Friday, April 27, 2012


A couple of weeks ago, Divine Mercy Sunday, I think, we read the Gospel account of Thomas basically saying to Jesus, "Prove it!"  And Jesus did.  He took the fragments that Thomas gave Him - the fears, the doubts - accepted them, blessed them, and then gave them back to Thomas - as His Presence.  That is what happens at every Mass.  God accepts the imperfect things we offer Him - the bread, the wine, our issues, our doubts and fears.  He blesses them, makes them holy, and then gives them back to us as His Presence.

That image of fragments has stuck with me.  I look at the fragments that make up my life.  There is school at this time of the year.  Not enough days to get all of the work done that is there.  I have thoughts of taking off a day, so that I can go to school and work.  That's messed up!  Already, I bring things home.  Mindless paperwork that matters to no one but the higher ups.

Family is another "fragment".  The kids are involved with Boy Scouts, and that requires my time at this time of the year.  One is in the beginning stages of his Eagle project, and all three of us are selling tickets every weekend for their fundraiser.

At times I am concerned about where my kids are headed spiritually.  At times, going to Mass seems to be something to be resented.   But in the last couple of weeks, both of them - at separate times - have expressed an interest in being part of our parish's next Bible study. 

Fragments to offer to the Lord, so He can perfect them in His perfect way.

In the world of anxiety, things have been better.  Once I noticed that something was a little "off", but then he told me that he had taken the wrong pill.  But then the doctor called one day last week.  The anti-depressant can't be taken with the anti-inflammatory medicine that he takes for his arthritis.  As a matter of fact, no anti-depressant can be taken with it.

This was not exactly good news for me.  I have enjoyed  not hearing the crunching of egg shells when I walk.  Not having to figure out the rules of a game that makes perfect sense to him, but none to me. 

My thought is that the anti-inflammatory needs to be changed to something that is compatible with anti-depressants.  But I'm not sure that will happen.  He doesn't see the problem. 

Another fragment that I have to offer to the Lord.

On a different tack, our school system is celebrating the rest of spring break with a 4-day weekend right now.  We usually have a week off for Easter, but this year Easter was inconveniently located right before our statewide testing.  So we had three days off for Easter, and two days now.

I am taking full advantage of the break.  I made it a double-sacrament day this morning.  A great way to start the day!  And then home for coffee on the patio before heading out to an overdue mammogram, an overdue haircut, and a meeting concerning #1 son's Eagle project.  Home for a little house-cleaning. 

This evening my oldest is hosting a g-i-r-l visitor.  She is someone we know from years ago, and they appear to be having a good time "socializing".  My, how time has flown!  Another fragment....

[Flower pictures from my yard.  I planted the Easter Lilies, but I've enjoyed seeing the ones that others planted bloom in turn.] 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I think as parents, especially mothers, one of the things that we are most conscious of are the memories we are creating for our children.  To that end, we photograph and scrapbook and carefully choose what things our children will participate in.  Then we measure the "success" of the activity by the length of time for which it is remembered.

One thing that I think my boys and I will always remember is a specific night that we spent in a tent at Boy Scout camp.  Both were still in Cub Scouts, so my oldest was perhaps 10 or 11.  The younger, 8 or 9.  The day had probably been great, and we had finished it off with some wonderful food and great conversation around the campfire while the boys burned off energy throwing glow sticks into the air or chasing each other or whatever.  Before we turned in, we looked up at the sky and there were just zillions of stars.  My oldest still remembers that as the most stars he had ever seen.  Each family went to their respective tent, and all was well.  Until a few hours later.  The skies opened up.  Thunder.  Lightening.  Deafening rain on the tent.  Our tent held up pretty well, and most of our belongings stayed dry, but the water collected at the ends, and we had to keep "dumping" the collected rain off of it.  My oldest was so nervous...he paced like a cat.  Oh what a night that was!

We have been to Disney World and New York City and museums from Tampa to Philadelphia.  One has been to the National Championship game of a certain college football team that wears purple and gold.  But what is it that my children remember?

You see those pictures?  I think they were perhaps ages 3 and 4 when we had them taken.  They remember the picture taking.  But then you know what we did afterwards??  We went to....are you ready.....Burger King!!  I didn't remember that, but they did!  And you know what else?  They got Kids' Meal toys!  From the movie Road to ElDorado.  One got the guy with the red shirt and blonde hair, and the other got the buy with the blue shirt and dark hair.  And to this day - over 10 years later - they know who got which toy!  These weren't cherished or favorite toys by any means.  I was just floored to hear that this was something they both remembered with amazing clarity, when I had long since forgotten it.  Eating fast food was not out of the ordinary for us, and neither were cheap plastic action figures.  I have no idea why they remember *this* BK stop.  I surely didn't set out intending to "make a memory" that day.

