Visitors - Come on in and say hello!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Growing Up

Adulthood is never what children perceive it will be.

From a child's perspective, when one finally "grows up", they will be respected, have money to spend, get to sit at the adult's table at family reunions, and not have to go to bed when the best shows are on TV or the best things happening in the neighborhood.

Yeah, from a child's perspective, things in adulthood are all peachy and perfect.

I wish it was really like that. 

You know that some days I sit up and think, "Oh my gosh! I am just a kid! Where is there an adult to go to in order to handle this problem! Help!"  Then I stumble across a a mirror, see the wrinkles and sags, the weight gain and, well...the oldness...and realize there isn't anyone to go to anymore.

And even worse, more and more, I find I am becoming like one or the other of my parents, for better or worse.

The most tragic part of that fact is this: no matter how much I aspire to their greatest virtues, I seem to have made my own their most grievous faults. I have become the sum of the fall of my parents. 

Nobody's Mom and Dad are perfect. Nobody's! No matter how well-to-do or how impoverished, every family, in modern pop-psychology terms, is "dysfunctional".  Welcome to the human race. In ancient times and theology that was called "concupiscence", but in modern times, we poo-pooh that away by labeling it with things such as "dysfunction" and "co-dependence".

Oh, fogeddabodit! Let's just get to the point and recognize we're all a bunch of sinners in need of salvation, and yeah, we've been harmed by the sins of others! So what? How does that make anyone a victim?

Sorry, got off on a rant there for a bit.

Every so often, I fall into the Oprah-victim-pity-pot of interior destruction. Oh, to see her big brown eyes well up with tears for my familial demise....cry me a river. Seriously, is there anyone who DOESN'T deserve to be on now-defunct Oprah?

Tonight I fell into that trap for a short period. I thought about how, as a child, I was bullied. Always, in fact. I always had a hard time fitting in, and I think the reason was two-pronged:  Mom had a difficult time socially for a few reasons, and, well we were poor and from the wrong side of town. Dad was a great guy, everyone loved him, he loved everyone, but let's face it; he wasn't an over-achiever unless he was drunk, and then he was living what he wanted to be but was always denied because of his congenital disability. (My parents were bullied as children and as adults, too. Dad died, but Mom continues to be bullied by her own siblings.)

[I don't care what age you live in, but your social circumstances and family hierarchy dictate how you are treated by others. You cannot legislate that away. Period.] 

So...I was pondering my childhood today, often an exercise in futility. Recently I came across a piece of music and if my piccolo wasn't so in need of repair, if my embouchure wasn't so in need of practice and retraining, if only I could remember how to finger the notes...I think I could pick up either a flute or piccolo and play the piece. In fact I did, in a dream, and it was incredible. If only that had been real life!

It was this that made me ponder so much, for my love of music is often met by the resistance of memories I wish I could forget.

You know the movie "A Christmas Story"? 

Yeah, well, as children my brother and I begged for a piano because we both loved music as did Mom, as did my Dad, whose father was a musician, teacher, and salesman in a music store.

One Christmas we came home to...a two-octave organ, totally mechanical sound (computers do better now...far better, far more realistic), complete with set drum beats, "trumpet" sounds and others that sounded NOTHING like the actual instruments, and after only a few weeks of "piano" lessons that took us far beyond what the limited keyboard allowed, both of us [necessarily] quit lessons and the organ gathered dust until Mom finally managed to pay someone to take it away.

That took years, by the way. It was our fishnet-legged lamp in the window and I'll never forget my disgust. I suspect that's why Mom was so enthusiastic after their divorce, to spring for a flute for me when I was finally able to choose an instrument in 5th grade. (In the US, that's when public schools began musical instruction). Granted it was rented, but she didn't put up a fight with any substitutes like trumpet (which I also took up in high school) or clarinet (which I never wanted, no offense to clarinetists!).

Then there took over the concupiscence, the push-and-pull of child and parent as the child struggles to become herself or himself in the world.

I loved music and began singing. Mom loved the fact that I loved music and encouraged it, but didn't seem to understand the sense of balance. She began to ridicule my successes and my attempts, and this was part of her own disease of bipolar.

One summer, I tried out for Community Theatre, having been a member of our tiny parish youth choir, and so accepted the help of another community-involved parishioner to help me in my audition. I nearly got the lead role, was cast as unofficial understudy with a serious role in the chorus...and had a great time! That same summer, in prep for a talent show at a camp I wanted to attend, my fellow chorus-members, the music director, and musicians helped me to prepare a song and gave me great advice while my Mom waited as an all-too-verbal spectator.

