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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dog's First Vet Visit

En route to Minnesota, the dogs, including "Bear" were checked out and given shots at a vet clinic.  But last night I saw a pool of blood which was clearly coming from a very sensitive area of the dog, who, as you recall, has not been neutered.

I was thinking it's a good chance it was a urinary tract infection, maybe something worse given the fact it was BLOOD, and quite a bit of it!

So this morning I called the placement coordinator, she got ahold of the vet clinic they use and they decided they DID want to see the dog. So I called them and drove all the way across town to get him to the vet.  They gave me some "Harmoneez" for his kennel anxiety, and I drove BACK across town to pick up the prescription for antibiotics from the Rescue group's main office.  They also gave me valerian for him, to be given about 30 minutes before I go anywhere. Hopefully the combination of things will help him settle down a bit.

Gotta tell ya, I am so thankful that this week I have some flex in my work schedule and ability to do some of it from home. But I'm still having to take some time off work, unplanned, to deal with all of it.

And I'm going to be perfectly honest:  once "Bear" is adopted, I probably won't be fostering again any time soon. It's turning out to be a much greater commitment than it seemed and given that this is going to be a VERY tough semester in school AND a spring from Hell at work....I won't be able to do this kind of thing for every dog that comes along.

As it is, if I can't get him to settle down in his kennel so that I can actually go away to work for 8 hours, I'll have to ask that they place him with another foster home.   He's an awesome, sweet, easy-going dog in every other way, rides perfectly in the car and just wants to be your buddy.

So here's to hoping the stuff they gave me for him today works!  (it'll get a test tonight when I go to Mass!)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Saga of the Foster Dog Continues...

For those of you who read my blog for the spiritual topics, I'm certain those will make a return. In fact, I can't do anything in life without looking for whatever it is God is trying to tell me. For those of you who love animals (I know many of you do), maybe this is fascinating to you so I will continue to write of my new friend "Bear".  Be assured, at some point, maybe even tonight, I will write of God's influence in this situation.  His fingerprints are ALL. OVER. this endeavor!

As I write, I ask you all to keep in mind that this dog is a FOSTER. That means he is up for adoption and I am only serving as a temporary home. This really means I'm serving the family (or single person) intended by God to have this dog.. It IS a daunting task and I admit I'm intimidated.

If you are interested at some point in adopting this dog, please send me an email so I can put you in touch with the rescue organization.  Please do not hesitate to do this:  one of the reasons I decided to try my hand at fostering is because I cannot afford a second dog, my own dog is happier as an only pet, and I decided that sometimes it's worth putting one's heart on the line for a greater good.  (Don't worry, my dog will "speak" to me again eventually.) There aren't enough people out there who are willing to even TRY I hope my writing about "Bear" (my blog name for him) ends up encouraging others to try this role for themselves. Recall that God created animals for a reason and a service such as this glorifies and serves Him, too.

So....First Night and Day with Bear....

In speaking with the placement coordinator while she was at my house last night, I asked for some advice/recommendation on kennel usage based on what she knows and her experience. She did recommend I kennel him at night instead of letting him run loose in my bedroom, for fear he might decide to "mark" everything I own while I sleep. As this was also my line of thinking, that's exactly what I did.  Bear went into the kennel with only a little hesitation, but didn't seem to be interested in the treat I offered him.

In general, he doesn't seem to understand what treats are about.  I actually pulled out the "big guns" last night; freeze-dried liver, used for training.  He turned it down!  Yet, when my dog snarfed it down, he decided to give it a try.   I've also seen this behavior before, in a dog who had been very abused.  The fact that he is eating them, albeit with hesitation, is a good sign. He's willing to trust...a little...and accept treats.

Well, so, I went to bed, my dog came with me, and Bear remained in his kennel downstairs. He wasn't pleased. In fact, he sounded a lot like Chewbacca complaining, making me wonder if he's got some Malamute in him somewhere!  (Yes, German Shepherds can be "talkers", too, and Bear is DEFINITELY one of them!) Unfortunately I could hear him scraping and pulling at the kennel door, he was barking, and I tried to wait it out to see what would happen.

You see, when puppies are first kenneled, they also go through a period of separation anxiety. (So do human babies, but I'll leave the child rearing to actual parents!)   Typically the best thing to do with a puppy is to let them just cry and doesn't hurt them and eventually they learn that all is well, their people come back, and they are safe.  If the people decide the crying is too much for them and come down to comfort the puppy, the puppy is then reinforced in the negative behavior. This ISN'T a good thing! It prolongs the training period!

I had this in mind last night, but had to realize that since I am in a townhome with neighbors on three sides, well....I had to make a decision.  I thought back to my greyhound and how I'd given him the courtesy of spending his first night with him downstairs in the livingroom. The first few nights, in fact.  Granted, Bear isn't going to be my dog, but what I did for my grey helped him to settle in a little more comfortably, knowing he wasn't alone in an unfamiliar place, and I never had problems with him.

So I grabbed my pillow and blanket and spent the night on the couch. Bear was a little appeased, but not entirely. He calmed enough to stop barking, although did punctuate the night with a few barks, growls, and Chewbacca conversations.  (He has a very lovely singing voice! If this can be harnessed, he can stand in for any future Wookies as a voice-over!)

This morning when I got up, I decided to forgo the coffee that is usually my primary concern, and just decided to get ready for work.  During the time I took to take my shower and get dressed, I didn't hear a peep out of Bear.  I wondered if maybe it had to do with the lights....was he accustomed to always being in a lighted area?  Is this dog....afraid of the dark? The silence?  Maybe just the lack of a pack of howling dogs to chat with around him?

I went to work but came home early today, bringing things with me to do from home. Thankfully this week I have that ability. It won't always be so.  It's not USUALLY so!

Thank God I came home!  He had bent the kennel door inward and jammed it. The latch had been undone, but the hooks were still in place.  I had to work a bit to get him out!

Now, SOME of this might just be a "German Shepherd" thing.  When I first got my own German Shepherd (my present one), she was an escape artist and delicately opened the kennel gate without doing any damage. I learned quickly that she could not be kenneled. I also learned that as long as she didn't have free run of the whole house, she was generally well-behaved (although a few things were sacrificed as can be predicted.).

I'd be willing to give Bear the benefit of that doubt, except for two reasons:

1.    There is absolutely NO evidence that he is familiar with house training.  Although he has not "marked" anything else since his arrival last night, I don't think he can be trusted yet to know where the potty is SUPPOSED to go.  He seems to have no idea, while on the leash, that he's supposed to be relieving himself.  When he does, it's incidental, more dominant behavior than actual understanding that it's potty time.  Unlike my dog.

2.  He's not yet neutered.  Would YOU let an intact stud canine run around your house KNOWING that he's not house trained yet?

So we are at an impasse...I can't trust him outside the kennel yet, and he clearly doesn't like being IN it!

Now, none of this should be taken to mean he has actual separation anxiety.  Overall, what I'm seeing is general Shepherd traits, and I am finding he is willing to let me go out of his sight as long as he knows where I am. This is typical new-dog behavior.  When I go into the kitchen, for example, he might follow and check to see where I am, but then he'll find a dog bed and lie down on it until I return or peek around the corner to make sure he isn't peeing on my theology books.

This afternoon we took a nice walk since the city finally "plowed" the sidewalks, making them passable.  Bear really didn't seem interested in doing his business, but just kept looking up at me as if to ask, "What are we doing now? Am I good? Am I a good boy? Where are we going?  What now?"

I don't think he's ever been outside of a dog run before.  Bear is absolutely FASCINATED by my TV, doesn't know how to walk on my pergot floor and was hesitant to go up the stairs this morning when I decided to introduce him to the upper level.

But he is sweet, he's willing, and although still very timid and prone to shying away, he's also very much trying to please and seems to be enjoying being curled up on the rug or dog bed.

On the Stinkyness....

He's still pretty stinky. It's not his fault.  I did recall I have some "waterless" dog bath powder I keep on hand, decided to try it. It helped just a little, but he's so filthy his fur is hanging on to the powder so I can't wash it out!  His skin is also very dry and I think I'll be adding some olive oil to his hamburger and rice mash this evening.  When I get his rabies certificate sent to me, I can maybe take him in to the groomer's for a good bath. A REALLY good bath!

He's skin and bones but I hope to get him fattened up, his coat shiny, and see what he's like when he's got some real German Shepherd confidence!

Those of you who have seen the movie "Seabiscuit" might remember Tom Smith's lines, two of which come into play here:

"Heck, he's so beat up it's hard to tell what he's really like!"


"You don't throw a whole life away because he's beat up a little bit."

Bear is going to be an awesome pet. I look forward to sharing with you all what he's really like.  Already he's settling down and reminding me that, indeed....lives shouldn't be thrown away just because they're a little beat up.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

He Has Arrived!

