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Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Bear" Says "HI!"

I thought maybe it's time for a little update on my foster dog, "Bear".

In the previous post about him I'd mentioned that a couple had been interested in him, however their dog of 19 years had to be put down and in their sorrow they didn't feel they could consider another dog just yet.  Please pray for them. You who have pets know how hard a loss that is, and many of you will recall what I went through with my Greyhound, Fire, as he was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and was put to sleep only a couple weeks later.

So, it seems Bear is still looking for his "forever home."  

He is doing VERY well, I'm happy to report!  He and my own dog are getting along very well and have fallen into a comfortable friendship and routine.  Bear's real personality has now had the freedom to come out and he is all at once very sweet and docile, mischevious, playful, klutzy, and continues to have a desire to please!

Every day he makes me laugh on our walks as he tends, without warning, to decide to take flight.  Seriously!  He will suddenly BOUND upward, all four paws airborne, galumphing down the sidewalk in an act of pure joy.  You could almost compare it to the joyful bucking of a young colt, but with an upraised tail and doggie grin!

Although I haven't been working with him on obedience in any traditional manner, he IS learning, slowly, by the example of my other dog.  As I make her "sit" or "down" for every treat, or some other thing, I have tried a little to enforce that same move with him.  Since I know dogs learn well through the behavior of other canines, I've been mostly telling my own dog to "sit" and if Bear does it spontaneously, even when treats AREN'T being offered, I give him a great deal of praise in repeating, "Good sit!"

It seems that he is now willing to "sit" on command, if not yet consistently.  At times in his shyness, he can't figure out what I am asking of him even if he did it only 30 seconds before, and I won't push him on it if I see distress;  I do not want him to associate obedience training with something scary.  It is quite easy to reward his other good behaviors, such as "come", which he is always ready to do if only for a scratch under his chin!

Bear has also gained weight, is filling out nicely and although he has further to go, it is clear that real nutrition is doing WONDERS for him.  He is happy, he is comfortable, he has energy, his coat is shiny and SOFT and HEALTHY!

The Theology of the Dog

Ah, you didn't think you'd get off so easily, without me waxing theological, did you?  But if you love animals, you may be interested in this particular theology, which comes to us from Christian Anthropology:  Who we are in relation to God, and who dogs and other animals are in relation to God and us!

If you recall, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had a particular friendship with animals. The animals spoke, Adam had the honor of naming them, and we see in that state of perfection of the world that even animals were given particular gifts that do not belong to them in this fallen world.

In one of my classes this fact was brought to the forefront, and our professor advanced the idea that, in fact, domesticated animals have far greater participation in God's own perfection for they are the ones that are closest to the perfection of animals in the Garden.

It makes sense, though, doesn't it?  In the Garden, humans and animals were friends.

When we look at our domesticated animals, don't we see something particular in those relationships?  We don't fear them, they don't "fear" us, we work together...but in the proper accordance of God's directive. Although we may joke that our cat or dog or parrot runs the house, reality proves otherwise, and in any area where an animal dominates, we recognize obvious disorder.

Seriously:  who of you won't chase your dog or cat off the bed when you want to sleep, regardless of the evil look they give you?  Are you really going to sleep on the floor instead of forcing your Great Dane to do so instead? REALLY?

But we see the gift of our pets. I've been saved from furnace issues, one very deadly, compliments of a dog.  I've taken my greyhound (I miss him) to a nursing home and watched the residents there pet him in great joy while talking about their lives.  We use dogs to sniff out human life (and death, unfortunately) in serious disasters, we use them to find drugs and other illegal materials, and we use them to defend our safety in a myriad of ways. They serve us, we love them, we care for them and together, we have a particular type of friendship that actually is a participation in God's own love.  

I, for one, don't keep a loaded gun near me any longer because of the simple fact that I have a dog. I trust my dog's teeth better than my half-asleep shooting, anyway, in the event of a nocturnal intruder.

And, of course, as my professor observed, German Shepherds are nearly human so...could we expect LESS from them?

I know that they take time to "thank" me every morning and evening after I feed them. Before they begin to play or rest or drink water, they come to me to show their affection after they've eaten. I'm not sure most humans have the audacity to such politeness. But I digress.

In any case, Bear is STILL up for adoption, I can't afford him and considering I may at one point actually be entering religious life, I'd REALLY like this dear creature to go to a home that is deserving of his loving attention and protection.

Are YOU that person or family?

As I always do, I must offer:  if you are interested in adopting "Bear" please email me so I can direct you to the proper channels and his official adoption page.

For now, though, I am content to have him as a happy member of my household, and I will enjoy him for as long as he is here.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Road to Vancouver

I"m a HUGE fan of Alpine Skiing. As a child I saw it once on TV one Saturday and decided then and there that I wanted to learn how to do that!  For some reason, though, I didn't find the red Fischer-Price pieces of ski-shaped plastic to be acceptable. Go figure.

Unfortunately, I didn't learn to ski until I was 17, and took a big leap when I was in my 20's to join the Ski Patrol, experiencing there my 4th time EVER on downhill skis. But it ended well...I actually went that season from being a "non-skier" to "Rookie of the Year."  Click the link for that Adoro-patented-long-winded story.

Tonight, though, I want to talk about something else:   the United States Ski Team.

Tonight, NBC sponsored a documentary about the Alpine team, Truth in Motion: Road to Vancouver.

I watched it, drooling, still wishing I was one of them. Now that I've watched the team for so many years, I am given a whole new perspective. I remember when Julia Mancuso made her debut and when Lindsey Kildow (now Vonn)  from MN crashed in the last Olympics, in a practice run, Mancuso took her medal. It was Mancuso's day, her run.  But Vonn's career has been incredible and I have to admit, where I used to admire Picabo Street, I admire Lindsey Vonn more!

But tonight, Sarah Schleper has really caught my attention.  She's had a rough road. She has been featured in commercials, and I've watched her crash and burn in far too many races. Her characteristic "ROAR!"  when she's in the gate gets my blood running, too, and brings us all tearing down the  hill with her, looking for that big finish!

There's more, though; Sarah Schleper isn't just a racer:  She's a Mom.  She and her husband, a couple years ago found that she was unexpectedly pregnant.  In the documentary she gave her initial reaction: "NO!  Not now! I want to come back!"  She knew how hard it would be, the demands of her sport, how hard she'd been working to rehab from back surgery...and spoke only of the support of the team for her impending motherhood.  They told her good luck and they'd be waiting.

Sarah CHOSE to have her baby. In a world full of people who would say, "Think of your career!  You can't ski forever!" she said YES to life!

Now, I don't see any evidence that Mrs. Schleper's formal position is that of pro-life. However, her very decision, the beauty of her child, the fact she is sacrificing herself for her child and family and has STILL managed to get to the 2010 Olympics speaks VOLUMES.

God bless her, God bless her child, her family, and I, for one, will be hoping for her success in the upcoming Olympic Games.  GO, SARAH!

Friday, January 29, 2010

REALLY Random Thought: DRUPAL!

This one has a slight content warning, so be advised!

I keep seeing the term "Drupal" in various places, most recently with regard to someone wanting to better run a website for his family.

And I'm sorry, but EVERY dang time I see that word it takes me back to my years of work in the psychiatric field and familiarity with the names of different medications, so I can't help but think it sounds like one of the following.

"Drupal" sounds like either:  

1.  A tricyclic drug used to treat various forms of depression


2.  A drug  used to treat Erectile Dysfunction.

And so you understand my consternation, especially with regard to the LATTER, as to WHY someone would want to use DRUPAL with regard to a website, ESPECIALLY one dealing with family. All I can think is, "Dang, what EXACTLY are you hawking?"  And then on the heels of that, "I really don't want to know...."

OK, back to regular programming. I hope you're not as scandalized by my thoughts as I am!
(Maybe they should change the name of their just isn't a good name. Sorry.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, Blog Patron, Priest, and Doctor of the Church

I could not let this day pass without commenting on the Angelic Doctor. However, given who he was, perhaps it is best if I let him speak for himself...or rather, for Christ and how the cross exemplifies every virtue.

The following reading was taken from today's Divine Office:
(Collatio 6 super Credo in Deum)

The Cross exemplifies every virtue:

Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.

It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.

If you seek the example of love: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends. Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if he gave his life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake.

If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross. Great patience occurs in two ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to avoid and yet does not avoid. Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently, because when he suffered he did not threaten; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and he did not open his mouth. Therefore Christ’s patience on the cross was great. In patience let us run for the prize set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before him, bore his cross and despised the shame.
If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.

If you seek an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the Father even unto death. For just as by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.

If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink.

Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because they divided my garments among themselves. Nor to honors, for he experienced harsh words and scourgings. Nor to greatness of rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on my head. Nor to anything delightful, for in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


When I was a child, like many others, I loved "heroes". My attention wasn't captivated so much by Superman and Wonder Woman or the Wonder Twins or Aquaman as it was by CHiPs and the guys of Code Red and the paramedics of Emergency!.    As much as I was a dreamer, I was always, it seems, a realist, and as I got older I didn't seek out fantasy writings, but rather, real-life stories of real people who had something to say about everyday survival.

In high school and college, I read many books by police officers and firefighters because I was drawn to the fields and wanted to really KNOW the truth about their lives. What did they see every day? What was the stuff that Hollywood overdid or refused to show? I knew the world wasn't glamorous, so I read in order to get the "dark side", the stuff I needed to know in order to survive.

I wanted to be one of those people. I wanted to be a "hero", but most importantly one that was real, not something fabricated and built up to cartoonish proportions. I wasn't looking for power or adulation; I was looking for a way to make a real difference in an out-of-control world. And there, in the pages of those personal anecdotes, I found what I was seeking.

I compared those books to the life I was living, and on one hand, I think it fed into a coping mechanism common to children in severely dysfunctional families: I was both the mascot and the hero in my family, to some degree. But I wanted to be a real hero.

During my Senior year of high school, (age 17)  I had "run away" from home (to avoid  Mom's random screaming and other random flying objects at 3 am, among other things), and had found refuge with my best friend's family. Initially they didn't understand why I was there and encouraged me to try to solve things quickly. I really DID want to reconcile with my Mom, and my "host family" was obviously interested in the same thing, such that I did not want to wear out my welcome and lose a place of safety.  So one evening, after phone negotiations with Mom, my best friend drove me "home" and waited outside in case I needed a quick escape.

Hostage Negotiations

When I walked in the door, Mom was cooking dinner and told me to sit down as though nothing was happening. Our arrangement via phone was that I would be coming over specifically to talk to her about whether I could return...or not. Mom took a more manipulative approach: "I cook dinner and talk to you on MY terms and timeline."

In a normal family, that would be healthy. In my family...not so much.

 I was done with Mom's "terms" because they were NEVER rational. The woman was out of control, and tended to cause random and often very sharp objects to become airborne or shatter suddenly when she was struck by one of her usual rages. I was NOT willing to be in a room where she had access to knives and hot liquids or other dangerous objects!  You may call this "disobedience" if you'd like, and yes, it was. But it was ALSO, and more importantly, pure, basic survival.

Now, given the subject of deadly objects, while Mom had never tossed those items at others, I believed the day would come and I didn't want to be in the way.(Actually, that day DID come, but it's a different story.)   I was still at that point of my life where, if I was going to die, it was going to be at my own hand, not Mom's. But I digress, if only a little:

That evening, I did agree to go into the basement with her to help her fold the laundry as a vehicle to our negotiations. While there, she begged me to come home. I refused. I told her she was irrational, I couldn't live with her, and I WOULDN'T. She revealed she was still reeling over the "sudden" revelation that I planned to become a police officer. She asked me why, how could I do this to her?

I looked her directly in the eye, the first time in a long time, and told her very bluntly, "Because I want to be able to help people like you. I want to be able to come into an out-of-control situation, and protect others from people like you."

She reacted as though I'd struck her.

I'd meant what I'd said, but realized I'd said too much, and I'd been too brutally honest. Yet, it was the truth...God's honest truth. I saw my Mom as being dangerous. And she herself and to others. And I was completely helpless unless I could escape her awful grasp on me.

To my surprise, she let me go. She hugged me, I hugged her back, more out of a desire to forgive her and be reunited than any actual sentiment, but both of us were crying, and I walked out the front door without looking behind me. I went back to my haven, to the family that had taken me in, and would continue to take me in until it was safe to return home, whenver that was.

It was actually quite clear that what was supposed to be "home" was really a dungeon of destruction, and I knew I couldn't be there anymore.

I think I went "home" a week later...because even though we want to escape our families, even if we need to, we also need to be with them...and know them so that we can save others from a similar fate.

In looking back a the situation, though, I wonder if maybe that's what it comes down to: I grew up in an out-of-control situation and my solution was to protect others from such a life. I needed to be a "hero" because I didn't have one, and no one should be without a hero. No one should exist without a Savior.

No one should have no way out.

I really think that's why I gravitated towards Law Enforcement, and worked so hard for that personal "Holy Grail."

It was the writings of  cops, the real people who drew me to them, because they didn't mince words. They told the negatives, they shared their hearts,  and some of them had also come from terrible home situations, too. They gave me hope, and through their writings, I was inspired to become something completely contrary to my true nature: a Cop.

On one hand, that's a bad thing; on the other, it's the best thing I could have done, for that brutal track brought me closer to God. It took me through the Pride of feeling like I had to do it all on my own, to realizing, today, that He has done it all. Every single step. Every bit.

We are often changed by the things we read. Our eyes, they say, are windows to the soul, and they can also be doorways. When we read the words of others, we allow their thoughts to penetrate our own souls.

I will not say that the things I read were bad; they were real, and they gave me an education I needed, and Hope. It was unknown men and women who inspired me to overcome some incredible weaknesses...because they had done so before me.

For that reason alone, to me they were Heroes.

All of us are affected by the lives of others, and when they tell their stories well, it makes us realize that we don't have to settle for the status quo. We don't have the look into the mirror and be satisfied. We can be inspired. We can consider new avenues. We can realize that whatever we are facing, or whatever discernment we are undergoing, others have gone before us, and they have told their stories. Or are telling their stories now.

It's not facts and figures and general information that brings us into taking the next step for God; it's the experiences of others who encourage us to follow them, follow the source, seek what (or Whom) is calling us.

Words carry a huge impact. Stories, at the service of the Holy Spirit, cause conversions and bring about results.

In the end, we are called to live our lives, tell our tales...and let everything we ARE reach the hearts of others. God can use our mistakes and our triumphs in powerful ways, if only we have the humility to step back and let Him take center stage.

You know,  I always wanted to be a hero.

I'm glad I don't have to live up to such a profile, though. It's better to be a  mere stepping stone...and let God be the Savior.

*** This very convoluted post was written back in 2008 and edited only a little tonight. It says a lot without saying much at all...or does it say little while saying a lot? You decide. 

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Conversion Was Not the Call of St. Paul the Apostle

Today, the Apostle Paul himself tells us of his conversion, and the story is well known. There is a reason, though, that we celebrate it not as the Call of St. Paul, but rather his Conversion. I think that the reality is that the Call of the Apostle Paul happened many years prior, when he was still a young man.

A few months ago it was my privilege to attend a conference in which a priest offered a possible link between the man who went away sad and our beloved St. Paul.  In my opinion, this link is worth considering and I have pondered it often, for there is a great deal of truth in the idea, including something of human psychology we can observe in people around us who have missed their calling or have outright rejected Christ.

Let us review the relevant passages to this meditation:

17As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 18 Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: 'You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.'" 20 He replied and said to him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to (the) poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." 22 At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Now let us look to today's Feast and read part of what Paul has to say about his conversion in

“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus,about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me,‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’And he said to me,‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’ My companions saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me.I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’ The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do.’

Do you see the link between the two?

The priest who made this connection advanced it carefully, not to be considered dogma but rather for a point of meditation. If you have not guessed, he advanced the idea that the young man who approached Jesus asking, "What must I do?" was Saul who became St. Paul the Apostle.

In that young man of the reading from Mark's gospel,  the priest saw Saul, who we know to have been a Pharisee, a privileged man, one who persecuted the Christians without mercy.  In the first passage from Mark, we observe a young man who is struck to his very being by what Jesus is saying, so much so that he RUNS to Him, falls on his very knees and asks what he can DO!

How does Jesus respond?  First he asks Saul to go deeper into the mystery.  He asks him, "Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone!"

In this question, imagine Jesus looking into Saul's eyes, perhaps putting His hand on Saul's shoulder to emphasize His words and express His goodwill.  "Why do YOU call ME 'good'?  NO one is 'good' but GOD ALONE'."   Jesus does not break eye contact.  He is asking Saul to go deeper into himself, and into HIM to see the Truth of His very being...and what He is really asking.

Imagine a moment of silence as Saul ponders this question. "What does Jesus mean?  What is he saying?  Is he...claiming what I THINK he is?  That HE is....GOD?!!!!!??????"

Jesus emphasizes the Ten Commandments...the Law of God HIMSELF.  It is God HIMSELF speaking here, the Word Incarnate giving spoken expression the Word that is HIM.

