Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
But if you spend some time investigating the rest of her blog you will discover that she is also in the midst of recounting her journey of forgiveness and healing from sexual abuse. It is a supreme understatement to say that this endeavor requires prayer. She bears witness to the power of Christ to transform the worst nightmare. Such witnesses need to be upheld in prayer, so please, my friends, pray for her.
I have known Patty for nearly eight years, having first "met" her via email and phone in 2000 when I worked for Scott Hahn and when she was investigating the Catholic faith. Since that time as I have told her on many occasions, I have felt that I was reading a book that already written, so strongly is Christ's guidance evident in her life. She came from one of the most anti-Catholic backgrounds you can imagine and has experienced not only her own conversion, but that of her entire immediate family. Her story has been published in various places including Suprised By Truth 3, on these websites, and in this most recent recording on Journeys Home with Marcus Grodi (click here and scroll to number 51) .
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Ok, so, I am amazed at people who know, for example, how they want a room in their house to look, a certain outfit they'd like (especially if they are sewing it and trying to literally create a look), who long to make or eat a certain dinner or produce a certain work of art. I do not even know how to prefer one thing over the other in these areas. Yes, there are foods that I gravitate toward, like beef and dark green veggies, but honestly roasting a chunk of flesh over and open fire and picking the greens out of the ground and eating them sounds just as nice to me as some fancy recipe. And I have a general sense of appreciating nice appearances when I see them, but it was just last year that I noticed that our living room and adjacent hallway are actually painted two different (but similar) colors. I just don't see things. If you scroll over to my personality type blurb in the sidebar you will notice that Myers-Briggs registers me as 100% intuitive and 0% sensing. That says a lot about how I see the world (figuratively speaking, of course!)
So, I am not accustomed to caring about certain things that register with others strongly. This doesn't mean I never have preferences, but I suppose it makes me far less experienced in typical decision-making processes.
And speaking of making decisions, when I do have to choose what I prefer, it takes me a good long time. Today happens to be our 9th wedding anniversary, and choosing wedding attire and accouterments is certainly an example. When all the decisions had finally been made (according to that silly wedding planner calendar), I was just about ready to begin. Oh, I had a strong sense of what kind of wedding dress I liked, so that wasn't too hard, but colors, flowers, decorations -- ugh! Then factor in that wanted to include Erol on all the decisions, and he tried hard to oblige me. Let's just say it was an extended lesson on our decision making styles.
What makes me very nervous is when I'm around people who feel strongly, have a strong need to plan, make impulsive decisions, and then announce them or begin acting on them. I mean, that's all fine and good if it doesn't involve me. I have an extended family member who fits this description well. Recently we were on an outing together, and as we set out it quickly became clear that we had two choices for mode of transport. While I was still taking in that fact and warming up to my internal desire to get some exercise and go by foot, said dear family member had everyone else enthused and running toward the non-exercise mode. I hadn't processed my desire long enough to be able to counter; so I ended up trailing along begrudgingly without a clear sense of why I felt that way.
Which leads me to another thought about planning. I've been pondering the role of meal planning on this blog for several weeks. And I realize now that to some degree, my need for planning or aforethought comes from protecting myself from this feeling of being lost -- of being left with no choices to make and allowing circumstances or other people to dictate what I do. Or of blowing up with some "decision" which is simply frustration exploding irrationally, usually onto other people.
What is that feeling of lostness? I think it is that sense in me that says: "What I want doesn't matter -- just do what you want" while being upset about this, but feeling unable to change. Even sometimes saying yes too quickly to good things that I know I want has its price. I need to go back and really own the yes. Come to think of it, I did this when my husband asked me to marry him. I was so excited that I didn't even verbally say yes for a week (although I certainly conveyed yes right away)!
When I had to dig deeper into this thought, I had to consider the part played by having my interests not only not shared, but downright spurned, rejected, by others in my life as a child. And not just once, but repeatedly, predictably. I saw how necessary it was for me to grieve this tremendous drain on my vitality. (And to consider the ramifications of this realization in my own parenting.) I saw how this taught me to reject my own interests, and/or remove the sector of my life that contained my interests from the gaze of these close ones, and ultimately from most other people who became close to me.
