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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Divine Pedagogy

Well, the end of my Advent is shaping up to be...not at all what I planned or expected.

Remember the puppy from last week? Well, on Monday he went to a new foster home with children, more space - everything he could need! I've seen pictures and can say confidently that it was the right decision and even though I loved the little rug rat, he needed far more than I could offer, and my own dog needed far less than that pup was offering her!

After that experience, of course, my week was pretty calm and I finally got most of my Christmas cards out.

Then yesterday (Saturday), I received an email - could I emergency-foster a 1.7 month old Rottweiler who needed to be moved from his current foster home ASAP? I looked up his info on the rescue's web page, called the rep back and obtained a little more info on him. It seemed appropriate to take the risk.I said Yes.

We introduced my dog and the newcomer on neutral ground and walked them back to my house where they actually began to play. The young Rottweiler, however, was not quite really understanding play-time. He first didn't seem to understand my dog's play-bow in his direction, then started "copying" her moves - it was quite hilarious! My favorite, though, took place much later in the evening after he'd had his dinner. While my dog finished checking his bowl for crumbs, he began inviting her to play. He pounced and pounced and wheeled around and play-bowed - to my dog's butt! She was totally oblivious to the desperate drama taking place behind her.

Unfortunately, though, although all of this was hilarious, it again quickly got very old for my dog and she began seeking solace from me just to get away from the young dog's playful advances. I also ran into a great deal of frustration as the dog is still "intact" (ahem!) and as such, has a hobby of "marking". It doesn't matter how often I have taken him in and out throughout the evening and day. The moment we come back in he's alternating between trying to chew on me (OW!) and lifting his leg on something. I have to watch him very closely and the moment he even SEEMS to be sniffing I yell a warning to him so that he will desist.

The best, though, was this morning. We must have walked for about 45 minutes or an hour and he absolutely REFUSED to "poo". We got inside, I took his leash off thinking perhaps he'd go next time I took him out. As long as it took to turn my back, he had peed and pooped all over the floor!

I cleaned it up, took him out and threw the "refuse" in an area of the yard so that he would associate that with the business that belongs OUTSIDE.

Somewhere in the middle of scrubbing the carpet...and the chair...and the carpet there....again...I realized it would behoove me to buy stock in "Nature's Miracle." As it was, I had to go back to the pet store today to get MORE of it!

Now, it is a consolation that this dog won't be with me for long. I know someone is already interested and I advised his rep that I can't take him with me for Christmas. He's far too rambunctious and out-of-control and I'm terrified he'll both pee all over my brother's house and potentially knock my mother down. Not a good risk.

Mind you, this dog is not mean or aggressive. He's just a very large puppy who doesn't understand manners. He's also cooped up right now in a small house with no way to run freely to get his energy (and other stuff - ahem) out.

So it was this morning that I mused and prayed and mused again on my way to Mass. I swore to myself I would NEVER take another puppy again because both my dog and my house are just not good for puppies. As it is, I'll have to kennel the creature so I can wrap Christmas gifts, and I can't actually get anything done unless it's something that can be completed in 5 minutes with a constant shift of attention to see where the dog is and what he might be sniffing. Or chewing, for that matter. (He really likes my cedar chest.)

I'm having to develop ADHD as a coping mechanism!

Then it struck me: NOW I know what's going on!

At the beginning of Advent I once again offered a little prayer and asked God to help me become more patient, more caring, to grow in virtue in these areas. I shuddered as I offered the prayer because those virtues, much like asking for humility, tend to be answered with a Divine bat upside the head!

This afternoon while I wrote a "bio" for the foster dog to help him be adopted, I still felt frustrated and found I had to dig to really look for this dog's great points. I know he's a good dog and deserves a good home. I know he's more rambunctious with me because he's free to move around, has another dog to play with (when she does play), has a person to walk him and pet him and give him awesome food. He's responsive, he is protective, he is playful and won't let me out of his sight. That means he bonds quickly. He is exactly what a healthy dog of his age should be, minus a bit of training for he has clearly been neglected in that area.

In other words, what does he need from me? Patience and understanding!

OK, God, I get it. Thank you for answering my prayer. *sigh* 

My dear friends, do take care what you ask from God, because if you mean it (and He always knows if you do or not, even if it's only a little), He WILL answer. And seriously, I mean it, BE CAREFUL!

I'm just sayin'....if you ask for patience, humility, or a chance to sacrifice....God might answer your prayer just like He answered mine: by sending you a  65 lb unschooled young Rottweiler!  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How to Foster a Puppy

Well, it wasn't part of my Advent plan, but a last-minute thing came up, and as it turns out, I'm fostering a puppy.

Yup. A puppy.

Yesterday afternoon when I was asked to do this, and told it was a "six-month old shepherd mix" I pictured the first dog I adopted as an adult: a 60 lb nearly-grown puppy. Well, much to my surprise, last night when the bundle of joy was introduced to me I found about a 25 lb small puppy who could properly be named "Jaws."

So! For all you dog lovers out there, I thought I'd provide a helpful "how-to" in case you, too, are interested in fostering a puppy!

Without further ado....


1. Pick up the puppy, get dog food, make sure you have a crate of some type, some squeaky toys, and treats.

2. Drive home.  Pull over on the way and remove the seat belt from the puppy's mouth. Carefully re-enter traffic and continue driving home. When you arrive, be sure to introduce your dog to the puppy on as "neutral ground" as you can manage.

3. If safe to do so, leave the puppy in the car while you run to get your dog, let her go potty, and then go to the car to get the puppy.

4. Open the car door while holding your dog's leash firmly. Scramble to half-catch the puppy as he tries to explode from the car, barely manage to grab the leash while gritting your teeth against the pain of rope-burn.

5. Untangle the leashes.

6. Watch the dogs as they are introduced - does the resident dog seem too intense? Hackles up? Baring teeth? Or just sniffing cautiously.

7. Remove the puppy from the astonished resident dog's head.

8. Untangle the leashes again.

9. Go for a walk. Make sure the male puppy doesn't pee on the resident dog. Ensure the puppy doesn't consume resident dog's poo. (Sorry, necessary warning!) Try not to step in said poo while untangling leashes again, and try not to fall in said poo when leashes are tangled around one's legs.

10. Return home. As resident dog is "in charge", make sure to support the alpha by removing her leash first no matter how annoying the puppy is in inhibiting you from doing this. Once resident dog is free and no longer entangled in either leash, drop the puppy's leash and let it drag for awhile just in case you need to snatch him back outside or away from something. Give him freedom to sniff around to get to know his new surroundings. Just watch him like a hawk.

11. Take the shoe away from the puppy. Hand him his squeaky toy.

12. Introduce the puppy (gently!) to the kennel. Go outside to bring the car in and get the rest of the puppy's toys from the car.

13. Let the puppy out of the kennel. Let the dogs "romp" a bit if it seems to be going well.

14. Take the piece of paper away from the puppy and replace it with a chew toy.

15. Remove the puppy from the couch.

16. Go into the kitchen to get the dog food ready.

17. Return to the livingroom at the sound of a very loud YIPE! followed by the resident dog slinking into the kitchen with her ears back. Ask who bit whom?

18. Take the blanket throw from the couch away from the puppy. Replace it with one of his chew toys. Watch him squeak away happily at it. Praise him enthusiastically.

19. Go back into the kitchen. Kick the dogs out of the kitchen. Realize the resident dog is trying desperately to get away from the puppy. Allow the resident dog into the kitchen and put the baby gate up. Watch the puppy sitting outside the gate wagging his tail hopefully and looking up at you with big puppy eyes.

20. Feed the dogs their dinner, return to the livingroom with a movie to watch. Sit on the couch with the resident dog who is still trying to get away from the puppy. Watch the puppy invite the resident dog to play. Watch the resident dog bare her teeth in warning because she does not want to play. Watch the puppy persist. When ignored, watch the puppy first bite the resident dog's tail and then her paws. Watch that not be a very popular course of action from the perspective of the resident dog.

21. Remove the puppy from the resident dog's presence and place yourself in between them so as to run interference.

22. Rewind the movie several times as you have not been able to actually watch this scene yet.

23. Realize sitting on the couch is not helpful so sit on the floor on the dog bed against the couch with a squeaky toy and try to contain the puppy. Rewind the movie again.

24. Watch the puppy as he roams and seems to be "sniffing" for a spot. Take the puppy out. Remove the leash from his mouth. Realize he doesn't want to go "out". Return inside.

25. Rewind the movie again. Sit back down with a toy and the puppy. Try to give the resident dog a lot of praise and attention too.

26. Watch the puppy sniff around on a rug and squat. Yell "NO!" and grab the puppy's leash. Throw a paper towel over the soiled spot and take the puppy out, praise him when he finishes going potty outside. Bring him back in. Remove the leash from his mouth. Try not to play tug-of-war in doing so.

27. Go get "Nature's Miracle", soak up as much of the mess out of the berber carpet as you can, spray the spot with the cleaner, soak it up, repeat. Take a shoe away from the puppy. Return to cleaning the rug. Put the cleaning implements away. Take the soiled paper towel away from the puppy and deposit it in the garbage. (The paper towels, not the puppy!)

28. Return to the movie. Rewind it again. Play "fetch" several times with the puppy.

29. Accidentally get into a "tug-of-war" game with the puppy. Make sure you win!

30. YIPE loudly when puppy accidentally bites you while you are winning the tug-of-war game you didn't intend to play.

31. Sit down at the computer to write about "how to foster a puppy".

32. Find it endearing that he is sitting on your feet while chewing on a proper toy. Hear a crunch and remove the teddy bear's eye from the puppy's mouth. Return to typing.