My foster dog arrived this evening and much to my surprise, my current German Shepherd actually let him in! (She seems more surprised than anything else and seems to be sulking a bit right now. How DARE I bring another canine into her house?!)

This poor dog looks like a bear, actually, especially given the scars on his muzzle.  And he IS really timid, very jumpy and if I don't approach him without his nearly making eye contact with me, he shies away.

"Bear" as I think I might have to call him, is just skin and bones. He's obviously been neglected. should NOT be able to count a German Shepherd's ribs or find the point where the hip sticks out like a sharp rock outcropping.

We let him run around my tiny lower level, sniffing, getting acquainted German-Shepherd style, and he quickly found a little bag of garbage, which he decided to claim. Yup...we went into the kitchen just in time to see that he had definitely made himself at home by marking my cabinets. Unfortunately, that also means he marked the INSIDE as well.  Good thing I have enzyme cleaner, to be followed by lysol when the enzyme cleaner dries!

No, we didn't yell, not loudly, just enough to get him out of the kitchen so he could go outside.

Even though he apparently  helped himself earlier this evening to some lemon bars (while on a stop en route to MN), I fed him some dinner tonight;  just a little hamburger and rice, thinking some bland food is good for him. I also tried to feed him by hand as I mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, he doesn't know how to deal with that and tried to actually eat my hand. Realizing if I wanted to keep my appendages, I just put the food in a bowl and decided to be satisfied with holding the bowl for him.

This poor dog seems to walk fine on the leash, probably because he has no idea what it is, and he doesn't seem to know that when he's on it, it means he's supposed to be going potty outside. I'll have to count on my dog to teach him about going potty while on walks, not while wandering around the kitchen.  He also clearly has never been taught any obedience;  we have the impression that he was probably kept locked up in a kennel and just yanked out when it was time to be a stud.

It's going to take some slow work and patience, but I think "Bear" is going to make some family very very happy.

I guess my new role as a foster "mom" becomes clearer to me, and I'm humbled. I hope I really am able to help this dear creature come out of his shell and become the wonderful, loyal friend his breed is INTENDED to be!

P.S. I also hope to find a way to get him to a groomer's....he's really stinky! He has NOT been an "indoor dog!"   Anyone wanna donate a "bath" at a local Petsmart or Petco?  Or somewhere else?  I don't have good dog facilities for bathing and he needs a gentle touch.  Open to suggestions especially if anyone local knows of a place that's willing to help out a dog rescue!

Foster Dog Update

No, he's not here yet. Originally he was supposed to be arriving at my house around 4 pm today, however, things have changed quite a bit. The coordinator has to drop off another dog in another city, and I happen to live on her way home.

She was able to tell me a little more about my new buddy, though. He is a very sweet animal, wonderful gentle temperament, but he is very timid and tends to shrink away from people. He is not real familiar with the leash but apparently he wants to please so responds pretty well to a little direction.  Clearly, he has not been well treated and will need a gentle hand and quiet maybe he's a perfect foster for me!

Given that he's so fearful and untrusting, I think I will take a few days and just feed him by hand so that he will come to associate good things with me...and hopefully then with other people.  Poor guy, apparently he is one who just needs to learn how to be a dog!  It sounds like he is wonderful around other dogs.

So...more info to come, and maybe even a pic later this evening.  I'll admit I'm a bit nervous about taking in a dog especially given the fact that outdoor walking conditions are treacherous and best, but we'll make do.

I just hope I'm up to this task!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holy Family

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family, and we hear about finding Christ in the temple, we hear that He went home and was obedient to his parents, Mary and Joseph. It is the beginning of the hidden life of the Holy Family, and during the homily we usually we hear about the importance of family in our society.

Indeed, this Feast falls immediately after Christmas for good reason, and isn't it even more meaningful in this time  when we are spending extra time with our own families?  Especially given the fact that the experience isn't usually, well...very idyllic?  It is important for us to recognize that the Holy Family suffered hardships as well.

I have to ask, though:   while we consider our biological families, have we given any thought to our spiritual family? More specifically, have we given any thought or prayer to our spiritual fathers, both those who bring us to Christ and bring Christ to us, and those who SHOULD be doing so but are under lock and key living a persecution many refuse to acknowledge?

Today, I bring you an important article from Charlene C. Duline, published in, of all places, the National Catholic Reporter in 2007:

Throwaway priests

Dishonored and disgraced for their crimes, fallen priests deserve our sympathy


Does the Catholic Church remember its fallen priests, the priests who molested children and are now serving time in prisons? Who among us has asked for blessings for them as they serve their time behind bars? The hands that once consecrated the host that became the body of Christ now reek of ammonia from cleaning toilets.

Amid the flurry of accusations, trials, more accusations, payoffs, and dioceses declaring bankruptcy, I began to wonder about the treatment of priests in prison. I wondered how their fellow inmates treated them. Were they revered as men of the cloth or debased as child molesters? 
To abuse a child is a horrific act. I know because I was an abused child. Some might find it astonishing that I, the victim of such abuse many years ago, could feel sorry for these fallen priests. Despite the desire for revenge that still burns deep in my heart, something in me wanted to reach out to these men who had served God despite their failings. I wondered if our church ministered to them in any form.

Through the Internet I was able to get information on the accused priests, their sentences and where they were serving their time. I wrote to some of them. I also posted my desire to hear from them on Web sites sympathetic to the defrocked men. Some of their responses astounded me. They all asked to remain anonymous. Most of the priests I heard from indicated that they had no access to Catholic chaplains or materials, including retirement monies they thought they had a right to. It seems that the church that once embraced them and covered up their crimes has abandoned them. They have been defrocked or laicized and are now treated as pariahs. Their situation in prison is not pleasant.

One priest, now 79 years old, wrote, “Mistreatment by the young inmates is continually horrendous. Insults, curses, spitting and assaults are daily. From one attack I received 42 bruises.”

During the 11 years this priest has been in prison, several close family members, including his mother, have died. Other family members do not communicate with him because he “embarrassed the family.” He believes that he will die a lonely death in prison. He’s probably right.

Read the rest.

Whether they are guilty or innocent, whether they have been dispensed or not, they remain our spiritual fathers, a part of our family. Neither we nor they can undo what God has done. Canonical privileges can be removed, but the indelible mark upon their souls cannot be undone.

I, for one, am grateful for our spiritual fathers, and while I do not condone or support criminal activity, I also abhor how these men have been treated. Having worked with sex offenders in an adolescent treatment facility years ago, I can testify that those kids and even their own abusers have been treated far better than the Church, the Mother of Mercy, has treated her beloved but disgraced Sons. It's absolutely scandalous.

Are we a Church of mercy or are we not? 

The point is not that we deny what has been done and  most certainly we do not deny the reality suffered by the victims.  What we are saying is that justice has its place, and without forgiveness, justice is not done in ANY corner.  There is no mercy without justice, and there is no justice if it is not tempered by mercy.

Yet when we look at imprisoned priests, we see that there is no mercy for them; not from us, their family, not from anyone.

What of the Innocent Priests, Unjustly Imprisoned without their right to Due Process both through our legal system AND through the Church?  

We know of those cases, such as that of Fr. Gordon MacRae, unjustly imprisoned, suffering a purgatory for sins he did not commit, offering those days for we who live in freedom, which we so often take as a "right" to live in ways that are a direct affront to God Himself.

What a disgrace!

Sadly, we don't, in our time, seem to know the first thing about family. We first deny the need for it, we do all we can politically to disrupt it (same-sex "marriage", contraception, abortion, divorce, etc.), and we do all we can to disgrace it.  So it comes as no surprise that we treat our spiritual family with even less regard, especially our spiritual fathers, many of whom are rotting away, forgotten, perhaps forgiven by God but shunned by the rest of us.

Forgiveness does not mean acceptance of sin, it does not mean endorsement of illegal activity. But it DOES require charity, it DOES require remembering that we are all in need of forgiveness, that each life is willed by God, and loved by God.  Those we shun are STILL loved by God, and when they are left in desolation, it is WE who sin...not they.

Today, as we celebrate the Holy Family, recall to mind not just your own family, but your spiritual family, the entire Mystical Body of Christ and most especially those who have been willfully forgotten, willfully shunned, willfully ignored.

My prayers today go out to all priests and religious, throughout the world, who are imprisoned for any reason,  justly or unjustly. They, like we all, are children of God, willed by God, loved by God....and forgotten by the rest of us.

Please join your prayers with mine.

Right now, in this moment, as I write this, Fr. MacRae is offering Mass from his prison cell. If you read this, please unite yourself spiritually to Our Lord in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and remember whose hands bring Heaven and Earth together in this moment.

