Thursday, March 31, 2016

Words...and silence

Well, if you read any newspaper in the world, it would seem that you know all about the recent Wendy Bell Facebook (see? I told you) post and subsequent firing. If you live under a rock like me, check HERE. Yes, that's the Daily from the UK. Who knew?

So let's look to a Saint about this...

It is true that she spoke, largely, without charity. Sadly, the media culture is like that these days...all it takes is a few seconds to pretty much ruin your life...especially if you're in the public eye. It's likely she was so quickly squashed because it reflected on her employer. Whether it was true or not remains to be seen...only that people were offended and something had to be done. (I have to laugh every time I hear that because I remember a dear priest saying, "your taking offense offends me"). We live in interesting days, for sure.

So, it's good that I'm not in the public eye because, even on the most well-meaning day, I can say some pretty stupid things. I'm sure I had one too many car wrecks and my frontal lobe is damaged. Sometimes things pop out without a filter. I'm working on it. Today, instead of thinking some judgment (positive or negative) about the people I passed on my walk, I made statements of fact..."Wow, there are a lot of 20-somethings driving Lexi (what is the plural?) these days" or "That man is wearing a purple polka dotted bow tie!". If I stay with fact, I think I'm heading in the right direction. Perhaps one day I'll just walk by people, smile, and think nothing at all.

It's funny, though. It is about being charitable in our thoughts and words but some people pull it off better than others. Poor Wendy is probably wondering how something that sounded so right in her head could have gone so wrong. After all, aren't we still grieving a woman who, armed with the Truth of Christ, was known for not pulling punches?

She was bold and blunt and spoke the truth. After many years of suffering, Jesus called her home on Easter Sunday. I'm taking that as a pretty clear sign that He was happy with His faithful servant.

As I continued to walk, I started wondering about the people who say the right things in the right circles, what the people in front of them want to hear. There seems to be a trend of stand-up comedy fundraisers in the Christian arena these days. I was shocked when I started seeing this because, let's face it, comedy can often be less-than-Christian. One of the headliners at a recent show was this man...

Yes, he did say "all the guilt and shame, just no sex with the priest". It's all good, though, it would seem that in his "clean" version, he says "all the guilt and shame, just half the time at Mass."

So, how does this work? Is it OK to know that a person says something so blatantly inflammatory but, as long as it's not offending the people in the seats, no harm done?

Or how about the workers outside of the church I visited for my daily rosary? Before they noticed my presence, the f-bomb was flying fairly often (I hope they stopped when they noticed me, anyway, and not just because they moved onto a non-cuss-worthy topic). That's how construction folk are, right? We have to understand it and accept it. Right?

This was a confusing walk. How can one person lose their livelihood for saying something offensive but another is given wide berth strictly because of their occupation?

I'm not writing this with any great insight. I don't know. I do know that we all have a stranger living inside of us (Billy Joel softly whistles in the background) and, when we turn from the Truth that should rule our lives, that stranger gets the floor. It is so easy with social media ruling the day, to just blurt out what we're thinking at any given moment. Thankfully, we also have a God that is all good and filled with mercy on His servant who is so full of faults.

Perhaps a lesson in all of this is to show mercy, as we are shown Mercy. It is merciful to bear wrongs, like ignoring language that is less than appropriate and it is also merciful to point out beliefs that stray from the truth. We are called to live together and work to become saints. Wouldn't it be good if we could all just get started today (instead of waiting until Sunday)? If you're not a follower of Saint Faustina, listen to Billy...
Don't be afraid to try again
Everyone goes south
Every now and then
You've done it, why can't someone else?
You should know by now
You've been there yourself

Wishing you patience to bear wrongs, prudence to recognize the Truth, and fortitude to speak and live the Truth. We are blessed.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What I'm loving now

Spring is wonderful, isn't it? The sunshine, the warmer temps, the flowers, the thunderstorms and wind (if not, exactly, the pollen or the mud). It's a time of improved mood around here. There is so much to love...

1. Kumquats

I'm sure it was part of the kids of steel program, I'm not sure, but I am totally hooked. These little God-created-sweet-tarts are fantastic...they wake me up in the morning with their tangy goodness.
They are also nutritionally packed with good stuff like vitamin C, fiber, anti-oxidants and essential oils.