Earlier this evening, my oldest came to me wanting to  know if I remembered the "commercial with the Indian crying over litter".  Being a child of the 70's, I knew exactly what he was talking about.  It was his turn to be amazed. 

I didn't remember the whole commercial, but I remember the tear. 

What about you?  Any every day, ordinary childhood memories?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

identity crisis

How about a space filler?  About my second born child?

When he was born we named him FirstName Alexander LastName, and then promptly began calling him Alex.  We had always planned to call him Alex, but the combo of names that we had picked out just flowed better when arranged in the order we chose. 

We always had to correct the new nurses at the doctor's office who would call him by his FirstName, but everyone else knew that his name was Alex.  When he got to first grade, there were FIVE Alex's in his first grade class.  Alex B, Alex P, Alex S, Alex T, and Alex W.  We contemplated switching to his first name, but Alex he remained.  About third grade, his teacher (of all people!) began referring to him by our last name, even though most of the other Alex's had gone on to other places.  For some reason, that stuck, and so all of his friends started calling him by our last name. 

All was well until he entered High School.  Even though we wrote his nickname on the registration papers, and had the secretary make note of it in the computer, he became FirstName in the big new world of high school.  It was the name that the computer spit out on class rosters, and he did not correct it.  When I went for open house, and introduced myself as "Alex's Mom", the teacher's looked at me like I had two heads.  They didn't know who I was talking about. 

The other day, he comes to me and says, "Mom, when people ask me what my name is, I don't know what to tell them....I have to think before I answer...I look kind of stupid.  People look at me like - don't know your name??"  He has a great sense of humor, so it is funny when he says it.  But true.  People from high school know him as FirstName.  Family, church, and BoyScouts know him as Alex.  And friends from his Catholic school years know him as LastName.

Sometimes I just call him "A".  I love you, A!

Saturday, April 14, 2012


"The heart of God is mercy."  I have heard that so many times from my pastor in various homilies.  And true, it is. 

This weekend, the Church celebrates the Feast of Divine Mercy.  Pope John Paul II decreed in 2000 that the second Sunday of Easter would be known as Divine Mercy Sunday from then on.  The readings fit perfectly.  "Peace be with you....Whose sins you forgive are forgiven..." we hear in the Gospel. 

Several years ago, I set about reading St. Faustina's diary, and made it about half way through before my attention wandered to other things.  It was soo reassuring to us sinners, though, about the Lord's desire to forgive, to offer us mercy, for whatever it is that holds us bound.  In recent years, I have frequently taken Him up on his offer of mercy.  God's mercy - what a gift!  

Last Advent, I had the privilege of accompanying a friend to confession for the first time in 30-some-odd years.  In the months since then, we have spoken often of the experience.  First of all, it was not as "bad" as she expected.  She expected that she would be fussed at or "given the third degree", but that is not at all what waited for her.  "He just listened."  Mercy - just like Jesus.  Secondly, she was so glad just to have it done, that she didn't instantly experience great relief.  She said she felt lighter, but the full experience didn't really hit her until Christmas.  Then she received Holy Communion for the first time in nearly 40 years.  She who had told me years before that "it was all the same...just a symbol."   She said when she returned to her place, she could feel the warmth flowing through her body...tingling.  "I know you probably think I'm crazy," she tells me.  But I don't.  I have at times - had similar experiences - in front of the Tabernacle or during the Eucharistic Procession on Holy Thursday.  God's Mercy.

Now I watch as she seems to be slowly taking steps to remedy a personal situation that has needed attention for a long time.  It is like the paralysis has been lifted.  She has an idea of what direction she wants to go in, and is starting to do concrete things to make it happen, rather than just talking about it.  "My life isn't perfect," she says, "but I feel at peace."  It is neat to watch how the non-religious parts of life have fallen into place when the spiritual was taken care of.  "May God give you pardon and PEACE" are words found in the prayer of absolution.  Sometimes I wonder how much better the whole world would be if we Catholics utilized our wonderful sacrament of Mercy more often. 

On a somewhat related tack, I usually ignore the "forward this email and you will receive 187 days of good luck" or whatever, but more than once, I have received an email with the Divine Mercy image (seen above) and then some rubbish about an angel being sent to me (referring to the Divine Mercy image of Jesus) and how SHE would do this or that.  I had to educate the sender on those occasions! 

