard time truly accepting God's love

My response to such a revelation has always been, and remains even now, "How can this be?!?"

Lately, when looking at different pictures of Jesus, what has stood out the most has been the wounds on His hands. No matter how sterile and bloodless the picture, the artist has always taken care to portray the wounds left by the nails that pierced Jesus' hands. Every time I see these pictures, I want to stop and lose myself in that image, hide within those wounds. Even as I flinch back in guilt at what I've done, I am drawn forward with a love I cannot deny or refuse.

How dare I write about this love? How can I write about loving Jesus if I struggle so hard to accept His love for me?

This evening before Mass I was musing about this and wonder if perhaps the reason for this dichotomy is actually very simple: we don't know what love really is. In our puny, imperfect human love, we set boundaries, restrictions and conditions, even disorder. Then, when we are confronted with the perfect, personal, unconditional and unrelenting love of Jesus, we realize immeditely that we must accept it on His terms

I was almost overcome in that moment of prayer, still not understanding, but coming a little closer to His Most Sacred Heart. His Heart, the source of all love, that teaches me I don't have to understand in order to accept, that He is only asking me to trust.

Sacred Heart of Jesus...have mercy on us.
Sacred Heart of Jesus...have mercy on us.
Sacred Heart of Jesus...have mercy on us.

Immaculate Heart of Mary....pray for us!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Real Women Use Charcoal!

This evening I was perusing those blogs I follow, and saw that Rich Leonardi and I share the same sentiment about's the ONLY way to go.

What's more, we agree that gas is for sissies.

I don't own a gas grill. I'm not interested. Sure, it can be convenient, but in reality, the flavor isn't as good.

And when you're dealing with something you ingest, both by necessity and for pleasure, well, why would you EVER go with something substandard?

Personally, I'm sick of being ridiculed by arrogant people who have gas grills. The reality is that they're just plain lazy. Every single gas grill devotee I've ever met has cited "convenience" while looking down their nose at me and decrying the "mess" of charcoal.

When did sackcloth and ashes become unpopular?

Give me my messy time-consuming labor-intensive charcoal any day. At least my steak and chicken taste good.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Rosary, Raw Fish, Family, and Vocation


This evening after Adoration, I went down to my brother's house for dinner. Since we couldn't celebrate my birthday last week, we planned it for tonight, yet when I was half way there Mom called to say they wouldn't be there!

Apparently my brother decided he needed to go grocery shopping. Happily, though, I had a key to his house, so Mom explained that my birthday gift was on the coffee table and it would give me "something to do". Inwardly I groaned, because I knew she was saying I should pray the rosary she was giving me. (I still have a rebellious side and an ingrained reaction inclined to automatic disobedience to Mom, even if what she is suggesting is something I WANT to do!)

So it was that I entered the empty house, and after setting my things down, went into the bag of rosaries Mom was giving me to distribute to others. Within that was my gift, a special rosary she'd ordered. In fact, she'd been told it would take 5-6 only took two.

I think this is the most beautiful rosary I've ever had; it has pearls set in silver (not real!), and the medal has the Sacred Heart of Jesus on one side and Our Lady of the Snows on the other.

Although I usually pray the rosary during my Adoration hour, or, if headed to my brother's, I pray it en route. Once that rosary was in my hands, I understood why I hadn't sensed the inclination to pray as usual; right there, in my brother's living room, while waiting for them to finish their errands, I prayed this rosary for my family. I looked at the painting of the Prodigal Son I'd given my brother for Christmas, and realized that God was bringing things together for us all in a way none of us really understands, even now.

It was a beautiful moment of God's grace, His presence in the small things, and in fact, an answer to a prayer.

Raw Fish

Shortly after they arrived back home, we decided on a restaurant: a Sushi place nearby that apparently was running an all-you-can-eat special. Realizing that this isn't something that comes along every day, we headed over and gorged ourselves on a few courses of Sashimi, Nigiri, and a few different rolls, then another entree of either steak or chicken.

I've only had Sushi a few times, but have always enjoyed it. Today, though, was the first time I had sashimi and realized that perhaps THIS was the real test of whether or not I really liked it! I'll admit that I had to focus on not thinking about what I was eating. The reality is that we're "programmed" not to eat raw food, and yet, what was I doing? Eating raw fish doused in soy and (faux) wasabi.

The texture of the sashimi, (fish without vinegar rice) reminded me of exactly what I was eating and that, in wasn't cooked. And in fact, cooking it would have ruined it completely.

I've gotta say, though, tonight's dinner was FABULOUS. And the fried rice with my teriyaki steak was the best I ever had! We made certain that our server passed our compliments on to the kitchen!

Family & Vocation

But the best part of the evening was just being with my family, to include my brother's girlfriend. Food, sake, wine and family. What can be better?

They are also curious about my upcoming trip so I explained what I knew, and they want me to come down for dinner again after my first trip in July. We might well return to the same how, in good conscience, could I ever turn that down?

As it is, I'm very grateful for so much right now. My family seems to be warming to the idea of my possible Vocation and they're curious about the life that seems so mysterious to them...and why it interests me. It's hard to explain to my non-practicing-Catholic brother and his girlfriend of the same mindset how God is at the center of everything.

Just the same, I'm grateful for their support. Tonight I brought home the large suitcase from my brother's luggage set. No one is trying to talk me out of this, Mom approves and understands why I'm going.

We did have a short discussion on how, especially, the cloistered communities come to be. How do they build their buildings? How do they live? I explained how they make products to sell, how people support them. My brother can't fathom this. I reminded him that this is how all the great cathedrals were built...from support of the people. Everyone paid for it.

Same with religious communities...benefactors support them, even as they work to support themselves.

I didn't tell my brother that I'm understanding this more and more. God is powerful. This summer I'm able to go on these trips to discern God's will through the same method that built the great cathedrals and maintains various religious communities today: faith and benefactors.

It will maybe be a long time before I will be able to explain any of this to my family. Even as they watch with interest and are wiling to help, they don't all understand. And that, actually, is beautiful, because I know that in that mystery, God is revealing Himself to them.

We all give witness to God through our lives. That doesn't mean we share everything, every detail, but rather that we live as God is calling us to live, follow Him in ways that might be uncomfortable for others to witness (and maybe us to follow!), and slowly, He is revealed.

As I've said over and over again, I'm not a Saint. I'm a train wreck. I'm a plane crash. I'm a husk of a burned-out relic of a car on the side of Route 66. My family knows this very, very clearly, and so does everyone who knows me.

Nothing that is happening to me is happening because of anything I've ever done. But if God can work through someone like me, it shows His glory, His perfection, His love, His mercy. And if I can take a step back and hide behind all that wonder, then I am willing to step up and take this risk.

It's still difficult, but I'll admit that the fact that my Mom and brother are cautiously supportive is amazingly helpful as I prepare to finally take this huge leap in July.

Maybe all it takes to bring people together is a little sake and raw fish. Oh, and the Rosary.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Surpassing Understanding

Working in a parish is not the same as work in the secular world.

In all the secular jobs I've had, although I remember many co-workers fondly, there was nothing other than the job the really bonded us. As it is, I've not stayed in contact with...well...anyone with whom I've worked in the past. The "friendships" were superficial and incidental, and even those who did remain friends for a time are no longer in my life for one reason or another.

Some of this has to do with my own conversion and having to take a moral stand with regard to one friend's "living will". (She and I were friends for years...that stance caused her to slam the door on our friendship.)

Others were really just not deep enough to last beyond our common employment.

Working in a parish, as I mentioned, is different.

It's not just "a job". Certainly, the actual work involved is definitely "a job". It's paperwork and organization (blech) and coordinating (blech again!) and tedium and a whole bunch of things I do especially when I know I have no idea what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, or how to go about it.

But there's more: there's the people. Catholics just like me. People at various stages in their spiritual life. People who love Our Lord and are doing their best to follow Him.

Working in a parish has softened me. In the past, on my blog, in my angry post-conversion stage I did what a lot of people do; I ripped and shredded people in their ignorance of our faith. In fact, I still do this, but with much less frequency now and even less hostility.

Well, now...I see the cause of that, and the futility of all the ripping and roaring of the blogosphere. Firstly, the people with no faith aren't reading the blogs. Thank God! If they did, they'd run away forever! (We ALL need to learn to hold our tongues!)

