We've all got one (or two!)... a person with whom any sort of interaction leaves us feeling like we want to punch a wall, scream into a pillow, or pray for a special sort of smiting that only God can occasion.
I kid, I kid. Sorta.
In all seriousness, though, even a simple act of greeting that person is a test of our charity. I know for myself, it's also a test of humility (and I've been known to fail that test, repeatedly, for years).
I've done a lot of reflection on this. Once again, those Sorrowful Mysteries haunted my meditations, and visions of Our Lady opening her heart to those who crucified her Son shamed my over-inflated ego. Now that I understand the "cold shoulder" and "angry silence" are the result of pride, I can no longer continue to rely on them. I need to break myself of these bitter habits if I fancy the idea of doing right by Jesus.
So I resolved to remain cheerful and say "Hello" despite the immense well of irritation that bubbled away beneath my calm exterior. And I was successful, but again, only "sorta."
What do I mean by that? Well, for starters, though I'd say "Hello" I wasn't exactly cheerful. It was almost a quick "Hi" just to get it over and done with so I could pat myself on the back and go "Good job, you did your civic duty!" On top of that, I'd also high-tail myself away from any further discourse as I doubted my own ability to remain civil for more than the reflecting two syllable response.
Not exactly the Christian way of acting like a loving person, huh?
I quickly realized that I couldn't just "go through the motions" of loving my enemy. I really had to reach for the Love of Christ in order to grow. So I relied on Our Lady. I looked to her for the example I needed and poof... I got my lightbulb moment in the form of a fleeting image.
Our Lady was standing at the foot of the Cross. No doubt she was agonizing in unison with her Beloved Son. However, upon His Death, as the soldier standing guard proclaimed that He was, in fact, the Son of God, her heart must have leapt in joy. Yes! Another soul has been touched by my Son. Another soul has seen the Light and will journey back to God!
This soldier who pierced the Side of Christ - we know him as St. Longinus - who promptly proclaimed the Truth of the Savior... would she have coldly shut him away from her heart while struggling against the crushing weight of desolation, loss and pain? Never. Our Lady rejoiced that another soul - so dear and loved by Jesus - was again on the road towards reconciliation.
Thus, if the Blessed Mother, even in such sorrow... even with every right to turn angrily away from those who killed her Son... if she was able to continue to open her heart joyfully towards these people, how can I do any less, especially when I have less reason to be angry, hurt or sorrowful?
So I thought on this some more. How could Mary rejoice in souls who had hurt her so? The answer was Jesus. She rejoiced because these enlighened souls were now going back towards Jesus, and that is Christ's singular desire - to have souls come back to Him. As always, the Blessed Mother leads me to my answer, and that answer is always "Jesus."
Jesus resides in every single human soul. Regardless of how wicked, evil or thoughtless they are, God's ruah- His life-breath- resides within their souls. Thus, in opening our hearts to even those who most hurt us, we open our hearts to Christ.
With that in mind, I've been much more successful in dealing with "enemies." I no longer view them as enemies so much as souls who need to feel the potential for reconciliation. Had the Blessed Mother turned her eyes coldly upon those centurians, would they have felt absolution possible? Would they have retained their faith in Jesus that Love could, in fact, triumph?
No. That is why we must follow Our Mother's example and open our hearts to everyone - joyfully - in the hopes that they, too, feel something of Christ's love. And if we still harbor some bitterness, at least do Christ the honor of greeting Him through the person He chose to create. If He deemed this person worthy of not only love, but love through death on a cross, who are we to deem them differently?
At the behest of my dear spiritual director, I will refrain from detailing my reasons for being miffed. May it suffice to say that I was a witness to a litany of travesties from which I was unable to extricate myself. Instead, I'll focus on the reasons my heart swelled with so much pride that I was sure it'd burst into a confetti of hugs for my dear CCD children.
In the midst of absolute chaos, my class remained a tranquil pond of calm. Instead of talking to their friends, calling out to other children across the aisle or thumbing through their cell phones, they recited their rosaries. Instead of slouching in their seats, pulling their hoodies over their heads or constantly excusing themselves to "use the bathroom," my angelic little cherubs knelt reverently, hats off and hair tidy, to acknowledge the One for whom the tabernacle light flickered.
On top of that, as we practiced songs that I knew they regarded as childish and stupid, they hung in the pocket and offered that mortification for whatever intention they deemed important.
Dearest Lord, You understood the grief I felt at such negligence before I had the occasion to experience it. In Your Wisdom and Mercy, You gifted me the most resplendent class as consolation. No teacher has been more blessed than I in that paradoxical moment. I cannot possibly express the depths of my gratitude for so extraordinary a grace. Bless those children in so gracious a way as to enable them to always feel such love for You. Bless them to spark in them the desire to witness in such a gentle, brave manner.
I thanked my class before they left for the night. I wanted them to understand my appreciation for how they acted. It took a lot of courage to go against the tide and do the right thing. I am beyond proud of them. I honestly pray that some of the other folks there took heed of their golden example.
To all my blogger friends... keep these kids in your prayers. May they always enjoy the protection of Our Lady. No doubt they made her smile brilliantly :)
Congratulations. It appears that you are reading this. That can only mean one thing... the world did not come to a fiery end in a blaze of God's anger on account of this new translation being an affront of all things holy and good.
With all the back and forth regarding these new translations, you'd think they sky was falling and God was preparing to smite any of us who thought this was a good idea.
A friend of mine, seeing all the "hullabaloo" on Facebook and whatever RSS feeds she's attached to, asked what it was all about. She hasn't confirmed this yet, but I am fairly confident she picked up the confusion through a mutual friend of ours. He's of the mindset that these translations are horrible, the Church is horrible for attempting to institute them, and anyone who accepts them as valid simply doesn't understand how the Church works.
Anything that's aimed at refocusing, preserving and highlighting the sacred mysteries of our Mass is A-OK in my book. So far, that's my understanding and experience with these translations.
Take, for instance, "And with your spirit." Some folks are so irritated by that, and I still don't grasp why. I remember when we were first introduced to these changes, the gentleman explaining them was bombarded with questions like "How is that a response?" "Whose spirit?" "Isn't that the same as saying 'And also with you'?"
Unable to ferry the questions to their proper destination (not due to his own intelligence, mind you. The room had gotten a bit rowdy over these four words and side-chatter was implosive), he tabled the discussion until after we got through the Gloria. Poor guy never had a chance to cycle back...
Anyway, I wanted to prepare my CCD kids for the upcoming changes, and since this'd be the first line they'd encounter, I went with it.
"And with your spirit" is the response all other non-English speaking countries have been using... we're only now catching up. The spirit we refer to is the priest's spirit... but more concretely, the part of the priest's soul that Christ, Himself, dwells within upon marking that priest through Ordination. Christ is the spirit that animates the priest's soul and thus makes consecration possible.
(Some of you may remember my "Do Animals Have Souls?" entry... that deals very much with the above idea, so it might help to gloss that over for the biblical explanations of soul / spirit and how they are, in fact, separate from one another.)
