Wednesday, December 12, 2018

On becoming 50



Tomorrow, around noontime, I will turn 1/2 century old. That's kind of a big thing to me. There were so many times in my 20s and 30s that I never imagined such a milestone. Yet, here I am on my birthday vigil, saying ciao to my 40s! What an amazing day.

I was talking to a few women after Mass on Sunday and one of them was mentioning something about the way we are expected to act in public. I asked what the age was that you could stop worrying about what society expects and just do what you feel called to? I think today it's going to be fifty.

So, dear readers, hang a while and listen to all the collective wisdom (not all, really, a few nuggets) that has resulted from my fifty years of failure and beginning again.

1. Beginning again. That's a really good place to start. We were discussing life expectancy at the dinner table the other day and dh brought up the fact that part of the drop we are experiencing is due to the rise in suicide and euthanasia. That led to a discussion of good days and bad and to the assurance to our kids that when they have these bad days...even several in a row...there will always be a good day to follow. I suffered some deep, crippling depression in my high school and college days (one of the reasons I figured I'd never get to my current age). There were days that were just so dark, I couldn't imagine a way out. My mother was so devout during that time, hanging in with me and assuring me that tomorrow would come. How blessed I was. How I pray that I can carry my children through on their dark days to see a fresh, new day.
Image result for meme every day god's mercy is new

2. Maturing. Now that I'm old, I can talk about how immature people can be ;0) Not really. Again, I did have the corner on snotty behavior for more than a decade so I can't throw too many stones. I have noticed, though, when I'm forced to sit in a room and listen to a loud, all-knowing, 20-something, I don't get angry like I used to. I don't feel like I have to crush all the stupid ideas out of her head. I just smile and think, if you don't learn it another way, humiliation goes a long way towards teaching humility. Time is the great equalizer, after all. There is a great deal of truth that wisdom comes from age. It's so easy to dismiss the older generation but they've had so many more years of successes and failure. They are have a wealth of information to be tapped if we just ask. Yes, I'm the older generation now...ask away ;0)

3. Patience. Why are we so agitated and rushed when we are young? Have you ever looked at an old person (not in traffic, that's some crazy reality-altering situation for many of them) but sitting, walking, whatever? They take their time. They are deliberate in their actions. They don't need to be first. When does this change? I don't know, I'm sure it's different for everyone. I can tell you I'm closer to "old" person than "young" in this, though. I'm not that rushed to do things anymore and, this week notwithstanding, I don't find as much trouble saying "no" as I used to. When I had a bunch of little ones, I soooo wanted them to grow up. I had them in activities, I ran them here and there. I think that was my biggest regret so far. Little kids just want to hang. That's why they are such good companions of old people. They both "get" what's important...sometimes looking at a butterfly for 10 minutes is important. Sometimes just chatting about nothing is the best thing you can do. There is nothing that makes you realize the immensity of God's creation like listening to the thoughts of a 2-, 3-, 6-year-old.

4. Dark night. In my time spent here on this earth, I've noticed that most of my annoyances still exist, just like they did in my 20's but, somehow (ahem) I'm better able to let them float away (except people who won't capitalize Mass when talking about the Holy Sacrifice...will the headline make sense when it reads, "Today, a mass shooting during mass." See the difference? rant over.) That ahem means the workings of the Holy Spirit in case you've just joined us. If you're wanting more Holy Spirit stories, wander through the blog a bit...you will find many. For now, though, it's important to state and to remember that even as you grow in your relationship with Our Heavenly Father, there will be times, sometimes long times, when He is not as evident as at other times. I think this is probably the blessing and the curse of seeing the workings of the Holy Spirit in life. Perhaps, too often, we become comfortable with those workings and don't see them as the amazing gifts they once were. Perhaps, as I tell myself, God is just really busy with someone else who really needs Him more than me at the moment (I know it's silly but it helps surprisingly often!). Perhaps, as I heard recently in confession, He just wants to know that we're committed, not just in fruitful times but also in the desert. I realized last week that we close on our new house on December 14, the feast day of St. John of the Cross.
Image result for st john of the cross quotes
Yes! This St. John of the Cross!

So much more on that later but, really, I can totally hear God laughing at us sometimes. In the most cheerful, loving, teaching Father way.