I've had the privilege, since starting this position, of speaking to people one to one, and some have had very real, deep questions and are simply in want of a little discussion, maybe even support. Others have been outright hostile, not understanding that living and sharing their faith is, in fact, a baptismal DEMAND upon us. They've been done a disservice in the lack of education they've received, don't know the first thing about what it means to be Catholic and they're confused, angry, hurt, grieving...a thousand things. They don't need harsh words. They need someone to listen and understand.

(They also don't need someone to water down the teachings of the Church, only deliver those teachings gently and with proper timing. I'm still learning this lost art.)

I've also learned that working in a parish actually DIMINISHES my "power" in the eyes of those who attend that parish. Those who don't work for the Church are in fact a bigger voice than any of us who function within the confines of religious education.

For example, if I go up in front of a group of people and say, with references, that we are obligated to attend Mass EVERY Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, people want to know who I am to DARE to suggest they can't just "decide" whether they are "obligated" on their own. Yet if a fellow parishioner stands in front of them and says the same thing, they hear the voice as "non-authoritative" and therefore, someone to be believed. Thus, if I and that person are on the same page, the teaching has more credibility.

And of course, I've discussed in depth in other posts that if Father says's golden. Even if they don't like it. Because he's Father. They might vilify me, they might vilify the other parishioner, but even if they vilify Father, they take his words to heart. That's a fact.

It really is like a big family of discombobulated siblings, some of whom don't get along, and others that do and form a united front and in fact, carry the rest of the family, rebellious or ambivalent, with their loving and fruitful labors.

As a parish employee, I get to know about 1% of that parish very well, because they're the people I actually SEE all the time. The good thing is that, where I work, that 1% is STELLAR, faithful, prayerful, and they're dragging me kicking and screaming on my way to holiness.

Having just come off of a very large unwieldy project as of today, I can honestly say that if it weren't for a few solid volunteers, everything would have crashed. And not just because one person simply doesn't have the ability to do it all, but because these people see and know my weaknesses and leap in to save me and the project. They've been carrying me and the program all week long.

It comes down to that common goal; wanting the good of others. It's natural to want to jump in and help when the ship is sinking. That's what they do.

I joked with a friend this week that I was really just a figurehead leader, but really....that wasn't a joke. I can't lead myself or organize myself out of a wet paper bag which has been ripped open on both sides and open in the middle.

Yes, I worked hard and did my best, but my best, to stay with the sinking ship metaphor, is a small plastic bucket with a large hole in the middle.

It's the people at this parish that made this week's program work. People I genuinely like and am enjoying getting to know better. And these very same people go out of their way to let me know they're praying for me, willing to help with anything I need...etc.

Working for a parish is, then, both a curse and a blessing. It's an experience of the suffering and the glory of the Cross, lived out within its shadow in ways most people could never understand. I barely understand it myself.

But I'm grateful. I love the teens who volunteer and do so much to make things work, I love the children who love others so easily and quickly, I love the adults who, in their watchful guidance not only guide the programs, but we, as staff, as well.


Maybe one of the things that's hard for me is "management". I don't like being a manager, and yet, people, volunteers, are coming to me and asking what I want to have happen. They are looking to my authority, and I stand back, amazed, thinking, "You're FAR more qualified to run this than I am!"

But I have to do my job, and yes, I do have a vision and am humbled by the people coming to me for direction as to what to do next. I'm humbled by their willingness to do so much...for nothing.
And I'm so grateful to know these people. Had I turned down this position, I would never have met them. They've changed my life, they've brought me closer to God and yes, they are friends. Not superficial friends, but friends in Christ, and that's an entirely different thing.


You all know my financial situation, which is like that of many parish workers; in the summer we lose hours. Yet, of all the people in my life who know of this situation, NONE have suggested I leave this position and find another, something more stable. It seems that everyone understands, at some level, that working in a parish isn't the same thing as working in the secular world. They might not understand how low the pay is and the reality of not having a living wage, but they don't suggest quitting.

There is something more here than just a job.

I won't be in this position forever. Whether I am called to religious life or not, there is one thing that I don't question: and that is that my current job is temporary. I WILL be moving on, if only because I can't live on it and will be forced to do SOMETHING.

Truth be told, I considered quitting a year ago, and a few times since then. Granted our economic climate and 10% unemployment rate has affected my decision to stay a little, but the fact remains that...this job isn't about me.

When I worked in Insurance, while our efforts were team efforts and customer-focused, it was all about the money. No one worked there just for the heck of it. People don't go to an Insurance Company and volunteer to do stuff for free. While other "careers" I've had were done in a search for something meaningful, it was the same thing..the money element was there.

What I realized last year, though, and even more so now that it's almost been two years, is that, in some strange way, this parish needs me. Not because I'm special or a saint or an expert. But because they are in need of stability. They've had a lot of change in the time before I came, and even now, they beg me not to leave any time soon.

That's not about me, personally. It's not a song of my glory. It has to do with their need for stability, consistent staff, not having to constantly evaluate the status or orthodoxy (or lack thereof!) of new people. Right now, the parishioners know what to expect from myself and those in our office. We work well together. We work with Father well, and even in conflicts, peace reigns in spite of frustrations.

Even though I'm almost completely incompetent, these people know me and have expressed they want me to stay. Some of this has been voiced out of a desire to not have any more "change". For others, it's been more personal, and I'm grateful for that. We all need to know we're valued in some way.

I've written a lot here, as usual, but I think I could write an entire book and STILL fail to explain adequately what keeps me at that parish. Suffice to say, perhaps, that it is Our Lord. He calls, He places, He draws us together and helps us to be faithful. We work together not for our good, but for the good of all, for the good of each other.

So often I walk down the hall to the church to spend some time with Jesus, pray for help, or even a little support, and apologize to Him for being such a bad servant. There I am, working in His own House and even in my unfaithfulness, in my doubt, things end up working out. People step in to fill my weaknesses. In that, He is glorified.

I know that everything of God is far bigger than any of us. I know that the project of this week was so far beyond any of us that we can never fathom the eternal consequences and graces.

This week was brutal, but it was clear that God was present, held the entire thing in His hand, and I even "felt" His hand on me at times.

I need to remember those moments in times when I don't understand what I'm doing. Every little thing is for Him, and ultimately, about Him.

I'm grateful no one has suggested I just quit my job. I don't want to. Even as I grumble and procrastinate and stress out, I've never had a job that has so revealed the heart of Christ. I've never before had a job that brought me so easily and quickly to my knees.

I've never before had a job that hit me so hard in ALL of my weaknesses, forcing me to see how God works...because I simply cannot.

And everything that happens belongs to His Glory.

Apparently this lesson was so important for me to learn and continue to learn that God called me into a parish to learn it. They say that the Church is a hospital for sinners. I'm a permanent resident.

That's what it means to work for God, and not for the world.

It's a terrible, frustrating, agonizing, glorious and joyful experience and I'm grateful to God for this experience and for the people who have truly made me realize what it means to die to myself in order to live for others.

This is only the tip of the iceberg....

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Never Neverland

Michael Jackson died today.

People tend to have strong reactions about him.

In my observation, that has been true from his very childhood.

He's like an undead Elvis, only so because he didn't die when stardom would have recommended, but continued to live in infamy far past his prime, pushing the envelope.

I'll admit it; I AM saddened by his death, maybe because it seems that the polarization caused by his fame means that people are too busy analyzing him to be bothered with prayer for him.

When I was a child, maybe fourth or fifth grade, I, and most of my friends, had a HUGE crush on Michael Jackson. Some friends of mine created their own dance to "Thriller". We screamed for him, we wanted to be like him. We wanted to know him. We wanted to wear black leather pants with white socks and one glove. And a red vinyl jacket.

Then I moved to Minnesota, and in this particular state, the buzzword was "Gay". I'd never heard that word outside of the context of "happy" and mind you, I was only 10 at the time. But as far as my new classmtes were concerned, Michael Jackson was "Gay" as was anything of which they did not collectively approve.

On my own, I went on being a fan, and my Dad gave me, that Christmas, a cassette tape of the Jackson Five. That same Christmas, I got "Thriller".

It was with disappointment and disillusionment that I witnessed Jackson's descent through plastic surgery, charges of pedophilia, various new albums, and near obscurity. His name remained big even as his persona degenerated into the realm of pure stock media villification.

For years, now, I've been a disillusioned fan of Jackson. I remember when he set his hair on fire during a Pepsi commercial, and even as I laughed, I was struck to my core at the viscious attack at something that could have happened to anyone.