33. Realize the puppy is investigating computer wires. Push the puppy away and block the area with another object. Give the puppy a toy. Return to typing.

34. Hear another crunch. Remove the other teddy-bear's eye from the puppy's mouth.

35. Pet the puppy because he is really really cute! Remove your shirt sleeve from the puppy's mouth. Tell the puppy to get a toy. Remove your pant leg hem from the puppy's mouth. Tell him again to get a toy.

36. Realize you ARE what the puppy considers to be a "toy". Stand up and get a proper chew toy. As the puppy comes at you with a a wide open mouth ready to bite you again, stuff the toy in his mouth and watch him squeak away happily. Go sit down and rewind the movie.

37. Realize it is late. Take the puppy  and resident dog outside to go potty, put the puppy in his kennel and go to bed.

38. Get up in the morning, immediately get on the cold-weather gear and get the resident dog's leash on. Approach the kennel, leash in hand. Catch the puppy as he explodes out. Entirely miss him. Chase him off the couch. Take the couch pillow away. Try to catch him to put the leash on. Intervene when puppy pounces on resident dog who does NOT like being pounced upon. Try to catch the puppy. Take the couch pillow away again. Put it out of reach. Finally get the leash on. Untangle the leashes. Open the inner door. Untangle the leashes again. Praise resident dog for being so patient and quiet. Go outside with the dogs. Try not to slip on the ice when being pulled in several directions at once. Untangle the leashes again...

40. Welcome to life with a puppy!  (Don't worry, they grow out of it.....!)  ;-)


41. Notice how resident dog is getting snippier and snippier alternated with trying desperately to get away from puppy in active mode. Realize how this is not a good thing for either dog.

42. Contact dog's adoption representative to update and request he be moved to a more appropriate home.

43. Pray and wait for some hapless foster to take said adoption rep up on the offer to bring home the cutest puppy EVER!

44. Continuing working on maintaining peace in current home while scrambling to keep the puppy busy....

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


We live in crazy times. Everywhere, faithful Catholics lament the long Communion lines and short Confession lines - this is true everywhere. We are either a Church filled with Saints or a Church filled with sinners pretending to be Saints. I am one of the latter on the best of days.

Every day, every Sunday, every Holy Day - whenever we as Catholics attend Mass and have an opportunity to receive Holy Communion, we should be aware of our spiritual condition and act accordingly. Yet some people wonder if they can or should attend Mass at all if they are aware of mortal sin. They have been quite literally taught that receiving Holy Communion is the highest form of "participation" and therefore they MUST do this.

Perhaps that wasn't what was truly being taught, but that is what they heard and the impression they continue to hold. Why attend Mass if one cannot go forward for Holy Communion? Few people remain in the pew in an average Catholic Church (I hear the Latino parishes tell a different story - most DON'T receive).

Our society in general is one of entitlement; if I attend this I must receive that

It is OWED to me. I have a RIGHT to it. Very quickly that owing and "right" become a "requirement" or the entire event is meaningless. We are a society of "I must receive something or it's not worth my time."

The problem is this: Grace is conferred in ways that are hidden. One can receive Holy Communion in a state of grace but not benefit at all if  one is not really open to the Grace available. Grace is received according to the disposition of the recipient. Not my rules; those are God's own observations and the reality of the spiritual life. If we aren't open, we may receive Our Lord, but He will dissipate with no effect if we refuse to receive what He has to offer.

If we receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin, we kill ourselves, spiritually. We become dead to the effects of Grace because we have committed the sin of Sacrilege. 

Today I attended Mass, the Feast of All Saints, and admit it was a temptation to not attend even though it is a Holy Day of Obligation. I "felt" unworthy. I "wondered" deep within if I should enter the presence of the Almighty if I could not receive Him. Scandalized by my own interior wanderings, the thought barely crossed my mind and I banished it back to Hell from whence it had come. I was not able to make it to Confession and knew I should not receive Our Lord.  I also knew that it was even MORE important that I attend Mass, where I could make a Spiritual Communion while remaining in my pew, praying heartily for my own conversion to a life of holiness, to overcome my sin by leaning even more heavily upon God.

There have been several occasions in which I have had had to abstain from Holy Communion, whether because of mortal sin or simply my disposition at that moment. Always, I meditate on what it is like to be out of communion with the Church, to be separated from God. It is just as important to recognize what we may suffer eternally as it is to reflect upon and hope for eternal beatitude - both contain deep spiritual messages we need to ponder intensely.

Always, though, it seems that God reaches out to me, no matter what my state. It seems that whenever I abstain from Holy Communion, there is a friend in the pew in front or behind me, or even in my same pew. At some point, God shines through them, reminding me that although perhaps my sin has cut me off from Holy Communion, I am not abandoned. A friend passes by and where they would normally do so without a word or signal, on those days I abstain, even if they don't know that I am doing so, they reach out to squeeze my hand.

This evening was no exception. Tonight, I learned during the Sign of Peace that a few friends were seated behind me and one actually asked me quickly, "How have you been?" as we exchanged the Sign. Another couple friends, as they skirted past me to go forward, tapped me on the shoulder; a sign of encouragement.

Tonight, instead of a sense of dejection, of separation, I made my Spiritual Communion with a sense of profound joy. I have been claimed by Christ, and even though I separated myself through sin, I have truly repented of that sin and attended Mass to worship God with my Catholic family. As a Catholic, I am not exiled because I am weak. I am simply aware of my own impurity at the Wedding Feast of Our Lord.

As I've pondered before and did so again tonight, simply remaining in the pew during Holy Communion is a sign, too - of Faith. Of Hope. Of Love. 

It sends a signal to others that I truly BELIEVE that this is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. Even we who cannot receive due to sin, disposition, irregular canonical issues, or even being non-Catholic, reveal Truth. Today, with my body and soul I still gave Glory to God by refusing to partake, for I know that He is Truly Present and my reception would have profaned what is Most Holy.

There are times where I have stepped over others while going forward to receive and I always stop myself from wondering; are they not Catholic? Have they not been to Confession? Are they angry with me for tripping over their children while I tried to get to "my" pew?

The answers to the questions I suppress in my mind are not important. The strongest message I receive from those in the pew during Communion is this:  they remain there because Jesus Christ is Truly and Substantially Present in the Holy Eucharist. Their place reveals more than the lines going forward. I see more reverence in those who abstain than in those who receive.

I do not mean to say that my own abstinence today is something to be glorified; it's not. I am a sinner and I COULD NOT receive, and for that, I am ashamed. I am sorry, Jesus, for my sin. I am sorry that I lacked the proper disposition to receive You.

That said, it is only that a lesson came home to me today; about the volumes spoken in silence and mystery, about the witness of Faith given by the weakest members of the Church on any given day, who testify not by going forward, but by taking the last place.

It is they who give me the courage and instill in me the virtue to honor Christ more perfectly, especially when I have sinned.

May the entire Communion of Saints pray for us all so that we may always honor Christ and grow to be more like Him every day of our lives. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Foreclosure Fiasco

It ain't over 'till the fat lady sings and I ain't singin' yet.

Truly, I don't even know where to start and I have no intention of recapping (here, anyway), every conversation I've had in the last couple weeks with my mortgage company. Suffice to say I am outraged. Never in my life have I ever dealt with such unethical business practices. If I had, I would have switched companies immediately. But herein lies much of the problem; we consumers do not have that ability when it comes to mortgages.

Oh, sure I could refinance under a different lender. Right. With $85,000 in negative equity in a house now worth even less than the negative equity? Right. Sure. That'll happen.

Let me hit a few high points for you:

1. First the mortgage company wouldn't work with me because I called them BEFORE I had missed a payment. I called IN ADVANCE knowing that I was hitting financial trouble and asked for a solution in good faith.

2. They gave me only one option: a 3 month forbearance. I wanted to make payments or partial payments. They told me no, then when I pressed the issue, I got a reluctant "OK but you have to call this number and do it over the phone."  Me: "But won't there be an additional fee for that?"  "No, not while you're in a forbearance."  OK, fine, I made some partial payments, again, in good faith, and EVERY TIME I CALLED I had to reassert why I was making a payment, what I had been told and that there shouldn't be a fee. It was a battle EVERY TIME.

3. At no point was I ever informed that my payments, which were being withdrawn from my bank account, were not being applied to my mortgage.

4. At the end of my forbearance period I received a letter stating that my monthly payment had not changed and then asserted I was nearly $3k in arrears. I was not told not to make my October payment with the payment coupon they sent to my house with the admonition to "remit $920 to this address."  I did what a reasonable person would do and made my regular payment. No, wait..I actually made a bit more than my regular monthly payment. Again in good faith.

5. I spoke with the company to advise of the payment being sent and they told me they would apply it to what was in arrears and any future payments would be taken in order. That's when I got the foreclosure notice.  And the letter said I had until November 5, but on the phone, they told me November 4.

6. My family member sent me a check to help and I called the bank to make that payment. I had to go through the entire re-hashment of the entire mess. I called informing them immediately that I would like to make a payment to bring my account current and gave them the amount. They tried to tell me I only paid $750.  Um...WHAT?!