5. Marriage is a life-long journey. God gives us so many good things, sometimes it's hard to parse what exactly is from Him, and what is not. If you have a husband who stays with you on your witchiest day, who loves you even on the days when you couldn't be less loving, who provides for you and your children so that you can stay at home and teach them God's laws and how to apply them to life then returns home in the evening to help with those lessons...that is definitely a gift from God and you need to work really, really hard to choose love, even on the many days when your emotions aren't anywhere near that feeling. Love is a choice, not a feeling. Part of society's woes when it comes to marriage seem to stem from confusing one for the other. (I just wrote #5 for my own use but you can borrow it if needed. )

6. Sin is increasing so we must find and use the overflowing grace. Society is a crazy place these days. There are so many times I look at the news and can't believe what I'm reading. I'm guessing it's not the first time this has happened...check out Romans Chapter 5, near the end. Humanity fell and sin entered the world but through God's gift of His Son, we may be saved from this...we have to just listen, trust and follow. The sins in the Church, the frailty of humankind is on display these days. Again, not new and not even that shocking anymore (sadly) but the result has been interesting to watch. Amidst these sins are those who want ultimate judgment to happen here, in this time and place. Others want to be declared the only "true and right" followers of Christ, with all the others doing it wrong...sometimes heretically so. These are both occasions of sin for me. I've found when I'm in a group that is spouting one or the other, holding my tongue is a herculean task. Still, I've managed to do so...for the most part. When there are those clearly wandering into slanderous waters, I try to reflect enough questions to make sure they intend what they are saying. In the end, we are our brothers keeper and it will probably go more smoothly if we approach it from a place of love and not of superiority.

7. People are people and prayer is powerful.  Ultimately, we have to deal with our fellow man and sometimes (many times) it's a difficult road. Even the greatest priest/friend/coworker/teacher/etc. you've ever met has that pesky humanity and, given enough time, will reveal the frailties that they carry. It's not really fair to walk through life, with our full compliment of frailties on display, and expect mercy when we are so slow to extend that mercy to others. This is something I really need to practice more. If there is someone I really can't even meet where they are because their frailties are so incompatible with mine, I just need to pray. Pray for grace to extend mercy. Pray for patience. Pray to be silent. Pray to lovingly educate. Pray to do what God wants me to in the situation.

8. God has a network. I think the most amazing realization of my journey so far has been that, even on the most trying days (and often more so) God will plop someone in my path that is immediate witness to His love and care for me. Most of the time it's dh, who listens attentively to my rehashing of every moment of the day. Sometimes it's a person I haven't seen for a while and in catching up, I realize the important part he or she can play on my journey. Sometimes it's a near stranger who just makes a comment to which I "go into the deep" and respond with "God talk". I have to say, for the most part, the Holy Spirit has been a wonderful guide. I can't remember the last time I had a person look at me strangely and more often we both walk away from the interaction with that inside smile - realizing that God is here and He is working. Oh, and then there are those people whom I rarely see and seldom speak with but who share such a history...they can give me a bar of delightfully smelling soap made by monks and chocolate made by nuns (or vice versa) AND a whole book about drinking with Saints! Not even joking. I mean, that is friendship that is beyond anything human. It's totally, completely God-inspired and for that I am so, so grateful (sorry, friend...the package was too pretty to wait another day!) How good is our God? How far are we willing to go for Him?

9. Doing our part. The last reflection, promise. Do you hear people say, "you know, I live in the world  but I'm not of the world. Is this ever actually true? Seriously, all the people who I know that do that would never think of saying it. They wouldn't say it because they know, even in their near-saintly routine, they are still creatures of the world. It's our fallen nature and near impossible to escape. So, should we just throw up our hands, buy that giant tv, spend lots of cash on more toys we don't need, let someone else deal with the poor and lowly of the world? No, of course not. Nor should we think that we are going to become a saint in one day...or by the same road that our good and saintly friend is following. We have to educate ourselves in what it was that Jesus actually said and then listen to what He is telling us to do now. That first part is really, really important because if we hear "Him" say, "let everyone live their lives and live your own life and it's all good...do what makes you happy" it's probably not Him...if you know what I mean. In a world where a mother can talk about the love song her unborn baby sang to her just before she aborted him, you must know the devil is alive and well. Don't shy away from that or shrug it off. We have to get busy on this. The devil will not triumph but that doesn't mean we can just hang back and rely on God's mercy. As I said, each person has to answer her own call. We have been doing things a bit differently around here, I hope with God's direction, and I hope with some results for both our own spiritual growth and for people we may never see. God's network, after all, consists of every child He has created which is, well, everyone. We are in a penitential time...(Yes! It's not Lent and Yes, it's still penitential!) What better opportunity will we have to journey out into the desert to hear His call for our conversion. Who knows? My conversion may very well convert someone else. Ripple effects are wonderful.

