John, Vincent and I attended the surprise birthday party of a friend of ours this past weekend. It was really nice of Vincent to be invited, too. Several children were in attendance with Vince being the oldest (and most active!).
Unfortunately, John and I didn't know there would be a pool at the house. Had we known, we would've gone out of our way to find a babysitter. Vince, like every other child in the universe, can't be near a pool without wanting to dive in head-first.
It was still too chilly for a swim and we hadn't brought bathing suits anyway. That didn't stop Vincent for begging, bartering and pleading to go for a dip, though. When he realized John and I weren't going to budge, he placated himself by zipping around the edge of the pool, successfully giving John and I enough agita to last us the rest of our lives.
I had to put him into a time out for disobedience. He wouldn't stop running around the edge of the pool even though I'd asked him not to three times. So I stuck him in time out.
My friend, Leo, made a well-meaning comment. He said, "What's the worst that can happen? Skinned knee? Soaked pants? Just let him be."
Oh Leo. How I love Leo. He's a new parent, himself. He's got a little princess named Maggie who is about 8 months old. He hasn't had the pleasure of her testing boundaries yet. He hasn't tasted the anxiety of seeing her (in his mind) tumble head-first into an ice-cold swimming pool. He can't even imagine what that's like until she takes those first precarious steps into toddler-hood. It's all fun and games until your kid discovers how much fun dangerous situations are. LoL.
Anyway, Leo didn't realize that aside from me trying to teach Vince obedience (and actions having real consequences), I was also trying to prevent, specifically, soaked clothing. Most people don't like sitting in wet clothes, but for an SPD kid, that's akin to being water-boarded; it's torture.
Vince sometimes freaks out if he feels even a spot of wetness on his pants or shirt. Imagine, then, the freak out that would occur if ALL his clothes were soaked through and clinging to him.
Leo doesn't think it'd be a big deal, because to him, it wouldn't be a big deal. To Vincent, however, it'd be huge.
John was getting increasingly agitated, so instead of leaving, I took Vincent inside and away from the temptation. The poor kid was over-tired and frustrated by several things:
The fact that he hadn't had a nap that day (because the party started when he usually goes down) only added to his upset. After I had him sit and settle for 15 minutes to regroup, he was able to sit on the couch and watch a game being played without issue.
It's funny. I don't fault Leo at all for the comment he made. Several of our friends waved off my attempts at wrangling Vincent as overprotective. They didn't realize I wasn't worried about him bumping his knee or even going for a swim. I was aware of a bigger problem that would come should the latter accidentally happen.
My guess is that's how God feels sometimes. So often, I look at a situation and figure "Eh, this isn't really such a big deal" while God is shaking His Head and saying, "Gina, put down the extra slices of bacon. You don't think it's a big deal, but you've been eating like a glutton recently and are increasing your risk for heart attack. I want you to die saving orphans from a burning building, and you can't very well do that if you're dead of a bacon-induced heart attack."
God is able to see so much more than we can. He knows more than we do. He's experienced more than we have. So when He repeatedly throws up roadblocks to our own ideas of satisfaction, my guess is He has good reasons. Just as I had reasons that went beyond Leo's understanding, God has reasons that extend well beyond mine.
The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, located in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, was a beautiful slice of Heaven located a few miles from our resort. It took only 15 minutes or so to arrive by taxi, and my husband was kind enough to accompany me into town so I wouldn't be travelling around in Mexico by myself.
That's right, folks. My wonderful (and atheist) husband agreed to chaperone. Having him with me, I felt confident and comfortable. Thank God he's such a gem. I know Mass was the last thing he wanted to do (especially on our last morning in Mexico), but he came. God bless him, he came.
We arrived about 20 minutes before Mass which gave me ample time to snap a few photographs and pay attention to the pre-Mass cleaning and organization that happened in a flurry of volunteers.
In the sanctuary, an adorable sister swept the marble floor. She paid careful attention to the stairs and shooed away someone dropping palm strands unwittingly before the podium.
An older gentleman, his one arm bandaged tightly to his chest, was using his other arm to deftly maneuver a broom in and out of each pew, somehow navigating kneelers, feet and purses. The action must have been hard on his good arm and shoulder - even his lower back probably hurt from constantly stooping to get under the seats - but he did not seem to mind. He offered himself as custodian of the Lord's House, and I marveled at his quiet dedication.
Then there were ladies in dressed in red. Obviously part of a society of sorts (or maybe a hospitality committee), these women acted like an army of mother hens, hurriedly flitting back and forth through the entire church, ushering some folks to their seats, handing out copies of the readings, informing folks where they could go for palm, etc. It was like they were everywhere at once, working together as a well-oiled machine in anticipation of the swell of Palm Sunday worshippers.
Then there was Father Patrick. At least I'm about 99.9% sure it was Father Patrick. This thoroughly Irish priest stood out from the procession both for his fair complexion and his height. My husband chuckled with surprise and confusion at his presence. He and our friends wondered why they'd need to import an Irish priest given the country is thoroughly Catholic.
They failed to realize that tourists need Confession, too, and English is the best way to reach the majority of us. At least that was my guess. Not that it matters. A priest is a priest regardless of his country of origin, and Lord knows I'm always grateful for them wherever they are.
I had briefly connected with Father Patrick before travelling down to Mexico. My blogger-friend, Jacob Wall, kindly put us into contact when Jacob found out I was trying to plan for Mass while on vacation.
***As a complete aside, I must take a moment to publicly thank Jacob for his incredible help. Without his e-mails of reassurance and helpful pointers, I'm pretty sure I'd've stuck out like the sore thumb I am for more reasons than simply language. His guidance was instrumental in making me feel at ease leaving the resort to cross through town to get to this parish. I honestly cannot thank him enough for his willingness to patiently answer my questions. THANK YOU, JACOB!!!
Mass was exactly what I'd envisioned. There was a wonderful procession into the church led by Father Patrick in his alb and two young altar boys. A lone guitarist strummed simple (but beautiful) melodies that engaged the whole congregation. The readers were direct and humble, each being sure to pay respect to their God in the tabernacle with a genuflect or a reverent bow. Their attention to this often-forgotten reverence made my heart leap with joy.
One thing that surprised me, though, was the Gospel reading. As many of you know, the Passion Narrative is re-enacted by the priest, lector, and congregation. This re-enactment is a reminder to us that we, too, participated in the Crucifixion of Christ.
I retract that statement for correction. Instead, it should read "This re-enactment is a reminder to us that we, too, PARTICIPATE in the Crucifixion of Christ." After all, we participate each and every time we sin. Each sin is an echo of "Crucify Him!" Heaven forgive us.
As this narrative was being read, I noticed that no one in the congregation was reading their portion. Only I was (or it seemed that way to me). I can't speak fluent Spanish, but I can fluidly read the words printed in front of me, so I read our portion aloud only to realize I was the only one reading aloud in addition to the second lector.
I was confused. I wasn't sure if it was a cultural thing to not take part in the spoken liturgy beyond prescribed responses, or if the majority of parishioners were unable to read. I can't imagine it being the latter because it seemed like they were reading along, just not being vocal about it. Regardless, I kept pace with the reading figuring if I was wrong, the folks around me would chalk it up to my own ignorance at custom. At least I hoped they would.
The homily went well beyond my realm of understanding. The only portion I was able to catch was when Father Patrick explained that Christ did not come as a mighty conqueror. He came as a humble Man who died a terrible death on the Cross. He was not what the people were expecting their champion to be. Instead, He brought salvation in a way no one had foreseen. I'm very likely butchering even my weak paraphrasing of the snippet I think I understood, but it was enough of a reflection to keep me sustained through the rest of his homily. Maybe that's all God thought I needed to think on... especially given how arrogant I tend to be sometimes.
Christ didn't come as a warrior who violently clamped down on His enemies. He came as a gentle victim, offering Himself as a beacon that would lead us home.
Stay tuned for my next entry, dedicated to their artwork.
My proudest accomplishment in Mexico was my conversation with a friendly old landscaper. We went back and forth several times until I had to apologize (which I did in Spanish) for my rudimentary grasp of their language. He grinned so broadly and said, in English, "It is good you try!"
I had been so self-conscious until he extended appreciation for me trying. I realized how arrogant we are to always expect English, so offering even my butchered bit of Spanish was accepted as a gift. How kind of that gentleman to be so gracious.