In this moment, the Suffering Church, the Church Militant, is united with the Church Triumphant....

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Return of the Dog Woman

A few years ago, after I'd moved into my town home association, I went to an annual board meeting where I met a few of my neighbors.

As a couple neighbors and I introduced ourselves to each other, we discussed our pets and one of them asked if I was the one with the "two big dogs".

Ayup. "I'm the Dog Lady,"

They both immediately nodded enthusiastically, commenting on how they'd seen me with my two canines.


That's when I realized the truth about myself:  I grew up to be the neighborhood Dog Woman.


Well, then my greyhound got bone cancer and one day as I helped him limp around our building to relieve himself, a neighbor stopped her van and asked me what was wrong with him. I told her sadly that he had cancer and didn't have much time.

And it wasn't much time....a week after that he was gone. And on that day, while I was getting the mail, another neighbor asked me how he was...and I had to tell him I'd had to put him down that very day.

Dang, I still cry just THINKING about it!

For a long time, I've considered fostering as I know I can handle two dogs in my house, albeit within certain limitations.  As you recall, a few weeks ago I wrote about this possibility. I knew back when I lost my greyhound and I know now that I can't afford to adopt another dog, but it costs me nothing but time, space, and a little piece of my heart to foster.

Well, it seems my application has been conditionally approved, although the first dog slated for me apparently never made it to Minnesota.  This weekend, though, I received a call about another shipment, and one dog  in particular the organization thought would work in my little household.

The dog in question belonged to a breeder who decided he was of no more use to him, so he dumped him off at a local shelter. Apparently this discarded stud is sweet, gentle, and shy, just in need of a good home.  As he's older he'd probably do well in my own quiet abode.

Of course I read his story and turned into a big ball of mush, as I do with so many discarded-pet tales.  As it is, I'm the 4th or 5th owner of my current German Shepherd, and seriously don't understand what others thought was "wrong" with her. I know part of her story and even met a past owner (that's an awesome tale), but the rest....BAH!

All I can say is:   What is WRONG with people????

So I said yes to this, and I'm going to try my hand as a "foster Mom" for dogs. 

Now, I know some troll is going to come by and insinuate that I hate children or don't find abused children to be so compelling as I'm not fostering THEM, etc. etc.  (There seems to be one such troll in every crowd).  So let me just head that question off:

 I am a single woman and the fact that I love animals and am available to foster dogs doesn't mean I'd be a good foster MOTHER, adoptive MOTHER or that I'm called to MOTHERHOOD at all.

And the last time I checked, it's not lawful to lock a child up in a kennel and go to work all day.

However, the treatment above is RECOMMENDED for dogs and I'm actually equipped for that.  I also seem to have a talent with abused and discarded animals, so maybe it's time I put it back into use. Some person or family will one day benefit, but for now, I'm making room in my home and my heart for another pet.

This is going to be hard, I suspect, as is anything worthwhile.

The dog in question does have a name, but I always swore that if I got another German Shepherd, and more specifically, a male, I'd name him Benedict after our dear Papa, our German Shepherd.

So from here on out, this dog  to come will be known as Benedict I, or "Ben" for short, maybe to be followed by other "Ben's".  We'll see how this one goes first.

I guess the Dog Woman is back.

** Note: Pictured above is my dog, not the "Unknown Benedict I"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Isaiah 9:1-6

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for flames.
For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful,
from David’s throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
by judgment and justice,
both now and forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Yeah, so...last night when I was trying to wrap Christmas gifts, I broke my toe. Good times, good times.  Can someone bring me some painkillers?  

Stop laughing.

No, I didn't go to the doctor...I don't have time and they can't do anything for a broken toe anyway. And no, I don't have time to ice 20 min on and off. IN fact, I'm preparing to head to my brother's for Christmas, a day early. This is a massive change in original plans, but so be it.  And really, I need to be heading out soon. It's already "flurry-ing" out, the winds are picking up and the atmosphere has that oppressive feeling that tells you some kind of a winter beast is coming.

Let me tell you, this is NOT how I planned Christmas. Really, a broken toe was not part of my plans.

What happened, you ask?

Well, here's the deal:  I had washed a sweater I want to wear to Mass on Christmas Eve. I had to lay it flat to dry and since the rest of my house is in chaos, the only "flat spot" was on my bed. So that's where I put it. I came up later to grab wrapping paper, and when I left the spare room with it, I saw the dog lying on my freshly-washed, still-damp sweater. I rushed in to shoo her off, and that's when it happened. There I was struggling to hold the long paper rolls, and what did I do but  manage to slam my foot right into a heavy trunk that had been in that very spot since the day I moved in to this place almost 6 years ago.

Needless to say I dropped the paper, hit the bed screaming in pain, only to realize now the dog was standing on the sweater as she came to see the cause of my agony, making me have to stop mid-scream to get her off the sweater again. The poor dog jumped to the futon by the window, then when trying to get a toy to offer me, walked all over the paper. I had to stop screaming and shoo her off the paper before she wrecked it all, and then, finally, she found a "safe spot" and offered me her most beloved toy, a coyote that has seen better days.

And so at that point not only did I feel horrible because I was in so much pain as a result of my own klutzy stupidity, I felt horrible for yelling at my very sweet German Shepherd who was only trying to 'help".


I hoped it was just sprained and was SURE it would be better this morning. I slept last night with my foot elevated...all night.

It didn't work. And I gotta tellya...limping the dog (it couldn't properly be called "walking the dog")  was quite an adventure today.  At one point I stepped "wrong" and actually nearly started crying. That pretty much ended my HAS to be broken.  *sigh*

I still managed to get to Mass, but there was no genuflecting for me...the very thought of even TRYING made me cringe. So I just bowed and sat down. Throughout Mass, each time we knelt, I found all sorts of interesting ways to do so without putting pressure on my toes.  Thank God for those nice kneelers!

I'm telling you, people, wrapping gifts is DANGEROUS!  Be careful out there! It's all fun and games until someone needs X-rays and a cast!

So glad Jesus gave me this little gift for this weekend. It will ensure I don't forget that His birthday wasn't exactly idyllic for Him, either.

Merry Christmas (well, almost...!)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Perpetual Pilgrim Awaiting the Dawn

O Sapientia
O Adonai...
O Radix Jesse...
O Clavis David...
O Oriens......
O Rex Gentium...
O Emmanuel.....

We await the coming of our Savior, waiting to celebrate His birth even as we continue in our own time to await the Second Coming.  

But that is not all. Some of us still await the purpose of our lives, even as we try to live it out as best we can with what we have.  Given this and my incertitude, I have to confess that I'm still looking at religious communities, trying to find out if there's one I haven't discovered. Today I looked again at the Trappists (Cistercians of Strict Observance) given how my taste of monasticism has so taken hold of me and awakened my very soul.

Just as Mary pondered things in her heart, so do I, although without nearly so much depth, without nearly so much silence, without nearly so much holiness.

We recognize in the Church three Vocations, formally:  the Priesthood, Religious Life, and Marriage.

Two of those require Sacraments:  Holy Orders and Matrimony.  Those require supernatural authority and supernatural grace, whereas Religious Life is not gained through a Sacrament because it has all the needed grace from Baptism and Confirmation.  God alone is sufficient, for He is the sole object.

Then we have the Single Life, which some argue is a Vocation unto itself. In a way, it can be, for we have Consecrated Virgins and we have Hermits; but those are a form of Religious Life, not the Single state.

The reality is that the Single Life is not in and of itself a recognizable Vocation. Especially in our culture of commitment avoidance, we cannot give into the temptation to call it such just because there are so many singles.  To do so is to endorse what is so prevalent in our time;  the refusal of the individual soul to inquire of God what He has called them into being to BE.

There are a thousand reasons for being single, but every one is anecdotal, not objective Unlike the Married, Religious or Priestly Vocations, there is no one to ENDORSE with any authority the "call" to be single  for Christ.  Sure, I can cite LOTS of single men and women who live holy lives, but can any of us actually stand in the place of judgment and authoritatively say that those people were NOT called to some recognized Vocation?  Can we? Especially if the Church of which we are a part and look to for guidance has not done so?

Vocational Discernment is the Hardest Thing You Will Ever Do

I've written of this before and really am not free to tell individual stories for fear they would be recognized, but I learned a great deal last summer of the reality of Discernment...and that for some, it DOESN'T end.  I know of a Sister who had made her Final Profession and ended up leaving her congregation when things went south....far, far south.  She didn't leave her vows, but sought only God's will, landing in a cloister where she was greatly aided by those dear nuns, only to find that wasn't her place, either. She struggled, wondering if she should write to Rome for a dispensation from her Vows, but didn't want to do that. At long last, she found her community and although when I knew her she was still in formation there, this Religious of 20-something years (ie in her 40's, having been in religious life since her teens) seemed to have finally found her Home.

