I got the distinct pleasure of babysitting my niece, Alliya, recently.
Since she hadn't eaten, I decided to take her (and Vince!) to Chick-Fil-A for a quick bite before we headed down to Ocean City for the weekend.
While we were at Chick-Fil-A, I turned the two of them loose in the play room. For the first ten minutes, we were alone. Vince and Alliya got full run of the place and gloried in their non-stop romping. However, another little girl (about Alliya's age) came in and decided she wanted to be mean.
Alliya is super friendly and extremely out-going. She thinks everyone in the universe is a friend-waiting-to-happen. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same golden out-look on life that she does.
This is what unfolded after Alliya entered the part of the tubing that the little girl was in:
Alliya: Hi, do you want to play with me?
Little Girl: Get out of here!
Alliya: I just want to play together.
Little Girl: Geeeet ouuuut!
Alliya leaves and follows Vincent (who is blissfully unaware of the commotion) down the slide.
As Vincent heads back up the stairs to slide down again, Alliya sits down next to me and says, "Aunt Gina, that girl doesn't want to play with me."
I responded (loudly enough for the little girl to hear), "I have no idea why someone wouldn't want to play with a sweet girl like you, Alliya. You're so much fun! Maybe she's confused and didn't understand you wanted to have fun together. I'm sure she didn't want to be so mean to you."
Alliya seemed hesitant to believe me, but she bounded up the stairs after Vincent anyway. The little girl promptly left the playroom after shooting me a grumpy look. I briefly wondered where her parents were, but soon turned my attention back to Alliya and Vincent (who were now triumphantly enjoying the car tubing that had previously been blockaded by the other child).
Several minutes later, the same young girl returned. Vincent and Alliya were still playing in the car tubing. Instead of entering the tunnels, the girl climbed onto the slide and basically waited for Alliya and Vince to slide out. I smiled at her in an attempt to show her we weren't mean people, but she pretended not to see me. Soon enough, Vince and Alliya came down the slide together.
Alliya immediately noticed the little girl was back and once again approached her.
Alliya: My name is Alliya. Do you want to be my friend?
Little Girl: *silence*
Alliya: Can we be friends? My name is Alliya. What's your name?
The little girl remained silent again, so I chimed in with, "Maybe she's shy, Alliya."
Vincent then ran over to follow his cousin and started babbling at the little girl. Alliya, being the awesome big cousin that she is, introduced Vincent to the stone-faced little girl saying, "This is Vincent. He's my baby cousin. He doesn't talk good yet. Do you want to be friends?"
The little girl simply said, "No," and then walked to the play area. Vincent ran off to play with some of the wall puzzles, but Alliya, obviously crest-fallen, came to my side again with this look of sadness and confusion on her face. I felt terrible for her.
She said, "Why doesn't she want to be my friend, Aunt Gina?"
I said, "I don't know, Alliya. Sometimes people are mean to others because they don't know any better."
I really had no idea what else to say to her. I was incensed that this little girl was being so mean to Alliya, but I was at a loss as to how to best address the situation considering her parents were nowhere to be seen. Instead, I gave Alliya a hug and said, "But I'm so proud of you for trying to be friends even after she was so mean to you. You're a big girl, and you're teaching Vincent to always be nice to everyone, no matter what. Thank you for being such a good big cousin."
She puffed up at that. And ya know what she did?
She marched up to that little girl - AGAIN - and said, "We should be friends because that's what big girls do. We shouldn't be mean because it's not nice."
I have to admit being amazed at her tenacity. :) Amazed and proud.
And even though the little girl ignored her at first, she soon skulked her way up the stairs and asked Alliya if she wanted to see her do a cool trick down the slide.
My golden little niece - the truest example of turning the other cheek and responding to everyone with love. Even though (by adult standards) her indignation and hurt were petty, to Alliya, such slights were brutish. Yet she endured them and instead of reflecting the same streak of meanness, she responded with patience and kindness. And in the end, her smile and love charmed that little girl.
Well done, Alliya. Well done. We'd all do well to follow her shining example.
by Sharon Clossick - click for more info
Saint Maria Goretti has always been, in my mind, the epitome of forgiveness.
At this point in time, most people know her story. She was a poor girl from a poor family. Destitute, they had to give up their home to work with (and then for) another family, the Serenellis. Shortly after, Maria's father passed away from malaria, leaving her mother and siblings at the mercy of the Serenelli family.
For several years the Goretti family worked for the Serenellis. However, even before her father passed away, Maria (then only nine) had found herself on the receiving end of sexual advances from Alessandro Serenelli. She thwarted his attempts to sully her purity several times, and each time was threatened with death if she uttered to anyone his treachery.
