Sunday, December 30, 2007

Getting Political: Why I Like Ron Paul

My husband has been primarily responsible for my education in things political. One of our first dates was to hear Alan Keyes speak at a pro-life function, and I have distinct memories of getting into a big "debate" over gun control on a date soon after. For me then the ardor involved was only concerning trying to figure out who this man was to whom I felt so attracted. And why did he, who was not even an American citizen, give two rips about the American constitution?

He is now naturalized (a process we were scrupulously legal about, I'll have everyone know). I'd be hard pressed to say I've ever met anyone prouder to be an American or to be more loyal to his country. I've met some who are just as proud and just as loyal, but never anyone more so.

I'll admit it, that includes myself.

As long as there is legalized abortion here, just to mention one injustice, I have a hard time puffing my chest out.

But, just as it often takes the Catholic convert to ignite passion in the cradlers, it takes an immigrant to teach me a thing or two about American politics.

Now I know my ideas are my own because I'm set on my presidential candidate of choice, while my husband is still analyzing all the data on his top two favorites (neither of which are mine!).

I am an idealist, and for me to get excited about a candidate, I need something to appeal to that aspect of me. I need a person whose thinking inspires me and opens up new thoughts for me. What a candidate stands for is important, but more important to me is the person himself. The person holds the office, after all, not a list of campaign platforms.

I like Ron Paul. Once I understood his thing about sending issues like drug use and prostitution to the State level for regulation, I found the vast majority of what he says very appealing. He opposes not only abortion for any reason but also federal funding of contraception. He has a great health care plan. He wants to eliminate federal control over education, and other issues that don't constitutionally belong to the federal government. When he talks he stands for what he believes, and doesn't seem like he's doing "talking points" that someone else has edited for him. For these and other reasons, I like him.

There is that one negative factor, namely that it doesn't seem he has a snowball's chance in hades of winning the Republican nomination. But to me, my vote should be cast in representation of my beliefs. It is refreshing to find someone that actually makes it possible for me to do that.

Christmas Present

I've had an extraordinary week. It feels a bit unusual for me to have something so big to swallow that it takes a week, if that makes any sense, but this week took that long to digest. Or the happening took that long to happen.

Lest I sound completely batty, let me start again.

Christmas Eve is an extremely holy moment for me. I believe God has given me this special gift, like a loving Father who gives his little daughter who doesn't ask for much the thing that will make me glow. It's the Redemption of my life, really. To explain all that I'd have to explain the whole path of my Christian conversion, which I probably will at some point, but not right now.

I really, really want to meet God in my heart each Christmas Eve, and so God generally works it out for me. This year, I read our Jesse tree reading in the evening, the same reading that I memorized and recited for years as a child in our Christmas Eve Sunday School program: Luke 2. I was struck by how, when the shepherds heard the message from heaven, there was no question of whether they believed it was true. They had just seen angels -- of course it was true! They just said "Let's go to Bethlehem and see it!" The real God! Let's go see!

That was still burning in my heart when I arrived at Mass. I've been a stickler about finding a Midnight Mass each year, as a Midnight Mass was climactic in my conversion experience. So, this year our parish had a 10:30 Mass. It was still the Mass of midnight, so I sucked up my stickels, and at my pastor's suggestion I helped the evening's makeshift choir carol.

I sang my little lungs out. I felt a bit like the little drummer boy; I was the little singing girl. I don't have much to offer, but sing I could, and I probably looked like a fool, but I felt somehow I wanted to gift God and my brothers and sisters there present and not present with singing with all my might.

The readings and prayers are more piercing each year. I can feel these words in my bones: "The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.... every boot that tramped in battle, every cloak rolled in blood, will be burned as fuel for flames." I have walked in darkness. My boots tramped in battle against the Lord's peace. But the thoughts of these now only fuel the flames of my love for God.

Somehow, in the midst of this liturgy, I had a very, very clear glimpse (intellectual? spiritual?) of Mary. What I mean is, I suddenly realized that any looking upon her as anything less than the exemplar of holiness to which I am called is to diminish her. I can't just admire a beautiful saint as I would a nice work of art. She's not like a movie star, someone whose life is to be external to mine. And realized there is no expression of love for her that could ever be excessive, because human love for the work of God never fulfills the infinite level of indebtedness and awe and marvel due Him. All we can do is give all that we are. It is enough for us, never for Him.

I recall feeling on the way home that I was going to need something to tack me back to earth, lest I float away with the giddiness of these gifts.

I needn't have worried.

We had a beautiful Christmas day. It was a warm, loving family day. This also is Redemption. But, despite my plans of celebrating the 12 days of Christmas, as the week wore on I found myself yelling, arguing, vexed, and agitated. My son and I butted heads and lots of cross words were exchanged. I felt myself dragging through the mud. It was yucky.

Slowly, I remembered my thought on the way home from Mass. "I need something to tack me back on earth." I said it yesterday. I said it today at Mass, but I stopped quickly. "I need." Yes, that is exactly it, isn't it. I need. I desperately need God for my every breath, for every millisecond where I relate to another person, for my every thought, movement, responsibility, initiative. I am completely, totally, abjectly dependent on God. I am called to be like Mary, to union with the Trinity, but for this (I don't say for this too, because "this" equals all the rest I just litanied) I am dependent on God.

This also is Redemption.

Fair and Balanced

I enjoy taking these little tests. The results generally tell me what I already know, but somehow having some widget give me feedback gives me a satisfaction....

You Are 50% Left Brained, 50% Right Brained
The left side of your brain controls verbal ability, attention to detail, and reasoning. Left brained people are good at communication and persuading others. If you're left brained, you are likely good at math and logic. Your left brain prefers dogs, reading, and quiet.
The right side of your brain is all about creativity and flexibility. Daring and intuitive, right brained people see the world in their unique way. If you're right brained, you likely have a talent for creative writing and art. Your right brain prefers day dreaming, philosophy, and sports.

You Are An INTP

The Thinker

You are analytical and logical - and on a quest to learn everything you can. Smart and complex, you always love a new intellectual challenge. Your biggest pet peeve is people who slow you down with trivial chit chat. A quiet maverick, you tend to ignore rules and authority whenever you feel like it.

In love, you are an easy person to fall for. But not an easy person to stay in love with. Although you are quite flexible, you often come off as aloof or argumentative.

At work, you are both a logical and creative thinker. You are great at solving problems. You would make an excellent mathematician, programmer, or professor.

How you see yourself: Creative, fair, and tough-minded.

When other people don't get you, they see you as: arrogant, cold, and robotic.

And's temperment test tells me I'm 87% melacholic and 13% choleric.

Hat tip to Rachel from whom I nabbed these tests.

Happy Birthday, Mike!

Today is Michael Nesmith's birthday (65th, if you can believe most printed sources of his birth year). Happy birthday to one of my favorite musical people, and my childhood alter ego. It took me many years to stop trying to imitate his 1967 hair style!

Oh, and yes it is also Davy Jones's birthday today, but doesn't everyone always expect him to get all the attention?

If you absolutely must ask who these people are (meaning you are either far too young or some sort of cultural.... otherbrow....) see this post.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Home for the Holidays

Today I received a visit from a long-lost relative. His name was Frost Thorn Claghorn (try saying that out loud a few times; a lovely experience...) and he was born in 1880. The visit came via a photo postcard that he sent to his brother 93 years ago, which is now in my ownership, thanks to a woman named Marge who makes it her business to reunite photos with relatives. Frost's mother, Lillie E. Howland Claghorn, was the daughter of Sarah McCord Howland, who was in turn the daughter of Betsey Ann Van Valin McCord,who is the sister of my great-great-great-grandfather, Oliver Van Valin. Running that through the relationship calculator, that makes Frost my third cousin twice removed.

He isn't exactly my next-of-kin, but he is a member of the mystery family that I have been trying to ferret out of census records for the last few years. There is something about connecting a face to a name that make the genealogy pursuit take on a whole new realistic, personal dimension. I can imagine the brick Chicago home which served as backdrop for this picture still standing. I can look at the postmark and know that he had 32 years -- roughly half his years -- left to his life. Did he have any inkling that within five years he and his wife would divorce, and she would marry another man? (And did she have any inkling that the other man would be dead a year later?) And I wonder why, in the 25 words he penned to his brother, did he comment that his weight was 202 pounds? Were they in some sort of body building (or weight loss) competition?

My thanks to Marge and all those who rescue photos from antique shops. A word to the wise: even if you think there is no reason for it, please be sure to label all family photos with names and other identifying information! You never know who may be looking at them long after you leave them behind.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

This day always fills me with wondrous memories of that day, now 16 years ago, when Jesus called to my heart so powerfully, so strongly, so surprisingly, at a Midnight Mass at St. Anthony of Padua in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, showing me that He was, of all shocking places, in a Catholic Church! What a torturous 48 hours I had before I decided that, of course! the Catholic Church is where I had to go.