And there I have it: when I face my likes and other people who I gather are supposed to matter to me, I also face an old script that directs me to make the real me exit stage left, after I get done enduring their presence by faking who I am.
And that's just not a human situation. Oh, its subtle enough, so subtle that these thoughts did not just occur to me as something obvious, but came really in answer to pleading for understanding, pleading for healing. This is definitely a fruit of the Spiritual Exercises, something I became able to see from that experience.
And pretty soon I'll even be able to start thinking about what was said there!
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
No wait. I can say one thing about why I write this. Throughout my life I have had occasion to struggle mightily with my personal freedom to have preferences. I've lived with people whose preferences are extremely different from my own and I have drunk in the sense that I must be, of my essence, offensive to those people because I like different things. This, predictably, led me to reject anything embraced by my peers as a kid. But in my adult life I see I sometimes had a lingering sense of sadness, thinking what I like either must be sacrificed for others' happiness with or acceptance of me, or that what I like must of necessity create distance between myself and others. Or that what I like is plain wrong.
So, liturgy. I was a bit shocked, really, that the Masses during the Exercises were so bare. Ok, you say, if the Lord of the Universe shows up, how can you call it bare? And you of course have a point. I do not at all argue the truth that if the priest is validly ordained, Mass is Mass, regardless of other factors. But do not these other factors speak, yell, sing, shout, of our love? Is this not a key expression of the Bride of Christ of her love for her Beloved?
Meander with me, if you have the patience, through some liturgical tastes of mine.
I cut my teeth on daily Mass in the basement chapel of Gesu parish in Milwaukee. Masses were simple; there were no lectors, no music, no frills, but there were the excellent homilies of Fr. John Campbell. He had a lilt to his praying of the liturgy -- he always said the prayers with a predictable intonation of voice, and yet he never, ever sounded as if he were just saying words and not in deep prayer. And he never rushed. His voice carved the paths of the prayer of the Mass into my heart starting in the days when I was still fumbling to follow along with the liturgy.
These days, I still love a good homily, which in my mind is one in the style of Fr. John: preached, and not read. Written communication and spoken communication are so different in style, and a homily that is read almost always strikes me as hard to follow, and speaking to my head (if that) rather than engaging my life.
I spend a good deal of my daily Masses these days at Franciscan University's Christ the King Chapel. There have been years when I frequented my parish or other parishes in town, especially when I worked and when my son was a baby. But to be honest, the time (12:05 pm) simply is the most convenient for me. I also appreciate that children and their noises have never created a stress for me in the crowded chapel.
One thing I appreciate about both the Chapel and my parish on Sundays is that everyone sings. I admit to fussiness when it comes to liturgical music. And I get so sad when people do not join in singing. Perhaps it comes from being raised as a Lutheran where there is no such thing as just sitting there and listening to others sing. We would have no more thought of sitting in church mute as sitting there with no clothes on; it's just not done. For similar reasons, I have problems with classical, frilly choir pieces used for Mass. Yeah, I know it's high culture and all, but I'm not there to have someone else sing praises for me, even if it is beautiful. Put it on a CD or sing in concert. But a choir had better be leading me in singing.
Sometimes I love the music at Franciscan and sometimes I am merely being patient. I think I can say the same no matter where I am. I am picky, I admit. There are songs I'd rather not sing for the next 50 years (like "Forever Grateful"). I would love to take aside 90% of the vocalists and tell them not to put five extra notes between every simple step from one note and the next. I would also love to hold a general seminar (for everyone!) to point out the liturgical norms that don't really call for holding hands during the Our Father, when to stand, when to kneel, and to point out what our Bishop (for our diocese at least) has stated as the proper expression of reverence when receiving Holy Communion!
Just for good measure I'll say I've never been to a Tridentine Mass and I really don't get why people get all uptight about that whole scene. I do like to occasionally attend a Byzantine liturgy, just to know there is vast beauty in the Church of which I know very little, and in which I can feel twice as lost as I ever did as a new Catholic. I like to know that God is present in many ways that I don't understand or have the least comfortable familiarity with.
