Monday, March 31, 2008


I have been drawn to think again about a post I wrote nearly a year ago, which I called Pursuing Poverty. Essentially I was focusing there on my need to examine my duty, and to embrace and do my duty without getting myself emotionally sidetracked by complaining to myself about what I need to do.

My current take on this scene adds another dimension to this equation. It seems I am consistently being reminded that my duty is to serve. I make a fairly good worker, and a pretty good plodder (repetitive things like laundry or dishes don't bother me much), but I admit to being a not-so-great servant. Is it my pride, or my, um, pride, or maybe it's my pride. Well, whichever of those plays the greater role in my difficulty, it doesn't matter so much. Oh, I am just a wee bit slow on the uptake when it comes to noticing needs in other people, like if I'm in a group and someone needs a tissue or a glass of water or something picked up off the floor. Things like that just seem to register very slowly with me, because of all the other factors my CPU is busy taking in.

But that's not even the kind of serving I'm thinking of here. I'm thinking of my call, my need, to serve my family; my husband and my children. I can think of so many reasons why this is really a challenge for me. See, it's not that I have stopped making dinner or doing the laundry or cleaning the house (ok, so you might wonder about that last one if you stop by). It's all about that internal attitude. I can put on a martyr's complex, or I can just seek to please myself. Both of those are so much easier for me than choosing to do something that someone else perceives as love (when to me it feels like a mouth of sawdust). Or, say I do something with love, just in case it would please someone else, and then it doesn't. Can I just let it go as an attempt without getting all defensive and uptight? Is my love truly free and for the other?

I don't know about you, but when I go through my day with this call before my gaze, I am aware of my constant need for prayer. Fr. Jim's homily at Mass today was all about making the commitment to the ways God is inviting us to change. And what is it that makes us hesitate to say yes to God? Fr. Jim said he figured it is mostly fear of the unknown. I would add to that (if I am gleaning anything from School of Community these days), our lack of reason. God is good, is He not? We are his creatures, and his sons and daughters in Christ, are we not? Does it stand to reason then that if God calls, we should say "no, I'm not sure I'll like how this pans out for me."!? Does following Christ ever leave you in a mess that you regret?

So I go through this little wrestling thing. Why should I do this? Because He calls. What about what God calls that one to? You get to hear God calling you. He gets to hear God calling him. But I feel like I'm letting myself be taken advantage of. Didn't you read your illustrious insight in the last paragraph?

Really, what is it that gets my goat? It's the possibility that I will love and no one will notice or appreciate. I know, I know, I know that God loves ME and I hardly ever notice or appreciate all of the ways He manifests His love. I know that he just as ardently loves many who don't even believe He exists. Does it stop Him? Of course not. We can't stop Him, because God is just being Who He is.

So, yeah. Could it be that God is trying to mold and shape who I am? Like I'm always asking Him to? Imagine that.

I'm so glad God is patient and long-suffering.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Good Friday Lessons

Up until this year, Good Friday always struck me as an occasion that was primarily about sorrow: sorrow for sin, sorrow for Jesus' suffering, sorrow in saying yes while embracing my own cross. Desolation, emptiness, death. Sorrow.

This year, I was changed by some words from the CL Way of the Cross.
"Omnipotent God, look upon our humanity broken, because of its mortal weakness and make it live again by the passion of your only Son." It is a jolt of life with which He shakes up our broken humanity and our mortal weakness. Make it live again through the sacrifice, the sorrow and His death. -- Msgr. Luigi Giussani, from All the Earth Seeks Your Face

And then:

Why did He come? And why did the world come into being? One must believe that I have a certain importance, I who am nothing.... How is it possible that I am not great if I've messed up so many things in the world, disordered so many things in the world, and such a great world, at that? If I've started such a tragic history? A God, God went out of His way, God sacrificed Himself for me. This is Christianity.
-- Charles Peguy, Veronique

And then (this passage, read aloud for the group by myself!):

Each man that, by faith in Him, by following Him, performs even the smallest gesture of sacrifice, knowingly connecting it to His unjust death, this small man who performs the least work in conjunction with His death becomes a great man.... So there's nothing that can be useless in life: you just need to intend it as an offering, a link with the mystery of that man who was God and who died to save us all. -- Msgr. Luigi Giussani to unversity students, Milan, 1995

Suddenly, the focus was no longer on suffering, but on God's love, Jesus' love that made Him obedient to the Father's will -- and what this love does right now. My value -- the value of my eternal soul (and even my temporal life) and the value of humanity at large -- that brought about the cross! I have often struggled over when embracing the cross, as Jesus commands us, and as it has sometimes become in my lived experience -- when does "embracing the cross" become an act of self-annihilation, contrary to the will of God. I think the answer is right here. If my motivation for embracing the cross ceases to be the love of God -- the fact of being completely driven along by the immense power of God -- then my embracing the cross ceases to be following Christ and becomes instead some kind of a perverted, self-inflicted death wish.

