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Thursday, June 30, 2011


Yesterday I finally took care of the inevitable: I called my mortgage company to advise I would not be able to make my next payment. Or maybe the one after.

I explained the situation to the first customer representative, and he paused while looking up my account. When he came back he said, "But your payments are up to date."

"Yes, they are."


*shuffle* "I was hoping not to make this call but I won't be able to make my next payment. What are my options? I can pay some, but not all."

"Well your payments are up to date. I'll transfer you to collections and they'll see what you qualify for since you're not behind. Here's the number." 

Then he transferred me, and I spoke to the person in collections. As HE looked up my account, we had a repeat of my first conversation, with the same odd tone. "Well....your account is up to date."

"Yes. But I won't be able to make this next payment as I've had a reduction in hours at work."

This went on for a bit and I admit I was puzzled; both the rep and the collections agent seemed a bit put out that I would dare to be calling them while still current on my mortgage.

Um...was I SUPPOSED to be $10,000 in the hole before calling for assistance, and already in foreclosure? [rhetorically sarcastic question]

Thankfully he processed a 3 month forbearance which also allows me to make partial payments through September. The down side is that after 3 months, I WILL be behind by at least one full payment, if not a little more, and THEN there will be a big black mark on my credit. also sounds like they anticipate that with this type of forebearance and then roll something else out to help homeowners become current again.

I decided not to ask too many questions, though, because even the simplest ones regarding the situation at hand seemed really confusing to the collections rep. He's sending some preliminary paperwork; we'll see if perhaps that answers my questions, but I am guessing I already HAVE the paperwork he's citing and could probably explain it to HIM more effectively than he was able to explain my basic options to me.


Does anyone want to pay my mortgage for a month or so?



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Grimm's Fairy Tales Aren't So Far-Fetched fact...they're usually entirely too tame.

I gotta tellya, folks, sometimes a story is too good NOT to tell.

Once Upon a Time... Adoro's Townhome Association, there lived a bunch of average people with their lives and their pets and their cars and their troubles. Usually they lived together just fine among the rules, but every now and then, there appeared some Trolls who moved into the Kingdom, or Trolls who emerged from those who had always been present even from the beginning.

One winter, there came a-barking a small ferocious creature with teeth, making vicious noises towards the residents of the Kingdom, and although the creature [York Terror] was merely bait for hawks or larger dogs, it had decided, through making its owners submissive to its desires, that it was the ruler of the Kingdom.

The Kingdom {Association}, made up mostly of good, responsible taxpayers in possession of their own fuzzy creatures, gave permissive indulgence to the idiocy of the village idiots {Trolls} in the charge of the York Terror, rolling their eyes upon the group as an unavoidable vacuous monstrosity common to townhome life.

After a time, though, the People of the Kingdom [Association] became annoyed and visited upon the elected Nobility [Association Homeowners' Board] various complaints regarding the small Terror, for fear their toes and ankles might be bitten or at the very least, harassed. As it was, they were fed up with the harassment of their auditory faculties and found need to seek relief through the Association authorities when their own confrontations of the thing's caretakers were fruitless.

Adoro, in her own particular consternation, having in her care a large beast of relatively ferocious countenance, found a need to prevent it from eating the York Terror for fear that should she do so, her own dear pet would be lost to her forever no matter how responsible she was. So it was that when the York Terror came to Adoro's door and pounced upon her own beast, she found herself in a moral dilemma that hadn't much contest at all.

It wouldn't matter that the Troll's lack of control over its own York Terror was at fault, no matter how documented was that lack.


You see, the York Terror was a protected class, and even though it was without control by its Trolls, and had never in fact been trained to understand humans were dominant over Terrors, it thought it was in charge, and tried to attack anything and anyone in its path. Had Adoro's Creature of Ferocious Countenance successfully sublimated the York Terror permanently, the Ferocious Creature, by laws of the Association and the State above it, would have been killed in order to rid the world of dangerous creatures.

So you see the problem, don't you? 

So it was that Adoro, in response to a timely letter from the Kingdom [Association], reported the offenses, in hopes the Calvary would arrive to put the York Terror and its minions in their respective place, perhaps, even if necessary, banish them to another Kingdom.

Indeed, the Kingdom attempted this, but was met with resistance and in fact, the Trolls outright ignored the Decrees of the Kingdom and allowed the York Terror to run amok throughout, thus annoying and irritating all in its path.

Meanwhile Back at the Guardhouse in the Shadow of the Moat

There was Adoro, innocently imagining her dinner, when there came about, once again, the echo and then the bark and then the growl and then the attack of the dread York Terror.

Adoro, having several times confronted this Terror and several times called upon the Kingdom's authority to banish the Terror and its minions who kept it so uncontrolled, was....finally fed up. She pushed up her sleeves, rolled up her cuffs, and took matters into her own hands; it was time to tame the beast and face the Terror that was so misnamed as to be far to gauche to represent the County of York by its name.

Vigilante Justice

Over the long winter, Adoro had obtained photos, had chased the Terror, had listened to it, had held her own Creature of Ferocious Countenance back from it, and one day, the CFC escaped and dominated the Terror as it gnashed its chops at her very door. Adoro could not hold her own Creature of Ferocious Countenance back from the vicious, unsupervised and unprovoked attack of the York Terror, for the latter would have otherwise encroached her very homestead.

Adoro, though, fearful the CFC would unlawfully damage or kill the Terror without the Kingdom's sanction, intervened at great risk to herself most especially from the Terror, and let the Terror yipe its way in horror back to its home as it realized Adoro's CFC, was, in fact...far more powerful and had far less patience for unmitigated yiping  than did the otherwise permissive human content of the Kingdom.

The next night, Adoro noted that the York Terror had convinced, by its terrified yiping, its Troll Servants-fancying-themselves-as-masters to pretend to contain it by nylon straps, along with its Guardian companion. Neither Adoro nor her Creature of Ferocious Countenance were fooled...they knew this battle wasn't over. The Trolls were only waiting their chance.

So it came....

Meeting the Head Troll

On this very evening, Adoro was busy at her work when she heard the clarion call of the York Terror emerging from its nest. Even though the critter had not encroached Adoro's territory as of yet, its voice was one with which to be reckoned, and Adoro was not pleased when it went on for more than the law allowed. After that time, Adoro left her abode, keeping her own creatures at bay, and approached the York Terror and its fellow canine Guardian, in hopes of taming and quieting the creature(s).

Adoro sat quietly on the curb, the property of the Kingdom, and found that the York Terror was silent but its stablemate and Guardian was, in fact, a mouthpiece with which to be reckoned lest one lose possession of one's ankles!

Little by little, the Guardian calmed, and even approached, and by silence and eye contact and basic presence, Adoro was able to bring dominion to the Terror and his other worthless canine companion. It was sufficient that Adoro be present in order for the small canines to be silent, for Adoro is Alpha dog and will not stand for canine pertinence in any form.

Adoro left the venue, contentedly until she heard that clarion call again not five minutes later... 

She returned, then, to the venue, again sans her own Creature of Ferocious Countenance for she planned to calm the Beast(s) and perhaps finally entice their puppets (owners) out for negotiations.

So it was. 

Finally King Troll emerged from his cave and demanded to know what Adoro wanted

Adoro explained that she wanted nothing more than the peace to which she was entitled as a home owner in the Kingdom.

The Troll disagreed and demanded she leave the property at once.

Adoro stood her ground to the bare-chested, pants-falling, white-bearded, nostril-flaring ogre of a Troll, explaining quite candidly that, in fact, she RESIDED there and thus had a right to stand where she was, with an even greater right to be there as she was protesting the sound and presence of the York Terror and his other Canine Guardian, well heard at her own abode far away.

The Troll, sticking to his fly-strip platform,  threatened to call the Kingdom's ultimate Authorities, wherein Adoro found it necessary to cite the very Ordinance and why the creatures allegedly under the Troll's control were, in fact, not, and therefore liable to legal citation while, Adoro was, in fact, not liable to any kind of citation, she being a quiet and legal resident with full property ownership also in full possession of auditory capabilities, thus identifiying the Troll's issues as those contrary to the law.