Until that point, I'd sheepishly greet folks or excuse myself as I made my way around people in the resort. I knew how to say "Hi" and "Excuse me" but I felt silly for even attempting because my accent would be terrible or people would think I was trying to sound more worldly than I am.
After that conversation, though, the tiny bit of Spanish I retained from high school came out freely. I was even complimented by one kiosk worker (who was likely just trying to charm his way into my wallet, but I appreciated that particular compliment nonetheless).
That kindly gentleman freed me from my inhibitions and empowered me to use the knowledge I'd been given. What a blessing. :)
I can't help but imagine he's an example of how God views us. In our feeble attempts at honoring His graciousness, we stumble over ourselves, unsure of how to best communicate with Him. However, God does not frown at us for our weakness in this; instead, He smiles broadly and appreciates the effort. Just as a parent appreciates the torn up weed bouquet clutched in their child's fist, so too does God appreciate even our smallest efforts to return to Him the love He so graciously gifts.
These are my in-laws. I love them both. Ridiculous amounts. I always have. I've always respected their love for each other and their family. I've learned a lot about marriage just from watching them interact. I've learned a lot about John that way, too, let me tell ya. He's got so many traits that he shares with his Dad that watching his mom interact with her husband has given me a few ideas how to go about interacting with John.
Anyway, given the incredibly emotional coaster this family has been on the last few weeks, I've been dying to see them and just hug them close. Natural circumstances prevented this, but when we DID finally see each other, I was so happy to just physically hug them. However, Dad wasn't too keen on any sort of emotional exchange. He was probably too drained from grieving Uncle Billy and worrying over his mother's rapidly declining health. Also, given his status as the leader of the family, he took upon himself the responsibility of shouldering the fear and anxiety of his brothers and sister.
Oh, how my heart breaks for him. He always takes on so much responsibility. But again, it's something I deeply respect him for. He goes out of his way to make things easier for his family, but at such personal sacrifice.
However, he doesn't like to let on that his strength wavers, too. Instead of reaching out, he'll vent in short, off-the-cuff ways. I want so much to help him, but I can't just say, "Dad, I love you. Punch the wall and yell at me if it'll make you feel better."
I'd love to, mind you, but I can't. He'd never let on that he's hurting, and I would never make things worse by letting on that I know.
But I still want to support him. So I'm supporting him the best way I know how - through his wife, my mother-in-law.
In the car on the way back from Uncle Billy's funeral, my FIL had to make a tough decision. My MIL said something that I pray will stick with me until my final days.
My FIL had to decide if he'd go away for a few days on business or if he'd stay behind in case Nanny passed away. He asked my MIL what she thought, and her response was beautiful. She basically said she would go wherever he decided because no matter what, she wanted to be with HIM when and if he got news about Nanny.
It was then that I realized I could support him by supporting her. She was, is and always will be, his rock. They are incredibly blessed to have found one another.
She knows her place is with him so that she can support him in any way that she can. She wants to be there, holding his hand, letting him cry, even letting him get mad at her so he could, in some tiny way, vent the torrent of emotion eating away at his heart.
I actually teared up when she said that. It was so loving... so perfect... that is what I want my response to be to John always. Whatever you decide, I will stand by you. I will be with you because that is where I need to be. I want you to know that you will always have me to lean on.
Such love. Such incredible, faithful love.
So I made it my personal mission to support him by supporting her. Since she'll be bearing the weight of the world in conjunction with him, I can lend my assistance to her. I might not be able to reach my FIL the way I'd like, but I can reach my MIL, and if she's a little less stressed and a little more rested, she can be a better support for him.
I love these two immensely. I really do. I wish I could do something to magically wave a wand and make life perfect again, but we all must endure this valley of tears. Thankfully, God gifted us families so we could walk this valley together and not alone.
"Turn then, oh Most Gracious Advocate, thine eyes of Mercy towards us, and after this, our Exile, show unto us the Blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus."
Please keep them in your prayers. Nanny, too.
Last night, John and I were watching the latest episode of HIMYM (again, if you don’t want spoilers, STOP READING THIS). I’ve always loved the characters of Marshall and Lily. For those of you who don’t know the show, Marshall and Lily are college sweethearts who consistently exemplify unconditional and sacrificial love. They really are the perfect example of what marriage should look like, and I love that the writers have always been dedicated to the success of that relationship.
I’ve always related to Lily’s character. She is a strong woman with very maternal instincts. She loves her husband deeply, adores children, is brutally honest when necessary, and is fiercely loyal to her friends. She's even a teacher! Lily is me with red hair and a much hotter body.
Anyway, in last night’s episode, we come to find out that Lily has been harboring a secret. I immediately said to John, “She’s pregnant!”
Turns out I was right. The way the writers allowed the story to unfold was beautiful. Marshall, upon learning he was going to be a Daddy again, rushed to Lily’s side and confronted her with the news. However, he didn’t confront her angrily. Instead, he was emotional – 120% caught up in anticipation, hope, joy, and above all, love. Love for Lily, love for his son, and love for the new life he and Lily had created.
And when Lily said she “just felt like” the baby was a girl, I was instantly a wreck. I chewed my lip to the point of bleeding trying to keep myself from openly sobbing in front of John, but he saw I was upset and came to sit next to me on the couch to hug me. He probably thought I was crying over Myla.
In truth, I sorta was, but my tears were lamenting more than miscarriage.
Marshall said something that stabbed my heart. The exchange came after a very emotional argument Marshall and Lily had regarding moving to Italy vs. staying in the States (pitting Lily’s dreams against Mashall’s dreams). Marshall selfishly wanted to stay in the States and made the decision without ever asking Lily’s input. Lily, rightly hurt by this, angrily demanded to know why her dreams weren’t considered as important as Marshall’s. The argument ends with Lily sacrificing her dream of Italy for the sake of the family she loves, and Marshall apologizing for allowing his selfishness to come before his love for her.
However, upon learning that Lily is carrying their 2nd child, Marshall exclaims:
“Lily, we have to [go to Italy]! You’re gonna live in Rome, and you’re gonna get your dream because you’re giving me mine, again.”
Cue tear cascade.
Lily had already given up her dream of Italy to support her husband and their (now growing) family. That was a very, VERY difficult thing for her and she knew she’d wrestle with that baggage for the rest of her life. But she did it. Why? Because she loves Marshall and their family enough to sacrifice of herself.
And in that instance, Marshall realized his erroneous thinking. The whole season, he was focused solely on how he could convince Lily to make the sacrifice because his dream was, selfishly, what he wanted.
Until news of the baby. News of the baby's existence caused Marshall to instantly realize his priorities were skewed. A judgeship was not his dream. It’d be a nice goal to reach, but Marshall’s dream was, and always has been, to have a big family, the same as he’d grown up surrounded by. Family is Marshall’s true dream, and he recognized that Lily had known (and been working towards) this all along. Lily had always sacrificed for their shared dream of family, while Marshall simply enjoyed the fruits of that sacrifice.
Realizing this, he took responsibility for sacrificing. He wanted Lily to have the same opportunity to grasp her dreams because it’s what she’d always done for him. He loved her and their family to the point of sacrificing the biggest goal he’s ever set for himself: judgeship. He pushed his fear of leaving New York aside and trusted that his love for his family would be sufficient to weather the journey.
They are like the married couple in O. Henry’s story The Gift of the Magi. Lily willingly handed over her hair (Italy) and Marshall gave up his watch (the judgeship). Deep, personal sacrifices in both cases that were gift wrapped in love.
And Marshall only understood this lesson after rearranging his priorities into their proper order: Lily first, family second, self third. What caused the paradigm shift? News of the baby and his overabundance of love and excitement.
THAT is why my body rocked with sobs. Marshall’s response was what I’ve always envisioned for myself as a child – my future husband being just as excited and joyous as Marshall at news of a pregnancy… my future husband seeing these children as dreams come true. I had visions of him jumping up and down in the bathroom with me as two little pink lines surfaced from a plastic stick.
I cried because my husband was so diametrically opposed to Marshall in this.
There was no moment of joy when he learned of Myla. There was no realization that his priorities were misaligned. There was no moment of clarity in which he appreciated the terrible sacrifice I make on a daily basis so his dreams can be sought after. Instead, there was disgust, fear, annoyance and frustration.
How that wounds my heart.
My dream, from my very first memories, revolve solely around a family. Myla was, in many ways, my final chance at that family. So when I mourn for Myla, I fully understand that I’m mourning for her and all the other children I’ve been denied.