Let me try to give examples. When I lived in Japan I believed emotional and spiritual isolation to be part of the cross that I needed to embrace. I was only just beginning to realize that my reality was serving to propel me out of myself, to enable me to give myself and to know my fundamental need for both social and spiritual human community. There were also times in my spiritual journey when I believed I had to forsake certain things I enjoyed, like my literature collection or "worldly" music, because I took what someone else believed to be wisdom for my life as the will of God. But neither my suffering isolation nor my trashing prized possessions were calls that emanated from the love of God. I embraced them, though, as a way of showing God I could grit my teeth and do anything "for Him." These were, at best, feats of religious-looking self-accomplishment.

So, what is the antidote? Constant awareness of God's immense love for me, setting my reason straight first of all about how His love motivates. The Son does everything the Father does, and I am called to imitate what I see the Son, and His close friends, doing. This is the experience of God's love in the community of the Church, and this experience (and NOT merely my own grit) is my path to follow Christ. Gratitude flows from this experience and continues to feed my awareness of God's immense love. I cultivate delight in God's works through memory of His great acts, both in salvation history in all time and within my own life. And prayer: constant awareness of the "daily offering"-- this is all for and with you, my Jesus -- and constant invocation of the Holy Spirit to fan the flame of love ever brighter in my soul.

The Good Friday readings reminded me that "offering it up" is not a Catholic way to be stoic. It is a miracle of love. The first miracle of the love of Jesus is His death, which He offered for this little speck of creation, whom He could have simply whisked from existence. Instead, the entire universe is redeemed, and I was gifted with divine sonship in baptism. The next miracle is when that love, right here, today, enables me to embrace my sorrow, my suffering, with love, unite it with Jesus, and participate in the spread of grace and the salvation of souls.

That is some tremendous power!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Muslims Becoming Christians

I have been following with great interest the posts at Intentional Disciples generated in response to the baptism of Magdi Allam, a former non-practicing Muslim who lives in Rome. There has been an on-going debate, with one of the blog authors asserting that it was a glaring mistake, from a missiological viewpoint, for Pope Benedict himself to give this baptism such a high profile.

Lots of other interesting posts too: here, here and here. Here and here too.

Oh, go ahead and read the whole blog while you're at it!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Positively Negative

We have a final verdict in: not pregnant. I think I knew that a few days back, but it's always good to know for sure, wait as one must.

I'd sort of like to say "and now back to our regularly scheduled blog" and never speak of fertility trials again. And I might just do that, but obviously not just yet.

I realize again how extremely powerful it is to even think one might be pregnant. This is why those who have been long on the road of trying to conceive pretty much learn to turn off that kind of "thinking" and stick with the cold, hard scientific facts of temperatures and charts, with testing as a last result. The emotional expenditure in wondering can be far too costly when it happens every single month, for years on end. This is, I'm sure, why it took me until my second trimester to really and truly grasp that I was pregnant with my daughter. All that holding back has to get undone.

And now I realize I may just have to do it up again, a bit.

I have to say I'm relieved to know for sure what is going on. I know that God has His plans, His times and His purposes. I trust my life in His hands, and that His will for me is love and mercy itself.

My experience this last week belongs to many others, and I think this is why I bother to share it all here so publicly. It is such an amazing thing, agonizing, really -- that moment of "perhaps my entire history will be completely altered by bringing a new life into the world.... or maybe not!" Our lives can unalterably change at any moment by any number of facts over which we have no or little control, but what power there is in the potential begetting of new life, where husband and wife have, in theory at least, some control over matters. At least control over whether or not to be open to that power being unleashed. How do I convey to my dear fertile readers what it is like to have that power rendered so powerless? I remember the feeling of powerlessness when I was a teacher in Japan, unable to speak and understand Japanese beyond the level of an 18 month old. I watched everyone around me be able to exercise their humanity with each other using the basic tool of speech while I stood there, stammering, or speaking something few understood. It was close to dehumanizing. There is a preciousness in the experience if one has the eyes of faith, and generally it is far easier to appreciate it in hindsight. In the lived experience there is the constant wrestling with the voice that says "I am nothing." One needs a larger-than-life "Christ is everything" in place to endure such a voice.