The Troll, having nothing to say in his own defense, fully confused by actual intelligence and actual citation of actual law, stepped threateningly towards Adoro, even raising his fist to order her off "his land."

Had he been green, Scottish-accented, and more ogre-like, he might have been cute in a Disney-style Ogre-like sorta way, but he was more akin to an anti-Shreck than anything else. And in any case, Adoro was not impressed nor intimidated by the anti-Shreck imitation.

Adoro, understanding that, in fact, the Troll was indeed trying to physically intimidate her, raised her own hand in a "stop" gesture, not breaking the Troll's gaze, growling, "Don't you DARE!"

The Troll, seeing something in Adoro's eyes (for it certainly wasn't in her diminuitive 5'3" in.  stance in his great hulking shadow, nor was she making a fist), stopped, and ordered her to move her "fat arse."

Adoro, not the least bit offended, quite ready to admit that, in fact, she has indeed gained too much weight in recent years (and knows how to use it),  with a glint of mirth, questioned the Troll whose "fat arse" was bigger and therefore less worthy of using that term of attack.

The Troll turned back to Adoro, unable to believe she was still there arguing with his bare-chested, pants-falling, COPS-ready stance, only to find, much to his chagrin, that COPS was not actually filming in the Kingdom at the time. He tried again and again to chase Adoro from "his" property, only to learn that Adoro claimed, rightfully the same place and further, that the City Ordinance was, in fact, on her side and she would not hesitate to use it.

Adoro even tried to make a deal with the Troll;  to move his unruly Terrors into his own cave and keep them quiet and then, as a favor, Adoro would, in fact, go away (as far as she could on their shared property), and would not call the Kingdom's Ultimate Authority (COPS).. Adoro  held out her hand and offered to "shake" on it.

["shake" is a human interaction that binds an agreement between equals]

The Troll turned away, yelling, "(Fbomb), I'm not shaking your (Fbomb) anything!"

Adoro turned away mirthfully, tossing over her shoulder, in place of salt, the adage, "That's OK, I don't shake anything when I don't know where it's been.", wishing only such adage could have been proclaimed in a solid Cockney accent as it would have had far more flavor and pertness to it.

Just the same, it had the proper effect and the Troll fled to his cave, muttering, shocked, defeated, and took the York Terror and its pathetic if loud Guardian in with him, to be kept silent throughout the remaining hours of the night.

Time will only tell until the York Terror will again menace Adoro's door...but when it happens, the Kingdom's Official Guard will be ready, complete with cages and documents, for shelters, foster homes, jail time, court dates, and.....


When did Fairy Tales get so heavy on the paperwork?????

*shrug* matter. It's my story and I'm stickin' to it and may well soon have the police reports to prove it.  ;-)

...And they lived Happily Ever After! ..........


Monday, June 27, 2011

Always in Need of Perpetual Help

Today, June 27th, is the Feast of the miraculous icon, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

The post I wrote about the icon a few years ago remains, throughout the year, one of my most popular posts so you can find it linked on the sidebar any time, or just click here to know everything you ever wanted to know about it. ;-)

As I have a deep devotion to this particular image of our Blessed Mother, and of course, the Passion of Our Lord that it portrays, I find it comforting that this year, I begin my summer reduction in work hours on her Feast day and conclude this "workweek" with the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

For those unfamiliar with the steady ups and downs of my life, during the summer, this being the fourth in a row of this particular hardship, my work hours drop from full time to part time. The first two years it dropped to 10 hours per week. I survived the first year on a good tax return, the 2nd year on the help of friends who paid my mortgage and sent me out East and throughout the midwest to visit a few religious communities, setting the conditions to finally do this: I considered the time to be a blessing and the support...amazing.

Last year I had an increase in hours to 25 hours per week for 6 weeks, so between that and not paying utility bills until I was back full time (playing catch-up), and my tax return, I scraped by.

This year is a different story. While I begin this summer on 25 hours per week, what's left of my already-meager tax return won't help me survive. My undergrad loans were transferred from a company that was helpful to a company that has no soul and in fact, INCREASED the amount they expect me to pay each month. My grad loan company is even MORE heartless and told me they don't have a financial hardship forbearance of any kind. (They're lying through their teeth but if they don't grant it, it's the same thing anyway).

So...this forces my hand. I'm in the process of filling out mortgage relief paperwork and my last attempt to keep my head above water until that can be completed and processed is to contact my mortgage company and see if they will allow me to skip a payment this summer. I'm asking for only one month, which I pray they grant me as I have never been late on a payment.

You see, then, how appropriate is today's Feast, for I do indeed, need perpetual help, both for my spiritual life and my continued financial existence.

The Icon

In honor of the Feast, I plan today to sit down at my own Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual help and finally highlight Jesus' tunic - which I already messed up and have to "re-do" in a sense. Should I complete that, I will begin working on Our Lady's face, at long last.

I have decided, based upon how well the faces come out, to add gold leaf to this image, for if it turns out well, nothing less than gold would be proper for this particular window to heaven - should God give me the grace to ever complete it.

Please pray for me as I continue to write this very large icon, and please pray that somehow, God provides me with some kind of financial relief. While this latter is necessary, the fact is that I am in a better position than so many in our society, for at least I still have a roof over my head, good credit (but for how long before it all crashes?), and a position to bargain with at least a few creditors. There is hope and I keep grasping for it, grateful for the motherly gaze coming to me through Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Theory of Spiritual Insanity

It hit me late this week; why things have been so hellish and why they even started out so badly on Monday. (Which wasn't really the start but was the worst strike).

Every other year, all the diocesan priests head down to Rochester, MN, for a presbyteral council with the Bishops, leaving the care of the diocese in the hands of the religious community priests (Redemptorists, Franciscans, a few others), and a few retired priests who are able to help out.

This means that many parishes don't have Mass at all, because there simply aren't enough priests to go around. My own home parish usually has 3 Masses per day, but during this period of time, that is usually pared down to one or two, meaning many people can't attend as usual. We still have Adoration, and a few parishes may offer communion services (very very rare in this diocese so I'm not sure if any took place), but at my work Mass. All week.

Usually several of our Adult leaders attend Mass every day of our summer events, and when I'm there for that purpose, I try to attend, too.

This week, it wasn't an option, and the Church remained dark.

Yesterday, Father was back and I was able to slip into Mass just before it began. As I knelt down, a wave of relief flooded over me:  MASS! I sat behind one of our staunchest and most faithful volunteers, knowing she was praying for us and had been, but perhaps was a lone intercessor for most of the week.

We simply hadn't had any prayer support at all and on Monday, it culminated in a vicious spiritual attack, not just involving me, but involving my boss, her events, a youth minister she knew at another parish, one of my co-workers and her daughter - and the weirdness carried on all week long.

The awfulness of the things that happened this week to us seemed so out of left-field, leaving us all, individually, shocked, stunned, and thrown off for the remainder of the week.

My theory is the serious deprivation of Grace normally provided by the several hundred Masses offered each day in the parishes of our Archdiocese, and the thousands of prayers people normally pray during those Masses never took place, for those people were not able to attend. I know, from what parishioners have told me, that during Mass they regularly pray for us and whatever is going on in our programs at the time.

This week...they couldn't.

We should have realized what was coming and asked for for our biggest prayer warriors to ramp it up in any way they could in lieu of the Masses they normally attended. But we didn't think of it.

I don't blame the priests or the Bishop for going outside the diocese; they are handling serious business which they need to be able to do without distraction. And many come back during the week if necessary for funerals, etc, but return to the council when the crisis is over.

That is the nature of evil; it flies under the radar, not quite reaching to crisis level requiring the return of the priest, but it reveals the power of the Mass and the prayers of the faithful during Mass to keep evil at bay.