7. Then they informed me about the "holding account" and asked why I hadn't made my October payment. WHAT!?

8. Then they informed me that they'd received my payment and sent it back and that I would be responsible for October late fees even though the payment had been received on time. WHAT!?  They said it was my fault. WHAT!?

9. Then they forced me to pay $17.00 in fees to pay the amount to make my account current. I could not make my October payment at the same time because the money had already been taken from my account.  (yes, really)

10. Today I called to make my October payment and rehashed the same dang thing AGAIN. Several times, in fact. Because my account is current but October's is merely "late", I tried to pay online, then through the "SpeedPay" option which has a fee but a lesser fee. No. I had to call the collections department and my only option was to pay them via phone with another $17.00 fee.

11. And that's when I was informed of the "Appraisal Charge".  Um...what appraisal might this be? I was informed that was done in August without my knowledge but I was responsible for the cost. No, I said, that is part of the company's overhead, cost of doing business. Why is this being passed on to the customer? No choice..I have to pay it anyway or my account would not be brought to bear.  Oh, and what does this appraisal consist in? She tried not to answer my question but I forced the issue in no uncertain terms. They talk to neighbors and look at my house to see if I'm living there. How can they tell if they don't talk to me? What neighbors did they talk to. Really? How do they know anything by doing an "appraisal" like that?

12. So I pay the extortioner just so I can stay in my home and finally get them to concede to not charge me the "late fee" for October.

13. We finish the call with me paid up fully on my home, and in fact, beyond fully to date since they've now deprived me of a few utility bill payments I'll have to delay to December now. So much for Christmas gifts, family.   And then she says to me, "Why were you behind on your October payment?"

14. That was it. I went off, and right through the roof and I let that woman hear ever bit of my very directed rage (without profanity, mind you. I'm quite proud of myself for that particular restraint.)  I informed her that I had, in fact, as I told her, made my payment which they SENT BACK. I informed her that her company needs to communicate better, that they need to provide better payment options and in fact, if they are limiting options, need to inform the customer of the same. I informed her that had I not been sent that coupon that a reasonable person would believe indicated regular payments should resume on paper, I would not have made a payment that would be rejected. I informed her that it is THEIR FAULT ENTIRELY that I was behind on my October payment and in general, their entire process is  incomprehensible and clearly deceptive.

And then she told me the company would take "my feedback" into account.

15. I hung up and immediately began making inquiries as to which department in the State of MN I needed to contact in order to lodge a formal complaint against this mortgage company for deceptive, manipulative, and predatory business practices. A friend put a call into someone he knows at the Attorney General's Office to see if it's there, or if there is another department to contact. Or even multiple.

Here's the thing, y'all. I've worked in the business world. Many people hate auto insurance, and yeah, I get it and I've had bad experiences there, too, both as a customer and as a rep. But one thing I knew on the job: I was there to serve the customer and often had to bend over backward to help them out of some jam, even if the jam was their fault. Our different departments communicated easily and if I couldn't see some information, I could obtain it with a quick phone call and help the customer that way. Or if need be, directly transfer the customer to the person who could help them.

The mortgage company? No. Not interested in helping. In fact, clearly drooling over the idea of flipping my home in a neighborhood that already stands quite empty. Folks, if I move out, NO ONE is moving into this place. It'll remain just as empty as the others surrounding me.  They did everything they could to make it impossible to pay my loan, and in the end, I actually had to pay them in order get them to accept my payment to them!

This is not ethical! And it wouldn't be happening if consumers had more rights and could hold these companies accountable as we do other businesses.  Don't like your auto insurance - switch companies. Don't like your bank where your checking account is held, cancel the account and open one in a different bank.

Don't like your mortgage company - oh, well, sucks to be you. Even if you can refinance under a different company, there is NOTHING to prevent them from selling your loan right back into the black hole you left. As a consumer, you have NO rights which is why these companies don't help their customers: they get paid the same whether the customer stays in their home or lands on the street. There is no competition and every single customer is over a barrel. How is this NOT racketeering?

Now, I won't be quitting my job and becoming a hippie in order to hang out downtown any time soon. I'll continue going to work and trying to pay my bills, as I always have. I'm glad to have a roof over my head. But I will stand up and be counted to any department that will hear and register this complaint, and I will sign my name to it and hope to God every other person out there having to deal with this crap does the same thing.

For now, I have a home. Thank God for my family scraping the bottom of their own barrels to help me; one of them actually skipped a few bills this month on my account. I didn't know that until the check was cashed and signed over. I didn't know.

This is ridiculous. I just have no more words.


PS: God bless my family!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

We Are All Called to Death

Recently I learned that the father of a dear friend had finally passed from this world into eternity after a long battle with cancer.

It wasn't unexpected and when I was asked if I could take time off work to attend the Wake, I asked for the date and time of the funeral, immediately pledging I'd attend both. I did this without reserve, even though mentally I was already rearranging my work schedule. What would I have to give up? What would I have to change?  I had a catalog in my head with regard to my personal life: what would I have to give up? What arrangements had to be made before I could go?

Let me be honest:

I didn't want to go at all. I didn't want to make those arrangements, I didn't want to take vacation days from work especially for something I didn't want to do, and really...I just didn't want to go.

My friends, I don't enjoy funerals. They are awful, they are terrible, they are sad, and I say this because every funeral I attend reminds me of the night I saw my Dad for the last the casket. I remember the weirdness of the Protestant-with-secret-Masonic-ritual-afterburner rites, the cheapness of it as he had no money nor did we, so couldn't even afford a funeral in a Lutheran chapel. With every funeral I attend, I remember the grief, of the discomfort of the folding chairs, my mother staring at me constantly with her cat's eyes ready-to-pounce expression as I cried very natural grief. Then we were called forward from some odd reason to come to the casket for one last time to stand there and publicly grieve and then turn and FACE the audience while the Pastor or random person presiding over this show (whoever he was...I still have no idea) said some words and then we were finally allowed to go back to our seats so that we could stop being a public freak show of sad people.

But that was my weird experience. Had my Dad been Catholic, it probably wouldn't have been so bad. Part of what I experienced in his death was the absolute trauma of the alien-ness of the service, devoid of anything I'd ever understood a funeral to be, and the fact that after the funeral he was cremated but not buried until spring. I believe his remains were brought to a mausoleum but I have no idea if he was just tossed unceremoniously into the ground come spring or if someone was there to prayerfully lay him to rest. I have no idea.

Every funeral since then has reminded me of that; we tend to be marked by the funerals of those we love the most. 

So you see, even though I have a Theology degree and understand the theology of redemptive suffering, and I believe in the Resurrection and look forward to it myself, that doesn't make funerals any easier.

It took me aback, therefore, when my brother and I were asked by the grieving family to bring up the Gifts of bread and wine. I wanted to refuse, but remembered as a child when our family was asked to do this at a Sunday Mass. Mom was very excited and said to us with shining eyes, "This is a great honor!"

I didn't understand that, but we did what we were told (or invited, rather), and returned to our pew.  I've never forgotten those words, though, or the action, even though the import was totally beyond me at the time:: to bring up the gifts at Mass is a GREAT HONOR.

So it was that when my brother had asked me if we could/should do so at today's funeral Mass, I said "Yes."

No hesitation.  Not outwardly.

Interiorly, I didn't want to go to the funeral. 

My dear friend had confessed that she wasn't at all sure what condition she or her  brothers would be in during the funeral, and the moment I heard that, I knew she was asking for very real help. I couldn't forget standing before people at my Dad's funeral....I knew that I could do this for her, and in her and her brother's names. And, in the theology of the Liturgy, I knew I could bring the gifts forward in the name of all, the symbol of the offering of all.  I could to at least that out of love for my friend and her family, and her dear, dear father.

Still, something struck me during the Mass, and I pray I never forget it. 

In the last few days, New Advent has run many articles about funerals and death and dying. I've clicked on every one. Even though I did not know the deceased very well (for my friend is the fiance' of my brother, so my brother is their considered family member, not me), the words in every article seemed to speak to our situation.

I was convicted when I read one article citing funerals as an "inconvenience" and in the end, the author was blown away by all the people "inconvenienced" to come...and how much that meant to her when she saw those mourners paying respects to her own loved one.

Today, during the funeral Mass, I pondered both my experience as well as those I've attended as a mourner, as a friend, and I realized that indeed, one of the reasons I dislike funerals is because of their utter inconvenience.

They always happen mid-week, at odd hours, and one must take either a half or full day from work, if not more. One must often travel out of town, and make arrangements that go beyond those required for daily tasks.

I didn't want to go to the funeral today, or the wake last night, but I went, and it hadn't been in my mind to refuse; I went because I love my friend and her family, even though I hadn't seen her father for years. That didn't matter: I went because she is my friend and I know what it's like to lose my father. She's a new member of a horrible club and needed the support of fellow club members.

During the Mass, I pondered this reality. I was ashamed, to the depths of my soul, for not wanting to be there. I was ashamed, for I knew how important it was, for it means a great deal to a grieving family that others love their loved ones...and them. One of the best ways to show love it just to BE there. Presence says far more than words will ever express. Presence is eternal. Ink on paper, words on the wind...those are easily lost.