Ok, that was longer than I expected but, really, five decades is nothing to sneeze at. I pray that my continued age will help me to draw closer to my Heavenly Father and Our Lady, to draw others closer with me, and to use all the coming trials to help people I know and people I will never meet...on this Earth, anyway.

We are blessed.

Friday, November 30, 2018

MIA

It's hard to believe it's been over two months since I've looked at this blog...time seems to be slipping away at an alarming rate these days. In my defense, there is a ridiculous amount of stuff going on around here (self-imposed mostly) so it's been hard to take a minute. I do wish this was my "job" - then I could sit and ponder for hours and not try to stuff it in last minute...there have been some amazing Gospels/Readings at daily Mass lately. Alas, with no readership, I don't suppose I would make much cash anyway so on to my real vocation.

To catch up a bit. I have no idea what happened in October so we'll just skip that.

November, being the month in which we specifically remember the souls of the faithful departed, we made some cemetery visits and some stone rubbings so that we could remember specifically those for whom we pray. The kids also made up a great calendar of one-soul-per-day that we remembered in evening prayer.



I asked the back two why they wouldn't smile, "Because, Mom, we are at a cemetery!"



 


We caught the Eastern relatives when we made our most recent trip to New Jersey. It's tough to be that far away from the graves but good that we get there when we can, which must be more often because we found them without too much trouble this time (it's a really, really huge place).
 
Our trip east was to help celebrate the birthday of dh's sweet Uncle Frank, who turned 93! It's always a good time visiting with this wonderful man but this trip was even more special. He went to fight for our country at the tender age of 17 during WWII and during this visit, he was very open about sharing his experiences with the kids. It's amazing what he went through and what was the continual theme? "We just prayed...we prayed." Faith continuing for 93 years is a beautiful thing.
 
We bought the center some new puzzles and games which they had to "try out" first ;0)

Nothing says birthday like a box of Tastykakes!


Uncle Frank is a mean Yahtzee player!

The middle of the month brought a salute to even more of our living heroes, the veterans. Our top three were honored to take part in the local school's program, performing in the color guard and table ceremony. I love Young Marines. It's an extracurricular with all the right ideas.



Young Marines aren't supposed to smile...go figure ;0)

We also finished up Little Kickers for the Fall. Again, a wonderful "sports" activity but without all the crazy travel/competition/etc. No worries, our kids are plenty competitive with one another and it doesn't take us out of the house on Sunday! Seriously, though, we love LK - the people are great and all the kids can be involved in one way or another. Bonus.

dad/coach!



Last week we joined with our two favorite matriarchs and sat to give thanks for all of our blessings. They (and my friends who have the same philosophy) are my favorite guests. No stress, no cleaning (not much), no pinterest-worthy table...just good food and good company.

the hosts being a bit silly

our fully, happy table

The most exciting thing, kitchen-wise, is that this guy has been taking up cooking as extra credit for one of his online classes. Pretty good potato pancakes, I must say!
 
 
We rounded out the holiday weekend with the first, ever Rocco Academy spelling bee (a qualifier for the regional bee early next year...I had no idea you could run it through your family. Bonus on scheduling, for sure)
 
The winner was not as surprising as how many rounds the tiny guy held up. He and the older two hung in for at least 5 rounds until I started throwing him 5 letter words (he said first graders were only required to spell 4 letters at a time) and he started throwing a fit. The middle guy is clearly not cut out for the individual competition thing. I'm with him...I may refrain from attending regionals this year. Too much stress for me :0( Congratulations, #1, on the success of your last spelling year. It seems eighth grade is turning out to be special in lots of ways.
 