I met another who had entered the community of religious that had taught her in school, only to face a major betrayal LONG after having made her final vows.  She was forcibly ousted, was never told why but went, and finally found her true home.

Through speaking with many Sisters, I learned this is common. It's not just common for someone to be a postulant or aspirant or novice in one place and leave only to try a few more: it's fairly common for some to find, even after perpetual vows that they are NOT where God intends!

This knowledge really didn't help me in my discernment, to be perfectly honest. As it is I have problems with trust, but the information obtained this summer made me realize that even if I DO find what I think is "the place" for me, I may face that same kind of total betrayal.

Or, of course, as I think now, I'm not called to it at all.

Certainly, though, my heart goes out to all of those dear Sisters who have discerned so sincerely and found themselves out in the cold with the Infant Jesus.

Perpetual Pilgrim

I have written many times of how I feel like a perpetual pilgrim.  I haven't had a proper "home" since I was 10 and we lost our home to foreclosure, had to lose many of our things, and in fact, I recall even losing the privacy I'd taken for granted for so long.  Instead of having my own room, I had to share a room with my Mom in a tiny apartment. Instead of enjoying the expanse of a huge acre lot with a little grove of trees to feed my imagination, we had a postage stamp of a yard on the edge of one of the busiest streets in town...yet another new experience.

That apartment was never "home" to me. It was where we lived, and I was embarrassed to live there. Of course we all adapted, but having had our own space once, well, it's hard not to see the world in those terms anymore.

Two weeks after I graduated from high school, Mom was hospitalized for 3 months then sent to live in a half-way house for another 9 or so. We lost the apartment and were, officially, without a formal address.

When I came "home" for Christmas that December, I split my time between friends and relatives, trying not to be a bother to anyone. When I came "home" on weekends to work, or on Easter, or that following summer on break, I tried to make sure I was as invisible and out of the way as possible. After all, I didn't want to be anyone's problem.

Even when Mom got her own apartment, it was hers alone and I couldn't formally, by law, live there because of the reason for her housing.  It was only another place to crash for the night. It was never "home".

When I graduated college, I found myself in the Cities, moving from place to place, year to year, lease to lease.  I purchased my town home in 2003 or so and even then, when I signed the papers I knew this was more like a long-term temporary place. This isn't "home". It's a place to crash for awhile.

Even as I laid down the cash to bind the deal, I realized that this box I keep my stuff in is transitional, not permanent.

Eternal Pilgrimage

A couple years ago, when I visited my friends in Ohio, my eyes were opened.  I knew that my REAL home, at least on this earth, is the Mass.  It is only at Mass that I can really let go of everything and be present for God, knowing I am dependent upon HIM for everything.

It doesn't matter WHERE  I go to Mass....because Mass is transcendent. It is the past, present, and future. It is all times, all places. It belongs to God and therefore it is eternity.

Mass is the ONLY place in this world where I KNOW without a doubt, that I belong.

It is the only place where I am myself, fully, unequivocally, without reserve...because none of us can be other than that in the presence of God.

That July, I GOT it.  I understood what it means to be a Pilgrim here on this earth, homeless, in true spiritual poverty.

Our lives are not about material possessions and in many ways I think it's ridiculous to claim any political or national affiliation.  We Catholics far transcend by our very Baptism and Confirmation the governmental structures that try to lay claim to our lives, our attitudes and our spirits.

It is WE who, if we were to really live up to what we have been given, would be laying claim to the government and exerting God's authority for the proper good of ALL!

The Letter to Diognetus, a document I've posted many times, more and more becomes my anthem.  Here is a powerful excerpt:

They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life.

Today in complete jest while lamenting yet another pair of cheap boots wrecked (they have holes in the sole) I suggested to friends that maybe I have a new Vocation, one unrecognized but maybe I am called to formalize it.

Maybe I should found the Order of the Discalced Pilgrims of the Holy Sacrifice.

Who are we?  Men and Women who realize we are called to be Pilgrims on this earth, Single men and women who WANT to commit ourselves to Our Lord but don't seem to be called into the Priesthood or Marriage, and can't seem to find our home in Religious Life either. Yet we know we are not called to just be "single".

God did not bring us into this world to just hang out as bachelors and bachelorettes.

All I know is that I am God's own Pilgrim Daughter, still homeless, apparently shoeless, and no resolution in sight. I am perpetually cast upon the sacred shores of God's Divine Providence.

If I have any identity at all, even though I've never been on a recognizable pilgrimage, I realize that my very existence is the only pilgrimage that is necessary.  As I seek my place in this world, I have the next as my goal, knowing that whenever I need to come home, all I must do is attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

One day, I will finally go to my true Home, hopefully having accomplished whatever it is God would have me do in this life.

This Advent, I await the revelation of my Vocation just as I await the Second Coming of Christ. I wait, knowing that I am a mere pilgrim, dependent upon God for all things, grateful for our Dearest Lord and Savior, seeking, above all, the pilgrimage into His Most Sacred Heart...for eternity.

I hope, that, when I die, if I can afford it, the following epitaph will be etched into my tombstone:

A Pilgrim No Longer:  I'm Home.

If we do not live our lives (our pilgrimage) on earth with our final end in mind, it is guaranteed we will never find it...for we will never find Him.

Antiphon 3 from LOH:   "When the Son of Man comes to earth, do you think he will find faith in men's hearts?"  

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

I am nothing but a Pilgrim awaiting the Dawn...

Sunday, December 20, 2009


This weekend, I decided that since I had time, I would drive down to attend the Mass in the Extraordinary Form (EF), going by myself for the very first time.  The first time I assisted at this form of the Mass was just over one year ago, the First Sunday of Advent, the first one in 40 years at the Church of St. Agnes in St. Paul.  

Although I was fairly familiar with their Latin Ordinary Form (OF), I found the EF to be quite different, but even MORE transcendent.

I knew that I had to go today but didn't understand why. God often doesn't reveal His intentions for us.

Although the little clipper that came through last night made driving a bit treacherous, I decided that it was worth it, and so I took my rosary in hand and drove carefully through the Cities to reach the Church that was my destination.  With gratitude I nearly "fell" into the pew, knowing that in a sense, I was on my own. There wasn't anyone there to help me find my place or make sure I didn't stand when we were supposed to sit.

(As an aside...I always forget that during the EF at a certain point in the Credo, we SIT for the remainder of it. I don't understand this which is why I can't remember to do so. I seriously need to study this form of the Mass, every move and why we do it.)

I have to admit that as I drove to Mass this morning, praying not to spin out on the icy curves with an arrogant SUV on my bumper to "help" me out of his, no doubt, very busy way, I asked God WHY I was so drawn to brave the roads I hated so much to go to this particular place.  Was it out of a sense of needing to suffer for what I love?  What?

I didn't expect to go to Mass and "feel" something.  In actuality, I knew I was trying to feed my soul, to get away from the campy music that characterizes the Mass at my home parish in favor of something that could really draw me into the Mystery, if only I had the proper disposition.

So often, though, even when I arrive at Mass, anywhere, with a "proper disposition", I find myself distracted by the most minute details of my life...or someone else's life...or some other thing.

Today, that didn't happen. By God's great grace, for the first time in a LONG time I was only minimally distracted.  I only just now realized how miraculous that is.

The Moment

There was a single moment, though, that struck to me to the core, and that truly drew me into the Sacred Mystery.  I was trying to find our place in the book, sometime during the consecration, finding it necessary to read the English translation.  Even though I was behind (I'd heard the bells to signal the consecration), I read the words prayed by the priest, standing up there as a representative Called by God to be there, praying for US, for OUR own sacrifice to be offered in union, for OUR silent prayers to be heard.

As it did a year ago, this reality affected me yet again, perhaps even MORE deeply as I realized yet again that even though during the offeratory I had offered myself as a sacrifice, I had brought certain intentions to be placed upon the altar, there, the priest who didn't know me, my intentions, or anything, standing in persona Christi offered those very things to God...and there I was, in HIS presence when it happened.

It was a moment of abjection as I realized once again that I do not know how to pray for myself or my intentions as I ought. It was deeply humbling, as it should be. It made me, in a sense, "let go", and in that surrender, God took over once again.

In that moment I was drawn forward and upward, taken into the Paschal Mystery, becoming a part of it. I had a deep, deep sense of gratitude that completely overwhelmed me. Gratitude for the Incarnation, for the Holy Sacrifice...for EVERYTHING. At the same time, I had an equally deep sense of absolute sadness for the reality of sin that made the Cross so necessary to our Salvation.  I could not separate the sadness from the gratitude, and even as I knelt at the Communion rail, I had to take many deep breaths, willing the tears away, trying to focus on the moment, on WHO I was receiving.