I was trying to sing "Memory" from the musical "CATS", a song I knew my Mom loved, so my offering had a lot to do with her own influence. As I learned the piece and sang it with accompaniment, as the experienced musicians and teachers encouraged, taught, and helped me to make it my own, I heard only one voice, that of my mother, speaking above them all,  "You're no Barbara Streisand."

I cowered in shame and listened to that litany all summer. "You're no Barbara Streisand."

I still remember the musicians and one of the actors exchanging glances, pretending not to notice, then renewing their lessons for me. Knowing I wasn't trying to be great; that I was only trying to have fun in an entertaining way; and that's something I could do.

Over the years, I heard that line a lot. As I soloed in my parish, as I was selected to cantor, as I occasionally auditioned for high school productions, always my mother telling me, "You're no Barbara Streisand."

There was a dichotomy, though, as I practiced my instrumental music, for Mom didn't have a comparison. She wanted me to be a professional musician. When I aspired towards visual art, she shot that down, telling me there was no money in it and I would end up on welfare. As we were already there, that terrified me and yes, I knew she was right about that. I wanted to be an actress; not allowed, and yes, she was right about that!

I nearly joined the Marines after my band teacher handed me a brochure about the Marines Band, something I knew about thanks to my uncle, a proud former Marine! It was a great deal! If I enlisted, I could go to ANY, and I mean ANY Music school I desired, on a full scholarship! Because my brother had been around and around with an Army Recruiter who wouldn't take "no" for an answer, I said nothing about this to my Mom, but did to my band teacher. "What's the catch?"

"Well, you gotta go to boot camp."

" thanks. Not selling my soul for boot camp."  (Seriously, if only I could have predicted the 2 boot camps I would go through a few years

When I pondered colleges, and we went to visit the college I would eventually choose, and while we gathered information regarding various programs, including theatre, Mom informed me once again, "You're no Barbara Streisand."

Finally, I'd had enough. I don't recall when I said it but I do know it was in private - a grace she had never left to me. Finally, finally, I cried out in tears of frustration, anger, and sadness:

"Why do you continue to compare me to BARBARA STREISAND?  I'M NOT HER!!! STOP comparing me!!! I CAN'T SING LIKE HER! I DON'T KNOW HOW!  WHY do you compare me????

It was as if I had slapped her; she hadn't realized what she was doing.

The reality is this; her years of comparing my every attempt to the GREATS made me aspire to something more mundane, more average. More people oriented, less arts-and-music oriented.

So it was that I left my music, my art behind. So it was that I majored in Criminal Justice and spent four years defending myself against the extended family trying to tell me that law enforcement wasn't for me.

But at least I didn't have to try to sing like Barbara Streisand anymore.

All Grown Up

It would be easy to blame my Mom for a lot that's wrong in my life, but I can't. If victim-hood is going to come into this particular Diego Rivera mural, it's going to involve everyone, not just my family, not just yours.

We all have our stories, and if we know them, we can take responsibility for them.

Yes, I left music and the arts because of constant and overbearing criticism holding me to a standard I could not meet, but I don't regret the degree I pursued, even though I'm not qualified to work in that field anymore - because of my own choices and career path. Yes, I live in a townhome I can't afford because I bought it back when I had a good job, and left it was time, and now have to pay off grad loans on a salary that pays less than peanuts. That's my choice, not my Mom's.

Every criticism from Mom was an attempt to ground me, to keep me balanced, and to ensure I did not suffer the financial and personal ruin of the poverty in which she raised us. I can blame my Mom and my Dad for a whole lotta things, but as an adult....I truly can't blame them for anything.

All I can do is thank them. 

I thank them for trying to guide me as best they could, even though they suffered so much from the deprivation and abuses thrust upon them long before they brought my brother and I into the world.  I thank them for giving us the opportunities they could, and even if misguided, for criticizing us to try to keep us from being what we all hate. I thank them for being who they are (or in Dad's case, who he WAS, may he rest in peace), so that we could become greater, according to God's calling.

And most of all, I thank them for the life they gave us, with all its trials, all its suffering, all its failures, all its triumphs, for much we experienced together, and much, growing up, made us who we are today.

We may not be much, and we will never be "great" in the eyes of the world, but both my brother and I know who we are, where we came from...and it's gonna be a whole lotta years before we ever really "grow up."

Somehow..I think Mom (And Dad, Eternal rest grant unto him...) would agree.