And on a totally unrelated tangent, my priest took a little time off this week (Lord, please do not let me die during Holy Week or the week after...), so I took the opportunity to attend Mass at churches not my own.  On Monday, I went to one close to my house, since I did not have school.  On Tuesday, I went to the one near my school where the pollen from all the Easter flowers was quite oppressive.  On Wednesday,it is hard to find a morning Mass, so I just went and sat amongst the pollen grains.  Thursday, I went to the chapel at the Carmelite Monastery near my house.  They had incense at a daily Mass!  Friday I went to the Cathedral.  All wonderful! 

Back to my original topic - Mercy.  Receive God's mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation - especially if it's been a while.  And BE Mercy.  Don't forget to show mercy to your fellow travelers on the journey. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

waiting and celebrating

My friend and I helped our pastor decorate after Good Friday Services.  He has some sense of how he wants things to look, so our function is mostly to carry things, hand him things, and offer suggestions.  This gives you some sense of how it looked when we were finished.

Holy Saturday is supposed to be a day of waiting....of anticipation.  Ideally, I guess.  Of course there were things to for a few last minute Easter purchases, household chores, a practice for my altar server sons for the Vigil, the decision on what to wear and making sure all was ready.

My boys have served for the Easter Vigil for the past many years - six, maybe.  It's not like I get a lot of volunteers for a Mass that exceeds an hour and requires a practice.  But I think they don't mind too much.  They dressed nicer than usual without me forcing them to.  They were ready to go on time.  They didn't complain about the practice in the morning.  My older son was in charge of the incense and the younger was in charge of holding the book for Father.  They both did a great job tonight!

Usually I just blend into the crowd, but tonight I was on the schedule to serve as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.  (the technical term for Eucharistic Ministers who are not priests are deacons)  I own exactly one dress, and I thought tonight might be an appropriate time to wear it.  In the end, I went with it, and I was glad I did.  Everyone looked so nice!

The music was wonderful!  The homily was excellent - about seeking Jesus in the Right Places - with the eyes of faith; not with the eyes of the world.  If we seek Him with the eyes of the world, we will be looking for Him where we THINK He should be...not where he is.  So where do we - the lost sheep - look for the Good Shepherd?  In the sacramental life of the church.  In the faith community of people who are humbly and sincerely looking for the truth.  In His Word (dust off that Bible, he said!)  In the depths of our own heart and in prayer that is more about listening and surrendering to change than in talking and trying to tell God how to change.  And in the people around us who "need a good dose of the Lord".

As we left, Jesus was back in the Tabernacle.  There was a sense for me that all was once again right in the world.

Dear hubby and I went to 8:30 Mass Easter morning.  It was standing-room only, but very much "business as usual".  Jesus was in the tabernacle, the music was nice - but not spectacular, the candles were lit like any other Sunday, there was no incense, no Easter Proclamation.  For those who were not able to participate in the celebrations of the Triduum, it appears as if nothing much has really changed.  The empty tabernacle at the beginning of Holy Thursday, the Eucharistic Procession, Jesus being removed from the tabernacle at the end of Adoration on Thursday, the starkness and emptiness of Good Friday, the darkness and the Easter Fire, the new candle, and so much more... all occurred between the Sundays, and were missed by Sunday-only attendees. 

Since one of the themes of the past week was gratitude, I suppose I am oh-so-grateful that I was able to participate in the celebrations and services between the Sundays!  Now....we get to celebrate Easter for 50 days!  Let the party begin!! 

Friday, April 6, 2012


Sometimes you just don't need a lot of words.   Sometimes the visual says what we can't. 

I have heard some good homilies the past few days - 4 in three days, I think, starting with Tenebrae.  At our Holy Thursday Mass, our good priest reminded us that it is about gratitude and victory.  

And today, at the Good Friday service, he reminded us that it not a day of sorrow and mourning, but a day of victory, joy, and gratitude.  Jesus was in complete control the whole time.  This is not something that happened to Him, but something He willingly did for us to save us because he loved us.  For so long, I thought it was Jesus and the no good, very bad, horrible day.  Couldn't understand why it was "Good" and I surely couldn't understand why Jesus just didn't give them the answers - didn't say something - to make it all stop.  Now I understand.

Tonight I watched the Passion of the Christ with the rest of my family.  It was the first time I had seen it in its entirety.  It was graphic, but very well done.  