That being explained, someone asked "Well, why would we wish peace to Jesus, then? Isn't He already Peace?"
Aside from being ridiculously proud that this young man understood that Jesus is the Fountain of all Peace, I explained it this way...
A mother is waiting up for her son until midnight. He's usually home by now, but she knows he stays out studying late sometimes. He called and said, "Hey Mom, I'm coming home in a few minutes, I promise." She's a little less worried, but still wants to be sure to see him walk through the door before resting. As soon as he comes into the house, she kisses him and, relieved, heads to bed.
The mother in the story understood that her son expected to reach home shortly and would likely make it home unhurt. However, the mother also understood that there are dangers in the world that sometimes cannot be accounted for... so until she saw him safe and home with her own eyes, she would not be able to rest properly.
This is true of Jesus, too. He knows that we all have our good intentions... that we all want to reach Heaven. We've all sent up our prayers which act as short phone calls to our Lord letting Him know we're thinking of Him and attempting to do right by Him. However, until we walk through those Church doors into His Home, He worries for us. He understands the evil and temptations of the world and He longs to have us near Him. Thus, upon responding in this fashion, we do bring Jesus peace. We bring Him the peace of knowing that our souls are yearning for Him... that our souls are trying to get back to Him as best we know how.
Another hand shot up. "Yeah, but if Jesus knows everything, wouldn't He already know that we wanna get to Heaven?"
I smiled. That whole "God knows everything, so what's the point?" sentiment is a very typical one... even among sixth graders.
So again, I explained it with a story.
Two girls grew up next door to one another. They were best of friends from kindergarten straight through until 8th grade. In 8th grade, however, one girl moved away and attended a different high school. Sure, they wrote to each other now and again, and they'd call each other once in a while, but pretty soon, one girl stopped calling or writing. The other friend was really sad, but she knew her friend still cared about her. She knew they would eventually have time to talk and hang out like they used to when summer rolled around. Even though she knew that, it still hurt her feelings not hearing from her best friend. It still made her feel kinda rotten when she'd be missing her old friend and her old friend was doing other things.
So I asked the class, "What, then, should the friend who moved away do?"
All of them agreed that she should try to see her best friend more often. I questioned, "Why? They'll be able to hang out over the summer, right? Why is it important to see each other a few times during the school year?"
I could see some lightbulbs going off. They were understanding.
"Because it'd make the other girl happy to see her best friend. She wouldn't miss her as much and she'd still feel like she was loved."
For the holdouts, I explained:
We are like that best friend who moved away. We left Heaven to come to Earth for a while. Jesus misses us terribly, though, and wants to see us. Coming to Mass is our way of showing Him we care. Coming to Mass is our way to see Him! We're all friends of Jesus, right? So imagine how happy He must be when we come into His House to visit Him! Imagine how much peace and joy fills His Heart!
I really hope they took something from that and kept their ears perked up for it. I know by the 3rd recitation of this particular response, folks were grinning as they let the words become familiar to their lips. I hope my children did more than grin. I hope they truly wished Jesus peace as they felt happiness at sharing their souls with their Best Friend. :)
I hope everyone's Thanksgiving holiday was full of laughter, love and memories. Mine certainly was. Unfortunately, it was also colored with a bit of red on account of me darn near slicing two of my fingers off before lunchtime. Ha ha.
I'm well, and my fingers are feeling much better after a few days' rest. I'll be catching up on my blogging tomorrow. Typing one-handed is not fun... at all. Ha.
Talk to you tomorrow!
First things first - I found this letter while attempting to locate a graphic for today's entry. Upon reading it, I was forced to simply meditate on it for a few moments. I couldn't do anything else!
How humbling... how painful. The truth of those words weighs heavily on me. They should weigh heavily on all who acknowledge their part in the Church of North America. I wanted to share it with you because of how much it touched my very core.
Anyway, onwards to my original topic - Thank You Letters to Jesus!
Last night for class, I had my students write Thank You cards to Jesus. I requested that they express gratitude for at least five things they are thankful for this season. Before they began, I had them do a brief exercise. The exercise was as follows:
Close your eyes and think of the Blessed Mother. Really picture her in your mind. What is she wearing? Where is she? Is she standing, sitting, kneeling? What is around her? Has Jesus already been born, is she pregnant, or is she a young girl in the Temple?
Now that you have her image, imagine that she is writing a Thank You letter to God. What do you think she'd thank Him for?
Upon opening their eyes, I had them begin. Their ideas, so innocent and sincere, astounded me. Everyone was generally thankful for the basics: family, friends, food, homes, etc. There were some gems, however. One kid was thankful for his ability to play soccer because he was able to meet friends that way. Another was thankful for his grandmother's illness because it gave her a chance to say goodbye to her. Still another was thankful for being able to share things with siblings ("even though they're really bad and annoying sometimes" - ha!).
I can't wait to read through the rest of them. For homework, they'll be reading their Thank You Letters at Thanksgiving (as well as choosing a prayer for Grace). I'll collect them during our next class. Oh, my heart swelled with so much pride and love for them. :) In my own letter, I thanked Jesus for my awesome class. Really... they are fabulous. :)
As promised, here's the entry I alluded to yesterday. All I can say is - thank God for Google.
Sorry again for the fuzziness, but the detail to your right is from a painting I posted yesterday by an artist known as "Master of Wilten." The painting depicts the Presentation of the young Blessed Mother.
Curiously, these two animals seem to be a secondary focus of the painting in the central foreground. This struck me as odd, so I did a cursory search thinking I'd find a quick explanation of their significance. No dice.
I located the artist of the original painting and, of course, he's anonymous, himself. He is presently known only as "Master of Wilten" and lived in the 15th century. Nothing more is known about him other than the paintings he left behind in his workshop detailing scenes from Our Lady's life. Go figure.
So back to the painting I went. At first, I thought the two animals were a dog and a lamb (especially considering the latter's elongated muzzle and white coloring). However, the tail of the supposed "lamb" extends much longer than any lamb I've seen. That tossed "lamb" out the window. So I looked up the possible symbolism of dogs at the Presentation of Our Lady. The only recurring reference was that these two animals were "Barocci's cat" and "Bassano's dog."
That didn't sit comfortably with me since neither looked like a cat. Dutifully, however, I researched both Barocci and Bassano in the hopes that I could glean what their chosen symbols represented.
Federico Barocci, it turns out, just really loved cats. No symbolism there. He'd sneak one into most of his paintings, which is why any cat cropping up in random works of art became known as "Barocci's cat." This reminds me of Trigun's cat, but hey... that's a whole different story.
Jacopo Bassano was similarly inclined towards dogs, but upon further research, I learned that dogs were associated with fidelity and contemplation. What's more, two dogs quarreling sometimes signified dueling theologians (kinda like Plato and Aristotle pointing up vs. down).
Ah ha! Another piece of the puzzle falls into place.