To all you Moms and Dads out there, I speak to you all...Thank you. 
Eternal Love,  
Your Children

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dappled Trails

It's no secret: I HATE the city. I hate the 'burbs. I hate the traffic, the sense of being crowded, and the fact that everywhere I go within the limits of the 'burbs, all I hear are engines and motors and flightpaths and construction.

Because I'm on vacation due to practical work reasons, I decided to try to get away within the [considerable] limits of my  bank account and surroundings. First I looked to Como Zoo, and one brief visit to their website eliminated it as a possibility.


The Enemy: TRAFFIC getting there, having to figure out where to park just to get the SHUTTLE, and being dependent upon the SHUTTLE just to get back to my car so I can deal with TRAFFIC again!

All the Regional parks in the world can't block out the noises of TRAFFIC, CONSTRUCTION, and FLIGHT PATHS, so I don't actually want to pay for a yearly pass to inhabit those trails nearest me, either.

The fact is this: I live in a 'burb and have to suck it up, no matter what. So today I hit a trail near the Mississippi, hoping to get lost in the sounds of solitude and nature, only to be plagued by dogs barking incessantly across the river (seriously, were ALL those people actually home and leaving their dogs to bark at each other all day long? REALLY?)

As is typical for July in Minnesota, it was hot and humid, although not nearly so bad as our 100+ extremes of earlier this week. Still, heat is what it is and as my dog and I walked the paved trail, I sought to escape, even more deeply, the sounds of urbania that refused to allow an oasis.

We came to a graveled trail and I decided to turn that way, thinking it probably would bring us full-circle back to the road. As my dog and I progressed, I looked longingly down shaded deer runs, wishing I could follow them,  fondly recalling the days of my youth when those trails had appeared as highways through the forest where we resided.

The heat and humidity, even mid-morning, was terrible, though, and I regretted what I was wearing. I glanced often at my dog, knowing that although her fur afforded a certain insulation, it was no match for the growing humidity and I hoped we would both make it to the car in time..especially given the fact we were padding along trails I did not know. Were we TRULY headed back to the road, or only deeper into the forest?

For a short time, my quest for silence was granted. I heard the songs of the birds, and even in the ever-oppressing heat and humidity, there was  joy in the silence and solitude of nature; a memory of the type of trails I'd grown up trekking.

Even the hot sunlight reminded me of childhood and I longed for those days, brought from my reverie only by the panting of my companion, knowing she was just as thirsty, or even more so, than I.

I didn't know where we were going or what it would take to get there, I only knew we had to get home, and this trail was the way. Relief could ONLY be found when we returned to our source.

Ah, the Epiphany

No matter what we do, there is a parallel to the spiritual life.

Today, walking the trails, I knew that my sense of suspension of time was locked in the objective reality of eternity. I led my dog through light and shadows and suffered the pain in my feet, my knees, my ankle, old injuries, exacerbated by time and the basic discomfort of our summer climate.

Even with the joy of walking through the woods, moments of time without the sound of urban noise, I suffered. I sweated, I wilted, I hated the heat and humidity. I worried about my dog, how she was doing, hoping we'd get back as I'd planned before it got to be too much for her.

The experience of growing in holiness is truly no different than a summer walk through the woods.

I loved our time today; it was beautiful, it was timeless, and it involved suffering; but because of the beauty and the joy, I would suffer the same way again and again, willingly, because the suffering is transient; the beauty is eternal.

There is another facet as well; my dog was also suffering the same heat, and my concern in our walk was for her. Although I would have liked to walk further, I knew that wouldn't be good for Her Fuzziness; it made me ponder.

As we grow in holiness, as we walk these dappled trails, more and more, we come to recognize and identify with, then join with the sufferings of others. While uniting my suffering to that with a dog is not redemptive, it DOES point to that which is, and reveals, ever more deeply, the mercy of God for all His creation.

Throughout life, we experience a dichotomy of suffering and joy, and as we progress, we find that no matter what we experience, we grow in concern for our neighbor. We can't always help them immediately, and often, we're aware that we need help, too, but that never stops us from sharing in the suffering, in sharing the joy of following Our Lord.

May our entire lives be an experience of the dappled trails of a Minnesota forest; holiness beckons.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Operation Deputy Tim

Welcome to another edition of "Storytime with Adoro". Sit back, grab an iced tea or lemonade, and enjoy the ride!

**     **     **

I grew up in two small towns, and the one I grew up in more was bigger than the one I'd grew up in before I'd arrived. So it was that my experience both as a teen and as an aspiring police officer occurred in a mid-sized city in a decent county that gave me both the connections of the small town along with the mysteriousness of a larger city.