So with the infertility thing, there is not only this inability to share with others the very human experience of mothering and fathering, but there is also, for Christians, this plaguing sense that the One that I need in order to live is the very One who seems to be thwarting my desire. While this isn't my experience right now, it has been in the past. It is so painful to be angry at God this way. I am convinced that what one needs to do in this situation is to pour out one's heart in a torrent to God. I don't mean just going berzerk emotionally, although that can be part of the necessary equation. Pouring out the heart, in my estimation, means going to the depths of my desire, seeing it, owning it, analyzing it, and resolving to do the work necessary that the desire demands of me. That work probably involves conversion, and may also require some steps of concrete action propelling me toward God's will. Oh, and for me it required many, many trips to the confessional and through the communion procession.

I know that these feelings and experiences apply in other situations besides infertility. Please, say a prayer with me for all the souls faced with obstacles which they feel to be inflicted on them without meaning by God Himself:

Have mercy on me, God, have mercy. My soul flies to you for refuge. I will hide in the shelter of your wings until the time of ambush is past. I will cry to God the Most High, to the God who cares for me.

He will send help from heaven to set me free. He will disgrace those who trample me underfoot. He will send forth his mercy and faithfulness.

My soul lies among lion-cubs that would devour the children of men. Their teeth are spears and arrows, their tongues are pointed swords.

May you be exalted above the heavens, O God; let your glory cover the whole earth. (From Psalm 57)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Patience vs. Acedia

While I'm busy grappling for my own words, I wanted to share Willa's post "It is possible that God says every morning 'Do it again' to the sun" (about Lissa's post "Every face I look at looks beautiful to me") about acedia. This I can relate to quite a bit right now.

An excerpt, where Willa quotes Josef Pieper:

“One of the most central concepts from the moral philosophy of the High Middle Ages is that of acedia, which we, very ambiguously and mistakenly, are accustomed to translate as “laziness”. Acedia, however, means this: that man denies his effective assent to his true essence, that he closes himself to the demand that arises from his own dignity, that he is not inclined to claim for himself the grandeur that is imposed on him with his essence’s God-given nobility of being” (A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart, p. 51).


So I'm sure all of my faithful blog readers have been checking in here frequently for news subsequent to my "wonder if I'm pregnant" post. Sigh. Four negative tests so far, but I suppose one could theorize that it has all been too early. Though most of those weird symptoms have subsided, some have hung on. Let's just say I'm not holding my breath.

I have experienced many profound things these last several days. I've experienced an incredible yearning for God. As I have discussed before, yearning has quite a painful edge in it for me. It seems to dredge up so many past experiences of scarcity. I've also experienced profound love, and a sense of why the Liturgy has man commanding nature to worship God fittingly. What expression of praise could possibly be enough for God who became man, and who conquered death and sin?

Today my cry is for God's power to be unleashed in my soul. I feel so very powerless in myself. It's like I want to crawl into the Tabernacle and sink down in the ciborium amidst the hosts pressing down upon me. And yes, I know that Jesus is already closer to me than that. But I feel I have only groans that words cannot express with which to give my heart to God.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Divine Mercy

Yesterday began the great novena of Divine Mercy, where we pray that all people, according to their specific spiritual need, may be immersed in the merciful heart of Jesus.

Today I learned that a man of once great influence in my life has passed away. That influence was not always toward truth. He was my pastor before I became a Catholic. When we parted ways there were hard feelings on his part. I claimed I was following Jesus to become Catholic; he believed I was being led astray by demons. I remember hearing that he had developed dementia; I felt, with perhaps more than a mere glint of satisfaction, that it was God's mercy to purify him while still in this life. Oh, Jesus, preserve me....

As I prayed the Office of the Dead for him, with trepidation I saw how, even though I prayed for mercy, I desired justice. Oh, I know that we all will be purified before we stand before God, and justice is met in His mercy. But all that is God's business. All I know is, my life has one measure. The measure I want for others is the measure for myself.

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world....