Wishing a Good Friday to all!  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

the priest and the dentist

I dipped my big toe into Heaven today by attending the Chrism Mass this morning at our Cathedral!  Last year a friend and I went, because it was something on my "bucket list".  We decided last year that it might have to be an annual event for us, but in actuality, it was yesterday evening before we finalized plans.  With the issues in my household lately, lets just say I wanted to avoid drama.

We got there well in advance of the start of Mass - mostly because of the parking - and we found seats right around the vicinity of last year's.  Most of the seating in the Cathedral is reserved, so it is good to get there early!  In our section were a lot of young families and middle aged + women.  Last year, I was struck by the diversity of the priesthood.  The vast majority of those in the diocese are present, and there are short, tall, young, old, black, white, Asian, long haired, short haired, and bald ...   After the homily,as seen here, they renew they renew their Priestly Promises. 

Credit for all these beautiful pictures goes to P.C. Piazza. I hope he does not mind me sharing them. 

This year, though, I was struck by the richness of our faith.  The sensuality of it.  A faith that is so vibrant we can see it, hear it, touch it, taste it, smell it.  Not that any of those things stand in the place of faith, but they are a way to represent what is so abstract and so hard to define.  A human way to represent the divine, maybe.

We listen to the Word while sitting in beautiful surroundings.  Eyes and ears.

Touch is so important.  The oils that were blessed all necessitate the human touch.  (That's my dentist, a deacon,  carrying the oil.)  That's part of the Chrism Mass - blessing all of the oil that is used in the diocese in the coming is then presented during the Holy Thursday Mass at each parish later in the evening. 

A faith that we can smell.  Here the Bishop inhales the sweet fragrance of the Chrism after mixing perfume with the oil.

And the incense.  The wonderful smell - symbolizing our prayers rising Heavenward.  I hoped a few times that there were no smoke detectors in the place! 

 Even taste is not left out.  The Lord Jesus, present under the appearance of bread and wine.  Last year, I was amazed when, of all the priests in the Cathedral, I received the Eucharist from my pastor.  I remember thinking that it was a nice, divine touch of personalization.  Today as we left, my friend asked, "Did you just receive Communion from your priest and your dentist?"  What were the odds?  But that's how it worked out.  We were led by an usher to a spot in the backnof church where the Eucharist was being distributed. There was my pastor distributing the Host and my dentist - the deacon - there with the Precious Blood.

The Chrism Mass very much celebrates the Institution of the Priesthood, which also occurred on the First Holy Thursday.  Those who were sent to bring glad tidings to the lowly, heal the brokenhearted (Is 61), to proclaim liberty to captives and bring sight to the blind (Luke 4)  Two of my favorite priests are in the above picture.  The priest second from the left, I met when I was a college freshman.  He was at the Catholic Student Center back in the early 80's.  In the 90's, he was once again my pastor at a different parish and officiated at our wedding.  In the 00's, he was the one I sought out to hear my confession after too long away.  And second from the right, is my current pastor...wise, humble, holy.  They give God a human face in today's world.

I'll leave you with a couple of more pictures...the priests receiving Communion...because I always wondered how that was done...they all approach the altar and "self-communicate"..

And this final one....because it was just beautiful and seemed to encompass so much of the sights and symbolism...

Have a blessed Triduum.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

walking with Jesus

At least that's how I was kind of thinking about it, as we entered Holy Week and it just seemed to be one thing after another. 

As I mentioned in the last post, my sister-in-law's mother-in-law passed away quite unexpectedly Saturday night in her sleep.  The funeral was today.

Monday morning, my SIL had met me for Mass, and we had coffee afterwards.  She was awaiting the results of a biopsy she had had the week before.  That evening, she called to tell me that she did, indeed, have breast cancer.  She is the third person that I have known to be diagnosed with cancer since Christmas!  Fortunately the prognosis for all of them is good!  But it is a lot to lose a loved one and find out you have cancer - all within about 36 hours.

Monday during the day, my dear husband called to tell me that he didn't think he was going to be able to get medical clearance to be cleared to drive for his job.  We just bought a new, used truck last week.  He would certainly drive me over the edge if he could not work.  Not to mention the financial short-fall.  Today things look better.  I will continue to pray! 

I attended the annual Tenebrae Service at my church tonight.  It is always nice, but kind of like the proverbial box of chocolates...ya never know quite what you're going to get.  Over the years, there have been some threads that run through all of them... the most obvious is the candles:

I took one lone picture this year.... I describe the Tenebrae Service as "part prayer....part music...part performance."  The Tenebrae comes from an old version of the Liturgy of the Hours, and tonight there were 3 Psalms prayed in parts, as they do in religious communities.  After each psalm, one of the candles was extinguished.  Then there were some chants from Lamentations, and after each, a candle was extinguished.  There was also a musical "response" for each of the chants from our choir.   A reading from Job, and then a homily from our pastor. 