At the beginning of one school year I sat behind a young woman who was doing a little leg tap and snapping her fingers during the Gloria. And you know what? I was happy she was praising God, and knew that five or so years down the road she would look back and probably feel a little embarrassed for herself. I hoped that everyone around her would still talk to her and give her her freedom and not embarrass her themselves.
I want people to respect the liturgy and their Bishop who is over it, I want them to bring to it the beauty that is the love in their hearts. I want music and preaching that employ honed skills, also born from great love of Jesus.
And even while I say this, I realize that I would drop it all, every concern, in a heartbeat if that were my only option to still be privileged to receive my Lord in the Eucharist. I spent over two years at Masses in Japanese where I could barely understand a word and where Who I loved felt so foreign. And still He was there. Even when everything is just as I would have it, and I feel like those things bring my Lord close, He is still infinitely beyond.
Monday, May 19, 2008
I think it is a good sign that it's been a challenge to do so.
What I'm not feeling is "Wow, that was an exciting, incredible, mind-blowing experience! It was just so cool! I'm sure I'll be living off this high for, oh, a week!"
Fr. Carron's words, when he spoke of positively what we need to embrace, struck my heart and made it beat faster. He spoke sometimes of difficulties those in CL sometimes face, and frankly those things left me feeling puzzled. I know in times past when I have heard preachers speak of problems, I in all my earnestness felt I needed to locate this problem in my heart, whether it was there or not. I have often gotten all tangled up trying to correct some problem that was said to be pervasive among "us" even when I could not find it in me. I found myself reminding myself of that past history and just setting those things aside until such a point that I find meaning in them for myself.
I have a way of relating with others that is unique to me, of course, and Italian is the last adjective I would choose to describe this way. I find myself at great peace with that; I don't begrudge people their way, and I don't fret over my way. I'm just trying to figure out now how to unpack what I have experienced in a way that truly fits with me. (If it isn't already obvious, part of my way necessitates some verbal meandering.)
As I don't have it all sewn up yet (heck, I don't even have the thread and material out of the bag, let alone found my sewing machine), let me just share a couple pertinent thoughts that have come to mind today:
Fr. John, my dear spiritual director of years gone by (God rest his soul), at the time we were meeting always seemed to benefit me most in a way that reminded me of a picture negative. It wasn't what he said that helped me, but what I saw because of how strangely what he said sometimes struck me.
I love a sense of belonging with people, but I can't handle lots of people in my face. I love the sense of belonging to a community I have in Steubenville: in the town at large (bumping into folks I know at the grocery store), at Franciscan University (the friars knowing who I am because we always see each other at Mass), in the homeschool group (just "belonging" to a group, even though I haven't been to a meeting in over two years). One of the first observations (complaints?) my Kindergarten teacher made on my report card was that I played with one or two children and kept my distance from the rest.
One of the strongest senses I brought back from the Exercises was an overwhelming awe at the gifts with which God has filled my life. Especially how He called me to become a Catholic. My history has often felt chaotic and aimless, haphazard and sometimes even distant from the presence of God. But I see that all the time, God has been the Architect, and what He has built is beautiful. What I have struggled with is embracing all He has given with my freedom and rejoicing in it. That task is made so hard when it seems there is no rhyme or reason. But I hear the rhyme and I'm understanding the reason.
So, I'll keep pondering. Stay tuned.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Apparently Stafford was quoting medieval theologians like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure. As an unschooler and mother of young children, it came as quite a shock to think of this natural and developmentally appropriate action of children -- something I bank on in our educational venture -- as a vice.
But wait, truly this needs some further examination. Fr. Dan gave the example of King Herod who, during the trials of Jesus, was excited to get a turn with the famous captive, in hopes of seeing some miracle. He was "merely curious" about Jesus, Fr. Dan said. And we understand that Herod did not at all perceive Otherness in Jesus; he was looking for titillation, for entertainment. And Jesus had absolutely nothing to say to him.