Just to be on the safe side, however, I tried to find out if these two artists had any sort of feud. No such luck. I also did a quick search to see if either had been tutored by the same guy. Also no luck, though I did note that, while Bassano studied under an artist by the name of Titian (who also enjoyed painting dogs), Barocci trained a pupil who had the same name as one of Bassano's sons. I couldn't locate proof that the two men were, in fact, the same person (since Giovanni's last name, Battista, was ridiculously common at the time), but it was still interesting enough for me to note.
However, since I was burning rubber through search engines quicker than the ever-balding tires of the General Lee, I shifted gears and did a Bible search for the word "dog." I wanted to find biblical references to the animal in the hopes of gaining some insight into its literary value.
Apparently dogs are mentioned in several places throughout the Bible! Go figure.
These Old Testament dogs were called "pariahs." Guess who went and googled "pariah dog" with impressive results? *Grin*
That's right! Pariah dogs look EXACTLY like the one portrayed in the above painting! This wasn't just ANY dog... this was a pariah!!! So I went and did some research on pariah dogs. It turns out pariahs were associated with evil in the Old Testament because of their savage and wild behavior.
So with half the puzzle making sense, I decided to figure out if the other dog's breed held symbolism. I started with what I thought the dog looked like - a toy poodle. I cycled through the history of how poodles came to be bred into their "teacup" sizes so wealthy Englishwomen would be able to carry them around as personal hand-warmers (I wish I were kidding). This article mentioned, however, that these pups didn't really begin to be "bred smaller" until the 1600s. That's a good 150 or so years after the puppy in question was painted. That ruled out poodles.
So I went back to the drawing board and did an image search for "toy dogs." One of the first pooches to grace my screen once again looked like the subject of my confusion - a bichon frise! Immediately, I began delving into this breed and learned they are, in fact, descendants of poodles and are valued for their natural loving temperament and keen intelligence.
Armed with this new information, I once again cycled back to the painting. The bichon is engaged with the pariah, but from their stance, the bichon clearly has the upper hand. Thus, I concluded that these two animals were symbolic of the fight between good and evil, with the "good" clearly outmatching the "bad."
I was still slightly confused as to the prominence of these bickering animals. Instead of focusing on Our Lady, everyone (even St. Anne!) seems to be paying attention to the quarreling dogs. The Blessed Mother, for her part, also is casting an eye back to them!
I admit to being puzzled, but then I realized my error. Little Mary is at the center of the painting. Though she is caught between the Temple and her people, she is ever-moving towards the Holy of Holies. She does not turn a blind eye to the struggles we on Earth endure. Instead, she acts as our mediary (Mary, Mediatrix!), always calling us to follow her lead and walk towards God. In the end, good will triumph, and Mary's entrance into the Temple... Mary's acceptance of God's Divine Proposal... Mary's perfection which already embodies God before His willing Incarnation... all of that brings to pass the promises made by God to Adam and Eve upon their expulsion from Eden. A woman would come who would, indeed, bear forth a child that would forever strike at the head of sin. Through her, all Life would spring forth, and all Life would return back into the Hands of its Creator.
Ah, the mysteries of Mary!
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast marks the fulfillment of the promise made to God by Sts. Joachim and Anne upon learning they were blessed with a child. At the age of three, little Mary was to be consecrated to God in the service of the Temple.
No doubt, when she hit 3 years of age, Sts. Joachim and Anne led her to the Temple, awash in feelings of both gratitude and sadness. I can't even begin to fathom how bittersweet that moment must have been.
I like the painting to the right because it shows St. Anne walking her daughter, Mary, up the steps of the Temple. Family and friends, having gathered in celebration to wish her well, look on from the foreground. You can see by the folds in her veil that little Mary was already looking up towards those priests who would act as her guardians and teachers in the coming years. Oh, St. Anne... how did your heart break with pride and love? How did you manage to walk up those steps to hand over your daughter who only spent three short years in your arms? Truly you understood the gift God granted you, and truly you are an example of what it means to take part in Divine Providence.
God granted this special child to you... but you understood she was not only yours to love. She was not only yours to see the face of God through. So humbly, painfully... proudly... you took her by the hand and without complaint watched as your heart walked into the Temple to remain there. What a selfless example of gratitude.
This final painting makes me smile. I wish I could've found a clearer version for you, but this will have to suffice. In the foreground, we see Sts. Joachim and Anne, as well as family and friends who have gathered to see her off. She's going up the "15 steps" which signify her ascent to God's throne (the Holy of Holies in which the Ark of the Covenant rests). This is Our Lady's wedding celebration to God... it is in this ceremony that she accepts His Proposal and willingly submits to His Divine Will for all eternity. Our Lady is seen entranced, expectant for the Lord she knows is beckoning her to Himself. She doesn't turn back to cast a glance behind her. She willingly leaves everything behind in order to follow His Call.
Interestingly, I couldn't figure out what the two animals were in the foreground. I did a bit of research and will dedicate my next blog to my findings. :)
Anyway... for more information on The Presentation, feel free to take a look at this excerpt from the Venerable Mary of Agreda's The Mystical City of God.
I can't believe I had forgotten it was the last Sunday I'd get to pray the "old" Mass. I didn't realize it until after I'd come home to the online banter of folks lamenting their as-yet-untested "new" missals. Sheesh. I realize that change does funny things to folks, but really? I'm surprised by the backlash some are whipping out against these translations.
It seems there are two groups of us. On the one hand, there are those who are super angry about every change and are loathe to pick up a new missal because it may burn off their hands. On the other, there are those who are only too happy to "toss the old aside because it was never really all that good to begin with."
I'm serious. I get that super-traditionalists have always felt a bit... cheated... post Vatican II. However, I don't believe that the Mass after Vatican II was somehow turned into fool's gold, forcing us to endure lackluster worship for the last few decades.
I also don't believe that our celebration of Mass is all that it should / could be, and it does have a lot to do with the effects of Vatican II.
It is my hope that these new translations focus our attention on the awesomeness of all God's mysteries. It's also my hope that these new prayers force us to re-examine our faith system and ask questions about doctrines that have heretofore been ignored, misunderstood, or unknown. Finally, it is my hope that this reinvigorated thrust to pay proper respect and honor to God through our most prized prayer, the Mass, serves as the catalyst to rekindle our fire of evangelization.
After all, in relearning these prayers, we must examine the meanings behind them. In teaching these new words to our children, we must understand them ourselves. In understanding these words and prayers, we come to find a deeper connection to their mysteries, and in finding that connection, shouldn't we wish to share such love and knowledge with others?
Oh, I certainly pray that is the end result of this set of changes. So while I'm not exactly looking forward to bumbling my way through the prayers over the coming weeks, I am VERY excited about the potential for revitalization. I really, really am.
Cool it with the Medjugorje haterade, people!
Geez! You'd think after the countless times children have been attacked for "stupidity" or "imagination" only to be later vindicated folks would be a little more willing to hold their tongues on condemning!
I saw some super-angry commentary over at a blog I love and respect. Folks were only too happy to condemn Medjugorje as "the work of satan" or "people looking to get rich."
