Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I saw the funniest thing....

Sunday afternoon we were driving home from Ontario. Not far into our trip, along the mouth of Lake Ontario, one of the major skyway bridges was closed off due to extremely high winds. This meant a detour of four lanes of racing highway traffic onto a two-lane service road. Ok, no problem; I'd rather creep along for an hour than be blown into the angry waves of Lake Ontario.

When we actually got to the service road itself, we had a great view of the lake, and it was then that I saw the funniest thing. It was a seagull, flapping in the air for all it was worth, and essentially hovering in the air motionless. I mean, minus the wing-flapping part. It looked like an invisible hand was holding it while it tried in vain to get away. I wondered to myself if it was doing this for fun, for sport, or if this is the best survival technique birds have in the face of raging winds. Since we were nearly at a standstill ourselves, I had a few minutes to watch it and marvel at the sight.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

We See a New Beginning...

Oh come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord

For as in Adam, all die
Even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thank God for 5-HTP

And what is 5-HTP, you may ask. 5-Hydroxytryptophan is an amino acid that naturally occurs in plants and in the human body, and works to regulate serotonin levels in the brain. Low serotonin levels generally bring on problems like depression, insomnia, and sometimes mood-induced overeating.

Depression so insidious, and yet it need not be feared. I've lived with depression for probably as long as I can remember, although it was only in the last few years that I've been aware of it and taken my propensity for it seriously. Like high blood pressure, it is a medical condition that can be treated. And as is the case with high blood pressure, while there are lifestyle changes one should make to stay healthy, depression is not something one can "snap out of" simply by willing it.

I'm no doctor, and I don't play one on this blog, but I have to testify that 5-HTP works for me. Christmastime can trigger depression for many, and it is for this reason I wanted to pass on this information about this non-prescription, inexpensive and safe supplement that can help you back into balance. Talk to your ND about it, or talk to ours if you don't have one of your own.

Weather Extremes

Call it "personalization of the forecast," but one of the things I enjoy about blogs is checking out the weather conditions around the country and world.

So, for the record, I've experienced a personal first today. I have seen single digit temps in Steubenville. First time since moving here in 1997. I'm not claiming it has never gotten to the single digits, but I've never seen it before. Nine degrees. And frost inside our front windows.

But not a drop of snow.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Glory of God is Man Fully Alive

Last night my daughter and I managed to go to the Messiah to listen to the concert, rather than me singing in the chorus as I had originally planned. It really was a bit impressive, and I'm not just saying that. I wrote last year about how I was struck by "Oh Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion" and how the text made me ponder the mysterious call that I have always felt to speak the "good tidings" to "Zion." I wrote last year how what stirred me was this command to speak, when I didn't really know what I was supposed to speak.

Listening to the exact same piece this year, the answer seemed so obvious to me. Let me see if I can say it as plainly as I felt it.

First, let me run those words past you again:

O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, and be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
The answer that has become obvious to me is that for me to fulfill this command to speak means for me to simply be myself.

Gloria Dei vivens homo: The glory of God is man fully alive. As far as I can tell, this quote first came from St. Irenaeus (from the 2nd century), but it was a favorite of Pope John Paul II, echoes in the writings of Vatican II, and is almost a summary essence of the heart of Fr. Giussani and the charism of CL. What does it mean? Glory is a very hard word to adequately define or fully paint, but it's not way off to say that the glory of God given on earth is the fulfillment of God's desire. When God is glorified, his purposes are being fulfilled.

When you take that view of glory and go back to these passages from Isaiah that Handel used, it becomes clear that they are Messianic texts. The light coming, the glory shining, the announcement to behold God -- they all point to a revelation of the Divine.

And after the fact, that is after the Messiah entered the world and the secret was out (that God's plan had been to reveal Himself through our very humanity by the Incarnation), Irenaeus was able to see it: This is what the glory of God is all about, man becoming fully alive. Jesus of course reveals the ultimate fully alive Man, and in Mary we see the seed of God's plan for the Church. This is the plan of the Trinity, accomplished through the Incarnation, the death and resurrection of Christ (and His ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit). The plan is all about access to Divinity for every human person through the grace made available through the Church. The Church exists on earth so that every person may truly become fully alive, so that grace may work in our lives: soaking, healing, relieving, nourishing, reviving, as we together experience Him in our midst. Right here, right now, in this companionship, this family called the Church, this is where we meet Him and this is where the process begins. (And fortunately we're not doomed to have to complete all the soaking here on earth or be stuck forever! That's the glory of purgatory.)