Fr. Dan went on to talk about people who flit from one interesting idea to another. He gave the general example of some of his theology students who ask him curiosity questions. He said he tries to redirect them to understand the profundity of what they are asking, but often sees the glazed-over look come upon them, so he switches to a very basic answer and sends them on their way. They ask like children, they get an answer as if to children.
This quip loaded up two different freight cars in my mind. The simple one first: children. Children want basic, concrete information to help them make sense of their world. Connecting vice to a child's learning of his environment is nonsensical (and I bet St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure would agree). But, what happens when a person is 20 years old and still flits and doesn't want to think deeply about something that tickles their fancy for a moment? This indicates to me that something has gone wrong. Somewhere the maturation process has broken down. (And I wonder if perhaps it could be tied to curiosity being stifled when it was age-appropriate?)
The second freight car is a lot more personal, because I know I am the Queen of flitting. I am interested in many things, but my interest does not always translate to a commitment, or even necessarily an evaluation of whether commitment is a good to pursue. Fr. Dan talked about the need to commit oneself to truth, to the truth of what one is seeking. So, let me take the example of my meal planning expedition I wrote about last month. I was doing quite well until I had sick children about a week ago, and things gradually unraveled. Today I looked at the last meal plan I had hanging on my fridge, and considered: did I not consider this tool good and helpful? Then, even though I'm not to chastise myself as a failure for making unplanned dinners for a few days, can I pick it back up again as a helpful tool instead of treating it like a "mere passing curiosity"? I thought through improvements in what had been difficult with the planning process, and worked out the remainder of this week. I do not want to be just a flitter, dropping "truths" and "goods" on the floor like scraps to be swept up.
Back to St. Thomas for a moment. He writes this in the Summa, II. ii. Q. 167 A. 1
Thirdly, when a man desires to know the truth about creatures, without referring his knowledge to its due end, namely, the knowledge of God. Hence Augustine says (De Vera Relig. 29) that "in studying creatures, we must not be moved by empty and perishable curiosity; but we should ever mount towards immortal and abiding things."
It strikes me that this is very much what Fr. Giussani is saying, in that education must embrace the meaning of all things (the Mystery, God). If we are pursuing any field of knowledge without referring this knowledge to the true end, this is inadequate. This is what Aquinas calls the vice of curiosity.
I believe there is much practical good for me in these thoughts, and this seems part of what I wrote about in these posts about words of the Holy Father's that challenged me to deeper thinking about unschooling. God always gives me something for me, and something toward understanding my children's needs. I like how it works that way!
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Thursday, May 08, 2008
This one, Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn, I've actually read before. But heck, that was at least two years ago. My children (and I) have aged and matured in many ways. To be honest, I felt rather radical reading this book when first I did, because those who recommended it to me were... shhhh... not Catholic, and they embraced some counter-cultural ideas, like unschooling, and EC, and didn't find corporal punishment of children appropriate.
So after I read it, was impressed, and amended a few of my parenting ways, I wrote a little blurb about it for our local Catholic homeschool group. And do you know that not a single soul threw tomatoes at me?
Ok, I'm being silly, but I admit that parenting has definitely been one of those adventures where I have scurried like Chicken Little to find good, trustworthy advice. I suppose all new moms do (even those of us who start out in this venture with crow's feet and gray hair already). The realization has dawned on me that seeing well to the ways of my own life, an open heart, engaging the constant struggle for communication, and lots of prayer are the ingredients I need most to be a mom.
Back to this book. Of late I've been in on some virtual discussions on this book again, this time among Catholic women extolling this book as reflecting well a Catholic world view on parenting (although he does critique what he sees as American Christianity: the puritanical heritage). I decided I could probably benefit from a slightly more experienced and significantly more relaxed read of this text. (And next I plan to read Punished By Rewards, also by him.)