It was Divine Providence that my brother and I had been asked to bring the gifts, for I could not help but ponder the significance of this liturgical action. Usually during the Offertory, I bow my head and pray, trying to offer myself, my intentions, prayers for those I union with the Sacrifice of Christ. Today I was called upon to do something more physical and as my brother is not a practicing Catholic I had to help him also, to know where to go, when, and what to bring up. As it was I still flubbed it a little (I started to offer what I had before what my brother had as I'd forgotten to think about the order of reception! But the priest was gracious and is used to distracted mourners.) I felt bad...I could have better directed my brother, I could have been more aware...I could have reminded him to walk with me and not behind, etc.

Today, I was reminded that I don't have all the answers, and even when I am in "my element", I am still lost, I am still confused, and I am still but a sheep in need of a shepherd. I am a soul in need of a savior. I'm glad my brother got to offer his first, for it was so proper on so many levels.

Often God's lessons in humility are gentle, and hidden, but always so loving that we cannot miss the point.

Our Lord reminded me today that we are all called to death. 

While indeed, yes, we do all face death, it is our little deaths in life that matter the most. We are all called to walk where we do not want to walk, to bow our heads in deference when we want to lead, to be silent when we want to speak, to suffer confusion when we most do not want to be confused.  We are all called to mourn not when we would prefer, but when God calls our loved ones home. We are called then also to the service of those who mourn the greatest, and offer ourselves to them in their simplest needs. In practical ways, in friendship, in service, in representation, and in presence.

We are all called to that. We are all called to lay down our lives upon the altar and live there in the shadow of the Cross, knowing that it is only there that we can understand the resurrection and eternal glory of Christ.

Simply to attend to a death, we must die to ourselves. We must put our own lives aside to give comfort to the lives of others, and pray for the eternal life for the one who has been called into eternity.

Yes...this is our call. In life we are indeed in death, for we cannot live eternal life unless we are willing to die, over and over again, every day and every minute, all for the sake of Christ our Lord.

Please pray with me for the father of my friend:

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, may your countenance shine upon him, and may he and all the Holy Souls in Purgatory rest in peace. Amen. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Moment of Eternity

Today I had to run some errands that took me into a suburb in which I worked for five years. As I passed the familiar exits and mused on new construction since I had last driven that route, one particular sign gave me pause.

I knew where it led and suddenly, I knew that I had to go there before I continued on. There was time and, well...I couldn't say "no" to this particular clarion call.

When I worked in that city, I had a very stressful, demanding job, and one awful summer I had to do the work of three people as the others on my team had either been promoted or had left the company. Instead of taking lunch, I had begun going to Adoration.

Starving for Home

The first chapel I found near my work was still quite a drive and it was so comfortable and I was so emotionally exhausted that when I arrived there I'd almost immediately fall asleep, only to have to rush back, addled, to work. "Something" goaded me to look further, and indeed, I'd found a chapel closer to work. Each day, perhaps nearly every day that terrible summer, I looked forward to my break so that I could steal away to the chapel.

I didn't each lunch at all. I knew what I needed:  My Lord.

I remember the first time I arrived and crept up the stairs to the chapel, careful not to disturb any of those who were there praying. I didn't like the fact that I had to enter the chapel from the front, but just the same, I was grateful to be able to go and sank down in a pew like an exhausted swimmer collapsing upon the sand.

The chapel was like one from an old convent (which may be what that building once was); the altar is in the front surrounded by stained glass windows set into an arched outer wall. the pews line up precisely with heavy wooden kneelers and the scent of the old building is so permeated with ancient incense and...well...that indescribably sweet but nostalgic pungence one often finds in old buildings.

I was always comforted from the moment I entered the chapel and it became an oasis of peace that kept me sane in a very difficult time of my life.

Today, although I was happy to be able leave the office to run my work errands on a nice fall afternoon, and I was thrilled with what I was going to pick up, I knew that I had to take this detour and visit Jesus as a perfect balm for my harried soul.

I could not disobey the invitation that came to me today on the freeway and it was like stepping back in time as I parked my car and once again approached the chapel door, climbed the steps, and entered into the presence of the King.

As I knelt before Our Lord, deeply taking in the familiar aromas, I was taken back in time, thanking Jesus over and over again for this refuge He so freely offers us. Thanking Him for allowing me to come into His Presence.

Although I've fallen away some from praying the Liturgy of the Hours, it continues to go with me everywhere I go and today I was not surprised to open it and find us amidst the story of Esther. Her prayer is never far from my lips:  "Help me Lord, for I am all alone and I have no one but Thee."

 The Psalms spoke to me so deeply today that I nearly wept in gratitude as well as sorrow.

I could not help but marvel at how far God has taken me with Him in these last several years. Even as I prayed the Psalms, the memories of the place played in the background of my intellect.  I recalled that the last time I'd been there in that particular chapel, I barely knew my faith and was eagerly absorbing all I could. There were days I would go there and would just weep from stress and anxiety because of my job. There were days I would arrive and, in spite of the hardness of the pews, fall asleep out of pure exhaustion, unable to speak or absorb. All I could do was BE. And there, in that chapel, Our Lord allowed me to  I could do that in His company, where He, simply...IS.

My mother was always a very devoted Catholic and our homes always housed the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Although I was familiar with and loved that image of Christ and His mother, it was there, in that particular chapel, that I re-discovered the devotion, learned about it, and made it my own. I absorbed into my very being the spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and began learning how to entrust myself and my prayers to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

I sat there today, realizing that God has given me SO MUCH, and has and is taking me along with Him on a long walk to Calvary. It becomes so apparent, for the last time I was there, I was asking to know Him more deeply, praying about a religious Vocation, knowing that what I was doing was not what He intended to be my life's work.

I returned today, this time with a Masters in Theological Studies, with the Liturgy of the Hours, and with an entirely different type of burden. 

But was all the same. Jesus is the same, everywhere, every day, in every age, from today to tomorrow, from the past we can't fathom and into a future we'll not see with earthly eyes. HE IS, quite simply. He IS. Eternally.

There I knelt, and although I did not really pray in words today, I prayed wordlessly, staring at Jesus as He looked back at me. And in that passive activity, time stopped and there was nothing but eternity in the gaze of Christ.

Earthly life continues and I had to break that incredible gaze, so I  invited Jesus to join me as I ran my errands. I knelt and left the silent endlessness of the blessed chapel and continued in silence to the next task.

Pondering my brief visit to the chapel, I realized that it was exactly what I needed. God knows us all so well and although we can encounter Him anywhere, at any Catholic parish, whether hidden in the tabernacle or exposed in the monstrance, He continues to use ALL of our senses when we seem to have lost our way in the darkness of this world. Jesus brought me into that suburb today not simply to complete an errand, but to visit HIM in a place special in my own memory of Him.

You see, I realized  that it was in that very chapel that I fell in love with Jesus. 

I needed to go there today. I needed it because I needed the sensory reminders of my passion for Him and His life-giving Passion for me. I NEEDED that.

Today, in that all-too-brief interlude, God did not speak to me of the Cross or of deep theological explanations. He spoke to me of eternity with Him. There, in that place where I first discovered the meaning of real, sacrificial love, He gave me a moment of loving eternity. And that description contains no paradox.

+Sacred Heart of Jesus, be my salvation!+
+Sacred Heart of Jesus, ThyKingdom come!+
+Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me!+

Immaculate Heart of Mary...Pray for me! 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thanks Be To God!

Thank you, my friends, for your prayers!

Today I received a call from a family member - a couple are pitching together to help me in this crisis, at least with regard to the house.

The foreclosure is going away!

I don't yet know how I'm going to keep from going into default on my student loan but on that front, there is a little more hope and I can probably "buy" a little more time. Please keep the prayers coming!

Many have suggested I place a Paypal button on my blog, and I may yet need to do that, but given the phone call today, I am thankful to be able to hold off. Thank you for your offered generosity - I am very touched by so many so willing to help. Whereas I may still need that kind of help one day, for now the hand of the bank is going to be stayed at least with regard to the most critical issue - the roof over my head.

This afternoon in the Adoration Chapel I prayed for all of you who have been praying for me and I hope you are all deeply blessed by God. I know many of you are undergoing other kinds of trials right now, so be assured of my prayers on your behalf.

Thank you, Jesus!

I Knew it Was Coming

My friends, I need to request your prayers.

Yesterday evening as I settled in to watch Kitchen Nightmares, a nightmare of a whole different sort came to my door in the form of a ringing bell and certified letter. I didn't even need to look at the address; I knew what it was as I signed for it.

It was my foreclosure notice. I have until November 5 to come up with $1800.00 in addition to my regular monthly payment of about $930.00.  I will also owe $200 on one of my student loans that was under a forbearance.

Right now I'm praying for a miracle. It's possible that I own something that can be sold, but probably not likely to happen in the time period I've been given.

I know that I can live in my house for a year under foreclosure, but my hope is that I can stop the proceedings by somehow coming up with the cash to pay the amount I'm behind. It seems like so little, doesn't it? Yet to me, it's a greater fortune than I've ever seen.

For those unfamiliar with my story, the reason I am behind is not for willfully skipping payments, but the fact that over the summer I was down to 25 hours per week and no other income. During that time my lender granted me a forbearance and I paid about half of my regular mortgage in that time period.

I am trying to work with the bank but they offer few options and the fact remains: I must pay this debt and I intend to pay it.

Please pray for me.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Mystery of the Open Door

For the last several days, it seems like every time I've come home from work, I've had a door open that wasn't supposed to be open. Or perhaps a makeshift "baby gate" that has been tipped over by a very guilty-looking German Shepherd.