2. Sushi

I totally blame Lent for this one. I was looking for something, anything, that wasn't a fish fry for my lunch one day and there it was. Yum. The pickled ginger and wasabi add to the health benefits (omega 3s, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals). Yes, there is a mercury concern so don't eat it every day (moderation, people) I would suggest once a week, on Wednesday, when a large California roll is only $5 at Giant Eagle. :0)
God has the best colors!
3. Little boy

He turns 4 in two weeks so I try not to call him the baby (it's also ridiculous since he's almost the same size as the next older two). Still, he is my last and with that, my favorite (sorry, it's a baby-loving-mom's-prerogative). I love that he's growing up a little bit (I haven't changed a poop diaper in over 6 weeks! Hooray!) but is still a little boy at heart. 
He sat like that for a full 20 minutes (it's a duck that does the chicken dance)

4. My yearly spiritual direction

No, I'm not so holy that I only need it once a year! I just seem to have no luck in finding an actual director so I take advantage when I can. I always count on my yearly ob/gyn exam and this year, the dear doctor did not disappoint. We talked about homeschool and being Catholic and raising kids (he has 6) that have the grounding of faith on which to build a life. Isn't God spectacular? I dreaded the thought of these exams after the babies were done (because I'm depressed that the babies are done) and He has revealed a true servant just when I needed a good diversion. Go God! When I left the appointment, He gave me another sign that we should be joyful...He is Risen, Indeed.

God's majesty...for us...everyday!
5. Easter

Of course, the best part of Spring is Easter! One of the best aspects of Easter is going to the Cathedral and chatting with and receiving blessings from three bishops! I love being in a room full of people who are all celebrating the Resurrection. I told one of the bishops that I appreciate his joy that always shines through in his smile...he replied, "How could we not be filled with joy, knowing what we know?" Amen, Father.

Wishing you the joy of Spring and the lasting joy of Our Creator's love...all-day, every-day

We are blessed.   

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Holy Saturday

The Eastern Europeans (and probably others of whom I am unaware) have a tradition of blessing the food for the Easter meal (the Slovaks, like Christmas, eat the main meal on the eve). We are blessed to live in a place that has a rich tradition of ethnic diversity and, as such, we have our pick of many parishes throughout the city who hold basket blessings on Holy Saturday.

Today, like last year, we went to our home parish. There is a preciousness to having the priests who guide your parish family bless the food you will share with your home family.

Last night on EWTN (or this morning, I guess, we were up late), I heard a lovely discussion about Holy Saturday. The priest remarked that it was a day to concentrate on Our Lady and her sorrows. How blessed I was to have a beautiful day for a run followed by time for a rosary and reflection with the Blessed Mother.
I have no idea what the flower chain is for
She walked with me when I lost my child so I figured it was the least I could do. As always, the grace flowed and it was such a blessed few minutes alone with the woman who knows best the trials and blessings of motherhood.

Not to be forgotten, Bishop Barron had a wonderful ancient homily on his post today about Jesus descending to hell and speaking to Adam...
See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.
Dinner tonight with my family, mom and aunt. It's hard to believe tomorrow could be any better but, as we know, it will be so glorious. Wishing you all a most blessed Easter, filled with the glory of the resurrected Jesus, Our Savior.

We are blessed.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Blessed Good Friday

The First Station, Jesus is Condemned to Death

The Second Station, Jesus carries His Cross

The Third Station, Jesus falls for the first time

 The Forth Station, Jesus meets His mother

The Fifth Station, Simon carries The Cross

 The Sixth Station, Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

The Seventh Station, Jesus falls the second time

The Eighth Station, Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

The Ninth Station, Jesus falls a third time

The Tenth Station, Jesus is stripped of His garments

The Eleventh Station, Jesus is nailed to the Cross

The Twelveth Station, Jesus dies on the Cross

The Thirteenth Station, the body of Jesus is taken down from the Cross

The Fourteenth Station, Jesus is laid in the tomb
You know what happens next!
I'm told the soldiers fell asleep...

Excellent job stage manager, director, narrator and lighting!

I think we're in need of some additional backgrounds but, all-in-all, I think it turned out splendidly for the first annual peg-doll-Stations. These most amazing peg dolls are the work my dear friend at Life Pursuit Studio. If you need an excellent gift for your kids, godchildren, friends, whomever, head over there. They are detailed, precious and will bless your children by bringing scripture and the lives of the Saints to their level. What a blessing!

That was the beginning of this day, which later included another set of Stations, Good Friday services, making sandwiches for the homeless, Catholic Icing's Passion story with food! and dinner, whew.

Let's pray for the people of our parish (and others) who will deliver food to the homeless this evening and for all those who don't have enough food or adequate shelter. Let's pray for those who have turned away from God or for those who don't fully appreciate the love-driven sacrifice of our Savior this day

It's a good evening to be quiet and reflect on our gifts and how we can share them with others while giving thanks for the greatest gift...our salvation.

We are blessed.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Highly Recommended

This morning I headed down to the Cathedral for Chrism Mass. I took #s 1&2 with me. #2 and I were new to it, #1 had been several times before.

perfect seat in view of the altar and the tabernacle :0)

I had an idea of what would transpire and it was pretty much that. Still, without being there, most of the pageantry is missed. After the first "Amen" response, #2 looked at me and said, "wow". Indeed, when there is a cathedral full of devout Catholics, it tends to echo with their response. What a great place to go when one needs a shot of religious fervor.

