Cat Towels and Confession
I got a shower the other day, and after hopping out of the tub, I wrapped myself in the towel that had fallen on the floor. No big deal, I thought, it probably slipped off the hook.
I walked into the bedroom to put some clothes on, and when I took off the stupid towel, I realized I was covered - COVERED - in cat hair.
Awww, c'mon now! I had JUST finished getting a shower. Why the heck did I have to instantly cover myself in a layer of dander and fur?
Frustrated, I hopped back into the shower to rinse off. I grabbed a NEW towel from the closet and went along my way.
However, while I was showering for the second time, I realized that I do the same thing after Confession. How many times have I come out of Confession with a sparkly white soul only to go home, pick up a bad habit, and get it dirty all over again?
A lot. In fact, I'm pretty sure my priest should have a rotating door on the confessional precisely because I'm so incredibly good at repeatedly screwing up.
I guess it's good Christ never tires of forgiving us, but I really wish I didn't keep falling into the same habits over and over again. I always think of St. Paul and that thorn in his side. It's good he never specifies what that thorn is, because we can all relate to a particular sin that tends to pulls us down over and over, but I can't help but try to picture him struggling with the sins that I'm so good at failing with.
I seriously imagine him on camel back fantasizing of dinosaurs trampling the slower camels in front of him (or who don't signal they're trying to turn). I imagine him gorging himself on desserts or opting to spread the word that Peter's preaching isn't as good as his.
Heh. Terrible, right?
Maybe instead of trying to pull St. Paul down to my level, I should try to raise myself up to his and steer clear of cat towels. *Grin*
So last week, John called me to let me know that there had been an incident in school. Vince's regular teacher was out for a week, so he was in a substitute's class. He'd been with her for about three days, and all three days, he'd come home with notes like "Not doing work" or "Being defiant."
Now I know Vince has trouble when his routine is messed up, but that's no excuse to not do work or be defiant. So I spoke to Vince and punished him accordingly, but it didn't help. Day four rolled around and the substitute pulled John aside to explain that not only had Vincent been defiant, he'd kicked her chair and called her "fat."
*Shame-induced heart attack*
My son was aggressive with both his words and actions?! NOOOOOO... it has been so long since he's acted out in this way. I felt awful for the sub who was obviously having a tough time controlling him, and I felt doubly awful that my son was responsible for saying something that was potentially hurtful to her.
I was angry with Vince - angrier than I think I've ever been. John was upset, too, and neither of us knew what to do to punish him properly. We'd never had him do something so offensive. So the entire way home, I was trying to come up with a punishment that fit the crime. I settled on a good old-fashioned written apology letter.
Not an easy task for a 5 year old who barely spells colors let alone full sentences expressing remorse.
Anyway, when I got home, I had a conversation with him about how disappointed I was and how hurtful what he did was to his teacher. I kept having him respond to me so I knew he understood just how serious the situation was. John had already spoken to him and punished him by taking away two of his favorite toys, but he knew I was going to go a step further so he left the rest to me.
After I felt he understood why he was in trouble, I explained how he could help fix things. I sat him down and had him tell me - in his own words - why he was sorry and how he felt about his substitute teacher. I wrote out his words on a separate piece of paper. When he was finished, I had him copy my transcription, himself, into a card he'd decorate for her as an apology.
Yeah. Believe it or not, it took him what seemed to be forever to write five sentences. This was mostly because he tried to rush through his words and I'd erase them until he was neater. If he was going to write her a letter, he was going to write her one she could actually read.
I then put his letter and my transcription (and a note explaining it) together into a packet for the substitute so she understood where the words came from and what John and I had done to punish him for how he acted. I wanted her to know that we took his actions seriously and appreciated her efforts with him.
Days like this are not fun. They make you feel like the worst failure of a parent ever. But ya know what? After he'd finished the letter, his babysitter (God bless her, she witnessed the whole experience in patient silence) came over and said, "I'm really proud of BOTH of you!"
I laughed, because I thought it was ridiculous to be proud of me given the circumstances, but Meaghan (the sitter) said, "No, I'm serious. That took a really long time, but you got him to do it and I really think he understands why it was wrong. His teacher will appreciate that. I wish more of my students' parents would be so serious."
That comment made me feel so much better. Yes, I'd obviously failed somewhere along the line to produce a child who would ever utter such a thing to someone, but I am a good enough parent that I worked hard - immediately - to make sure the situation was a learning experience for him.
Thank God, too, because I can't even tell you how terrible I felt until she said that. Ugh!
And I'm happy to report that not only has Vince been a stellar student since, both his sub and his regular teacher (who is back) said he's been BEYOND stellar. He's gone out of his way to be helpful, is super courteous, and "listens the first time a lot better" (which is like me hearing he won a Nobel Prize because I've gotta tell him things a dozen or more before it registers).
Even in our failure there is hope for success. I'm really proud of how the three of us handled this situation. I just sincerely hope nothing like this ever happens again. God forbid!