I'm used to her antics in trying to access some baby-gated areas and usually, no harm done so it's not a huge deal (as long as it's not the kitchen!).  Open doors, though, are a different matter entirely!

I had actually been attributing the recent open rooms to my own failure to properly close the doors, and again, neither the bedroom or bathroom had any damage or obvious disturbance, so I didn't worry. After all, my dog isn't a puppy anymore although she DOES on occasion get into things and make a mess simply because (GSD owners say it with me!) ...she's a GERMAN SHEPHERD!

Until last night, anyway, I'd been attributing open doors to my own failure to close them, and this is the cue that I need to give you a little back story.....

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time, little new homeowner Adoro adopted a German Shepherd, age 1.5 years, from the local Humane Society. The paperwork and the staffer there told Adoro that her new pet was very very smart and had a long history of an uncanny ability to open doors she was not supposed to open.

Adoro learned this very quickly the first time she tried to kennel her dear GSD, only to come home 45 minutes later to find the kennel door ajar and the dog standing outside of it with a happy waggy tail and a big happy doggie grin. 

The next time Adoro left, she reinforced the kennel with flex ties at all points, even the door, thinking that as she would be gone for only about a half hour, this would be a good test of the new "security" system. 

When Adoro came home, the kennel was completely intact! Yay! The door was still closed and tightly tied shut!

Unfortunately, the German Shepherd was AGAIN outside of the kennel, staring at her, doggie-grinning and happy-wagging. 


Well, Adoro gave up on the kennel, at that point realizing that to continue might actually cause her dog to be strangled if she was trapped in an escape attempt and Adoro did not arrive home in time to stop the tragedy. So it was that she invested in a baby gate for the kitchen to prevent counter surfing (for some reason the dog did not desire to jump over the gate), and pseudo-gate the steps at the bottom to prevent the dog from going upstairs. 

Over the years this worked, until the German Shepherd did begin leaping the stair gate. In place of that, Adoro closed upstairs doors, especially after an incident in which her dog had injured herself during the day and cost Adoro hundreds in veterinary bills to prevent her dog from bleeding to death when the clotting factors were thrown off by the injury. 

That system worked very very well  unless Adoro forgot to close the door or simply didn't latch it properly.

And that's where the story continues to the nearly present day.

Keep in mind that the doorknobs in my house are the round sort that tend to need to be GRIPPED in order to turn and unlatch.

Well, I had begun to wonder about the open doors, wondering if in fact, there was a "mechanical" problem with the mechanism - was it not latching properly even though I had pulled and heard the "click"?

Then last night, I came  home to find that my bedroom door was open and a child-size scapular I bought at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City in 1994 was lying on the ground, the string in shreds and the miraculous medal lying neatly among the mess.

When I stopped to stare at it in confusion, my German Shepherd circled my feet, ears back, tail tucked with the tip wagging as she "apologized".

I picked up the pieces. None were wet so it happened hours ago. The string appeared to have broken through stress. There was no damage to the door or the knob. The dog was playing "guilty" all over the place, especially when I had the evidence in my hand.

Thankfully, only the string was damaged - the two main pieces seemed fine and perhaps can be used again.

You see, this scapular is one that maybe I had worn (I don't remember) but as it is so beautiful and comes from such a place, I put it on my doorknob as an act of devotion - both to preserve it and to remind myself of Our Lady's protection, her intercession, and of course, what it means to be devoted to Christ.

I guess my dog isn't really into sacramentals even though I've done my best to raise her as a Catholic and she seems to enjoy it when I pray the Liturgy of the Hours with her.

But still.- I couldn't figure out what the broken scapular had to do with the open door! And of course, WHY the scapular was broken!

Yesterday a storm had passed through, and as the years have gone on, I've noticed that my dog reacts more and strongly seeks my company when the thunder cracks. I wondered if perhaps she'd nudged the doorknob in hopes of finding me, or maybe to get as close to me (via my scent in my room) as possible during the storm, and the door just happened to be forced open at her insistence, the knob turned just enough.

Today changed that theory, but first a little more to the story: 

You see, a couple years ago my dog wandered into the upstairs bathroom one evening and apparently closed the door on herself. She didn't make a peep, but because she was often in my room staring out the window doing her GSD-thing, it wasn't uncommon for her not to be with me in the main part of the house.

Well, having not seen her for a few hours and wanting to feed her, I called and she did not come. I knew she was not outside (no fenced yard so she was never outside alone). I went upstairs, saw the door to my room closed and recalled doing that. But I knew she wasn't in my room because I'd ushered her out before closing the door. But why was the bathroom door closed?

I opened it and she exited somewhat sheepishly as I greeted her. I remember being confused; the doggie Houdini-extraordinaire hadn't made a peep up there and hadn't torn the door apart in an attempt to get out!

I thought that perhaps she'd forgotten about her door-opening skill after nudging the door closed during routine sniffing and decided to just wait it out. I was wrong. 

She just hadn't had the proper motivation at the time as she was quite content that evening, apparently, to lay down on the rug and take a nap until I'd opened the door.

Today when I came home, once again I found the bedroom door standing ajar and the dog acting guilty in her rush to pass me in hopes I wouldn't notice that, in fact, I didn't actually have to open the door myself.

I stopped, horrified, staring from the floor to the doorknob. Was my only other scapular from that shrine destroyed, too?

No, no...the ground was bare. I looked at the knob. No, there it hung, although it was a bit more tightly wound. I reached out to grasp the "tag" with the embroidered picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe, feeling the gold threads under my fingers. I tugged gently...and saw the knob turn. The string was just taught enough to rub and pull the knob to the side, releasing the latch!

As the door opened, I rose my eyes to my dog, perched at the window, staring outward, ears forward and twitching according to the sounds reverberating against those huge radars. She stood at the window I always left slightly open in fair weather to let the fresh air waft in, and there she could percept, as well, all the sounds of the neighborhood including the dog the neighbors always allow to roam off leash all day long....

Mystery Solved!



* close window even while gone
* remove scapular from door and leave nothing to act as "doggie pull-chain"
* more interesting toys if actually affordable?  (donations accepted!)
* get a different breed  NEVER! GET BEHIND ME SATAN!  German Shepherds are as close as a canine can get to being human - must continue to nurture in accordance with St. Thomas Aquinas's hierarchy of Creation as this is clearly an animal present with Adam in the Garden! Must learn to be more like the dog whose thought process is very logical!

OK then!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Blog Quotes of the Day

It's been awhile since I posted some of these, so back by...uh...popular demand of the past, I bring you some silliness for today:

If bloggers stopped blogging about what happened to them, then there would be a lot of empty web pages.
~ inspired by Elaine Liner

The man who blogs about himself and his own time is the only man who blogs about all people and all time.
~ inspired by George Bernard Shaw

The role of a blogger is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.
~ inspired by Anais Nin

Either blog something worth blogging or do something worth blogging.
~ inspired by Ben Franklin

And for the cherry of truth atop a cupcake of silliness:

The skill of blogging is to create a context in which anonymous commenters can flame without fear of reprisal.
~ loosely inspired by Edwin Schlossberg

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Short End of the Stick?

A few days ago while flipping stations on my car radio, I came across a protestant preacher, and stopped to listen for awhile because what he was saying sounded interesting. He was talking about the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis, and how poor Joseph was "always getting the short end of the stick."  Not having heard this particular angle taken before, I listened, giving consideration to his thought process. He explained that Joseph always had things going wrong and about telling his dream to his brothers (about the sheaves bowing to his sheaf), well, he just needed to learn wisdom and grow up a little. He explained Joseph was an arrow being polished for the Lord's quiver so that he would be ready to go on God's time.

Ever since I heard that particular interpretation of Joseph's story, I've wondered about it, most particularly the "short end of the stick" part. Although Joseph went through many trials, could it really be claimed that he got the "short end of the stick"?

I decided to read that story again during Adoration yesterday and try to do so with new eyes.

You all know the story: Joseph is a child of his father's old age, so is a favored and quite coddled son. One night Joseph has a dream that he and his brothers were binding sheaves, and the all arose and bowed to Joseph's sheaf. His next dream was of the sun, moon, and stars bowing down to him, and this second dream annoyed even Joseph's father.

As I read that, I could see, of course, how Joseph was taunting his brothers. While on the surface he seems only to be revealing a dream, it's easy to imagine the not-so-pure fallen human using the dream against his brothers instead of simply keeping it to himself. His father's own reaction, rebuking Joseph, seems to support the fact that he did indeed realize Joseph was being a pill and was not merely innocently recounting a dream.

Joseph's brothers then went off to move the flock and one day Israel ordered Joseph to find them to see if they are well, and to bring word back.

This next part is fascinating, for it seems out of place:

Gen 37:14-17
So he sent him from the valley of Hebron and he came to Shechem. And a man found wandering in the fields; and the man asked him, "what are you seeking?"
"I am seeking my brothers," he said, "tell me, I pray you, where they are pasturing the flock."
And the man said, "They have gone away, for I heard them say 'Let us go to Dothan'."
So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

Every time I read this story, I pause at this section. Who is this random unnamed man? Look again at the dialogue: "What are you seeking?"  And Joseph doesn't answer with a "what", but a "who".  "I am seeking my brothers." 

Joseph is given direction by the unnamed man who clearly knew who his brothers are, and he goes, and finds them.

This passage is so loaded; it reveals a prefigurement of the Messaiah, and a subtle shift in power; it is not his brothers who seek him, but Joseph who seeks his brothers.