He commented on Lamentations which tell the story of a sinful Israel in much-deserved exile.  He mentioned that instead of crying "Oh Jerusalem return to the Lord your God", we could very well cry "Oh America, return....."  But in order to personalize this, we must realize that we all contribute to the absence of God in our country.  And on another tack, he reiterated that we don't celebrate "history" during the next few days, but "mystery." 

After "Prayers of the Faithful", the lights in the church were turned out, and a loud sound was heard (cymbals).  The Easter Candle was removed, but then returned, and we all departed in silence and darkness.

Tomorrow I am very much looking forward to attending the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral with a friend in the morning, and the Mass of the Lord's Supper at our parish in the evening.  Kind of like a Catholic Double-Header.  

Sunday, April 1, 2012

entering into holy week

And trying to keep it holy!

But first a shout out to the HHS Mandate to wish it a very happy feast day... being that it's April 1 today. 

It has been a Lent.  I think it's mostly been good.  The good Father said the other day that the mark of a "good, holy Lent" is how much we allow it to change us after Easter. 

Though things are crazy to the infinite power at school, things have gone fairly well with my fifth graders.  There is just so much can feel it in the the energy level and the defiance of the kids.  And I can feel it in my chest.  It has been like this since we had the day off for a potential flood a couple of weeks ago.  Just kind of unholy. 

Things at home are still in a state of flux.  A visit to the doctor and a prescription, which is being taken.  Discussions.  Things have been fairly calm.  Still he does not understand me, I think.  We used to be in the same place spiritually, but that has changed.  That change bothers him greatly.

And I struggle very much to understand him.  So much of it just seems irrational to me.  A mundane example to illustrate:  We were riding together to pick up his truck, when I needed gas.  We stopped at a Truck Stop and there was one pump open on the far end.  I drove around in front of the pumps and pulled in facing the road.  For the life of him, he could not understand why I did that, and I could not understand what on earth he was talking about when he wanted me to "drive down there and spin around".  And why does it really matter?  In the end, we had a nice drive and a decent conversation. 

I have met a few Simon's on my journey.  Those who have been there, done that.  One of my church lady friends.  I was going in the other day to pray at the same time that she was leaving Mass.  I ended up walking out with her, and we talked for several minutes.  God was in the parking lot that day.  She says, "I just couldn't understand why people couldn't do things the way I wanted them to.  Life would have been so much easier!" 

My red-headed co-worker from last year...  She calls me periodically, and I always love to hear from her.  I miss her so much this year.  Usually, she talks and I listen.  Last week, I was on my way to a track meet 30 or 40 minutes away, when she called and we talked the whole way.  I didn't wreck. She told me things I hadn't heard before.  "Walking on eggshells" seems to be a common expression. 

I went to Stations of the Cross on Friday.   Normally, I like this devotion, but often find myself very distracted.  Not sure if it is because it is on a Friday afternoon at the end of a long week or what.  But the last few times, I have discovered that if I close my eyes while the priest is reading and just listen, the scene forms in my mind's eye, and I "hear" so much more.  I can identify with Jesus being misunderstood, enduring things that were not his fault, the sadness, the heavy heart.  The temptation to go the way of the world, to wonder which is the way.  It was very good.

A side anyone listening to and loving the prayers from the Mass...the opening prayer, the prayer after comuunion...and loving them?  I love the new translation - the language is rich!

I have spent a lot of time wondering if that self-giving love we hear so much about involves giving up things that we enjoy (like Mass or Stations of the Cross) when the one we love does not care for these things.  After a while, you doubt yourself, and the evil one is the master of doubt and confusion.  I went to confession yesterday because I was scheduled to serve today and because I very clearly felt like I needed that spiritual "bath" before Easter.  We didn't talk long, but with no hesitation, he told me the answer to that doubt was "NO!"  He is so good at making things clear.  And looking back, the Lord has given me other signs that I am on the right path.  Those divine "thumbs-ups" that come every so often. 

Today has been a lazy, somewhat melancholy day.  I got a text from my sister-in-law this morning that "Mammy" (her mother-in-law) had died in her sleep last night.  She hadn't been sick, so this was sudden...not expected.  She was a Kentucky fan, though, and apparently Kentucky played quite well in a basketball game last night!  I knew her from joint holiday and birthday celebrations, and she was a kind and gentle soul who will be missed.  Prayers for her soul and those left behind.