Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Ash Wednesday - (The) Who says...

Somehow we've gotten through another year and back to Lent. I have no idea how that happened so we won't spend any more time on it except to say that everything in the world is kind of odd these days. 

My kids would tell you I blame social media for most of the evils in the world and I would say they're only partially wrong. We're in a time of such increased emotion coupled with decreased sense. Truly, I'm one of the biggest clickbait-fallers (new word) there is. That's why I do try to share most of what I see with DH. He's usually good for straightening out my thinking on something or seeing it from another angle. Ultimately, when something, a conversation, a post, a video, causes confusion or unrest or stirs up a desire to lash out with no charity or compassion, it's not good...I don't care where it came from. You can argue righteous anger as much as you want. Jesus said "I desire Mercy" and you need to lead with that. 

As always, I struggle with all of this myself so, I beg you, do not take any of this as coming from some theologian or learned person. I'm just trying more, every day, to open myself to God and His working in my life. He never, never ceases to surprise and delight. Today did not disappoint. It's Ash Wednesday. 


a little funny to break up all.the.words

I'm trying to trust God more and see Him everywhere (He is, isn't He?) so, sometimes, I admit, I will kind of test Him to see what happens. I hear the Holy Spirit laugh every single time because, duh, God is everywhere. If you're looking, you will find Him.

So, today, I decided on 8:30 AM at Mary, Mother of God parish, St. Patrick worship site. Full disclosure, the son of our dear friends is a priest there so I figured there was some chance he might be presiding and it's only 15 minutes from my office. I did not luck out with the familiar priest. The rest was definitely worth more than the price of admission.

I walked in, visited the restroom (it was a long drive) and took my place 2/3 of the way up, on the right, in the middle. Next, the debate. Do I veil or do I not veil? For those who don't know (because I don't write anything on here anymore, I veil now. It happened as a result of Covid. It will be for another post sometime but, generally, I look a bit like this:
oh, except no mask...told you it was Covid ;0)

So, veil tucked safely in my pocket, I have some internal one here will wear one, it will probably be a source of scandal for someone, no one knows I veil here, so I just won't. Except I do. And I do because of reasons that don't change depending on which church I'm in. Ok, veil comes out and gets clipped onto the head. I look through the readings and try to be as inconspicuous as possible before Mass begins. When I look up, there is a woman 3 rows ahead of me, with a black veil on her head.

"Don't you trust Me?"
"Well, yes, I do, which is why I put it on but thank you just the same for the reassurance."

Mass begins, we get ashes (I remember to pull my bangs up for the benefit of the distributer - see Fr. Alec's revulsion of touching people's hair - and because, then, they can nestle them up in there, nicely covered by my bangs and, as such, be nearly imperceptible to my coworkers...just a subliminal evangelization. 

Communion time. Next internal debate...Typically, I genuflect and take by mouth. While watching the other people ahead of me receive, it's clear that every person, even the woman in the veil, takes by hand. Well, I believe what I believe so, please don't let this guy behind me trip while I'm genuflecting ...except I didn't get that far because when I was third from the front, the woman in the line beside me, three people up, KNELT and took by mouth! "Oh, thank you God." I said it out loud, not loudly, but I know I did because the person beside me looked over with an odd face. I'm the crazy lady, no worries. 

"Don't you trust Me?"
"Well, yes, I do, but thank you just the same for the reassurance."

Back to the pew to pray after Communion. I was towards the front so there was plenty of time. I was praying for a fruitful, useful Lent, when a discussion I had with #2 came to my brain...he said, "You know, when I was little, I used to wish everyone a sad Lent, because it's sad." We had a discussion, which ultimately ended with remembering the happiness that follows the sadness. Enduring happiness. 

I was looking up in the sanctuary, thinking about that, and I saw the open tabernacle. Now, I've never been up close with an open tabernacle but I know there are other things that are in there - more than just the ciborium (ciboria? Sorry, Sil) that are being used but, at that moment, not seeing any of that, all I could think of was the empty tomb. He is risen, He is not here. 

Now, I realize, on Ash Wednesday, that is a very not-proper thing to think so, thank you for your charity towards my brain at the moment. I think it had to do with a discussion we had over the weekend with friends. One church is bringing back patens to help people realize that the Eucharist is special - it's the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Savior. That's pretty special!

So, I'm not sure why the empty tomb except to say, He's not there during Communion, He's here - with us, in us - He comes to us each Communion and we take Him with us when we leave - even during Lent. How remarkable is that? 

The homily was good - talking about prayer (we should go to daily Mass every day...even if we have to watch it via livestream later!), fasting (don't gossip - it means no Christan reason...or something like that - it was a good you can talk about someone being in the hospital to pray for them but not just to gossip - if there's no Christian reason to mention it), and alms-giving. That I liked specifically...he talked about being charitable in your home first and, when you get that mastered, go out to the people (or at least work on it first). 