After Mass I remained where I was, pulling my veil low, hoping no one noticed the tears that flowed so freely. I realized THAT'S why I was called to that Mass today, to finally be fully present, according to my own limitations, just as Christ is so fully present all the time.  There was no one there to distract me. As the crowds left, they went about their business, tending to their families, chatting with their friends.

I was so grateful not to be a part of the Sunday Exodus as usual. I was where I wanted and, more importantly, NEEDED to be.

I wanted to stay there forever. Even as my eyes streamed with tears, I wanted to remain, kneeling, at the foot of the Cross.

What can I say but that I am grateful for today's Mass? For God's Grace, a rare one that took me right into His Most Sacred Heart.  It wasn't mere "feeling", not "emotion", but something deeper that passes beyond words.  It is not something that makes me holier than anyone else, but rather, reveals to me how much I lack. I ask you also not to misunderstand, for it was also NOT a moment of infused prayer, but rather a time of clarity, a gift of love that is probably quite common, just one that is beyond words. As it is, I am butchering it which leads me to believe I should not be writing of it at all.

No doubt the next time I attend Mass, in any form, it will be dry, dry, dry, as it is normally.

I do not attend Mass to be entertained, but because God commands it, I love Him, and so I go to profess my love for Him as well as to know more deeply His love for us all, even if I don't "feel" it.

But today, I was drawn in, taken up, and experienced the transcendence that turned normal people into Saints. It is no wonder they progressed so far. I hope they are praying for us all.

I Hate Shopping, I Love Giving

I hate shopping. 

Stop looking so shocked. It's TRUE! And you know what?  I recently learned one of my friends hates shopping, too....we might form a support group for women who hate shopping. After all, say you hate this or that store and no one cares. But say you hate shopping in general, if people are eating they drop their forks and stare, all conversation tapers off, and every man, woman, and child in the room cease even BREATHING at the revelation, not knowing how to respond. Or perhaps, if you are a guest in their home, they consider ejecting you and your anti-shopping attitudes for fear they may infect someone else.

As soon as the shock wears off, which might take a good 15 minutes, the questions begin, the demands to know WHY, and HOW it's POSSIBLE to HATE SHOPPING! At around this point, some will actually be rending their clothing (so that they can go shopping in reparation for the blasphemy in their presence which clearly taints anything being worn at that time), and tearing their hair from their head.

We've learned, you see, that sometimes it's best to just say nothing at all, although even that is dangerous because by saying nothing, these normal women who enjoy shopping think you're hiding something, like maybe some massive deal. If you don't fess up and just admit the truth about yourself, that you hate shopping, it's entirely possible, especially during this overly-materialistic "Christmas Shopping Season" that you'll be tackled a-la Super Bowl, the contents of your purse dumped on the floor, and perhaps all of your pockets ripped out surgically with a seam-ripper in case you're hiding a secret shopping list and destination in said pocket.

And after all that, then you HAVE to go shopping because your favorite outfit has been destroyed, the one you bought 3 years ago, a classic that you could mix-n-match and thus avoid shopping.  *sigh*

So, yes, I hate shopping.  There!  I said it.

Now, I have to clear up a huge misunderstanding that always occurrs when I make such a shocking statement, so I want you to listen very, very carefully:

While I despise shopping with every fibre of my being, I LOVE giving gifts. 

I LOVE it when my family and friends open the gifts I've chosen for them!  I love it when somehow I've managed to choose exactly the right thing for them! Thus I will go so far as to admit all the aggravation is worth it just to see their happy expressions.  I far more enjoy watching someone open a gift I've given them more than actually receiving one myself.

At Christmas, my brother and I for some reason are often on the same gift-wavelength, and have a few times swapped pretty much the same gifts, and this is a source of great entertainment.

On Christmas Eve, we have a little wine-and-cheese party after dinner, while watching movies and chatting. So one year, although we had decided to open all of our gifts on Christmas Day, that year I found a gift for my brother that DEMANDED it be opened that very night.  It was a really fancy corkscrew that came in its own wooden box.

Now, given this new tradition we'd developed, and given the type of gift, I also picked up some wine for my brother.  I had to work that Christmas Eve, so as soon as I got out of work to head home, I stopped off at a local wine shop to ensure I had what was needed for everyone.  I happened to pass a bottle of red wine with three "x"'s on it, the label of which read, "CHEAP RED WINE".  I strongly considered purchasing it for my brother...imagine! That wine to go with the fanciest corkscrew any of us had ever seen! Hilarious!

But no, I decided I really did have enough and if the wine was bad, then it would just be a total waste of money.

So I left it and drove home. As soon as I arrived I insisted that after Mass and our traditional oyster soup supper, we open certain gifts. My brother had one he wanted me to open, too, so we each chose another for Mom.

And do you know what?

That Christmas Eve, my brother gave me - get this - a corkscrew kit!  Nothing nearly so fancy as the one I gave him (he actually offered to take it back in favor of getting something better. I refused!), and...this gets better....

The wine my brother chose for me....can you guess???


He DID get the gag wine, in addition to the "real" one for me!  And we opened it that night, shared it out and in fact, it was GOOD!

Well, this particular Christmas Eve tradition continues, and we are usually joined by his girlfriend who brings her own and helps us sample our own wines.  It's a very festive occasion of course!

This year, though, I very carefully chose the wine gift for my brother.  You see, he fell away from the Church, only goes to Mass when Mom is at his house, and doesn't see why he needs to go to Confession. He basically has rejected every tenant of the Catholic Faith...and probably every other.  No, he's not an atheist, but certainly he is in need of prayers for his conversion.

So this year, I'm giving him a gift he might not "get" but I'm quite certain our mother will!   The name of this wine?  It's from "Big House" (a vineyard I recommend), a red called "Prodigal Son".


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Accepting Ourselves Part II

The other day while visiting a religious book store owned by friends of mine, I confessed how terrified I am as to what is going to happen once I finish with school. I'll have my Master's, but still in a job that pays less than peanuts (I work for the Church, after all), and with yet ANOTHER summer of unemployment stretching before me. How am I going to pay my loans? How am I going to pay my regular bills?  I'm rushing towards that wall and it's bigger than the wall of Jericho...and I have no trumpet!

She pointed out that now, three times, I've had to take this leap: first when I quit my job having nowhere to go, and then since I began this one, somehow God provided what I needed to avoid bankruptcy, foreclosure, etc.

On a whim, she ran to a particular shelf and handed me the book I quoted yesterday:  "Interior Freedom" by Jacques Philippe.  "Merry Christmas!"

This little book HAS been packed with solid stuff that, in fact, I DO need to read!  It's intense, it's to the point, and even as it relieves a burden, it really shifts it to the painful points I'd rather avoid.

In reading it, I have to admit, it is an exercise in self-knowledge. I've been on the alert a couple times as it seems to begin to "water down" certain teachings, but the author comes around and refuses the allow the reader to ignore the hard moral teachings.

Yesterday I quoted about "Accepting our Defects"

And today, I quote a little from the other topic:  Accepting others:

Often we fail to accept others because deep down, we do not accept ourselves.  If we are not at peace with ourselves we will necessarily find ourselves at war with other people....if we close our hearts against other people, make no effort to love them as they are, never learn to be reconciled with them, we will never have the grace to  practice the deep reconciliation with ourselves that we all need. Instead we will be perpetual victims of our own narrow-heartedness and harsh judgments toward our neighbor.  
~ Philippe, p.43-44

Oh, yes, I totally agree. That's not to say I've overcome it, but I think my own problems with others stems from this very thing.

There's a lot more to the book, but as I've read it, I've come to recognize my own self-loathing.

That's exactly what it is and I must say it again:  absolute self-loathing.

So often, even as I look back on my life, I haven't so much been sorry for my sin or my foibles, but rather, my apologies have come from my complete repentance at even being alive. I've felt that I should apologize for my very existence.

It's as if at some point in my history someone told me that I was never intended or even a mistake of God, yet I am "tolerated" for the sake of "charity".

Do I really BELIEVE this?

Intellectually, no. I know it's ridiculous.  Yet as I read, I can't deny the reflection that I've had to confront about myself, my perceptions, and my life. How I've reacted to others, how they've reacted to me. It's painful.

Accepting ourselves is much more difficult than it might seem. Pride, fear of not being loved, the conviction of how little we are worth, are all too deeply rooted in us. Think how badly we react to our falls, mistakes, and failures, how demoralized and upset we become, how guilty they make us feel. 
Only under the gaze of God can we fully and truly accept ourselves. We need to be looked upon by someone who says, as God did through the prophet Isaiah:  'You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.'  Consider a very common experience: a girl who believes she is plain begins to thing that she might not be so frightful after all on the day a young man falls in love with her with the tender eyes of someone in love.
We urgently need the mediation of another's eyes to love ourselves and accept ourselves. The eyes may be those of a parent, a friend, a spiritual director; but above all they are those of God our Father. The look in his eyes is the purest, truest, tenderest, most loving, and most hope-filled in the world.
~ Philippe, p 35-36

I've not spoken to anyone of this, as it's such a painful part of my own history, but I identify strongly with "the girl" Fr. Philippe cites above. I was in a three or so year relationship with a man I thought I wanted to marry, and whom I believed wanted to marry me...eventually.