Saul has broken eye contact. He looks away and in meeting the gaze of Jesus again, he sees everything...he recognizes who he is in the face of God, who LOVES him.  God LOVES Saul, but still tells him what he is lacking...he is not free to follow Him. He must purge himself of his worldly attachments, give to the poor...and follow.

That's where Saul goes away sad. 

So often this scripture is interpreted in a way not supported by scripture itself.  I've heard many homilies and lectures giving rise to the idea that the young man went away sad because he didn't want to part with his belongings.  Maybe that's true, but where in scripture is that verified as reality?  I pondered this myself  years ago when teaching RCIA, and in light of what Father said, I ponder it even more.  It seems that the man who went away sad isn't actually the end of the story.

 It makes sense that we consider this testimony in the light of Paul's Conversion...and Apostleship.

Look seriously at and ponder the story the Apostle Paul tells us today. If we can assume the negative about the Gospel of Mark, can we not ponder it in light of Paul's testimony in ACTS?    What did he do?  He HEARD a voice...a voice he recognized especially when Christ Himself spoke.  The conversation is almost an echo of the first!.

 Saul has matured and asks, "Who ARE you?"

Jesus simply identifies Himself, knowing Saul will remember and BELIEVES that only God alone is Good.

Saul doesn't question the identification.  This good Pharisee who questions EVERYTHING and is ready to kill on contact lies there on the ground and recognizes the voice of the Good Teacher from his youth.  This time, instead of asking, "What must I do to inherit eternal life" he asks a more open-ended question, "What shall I do?"

Jesus, instead of giving him an open ended answer, gives him one far more specific...and tells him where to go, and to whom.

Saul goes.

The young man, maybe Saul, went away sad. He had many possessions.  Perhaps he was prideful and expected to be told how wonderful and holy he was.  Perhaps he expected the Teacher to  hold him up as a perfect example.  Perhaps it was a moment of humility that made him approach with such zeal,  but upon learning that the greatest possession he had, himself, was what he had to give up, he went away knowing he could not do so.

He is the epitome of the sin of Adam, juxtaposed with the New Adam

He goes away, and considers all he has, and most importantly, that he is being asked to die to himself.  In order to follow Christ, he has to give up EVERYTHING, perhaps not understanding that Jesus is the fulfillment of every belief he has ever held, and that his people have ever held.

Saul struggles and succumbs to the world and his own will, which, as St. Francis de Sales calls it, his self-love.   He becomes angry, and when his life doesn't pan out as he thinks it should, he becomes bitter. He recalls that intimate moment with Christ, where he knelt at His knee, made eye contact, and recognized...the Call.  Which he rejected.

Saul, in his battle with himself, expresses it as a battle towards the early Christians.  He persecutes them mercilessly. Instead of attacking his own sin, his own faults, he puts to death those who reveal the Truth Incarnate, the real love of Christ that would not abandon him to his own disorder, his own superficiality, but would call him out of it for the benefit of eternity.

Because he rejected such a gift, he must try to destroy it, knowing all the while that this war is futile...and it makes him that much more furious in his persecution.

It all makes sense. The Young Man is the Apostle Paul.

We who struggle to know our Vocation, especially we who are so LATE can find a friend in the Apostle Paul through this particular meditation.  Maybe we identify with an earlier Call...and we went away sad. Maybe we didn't trust, maybe we were hindered in some other way. Maybe it had nothing to do with us, but with legitimate worldly and holy obligations.

But we can't look at it without looking honestly at ourselves, considering our own unholy flaws.  I can see it clearly now that it  has been pointed out. I can understand some of my own anger and rejection of Our Lord over the years in light of this, and can more clearly understand others, even those who claim to be Catholic, who spout off so publicly in anger at Jesus, Christianity, and the Church.

I wonder if maybe they recognize that once they were LOVED...but either that love was distorted or because of their own Pride, they chose to run away...and try to kill that which loves them the most in hopes they will eliminate that terrible ache within that calls them onward..towards Christ.

It's easier to attack than it is to succumb to the sacrificial love of Christ. I know this from experience. And it's easier to run away.  

Maybe we can give up things, but are we ready to give up OURSELVES, to lose our own lives in order to partake in the life of Christ?  Are we willing to forego those things we "love" because we love God more?

Or will we reject a Call we sincerely hear, in favor of a few trivialities such as social status or education or...simple,

Maybe the reason Saul was angry was because he rejected Christ and instead of pursuing him, focused on a lost Vocation he would prefer to destroy rather than pursue.  Maybe some of us who are miserable are clinging to who we think we are instead of accepting that we are to become who God created us to BE.

The good news is this:  maybe the Young Man came BACK...and leads us all still today.  Perhaps we who think it is too late, can find, in the Apostle Paul, a Patron Saint for Late and Lost Vocations.  Perhaps if anyone can is him.

St. Paul the Apostle...pray for us! 

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I went to a Catholic College where, as at any college or university, there was a mix of students from several states, regions, and economic statuses.  As I recall, several of us used to comment on the sometimes shocking behavior or attitudes of those students that came from the wealthier suburbs of Chicago or other cities. We often snarked that they were always being bailed out by "Mommy and Daddy", and so never held to account for anything.

Truly there were some students who seemed to have no sense of the real world, so sheltered had they been by their parents' wealth.  One famous example from my class year came from a sociology class. A somewhat heated debate was raging with regard to male and female roles in the home, and there were passions on all sides. Finally one particular girl raised her hand and when given the opportunity, stated in honest astonishment, "I don't understand what the problem is! Why don't they just have the maid do it?"

The entire class fell silent in stunned disbelief. Was she SERIOUS?

Indeed, she was.  I do believe she learned a great deal during college and while completing her required internships, etc., about the plight of the everyday life of men and women everywhere, and that most people don't have maids. Anywhere.

I am ashamed to say, however, that even as I laugh at the incident now and even somewhat nostagically recall discussions with my friends on the "spoiled brats" at my college and everywhere...well, my house is made of glass, too.

Maybe it finally shattered today. At the very least, it cracked all over and will have to be replaced.

Sure, I grew up poor and "maid" was the word Mom used when establishing her role as Mother and not servant of we messy children. And sure, I had to work my butt off to pay for college (a debt that STILL has about $5,000 left to be paid off, but let's not discuss the grad school loans that will come due in 6 months on top of that...), but even so, I have just as big a sense of entitlement as those students did.

Oh, yes, my sense of entitlement is HUGE. I don't know where it came from, but have to admit it was in place even when I went to college.  I got financial aid and loans because I EXPECTED it and decided I DESERVED it. I decided I DESERVED to go to college, then DESERVED to get a good job with my degree...and on down the line.  Losing my "dream job" early on, the one I worked so hard for, was actually as devastating as it was because of my overdeveloped sense of entitlement.

The Human Plague of Hidden Hubris

If we all truly look at ourselves, we will recognize this same hubris. Maybe the rich kids in school had their entitlement influenced by their family's money or importance or other factor. But we poor kids, well, our likewise overdeveloped sense of entitlement (and the obvious superiority I described above) arose from knowing there was money for us because of our poverty, and the mistaken sense that we were "better" because we'd learned "values" and a "work ethic" from our working-class/ impoverished families.

Just last night, and a little today, some co-workers and I were speaking of this sense of entitlement we all have, how our pride gets in the way of all the different things we think we need to control. Not just out of a proper perspective of turning out a good product, doing good work, etc., but how the outcome reflects upon US in the eyes of OTHERS.

It's very easy to fall into the trap of doing some kind of good work or advancing some kind of program not for the good of the parish or the city or the school or other group, but out of a sense of misguided Pride in ourselves.  Although we may start out with the proper intent and ends in mind, it is very easy to lose focus and continually die to ourselves.  What may have started out as a meritorious thing can quickly descend into an occasion for Pride, in which we are seeking our own glory, instead of God's.

All of us seem to think we're actually entitled to a good reputation, respect and esteem of others! 

The last time I checked, though, holiness has NOTHING to do with how we appear in the eyes of others or what they think of us.  It has nothing to do with whether we have college degrees or a big house or even whether we live in an abandoned van down by the river with seven homeless cats and a wounded bird.

Perhaps one of the first things we need to really evaluate in ourselves is our sense of entitlement, and how ingrained it is in everything we think, how we live, what we every moment.  Why do we get impatient when sitting in traffic?  Entitlement. Why do we get impatient when waiting for someone to call us back?  Entitlement. Why do we become put out when someone stops by our office without an appointment when the time might be inconvenient to us?  Entitlement.  Why do we become upset when someone else wants to use the computer or the phone or the TV?   Entitlement.