So. What does God ask of me? What does He desire for my life? He wants me to be truly and fully alive. Giussani would say He wants me to be completely free -- to seek after the destiny, the precise purpose for which He made my life is making my life. That destiny is God Himself, ultimately. But how do I know the path to follow in this life, my vocation, my calling? In the most simple sense, the calling of each person is to be the person God has created them to be. God strongly desires us to be individuals! Not individualists, to be sure -- not Lone Rangers or self-made persons. I am neither a Rock nor an Island. But I am me, and this is what God wants. Being me is the service I am to render to God and to the world.

I came across a quote recently from Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete which goes like this: "When you are no longer afraid to be yourself in front of other people, then you are really free. Otherwise, others determine you." This resonates with me strongly, and to be it echoes Isaiah's words: "lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, and be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!" When I live my life as under the judgment of Christ alone, not even subjecting myself to my own interior censors, but only to the objectivity of the gospel, that is when I am no longer afraid to be myself. That's when I don't change my behavior because I'm with a different group of people. That's when I am free. That's when the glory of God is revealed in me. That's when, without saying a word, or rather by saying whatever words the normal functioning of my life requires of me, I proclaim "Behold your God!"

I'm glad, though, that the grace of God can and does work through imperfect earthen vessels. God would really be up a creek frankly if grace only could work through those who had already been wholly perfected! To grasp this is to understand the teaching of purgatory as pure mercy.

What seems so marvelous to me in this realization is that God isn't asking us to buff up on some method, some program of communication, some evangelization curriculum that is exterior to us, like a big clunky overcoat. Essentially we need to repent, believe and follow when we meet Him in our midst. We will change if we just stick with Him. It is the change in us that results from being with Him that we need, and that the world needs to see in us.

P.S. Oddly, this post has become one receiving the most hits of any I've written. I am edified by that, and just want to add that I wrote this the day after miscarrying my last child. Also, I had no idea at the time that this had almost a prophetic importance to me, as just a few weeks after writing this, I entered into an entirely new spiritual odyssey through which I've discovered how much more "fully alive" I could be. To read about it, just keep reading forward from this date.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


This week has felt exceptionally long, to the point where things that happened last week almost seem to have happened a month or several months ago. But I am very thankful to live among circles of people who demonstrate their love and care in deeds, words, offers and prayer. Having the support of other people when going through something difficult literally makes all the difference in the world.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What Can You Call a Post Like This...

A lot has happened since my last post.

Wednesday morning I figured I'd gulp deep and dip into my dwindling store of pregnancy tests I bought off ebay. Two lines! That means positive. Part of me, the intellectual, fact-based part, was not completely surprised. But the part that responds spontaneously to joyful news was completely shocked and unable to respond. I think my last go-around with two lines on a test had something to do with that. That and all the rest of my history of struggling with infertility.

By Wednesday afternoon I was starting to accept this reality, starting to really warm up to thinking about the personhood of this new life.

And then late in the afternoon I started bleeding. Just a bit.

So, blah blah blah, all that stuff about bleeding being common, no cause for alarm at least half the time, yada yada, all that again.

I woke up at 4:30 this morning, which gave me plenty of time to coordinate myself to get to my OB's for a blood draw. Of course, I don't get results until tomorrow, and they don't mean anything until I can compare them with another blood draw Saturday.

My children went to visit friends, and another friend arranged to bring dinner by. I napped. I woke up to cramping and a bit heavier bleeding.

An hour or so later, I finally started to believe that the test Wednesday morning had really been positive, and that I had been only lightly bleeding before that. I'm not sure what I believe now. Actually, to be honest of course I do. I believe that this baby too has died or will shortly.

At one point this afternoon, I asked Mary Olivia (baby previously lost) to pray for us. All at once I felt great peace, and I remembered: even though I had chosen the name Olivia after a relative who had recently died, I was later struck by its meaning -- peace. The olive branch of peace. And peace is what came into my life after the incredibly short sojourn of Mary Olivia. I had been very anxious to conceive again before that, but afterwards I began to know peace about it.

I told this baby about all the people longing to see her face, but that surely Mary Olivia would be willing to wait awhile to meet her.

