Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Oh, About That Music

You people who read via Google Reader won't know what I'm talking about.

I recently added Pachabel's Canon in D to play automatically when you fire up my blog. This was my favorite classical piece since childhood, and I admit I heard it first on the light bulb commercials. Something about this song has always lifted my heart straight to heaven.

Of course, when it came time to plan my wedding, I wanted this song played. We were married in a parish with a very surly organist, and he made it clear to me as we planned our music that he hated Canon in D. On the day of my wedding, he told me that he lost his music to it and couldn't play it. I was ready to hurl him from the balcony. There was a 10 year old girl in the congregation that day who already knew how to play the song on piano by heart, and I considered bringing her up to play it.

So, we were married without my beloved canon. It took me several months to forgive that organist.

The song has become a mild obsession of mine from time to time. And since I found a respectable version of it on Deezer, now you can hear it with me. Or, you can turn off your sound if auto-play music bugs you as much as it can bug me on other people's blogs!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Shucks, I Still Haven't Conquered the World.

Do you ever get the irrational idea that if you just had a day to yourself, you could clear a year's worth of projects off your mental or physical to do list? Well, I get that idea and today I proved once again that it doesn't work. My husband took the day off work to drive to Columbus to see Mike Huckabee. Yes, he is that into politics. And he took our children with him. So, what can one mom accomplish on a rare day home alone?

I always seem to think I should be able to "do it all" -- scrub the entire house from top to bottom, bake, reorganize, read, and research hundreds of new people in my genealogy database. Well, I did accomplish a few tasks, like two loads of laundry and taking the recycling over to the dumpster. And I finished the rough draft of our tax return. After a quick tidy, I spent the afternoon working on my conversion story. And before I knew it, hubby and kiddos were back. Oh, it's not that I didn't miss them! But I had forgotten how long it takes to write an epic like a life-long story of conversion when one is 40 years old! I'm up to about 1994 right now. I'm seeing once again that the actual process of being convinced of the doctrinal truth of Catholicism, as huge as that was, was really the simplest part of my whole conversion story. There is just so much that holds us back from Christ that is so much more complicated than doctrine. What is difficult is all the work, all the pain that is necessary to endure before one is willing to give the truth a hearing. Truth, when heard, seems to do its work very quickly and effectively.

So, that was my day. One little grain of sand laid in the grand sandcastle of life!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ribeira Grande Chicken

Maria requested the recipe I mentioned in my comment on this post. Here it is!

Riberia Grande Chicken

1 lb./500g chicken (breast or thighs only)
1 cube chicken bouillon
2 Tbsp./30 mL white wine
3 Tbsp./45 mL water
2 tsp./10mL minced garlic
paprika to taste
salt to taste
2 eggs, separated
2 Tbsp./25 mL olive oil

Remove the skin and bones from the chicken and cut into small chunks. Rinse and set aside.

In a bowl, mix the chicken bouillon cube, white wine, water, and garlic together and mash the chicken cube. Sprinkle in the paprika (the mixture should look pinkish-red). Add salt to taste. Place the chicken in the mixture and marinate for 2 hours.

Once marinated, brown the chicken in a pan. Then place it in a pot. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer adn cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Then remove the chicken from the liquid and set aside ina bowl. Retain the liquid.

Beat the egg whites with a fork, sprinkle with salt, and place in a microwave oven for 1 minute or until dry. Dice the cooked egg white into little pieces and add to the cooled sauce in the pot.

Scoop 3 Tbsp./45 mL of the liquid out of the pot and mix with the egg yokes in a bowl, just enough to mix the yolks. Add the yolks to the pot and stir in. Set aside.

Take a small frying pan and heat the olive oil. When hot, add the chicken pieces and fry until cooked (should be golden-brown). Then add the chicken to the liquid in the pot. Add the remaining olive oil from the frying pan (with a bit of water if needed).

Cook the chicken mixture on very low heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, covered. Stir occasionally.

Serve with white rice with the chicken sauce on top.

Serves 4.