How heartbreaking that we have become so jaded as to ignore the spiritual fruits blossoming there...
I'm all for taking time to delve into reported messages to question their validity. I'm all for eyeballing the visionaries under a microscope for even the faintest sliver of dishonesty. Above all, I'm in full support of making a decision - for yourself - on the truth of ANY supposed apparition.
What I am NOT okay with, however, is this suspicious attack on everything pertaining to Medjugorje. It seems as if folks are refusing to even discuss the possibility that Our Lady would come to us in such a manner. In fact, one of my least favorite arguments against Medjugorje is that Our Lady "prayed the Our Father" with the children. Of course, this was one of the first "SEE? Medjugorje HAS to be a fake!!!" Apparently the Blessed Mother reciting the Our Father is simply blasphemous. He was angry because Mary never had any trespasses to be forgiven, nor does she need "daily bread" since she's in Heaven. Obviously, for the Blessed Mother to utter such a prayer, Satan must be behind it!!!
I guess this guy (and all others who subscribe to this belief) forgets that Jesus, Himself, gave us that prayer. Would this fellow like to explain to me the trespasses Our Lord was guilty of? What "daily bread" was He in need of?
What people tend to forget is Our Lady, much like Christ, comes to us as an example of how we are to live our lives. A large part of our lives should be prayer, and what better example of prayer do we have than Our Lady? Her entire life was (and is) a prayer, magnifying her God in so perfect a way as to please Him eternally. Thus, if Our Lady prays the Our Father, calling us to follow her example, who are we to turn away?
Plus, Our Lady is full of humility - even in Heaven, she knows she would not exist if not for the Love of God. Thus, her "daily bread" is very much His Love, is it not?
And let us not forget that both Our Lord and Our Lady died. They BOTH suffered the effects of sin not because they were guilty of sin themselves. On the contrary... both were sinless from conception (or incarnation) until death. She understood that death was God's means to reunite humanity to Himself. Through death, eternal life once again becomes our inheritance. Thus, Our Lady followed the same path of Her Perfect Son, that she may offer even her death for the salvation of sinners.
Again... Mary is our perfect example.
We all need God. Yes, even the Mother of God. If the Queen of Heaven humbles herself to acknowledge this... to follow every example He gives, who are we to arrogantly place ourselves above her?
That is, by far, my least favorite argument against Medjugorje. It just doesn't make any sense. None. Of COURSE Our Lady would pray the Our Father... as should we all.
She was in the Church, standing before the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, heartbroken. In her hands, she carried a beautiful red rose perched precariously in a cracked, though ornate, vase. She openly wept, oblivious to the others milling about in awkward silence.
Finally, a gentle old woman, Rita, moved towards her, hoping to find the source of such heavy grief. Softly, the older woman placed her hand upon the crumpled body of the younger and asked, "Why are you crying?"
Looking up, almost confused by the question, she answered, "My tears humbly go where my words dare not." Bowing her head again, the tears fell full and fast.
Not content to leave such a gaping wound with no salve, Rita eyed the chipped vase cupped in those trembling hands. "Such a beautiful flower," she whispered.
"I broke it. The Blessed Mother gave it to me and I broke it."
Rita thought for a moment. "You haven't broken the flower, dear."
"No, but I broke its vase. It's leaking, and the rose is already starting to brown. I've pieced it back together so many times, but the cracks are too deep, the shards too many. All I can do is watch it die. So here I am, begging God to perform a miracle."
Rita smiled, then. The chapel florist, she knew a thing or two about flowers and vases. She affirmed, "Your flower truly is a gift. It is unique and special beyond compare. I believe Our Lady entrusted this to you because she knew the goodness of your heart. She knew you'd protect this rose, and she knew you'd come to God if ever you felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of nurturing such a special gift. And here you are."
"Yes. Here I am, still with a broken, bleeding vase."
"Ah, but here I am, too! You don't need a miracle; you need a remedy. I believe that I am your remedy. The gift is yours, and you've done well to nurture it all this time. Sometimes, however, we need help protecting those things most dear to us, even when we think the responsibility is solely ours. I can help with this."
Rita then pulled a handkerchief from her pocket. After dampening the cloth in a font, she gently removed the rose from its crippled vase. With deft fingers, she wound her cloth around the stem. She said, "This will keep your rose well guarded while you choose a new vase. It should be simple and strong. An ornate vase has too many parts that chip and fall away, and it detracts from the humble beauty of the flower itself."
Then, while handing the flower back to her, Rita added, "Showcase this rose for what it is... not for what you think it ought to be."
Grateful, the young woman nodded her head, dried her tears, and hurried to find a simple vase, having left the broken one at the Feet of the Lord. He and Saint Rita smiled gently after her.
The lady you see to your left is Sister Helen Prejean of Dead Man Walking fame. A Roman Catholic sister of the Congregation of St. Joseph, she's a vocal advocate for ending the Death Penalty.
I came across a news article that stated Sr. Helen "officated" the wedding ceremony of Eva Amurri and Kyle Martino. Amurri is the daughter of actress Susan Sarandon who portrayed Sr. Helen in the movie Dead Man Walking.
At first I was irritated beyond belief to be hearing about a sister yet AGAIN overstepping the boundaries of her ministry. She is NOT a priest, and thus should NOT be officiating any sort of wedding (within the Church or outside the Church).
That being said, I quickly remembered that the Sacrament of Marriage does not need a priest in order to occur. The ministers of marriage are the man and wife, themselves. A priest is not necessary, but strongly encouraged. The man and woman (supposing both are baptized) are the only ones capable of providing the "external signs" of the Sacrament (vows).
So while I'm still not happy to hear about a sister taking part in a ceremony like this, I truly believe that hers is a unique case. She is obviously very close to the family and has made a strong, spiritual impact on Sarandons. It is my hope that the newly-wed couple continues to build onto that foundation and seek the culmination of that faith within the Catholic Church that Sister Helen, herself, is a professed part.
With all the talk of redemptive suffering I've encouraged amongst my CCD kids, you'd think I wouldn't have to keep repeating this to myself. Unfortunately, knowing the truth of those words and accepting the truth of those words are two VERY different things.Three years ago, I was involved in a car accident (on election night, actually). I was rear-ended by a young driver who was watching another car accident across the road. He didn't see me stopped in front of him, and never had a chance to break until his front end was in my trunk.
Anyway, as a result of that, I've suffered from a herniated disc in my lower back. It is incredibly painful at times. Most times, actually, especially when you're a mom attempting to chase down your super active toddler who is bigger than kids twice his age. My pregnancy was difficult (I got pregnant about a month and a half after the accident), and lugging around a baby, in a car seat, plus diaper bags, toys, etc for the first year didn't help matters.
Bathing, changing diapers, picking him up and moving him from place to place (car seat to shopping cart, floor to high chair, ground to stroller, etc, etc, etc) are all extremely taxing on my back. Even simple things like throwing him up into the air, letting him "superman" on my legs, or picking him up so he's able to reach a basketball net are painful gestures. Bathing is still the absolute worst, and only gets worse as he gets bigger.
