Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent Retreat

As if yesterday morning's experience wasn't enough, yesterday afternoon was our CL Advent retreat.

I've had "moments" when this charism I've been following has made no sense to me or my experience of it simply left me feeling confused. This retreat was very much the opposite kind of experience. I was able to see this current moment in my life in a wider context of what I have been able to see God doing in course of my whole life. And it all fits. Even if I can't get all the meaning of all the nooks and crannies, I see that it is the same God, the same Love that has been calling me at every turn. It is the Lord. What else do I really need to know?

There was one particular moment in which I was struck in a way that is beyond putting into words. But I'll try. Fr. Roberto spoke of how the Church is a sacrament, the first sacrament. He spoke of how it is through the Church, therefore through Somebody (one of those great precise/imprecise CL words) that God reaches us. That is His methodology, the Incarnation. Fr. added, almost as an aside, that one cannot set aside the person (Somebody) to seek Christ. No, he said, "That is Martin Luther."

Now, realize that I was raised "at the breast" of Martin Luther. Realize that I have spent the last ten years grappling with my now adult understandings of where Martin Luther, and I following him, went very wrong. Understand that when someone speaks of an error of Luther's, my own soul goes on high alert.

I went off to the silent reflection time quickly finding a need to pace rather than kneel silently. As I paced, I formulated the question I wanted to ask Fr. Roberto about this during the assembly. And (I wonder, does anyone else do this?) I formulated what I thought his response would be. Which was, of course, my own response to my own question. I think I have the habit of this because I'm not accustomed to actually finding someone who can speak to the meanings of things. Regardless, it is a useful exercise for me. As I pondered over things Fr. had said about the Incarnation, about the Church, about knowing what God wants through this Somebody, I suddenly remembered a burning question I once put to my friend's friend who had been at Mass with me on that Christmas Eve in 1991 that was the climax of my conversion.

The question was about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I had always believed in the doctrine of the real presence, along the lines of how I had been taught it as a Lutheran. Consubstantiation is the technical theological term used; essentially Jesus is believed to be present in, with, and under the bread and wine. Various Scriptures told me that a merely symbolic belief about holy communion was incorrect. This was so important a tenet of faith to me that one of the tests of the charismatic fellowship I attended before becoming Catholic was that no one ever insisted on a symbolic belief, but rather just read the Scriptures about the Lord's Supper and left it at that.

But at that Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, I encountered something extremely different. This was not an idea, a doctrine, of the real presence, this was Jesus (pardon my familiarity) saying "Howdy!" from the altar, and from the people in whom He had tabernacled during the communion procession. This was not an idea of Jesus being present, I encountered Jesus. Present.

So, the pressing question I had for my friend's friend, Jeff. I needed to know just what they believed about how Jesus was present. A couple weeks later I asked him "if someone needed a blood transfusion, could I take the consecrated wine and give it to that person as a blood transfusion?" Immediately he answered, "No, of course not." I was relieved. "Ok," I said. "Then I can believe what you believe about the Real Presence."

I realized this has been parallel to something that I've rubbed up against in CL that has been likewise burning. If Jesus makes His appeal to me through the Church, through Somebody, then is that person sitting next to me in my pew literally Jesus? You see, when I hear "you cannot set aside the person to seek Christ," part of me starts to panic. Part of me thinks, ok, this person, any person, literally has claim to my life in such a way that I must lay down my life for that person's will, regardless of what it is or what it means for me. I have gotten over believing that God is arbitrary, capricious and selfish, and at the same time I have come to realize just how arbitrary, capricious and selfish people in general (self included) actually are! So please! Tell me that Jesus is not literally made manifest in any arbitrary, capricious or selfish desire expressed by any person who crosses my path!

The way I was thinking of it, I realize the answer is no. The Father is made known in the face of Jesus Christ. Jesus calls to me through Somebody, but He does not morph into somebody. I think some of my difficulty comes from imprecise Trinitarian thinking, to tell the truth.

I said this was hard to put into words, did not I.

So I actually asked Fr. Roberto in the Assembly to elaborate on this point. Not surprisingly, his response was nothing at all like my response to myself. He spoke of the history of the Reformation, and how Luther saw real moral violations. There were real problems, but Luther did not complain as a son, Fr. said. Instead, he broke off from the Someone who was causing him real problems, even committing real sin. This also spoke to me, from a different but just as vital angle. Fr. asked me to think about what happens when my children do something against me. Do I kill them? Of course not. I correct them. (And it really takes a lot of effort, creativity, patience, and energy to do so.) And what happens as a result? There is a greater bond that forms between us. I can verify from my experience that this is true. So when someone sins against me, it is necessary to speak a correction. This is a hard truth for me to hear. It is even harder to live, because correcting a child is hard enough. How does one correct a peer, perhaps where the relationship is not healthy to begin with, perhaps where there has been longstanding separation or pain or numbness?

I do know that love is always in season, and I can begin with my attitude. I can go further with my openness. And I can be honest that this is hard and painful work. I can be realistic in my expectations. I can trust God with results.

When I am actually able to meditate on the Incarnation I become weepy and weak-kneed. I have tasted the reality of the truth that the Incarnation means I am loved, I, in all my I-ness, in all my humanity, in all my createdness, all my limitation: I am loved. If ever I were able to grasp this love beyond a taste and make it my constant reality, and therefore be able to love another this way, another sinner just as annoying as myself... I wonder if I should be able to do this and still be alive on this earth. I would be so vastly different than I am today. To love another the way I am loved. Is it possible?