Friday, March 21, 2008

Walking the Way of the Cross

I have returned from walking the way of the cross. This is what is in my heart, given the circumstances of this day:

God loves me, tremendously.
My sin, my brokenness, my separateness from Him, moved Him with such love to come to die for me, to regain me.
He loves me with purposes I can't even begin to fathom.
But it is me He loves.

It is the sacrifice on the cross which brings life.
Everything united to it is vivified.

I am united to Christ on the cross. By virtue of my sin, first and foremost, since He had none but mine to carry.
He gives me the tremendous gift of meaning.
Without Him, there is no meaning.
With Him, every wondering is fulfilled.

His Body, the Church: Holy Mother Church.
She knows what it is to suffer.
She loves me.
I love in her.

All of us are healed in Him, together in His Body.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tormented by Hope

Pregnancy is not discussed lightly in this household.

But this week, I've seen the evidence that we are at a much greater place of peace about any pregnancy potential. "Greater peace", of course, is a relative term.

Ok, spill the beans. This week I have been struggling through throwing up, perpetual nausea, bloating, diarrhea, fatigue and irritability. This cycle I started working with my Naturopath with some new supplements based on new lab results. So, the timing of this bit of whatever it has been could very well indicate pregnancy. It is just a shade too early to test reliably. Or, it could mean that I have a stomach bug. I thought it could mean that the supplements I'm taking are overacting, but that has pretty much been ruled out.

It is not poetic to say that I am being tormented by this hope. That position of peace I was talking about works so much more comfortably when there is no potential sign, no discussion of possibility, no imagining of hope, no suffering involved. No patience to be had, no civility to exercise, no life to carry on with regardless. No, dare I say, Triduum to wait through. Just spring the blessing on me without any guessing, or keep it forever away. That I can deal with. Maybe, maybe not: this sucks. This reminds me of my complete, utter, lack of control over God's amazing miracles. And my joy in the face of them. And my longing...

Pray for us, 'kay?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Catholic Charismatic, and Other Redundancies

It always amuses me to hear cradle Catholics talk about which flavor of Protestant is most Catholic. I think I have a simple answer to that: the Christian flavor. I really do completely believe that all that is true is to be found within the Catholic Church. That is not to say that we always have the most ardent lovers of Christ or the most obedient followers of Christ or the most passionate seekers after the mysteries hidden in Christ. But there is such a thing as the divinely ordained and preserved Magisterium, and within it, living and vibrant and growing Tradition that it is, all truth is to be found.

I am saying nothing scandalous, nothing that the Church does not teach, in saying that truth is also to be found among those not perfectly joined to the Church, and even among those not even joined by baptism or the faith of Abraham. So much more do our separated brothers share in a real, yet incomplete communion with the Catholic Church.

So, to the extent that non-Catholic Christians are true to their communion with Truth, they are most like Catholics. Or, good heavens, let's fairly qualify that by saying either the Catholic Church, or Catholics who are true to their communion with Truth. It is not, after all, a matter of which team we root for, but the degree of our participation in the fullness of the truth.

I used to like to say that my conversion story has something in it to offend just about everyone, in that my experiences don't line up nicely with anyone's doctrine. When I was 19 years old I very unexpectedly felt thrown into the lives of two small handfuls of charismatics. The shock of meeting the first handful led me to seek out the second handful. But the weird thing was I didn't know anything about any of them being charismatics at the time I met them. I spent some very intense weeks studying what Scripture had to say about Jesus' promise of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the recorded experiences of people receiving the Holy Spirit. But it wasn't until one friend within this circle of people received this experience herself that my jealousy was stirred enough to actually seek the experience myself. I did not seek out someone to pray over me, nor was I swept up in any emotional prayer meeting. I literally followed the directions in a book, prayed the prayer, and received this experience of Pentecost.

At the time, all I knew was that God was way alive, and that a totally miraculous thing happened to me in response to simply asking for the Holy Spirit. It was very much an experience of "I was blind, and now, I see!" Theologically I would now say that it was the cracking open of the treasure chest of my Baptism. Ironically, at the time, as a rebellious Lutheran college student, I had rejected the validity of infant baptism. My theological misgivings obviously didn't bother the Lord any. I think He was waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting for me to finally come to Him and ask for help. And He knew just how I wanted and needed it: full blast.