I don't know what happened to him. I remember how I always thought he was so tough, I remember the "crush" I had on him, and the disappointment over the years when he didn't measure up to what I thought he was. The pedestal he'd been on simply was gone.

But I've grown up, of course, and Jackson did, too.

But did he really? As I watch tonight's "memorial" on Nightline, I can't avoid seeing the contrast between the man I "fell in love with"as a child, and the strange imitation of zombihood he became as he matured.

On Nightline, his childlike perceptions stood out starkly; his expensive purchases made becuase he could.

Michael Jackson is a tragic figure if only so because he was never allowed to be a child, and as such, he was never allowed to grow up. He never grew into the man he was supposed to become. I won't get into theories on that, but it seems clear that he was always searching for something that was snatched from him long ago.

I'm surprised that his death affects me, but it does, for in a way, I grew up with him....and then he became something unrecognizable.

May God bless and keep him. My prayers go out to his family, and I pray he is finally granted the peace he was never allowed to experience or even truly seek during his pilgrimage on earth.

Michael Jackson...may the peace of Christ be with you.

May you never find Neverland, but rather, may you find Eternity.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Questionable Spiritual Direction

This morning I read a wonderful post on spiritual direction which perfectly highlights many of the problems in "spiritual direction" programs, and "directors" that advertise their services.

The reality is that faithful Catholics don't have very many avenues to pursue. If you type "spiritual direction" into a web search, there are millions of returns, but perusing them leaves us to realize we've been left to the wolves.

A quick perusal of spiritual direction programs leaves a bad taste in one's mouth. How are these people being trained? It's easy to see: Reiki, Enneagram, Chakras, Yoga....the list goes on. Where in there are the Saints who served as spiritual directors and learned how to guide souls? Where are the spiritual giants? Why are potential directors being fed junk food when Catholicism has a wealth of true spirituality that trumps anything any other religion can produce?

I don't expect non-Catholic directors to be Catholic. However, I DO expect those who ARE Catholic to be faithful! Is that too much to ask?

Apparently. The article I read this morning observed the confusion going on in the world of those being trained for spiritual direction.

A great example of this sad confusion surfaced in a conversation I had today with someone who was taking classes with a religious order to become a "spiritual director." In one of her recent classes the nuns brought in a Buddhist, a Natural Spiritist, and a number of other non-Christian representatives to share their spiritual insights. The goal was to understand that, as she said, "we are all Children of God" and that "we can learn a great deal from the spiritual lives of those who come out of these other religions."

I was a bit dumbfounded even though I am accustomed to this particular convent spreading dissent and confusion. What struck me was how readily this "spiritual direction" trainee had accepted what they presented to her.....With deep incredulity, I wondered why someone would look outside of the endless depth and riches of their own faith, the One true Faith, the pinnacle of all that is good and true, into the spiritual wastelands of those who reject Christ both directly and indirectly. Even looking at the good of what is available in some of these religions, it is something like being diverted away from the most lavish banquet ever served in the history of time to a garbage can in the back of a greasy dive. Yes, something in there will be semi-edible, but why would anyone who had a seat reserved for them at this great feast ever choose to eat this way?


The fact is that some of what he says in this piece is exactly what lead me down the road to New Age, and subsequently, occult. I saw "Catholic nuns" give license to all sorts of things, to include Tarot and other forms of divination and even animal worship.

So it should be no wonder if I bristle at hearing that good Catholics are being sucked into programs that tell them things like Reiki and the Enneagram are proper for Catholics. They are not.

A few years ago I met a woman who spoke of her yoga classes and chakras and said that she was trying to interpret it as Catholic. She said that she could "feel" the energy and she "chose to call it the Holy Spirit."

There's a problem with that; it either IS the Holy Spirit or it's NOT the Holy Spirit. We can call it whatever we want, but occult "energy" is no more of God than a rotted piece of dogflesh held up and called the "Blessed Sacrament."

Everything she was describing made my hair stand on end. Yet I said nothing, realizing that she wouldn't "hear" the truth. No one said anything...she was describing her experiences in a defensive tone and language. That immediately says a great deal. Although we were in a group of mixed views, not a single person spoke up for she was so defensive she was almost angry in her explanation, or, in charismatic terms, "her sharing."

If it's of God, there's no need to be defensive when no one has attacked.

I do realize that there are spiritual direction programs out there that are much like the bad seminaries that produced a few good priests in spite of their efforts to destroy the priesthood via bad formation. God has His hand on His Faithful, and brings souls safely through bad formation. Those who are formed simply reject what is evil and work hard, on their own, to own what is truly good and orthodox. The reality is that often people cannot follow their calls unless they are subjected to evil in the process.

To any of the Faithful seeking spritual direction...check out Catholic Spiritual Direction. I've been following it for quite awhile now and have found it to be faithful, good advice. Maybe you can't find an SD where you are. Read the Saints. Read this blog and their resources. Remember that God does not abandon you and that He gives you what you NEED...not necessarily what you may want.

I wanted an SD for a long time, but one was not provided to me until the actual need arose. I found him in a time of desperation, and with much prayer and following that prayer.

Had I just given in to my own wants, I would have found one of the confused sheep described in the post I quoted.

Don't give yourself to feeding on garbage. Trust God, pray for a good director, and remember that it's not a's a gift from God. If He wants you to have one, He'll provide, and that director will be faithful!

Avoid the refuse that is so readily available. As Catholics, we have no need to go out of our faith to find what is good. Certainly there might be something good to be found in other religions, but, of course, if you dig in a dumpster you can also find a small section of meat or bread that might not be rotted and can sustain you briefly, too. But there's also a good chance that same piece will kill you. Are you willing to go dumpster diving for your soul when you have all you need provided to you in your own Faith?


Monday, June 22, 2009

God Told Me To Take a Flying Leap

I've decided that if I'm going to write about discernment, it might be valuable to write also about the process and communication between myself and the various communities. Each is a little different. They require different things, and not always for reasons I can understand or explain. I can only present what is going on to a general degree, in hopes the information is helpful to someone, somewhere.

One of the communities with which I've been in contact confirmed this weekend some dates I can visit them. She also attached a document requesting I forward it to my SD or Pastor, explaining it was a reference form.

Additionally she indicated I need to write my autobiography and send it to her before my visit, and in response to some of my questions, explained I should include a self-assessment of my character and a few other things, such as family history and relationships. I was a bit surprised; after all, I was only going for a short discernment retreat! But if that's their process, that's their process. Even if I consider it a bit invasive for a few days of introduction, there must be reason and I'm willing to submit to that.

I'd responded to confirm the dates of the retreat before I looked at the reference form (as I needed to view it via a different browser).

Imagine my surprise when I opened the document and it said, "X person has applied for admission to Y Order...."


I was a bit shocked by that! While I admit I'm interested in visiting to find out more about their life and charism, that does NOT equal "applying to the Order". No WAY was I going to forward that form on to my SD! If I did, no doubt he would also be surprised and would write back/call to ask me if that, in fact, was my intention to apply. I'd have to say no!

One thing about discernment...if you're not honest, with yourself and with any potential communities, it's going to end in disaster. For a little while, I wavered...send it on assuming it's part of their discernment process, or, would doing so really be saying I'm applying to this Order?

Realizing my circular thinking that really just needed clarification, I sent another email to Sister requesting clarification and explaining my position. I figured that if they required application before a visit could occur, it would be a sign of God's will that it wasn't the place for me...definitively. Which was fine with me. I was ready to say "no" if that was the case.

Here's the odd thing: as all of this was going through my mind and I was composing the email, I was taken back in time. I had a friend, a guy friend who seemed to think we were in or headed for a serious relationship. To me, he was just a friend and I wasn't interested in anything more. He clearly WAS, however. Unfortunately, this issue seemed always to come up at times where it would be improper to have "that conversation" so instead I found ways to get out of it while trying to figure out how to let him down easy. He wasn't a bad guy, just a really clueless one. And I figured maybe I'd sent the wrong signals. How to explain to him I wasn't where he was?

In pondering the forms and writing the email to this community, then, I almost felt like I was back in that situation. "Oh, no! He thinks I mean I want to get married when really I just want to be friends!"

And we are all familiar with the similar situation where we "LIKE-LIKE" a guy but we don't want to consider marriage with them until we know we're really friends and really click. So maybe we're headed that way but in reality, they're assuming more than we're willing to offer. to make him slow down a little bit? We don't want to close the door, just...take more time to say hello and meet the family before the ring appears.

Not that I've ever been given a ring. I haven't.