Recipe from the book Tasting Diversity: A Celebration of Immigrant Women and their Cooking; this one was contributed by Christine Ferreira.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Musings on Infertility

I've been thinking about the poem to which I posted a link, "I will be a wonderful mother." I've read that poem over probably a dozen times or more now. In a way, I can imagine that someone who reads it who has not experienced infertility might feel it is a bit egotistical, a bit narcissistic. After all, what gives anyone the right to compare themselves with anyone else and declare themselves better, especially when they are talking about something they haven't even experienced yet?

But then I think of some of the women I shared this poem with. They are members of email discussion lists, and are Catholic women who are either adoptive mothers (or somewhere on the path to adoption) or who gave birth after some experience of infertility, or both (as in my own case). There were many admissions of tears in response to this poem.

The voice of the poem is a woman still in the painful unknown. She does not say "I am a wonderful mother," but rather that she will be. She talks about a child who is her own, but who somehow is not yet with her. Further, the voice can either be a mother waiting for the green light towards adoption or awaiting birth. One would think this would be a joyful time, but it happens all too often that adoptions fail, even sometimes after the adoptive parents bring the newborn home with them. And of course, not every child in the womb opens her eyes to the light of this world.

It is in the climax of the pain of loss, when hope is so close that it can be tasted, that this kind of affirmation is desperately needed by those who have experienced infertility. Hope can be such a devastating thing. If a woman is blessed with normal looking cycles, there is the constant ebb and flow of waiting for the right time, "frantic activity," waiting, and disappointment. If a woman does not ovulate regularly, then there is the other issue of feeling there is no hope to have. But whether one still is at the point of having hope during each two-week wait, or whether hope is only allowed in once pregnancy is achieved, or the first, second, or third trimester, or birth is reached, or papers are filed with the adoption agency, or the call is received, or the baby is born, or the termination of birthparent rights is signed... there is an awfully long time for one to hold one's breath, or live face-to-face with the possibility of one's dreams being absolutely and totally devastated.

In my own circumstance, our adoption proceedings stretched on for so long that all the markers of hope and excitement got overshadowed in murkiness. We met our son the day after he was born. Then, there was the day he came home to us, eight months later, and there was the finalization of his adoption just over three years after that. In between there were many developments that slowly took any potential uncertainty away regarding our future together. But these were moments that were hard to celebrate because they were usually good news in a slightly higher ratio than the previous time, mixed with an open door to some kind of uncertainty.
One of the biggest griefs as the adoption process dragged on and on with no end in sight was that our state requires a waiting time of one year between the finalization of one adoption before the opening of another. So for a time I felt stuck -- unable to conceive, and unable to pursue adoption so that our one-day son could have a sibling.

But we did conceive, thanks be to God, and we finalized my son's adoption 15 hours before I gave birth to my daughter. I would say it took me until my second trimester to really embrace this reality with joy. I was ecstatic, mind you, to be pregnant, but the reality was too big for me to take in. The first moment I saw her I cried out "Oh! It's a baby!" It was a joy that shocked me to my core. I spoke the words "my baby" in the following days with a fear-filled reverence.

I always felt, before getting pregnant, that I would never be satisfied, even if I gave birth. I thought I would be satisfied with nothing other than a large gaggle of children, and I wondered if even that would do it. Of course, life's satisfaction is not found in the number of children one has. But one cannot discount the sense, the urgency, the desire in the hearts of husbands and wives for children. I have heard people speaking of this desire as the way they knew they needed to pursue another adoption, or continue seeking medical treatment. I suppose it might be the same for those for whom it is a matter of shifting use of NFP as well.

I am satisfied now, although I would still be ecstatic if God were to bless us again.

I think there is a unique suffering in being a Catholic women with low fertility in our current culture. It can be hard to find friends of a similar age with whom one can share faith, but without conversations always turning towards children and pregnancy. There is the fear of people presuming our use of contraception, and even fear of getting lectured about how we need to be open to life. I struggled for quite some time with this notion that God was actually preventing me from being a "good Catholic woman," you know, the kind with lots of kids. Women in the work world can get tired of being lumped in with judgments against women who defer childbearing for career. Catholics usually mean well when they talk about treasuring fertility, but unthinking statements and judgments can hurt, especially when a woman is not comfortable in responding by sharing intimate details of her struggle freely. And, I'm sorry, but women with high fertility who complain endlessly about the discomforts of pregnancy and caring for children can be the most difficult resounding gongs and clanging symbols to bear.