Then I found out through a mutual friend that one day when they were talking he said to her that he stayed with me because he was afraid I'd have a "hard time finding someone else."

I don't think I've EVER had anything so cold and cruel said to me in my life - before or since.

I confronted him on this statement, which he denied, but I knew him well: he was lying and couldn't look me in the eye.

It didn't help, either, that since that breakup (which I forced) I never really dated again.. I just wasn't interested. Sometimes I've wondered if perhaps I've discerned religious life because I refuse to entrust myself to a man ever again, in any way.  And it's a serious question.

But no; I did honestly explore whether I was called to marriage, and I did honestly and purely seek a call to religious life. And my vocational ramblings continue, at least in some way I can't ascertain even now.

When I look back on that horrid day, with that horrid bit of news, what shocks me the most is not how cruelly it cut me, but how completely unsurprised I was to feel that dagger twisting in my back and ripping my guts out through my spine. It was as if it was expected.  I was supposed to apologize for being alive again, for wasting his time for those years.

What we need to realize, all of us, is that while we are flawed, we are all WILLED by God, and LOVED by God, even that waste-of-skin-and-oxygen-amoeba who thought that I'd never "find anyone".  It might be hard, but I have to acknowledge that even HE is willed by God and held in existence out of Our Lord's love for him.

Maybe I have a hard time accepting that, and I don't know why. I don't know how far it goes back, but as I've written before, I've never felt like I'm a part of this world. More and more, I feel like the eternal pilgrim, but even pilgrims have a place...while on pilgrimage.

We find it so difficult to accept our own deficiencies because we imagine they make us unlovable. Since we are defective in this or that aspect, we feel that we do not deserve to be loved. Living under God's gaze make us realize how mistaken that is. Love is given freely, it's not deserved, and our deficiencies don't prevent God from loving us - just the opposite! Thus we are freed of the terrible, despair-inducing sense that we must become "good enough" to deserve to be loved.

I'm grateful to my friend for giving me this book - it's exactly what I needed to read, and re-read, and re-read again.  Although so far I've only pulled out a couple bits that focus on the self, do not be led to believe it's a bunch of "self-help" pop psychology! It doesn't deny sin, it forces one to accept responsibility, but in such a way that can help both a scrupulous soul and a lax soul alike.

** all quotes taken from "Interior Freedom" by Rev. Jacques Philippe, Scepter Press, New York, NY, 2007

Friday, December 18, 2009

Accepting Our Defects

God is "realistic". His grace does not operate on our imaginings, ideals, or dreams. It works on reality, the specific, concrete elements of our lives. Even of the fabric of our everyday lives doesn't look very glorious to us, only there can we be touched by God's grace. The person God loves with the tenderness of a Father, the person he wants to touch and to transform with his love, is not the person we'd have liked to be or ought to be. It's the person we are. God doesn't love "ideal persons" or "virtual beings."  He loves actual, real people. He is not interested in saintly figures in stained glass windows, but in us sinners. A great deal of time can be wasted in the spiritual life complaining that we are not like this or not like that, lamenting this defect or that limitation, imagining all the good we could do if, instead of being the way that we are, we were less defective, more gifted with this or that quality or virtue, and so on. Here is a waste of time and energy that  merely impedes the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

What often blocks the action of God's grace in our lives is less our sins or failings, than it is our failure to accept our own weakness - all those rejections, conscious or not, of what we really are or of our real situation....We refuse to admit that we have this defect, that weak point, were marked by this event, fell into that sin. And so we block the Holy Spirit's action since he can only affect our reality to the extent we accept it ourselves. The Holy Spirit never acts unless we freely cooperate. We must accept ourselves just as we are, if the Holy Spirit is to change us for the better.

~  Rev. Jacques Philippe, "Interior Freedom", p 32 - 33


There are 6 days left to get to Confession before Christmas.  What are you waiting for? How can the Savior change your heart if you refuse to admit you are imperfect and that you have been wounded by your own sin? Go!  He is waiting for you with open arms! He already knows what you have done, and only waits for you to come to Him to admit it and ask for forgiveness.  God's mercy is without limit. There is nothing you can do that will cause Him to stop loving you.

The only unforgivable sin, the sin against the Holy Spirit, is to refuse His mercy.  He cannot give you what you refuse to accept.

Go. The Savior awaits...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Petition Supporting the New Translation

I found this at Fr. Cory Sticha's blog, Omne Quod Spirat, Laude Dominum!:

In the liturgical circles of the Blogosphere, there has been much discussion over the "What if We Just Said Wait?" petition. (No, I'm not linking to it. You'll have to find it yourself if you want to sign. I do not wish to encourage disobedience to legitimate authorities in the Church.) In response, a petition has been created that supports the new translation called We've Waited Long Enough. I encourage you to sign this petition and pass it on to your friends, both real-life and social networking.

Click on the link for the petition, sign it, and pass it on to others!

For those who don't understand WHY the new translation is NEEDED, I give you the short answer:  the original Latin of the text of the Mass says one thing, but the translation we've been living with since its promulgation is grossly inaccurate and theologically questionable.  Considering that the law of prayer is the law of belief (i.e.:  we pray as we believe, our prayer and the way we pray the words we use, influences and defines our beliefs), it is actually spiritually harmful to go on with such a bad translation.  No one has been properly served through inaccuracy.   This new translation corrects the errors, is faithful to the original Latin (which was written the way it was for a REASON), and is something we should be viewing as the work of the Holy Spirit in his ongoing care for the Church.

It is a cause of rejoicing, and in the words of Fr. Cory, We've Waited Long Enough!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Preparing the Way for the Lord

One of the things that has impacted me the most in the past year was my visit to the Cistercian Monastery last summer.  There was a part of me that didn't want to go, dreaded the retreat, yet I went because I had committed to it.  As I wrote upon my return, the silence of the monastery allowed God into my soul in a way I had not experienced before.  He called me into the desert precisely so that I could hear him and be present with him without all the distractions of the world.

I find that I often long for that solitude and silence, the regulated time for prayer, and the restriction of my activities to either Sacred Scripture or The Cistercian Way (outside of the Liturgy of the Hours.) 

That retreat was not filled with consolations and good feelings. But it was characterized by a sense of peacefulness I'd never found anywhere else.  That is not to say it is where God has called me;  just the opposite. It was while I was there that He helped me to understand that He was making no demand, was not demanding that I "make a decision", only that I come into a deeper relationship with Him. When I'd first arrived, every fibre of my being was screaming, "I'm not ready!" And so gently and quietly Our Lord said to me in the solitude of the chapel, "I know. That's why you're here."

Ever since that blessed retreat, I have often looked at the picture on the cover of the Cistercian vocation booklet.  I have remembered fondly the little room (not properly a "cell") I was in in the guest quarters.  I recall how at night I looked up to see how the nightlight and things around it caused the light to project the shape of a dove upon the ceiling, as if the Holy Spirit hovered directly above me as I slept. 

All this should not be taken to mean that I have a Cistercian Vocation...far from it! At this time, I actually believe I do not have a religious Vocation at all.

Preparation for Christ

Advent is supposed to be a time of preparation, of introspection, of readying ourselves for the coming Savior. We are to think about death, judgment, heaven and hell even as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Yet because of classes and finals and the craziness of work, I really haven't had the time to retreat into this time of preparation. Even when I DO have the time, I find that I quickly become engaged in other distractions. It hit me hard this morning that what I really need is to "get away" from all of these things. I feel like I'm being pulled into pieces by all the demands upon me, especially those which I have caused and place upon my self. 

It is because of this that I have made a decision to close comments on the blog, probably until Christmas.  I find that as I receive comments, I "feel" I need to respond in a timely manner, even if perhaps I'd rather sit down and finish reading some book.  Sometimes the combox discussions can be lengthy and can lead on and on, and usually I welcome this. In fact, I STILL do. However, perhaps it would be best to simply "shut down" for awhile.

I may, and will probably continue posting, but will not be allowing comments. Please know that I do welcome email, which is linked on my profile. I ask only that if you do send one with regard to either an ongoing discussion or a new post, realize I may not choose to respond at all, or if I do, it may not be timely.