However, at 11 years old (she was 2 months shy of her 12th birthday which is why so many folks incorrectly list her as a 12 year old), he found her alone after her mother and siblings had gone to work in the field. Maria was home taking care of her infant sister, Teresa. Maria had just placed Teresa down for a nap when Alessandro approached her - again - with the intent to force her into sex. He brandished a 10 inch dagger with which to subdue her. Maria, however, would not allow his perversion to tarnish her chaste purity.
Crying out, "No! It is a sin! God does not want it! You will go to hell." Maria tried to fend off his lustful advances. Enraged, Alessandro choked Maria. This, too, proved futile as Maria insisted she'd rather die than endure the desecration of her body. As a result, Alessandro stabbed her body 11 times times.
He left her bleeding on the floor of her kitchen to die alone, agonizing in pain as his dagger cut through her throat, heart, lungs and spinal column. Yet she attempted to crawl to the door to call for help. Alessandro (who was asleep upstairs) heard her cries of "Mother, I am dying!" and went back to finish his work. He stabbed her 3 more times - 14 in all.
Alessandro then fled upon hearing little Teresa cry out. Alessandro's father was awoken by the baby's cries and went down to chide Maria for being negligent. However, he found her bruised and bloodied body instead, and his frantic calls for help brought her mother running.
Maria was rushed to the nearest hospital where doctors, incredulous that she'd survived with such terrible wounds, did their best to help her. She underwent immediate surgery (without anesthesia), but doctors knew she would not last. A priest was brought in to perform Last Rites. It was to him she expressed her forgiveness of Alessandro, citing Christ's forgiveness upon the Cross saying, "I, too, pardon him. I, too, wish that he could come some day and join me in heaven."
It was this forgiveness that finally caused Alessandro to amend his ways. Having been convicted of murder and imprisoned, he spent many years brooding in his cell. However, no doubt through Maria's intercession, God allowed him the grace of seeing little Maria in her glorified state. In this dream, Maria handed Alessandro 14 lilies, one for each of the wounds he inflicted upon her. Each of these lilies burst into flames of forgiveness as he took them, one by one, from her outstretched hand. From that moment forth, Alessandro changed his life and sought to live out the same love of Christ that Maria had taught him through her pure and holy example.
Upon his release from prison, Alessandro went straight to the home of Maria's mother. When she opened the door, he flung himself at her feet, tearfully begging for her forgiveness.
Again, modeling the holy example of her own saintly daughter, Assunta said, "Alessandro, Marietta forgave you, Christ has forgiven you, and why should I not also forgive. I forgive you, of course, my son!"
The next morning, she led him by the hand to Mass where they received, together, the Eucharist.
Alessandro lived out the rest of his days in the service of monks. No doubt he is in Heaven with little Maria as she had promised so many years before.
And what a blessing that her mother and siblings were able to witness the canonization of their own. Assunta said of Maria, ""My God, I was not worthy to have such an angel!"
If only she understood that it was through her blessed example that Maria came to understand the love of the Lord. Through her witness, Maria came to love Him and strive for His Grace in all she did.
Not only were you worthy of Maria, Assunta - you helped to create her place in Heaven. May you both, together with Alessandro, forever enjoy the Beatific Vision. And may you all intercede for us still toiling below. Pray for us that we may always understand the power and blessing of forgiveness.
Little Auggie is doing much better! After his course of antibiotics and eye drops, he's a perfectly normal, lovable kitten!!!
At nine weeks old, he's making up for lost time by pouncing on toys, climbing and jumping on the various kitty trees we have, and stretching himself out for copious belly rubs. Both eyes have completely cleared and he's able to see perfectly fine! He didn't even need the white blood cell infusion the vet was sure about!
Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your prayers for this little guy. I have no doubt his speedy recovery is courtesy of all those who sent their messages of warm fuzzies his way. I've read all the e-mails and Facebook commentary, and all of your messages warmed my heart. Thank you so much!!!
Now comes the hard part. We need to find Auggie his forever home. After living in filth and suffering starvation, dehydration, debilitating sickness, and malicious intent from some of our factory workers (grumble, grumble, grumble), Auggie deserves a long, full life filled with love and affection.
So if you or anyone you know may be interested in adopting this little furbaby, please contact me. He will be fully up to date on all shots, and he will be fixed by the end of next week. He is litter box trained, super affectionate, and gets along with Vincent (my son) splendidly.
I honestly think he knows we gave him a second shot at life, and he's the most grateful kitty ever. He will shower you with such love and cuddly softness that you will melt with joy each time you snuggle with him.