You family was small, followed the law, so didn't get into trouble. On the other hand, we weren't  exactly celebrities or politicians and therefore, we, the average taxpayer-type of family, did everything every other family did. That meant that my best friend from my local Catholic Church babysat for a county Deputy and I was, as her best friend and trusted by her family and a parishioner at their parish also...a substitute babysitter.

So it was that, through my church and social life, while growing up I came to know not just one Sheriff's Deputy, but a lot of them, and when I was old enough, (high school), was able to ride along with them on a shift or so and learn about becoming a or county. Cops are very supportive to those aspiring in their own footsteps.

Because I babysat for one Deputy's family, I was called upon, as a trusted ride-along and friend, to babysit for others, and their kids were kind when I was as terrified as spiders as they were. But that's a different story. (I think those kid's father is now the Sheriff, but I digress.)

Meanwhile, Back At the Teen's House...

We were plotting. That's what 18 year old teens do: they plot. So we did.

You see, our favorite Deputy, a very reserved gentleman and great Deputy in line for great things was about to have his birthday. Because my best friend and I, both trusted babysitters, could not let this date go by unnoticed in our own advanced ages of 18 and 19, we got in touch with his wife with a completely brilliant plan. We knew that we could engage her own mischievous nature, too.

We had decided that our dear friend, Deputy Tim, needed to smile a bit. We knew him to be a wonderful human being, but he didn't smile a lot so we decided that it was necessary to do something for his birthday that would bring a smile to his face and a bit of ribbing from his co-workers, who hopefully loved and respected him as much as we did.

In a bit of trepidation, his wife gave us the key to the van he was driving on that fateful day, admonishing us  with the dark directive, "Don't do anything to embarrass Tim or damage the van!".

"No problem!" We took the key, grinning at each other, knowing what was to come.

And, actually to be totally we were 18 and 19 respectively, of COURSE there would be an "embarrassment" aspect to our hi-jinks! Duh!

Tim's wife knew that, but of course she was just asking for some of it to be moderated a bit because anything we did to him would overflow onto her and she'd have to do the damage control. We knew this, too, and respected this limit. We had no desire to undermine the trust and respect we had for her and her for us.

This was a delicate and carefully planned Operation.

On the day it was to happen, when we picked up the key, Deputy Tim's wife gave it to us in an envelope along with his tentative schedule. Armed with foreknowledge, it fell to me as the most credible and criminal-record-free of the two of us, to contact the Law Enforcement Center with our plan so that we would be allowed into the restricted area where the County and City cops parked their personal vehicles.

Having often been there, I knew who worked the day shift, which dispatchers, and of course, the gossip tree that would send every "free" employee of the LEC to the windows overlooking the parking lot while we did our dirty little deed!

So it was that we drove around the block a few times to scope things out and saw, much to our joy, that Deputy Tim had parked the family van at the edge of the lot in full visibility of the main drag in town. SCORE!

We immediately knew where to hang our carefully crafted banner, precisely composed in the alternate colors of our respective vehicles; one of which Deputy Tim would not recognize as I had purchased it only a few days prior.

Oh, yes, we were Geniuses! 

Finally it was time. I picked up the phone and called the non-emergency number for Dispatch, identified myself, informed the Dispatcher that it was Deputy Tim's birthday and explained our plan. I asked permission for us to enter the premises to decorate his vehicle inside and out and invited her to contact his wife to verify our...veracity.

There was no need. She knew who I was, told me exactly where Deputy Tim would be and when so that we would have a perfect hour-and-a-half opening to enter the parking lot to complete our business.

I thanked her very much, hung up, and my best friend and I set to work blowing up balloons and stuffing them into our vehicles so that they would be ready for transfer at the proper time.

A few hours later, we entered the lot which was strangely abandoned, found Deputy Tim's van, and set to work. Very conscious of the fact that any available personnel of the City and County Law Enforcement Departments was watching us both out of mirth and protection of their friend/co-worker, we moved carefully to ensure we would not end up face-down on the pavement with guns pointed at us. Fine if the Investigative Division was taking notes, not fine if it went sour!

As I lifted up the hatch on the van, I whacked myself a good one, quite likely witnessed by the mirthful peanut gallery overlooking the lot from the LEC, and even as I wiped the blood away, I pretended nothing had happened. The LAST thing we needed was an ambulance to respond to Deputy Tim's van!

Not-quite-as-deftly-as-we'd-hoped, we stowed the inflated balloons into his van, hung our sign, and a special message on his rear view mirror, in case he happened to miss the fact that there were 80 or so balloons filling his vehicle.