And I was angry. Frustrated. Jealous. Desperate. All because of a television series that showcased the response I long for but will never have. Not even with Vincent. On both counts, John’s first reaction was fear and annoyance. Disbelief.
Never love. Never joy.
And that is what absolutely kills me.
I felt so unappreciated that I free-fell into an intense depression. My mind wondered if John even loved me at all. How could someone who loves me simultaneously seem to hate me so much?
Do I think John hates me? Of course not. But in that moment, it felt that way. Maybe because I hated myself being in this situation. I don't know. It's easier for me to turn the upset feelings inward rather than outward.
Anyway, after the show finished, we watched a 30 minute comedy to lighten the mood. It worked well enough for John to think things were okay. I was sour, though. The self-loathing, anger, jealousy and despair were percolating in my mind the whole time. So instead of watching another show, I went to bed. Not that I was going to sleep. Lord knows I wouldn't be doing much sleeping. But at least I could shut myself off in the dark.
John came up after me. He grabbed me close in bed and snuggled there. He's a snuggler. I hate snuggling. Loathe it. It's okay for all of three seconds before I get annoyed and want my space back. However, I allowed it because I knew that was his way of trying to make me feel better. I knew he needed to feel like he was helping. Maybe that's all he thought he could do. After all, John responds to touch, so it makes sense why he'd think I would react the same.
Honestly, though, I wanted no parts of myself let alone any parts of him.
I'm terrible, aren't I?
Anyway (and really, Mom, if you're reading this, just go ahead and avert your eyes), I realized in that moment that I did need John. I needed to feel loved, because there was a part of me (the logical side?) that understood he loved me, but my heart was so full of hurt and grief that I couldn't feel it. I couldn't process that he could love me given the broken and hurting state I was in.
So I kissed John. I wanted him to kiss me back, to give me some tangible sign that he loved me. He dutifully kissed me, but laid back on his pillow. I pulled his face back to mine and whispered, "No. Make love to me."
I don't normally do that. I'm not the romantic type who whispers sweet nothings into dusky skies as my hair whips gracefully in a gentle breeze. But in that moment, I recognized the marital act of making love as the only balm to soothe the aching desolation in my heart. I needed my husband to love me. I needed him to physically, emotionally and spiritually LOVE me, and a few pecks on the cheek weren't going to cut it. Not when I was feeling so incredibly unloved.
That was the first time I've ever "needed" sex. I've enjoyed sex, sure. I've wanted sex, definitely. But I can't remember a time in which I urgently needed to give the fullness of myself and receive the fullness of my husband in the way that only married love can do. Sex isn't just some repetitive thrusting based solely on biology. That we, as a people, have turned it into so base a commodity is a travesty. Looking at sex as a means to better know and understand the love of my husband... it was eye-opening for me.
When the pain of loss seems too great to bear, and when the grief comes coursing in to crush the very breath from your lungs, fix your eyes on the Blessed Mother as she gazes upon her Son, gasping away His Life for love of us.
Allow the tears to come. Offer your tears together with hers... hers that shine like diamonds and are collected by the angels as tokens of mercy.
Accept the emptiness as it threatens to swallow you. Allow the weight of desolation to shatter your heart - your very soul - but do not despair.
For where God destroys, He creates. These mournful remains can thus rejoice and offer themselves as ready sacrifice for the new Life that comes in their place.
"I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you." Ez. 36:26
Blessed Mother, be my strength. I am having a really, really hard time accepting Myla's absence right now.
That television show... it was as if I was being pinned to a surgical table to have my heart sliced open by a scalpel.
But I see, I see. The tears wash away the clutter from my eyes, and the crushing grief just reminds me that I have something left to offer. It is yours... the pain and tears that echo softly your own. Tender Mother, hold her for me. Hold her and tell her all the things that I never got the chance to say. Allow her to be the delight of your Son since she could not be the delight of mine. Bring her often to see her Father so that He can tell her about the Daddy she left behind. Guide me daily with Vincent so that I can be worthy of meeting her one day.
Grief, folks. It still exists. Every day. Sometimes you're granted respite. Sometimes you're asked to experience it more keenly. But it's always there.
That is at it should be. There can be no grief if there is not, first, love. And love is forever.
And love, Myla Therese, is exactly what you were created by.
What started out as a fun picture to join the #AshTag movement quickly turned into a game of "Who can make who laugh harder with the most ridiculous face?"
All funny business aside, I'm really moved by how much my son understands about the Mass.
Tonight (we went to a late Mass), the lector got up for the first reading and Vincent said, "Now we're gonna hear the Holy Spirit!"
As we got into line for Ashes, Vincent mistakenly thought it was time for Communion. He kept asking, "Mommy, you gonna eat Jesus? Jesus is in the cracker, Mommy, and that's how He gets into you heart beat."
He said this as he trailed his finger from my mouth to my heart. Then he asked, "I get bigger, I can eat Jesus, too?"
I said, "That's right, Vincent. When you're bigger."
He said, "I four years old. I is bigger now?"
I said, "No, honey. Not yet."
He said, "That's okay. I still His best friend. He loves me. He in my heart beat, too. We all His friends (the congregation)!"
Ha ha. The people waiting in line were all smiling at him and pointing him out to the folks around them. I was so proud then, because I realized if he can understand the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, there's hope for the rest of us, right?
Such a necessary reminder for me. It really was.
I had the pleasure of receiving a copy of Walking With Jesus to Calvary: Stations of the Cross for Children. I got it in the mail early this year and have been waiting for Lent to roll around given the nature of the book.
Here we are!
The book is written by Angela M. Burrin and illustrated by Maria Cristina Lo Cascio. Truthfully, the illustrations are what drew me in to the story. Colorful, fluid and expressive, they told the story of the Stations in beautiful detail.
The writing ended up surprising me. At first, I was very put off by the "lengthy" paragraphs. Truthfully, I think this is because my expectation was that I'd be able to read it to Vincent. This book is not meant for toddlers. It's meant for older children - at least 1st grade and up. Once I made peace with that, I found the narrative grew on me.
I especially love how Burrin pays close attention to the Blessed Mother throughout the stations. Never is she far from her Son. She, too, is an active participant in His Passion, and Burrin does a wonderful job keeping this in focus for us. There are some passages that solicited heart-wrenching sadness for her. For this fact alone, this book has become my favorite Stations book for children.
Now for the content:
There is a brief Forward that explains what the Stations of the Cross are and why we keep this form of prayer alive. There is also a page explaining how to pray the stations, offering suggestions for first-timers (It's okay to choose one or two Stations at a time and really focus on them. You don't have to pray them all at once!).
There is no Table of Contents (I assume with 14 stations, it's hard to get lost). However, given the Stations are listed where the Table of Contents usually go, I'm not sure why they opted to leave out page numbers. That could be helpful to veterans who are looking to focus on one or two for a specific prayer intention.
Just before the Stations begin, Burrin wisely decided to explain a little about Holy Thursday, and how Jesus came to be in Pilate's courtyard. Thus, with the kiss of Judas Iscariot, we begin our journey with the Stations.
At each Station, Biblical quotes are interlaced with imagination as Burrin tells the story of Jesus' Passion in a child-friendly manner. At the end of each Station, there is a small reflection / prayer kids can offer that brings that footstep of Christ in sync with their own. One, in particular, calls out to the Holy Spirit. I loved that, because normally the reflection prayers tend to focus solely on Jesus.
Of course, each Station is beautifully illustrated by Lo Casio. Some of the images have left me staring at them for many minutes before I realize I've lost myself in their mysteries. I mean, just look at these two examples. I apologize, I snapped them with my phone, but even through the grainy iPhone shutter, the powerful emotions pours through:
Oh, that last one of Our Lady cradling Jesus - it is perfect. The tree in the background is barren and lifeless (which is poignant given how lively the background trees were in previous Stations). The atmosphere is grey, foggy and ominous. Joseph of Arimethea is hunched over them like an old bough weighed down by weather, protective. Mary's mantle is unfurled to encompass Jesus' Body... an exaggerated drawing, but similar to Michelangelo's Pieta. The effect is a brutal, gut-wrenching beauty - a mother cradling Her Baby Boy one last time as the entire world mourns with her.
Can you guess where I keep catching myself getting lost?
Finally, the Stations end with the Resurrection (since not all books contain a 15th!). Burrin includes Mary Magdalene's joyous meeting of her Resurrected Savior, which I always appreciate.