I am fairly fluent in both dialects -- the never-fertile and the always-fertile. But my heart is most warmed when I hear women who appreciate the broad spectrum of human experiences that a faithful living of the marriage vocation creates. My heart is most devastated by those who treat fertility as a disease to be stamped out. St. Paul was absolutely correct, I believe, when he asserted to Timothy (1 Tim. 2:15) that a woman's salvation comes through childbearing, whether or not that is something she ever experiences herself.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Love, Hunger, and Ruminations

Tonight during my adoration hour I was doing some reading from the 2007 Spiritual Exercises (of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation). I was reading along, jotting notes, underlining, taking it all in.

Then I came to the questions discussed in the Sunday morning assembly and came across these startling, surprising, unpleasant but in a good way statements!

Q: How can we look at our need with sympathy and not as a phase to get over? In other words, how can we maintain that our hunger won't be eliminated by food, and that having a bit of an appetite allows us to enjoy the meal more?

A: (Fr. Carron) Who has the problem of getting rid of hunger? Someone with no food. Does someone with food have the problem of getting rid of pleasure, of desire, or does he want to have desire in order to enjoy his food?

Now, I understand that at heart what is being discussed is more than food. The discussion is in the context of our desire for God, for the Mystery, being blunted by the Lie of resistance to Beauty, to Truth. But I was really struck by putting the discussion in concrete terms of food.

Carron goes on in his answer to say:

The same holds for the need to be loved. Who has the problem of getting over the phase of being loved, of needing to be loved? Someone who hasn't met his beloved...

The disciples didn't have this problem. In fact, from the start His presence showed itself to be so decisive that when they got up the next day, they caught themselves desiring to go see Him. It didn't even cross their minds to worry about getting over this desire....

That's why this is what I desire for myself, and I wish for you what I wish for myself, namely, that desire, that need, not be a phase to get over, because this would mean that we haven't met anything we need in order to live. We meet many people in life who talk about Christ until they are blue in the face, but how many people do you know who need Christ in order to live? To live!! To get up in the morning, to go to work, to look at themselves, to look at their own need... To live! Otherwise what does it matter to me if I'm Christian?

Now. Here's how this hits me. Since becoming pregnant with my daughter, which has been about 3.5 years now, I have finished almost every meal with the words, spoken or unspoken, "What else can I eat?" I am at a healthy weight, so I'm not concerned with packing on pounds, but I feel like I am in a chronic state of hunger, and I find it very dissatisfying. In fact, just the other day I was talking to my husband about this experience. I was poking at the idea that there was something other than physical hunger going on. It's like I imagine some food out there that I could eat and find very satisfying and I would feel good and full (for I know there are several foods that I enjoy which could make me feel bad and full).

Fr. Carron's words hit me in a very literal and practical way. Hunger exists so that we can enjoy eating. Sometimes I expect about as much enjoyment from eating as I do from putting gas in the car. Perhaps it is because I have no detectable Italian genes. Perhaps it is because it is winter and I don't get that feeling that my food has just come out of the warm soil. But perhaps it links in with his other comments, about love.

I have a different answer to his question. Who has the problem of getting over being loved? Someone who has grown up with serious "scarcity" issues. For reasons large and small, people who have not known the love of a human community. Those who have taken it for granted for years that they do not have what they need, even when they have been in Christ. People who have been religious (to use this term as the culture, not Giussani, does) but whose connection to the Power Source has come detached. Me, for a large chunk of my Christian life.

God is in the business of restoration. Working on that conversion story I mentioned has been so enlightening to me. I can see the hand of God restoring me. And now, I see He even wants me to enjoy some good food! See, I do know how to enjoy food, and I am even capable of making food that is enjoyable. But there's time, and there's cost (especially these days!) and there's effort and there's planning. Ah, but there is joy! And there are people! My husband first seemed to take his attraction to me seriously after I made him banana muffins one day, and he enjoyed the small unique touches to my cooking which living in Japan had marked me with (long since gone, I think). And my children! What person has stronger recollections about Mom and home than Mom's cooking, whether good or bad?