Of course, he finds them, they plot to kill him and at the behest of Reuben who wants no harm to come to his brother, convinces them to put him in a cistern instead (so Rueben can restore him to his father). Instead, Joseph is sold into Ismaelite slave traders, who take him to Egypt and sell him to Pharaoh's Captain of the Guard.

Genesis Chapter 39 tells us that the Lord was with Joseph and he became a very successful man as a slave in Potiphar's house, and finds favor; he was actually placed in charge of the household.

Then the woman of the house hit on him and when Joseph refused to submit, fleeing the woman's greedy embrace, she lied and accused him of attacking her, causing him to be thrown into prison.

Genesis 39:21-22 tells us the favor of the Lord was steadfast and he caused the prison keeper to have regard for Joseph, and all prisoners were placed into his care. It was in this context that Joseph met the butler and baker of the king of Egypt.

The two servants of the king had mysterious dreams, and Joseph found them downcast, and upon learning the dreams, stated, "Do not interpretations belong to God?"  So they told Joseph the dreams and he interpreted them; both came to pass as Joseph said. The baker was executed and the butler restored to the King's service.

Two years later the Pharaoh had a dream, and the Butler remembered Joseph and told the King about him. Joseph was summoned from prison and brought before the King, where he interpreted the dream and gave advice on how to proceed with the prediction of the oncoming famine. Because of his gift and his wisdom, the Pharaoh set Joseph as his second in command and put him in charge of preparing for the famine.

Reality Check

As I re-read all of this, I kept pondering the protestant preacher's words:  Joseph was getting the short end of the stick? Really?

Let's take a closer look:

Well, first we have a spoiled brat who taunts his brothers, and he brothers go overboard on the revenge. OK, granted, that was a pretty awful thing to do; to plot to kill one's own flesh and blood and then sell him into slavery. Very low. That does seem to be quite a detriment.

Well, Ishmaelite slave traders weren't exactly known for being gentle folk, and Joseph could have been sold anywhere - but no, he want to Pharoah's Captain of the Guard. Then he is placed in charge of the household. Oh, right, he was thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit, but then he still found favor. After all, as scripture tells us, the favor of the Lord was upon Joseph and everywhere he went, even prison, he was the favored son and experienced the best of conditions.

No matter how I read this, I simply can't see that Joseph EVER got the "short end of the stick."

Did he suffer trials? Indeed, and yes, they were harsh!

Still, Joseph was cared for by God, and I see those trials as a purification; he had misused his gift and had to be taught how to use it. Not to benefit himself, but, rather, to benefit others. He had to learn not to abuse his gift to grow in regard of others, but rather, to grow in humility and wisdom.

While Joseph, after he favorably interpreted the dream for the Butler, asked him to remember him when he was restored, and revealed he was unjustly imprisoned, we hear not a word of complaint from him for the two following years as he continued his prison work.

It was not until he was sufficiently purified in God's eyes that he was called upon to place his gift and himself at the service of the Pharaoh and all his kingdom, and ultimately, his own family.

What are you seeking?

Look again at the unnamed man in the field and his conversation with young spoiled Joseph.

He was seeking his brothers, and even when those who had sold him came to him, he sought until he had found them all. Joseph was not satisfied with only a few brothers; he ached for his family and his homeland and knew he could not reveal his identity until the time was right, and when all had been properly restored...and forgiven.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Food I Would Serve Jesus - Fall Edition: SOUP!

Welcome to Fall!  In honor of the changing of the seasons to my favorite time of year, and also celebrating the Feast of St. Padre Pio, I bring you....SOUP!

Yesterday I was craving Italian soup, and couldn't find a recipe for what I I made it up as I went along, stopping at the store only to get the main ingredient: ground Italian sausage.

The soup was comprised otherwise of the items I already had on hand and needed to use, and so, with this monastery-like "spirit of poverty", I dedicate my new invention to my dear St. Padre Pio - I would serve it to  him and to Jesus without reserve!

Italian Sausage-Tomato Soup:

1 package sweet ground Italian sausage - Johnsonville
Chicken broth - I used a box of Swanson's 1/3 less sodium
Vidalia onion
1 can diced tomatoes, garlic and basil flavor (I had DelMonte on hand)
1 fresh perfectly sweet tomato (from Aldi's)
fresh basil
celery salt
tomato sauce (well, I didn't have any so substituted leftover pizza sauce)
red wine vinegar


Start to heat the chicken broth in a soup pot while browning the sausage and chopped onion in a sauce pan. "Break" it up as you go so you don't have huge misshapen meatballs. Drain excess fat, then carefully add the meat/onion mixture to the broth. Open the can of Italian diced tomatoes, add to the pot, along with the other chopped fresh tomato - as many as you'd like. Add the tomato sauce and herbs according to taste. Cover the pot and simmer, but stir and taste-test occasionally for balance.  I also added additional water to the broth, and salted with celery salt.

When you're satisfied with the flavor, add some kind of pasta. I had Orzo in the cupboard so used that, but any pasta would be fine - take care not to overwhelm with the pasta unless that's what you're going for. I wanted a very "brothy" soup, something perfect for dipping a hard roll into.

Serve with crackers or bread of your choice, garnish with Parmesan cheese and a fresh basil leaf.


A few notes:

If you can, cook this in a slow-cooker so you can really give the flavors a chance to blend. I simmered on the stove for a couple hours, but I'm picky that way. You could simmer uncovered for a much shorter period of time and it would still be very tasty!

As this soup is very basic, you could turn it into a hearty stew by adding other garden vegetables, substitute the pork for ground turkey - the sky's the limit! (Not that turkeys fly or anything).  :-)

Perhaps I'll re-post my French Onion Soup recipe soon, complete with a photo of the finished product. Anyone interested?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Restored to Innocence

A couple days ago, I went to Confession, cringing once again at having the same laundry-list of sins. I'm the kind of person who could probably LIVE in a confessional and never run out of sins ot confess, but of course, if I were to never leave, I would never have a chance to try to overcome my numerous faults and weaknesses that lead me into sin.

Every now and then I long for the days of childhood innocence; back when I didn't understand real evil and even better, had never experienced it or had been the author of it.  Yet even this frivolous longing carries within it God's grace, for it makes me even more grateful for the Sacrament of Confession.

All of this was on my mind when I entered the tiny room and knelt down behind the screen, the priest already intoning the beginning of this most sacred rite. I listed my always...knowing that God already knew what I had done and had only been waiting for me to come to Him to take full responsiblity and ask for the grace to overcome them, to start anew. Once again.

I listened to the advice of the priest and when prompted, began my Act of Contrition, the very same one I learned back in First Grade when I received the Sacraments.

"Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you. I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell....

And then it happened. I can't properly explain it, but there, as I prayed the words, it was as if I was taken back in time to a confessional long long ago. I was again six years old, and, having confessed my little sins, things like fighting with my brother and disobeying my mother, was moving haltingly through the Act of Contrition. I could feel my page-boy style hair cut and in my mind's eye, see a little of the light of day peeking through the woven wicker-type screen, revealing the silhouette of Fr. W. as he waiting patiently for me to complete the prayer, his hand already raised in anticipation of absolution.

But most of all, because I offended You, O my God, who are all Good and deserving of all my love....

There I was, kneeling in the Confessional, an adult, having committed much greater sins, having now had a long life of having gravely, over and over again, severed my relationship with God in ways I couldn't even have imagined as a child. I knelt there and the tears came as I recalled that sweet, sweet innocence of childhood.
I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to confess my sins...
It truly was as though suddenly, I was a child again, kneeling humbly before my God, knowing His Mercy, and overwhelmed because I am also an adult, an adult who has been wounded by sin. As I said that ancient prayer, I knew without a doubt that in my sorrow, in my repentance, in my desire and will to lean on God in order to overcome my sin, in His Mercy He indeed restored me to that beautiful innocence of childhood. do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.
Still experiencing the sense of timelessness, lost in the echoes of childhood, I bowed my head to receive Absolution, my tears turning to joy with the unmerited, undeserved gift of a greater knowledge of God's incredible love. 
As I stood to go, renewed, restored, I had come fully to myself again but could still turn to look at memory's image of me as a six year old, skipping gaily out of the confessional when only moments before I'd trudged in shyly and a bit guiltily, sent in to expose to the light the sins that could only exist under the cover of darkness.
I wiped the tears away as I returned to the chapel where I knelt once again to pray, this time to offer my assigned penance, raising my eyes to Jesus in thanksgiving, knowing His mercy is eternal and that in His eyes, I am once again a child of God.
Through the Sacrament of Confession, Jesus gave me glimpse through His own eyes; now I know that I need not long for that innocence of childhood, for it is but a mirror image of holiness, and through the grace of the Sacraments, we each can be that reflection for eternity. That is our Call.
The Sacrament of Confession restores us; no matter what we have done, by humbly accusing ourselves before God, through contrition for our sins, we open ourselves to His Grace. While we may still suffer the effects of sin, God remembers no more what He has forgiven. It doesn't matter if we are six or seven or eighty-one; once we have come to Jesus, it is, in His eyes, as though those things have never happened. We are, once again, a mere child He delights to indulge in His great love.
Thank you, Jesus.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A New Stage

It's no secret that I've been suffering from writer's block.

Part of it is the fact that because I work in a parish, sitting down on my off time to write about religious topics feels like work. And not work I really care to do, especially when I'm supposed to be getting away from work.