So, where did the charismatic movement lead me? Ultimately, where all truth leads: to become a Catholic. I think of my 5 year sojourn among non-denominational charismatics as my bridge into the Catholic Church. It was among the charismatics that I first learned to care about what happened in society. It was among the charismatics that I first shared the faith with other people, believers or not. My very first sacramental understanding (not belief; that came earlier) came at the wedding of some friends at my church. I have often thought of myself as a tiny bit of a Quaker. And that's how I can say that I sensed the sacrament of marriage between these two friends. In a similar way, I also recall a Sunday evening service where our worship leader, himself a lapsed Catholic, led us through worship songs that paralleled the Mass, including a Sanctus. Everyone there knew that the Holy Spirit was present in a specific, powerful way that made us all yearn deeply. In hindsight I know it was a longing for the Eucharist. God is so good to come among His people in a way that He will be received. He is always calling everyone to come to Him.

I live in Steubenville, considered by many to be the Catholic charismatic haven. It is very curious to me, though, what people consider representative of "being charismatic". Often, people will point to certain styles of music (modern and repetitive), or raised hands in prayer. But that's like saying Attachment Parenting is all about holding a baby in a sling. (Hey, enough cans of worms for one post!)

If someone were to ask me today if I am a charismatic, I would smile and say "I'm Catholic." Which means, yes, I am charismatic, but no, I am not "a" charismatic. Isn't a partial definition of oneself an incorrect definition if taken to be the whole definition? To me, being a charismatic has melted completely to be of one substance with being Catholic. Without charisms, we simply have no Church, plain and simple. Magisterial authority is charismatic, it is a gift given to human beings by the Holy Spirit for the good and service of other human beings. To be Catholic is to be charismatic.

But. You don't "have to" speak in tongues to be a Catholic (and saying this I feel like I'm answering my 6-year-old's question "Do we haaaaaaaaaaaaave to go to daily Mass?" We don't have to, I say, we get to.) And we don't have to sing repetitive music and wave our hands in the air, but I will be patient with my young friends at Franciscan University who do this (even amidst liturgical quibbles over whether the orans position is legitimate for laity during liturgy). I am not going to go tell someone to put his hands down when Jesus might be healing him at that very moment from being abused as a child, while repeating "Come, Lord Jesus" for the 40th time.

We don't need cultural trappings and externals. We do need to be animated by the Holy Spirit daily or Christian life is impossible.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Thoughts on the Feast of St. Joseph (Observed)

I was able to get to Mass this morning in honor of the feast of St. Joseph, one of my dh's patrons, as Joseph is his middle name. As my thoughts bounced off today's homily, I heard again such a strong echo of the truth I have heard from Fr. Giussani. I wish I could refer to the priest by name, but I didn't recognize him. But he discussed the question of why St. Joseph was named patron of the universal Church. Does it not make clear sense that if St. Joseph was the guardian of Christ the Redeemer, then he is also the patron of the Church, which is Christ's redeeming presence in time and space? This patronage was only declared in 1870, making it a rather new development. I thought of St. Paul and Jesus' revelation to Him that brought about his conversion: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" Saul was of course persecuting the Church, and Jesus identifies completely, personally, with the Church. I am not such an expert on all the writings of Fr. Giussani to be able to quote extensive passages from him, but I know that he labored to make people see this truth in everyday life: I am to live this reality that our lives (Jesus' and mine, and ours in the Church) are so intimately bound that even to say that Jesus is "close" to me is to get Him too far away.

When I first encountered CL I felt as if there were a certain "music" that played, but only when I assumed a certain posture, so to speak. I don't know how else to put it but in these figurative terms. That music told me of my own call, my dignity, a call to unity with others given to following Christ in this way, for the good of the whole world. Today I heard the "music" again, but in a different way. What I heard is that many Catholics (and others) do not live as if called personally to be Christ in this world. I heard that many are somehow stuck at playing a role in the Church. Playing a role means seeing Christian life as a human endeavor that I manage, in which I succeed or fail. It is having religious practices, a set of beliefs. It is, I believe, the origin of the pigeonholes of "liberal" and "conservative" Catholics (terms I loathe). Some choose to love and follow the human Christ, some choose to love and follow the divine Christ. Both have it right, and both have it wrong.

To follow Christ requires all of me given to all of Him; me, aware of my need, radically aware of my human limitations. To follow Christ does not require me to be perfect, but involves me adhering to Him because of the sheer weight of the attraction He is to my soul. He knows who I am, for He created me, He creates me. He asks of me nothing that is not possible as long as I cling to Him, drawing life from Him, returning always to Him. In love, He draws me to Himself. He does not send me out, awaiting such a time as I re-make myself into something acceptable -- this is absurd and impossible.