Again, thanks for your continued prayers. Instead of his health, let's pray for his forever family now. Blessings to you all!
Oh - and a new video I took last night as he romped around chasing my hand as it crept under his blanket. Enjoy. :)
A few nights ago I had a relatively awful dream. I'm not one for nightmares... and I don't know that I'd classify this as one... but it was vividly negative enough to leave me worried when I woke up the next morning.
Odder still are the characters starring in the dream. Two guys from my past (one who passed away and another who was shipped off to Wisconsin), my best friend, Mary, and the friend I spoke of in the Broken Friendships entry. A few others were sprinkled throughout, but the main focus was on this aforementioned group of people.
I'd been badly hurt by the first two men. I'd lost a lot of blood and it was smeared all throughout the bedroom (which is where the scuffle took place). Mary had come to find me since I'd been missing from a party that was going on downstairs (we were in some sort of mountain cabin).
She found me covered in blood and saw the room in tatters. She ran back into the party and came back with - of all people - my old friend. We saw one another and weren't entirely sure what to do. I heard Mary tell him that he needed to do something. I, however, didn't want him to help me. It didn't seem fair that he should help me after having been gone for so long.
In my dream, he stayed because it was the right thing to do. He felt as awkward as I did, and we fumbled for what to say to one another. However, after talking for a few moments, we slipped back into the familiar and comfortable friendship we once had. I started to feel better instantly, and I sensed that he, too, began letting the awkwardness fall away.
Tentatively, I reached out to hug him. I wanted him to understand that I held no resentment. We hugged, but when we moved away from one another, there was blood soaking through my shirt. I thought it was mine at first... that I'd missed a gash from the earlier fight... but I then realized that it was his. He was bleeding, and I hadn't noticed until closing myself against him through the hug.
I looked into his eyes, horrified that he'd kept such a wound a secret. It was mortal, I knew it was mortal, and I was terrified that he was about to die. Then, before I could do anything else, I woke up.
The entire morning I couldn't shake the feeling of worry. I admit that I get like this at times. When a creepy or unsettling thought enters my mind, I cannot stop worrying until it's laid to rest.
So what did I do?
I called him.
I called him even though we haven't spoken (really spoken) in years. I called him even though I knew I'd hear disapproval from certain people. I called him even though I had no idea what I was going to say.
He didn't pick up, so I left a voice-mail that simply sought to know that all was well. Considering how often I've done this in the past, I figured he'd guess I'd had some sort of dream or something and needed to have my sanity satiated.
He called back about an hour or two later. I was building a tower of blocks with Vincent, so I wasn't able to talk long (I was the only one home with him). However, we had almost verbatim the same awkward conversation we had in my dream. Ha ha. It was nice to hear his voice, especially now that I knew he wasn't dying of some imaginary slice to the chest.
There wasn't any grand reconciliation or invitations to coffee. I wasn't expecting any of that. I did, however, get what I was expecting... a returned phone call and peace of mind.
My oldest friend from high school, Theresa, got married last weekend. I can't wait to see the professional pictures of her because none of the ones I snapped do her or her dress justice.
As a married woman who was over the moon for her own wedding dress, I can honestly say that Theresa's out-shone mine by at least 10 light years! Her train was beyond magnificent. The lace, jewels and satin made her look exactly like the princess she's always wanted to be. I was (and am) so happy she and John finally exchanged vows!!!
Vince was her ring-bearer. He escorted a beautiful little girl named Allison down the aisle. They were SO CUTE together!!!
Unfortunately, Vince was a bit of a terror during the service. During rehearsal, the priest allowed Vince to run around the sanctuary. I had specifically corrected Vince three times, but the priest told me not to bother each time. He said, "Don't worry - it'll make for a cute photo op."
I knew, as any parent of a toddler would, that allowing that behavior during rehearsal was just about the worst idea ever. Vincent doesn't understand the difference between a rehearsal and the "real thing." Thus, if it's okay to run amok in a church Thursday night, it should be perfectly fine to do the same on a Saturday.
As predicted, that's exactly what happened.
I wonder how long it's going to take me to re-teach him that we don't act that way in a church. *Sigh*
Luckily he didn't knock the candles over or rip Theresa's dress. He basically ran up and down the sanctuary steps a few times during the exchange of vows and climbed into Father's seat, evading the attempts of groomsmen to wrangle him in.
Ah well... at least he was attempting to mimic a priest. I can't be entirely upset about that prospect. Ha ha ha!