Food preparation is such a human endeavor, and my attitude towards it tells me something about my humanity.

Hmm... Lately my son has taken to complaining loudly and bitterly about any food that is new to or disliked by him that I present for dinner. At first, it really made me angry. To avoid my own anger and the painful feeling of rejection I've turned to presenting boring food that children will eat. Hmm...

Perhaps a vat of tuna casserole for those who must, and some adventurous foods pursued and prepared with love is exactly what is in order for my spiritual life right now!

I Will Be A Wonderful Mother

Here's a poem that's hard for me to read without tears...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Embracing the Beauty

This article deserves its own post.

In my mind, one of the primary goals of unschooling is to allow children to discover and embrace Beauty as it becomes evident to them, and to always take the time to wonder. Does it always happen? To be honest, I do sometimes rush my children off past something that calls to them. But aside from dire, emergency circumstances (which I can't even recall ever happening) if I start to hurry them like this, I either stop or I know that I have blundered as I proceed.

It also reminds me of something Jesus had said to Anne about hurrying, in the September 1, 2003 message.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Page 123 Meme

I've been tagged by Leonie!

Here are the rules of the book meme.

1. Pick up the nearest book of at least 123 pages.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

Well, the nearest book with 123 may not actually have sentences. Let's see. The book is Foote Family: Comprising the Genealogy and History of Nathaniel Foote of Wethersfield, Conn. and his Descendants. (Don't you just love how book titles used to fill the entire cover of a book?) This book is essentially genealogy records, and sentences are scattered. Just as I thought, page 123 is not a page with decent sentence offerings.

So, next nearest book... That is Mary Daly's Creator and Creation, and it only has 117 pages. Ack!

I have a winner! Smart Moves by Carla Hannaford. And I am actually currently stopped on page 125. But here are the winning sentences:

"As the thumb reaches the lower mid-field of the visual field bring it back up the center and clockwise out, around, and down the right side. This should be continued in an even flowing movement at least three times with each hand. Then both hands shouldbe clasped with the thumbs forming an X."

The context is a presentation of how to do various Brain Gym exercises for strengthening various skills. This one is called Lazy 8's for Eyes.

I recommend the book for anyone concerned with learning, children, or the wonder of the human body.

Whom shall I tag? How about Patty, Stacy, Suzanne, Mel, and that guy in England who hardly ever posts on his blog.

Friday, February 15, 2008

It's Linky! It's Linky!

Here are a few nifty sites I've stumbled across lately:

Get free audio books here. Many classics.

Want to design computer games? Try this and this.

Discovery Education has some interesting tidbits.

The Futures Channel looks interesting as well.

Media Snackers is all about media consumption among the young. I think they mean younger than 40 (me).

And then we have some theological sites. I had the pleasure of getting to know both Mike Aquilina and Michael Barber back in the days when I worked for Scott Hahn. I recently discovered Mike A's blog about Patristics called The Way of the Fathers, as well as a big batch of radio shows by him on various saints of the early Church. I once told Michael B. that I believe him to be cut from the same cloth as Scott Hahn. For one thing, he was of some inordinately young age when working towards his Masters in Theology at the same time I was busy dropping out to get married. As that was almost 10 years ago, he must be, oh nearly 30 by now? His blog is Singing in the Reign. (Fortunately or unfortunately, he shares Scott's love of silly puns.) He is passionate about Scripture and offers a lot to learn from.

And in closing, a few of my favorite on-line games. Babble, Set, and Pass the Pigs.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Please Pass the Grace

I am working on that revised conversion story, so I am extra mindful of the wonder of certain expressions of grace in my life. One of these is the beauty of how Jesus orchestrates members of His body to make His will and His presence known to me, and through me.

Today as I gathered myself before Mass, two people, as it were, knelt on either side of me, or at least their words rang in my mind. First, Fr. Brian Cavanaugh: "when your heart is ready and open, you will find that God is ready to speak to you from His Word." Then, my dear friend Suzanne: "at Mass I have this expectation of a miracle." So with them, through them, I prayed with great expectation to receive whatever grace God truly desired for me.