There was also a trip to the opera and some other things that happened but, for the most part, that was November, 2018, which is officially in the books in a few hours.
 
There are two decade-birthdays around here over the next few weeks but that's December and it will come in its own time. I'm going to try to step away from FB for Advent and spend more time here compiling all the joys and challenges we'll be facing as we close out 2018. It promises to be one incredible month.
 
Wishing you the peace that comes with the quiet dark before the glorious light of His birth. We are blessed.
 



Saturday, September 15, 2018

one, holy, catholic, and apostolic...

Those are the four marks of the Catholic Church. If you need more background, go HERE for a nice account. The marks are intrinsically linked and they reflect the mission and purpose of the Church.

How interesting, too, that today's reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians would include this:
The bread that we break,
is it not a participation in the Body of Christ?
Because the loaf of bread is one,
we, though many, are one Body,
for we all partake of the one loaf.
Interesting jumping off point for our interesting review of daily Masses this week.

Monday

We were at the parish closest in distance to us - we find ourselves here for many daily Masses- because it's a shorter drive/walk than our home parish. It is familiar and welcoming and it's always a good place to find rest and insight. Sometimes, though it is tempting to just go through the motions here because it's so familiar (as anywhere would be after a decade). So, sadly, I can't remember that much of the Mass (forgive me, we were about to embark on a week-long journey) but I do remember chuckling a bit at the first reading:
Your boasting is not appropriate.
Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?
 
Image result for st bernard mt lebanon
We all struggle with our pet sins and I think the struggle in this parish is often trying not to boast. It is a grand space, cathedral-like in its form, and the temptation is strong to point that out more often that appropriate (a little yeast). Still, Christ was here, present in the Eucharist, and He provided the graces necessary to continue our journey and so we pushed off on our westward adventure.

Tuesday

We were able, after a day of classes, to make it from home to Dublin, Ohio, where we took our rest and rose early enough to make the 4-hour trip to Terre Haute, Indiana, where we attended daily Mass at noon.

This church, building-wise, was pretty traditional. I'm not sure of the history but the inside had that beauty that doesn't come much these days - the virtues painted into the ceiling, the image of the loving God-the-Father looking down over the sanctuary (complete with His triangular halo!)....beautiful worship space.

That's why it was a little confusing when I looked at the non-permanent fixtures, like the banners announcing the prayer meeting for the environment and, later, the priest who trod up the aisle in his tennis shoes. Those giveaways would show, more than the building, what type of Mass this was to be. There were many arms raised during the Our Father and, perhaps, a few eyebrows raised when we genuflected before receiving the Eucharist on the tongue. During the sign of peace, people wandered from pew to pew and Father came out of the sanctuary to shake hands with all the parishioners. Yeah, that last part left me a bit uneasy but, you know, Christ was here, present in the Eucharist, and He provided the graces necessary to continue our journey.

Wednesday

We stayed at an Airbnb in Benton Park, MO on Tuesday night. It just so happened that the St. Francis de Sales Oratory was exactly 3 minutes from our house. I usually scout out places for Mass before we actually show up so I knew this was a Latin Mass community and I knew this:

According to liturgical tradition, and the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, Holy Communion is received kneeling and on the tongue. All visitors who are not of the Catholic faith are welcome to join us in prayer, but are requested not to receive Holy Communion. Because the reception of Holy Communion is the sign of Divine and Ecclesial unity, only practicing Catholics who are free of mortal sin, and in full communion with the Catholic Church should present themselves for Holy Communion.
All good, the kids were prepped about the altar rail and we were ready to go. I wasn't quite ready for what we found.

Beautiful edifice

The interior of the church is worn but they are working to restore it.


It's funny because the running joke is that my dh is from the '50s, mainly because of his beliefs about religion, marriage and family. Of course, this kind of extends to me because, well, I'm here too. We're the "weird ones" in a lot of instances because I stay home, we homeschool, have more than 3 kids, etc. Walking into this Mass was like walking back in time and not a little bit like walking into someone else's country club.