The Communion of Saints

Saturday morning I was able to experience so clearly why I love to worship at Franciscan University's Christ the King chapel, and particularly why I love Fr. Michael Scanlon.

The Mass that was celebrated was in memory of the various saints of the Franciscan order. Fr. Mike preached simply but with passion about the reality of our family in the Church, our ancestors, the saints. It is perhaps hard to convey how profoundly and how simply this truth completely changes, completely fulfills my heart.

Others can recount better than I the story Fr. Mike has told in his book Let the Fire Fall and in countless homilies, talks and conversations about his own biological family experience. What it boils down to for me is that there was pain, and an experience of failure of this basic human unit to bring blessing to life. His experience reminds me a bit of Pope John Paul II's youth, which was also a crucible of suffering during the Nazi era. The beauty, the glory, is that through their respective crucibles of suffering, God brought forth gold, meant to give hope and life to vast multitudes. Both men seem to me like forerunners, who were destined to understand the sufferings of those they were called to serve by experiencing it first hand.

Therefore, Fr. Mike is deeply aware, deeply conscious, of the pain many FUS students have experienced in their families. He speaks as one who knows the glorious antidote to the familiar pain. Parusia. Heaven. Sanctity. Resurrection. In Fr. Mike I see a tremendous witness to the reality of these things -- so much so that I really hardly see him at all. I just behold the fact that these realities are, well, real. I see St. Francis, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Cecelia, St. John, St. Francis Xavier, St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Bernard of Clairvaux -- all these folks who have touched my life. I think of December 27, 1991 when I stood in the Catholic bookstore, having just committed myself to following the Lord into the Catholic Church, and "meeting" St. Cecelia, patroness of music whose feast is my birthday. I remember the sense, more real than if I'd entered a room of flesh and blood people at the time (I have a tendency to "shut off" in groups of people, and this tendency was even stronger then) of welcome and meaning and fellowship and life, coming from the whole court of heaven. It was as if St. Cecelia had the job of introducing the whole extended family to me. And I finally knew I had a true home, and that my life had not been a mistake. Glory.

This is what I experienced yesterday morning with Fr. Mike. This is my family, the Church. This is my profound love.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Thought for the Day

Not surprisingly, my thoughts are set to music. I'm blogging on the technologically-inept fly, so you have to click the title to hear the tune! But here's the main thought:

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Tale of the Amazing Glasses Lens (Or, Remember to Check Your Facts)

Here's a funny story, since I was just speaking of trust.

The other day I was at Mass with my children. During the homily, my son handed me his glasses, asking me to clean them. I saw the left lens was heavily fingerprinted, so I did the ol' breath-shine routine. The other one looked clean enough, so I handed them back to him.

He is not of the age to have made his first Holy Communion yet, so he stayed in the pew as my (even younger) daughter and I went forward. (Her constitution is rather heavy on the Velcro right now.) During the closing hymn my son, who had been laying under the pew (what, your kids never did that??) looked up at me with alarm and pointed out that one of the lenses was missing from his glasses.

Oh no. Not again.

Well, this will be easy, since you didn't move from this spot, and I just cleaned your glasses not 20 minutes ago. It must be right here.

We looked. The woman next to us looked. A neighbor who just happened to say hi stopped to look. We scoured under pews up to four rows behind us. We checked the office in case someone was hyper vigilant in turning it in to lost and found. I dug through my purse. I even persuaded my son to go into the bathroom and make sure it hadn't fallen in his clothing.


This was completely impossible. I was mystified. This defied reason.

We came home.

Imagine my surprise when I swept the floor yesterday and found the lens under the dinner table. My first thought? This lens has powers of bi-location!

But my son, apparently far more rational than myself, pointed out the obvious. "Mama, the reason you thought the other lens was clean was that it wasn't there!"

Come to think of it, I cleaned his glasses with my own glasses on, and my own glasses really only serve to completely mess up my vision right now. I can see perfectly without them as long as I don't need to see farther than five feet. With them on, I may as well be wearing two miniature opaque glass blocks.

The humorous thing is that I never once thought to mistrust my own senses, even knowing what I know about my vision, and even -- for a moment -- after finding the lens! It just goes to show that when reality appears irrational, there is some further testing of evidence that needs to happen.

A song, and a bit about my day

meee meee meee....

test, check. Can you hear me back there?

Ok, this is a sing-along. Here are the words. The tune is "If You're Happy and You Know It." Ready?

I'm a happy, happy backwater hick
I'm a happy, happy backwater hick
I'm a happy, happy, happy
I'm a happy, happy, happy
I'm a happy, happy backwater hick

Great! I really liked the swaying from side to side bit and the little extra twang I know you added to your voice.

Now, you'll want to know the source of my inspiration, I'm sure. If you must know, I spent the majority of today driving in and around Pittsburgh, which is the big city nearest my home. First, we survived with relative ease the Herculean task of finding a parking place downtown. It was relatively easy because it took us less than 30 minutes. However to get through this particular parking structure one needed to get one's vehicle through spaces leaving about 3 inches leeway on either side (and no, I'm not exaggerating).

Part of the fun was that I was driving using Google directions to places I'd never been. On the third major leg of the trip, imagine my delight when I met the actual locations described in the directions without a hitch. The only problem was that the supposed destination Google found for me ended up being a storage facility instead of the museum I hoped it would be. A kind and clear-speaking gentleman in a gas station gave me perfect directions to the real location I needed. (I, for the record, am rarely clear-speaking when giving anyone else directions. It takes a certain type of brain to do that well.) I was then able to wed those directions to the next set of directions my husband had given me some hours before, and we picked him up from work.