I don't want to go where God does not want me to go. I have six weeks this summer, a very limited period of time. It is not in my interest to waste my time, and certainly not in any given community's interest to waste theirs! And sometimes God's will is revealed obviously, sometimes it's more subtle. Lately, given the ways He's been opening doors, I would not be taken by surprise if He decides to slam one shut in order to say, "Not this one! Not for you!"

Today, though, I received a response to my query, with apologies, and a different form attached. She explained that in the past, they required the reference at application, but have moved that part of the process to the discernment retreat instead. The wording on the proper form makes a great deal more sense! I need to print it out and sign my life away (well, to a certain degree!) in order for my SD to respond to it. She also clarified that she is aware of my position (i.e. no miscommunication on that point!) and they don't expect me to be at that point right now.

Whew! (She also jokingly commented that she hopes my heart didn't stop for too long!) I have to interject that the last couple emails have been peppered with a little random humor, and that makes me more comfortable with the process. I tend to use humor to deal with stress (because it works!) and find that those who are so formal that humor can't be a part of the picture are lacking in personality. ;-)

So, anyway... it's clear that this particular community is SERIOUS about discernment! It's a good thing I'm serious about it, too!

That's not to say I think I'm called to that particular community. I only know that something about it has gotten my attention, and I feel like I have to see it through. It could be that I get there and find immediately that it's not where I belong. Or I may go...and find home. I don't think there will be any ambiguity at all.

In reality, that's what I expect with the other communities as well, the ones I'll be visiting early to mid July. Will it be "home"? Will it be a lesson in all the virtues packed into a single week or a few days? Will it lay questions to rest or affirm what I (and a few others) suspect?

Who knows?

The only way to know is to go and find out, and that's a risk. One I definitely think is worth taking.

In so many ways, I'm completely amazed at my current position. Here I stand, perched in the doorway of a fighter jet (things are moving that quickly!) getting ready to jump. I don't know what's below me but I DO know that God is flying this plane and has asked me to take a flying leap...(in a holy way...)

A lot is happening, all at once, and yet, I feel prepared, to at least a certain degree. I know that I'm not doing this alone, even if I am the one who has to make the sacrifice of actually stepping over the edge into this freefall.

And...let me tell's a BIG drop off the end of this pier!


* (I like to mix metaphors. It keeps people on their toes!)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fr. Tim Vakoc: Died June 20, 2009

I just learned the news. For those who are unfamiliar with Fr. Vacoc, he was serving as an Army Chaplain in Iraq, and was seriously injured in 2004 when a roadside bomb exploded near his Humvee.

You can read the story at The Catholic Spirit.

For years we've been praying for him, and rejoicing at small gains he's made in that time, some of which are detailed in the article.

I'm really in kind of a state of shock right now...this seems so sudden!

Eternal Rest grant unto him O Lord, may your face shine upon him, and may he rest in peace.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Little Things - Happy Father's Day

(Originally posted June 14, 2008)

I've never seen my father's grave. He died early in January (1995) and so he wasn't buried immediately. His burial took place the following spring on a lonely day when we, his entire family, were away living our lives...without him. My brother saw his grave some time after, but I've never been there. I was a college student and couldn't even afford to contribute towards the headstone.

Someday I MUST make that sad pilgrimage to the UP and lay flowers at the graves of my Dad and Grandparents.

We are only dust, and if those who survive us don't remember us, even our dust is worthless to the world.

My Dad wasn't perfect...but he wasn't worthless. He's still not worthless. And it's the small things that I remember about him and his life that really mean the most to me.

I've written before, many times, that I was a "Daddy's Girl", like so many other little girls. I always wanted to be with him, and he was so easy to be with! He indulged my every little concern, I was the apple of his eye and he was the apple of mine. I even remember a discussion with Mom; I was going to grow up and marry Daddy. I saw a conflict even then, because of course Mommy was married to Daddy, but I think it was the most sincere expression of love I could muster. (Yes, I know about the Electra Complex. Don't bother my reverie with psychobabble facts.)

Well, Mommy talked me out of marrying Daddy very skillfully and suggested I continue to love him but marry someone else. I agreed. You see, I was a very agreeable little girl. And all I wanted was that stability and love that only a father can provide.

I was always so proud of my Dad. While he had terrible taste in clothing (the man could not seem to leave the 60's and 70's behind) he was maybe one of the most outgoing people I've ever met. He had a kind word for everyone, an easy sense of humor, and a compassionate demeanor. He was agreeable almost to a fault, but this trait made him very approachable to one and all. Whenever I brought friends over, he was thrilled to see them, he smiled and made them feel welcome, even if he was in the middle of an arduous task. Conversely, when I went to my friend's homes, often their fathers were not around, or aloof, or even outright rude. I heard terrible language at one friend's home, language that made me shudder and seek to take cover, while my friend didn't even flinch. Whenever we entered her home, she peeked into the livingroom first to make sure her dad wasn't there. If he was, we whispered and tiptoed to her room or back outside in order not to disturb him.

No one ever had that sense of fear around my Dad.

He really was a wonderful human being, for all his shortfalls. I've written of the bad things, but let me share with you even a short list of the moments forever caught in the shutterclick of my memory:

* Summer afternoons in the backyard with the sound of boats on the river echoing between the banks. Evenings on the patio outside the livingroom bay windows, weeds growing from between the irregular paving stones while the smell of barbecued chicken filled the air. I hovered, waiting to suck on the bristles of the basting brush when the grilling was done.

* Humid Illinois summer days in the hot sun, running towards Daddy on the red Toro riding lawnmower, hoping for a ride, hoping to "drive".

* Sunday morning, being allowed to "dress myself" much to Mom's chagrin when we arrived at the church.

* Friday nights, sitting on Daddy's back, watching "The Dukes of Hazzard" while clutching my "boo bankie" and sucking my thumb.

* The cries of seagulls piercing the clouds on Lake Michigan as Daddy taught me to fish off the pier, tying the lead sinker onto the fishing line. The subsequent "tugs" when I got a bite, and the eventual success as I caught fish...and Dad didn't.

* In later years, in Minnesota, fishing in Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, MN, catching sunny after sunny as Dad caught nothing, and in frustration tried my spot, fouling my own efforts.

* Dad's sacrifices to give me English riding lessons and his smile as I posted a trot around the ring for the first time. He had no idea what I was doing but it made me happy and that's all that mattered to him.

* My 16th Birthday at Canterbury Downs (Now Canterbury Park) as we entered the "Filly for a Fan" contest and Dad named the filly-to-be "Julie's Dream". (We didn't win the filly.)

* The pennant I recieved from Dad when he attended the 1987 Twins World Series game...and got my brother and I Homer Hankies and Pennants with the names of the team printed on it.

* Dad's advice that I could do and become anything I wanted...even President. (2009: I'm old enough now, Dad!)

* The feature article in the newspaper that Dad sent us from Michigan a couple years before his death, talking about how he and his friends bragged about their children over coffee, and how, among that group, my brother and I took precedence over all the others in our accomplishments and aspirations. We were heroes and he was proud of us.

* The summer stars, the winter warmth, the fall comforts, the spring of hope.

I write about my Dad every now and then, and I do miss him. I wish I could call him and share my life with him. I long to hear his advice and seek his comforting and loving authority. I do envy my friends who still have their parents, but I don't begrudge them this wonderful grace. I only hope they are taking note of the small moments and seeing what's important for one day they, too, will be orphans.

A few years ago, when I was really struggling in my faith, in Confession a priest told me, "God is your Father...and Mary is your Mother. Go to them."

And I have. And they have helped me understand my earthly parents and love them that much more, especially my Dad. I've learned to see his flaws, but also his good points, in balance. And I hope and pray that I can be just like him in all the ways that matter.

I love you, Dad. I miss you. Happy Father's Day.
Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord. May your face shine upon him and may he rest in peace.

Year for Priests and Father's Day

I don't think it's any mistake that several important days are converging along with the advent of a very important year in the history of the Church.

The Year for Priests began on Friday, June 19, which "happened" also to be the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Today, of course, is the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and tomorrow is the secular "feast"....Father's Day.

Fr. Cory Sticha has an incredible homily for this weekend's Mass readings, and one of the things that struck me the most was the reality of the Spiritual Fatherhood of Priests.

"This year, we have a second fatherhood which we are asked to remember. On Friday, the feast of the Sacred Heart, Pope Benedict proclaimed the Year for Priests, a year of prayer for priests and celebration of the ministerial priesthood. Like Fathers' Day for our earthly, physical fathers, we are called during this special year to remember those priests who have truly shown the spiritual fatherhood that is the nature of the priesthood.