The Truth is this:  we have a lot more importance in our own eyes than we do in another person's estimation of us as they evaluate priorities in the circumstances of their own lives.  The unfortunate reality of human nature is that we ALL suffer from this plague of entitlement, and we feel put-out or put-upon when someone else's own sense of entitlement happens to collide with ours, literally or figuratively.  In our own tendency to be wrapped up in our own affairs and hubris, we actually forget the virtues of justice, mercy, and humility, all bound together by charity...which reminds us that true holiness is deferring to others and remembering we are called to serve, not to BE served.


Fr. S. at Clerical Reform has an INCREDIBLE post on this particular facet of Pride today.  Go read it!  I have to admit I  found his post to be timely given my ponderings and realizations of the last few days, am grateful for his commentary, and would love to sit down with a cup of coffee and discuss the theological implications of this very large topic with him.  Ah, the limitations of the internet:  often human interaction is limited. But then again, who ever said we were even entitled to the internet?  More on this in a moment....

Pride in Discernment 

As I wrote this post, another point hit me pretty hard, and because I know I am not alone in facing the difficulty of vocational discernment, I have decided to bring it up as well.

I've written before of the GIFT of Vocation, that it is something unmerited, and it's something I often forget to consider as I continually seek God's will for me.  I often complain about how hard it is, how exhausting, and how much I wish I could just put it aside and just "move on" with my life.  Never mind the fact that I can't "move on" if I don't know where I'm going!

Thus, in my prayers and thoughts this afternoon, I queried, "Why do some of us struggle so much with discovering our Vocation?"

The Answer:   Entitlement.

Ouch. Oh....ouch. Ow. Bleeding profusely now, and deservedly so.

When, exactly, did I get a sense of entitlement about such a great gift as a Vocation?  And when did I lose sight of the fact that the very SEARCH for it is a HUGE grace from God?

I've been realizing, more and more, how BIG my sense of entitlement is, and it's a painful process to evaluate everything in my life, taking a look in that mirror of my own estimation in my eyes, and recognizing I've been staring at my image in a distorted circus mirror for a very long time. 

The Remedy

Everything is Grace. Everything is a personal Gift from God.

There's nothing new here, nothing I haven't seen or read or heard, and it's nothing new to you, either. 

Maybe the problem is that even though it's not new, I've become so fascinated with the circus mirror that I  never put it aside long enough to actually embrace the reality of my own lack of importance in the face of God. Now that my perspective (again, by Grace) has been changed a little, now I can internalize, maybe, the Truth.

Yes, Jesus died for me, and my struggle with accepting that comes from the same pride that makes me depend too much on myself for everything. It's that sense of entitlement, that, at its core, is whispering, "You don't NEED a're ENTITLED to one!"

Oh, it's painful to realize this, but necessary.

If we don't put this terrible, soul-killing, disordered sense of entitlement aside, we can't ever learn to depend on God. The loving God who knows our pride and our lack of humility, but STILL chose to die on the Cross especially in the face of our hostile lack of gratitude.

I'm going to continue pondering this, for as long as it takes. It will take YEARS to root out all the tendrils of entitlement that have taken over my life, but I'd rather spend the time NOW than have it burned away from me in the purifying fires of Purgatory. Which, by the way, is yet another Mercy of God's Justice that I don't deserve and to which I am not entitled.

Everything is a gift. Every moment. Every "inconvenience", every blessing.

Thank you, Jesus.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

No Such Thing as "Pro-Abortion Catholic"

There is no such thing as a "Pro-abortion Catholic".   Catholics are pro-life and this IS an infallible teaching that belongs to the Deposit of Faith.

The "Pro-Abortion aka Pro-Choice 'Catholics'" seen in politics and in political organizations are people who have chosen to separate themselves from the Church in deep passionate love of their own will, ambition, and preferences, and as such, are no longer members of the Mystical Body of Christ through a very grave sin.    Therefore, they are not "Catholic".  They are people who are, for personal gain, misappropriating the Title and claiming a Privilege of being Catholic that does not belong to them by their own CHOICE.

Seriously, I find it hard to believe ANYONE claiming to be a PRACTICING Catholic (every Sunday, Holy Day of Obligation, Confession once per year, Holy Communion in state of grace during Easter Season as a bare minimum according to our precepts) would believe abortion is morally justifiable.

I don't care who you are!  If you willfully and publicly dissent against and advance teachings that contradict the Faith and Morals of the Catholic Church, you have separated yourself from us all,  and therefore you may be "Catholic" in name and by baptism (for by virtue of this, there is always hope...I'm a sinner, too, and screw up a LOT), but you LOSE the right to proclaim in conjunction with a public life and advancement in the eyes of others, a Faith you obstinately REFUSE,  ESPECIALLY if  you're using it for your political advancement to purposefully fleece those who are even more uncatechized than you!

I don't care if you're a politician, a DRE, a homosexual activist, or a housewife in rural Alabama with a blog and a little time and a column in your diocesan newspaper:  if you dissent on grave matters and KNOWINGLY and INTENTIONALLY advance your dissent through your own formal aren't Catholic in anything other than name, and that is only by God's which you are publicly and personally refusing to partake.

That's your Choice, my friends. 

Yes, you do have a Choice...agree with God or disagree with God.

To Conceive a Child...or control your passions and keep your pants on so that you won't conceive a child.  Abortion is NOT the answer to animal passions. It's the epitome of a barbaric, tyrannical society.

To support abortion and claim Catholicism is demonically scandalous and you will NOT find support for it in the official teachings of the Church. The fact that Tertullian or Origin or St. Augustine or St Thomas Aquinas said some things in their theological musings a long time ago doesn't contradict the fact that the constant and persistent Magisterial teaching of the Church from the beginning of Christianity (ie the Church which was born out of the side of Christ) has been that abortion is morally incompatible with Christ.  Period.  You don't get to disagree with that without entering into grave sin.  Consider yourself informed now of that fact if you were previously claiming ignorance.

As a reminder, three things constitute grave (mortal) sin, which destroys the virtue of charity and renders one severed from God:

1.  The object of the sin is a grave matter (abortion is murder, even atheists agree on this because the fetus is a CHILD, a human being.)

2.  The matter is committed with full knowledge.   (The reference above...if someone is a sincerely practicing and DEVOUT Catholic, it means they have FULL KNOWLEDGE that a sin is grave and separates one from a relationship with God.)  Note that the teaching doesn't leave room for wishy-washy "opinion".  It is OBJECTIVE and BINDING.

3.  The matter is done with deliberate consent.  Active support of abortion in politics, in procuring, etc, is a willfull choice..unless forced by others contrary to one's own will. Thus it means that a woman who is forced into abortion has not committed sin. Those who forced her are DAMNED if they don't repent. Period.

No, I'm not mincing words. God is the judge, not me, and I'm not stating this to or about anyone in particular.

(More info on the morality of abortion and other common issues from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) can be found here.) 

It happens:  mothers and  fathers of pregnant daughters, families and inconvenienced boyfriends force girls/women into abortion.  Because it is legal and available and "safe".  Those women then suffer for this act against their own conscience, for the baby they wanted...but no one else did.  The women in question didn't sin....those that forced them...DID.  And as scripture tells us...Vengeance is the Lord's.  And He cares deeply for those who suffer so much.

Yes, abortion DOES harm women and it harms the children they conceived and allowed to be flushed down the toilet through use of the Pill (because that's what it does), through vacuum-suction and chemical uterine murders, etc. And it harms the fathers who helped, with the mother and God, to bring them into existence so that they could be torn to pieces in the womb in the Sacred Name of "Choice".

I'll close, then, with my starting point for we have come full circle:   There is no such thing as a "Pro-Abortion", or in politically correct warm fuzzy terms, "Pro-Choice Catholic". There is only such a thing as a prideful politician or activist who has usurped a Privileged Title for the advancement of themselves and in detriment to all of Christianity and to the Mystical Body of Christ, from which they have divorced themselves through their faithless ideological and outright demonic position.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Choose your place. Choose your politicians...just know that if they claim to be Catholic, there's more to check than the title they take for themselves in order to win your vote.

Further info:  Father Malloy, SDB at A Shepherd's Voice ALSO says you can't be Catholic and "Pro-Choice". As does, famously, Father Corapi. (I couldn't find a link to a You Tube or article that gave the full quote, but it's one he's famous for!)   


Groggy Dog

This morning I drove Bear down to the Humane Society  for his surgery. I was directed to put him on the scale and the poor thing, confronted by the other caged, barking dogs and the scale business was just shaking and shuddering in terror!