Speaking of priests, the one presiding at Theresa's wedding Mass was the president of our now defunct Cardinal Dougherty High. It was fabulous to see him. He looks wonderful and his personality is still gentle and welcoming. As I watching him go through the rehearsal, I couldn't help but think that his handling of people was the primary reason God chose him to be a priest.
He is so incredibly genuine when he's in priest mode. He goes out of his way to make sure everyone feels welcomed and cared about. It's rare to be able to pull that off with a huge group of people so effortlessly, but he's incredibly consistent (which is probably why they made him President of Dougherty).
Anyway, his homily was great. He should make it available to other priests as a general "go-to" wedding homily. He gave a lot of good advice - chief among them to remember that God blessed them with one another. In order to make it to Heaven, they NEED each other. They need to rely on one another precisely because God brought them together for the purpose of reaching Heaven. The unique challenges they each bring will compliment the unique strengths they have, and together, they will live a life which aims for Heaven.
Married couples would do well to understand this. Our spouses are NECESSARY. They are the ones we are given precisely because they will challenge us to grow in love. They will challenge us to sacrifice... to hope... to trust.
It was a wonderful reminder to me, and it made my heart sing a hymn of thanks for such a beautiful reminder that I've been truly blessed with John. He has challenged me to trust... to hope and to sacrifice. All of that has deepened my capacity to love and has very much led me down the road towards my rekindling of faith. I am a better Catholic today because of John (something he'd probably be loathe to acknowledge - ha).
So yes... your husband or wife is a blessing sent directly from God, Himself, for the express purpose of ensuring your soul gets into Heaven. How wonderful is that? :)
I've always loved the artwork at St. William's. Their altar is among my top five favorites. Their stations are incredible as well! Next time I'm by, I'll snap some photos of their statues. They've got a favorite rendition of Our Lady that I melt over every time I see it!
Oh... and this is only the lower church! Being in Philadelphia, St. William's is one of those churches that boasts TWO floors - an Upper and a Lower church!
I attended St. William's in NE Philadelphia yesterday. They have a unique 8pm evening mass on Sunday which is thoroughly helpful when someone like me has a wedding the night before and can't drag herself out of bed in time for her usual 10am service.
Anyway, I attend St. William's once every other month or so. I'm regular enough that folks sorta-kinda recognize me (especially as I'm the only veiled one present), but irregular enough to where no one really knows my name.
Color me ridiculously surprised, then, when I bumped into several people that I knew from Incarnation (my old home parish) last night.
One scooched in next to me during the Penitential Rite. Neither of us were aware of who the other was until the 1st Reading. She nudged me and said, "Gina?" I turned, surprised to see my old friend. It was a pleasant surprise. She made a motion with her hand regarding my veil. It was a question... a confused, "What's with the veil?" I just smiled and returned my attention back to the Mass.
I could feel her eying me curiously for the rest of Mass. At the end of Mass, after moving to the narthex, I opened the door for the questions I knew she had.
Inevitably, the first one was, "So, what's with the veil?"
I explained, briefly, that I'd had a rekindling of faith and spent over a year returning to my Catholic roots. One of the things I discovered on my journey back to Christ was the custom of veiling. I explained that since the Blessed Mother is my example for all things Catholic, far be it from me to place myself above her example when in the Presence of Christ. If she wears a veil when with her Beloved Son, I feel I, too, should present myself in a similar fashion when accepting Him in the Eucharist.
Then she said, "I saw you cross yourself and mumble something during the Gospel. What was that all about?"
I couldn't figure out what she was talking about at first. It took several moments of her miming an interpretation of what I looked like at the beginning of the Gospel for me to understand what she was referring to.
When the priest said, "A reading from the Gospel of Mark" I made a tiny cross with my thumb over my forehead, my lips and my heart. The mumbling she heard was a prayer I learned in 5th grade to go along with the motion I learned that same day:
"Lord, be ever on my mind, on my lips, and in my heart."
During the Gospel, we are hearing the Word of God. We, as Catholics, should strive always to keep His Word in mind so that we may act charitably towards one another. We also wish to bear forth the Word of Christ to others, either through praise and thanksgiving, or through evangelization. Finally, above all, we wish to love Him with our whole heart by keeping His Word enclosed within.
Thus, the small crosses signifying His Gospel upon mind, lips and heart.
I've done it since learning it in 5th grade, and I've always assumed it's part of the proper movements of Mass. Kind of like "sit, stand, kneel, 'Amen,'" I thought this particular motion and prayer were part of the expected and "everybody knows you're supposed to do that" knowledge that goes along with being Catholic.
However, if you did not know this before, you do now! :)
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