What is this music I hear? I think it is the music of the Lover serenading His beloved. Speaking for myself, I know that for many years the words "God loves you" spoken to me or "God loves me" spoken by myself packed as much punch as "Hi, how are you" spoken to an acquaintance passed in a busy hallway. Oh, for the living vigor of these words to break upon us! It must require.... real living human beings who are transformed by it to bear witness to it!

This is the missionary call that attracted me as a Lutheran child, as a charismatic young adult, as a new Catholic. But I always thought it required some institutional reality, being sent to a foreign country, or, on the other hand, boiled down to being nice and muddling through being a Christian as best as one could. I have probably been told a thousand times that Christ wants each of us to live His life wherever we are, and whatever we do, and in this way we make His kingdom come.

Maybe I just needed to hear the music to go with those words.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Why I'm in CL

I've been pondering something. The other day I was with a group of other CL Fraternity folks, and one person made the comment that even the most beloved person in our lives will let us down. That it is not we, as individual human beings, that we look to as Christians and as Fraternity, because we are all prone to fail each other.

I felt a little sad at the comment, and not because I don't believe it is true. Rather, I felt the comment is upside down. I've been thinking in terms of canvases. One could have a blank white canvas, something like an expectation of purity and perfection, and want only something beautiful painted upon it. Such a one would get worried, I suppose, about smudges and mess-ups, wanting to keep it clean and pure. It might actually be pretty hard to get permission to put one's brush on such a canvas, belonging to another.

Well, I don't have a blank white canvas. I think of my canvas as painted black. Black paint can blot out a lot. But the beautiful thing is that when you paint with vivid colors over black, you get something really stunning. Life emerging from death, light from darkness. Wonderful beauty in contrast. And yes, ok, maybe smudges of a dark purple that is hard to discern from the black. But a great Artist can use all these vibrant, living, real colors and make something very beautiful. And something about it says "paint me; that's what I'm for!"

That human beings fail each other is the most self-evident reality I can think of. That occasionally, or even frequently, human beings can bring Beauty into each other's lives? That's miraculous. And that's why I'm "in" CL.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Learning, Blogs, and Control

You know, I really love the internet. It is like living inside a giant library. I really do love learning, too.

Ok, before I start sounding like a complete nerd, let me share my latest blog finds.

Changing Demography and Your Future by Kenneth W. Gronbach analyzes generational trends as they affect business, economics and politics. I think I love it because the man has written a book with the word "census" in the title. Genealogy, censuses and demographics all seem to fit together in a nice little interest bundle for me.

Another very interesting find is Servias Ministries Blog. This is a non-denominational Christian blog with an unusual blend of themes: theology, economics, and medicine -- particularly electro-dermal screening, a diagnostic tool that is of interest to me as our ND uses it.

I've been wanting to write a blog post about one sentence I recently read on the above site. You can find it in the right hand "interesting quote" column: "Love seeks to serve mankind, not control others by usurping requirement of the Cross." I keep pondering this, wondering to what exact extent is this true. I think of Peter immediately, and his desire to rebuke Jesus from going to the cross. Certainly he was trying to control Jesus, who would have none of it. If we can say that is true, then why is it part of "polite society" to act like we want to keep each other from the slightest dab of suffering? Aha! Of course! Because if we serve others in their suffering, the suffering touches us, too. If we want to keep the cross far, far away, the loved one doesn't have to suffer, and I don't have to go through anguish all on account of someone else, either.

Let me step into this pair of shoes for myself. When I try to control someone else, it truly is myself for whom I am seeking an easier time. I think it is true. I see it clearly when I think of my children wrangling over something. I want to control the situation because it is agitating to me to hear them fight. But sometimes, if I just take a deep breath, in ten seconds beyond what I can bear they have the situation peaceably worked out. That tiny cross extends my patience and they learn to work together and solve problems.

So, what I learn is that I want to avoid just wishing people an easy, problem-free existence (hint: it ain't gonna be so anyway) and instead ask what I can do to be of assistance in the midst of the real problems they do have. Or better yet, see and do without needing to be asked, when possible.

And here I thought this was just going to be a "fun new links" post. It's not often I literally get a "naru hodo" moment while writing!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

You Mean Ginger, Like on Gilligan's Island?

You Are Ginger

Like ginger, you are a total shape shifter.

You can be sweet, spicy, mellow, or overpowering.