I pray that what we suffered in our diocese this week was a sign of the holy fruitfulness of the priests' meeting in Rochester this week.

The LORD'S throne is established in heaven; God's royal power rules over all.
Bless the LORD, all you angels, mighty in strength and attentive, obedient to every command.
Bless the LORD, all you hosts, ministers who do God's will.
Bless the LORD, all creatures, everywhere in God's domain. Bless the LORD, my soul!
~ Psalm 103:19-23

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Nothing Left - The Reality of Employment in Ministry

My friend Dominisumus over at "We Belong to the Lord" recently wrote:

We each have our own difficulties and struggles in our faith lives that we are usually loathe to share with others. This is doubly hard for people who work in parishes because we cannot burden those who come to us for help with our own struggles, but there are times when it is appropriate and helpful to share at least some of our own journey. Too often people look at us and think that we have it “all sewn up” and we have the ideal relationship with God. Well, let me tell you - Yeah right. I wish I had the perfect relationship with God, but I don’t.

Read the rest of  Lord, Teach Me to Pray.

There was a long off-blog discussion that both gave rise to her post and continued after among we lay people who work in ministry in some form. We may appear to have deep prayer lives, and we may talk a good game because we know how it's SUPPOSED to be due to our theological education, but the reality is that we are just as human as everyone else and we struggle, too.

The problem is, as Dominisumus points out, when people come to us with their needs, we are there to be with them professionally and therefore can't pour out our own hearts to them in return. That would NEVER be proper. Sure, we can share SOME of what we experience in our lives, especially with those parishioners with whom we become real friends, but even then there is a boundary.

Truly, that boundary must exist and that lesson was brought home to me very clearly on Monday when a parishioner I *thought* was my "friend" put my job in danger in the name of her own rebellion against a policy that definitely did NOT provide a hill I was willing to die on for her issue. She invited me to "get fired", in fact, and then when her end of things was resolved to a particular satisfaction, she pretended all was well.

The fact is that after she reamed me out in public (a fact for which I am thankful because a witness told me in private she would go to bat for my job if it came to that), I went to the office, certain I would be fired for this other person's disobedience, and then had to maintain composure while a literal line of people in need of my assistance came forward, one after another.

Much to my embarrassment, after the confrontation, which was my breaking point after several stressful days at work with quite literally no actual "off" day (for even at home I was dealing with work issues on the phone), I went to my office to help someone and couldn't stop the tears of anger and frustration, fear, and betrayal from flowing.

While I wasn't sobbing by any means, and I took a deep breath (several, in fact), while retreating to the back of the office to get what someone needed, the kind parishioner who saw what happened and how upset I was actually was the indirect catalyst for the tears I could no longer hold. It's weird, but when I'm upset I HATE it when people are nice to me because that's when I get truly emotional! And I even acknowledged that I was being ridiculous in my response to a problem that was not my fault or doing.

I know that the witness in question thought nothing of it, but I am conditioned to behave professionally at work, which means...not crying. It is not the job of parishioners to comfort me in my affliction. But sometimes, the stress is too great, the timing is too horrible, the demands far beyond human strength.... we get to the real problem

We who work in ministry [Definition: we are not "ministers" but we as lay employees participate in a ministry that flows from Holy Orders, by commission and permission by virtue of being hired for the role] by nature have to handle some very heavy issues. We are held to a high moral standard as appropriate to the Church, for we must be moral examples of holiness, even though we fail.

We preach about Holiness, about the Sacraments, about Mass and Confession and the need to put God first at all times. I know that we often come across as "holier-than-thou" not because we are, but because so many people do NOT put God first and assume we are living lives akin to saintliness. I actually had one parishioner tell me she can't imagine why I would ever need to go to Confession; after all, what sin would I have to confess?

She was sincere in her statement, but completely ignorant about my very real sins.

My answer to her, acutely aware of all of my sinful failings:  I can confess a LOT. I could spend all day in the Confessional and not get it all out. In fact, even if I never left the Confessional, I'd never be at a loss for something to confess for we sin not just in action, but in thought and in omission.

You may think, reading this, that  such positive perceptions by other people about you are good, but the reality is this: they create a dangerous pedestal. Everyone wants others to think well of them, and of course, everyone IS entitled to a good reputation (within reason!), but the reality of parish workers, along with Priests, is that people assume that because we work in ministry, we do not sin.

The opposite assumption is that we're all demons from Hell out to destroy souls.

The answer is much more human. 

Those polar opposite assumptions are the same weird things people say about other professionals:  doctors are all healthy and live totally healthy lives, lawyers and cops know the law so never commit crime, real estate agents never get caught up in scams, psychologists/psychiatrists are immune to mental illness or illogical thought, firefighters never lose their homes or families to fire...the list goes on. Create your own. You professionals who read this know what I'm talking about. You fight these myths every day and you cringe when you see your fellow professionals in the news for falling against the myth and proving it wrong. That's what makes the news, and it does so because people so strongly believe in the impeccability of...well...everyone. Until they fall.

For some reason, in parish work, more than any other profession in my experience thus far, the mythology and pedestal-elevation in parish work is the worst. In fact, it's like every parish has a Borderline Personality; you are a Saint until you disagree with someone and have to enforce policy. Then you're Satan Incarnate, but damn you if you dare to leave the parish because the parish needs you and the slightest "no" is a form of abandonment.

This condition is not limited to Catholics, but transcends religious boundaries; I know this from conversations with Lutherans Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists.....and bet even the organized pagan religions report the same things.

The Facts

Let me tell you about the reality of my spiritual life: it's a big FAIL.

For the last several months, I've barely been able to pray. While it is my habit to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, it is a miracle these days if I even manage to unzip the cover. While I pray the rosary every day en route to work, on my days off work, I don't pray it at all, and even on those work days, I'm usually praying while stressing out over this or that thing completely unrelated to the Gospel I am supposed to be meditating upon.  So much for the Rosary.

Fr. Corapi used to say, "THERE'S SO SUCH THING AS A BAD ROSARY!" but, well, these days, he's not exactly an authority to most people, is he? [do NOT go off in the combox on the Fr. Corapi issue. Thanks]

He was right, of course, but one must recognize that if one is praying while off in la-la-land having nothing to do with the intended task, it's not exactly a fruitful prayer, is it?

Life Before Ministry

Before I worked in a parish, I attended Daily Mass, during Lent I made to to Stations of the Cross nearly every Friday, and I engaged in all sorts of spiritual activities necessary to the spiritual life.

The reality now, in working for the Church, is that the demands of my job often prevent my attending Daily Mass (I try to go when I can but it's a slippery slope and I've fallen away even when I CAN go..), this last Lent I NEVER ONCE made it to Stations of the Cross at either parish because of work I pray spiritually benefited people to and for whom I'd been preaching on those days. Even though I preach to others the necessity and benefit of going on retreat,  I can't AFFORD on my salary to go, either. Overall, I'm a much MUCH worse Catholic now, a few years later, than I was when this all began.

I'm so burned out that going to Mass on Sunday feels like work to me...probably because, at work, I often have to be at a particular Mass because it's part of my paid JOB to be there. This is a far different thing than mere volunteer roles in the liturgy, which anyone can quit at any time if they find it impacts their spiritual lives.

Maybe some of you are sitting out there wondering why I don't just quit.

That's a valid question but the reality is this: what Dominisumus described and what I am describing afflicts every parish worker. (And whatever you do, don't get any of us started on the "Justice in Employment" BS document we have to sign every year as part of our contract!)

My blog has been erratic as of late, and this is why. I have nothing left. I'm tired, I have no consistent prayer life, I haven't been able to make it to Daily Mass, and even Confession has fallen away for me  as I struggle to get there at least every month. And even then, I have doubts.

The fact is that I don't even have the DESIRE to pray most days, and force myself to do so, what little I do accomplish.

As Domini describes, prayer is a gift from God, and as I've written before, dryness is a purification. We try short prayers, we do what we can, and we MUST press on, no matter how hard it is.