This book then gifts you a few surprise pages that I think are incredible resources for school-aged children.
The first is a 2 page spread on Prayer Intentions. After all, when you pray the Stations, you should have some intentions in mind, right? This useful list suggests everything from family and friends to doctors, politicians and the souls in Purgatory. I LOVED this, and I thought it was very wise to add this section.
Finally, there was a four-page spread of traditional prayers used while praying the Stations of the Cross. These pages, just as the Stations, themselves, are beautiful illustrated. These latter pages reminded me of those gorgeous illuminated manuscripts monks would create as they copied the Bible over and over and over again.
Verdict: This hard-cover book is a winner, all 45 pages of it. I am so glad The Word Among Us Press sent it my way for review.
As a thanks, I'll be giving one away to one of you fine readers! Enter via Rafflecopter below.
I love the above etching. It depicts Christ the King upon His throne of salvation - the Cross. The words above His crown translate as "High Priest of the Loving Sacrifice."
His wounds bleed forth mercy. His Sacred Heart, pierced, still burns forth love. He's wearing the chasuble and crown which denote His Kingship.
His facial expression is regal. Regal and yet still gentle - merciful.
This weekend, the pastor of a neighborhood parish pointed out something fascinating. During the homily, he repeated the final words of Jesus read from the Gospel reading:
"Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Father pointed out that these were the very last words we hear during the liturgical year. Are they words of condemnation? Are they words of despair?
No - they are words of hope... they are words of mercy.
What's more, they are words of the King promising His servant access to His Kingdom as He sat upon the throne that would open that Kingdom to us.
What a reflection. What a mind-blowing reflection.
These words were directed at a sinner worthy to humanity of crucifixion. Yet to God, He was a child worthy of Heaven.
We would do well to remember that.
For someone who hates math as much as I do, my favorite artist is a mathematical genius.
Truthfully, his symmetry and creative outlook on the impossible are what originally drew me to him. Also, he has an uncanny way of making the impossible seem true... of causing two diametrically opposed objects to work together as if they were always intrinsically the same.
So when I think about the dichotomy of secrets, I think of an MC Escher piece.
Because secrets contain a built-in paradox. Half the horses in your mind want nothing more than to keep that secret private. They're content in their stalls, munching on their hay and reflecting on what amounts to be a very personal, intimate matter.
Those other horses, however... they're chomping at the bit and pawing at the stall doors to escape and spread the secret to anyone and everyone who will listen.
My secret? Myla Therese.
Today, Remembrance Day, made me keenly aware of this inner dichotomy. Myla's existence is still mostly unknown. My mother, my SD, you folks and a tiny handful of friends (6 or 7 maybe?) are even aware of what happened. No one else on either side of the family knows, and I don't bring her up to anyone but the closest to me. It's those pesky horses... the half that wants to keep her private and mine - all mine - they're content to sit in their stalls and keep her memory there.
Those other horses, though... sometimes they get creative and find ways of slipping out. A few days ago, I commented on a Facebook thread that was far away from anything my group of friends would ever stumble across. It was a bunch of Catholic moms talking about babies. My friends and family would steer so far away from "Catholic" "mom" and "baby" that they'd be happily on their ways to China so as not to accidentally find themselves in a spot that combined them.
However, what I wasn't aware of was the fact that Facebook doesn't care about that. Facebook took a personal comment on a wall of a group that is "no man's land" to my friends and put it in the newsfeed. In the NEWSFEED.
Everyone then had the chance to see my comment of comfort. It was originally meant to reach out to another mother who had lost her child an felt secluded in her grief. I wanted her to know she wasn't alone, so I said something along the lines of, "I'm the mother of a baby in Heaven, too. Our little saints are playing together on the lap of Our Lady, I bet!"
Several minutes later, I got a private message from a friend of mine. She asked me about the comment and I immediately felt like someone had walked in on me in the shower.
My mind began racing...
If she saw it, who else saw it? Is John going to get these questions from our friends? Is John going to be MAD that I posted this on Facebook? Oh God... did anyone of his family see it? Will anyone else send me questions? What am I supposed to say to this one? And why does Facebook have to notify her that I'd already read the dang question?!
Before bothering to respond to her e-mail, I called John. I explained the situation and asked how he wanted me to handle it. After all, this was a mutual friend. What I said to her had the capacity to reverberate through our friends and back to him. He might not be able to push the situation out of his mind so easily.
His response surprised me. He said, "Answer her however you want to. Whatever makes you feel better because you're the one handling it. I really don't care how you respond."
Now try not to bristle at "I don't care how you respond." I don't think he meant that in a harsh or demeaning way.
I repeated that his family might find out... his Mom. I didn't think she would from that basic exchange, but it was a possibility, and if he still said that he didn't care what I did after thinking about it in those terms (moms tend to paint a black and white picture for us better than most things), I could trust he really meant it.
Apparently he did, because he still gave his stamp of approval even then.
I went back to my computer. How do I respond to her? I didn't know. On the one hand, I wanted so much to tell someone else about Myla's existence, but on the other, I didn't want to share something so personal. I honestly didn't know what to do, so instead of answering her, I went through my newsfeed to clear out any possible reference to miscarriage I could find.
Finally, I went back to her message. I was back in control of my feelings, so I could respond logically. I trusted this particular friend, so I explained in very simple terms that yes, John and I had been expecting in July and I had miscarried around the 5th or 6th week. I also explained that we weren't really making that information public, but I thanked her for sending me the message. It really did mean a lot.
She quickly responded with love and support. I felt better that another person was pulled into the circle that knew Myla existed. She was such a blessing, and I sometimes ache that more people aren't aware of her. However, I do fear what knowledge of her existence would bring.
Questions that I'm ill-equipped to handle. Questions that would make me cry. Questions that would tear me apart and leave me pounding my fists into the floor.
Disbelief that she was real. At 5 or 6 weeks, she's nothing, after all, right? Society tells us she's nothing. Society assures us that my sweet little baby is completely inconsequential.
And the list drags on.
So for today, I reposted a few things and commented on a few others, but I kept my tone ambiguous. Instead of posting Myla's story, I posted things "in solidarity with" or "together with" others who have shouldered this cross. Folks seeing my posts could easily think they were akin to wearing pink in support of breast cancer awareness though I never had it myself. It was my safe way of publicly spreading awareness without opening the door to something I'm not ready to handle.
Again, I know this might come as a surprise to you readers who see my most personal thoughts on a routine basis, but I am just not this forthcoming with many people. Behind the safety of my monitor, I can vent with the knowledge that none of you will ever be able to treat me differently or judge me harshly because of what you read here.
Truth be told, in real life, I'm scared. Very, very scared. I like being in control... in charge... even-keeled. Being upfront about things so sensitive and emotional for me... it's just not something I'm good at. And for as much as those horses want to call out Myla's name from the rooftops and share my experience with other women who might be going through (or will go through) miscarriage, I am not strong enough to handle it at this point. I feel selfish and weak for admitting that, but it's the truth.
I do hope to one day be able to tell other people about Myla. She is a blessing, and I want to share her with others - especially family and friends.
I just don't know when (or if) I'll ever be ready to do so.
For those of you who have endured miscarriage, did you ever tell family/friends? If you did, when and how did you go about doing it?
Brace yourselves for one of the nerdiest "fan-girl" type entries ever.
And yes, it's about a homily.
I'm not even sure where to begin as I'm so giddy over the brilliance and no-nonsense approach this retired priest (who is filling in for Fr. Atlas while he's away). It was his mission to defend the Eucharist and educate parishioners on the importance we should place on the Real Presence of Christ - what a gem! If I didn't have Vince on my lap, I would've taken a pen and paper out for notes!
To begin, this weekend's readings were very much Eucharistic in nature. The first reading dealt with the manna from Heaven that nourished the Israelites as they wandered through the desert. The psalm was a reflection of this reading and also foreshadowed the joyful thanksgiving we ought to sing in praise of His gracious institution of the Holy Eucharist.
The second reading reminds us that the bread that nourishes us it not only physical but spiritual. Christ, the Word, is our sustenance. His teachings and example are the gateway to Heaven.
Finally, in the gospel, we hear Jesus, Himself, affirm that He is the Bread of Life. This is not some spiritual manner of speaking. He is affirming His Presence in the Holy Eucharist - the greatest of all Sacraments. He is preparing His followers to understand and accept this unfathomable mercy.