Anyway, I had to stop going to the chiropractor about a year ago because finances got tight. Insurance refused to pay out since I was "as good as it gets" and litigation won't finish for God only knows how long with the guy who smashed into me. I'm basically on my own for pain management, and over the last few months, I've become increasingly aware of the fact that I simply cannot manage anymore.
I've put pressure on the lawyer to get things wrapped up faster so the insurance company is forced to begin paying for treatments again. Since they request up-to-date check-ins with doctors, I've had to begin going again. Yesterday was the first time I'd seen the orthopedist since I was pregnant. He went over my charts and asked me questions. He did a quick battery of tests and announced that there was simply nothing that could be done for me short of invasive surgery. He also openly doubted that I'd be able to get insurance to pay for any of it due to the time-lapse. He also informed me that the defense lawyer's doctor was attempting to blame the disc herniation on a lumbar puncture I had received prior to the accident (I was tested for meningitis).
I asked if that was even REMOTELY possible and he laughed it off saying, "Dear God, no. Not even a little bit. But that doesn't stop lawyers from convincing people who don't know any better otherwise."
I was absolutely deflated. Any hope of finding relief from this incessant (and increasingly problematic) pain went up in flames. The doctor could tell I was upset, so he quickly left the room so I could compose myself in peace. I hate making folks feel uncomfortable, so I made a rather quick exit, myself, and attempting the consolation dance in the privacy of my car.
I immediately dove head-first into the pool of misery I created for myself. I felt guilt for not being an "unbroken mom" who could happily toss Vince into the air a million times. I felt shame for relying on John to get Vince out of the car or lifting him into his high chair when I simply cannot. I felt overwhelmed by the thought of enduring this pain - as it worsens - for the rest of my life. Future pregnancies and children... could I handle them? Or would I be even more broken by the time they came into the world? Guilt doubled over my lack of parenting for children who didn't even exist yet!
Then a thought occurred to me. Jesus must've felt WAY more freaked out than I did at the knowledge of what He was going to be experiencing. Torture and crucifixion are way worse than any amount of this back pain, and yet He accepted it without a word of complaint to His Apostles. He understood it was meant for salvation. My guardian angel must've been the one to whisper "It's redemptive suffering" into my ear, because I was hit with the realization that pain, too, is a blessing if only we open our hearts to its merit.
So I forced myself to stop crying... to ignore the thoughts of self-pity from my mind. I succeeded in refusing to feel sorry for myself, but I didn't quite accept that the pain was redemptive. I couldn't open my heart to that just then. I'm simply not mature enough spiritually, I guess.
I prayed. I'm driving down 295 just praying that Jesus will open my heart to the merits of such pain. Knowing I'm a logical little bugger, I think the Holy Spirit was kind enough to show me the humility I've gained in suffering through this debilitating injury. Ever-independent, I've prided myself in "not needing anyone." Now, however, I willingly acknowledge my inability to do even basic things. This humility, I realized, hasn't just effected things like asking John to help with the baby... the humility I gained from this injury (and continue to gain) is probably what opened my heart to "reversion" in the first place. I'm not all-powerful. I'm not so arrogant as to think I can handle everything and anything on my own. Such a realization is a death knoll for Pride, and though that vice still has its claws dug into me, its grip is slipping.
Now I'm not claiming that this epiphany has somehow lifted my desire to complain, self-pity or get angry at how "unfair" things are... I no doubt will fall into that countless more times. It is important to recognize, however, that there is truth to the blessing of redemptive suffering. I think God granted me this reminder so vividly because of all the discussion we've had in class. Plus, He probably realized I was getting a little too whiny and needed to knock me down a peg or two (okay, more like 20).
In conclusion, I am blessed to have a Father so kind as to remind me of the lessons I seek to teach others. In the process of making me a better teacher, He makes me a better person. :)
So I turned on the radio this morning for the first time in months. I had accidentally left my iPod at work charging, and I'd finished off my collection of CDs. Since I was sitting in traffic for the next 20 minutes, I thought, "Why not?"
Within seconds, I remembered.
The first station I turned on was an old favorite. My mother used to listen to it (probably still does) on the way to and from work in the mornings. It's a "soft-rock" station that is supposedly family friendly.
Well, one of the hosts was offering "parenting advice" and I cannot stress enough how horrible it was. He was complaining that his daughter never listened to him or his wife (regarding getting up in the mornings for school) and that it'd been on-going for months. A caller chimed in that she, too, had difficulties getting her child out of bed and into school on-time... so much so that a truancy officer had to step in.
HOW DOES IT GET THAT FAR?! I can make a pretty good guess considering the "advice" this host was freely giving (and he was the one with the 'problem child' to boot). *Face palm*
So I skipped over to an old stand-by of mine. It's more akin to edgier, alternative music than the first. Unfortunately, they, too, had their morning show going and the host was interviewing a young musician. The first quote I heard when I shifted stations was "Ew. Children are disgusting. Why would anyone EVER want to have them? They're awful."
I was dumbfounded for a quick second which is how I learned he was interviewing a younger musician who confusedly asked, "Where is this conversation going?"
I didn't stick around to find out. I swapped out to the third preset on my radio and hit commercials.
That's it - I'm done. I yet again am reminded why I'm part of a Religious CD of the Month Club and why I cling to my iPod. So long as I'm in control of what I listen to (and, in effect, what Vince listens to), I dont' have to worry about that sort of trash cluttering my airways.
True photo of an in-womb child.
_The below text is taken from Richard Wurmbrand's Tortured for Christ. For those of you who have not yet read this book, please avail yourselves to its contents here.
I've been thinking about this a lot recently. It's probably one of the most thought-provoking moments in his memoir (and he's got a LOT of those!). Ever since first reading it (several months ago), I've been unable to parray it from my mind for very long. It swooped in and enveloped my conscious again yesterday, when a friend asked me how I could possibly be sure there was an afterlife.
"Suppose that we could speak with an embryo in his mother's womb and that you would tell him that the embryonic life is only a short one after which follows a real, long life. What would the embryo answer? He would say just what you atheists answer to us, when we speak to you about paradise and hell. He would say that the life in the mother's womb is the only one and that everything else is religious foolishness. But if the embryo could think, he would say to himself, ‘Here arms grow on me. I do not need them. I cannot even stretch them. Why do they grow? Perhaps they grow for a future stage of my existence, in which I will have to work with them. Legs grow, but I have to keep them bent toward my chest. Why do they grow? Probably life in a large world follows, where I will have to walk. Eyes grow, although I am surrounded by perfect darkness and don't need them. Why do I have eyes? Probably a world with light and colors will follow.'
"So, if the embryo would reflect on his own development, he would know about a life outside of his mother's womb, without having seen it. It is the same with us. As long as we are young, we have vigor, but no mind to use it properly. When, with the years, we have grown in knowledge and wisdom, the hearse waits to take us to the grave. Why was it necessary to grow in a knowledge and wisdom that we can use no more? Why do arms, legs, and eyes grow on an embryo? It is for what follows. So it is with us here. We grow here in experience, knowledge, and wisdom for what follows. We are prepared to serve on a higher level that follows death."