But know this: just because someone works in ministry does not mean their prayer life is perfect. They (We!) struggle just like all of you. We go through the same purifications, the same dryness, the same unwillingness to pray, and it impacts us and YOU even more.

Without God, we have nothing to give, because in and of ourselves, our strength doesn't go far. We flail every day, and we can't reveal our own struggles because to do so is totally inappropriate.

Sometimes, all we can do is offer short aspirations such as "Jesus, I love you!" and "Sacred Heart of Jesus I put all my trust in Thee!" and "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!" and hope that eventually we'll be able to do more.

As far as my own particular spiritual life goes, it is failing and every day is a struggle. When I worked in Insurance, it was a struggle to go to work, but I was able to find strength in God. Now, in parish work, not only do I struggle to get up to go, but my source of strength absent for even when I do pray, He does not seem to be there.

All the theology in the world doesn't change the experience of this. You can preach at me, you can offer this or that advice, but the reality is this: until God again grants the ability to pray, I have to rely upon all I have left, that being the desire to pray, and even that is a pure gift, and one I lost months ago.

Don't ever put your parish workers on a pedestal; pray for them, because through their work in ministry, they may be so deprived that they may have nothing left; strength comes from YOUR intercession before God.

The greatest holiness is usually found in the simplest of souls..not we with graduate degrees and professional parish employment.

Please pray for us with all your heart; we depend on you.

Thank you.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Like Fireflies

Summer evenings in June and July, whenever Mom and Dad let us stay up after dark, were dedicated to the capture and containment of fireflies. We had no desire to harm them (we won't talk about what happens when you squish them during a "glow"), but to place them in a jar and use them as natural flashlights. My brother and I tried to "train" them to glow at the same time.

As it turned out, the fireflies weren't interested in being trained, but it didn't matter to me; they were the only bug I ever loved. Other than ladybugs (the REAL ones, not the orange Asian Beetles that have infringed in the last 10 years or so).

Ahh....childhood. The Good ol' days.

You may be rolling your eyes, but for days, I've been in a nostalgic mood. 

While I wish I could provide photos, a camera/computer glitch has prevented me from revealing incredible photos of something many of us remember and considered to be a staple of our society. What was it? booth. Right. The kind you'd put money into and dial, maybe while holding the handset in a handkerchief,  shirt tail, rag, kleenex...etc...depending on your location when using it.

I used to go out always having enough change for a phone booth, because that's the advice given to young women who might be in need of a ride home if her friends either got too fresh or too wasted to get them back home.

Do you know I STILL carry the proper change on me for that purpose?

Even as I watch them fade away, and a point brought to bear: the one I photographed is no longer in existence...I can't help but carry the change in case my pre-paid cell decides to die.


Today at Mass, I don't really know why, I was especially weepy. All throughout, I worked hard to maintain my composure, and didn't realize until Father gave the blessing to Fathers for Father's Day why I was crying.

 I weep for what I no longer have and what I can no longer celebrate. You'd think I'd "get over it" after 15 years, but with the date falling so close to my birthday, it's impossible to ignore. The man half responsible for my life is not here to share it with me in any way.

Related Tangent aka God's Sense of Humor

Last night, for my oncoming birthday, my surviving family took me out to dinner at our favorite restaurant, which, unfortunately is in a modern strip mall which as of late began to host a Planned Parenthood clinic. The office next to it advertising some other service had a far more important message, and although they did not have any intent for their message to reflect upon the business next door to them, it was impossible to read without seeing it. I pray any woman walking into Planned Parenthood sees their neighbor's prominent advert: "Permanent Choice".

Yes. That's what stands out. Right next to "Planned Parenthood".

Heh. That business wasn't there a couple months ago; I hope women see it and realize that abortion is, in fact, a permanent "choice".

Meanwhile back in my nostalgic musings...

There's also been another twist in our life: the aunt, my dad's sister, somewhat estranged due to certain actions taken after his death, has invited us to visit their new home, which just happens to be across the river from the neighborhood where I grew up.

There's a lot of history there; much of what we become as adults is contained in our earliest years, and even though we moved when I was only ten, I can't help but remember, fondly, the sunny summer days of running through the woods and joyful winter sledding of my childhood.

Although I look forward to this trip, which I hope and pray my brother and I can make this summer, I can't help but be a bit emotional about it. The last time we were there we were with our Dad, and this time, he will only be a memory.

A part of me knows that when we return, I will be disappointed for the character of the uncommon  neighborhood will have changed, and so I will no longer be able to remember it as it was then. Yet another part of me cries out for this vision of  "home", in hopes there will be something of comfort there, something that has remained, a sign a constancy, a sign that in spite of the passage of time, some part of our childhood innocence has been preserved.

Yes, I'm weeping today. Weeping for what was, weeping for what (and who) I never appreciated properly, weeping for a world that passes by too quickly to capture.

We all live our lives as though this is all there is, but as I've gotten older there is one thing I lament: we never appreciate what we have until it's gone. Movies and books have been published on this topic to no end, in every genre and form, but still, we never learn.

Our lives pass by like the glow of early summer fireflies; and even when we try to capture the moment, it is gone, and even a mason jar covered with foil won't allow us to keep time from slipping through our fingers.

I guess, though, I'd rather have this bittersweet nostalgia to temper my musings than no memories at all.

You know what? I hope that if we go this summer, I'll have time to wait and watch for fireflies, and capture them once again, only to let them go free in the nighttime breeze.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Heat Lightning

I didn't grow up with luxuries like air conditioning, and certainly not anything like central air. Summers for us were hot, humid and still, and when the wind blew, like the old adage didn't blow anyone any good. A rising wind in summer was just training for storms, and the heavy pit in my stomach always grew heavier when darkness fell and with it, the wind, for I knew what was coming.

I grew up in a gentler time where the elements had more force but less surprise. Although the setting was Illinois, it wasn't much different than Mississippi in terms of summer heat and humidity, and our version of Boo Radley was an old guy named "Frank" who had a sledding hill in place of a cool tree.

We could go on all day about our respective characters and their motivations, but I have to admit, even having moved north, one of the most disconcerting works of nature, one that is so seemingly harmless, is the very same as that which I watched as a child, certain I would be sick in any moment.

We used to sit at our big living-room window and watch what Mom called "heat -lightening" shuttering in the sky across the river and beyond. Even miles and miles away, it lit up the shapes in the clouds and highlighted the barn over the river yonder, with its silver roof and weathered gray boards holding it up. I can still hear the haunting screams of the tanker trucks rumbling along the highway that ran by the barn, echoing over the stillness of the river to yawn in our still and silent back yard, embracing us with both comfort and warning.

Mom tried to decrease my fear of the storm by showing me her enjoyment of the far-away lightning, a freak of nature and science, natures fireworks appearing without thunder, without rain, without wind. She described it as the sparks we saw when pulling fresh laundry out of the dryer; lightning produced by heat and friction, God having a good time with static electricity.

I think at one point she described it as Angels doing laundry.

Her timing was bad, though; my brother had taken it upon himself to ensure that any static electricity whatsoever made its way to me at his hands, whether through a snap of a hot towel or feet rubbed on the carpet. As such, for me, such "lightning" was never harmless, but another set of creative torture devised to terrify me anew.

No Such Thing as Harmless Lightning

Perhaps my childhood instincts were correct.

In our culture, we have been lulled into the non-scientific belief that "heat lightning" is harmless. Those faint flashes from far away do seem to be nothing, but sometimes they get a bit close, don't they?

The fact is this: there's no such thing as lightning without a storm. Where we see the flashes of light, someone is suffering the onslaught of thunder, rain, maybe hail and wind. We may not be the ones touched by that particular storm, but we cannot sit back and pollyanna happily about its harmlessness. Not while people are being swept away a county or so away from us.

In recent  years, the flashes of lightening have become more and more brilliant, nearly blinding us, and we seem to have turned down the volume to the thunder that accompanies it. That's not to say it isn't there, but rather, that we have chosen to be dulled to the sound, that we have given into happy childhood myths designed to comfort fearful children...not rational adults.