Upon walking out amongst the congregation, Fr. Eucharist (as I'll call him henceforth) spoke of several mystics who lived solely on the Body of Christ in the Eucharist.
He didn't specify a particular mystic, but considering the scientific evidence he spoke of regarding the validity of these miraculous signs, my mind jumped to Blessed Alexandrina who subsisted on nothing but the Holy Eucharist for 13 years (to the astonishment of the many doctors and scientists who examined her).
Fr. Eucharist wanted to highlight that the Blessed Sacrament is not just symbol of Christ. This Sacrament of Love is the fullness of Christ's Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. When we say "Amen" in response to the priest's offering, we are saying "Yes, I believe!" that the consecrated Host we receive is, in fact, God. He has chosen to use some of His saints to hit home this point through allowing them the grace of existing solely on His Body. As He said, "My Flesh is true food, and My Blood is true drink." Amen, indeed.
As such, the Eucharist is to be the most important thing in our lives. It is the banquet that supercedes all other banquets.
Upon this reflection, Father Eucharist then went on to describe some key elements that build up our Mass towards this miraculous banquet.
The procession and readings - our Liturgy of the Word - is like a cocktail hour. I loved that comparison! At a wedding cocktail, for example, we gather together with joy to catch up with family and friends we haven't seen in a while. We see how the kids are doing, we find out what so-and-so's been up to, and we bask in the filial love present amongst us all.
During the cocktail hour, we also get tiny samples of the greater meal awaiting us at the main banquet. For us, those morsels are the various readings and responses. As Catholics, we believe that Christ is the Word, so we are blessed to receive Him with our ears before we partake of the "main course" of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
And oh... the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Pardon me as I 'squee' ridiculously for a few moments. He really took off running as he reflected on the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Once again he discussed the spiritual reality of our physical presence at Mass.
As St. John Chrysostom once said, "When Mass is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim
immolated on the altar."
Amen, St. John!
Fr. Eucharist reminded of this in such a reverent, direct way that I could have stood up to applaud him. He said, "Yes! There is truth beyond what we can see with our physical eyes. At the words of consecration, Jesus is standing behind the priest! God the Father and Holy Spirit are with Him. Mary, His mother, is there with St. Joseph. And filling the sanctuary are the angels and saints who, together with us, adore and praise Him."
How I managed to stay in my seat and not jump up to hug him is truly beyond me. I felt as if my heart had doubled in size just so it could sprout arms and embrace him.
Yes, Fr. Eucharist, yes! TELL US! TEACH US! REMIND US THAT THE EUCHARIST IS GOD TRULY PRESENT! Shine as an example to all other priests that THIS is the type of truth so desperately needed in the world today. THIS is what Catholics must be reminded of so that we can properly appreciate the gift that is the Eucharist.
Did he stop there? No no, folks. My giddiness erupted as he went on.
Catholics, when they present themselves for the Eucharist, must make a throne with their hands with which to accept the Body of Christ. Not with one hand. Not with two haphazardly placed together. Reverently accept Him as the King He is!
*He then proceeded to show us what that would look like.*
And, bless him, he also gave a nod to acceptance on the tongue (which is how I receive anyway).
And to boot, he called out folks who leave after receiving the Eucharist. He said, "And to those of you who leave after Communion, you're missing a lot of stuff! From Consecration until the Recessional, the Blood of Christ covers the congregation, filling us with untold graces!"
He again didn't mention a specific mystic, but I'm about 99.9% sure he was referring to the revelations made by the Blessed Mother to Catalina Revas of Bolivia. I'd only recently learned of her (I would guess in the last 8 months or so), but the insights and revelations made to her by Christ and Our Lady have forever changed my participation in the Mass. I would encourage all of you to read more about her! But again, use the typical caution regarding private revelations. Though not forbidden / approved by the Church, it us up to the individual to request guidance and discernment from the Holy Spirit.
Back to the wonderful priest, however, he closed his homily with a reminder that after reception of the Eucharist, we would do well to remember that God, Himself, dwells within us. So as we walk back to our seats, it's not the time for saying "Hi" to friends, nor is it the time to get one's self ready to leave. The time after Communion is meant for prayful reflection... a true and intimate conversation between us and God.
And don't you know after Communion, he graciously allowed us time to sit in silent contempation.
Hmmmm... I've got a big old stupid smile on my face, and it's all because of this wonderful representative of Christ. My prayers are with him and with all priests. May they all have such ardent love for Him, and may they all seek to spread that love and understanding to others. Bless him, and bless them!
Yesterday was Sunday. After getting myself and Vincent dressed for Mass, I put my chapel veil on. As soon as Vincent saw it, he started saying - quite loudly - "NO JESUS!"
At first, I ignored him. This is par for the course with him anymore. I could've been setting up to go to the beach, and he'd be yelling "NO BEACH!"
Anyway, I ignored him until I heard his father (who was upstairs in the bathroom) laugh. He asked, "Is he saying what I think he's saying?"
I immediately felt myself go into defense mode. Remember, John's a proud atheist who takes slight issue with me raising Vincent as a Catholic. So any sort of "Boooooo Religion!" utterance is a victory for him.
Anyway, I pointed out that Vince does this every week and is perfectly fine by the time we get into the pew. He does the same thing regardless of where we're going, so I reminded him not to get too excited that our son was rejecting Jesus.
John swore he wasn't giddy about Vincent's outburst against Mass... but I still have my doubts. Ha ha.
Luckily, as I pulled into the church lot, Vince had simmered down. Since he loves counting so much, I had him count the different windows that frame our doors as we entered. That made him happy. The next hour made ME super happy.
As soon as we entered the church, Vincent was a model little munchkin! He said "Hi" to our usher and pointed to Jesus in the tabernacle. He genuflected - actually GENUFLECTED - for the very first time and said, "Hi Jesus!"
I was so proud!
We placed our bag in the cry room and since we were so early, I took him to the various statues to "run out some energy."
Besides, it's a good learning experience for him, too.
We started with the Blessed Mother - Our Lady of Grace. When we got before her statue, he tried to genuflect again. I picked him up and said, "No no, Vincent. You only genuflect to Jesus." So he looked at the tabernacle (which was only a couple yards away) and said, "Hi Jesus!" again.
I said, "Remember, this is Mary. She's Jesus' Mommy." So he looked back at Our Lady and said, "Hi Mary!" I said, "Blow kisses!" He happily complied, but then wanted to follow it up with a hug. I had to stop him from hopping the altar rail and climbing up her feet. I half apologized to her as we turned to see the other statues because I think she'd've enjoyed having Vincent climb up to give her a hug. :)
We made our way to the mini Lourdes grotto in the back. I pointed out St. Bernadette and Mary. He didn't really care about them because he was looking at the Infant of Prague. So I tried to show him "Baby Jesus." I was unsuccessful because just under that statue were the vigil candles. Vince wanted to push all the buttons (our are electric), and when I wouldn't let him, he got slightly confused. They were buttons, after all. Weren't they made to be pushed???
Instead, I took him to see St. Michael the Archangel. He usually likes St. Michael (what with his awesome sword and soldier gear). He said "Hi" but again, he wasn't too interested. His eye had caught St. Joseph all the way on the other side of the church. So off we went to say "Hi" to St. Joseph.
Our Sacred Heart statue
Along the way, however, we stopped at the gorgeous Sacred Heart of Jesus statue. I might be a little biased when I say this, but we've got the most beautiful Sacred Heart of Jesus statue I've ever seen.
I let him touch the Sacred Heart. Vincent said, "Heart!" And I said, "That's Jesus' Heart. He loves you SOOOOO much!"
Vincent smiled and said, "Jesus love."
Vincent then saw Christ's fingers raised in blessing, so he counted them.
"One, two, three!"
I pointed at them, one at a time, and said, "Father, Son..."
I waited and Vince chimed in with "Holy Spirit!"
Not only was I super impressed, but the group of ladies chatting in the narthex applauded him, too! I was incredulous. This same little boy had been yelling "No Jesus! No Jesus!" only to be "Yay Jesus!" two seconds later.
We finally made our way over to the St. Joseph statue, but we couldn't stay long because Father was processing to the back for the start of Mass. Vincent, however, didn't want to leave his friends and said, "No room! Jesus stay!"
That's Vincent-speak for "I don't want to go into the cry room. I want to stay and play with Jesus!"
I told him that Jesus was coming soon, so we'd have to read some books until we could go back up to see Him.