But he went nicely into the kennel that was brought for him and looked after me plaintively as I walked away to go to work.

I picked him up right on time as directed, and the Tech told me he had done very well, especially for an older dog.  He was cooperative and so sweet he apparently won their hearts!

Of course, it was quite obvious he was very doped up. Although he sat up when he saw me come in to get him, he had an intense, unblinking stare that revealed his complete and utter confusion in that moment. They told me that the fact he was even awake at that point is amazing for a dog of his age and so I slowly walked him to the car, hoping he'd be able to figure out how to get in!

Now, a few hours later he's still groggy and confused, alternately sitting and staring into space, then wandering to someplace, like, say, the water bowl, where he decides it's too much work to go back to his dogbed so he plops down right there for another snooze.

Ah, yes, the endless entertainment of a groggy dog....

*SHHH!  He's sleeping again...*   :-)


I saw a little swipe of blood on Bear's leg, touched it, noted it was fresh, checked the incision site which seemed at that time to be "oozing" a little.  Nothing huge.  Noted a page of matted hair on the inside of Bear's leg (he is a long-haired dog!) which I suspect had become "attached" to the incision site in through movement, pulled away and caused a little bleeding.  Ow.

I did some internet research to see if I should worry, which of course, the sites make me do! I suspect, though, that when they talk about "oozing"  (or similar words) I think they are talking about more substantial signs of real bleeding and infection.

Bear is walking a little weird, but in his skinniness, he seems to me to walk a little weird anyway, so now I don't know if I'm just being paranoid or WHAT!   He's still groggy from the meds, started licking once or twice but I stopped that behavior and he quit without a problem.

Having seen a dog with bone cancer, I know the signs of real pain and distress in a dog, and none of those signs are present in Bear...

So for now, I'm just keeping an eye on things, have decided NOT to call the animal rescue unless it really becomes necessary. I think what I'm seeing is within a range of "Normal" and I hope it stays that way!

But, please pray anyway because I'm paranoid and will assume the worst even when it's nothing.


Right now he's just hanging out napping on the floor and actually looks pretty comfortable.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Losing His....Uh... *ahem*

My blog must seem so schizophrenic these days;  one day writing of discernment or other spiritual topic, the next, about the realities of being a "foster mom" for the first time. Just goes to show that life isn't one-dimensional.

It's actually possible to discern God's will while living life in all it entails, so really, I make no apologies for blogging about this part of my life.  (I've lost a few readers since Bear's arrival, and find it hard to believe my discernment posts would cause such a huff.)

"Bear" is doing very well, but there's a secret we aren't going to share with him:  tomorrow he's making a very special trip to a Human Society's mobile unit for a very special surgery.

Yup. That's the one. The one that all the men in my audience would prefer I never name.

For some reason, even though it's a DOG undergoing this surgery, grown men cringe and grab at their privates when this particular surgery is mentioned, as though it is being proposed that it be applied to them.

Sotto Voce:  
Incidentally I find this hilarious as most men these days don't NEARLY cringe so much at the sound of "vasectomy" or even pretend to cringe at the sound of "tubal ligation" which is infinitely more dangerous for women than what they undergo.  It should be noted that those surgeries in human beings are morally incompatible with the spiritual life and romantically incompatible with the definition of true, sacrificial, sacramental charity. So maybe I don't find it so hilarious after all. 


Although I haven't been instructed to do so, I will be withholding food and water tomorrow morning from "Bear", driving him to his temporary destination, and picking him up later, with the challenge of "keeping him quiet."

Have you ever tried to keep a dog "QUIET" after surgery?

I recall picking up a female dog we once adopted from Animal Control. The City paid for her surgery, and I remember going into the vet's office as the harassed vet tech passed the leash to me. The dog was not just excited to see me and pawing at ME, but desperately scrambling to deeply know all the dogs in the waiting room as well.

"Keep her quiet for a few days." said the harried Tech, without much confidence.

Say WHAT?  She's doped up NOW and not even TRYING to be docile and quiet...what happens when the drugs wear off???

But for the only time in her life she laid down in the back seat once removed from the stimulus of the vet's waiting room and when we got home, she found a spot in the bedroom on her dog bed where she just SAT...head down, ears floppy....not sure whether to sleep or just hang out in her dopey highness.

Eventually sleep won out. Not until after much confusion, though.

I don't know how Bear will be tomorrow when I bring him home, but I know it'll be a challenge to keep him quiet.

He may be 9 years old, but he loves to play, he has taken to bounding around in happiness and joy and every so often he gets the "zooms".

This morning, this "malady" hit him and after tiring of figure-eights in my narrow livingroom, he settled for spinning on a dime a la Quarter Horse Extraordinaire.  All the while, my dog,  who was first intimidated by his antics and found the need to flee to the couch for refuge, became quite intent on his activities.  When Bear began to spin she took special notice and after a period of solemn study, she suddenly BOUNDED from the couch and POUNCED on him mid-spin, apparently deciding it was an opportune time to gain the upper paw.

If I had this on camera, it would go viral and win awards.

But, alas, you'll have to take my word for it.

This dog is ready for a real home, methinks.

Incidentally, I learned today that a nice couple is interested in him so a meeting will be set up with them not next weekend, but the one after (as I am not available this coming weekend due to class.)

Part of my job as a foster is to go with him to meet his potential adoptive family, the reason being that I can answer questions on his personality, training, how best to handle certain things, etc.

For example, tonight I learned that the signal for "sit" as commonly accepted in dog training circles is a signal to "Bear" to flee.  An adoptive home, if using traditional obedience training, will need to either use a different signal or take the time to teach him that the hand signal for "sit" is a good thing, not a cause for fear.  He can certainly learn, but that hand association will take more time with him as he has several things to overcome.

There you have it. Bear will continue to be Bear, in all his challenges, and until he is adopted, he'll continue to be a part of my blog.

Oh... And...

To all you men out there....for Goodness' sake, STAND UP STRAIGHT!  Yes, I can see you and you look RIDICULOUS!

Empathy is fine and good, but when you cringe like that you look like a bunch of sissies!  After all, the guys out West throw those oysters on the barbie as soon as they're removed from the calf every summer!  And in fact, GUYS are the ones wielding the knives that cut the "manhood"!

It's not like anyone is asking you to partake in a new delicacy compliments of the Humane Society!

Just sayin', my friends...just sayin'.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


When I was a little girl, sometimes Daddy would work late or have meetings or other engagements, so he wouldn't be home in the evenings with us.  As a "Daddy's Girl", I suffered a great deal of deprivation and one night I happened to be awake when he came home.  Of course I ran to him and threw myself into his arms, joyful in his return!  Although it was so late and I should be in bed, he invited me to join him for a little snack before he turned in.  Mom resigned herself to this and let me stay up with him, then they both packed me off  happily (and well fed) back to bed.

This became a little routine while Dad was in that particular cycle. I would wake up, either hear the door open when Dad came in, or hear Mom and Dad talking, and rise to join Dad in a midnight snack.  It was those nights that I learned about Sardines on Saltine crackers (something I was hesitant to try but he won me over),  herring (which I hated then but love now) and other apparently-Swedish delicacies he had grown to love and wanted me to as well.  These were special nights of bonding, and I would do ANYTHING to be present with him.  We would talk about all sorts of things; what I did that day, what he did, interesting little insights that can only take place between a father and a toddler daughter, which everyone wishes were written down somewhere for comic relief.  The snacks didn't really matter to me. What DID matter was being with Dad in those lonely hours of the night, and it was obvious that he delighted in my presence as much as I delighted in his, if for different reasons.  

Midnight Vigils in the Cloister

Many cloistered contemplative communities rise at some point in the middle of the night to pray. For some it is Midnight, others it is 2:00 am, others rise for the day at 3 am and begin prayer at 3:30, or rise at 4 to pray at 4:30.

When I first began discerning the Cistercians, I noted that they began their day at what I thought to be an ungodly hour, and was certain I was insane for even considering it! I HATE getting up in the morning, rise at 3:30 or 4?  NO WAY!  

Even now as I look at cloistered communities and see that they rise at midnight or 2 am, I think to myself..."Can I REALLY do that? Can I REALLY leave maybe the deepest sleep of my night and stumble to the chapel to pray..and actually be able to return to bed to sleep for a couple more  hours?  REALLY?"

I've been praying about this, and today God reminded me of my childhood midnight vigils, waiting for Dad to come home, or waking upon his arrival, then going to meet him.  I went with childish wonder and enthusiasm, motivated by the purity of love.

In the midst of those memories, I heard Jesus ask me today, "Wouldn't you do that for Me?"