Have you guys ever had times like this where you just had no idea how to punish your kids? What'd YOU do?
Swimming the Tiber!
The above fella goes by the name of Brett. He's a pretty cool dude who just happens to be enrolled in RCIA. That's right! We're welcoming a brother back into the fold. How exciting is that???
I'm the lucky duck who gets to be his sponsor, and I'm so freakin' proud of him! He's the best candidate the Church could ever hope for because he's ridiculously smart, incredibly well-versed in our theology, and has a willingness to expand that knowledge and share it with others. Heck, he's even been able to teach me a few new things!
So I'd appreciate it if you kept this one in your prayers as he continues his Catholic development. Leave a few high-fives and words of encouragement if you're so moved. He pokes his nose around here every now and again. *Grin*
Drive By Ashes and More
Many of you have heard of the Drive-By-Ashes or Ashes To Go programs that have popped up in the last two years or so. I was always a bit put-off by the idea, because I felt that the ashes were somehow given priority over the Eucharist. The meaning behind the ashes, in my mind, became lost to the popularity of "proving your faith" once a year.
Now that I've given it more thought this year, I've come to a slightly different conclusion.
A coworker asked me why there were ash crosses on everyone's forehead. I explained that they were a sacramental, and it suddenly hit me as to why I shouldn't be so upset about priests doling out ashes to folks in planes, on train platforms, or in a sort of drive-by service.
Ashes are a sacramental the same as a rosary or scapular. What makes handing out ashes any different from handing out rosaries or scapulars? Heck, even small pocket Bibles have been known to be passed around during rush hour, so why should ashes be looked on as anything different?
I still prefer ashes to be utilized during (or immediately following) Mass, because the focus is on the Eucharist and not the ashes, but I can understand why some clerics have chosen to go this route to help with evangelization. Ashes unite Christians in a way that the Eucharist currently cannot. The simple existence of these marks on our foreheads each year inevitably spark conversation that, hopefully, leads to conversion.
So hopefully these "drive-through" programs will serve to reach out to bring others back to the Church more than they enable the faithful to become lazy in their practice. After all, just because I'm handed a rosary on a train platform doesn't mean I figure Mass is no longer necessary. I wouldn't assume that the rosary is somehow more important than the Eucharist.
These clerics give what they can to those who are open to receive. I can't fault them for that.
So while I'm still not in love with the idea, I can at least appreciate it for what it is.
Any of you come across this? The photo above was taken by my coworker who saw this priest at a train station in Philly. I'd love to know if any of you have seen it firsthand and what your thoughts are on it.
Also, here is our obligatory #ShowYourAsh photo. Vince was bummed his cross wasn't darker. I think it's because he kept wiping at it throughout Mass. *Grin*
I admit, I tend to wear mine like a badge of honor. I love feeling connected to random people all day when I see the cross of ashes and they notice mine. It's like a hug.
"Oh, you're partaking of the Lenten journey? We're together in this, you and I!"
Plus, I feel like if I were to wipe them off, the ghost of Sr. M would come back to haunt me. Ha ha ha ha. But I digress.
What are your thoughts on the Ash Crosses?
This is a repost from 3/6/2014. I thought it was a good refresher, though, since folks are already starting to warn others about the "sinfulness" of showin' ash. ;)
Yesterday found Twitter aflutter with some of the most amusing Catholic hashtags I'd ever seen. Things like #Ashtag and #ShowYourAsh. It was so much fun seeing these #CatholicSelfies, because each ashen forehead was a reminder that we are ALL united in our humanity. More than that, however, we all belong to Christ, and as such, are marked by the sign of His ransom.
Thus, I LOVED seeing these!
However, alongside this bubbling evangelism, a parallel sentiment was trying to stifle the conversation.
Folks were commenting on these posts in condemnation, suggesting that those who were posting them were doing so for arrogant purposes.
C'mon now. Seems a little bit arrogant to take the time to make a post implying the original posters were too stupid, lazy or prideful to understand the "meaning behind the Lenten readings."
To me, that screamed "Look at me and my super-humble-but-not-overly-super-because-I'm-still-humble humilty!"
Annoying. Very, very annoying.
The Ash Wednesday marking is a communal prayer - an outward expression of an inward faith. Much like saying Grace at meals in public. Much like making the Sign of the Cross as a pitcher when you take the mound at a baseball game.
We NEED more public witness, and I'm glad folks found unity - and joy - in sharing these photos. After all, Lent isn't just about sadness, misery and self-flagellation. It's about the joy of knowing we have been called by Christ to join Him in Eternity.
After all, this is the same mark used by the unnamed prophet in Ezekiel who runs through Jerusalem putting the "tau" on the foreheads of the righteous. "Tau" is the Hebrew letter "T." Anyone not marked with this letter was slaughered while those with the mark (much like during Passover) were extended mercy by God.
That's right, folks. The forehead mark in Ezekiel 9 was a cross, and it marked them as belonging to the Most High God. Sound familiar?