This truly is a beautiful insight... an inspired insight. May it touch you as it has touched me.
_"The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral - a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby's body. The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God's creative miracle to bring new saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature; God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation... What on God's good earth is more glorious than this; to be a mother?"
--Joszef Cardinal Mindszenty
Just came across this quote today and wanted to share it with all of you. God bless Cardinal Mindszenty for such inspired musings. Women truly are blessed to have been called upon to reflect God in so intimate a way. Oh, that women come to once more understand the blessing such a calling is!
Today was AWESOME!
Our pastor, Father Piotr, was finally installed after a good year and a half organizing and merging our 3 parishes. What a blessing he is!
It was wonderful. I was happy with the amount of people who showed up to welcome him "officially" as our pastor. Bishop Galante spoke to us kindly about the role Father Piotr was to play as our shepherd, and our role as his parishioners. Just as we place our trust in him to guide us to Heaven, he places his trust in us that we will follow. Just as the shepherd gifts his sheep food, water, shelter, the sheep gift to their shepherd wool for warmth and their presence for comfort. We, too, must take part in such a reciprocal relationship.
It was lovely to see Father Piotr so happy. He was beaming, because I honestly believe he was happy to have everything official and recognized. I truly believe he was also touched by the crowd of folks who showed up for him, and I know he was grateful to have his family and friends there, too. I was so happy for him.
And as I walked back to my seat after Communion, I was teary-eyed for us, too. Father Piotr is such a blessing. We are truly lucky to have such a wonderful man as our pastor. I hope we all remember that - our priests are gifts... especially ones like Father Piotr. May we be blessed with countless more just like him. :)
I write this entry with both laughter and disbelief. A few months ago, some parishioners were grumbling about seating arrangements in the Church now that we've merged with three other congregations. I remember asking if something so petty was legitimate enough to actually be discussing during a ministry meeting. Folks were adamant that such a "problem" really existed and it needed to be addressed so folks felt validated.
I shook my head and simply removed myself from the conversation after I pointed out that such a bewildering "problem" wasn't a "problem" so much as a self-centered and childish act that had no place in a Church.
Anyway, I attended Mass today and slipped in slightly late (just as they were about to rise for Mass to start). So, trying to be as discreet as possible, I asked a gentleman to move into a row so I could slip into the pew. He very obviously didn't want to move for me, and actually eye-balled me for a quick minute. Then, after seeing I wasn't leaving, he begrudgingly slid over the few inches so I could take my seat.
I sat next to him for most of the Mass, feeling all of his anger bouncing off me. I was absolutely incredulous that I was sitting next to an adult who actually harbored resentment because of a seating arrangement. I'm still a little shocked. Anyway, just before the Creed, the Parish Council was asked to stand and make their way to the front of the Church for a blessing. I stood and walked up with my council members from the two pews ahead of me (which were filled) and accepted the blessing from Father. As I walked back and took my seat, the gentleman had averted his eyes in embarrassment.
See, he realized that I kinda "had" to take the seat he had inadvertently taken from me anyway (not paying attention to the "reserved" sign that was across the pew). I was supposed to be where he was, but because that was his "normal" spot, I guess he didn't care and felt folks should situate themselves around him. *Shakes head*
I absolutely cannot believe that.
Anyway, after the blessing, I simply moved towards the middle of the congregation (where I typically sit) and enjoyed focusing my attention away from such a childish person.
I still can't believe that folks can be so ridiculous when it comes to sitting in a pew at Church. He had the ENTIRE THING open. To move in a few inches caused THAT much of a problem for him? You simply have to be kidding me...
This is why I tend to sit in the middle of a pew when I enter a Church. I don't want to force folks to step over me, to wiggle around me, or to feel funny asking me to slide over for a family of four. I simply think ahead to the needs of others, and if the opportunity presents itself where I am able to slide over to share seating, I'm only too happy to thank the Lord for such a blessing.
Note to self: Go over pew ettiquette with the kids on Tuesday night... lol.
Jesus reminds me of my cousin here.
During a meeting the other night, someone was lamenting the fact that many parents of CCD students don't care about bringing their kids to Mass. It's not seen as something important. To an extent, I would have to agree. I don't understand it, myself. Parents who have been away from the Church for years suddenly rush back to demand baptisms for their children then aren't seen until Penance / Communion rolls around, etc.
Same for folks looking to get married. They don't attend Church for years, barely have a grasp of the faith, and don't really care one way or the other about it, but force their way into a parish in the hopes of obtaining a Nuptial Mass. Why?
Is it because there is a feeling of obligation? Is it a superstitious "just-in-case" comfort? Is it a nagging conscience that finally has a point based on tradition alone?
I really don't get it. But I digress...
Anyway, as folks began agreeing with her, adding their two cents to the "CCD parents kinda suck" fest, I pointed out that children could very well be the key to reversing the apathy of their parents.
For example, one of my students burst into class on Tuesday night, barely able to contain his pride at having completed his homework. What was their homework assignment? Well, for All Saints Day / All Souls Day, I required my children to not only say St. Gertrude the Great's Purgatory Prayer (found here), but teach it to their families.
One of my students took that and ran. He was so proud to relay that he was "a magisterium," and that he'd helped save some 6,000 souls... he simply couldn't wait to share it with everyone at class. It melted my heart and reminded me of the value of a child's enthusiasm.
After class, I spoke to his mother who told me exactly how he taught them, too. He explained the significance of the prayer, how St. Gertrude got it, and why it's important to pray for the dead. Then he repeated the prayer for them, had them repeat it back, then they all said it together as a family.
RIGHT?! C'mon and tell me your heart didn't just turn into a puddle in your shoes.
I think I was given that special blessing so I could share it with these understandably jaded parishioners at the meeting. While I surely understand their frustration, we can't simply complain about the parents. We need to reach out to the children and harness their natural love of God and their desire to do good. That good will rub off on their parents. We can encourage these children to find God in their daily lives. We can and we MUST plant those seeds for them, because who knows where those roots will end up reaching? Who knows what souls their flowering trees may end up shading? It's our job as teachers to do the best with the children we've got, regardless of the parental support (or non-support) we get. All we can do is sow the seeds of God's love and leave the rest to Him.
It's been a really rough couple of days. I've been feeling very deflated - depressed, even. A friend said, "You sound defeated." I replied, "That's a good word. That's a very good word."It's one I've used myself to describe this swamp I find myself in.
I understand that sometimes, we all enjoy wallowing in self-pity or some form of "I-suck-at-life" self-inflicted abuse, but I stumbled upon some information that felt like a sucker-punch to my gut. I've been bumbling around ever since and haven't been able to shake this absolute defeat I feel. Basically, it's like I'm constantly "waiting for the other shoe to drop" I guess. I dunno.