A Merry, blessed, happy and holy Christmas to everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Oh Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion

I had the pleasure this evening of taking in a local performance of the Christmas portion of Handel's Messiah. It was by no means a professional or stunning performance, but it was very good. Good grief, when you start with spectacular piece like the Messiah it does take some doing to make it anything other than very good.

I was particularly stirred by the piece quoted in my title. It is based on Isaiah 40:9 and 60:1, and says:

O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, and be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

It wasn't the gorgeous harmonies that stirred me, although that helped. It was the Word of God, living and active. Many years ago, various Scriptures that mention speaking began to grip me with a shocking power when I read them or heard them read. Perhaps you've had a similar experience of feeling a Holy Spirit finger pointed right into your chest and the words echoed hot and pounding inside. And these were often about people being called to speak, or otherwise to have a public role in proclaiming God's goodness. So tonight, again. Lift up thy voice/ with strength/ lift it up, and be not afraid. There is something in me that fears, although not in the way that perhaps I once felt just generic fear and awkwardness of speaking (I sometimes still feel that). Perhaps what I feel is more an awe. God tells us to address Zion, Jerusalem, Judah (which my theological training tells me represents the Church, not "the heathen") and to tell them, to tell the Church "Behold your God!" Isn't that astonishing? Arise! Shine! Your Light is come!

I can remember as a child, feeling this call to help Christians "get real". After a preliminary encounter with God at about age 10 (which for years I reckoned as the beginning of my Christian journey, especially during the time when I rejected the validity of infant Baptism) I realized that many people go to church services and call themselves Christians without experiencing Jesus. Can there be a greater tragedy?

Behold your God!

I think part of what makes my heart pound is something in the realization that God commands me to speak, but I don't really know what it is He wants me to say. And I'm thinking of the line attributed to St. Francis: Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words. The message, I realize, is made up of words that God will give to the extent that I am attentive to Him and "with" Him. And the message is also found in taking the graces He gives and living them out. He calls me to a union with Him that is to be lived for others, to call others to arise, to shine.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Advent Prep, Made Physical (Finally)

I had envisioned a lot more of this kind of thing this Advent, but today I had a burst of energy and creativity and patience to clean out the living room and put up the first of our decor. Above you see our table decked out with tablecloths and tiny Jesse tree (and one wise man, journeying), and the mantle bedecked with our creche and some candles. Our two Advent wreaths are there, one barely visible because the candles are so short (hint, they are around our large white wedding candle, the larger-than-the-rest pink candle is hidden behind it). Below we have our winter scene stuff and Christmas cards displayed for the first time ever. Off to the far right will be our Christmas tree, but I think we will hold off until Christmas Eve for that. My daughter painfully pleaded to see Baby Jesus today, but we kept Him hidden away until it is time for His appearing. I shared in her yearning...

Urgent Prayer Request for a Friend

Could you please say a prayer for a friend of mine named Kim, and her baby Isaac? Isaac is due to be born on February 1st, but Kim is going to be induced later this week because she is developing eclampsia. This condition can be life-threatening to both mother and baby.

Please pass the request far and wide to all who can help pray, and I will update as I can.

Thank you so much!
UPDATE: Kim was admitted to the hospital a few hours ago (posted 8:10 pm on Thursday the 20th)
2ND UPDATE: Baby Isaac arrived safely in the world early this morning, Friday the 21st. Kim came through delivery without going into seizures. So, thank you to everyone who prayed!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Some Thoughts on Today's Advent Retreat

This afternoon I participated in a CL Fraternity Advent retreat. I want to capture a few key thoughts from the experience while it is still fresh with me.

First, I am so happy that my husband was able to attend with me. We hardly have a chance to discuss household matters in person, let alone do something like a retreat day, so that was special. The main thing I came away with was my own need for freedom, freedom to be myself. When I went to confession the priest actually said "don't be afraid to be yourself." This kind of thing just makes me laugh with delight, at least in looking back on it by a few hours. I had never met this priest before and he had no sense of my journey beyond what I had told him in confession, and he repeats to me this key phrase which the Lord began telling me when He called me to the Catholic Church, and has been gently tutoring me in for years, and which has once again come front and center through encountering the writings of Fr. Giussani. I did a quick search on this blog and found any number of posts where I realize, over and over, that this is what God wants for me, and then this priest tells me exactly the same thing.

And I'm remembering a time in confession, probably six ago or so, when I felt the tip of something emerge of which I felt I received a much fuller understanding today. It was this sense that I have a "real" life that I live within me, and in certain contexts outside of me, but then I have this other life with which I interact with most other people in my life. Six years ago I had a sense of this, and it bothered me greatly, but I didn't understand why it was this way or what to do about it. Today I understood what this is, and I think this understanding will help me in the overcoming in the areas in which this is still a problem. Fr. Roberto talked about the "I", myself, as relationship with God, the Infinite. I am this relationship with God. And this is also how I need to understand other people, and how I need to relate to other people. And when I take this relationship to the Infinite out of the equation of relating to others, what I am left with is -- well here there were two metaphors, both helpful, striking, but different. I'm left with a political relationship. Every action is a reaction, calculated for what seems to bring me the most pleasing outcome. So I constantly have to read others, and make safe bets. The other metaphor, and perhaps I do see the correlation, is that in taking relationship to the Infinite out the the equation of how I see others, I am left a slave. Someone, something else is determining my life, and I am putting myself under that.

So, six years ago I saw that my real life is in my freedom of belonging to Christ. This is real. But I set a limit on that freedom; it ended where I had to interact with most people outside myself. No big wonder then that I tended to recoil from interaction, because I felt it automatically reduced me to just reacting to them, being their puppet, or even worse, being the puppeteer.

Why? Well, following the basic line of reasoning presented today, I felt this automatic reduction out of a fear, or at least a lack for some reason, of sharing my needs with others, or at the very least, being conscious of my needs while with others. This is also pretty much a no-brainer for me, because in times past I have felt myself an extremely needy person. I was pretty intense about it, too, in my 20s (when for months and months I would come to church with tons of Kleenex, knowing I would spend much of our 3 hour service crying). So I equated "need" with becoming a complete basket-case. Undiagnosed mild depression and hormonal imbalances in my 20s and 30s probably didn't help matters any. Infertility six years ago contributed greatly to this isolation: I felt I couldn't share my sorrow for fear of meeting a lack of understanding, lack of empathy. So, I tried to make a nice face, but inside I knew that I was just posturing.

To a degree I was only posturing with even my husband, and even myself. And I suppose I should add, especially with my Lord. I can say with certainty that I have emerged out of the veil of sorrow that I lived under almost all of my life. That doesn't mean that I don't ever struggle or feel sadness. But my reference point is not sorrow, it is life. Life, as in the Way, the Truth and the .... Life. I am just beginning to learn that needs are not big scary black holes destined to crush my existence. They are, rather, the roads for Christ to reach me. I can LOVE my needs, my neediness. God is there for me, and there is no true need that I have that He cannot meet the moment I bring it to Him, if not before.

I have a habitual struggle with expressing some basic needs to the people in my life, however, and this is something I must unlearn. I spent several days in Germany with my high school German class, including some days living with a family on my own. I nearly starved because every time they asked me if I were hungry I told them no, I was fine. That was my default "face" for the world. No needs here, I'm just fine! So what if I haven't eaten in 18 hours and have needed to use the WC for the last 10! While I'm a bit better now, if I were to rank felt needs from one to ten, I still personally act on only a five or over, and would hesitate to bother someone else for anything under a seven or eight level need.

But what happens if I can't express my neediness to others, or be conscious of it in relating to them? I think I'm starting to go around in circles here. Either I am reduced to reacting to them, or I reduce them to reacting to me, and we have either a political or a slave relationship. Christ is shoved to the back seat. Even if I know better, the relationship ceases to be with Christ as the focal. So, the big bugaboo which cause me to learn these bad habits is gone, but I'm left with the bad habits. Oh yeah, and there's that original sin thing of course. I really liked what Fr. Roberto had to say about sin: it cannot be the focus, Christ must be the focus. I cannot be about my failures, I must be about my desire to love, that desire that I am created for. So, I will use my bad habit of timidity about my needs to remind me of Christ, and then I am on a winning road, even in the midst of my failures, which will come.

It is all so good, and thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Children Need to Make Mistakes

I do think parents of today find it harder to walk beside their children (which means they will consistently come across opportunities to struggle) versus forging a clear path in front of them. We are potentially over-achieving our children out of their own successful futures.

Quote from one of my discussion boards, made in reference to this thought-provoking article

To which I say, yes and Amen!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas Cheer Challenge

Thanks, Maria, for the heads up to this

Christmas Cheer Challenge!

(Read the follow up to see how it all turned out!)

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Real-Life Advent

Well, I have decided that having a clean house is way overrated. Honestly, I spend part of the day witnessing it being made a mess of (and participating in same myself), and then part of the day getting it back into some semblance of order. The mess making brings great joy to my children, as the furniture becomes forts and bookstores and military outposts and cars and airplanes and several other things. My mess making is primary that of putting things in the first place possible because I'm being called to do two other things.