You are both soothing and unique. You are popular... yet you are often overlooked.

ht: Maria

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Go For the Sugar Instead (or the Stevia)

Here's an interesting account of one woman's decision to give up aspartame. Check out the interesting links in the comments section of the article as well!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Send a Future Priest to Seminary!

We have the privilege in our parish of serving as spiritual family in a formal way to a group of pre-theology students from Franciscan University of Steubenville. The pre-theologate is a special college track that prepares men for seminary. Our family prays specifically for two of these men. And one of our prayerlings, Allen Alexander, is preparing to graduate this May. He plans to enter the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, the order that operates the Divine Mercy shrine in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. But in order to do that right after graduation, he needs to raise about $20,000.

Please see his website for more details, and pray with us for his needs. If you are moved to make a donation to help him clear his remaining debt and enter religious life, click here.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Gardeners, Lend Me Your Thumbs (Or at least your ideas!)

We are enjoying a Spring-like day, so we've been outside this afternoon. Ok, so it's only 48 degrees, but the sun is shining! I'm attracted like a moth to a lightbulb.

But, when I venture out my door, I discover that our little side yard is a complete mess. There's something about spring and hope for change that spurs me to wonder whether I could do something different with this little plot of ground which seems to only be effective at gathering dead fall leaves.

I enjoyed all the feedback from my request for interior decorating ideas last spring, so I thought I'd try again with this gardening thing. That is, if you aren't disillusioned by the fact that I still have not painted my living room or purchased drapes. When our shade broke I hung a blanket over the rod. Hey, it's attractive enough. Have I mentioned that I am decorating-challenged?

So, here's what I have to work with:

And yet another view

Here are a few facts to consider. This is on the north side of the house, so it gets some morning sun, but not much. There is supposed to be a border of slate rock around the dirt, but as you can see it has pretty much been destroyed. We have this tenacious ivy that refuses to die, even after numerous attacks. We also have a large bed of hostas that grow closer to the fence. We plan to have the house painted (that's been the plan for the last two years!) and the rotting wood repaired. So complete destruction of the current, motif (if you can call it that) would be very doable.

Can anything pretty grow without lots of sunshine? Can anything kill off ivy? I'd love to do a "natural" look with wildflowers, but I have my doubts. This blog post is the most attention I've given this piece of ground in almost a year, and I'm not likely to give it more anytime soon.

Realistic ideas, anyone?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Burden of Love

"In love, there are ... times when the burden causes you to question your commitment. Do not be afraid of these times."

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

March 1, 2008


My dear friend, you will learn so much about love in heaven. You will look back at your time on earth and you will understand that many things that occurred to you were both exercises in love and opportunities to love. There is misunderstanding about love in the world but those who follow Me, My beloved apostles, seek to master love as I mastered love, in sacrifice. It is true that love creates joy. This is true. But when we take on love, it is also at times like taking on a burden which must then be carried. We should not decide for love and then, finding that love burdensome at times, set it down and walk away from it. This is not how it is done. On the contrary, if you love as I loved, you will find at times that the weight of love is heavy. I experienced this on Calvary when I carried My love for you to My death. Did I make the right decision, to pay the ultimate price for love? Of course I did. What else would I do, given the wonderful creation that is you? In the same way, I want each of My apostles to expect their love for Me to be a burden to them at times. This is normal. I want each of My apostles to expect their love for others to be a burden to them at times. This is also normal. In love, there are times when the decision to love feels light, of course, and there seems to be no burden to it at all. Rejoice in these times. In love, there are other times when the burden causes you to question your commitment. Do not be afraid of these times. This questioning is necessary for your growth. I experienced this, too. I was tempted toward an easier way. When love is tried this way and triumphs, that love becomes firmer and less likely to be disappointed later. Welcome the challenges to love, even while you decide for love. I will be with you in each situation, counselling you to humility and gentleness. View each challenge as a worthy exercise, allowed by heaven to teach you about eternity. See the opportunities to love all of those around you, particularly those whom you find it difficult to agree with at times. Please do not be alarmed when you are disappointed in love, when others fail you. This was also My experience and this will also benefit you because it will help you to learn forgiveness. I will bring you to greater holiness with each experience if you remember that I am with you and that I love you perfectly and completely. From the secure place that is My heart, you will go forward with self assurance, confident that you are cherished. This confidence will express itself in an increased ability to love those around you. Be at peace, dear apostles. My plan is such that you will learn to live like residents of heaven. All is well.