But what can I do. I can state my desire, I can pray, but I can't know. Soon enough I will, and whether we keep the gift of sorrow or the gift of life, there's something there with great meaning, for what life is without it?

Just please pray for us so that for my children's sake we can celebrate the Nativity without me, or despite me being a hormonal mess.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Critical Comments and Human Limitations

I think it is probably a pretty good rule of thumb to follow that if I feel inclined to criticize someone (especially a semi-anonymous "someone") for how something is done, I should step up and try to do that something myself.

And then bear it when someone criticizes how it is done.

I find this to be especially helpful where music is concerned. This Friday I will be singing in a community choir's rendition of Handel's Messiah. This concert happens yearly, and I've attended the last several years, but this will be my first year in the choir. I wrote about last year's visit, and you'll note that I made mention that the performance was good, but not stunning. I don't know about you, but I feel like when I make some kind of value judgment statement like that, what I am really insinuating is that if I were involved, it would be better. Or at least if everyone would try as hard as I surely would, it could be better.

So this year, when the performance is good but not stunning, I will hold that evaluation quietly to myself and instead speak with awe about how difficult it is to sing these pieces well! And yes, I am trying hard to practice those painful alto runs (those several dozen notes on which one sings the word "born" in "For Unto Us a Child is Born," for example).

I think this is where forbearance comes from. I can look with sympathy on the weaknesses of others if I am well aware, and at peace with, my own weaknesses. If I think I'm just "super person," or if I know I'm not and I hate that fact, I am going to be mercilessly critical of the weaknesses of others. And then at the very least I will be of no help to anyone, and at worst I will be intolerable to be with.

But if I know my limitations and can still look with love at myself (knowing I am loved by Another), then maybe the Infinite finds a way to and through this frail pot of clay.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Grateful and Happy

Life has been full of good, rich, happy things, to the extent that I hardly seem to have a moment to write about them.

I am on high activity mode right now. Plenty often all I want to do is stay home, but lately I have been itching to be going and doing. Normally my children are just as excited to be going and doing. Tonight's trip to see a "light-up" at a local state park was a ho-hum for them, but we stopped for a Chinese snack on the way home and had some belly laughs over variations on the song "Do Your Ears Hang Low" that I won't get into here.... So, all's well that ends well.

It's after midnight, but Friday was the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I was so struck at Mass (I keep wanting to say "today," but, well, you know what I mean) about how my understanding of Mary has undergone complete and radical change. I understand now that with a Protestant understanding of grace and what it does, the best you can ever see in Mary is a lovely person. Love of her and devotion to her not only makes no sense but looks like idolatry. But to see her as the ultimate work of God's grace, a showcase of the type of work God wishes to do in me and through me, well, that's just mind blowing. Consider that after she appeared in Mexico, seven million pagans (I think was the figure I heard in the homily) were converted and were baptized. It just makes me so happy to think of the marvelous things our God does.

And today (ok, yesterday) I am reminded to be thankful, to be grateful, and for the power of asking for grace and talking about things openly and honestly.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Oh, Craft...

My children love Christmas decorations. And they have a minor bone to pick with their liturgy-obsessing mother who strives to allow Advent be Advent and Christmas to start on December 25 and continue until Epiphany. Looking around our neighborhood at all the sparkly lights, they wonder why I insist on waiting for the feast of St. Lucy to turn on lights. Of course, it would help if we had a tree up, but that will come as well...

So for weeks now, my children have been asking to decorate with lights. Last week we got to the stage of pulling the lights out of boxes and testing them. Today temperatures reached the 50s. I knew it would be now or never that we pursue the whole decorating-with-lights thing. So this morning, we finished testing all the lights, and I picked out one survivor: an innocent enough looking string of white lights. I announced that either we could have a simple string of lights hanging somewhere on the porch, or we could make a very simple shape with it.

Maybe you are picking up a vibe here. Truth be told, I hate decorating. I have no talent for crafty things or pretty decorations, and I have even less interest in same. I would be fired on my first day as a preschool teacher. I just hate crafts.

My daughter wanted the lights to become a snowflake; my son wanted them to become Santa Claus. How do you expect this string of lights to turn into Santa Claus I barked, patience already dangerously thin. I offered that we could do either a bell or a star. We agreed upon a star.

Ok, so now I'm really snookered. I have a string of lights, and I've promised to turn it into a star. What was I thinking.