I suffer from the syndrome of things I think I should be doing. And for some reason, Advent really seems to kick this syndrome into high gear. I have never been one to get really festive (I think the festive gene skipped me), so I don't really obsess over baking, decorating (hah! what's that?!), crafting or any of those other lovely things that fill other homes with beauty. But think: If you knew that your life would be ending sometime within the next 15 days, would you have a strong desire to literally get your house in order? I mean, to get all those bits of paper, stray books, odd buttons, old mail, vitamin bottles and pens organized on that hutch shelf? If I were nervous, yeah, I suppose I could burn off some nervous energy that way. But if I were, say, me, my gravitation would be toward quiet time with my heart and my thoughts to prepare myself for such a great event.

So, that's why I'm blogging instead of making cookie dough or washing my floor.

Or, it could be because I'm lazy and/or tired out from taking care all day long.

It's hard to know the human heart precisely; at least it is for me and this human heart.

I am slowly getting out of the habit of living my life as an abstraction. Of thinking, Ok, it's Advent now, so time to hit the Advent button for a feeling, mood and productivity shift. I have this idea of what I "should be doing," and then this reality of what I actually do. The "should" idea is an abstraction. If I lived as a character in a novel somewhere, I would do xyz as a Catholic living Advent. I would have a house that didn't get re-messed, I would prepare a fridge full of food in advance of Christmas day (and the 12 thereafter) and wouldn't have to worry about meals before then, or space, or spoilage. All clutter would vanish and my home would suddenly look warm and festive, with candles that never got shorter, guests comfortably sipping warm cider or egg nog (not where I can see it, though, please), smiles on every face, prayer and peace in every heart. I would cook, bake and clean and never grow tired, and my children would not make noise or excessive demands. Oh, and my husband would be a character in this play as well -- who needs him to keep working and pay the bills, right?

It's a pretty picture, but that's all it is, of course. It looks absolutely nothing like our real life. And that is the life which the King of Kings desires to be born anew into, and it is the life we have to prepare.

So, I spend what feels like most of my waking hours preparing three meals for myself and my children (hubby shares in the last one, at least), I witness or assist my children in learning, or at least try to prevent them from seriously harming each other, I keep the shelves stocked with clean dishes and the drawers with clean clothes. On a good day, I might work a shower in for myself. I get to Mass, thanks be to God, daily, and we go out to our other errands. I say my prayers, I nurse, wipe noses and... other anatomy, I might sweep the floor, I put videos in the VCR and read instructions for computer games. In my mind, I wrestle with why certain evils exist in the world and what I can do in the face of these, I wonder about those persistent, cowlicky things about myself that weigh down my heart, I multi-task until I can't speak English anymore, and sometimes I scream in frustration.

And this is the life that really is living Advent. My real one.

I start my day every day with a daily offering, giving all of this to the Lord for the salvation of souls. I know that it matters not so much what I do as with Whom, through Whom, and for Whom I do it. The salvation of souls is not my work, but Jesus asks me to give Him my work so He can somehow use it to do His. So I know, I really do know, that there is immense value in what I do, or at least there can be. It seems lately I have gotten into this thinking that, yeah, that's all nice, but what about at least part of that "beautiful" picture. Part of it is the desire for God. Yes. I want Beauty, Truth and Goodness, in ways that I don't possess and that is good. But the problem is when I want to get there by not being me anymore. How tempting to think that grace is really a magic wand, and that God's plan is to transform my pumpkin of a life into a carriage. Transform he does, to be sure. But with real life changes, the little bits of newness for which I am to be on the look out, longing for daily, welcoming.

Like that Little Bit that came to Mary and grew under her heart for nine months and Whose Birth we are preparing to celebrate.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Inaccessible Beauty

Last night as I was winding down for the day in front of the computer, I happened to come across a music video that I found fascinating and disturbing. The song was James Blunt's "You're Beautiful". Now, I freely admit to being at least 20 years behind when it comes to what's popular in music. I'd never heard of this guy nor his music. But the video's story was so poignant: a man beholds a beautiful woman, realizes he will never have the pleasure of her, and so he drowns himself.

Not a new song theme, of course. Just the other day I googled the lyrics for "Alone Again, Naturally", a song I thought I knew (of course, when I was a kid all we could do was try to decipher the lyrics from the radio, and at 7 or so I wasn't so good at that). But a key difference between these two songs is that the 70's version has the man wanting to kill himself because of doubts about God's goodness. Blunt makes no reference to God. Or does he?

I thought of the comment my friend Suzanne made on my post about joy a few weeks back. We discussed the relationship between the "cool" people of the world and the "nerdy joyful" (what labels!). In that context, she made this comment:
..They [people without joy] view them [people who have joy] as reclining on the bosom of Abraham way across an abyss, and they know it's useless to ask whether they would dip a finger into some water to wet their parched tongues.

That comment made me feel a helpless sense of pain for people in this position, and I know they exist. I know at least a couple of them. And it seems to me that the character Blunt portrays in his video is another. I wonder if this sentiment is not much more widely shared than any of us would like to believe.

A beauty that exists, that can be beheld, but whose delights seem destined to prove the torment of the one who desires them, rather than his joyful destination. And while observing all this, I feel like a most ineffectual minister of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:17-21). It doesn't have to be this way! Desiring beauty can lead to all manner of moral depravity, but it can also lead to exquisite holiness. Heightened sensitivity to beauty, to good and evil, and to life in general, can be a great cross, and artists have attested to this with their work and their lives for centuries. I feel I have a bit of the dark artist in me, but I also had the, um, gift? of a dull foundation of presumption which caused me to always assume God's presence in my life was real, albeit distant. We all travel towards the same Ultimate, whether or not we realize it, and regardless of the angle from which we approach the journey. I suppose this is why a lack of understanding among people is so tragic; even the most disparate of types have so much in common, if the eye could but see it.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

May the Souls of the Faithful Departed, Through the Mercy of God, Rest in Peace

Because my husband is Grand Knight of the local Knights of Columbus council, our family has gotten to know most of the active Knights. One gentleman who was responsible for getting dh's particular council to stay afloat, and who was himself Grand Knight for quite awhile, recently passed away, and today was his funeral.

So, I've been contemplating a bit this whole reality of death and grief.

When I first learned that John had died, my thoughts went toward heaven, and the joy of going beyond the veil of this life to discover the next. I prayed for the happy repose of his soul...

One memory of John that sticks in my mind was that he happened to call the morning after I learned my father had passed away. I answered the phone all groggy and miserable sounding, I think, and he quickly and happily asked me if I was expecting. The question didn't really sink in, but I said "no, my father just died." I think he was so struck by how inappropriate his question sounded (really, it went right over my head) that he apologized profusely, had a Mass said for my father, had his wife bring me over brownies and invited me to visit on my own to return the pan. When we did eventually have children, John and his wife took a real liking to them and always brought little presents for them for the joy of it. Their home was the first place we took our son to visit after he moved to our house at age 8 months. We spent many a Sunday having a little visit at their house...

As I prayed for John, I also asked John to pray for us, and for my children who he seemed so fond of.

There is this whole other reality, though, in attending a funeral. John had been a sick man for quite a while, and had spent much of this year in and out of the hospital. Even so, the timing of his death came as a shock for his wife and family. Grief was palpable in the church, and I wept at the sight of others' weeping. Even the solemn act of driving in a caravan to the cemetery was a mysteriously moving experience, this moment of all present on the roads stopping for the proverbial hat tip of respect. He had been in the Army, so the honor guard played Taps at the cemetery, which in my estimation is just the most emotionally provocative series of little notes there is. I don't know how anyone who has absorbed American culture can hear those notes, especially when played in reference of a loved one, and not be overcome with grief.

Is it not a profoundly sacred thing, an experience that speaks of faith in the sacred dignity of the human, precisely rooted in the fact that we are more than a lump of biological matter -- this whole practice of honoring the dead? I realize that, despite the joy to contemplate of going to be with the Lord, a significant part of honoring the dead is sharing the sorrow of those who mourn. Perhaps this is not rocket science. But I am, I believe, in the process of reconstruction when it comes to considering these factors of human relationship: the dynamism of human interactions. The very real stuff you never know until you live it; the stuff books can't give you.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Why, Yes I Do Make My Own Granola!

Here's my recipe:
4 cups organic oats
1 cup chopped nuts (almonds or walnuts)
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 cup kamut puffs
2/3 cup olive oil
1 cup honey
bunch of raisins
Mix all the dry ingredients, then mix the oil and honey, whisk them, and combine with dry ingredients. Bake on greased cookie sheets (2) for 20 minutes at 300 degrees, then stir, bake for 10 more minutes. Dump into pan to cool, mix in raisins.
Extremely yummy.
And it qualifies you to be some sort of hippie if you make this (or so I've heard).