Then the real fun began: a traffic jam causing the 45 minute trip to last close to two hours. And the car in front of me didn't even provide me with any entertaining bumper stickers! But at least my family was all together. (I have to publicly applaud my children who were amazingly good troupers all day long.)

So, I'm happy to live in a place where "bad traffic" means that school has just let out and it takes us 7 minutes to get home from the grocery store instead of 5, or that my biggest frustration is that the driver in front of me is going 15 in a 25. Or that a parking problem means walking an extra 50 yards. I've lived in medium-sized cities and in huge cities, but I have to say if ever I live in one again, I want to do so without ever needing the use of a car. At least, never in Pittsburgh!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Meaning of Worship

At Mass on Wednesday, a memory was stirred up in me regarding the meaning of worship. During the Communion procession, we sang a song that repeated in the refrain "I worship, I worship You." As I meditated on this I remembered a whole slew of scenes.

In one of these I was an energetic, excited young charismatic, in my dining room listening to and singing (what are now really old) Hosanna! Integrity worship songs. I remember being struck with my own cluelessness about the connection between the resurrection of Christ and our worship of Him, other than that these were two "religious" things. "Worship" had heretofore meant something that happened when I went to church on Sunday. Now that I was "worshipping" at home on a weekday, I really had no idea what I was doing. I had to get out my Bible and figure out what really was so important about Jesus rising from the dead.

Throughout my pre-Catholic charismatic years I came to see worship as involving an intimate encounter with Jesus through prayer, usually done corporately, but not always. Worship meant allowing God's Holy Spirit to move my heart to reach out to God in prayer and praise and to allow God to meet me with His glory. And still, worshipping with my friends left this intense yearning in my heart. In another scene I remember walking from my apartment to my car one summer day with a yearning in my heart so painful that it absolutely could not be ignored. And yet, nothing I could offer God could satisfy it.

Just a few weeks before I finally took leave from Risen Savior Fellowship (my pre-Catholic church, or one of them) I attended a Sunday evening service with a guest preacher. He was an energetic one, a southern black gentleman who more or less sang his message. We had had, of course, the customary praise and worship at the beginning of the service, and in the small congregation it was not hard to pick out my voice, as I tend to sing with a lot of gusto. After his message, he invited those who wished to come forward for prayer. Nearly everyone but myself went forward. At the very last, this preacher called me forward. Now, I imagine that at least someone in the congregation was saying to himself "if you were truly a prophet, you would know what sort of woman this is!" Because you see, everyone knew I was leaving to become a Catholic. The preacher joyfully and loudly blessed my singing voice and told me that God sent me forth to worship Him and to teach others how to worship Him.

At the time I didn't think too much of what the preacher said, and in hindsight I still don't know that it was any inspired utterance. I haven't even thought about it in years. But I realized today that I hope this is one way that God is able to use me.

Today when I think of worship, I think of giving myself. I offer my life with Christ's offering of Himself on the altar to the Father. I make my daily offering of my duty, my joys, my sorrows, my labors, my prayers. I strive to live the Eucharistic giving throughout my day, whether it seems to be going well or not (that part doesn't matter, I think.) And best of all, I am fed. I am no longer left with this aching longing, for whose fulfillment I grope about in the dark. I am assured of Who fulfills this ache -- Jesus Himself, Whom I receive. The Eucharist is the pledge of heaven, the foretaste of the heavenly banquet, where we will gather, sing, fall down, and receive back the lives we have given away here in imitation of Him.

Doesn't it make you want to give your whole self away?!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Love Always, Trust As Possible

This morning while scrubbing a pan I had what I call a "naru hodo" moment. It's a moment when various factors that have long been with me suddenly converge in a way that makes me suddenly say to myself "Oh! Now, I see!"

This morning I was thinking about what Giussani says about verification and trusting witnesses. My mind ran through scenarios where certain individuals really could not, through no real fault of their own, be trusted to give me accurate information. But suddenly I saw something much bigger: People who are not trustworthy witnesses need not be feared or hated.

This may not be an astounding revelation to you, and actually I hope it isn't. I hope that others have not suffered through my difficulties with appropriately judging. However, in my life, I see that I have erroneously lumped love and trust together in a way that mandated they stay together, for good or for ill. Similarly I've lumped mistrust with either fear or hate, or some other expression which is actually a combination of those two, a word for which I can't produce right now. So I've had people I've loved but who have not been worthy of trust, and I've gotten burned by trusting them anyway. I've had other experiences of not even venturing trust and definitely not venturing love. I'm happy to say that both extremes of my experience are far back in my past. And yet, what of the subconscious effect of my previous "lumping" styles? I think this is what snapped into view today.

What is to be my attitude towards the person I cannot trust, or whom I cannot trust readily? Just like everyone else, when I am with them in mind or body, I stay aware of the reality of Christ. I stay aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit within me, allowing me to see Jesus present. Jesus is present in my pity, in my sympathy, for that person's need, and my own. That person has a need for Truth, for Beauty, for Goodness -- for Love -- for God, in other words, just as I have this need for Him.

I think the shock of this realization for me comes from the fact that I presumed, once, that hate was necessary, that making an enemy of the one I could not trust was necessary, out of self-defense. In my experience, particularly in my much younger days, people who proved untrustworthy also proved to usher in tremendous pain into my life. But because I found it impossible to express anything about this pain productively in the direction that I at least perceived it to belong, I instead lashed out against untrustworthy "categories" of people, like Catholics. It's strange, but true. Because I so strongly identified with my Protestant religion as "safe," my biggest target for vitriol was this amorphous entity I knew as "Catholics."