That contented him. He was fine throughout Mass, reading his little Stations booklet. After reception of the Eucharist, Vincent raised his hands up to kiss me. After Mass, he didn't want to leave! I really wish John could've seen him then. Quite the change from "No Jesus! No Jesus!"
Ah well. When we got back home, John asked me how he was. I told him the truth. That was probably the best Vincent's ever was for me.
And I can't help but wonder if that wasn't God's way of letting me know He understood that Vince was just being a child. All of my prayers of "Please, God, don't let Catholicism become boring or uncool for him" will eventually work themselves out... even if I must deal with the heartbreak of seeing him favor sports or video games over Him for a time. In the end, though John might have his "mini-victories," I trust that God's Love will triumph in Vincent's heart.
For Good Friday, I was lucky enough to find a parish that offered Confession for two hours before noon.
The church was barren, save for an empty wooden cross crowned with a ring of thorns. I wanted to kiss the cross as I waited for confession, but it was in the sanctuary so I could not.
This church had also removed all the kneelers which I thought was interesting. I didn't mind kneeling on the floor and thought it was a good idea that we could now offer up this slight mortification in union with Christ.
All the fonts were either empty of draped in purple. It almost felt wrong that the sunlight poured in through the gorgeous stained glass windows. Did nature somehow forget that Jesus was suffering death? Did the sun forget that we were to remember His Passion today?
No - nature didn't forget. That same sun shone down upon Christ as He followed the Via Dolorosa. That burning sun tried so hard to light His way... to warm His Body that must've been shivering dreadfully for lack of Blood. It poured its rays of warmth over Our Lady to offer her even the simplest of condolences. It offered itself to the people - the same people who angrily kicked, spit upon and mocked the Savior. If the sun could think, would it have let loose torrential solar flares in an effort to enlighten these ignorant people that they were cruelly murdering the innocent and mighty Hand of Creation? Would it have spun faster to strengthen its gravitational pull in order to pull its God closer to itself in a protective embrace?
That sun - our sun - was the same sun that shone down on Christ's hanging Body upon the Cross. It didn't forget... maybe it just knows better than we do the power of Christ's resurrection and wants to remind us that though our hearts are black with grief, His Light will prevail and will work Itself into even the darkest of tombs.
Then I began thinking about Our Lady and the grief she must've carried along that same trail of tears. To stand at the foot of His Cross and to fully understand that this was the Sacrifice she was born to offer in union with Her Son... incredible. The same Baby she cradled in her arms and nursed at her breast... the same Child who picked her wild flowers and proudly crafted His first wood project into a gift for her... the same Man who she watched heal, love and unite - now she watched His final, passionate act of Love during His earthly Life.
I cannot even imagine that pain. When I think of the Blessed Mother and the other women who were forced to watch their children be sacrificed (for early martyrs, this was common- to endure witnessing the torture and death of your children before being killed yourself) my heart nearly stops. My breath always catches because as a mother, I cannot help but put Vincent's face on each of those children. I cannot help but imagine my own indescribable terror, pain and fury as I was shackled to a wall to endure Vincent's agonizing torture, unable to help, comfort or avenge him. Would I be able to offer our suffering up to God as Mary did?
And I do think of this often. I can't help myself, especially with the increasing amounts of political pressure being built up against the Catholics not only in this country, but all around the world.
It's no secret that Christianity is the most persecuted faith in the world (actually, it might be in the US where many assume it's Islam). Also, since I subscribe to VOM's monthly newsletter, the reality of this problem is often in my thoughts.
My husband has often questioned why I continue reading these things as they tend to make me upset. I respond that my ignorance doesn't help, and at the very least, these folks deserve to have people aware of their plight... even if the only thing we can do is offer prayers for them. I'm not willing to ignore the suffering of others in order to spare myself a few sleepless nights. It doesn't seem right.
I won't lie - there have been times where I've wanted to put down books or newsletters. I've wanted to ignore particular headlines because of the emotional stress I'd end up with, but I typically end up reading on. I have to. How would I feel if someone ignored me? How would I feel if someone had the ability to help me and shut the door because it was just "too painful" to even acknowledge my pain's existence?
It's why I forced myself to endure learning about the different methods of abortion. For weeks I'd burst into tears, dropping to my knees to beg God to force us to stop these heinous murders. I didn't care if that meant the world would end, I just wanted the suffering of these innocent children to stop. This was actually during a period that John tried "forbidding" me from accessing the internet. Heh - he knew he couldn't really forbid me, and I doubt he wanted to, but he was so upset for me that he didn't know what else to do. He didn't understand why I kept trying to learn more about abortions. He said, "You know they happen, and you learning about how they happen isn't going to make abortions happen less."
I said, "You're right. My understanding won't stop abortions because I already made the decision to never participate, but I bet if others who haven't made that decision learned about abortion it would happen less!"
And it's true - so many people who are "pro-choice" really don't understand all that goes into an actual abortion. For all the philosophical waxing pro-choicers do, they never once get into the hard-science of what an abortion physically does to both a child and the mother who carries it.
But I digress. Sorry!
Back to Good Friday. After confession, I went to my own Church for the silent prayer before the Crucifix before 3pm when the statue was veiled. I tried to imagine how God the Father felt - He willingly handed Jesus over. He understood that His Sacrifice was necessary, but the cost! How much He loves us to do this!
Would I be willing to hand over Vincent for such a slaughter?
I mean, let's say that 1 million people were in jail. I'm not talking about the US jail system that allows inmates to watch TV, hang out in a cell, and be provided with 3 meals a day.
No... I'm talking about a hellish, hard labor camp akin to Auschwitz or worse.
Now let's say these million people aren't just random strangers... they're family. Yes, they are family that's guilty of every offense possible ranging from cursing all the way through murder, but they're family. Would I be willing to sacrifice Vincent for the lot of them?
Let's take it one step further... let's say these million family members aren't just distance relationships. They're a million Maria's and Shannon's... a million Raymond's and yes, even a million Evelyn's... my true brothers and sisters. What then? Would I be willing to hand Vincent over to save them?
And finally - even more than being my brothers and sisters - what if they were my children? What if these jailed souls were my children? Would I be able to hand over Vincent, my first, only and beloved son over for a torturous death so that they might be freed from jail?
What if I knew that even if I offered Vincent's life for theirs that they'd ridicule our sacrifice? That they'd scorn him?
How could God the Father ever consent to this sacrifice??? How could Christ, knowing full well what the future would hold for His wayward children???
Yes, we indeed crucified the entire Trinity that first Good Friday. We continue to crucify Them each time we are negligent in our duties as Christians... as dignified human beings made in His Image.
May God have mercy on us, and may we remember the Love shown to us through the truest Sacrifice ever made.
My beloved Archdiocese of Philadelphia... what happened to you?
Have you really succumbed so gently to the false whispers of satan? Have you become pliant through his fiery caress? Have you become so blinded by the gilded treasures of worldliness, power and carnal gratification that the Beatific Vision is completely obscured from you?
God help us. We are lost if not for Your Grace.
For those of you unaware, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia - my home, my foundation, and my heart - has been reaping the fruits of a decades long abuse cover-up. We most certainly have been in the wrong for the reshuffling of priests, the silence of cardinals / bishops, the treatment of victims, etc. We have turned ourselves away from Truth and found an angry, unsettled and disordered home in the filth of sin.
Oh, what agony now befits us! Due to such negligence and willful perpetration of violence against the innocent among us, we suffer! We suffer as well we should, but dear Lord - Mercy!
We are being stripped of our priests. Sinners though they are, we haven't the vocations to fill the holes they leave behind. Sinners that we, the laity, are - we are left with no one to shepherd us via Sacraments and pastoral care.
Oh Lord, this truly is a punishment we bring upon ourselves! Catholicism in Philadelphia is on the cusp of abolition. For years we've allowed this cancer to metastasize, invading all parts of our clergy and administration. For years we've ignored the wounds of our victims - which, left untreated, became mortal and spread to others. As a result, when the blinds were opened and the public saw these festering, horrifying injuries for what they were, trust was lost, faith wavered, and hope for healing became almost laughable.
The pain to those of us who love this Archdiocese! The pain of feeling her members torn, battered and broken! The pain of helplessness as we could do nothing but watch as priest after beloved priest was targeted and accused, convicted and removed... as we saw our friends and family defect, turning away from the Church and even condemning Her due to the impossibly grotesque offenses of Her representatives! Oh the pain of listening to report after report of the ever-increasing details of the accusations... and seeing the devastating pain of our victims!