The homilist was dear and mildly quirky (in the most elegant of ways) Fr. Giles Dimock, O.P., once a Theology professor of mine. He related a story of having committed to praying the chaplet of Divine Mercy for members of his family who had left the practice of the Faith, and seeing them return. His simple statement: "Prayer works. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy works."

Slowly but surely, the grace God truly desired for me dawned in my soul.

So, Fr. Brian, Suzanne, Fr. Giles, St. Faustina, I will endeavor to pass this grace on, just as I received it.

Remnants of my Brain Explosion after This Morning's School of Community

It has been awhile since coming home from School of Community has made me want to run to the computer and work out more thoughts. That's probably not entirely because I haven't had any thoughts provoked; life rarely allows me the pleasure of engaging my intellectual interests at the drop of a hat, even if all I were to need were my own thoughts and a moment to think them.

But today I am brimming over with bits of wonderment. Let's see if I can grab a few and wrestle them out onto ... screen.

Indirect knowledge is faith. Faith is indirect knowledge. Faith is not how I feel about something, and it is not religious sentiment, like a warm glowy feeling you get when you look at a live Nativity. This was the point Giussani was making in the section of Can We Really Live This Way that we read and discussed today. I've got that. And I know that at one point in my life, when I was discussing "You've just gotta have faith" with a friend, I asserted that faith meant intellectual assent that something was true, albeit without any real impact on my conduct. There was also a sense in which faith meant what I hoped would happen, which is probably essentially this emotionalism Giussani is getting at. Reality and faith, however I thought of faith, were pretty much divorced in my mind at this stage of my life. This friend was trying to tell me that faith meant stepping out and believing something on the authority of God, as we understood His thought as it came to us through our preferred take on Scripture. I think what he was ultimately admonishing me to do was to be a good American: stick by your own ideals and don't let anyone stop you. There's value in that, but equating it with faith in God is dangerous and false (and could be described with probably many other adjectives).

Who do I trust, and who do I distrust, and why? This was the challenge Suzanne gave us as we parted ways. If I think about it in terms of people, I tend to trust readily, and perhaps this leads me to be gullible sometimes. The Scripture comes to mind that says Jesus did not need testimony about man, because he knew what was in a man. Jesus, in his earthly existence, demonstrated extraordinary trust in human beings. Consider that he chose Mary and Joseph. Consider that he entrusted the ministry to announce the kingdom to apostles in training and to disciples (and how many of the 72 stayed faithful until the crucifixion or after, I wonder?). Yet, because he had no guile, no sin, he was able to see straight through people. He knew what aspects of people could not be trusted, or how to understand their limitations. I don't think it is unwise or sinful for us to imitate our Lord in this, keeping open of course to the likelihood of our judgments being in error. Pride is therefore the thing that causes us to close down and refuse to see truth in places (coming from people) we would not suspect the discovery likely.

So what about that gullibility of mine? I keep coming back to my need to fill my science-shaped hole in my education. My friend Jeff is bringing this again and again to the forefront of my mind, as we have been in a bit of an on-going dialogue about evolution. As a child, I completely accepted what I was taught about the origin of the world, namely, a literal six day creation that happened roughly 6,000 years ago. I sternly argued against my 5th grade teacher who taught us about dinosaurs; since the earth was not millions of years old I did not accept that dinosaurs, said to have existed then, ever actually existed. I was vehement in defending what I had been taught, but obviously had not learned to grapple with tangible scientific evidence. I was an expert on distrust when I felt it was called for.

So now I am grappling with this huge sector of knowledge called the natural world (thanks also to my son, the budding scientist and our many trips to the Museum of Natural History). Doing the game of "if x is true, then what does it mean for y."