Culture, Growing Children, and Passing on the Faith

A sick child this afternoon made it a perfect time to post this at Cahiers Péguy: the drama of Christian humanism:

And yes, my house was clean as I wrote. :)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Snow, Advent, and Preparation

These things are upon us, locally at least!

I enjoyed November's blog-a-rama and all the remembering. In December my focus needs to shift. I feel particularly called to make the preparation for Christmas tangible, to "incarnate" it if you will, and use my midnight oil to clean, and prepare festive things rather than write, for the most part.

And I'm saying that here to give me that accountability to myself, because I can say "well, I blogged it, so I'd better live it!"

But I'll try to check in with whatever seems appropriate to share. A Blessed Advent to one and all.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Volumes are On-Line

All of the volumes of Direction For Our Times are now available online for download. I will finish posting volume two, however. But if you would like to read more before I am able to post further volumes, please see:

This Link

December 1, 2007 Message to Anne

On the first of every month, Our Lord gives Anne a new message about His call to service.

December 1, 2007

We are a faith of waiting. You wait for Me to return to the world and I wait for souls to return to Me. You feel a longing for Me and for goodness that causes you pain at times. I feel a similar longing for souls in the world who have rejected Me and so suffer the pain of separation from Me. How they hurt. How their wounds disturb them and cause them to hurt others. My heart sighs with loneliness for them. I ache to comfort them and console them. I long to heal their wounds. You, My beloved apostles, comfort Me in this grief by sharing this experience with Me. I am comforted by your fidelity to Me which is reflected in your fidelity to the cause of your brothers and sisters. As I wait, so do you wait and as I suffer, so do you suffer. I speak to you today, though, to remind you of something. As I rejoice, so should you rejoice. Rejoice with Me at the return of many souls just as perhaps others rejoiced at your return. Rejoice with Me at the healing of many souls, just as perhaps others rejoiced at your healing. You will rejoice that others return to Me through your consistent and humble service. We are a faith of waiting, it is true, but we are also a faith of rejoicing. The Father’s goodness spreads out over the earth in this time in waves of kindness and benevolence. You, My beloved apostles, gently push these waves out with your commitment to My service. The great mercy of the Father draws souls to My heart, the heart that burns steadily, a furnace of divine compassion and love. We are waiting, yes. But while we are waiting, we are preparing. You prepare to receive your King and I prepare to receive the fruits of your service. Be at peace, My beloved friends. We serve together, we suffer together, and we rejoice together. Be assured that you are loved and that your loneliness is temporary. I am returning.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Volume Two: Conversations With the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus (Part Six)

... changing the world through humble acts... the value of calm ... growth in holiness...

September 1, 2003

I am with My children. My presence is silent but constant. I am directing many of the seemingly unimportant events in your lives, so that My will can be accomplished. My children are practicing faith, and that pleases Me. But My protection is so great that My children could have an infinite amount of faith in Me and still more would be justified. My faithful ones, who are struggling to serve Me and be holy, please trust Me for I am with you. I have pledged My protection to you and I will not leave you vulnerable. Offer me small little prayers when you are frightened or unsure and I will place My calming hands upon you, steadying and reassuring you. You will look back at this time of service to Me and you will be so grateful that you said yes to your God. My children, you will look upon so many souls sharing eternity with you who would be absent if not for your service. Can you imagine the joy you will share with these souls? So be brave and continue in My service, walking the path I have illuminated before you. It is there you will find your peace and your key to eternity.

For today, I want to warn you about a snare or a trap. My children often want to do big things for Me, and truly, big things are necessary and big things will be asked of you. But your holiness lies in the small, dear soul. It is in the small unseen tasks and duties that I whisper to your soul, that I mold a bit here, reform a bit there. You do not feel these changes because they are so subtle, but changes occur, My child, in the small things. So do not begrudge Me the mundane. Complete small, humble acts with love and patience so that I may do My work on your soul as quickly as possible. Yes, We are going to save many souls, and bring the world back to the Light, but We are going to do that one soul at a time and right now, I am starting with you. So give yourself to Me that I may change the world. Together, you and I must perfect your beautiful soul, insuring that it reaches its fullest potential, both here and in heaven. Do you trust Me, My child? Trust can be difficult but this is one time when you can step out in complete trust and confidence because I will not let you fall. I am here, ready to save you. I have waited for this day, My child, for so long. My heart aches with love for you and watching you read these words creates an even stronger love in My heart. I will take care of you and you can close your eyes and rest in My heart. You have suffered because of the distance between Us. Often you did not know where the pain originated but I assure you, the pain began when you turned away from Me. Our standards must be high now, as I desire your happiness. I want you to remain in My heart, where I place you today. I will help, My dear child. You are infinitely precious to Me and if you show Me the smallest desire, I can keep you firmly joined to Me, despite the winds that try to tear you away. Have every confidence that the smallest bit of faith will be rewarded in these days of difficulty. Heaven is united with earth in this mission of salvation for souls. All assistance is available to each soul who seeks to be saved. Be at peace, now, My little soul. I am holding you tightly.

September 1, 2003

I want my children to be calm. Even in My service, My children tend to rush to and fro, as though this life were a race. My children when you are hurrying, I cannot help you to listen. I may want to whisper something to your soul, an instruction, a bit of encouragement, or a word of love if you are being maligned. Often, though, you are moving so quickly that your heart and mind are already on the next task, leaving the current task incomplete or improperly executed. So, slow down, dear ones, that your Jesus might be truly united in your work and in your recreation. I do not like to hurry, and you carry Me with you. There are times, My child, when I wish to work through you to guide or console a soul in distress. If you are hurried, you will miss My cue and the soul will remain without necessary consolation and guidance. Children, this is the state of affairs all over your world at this time. Do you notice that loneliness and despair are everywhere? Children, you will not find loneliness and despair where I am. In deed, even in the most wretched of circumstances, if I am present, you will see eyes that smile and offer kindness, and you will see great hope, even in the face of suffering and death. So what is missing in your world? I am missing. Few souls allow Me to work through them. When I am allowed, you will see hope begin to flourish again. Faces will be more at peace and joy will flow naturally from one soul to another. I will put such joy in your faces that you will be unable to conceal your unity with Me. Crosses will feel lighter and hold great meaning. Children, I have so much to offer you. Both in these words and in My constant presence in your lives. So do not turn away, even for a day. Draw closer to Me, that We may proceed. What feels difficult to you, anticipating changes in your life, will come easily. That is another promise I make to you. Such will be Our union that you will consult Me on everything. Your life will reflect heaven. Souls will be drawn to you because of this and you will be equal to the representation of your God. Be joyful now because My plan has been set in motion and all creation awaits My coming. You will see changes in your world and you will understand and welcome these changes as a sign that your Jesus has heard the prayers of His children and is responding in love. Be calm, My child, in the face of all difficulties because I am steering the direction of the world now. I want My children practicing a quiet and thoughtful approach every single day, and every hour in that day. Your thoughts, of course, should be turned to Me whenever possible. A small prayer, a sentence in your heart, is enough to ignite the faith and trust in your soul, which returns calmness to you. In this way, when upsetting events occur in your life, you will be comfortable confronting troubles in unity with Me, your Jesus. How different you will find life. How peaceful and joyful. I want the times when you are hurried to be rare. So much so, that you will note the rushed feeling and immediately seek to alert Me that you are not recollected. I will then restore your quietness so that you serve Me thoroughly.

September 1, 2003

My child, with such gratitude I view your efforts. I am here, waiting in the tabernacle to thank you and encourage you. You are trying to serve Me in your life and it is not always easy to do this. Until a complete union or surrender occurs, you continue to wrestle with the pull of the world and worldly attractions and distractions. This creates conflict in you because I am calling you in another direction. This conflict makes you feel discouraged, dear one, but you should not allow this feeling. There is not growth without some bit of discomfort. So, when you feel unsettled and you long for old habits, remember that you used those habits to console yourself in emptiness. I am now filling that emptiness for you so you do not need to rely on these things anymore. Worldly habits or addictions did not make you happy, My little soul. You felt unrest and bitterness without Me. Now, with Me, you are beginning to experience true peace, the peace which comes from heaven. This is a sign that your soul is directing the movement and action of your body, which is how man is intended to live. The body is under your dominion, or the dominion of your soul, and the soul, your precious and irreplaceable soul, is under My dominion. In this way, in this small corner, the world is as it should be. You belong to Me, My child, and I have defended you fiercely, despite your temporary indifference to Me. We will keep moving forward now, with Our movement toward unity. You may feel as though you are moving quite swiftly in these spiritual matters. Do not fear this haste as I am personally determining the speed at which I need you to ascend. In days past, perhaps your conversion would be more gentle and leisurely. I do not will that now and it is not what I require. I need My soldiers prepared quickly. Because I am God, and all created things bow to Me, I can do this with a soul like yours, who seeks to assist Me and please Me.