Here are a few quotes that have struck me just from the introduction:
I realized that [not being a pain to the adults] is what many people in our society seem to want most from children: not that they are caring or creative or curious, but simply that they are well behaved. A "good" child -- from infancy to adolescence -- is one who isn't too much trouble for grown-ups.And then an important challenge :
What are your long-term objectives for your children? What word or phrase comes to mind to describe how you'd like them to turn out, what you want them to be like once they're grown?The conclusion from these thoughts, of course, is whether our ways of living and interacting with our children are consistent with these larger desires. And if not, what should I be doing instead? Does my choice of action serve the child's need, or is it all about what is convenient for me as Mommy?
I like Alfie Kohn because I need to be challenged as a parent. I do not assume that all my desires vis a vis my children are good ones. I admit I would really like it, in the short term, if my son would render me mindless obedience, doing whatever I say when I say it, because I say it. But you see, I'm a little morbid, and I think of people like Adolph Hitler, and others who inspired obedience toward horrid, horrible things. And I think of the far subtler but equally horrible ways our culture begs for obedience. I realize my son needs to learn to reject with every fiber of his being some ideas. No, scratch that, he knows that perfectly. He needs to preserve that ability, aim it appropriately, hone it, mature it, learn its balance and make it his servant and a tool for the kingdom of God. So, like it or not, I need to learn to work with those energetic refusals of his constructively, not destructively.
I'm not even going to blood type you all to make sure you are type A or B and can successfully drink coffee without creating some havoc in your digestive system. Isn't that generous of me?
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
I sell stuff on ebay sometimes, and had a bunch of auctions close last night. Yippee, I thought. Some things sold that I didn't even anticipate selling. Then I got an email from one of the purchasers today who asked me the kinds of questions you need to ask before you buy something, and then asked me to provide a USPS tracking number, oh except the mailing service he paid for doesn't offer that possibility. Sigh.
I respond to blog posts here and there with comments sometimes, and I posted a comment the other day. Someone made rather rude comments to the poster, and, even though I knew it is futile to try to make people "see the light" with my being conciliatory and reasonable, I gave it a shot. And I even went back to see if I got a reaction (that should be my first sigh for this story.) Of course the poster was rude to me, too, and missed my point by a mile. The poster's name is easy to guess: anonymous. Sigh.
My children are tired, my children are cranky, my children are recovering from a little bug where the best medicine is sleep. They are into having this fight that I just can't bring myself to get mad over -- each one grabs on to me and says "She's my mommy!" "No, she's my mommy!" What can I do but... Sigh.
Sigh days make me second-guess all my best intentions and suspect that I have created all the misunderstandings currently in existence in the world.
But, there's always tomorrow.
Friday, May 02, 2008
Thursday, May 01, 2008
So, I'm thinking. I fear I could probably make a list of 100 pet peeves with less thought, but I know I would feel pretty low only part way through creating such a list.
Here 'goes: 100 things that make me happy, listed in no particular order.
1. going to Mass
2. my husband's smile
3. my children's laughter
4. my daughter's kisses
5. listening to my husband sing
6. sunny spring days
7. the smell of lilacs
8. blue skies
9. a chorus of birds
11. bagpipe music
12. Pachabel's canon in D
13. genealogical discoveries
14. legible census sheets
15. emails from friends
16. medium rare steaks
17. mashed potatoes (at least before they hit my digestive tract)
18. a plate of garden fresh tomatoes sliced horizontally
19. Michael Nesmith music
20. watching people play stringed instruments
21. my genealogy database
22. memories of God's interventions in my life
23. living in Steubenville
24. Suzanne's house
25. discussions at School of Community
26. visiting museums with my children
27. good oriental food
28. watching fish swim
29. comments on my blog
30. watching my son read
31. reading things I wrote long ago
32. listening to my daughter sing
33. thinking about my daughter's birth
34. the smell of church incense
35. hearing a priest talk about his passion for God
36. our Bishop
37. realizing that other people struggle with the same things I do
38. talking about science with Jeff
39. when any friend smiles at me
40. when people make a point to say hi to me, by name
41. melted butter
42. seeing older people with well-aligned spines and good posture
43. middle-eastern music