So of course God called me to become one of those, and one I've been for 15 years. And today while scrubbing a pan I saw this mental construct of mine as completely strange and defective. The truth is clear, and something I can now touch. Years ago, this would have hit me like a blast of dynamite: Love is for all people. My trust is not for all people to the same extent.

So how do you instill in a child that we Christians love all and trust as trust is earned? Other than, of course, modeling this behavior in our relationships, especially with our children? I think for me, the beginning of the answer to that lies in constantly beholding Christ, fixing my eyes on Him, and therefore being attracted, allowing the attraction, to everything that resonates with Him. What that is, and is not, becomes part of the joy of each day's discovery.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Sad, Sad State of College English

Confession: I have fallen off the Nablopomo wagon. I fell asleep with my daughter last night at a shockingly early 8:30 pm (my typical nodding off time is about 4.5 hours later), and though I opened my eyes again before midnight struck and immediately thought of it, the thought obviously was not rousing enough to plunge me into the icy night air to my computer to rescue my Nablopomo streak. Oh well.

I wanted to pass along this interesting article: "The sad, sad state of college English." I do not claim to have immaculate grammar, and yes I was an English major in college. I remember using the improper form of break/brake in an English paper in college and my professor having a minor panic attack in red ink. Apparently grammar errors no longer automatically cause paper grades to plummet. Odd. The article reinforces in my mind the importance of parents reading to kids and kids reading to themselves. When I was in 6th grade (I note from my crate of writing samples I have kept from that age upward) I used British spellings quite frequently. It must have been from all the words displayed in print on Monty Python. And the odd book here and there that I read.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

You Know You're at Our House...

... when the reason you are running late is that your coat is in the closet. The problem? The doorknob has fallen off, again, and you have to search the surrounding rooms to find it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Blacky the Cat

I have been unbelievably delinquent to have not mentioned on this blog that we have a new addition to our household. For shame!

Blacky was a stray little kitten who literally followed my son into our family roughly a month ago. He was outside playing and came in with screams that he was being chased. I ran out to see a tiny black kitten bounding down the driveway after him. I am not particularly a softy when it comes to animals, but when I saw this kitten, my heart melted. How odd, when I had just mentioned to my husband not a week beforehand, after his confession that he did actually enjoy cats, that we should then get one.

Blacky, hours after we met.

I'm guestimating that Blacky was about two months old at that time. To me, it looks like she has already doubled in size. Eating will do that to you. She is extremely people-oriented, which I'm sure is why she sought us out to begin with. She makes a lovely lap blanket, and endures being carried by a doting three-year-old. She is also helpful in getting children to settle in to go to bed, hopping from one bed to the next as everyone nods off to sleep. Even my husband, supposedly allergic to cats, will find holding her a perfectly good excuse to take a nap. But she also serves as an alarm clock even if I don't want this service, as she will mistake a shifting body under blankets as a huge toy to be pounced upon and wrestled with.

We've all enjoyed her company. My daughter changes her name frequently, including: Barn Kitty, Blue and Red, Claire, Donkey and Brownie. She does actually look more and more brown, or slightly calico, with each passing day. And next we'll probably find out she's a he. But we're sure she's a cat.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Deo Gratias

Tonight's primary reason for thankfulness is that when the drunk driver smashed into Erol's van just as he was leaving work, no one was injured. Several witnesses called the police, having noted the guy's license plate number, and police caught him just a few streets away. It was pretty easy to find him, I guess, what with the front of his car all smashed up. Erol was a mite flustered, of course, but a replacement van arrived, finally, for him to pick up his waiting passengers and head home. One could consider for a moment just how much worse the whole scene could have been.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Adopting Children with Down's Syndrome

Tripp's voice still cracks when he recalls a line of poetry the couple chose for Jonny's birth announcement before knowing about the disability:
"God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame."

Read the whole account here.

Make sure to read this news article as well about a new proposed law to try to curb the insanely high abortion rate among mothers whose baby has been diagnosed with Down's and other conditions. A critic of the law states that allowing such children to be adopted would be "cruel" to potential parents.

Lord, have mercy.

Advent is Coming! Advent is Coming!

Pardon me while I feel a bit dragged out...

I don't really know if it is the flu, exactly, but I'm taking my Influenza remedy #26 just to be on the safe side.

And then my daughter reminded me this morning that it is almost the beginning of Advent. I love Advent. It is my very favorite liturgical season. But it always sneaks up on me! Even doing Nablopomo this month was supposed to remind me to get ready to get ready. So, I want to try to start facing that way. Just as soon as I can face some direction that isn't the ceiling, at least mentally. I like to empty out our living space a bit to slowly add in Adventy and Christmasy things. My brain is still so stuck in May or June.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Minoh Pictures

I'm cheating again.

But here are some pictures of Minoh City, Japan, where I lived for two years.

This is an aerial view of the city from the outdoor bathing area of a hotel. (No, I never stayed there, but it was near my apartment.) It was just a tad more crowded than my current town (!)

This is the famous waterfall that is at the top of the moutain about a mile from where I lived. Tourists pack this place in the fall, but it is beautiful all year long. I keep having a recurring dream about going to Japan to show my family this waterfall, but never quite getting there.