I can identify with the "traditional" part. I do think that much of what's wrong with NO is the lack of reverence for the Mass and the Eucharist. I don't think having a veil on your head (to the obsessive point that a mom with her adorable cherub who kept pulling it off spent much of the time struggling to pull it back on) in itself proves that you are reverent. I know people will disagree with me on that, and that's fine. I've never been called to veil (although I may one day) but I have been called to other things (like genuflecting before receiving Communion in NO parishes) and I have also never looked askance at people who do not, in fact, genuflect. It was fairly clear that our unveiled heads were very, very out of place.

That less-than-warm-more-like-frigid greeting (Christ calls everyone, right?) and the fact that we were 10 pews back and could her not word one from the priest (and without the laity response, truthfully, I was lost most of the time) it was less than satisfying. The best part was Communion when you knelt at the rail and had to put your hands beneath the white cloth while receiving so any crumbs of Christ's body could be collected after. That is beautiful.

I'll just sum up with this...I've seen a Latin Mass on tv but never actually attended in person. I'm guessing (hoping) that this was an isolated incident and that daily Mass goers are used to seeing who they recognize and were just put off a bit by newcomers (truthfully, we didn't veil but otherwise, were dressed as nicely as most people there...I know enough not to show up in shorts!). I will reserve an overall reaction until the time comes that I can go to a couple of Latin Masses and see whether this is typical or aberrant. In the meantime, Christ was here, present in the Eucharist, and He provided the graces necessary to continue our journey.

Thursday

The kids were not that jazzed after Latin Mass to sign up for yet another in a foreign tongue. Still, we were in Peoria and it's not really the Catholic capital of the world (although it has produced at least one notably holy person). So, at 8:00 AM we checked out of the hotel and headed to the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception. After checking most of the doors, we stumbled on an unlocked side door and proceeded up the hallway into the relic chapel (I knew we were going to a chapel - I research these things - so we weren't tempted to give up when the front doors were locked). We peeked in the door (soooo tiny and beautiful this chapel was! about 10 pews total!) and found a very young Monsignor (he's about 18 months my junior!) sitting in prayer.

Father was so kind in response to our disturbance of his Mass preparation and, after a quick overview of who we were and why we were there, granted us the great treat of opening up the doors to the cathedral. Normally, this would be a fantastic blessing but here it was doubly so. You see, this cathedral is the place where Venerable Fulton J. Sheen became an altar server as a young boy and was then ordained a Catholic priest! The pictures won't do it justice and I can't possibly recount all the amazing pieces of the structure (like the prophets on the ceiling!) so here is a self-tour booklet if you'd like to spend more time here, which I strongly recommend.



the prophet JOEL ;0) (I know you can't see it...crummy phone)

We managed to see as much as possible in the 20 minutes we had, then headed back into the chapel for Mass. Such a small place, I suppose I expected a handful of people but instead there were at least 20, swelling it to capacity. This was Spanish Mass.

It was clear that a. we were ducking in right before the beginning of Mass and 2. we were clearly the only Anglos in the crowd and yet there were smiles from everyone we encountered. Mass was lovely. I love following along in a foreign tongue - it reinforces just how much the Mass is changeless, regardless of language. The sign of peace was as joyful and warm as I would expect (without being liturgically awkward). As had been true in the diverse blend of churches and Masses this week, Christ was here, present in the Eucharist, and He provided the graces necessary to continue our journey.

Oh, immediately following Mass was Exposition and Adoration when, all the people who couldn't even say "peace be with you" in English, were chanting in Latin! I love, love our faith! It is full of surprises!

Friday

Parts of Thursday had proved to be extremely trying so it was lovely when we were reunited with dh and could join together for Mass as a family on Friday morning. We were staying in my all-time favorite BnB (because, well, it is in the same building as a huge church!!!) and so it was a bit easier (although not that easy) to wake everyone up and head downstairs for 6:30 AM Mass.



This was no ordinary day so getting up was done with joyful yawning. Today was the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross, the 30th Anniversary of the founding of the wonderful Monastery of the Holy Cross (3 years in Minnesota and 27 at this location in Chicago), the wedding anniversary of dear friends, and the 4th anniversary of the baptism of our sweet Godson! Great day to start with Mass!