We fled, returned to my friend's house and spent the rest of the day cruising around in my car since it was the one he didn't know.

 But Wait! There's MORE!

Well, Deputy Jim was no dummy.

He returned to work and was directed by his co-workers to get something from his PV (personal vehicle). Upon returning, he demanded information which was also provided as the dispatchers had my full vehicle information. At some point, my friend and I switched cars and drove hers, so it was that, as we drove through town, we caught the good Deputy's eye and he followed us, everywhere we went, but didn't stop us.

Finally, as we drove out of town and in between the lakes, he turned on the lights and my friend pulled over. It was a warm summer day, our windows were open, and because this was not a formal stop, we got out of the car, too.

Deputy Tim, smiling broadly, cheeks reddened, boomed at us, "How did you get into the van?"

We yelled back to him, laughing, "Ask your wife!"

To me he asked, "When did you get the car?"

"Last week!"

Still smiling, maybe with his trademark smirk, an expression rarely seen, he tipped his hat at us, got back into the squad, and drove away.

Yup. We made his day!

Operation Deputy Tim...COMPLETE

To this day, it's one of my favorite memories of growing up. Even though I haven't seen him or his family in years, I hope "Deputy Tim" also remember it fondly. Now having been a cop, even for a very short time, I know why so many never smile, I know why he was always so serious,  and pray that our teen hi-jinks of that day spread encouragement not just to him, but to his colleagues as well. After all, without them as accomplices, we would have been criminals!

In all seriousness, please pray for all who work in Law Enforcement; the Police Officers, Deputies, Dispatchers, Marshalls, Constables, Community Service Officers...and Rookies.

Pray especially for my friend "Deputy Tim" and his family and friends, most of whom are probably retired now, one of whom might actually be the current Sheriff.

Thank you.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Family and Surprising Opportunities

It's been very busy lately between work and family. Just this weekend we had a family reunion, and it was the first one I've made it to in YEARS.

Because it's been so long, I approached it with a bit of trepidation. Some was warranted, some was not. As it was, many were already there by the time I arrived. It was great to connect with the cousins I grew up with, to meet and bond with the children of my cousins, and catch up with my aunts and uncles.

As I was leaving, one of my cousins, who was, in fact, my Confirmation sponsor, was on her way in.

"Oh! But you have two minutes, don't you?


Her, laughing, "Well, that was hard! How 'bout five?"

About an hour later, I finally left, and with an invitation from her to visit her in another state sometime during the school  year to give a presentation to her homeschooling group about icons and iconography. They've been looking for specific Catholic enrichment and she thinks that what I have to offer would be perfect for their middle-to-high-schoolers!

Of course, I'd be happy to go there just to visit family, but spreading knowledge and devotion to praying with icons...that's a huge bonus!

On the home front, I've learned more cousins live locally than I realized so we're planning some social events of mutual interest, all likely finding my brother's house as the center for gathering.

As the months go on, I look forward to more time with the extended family, and hope our plans all pan out; not for the sake of our plans, but for the sake of our relationships as family members.

I guess there is some benefit to being a member of what I like to call the "Twelve tribes of Israel (Minnesota)"!

My dear readers, I pray your summer is also going well and that you are also finding the time to renew your relationships with your family members and friends during your summer down time.

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Truth About God's Love

Earlier this week, I had a wonderful conversation with a friend who shared with me some of her own profound experiences in her relationship with Christ. It was because of these that she was able to recognize His reality, even physical reality, in her life. She expressed how she had come to recognize His gentleness, His respect for us and where we are in our relationship with Him, no matter how limited or open, and, most importantly..his incredible love.

It's hard to really understand and internalize that love, for in our human frailty, we most often fail to love either ourselves or others - and all love is a participation in God's divine charity.

This morning I went to the Adoration chapel at my parish to pray the Divine Office and Morning Prayer before completing my errands, still pondering what she had said.

While I don't normally read or pray the "Psalm-Prayer" after every Psalm, today one portion of it from the Office caught my attention:

"We, your children, are weighed down with sin; give us the fullness of your mercy."

That line spoke volumes to me; we are, in fact, weighed down with sin, and only God's great mercy can relieve the crushing burden. Note in the prayer that we don't ask only for a little mercy, but boldly, we ask for what Our Lord has provided through the Cross: the FULLNESS of His mercy.

In prayer, even though we are "weighed down with sin", we still go to Him, prodigal children, humbly demanding  our birthright.

It was then that it struck me more profoundly than it ever has before; we have nothing.

I thought of my financial burdens, my burden of sin, my worries, my physical possessions...all of it. In prayer I said to Jesus, "I have nothing to offer because all I possess is my sin; that originates with me."