There are many myths floating around our world today most directly with regard to people of Faith: some say that Religion is meant to be seen on one's own time but not heard otherwise. Others say that any revelation of belief in God is merely a revelation of weakness in an individual who refuses to use his or her intellect. Yet the most common bit of cultural heat lightning is this:  that we as Christians have no right to "impose" our beliefs upon someone else or society at whole.

Raise your hand if you've heard this modern adage. Raise your OTHER hand if you've stated YOURSELF the following: "I believe X, but even though I am Catholic I have no right to impose my beliefs about X upon others."

Keep 'em up were we can see 'em!. You're busted and about to be convicted of being both illogical and anti-Christian, no matter what you profess to be. Way to be a sellout!

Our OBLIGATION as Christians by our Baptism and the promises that accompany it is that we WILL "impose" our beliefs and values upon the society in which we live. This is a matter of fairness and objectivity, for each and every religion and group does the same. 

What is so sociologically and culturally fascinating, and horrific, in our society is this: that the majority (Christians) refuses to carry this out. We have the right and OBLIGATION according to our own fundamental beliefs to impose what we know to be True upon the society in which we live, in order to influence it for the better and more importantly, to save souls.

Yet, the mantra of our age is to stand cowed to the moral minority repeating roboticly, "I really believe in marriage between one man and one woman, and I am personally opposed to abortion, and I know we should keep Sundays holy and not use it for profane things like shopping and unnecessary labor...but I can't impose my beliefs upon others...."

To this I answer:

Why the hell NOT? As long as we refuse to impose the Truth upon our society, we become the whipped dogs of the minority imposing THEIR beliefs upon US...and we don't even have the gumption to bare our teeth!

The fact is this: the stuff we thought was harmless "heat lightning" and lulled us into complacency has become an imminent EF-5, destroying the moral culture of our country with the same efficiency as the real one that laid waste to Joplin, MO only a month ago.

My friends, it is our moral OBLIGATION to impose our beliefs and values upon our culture, politically, personally, through policy, through law, through debate, through education, through any moral means.

Ironically, although we made the promise we will do this at our very Baptism, and sealed to do so at our Confirmation, do you know the ONLY group that refuses to "impose" in our modern world is also the ONLY group losing numbers to religious oblivion is....Christians.

No wonder "gay marriage" (what a misnomer) is on the plate before us; if we had imposed our beliefs with the same conviction the homosexual activists had imposed their beliefs upon us, we wouldn't be in this mess.

Food for thought...

Oh, and by the way...stop chewing your cud and start IMPOSING before it gets any worse! 

It's not just heat lightning, folks. Just because it's not striking YOU doesn't mean thousands haven't already been lost to the whims of static electricity from the sky and all the destruction that accompanies it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Anti-Catholic Bullies Attack the Poor in the Lee of the Basilica

Some things are so illogical they just BEG to be fisked.

I guess some people forget the importance of not messing your own house, spitting in the wind, or peeing on an electric fence.

A certain mislead group in need of our compassion and in this case, pity, and maybe a bit of eyerolling derision, is out there begging people to boycott the annual Basilica Block Party. To those not familiar with our area, the Basilica happens to be the most "gay-friendly" parish around, of those that come even close to orthodoxy, so the real problem here is that some people continue to be shocked that the Catholic Church continues to insist on being...wait for it...CATHOLIC. Pretty anticlimactic conclusion, isn't it?

Here's the entirety of the article, found at

MINNEAPOLIS -- Jason Wermager said the idea to boycott the Basilica Block Party came to him at a party last weekend, [Mistake #1: Always ignore ideas that come during parties for obvious reasons. Have you learned NOTHING from Cheech and Chong?] as he was telling a friend with tickets he didn't think supporting an event held on church grounds would be in the best interest of a person in full support of same sex marriage. [Mistake #2: Given the fact that the Basilica Block party goes to Art, Historical Preservation and the Social Justice Goal of the Preferential Option for the Poor, isn't "same sex marriage" a bit irrelevant to people you're depriving of true justice and charity?]

"It really, the boycott, was just to bring awareness that discrimination to anyone on any level isn't right," Wermager said. [Mistake #3: So why should your cause trump the poor, who have REAL problems with basic survival?]

Wermager said he felt compelled to start the facebook invite, Boycott the Block Party, after discussing with his partner his discomfort about going to a concert, at a church, that is a member of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Archdiocese led by Archbishop John Nienstedt. [Mistake #4: Hmmm....You seem to misunderstand Ecclesiology]

Nienstedt is very outspoken on his beliefs concerning gay marriage. [Mistake #5: Archbishop John Nienstedt's role as Bishop is that of teacher and defender of the Faith of the Catholic Church as a whole; it is his obligation to preach about Faith and Morals, and in fact, the Church's belief about the sacramental and fruitful character of marriage between one man and one woman belong to the deposit of the faith and therefore are not affected by the "beliefs" of a few random individuals who choose to disagree because the Truth is uncomfortable to them. The Catholic Church is Catholic. Get over it. ]

Nienstedt openly says gay marriage is wrong and last fall sent out 400,000 DVD's to area churches outlining his position on why same sex couples she be denied marriage calling it a dangerous risk to society. [Mistake #6: This was not "Nienstadt's" position, but his articulation of the official position of the Catholic Church with regard to Faith and Morals...never mind science and anthropological and historical facts regarding this topic. Oh, wait...he inconveniently made sure that was part of the DVD. My bad.]

It is because of Archbishop's Nienstedt's statements, those DVD's, and the fact that Minnesota voters will vote on the gay marriage issue in 2012 that led Wermager to the boycott. [Mistake #7: I guess it's inconceivable that anyone could possibly disagree with you and not be bullied into compliance with your own vapid self-popery.]

"I am choosing not to attend this and by doing so I want to bring awareness to these issues," Wermager said. [Mistake #8:  Wait! This is a WIN! The Basilica on behalf of the Poor thank you for the free publicity!]

His partner, Alex Zachary, says he hopes this boycott reaches the ear of Archbishop Nienstedt. [Mistake #9: I can hear him rolling his eyes from here. I can also hear his Hail Marys and Divine Mercies on behalf of your conversion. I hope he's praying as feverently for mine.]

"This is sending a message to the whole archdiocese of Minnesota," Zachary said. [Mistake #10: seem to misunderstand not only Ecclesiology, but Geography and Hierarchy: there is no such thing as the "Archdiocese of Minnesota".]

Now, the block party has been on the Basilica grounds for the past 16 years.

It started with it's main sponsor, Cities 97.

The idea was to make money to restore the Basilica grounds and any other profits would go to an organization that provides meals and assistance to the city's homeless population.

In a statement today a Basilica spokesperson said that remains true and that the archdiocese receives no money from the block party.

BT, from Cities 97, wants to make sure that is known loud and clear.

"This event has no connection whatsoever to the archdiocese, none of the money goes there at all."[!!!!!!!!!!]

BT has been with Cities 97 for every block party over the years and says its mission has always remained the same.

"We want to open our arms to all people and that is what the block party is about. It is about love, inclusion, brotherhood, sisterhood and fellowship," BT said.

"The reason we got involved in the first place and continue to do so is about music, the community and nothing else. There is no political agenda and no religious agenda. It is just about the music and our community coming together," BT added.[!!!!!!!!!!!]

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

**     **     **

There ya have it: a single ticket not sold equals a deprivation of the poor.

all those who have joined Wermager's lame FB page hate the Homeless, hate the Arts, and hate Historical Preservation. Even further, they are uninformed sheep following a leader who has no idea what he's talking about.

My friends, if you are interested in purchasing tickets for the Basilica Block Party for this very worthy cause, or interested in supporting it by volunteering  or by donation, visit their web page here.