When we were checking in on Thursday night, I told Fr. Edward that we would be there for Mass on Friday and that the kids would be thrilled because it would be in English for a change. "Well," he said, "the chanting will be in Latin." Indeed it was and indeed it was beautiful to watch these devout men, few in number but abounding in faith, begin this special day by glorifying God. I think God was pleased as well because, right around the Consecration, an amazing "Godray" came through the window and cut down the center of the church. It lasted well beyond Mass and had split into two distinct parts by the time I could take a photo before we left the building. Even without the sunshine, Christ was here, present in the Eucharist, and He provided the graces necessary to continue our journey.

one, holy, catholic, and apostolic...I think this week was by far the most diverse in terms of Masses we've ever attended. Still, even when the Mass looks or sounds a little or a lot different, Christ is there, in His sacrificial love for us, whenever we choose to seek Him. We, though many, all partake of the one loaf. How good is our God? Pretty beyond-words good. We are so blessed.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Screech...

I was thinking about a tire, then I looked it up to check the spelling and saw the definition:
(of a person or animal) give a loud, harsh, piercing cry.
then I realized, it's a perfect title. So, this first...a recap of some of the last month+
5 weeks of practice then a really wonderful brass camp

my tiny one's prescription for my whining...he's right

we headed across the state to NJ to visit "great" uncle Frank...he's 92 and alone in the world (he has two nephews and a niece...we're the closest) I'm not complaining, at all, about visiting him. I so wish he lived closer. It is so good for all of us to spend time.

he is a dear man

we even had a pseudo-picnic on the turnpike


before U.F., we got to our first game of the season (yes, it was hawaiian night!) we didn't see any baseball. the clouds opened about 15 minutes later.

but it was a great field and the kids meals were served on frisbees ;0)

we've also been looking at houses...many, many houses

some with really, incredible outside space

so, dh& i have begun tearing apart our house...in hopes of selling it for a bit more

down come the plaster and 100-year-old lath

dirty, dusty

difficult job...but, in some ways, cathartic
 we also started school...
hard for me to believe, really




last year of middle school...amazing.
There are many days when I ask God what He was thinking, giving a 40-something five little ones to raise. I will be 50 in just over 4 months and it's crashing down - I don't have the stamina, mental or physical, that I did in the past decade. It's really, really trying around here lately. Something needs to change (or, in His love for me, God will make it change). So, I will do my little bit to draw everyone back to where we need to be...

Starting with me. It's always a fight to get "my time" around here. My kids, thanks to God, come to me for help with almost everything. That's not a bad thing, in itself. I'd rather they turn to me first. Still, they are all capable of staying alive, on their own, for at least an hour (and maybe even more!). It doesn't allow me time to leave and go to the gym but I have begun to disappear to "do work or read" for that short amount of time. I think that's helping us all. 

Lately, I've begun to read the most amazing book, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. It's a satire so sometimes my head hurts trying to remember that it's backwards from what it's supposed to be. When I keep it straight, it's really a balm to me. I don't usually turn away from the Bible and Saints for advice but this is what I need at the moment. Just gentle reminders of how I was raised and how it's important now, even if everyone else in society (including those closest to me) say otherwise. So, we'll start again...
walking to a neighbor's home to get some exercise

and spend time with someone who we love very much
impromptu backyard carnivals

I love the thought that they're working together

and creating memories without my directions

family bingo - making a comeback!


and library visits when the weather is bad
There is so much more I need before I can approximate equilibrium around here. Listening to EWTN while I work on this allows me to catch snippets that the Holy Spirit will open my heart to at that moment. Returning to Adoration at least once per week will give me that quiet time with Our Lord to help focus my heart. Daily Mass whenever possible (always with the little ones and hopefully dh on occasion) will bring the grace we need to live together and work to know His will for us. 

It is a veil of tears on many days but it's not hopeless. Dealing with aging, coupled with kids growing at a mind-boggling rate is humbling. Living within a Church that is stained with sin, sometimes as much as the outside world, is something we can't overcome without God in our daily lives. If you feel your life spinning out of your grasp, join me. Let's go back to God first and see if our attitude doesn't change, even if our lives can't at the moment. God is so good and He is always waiting to give us rest. 

We are blessed.