But no; even sin, even my greatest sins, are taken away through God's mercy in the Sacrament of Confession.

The only thing any of us truly possess, the only thing that makes us fully human, the only real treasure to be sought has been given freely; God's incredible, merciful, fiery Divine Love.

We are all poor in our mere possessions and money; no matter how much we have, it is nothing.

The ONLY thing we really need is not tangible, but is far more real than the biggest gem right down to the smallest penny: God's merciful love.

With that, we have far more than we will ever need; we have only to accept it so that we, too, can bring it to others.

Thank you, Jesus

Monday, July 04, 2011

Independence Day!

Today is the great feast of our nation's Independence, and what a feast it is! In true fashion, Americans everywhere celebrate this day by grilling or roasting on a spit in the back yard anything we can get our hands on: ribs, chicken, steak, pork chops, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, peppers,huge portobella mushrooms, eggplant...and then this is followed by slathering on any kind of available sauce, ranging from barbecue, to tangy Carolina mustard, to marinades of various types.

Here, amidst our flag-decorated patios and yards and parks, we Americans...we would roast or grill anything we could get our hands on, right down to the cereal in our cupboard to the celery in the crisper.

And then we top our celebrations by blowing things up in the sky to shower our cities with all sort of pretty colors and shapes.

Seriously - who doesn't love good food and great explosives?

Happy 4th of July to all my American readers. 
May your feasting be fruitful and your explosions be sound!

"Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith."
~ Alexis de Tocqueville

Sunday, July 03, 2011

A Bite O' Kibble, a Bit O' Randomness

You know how it is, that when you've got a lot filling your head, you fall asleep and have a dream that encompasses pretty much everything and projects it like an unconnected slide show, much like a memory emesis?

Yeah...this post is going to be a lot like that.

Foster Dog

Many of you, especially the animal lovers among you will recall my couple posts about my foster dog, Apollo. When he came to me he was terrified, shaking like a leaf, and cowered at the slightest sound.

But he loved people and so wanted to trust, so I worked with that and helped him out of his shell just by providing some stability and basic kindness. In other words; I treated him like a beloved pet dog.

You will be joyful to know that he was adopted on Wednesday and went home to his perfect match, a person who understands the timid temperament, the Whippet personality, the pitbull face complete with big soft brown eyes, and therefore is happier now than he's ever been in his life. Another success!

I will indeed foster again, God willing, but for now my dog needs a bit of bonding time before she will be ready to welcome another beloved guest into our home!

Followers From Other Countries

Over time, I've obtained readers from other nations, which is wonderful - it really reveals the universality of the Church and makes our world seem so much smaller. To be able to "meet" other Catholics or people of others beliefs from around the world is really a gift to be cherished, for we find out together how much we have in common in spite of our respective political systems. Truly, we are revealed as Citizens of Heaven, making our civil lives in the secular venues of our countries, knowing that it is Christ we bring to our own nations. In the words of Blessed John Paul II, paraphrased, it is our ability to bring Christ to our nations that makes the world more human and more fraternal.

I am very glad to see Pope Benedict XVI embrace the benefits of our online networking and encourage us to use it to preach salvation to the world by whatever means and gifts we have to do so...all at our fingertips.

What saddens me, though, is that here in the United States, even given the "melting pot" that we are, we do not have the opportunity to study many languages. Most commonly the schools offer Spanish and German, never Latin, and I've never seen Russian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Aramaic, Madingo, Swahili, Swedish, Norwegian, any school that is not specialized. Yet continuously, and increasingly, I find that people who primarily speak these languages follow my blog. My guess is that is because they have had the benefit of studying English (dubious benefit, that is.)

Although I can speak and read Spanish, over the years it has become very very rusty so I labor through even the simplest Spanish-language articles and blogs. Google DOES have a translator, but as I am still on dialup (stop laughing!), often the translation does not work for me and so I am left wondering if it will ever be possible for me to follow-back those readers.

So, therefore, let this serve as an acknowledgement to those of you who follow me and understand; It isn't that I don't love you, it is only that I cannot understand and respond in kind!  :-(  God bless you in your own blog apostolates and thank you for bringing Christ to the world!

A mis amigos hispanohablantes: Dios te bendiga, siempre, por tu servicio para Jesu Christe!

*cringing at badly-written Spanish* 

So, moving on....

Pop Psychology Trolls

There are many kinds of trolls. Most of them comment anonymously just to try to start a fight. But there's another breed, one far more dangerous, that consists, typically, of people who land upon one's blog and either decides to comment anonymously under the guise of "compassion" or send a private email. Both the comment and email ALWAYS end with "Please seek help".