Which brings me to another point. This whole discussion of how we know what is true is fascinating in light of what for lack of better terms I call unschooling. Some people like to say natural learning, or just learning without school. Or learning in ways that learning best happens. Take your pick of how you want to say it. School learning involves taking in a lot of indirect knowledge. Any learning, of course, involves that, but the added filter of school, which involves the teacher, the learning environment, the textbook, the curriculum choice, various state and federal regulation, and time constraints (just to name the issues that immediately come to mind) brings a lot to potentially make learning a passive experience. Homeschooling is no guarantee that a child's mind will be actively engaged in the world, and there are parent/child relationships where kids are in schools of all sorts that help make the exposure to a lot of garbage (to be blunt) into a valuable learning tool. But for me, this discussion puts into bright highlight my own call to bring about the Catholic education of the my children. I must continually exercise and model critical thinking and wonderment at the world around me; these are the key tools for education, beyond the human person himself who, endowed with a soul, is a learning machine.

Then there's this question I have about medicine and the human person. How do we know how to care for our health? Who do we trust for advice on what is safe and beneficial or risky and to be avoided? I believe exploring this question has dramatically changed my life (especially considering all of the tendrils the question has entailed for me) in the last four or five years. And it is not only because three years of the best medical care rendered by the top Catholic researcher/practitioner of infertility medicine in the United States resulted in my endometriosis defying his statistics and returning, causing him to shrug with great, humble sadness with us after my third surgery. And it is not only because seven months later I became pregnant with my daughter after turning to "alternative medicine" which involved difficult lifestyle changes, but ultimately greatly improved my health in a short period of time. But that's a huge chunk of the story. I know that anyone who receives a great favor like this, a great healing from the Lord tends to glom onto whatever instrument got them there and promote it as THE savior. Gratitude and emotion can cause one to take up crusades, to want everyone to jump on the bandwagon. Here's where I need to sift through my experiences and the science (and politics, and economics, and all the rest) involved with healthcare: there is objective truth to how the human body works, and there are ways of being a good steward of the human body. There is significant genetic diversity among individuals; what is healthy for one person truly may harm another. So this is not like the realm of moral truth. But I am truly troubled by the limitations of Western allopathic medicine and even more troubled by the blind trust given it by much of our culture (I was once this person through and through), or the blind skepticism of any kind regarding health care. The capper of all of this irrationality is our bad habits which we expect to have no impact on our well being. I have them. But I am learning that their origins must either lie in ignorance, irrationality or addiction (and I'm not sure the last two should be separated).

Ok, here's a secret. I've learned I can compose blog posts on our old basement computer while a child or two is otherwise engaged in learning with our online computer. And with only a few dozen calls away! Great for this chance to work through my thoughts today. But the call to remain rationally engaged in my home responsibilities persists! Time to go bulldoze the dining room!

Friday, February 08, 2008

While I'm actually awake...

I did an amazing thing tonight. After dinner I snuck away to our attic for a few moments of quiet and prayer, and in a few minutes I was sound asleep. While sitting up in a chair. I'm not sure I've ever done that before in my life. My husband had taken our kiddos out grocery shopping in the meantime, so in the silence I managed to sleep for a whole hour!

All of which means I am here at the keyboard with my household asleep but me awake. Since I've been trying to shift my waking time earlier and earlier (probably the cause of my nap attack), this feels new. Time to sort out a few things that have been on my mind.

Some years back I wrote up my basic conversion story for a book edited by Tim Drake called There We Stood, Here We Stand: Eleven Lutherans Rediscover Their Catholic Roots. The version that went to press inadvertently left out all of the edits in my chapter, so it included embarrassing spelling and grammatical errors and such like. So I suppose it was vanity that prevented me from publicizing my connection with this book. But there is also that aspect of telling a conversion story, at least in the telling of mine, that is awkward because there is no neat stopping point. When I decided to become a Catholic, I was still quite ignorant of much of what that meant, beyond a commitment I was making to continue following Jesus on this new curve He was taking. The day I received Confirmation (16 months later), I decided I was going to leave out the going to Confession part of being a Catholic because I picked up the implication it was optional and it was, you know, very uncomfortable to me. (The Holy Spirit gently but immediately corrected me on that one, and I made my first Confession two days later.) A month after becoming a Catholic, I realized I hadn't really spent significant time "living with" Catholics and I found them very uncomfortable to be around, because I didn't understand Catholic cultural trappings. It took several years for that sense to go away.