And this, I just learned this evening, is the flag of Minoh. I saw it all over, but I always thought it meant either "recycling" or that it was the emblem of the public sanitation department. Oops!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Discovery of Freedom

I have just finished this book by Rose Wilder Lane that I have mentioned in a few recent posts. I almost can't begin to find the words to talk about what reading this book has stirred up in my heart. One image that comes to mind is how Giussani says sometimes one needs to get a crane to lift an obstacle out of one's path. This book has been a crane lifting an obstacle of murky understanding of the nature of humanity out of my path. I really, really want to hear from other Catholics, especially other followers of CL, who read this book to analyze it together, and really rip it apart. Because if I am just sentimentally drawn to an interesting book, I want to be disabused of false notions of its value.

This book, written in 1943, is historical and political in nature, and yet for me it illuminates theology and a spiritual understanding of what a human being is. It talks consistently of the freedom of men, of humankind (no, she didn't say "humankind" in 1943, she said men), and yet there is no discussion of spiritual freedom in Christ. She is speaking of human freedom as lived on this earth. I see, because of my spiritual perspective, a goldmine of understanding that is left unstated, perhaps even unmeant, under her words. No matter, as far as I'm concerned.

This passage sums up for me a great deal of the book, and also speaks powerfully to my own history:

Human energy works to supply human needs and satisfy human desires, only when, and where, and precisely to the extent that men know they are free (p. 224).
Here is something of her discussion of God:

Abraham said that none of these [vindictive pagan gods, like the Greeks'] exist. He said that God is One Creator-and-Judge.

God is The Right, he said; Rightness creates the universe and judges men's acts. (As water judges a swimmer rightness in swimming, God judges rightness in living.) But God does not control any man, Abraham said: a man controls himself, he is free to do good or evil in the sight of God (p. 74).

This is clearly omitting any realization of God as Love, or God as Redeemer. The plan of salvation as revealed in Jesus Christ is not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the book. Rather, the effort is to delineate the nature of the true God vis a vis pagan gods who are thought to magically control people's lives, or hold them to some prescribed service or role in life.

This longer passage is from the opening pages:

The control of human energy is individual control. An individual's desire to achieve some aim is the stimulus that generates human energy. The individual controls that energy.

He always controls it in accordance with her personal view of the desirable, the good.

In other words: Every person acts on a basis of his religious faith....

Consciousness itself is an act of faith. No one can prove that he exists. No evidence of the senses, and no effort of logic, can demonstrate the existence of the element that everyone means when he says "I." I simply know that I exist.

In the same way, by faith, everyone knows that a standard of values exists. You can not know that you are cold, without having a standard of temperature. You can not like or dislike, or want or not want, anything, without having a standard of good. You can not generate energy to act, without desiring something that (to you) is good. You can not think, without faith that you exist and faith that a standard of value, a God, exists in the universe.

Of course millions do not believe... But it is impossible not to believe in God. The human mind will not work without a standard of value.

Anyone who imagines that he has no religious basis of thought and action is merely using another name for his god (xiii-xiv).
I go to the trouble of quoting these passages in order to point out that, even though she clearly is not starting her discourse from a fullness of revelation, neither is she contradicting revelation.

But perhaps the real value of this book for me, which apparently was written during a time when Lane was in the process of solidifying her Libertarian political beliefs, is this emphasis on freedom being that for which human beings were created, and that which calls them forth to act with the full human potential. When writing about the experiment of American government, barely 150 years old at the time, she does not gloss over the difficulties. She knows humans are not able to create a utopia. And yet, she sees the undebatable good that comes from human energies being freed to act, through a weak government and citizens' knowledge of their freedom. She also, writing in the midst of World War II, points out that those who try to crush human freedoms will do so using the very inventions produced by free men.

It is this realistic view of humanity that has really shaken me awake. In my younger days, I embraced (or was embraced by!) a severe passivity and sense of powerlessness. I have gradually experienced freedom as I have walked with Christ, which of necessity entails living in reality. I learned, for example, that when I needed a job, Jesus was not going to go fill out applications for me. I have also discovered, for example in marrying, that as I vow my life to Christ, I actually become freer. So for me, my knowledge of freedom absolutely is rooted in my experience of Christ. Lane speaks movingly in one passage of the religious faith of the American pioneers. Once in danger of arrest for meeting for worship or reading Scripture, in the frontier they did so without hindrance, but with deep gratitude for this freedom, and even gratitude to fight with each other to believe what they wanted. This resonates with me even as a Catholic, first because 25% of my ancestors were these type of folk, and because in another way it reminds me of the gratitude I have for my own conversion, and the freedom God has given me to love Him in His Church. Most of all, though, even though I know I am one limited person, I have a fuller realization that I am capable of acts, especially when done collectively as an expression of true unity, not coercion, that can alter the course of universe, the course of history, where God meets man. This does a complete, utter, total drop kick to the "stinkin' thinkin'" that has plagued me almost from day one.

I could probably ramble on about different aspects of this book for quite some time, and perhaps I shall. Tomorrow, however, it goes back to its home in the library (in Oklahoma, from whence it had to be special ordered for me!)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Music and Birthday Greetings

I am completely cheating to get in before midnight for NaBloPoMo. But here, courtesy of my friend Mike Bogdanovich, is a little movie of him wishing a mutual friend happy birthday and singing part of the song I mentioned in this blog post.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


The latest exercise my son's developmental optometrist has recommended for our whole family is to use a rebounder.
This is "rebounding Edna," by the way.

I've tried our neighbors' rebounder, and it really is fun and comfortable. This link lists some of the health benefits supposedly derived from rebounding including stimulating the lymphatic system, improving muscle-to-fat ratio, better oxygen circulation, improved resting metabolic rate and several others.

Actually, Edna does not have it quite the way Dr. Sobek instructed us to use it. He said the key is that one's feet should not leave the surface, but rather the legs should pump one up and down on it.