In the interim of what remains of Advent, I am thinking I am going to attempt a "retreat in place".  While I can't completely divorce myself from all the distractions of my life, I can eliminate a few, I can cut down on others, and hopefully this will force me to spend more time in prayer, more time in real solitude, more time, recalling that God desires union with us all, and I haven't been doing my part to allow Him to rest in me.   I have not been working on the Vocation we all share by baptism:  the Vocation to Holiness.

I look forward to spending more time in absolute silence, without the self-inflicted "demands" of the blog to distract me from something far more important than my own piddly writings and tenacious opinions.

Again, comments will be closed but feel free to email me. I will respond as I can.

Have a blessed Advent and may your hearts also be prepared to receive our Divine Savior!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Random Thoughts about Beauty and Rage

On Real Beauty:

I was thinking about beauty today, especially beauty in the faces of the people I love. Most are not beautiful by the world's standards, for we are just average, every-day people. I considered how maybe the surface-attractiveness as defined by the world might at times draw us to people, none of us really recognizes it as a defining feature.  Rather, we look at the wrinkles, the laugh lines, the dimples, the surface imperfections that, together paint a tapestry.  When I think of my friends and loved ones, I remember them with animation. They are not cold photographs, but flesh and blood with quick smiles, ready expressions and identifiable mannerisms that draw me past the surface and into their real presence.

They say that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and I must disagree.  To simply "behold" is to remain at the surface. To enter into real friendship and to know someone as they are, no matter what they reveal on the surface is true beauty.

Beauty isn't revealed in the appearance of the skin covering mere bones, but in the life that animates us all, giving glory to God.

On Rage Against Beauty:

It occurred to me at Mass last night that there is a reason so many rage against the perfect beauty of the Mass, and seek to remove the symbolism and accoutrements that draw us deeply into the mystery.  The Mass is the fullness of life, it reveals the fullness of God if we would but pay attention, and it is both the source of summit of all things.  This is the very depths of beauty as God intended it. It far transcends our paisley-colored lives, the Naugahyde coverings we use to either adorn our imperfections or block out the light of Christ.

It is no surprise that so many rage against the Mass, for when it is properly celebrated it reveals the fullness of God, forcing us to recognize the emptiness of our souls when we come face-to-face with Him.  Those who cannot stand the revelation are enraged, and instead of realizing true beauty and perfection, they seek to destroy the mirror that reveals them to themselves.

As Gaudium et spes, 22, tells us, "God reveals man to himself, making his supreme calling clear."  When we are not living up to our supreme calling, it is much easier to seek to destroy and thus deny the revelation of Truth than it is to shed the vestiges of a false life and choose to embrace holiness.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Come, Lord, Do Not Delay

One of the things someone pointed out to me a few years ago, found prominently in both iconography and the writings of the Church Fathers, is the link between the Birth of Christ and His Resurrection.  This is a critical link that many don't understand, for much sacred art showing the Nativity is very misleading:  our Christmas cards show pristine views either in the desert with pretty palm trees on a clear night, or a snowy night much like those we might experience here in Minnesota, surrounding a cute little clean-looking cozy warm stable with angels singing overhead and animals cuddling around on the hay. Or perhaps some other warm-and-cozy scene eliciting feelings of vague pleasure that our secular culture has deemed to be "the Christmas spirit".  

This kind of art, while to the degree that Truth is allowed, can be beautiful and certainly may portray PART of the birth of Christ, unfortunately causes us to miss out on the fact that Our Lord Jesus Christ was born into the shadow of the Cross and in a place proleptic of His Resurrection.  If we are missing this part of the story, it means that our preparation for Christmas during the season of Advent is lacking some focus, which follows, therefore, that we can't fully enter into the joy and celebration of the Christmas season!

The fact is that Jesus was not born in a nice cozy modern stable in a cow's stall (as the popular song proclaims), but rather, in one of the caves the surround Bethlehem, where the shepherds corralled their flocks at night to protect them from predators and the elements.  Just imagine, then, what the FLOOR of that cave must have been like!  Imagine, if you will, what covered the ground, and how deep it must have been!  It's not as if the shepherds had time to design a manure shovel and clean it out and lay down some nice hay for the "guests"!

Jesus was, indeed, born in a cave. One of the nastiest caves on earth.  And where was our Most Precious Infant Savior, our King, laid to rest?  He was laid in a manger, something used to feed animals, which was never cleaned. It in fact, would have been the cleanest place in the entire network of caves, yet there, "clean" would be a relative term, wouldn't it?  That nasty manger would have been lined with the spit of a thousand camels, and never mind the fleas! He was thus born into the very same relativism that personifies even our own culture today, the actual filth of his own age, and this is fitting, isn't it, for He is relevant to all ages, revealing Truth of eternity in a world in which very few awaited or wanted to receive Him.

Jesus was BORN into extreme suffering, and so we see the connection to the Cross, for as the Church Fathers remind us, the wood of the manger is the very same as the wood of the Cross. In the town with a name that meant "House of Bread", the Bread of Life Himself was placed in an animal's feeding trough, and yet, He came not to feed animals, but to feed US with His own Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity...only to die upon the gibbit as a reminder of His own humble beginnings....and our own great Fall into sin.

This is why, in iconography, one can observe the cave through which Christ was born and entered the earth at his Nativity, and the same type of cave through which He left when He rose from the dead in order to overcome the grave for us, restoring our dignity by opening Heaven to so that we could reach our final end:  eternal union with the Holy Trinity.  Just as He arrived, so He every way.

We must remember, in this season of Advent, and as we celebrate Christmas with great joy at the Incarnation, our God become man who came to save us from our sins calls us to follow in ALL His footsteps...all of them.

"Come, Lord, do not delay.
-Free your people from their sinfulness."
~ Liturgy of the Hours, Midafternoon, Third Sunday of Advent

Advent is a time of Preparation, so that we can prepare our hearts to receive the gift of Christ Himself, and in turn, make OURSELVES a gift to Him!

There is no greater gift we can give to Jesus but ourselves.  We must take time in silence, maybe solitude, slow down even as the world speeds up, and realize what is truly important. The readings for most of Advent call us to consider final Judgement, reminding us of our final ends, giving us hope in our eternal beatitude with God, but only if we respond to His grace and work to eliminate sin from our lives. It is a time of darkness and purification, it is a time of confronting temptations and actual sins and vices that keep us from God.  Especially when we consider the filth into which Christ was born, don't we want to be MORE certain of our own purity so that we can receive Him, offering Him the same mercy He provides to us?

If we saw a child lying in filth, wouldn't our first response be to pick him up, cuddle him and hold him close and warm, wrapping Him in pure, clean clothes? Yet, if we were filthy ourselves, wouldn't we hold back so that we would not contaminate Him further?  Would we not first change our OWN clothing so as to ensure that our efforts would not make this child's condition even WORSE?  If we had just come from a sewage pit, covered in the "fruits" of our labors, would we even CONSIDER picking up a child lying in a manger, knowing that the sewage dripping from us would make his own condition filth even WORSE?

I shudder when I recall that I was once one of those who lived in habitual and terrible mortal sin, did not go to Confession, and yet, at Christmas, for many years, I went forward to receive Him, this dear Holy Infant, into the profanity of my body and soul. I took the Christ Child into my own sewage, that of my own sinful soul, far worse than the filth into which He had been born!

Oh, how I shudder now to consider it!  And how I shudder to realize that this happens EVERY DAY, it happens in HUGE numbers every Christmas and Easter when such large numbers of people return to the Church....but go forward to receive Our Lord in such a filthy state!

We should ALL ensure, then, that we are not in denial of our own sin. We should be using Advent as a true time of preparation, and maybe this is difficult. Maybe it's hard to face ourselves and the reality of our own immorality. Maybe we are in darkness because we have a war within us, an interior battle within which we realize we are in bondage to sin...and are unwilling to let go of the chains that bind us.  Maybe we are afraid that if we go to the Sacrament of Confession, especially if it's been a long time, that we can't be forgiven. Do we inflict a "statute of limitations" on ourselves and condemn ourselves even though Jesus calls us to Him through the Sacrament of Penance in order to reconcile us to that we can receive Him in purity? Do we deny that we NEED the Sacrament of Confession in order to be ABLE to receive Him and be strengthened on this long pilgrimage to Heaven?

Or do we err on the side of sacrilege, approaching the Holy Altar of Sacrifice, having sacrificed nothing of  ourselves, but presuming a place upon our own authority, demanding to be fed at the Table but refusing to partake in the Sacrifice to which we are truly called?

During this time of Advent, maybe in our introspection we are crushed, and finally realize how we have been defeated over and over again, how we have chosen love of some worldly, fleshly pleasure over love of God, preferring what is temporary to what is eternal.  This is not cause for despair! It is a reason to rejoice, for this gift of self-knowledge, while difficult, is the very cave through which we are born again!  It is the very tomb through which we must pass in order to live again!