My child, never be afraid of holiness. When you doubt, look to your duty and remain calm until I desire to erase your doubts. You will carry small crosses of fear and doubt at times, but that is, again, more practice, and these little exercises are good for your soul. Make small acts of faith to Me and the doubts will lose their power to distract you from My service during your days.

I am with you, My little souls, and We have discussed exactly what I mean when I say that. You are with Me and We move purposefully through your life together. Look for opportunities to serve Me in the people I place in your path. If you sense that I need you to assist a soul, let your spirit go quiet while I place the proper inspirations in your heart and mind. Then you may respond to the need in this soul for Me, and My word, My presence, will have been achieved. Dear little soul, so willing to serve Me, can you imagine your world if even a small number begin to live this way? Your world would change and that is what I am seeking to accomplish. Be at peace. Your God is pleased.

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

I'm thinking tonight about the history of my career path, if you can call it that.

When I was nearing college graduation and everyone was asking me "what I wanted to do," I usually told them "I want to be myself." They probably thought I was being a smart aleck, or just evasive, but that was the honest truth. I looked in newspaper want ads and realized that 95% of jobs offered struck absolutely no chord of interest in me. I was an English major, so most people asked me if I wanted to teach. I actually had this big wrestling with myself, the end result being me "asking God's permission" to never be a teacher. I hated the one education class I took. My father before me became a teacher under the pressure of choosing a respectable career (I know he would have far preferred to play trumpet in a band), and I'm fairly sure he hated it as well. Then like one week after I got so bold as to assert that I really, honestly, didn't want to (if it's ok with you, God) become a teacher, a visiting evangelist at my Fellowship pronounced a prophecy over me that I was called to some kind of academic teaching. Beware of prophets prophesying against the very grain of your heart!

My education trained me for my early jobs very well, in that I had lots of mindless grunt work to do, and I did it without complaint, and very efficiently. (I highly recommend David Albert's excellent commentary explaining how modern education prepares students for emerging jobs of the modern era -- the top three of recent years being Wal-Mart checker, McDonald's employee and Burger King employee).

While in Japan, I felt the need to get serious and move beyond making copies, answering phones and the little bit of writing and editing that had made up my work of the past five years. I decided that essentially I wanted to be a catechist, being a new Catholic at this point. My "highest" aspiration, as some might measure aspirations, was to become a seminary professor.

But deep down, all this time, I was screaming that I wanted to get married and have children. But I was never really able to act on that desire in a logical way. I didn't have a clue how to proceed. My life was a process of jumping from thing to thing as a way to survive, keep myself fed and housed, while I waited for my future to fall on me out of the sky.

So when I washed up on shore once again at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I began to ask God to direct me to those people He desired to be part of my life. Within weeks of arriving in town, I met my future husband (we started dating a year later, and got married about a year after that), and my next employer, Scott Hahn, for whom I did the most satisfying paid work to date.

I fast forward to today. Watching my son settle in to sleep tonight, I thought of my aspiration to become a seminary professor. I longed to pour my heart into the formation of men who would serve God and the Church. And here is my little boy, my vulnerable little tinder box/joy bomb of a boy. The task of his formation is with both of us, and my husband, 24/7, for the next many years. Last night my daughter asked me to tell her the story about Mary. At least once a week before she goes to sleep I tell her all about the old couple who longed for a baby girl, and how God had a special vocation for her, which she said yes to with all of her heart.... And then there is my dear hubby, who would stop at nothing to provide security and stability for us. Is there a way that I could possibly be happier than in this reality which God has willed for me? This reality which fulfills my desires, leaving me nothing but Heaven to long for?

And now, finally, I may even learn to fully be myself, as well.

Deo Gratias

Thursday, November 29, 2007

If It's Worth Doing at All, It's Worth Doing Badly

Scott Hahn used to say that a lot. Isn't it actually a Chesteron quote?

I have lots of thoughts and very little energy to meditate on them with my fingers to the extent I'd like. So, I'm going to just going to aim low this evening.

Here are some random thoughts of late:

My friend Suzanne at Come to See (not to mention physically residing down the street from me!) posted this awhile back which touched on the words in the Our Father, at least in one translation, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors". This has really revolutionized the way I think about the Our Father. I say "think about" rather than pray, because I really haven't taken the time to sink down into the words so that when I am praying with others the standard "trespass" phrase, I'm actually thinking of this. If that makes any sense. But the idea of our "debt" to God encompasses everything He has given us which we could never deserve or repay. And we are to forgive others their debt to us, so that we don't consider anyone, or life itself, "owing" us anything. This speaks to me. I'm not good at recounting individual sins for many reasons, none of which have anything to do with not having any. But I can feel "debt" naturally. My heart knows what that is.

Ok, next. I've been working on a post for ages now on foreignness and communication, and today in sharing my grand revelation with a friend at School of Community, he says "oh yes, that's the analogy I started using years ago" to describe his experience as well. So reassuring when someone knows *exactly* what you are talking about.

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Andrew, who is, of course, the patron of Scotland. Even though I have to go back to my 6th great-grandfather, Thomas McNeal (or beyond: he was probably born in New York), and my 9th great-grandfather William Prindle to get to my Scottish roots, I am going to celebrate my Scottish ancestry tomorrow. I love bagpipe music, so I am going to claim all the Scottishness I can and rejoice! (I like polka music too, to honor the 50% of my heritage which is German, but it doesn't quite make my soul sing like "Scotland the Brave" does.)

When I dug out that tape with "Daughter" on it, I also dug out a variety of music I once spent a lot of time listening to. It was so fun to listen again to some of the music that was the soundtrack for my journey into the Church some 15+ years ago. John Michael Talbot was prominent. A woman who lived upstairs from me in my ancient apartment building alternated between him and Billy Idol. I often woke up on Saturday mornings (well, noons lots of times!) to the sound of JMT wafting through my closet. It was wonderful. Other favorites were Rich Mullins, the beauty of whose songs can make your heart ache, and Charlie Peacock: funky, and extremely human. These still appeal to me a lot, however I am left with cassettes which sat in my car during one too many sub-zero winters.

Ok, still really needing sleep, although I do have this need to write as well....

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Eating Right for Everyone's Type

What surprises us when we look at Jesus? "Where they had been unaware and confused, they were enlightened, for Christ was the only one in whose words they felt their whole human experience understood and their need taken seriously, clarified." What surprises us in Jesus is this gaze, full of compassion for humanity, for the happiness of the individual, for each one, for every one who has a first and last name.

--Julian Carron, with quote from Fr. Guissani

Reading this tonight I went to thinking about Scripture, and particularly about Ezekiel chapter three. What did the messenger tell the prophet? Take the Word of God and memorize it? Take the Word of God and do laborious intellectual study over it? Quote it at length to non-believers? Put it on bumper stickers and t-shirts? No, he said "Take the Word of God and eat it."

Of course, all of the above actions may have a part to play in our devouring, internalizing, the Word of God. But tonight I see that what the world needs to witness is persons transformed into the image of Christ -- they need to see Christ in us. What a huge difference there can be between becoming Christ and merely talking about him. If I am transformed, or to the degree that I am, then I have Christ's compassion for others. I respect and, to the degree I am able, understand their needs. I then become an agent of attraction, and when I speak of Jesus, it can become clear that He is why -- He is my Why.

So I see that I am called to feast on Scripture to fuel the transformation of my soul. As a Lutheran I spent quite a bit of energy memorizing Scripture, which is a very valuable practice which can backfire. It has helped that these days I rarely use or hear the translations from which I memorized, so my tendency to glaze over on the too-familiar is diminished. For fresh daily nutrition, of course, the Church is way ahead of me by holding out to me the Liturgy of the Hours and the daily Mass readings. What I see tonight is my need for a renewed appreciation for meeting God in His Word through these sources which don't require me to come up with some meditation plan of my own.

A little metaphorical tangent here... I've been reminded yet again about how for proper health I really do need to "Eat Right For My Type". I've gotten off the band wagon of trying to proselytize others to this dietary change, and maybe I am still working on really convincing myself when I feel perfectly fine that if I indulge in a huge amount of whatever food I should not be eating, that there will be consequences in the following days. But, back to Scripture, it makes me think of the adage that "we are what we eat." How much self-discipline does it take to not feast our minds on things incompatible for our soul's Guest? How often are we (as was suggested in Fr. Richard's homily today) sacrilegious with ourselves -- treating as common that which is set apart for the sacred? How frequently do I presume that it doesn't really matter what choices I make, everything is always fine for my soul in the end? It makes me think that God had a pretty ingenious idea to give His chosen people extensive dietary restrictions. Eating differently from others around you does force you to constantly think about why you are doing it, and to find ways to pull it off. There's a parallel, I think, with our need for spiritual feeding...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Not-So-Happy Unschooling Day

Ok, since I glowed last week about how wonderful our days had been, it's only fair that I share the flip side of the story. Today was One of Those Days. Almost from my waking moment I felt pummeled, and I'm not sure it has stopped yet. I knew it was a bad sign when my son switched off the really cool music I had playing and snapped "I don't wanna hear it." We had some laughs and read some science books, but it seems every two or three hours we had to stop for a fight breaking out. I found myself right down at my son's level in trying to break up the fights. He persistently complained of boredom, or insisted on orchestrating his sister to play in exactly a certain way for him to be happy, or just irritated her and me on purpose. We had some good talks in response to all this earlier in the day, but towards dinner I just concluded we were all much shorter on sleep than I had accounted for, and talking was not going to do the trick anymore.