So I applaud those joyously wore their ashen crosses. We SHOULD be joyful. This mark is the mark of salvation... the mark of mercy.
For, indeed, ours is a Merciful God.
I'll be honest - this entry took a really, really long time for me to work through. My wonderful friend, Catherine, sent me a booklet from her office down at the Diocese of Wichita, several months after I miscarried Myla. Seeing that there was some sort of liturgical celebration that could mark Myla's brief life was... honestly, I'm still at a loss as to how awed I was that something like this existed. What a comfort this can be to parents! What a blessed tool to be utilized by priests/deacons who want to reach out to grieving families! My heart came close to exploding with gratitude and joy at the possibilities.
I wanted to blog about this Order right away. After all, EVERYONE should know all about it! This was developed by the Respect Life and Social Justice Office of the Diocese of Wichita, and I still believe it needs to be spread far and wide to all ends of the Church. So to Bonnie Toombs (who obviously dedicated so much time and research into getting this Order so perfect) and to Kellee Kruse (who worked on making this booklet something beautiful for parents to physically hold on to), I extend my deepest appreciation. I do not know either of you personally, but I can see the light of Christ shine through your work, and I am humbled and deeply affected by it. Bless you.
So why did it take me so long to post praise on a booklet I obviously have such respect and appreciation for?
Because I didn't know where to start. In truth, I was afraid to open the booklet when I first got it because I wasn't sure how I'd handle my grief (ever creeping just below the surface). I'm glad I finally peered inside, though, because the very first page is something akin to a Baptismal Certificate. You can't tell from the PDF below, but there is a perforated "certificate" called a Remembrance of Commendation. There is a place to write your child's name, the parents' name, and a date of Commendation. Beautifully, there is also a line for a witness (likely the minister) who can again validate the life of that child.
Isn't it strange that I was touched most by that line? To name a child and to have a minister witness the recognition of life... I'm so glad that was put there. It is such a beautiful validation.
The introduction explains the purpose of the order and the need for such an order in today's world.
From there, all of the rites are so perfectly worded that I get all teary just thinking about them. God is spoken of so lovingly that you can't help but feel both joyed and grateful that such a loving Father has sought to gather these little ones to Himself. Gratitude for the gift of life and gratitude for His mercy is laced all throughout these pages.
So I'm leaving it here for you to see. I've already submitted a copy to my pastor with the request that he consider its use. It's just so beautiful. Even the suggested songs at the end are wonderful. The booklet that I had used a linen cover stock for the first two "pages" and then a creme text stock for the rest. This format ensured that the cover and perforated "Remembrance" cards were of stronger materials (since the latter can be a keepsake).
I've also included the PDF in a downloadable file if you'd like to just e-mail a copy to your pastor (since the embedded plug-in can be hit-or-miss.
Please share this with your prayer groups and parish families. I honestly believe it has such wonderful potential to help heal the wounds left by miscarriage and infant loss.
Also, feel free to pin this to Pinterest. I knew how to do that at one point, but it's been a while, so I've forgotten. But if you remember, by all means, pin away!
I have a Protestant friend who routinely tries to poke holes into my Catholic ideology. He is very good-natured about the whole thing. Though we both joke about converting each other, it's obvious that we're both passionate about our faith.
He asked me (challenged me, really) why Catholics believe that faith in Christ alone is not enough to assure Heaven. After all, John 3:16 clearly states as much, right?
This is apparently a huge sticking point for many Protestants. They think that Catholics don't understand Christ's power as "good/strong enough."
Unsure of how to best respond, the Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor came to mind (thanks, Holy Spirit!). In this parable, a servant is brought before the king to pay his giant debt. The servant cannot pay the debt, so the king demands justice through the sale of the servant and the servant's family. Dropping to his knees in humility, the servant begs for mercy and the gracious king forgives the debt.
Two seconds later, the recently forgiven servant demands recompense for a paltry sum and, when his fellow servant is unable to pay, has that man thrown into jail. When the king hears of this hypocrisy, he has the first servant (whom he had freely shown mercy to) thrown into jail to be tortured as punishment.
Why would this parable come to mind as a response?
Well, the Christian (represented by the servant) had faith in God (represented by the king). That faith most certainly saved him, and it was a gift given not because the servant was worthy of it, but because God was/is merciful. However, the Christian failed to follow through with good works and, as a result, felt the justice of God. Mercy and justice go hand-in-hand. One cannot exist without the other.
So of course faith can do a great many things, but from that faith must also come works that are the FRUIT of that faith. God gives us mercy so that we have mercy to extend to others. God loves us so that we might love others. God gifts us joy and peace so that we can spread those gifts to others.
Hence why us Catholics believe that a faith without works is dead (James 2:17).
Works must prove faith. Faith comes first (which extends God's mercy), but that faith in Christ means nothing if one does not conform to the teachings of Christ.
He's still chewing on that. *Grin* In truth, I guess I am, too, as I hadn't thought of this parable much at all in the past.
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