Last night, I couldn't stop torturing myself with various scenarios that inevitably led me into a deeper sense of self-loathing. I began impressing myself with inventive ways of concluding that I was a failure at everything I've ever attempted.
Then I realized something...
I was under attack. I was willfully allowing these whispers of satan to penetrate my heart and force my mind into a state of despair. Instead of being grateful for those blessings I'd been given, I was twisting them into loathsome atrocities. I was even creating impossible scenarios in my head that ONLY served to make me feel more crestfallen. Worst of all, instead of feeling able to release the grievances and offer them up for some greater purpose, I'd retreated so far into myself that I'd refused to entertain the idea that Jesus was able and willing to remove the burden.
Like I said... sometimes we just really like sitting in our own misery, and it dawned on me why. Misery loves company, and who could possibly be more miserable than satan? Mind you, I'm certainly not blaming my bout with depression on the devil, but I have no doubt that he plants little seeds in my mind that spring to life just in time to take advantage of the crappy situations I sometimes find myself in.
So, here I am. I'm still hurt, saddened and yes, even depressed, but I'm not despairing. I'm not going to continue fertilizing those little seeds of doubt and frustration. I'm going to simply offer that which I do have (and right now, I guess it's a whole lot of blah), and gift it to God in the hopes that He does something better with it than I could. At this point, it's all I can do.
News Photo of Our Lady of Zeitoun
I've always followed the stories of Fatima and Lourdes. Still follow the apparition accounts from Garaband From a young age, I was obsessed with the idea that Our Lady and Jesus still came back to earth to appear to lucky folks who were tasked with spreading their messages far and wide.
I also developed this desire to have apparitions, myself. I wanted to experience seeing Our Lady. My friend, Mary, and I would sit in front of a statue of the Child Jesus and swear His Eyes moved, or that His Hand twitched.
I remember one night, after seeing a documentary on Noah's Ark, I went to bed shaking in my boots because I was SURE God was going to appear to me. I cried into my pillow saying, "God, please don't come. I'm sorry. I'm scared to see You!"
I look back on that now and smile, shaking my head in disbelief at how my mind sometimes worked. I was probably in 3rd or 4th grade at the time, but my desire to (and fear of) seeing God hasn't really changed all that much. Ha ha ha.
The photo above was taken by a reporter for an Egyptian newspaper (still in business!) called Watani ("My Homeland"). For more information on that particular apparition, click the photo above. Turns out Our Lady has been appearing again in that part of the world in an apparent attempt to comfort the Coptics after a recent massacre they endured at the hands of their Muslim neighbors.
Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because I realized I harbored a jealousy towards those folks who have been bearing witness to these events. "How blessed are they!" I thought to myself. "How lucky to be able to have such concrete proof that God exists and is an active, willing participant in our lives!"
A thought then struck me, and I was both shamed and full of gratitude.
How blessed am I? THAT is the question I should have been cycling repeatedly in my mind. I never really needed to see an apparition of Christ (or His Mother) to accept His Presence. The Holy Spirit had opened my heart from a young age to simply accept God. I always felt His Presence. I always saw His Movements in my life. I never needed "physical confirmation" of my faith. And as He said to Thomas upon being prodded in disbelief, "Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." (John 20: 29).
In all reality, I am blessed. Such a gift I was given, and I've just been taking it for granted. So many other folks struggle deeply with their faith. I may have struggled with certain aspects of my faith, but I never had to contend with atheism (or agnosticism). Faith is a gift, and the ability to see (some) of His Actions in my life was also a gift.
So instead of harboring even slight jealousies of these visionaries, I should instead count myself as one of the blessed to be able to see Christ in a different, most intimate way.
And once more, special thanks to the Holy Spirit for such a kind revelation. :)
That snowball seemed so harmless...
See that snowball rolling down the hill? It's getting bigger and gaining ground - fast.
Our religious freedoms are being gutted, and increasing pressure is being placed on our shepherds to simply bow out to "modern logic."
This must've been how Jews felt when Rome decided to force itself upon their culture. Rome demanded sacrifice to Caesar, Rome stipulated who got to be high priest (and for how long), Rome decided which religious customs could be tolerated and which could not.
Welcome to Rome, my friends. We, too, are experiencing audacious governments that shamelessly criminalize religious beliefs and expression, establish laws effectively eliminating charitable missionary work (I'll give you two on this one), threaten the Sacramental foundation of our faith, and label us as traitors simply for defending our right to practice our religion freely.
There are those in our hierarchy who, much like the Sadducees of Jerusalem, are going along with these malicious and disgraceful persecutions (whether through silence or even direct disobedience). However, there are also many others (WDTPRS for starters) who are decrying this outright attack on religion. Catholics need to figure out which side they intend to stand on.
We're called the Church Militant for a reason - our job is not to remain silent. Our job is not to remain complacent and oblivious to the obvious signs of persecution our brothers and sisters are enduring throughout the world. We are the Church MILITANT. Our job is to actively fight this evil. Our call is to decry such indignation... to rise up and alert others to the injustice. Our mission is to bear forth the Truth, even in the face of political pressure and man-made law.
Our Archbishop said it best in his recent address at the University of Pennsylvania:
"... people have a right to bring their beliefs to bear on every social, economic, and political problem facing their community. For Christians, that’s not just a privilege. It’s not just a right. It’s a demand of the Gospel. Obviously, we have an obligation to respect the dignity of other people. We’re always bound to treat other people with charity and justice. But that good will can never be an excuse for our own silence.
Believers can’t be silent in public life and be faithful to Jesus Christ at the same time. Actively witnessing to our convictions and advancing what we believe about key moral issues in public life is not “coercion.” It’s honesty. It’s an act of truth-telling. It’s vital to the health of every democracy. And again, it’s also a duty—not only of our religious faith, but also of our citizenship."
We are called... COMMANDED... to bear forth the Truth, and as citizens of a democratic world, it is our DUTY to uphold so basic a right.
So again... we need to truly ask ourselves where we stand. As the Gospel from this week suggests, we need to take stock. Are we ready? Are you?
“Jesus, I hand You over all my concerns in this matter in confidence so that the problem is now Yours to resolve according to Your most Holy Will.”
Just came across this prayer (given to a visionary by Jesus, Himself) and fell in love with it. I said it, laughing, because I have no doubt Jesus fully expects us to hand over issues and forget about them. After all, He's the master puzzle-maker. That makes Him the master puzzle-solver, too. :)
I remember, as a child, my sister would get so frustrated attempting to undo a knot in her shoes. She'd basically hurl the shoe at our mother and say "Ugh, fix this!" and my Mom would quickly untie the laces. I sometimes catch myself doing the same thing with John. Instead of laces, though, it's typically jars of sauce, sippy cup lids, or new bottles of apple juice. I get so frustrated with my inability to open these things that I basically toss the confounded things at him with a disgusted, "Open this before I take a hammer to it!"