I freely admit that I hate to exercise in non-functional ways. I mean, I don't mind stretching while I scrub the floor, or running up the stairs an extra 10 times to get something, or walking to enjoy being outside, but the thought of doing exercise just because it's exercise is very difficult for me to accept. But I could see myself rebounding just for the fun of it. I'm still hunting for one to buy that still allows me to keep both arms and both legs. Which really isn't all that hard, but I also don't enjoy shopping. What I do is far more like deer hunting: find it, bag it, bring it home. Or better yet, buy it on line and have it delivered!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Freedom and Authority

The oddest things can spark me to pondering. Here's something that happened today.

I was at Mass, and as is becoming the standard around here, the announcements were read beforehand. It is common that the announcements end with these two: something to the effect of "calling all extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion", and something about people scooting together to make room for those still coming in. These are read by the lector.

Today the lector ended with the first standard, but not the second. So the leader of music ministry, who happened to have a working microphone in front of him, and who noticed that it was one of those full house days requiring this little reminder, spoke up and asked everyone to move to the center to free up room.

This little nondescript act, which has probably already been forgotten by the one who did it, has had me thinking all day. I find this a lovely illustration of freedom (as I wrote about the other day) and also something I am calling "ownership," but I'm sure there is a better term for it. One aspect of freedom is seeing a need and acting to fill the need, regardless of whose need it is. And it demonstrates ownership, or perhaps belonging is a better term, because the need is perceived as important, motivating, for me, even though the need does not affect my person. The music minister had his seat! But he saw the standers, saw the disorganized sitters, saw the extra space. So without worrying about protocol (that the music minister is not usually the one to say this) or something dorky like what people would think of him, he, just as naturally as scratching an itch, facilitated the situation.

I remembered a situation from my own experience. I was a mid-teen, and was in my (Lutheran) church narthex either for a Sunday service or some other event. I was standing near the guest register (why is it that Catholic churches don't have guest registers?) and noticed that the page was filled. The book used large ledger-type pages that slid into and out of a sort of frame that opened on the top and bottom. Not wanting any visitor to leave without signing, I removed the full page and placed it on the shelf below, revealing the next blank sheet. I vividly recall a person who was with me, who was significantly older than myself, looking about with a sense of embarrassment. This was not my property, it was the church's! What made me think I should go messing with the church's guest registery! Did anyone see you do that? What would the pastor say about this?

This response seems to typify a lack of freedom, or the paganism that Rose Wilder Lane talks about (in her book which I am shamelessly plugging every chance I get!) Freedom, as I am contemplating this term, tells me that that was my church, my desire for guests to be welcomed and reached out to, and as long as I was acting within reason (and not throwing the filled sheet in the garbage or hiding it) then I was acting out of my sense of being a member of this community. I was animated by Christ to care in this small way for the needs of my brothers and sisters.

I've been thinking about what a third option might look like. If there is freedom, expressed in service, and paganism expressed in fear of some Authority whose job it is to control our actions, turning them on and off, it would seem there is a third sort of way. I guess it is just a variation on paganism. This would be the person who feels s/he IS the Authority who controls other people, "allowing" them to serve in some capacity, or being the sole source of the good coming toward another. Ooh... I hadn't articulated this third option to myself until just now, but I see how tricky this one is, because this is precisely what many of us actually look for. It is how I see myself sometimes, especially when I think I will be giving a secure feeling to other people by acting this way. But you know, when you look at how the Church operates, her authority really doesn't have this flavor. She knows she is not the source of the good, she is the sacrament of the Good. She does not "allow," for example, people to be canonized or orders to be founded or private revelations to be followed, she discerns and acknowledges the work of God made evident. One of the biggest frustrations I had when I was new to the Catholic Church was the complete lack of authoritarian details for me to follow. I was convicted that the Church had divinely inspired authority to speak for Christ, but walking into the Church was like walking into a huge, open, cavernous.... freedom. It was a bit unnerving, emerging from the significantly more cramped quarters that I had previously known.

And try to put this to practice in parenting! Oy vey! Radical unschoolers (an even less defined subsection of the already definition-defying unschooling crowd) have as an ideal to eschew this form of authoritarianism with their children in every aspect of their lives together. As one who has lived experience of trying this, I can testify that the difficulties with it have far less to do with children and their behavior and far more to do with parents and their behavior. It is actually somewhat rare that even my children will attempt things that are truly dangerous, and if they do, they actually have a vested interest in their own safety. They will listen to reason. There are things that I tend to get all authoritarian over -- allowing or disallowing -- simply because of my irritation or impatience. As the radical unschoolers will say, imagine if it was your mother-in-law doing that thing which irritates you, instead of your child. How would you respond? How many of us believe we can control our mothers-in-law? How many of us believe it is our God-given duty to control our children?

This reminds me of a post I wrote a year and a half ago. The gist of this is that the true authority in my life is the one who loves my soul and my life most powerfully, not one who makes her life feel better by telling others what to do.

And if you had a day with your kids today like I had with mine, you know it is a very difficult sacrifice to give up just a few of those "ordering people around to make me feel better" occasions!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Too Much Information

I won't chronicle the exciting adventures of Head Cold Woman anymore, as exciting as I know that is. See, I've made this little commitment to myself to participate with Nablopomo this month (national "blog post every day for this month"), so I'm trying to stay with it. I like the idea because I find November a really fitting time for me to remember and review, what with Thanksgiving and the change of season and the fact that the month has my birthday in it. I haven't really hit my stride with this thing yet. Stay tuned.