While most priests are not fathers by birth, all priests are called to be spiritual fathers, who give the same self-giving love to the people they have been called to serve. The focus of any priest should not be on his needs and desires, but on what is best for the parishioners that he's called to both serve and lead. Sometimes that service and leadership might lead to making decisions that aren't popular, but priests are still called to make those decisions on behalf of the parishioners.

Priests are also called to teach and preach the saving love of God and show the example of loving God and loving our neighbors. We're called to join in celebrating joyful occasions, and to be a source of comfort in times of sorrow. In short, we are called to be fathers. It's not a coincidence that the spiritual fatherhood and the earthly fatherhood have similar job descriptions. Both draw from the example of God our Father in Heaven."

I have to admit, Father's Day is always a bit difficult for me, and it kind of stops me in my tracks to realize that next year, my birthday will be ON Father's Day.

I've written before about how I was a "Daddy's Girl", which is pretty common for little girls. By the time he died, I'd long grown out of that phase, but of course that closeness, even when wounded, remains. We all NEED our Fathers; they're so important in our formation on so many levels, for they reveal to us, in a sense, the face of God, the love of God, and the protection of God.

Sometime in the last year, my Mom told me that she believes I was conceived on (or near) my Dad's birthday and her projected due date was close enough to Father's Day that they hoped for it. As it was, apparently I missed it by a day or so.

Just the same, every year my birthday and Father's Day was always close enough so that it was a special time for Dad and I, and we often celebrated our days together. If anything, that joint celebration probably strengthened our bond, and Dad was always so proud to have those special dates so close together.

But sometimes life gets in the way, and bonds are broken, although maybe not completely shattered or destroyed.

Even though I hadn't seen my Dad for nearly four years when he passed away, my grief hit me hard, and it comes back again around my birthday/Father's Day. It's easier when it's a few days apart, but this year it's the same weekend. Next year...the same day.

My heart caught in my throat when I looked ahead, realizing this. Realizing that finally, the dates converge.

I haven't had a Father since 1995.

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about the recognition of the spiritual fatherhood of priests, although it's one I took down. It was somewhat shocking then, to read Fr. Sticha's words that seem to follow the same lines of thought I'd had at that time.

I remember going to the chapel in my annual grief, lamenting that I didn't have a father, missing my Dad. And I remember pondering the priests in my life and their spritual fatherhood and how, after I'd become a member of a parish, the priests there became...Fathers. I wouldn't be where I am now without them.

No, it's NOT the same as having my Dad. I can't just call up the parish priest and complain to him about this that and the the other thing, ask him to fix my car, change out my ceiling fan for one that works, etc. etc.

What they do is so much more important than such menial tasks. Priests show us the face of Christ, they bring to us His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. They feed us with a Divine food far greater than any mere earthly meal, and through them, the Mercy of Jesus Christ is revealed to us and absolves us of our sins. On the more temporal level, those I know have helped me get into grad school, have helped me get my current job, and are assisting me in my discernment of a religious Vocation. (Actually, several Fathers are helping me, in different ways, on this particular front!)

After all...what good Father doesn't want to see his daughter married well?

So even as I face this annual bout of grief for my Dad, I know that I am not so fatherless, for there are a HOST of Priests who have been and will continue to be Fathers to me, and to all of us.

Tomorrow, as we pray for our earthly Fathers, living and dead, let us also remember to pray for Priests, for it is their spiritual Fatherhood that ensures we will never be orphans.

Immaculate Heart of Mary

In opening my Liturgy of the Hours today, I realized that it is the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. And I'm going to do my best to get to Mass this morning!

It's also John Paul II's Baptismal Day and I'm older today. Finally, I can be President. BAH! Now my life is complete.

What irony. I remember turning 16, then 18, then 21, then 25, and looking at life through the lens of "Now I can drive! Now I can vote! Now I can buy a lottery ticket! Now I can have wine with dinner! Now I can have a lower insurance rate on my car!"

Now I look at it and I think I finally hit the last thing: now I'm old enough to be President. Who cares?

The reality is that now there's a bunch of stuff I CAN'T do. I can no longer apply for law enforcement jobs with the Federal Government. (Not that I wanted to; that's just the cutoff.) There are several religious communities that would no longer consider me (passed that milestone at 30, actually, for many of them.) Of course, I'm not considering those anyway, but I hate being back to realizing that every door in the world isn't open to me anymore like it once was. Such is life.

So it is that I'm grateful to be able to share this day with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I can fade into the background.

It's awesome, in the most proper sense of the word, to be able to celebrate these great feasts (and one my my greatest devotions) two days in a row during one of the most stressful times of my year.

So, for me, it's off to Mass then rush off to work. Just hope people aren't pounding down the door because I'm going to get to work late today!

Friday, June 19, 2009


Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a writer. I have NO IDEA why, but even as early as second grade, I dreamed of authoring a book, and even more...doing my own illustrations!

That's always been one of my deepest desires, but it's one that has morphed over time. I have several "novels" I've begun, I have short stories, and on another blog, I have the first seven "chapters" of a story I wrote when I was twelve...but it's been given new life now that I'm an adult. (It's dead on the racetrack right now, though.)

I think that may be one of the dangers of blogging; instant publication. I remember dreaming of "being published" but here I am, doing it myself. Ho hum. Oh, look, I hit "publish" again and THERE IT IS!

No, it'll never be the same thing as actually being a published author. Although I have had a few minor things published here and there, I haven't pursued this very much and those sources are so obscure that no one has ever heard of them.

Pay them no mind.

Here and there I've mused about taking my blog posts, only the cream of the crop, and compiling them into a book, maybe an anthology of sorts. There are bloggers who have done this, although I've wondered why. Certainly there are bloggers who share a great deal of information, and a book would make it more readable, especially if the information is reliable and can serve as a resource.

In my case, I look at what I publish, and truly, when I look at my "market",'s a dime a dozen. It's worth nothing. No one knows me. I'm not a famous person and never will be (thank God!) The downside of using a pseudonym such as mine is that I can't use it in traditional publication. I'll have to either give my real name...or make up another one. And every pen name I think of is so incredibly stupid I'd be ashamed to stamp my work with it!

Just recently, though (and he's not the first) a commenter said he'd like to see these "prequel" posts compiled into a book, along with whatever happens in my upcoming trip.

He got me thinking again. (I'm assuming a "he", although the person was anon and could be a "she"!)

In any case, the comment reminded me that when I began this blog, I was in my initial phase of discernment. The one I abandoned for a couple years, and which came back with a vengeance starting last July. A lot has happened since I started this blog, and I couldn't have predicted ANY of it.

I'm one of those people who likes to research any possible path. Back when I graduated college, I researched what it would take to volunteer for a couple years, in, say, Guatemala. I was looking for a faithful Catholic organization, even though I wasn't practicing my faith at the time. I wanted to. I wanted to do good things...AND be holy. I wanted to seek God. To several friends, I commented that I wanted to read anecdotal stories from people who had done such things. Seeing that no such books existed, I wanted to venture on a mission, keep a journal, and compile my stories and those of people I knew, publish it, and then use the proceeds to start a foundation to help young adults find the financial freedom to take those months or couple years in service to the Church.

Clearly, that never happened.

That's what's so seems this idea has come full circle!

This time the topic is discernment, and I'm not musing about entering into it...I'm THERE. And it's brutal and horrific and had I known it would be this bad I would have run away years ago and maybe I would have joined the Rodeo and became a clown.

At least with bull's horns and hooves you know clearly what to avoid, when to run away, and whether or not the big stick in your hand means anything at all!

Yet, it's also been joyful, and even amidst all the shadows, I'm grateful for this experience. I see God's hand in ways I would never have seen had I not taken the time to seriously discern the deepest questions (most of which I still haven't truly asked.)

So now I take another look at writing a book. This one is mostly's all over my blog. Some posts are labeled, some are not. But...I can go back to the beginning, pull the posts on discernment and some of the more spiritual/theological ones, and compile them into book form.

I would have to do some serious editing, for these posts were written for this venue...not for a book. I would have to add connections and maybe explanations. Perhaps I'd have to take more care to define certain terms.

What would be the purpose of the book?

Well...for the last couple years, I've gotten emails and comments from people who have contacted me because of what I have written. Some are in the same "place", some have been where I was a that time (or am now!), some have been seeking, some needing encouragement. That's why I've kept writing and continue to do so now.