It's true. If I could so enthusiastically rush to greet my Dad, why wouldn't I, now, as an adult, rush to greet our beloved Father in the silence of the night?  Why would my childish enthusiasm be lacking, why does it HAVE to be as an adult?  Isn't our Creator far greater than our parents?  Do I not love Jesus at LEAST as much as I loved my Dad back then?

I didn't rush to greet my Daddy for the food we shared, but only to be in his presence. Any time away from him was a time of deprivation.

So it is with God.  If we have not God in our lives, we have nothing at all.

Humble as a Child

"Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."   (Mt 18: 3-4)

We MUST become as little children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and I see now that what is required to rise at Midnight is a simple, childlike love of God and neighbor.  The nuns and monks do not rise to pray for themselves, but out of love for God and to pray for the needs of the world. For the conversion of sinners, for those who are suffering, in thanksgiving for those whose prayers have been answered...for those who can't or refuse to pray for themselves.

If I could rise, as a child, depriving myself of the warm comfort of my bed in order to spend time with my earthly father, how much more should I, as an adult, be willing to leave that same comfort to be present with God our Father?

Not only is it an act of love, but it is an act of humility, in response to a call that we cannot understand or follow at a merely natural level.  To rise for prayer, to enter into Our Father's presence in the dead of the night is an act of death to oneself and one's own desires at a very fundamental level.

Tonight, my friends, when you awake in the small hours, when you finish praying for Haiti, remember the holy souls in cloisters and monasteries and convents who rise to pray for YOU, each and every night, have done so for thousands of years and will continue to do so until the end of time.

Even they don't pray Vigils alone.

Deep Thoughts With Adoro

I have been pondering friendship the last couple days, very grateful for my many friends, all those present locally,  those I met through the internet (blogging, etc.), and those I have yet to meet in person.

What's so wonderful is how many of them want to be Saints, are striving every day for holiness, and many times without even realizing it they are dragging me kicking and screaming with them.  (Other times I just let myself be dragged!).

This pondering made me realize, though, that none are without fault. Although admittedly some of my friends have faults that are less apparent, none would ever yet claim to be saints...and if they did we'd laugh at them!  :-)

So as I pondered, I realized that true friendship consists in people who put up with each other's faults and imperfections as gently as necessary, and as firmly as needed...and they are always there when you need them.

Thank you, to all my friends, for helping me to try to be as holy as I ought, for not slamming me when I'm down in my weakness, and for helping me to be a better friend to you.

God bless you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Today while looking at digital images of the destruction in Haiti, like the rest of the world, I was shocked.

I can't even fathom the suffering of the people there right now.  Their entire infrastructure is...decimated. Everything. So many injured, so many dying...all for want of...the most basic things.

I wish I could go there to help. Never mind my EMT training lapsed long ago and I can barely remember how to open a band-aid. At least it's something.  Those people need....everything. They are in a place where every little effort helps someone, for everything is a crisis. All I can do right now is pray for them, and knowing prayer never goes to waste, that's what I will do.

Maybe most of us can't do anything other than pray, and that makes things very clear: it is what we are CALLED by God himself to do right now.

Let us not let our prayers cease for the people of Haiti and their loved ones around the world.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I started a post earlier this evening, intending to write about the Call to contemplative life.

But I can't complete it. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

For the last couple weeks, I have been pondering this a great deal and have been looking at contemplative communities, even some I "shunned" in the past.  Where they were "uninteresting" in the past, now they have taken on a new light, and in seriously taking a look at them, I find I am also looking deep into myself:  who I am, who I have always been....and that mysterious person God may be calling me to be, if only I would have the courage to follow Him.

For now, suffice to say I have much to ponder, I am treading slowly, even in my deep, deep weariness and even deeper trepidation.  All I know is that I have to continue upon this particular path for I cannot turn away.  As tired as I am of discernment, I am even more weary of the world that holds absolutely nothing for me.

I do not know where my true happiness lies, nor do even I know the truest desires of my heart; but if I don't follow my Lord, I will never find that answer. In the end, I am not important and I am not seeking my own glory...but His.

And so I follow in His bloody footsteps, adding my blood to His own as I tread, knowing it is a very long ways to Calvary, for I am only an infant. Even infant, nothing more.  But everything. He is my past, my present, and...God willing in His Great eternity.

I want nothing more. And I have nothing more to say.
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Monday, January 11, 2010


When "Bear" came to me two weeks ago, as I chronicled, he was stinky, he was filthy, and, well...just plain YUCK!   I did what I could to clean him, knowing I could not just throw him in the tub.  I am not an army!  And really, I didn't think he could tolerate something so scary. So I got creative in trying to clean surface dirt while introducing him to the idea of grooming...which overall he found to be very pleasant, apparently.

No more does "Bear" offend hail with the scent of "Eau de Poopy Kennel, vintage 2001"!  

Today, thanks to a generous German Shepherd fan who reads my blog, Bear is nice and clean and sweet-smelling!  Thank you!

I called Petco yesterday to see what they could do as I didn't have the rabies certificate, and when I couldn't reach anyone at the rescue organization this morning, I called the vet clinic on his tag.  The tech from the Rock Rapids, IA clinic actually REMEMBERED the dog as he was there recently, commented about how sweet he was, and confessed she hadn't yet filed his paperwork!  She readily faxed it in on our behalf!

So I dropped Bear off  this afternoon (see photo from the upper left) and he nervously but cooperatively went through the gate to go have his much-needed bath. They knew he was a rescue-foster dog, that he was timid but I assured them he was also very sweet...just easily startled. In the photo of him,  note the laid-back ears, the hunched back, and the unsure expression on his face. (Oh, yes, German Shepherds are VERY expressive!) I do love how his left ear is cocked upward as if waiting for a word of some sort, maybe an explanation as to what was going on.

 I picked him up a couple hours later and he came out looking, at least to my eyes, like a different dog!  As the leash was handed over he came out to me, circled around, wagging his tail and looking up at me shyly as he "hugged" my leg with his shoulder.

He smells good, his coat is shinier, fluffier (with the weight of all that filth having been scrubbed away) and he sports a blue bandanna around his handsome German Shepherd-patented ruff!

General Update

Bear has been doing very well. Although he's still easily startled (and often at times that make me scratch my head in confusion as to what I did to scare him), his curiosity and natural canine instinct to be social quickly overcomes his trepidation.  I have discovered that when he is scared and running away, the best thing to do is to continue what I'm doing especially if it is a necessary daily task;  for example, doing laundry or getting ready for bed at night.   I can't change these tasks..he has to get used to them and learn they are normal. If I don't react, he'll learn eventually that there is nothing to fear.

As it is, this technique is helping him settle into the routine of daily life in a house.

There are other times, however where I realize I've frightened him with a sound or motion, and so I will crouch down and invite him to come to me.  If I am closer to the ground, he seems a lot more willing to approach and extend his inquisitive nose in my direction so I can scratch under his neck.  At these times I will NOT reach over his head, for as a dog, he finds this to be intimidating and something maybe to be challenged.

Slowly he is learning to trust me, and I can see that things which were frightening to him in his first few days are nothing of notice anymore. Over time, he'll become as blase' and bored as my dog.

Play Time!

One of the joys of fostering (and as I've experienced in the past, adopting a pet from Animal Control or a shelter) is really watching a dog become what he is and what he was intended to be.  In only two weeks, Bear really is a completely different dog.  He has gained weight so that his ribs don't stick out QUITE so much, his coat is shinier (noticeable even BEFORE his bath), his coat is softer (brushing and regular attention), and he has discovered the joy of drinking liberally from a water bowl filled with fresh water!

Ah! The simplest things in life are the most important!

All of this has brought him out of his shell to help me observe his personality.  He is like a perpetual puppy, discovering the world for the first time. Everything is new and exciting!

He has taken to randomly BOUNDING about in the morning when we go outside right away, and later, on our morning walk.  Every so often he finds it necessary, much like a teenaged boy, to body-slam his companion, which is usually my other dog.  Of course, she is so focused on scent and the business at hand (a professional, dignified, grown-up German Shepherd that she is...) that she barely notices his juvenile exuberance.

It's fun to observe this "old dog" playing like a puppy, and it's fun to watch my own dog treating him as such, with great patience, as though to say, "OK big boy, get it out of your system and then leave me alone...."


We have had a little setback in housetraining, unfortunately.  Of course, these regressions are expected. He's still learning, after all!

This morning we came downstairs and as usual, I put my coat and boots on to take the dogs out. Even though he hadn't HAD any "accidents" since his first night (where he introduced himself in very strong terms to my kitchen) I KNEW we weren't done. After all, this dog isn't yet neutered, and even neutered males can't seem to contain their desire to make their presence known through their easy contributions of scent and ownership.