I always feel a mix of laughter and irritation at the ease in which he opens the things I toss at him. I laugh because I realize immediately how stupid my anger was, and I'm irritated because it seemed so dang easy for John to do after all the struggling I endured. Ah well. It would be good to remember that Jesus is capable of handling even the toughest of jars, and with a lot more efficiency than John. Ha. So in all honestly, I think I'll be keeping this prayer about me a lot more often. It certainly gives me peace of mind considering their source. :)
Oh, and I think I may have spoken of this title of Our Lady's before, but just in case, this painting is of Mary, Undoer of Knots. The example of my mom reminded me of this. Our Lady is also wonderful at patiently unraveling the knots we create for ourselves (or the knots we've been given by others). When in doubt, lay your lamentations at her feet, and rest assured she'll calmly unlace them in her expert hands.
Though not my favorite painting of Our Lady, the title and the imagery used is definitely a top 10 contender. :)
I've had Mumford & Sons "The Cave" on repeat in my mind since writing about it in "Secular Music as Prayer? Yes, Please." My title for today's entry is taken from the song.
When I first began listening to this song, Father Z kept popping into my head. For those who read WDTPRS (and for those who don't, I highly recommend it!) you know how often Fr. Z acknowledges his own humanity. He stresses the importance of Confession not only for the laity, but for EVERYONE, himself included. He's constantly acknowledging his faults and amazement at having been called to the priesthood.
So I guess this line brings that to mind. Priests know their calling despite their humanity. I, too, know mine now and despite my inability to always follow it, I'm going to keep reaching out to the Hand Christ always extends. And let me tell you... there are very definite fears surrounding that.
I wonder, then, about our priests. I have no doubt the attacks they must endure on the road towards ordination. The devil probably places such doubts into their minds. "What if this religion stuff really IS all made up? What if I'm throwing away my chance for a wife and children only to wake up one day and realize it's for nothing?" Then, when you couple those natural fears with the scandals, negativity towards Christianity, and the secular desire to stamp out anything religious, it's a miracle we have ANY priests.
And yet we do. We have great ones. We need to remind ourselves of this on a regular basis. Sure, there are bad apples here or there, but who are we to speak out against those chosen by Christ, Himself? Do we know what is written in their hearts? On their souls?
A friend of mine was (once again) decrying a priest in her parish. It was all I could do to hold my tongue. I don't know the priest in question very well, so I couldn't speak out against the allegations. Instead, I tried offering logical reasons as to why he was doing the things she took issue with. It was getting me nowhere. The best I could do was immediately change the subject, so I did. I started talking about my son abruptly because I wanted her to understand that I didn't approve of the direction she was taking our conversation, but I also didn't want to completely bust out my "reprimand stick" and shake it at her. She's an elder, so to do so would have been rude.
I dunno. It just really, really bothers me when folks talk negatively about priests. Again, who are we to judge when we're face down in the mud ourselves? All of us need a helping hand as we struggle onwards towards Heaven. Let's not go kicking others as we stumble our way through this life - especially not our priests who act most concretely as the Hand of God, pulling us up and away from sin through the Sacraments which would otherwise be impossible for us.
I adore this picture. That's Vince on His Lap!
Remember that post "Toddlers at Mass?" from a few weeks back? It was brought back to mind for me twice this weekend. Once at Mass, and again while reading some of comments on WDTPRS. I cannot shake the feeling that I'm doing the wrong thing by leaving Vince at home.
Every time I do bring him, though, I repeatedly chide myself for doing it. He's not horrible, but he is active enough that I cannot properly focus on the Mass and I end up feeling as though being there is worse than not going at all.
John calls it "Grandmom Time." You go because you are obligated, not because you are going to enjoy it. That's what I feel like at Mass with Vince. I'm there just to fulfill my obligation, not to spend any quality time with God, and that makes me feel horrific. What am I teaching Vince by that?
Then I wonder what I'm teaching him (or not teaching him!) by leaving him home with Daddy. Do I really think at the age of 5 he'll magically sit still and become a saintly little boy? Am I insane? I look at other parents manage their young children well enough, and I look at my own mother who somehow managed five of us hellions every Sunday, then I look at myself - unable to wrangle a 2 year old without feeling like a miserable waste of motherhood.
I don't know if I'm being overly hard on myself, overly hard on Vince, or maybe some combination. All I know is I dread Sunday Masses with him, but, at the same time, end up feeling like a failure for leaving him home. I dunno.
After a friend (who has a 3 month old, himself) asked me where Vince was this weekend after Mass, I cringed inside. Just another reminder that I'm being a bad Catholic mother in refusing to allow Vincent to Mass if I can help it. Then it hit me.
I thought back to what that wonderful monastic priest told me during Confession. He had said, "Raising this little boy should be your constant prayer life." All of the challenges, frustrations, and sacrifices can be offered up. So, in all honesty, I really should be bringing Vincent to Mass with me. Plus, he needs to begin learning how to sit still for longer stretches of time so when he DOES turn 5, maybe he CAN be the saintly little boy who understands when to sit, stand and kneel. Ha ha.
Coming upon this realization makes me both happy and nervous. I'm happy because I finally feel as though I know the "right" answer. I feel as though Jesus does, of course, want Vincent there, and attending Mass from so early an age will (hopefully) give him an appreciation of and reverence for the importance of such a gift. By the same token, I'm beyond nervous because I'm kind of dreading the "adjustment period" in which Vince learns the proper boundaries of behavior in a Church.
Oh Dear God... help me. LoL.
So I got the distinct pleasure of joining my friend and her mother for some wedding fun today!
I arrived in time to see her waltz out of the room in "the" dress. She had that familiar, dopey look on her face that screamed "I'm a princess! I'm a flippin' princess!" and I knew she'd found her gown.
She beat my record. The one you see to the right was the 3rd one I tried on. Theresa snagged hers in two. Of course, she cycled through a few more that day, but her mom and I knew... it was pointless. She was smitten with dress #2. And for good reason! She really did look fantastic. :)
All the excitement brought back memories of my own wedding. It's incredible how quickly time flies and how much changes in so short a span of time.
This picture of me? I'm leaving my mother's house and herding the bridesmaids into the limo-bus as quickly as possible. I couldn't wait to make my way into Jersey to get the ceremony started. I couldn't wait to marry my best friend. I couldn't wait to start that chapter of my life!
Here I am, four and a half years later, and I've still just begun. I've got a wonderful, perfect little boy who has made my world a million times more beautiful, and his daddy is the picture of awesome. I've been blessed in ways I doubt I could ever fully comprehend.
In fact, that was the only moment I cried the entire day. As I was presenting the flowers to the Blessed Mother, I couldn't contain my tears. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for having been given such a wonderful man. I had always asked for her intercession (and her mom's, Saint Anne) in this regard - I always prayed for a good, strong man to create a family with. They were kind enough to grant me that favor through John.
So even when we hit our rough patches, in the end I still know I've been blessed in countless ways with him.
This is what was running through my mind as Theresa was running through dresses. I prayed that she, too, would be able to look back on these moments and see how far she's come - grateful for the blessings and hopeful for the future they'd build together.
All in all, definitely a great day.
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