We MUST see the parallel between the Nativity and the Resurrection, between the Manger and the Cross. We MUST see how, if we are to be conformed to Christ and live out our Baptismal call to Holiness, we have to live out, over and over again in our spiritual lives the cycle of crushing defeat and the darkness in which we are rebuilt, if only we are willing to cooperate with God's grace. We must be crushed, we must die to ourselves in order to learn to turn our wills more perfectly to God.

Christmas isn't just a random celebration, a day off from work, a day to open gifts. It is a day that requires great preparation, for when we celebrate it, we should be offering the gift of ourselves, in purity, in joy, knowing that God has brought us through darkness and into redemption!  Today, on Guaudete Sunday, in the Liturgy of the Hours we pray in recognition of the Redemption! Now, during Advent, we are directed not towards the Nativity, but towards our eternal Salvation!

Rejoice! Persevere through the remainder of this "mini-Lent" and know that your redemption is at hand!

"Let us cleanse our hearts for the coming of our great King, that we may be ready to welcome him; he is coming and will not delay."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Blessed Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

"Hear and let it penetrate into your heart, my youngest son, that there is nothing for you to fear. Let neither your face nor your heart be worried. Do not fear this nor any other illness, nor anything pounding nor afflicting. Am I not here, I who am your Mother? Are you not in my shadow, under my protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the fold of my mantle, in my crossed arms? Is there anything else that you need?"

Ximopaquilti María, teh titemictoc ica mahuiztic.
In Toteco yetoc mohuan.
Tateochihual tehuatizin intech nochin cihuatzitizin.
Tateochihual in Tapoxhuil den moihtic, Jesús.
Yectictitzin María, inan Dios ximotatauhti
totechcopa in tahtacolhuanime
axcan huan tomiquiliztempan.
Ma ihcon mochihua.

Dios te salve, María, llena eres de gracia,
el Señor es contigo.
Bendita tú eres entre todas las mujeres,
y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre, Jesús.
Santa María, Madre de Dios,
ruega por nosotros, pecadores,
ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte.

Hail Mary, Full of grace
The Lord is with thee
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Forgiveness and Acceptance

Fr. Gordon MacRae, has written again from his unjust imprisonment, and I found myself in tears as I read of his friend Joseph, a man looking for redemption and forgiveness but certain his past has condemned him completely.

Oh, can I ever relate!

Please read his post in its entirety, but know that I focus this post and my own comment to him on the first part, directing it towards the subject of Joseph. Here is what I said in response:

The first part of this post was really the one that got to me the most, because it’s a problem I have, too. I have a past. Maybe it doesn’t involve guns and violence, but constantly I’m amazed that anyone who knows what I used to be would ever want to know me now. I have a couple friends who are priests, and they know my history, at least by my allusions to it. And still…they WANT to be my friend. It nearly scandalizes me.
Father if I sat down in front of you right now and told you my history, my past, and even my present, I would look at you in the same way as your friend Joseph; I’d be looking askance, looking for that same horror, wondering when you would shut the door on me. I really admire Joseph, for it seems he had the courage I don’t. I’ve never gone to my friends for Confession; what they know they learned outside of the Sacrament.
Yet I’ve never had the courage to ask them what I wonder so deeply: “Why do you want to be my friend?”. Most people I know don’t know the depths to which I’ve descended, and I am sure that if some of them, family especially, did know…I’d be cut off forever.

While in this comment I referred specifically to my priest friends, I did that given the venue, but in honesty have to say I wonder about my other non-clergy friends as well.  How could they WANT to be friends with me, given what they know about my past? About who I am now?  I am not now without sin, and in fact, there are some sins that even now force me to frequent Confession as I try to overcome them. Sins that might be shocking to some, but seem like mere gnats to another.

I don't want to read of the combox commentary on God's mercy...I know all about it.

In fact, I can lecture on it and I HAVE.

Please,  I am asking all of you, my readers,  to look into YOURSELVES and your own nakedness in your sin and recognize that YOU, too, know the same shame.

 I'm talking about the raw human reality that ALL of us experience, something platitudes cannot cover, cannot stop, cannot deny...that raw reality that when we are stripped down naked before God, we know we have sinned, we know what we deserve, and it's NATURAL to cringe in our concupiscence.


We all cringe in knowledge of our sin. We all fear rejection of others BECAUSE of our sin. As a priest I know (not a friend, just a lecturer I heard) observed, "People don't want to be known in their sin."

He was right. Yet...through different venues, in person, blogging, via email, my sin is known to my friends, and still, they are my friends. They WANT to be my friends, and looking at them in the same way, had they confessed the same wouldn't affect my love for THEM.

We all struggle with this.  We all ask for forgiveness, and we all need acceptance. And yet, when the latter happens...if we say we don't question it, we are lying.

My hope is that Fr. MacRae can convey this to his fellow prisoners, so that they will know they are not alone in the sense that they have a past that is known...but doesn't define them. That God's mercy is infinite, that they CAN change, and that they will not forever be judged according to what they have done in the past.

It is possible to be a New Creation, through God's Grace. It is possible to move on. It is possible to experience God's mercy expressed through the friendship of those who know us...who we were, who we are...and who we may be one day.

Myself...I pray for the grace to accept that reality, for I continue to cringe in shame, much like Joseph, Fr. MacRae's friend, who expects to see an expression of horror only to look up and recognize the significance of  friendship and mercy.

God grant me the humility to accept that same mercy. Amen.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Mantilla Twitch to Newsbobber...And A Few Friends

I don't often reference the News or News Organizations as, for the most part, there are so many other bloggers who do so that I figure my random two cents becomes part of a mindless echo chamber.  Granted, there are stories that NEED to be put out there, and I am not adverse to doing so. But this is different and I think maybe I owe some publicity towards an organization that seems to deserve it! (It helps that I'm trying to study theology for my final and find this as a necessary diversion from that task.)

By accident, one day some time ago while randomly checking out my "Feedjit" widget on the side, I saw a reference to "Newsbobber". I'd never heard of them, so figured maybe I should check out this source apparently referring to me.

As it seems, they are an independent internet news service, collecting Minnesota-based news, and it seems they have a special love for Minnesota bloggers.  (That alone makes me a fan;  seriously, a news service that isn't disdainful or condescending of bloggers, but rather, HIGHLIGHTS us? Wow!)  I'm especially impressed because of the fact they have determined a way to rank the top 100 Minnesota blogs (hottest blogs) , regardless of the subject matter. It's purely mathematical.

I can't pretend to understand it of course, as several blogs have the same score, but I think the difference comes from the way they measure the RSS feeds, subscribers, google page rank, etc.  You can read their directory and ranking faq yourself for more information. Just don't come back and try to explain it to me. I really don't care at all and only provide the link for the mathematical geeks among you.

In any case, a couple months ago I sent this info to my friend Ray at Stella Borealis Catholic Roundtable, and he has apparently kept up his own analysis of the situation.  I've kept my own tabs on the status my friends, such as Cathy of Alex  at Recovering Dissident Catholic and Terry Nelson from Abbey-Roads but can't figure out why Swissmiss doesn't make the rankings, and I  haven't seen my dear friends, the Hadleys & Company at Our Word at all. That's an absolute CRIME! (FYI....Our Word isn't specifically a religion blog, but discusses art, music, news, and contemporary culture. If they're NOT on your blog list then you CLEARLY haven't any culture at all!)

Based on Newsbobber's faq page, someone actually spends time with each blog in order to write a brief review, and based on the blurb about mine, they did their homework in that they are hitting the big points.  I do have a quibble with what they said about mine as it seems to take three months of my life as a police officer and makes it sound like it was a bigger career. It wasn't. It was three months. An important three months of my life, to be sure, especially considering that I didn't get killed and no one died BECAUSE of me, but I can't deny that the experience lives on in me even now, so many years later.  I don't fault the reviewer for this; clearly they were skimming and trying to get a feel for my main topics and who I am especially considering I continue to write under a pseudonym.  All in all, I think their short commentary on my blog is fair and does tell the reader what they're up for if they click on my link.  Kudos for that!

Anyway, that is my PSA for the month.  If you are a citizen of Minnesota, someone from another state or country wanting to know what's going on in Minnesota, or a Minnesota blogger, this is a site you want to know about.  Go ahead and suggest blogs, go ahead and patronize those you like:  it will help their rankings.

Disclaimer:  I did not receive any blegging emails asking me to blog this PSA. I received no payment or kickbacks and I receive no benefit for linking to Newsbobber.  I'm doing this out of the goodness of my heart for an endeavor I feel deserves attention, and for the benefit of my friends who deserve MORE attention.  

With regard to the question on my heart: yes, I have one, albeit a bit cold or fickle at times. 

Stop laughing.