So even though I can talk about the things that moved me to leave off being Protestant, my conversion to Christ in the Catholic Church has been so much more than that.

I've been inspired to write a new conversion story, one with a wider scope.

I have found since writing my conversion story seven years ago that I tend to tell the basic outline in that same way each time I talk about it. But the last few times I've been asked to share it, I've essentially been trying to make polite conversation about a past event. Now there's a waste. The value of shaping a conversion story is not only in being ready and able to share one's story of grace; having the story makes one relive it, and find connections with God's call in the here and now. It gives evidence to people that God is active among us. There are many, many stories of how people discover the Catholic Church, but equally necessary I believe are stories of people spiritually thriving and surviving the difficulties once they cross the Tiber.

So, well, I guess I've announced it now, so I'd better get down to doing it. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Lenten Direction

I have never really gotten the idea of giving up nice foods for Lent. Before I became a Catholic, I honestly thought that it would be a far greater sacrifice for me to make decent meals for myself regularly instead of fasting. Oh, I should add that I always thought what we were supposed to do on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday was fast on water. I was usually completely mentally disoriented by the end of these days. Thank goodness for RCIA -- when I was a Catechist, that is, and the other catechist explained what the Church really instructs about fasting.

The other thing about giving up certain foods is that it doesn't encourage much for me except gorging on same when the fasting time is over.

But I'm not really here to judge what other people choose to do. Just mulling things over.

I went to Confession the other night, and the priest gave me a very helpful idea. I would say that he told me something helpful, but the truth of the matter was it was an open setting with many Confession stations, and he was whispering quietly and I didn't really hear exactly what he said. I once had an elderly priest tell me not to talk so loud because everyone would hear me. Maybe I need to get my hearing checked, or stick with the enclosed rooms. Anyway, the idea this priest gave me was to thank God each day for how He has called me into service, and thereby commit myself to serving. To own the service God calls me to, and to manage myself accordingly.

So simple, but revolutionary. I realize I have been allowing certain aspects of my life to remain exterior to my heart. I suppose that sounds weird, but I think this hearkens back to something else I blogged about Confession a few months ago. It was the idea of feeling like I have this real life that is just me, my internality, and that the rest of life was all that other stuff "outside" of my perceived said real life. Well, I see now just how out of God's will it is to consider certain difficult relationships, for example, to be "outside" of my "real life". I see the need for sucking up a lot of those perceived exterior things into my interiority. Or better put.... um.... well, I don't know exactly. Stop being so compartmentalized? Get a life? Act like a normal person? Live from my heart? Yeah, let's keep that one. Live my whole life from my heart. Have courage. Have faith. Know God is real, and with me. That means I can do it.

God calls me to serve, which means, really, merging my interiority and my external surroundings, my responsibilities, my circumstances, my relationships, all that I do. To serve is to live my whole life from my heart. That is my Lenten direction. That's what I have for embracing every morning when I get up.

I write in short punchy phrases when I'm hungry. And I probably can't think at all without writing right now.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

February Message

February's message, given through Anne, a lay apostle, strikes me as a well-timed encouragement. Jesus sees our tiny offerings as having furthered the kingdom, and encourages us to see the same. The best part? Jesus is with us, sharing our lives and our concerns intimately.