I had a brief peaceful, prayerful moment at Mass (before I carried my daughter out in an uncharacteristic screaming fit) as we sang the opening hymn:
Be Thou my Vision Oh Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence, my light.

Regardless of how life feels, I long to hold firm with the Lord who pulls me from one day to the next.

And speaking of "waking or sleeping", I need some extra shut eye tonight! Goodnight!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Volume Two: Conversations With the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus (Part Five)

... healing... speech... humility...

August 29, 2003

The love I feel bursts out from My Eucharistic heart. I cannot contain it. For such a time now, I have watched My children falter and err. I have seen them behave in such a way that they bring great pain and damage to their souls. Because they do not turn to Me, I cannot heal them and counsel them as I long to do. Thus they stumble on through their lives, repeating the same patterns, and falling deeper into sin. Because of their pain, they inflict pain on others. Children, if I am describing you, I tell you now, it is time to stop. I am calling a halt to your destructive behavior, and I am giving you a unique opportunity. Come back to Me now, My little lost soul, and I will lift all punishment due you. Repent and throw yourself into My arms. I will forgive you immediately. I have already done so. But in order to heal and to be comfortable in heaven, you must repent and seek My forgiveness. You must come to Me to seek My forgiveness. You must come and get it from Me. I am here, in the tabernacle. Come to Me here and I will forgive all sin. I will make you as pure as if you had never sinned. My children, all in heaven are awed at the scope of this promise. I want you to consider that this is an opportunity you should take advantage of. You will not have forever to do this. You do have eternity on this earth. You have made mistakes and left the path to heaven. I implore you to return to Me now, before it is too late for you. You must understand that your soul can be lost If you linger too long in mortal sin, My child, you will take to it as a child takes to a bad habit. The time to return is now. I come to you in these words because My love can no longer remain unrequited. It longs to comfort and console, and you, My child, are in need of comfort and consolation. If you let Me tell you of My love for you, you will begin to understand how irreplaceable you are to Me. Your gifts, strengths, skills, were given to you so that you could further My kingdom on earth, as an obedient and loving child looks after the interests of their father. But for some time now, you have not done that. You have looked after our own interests, either through the slavery of addiction, or through the quest for worldly goods and sensual experiences. My child, I know you feel this is your business and perhaps you feel you hurt only yourself. I tell you now that you are My child, I love you, and I take it very personally when you hurt yourself. I am telling you now to stop. Stop any behaviour that is separating you from Me. Are you unsure what those behaviours are? Come to Me, here in the tabernacle, and I will tell you exactly which behaviours I refer to. You know already, as you read these words. You must not trade these behaviours for your eternal life, My child. You must not. That is the second part of the reason why I compel you to return to Me. The third reason you must change your behaviour is because I need you. I am your God, the God of All, and truly, I say to you, I need you. There are souls in your world that only you can save. You must be working for Me to save them, because I have to tell you how and you have to e listening. So please, little souls of My heart, come to Me now because the first part of the reason compelling your return is that I love you and separation from you is making My heart ache with loneliness.

August 29, 2003

I wish to speak to My children about their speech. My children, does your speech accurately reflect who you wish to become? I want you to desire holiness. And I want your speech to be the conversation of a holy soul. My child, I know that you struggle and often do not feel holy. We allow this to protect your humility. But I want you to speak as though you have achieved the level of holiness I desire for you. Jesus what do you mean, I hear you ask. I am with you, and you are with Me. Your speech must display or illustrate Our unity. Do not think that you have gained this unity but must keep it hidden. My child, that would threaten part of Our goal for you, which is that other look at you and see Me. Others must also listen to you and h ear Me. As a holy exercise, and in that same spirit of practice We have adopted, I want you to listen to what you say. Listen to your voice. And understand that I am also listening with you. Pay attention to your words, of course, but also to your tone and the inflections you use. Are your words, tone, and inflections mean to convey love? Do they accurately represent God, whom you carry within yourself? You will find, I am certain, that at times you are not happy that your speech reflects Me. Do not be upset by this, little learning soul. That is why We are checking. We are leaving no stone unturned to secure your beautiful reward in heaven. So when you identify something in your speech that you feel I would not approve of, ask Me how to say that thing differently. My child, you have been reading My words and hearing them in your heart. I wanted this for you because I wanted you to know Me. After all, I am your Saviour. It is fitting that you be intimately acquainted with Me. So now that you have listened to Me, I want you to speak to others as I speak to you. Let Us review. I speak the truth. Always. Children, do not tell lies. To lie is to sin and remember that sin requires repentance. I speak with great kindness. I am gentle, but I do not withhold the truth, My child, because I fear your anger. If you are called upon to correct someone, do so. Counsel a friend or loved one in moral matters if you feel they are mistaken. Ask Me if I want this from you and I will tell you. Often I prompt a soul to correct a loved one. I understand that this calls for courage but I will see that you do not lack courage if you are following My will. Speak with great love and gentleness and speak the truth. Often, hearing the truth will anger a soul. Remain calm and loving in the face of this anger and know that people were and are often angry with Me.

Children, do not spread unpleasantness about others, either factual or not. Say nothing unless you speak to protect another. Usually you should remain quiet about the sins of your sisters and brothers, as you have enough of your own to be busy about. Speak of kindnesses, sacrifices, and loving acts that brought you joy. Focus on the many, m any good qualities of others. Remember that if a soul is not united to Me, that soul feels a gaping emptiness, a loneliness, and a sadness. Dearest children who are close to My heart, have compassion and mercy as I have had compassion and mercy to you.

I am your God. For every kindness you show to others, you will receive a personal kindness from Me. Guard your speech well, little one. Let your speech bring only Me to others. I will help you. Together we will be certain that your speech profits heaven.
August 29, 2003

My children, would you like to know how to please Me? Would you like to know what consoles Me and comforts Me in the face of widespread disobedience and hatred? Humility comforts Me. Humility consoles Me. Truly, the humility of My chosen souls softens My heart and deflects punishment from a cold world, undeserving of the mercy of its God. My children, the closer you come to Me, the more you recognize My goodness. Your intellect will automatically compare your holiness to My perfection and the result is humility. This is good. Do not fear the knowledge that you are imperfect and must improve. That is the journey, My child. When I walked your earth, people called Me teacher. I am still a teacher and I am teaching you now. Like many teachers, I teach by showing you how to do a thing. My child, when you read scripture you will become familiar with how I lived. You must do this daily and through scripture you will learn about Me. You will watch your heart be moved with pity for humanity, as Mine was moved. You will accept hurts with dignity and understanding, seeking no revenge. Yes, you will change. And change is what We seek together. You cannot stay the same and become holy. That would be impossible. The very call to holiness, and I know that you, My little soul, understand that it is to you I speak, demands change. You are in the process of becoming a saint and that is what I have predestined for you.

My child, you must not be jealous of the holiness of another. I have given each of My children different, gifts, suited to the tasks I require from them. It would hardly do for Me to give you the spiritual gifts of your neighbor, and then expect you to complete tasks that require different gifts. My way is perfect. My plan is perfect. I am perfect. You want to be My friend, My little soul. I am the only way for you. Soon you will realize this but I want you to realize and accept this right now. Heed My words and take My hand and I will put you on the path I have laid out for you. It will feel right to you as it has been designed only for you by your God, Who knows you with a perfect and complete knowledge. My will for you includes peace, and peace will settle upon you as you begin to follow Me. My child, I have many enemies and few friends. May I call you My friend? Will you stand by Me during these days of disobedience? Please, join your heart to My heart and join your will to My will. Together We can save souls. My gratitude flows out to you and you will never understand the power of a grateful God. Truly, I am a slave to My children who serve Me, despite difficulty and ridicule. If I were dragging My cross through your town, surrounded by angry mobs, would you watch from a safe distance? Or would you stand with Me, taking a share of the weight of that cross? My child, do not fear if you answered from weakness. If you come to Me and let Me change you, I can make of you the most loyal and courageous servant. I am with you as you struggle to detach from the world and join My loyal followers. I am putting you together so that you may draw strength from each other. Be at peace. I am G
od and I call My world back to Me.

My Patron for 2008

I am excited to announce that my 2008 patron is St. John Vianney. My husband was chosen by St. Peter Julian Eymard, so two patrons who are very concerned with the priesthood and evangelization. Well, duh, I suppose every saint is concerned with the priesthood and evangelization! My son's patron is St. Walburga, who I now know was a princess whose father, uncle, and three brothers (one of which was St. Boniface) were all saints. She was an abbess and lived in the 8th century in Germany and is considered the first female author of England or Germany. My daughter's patron is St. Monica. So, we have sort of an inverse of last year; my son's 2007 patron (St. Luke) was the only one of our bunch I'd ever heard of before our matching.