I had somewhat of a naru hodo moment today. I had a realization of a dynamic that I am guilty of bringing upon other people, particularly the males who live under my roof. And that is that I have this tendency to always be "correcting." No, wait. The realization wasn't that I am always correcting; that's pretty old. The realization is of how someone feels when they are being corrected. I have come to realize that I do not generally interact with the world based on my emotions. I tend to live head first. But when something does grate on my emotions I tend to get really bothered really quickly. And recently, whether this has been happening in objective fact or whether this is just a special gift from God so that I can see how much I piss in other people's cornflakes, I'm not sure, I have felt the sting of having what I do "corrected." And I mean, corrected in such a way that no real consideration is expressed for the heart of what I have done, with the thoughts of the corrector on his/her correct-er information, and not on the emotional impact as I receive it. I'm thinking this really is a special gift from God, because I have been replaying tapes that happened to me in childhood (like the time I was in a gift store and my friend asked me what the things we were looking at were made out of, and I said "cast iron," and the sales clerk responded loudly as if I had just said the stupidest thing ever "they are PEWTER!"). I realize that getting corrected, or feeling corrected, makes me not want to talk with the corrector anymore. It's a great way to destroy communication and a relationship.

But I sympathize very much with, well, me -- because I love information. I love knowing. And sometimes, I love just a few tads too much being able to tell people what information I know better than they do. I guess that would be called making an idol out of information. There really and truly can be such a thing as giving someone "too much information," in more ways than one. But have you ever heard anyone complain of being loved too much -- when love really is love?

I can learn how to love, though. The other day my son asked me if rocks had cells, and I realized he fully expected me to just launch into all my scientific brilliance. (I can still bluff because he's only 7.) And that gave me a clue to just keep my answer yap shut and ask him questions instead. We happened to be heading to the library as this conversation ensued, so we were able to find books about cells and books about rocks, and he read some pertinent passages and concluded that what his friend told him had actually been right. (Come to think of it I know why I was inspired to keep my yap shut. My son said his proof to his friend with whom he debated whether rocks were composed of cells was the ever useful "My mom told me.")

It certainly wasn't for naught that Jesus spent a lot of time asking questions instead of pontificating.

For the grace to be free from idols, we pray -- Lord, hear our prayer!!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

About that Battle of Lepanto...

I have a cold that I'd been keeping at bay, but this evening it has exploded upon me. So, more than usual I am piecing my thoughts together as I say, or write, them. So, bear with me.

In my poking around the internet throughout the day (and since last night) I've found a variety of reactions to Obama's victory, as I'm sure you have too. The ones that concern me the most are the ones that express fear or despair or a certain sense about divine judgment. Let me just say up front that I understand what it feels like to work hard for a campaign or to be highly emotionally invested, and then lose. I know there is just so much a human body can take before wanting to just cry or moan or throw something or get depressed. As a temporary emotional or physiological reaction, I understand these things. And we do have cause to be very concerned about what could pass into law, particularly FOCA, with the Democrats controlling the entire federal government. And, as I heard Scott Hahn repeat so often in my grad school and employment days, God's judgment generally takes the form of allowing us to have what we ask for.

Here's my concern, if I can finally spit it out: "We the people" are in a bit of a mess, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office. The man in that chair can do a lot of bad, and probably can do some real good, too. But mostly I think the President reflects the nation, and the aspirations of the nation.

Wait, let me try this approach. You've heard, I suppose, about the battle of Lepanto. Kids in our neighborhood dressed as soldiers from the battle of Lepanto for Halloween. I've always heard it billed as the occasion when the meager number of Christian troops defeated the attacking Muslim invaders by means of praying the rosary. So, many have adapted this in praying for this election cycle, for example.

I'm not in the least against praying the rosary, praying for elections, praying for Muslims or praying for victory in spiritual battles. But. I read another account of this battle that has really got me thinking. It is from the book The Discovery of Freedom by Rose Wilder Lane. To summarize in a somewhat choppy, cold-befogged way, her rendering of this battle went like this: Islam, which had embraced the truth that man is free (i.e. created by and responsible unto God, but not under any dictatorship, human or divine) until about the 13th century, had recently (in 1571) become dominated by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. The Turks, unlike the earlier Arab Muslims, had no concept of man being created for freedom. They held the "pagan" belief that the universe is a closed system, that creation is "finished," that change is impossible, and that God determines an exact role for man which is enforced by a some pagan representative and out of which man may not escape. Contrast this with the Christians involved in this battle. They, she holds, had a lived experience of freedom (primarily because of Saracen influence in Spain and Italy). And it was this the Turks were bent on stamping out. If you follow my rambling attempt to draw out this comparison, what I'm saying is the picture Lane gives is Lepanto was a battle of "Authority" against "Freedom" -- as she understands these terms. (Oh, go read the book for yourself. Please!)

Ok, here, really, is what I'm trying to say. Let us not live as pagans who believe the government is our master, or the answer for, or the menace to, our lives! We belong to Christ, who reveals to us the Father! We need order, yes. I'm not advocating anarchy. But brothers and sisters, human beings are free. What I understand that to mean as I say that right now is that God has created us and bids us live. But His proposal is so, so, so, infinitely more than winding up a clock and watching it go! He has revealed Himself. He has given His life for us to share. He is the Redeemer of the world, and we are there with Him. He sends forth His Spirit to recreate the face of the earth, and guess whom He sends it to and through?!?! We are not called to have our eyes fixed on some human thing, whimpering like a puppy and saying "Mother may I?" What saint do you know of who said "Oh dear, the government is not letting me be holy. Shucks, I'll just hide here for better days ahead, or run over there where I'll be safer." No. The saint lives with God here, now -- where and whatever here and now happen to entail.