I realize now that maybe I'm providing what I wanted to provide so long ago, but now, for a different topic. There are a lot of books on discernment and the theological "how-to", but not a lot of stuff on experience. And yet, sometimes experience is the most valuable of all sources.

People don't come to God through dry tomes, but through personal invitation. They come to know Jesus not through the dry words of a theologian, but through the warm expression of someone who knows Him..or at least is sincerely trying to do so. That's why testimony to God's glory, both spoken and written, is so important.

We know we have to tell our stories if we want to evangelize. But why hasn't this same idea been taken up within the Church more broadly as a way to help souls find their Vocations?

I've decided to start work compiling posts I deem "worthy", at least initially. If nothing else, I figure it might be a good spiritual and academic practice to sincerely look at those old posts and try to improve them. It might also remind me how long I've been face-to-face with God.

Don't look for results any time soon. This is a big project, I don't know if I'm serious about actually publishing a compilation publicly, but I DO need a little advice from any experienced writers who may be in my midst.

First: since I'll be putting posts into Word, is it better to just start one document and continue it, or to set an approximate number of pages and have several sections? I can put them all into one Folder, but from a practical standpoint, are big files or small files the way to go?

Advice needed, even if this project never goes beyond this post and my computer.


Feast of the Sacred Heart

Today is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the day the Church begins the Year for Priests.
Everyone, get to Mass today and pray for priests!

Prayer to the Sacred Heart for Priests

Remember, 0 most loving Heart of Jesus, that they for whom I pray are those for whom You prayed so earnestly the night before Your death. These are they to whom You look to continue with You in Your sorrows when others forsake You, who share Your griefs and have inherited your persecutions, according to Your word: That the servant is not greater than his Lord. Remember, O Heart of Jesus, that they are the objects of the world's hatred and Satan's deadliest snares. Keep them then, 0 Jesus, in the safe citadel of Your Sacred Heart and there let them be sanctified in truth. May they be one with you and one among themselves, and grant that multitudes may be brought through their word to believe in You and love You.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


It takes the entire Church to foster a single Vocation.

A lot has happened in the last couple weeks and I confess I'm absolutely amazed. I knew that coming into this summer, I was being asked to trust God...with everything. With my heart, with my soul...with everything that owns me (the house and bills and debt).

One of the difficulties I face is not wanting to ask for help, especially financial. Having grown up on welfare, I swore I'd never live like that again. I'm perfectly able to support myself. I have worked hard to get a degree, to become qualified (for many things now!) in hopes I'll never have to rely on others again.

And yet, here and there, things have come up that have made me have to depend on others, and in ways that I found most difficult to accept: financially. Those who have helped me in the last couple years will never see and don't know the interior struggle I had within me to accept their assistance.

I have to admit, I still feel guilty about it and in the back of my mind, that "debt" is there. Even if my paperwork-debts are erased, I will never consider myself free until they, too, are paid back.


Then, with this summer fast approaching, I had to make a decision: place my trust in a temp agency or other to find me a job that will pay my bills? Or trust God and dedicate myself to finding Him, seeking the Kingdom of God? Could I do both?

I wanted to do both. I wanted to schedule my summer so that I could discern some of the time and work the other part of the time. As it is, I will have my 10 hours per week at my regular job (but for when I take a vacation day when out of town.) So truly, that is being fulfilled.

Yet no other jobs have been "appearing". I did decide to place my apples in one basket, so to speak. Even as my SD pointed out, God was asking me to trust Him. To keep my eyes on Him, and I knew it was time to take a step in His direction.

God has not let me fall; in fact, He is providing in ways I never could have expected, and in ways I refused to request. He has seen my own obstinance, yet in His mercy, has acted through others to provide for my financial needs this summer.

Just today, I received a contribution from someone I know well. I don't want to identify the person/family, but when I spoke to him yesterday and he verified that I haven't been irresponsible with my mortgage payments, he offered to cover it for the summer. Today the check arrived...enough to cover my mortgage for July and August. He asks only for prayers and that I call him and tell him what happens during my visits. And no, he isn't asking for anything but general information.

I nearly burst into tears while on the phone with him, realizing what God has done and how He is providing for me.

My plane ticket and Amtrak ticket are also being covered by a multitude of donors, and I think gas money for my car as I drive later this summer to visit the Cistercians will also be covered.

In doing the calculations, what I need is being covered. My actual, billable needs.

This entire summer, my trips to visit communities are being covered by the Mystical Body of Christ. Not just in prayer (which I need!), but the temporal needs of my life as well.

I have a ride to and from the airport in July. I have some dear friends, a family with small children, who are going to watch my dog. We visited them today with much hilarity and it seems as though it's going to work out well! (I just hope she isn't too much trouble for them!)

I have a Pastor and an SD who support me completely, and a family that maybe doesn't completely understand, but they're willing to help. And in fact, I'll be traveling with borrowed luggage - from my brother! (As brothers go, he's probably thinking, "Anything that will get my sister out of town is a good thing....) :-)

Pilgrim Making a Pilgrimage

Some time ago, one of my co-workers was criticizing (in a charitable way!) the fact that people go on pilgrimages and fund themselves. Never having been on a pilgrimage, I asked her honestly how they're supposed to GET to Rome or the Holy Land or Lourdes unless they fork over the money for the trip?

I can't remember everything, but she indicated that a true pilgrim doesn't arrive at his destination by his own means. Part of the spirit of a pilgrimage is being willing to be dependent upon others. Of leaving home with nothing, and arriving at the destination via the alms of those who saw a need and responded. It's about learning dependence upon God, of being willing to suffer for Him, and maybe in a way, it's a walk to Calvary even when the destination isn't physical Jerusalem.

What she said made sense. A pilgrimage is a spiritual quest, and maybe has different intents, but each of them has to do with finding God, following Him, prayer, and sacrifice.

When I leave next month to find out whether God may truly be calling me, and whether one of these communities is my home on earth, I go with nothing in my pocket. I go with the clothing on my back, and other necessary items in a suitcase borrowed from my brother. The money in my pocket for incidentals won't be the fruits of my labor, but of the labor of friends.

The flight to and from, and the train ticket between destinations comes to me largely compliments of people I haven't even met and may never meet in this life...may I meet them on the other side of the veil.

I know that when I go, I don't go alone. This IS a pilgrimage of sorts, for althoughI'm not going to visit a shrine, but rather, to meet the Bridegroom in a special way. I may find "home" on this earthly pilgrimage, or I may find that my "home" is where I am now. I may find that the life of a religious is where I belong, but that those particular communities are not the right place.

In any case, I go to follow where God is leading, and because all of this is happening, and with the help of so many people, it must be what God wills in this moment.

Yes, it's a bit scary, but at the same time, it's a whirlwind of excitement, and truly, I have that "peace that surpasses understanding."

I truly don't understand how all of this has happened, yet I go, gratefully, and as I seek my Vocation, no matter where it leads, I know that all those who have helped go with me in a special way. The pilgrimage I make is theirs as well.

A few times I've written of going to Holy Communion with the recognition that of myself, I can offer nothing. I am a sinful creature, indebted to the Mercy of Our Lord, and can never merit such an act of salvation. In that, I've recognized my interior poverty and learned that the best way to receive Him was through that very poverty.

And now, I go to meet Him in another way, again, through poverty, knowing I don't merit what I possess, grateful for such a gift.

Thank you, Jesus, for your generosity and for revealing how trust in You is never in vain.

Thank you all, for your own ongoing prayers and other contributions.

Trust is NEVER in vain.

Sacred Heart of Jesus...we place all our trust in Thee.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Deep Thought of the Day

As I was packing my lunch for work, I mused about my coleslaw, and remember that, as a child, I thought it was "cold slaw". I didn't know what "slaw" was, but I knew it was always served cold, so the name made perfect sense to me.

"Liverworst" was different. I LOVED liverwurst, but HATED liver, so I thought this stuff wasn't named very well. After all, "liverworst" wasn't like liver at all. Liver was, in fact, the worst thing I ever tasted.

"Sourkraut" was another one. Oh how I hated that stuff, even the sour smell of it made me gag! I thought that "sourkraut" was named for it's sour smell and obviously sour taste.


This has been a presentation of Adoro's deepest thoughts and misspelled words that sound like the real ones. Share your own!