I've been seriously considering bringing this blog to a close simply because I don't think I have anything else to say. It's all been said or is perhaps being said better by someone else.

Still...this blog has been a wonderful outlet for me over the last several years, and I've met many friends, learned many things and I admit it's still a bit of an attachment. So, instead of hanging it up I'm switching gears for awhile.

That's right...I signed up for NaNoWriMo for the first time.

Perhaps, I thought, if I can put my focus into a non-religious topic, perhaps I'll find my Catholic muse again, and my motivation.

Or, perhaps, once November hits, because I'm supposed to be working on a novel, I may be struck once again by great topics for the blog.

Who knows? In any case, expect more erratic posts about random topics of interest to me (if not by anyone else) and, if you REALLY want me to post something, feel free to post your own random questions to spark my motivation.

After all, one of the things I love to do is answer sincere questions about our faith by people seeking to grow deeper in their relationship with Christ.

Until my next inspiration.....

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dear Old Friends

Even before I could read, I have loved reading. I remember looking at picture books, listening to Mom help my brother with reading; he was sick for much of First Grade and got far behind the other students, so truly struggled with the foundation of reading and writing. I wasn't invited into those lessons because I was too little, and so I would ask Mom to read me books, and in so doing, would try to memorize them so I could perhaps make the connection between what I was hearing and the figures on the page.

I strongly recall picking up a book I was CERTAIN I remembered, and, bringing it to Mom and Dad, announced that I had learned to read and I was going to PROVE it!

Unfortunately, when I opened the book, to my chagrin, I could not understand those characters and was forced to make up a story which turned out to be very lame; after all, since I couldn't read, I didn't actually know what the book was about. Mom and Dad laughed, said that was cute, and left me to look at pictures.

Ultimately, learning to read was never a struggle with me...when it was finally time, I took to it like a fish to water. My particular problem was that I would pick up books, fall in love with them, and set that particular book as a "gold standard". I would have books read to me, such as the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and because I wasn't quick enough on Library days to get that particular book, and I wasn't at the top of the elementary grade "A-list", to get the library's only copy of any given Little House book, I was forced to peruse the shelves, looking for something I actually wanted to read.

We had the most freedom in Fourth Grade, and it was that teacher who, frustrated with me always being the last to choose a book, quickly but carefully grabbed one for me and forced it into my hand. "Go check out. You're reading THIS."

I would go to the Librarian, pouting because it wasn't what I wanted to read. But because of that vigilant teacher, I read books that taught me something MORE, for the popular books with the other girls, the ones I could never obtain, were the ones our teacher had already read to us as a class. She didn't want me to stick with the status quo, but rather, to branch out to many genres and most importantly, discover new territory. She didn't object to students reading on their own the books she read us in class, but didn't want us to remain there; she wanted to use books to inspire us, to discover new adventures, new worlds, and of course, improve our reading and grammar because we WANTED to read.

She was successful but I must confess that my propensity to be loyal to favorite authors has never died, and even as an adult, I return to the literature of my youth.

The Best Friends a Girl Could Have

My family moved to Minnesota when I was in Fifth Grade, and sometime that year or perhaps between Fifth and Sixth Grade, I came home one cloudy, humid, rainy day to find a few large boxes on the floor of my room, all containing musty-smelling hardcover books.

"Where did these come from?"  I demanded.

"Your Aunt Laurie. She read all of them and thought you would enjoy them. Take care of them; she wants them back when you're done reading."

One by one, I pulled the books out. The Bobbsey Twins, one about Barbie and the Florida Keys, and about thirty books about a girl named "Trixie Belden".  A couple Nancy Drew.

I didn't want to read ANY of them, but at the time, I wasn't reading anything else, the weather prevented other activities so I began with the "single"  books, putting off the lame-looking "Trixie Belden" series, certain I'd hate them.

To my surprise, I enjoyed the first few books I read, and began to see my aunt in a new light. Maybe she DID know what she was talking about in recommending these books. Even though I wasn't enthused about the Trixie books, I realized I should at least read one of them; that way I could give those boxes back to my aunt in good conscience, even if I didn't like them.

Much to my surprise, when I opened the cover of the first book, Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion, I found I couldn't put it down. One by one, I absorbed each book voraciously, and if a one was missing in the sequence, I'd go to the public library with the desperation of an addict.  Over one summer, I was at the library every other day, looking for the next book and placing orders for interlibrary loans.

Because of my enthusiasm and "frequent customer" appearances, I got to know the Librarians, especially one named "Laurie" (not my aunt, her agreeable name merely a coincidence).

Over time, I finally exhausted both my aunt's books and the library's resources, even through interlibrary loans. Some of the books simply weren't available anywhere, although we continued to look. Some were being reprinted and I ended up receiving a couple of the later books as gifts or by purchasing them myself.

I read and re-read my favorites of the series, but realized, as my Fourth Grade teacher had taught me, that I couldn't stagnate. Laurie, the Librarian, seeing my consternation at running out of my beloved Trixie books, strongly recommended Nancy Drew, and so I moved on to that series, too, and before long, was coming to the reference desk to ask her to place more orders for interlibrary loans.


 When I left for college, I think,  I had to finally release my aunt's books back to her, so I'd carefully packed those old friends away while suppressing the tears. Over the years I'd read and re-read those books I had initially not wanted...and like so much of life, learned that what we think we'll hate is often what others realize is just perfect for us.

I also knew that one has to move on to greater things, and as much as my old friends Trixie, Mart, Brian, and Bobby Belden, Honey Wheeler, Jim Frayne, Dan Mangan, Di Lynch, Regan, Miss Trask, Tom Delaney, Nancy Drew, Midge....had become nearly "real" to me, one must always grow up. Instinctively I'd understood that the series had ended because the characters had to grow up, too, and life doesn't ever remain the same...not even in storybooks.

Still, I didn't go to college untouched by these mere "childhood" books, even though I didn't realize until recently how much they have impacted my life.

Good Literature does not point to itself...but to even GREATER Literature

Recently I went to the public library and admittedly, somewhat abashedly, entered the "Children's" section of the huge hub, and went through the fiction stacks. Although I found Nancy Drew, and knew from a previous computer search that this library DEFINITELY had SOME of the Trixie Belden books, I couldn't find a single one. I looked under both author names under which the 39 books in the series had been penned. Nothing.

Shamefacedly I approached the librarians and confessed I could not find my beloved Trixie Belden, and they helped me locate it on the shelves - under Title, not author, simply because of the duality of authorship.

For the last week or so, I have been DEVOURING these books and realize how much they contributed to my own formation in my teenage years.

Although they were written in the '40's and '50's, and use archaic words such as "dungarees" instead of "jeans", and to this day, I still have no idea what a "sharkskin suit" is or why it is considered to be "cool" for a hot day, I took to heart the moral lessons within the pages. Now that I am re-reading as an adult, I can see the values instilled in the characters, but still the personalities, temperaments, and utter teenage stupidity that made the books so appealing.

It is because of Trixie Belden that  in my Jr. High years I took it upon myself to read Edgar Allen Poe, the works of Shakespeare, and inquire about other classic literature - simply so that I would be able to understand the references the characters made. In fact, because of these books, I questioned why I had never had to study these greats, and why we didn't touch them in English classes or other electives until High School?

Through Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, I became interested in the world around me, not just my immediate locale, but the larger world, and suddenly, History became important, and other cultures became even MORE interesting than they had been before.

It didn't stop there, though. I can't help but notice the words being used and how cleverly the authors of the series clearly sought to elevate their readers to the next level. Julia Cambell, "Caroline Kennedy" (pseudonym for several authors), and Katherine Keene (Nancy Drew author) did not talk down to their young audience but sought to increase their vocabulary. Perhaps they did this unconsciously, for it does not read as "gimmicky" but like books written by readers for readers out of respect for the intelligence of readers everywhere.

I can't help but recognize the influence of these authors upon my own writing, both in fiction and that which I use on my blog, and I wonder sometimes if I am channeling Mart Belden - and if I'm not, I wonder if perhaps he could have stepped in to become my muse on occasion, especially when having to compose academic treatises. (Only Trixie Belden fans will understand this reference).

Dear Old Friends

For years I have been reading some pretty hard-core stuff:  between real-life autobiographies to deep Theology and some Fiction, it has been Flannery O'Connor, some CS Lewis, murder mysteries, and well...some serious adult content consistent with my history and training in Criminal Justice. Because I enjoy "BONES", the TV show, I have read Kathy Reichs, the series upon which the production is based, and even though it interests me scientifically, it still makes me occasionally scream and want to write to Ms. Reichs about what she's getting wrong about Catholic theology. So often, when I read even FICTION these days, it feels like work, because as a theologian now, I can't help but take what I know and interpret everything through that particular lens.

 [Remind me to write to Dr.. Reichs and offer my services as a specifically Catholic theological consult. She's made some really embarrassing errors with regard to Catholicism both in the books and on the show - or her current "theologian" on her payroll has, anyway. It makes her look like an idiot and she has a HUGE Catholic following to whom she is doing a great injustice and has been for a long time. *sigh* ]

Because life has been so burdensome of late, I realized I needed something lighter, and so I turned to my old friends. I found that it's been so long I have forgotten the plots of these "juvenile" mysteries, and even though the core of the story has remained, I can still re-read these books as if for the first time, introduced all over again, entertained all over again, reminded all over again.