I chose to stay in my pew and pray after the recessional (ok, partly because I didn't want to small talk with anyone) but also to test myself. I heard on my favorite radio show the other day that Pope Francis, every day, says to the crucifix, "If you will it, You can make me clean." Then prays five Our Fathers, concentrating on each of Christ's five wounds. I heard that he does it before he sleeps so I tried it. No. I can't do anything repetitive or contemplative before sleep. It's not a good plan.

So, having some extra time while I was ducking the small talk, I knelt down and began. I'm ashamed to say I made it through 2 before I realized I was thinking about something else. That is how pathetically short my time span is (see above about Social Media). I'm not surprised that it's short - hourly Sunday Adoration is always a challenge - but goodness, I can't pray 5 Our Fathers? Ug. So, God being merciful, He allowed me to finish in a short while, after a few attempts. I think He was waiting a bit because on the 3rd or 4th failed attempt, into my brain, "pop" 
See Me.
Feel Me. 
Touch Me.
Heal Me.
Seriously, God, The WHO

Of course. Because, when I looked it up later, the lyrics aren't all that terrible and definitely something, for me, to ponder this Lent. Possibly most, the forgotten second verse:

        Right behind you, I see the millions
        On you, I see the glory        From you, I get opinion        From you, I get the story

More on that down the road, I suppose but, looking at those last two lines...Of course, God's "opinion" is the only one that matters in living my life and the story is His. His story. That's all we need for Eternal Life. For the happiness that never ends. For the mercy we have prayed for. Following Him is so much better than all the voices on Social Media or the radio or the newspapers.

Join me in Getting the Story from God this Lent. Let's learn to turn to Him for the first and only opinion on something. He is waiting. Just ask. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

God's love...and bacon

Today is Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday for you non-French-speakers), the day before Catholics begin the 40-day Lenten period of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, leading up to Holy Week and Easter. Many people go overboard and eat and drink too much today to try to "get it all in" before they go on the wagon. Don't do that. Enjoy the day and remember it when you're feeling deprived soon (and give thanks for both things because God loves you enough to include feasting and fasting in life). 

On this day, every year, part of our celebration always includes...bacon. Not just any bacon. This bacon

I don't know how many years ago we became acquainted with this delicious morsel but I am grateful, specifically, for the bringer of the gift - my aunt. She is an 87-year-old Slovak lady who suffered a lot growing up and now, a successful, retired physician, she enjoys sharing her bounty with her family. She receives a million food catalogs every year and was excited to try this because, not only is it bacon, the pigs are treated like royalty...they're fed acorns and who knows what else (she had no children of her own and she's one of those crazy-cat-lady-animal-lovers...but not in a completely crazy way. You can still have bacon, it just needs to live well first). It's some pretty special stuff. Perfect for a pre-Lenten treat. 

The synopsis? God loves us. So much that He sent His only Son to die for our sins. He is the Creator of all and giver of all good gifts. His gifts in my life are innumerable and today we celebrate dear aunt who loves us enough to seek out amazing treats to enjoy and for the humble pig. We will enjoy our feast together today and tomorrow we will start our journey into Lent. 

I realize there are some of you in Septuagesima season already and that's cool. I'm not exactly an expert in the 40 days yet so I'm not going to add more challenge at this point. For now, we went as a family to Adoration this afternoon and we'll pray that we can have the graces we need to achieve the exact Lent that God has planned for us. Like before I gave birth the first time, I usually have a lot of things planned for Lent and they usually don't end up the way I thought they should be. Luckily for me, they're always so much more...because God took the reigns and did His work in my life. 

Holy Father, let us be open to You in our lives this Lent and always. Help us to never fail to see you in our neighbors, our friends, and in those who cause us grief and pain. Let us be first to help. Let us be first to give. Let us be first to sacrifice. Let us help Your Kingdom Come. 

We are blessed.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Telling my story

    I have the wonderful blessing of meeting, on a regular basis, with a beautiful and God-fearing friend. She is beautiful in the way she seems to hold no type of agenda when we meet. She is just there to listen and to ponder aloud and to share the journey. What a gift she is to me! What an inspiration for me to try harder with my other relationships!

    At our most recent meeting, she suggested I should dust off my keyboard and begin to write again. It's funny that she should say that because it's been in the front of my mind for some time. The kind of writing I was considering, however, was all the letters the Holy Spirit has been nudging me to write. I will do my best to get to that tomorrow (or definitely this week! Then, work on my procrastination...but later).

    Truthfully, the whole idea of sharing my story via blog or other means has been coming up again and again lately. A few days ago we went to a talk by a local bishop about Evangelizing like Sts. Cyril and Methodius. A few days prior, I watched this video and thought, wow...what if we all started doing this? So, let's begin (you can watch the video first...I'll wait...but you don't have to watch the whole thing. You can start from around minute 17 to 30 or so...)

    Since I'm talking about Evangelization, I do hope you watched part of the video....specifically the minute 20 on bit...because I'm not talking about anything more than what Fr. Mike is - telling our story to the people we meet (I'm meeting you this way, thanks for reading, but that's not the only possibility. If you know me IRL, I hope we exchange our stories that way which, for me, is by far my preferred method). 