What amazes me judiciously is how many of these emails and comments go directly to my Spam folder, so I don't discover them for days or weeks. You see...every now and again I check the Spam filter to see if a gem was caught in the drain before I purge the whole thing with bleach and gloves. Sometimes I find legitimate emails and immediately correct the problem.

Other times I see a name and then the first line, which gmail courteously provides, and from there can often make a judgment on the remainder of the content.

It has been my experience over the years that every time I write about a particularly difficult period in my spiritual life, some pseudo-intellectual seriously malformed by the dominant atheistic philosophy and psychology of our age presumes to try to "diagnose" me. The pattern never fails, and so it's quite possible this particular type of Troll is exactly the same person who has decided to harass me over the years. More likely each and every time it is a different malformed soul as they continuously base their "diagnosis" upon one post only and claim it is "all over your blog."


The most recent one I received in my spam filter started out like all the others: "It's probably none of my business but..."

That's all I needed to see

You see, I know this type of email and it's always the same. They all start out by saying "It's probably none of my business DID write it on your blog."

Well, that settles it. If I write it on my blog, clearly I have a diagnosis of...something you've recently read about. By all means, in that case you are clearly qualified to tell me I'm depressed, bipolar, schizophrenic, borderline personality, have dysthymia, autism spectrum, or other Axis I or Axis II disorders. Or even Axis III!

What amuses me so much about this is that it's unethical at best to make such comments, and extremely harmful at worst especially in a person who may be very...uh...gullible and given to hypochondria. Therefore, as much as it amuses me that some joker thinks they can go around and base a diagnostic opinion of a blogger on the basis of ONE post about spiritual trials (much like the misunderstanding that took place when Bl. Mother Teresa's diaries were released to the public), it also pains me as I wonder what very real harm this presumptuous pop-psych troll may be doing to someone.

I pray to God they aren't actually working professionally in the psychological field. Even on the peripheral.

So it is when I see the opening line of some emails (usually and providentially caught in the spam filter), I delete them without reading and say a prayer for the person who sent it. No matter how bad my life might get sometimes, my hope is in Christ and therefore always present. I get the sense that these other souls have misplaced their faith in mere psychology, finding solace in the superficial guidance of self-help and unnecessary medication, for fear that one day they may actually experience sadness or real emotion, realizing that in this life, we all actually MUST suffer at some point - and it's not the end of the world.

Just a General Word to the Wise and Prudent:

If you find yourself either starting an email or composing an email containing this phrase:  "This is probably none of my business but..."  STOP! You're right; you know it's none of your business so write what you have to write to get it out of your system, then use the DELETE button liberally. If that is seriously how you are starting an email, you are WAY out of line and you know it.

Just because someone says it on their blog doesn't mean you're privy to the entire story and you certainly aren't qualified to venture into the territory your own conscience is trying to warn you away from.

And just so you're aware: I need this advice as much as "you" do, whoever "you" are. (Not picking on regular readers here - you are all dears who do all your presuming in public where it can be discussed with everyone else!)  lol  :-)

So there ya have it - the mishmash from my intellect.

Now, if you don't mind, I'm taking my Swedish-Irish-French self into the kitchen to cook spicy-garlic tandoori chicken which has been marinating next to the homemade Greek cucumber yogurt sauce and Israeli couscous parked next to the hummus tahini and pitas just waiting to see if this Indian-Greek-Israeli-Middle Eastern dinner tastes good at all!


Who wants leftovers?

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Word Can Speak for Himself: Stop Being So Dramatic!

Point 1: Lectors vs Readers

I am a huge proponent of using proper terms in the proper settings. The word "Lector" is one of them. Canonically (ie referring to Canon Law), there is no such thing as a "Lector" in our parishes, and no, Vatican II did not do away with this appointed position. The reality is this: only men can be appointed  Lectors, although the 1983 Code of Canon Law allows uninstalled men and women both to READ during the liturgy, and for both, it is a privilege. Still, only MEN can be appointed, and so I find it both insulting and irritating that we continue to call READERS "Lectors" as this misuse and overuse of terminology denigrates the Office of Lector itself, and leaves us to wonder if the Readers at Mass are in fact installed Lectors or are just filling the role because the Bishop refuses to install the proper men or because not enough have stepped up to the plate.

I suspect it's more a lack of education on the part of all lay people. I had to pay thousands of dollars and get a Master's degree to obtain this simple information that should be readily available and explained to the general populace of any given parish. It's not like Canon Law is a secret.