A few years ago I attended and was able to hear some incredible bands while giving to a great cause. If you're local, do your part! Let's make sure the Basilica Block Party remains profitable especially in the face of activist anti-Catholic bullies!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Daze of the Life of Adoro

Where to even start this post?

Perhaps it's best to begin with Mom, who sent me an early birthday gift with the explicit instructions to go shopping for new summer clothing. No, Mom can't afford to send me money, but she did and wouldn't take "no" for an answer, therefore I set out to do as she asked.

First, on Saturday, I went to get a haircut because my mane is way overgrown and resembles something like a worn out mop with weirdly cut bangs. (Hey, I got sick of them and chopped them!)  At best, I get my hair cut only once or twice per year, and because of that I used to "splurge" at a real salon and pay $35-40 plus tip. I figured, hey, for as little as I get it done, why not? That way I knew I had a good cut, they'd style it and I'd look awesome and my hair smelled great all day!

Well, given my financial situation, I gave up my salon "splurges" in favor of the cheap places. Fantastic Sam's did an OK job and I thought to go back to them. But while running errands on Saturday I happened to be directly across from Great Clips. Even though I swore I'd never go back there again, I decided to suck it up and go inside. Once there, I had to pay extra for the hair wash (ok fine), and decided on a whim to take off even MORE hair than I had planned initially. You see where this impulsiveness is going, don't you?


I hate it. I don't mind the length, but I've discovered my hair is now curly and it's terrible because I broke a rule a friend in my past laid down for me. I used to go to her for my cuts when she was at an Aveda Salon where she was trained. She told me to never let anyone, and she meant ANYONE touch my hair with those nasty layering shears (whatever they're called). She said my hair had to be layered with a scissors and the tool would wreck it.

She was right. It looks awful, won't do what I want and now I just look like a worn out mop with the frizzled edges cut off with a dagger of some sort. Although my bangs look better now.

Well, that's what you get for $20.00, I guess. (Interestingly enough I got a better cut for less at Fantastic Sam's, although it wasn't anywhere near salon quality).  *sigh*

Oh vanity, my vanity!

Background info on what is to come....

A few weeks ago I went to the eye doctor for the first time in about 4 years because I received the notice to renew my driver's license. I have terrible vision and live in holy terror that I won't be able to pass the vision test, so I thought it best to stop in at the doc and pay for new glasses or contacts if needed. Coupled with eye strain of late, I was sure I was due for a new prescription. Over $100 later and no real update. Great. And I'm paying most of it, maybe all, out of pocket entirely without hope of reimbursement.

The good news is that instead of getting those nasty dilator drops on a really bright impossibly sunny day, I decided to go for the retinal scan, and that was the COOLEST thing ever! And the doc can see more, and now if I and murdered and disposed of in a weird way my remains can be identified by my retinal scan if my eyeballs are still intact. How awesome is that!?

But I digress....

One of the reasons for my slum-salon visit on Saturday, of course, was this big buildup for my visit to the DMV to renew my driver's license. I figured that if my photo is going to look horrible anyway, I really didn't have to have bad hair, too.

Joke's on me, I guess. Bad pic and worse hair than if I'd just gone in with my self-cut bangs and frizzed out barn mop.

Although I passed the eye test, no problem. *whew* !

Today, and Today Alone

My first stop today was the DMV to fulfill that dreaded task, then on to the rest of my list.

I'm not like other women: I hate shopping with a passion, but I knew I must obey my Mom especially given her sacrifice, so took myself to Kohl's with sincere hope of finding something.

Please allow me to be clear:  I hate hate hate summer-wear shopping with a greater passion than at any other time of the year because the stuff on the racks is tiny, even the things with sleeves are not really sleeves, and, well, let's face it: clothing doesn't look good on me at all. I'm no fashion bug and if I were rich I'd hire a personal shopper/ private investigator  because I'm sure even the highest end stores on the planet wouldn't have anything I could actually wear. In fact, I'm certain they'd forbid me to wear their for fear I might tell someone the name of the store and they'd lose all their business. Designers would flee from me in utter horror.

The only reason I wear clothes is that I'd look even worse without them and more than Designers would flee in terror. They might run then come back with harpoons and throw nets at me while calling me "Moby".

Meanwhile, back at the chain store....grabbing a few items of interest, certain they wouldn't fit but bound and determined to give my shopping experience the good ol' college try, I headed for the fitting room to try them on. Somewhere in the middle of my rejected and soon-to-be-rejected pile, a woman and her daughter came in and entered the stall next to mine.

I heard the daughter say, "Mom, you know that door has a handle."

The Mom: "And how many grimy dirty hands have touched that handle today alone?"

Daughter (pause) "Ew."

The Mom: "Yeah. Exactly."

In my growing irritation and crabbiness I had to bite down hard on my tongue to keep from saying aloud, "Gee, I wonder how many people have tried on these clothing items before we did? I sure hope everyone who comes here showers before trying on clothing, and hope they don't have mites or scabies or lice or syphilis..."

But I remained silent and rolled my eyes at the germophobe instead.

Dang it! Why do I feel so itchy all of a sudden?

So, having no luck at Kohl's, I was cranky and crabby and sad and wanted only to be home reading a book and avoiding people. So I went to Goodwill. It couldn't possibly be a worse experience, right? I had to find SOMETHING, and with my go-to place a bust I needed a shot in the dark.

Well, I did find a couple things at Goodwill and bought them, but they weren't the kind of things Mom had in mind, although they will be useful to me this summer and will probably impress my co-worker with my fashion prowess resulting from her artistic influence. That has limited scope, though, and is not going to pass the Mom-test.

(As an aside: Goodwill is the only place I've ever been where my charm doesn't earn me eye contact and a return in charm from the cashiers. They all behave as though they are working in a naughty store and are ashamed of themselves for working there and for the shoppers who come there. Having been in a naughty store, I can tell you those employees were much more "customer friendly" when they should have been avoiding  eye contact at LEAST as enthusiastically as the people of Goodwill try to do. Just sayin'.)

So after failing once again to charm the mysteriously ashamed employees of Goodwill, [and seriously, even the DMV employees were more joyful and personable - isn't that an oxymoron?] I headed to the Library and nearly tripped on a boy heading back in from the bathroom, carrying a huge key and walking along in shoes at least two sizes too large for him. He scuttled (or galumphed?) past me through the door and I couldn't help but watch his gait in those big athletic shoes, wondering what his mother was thinking by providing shoes like that. He was going to wreck his knees!

Then I just shrugged. Hey! Who am I to judge? I just came from Goodwill with my own version of poorly-fitted clothing!

My last stop was the grocery store. For at least two weeks I've been craving a root beer float but without the ingredients, my hands were tied. I didn't feel like dealing with Dairy Queen, so I looked for a small container of vanilla ice cream. Nuthin'. Seriously the only vanilla I could find was in half-gallon and above! With a sigh I bought the cheap stuff and a small bottle of A&W and paid for that and the other items on my list.

Now I'm back at home, staring at a livingroom covered with cotton from the latest toy to have its innards removed by Apollo the foster dog. I'm looking at stacks of junk mail that needs to go away and old things that need to be shredded. I have a sink full of dirty dishes from the last thing I cooked yesterday morning before I rushed off to Mass and work.

Today, in spite of the fact it's my day off, thanks to my failed and hated shopping expedition, from which I have emerged only to have to explain to Mom that no amount of money in the world will provide a good photo of me well dressed for her, I'm crabby and sad and bitter and angry. Maybe now she'll take back the amount I didn't spend between Saturday and today, and give this up as a lost cause.

I think maybe it's time to put on my worn-out cross-trainers, put new batteries in my CD player, grab some tunes, and go for a long walk while daydreaming all sorts of adventures and impossibilities.


Sometimes the life we live in our imagination is the only cure for the hardness and bitterness of life under our feet. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why Won't They Invite Me?

I haven't written on Vocational discernment for awhile, but recently a question was posed to me and I thought others may benefit from the answer.