It was also wonderful to see so many priests from the diocese. Watching them process in was like a little snapshot of our Catholic life. This one used to be our parochial vicar. That one baptized your sister. The other one we knew from early church visits with Catholic moms.

Watching them all on the altar during the Consecration was a beautiful reminder of these men who have chosen this path in their life...a vocation of us. What a great vision of God's goodness to His people - the priesthood.

Happy Thursday everyone. Time to make the pretzels :0)

We are blessed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Pretty sure I've now seen everything.

It probably wouldn't have been so bizzaro-worldly but I happened to read Fr. Barron's Reflection before I happened upon it and all I can think is the Temple is in serious need of housecleaning at this point.

However, since I'm trying to clean my own house, I'll leave it at that. Instead, I'll head over to my 40 Acts email which, today was entitled "testify".
Share your testimony with someone or a group of people today. How you choose to do it is up to you – whether that's on- or off-line. Remember: it doesn't need to be miraculous, sensationalist or world-changing. It changed you, and that simple message is powerful enough
So, here we go...I can't start at birth since I'm so old now so I'll jump straight into my 20's, the time of footloose, fancy-free, marginally-Catholic me. I was feeling extremely grown-up having completed my psych undergraduate and Master's in counseling, living on my own.
it was existential psychology ;0)   

I could also, on a very good day, be mistaken for Ms. Yearwood (I lived in Nashville for a while)

I considered myself Catholic because I was going to church on Sunday, most Sundays, and I believed that there was a nice, loving grandpa somewhere in the sky that would be merciful when I needed Him and not mind if I ignored him for large stretches of the time.

I fell in love. He had been married before and he was Jewish but, well, we were young and love trumps all, right? Yes, he was angry sometimes. Yes, he had a biting sarcasm, especially when we were out on the weekends (or at home) having a few (or many) drinks. He asked, I said "yes", bring on the happy ending.
The wedding was society-page-worthy. We had a rabbi and a priest. We were covered, all the way around. (the Holy Spirit's "gotcha" ... the priest who wed us is now in jail for abuse against children...there's your sign) We were happy when we traveled or when we drank but you can't drink and travel all the time. Most of life is every day "drudgery" (or so I thought then). 

I struggled with depression most of my life and when I found myself in an unhappy at best and abusive (from both sides) at worst marriage, I spiraled down into the pit. There was an evening that I sat on the floor of our guest bathroom fighting the devil in hand-to-hand combat for my existence. It sounds dramatic but it was life-threatening. My husband, who by this time had tired of my presence, was two states away on a sporting trip. It was clear basketball wasn't the only sport on the agenda. 

God, being a loving Father, allowed me to be the victim (along with the rest of my family) of someone's free-will-gone-bad and it rocked my entire world back into orbit. 
The tarp covers the car that my dad was driving. The metal in the foreground is the roof from the car my dad was driving (they had to cut it off to remove his body). The truck on the left (and the man walking) drove over the top of my dad's car because he was "in a hurry" and figured my dad would stop.
We buried him on December 22nd and I'm not sure but it probably took two full years to fight my way back to normal life. God was there at each moment and placed the right people in my path. The priest who told me I could be angry at God for letting it happen but that I couldn't walk away from His plan for me. The colleagues who helped me when I realized one day that, even if I was alone for the rest of my life, the anger and sadness that made up my marriage didn't look anything like His plan for me. The friend, who had lost his dad tragically at a young age, who would visit my life on occasion and offer support for my journey. 
My divorce was final and I lived through the heart-rending process that is a Catholic annulment. Please don't take that wrong...if it didn't shake me to reality, I might have walked right back into another "love will conquer all" marriage.  The annulment process allowed for time to process the red flags and to work through the reasons they were ignored. I am grateful for the trial.

My joy even returned somewhat. Christmas was not the same but I was able to move on, restart my life as a young professional and start my courtship with God. There were still times that I acted like my universe was mine alone but more often, I sought Him out in thanksgiving or supplication. 
"Kindness in another's trouble, courage in your own" I was beginning to realize there was a grand web to this life and He put us all in communion for a reason.
My favorite reason for being in that place at that time...and my first realization that God wanted me to be happy in life. Also, perhaps, a "training" of sorts...being a local aunt is only one step removed from motherhood.
The friend who helped me through the anguish of losing my dad was around more often and, after living my life for a while, trying to grow closer to the Church and deepen my relationship with Him, we realized that we were walking very similar paths and, perhaps, God chose this path for us together. 

So, in 2003, we chose to glorify God with one voice. It has not been the easiest path at times but it has been the right one. Perhaps I would have run back into His arms on my own but He allowed me to experience two trials that would firmly place me back on the path to Him. As a parent, I understand this completely and I know that it was right, despite the struggle (or maybe because of) I endured.