Back to regular programming.....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Today I received a packet of information from the Dominicans with whom I will be residing (outside the enclosure) for a few days one month from now. Yes, I've been to their blog, I've been to their site, and we've exchanged emails, but until recently, the real possibility of a visit hadn't materialized.

I think the reception of the packet made me realize that somehow, this is the real thing. All the prayer, all the angst, all the agony, all the preparation that has come before and will for this. (At least for now!)

After I graduated from college and filled out applications for police departments, it didn't feel "real" until I got the phone call from Captain R., telling me that I'd passed the interview process and they were extending me a conditional offer. I had to pass a physical, a psychological, and a background investigation. The latter came in a packet of 80 pages...literally, 80 pages, going all the way back to my childhood!

I remember the time I took to fill it out as completely as possible, the angst at not being able to provide some of what they wanted, meeting with the Background Investigator (who later became my first Field Training Officer), and finally, the conditional offer was fulfilled and I was given a start date. I arrived, my uncle drove my mother there, and they witnessed one of the most auspicious moments of my life: I was very solemnly sworn in as Police Officer. Finally! To Protect and To Serve, maybe to die.

But that didn't last long. Three months later, I was looking for another job, another career...and seeking God in my humiliation.

Fast forward a few years. A boyfriend encouraged me to train for and take the Fire Department. test, and I still remember visiting him at his assigned station, where that day, there just happened to be a Recruiter. I filled out a notification card right there in the station, and began to train. It was the most intense physical training of my life, all done independently, which pushed me into a level of ability maybe only elite athletes obtain. I knew then that I could do ANYTHING and began to consider training for the Ironman Triathlon. Or, at least, half that.

( one can maintain that level of training without a very serious goal!)

Then, one day, my friend called me to say that a certified letter had arrived from the City and that since neither of us had been home to sign for it, I had to pick it up at the post office. My boyfriend (the firefighter) drove me there to get it on a snowy April morning. My heart was in my throat. I hadn't realized this could actually HAPPEN! The odds were against it! 3,000 applicants to begin, the number had been cut first through the written test, then the physical, then the interviews. I was one of the few to receive an offer. I was stunned. It's a moment that changed my life forever, and I knew it; I could not turn it down.

I admit now that I wanted to turn it down, just as much as I wanted to accept it. My interior agony was so apparent that even my boyfriend who knew me so well commented that he thought I'd be happy.

I wasn't. I was terrified...and yet...knew I had to accept this step. I don't regret it, even now.

That lasted a year, and then I was out looking for another job. This time it was a physical injury sustained in training. I STILL don't have 100% range of motion in my thumb, and THAT problem was as a result of the surgery, not the injury!

Collateral Damage

The reality is that as we go through life, we are torn down, rebuilt, and often damaged in the process.

One of my biggest challenges has been that collateral damage. I look at my "big careers", dreams I've had since childhood, things I never thought I could do I finally did...and realized they weren't for me. I'd put all I had into those things, and even though I was not practicing my faith for the most part, I was praying. Sincerely praying. Sincerely desiring to do God's will, wanting Him on my side.

Do you see the problem? I was praying...but for the wrong thing. I was praying that God's will be mine. Not the other way around. I was like Martha, telling God what to do.

But God is faithful, and perhaps things have come around again, this time from another perspective.

Intimidated by Reality

As I said, today I received a packet of information from the Dominicans, an Order for which I have a particular affinity, an Order that has a special place within the Church, a charism of ancient importance, and Saints of historical significance.

I have not read the entire packet yet, but only glanced over it, looked at the horarium (daily schedule) and the information on aspirancy, postulancy, etc. It's laid out very clearly. I looked at the schedule and realized that for a few days, I'd be getting a taste of it. And I was intimidated.

For a moment, I felt "trapped." What if I hated it? What if I wanted to pray, but couldn't? How would I handle such structure when the life I live now is barely structured at all? How would I handle all that time of silence and prayer?

I remembered receiving the notifications from my previous careers, and this...this visit is naught but a visit. An Inquiry. A taste of a life I know little about. It's not even akin to an interview, for even though I will meet the Sisters, and certainly we may be sizing each other up to a degree, it is more friendly than anything else. It is a mere introduction to friends I know are friends without even having met them in person.

A Vocation is not a job. And perhaps that's where I've always been wrong.

When I look back at the careers I've had, I realize that it's not that I was seeking a career...but rather, a way of life. One of the things I loved about law enforcement is that cops are cops "forever". It's one of the things that attracted me. I wasn't seeking something for 9-5, but something that would define me. And to a certain degree, it did. Leaving that life was a brutally painful experience, but one I needed. As to whether one is a cop forever?

Just ask my last supervisor, who once told me, "You shouldn't confront people so directly in person! Do it on the phone. You're not carrying a .9 mm anymore!"

He was right. No, I'm not a cop anymore, and I will never be again. I don't even identify with them, but the experience has placed an indelible mark upon me; one that makes me both more critical and more sympathetic towards police officers. And I respect the good ones all that much more now.

Firefighting...same thing. It's not just a job. Ask any firefighter; it changes them somehow. For me, having come from law enforcement, it was part of the same thing. But for others, it leaves a mark. It's a way of life, never limited to the hours of employment. It's a rare firefighter who leaves the station and doesn't switch into "on duty" when the situation requires it. In fact, it's part of the ethical and moral code that those who can help....MUST.

I realize I was never seeking a job. I wasn't seeking a circle of good friends. From the very beginning, I have been seeking my Vocation. I have been desiring from the very core of my heart and soul to dedicate myself unconditionally to something, to someone, and I finally understand that this seeking is...God.

That's what a Vocation is about. That's what we are all called to do. Yes, we can have jobs in the world, but we ALL have Vocations that trump everything else. A married cop is married before he is a cop. (The reason for high divorce rates in law enforcement couples is not the Job, but the failure to recognize the priority of Marriage OVER the Job!)

So it is that this evening as I glanced over the materials I was sent, I was intimidated. This time, it isn't about a job I could leave at will. It isn't something I found on careerbuilder or It's not a "hot job" to be found on some other site.

It's not a job.

A Vocation is life itself, not just for me, but for the Church.

One of my problems is that I tend to become overwhelmed by the immensity of things. When I look at the overall process, not only do I see the level of committment, but the very magnitude paralyzes me. It is there that I have to remember that discernment goes step by step, and like any way of seeking holiness, it is about God's presence in each individual moment. He reveals Himself to the degree that we are willing to reveal ourselves. Our Lord is a perfect Gentleman and gently leads us, but never against our will. The very moment we say "No! This is too much!" He stops, waiting. And in fact, as God cannot be surprised, we often find that He has stopped long before we did, for He knows when we are trying to push beyond parameters He already set.

We often tend to look back and see God patiently waiting for us at the pasture fence, smiling fondly in His love for us. It is we who panic, and without cause.

It is we who see the reality of true freedom and run for the false protection of a barn about to collapse.

It is we who flee at the first hint of real love...for we don't know what love is truly about.

Yes, I'm intimidated, especially by the importance of this decision, one which I've not yet been asked to make. I'm excited to go, excited to meet the Sisters, excited to have this very spiritual adventure.

It doesn't matter that I'm intimidated: I know that My Lord awaits.

He always has.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Well, NOW I've Gone and Done it...

...and no doubt there's more than a few of you out there rolling your eyes and happy-dancing around your offices saying, "Well FINALLY! It's about dang time!"

Yup. You're BUSTED!

I just purchased my flight tickets out to the East Coast and back.

Cost to fly into Connecticut, and back via New Jersey: $334.41 after taxes.
Cost to ride the Amtrak from CT to NJ: $26.00

Experience and further discernment of God's Divine Will: PRICELESS!

I'm going. Finally. Launching Adoro's Great Monastic Adventure! Ten days of Sisters and Nuns and travel, OH MY!

I tried hard to find a way to visit friends in Cleveland en route back to Minneapolis, but hit a few roadblocks. Inititally the cost to do this was within the realm of the original ticket price, which ranged from $350-$450. Then it skyrocketed overnight at the same time the round-trip dropped significantly.

Yesterday, last night, and this morning, I prayed hard about that part of the trip, and realized that now is just not the right time. I love my friends in Cleveland, and if it weren't for them or for my trip to visit them last July, none of this would be happening now. The reality is that I NEED to get back to visit them at some point, but maybe now is not that time.

I also realized there is a good chance that after all the flight transfers and socializing and learning and intense praying I'll be doing, I might well be suffering from "get-home-itis" at the end of ten days. I may need my complete solitude back, and time to process what happened in the privacy and comfort of my own home.