The person in question had been in correspondance with a few religious communities for several months, but after a time, they stopped writing. She was interested in visiting them and wondered why they had not invited her to visit. Was there something wrong with her? Was this common practice with cloistered religious? Should she keep writing to them or was this a "closed door"?

Her questions are good ones, and there are, actually several different answers so I'm only going to choose the most likely given the circumstances she described.

First, she described she'd been writing to them for some time, and they responded. This is a good thing and a necessary step in discernment. Many communities, especially those that are cloistered, do not have an online presence so prefer that potential candidates write to them the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper (although typewritten/printed out is the new "old fashioned"), and sent by snail mail with postage stamp and all.

Those letters are important as they introduce the individual and community to each other. In the meantime that community will be praying for theirs and that person's discernment, and looking to see if perhaps that individual would "fit" with them, if they are serious about discerning or merely "sightseeing", if they have impediments, or if they are truly free to follow the Lord wherever He leads. 

In my experience, in this type of correspondance with different communities, I decided on my own (through prayer, through circumstances, etc) that it was time to end the correspondance with a particular place; it wasn't for me. That's not to say it was a "bad" community; simply that it wasn't where God was calling me to go, not even for a visit.

In another case, I also experienced, after one response to my inquiry, they did not respond again. Because I was having problems with a particular email account I re-sent a response with apologies citing the computer issues. They still didn't respond. I walked away, too.

A religious sister I met along the way also had looked at religious communities and one cloistered community she truly wanted to visit would not respond to letters, return phone calls...nothing. The monastery in particular was looking for vocations, so she thought their lack of response quite odd, and ended up contacting another, then ended up meeting members of an active community while she was actively, as in, at an event, trying to find the Carmelites she wanted to join! Well...God always has better plans than ours, doesn't He?

So what does a non-response mean?  Sometimes it simply means that particular door is closed. If it doesn't open, there isn't a crowbar in the world to open it. Look elsewhere and trust God.

Moving on to the second part of her question, the young woman wondered about visiting - why hadn't they invited her for a visit?

This is a VERY important question!

I was cued into it because of the context she gave of the letters back and forth.

My most faithful readers will remember my visit to the Cistercians and some of the things that built up to it. The Cistercians are cloistered and somehow caught my attention in a way I could not deny. So I wrote to them (via email as they are online), and a correspondance ensued. They did not invite me to visit at any point, but rather, helped to guide my discernment of them, and in general. One of their suggestions was that I read "The Cistercian Way", which I had to put off because of my graduate studies. I knew I had to focus on each thing in its own time. When I had read the book, we discussed it and I confessed that I would still like to come for a visit.

I had to ask. They were not going to offer. I had to request to come to them.

Why is this?

I've noticed most especially through cloistered communities that they are very careful not to push. They may greatly desire new candidates, but they want to allow that soul and God to comune, so that the soul freely comes, and not through power of suggestion.

You see, especially in American culture, we are all about "politeness" and we are very overly-sensitized to "hurt feelings."

In our day-to-day living, we would not even THINK about just inviting ourselves over to someone's home for a visit. We may call relatives and ask to visit them in the summer, whether to stay with them or drop by if we are in their area - but in that case, we already have a relationship with them that provides an open door to that sort of thing.

When it comes to strangers, however, we do not want to impose ourselves upon them, and that's how we tend to feel about religious communities. We recognize that the convent or monastery or abbey is their home, and they are strangers we would like to meet, but our social taboos make it very difficult to get our minds around the concept that, in the case of discernment, it is acceptable to ask to visit, and in fact, it's necessary.

The other reason the vocation directors at these communities wait for the request is this: some contact them only looking for more information; they may not be ready for a visit. Yet if they are invited, they may feel that it is rude not to accept the request, or they may fear "hurt feelings" if they turn down the invitation. In that case, they may pretend willingness to schedule a retreat, and then go, completely unprepared for the experience - and that can destroy a vocation entirely. Someone who is not ready is not going to be able to properly discern, and a bad experience early on can have lasting effects.

A good religious community is, of course, looking for postulants, but not at the expense of the individual souls who come to them. They desire the good for that person, and see their visit as an opportunity to help them grow closer to God, to know His will for them, and therefore benefit them and their future community, or marriage, or spiritual life in general.

This is why they do not invite, but wait for that request to come; then they know the soul may be ready for what God has in store for them.

I hope this has been helpful for some of you out there in discernment. Know that what I have written here is only in limited scope and addresses the practices of many cloisterd communities. I have found the active religious congregations to be more out front with invitations, but they, too, act with care and concern for the good of the soul that comes to them, and even many of the active Sisters will wait for a request before they throw open their doors to welcome someone for a visit.

Vocational discernment can be a very confusing time, but sometimes, knowing a little about the culture and expectations of the various communities can go a long ways towards easing some of that difficulty. I truly hope that, over the years I have written on this topic, that my own trips and tumbles along this rocky road to Emmaus have made the path straighter and less confusing for someonen else.

God bless you and may the Holy Spirit guide you in your discernment!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Food I Would Serve Jesus - Early Summer Edition!

Well, it's summer, like it or not, even here in the northlands.

Minnesota was hit with a pretty massive heatwave Monday and Tuesday, and by “massive” I mean that the heat here rivaled that of Hell. Or maybe Alabama. Our high temperature was 103, which, by the way, isn’t a record temp, although it doesn’t often reach 103 here. The last time I recall such high temperatures was about four or five years ago when it hit 100 or 101 on a late July afternoon.

In spite of the heat, though, people gotta eat. What to do? What to make that doesn’t actually involve applying heat?

Welcome back to my “Food I would Serve Jesus” series! Today I bring you a double feature in hopes of helping you to stay cool no matter how hot it gets!

So! Let’s get started with one of my summer fav's: 


If you’re not familiar with it, Gazpacho is a cold, tomato-based vegetable soup, perfect for people who love the garden veggies abundantly available in summer months. The varieties in recipes for this are probably even greater in number than for Mole Poblano. As far as Gazpacho goes, though, although I've tried a few versions, I think the following recipe may be my favorite thus far.

2 fresh ripe tomatoes, chopped
6 cups spicy V8 juice
1 can tomato juice
1 cucumber  (remove seeds)
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, seeds removed, chopped
Few dashes of hot sauce like Cholula or Tobasco, to taste
Celery salt
 garlic powder
Lemon or Lime juice – up to 2 Tbsp. (to taste – the acid brings out the flavors)
Chopped cilantro (may substitute basil but do NOT combine the two herbs!)
1 avocado, chopped

OPTIONAL: green pepper, additional tomatoes or cucumber, celery, cooked shrimp

Combine chopped vegetables in large bowl, stir in V8 and Tomato juice, place in refrigerator to chill for at least a few hours. Serve cold, garnish with additional cilantro or basil (depending on which you used). Buen Provecho!

** NOTE: sometimes Gazpacho is served in restaurants in blended form. I find blending it to be a mistake; if you leave it “chunky” the individual flavors really “pop” and the soup is much more refreshing!

This salad is a recipe I got from a friend a few years ago but since then I’ve made my own innovations.

1 package imitation crab or lobster
1 whole Vidalia onion - chopped
1 bunch green onions – chopped (I cut them with a kitchen shears)
A few celery stalks – add to taste
Hellman’s Mayonnaise (not the kind made with olive oil)
Red wine vinegar and/or lemon juice
Garlic powder
Celery salt (can you tell I like celery salt?)
Cayenne pepper
Black pepper

Chop the vegetables and place in large bowl. Add mayo to coat – it should not be too thick. Hit the salad with a dash of red wine vinegar and a Tablespoon of lemon juice, maybe a bit less. Add spices to taste, cover and chill. Taste the salad after about an hour and adjust spices as needed. Should be ready to serve within 3 hours or less. (More time brings out flavors a bit more).

If you don’t have celery, substitute cucumber and then add Chinese 5 Spice, available in the grocery store spice section.