I love turning these precious pages, getting lost in the stories in a way I could never really  be lost in theology, for both forms utilize the intellect in different ways. I realize that I have to get back in touch with my own roots, my own motivations, the very basic love of literature at the simplest level, engaging my imagination so that I can once again gallop along the bridal paths (an experience I've actually finally had in real life), once again thwart the bad guys (another experience I've had in real life), once again enjoying the camaraderie of great friendships in good times and in bad (an experience that is ongoing as long as the sun rises and sets.).

Ah, my dear friend Trixie, how much you taught me about life, about literature, about selflessness, about manners, about goodness, about adventure, about the very mystery of life. How much I would like to be like you, even now...but still am grateful for many of my adventures in real life were inspired by your fictional ones.

Thank you.

Now, my readers, please excuse me...I have books to read and many old friends with whom I have been longing to be reacquainted.

Consider this an invitation to meet them, too:

Trixie Belden

Nancy Drew (I read only the original series and always saw the later "files" and such as bastardizations of what was originally a good story and good character gone to agenda.)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later: 9/11/2001

The Anniversary has always been hard for me, and over the years, although I've written many posts about it, I always go back to the beginning: to where I was on that date. That's what we all do, we who remember the day. We know where we were.

This morning I went to Mass, already walking a thin line emotionally, and pondered how perfect were the readings for this day, as if God knew exactly what we needed to hear and pray on this tenth anniversary - and indeed, He did, for 9/11 didn't take Him by surprise.

I think what's hardest for me right now is that ever since I left emergency services, I don't have any friends now from that time period. I don't have any friends who wear badges...or ever have. I don't have any friends in police or fire services, or any area of EMS.

When I left for the last time, I left for good and because I was never truly called to those careers, I did not maintain the friendships - and so 9-11 is not just a sad day, but a lonely day, because there isn't anyone who understands my pain. Those I know NOW  saw the images on TV, like any other disaster. But they didn't see it as a rescue worker, they didn't have friends or relatives there - for the people around me, they don't understand why I continue to take it to heart each and every year.

One friend of mine, usually very sensitive, said to me today, "Yeah....but it was 10 years ago. Get over it."

I think my silence in response to that remark said far more than any blog post I've ever written.

There are just some things that can't be expressed in words, but only through shared experience, shared understanding at a visceral level...shared understanding with others who know what it's like.


I am saddened to see many of my fellow faithful Catholics poo-poohing the images of September 11, 2001, and several have expressed the fact they desire to FORGET. They admonish we who watch the looping video from that day, bringing in the Sacrifice of Christ, pointing out that remembering does not mean seeing.

That may be true to a certain degree...for them.

Indeed, in the Sacramental Theology of the Church, the Sacrifice of Christ takes place EVERY DAY, an unbloody re-presentation, making us present there, at Calvary, and yes, I believe this and agree with it.

But that doesn't mean I don't need my bloody crucifix of Christ to remind me that His death was anything but pristine, and the ransom He paid for my sins was anything but comfortable. When I gaze upon the bloodiest renditions of Christ in any work, I am moved, for I am forced to confront the violence of sin and the very bloody price paid for my Salvation.

While certainly, maybe we don't "need" from an intellectual level, we who are faithfully enlightened, to see the bloody images of Christ to know about His Sacrifice, and maybe we don't "need" to see looping footage from 9/11 or for that matter, any other given disaster anywhere in the world, on a very visceral human level...yes...some of us do.

I can't agree with some of my dear friends that the images from 9/11 should not be shown, for I hold that we DO need to see them in order to properly recall the full extent of human evil and human suffering, and human triumph on that day. We need to see those video loops because we can't help but witness the best of humanity brought about by the very worst. (Caveat: some can't handle the sight of blood and/or violence; I offer my "need to" with the suggestion of prudence on behalf of sensitive individuals.) 

Ten Years Ago

Ten years ago I was a rookie with some serious life experience, but still grasping to learn, on the cusp of belief in immortality and recognition of mortality.

Ten years ago I was barely practicing my faith, although I was trying, and not a day went by at the Training Tower that I did not pray, "I can do all things in Christ, who strengthens me." It was the litany that got me through many terrifying tasks.

Ten years ago, I didn't know my Faith and I only prayed when I was afraid or when I had a big decision to whether or not God was calling me to take the Fire Test, or if I passed, whether I was really supposed to be a Firefighter. Because from the beginning, it terrified me and with God's Grace, He pushed me through fear into...well....I'm still not sure what.

Firefighter training, and for that matter, coupled with earlier Police training/experience  made me realize my mortality, and drew a very clear black-and-white line in the sand for me...especially on 9/11.  Although I went back to class on my deceased father's birthday, September 12, in looking back, I think that perhaps was the day I realized I didn't have it in me to do what the 343 NYFD Firefighters had done the day before.

Even though I didn't even know what my life was about, or perhaps, BECAUSE I didn't know what my life was about, I knew I couldn't lay it down for anyone. I didn't have the courage for I didn't even know the cause. The First Cause.

I think that in the last ten years, I have been seeking a cause, and that's what led me to study Theology. In confronting death, I was forced to confront God and learn, at a very basic level, who I am in relation to Him and therefore, everyone else.

But that doesn't explain 9/11 or why each year I spend this day holding back tears. Why MANY of us hold back tears, and live in the loneliness of grief we can't express, for that grief has nowhere to go and no ears, hearts, and souls that truly understand. 

I can't explain what it was like that day to stand there in a Fire Dept. uniform, learning about and discussing the SOP's about skyscraper fires only to learn about the worst ever known, happening live on TV.  I can't explain what it was like to watch a Fire Chief weep while teaching a lesson, live, in real time, about something happening NOW, because, had we been there, we would have been called to go in, too, especially because our brothers and sisters had just been killed.  And in fact, his own dear friends had just been pulverized before his very eyes, and still, that Chief chose to teach even through the tragedy because that was what he was called to do. That's what most honored his friends, who had taught him.

I can't explain what it was like to have the reality of a "Job" brought so close to home, knowing that at any moment, we could get that Call, too, simply because of who and where we were in that given moment.

I can't explain what it was like to watch people leap to their deaths, for to us, it wasn't just news video, but the very reason we had applied to the Fire Department: so that no one would ever have to do that.

I can't explain what it was like to stand there, unable to do ANYTHING, watching futility in action, watching Firefighters in New York, Police in New York, Paramedics in New York...go into buildings to help victims of a coward's attack...and never leave.

I can't explain the grief within my soul that surfaces this time every year, even though I haven't worn a uniform and badge since May of 2002.

Do you know why I refuse to stop watching the footage from that day?

Now, ten years later, I have a Masters in Theological Studies, and although I am well versed in the theology of suffering, of redemption, of the Sacrifice of Holy Mass and even teach it to others, I find that mere theology is not enough.

It's easy to intellectualize and theologize suffering.

It's hard to LIVE it. It's hard to look into the eyes of those who are experiencing or have experienced REAL suffering and just tell them Christ died for them and therefore the images aren't important. To those who lived 9/11, and survived it, it is not sufficient to speak of the "unbloody re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary", for to them, there isn't anything "unbloody" about it.

We always have to remember that suffering is not an abstract idea, but it is real, it is painful, it is agonizing and brutal, and the recognition of its bloody violence is ALSO necessary; for that is what paid our ransom for sin.

I am grateful for the programming each year that shows the footage from 9/11, because I NEED that, and I know that others do, too.

What I pray for is understanding from my fellow Catholics, that our desire to watch those events again is not "gawking" and is not "denial of the sacrifice of Christ", but rather, is perhaps a way to continue to seek to understand, to realize that others, too, struggle to explain this loneliness of grief that can't be easily expressed, and because we NEED the visual ensure that we will NEVER forget.

We watch the footage, again and again, because Theology has never been about mere intangible Philosophical theories, but about children of God who, every day, suffer the Passion of Our Lord, and never is this more apparent than during a disaster. Ten years later, those who suffered on that day CONTINUE to suffer, and those images are not mere images, but reality, for they live it day in and day out. To watch that footage is to enter into their suffering, to suffer with them, to take it to heart and to have, even briefly, a glimpse of their grief.

To forget that day, and those images is, to many of us, a denial of the heroism of those who went into those buildings, even though they knew they might never come out. To deny the images is to deny the very real, visceral, sacrifice, taken on willingly, by human beings who realized what their lives were really about. To forget that day is to forget all those who continue to suffer the losses of that day.

Anyone who has lost a loved one through the most ordinary of deaths knows that although there is much "support" in the beginning, it quickly ebbs and months, even years later, the survivors are forgotten, although they still suffer. So it is with 9/11 - many continue to suffer and many others who have been direct casualties of the wake of that day. To forget is to ignore them, too.

Bl. John Paul II wrote eloquently about compassion, explaining that this virtue was about being with others in their Passion. When I watch the annual 9/11 tributes and memorials, when I watch the footage, I know that in prayer, in emotion, in solidarity, I am with those for whom 9/11 never ended, for the reality of it goes on and on for the 3,000+ (and counting) who were murdered and were injured that day in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania.

No, not everyone needs to see the images, but I can no more look away from the carnage of 9/11 than I can the carnage of the Cross. They are one and the same, for Christ gave His own sign of His presence that day through the death of Fr. Michel Judge, the first official death recorded for that day. Even 9/11's foundation was laid upon the altar, a priest who died offering his life to bring Christ to the hopeless through the Sacraments.

Today is September 11, 2011, and I pray that we will never forget.