Lest someone protest, indeed, as a Minor Order it was suppressed, but the new Code did NOT suppress the installation of the position or the obligation upon those installed to serve in that capacity during the Liturgy. Ergo, if an installed Lector is in attendance at a given Mass, there should not be an uninstalled Reader performing the liturgical role.

Point II: Dramatic Readings of the Lectionary

It has become the fashion at my parish for the readings to be read dramatically, according to the whims of the canonically not-installed Readers, both male and female, although I cringe to admit the problem seems to have been introduced by a woman.Still...the virus seems to affect men, too.

Nearly every time I have attended Mass at my parish within the last year or so, I have had to look around to see if, in fact, I was present at a "Concert" given by an Elocutionist as portrayed in "Anne of Green Gables."

To be clear; I am not saying the readings should be proclaimed in a monotone! That is just as awful! Rather, I am merely suggesting that those doing the Readings for the Mass each week follow the description given in the GIRM, paragraph 56:

"The Liturgy if the Word is to be celebrated in such a way as to promote meditation, and so any sort of haste that hinders recollection must clearly be avoided."

Yes, indeed. However, pausing dramatically after every few words and over-emphasizing every third word a la melodrama does not meet the theological understanding of "meditation". It falls to "dramatic interpretation" and is TERRIBLY distracting!

So as not to be uncharitable, I quote the continuing context of the GIRM, paragraph 56:

"During the Liturgy of the Word, it is also appropriate to include brief periods of silence, accommodated to the gathered assembly, in which, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the word of God may be grasped by the heart and a response through prayer may be prepared. It may be appropriate to observe such periods of silence, for example, before the Liturgy of the Word itself begins, after the first and second reading, and lastly at the conclusion of the homily." 

This puts the first part in context. I suspect that the more dramatic Readers tend to read the first part of this paragraph (assuming they have actually read this very important document) and stop there, thinking that their idea of "meditation" and "silence" is the proper one. Therefore, we in the pews are afflicted by their own PERSONAL reading versus their reading of the Word for the rest of us, who are trying to meditate upon it.

Appreciation for a Role Carried out Appropriately

One of the things I most loved about my  various monastery and convent visits was this: they all understood meditative reading in accordance with the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Not a single Sister got up and read according to her own interpretation. Certainly her voice rose and fell for general emphasis, but it was always carried out to foster our OWN meditation, so that we could allow the Holy Spirit to emphasize words and phrases...not the reader.

Every time a Dramatic Reader takes the pulpit in my parish, I consider fleeing. The first time it happened, the woman actually looked at the audience congregation and BEAMED at us as though we were supposed to applaud. And I suspect that were it not for the venue, we would have out of pure reflex. I seriously hadn't heard such vocal inflection since the melodramatic celebrity Elocutionist in Anne of Green Gables. I had to look down to see if I was wearing white gloves and a formal gown, wondering if perhaps Anne herself would get up to give us her rendition of "Our Lady of Shallot" or "The Highwayman" right there in the middle of the Liturgy.

Since that time, this behavior has become all the rage of our parish Lectors  Readers. When certain personages step up, I confess I inwardly groan and pick up the missal, realizing that I need to read it for myself and entirely tune the Reader out until she or he has completed their torture routine. If I don't pick up the book, I miss the reading entirely as the drama is just far too distracting to understand what God is trying to  say to me (other than to pray for my lack of patience and to pray for the person reading...yeah, I got THAT loud and clear. Anything else?)

I'd say I'm sorry, but I'm not. We in the pews have a right to speak up, too, and it's not proper to throw tomatoes at Mass or cut the cords to the sound system. That kind of thing is generally frowned upon.  Unfortunately, it has become the culture in our parishes that those who speak up, even gently, are cranks, and no real criticism is tolerated, for fear it might hurt someone's feelings.

God forbid someone in a liturgical role is introduced to the GIRM and therefore has their feelings offended by official documentation.

The Readings at Mass are not meant to be read as though proclaimed in a theatre, but are meant to be proclaimed in a worshipful setting, open to be received by the people in the pews, all ranges of people. There is a place for drama, but the Word of God doesn't need any help from we lay people; He can stand alone just fine on His own if the Readers would only stand aside enough to let Him speak.

I long for the monastery, and the sober, truly meditative reading of the Word of God, in the Office, in the Lectionary, and pray that one day, our lay Readers will also cultivate an appreciation for this lost, yet simple, art of proclaiming the Word to the Faithful devoid of their own personal dramatic interpretation.