This ongoing chastisement is necessary, but dear Lord, again I cry "Mercy!" I understand and trust this unparalleled "cleansing of the Temple" is something we brought about on our own, but please guide us to safer waters!
Ugh. I am so beyond heartbroken by this entire mess, and it seems like a never-ending rabbit hole.
Another one of our priests was removed today. News came out yesterday afternoon that he was being investigated for an improper relationship and possible abuse of minors. This priest was someone who mentored me, my siblings, and many of our friends.
I have no idea if the allegations are true or not, but the fact that Archbishop Chaput reacted swiftly and harshly to his case leads me to believe there is some validity to the claims against him.
My prayers are with him, the possible victims, and the families of those he may have harmed or turned away from the Church. May they all find peace, healing, love and forgiveness.
Le sigh... I truly have such a heavy, heavy heart right now. However, even in this hailstorm of folly, I recognize the mercy we've been given in Chaput.
Thank You, Lord, for the gift of Archbishop Chaput. No doubt You put him in place to steer this mostly capsized ship to harbor. May You be his strength and wisdom. May You be his beacon. May You be the wind that straightens our mangled sails.
Found another incredible image for you folks in my travels! This one gets its own entry because, well... because it's AWESOME!
We've got the Triune God, but instead of being depicted as "Old Man, Adult Son, and Dove" we've got Him depicted a a trio of almost identical Jesus'.
The first figure is God the Son, Jesus Christ. He has a lamb upon His Chest to denote that He is the Lamb of God. You can also make out the marks of His Crucifixion on His Hands and Foot. His Hands are open and outstretched, emploring humanity to accept His gifts of salvation and mercy (as symbolized by the cherub finding refuge under His mantle - a universal sign of protection).
Central to the painting is God the Father, denoted by the Omniscient Eye present upon His Chest. He carries a golden scepter denoting Divine Justice while His Hand is raised in the Trinitarian blessing of Divine Providence. This image almost reminds me of the American Eagle that grasps arrows in one claw and olive branches in the other to juxtapose our willingness to go to war with our desire for peace.
God the Father demands Divine Justice, but He is tempered through Divine Providence - always looking for ways to gift grace and mercy to His wayward children.
Finally, we've got the Holy Spirit denoted by a dove. His Hands are crossed over His Heart, symbolic of a pledge to protect and love, which the Holy Spirit does through guiding the Church on Earth (shown through the little cherub grasping His mantle to follow along wherever He leads).
Then those adorable little angels that are touched by the Feet of God. Four of them, they may represent the Gospels that finally put this picture of the Triune God together for humanity. Three angels are physically touched by the Feet of God with one more (possibly the Gospel of John), feeling the purity of Christ's dazzling white gown supporting his head.
I think I'm in love with this Trinity portrayal. What magnificence!
I was listening to the song We Have Been Told in the car this morning. This is one of those songs that I can listen to a million times and still feel emotionally tackled!
The lyrics of the chorus, for those of you unfamiliar, are:
We have been told, we've seen His Face and heard His Voice alive in our hearts. "Live in My love, with all your heart. As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you."
I always feel a flood of gratitude hearing these words. I'm so thankful to have been given the blessing of knowing Jesus and being a part of the Catholic faith. I'm so happy to know and feel the active love of God in my life - to know that He's not just a guy in the sky sitting on a cloud somewhere uncaring about the adventures of humanity. No - I know and feel His Presence surrounding everything I do. I really do.
Anyway, as I was listening to the song this morning, something my friend had said about a year and a half ago came to mind. She and I were discussing her 'falling away' from Catholicism and my steadfast adherence to it.
Both of us attended the same grade school from kinder through 8th. Both of her parents are staunch Catholics and are highly active in parish ministries. My mother, too, fits that description. We both attended Catholic high schools and universities (hers being more Catholic than either of mine, I think). So we found it interesting that we took such different paths considering our similar foundations.
Anyway, as I've always said, though I left the Catholic Church for a while, I never "left the faith." I've always believed in Catholic dogma, I've always felt the active Presence of God in my life, and I've always relied on the Blessed Mother and saints to guide me in whatever trials I faced. I've never once gone, "Well what if Jesus didn't really exist? What if Heaven is a lie and after death nothing happens?"
Nope - even in my "New Age" phase (8th grade through HS, I guess?), while I was reading books on Buddhism, psychics and past-life experiences, I would attempt to make sense of them through Catholicism.
I would think, "Oh, maybe reincarnation IS what Catholics mean by Purgatory. After all, Earth, itself, could be the place of cleansing since it's where a soul perfects itself through life lessons, right?"
Or, "Well of COURSE God grants some people special gifts like clairvoyance or fortune telling. Maybe it's His way of reaching others who need "proof" of His existence in one form or another."
Seriously - when presented with a radically different theology or new-age theory, I'd immediately attempt to fit it into my Catholic paradigm because I fully understood and believed Catholicism to be the surpreme theology of God, Himself. Catholicism is Truth, and though I may not have fully understood all its Truths, I trusted that if given enough time and grace, I could make sense of it all. (I still do, truthfully - ha!).
She, on the other hand, doesn't have that same intrinsic "certainty" I do. She commented on this and suggested it was the reason we took such different paths. Honestly, that was the moment I really understood what a gift my faith was. When she spoke aloud the echo of the thoughts in my heart, I knew my love for and faith in Catholicism was, indeed, a true gift.
So as I was thinking about that this morning, another thought popped into my mind. I should say "prayer" really. It was more a prayer than a thought.
Anyway, the prayer-thought was:
Thank you, God, for the blessing of seeing Your Face and feeling Your Love in my life. I understand that this gift is not only meant for me - it is meant to be a vehicle for Your Divine Providence. Make me a reflection of Yourself so that I can bear Your Face to others that they, too, might see You, love You and feel Your Love in their lives.
Just as I completed that thought I pulled into work and scribbled down the above thought-prayer because I truly wanted to share it with others. I especially wanted to post it on my wall so I could be reminded of my duty as a Catholic Christian. My calling is to bear the Face of God to all people, regardless of who they are or what they believe. My directive is to be charitable, patient, merciful and kind. I fail miserably at these things on a regular basis, so to have a prayer calling this mission to mind is important.
May all of us who have come to see the Face of God be true reflections of His Mercy and Love.
Okay, once again, God placed some breadcrumbs for me to follow these last couple weeks, and I absent-mindedly popped them into my mouth one-by-one, never even realizing I was being set up for a cool perspective that I could meditate on for a while.
A blogger I follow, Devin Rose, recently posted this entry regarding the Jewish lore regarding the Eastern Gate that I found particularly interesting. I'd never heard of this particular prophesy, so I dutifully followed his links and read the article written by Dr. Reagan.
I immediately went back to Devin's page with a flurry of thoughts:
Jesus, Himself, was (and is) the new Temple. When His Heart was pierced by the lance, couldn’t that be seen as the “opening of the Eastern Gate”?
After all, through this final wound, His Precious Blood and water flowed forth (which we now recognize as His Divine Mercy through Saint Faustina).
This would explain the other quotes from the article (which, BTW, mostly consist of OT prophecy). Jesus did, in fact, walk on the Mount of Olives. He now dwells with us forever through His Eucharist. And for as much as folks don’t like to picture His Passion as glorious, He gained for us salvation upon that gruesome Cross. His Death and subsequent Resurrection are about as glorious as it gets.
However, as I was thinking more on this over the next few days, I randomly came across this blog entry from Shameless Popery while I was looking for images of Jesus as the New Temple. Don't you know my line of thinking followed his, and he took it about 100 light years further than I!
He also brings up the possibility of the Blessed Mother being the Eastern Gate, which would make more sense than my idea that it might be Christ's Sacred Heart. After all, the Blessed Mother's womb certainly fits the bill! :)
So yeah - how wonderful that all these little things lined up to create a much fuller picture of Salvation History and God's promises fulfilled!
When I was a child, I was surrounded by Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary... better known as "Mac Nuns" to us Inky folks.
They were my principals, teachers, librarians and mentors. Two, in particular, were the models of what I thought every sister should be: Sister Vincent and Sister Miriam.