I am not a visual person. I cannot picture objects in my mind in a way that allows them to be reproduced in reality. So, I googled a picture of a star and called for cardboard. I had a rough idea of creating a star pattern and hanging lights on it. Only, it needed to be pretty big, so I would need to enlarge my template. This was getting ugly. I thought "protractor," and realized we haven't one (at hand at least). Then I thought "yardstick." Ditto. "Eraser." Ditto. What kind of a family doesn't have these basic tools laying around?!? I wondered. In the meantime, I told my son, "You know how much you like sitting down and doing multiplication problems? That's how much I like making crafts." I just don't. My mind does not work this way. Crafts and I are about as incongruous as a heavyweight wrestler in a tutu. This is not computing.

I'm thinking isosceles triangle, and trying to estimate the ratio of the straight lines in my template with the size of the chopped open cardboard box I'm working with. Patience is way gone. The careful geometric reproduction I've labored over comes out looking like a bloated spaceship.

What the heck, draw it freehand, I say, and in ten seconds it looks as decent as I can make it. I cut it out, and I think about why we bother with stars at Christmas time. Pontification to my children ensued: "You know, the star showed the wise men where to find Jesus. So, if we have a star, we are letting people know they can find Jesus here with us." My son laughed. "Yeah, right! They're not going to find Him sitting in our living room." "Maybe He'll be standing," I say, impatience making me feel sarcastic.

Later, as we added the lights, we all braced ourselves for the prospect of our craft looking ugly. "That's ok," I said out loud. "Sometimes that's pretty close to the way we make Jesus known, so at least it is realistic."

We finished it, and hung it in the hallway window so that elements wouldn't destroy it, but it would still be seen from outside. My son beamed from outside. "Mission accomplished!" he shouted. My daughter proclaimed it "so pretty."

Golly, was I glad to see my children's satisfied smiles. At one point during the conflagration, I had literally snarled at my son, "The only reason I'm doing this is that I love my children and I want them to be happy!!" As we finished up, he thanked me for my effort, despite hating doing it. "You're welcome" said I, feeling quite a need for a time-out to calm myself down.

And then there was the Jesse tree frame I made this morning as well...

Ok, I'll show you the pictures, and I give you permission to chuckle. Just don't do so audibly into my combox, please!

The star, inside view.

The Jesse Tree

Friday, December 05, 2008

Retreat Notes

Here's a transcription of my notes from the retreat, with a bit of embellishment from me to render it back into English. Compare with Suzanne's notes from the same event. It's a bit cryptic as notes go, even more cryptic if you have no context. Sorry. Normal communicative posting to return shortly.

We are called [in Advent] to recognize the depths.

What is faith? A way of knowing, a method.

In childhood we are all about belonging. Later, separation. We don't use reason the best way possible. We start to sense a distance between us and God. We try to "fix" the distance with liturgy, with prayer. But something else is needed.

If we love someone, we desire unity with that person. The prophets tell us "unity will come", and also speak of separation, because this is reality.

So what fixes the separation? God intervenes. "You want to be one with Me." It is not in our hands. God's answer is the Incarnation. Not a thought, an idea. The Incarnation meets our freedom, our reason, our affection.

Incarnation: the encounter with Christ becomes Life for me. There is more than what my eyes can see going on with Him. Think of the 10th cured leper. He uses his reason to see what happened. There is a profound connection between his healing and "That Man". Being healed is not enough; there is something in "That Man" that is vital for the leper's life.

Do you understand the link between current reality and your happiness, your destiny? We want more than this life. Who wants to live forever on this earth? No one. We want the truth of this life. Happiness comes through, not from.

Resurrection - linked to Incarnation. the body.

God is proposing something great right now.
If you see it, tell about it.
If you don't see what He proposes, say the Memorare to see it.

"I want to see" -- search. See what God proposes through somebody. Without recognizing somebody, we become slaves. We must use freedom and affection properly.

If there is a separation between reason and reality, the answer is the Incarnation. What enables us to see God in this Incarnational way? Purity of heart (Mt. 5:8).

Being human means that we have needs and desires. All desires come from God and they are the beginning of His answer to us. But we cannot stop too soon and think we have discovered what our desires point us toward. Thirst, when we have water, is paradise. We are continual desire which God meets with continual fulfillment.

When we don't recognize Christ, we complain. Or not even that, we just have no happiness. If I'm not happy it's because I"m not seeing the love of my life.