Well, as I was putting the leash on my other dog (as it was the first in hand) and saying "Outside!"  I heard a suspicious sound, and looked back in time to realize Bear was claiming a box intended for Half-Price books...and some of the carpet...and the kitchen floor.


At the sound of my voice he did stop and came to me so I could put the leash on. We went outside where he managed to finish his business properly so I could praise him...properly.


Doggie breakfast was delayed due to canine cleanup in aisle 5.

So I will be more vigilant, snap a lead on him before I even put my coat on in the morning and won't take my eyes off him until we come back in for breakfast.

How is my own dog fairing in all this chaos?

Well, she IS a lot happier as an only dog. I see that very clearly. I saw it after Fire, my greyhound died, and I see it now. But she's rolling with it all, she's holding her place as well as she can, and every so often she shoots me looks of this afternoon when I brought Bear back into the house. Clearly she'd hoped he was gone.  No such luck. So she is also withholding her favorite sign of affection from me; ubiquitous kisses.  I get no more kisses, apparently.  She's not really "speaking to me" these days, unless she is seeking to show dominance in status, and then she's my best friend.  (See? Dogs really AREN'T so different than cats..I'm just waiting for her to pee in my shoes or on my pillow!)

But we are having some "quality time" and she lets her opinion of Bear be known when she is seeking her special moments of attention.  Bear is a dog who wants to nose in on everything so has to be kept at bay. As he respects my dog's teeth far more than mine (and showing mine has  a far different meaning anyway), I let my dog handle that process as I try to continue giving her the attention to which she is accustomed.

Overall, I, too am adjusting to a multiple-dog household.

This is obviously greatly aided now that Bear isn't the doggie-equivalent of Charles Schultz's "Pig Pen".  (How funny...I always LOVED Pig Pen because he was such a sweetie...if stinky!)  

Vocations and the Baptism of Christ

Today we end the Christmas Season with the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan, and while we begin Ordinary Time, we also celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week.

As you know, I'm not exactly one who needs to be "made aware" of Vocations, but what I've learned in working in a parish and in general life experience is that really...the average Catholic isn't aware of much at all beyond their own sphere. Many parents are so married to the idea of grandchildren that the idea their own child might actually be called by God to something ELSE is abhorrent to them.  It is so appropriate that we celebrate this week at the same time we recognize the day of the public Fiat of Christ to his mission of Salvation...for he calls us ALL to the same thing:

Death to ourselves in order to be reborn to life in Him. 

Many people ask why Christ had to be baptized for the remission of sin considering that he had no sin, and it's a great question.  We must look back to Moses, who was directed in Exodus 15:25 to cast a tree into the water to make the water sweet  and drinkable, which saved the Israelites who wandered the desert in such desolation.  Christ enters the waters of the Jordan for the same reason;  not to cleanse him of sin, but to make the waters themselves holy. In so doing, He took us all upon His shoulders. As he sank into the representation of death, he brought us with him and returned  us to life! Baptism itself, especially that of Christ, is a symbol of the Resurrection to which we are also called from our baptism!

In baptism we suffer a second death, and are born again as adopted children of God. It is there we receive our mission in life, our Call to follow the Lord, which primarily is a call to Holiness.


Some are called to marriage, to bring into being more sons and daughters of God, to spread the Kingdom of God and uphold it as members, the Mystical Body of Christ.  Within that, though, Mothers and Fathers are called to die to themselves, their own desires, in order to help their children to see not what THEY desire, but what GOD desires for their children!

It may be difficult for parents to understand that God loves their children even MORE than they do!  He knows their gifts, their innermost desires (for He planted those desires upon their hearts), He knows what will bring them true happiness...and that happiness may not match that of their parents, if they are full of their own selfish will, for the parents often project themselves onto their children in defiance of God.

Sadly, if parents are unwilling to die to themselves in terms of the Holy Vocation of their child, the child, as he or she grows, learns to also become unwilling to die to him or herself in response to God's own personal Call as well. Seeking a Vocation becomes an act of rebellion, in choosing the opposite, instead of an act of loving submission to Our Lord who wills only the good for all.

We live in a world that is not friendly to our Faith, to our values, or to our human dignity. The world does not desire the best for us, and we constantly find ourselves at odds when we seek to follow God's will in...anything.Thus, if we do not have the support of our families, we find it that much harder to even HEAR if God is calling us!

Today, we look to the example of Christ, who descended, carrying all His beloved into the waters, saying Yes even to the most degenerate sinner, going into death, carrying the weight of the world, and arising to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit and the voice of God the Father proclaiming, "This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased!"

Maybe some of us, if we would be willing to give the same fiat shared by Our Lady, the Mother of God, and Christ Himself, would hear that same voice one day, saying, "This is my daughter, with whom I am well pleased!"

Do we not all desire to hear these endearments?

Yet how can we hear them if we will not approach the waters?

How can we ever hope to hear God if we are unwilling to disturb the glassy, reflective but superficial surface of the waters of baptism that have called us into eternal union with our Creator?  Baptism calls us into the self-sacrificing depths of God, not to admire ourselves in the photogenic surface!

Christ went into the waters of the Jordan alone, without His Mother seeking to hold him back and protect him from drowning.  She followed Him to the Cross and remained there with him, saying yes even to the sword that pierced her soul as it ran through her Son's most sacred heart.  So are called the parents of a priest or religious. So are called the parents of a man or woman who is called to marriage.

None of us is ever called to a Vocation alone, for like Christ, we take the world in all that it is with us when we descend, and we bring it all with us when we arise with Christ into eternal life.

The real sacrifice of Vocation is this:  Do we cling to the world when we seek God....or does the world cling to US?

Therein is the answer to our willingness to answer the Call.

Are we WILLING to give our own humble Fiat (Let it be done according to His Will), or will we walk away, not willing to disturb the picturesque waters that hide beauty we will never plumb in our pride and self-love?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Incompetent Gardener

I've long known that my role in catechesis is to plant seeds and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work.  After all, my own conversion was long and varied (and continues as does my vocational discernment!). The reality is, though, that where the seeds go, I don't know.

I don't know if I'm planting the right seeds at the right times, providing the proper nourishment that belongs to my role, and I don't even know what SEASON it is for planting. All I can do is pass on what's in my hands when someone asks for it.

There are many people I know who are involved in religious education and who frequently quote someone (the name of the personage escapes me) in saying (or some variation):

 "God is the Manager. I'm in Sales."

Certainly that's true, for the biggest role of someone involved in passing on the Catholic Faith  is SELLING the Gospel, the theology, and the whole package, to all souls. Sure, it's delivered in bits and pieces and it's assembled with the assistance of the salesperson, but the analogy is correct:  evangelization is greatly a sales position.

For me, though, the "Sales" analogy doesn't work. 

People in Sales can "sell" their product. They can show them something amazing and make them BELIEVE it, and in their delivery of this wonderful thing, they prove themselves as wonderful and gifted motivational evangelists.

I've come to realize, though, that I'm not a sales person. I can't even motivate myself to get out of bed in the morning!  (That's why I have dogs!)

I am an Incompetent Gardener.

I have a bunch of seeds, I'm scattering them where and when it seems appropriate, and I'm hoping for the best.  Unfortunately I will never see the results, because these seeds are not annuals, they are not perennials, but rather they gestate for YEARS before they finally begin to bloom, and then it's someone else's job to encourage them to grow. Unless, of course,  I happen to trip on the tender bloom in my typical klutziness, and that usually means I need to pass the bruised reed in question on to someone else (like Jesus through the Sacred Ministry of the Priesthood) to be restored to full potential. If the damaged bloom is amenable, that is.

Besides, if I trip on the bloom it's just because a more competent gardener has managed to plant the seed in the right place in the right soil, and, well, the Holy Spirit has done His work.

That's what it comes down to, really.

Our roles don't matter. We are ALL, through Baptism, required to pass on the Faith throughout the world. We all contain the seeds that need to be spread, and all are called to do so in different ways.  Some are white-collar Sales people, others of us are lowly blue-collar Gardeners  (both are found among the clergy and laity, active and contemplative religious alike) and we work together to bring life out of the impossibility of the soil we find at our very feet.

My job isn't to convert anyone or to make them a Saint. That task belongs to God alone.  

My job IS to provide the seeds (information) to others so that the love of the Holy Spirit may take root and carry them from darkness into light, from nothingness into fullness, from death into life NONE of us can possibly imagine!

If I only plant the right seeds at the right time in the right way...there will be fruit. Eventually. Through the action of the Holy Spirit, who really doesn't NEED me to do anything at all. It's a privilege to be able to "help."