Sister Vincent was our 2nd grade teacher. I say "our" because she got my two older siblings and at least one of my younger two. Without a doubt, she was everyone's favorite teacher. She did "Popcorn Fridays" in which we'd be allowed to watch a movie and eat popcorn if we'd been good the whole week. She was active in the school yard, teaching girls how to jump-rope or hopscotch. She was brilliantly patient and never got annoyed with the ridiculous amount of questions kids would throw at her. Finally, she was extremely generous and simply couldn't be outdone in how much she'd do to ensure her children were well-taught and loved.
It was in her class that I came to learn that prayer wasn't just for bedtime or Mass, and it was in her class that I prepared for and came to understand Reconciliation.
Anyway, we were learning about money (coins and dollar bills). Every Wednesday, she'd allow us to "purchase" items from her shop (coloring books, rosaries, small toys) with our little cardboard coins. It was to teach us the value of money (as well as to addition and subtraction). Well, on the Wednesday before Mother's Day, she replaced the toys with "gifts for Mom" type things. Flowers, a ceramic vase, oven mitts, etc. I was almost besides myself. On the chalkboard ledge (which is where she showcased her items), there was a beautiful, oblong ceramic vase. It was a grayish blue with the most delicate roses encircling it. I'd never seen anything so wonderful, and I knew without a doubt that I wanted to give it to my Mom for Mother's Day.
Kinda like this, but mine was way prettier.
Before she "opened her shop" she told us to pray to the Blessed Mother for the proper gift for our moms. I was so worried that someone else would choose the vase for their mother that I prayed VERY SPECIFICALLY for that vase. I remember distinctly asking Our Lady to let me "go first" so I could snag the vase before anyone else.
I didn't know if I was allowed to ask for that kinda stuff, because I felt a little selfish, but in my mind, that vase already belonged to my Mom and I just had to figure out a way to beat the other kids off with a stick. Plus, Sister Vincent had said it was "OK" to pray for specific things, so I figured, "May as well give it a go!"
So pray I did, and before I even finished my Hail Mary, Sister Vincent called my name to choose first. Can you believe that?! I knew the Blessed Mother was responsible for picking my name from the hat first, but wow. I thanked her the entire way up to the front of the classroom where I bypassed everything else to pluck that beautiful vase from its ledge. For the rest of the day, I carried that sucker around like a prize. I don't think I waited until Mother's Day to give it to my Mom, either. I'm pretty certain that as soon as I saw her after school, I shoved it into her hands with the proudest grin ever. Ha ha.
For a few years afterwards, I'd see that vase sitting near the window in the kitchen. It collected dust and was never really filled with flowers (save for the paper ones I'd make now and again). That's okay, though, because it was still beautiful in my mind, and it represented more than just a gift to my mother. It was a gift FROM my Mother. Divine Providence in the making - I prayed to the Blessed Mother for the gift of the vase so I could then pass along that blessing to my Mom.
Ha ha - the power of the Hail Mary.
Then there was Sister Miriam. Sister Miriam was a much older sister who basically ran our guidance department.
God bless that woman. I honestly thought she was our version of Mother Teresa. Still do, honestly. She was gentle, quiet, and probably the most empathetic person I've ever been blessed to know.
On her wall, she had a poster that somehow etched itself into my memory. It was bright yellow with a little red gift box in the corner. The words "Children aren't clay to be molded, they're presents to be unfolded" took up the majority of the foreground. I remember reading that and thinking "Wow! All grown-ups ever try to do is tell us what we can or can't do. No one ever asks us what we think. No one ever tries to see who WE are. When I'm a grown-up, I want to unfold children."
As an educator, that lesson has always been with me. Sister Miriam exemplified it daily, and I remember as a child wanting to be just like her when I grew old. Truthfully, I always wanted to be exactly like Sister Miriam and my grandmother when I was older. Ha. They were my models of "how to be an old person." Ha ha ha.
Anyway, I adored Sisters Vincent and Miriam. They were much of the reason that I, myself, wanted so badly to become a nun as a child. I loved them so much that I wanted to be just like them.
Oh my goodness...
"I loved them so much that I wanted to be just like them."
I just realized something.
I loved those wonderful sisters and respected them with every fiber of my being. What, then, can I say of Jesus? What then, can I say of the Blessed Mother? Can I honestly say the same of them?
Do I love Jesus / Mary so much that I want to be just like them?
Shoot... didn't realize that was going to be the fruit of this reflection.
Today is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. What a treat to start off the New Year in thanksgiving for the Mother of Salvation. :)
Our pastor delved into the mystery of Jesus being both fully God and fully human, taking His Divinity from His Father and His Humanity from His Mother. Though something we are unable to fully comprehend, this article of faith is one of the backbones of our religion.
Since today is Sunday, I also got to pray the Glorious Mysteries. Some thoughts that popped into my mind while praying...
Resurrection - Though Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus' resurrected Body, I can't help but wonder if Jesus didn't appear to His Mother interiorly. She understood the necessity of His Death, and probably had an inkling of His Triumph over death. I wonder if she understood it to be in this particular manner, though. Anyway, upon news of His Resurrection, confirming whatever interior visions she was given, she must have been absolutely elated. Oh, but how her heart must have longed to hold Him!
Ascension - So bittersweet again for Our Lady! No doubt she endured emotional torture as she watched her beloved Son again move beyond her physical realm. Unable to hug Him, kiss Him or hear His Voice, she must've clung to the Eucharist in a way most infathomable. No doubt she was spiritually linked to Him (as she was and always will be), but as any of us know, being apart from the one you love is painful... even if you're able to keep in touch via e-mail, Skype, or telephone.
Pentecost - What bliss! Our Lady once more feels the presence of Her Spouse as He baptizes her with untold graces! Again, the Blessed Mother is there from the very beginning. She was the catalyst for the Savior's birth, and she was present for the birth of the Church. Can you imagine how all the apostles must have flocked around her as chicks to a mother hen? Our Lady held such love for all of them, and no doubt counseled them in countless ways. Our Church was forged by her Queenly hand, just as it was forged by the hands of the apostles.
Assumption - I imagine this to be Our Lady's happiest moment... probably even to this day (yes, even more than Christ's Nativity). I'd be willing to wager the only moment sweeter for her will be the Final Judgement, when all is completed and Her Son no longer must agonize over the sins of mankind. I've gone on and on about the Assumption several times, but honestly, I never tire thinking about how inexpressibly joyful that reunion must have been for her. Being corporeal, she'd've thrown herself into His Arms and no doubt He enveloped her with equal relish. To have been an angel (or even Saint Joseph!) looking in at that moment. All of Heaven must've been ablaze with their love!
Coronation - Our Mother - the Queen! I wonder which angels got to help prepare Our Lady for this event. I wonder if her own mother, St. Anne, were blessed to be there to brush her hair back, to place a veil upon her head, to adorn her perfect child with jewels. I wonder, too, if St. Joseph were there to process beside her as she made her way forth to the Throne of the Trinity. No doubt Jesus crowned her, probably just about besides Himself with joy. Oh wow.
I then imagined that Jesus granted her one favor as a gift for such a special occasion. Immediately I saw the gates of Purgatory open and thousands of souls come rushing into Heaven. The gift she requested was the freedom of souls - not for herself, but for Her Son who so loved them so dearly. Though Divine Justice dictates they make restitution for sin, Divine Mercy does not want it. A word from the Queen of Heaven is more than payment, and the joy of that blessed occasion must've reverberated throughout the earth.
Mind you, I'm not saying I saw these as true visions. My mind wandered over these things as I prayed the decades. I can't help but think Our Lady's graciousness extends infinitely towards all of us, especially those most in need of such kindness.
Mmmmm - I could dwell upon Our Lady forever with the dopiest look of love on my face, I bet. :) How blessed are we to have been gifted so great a blessing!
Top Rated Entries
My Darkest Secret
Do Animals Have Souls?
10 Things a Parent of an SPD Kid Wants to Say
Fun and Easy Lenten Crafts
Blessed Mother as Intercessor
Loss of Life
Women Priests II
Render Unto Caesar
The Godparent Poem
NYT Anti-Catholic Ad
Pages I Stalk
A Woman's Place
Real Catholic Love & Sex
Having Left the Altar
Fr. Z @ WDTPRS
These Stone Walls
St. Joseph's Vanguard
Traditional Latin Mass
Truth, Beauty and Goodness
The Way Out There
Written by the Finger of
Little Catholic Bubble
So You're a Church Musician
There and Back Again
Make It - Love It
St. Monica's Bridge