The gospels speak of the "Messianic secret," when Jesus tells the people "don't say it is me." He's not playing mind games; He is emphasizing that He bears witness to the Father. That is His mission, to reveal the Father and point us to Him.

Boredom is a problem of faith.
Getting the person out of the way to see Christ is the way of Martin Luther.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Downsize DC

Interested in yet another way to keep up-to-date on federal legislative issues? Check out this website: www.downsizedc.org Then go to the campaigns tab, and register, for a quick and easy format for contacting your Senators and Congressional representative about the issues that concern you the most. You can also subscribe to the Downsize DC newsletter.

We believe the federal government has grown too centralized, too intrusive, and too expensive. We believe in constitutional limits, smaller government, civil liberties, federalism, and low taxes. We want to end laws and programs that don't work, cause harm, and violate the Constitution. We want to restore the full force of the 9th and 10th amendments, which reserve most social functions to the people and the states.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

More Thoughts on that Advent Retreat

Saturday's retreat has helped me in so many ways. Here are just a few more of them. Some of them are more specific to following CL, but all of them also serve to simply make great sense out of life.

First, I understand what an abstraction is. And I see the difference between holding "God" as an abstraction on the one hand, and the acts of thinking, reasoning, pondering, and contemplating truths about God as I meet Him in my experience on the other hand. Big, huge difference. For some reason, I felt that what was being proposed was constant activity as the way to meet God, or at least constant social interaction. However, the use of my reason (because I am me and not someone else) requires a lot of time spent scrubbing floors, washing dishes and folding laundry. My mind generally requires this kind of activity of me for good thinking to kick in. But that has nothing to do with ignoring God who is in my reality and preferring instead abstract thoughts about Him with no connection to my lived reality at all.

Second, I understand the nature of how and why I have recoiled from the idea of meeting Christ in other people. I think this is big, because this goes way beyond my contact with CL and Fr. Giussani to my earliest days of contact with the Catholic Church. The Scripture where Jesus says "Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me" started to be a very big problem for me when I started attending Mass. I saw that Catholics took this very seriously, and I most certainly did not. I see that my Lord has been gently trying to coax forward my trust in Him on this point. I had no problem, after awhile, with the concept of seeing Christ in someone who is overwhelmingly holy, or innocent. But without being fully conscious of it, I have taken this idea of seeing Christ in others very literally. Too literally. Actually, I took it most literally before entering the Church, even though I would not have used these words to think about what I was doing. Here's my mistaken concept: If Jesus is my Lord and Master, and I meet Christ in others, then every person becomes my Lord and Master and my will, my freedom must be subjugated to them. Ouch. Really, the first mistake there is believing that God makes slaves out of us, rather than our ultimate freedom being found in pursuing complete unity with Him.

Third, I understand more that "happiness comes through, not from." (This is a quote from my notes from Fr. Roberto's talk. I'll transcribe them in another post for what it's worth.) There is a sacramental, an Incarnational principle at work when we speak of Jesus being present in others, or my meeting Him there. Missing that is a fruit of the misuse of reason. So, if someone tells me "Go jump in a lake," or "Why don't you shut up," I dare not take these commands at face value as the manifest will of God! But, I am called to see what need the speaker has, what desire. As misunderstood or as inappropriately expressed as it may be, there is some desire being expressed that God put there. God desires that this desire be well understood, well discerned, and met in a way that draws that person on to Him, to destiny. I, as God's servant and as one who loves with His love, wants this too. My call is to use my freedom, my intelligence, and my affection to respond to the meaning of that desire -- or at least in some way that acknowledges the truth about that person's unpleasantly-expressed desire.

See, instead I've always thought I was just truly supposed to "shut up" or "go away."

Fr. Roberto spoke of something very concrete for me, and I love this: boredom being a problem of faith, a lack of responding to God who proposes Himself to me. I've been thinking about this a lot. To live, to truly live, is to be one with Christ. And to be one with Him is to see Him active in my life. To see Jesus everyday, present, interacting, proposing, speaking, however you wish to phrase the "active" bit. This is to live in Him and hence in His love and grace. It reminds me of a song we used to sing at Risen Savior: "When you walk with the Lord, you don't get bored!" When, for whatever reason this dynamic stops -- courage fails, doubt overcomes, trust costs -- life, living, can degenerate into merely existing, mere biological operations. (This boredom of course needs to be differentiated from the physiological problem of depression.) As Father told us, when we complain, we are not recognizing Christ. When we are not happy we are not recognizing Christ. "If I'm not happy, it's because I'm not seeing the love of my life." Precisely.