It is freeing to be a lowly incompetent gardener...may I, through God's Grace, always be so.

The Present Moment

One of the things I've been working on, for a LONG time now, is simply living in the present moment. Recognizing God here and now, taking the time to realize that all that happens is happening with Him, and that those happenings are a gift if we but take time to accept it.

I was pondering this concept en route to work this morning while driving yet again on black-ice metro highways, passing spinouts, keeping distance so as to avoid becoming one of them, and in general, creeping along.

As much as I hate to admit it, I've come to recognize even driving in these horrid, dangerous conditions as a gift from God. While I drive so slowly to work, or home, or anywhere, the ONLY thing I can do is live in the present moment. I cannot wonder about what I'm going to make for dinner, about a meeting at work and how to handle a particular situation, I cannot think about getting my dog in for her next regular vet visit.  The ONLY thing to focus upon is what is directly in front of me:  driving.  It matters not to God if it takes me twenty minutes or three hours to get to work, especially if I spend that time with Him.

Clearly, when the road conditions are so bad, my sense is that God is getting a great deal of attention!  I know that even though I regularly pray the rosary en route to work, if the roads are bad I may pray a lot more and find it necessary to keep up a running conversation with him!  If I am stuck in traffic, I often get sick of the radio and just turn it off. Even if I have nothing to say, it is in those moments that I am reminded of God's presence, and I am reminded to be grateful for the conditions I am in, no matter how "inconvenient" to my own plans. And sometimes in those moments, when I am His captive, finally, finally I have the time to hear what He's been waiting so long to say to me. 

This week in the Liturgy of the Hours, we prayed, "Surrender to God and he will do everything for you."  Perhaps that should be my own mantra, for it is a prayer that always stands out to me, calling me into the present, reminded me that all I must do is surrender...and let Him take charge.

After all, God has a vision, and His plans are ALWAYS better than ours.

Monday, January 04, 2010


Ant. 1  When will I come to the end of my pilgrimage and enter the presence of God?

Even when I think the journey is over, I find that God has not given up on me.  Even when I've long given up on myself, God sends messengers in the form of angels, homilies, friends and prayer to call me again to Himself, to rouse me to battle on and seek Him in my Vocation...whatever it is.

I wrote only a few days ago that I'm certain I am NOT called to religious life, and the last time I met with my SD, he commented that I seemed at peace with the idea.  I hesitated, though, in responding.

No, I'm not totally at peace with that idea. I know that there is something more, and in the end, I told him I think I'm just in some strange limbo. Neither here nor there, just....existing. Trying to focus on what I know and needing to work on holiness in the present moment.

The problem is that I'm so weary from this journey. I'm so tired of seeking that I'm ready to lie down and go to sleep, accept where I am and just go on from there. I'm ready to accept that I'll be single forever, and that my Vocation is one of perpetual pilgrimage, wondering if I should take private vows to that effect and be done with it.

This weekend, though, we suffered experienced the transferred Solemnity of the Epiphany, and at my home parish, the Pastor gave an incredible homily about the Magi, about their journey and about how we should learn from them. The journey is hard, but their eyes were on the goal.  Father called us all to keep our eyes on the goal, and not to give up just because it seems at times that the journey never ends. He cited weariness, he cited trials and difficulties, delays and roadblocks. And then he called us all onward, to continue that journey because to find Christ under the star, to adore Him, is the goal of us all for eternity. He waits for us, He awaits our gifts, not just of what is needed...but the free gift of ourselves.

As Father spoke, nearly every word cut right through me. He didn't know I was there. He wasn't speaking to me or intending to be speaking in terms of Vocation.  Yet...that's what he was doing.  As I listened to his homily, I couldn't help but see the parallels between the journeying Magi and my own search, the search that seems to go on into eternity. First waiting, and then, upon recognition of the star, that there really IS a goal, to travel the long and dangerous route to get there.

No, Father wasn't talking to me personally...but the Holy Spirit was, and He isn't one to leave me alone.  Later that day I saw that another priest had delivered the same message, although a bit more specific (I'm hoping he posts the text; all I have is an allusion to it.)

I left Mass a bit shaken, realizing it ISN'T over, God HASN'T forgotten about me, and hasn't abandoned me.

At that same Mass I pondered Marriage again, wondering if I was wrong. All I know is that the Single life isn't fulfilling. I need something more, am called to something more and the way I'm living it now isn't "it".  Yes, I've spoken of being single as a Vocation, and it can be...when it is committed and consecrated in some way. For now I'm still floating. As I've called myself before, I'm a dangling participle, hanging out with a question mark.

I thought about a guy I met recently, and even as I considered wanting to know him better, I thought, and tried to push it away,  "But I want to belong to Jesus."

During Mass on Sunday, during the Offertory, I thought about Marriage, about that guy and considered yet again that I KNOW I am not called to marriage.  To be clear, I LOVE men, I think men are great, I'm attracted to men and sometimes lose about 100 IQ points in their presence, but I have absolutely no desire to have children and don't feel a bit "pushed" by the "biological clock" so many women cite.  I cannot see myself as a mother, I cannot see myself raising children, I cannot see myself married even without children. The very idea is preposterous to me.

Every time I read scripture, praying the psalms of the  Liturgy of the Hours I realize I want God alone. I want to come to the end of this journey, and I want Him to be waiting at the end of it.

If I picture my wedding, in my mind's eye I don't see a groom and a fitted gold ring, but I see the Cross, I see a priest, and I see a ring that is a crown of thorns.  I see the eternal wedding, of the Lamb and the Church and I know that nothing but God will ever satisfy me.  I want to die to the world in order to die in sacrifice and rise with my Beloved, I want to do as His Mother commanded at the Wedding at Cana:   everything He tells me. And I want to spend my life in Adoration of Him, for why would ANYONE ever want to be out of His sight?

This morning I knelt before a Nativity in a church to pray Morning Prayer, contemplating the Incarnation, the wood of the cradle and the wood of the Cross, the Adoration of the Magi...and death to myself.

Ant. 1  When will I come to the end of my pilgrimage and enter the presence of God?

Psalm 42
Longing for the Lord's presence in his Temple
Let all who thirst come; let all who desire it, drink from the life-giving water (Revelation 22:17).

Like the deer that yearns
for running streams,
so my souls is yearning
for you, my God

My soul is thirsting for God,
the God of my life;
when can I enter and see
the face of God?

My tears have become my bread,
by night, by day,
as I hear it said all the day long:
"Where is your God?"

These things will I remember 
as I pour out my soul....

Why are you cast down, my soul,
why groan within me?
Hope in God; I will praise him still
my savior and my God.

My soul is cast down within me
as I think of you...

Deep is calling on deep,
in the roar of waters:
your torrents and all your waves
swept over me.

By day the Lord will send  
his loving kindness;
by night I will sing to him
prais the God of my life.

I will say to God, my rock:
"Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
oppressed by the foe?"

Why are you cast down, my soul,
why groan within me?
Hope in God; I will praise him still
my savior and my God.

Ant. When will I come to the end of my pilgrimage and enter the presence of God?

 Tonight, during Evening Prayer, I prayed on:

Ant. 2.  The Bridegroom is here; go out and welcome him.

Psalm 45, II

Listen O daughter, give ear to my words:
forget your own people and your father's house.
So will the king desire your beauty:
he is your lord, pay homage to him.

The daughter of the king is clothed with splendor,
her robes embroidered with pearls set in gold.

She is led to the king with her maiden companions.
They are escorted amid gladness and joy;
they pass within the palace of the king.

Sons shall be yours in place of your fathers:
you will make them princes over all the earth...

Ant.  The Bridegroom is here; go out and welcome him.

Canticle:  Ephesians 1:3-10
God our Savior

Praised be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ
who has bestowed on us in Christ
every spiritual blessing in the heavens.

God chose us in him
before the world began
to be holy 
and blameless in his sight.

He predestined us
to be his adopted sons through Jesus Christ,
such was his will and pleasure,
that all might praise the glorious favor
he has bestowed on us in his beloved. 

I have spent so much time and energy running away from Him.  I don't know my Vocation, I can't say that I am being called by Him to be His Bride, yet I likewise cannot rest where I am, for my journey is not complete.  Like the Magi I must continue on this quest, recognizing the light of Christ and knowing I have a choice:  to follow it or to walk away.

He won't let me walk away. He won't let me forget, He won't leave me in "peace"...

Through His persistence, and the unwitting encouragement of my Pastor,  I choose to follow and see where that star of Bethlehem leads....

Holy Spirit Sister in Adoration photo source