February 1, 2008


My friend, heaven has accomplished many things with your service to the Kingdom. Shall I tell you what we are achieving together? First of all, we have increased your holiness. It is true, dear apostle. With your cooperation, I have been able to advance you in virtue. Consider where you were in the holiness walk when you first committed to serving as My apostle. Consider where you are now. You will see that you have advanced, even though you also see that you have additional work to do in this regard. I want you to understand, though, that progress has been made so that you will rejoice and have hope for additional progress. This is good for you and good for heaven. Next, your service to the Kingdom has been used to bring light to other souls. Think for a moment. Is it not true that you have tried to treat others more like I treated others? Is it not true that there have been times when you returned love for hostility? Have you not discovered that you view even your enemies with greater compassion? Think dear apostles. Have you shared My merciful message with others? Have they benefited? Without your cooperation, this could not have happened. Yes, many have benefited because you have chosen to serve Me. Would you like to know of another result of your service? Heaven, as you know, is filled with perfect love and comfort. I love all of humanity, of course, but not everyone returns My love. Because of your cooperation, I, Jesus Christ, have received a greater amount of love and comfort from your world. You, in your determination to serve Me, have bestowed upon Me the greatest consolations. The light from your willingness to serve as I wish you to serve has given Me comfort in a time when My heart aches with loneliness for so many. You have truly become My friend and I hold you in My heart most protectively. All of the intentions in your heart now move to the regular beating of My heart. I will not abandon you and I will not abandon your intentions. Together, we will see to each one of them. The loyalty you feel for your loved ones is shared by Me in that your holy desires become personal to Me as they are personal to you. Just as you are determined that your loved ones be healed, so I am determined that your loved ones be healed. These are joint projects embarked upon by the Saviour and His beloved apostle. You are never alone in your concerns or your crosses. I thank you for helping heaven to accomplish so much and I will reward you, in part, by keeping the promise I have made to seek conversion of all of those dear to you. Be at peace in every trial, please, because I am with you.

Care For Dying Chinese Orphans

I was inspired this morning by the story of Shannon Walsh. A 1998 graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, she has been working in China among orphans for most of her years since leaving here. And recently she has opened a home specifically for dying orphans, babies with hydrocephalus or cancer or heart defects, babies who would otherwise be left to die without care.

My heart is awed by this work of God's grace. It is a beautiful testimony to the dignity of the human person. Unfortunately the article from Franciscan Way is not yet available on line, but you can visit the Loving Hearts Home at this link.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Ok, Mama, Whatever.

Golly, I am always caught between this place of trying to suck the meaning out of my day and needing to spend more time sleeping. But here I am. Meaning wins.

Which reminds me, I am reading the book Smart Moves right now, which is all about brain development and learning. The section I read tonight focused on how we need some kind of movement (say, typing) to make learning stick, and it gave me one more reason to justify blogging. Hmmm, that sentence has a sarcastic ring to it, but I just mean it at face value.

Ok, so I am really here to tell on myself. I took part, the bad part, in a ridiculous scene today with my son. Earlier in the morning, before Whatever Else ensued, I made a mental note to try to change our day's scenery a bit by spending some time exploring music with my kids in the attic. It was later in the afternoon by the time we got there, and I wasn't exactly bursting with fresh energy, but there we were. My daughter and I sang some songs and shook some shakers, and I showed my son where Middle C is on our digital keyboard, though he moaned "Mama, why did you tell me? I wanted to figure it out myself!" Ok, everyone is normal. That's good. I switched to clue giving and my son was able produced a scale. I thought I would do wonders for everyone's interest in learning music by demonstrating the only song I can play in four-part harmony, Silent Night. Yawn. Ok, Mama, whatever.

Son proceeded to play with creating harmonies, and suddenly some light bulb seemed to click in his mind. He insisted that if he pressed all of the buttons on the panel, the ones you use for changing from piano to organ to harpsichord (and etc.) mode, that he could get the piano to play a song by itself.

Now, this keyboard belonged to my late father, and I've never played it much, but I also certainly did not want it abused. And I knew that our neighbors had a keyboard that played songs automatically, so I was sure that a) my son was mistaken and b) him jamming all the buttons down would cause damage. I made emphatic statements to the effect that I was not an ignoramus and any odd sounds caused by what he was attempting would be proof that he was going to permanently damage yet another piece of household property. He tearfully insisted that he liked it, and it was clear, once again, that nothing was going to dissuade my son's will of steel from his chosen path.

With a weary feeling of resignation about changes of scenery I slumped into the rocking chair. Suddenly, that dang keyboard began playing a song of its own accord. For a split second I imagined my father's ghost was involved. My children danced delightedly, my son with his victorious smile, and I apologized for being so stubborn and impatient with him. Of course, my son didn't really know how he got it to happen. I fished out the keyboard manual, and there it was, how to play the demonstration song by pushing down on various tone buttons.

If I live to see my son become Pope, not only would it not surprise me, but it would be his ultimate poetic justice.