I still haven't found anyone (verified) who can take my dog for that ten days. If worst comes to worst, I know a woman who runs a greyhound "doggie day care" out of her home and in the past has said that since mine was a "greyhound sibling" she would be willing to take her. But the cost would still be about $25-$30 per day, the going rate, and 10 days of that would add up very quickly. And yes, I know my dear friend Cathy would come stay with her again...if she had the time. :-)

Well, it looks like this is really happening, and I am looking forward to this trip. Thanks to all who are helping to make this happen, whether in prayer, hands-on sorts of things, or financially. My many people DOES it take? :-)


Top Reasons to Enter the Seminary or Religious Life

I've decided that the previous post should be split up so that each part can stand alone. It got a little confusing reading the responses to the serious portion and then the responses to the comedic part. Below, please find the answers to the questions in bold print, and leave your own in the combox! I know that many of my readers are discerning, have discerned, etc., and will have some of their own humorous observations and things they wish they could have said had they not been biting their tongue so hard!

Oh, by the way...that's why I'm here. I don't really like biting my tongue. Ow. It's more fun to use biting humor!

Without further ado, if you were considering entering the seminary or religious life (brother, sister, nun, friar, monk) what would you say if someone learned this and, not knowing you, asked you....

"Are you trying to escape?"

* Yes. I think the Feds are after me, or maybe the Mafia, and I want to become a Nun in New York and lead a choir. Sounds like a great way to have fun and not get shot.

* Yes. I have a lot of debt and I figure if I go hide in a convent no one will ever find me again. Can my boyfriends visit me there?

* Yes. I'm tired of having a thankless job and no identity so I figure if I go live in a religious community and blend in with everyone else and work with the poor, everyone will love me and pick me out of the crowd to be their friend.

* Are YOU?

* Do you know me well enough to pose such an intimate question? Have you been stalking me? Can I have you arrested for that?

* From what? The voices in my head? You're just jealous because they don't talk to YOU!

"What are you trying to escape?"

* Well...YOU! Isn't it obvious? I thought the OFP (Order For Protection, ie Restraining Order) would have made that clear....

* My attorney told me I'm not supposed to talk about it.

* Prison. And if you hand me the chocolate and step away with your hands where I can see them, no one will get hurt. Oh, and go get me some coffee!

* What do you know about it? Who told you? Who sent you? Are you trying to intimidate me?

* Sharks! I heard they learned how to walk and Jack Handey says they might be riding elephants now....

* Oh, nothing. Just positive thoughts...think positive thoughts....DANG IT, THINK POSITIVE THOUGHTS!



* Help! The paranoids are out to get me!

* You know that whole thing about the Builderburg group? well I shouldn't have tried to expose their conspiracies......


* I'm looking for a high-powered high-paying job in the non-profit sector.

* I'd like to have more free time to pursue my hobbies. (This might actually work if your hobbies are Eucharistic Adoration, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, Serving the Poor and Homeless, Teaching in Schools, and silently contemplating the Beautiful Face of our Saviour on the Cross.)

* The Sisters just got a 72" Plasma TV, and satellite TV, and you're an NFL/Nascar/golf/hockey junkie.

"Really Not Funny"

* I'm not trying to escape. I LIKE kneeling all day and fasting on bread and water.

* I'm a closet anorexic, and this life lets it stay in the closet.

* It's a life of ease... no bills, no bad people, no worries.

Add your own smarty-pants answers in the combox!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


My guess is that we're all familiar with the idea of escapism. After all our current culture is all about this disorder. No one wants to hear something negative, and if someone is suffering and reaching out from that darkness, people express they are " sending positive thoughts!".
Unless the bad news is titillating or scandalous gossip, no one wants to face real suffering, or real sacrifice. They want flowers and joy and sunshine all the time, and have an impression that if they just stay "positive" and "think happy thoughts" that nothing bad will ever come their way.

I must offer a disclaimer here: I am not
condemning the importance of a positive outlook, or joy in life, etc. etc. If we go around all the time as gloomy gus's expecting that everywhere we go we'll get bad service or experience disaster,'s not surprising that happens. I had a friend once who complained constantly about the bad service she received everywhere she went. I observed that she tended to take an imperious (not rude, exactly, just an "I've already judged you incompetent and I don't like you") attitude. She threw off such a wall towards others that they knew before they even spoke that they could not please her. And I watched them do their best, I even watched some of them fumble, likely from nervousness as they correctly perceived she was only waiting for them to screw up.

This made some people defensive, others just...bumble a bit. I can relate completely and it's one of the reasons I'm not in food service. If someone makes me defensive, there's a chance they'll be wearing whatever I happen to be holding at the time. If they make me bumble...same outcome.

She was always unhappy, and I think at her core, she was an unhappy, angry person, and as that was expressed in everything she did, others reacted to make sure she got exactly what she expected, even if they didn't realize that's what they were doing.

On the other hand, people who are joyful and truly happy tend to have an outlook on life that isn't contrived or purchased in paperback form at the airport in an overpriced shop. The truly joyful people may have their soup spilled all over them by a completely incompetent server, and yet they laugh and try to lessen the server's mortification. They give others the benefit of the doubt, they treat others with respect, and as a result, are in turn treated with respect. Their openness makes them approachable, and if they are pleased with the service they receive as they go about their day, they are sincerely thankful, make eye contact (even if they are shy and the contact is brief), and as a result...their experiences are positive.

It has nothing to do, you see, with "being positive". It has to do with the actual disposition in the heart of the individual. An angry person can read all the self help "be positive" motivator pulp that's been published since it became popular in the 60's or 70's, but the reality is that they don't need to learn to "think positive". They need to know themselves well enough to realize why they're so angry or unhappy or fearful, and get to the heart of that.

They need to recognize that their questions won't be answered through trendy paperbacks, but through addressing their very real suffering to the God who loves them and awaits them on the other side of the cross they refuse to bear.


Popular escapism has become the foundation of our current culture. The reality is that no one wants to face...well...reality. They want to live their lives in denial that bad things happen, and especially that they are a part of it, might have caused it, might be actually suffering from it.

In fact, escapism is actually...hedonism. Seeking fulfillment in THINGS or money or prestige, yet the people who have those things...aren't happy. Yet this crowd, in order to make their hedonism and constant seeking of self-fulfillment through their own actions, have re-defined our vocabulary, taking anything they think is "inconvenient" and warping it to make their actions and escapisms seem to be ordered.

The disorder of our day is in the improper definition of terms, and the relativism that has resulted from the deep defect and disorder of escapism run amok.

What Irony

I'd love to hear from those of you who have discerned your Vocation, and either considered or entered the seminary or religious life. It may apply more to those who have looked to cloistered/contemplative communities, but I've noticed (as I mentioned in the last post) that people who are not Catholic or maybe anti-Catholic often ask strange questions of discerners of all sorts.

I know of priests who were asked what they were "escaping". I myself have been asked, even recently, why I'm trying to "escape". It tends to be the knee-jerk question of a disconnected person to immediately assume that someone who may want to die to themselves and the world is seeking to "escape".

My theory is that this question is one God is asking them in the deepest recesses of their souls, akin to "Why are you running from Me? Why do you persecute Me?".

The people who are immediately assuming that you are trying to escape something, at their very core, are envious. They are desperately desiring to escape, and the echo of God's own voice reverberating in their conscience finds an outlet when they meet someone who IS truly responding to God's call to know Him more deeply. They can't tolerate the sound of His knocking, and so they take out their confusion on those who recognize the knock.

How should we respond when someone asks if we are trying to escape?

My first answer is this: Consider the source and humbly search your own heart. ARE you trying to escape?

I dealt with this question a few years ago, and it could be that at the time, it would have been seeking "escape". Such a "vocation" doesn't survive, for there's nothing to hold it. Escaping the world doesn't make a good priest or religious. In fact, it creates a bitter ex-Catholic or schismatic or even an apostate. Be honest with yourself if the person who asks you this question is someone who is faithful to the teachings of the Church and knows you well (and doesn't have a personal agenda with regard to your future!)

But since often that question comes from someone who truly has no idea what they're talking about and certainly doesn't know you well enough to give them a dignified answer, well, sometimes it's fun to think about how to respond to such a query.

NOTE: I have edited this post: the humorous part can be found here. You may still want to check out the combox for responses to those questions, or simply click on the link. Many responses were captured in the new post.