The retreat has given me a grasp of what Advent is: a time when we look closely for the deeper realities in the things around us. A baby. A search for shelter. Visiting shepherds. Angels singing. What does it all mean? Is it all to just give Hallmark nice ideas for cards? What about the things in my life? My son's desire to do everything his own way. My aging eyesight. Wonder at colors. What do these things mean? I have always loved Advent (well, not always, but in recent years at least.) And I love to look for "deeper meanings." I realize this blog is primarily a means for me to carve out and share the deeper meanings I see as I encounter Christ in the every day. The glorious becomes commonplace, thereby requiring the commonplace to be glorious!

Monday, December 01, 2008

There is Much To Do

Are you prepared to allow Me to make you holy? Oh my. Another timely, piercing message...


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

December 1, 2008


My dear little apostles, there is so much to be done. You see the need to bring Me to others. You see your brothers and sisters struggling in darkness without Me. If the light is to be brought to them, it will be brought by you. When I say there is much to be done, I am telling you that the world needs your service, it is true. But I am also telling you that there are many things to be done in your soul. You must be committed to changing. Are you prepared to allow Me to make you holy? If you are not prepared to let go of those things that prevent you from progressing in holiness, then you will not advance. If you do not advance, you will move away from me. You will begin to resent Me for the crosses I send to you. You will begin to persuade yourself that perhaps there is an easier way for you, a way that calls for less sacrifice and less commitment. This will not be My plan but your plan. This will be your version of holiness, not Mine. I know that some of the services I ask from you are repugnant to you. I know this and yet I call you into these things anyway. If you reject parts of the work, you will be executing an incomplete plan. I have a big plan. I build on it each day. You are part of that. I need you to listen carefully for My directions and then serve exactly as I am asking. My dear friends, if I cannot instruct and direct you, then who will listen to Me? Who will trust Me to protect humanity? Where is the joy that comes from God's children when they trust their Father in heaven? I tell you that where joy is absent, trust is absent. When a person is humble, he will see that he needs greater trust and he will try to become smaller so that I can become bigger in his life and in his work. I am asking you to do that. Be humble. Allow Me, Jesus, to be your King. My kingdom was not of this world. Your Kingdom is not of this world. You will be rewarded in heaven, My beloved. For now, serve Me, your King, in the way I am asking. This will be the best plan for you and for the world.

2+2 = Infinity

I've been thinking about what I've been thinking about. Do you think it is because it recalls baptism that things always seem to "click" in the shower? Or is it just a meditative moment where thoughts can line up side by side. For whatever reason, I said to myself this morning, "Of course! Naru hodo!" The reason why I am so overwhelmed with beauty and joy at the reality of the lives of the saints is that it is a truth that Lutheranism says is impossible. Luther's understanding of salvation is of something that covers us. Jesus substitutes His holiness for our sin. His famous illustration is that we are the dung hill covered by snow. This is not the Catholic understanding of grace at all. The Church teaches that grace elevates nature, so that the participation we have with the life of God is real, lived, actual, and not merely positional or legal.

To be unable to be truly freed from sin in this life is to accept a life of misery. It is to accept a life that can merely be endured if one has a sense that the things of this world are fleeting and do not hold ultimate meaning. It is to accept that we are not made for anything great. It is to behold a God who is either impotent or uncaring. It is grossly irrational.

To "meet" a saint who all generations are calling blessed because of what God has done for her or him is to be hold a real, powerful, loving God. He knows me. He made me, He knows me, I have purpose, I have dignity that has been seriously messed with but which He restores. It isn't about brownie points or some silly earth-bound idea like that. God saves us to be His sons, His heirs, to participate in His very life. That is the promise, and that is the reality.

I still have some questions about the journey. The big one I have is about Reconciliation and its relationship to sanctity. If I bring my Lutheran mindset to the confessional, I end up needing to "confess" that I exist, basically, since "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags." I have even thought about the advice Luther was said to have received from his confessor: "Martin, don't come here with all these peccadillos. Go out and sin some great sin, and then come back and tell me about it." (And all you cradle Catholics thought you received lousy catechesis!)

As I have the chance, I have a small handful of other nuggets from the retreat I want to cook up and serve here. Good thing my daughter woke me extra early this morning.