    Lots of build up for this small thing but here's my latest story. During our talk, my friend mentioned signal graces and, when I admitted I didn't know what they were, she instructed praying the St. Therese novena and receiving roses at the end. I can't remember that I've ever had that happen. Not anything as big as roses, at least. 

    After our hour-long chat about writing and praying to God for signal graces and insight, I picked up my little chorister and prepared to head out into the dreary evening (it had been overcast and raining all day). I'm not sure I've covered our family's idea of "God rays" but they are just sunbeams, coming down out of the clouds, that we acknowledge are heading down from the heavens and, thus, we credit their Creator. Just semantics...kind of. 

    So, after a day of heavy cloud cover and the type of weather that non-Pittsburghers like to bemoan, we drove home. During the drive I was lucky to have two red lights at key moments that allowed me to take these photos. 

    Not terribly clear, I grant you. Like all things, the real life is better than the online version. Still, there were two distinctive sets of God rays and, instead of coming down out of the sky, they were going up and out. For you scientists out there, yes, my husband beat you to it...I know it's because of the position of the sun on the horizon, etc., etc...but, as he said, God put them there at that moment. He's right. I know that there are people who get very specific signal graces (like roses) but me...I'll take this. My God is in His heaven sending out love for me and, yes, perhaps it is time for me to turn back to writing.

    If sharing my story with someone who, in turn, recognizes the presence of God in her life, how grateful I would be. I believe deeply that the more we share our story, the more we will all start to see that God is continually present to us. In others, in ourselves, and in His Creation. 

Stay tuned for more of my story. Please seek me out and tell me your story!

We are blessed. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Reflections on 52...

I won't put up a Grumpy Cat meme...I'm older and more mature now ;0)

Part of being old is having time (although not more quiet, really, not here) to reflect on things. I think, having passed through a slice of 2019 and the majority of 2020, I have three things that have been ruminating in my brain. 


Unfortunately, no, that doesn't mean more gifts and treats for friends and family. I'm amazed, actually, at how much more I did five years ago - driving through snowstorms to deliver St. Nicholas cookies, parties, kids' activities. 2020 sort of blew all of that out of the water. Secretly, I'm not that upset by it. This year, along with many negatives, has given me time to just sit and ponder...and more often than not discuss with my dear husband who is always willing to hash through a topic or two. 

You may have noticed there hasn't been much writing here; I think that's part of it. There has been a lot to consider these days and I don't find much time to rehash it online. Still, perhaps this is as good a time as any...

This was taken on February 29, 2020, at a local Adoration chapel in the wee hours of the morning. Leap day seemed like a good one to spend some time with Our Lord in the monstrance and check in about what was happening in the world. Looking back, it was a good picture to keep in my mind's eye. Regardless of how much trauma or drama is swirling around, remember Who is above you and what He did for you...step back and reassess your perspective. 

I suppose, a few weeks later, when everything shut down, this might have been why I managed to exhibit more calm than I had expected. Granted, it was early and everyone was still behaving themselves. It would get worse...

That's where we are now, people behaving badly, but I'm still trying to sit with that perspective. The only thing/person that matters is Christ. He died so that we could be saved and wasting that gift on any worldly nonsense is just that...lacking sense. These are days that require many times thinking before we speak, regardless of what society and social media say. The behavior on display and the acceptance of it, even from otherwise right-thinking people, makes me kind of sad. So, I'm trying to stay away as much as possible. I get that people can pop on and off of FB without problem. It's never been me. It's a time-suck and especially now, in "little Lent" and specifically on "Gaudete Sunday" that's no place for my joy. 

My joy is here where I live. These living, breathing, singing people and grunting, moping teens. I will take them any day because they are mine...they are God's gift to me and, wow, what an amazing haul! Not because we're Pinterest perfect in any way but because we're working together, in the family God made for us, to draw closer to Him and to one another. If we learn love here and know that it is never changing within these walls, we can go out and risk loving (even when we fail) because we will have a soft nest in which to land.

Make no mistake, there have been some negative reactions to closing down and regrouping for a while. Kids, even those with a built-in companion system, want to be out and "among their people". I guess, more than anything, the later days of the pandemic have caused us to rethink who exactly our people are. Everyone decides for themselves and for their family. We will do the same. The next topic has made that sooo much easier for me. 


So, I was off being thoughtful again and I didn't even write down #2 and #3 before I left and, being 52, I can't remember, so I guess you'll have to be happy with Thoughtfulness. I think that's good because, guessing at #2, it's never going to come off as anything but Karen on the page and that's not what I want at all. Everyone makes their own decisions, our family included, and sometimes that's good and sometimes that hurts feelings and, well, see above about "wasting that on any worldly nonsense."

It's been nearly 6 weeks since I turned 52...time definitely moves faster on this side of the hill. There is so much turmoil in the world today, I know. Still... try to look for the Good. See God in His creation. Know that He will bring so much good from the trials that He permits. Don't give up and don't lose heart. Our Lady, St. Michael, and St. Joseph are surrounding you and they hear you. Never stop asking for their help.

We are blessed.