I’ve never tried it with celery and cucumber both, but believe it would be yummy!
Try adding salad shrimp for a little more seafood oomph!

To serve:

Serve on crackers, spoon into a hotdog bun to offer as an East Coast Crab Roll, top a green salad, use as filling in cherry tomatoes as an appetizer – or just eat with a fork on a hot summer afternoon!

I give both of these dishes my highest rating: 

***** Food I Would Serve Jesus *****

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Annoyance and the Saints

Hold onto your hats and your pews, friends! This post is going to be half rant half meditation!

Some days I just weep for the state of our parishes and the souls within them - and the very fact that our fallen nature has created our circumstances. Which, ironically, is why we go to Mass.

This morning I attended Mass, arrived early in order to pray. Several others arrived as well, as the church was relatively quiet. Then some families arrived with their fussy children, and more people arrived, and then came a couple who sat behind me, loudly talking to each other.

Recollection gone.  I tried to "offer it up" and be patient. I failed miserably.

They continued with mindless chit-chat, almost in my ear. Or both ears, as it were. I was resigned to the fact this is what Mass was going to be like, until I heard one of them comment, "I really don't like children."

To my surprise, rather than being angry, I was overwhelmed with sadness. Dislike children!? I realized many young ones were crying at that moment, and there was a child in front of me actively playing and talking to his mother. But they didn't bother me nearly so much as the couple behind me talking loudly and stating how much they dislike children.

I'll admit I used to get distracted by children, and quite annoyed by them. Over time, though, I have come to not really notice if they are crying, but rather, if they are silent. A parish devoid of children is a dying parish. I thank God my parish is vibrant and filled with the cries of children! Glory be to God! Alleluia!

And then comes this couple desiring to quash that, while their behavior was far, far worse.

Yes, I was annoyed.

I was annoyed by many things today, and struggled to pray. The music was so theologically bad that I missed the psalm and had to page through and read it for myself.  As the Feast of the Ascension is transferred to the 7th Sunday of Easter in my diocese, today's Gospel, MT 28:16-20 proclaims:  (say it with me!)

 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.


Then our communion hymn sang about bread, and our closing hymn was "As A Fire is Meant for Burning", containing the words:

Not to preach our creeds or customs,
but to build a bridge of care,

UM, WHAT!? How in the world does that line up with the Gospel COMMAND to preach our creeds and customs?

How do we celebrate the Ascension, hear the command of Christ to go forth and evangelize, and then leave church having just sung that we just have to be nice to everybody, but for the love of God, don't, under any circumstances, preach our faith or baptize anyone!??????

Folks, it's no wonder Catholics aren't out there evangelizing and living out today's Gospel command: we undermine ourselves before we even leave the building.

Here's the danger in singing such bad music:  the Arian heresy spread by music. The Arians were great marketers and spread their bad theology through a catchy tune. That overcame the True teachings of the Faith, thus confusing people and leading them into heresy. The brain remembers and repeats music (ever got a bad earworm? Yeah, exactly).  So thousands of people are going to leave today singing all about how we should be nice but never evangelize.

Yes, that annoys me. And it SHOULD. It should annoy YOU, too. It explains a lot about the state of  many Catholics today, doesn't it?

Meditation on what it means to be annoyed

Today, as I fought those annoyances, as always, I tried to think about the Saints. People are people in every age, and Saints were  people, too.

It is a temptation in our age to glorify the Saints so much so that we forget their humanity. We read their writings and we are in awe of their holiness, seeking to learn from them how to follow Christ. If they can do it, WE can do it, right?

Unfortunately, we fall into this weird trap of thinking the Saints were somehow robotic and didn't get annoyed, or angry. We seem to think the Saints were nice to people all the time, and that's why they became Saints: that they learned not to "feel" anything.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Saints were all human beings and you know what? They got ANNOYED with people and situations! And I'm really glad I don't have to hear what St. Padre Pio would be saying about the music we sing at Mass in our age! I'm glad I don't have to watch St. Thomas Aquinas roll in his grave. I'm glad I don't have to withstand the fiery preaching of St. Paul or the ranting of St. Jerome.

Did you know that St. Francis de Sales had such a massive temper that after his death, they found GROOVES under his writing desk, where he took out his frustrations by scratching the underside repeatedly in effort to control his anger?

And yet, we read his writings, all of which are so gentle and wise. We are led to believe that he was always calm, recollected, and no, not ever angry.

No, St. Francis de Sales was a human being like the rest of us, and he got annoyed.  Without looking at who he was as a human being, we divorce his writings from him as though they could stand alone and be enough. The truth is that St. Francis de Sales, as well as other Saints, wrote from experience, they wrote through their temptations, and they wrote in such a way so as to preach holiness to themselves as well as to others. They were not separate from their spiritual direction; they lived it, too.

It was actually a consolation to me today to reflect upon the humanity of the Saints.

Is Being Annoyed a Sin?

Often I read about liturgical abuses or other things that set people off, and there are always a few jokers in the various com-boxes who suggest there is something wrong with the person who is annoyed. Maybe that's true; we are all sinners, and we do often let our annoyances turn into some kind of personal sin.

I think more often, though, the opposite of that criticism is true:  there's something missing in a human who refuses to be annoyed, for they are repressing their own humanity in a false understanding of what it means to be holy.

It is not a sin to be annoyed or irritated. It would qualify as a passion, I think. It's not anger, but can lead to anger, and anger alone is not a sin. The emotion of annoyance or irritation is simply that: something that tells us something is wrong. Compare it to a bug bite: when we are bitten, we are tempted to scratch at it because it itches! It can be really awful, and so we think about that bite and ponder it and feel that itch and then scratch and scratch until it finally bleeds, and maybe we keep scratching even THEN. And then it might get infected.

Or... we could just feel the annoyance, realize it's there and there's nothing we can do about it, or maybe spray a little Benadryl on it to control the histamine reaction. The bug bite is still there, but we've chosen a different way to handle it.

See the difference? Annoyance is nothing more than a spiritual bug bite. We can zap it by embracing it with virtue or we can scratch at it and let it get infected. The latter is a sin. The former turns it into a path to holiness.

At Mass today,  I hold that I was right to be annoyed: by people talking loudly when they should have been observing silence out of respect to others, annoyed by people claiming they hate children (loudly), annoyed by bad theology. If we aren't annoyed by those things, then we are completely unaware of what Mass is about. That's a problem. Annoyance is actually a gift from God. It is what we DO with annoyance that makes a difference.

We will all struggle with that for our entire lives. Mass equips us through the Sacraments and through the experience of other people who are fallen just like us.

How did the Saints react?  

It is important to learn from the Saints: how did THEY handle things that bothered them, rightly or not?

When we take a look at their writings and biographies, we witness that they sought to overcome their annoyances through practicing the Virtues. They practiced patience by not turning around and slapping offenders who mouthed off in church. They practiced fortitude by being patient throughout the Mass. They considered how much God loves even the most annoying among us. They resolved to love children and their haters more in order to overcome hatred in themselves. When confronted with bad theology, they sought to educate others so that they would know the Truth about God.

 The Saints, when annoyed,  looked to God and said, "Dear God I am so annoyed right now I could spit! Most Adorable Jesus, please grant me peace so that I might love others as you love me in spite of my own faults!"   

The Saints struggled just as we do. That doesn't mean they weren't holy: it means they learned how to handle annoyance and not allow it to degenerate into sin.  They didn't entertain it, but tried to let it change their hearts, not to a position of denial, but as a revelation of Truth and Divine Charity.

St. Catherine of Siena wrote in her "Dialogue" that we obtain every virtue through other people. She knew this well: she was annoyed sometimes, too. She was highly annoyed by the Pope during the Avignon captivity and called him to conversion, and back to Rome in no uncertain terms.

Let us all learn to handle annoyance by following the example of the Saints. We should not fear annoyance, but embrace it and allow it to change our hearts so that we might grow in faith, hope, and charity.

May God grant us all the grace to become Saints through the annoyances in our lives.