If you'd like to be chosen by your own patron for the new liturgical year, just go here.

Is Joy Nerdy?

Several days ago as my children and I were headed to the chiropractor, we passed by an older woman with gray and pink hair. She stood outside another shop with a tall, younger man. I smiled towards them, but something was holding their attention, whether it was something visible or something internal I'm not sure. I focused on the woman. She looked not the least bit happy.

Something about that exchange sticks with me. Now, if Ms. Gray and Pink is reading, let me state up front that I'm sure my thoughts about this have nothing to do with the reality of her life. I'd be more than happy to sit down over a cup of tea and get the real story from her.

But I started to wonder about joy, nerdiness, a sense of "cool," and the masks humans find security in.

I have to say that when I'm not having my virtue stretched to its thinnest, I am pretty joyful. No, strike that, even in the midst exercising patience and being pulled in three or more directions at once (sometimes literally) by my family and our needs, or while I'm setting aside something I really want to do because someone else is asking for my attention or my labor -- even in the midst of these I really am joyful. But I feel joy more when I'm not in stretch mode, and I can then express joy if I just have the presence of mind to go with it.

So I wonder, might some people look at me like a nerd? I'm long past the stage where I really worry about looking nerdy (if ever I worried about things like that). I think of satirical stereotypes of joyful people; don't they seem like they are a bit dotty, a bit out of touch with reality?

Hmmm... the relationship between Reality and joy. Is there a shred of hope to have joy without openness to Reality? And what of this posture of "cool". This is sort of how Ms. Gray and Pink struck me. She was aloof looking; she was intent on her attraction to the point that my children and I didn't seem to exist. "I'm lost in my world. I don't need to acknowledge you, thank you."

Masks are generally used to cover what we feel is ugly. Is there anything more ugly than our own loneliness, our own fears of going unloved or of being deemed unlovable, our own failings, our own inadequacies? If I don't mask these things, what do I look like? I think I am left with my desires showing. I left with my dependencies showing. I am left with my need for the Infinite staring me in the face.

I'm left eligible for joy when the Infinite stares back at me, and smiles.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

If I Could Sew...

... which I can't, I would make dresses from this website. I especially like the 1910 tea gown with the pink sash.

Friday, November 23, 2007

St. Cecelia, Pray For Us!

Yesterday my family attended Mass at our parish, and I was delighted to find that, despite it being Thanksgiving, our priest chose to celebrate the memorial of St. Cecelia. I consider her a special patron.

On Christmas Eve, 1991 I was sitting in St. Anthony of Padua church with my friend Keith and some of his friends. Keith was then a recent revert, having left the non-denom fellowship where I'd met him. Even though I had decided it was time for me to bite the bullet and attend a Mass, I was still very uncomfortable with many of the external trappings of Catholic churches, like statues. Too physical for my spiritualist leanings. His friends that night asked my birthday, and tried to remember which saint fell on November 22, but could not.

At that Mass, and in the hours following, grace forever and completely changed my life. I'll have to tell that story another time...

But then it was the feast of St. Stephen, and I was on my way to my grandmother's funeral, which was why I was not with family over Christmas that year to begin with. I was absolutely compelled, however, to first go to the Catholic bookstore and purchase a breviary. I had heard there was this neat book by which everyone in the Church could pray together several times every day, and I WANTED ONE.

And while I was there, I was drawn like a magnet to the corner of the store with all the saint stuff in it. I searched.... who was that saint whose feast is on my birthday? When I found her, tears welled up in my eyes, and the words burned in my heart: "My life is not a mistake!" St. Cecelia, the patron of musicians! Music ministry was my life at the time. In that corner of the that Catholic bookstore, I felt like I was being hugged and welcomed by my special patron, and by hundreds or thousands of the court of heaven. It was like a little party broke out to welcome this lost and strayed soul who was now turning towards the Church.

Thank you, Lord, for all your gifts.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Saint of the Year

A quick heads-up: last year I requested from A Catholic Life names of patron saints of the year for all in my family. These saints (St. Eligius, St. Agnes of Monte Pulciano, St. Luke and St. William of Vercelli) have accompanied us with their prayers throughout this year. It is interesting to me in retrospect that my patron, St. Eligius, is the patron of metal workers (and those needing to be refined, a pretty good summary of the year for me!)

But this year, the owner of A Catholic Life is in a seminary where he is under holy obedience not to blog. The task has been taken up by Angela Messenger. But, if you would like to request to be chosen by a saint for 2008, you need to do so by November 25. Check out this link!

Happy Birthday To Me!

Yeah! It's my birthday!

I asked the Blessed Mother for a specific thing for my birthday, and I received it. Thanks, Mom!

Taking a short break from my blog-o-rama today to celebrate, and to digest turkey.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Unschooling Days

I don't know if it is simply the contrast with spending a week with sickness last week or what, but we have had some very nice days here at home lately. I had a true naru hodo moment several days ago when I realized the difference in our interactions (less fights among kids, less whinyness and boredom), and the creativity level of our activity, all due to having the MUSIC playing! How do I forget things like this? We've had more games, more creative projects, more sharing, more independent play. I admit however I've had a harder time focusing on what is being said to me by my children as I almost literally do not hear people talking if I have music in my brain. It gives me some sympathy for how my son tends to be without music.

Homeschoolers don't tend to admit to the general public that sometimes days are not happy. It's that defensive thing, of course. Who wants a lecture about how it could be so much easier if the kids would just be in school. Unschoolers perhaps are even less likely to discuss feelings of irritation at whatever can irritate us about our unschooling days. But I'm very grateful for Unschooling Catholics, where we can discuss ups and downs and realize that doubts about our course of action are part of life.

What I find key to this round of ups for me, which gives me some insights into the down times, is that I have a sense of our connectedness being strong. We all want to be with each other. Which of course doesn't mean that we spend every moment of the day interacting. But I have found a few times when both children were doing their things that didn't require me that my feeling about it leaned more towards disappointment than relief. My children are small, so there are those days when I just want to use the restroom alone, or think about how to style my hair without any companionship.

Maybe another happiness key, or indicator, is that I find myself saying yes throughout the day. To me, "no" is for safety, health, and sanity. But I discover I have finally moved away from using "no" for a sense of control.

If I am happy, I have a good sense that my children are, too. And that makes for the best learning environment.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Reduction of Desire

Recently I read the book

God at the Ritz by Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete. It is a very good read, especially for the type of person who in the mood to consider truth in terms more rooted in human experience than in traditional theology. The premise of the book was to respond to hard questions put to this highly educated physicist-priest by secular interviewers for whom belief in God by intelligent people a bit of an oxymoron.

Anyway, I regret that I got my copy from the library and could not mark it up, so that I could go back and think about much of what he said. But one particular point of his has stuck with me nonetheless: his discussion of what he calls the reduction of desire. He gives an example of being delivered by car to his overnight guest lodgings, a residence for priests. He tells how his driver went right passed the perfect parking spot right in front of the door, because of a sign stating "Reserved for Residents," and drove quite some distance away. He tried to argue that as a priest who was to reside in that place over night, with only luggage to drop off, surely they had a right to park there! He states that the fact that his driver was not even attracted by the spot shows she suffered from "reduction of desire," when what our hearts long for is so pummeled out of us that we no longer question what the world around us tells us to accept as a given.

Then he tells another story about watching an interview on TV with a famous writer who had since died. His companions watching with him were thrilled by the interview; Albacete was depressed. Neither had the faintest reason why the other felt what to them was obviously the only fitting emotion. His companions were inspired by this man's heroism to do this interview while knowing he was dying of cancer. Albacete was depressed because the man died and his writing career would never again produce a new brilliant work.

He states:

...if we suppress the desires of the heart, then there is no hope of ever coming to resolve some of the great differences that divide us. Moreover, if we suppress them, we are opening ourselves to manipulation by powers that are otherwise threatened by those desires of the heart.

I think this concept of his has stayed with me in part because I take issue with his examples, but also because I resonate strongly with his conclusion. The whole issue of the parking was answered for me when I saw him in person and realized that his physical circumstances make walking more than a few yards a significant challenge. Accepting the fact that people die and are finite does not seem a spiritual problem to me, either. However, it's intriguing -- suppression of desire destroying hope for resolving differences. Suppression of desire leaving me vulnerable to manipulation. Those are very compelling thoughts.