44. polka dancing
45. Annie's Song by John Denver
46. singing with my CL friends
47. putting other's needs before worries about myself
48. spending 'quality time' with my son
49. my husband's steady personality
50. having someone contact me whom I haven't talked with in a long time
51. watching ethnic dancing
52. men with ponytails
53. British comedies (many, at least)
54. participating in a quick-witted conversation
55. laughing until my belly hurts
56. watching The Monkees
57. dancing with my whole family in the kitchen
58. hanging laundry outside to dry
59. "old" houses
60. looking at my house when clean
61. using our push mower
62. washing dishes after serving a meal to company
63. watching someone else get excited about something I've told them
64. remembering an argument with my college philosophy professor
65. having my children home with me
66. walking down the block when it is warm
67. living down the block from Alan and Nancy Schreck
68. feeling free to be me
69. eating Namaste brand blondies with chocolate chunks
70. roast beef
71. green beans
72. singing the Mass of Creation at the top of my lungs
73. being with people who are in love with Jesus
76. the hills of the Ohio Valley
77. Steubenville's downtown library
78. knowing my way around
79. Christmas Eve Midnight Mass
80. hearing a skilled lector read at Mass
81. watching my daughter play
82. my daughter's smile
83. emails from distant relatives doing genealogy
84. educational documentaries
85. Scotland the Brave
86. the Wiggles singing Christmas hymns
87. a Catholic parish where most everyone sings
88. post offices
89. health food stores
90. buying clothes at thrift stores
91. discovering spring wildflowers
93. my hair being curly
94. white Christmases
96. nature trails
97. curly-haired toddlers
98. being able to fix things for my children
99. listening to my son talk with other adults
100. having lots of people read my blog :)
Wow! That wasn't too hard after all. Now, aren't you inspired to share your happy 100?
I have been playing the title track of this CD over and over the last few days. It is a gorgeous blend of Middle-Eastern music with just a tiny rock flavor to it, which has got to be one of my absolute favorite musical sounds. And the words are so evocative! They are a passionate pleading for the presence of God the Holy Spirit in and through the sacraments. Two lines in the chorus blow me away both musically and with the prayer they offer:
This song is a wonderful Pentecost novena prayer! (And sales of his CD will help him fund his seminary education.)
On the first of every month, Our Lord gives Anne a new message about His call to service.
May 1, 2008
Dear apostles, My heart is bursting with love for each one of you. Indeed, I cannot contain the love that I possess for all of mankind. Many reject My love. They are not open to accepting love directly from My heart. You, My beloved apostles serving in this time, do accept the love of the Saviour. You rejoice in My love. You allow My love to transform you into carriers of heaven’s healing plan for humanity. Because so many reject Me, I give in a ridiculously lavish way to those willing to accept Me. Many of God’s children, living in the sadness of sin, will not admit that God could offer them anything of value. They are closed to My love for them and they are closed to My plan for them. But these people will, nevertheless, accept kindness from you, God’s apostles. They will accept good example from you, God’s apostles. Ultimately, if My plan is successful, they will accept love from you. The love they find in your heart will belong to Me because I placed it there. When the people around you are loved by you, they experience Me. This works because you are connected to Me each day through your apostolic pledge and through your apostolic service. I have told you in the past that you bring light to a dark world. I want you to know, dear loyal apostles, that the light you bring is changing the world. We, those of us in heaven, see the light growing. Some of you begin unsteadily. You are not certain that you are called. My beloved one, I am speaking to you now. Listen to Me. You are called. You belong in this family. I need your help. I do not ever want to be apart from you again. It hurts Me to be apart from you and it hurts you to be apart from Me. Only I love you perfectly. If you remain close to Me, I can continue to love you in such in a way that you will value yourself as heaven values you. You are not perfect. It is true. I accept this about you. If you believed you were perfect, My beloved friend, you would be no good to Me. Far better for every one of My goals that you believe you are flawed. Believe in My perfection and be willing, and together we will bring an unstoppable flow of love into the world. I rejoice in your love for Me, dear apostle. I want you to rejoice in My love for you. If you do this, you will show others an accurate example of the peace that comes from resting in the Saviour. Rejoice in your heart. I am there and I love you.