If we are honest as we pray remembering the battle of Lepanto, the first thing we need to pray for is our own knowledge of what it means to be free, and what it means to be the agent of the God of Freedom. We need to purge from our hearts the paganism Lane describes.

Fifty points for everyone who made it to the end of this post. I feel like my head will explode. Sorry for the wordiness, but it gives me an excuse to come back and be more concise about this again later.

Pope Meets with Ecclesial Movement Leaders

Benedict XVI Wants More Teamwork With Movements

Encourages Pastors to Value Contribution of Charisms

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 31, 2008 ( Young ecclesial movements are a gift from God and their contributions should be valued and welcomed with trust, Benedict XVI says.

The Pope affirmed this today when he received in audience two groups attending conferences related to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

The first group was made up of bishops who attended a conference for prelates interested in the charismatic renewal. The second was participants of the 13th International Conference of the Catholic Fraternity of Covenant Charismatic Communities and Fellowships. The bishops' event preceded the 4-day international conference, which is under way through Sunday.

The Holy Father affirmed that the "ecclesial movements and new communities, which bloomed after the Second Vatican Council, are a unique gift of the Lord and a precious resource for the life of the Church."

"They should be welcomed with trust and valued in their various contributions," he stated.

The charisms, the Pontiff continued, arise "as visible signs of the coming of the Holy Spirit." They are not, "a historical event of the past," but an "always living reality."

"The Spirit himself, soul of the Church, acts in her in every age, and his interventions, mysterious and efficacious, manifest themselves in our times in a providential way," Benedict XVI said. "The movements and new communities are like an inrush of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in contemporary society.

"One of the positive elements and aspects of the communities of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is precisely the importance given by them to the charisms and gifts of the Holy Spirit and their merit lies in having reminded the Church of the actuality [of these gifts]."

Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Pope emphasized "the value and the importance of the new charisms in the Church, whose authenticity is guaranteed by the willingness to submit themselves to discernment from ecclesiastical authorities."

"Precisely because of the fact that we are witnesses of a promising flourishing of movements and ecclesial communities, it is important that pastors carry out with the [movements] a prudent, wise and benevolent discernment," he added.

In this context, the Holy Father said he deeply hopes that "dialogue between pastors and ecclesial movements intensifies at all levels: in parishes, dioceses, and with the Apostolic See." He concluded by noting that in their discernment, pastors should take into account that many of these associations have already received or are in the process of receiving pontifical recognition.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Audrey Santo and the meaning of a human life

Perhaps like me you've been vaguely aware of the story of Little Audrey Santo. Tonight I was reminded of her again, and learned that she passed away last year at the age of 23. She is now being considered for beatification and canonization.

From her funeral homily: The primeval question Audrey embodies for all humanity to see, to ponder, to confront and to resolve—regardless of creed or culture, regardless of race or religion, regardless of class or nationality—is “Who counts?” Read the rest of this profoundly challenging message here.

And this was sixty-five years ago...

Today the confusion of the meaning of words in these United States is a danger to the whole world. Few American schools any longer require a pupil to dissect his words to their roots, and to know what he means when he speaks. And for twenty years the disciplined members of the Communist Party in these States have been deliberately following Lenin's instruction, "First confuse the vocabulary."

Thinking can be done only in words. Accurate thinking requires words of precise meaning. Communication between human beings is impossible without words whose precise meaning is generally understood.

Confuse the vocabulary, and people do not know what is happening; they cannot sound an alarm; they can not achieve any common purpose. Confuse the vocabulary, and millions are helpless against a small, disciplined number who know what they mean when they speak. Lenin had brains.

From The Discovery of Freedom by Rose Wilder Lane, published 1943. Page 177.

This book is astounding me. More on this topic when I finish it.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Ancestral Names

This afternoon I am relaxing by digging through my tangled web of deceased ancestors. It is fitting for the feast of All Souls, no? I have just discovered that two of my more newly discovered lines, the Sheldons and the Harmons, seem to have intermarried throughout several generations not only to each other but into other ancestral lines of mine like the Resseguies and the Footes.

It is very interesting to see some of the given names in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the later days, you find names like Wealthy, and there are lots of Tryphenas and Tryphosas. But in the earlier days you find names like Thankful, Silence and Mindwell.

Genealogy gives an interesting glimpse into a completely different world which was once right here.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Trust Amidst Change

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

November 1, 2008


Dear apostles, are you aware of My presence? Do you understand how I remain with you in each moment? Sometimes you suffer and in your suffering you feel abandoned. This is merely a feeling that I allow for you so that you can share even that part of My Passion with Me. I could never abandon you and I do not abandon you. I remain with you, consoling you and guiding you. If you are suffering, My friend, you can be sure that I am aware of your suffering and that I am providing you with special graces to cope with your cross. In the same way that I remain with each beloved apostle, I remain with the whole world. I, Jesus, love every person ever created by the Father. I seek goodness and peace for every man and woman on earth. I am looking out for the heavenly interests of all of God's children. You, My dear ones, possess an earthly view that is limited. I understand that your view is limited because I understand everything about you. At this time I would like you, My beloved apostles, to also accept that your view is limited. In seeking the good of all of God's children, I must allow changes to come which will impact all of God's children. I do this to bring about the goodness and peace I refer to but the change will be gradual in terms of the benefits to come. Trust Me in everything. I do not abandon even one of God's children and My beloved apostles who give Me constant friendship and loyalty will be united with Me in everything. Be at peace, dear children. I am with you.

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