Fast forward almost 13 (my lucky number ;0)) years and I am more grateful than ever for this life I have been given. All the highs and lows have been shared with my beloved, the man I know God led me to during a very dark valley and of course, the loving Father who guides all of our paths. How blessed I am that He loves me enough to allow my struggles. How good it is to know that His arms wait for me to walk into that embrace. 

As Paul would say, "and now you know the rest of the story...good night!"

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

if you're not ready...

you have one more day. That's it, though, because Thursday is day one of three of the greatest days in the Christian faith. Get ready because you don't want to miss a moment!

We have a lot to do so I'll just wish you a happy three days and we can recap later when we're all bursting with joy. Ahhh. Almost there.

We are blessed.

Monday, March 21, 2016

I'm better...

I can't stay in a snit when we're spending the afternoon knee-deep in Easter prep and learning all about our favorite ethnic heritage ;0)

Sunday was Slovak Easter day...hooray! Fun with friends, making lots of pretty, yummy things and learning all about the joy-filled day we would spend one week later. A perfect end to Palm Sunday (totally made up for the rocky start).



lamb cakes

our flock ;)

beautiful banner for our front window

much to practice!

palm folding

I made him a different kind of works
wax painted favorite

May you have a prayerful, quiet Holy Week as we prepare for the joy that comes very, very soon.

We are blessed.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


“Blessed is the king who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Peace in heaven
and glory in the highest.”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him,
“Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”
He said in reply,
“I tell you, if they keep silent,
the stones will cry out!”
(Jesus didn't seem to believe it was better to stay silent)

It's Palm Sunday so I'm not going to rant. 
I'm simply going to say, if we continue to "dumb down" our faith..."I know they're chewing gum on the way to Communion but at least they're here", "I know he texted through most of Mass, including Communion, at least he was here," "I know we sit during the reading of the Passion when we should be standing to show reverence, but there are a few people in the congregation who can't stand the whole time so we can't make them feel badly," we can't expect that respect for the Eucharist, the Mass or the clergy will grow or, frankly, maintain. Bear wrongs patiently is a work of mercy but so are instruct the ignorant and admonish the sinner. 

For a less judgmental reflection of today's liturgy, go see Bishop Barron, he's got some excellent thoughts on this Palm Sunday.

Happy start of Holy Week! We are blessed.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Our Lady and St. Joseph

The Earthly parents of Christ, Our Lady and St. Joseph, are wonderful to keep in mind at any time of the year. This weekend we've had the extra blessing of combining them into our days...learning, praying and keeping them close.

Yesterday was the last Friday of Lent so we took the opportunity to again head to a church on the way to St. Vincent and pray the Stations of the Cross. Our friends were there and I remarked in passing that we were going to try to find the Marian Shrine in Oakland before heading to classes. "Oh," he said, "we'll take you there."

It's not totally out of place, since they're the ones who told us about it but it is totally beyond expectation since it took them at least an hour out of their way. They're like that...they hear the whispers and follow without hesitation.

It took two tries but we finally found it. It's colloquially called Our Lady of the Parkway shrine because it directly overlooks the highway coming into town. Walking down the steep hill and the even more narrow walkway to reach the altar and shrine felt a lot like Slovakia. So did the peace and solitude.
view from above the shrine

Our friend helped build the altar!
The 8th Station, I think.
my girl and her Mama
She was upset because we made her stop praying to pose ;0)

thus, the name

heading back up the hill

Glorious, Our Lady kind-of-day
Today, March 19th, is the feast of St. Joseph. We had a bunch of things on the calendar but we scrapped them to spend a day at home together. Working in imitation of the Holy Family, I spent my day in the kitchen while dh directed the children in their work. Today's work...Spring cleaning (since it's also the first day of Spring! even if it is snowing...)

the baseboards and banisters crew

I love having lots of time in the kitchen...when it happens to be a feast day on which I can break my fast, even better!

my pretzel dough helper...he likes running the mixer
meatballs for new mom meals and browned butter...the beginning of all good things Slovak (it ended up as mushroom soup)

dh helped with shaping
our St. Joseph pretzels, complete with carpenter square and hammer

St. Joseph's Sfinge (without the filling...that came later...ricotta and chocolate chips. yum.)
Sigh. Someday I dream of hosting a big St. Joseph's table here but, for now, it's just us and that's ok. If you're curious, go over to St. Joseph's altar and check out the virtual version. Very informative.

God is so good. He brings others into our lives to help us along our path to Him. He gives us small breaks in the middle of Lent to take a breath and rejoice in His foster father and all fathers who have a place in our lives. He gives us more than enough so that we might share with those who need at this moment. He introduces the connections and gives us the power to chose. How blessed we are.