I'm going now to my mental photo album, and looking at "desire" snapshots of my life. There's that poem I wrote in my late teens. The opening lines say "A longing leaps within my soul, and I run to crush it..." This was once so synonymous with my life that, I hate to say, I spent my late teen years thinking about suicide almost daily. Yeah, I know all about suppression of desire. Then there were the baby steps with which God led me. In college the Lord told me "Don't only notice your need, but seek to fulfill it." Then after I came into the Church, about five years later still, I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I saw a beautiful t-shirt in a gift shop and reflexively (and uncharacteristically) gasped, "Oh! I want one of those!" My tone of voice must have been childlike or hesitating, because one older woman responded with deep care, "Honey, you just go right ahead and get it, then."

My, my I am going on tonight, am I not.

All this pondering is just to ask myself, how much am I really allowing the desires of my heart to serve as wings lifting me into God's plan for me? How equipped am I to model self-mastery of desire for my children? Do I know how to generously and joyously say yes to the desires of my heart for all that is good?

Anne and Fr. Guissani

Last fall, the Lord began to impart two special gifts to me. First was a local School of Community through which I discovered a lively fellowship and the writings of Fr. Luigi Guissani. Shortly thereafter was the messages given to "Anne," a locutionist from Ireland. Communion and Liberation and Direction for our Times. The latter had the quicker impact on me while the first receded for a time, then over the summer the situation reversed for a time. And now I find myself holding both, and being very joyful and peaceful.

And I find myself in a sort of hall of mirrors. What does Fr. Guissani tell me? We need to live total dependence on God, aware of His presence with us as what determines everything in life. What does Jesus say through Anne? That He wants so much for us to be aware that He is not aloof, but with us, and that He desires for us to turn to Him frequently, offering our days, asking for direction, asking to know God's will. And that He promises peace to those who will search for Him in this way.

Both truly are the basic call of Christianity, but both seem to be expressly tailored to the needs of us moderns. For me specifically, Fr. Guissani's writings appeal to an intellectual need I have, to grow, to stretch, to work hard with my mind and my consciousness. Anne's messages appeal to a practical need I have to get the point viscerally, and to remind me of the basic tools I need to use daily for Christian life. I just love how God provides for what I need! I have so many needs, and if I could only see the lengths to which God goes to help me! Now there's a cause for Thanksgiving.

Volume Two: Conversations With the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus (Part Four)

... Jesus' continual presence with us... Jesus' tenderness for us... marriage...

August 28, 2003

My children, I am with you. You have heard Me say that many times before. Perhaps I have said it so often that you do not really hear it. Today, I want you to both hear these words, and understand them. I am with you. Does that mean I watch you from heaven, hoping all goes well with you? Does it mean I gaze out over My whole world, seeing only the large events? No. I am with you. I am with YOU, my child. That means I see the world from your eyes. I walk your walks and I experience your experience. I am there when you are hurt. I feel the sting of human unkindness when you experience it. I feel the weakness and pain in your body when you are sick. My compassionate gaze, so filled with love and understanding, rests upon you every minute of every day. I forgive you any sins even before these sins are committed. But you must admit to your sins and ask forgiveness. My child, do not think you have been abandoned. I say with divine solemnity, I am with you.

So, begin to focus on the fact that every minute of every day, your Jesus is present. Talk to Me, dear child. I have so much to tell you. I have the answers for your difficulties. I have explanations for things you do not understand. I have love for people that you do not feel. So if you focus on the reality of My presence, you will begin to rely on Me. My child, then the transition can begin. Once you begin to rely on Me, your life will get easier and less stressful. You will walk away from even the most difficult situations and leave them behind, instead of carrying that worry wit you into the next area of your life. You will find this to be so liberating that quite quickly it will become your habit. And then child, it will be Me working through you. And when that goal is reached, there is no limit to what you can do. Again I say to you today, you must practice for something to become a habit. So today, concentrate on My continual presence. Ask Me what I would like you to do. Ask Me what words I would like you to use. Then listen to My answer. My Spirit will speak to you and you will hear the words, resting upon your soul. In this way, We can communicate all day long. Have faith. I give you faith today, as you take these first steps to unity with Me. There is no situation where you should leave Me. Even in the most difficult of circumstances, call upon Me. Even in sinful conditions, or should I say especially in sinful conditions, cry out to Me. I am there anyway, My child. You cannot hide your sin by ignoring Me and hoping I have gone away. So speak to Me. Say, Lord, help me. You will not be disappointed. I will help you. I bring you these words today so that you may understand that I am with you. I will never leave you. I await your notice and stand by, ready to assure you that you are cherished by Me and that I did not put you on earth to do work that was too hard for you. If you life is too hard, My little soul, it is because you are trying to accomplish it alone. You need Me. And I am here for you. So let us waste no more time. Jesus, your Jesus, is asking for your attention. Once I have your attention, We can proceed. You will never regret having returned to Me. Do not hesitate. Come and sit before Me in the tabernacle and We will begin.

August 28, 2003

I want to draw souls into My Sacred Heart. This is the place of safety for you, My dear ones. It is here, in the security of My love, that you can rest and begin to see your world with clarity. Just as I told you that I see your world through your eyes, because I am always with you, I want you to see all through My eyes. In this way, gradually you and I become one. When you look at a situation that troubles you, I want you to think, What would My Jesus say about this? If you are unsure, simply ask Me. I will tell you. In the same way, when you look at a situation that causes you joy, ask Me if I also feel joy. We can then exult together. And there is much to be joyful about, My little one. I am joyful, for example, about you. I see your struggles and do you know why seeing your struggles makes Me joyful? Because you are trying to be good. We, in heaven, observe this struggle for improvement and We sent you all manner of little rewards and assistances. We are with you in your struggles, more than you can imagine. My heart beats with such tenderness for you when you struggle. My child, you must not take this struggling as a sign that you are failing, but rather as a sign that you are succeeding. There is little struggle in badness, you see. There is a quiet, ominous acceptance or acquiescence. So do not be afraid. As long as you have the desire to serve Me, I will meet you there, at that initial desire, and I will bring with Me everything you need to succeed. My child, I will make it easy for you. It is not in My nature to confuse, so you must believe that confusion does not come from Me. Fear, anxiety, restlessness, do not come from Me. Bitterness, hatred, deceit, do not come from Me. Does that mean you will never experience these things? No. It is part of your earthly cross that you will encounter these things. What I am telling you is that you must bring these things to Me. I will then take them from you and you will be free of them. You may encounter these things again, perhaps within the hour. Come back to Me, in your heart, where I remain, and I will take them from you again. You see, My little dear one, your struggles are Mine now. I am stronger, wiser, more able for these things and I want to remove any negative thoughts from you. I seek to heal you and renew you. I can do this if you will let Me. I do not make this promise for now, this moment. I make this a lifetime pledge to you. When you experience a difficulty with your emotions, you bring it right to Me. And that’s where it will end. I do not want My children troubled by obsessions. And because you belong to Me, and seek to serve Me, this is a right I bestow upon you. You may think of it as an advance on your eternal inheritance. I intend to give you a portion of the peace We enjoy in heaven. This is My gift to you and is a special concession for the difficult times you are living. Bring your troubles to Me, little soul of My heart. I, your God, wish to bring you relief.

August 28, 2003

On this day I cry out to all families. How my Sacred Heart mourns the loss of so many families. My dear ones, We must work together now to strengthen the Sacrament of Marriage. It is on this sacrament that I base the family. There have always been cases where a family is without one parent. This can sometimes be My will, as when a parent dies. I have My reasons for allowing this to happen. But in most cases, My will involves a man and a woman, united in Holy Matrimony, bringing up children. My dear ones, I have so many reasons for structuring your lives this way that We could speak of nothing else for days. Let Me begin our discussion of families by saying this. I have not changed My will in this matter. Your world would have you believe that both parents are not necessary. Children, this is not the case. A father brings to the family formation that a mother can not and a mother brings things to a family that do not come from a father. I understand all. As God, I do not require explanations. There are so many cases today where one parent is forced to accept all responsibility. In some cases, this is My will and I do this because I have decided that one parent is damaging to children. You are responsible for the moral and physical safety of your children and if your children are in an environment where they are unsafe, you have My permission to remove them, either by leaving an abusive parent, or removing a child from a place where that child’s innocence is being destroyed. I am with you and give you every guidance in this very serious matter. I want your children protected, and I will help you do this.

There are also cases, though, where a parent simply refuses his or her responsibility. These souls want to be children themselves and seek an extension to their childhood. Dear ones, your childhood is a time of formation. When it is over, you must understand that I expect you to put childish things behind you and spend your time doing My will. If I have gifted you with children, I expect you to parent them with all love, patience, and responsibility. This is your holy duty and your duty comes first. It is in this way, by the completion of your duty, that you obtain heaven. I want the family supported. I want each one of My souls to focus on their family and always put family interests first. Be attentive to your earthly spouse. Consider your marriage as the primary consideration for every decision you make. I have given you your spouse so that you can lead each other to heaven and help each other obtain a higher degree of holiness than you could have obtained without the participation in this sacramental union. So always view your marriage as a holy covenant, in which I participate. If you do this, My children, I will have no more concerns about families, because your children will be honored and loved, as I intended them to be.