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. 


Thoughtfulness

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. 

Update

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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Navigating the new

All thanks to God that the churches are open, Mass has resumed, and things are beginning to look somewhat "normal" these days. It's kind of troubling to me that there is such inconsistency but, then, that's human nature isn't it. We all need to "do it our way" and, as such, nothing is ever exactly the same. For example...

- The Masses have resumed but look quite different depending where you choose to attend. One church has a very lax mask policy and Communion comes at the time it always has (which, to be fair, is not in keeping with the bishop's directives...even though I like it better that way).

- One parish we've attended has reinstated the use of Extraordinary Ministers of Communion. Again, to be fair, it was Sunday Mass. Still, it made me kind of sad. One of the big blessings of the pandemic Mass directives was knowing you would always receive Communion from a priest.

- It seems Communion on the tongue is also one of those "depends where you go" things. We have never been denied that form, even at a parish where our friends claim it was forbidden. After hearing that, I looked at dh and said, "I guess we're those people then...the ones who insist on having their way." Promise...it wasn't intentional. There was no announcement when we were there and they are not, canonically, allowed to forbid it, even though some do.

I've heard about one older priest who denies Communion on the tongue and if he is afraid for his safety, so be it. It's still Jesus and I trust that He knows it isn't our preferred way to receive. I suppose, if you're really obstinate about it, you can just not go. There's no sense arguing, though, since that just makes you look bad. We all need to do more "pondering in our heart" and less verbalizing our slights and demands.

So, we'll press on and navigate the new normal. We are grateful for the Mass and the Eucharist and Adoration and one very, very important thing that has come about recently.

If you read the last entry, you know I was fussing over one human mucking up the whole of the Holy Spirit's good work. Of course, I was wrong. Even if that person did mess things up (we'll never know) God did His usual work of bringing so much good out of hardship.

We had hoped that our #5 would make his First Communion at his Godfather's first Mass as a deacon. When that was denied, I had a bit of a snit (see previous post). As I get older, I'm amazed that the snit is even necessary. I know that God will work it out. I'm ashamed at my lack of trust.

Work it out He did, in the most amazing way. We were allowed to have the First Communion at our home parish, during daily Mass, with #5 being the only recipient. Having it "our way" would have meant having a very tiny part (rightly so) of a bigger celebration. Having it God's way meant our pastor using the homily to question and teach our little one all about Jesus' love for him, and all of us, expressed in the Eucharist and the importance of the sacrament each time we receive.

Many years ago we attended the First Communion of a friend's son. Daily Mass, personal homily, wonderful example of how First Communion can and should be. I remember thinking that no one who was there would come away with the idea that this host is a symbol and not Jesus' actual body and blood. The priest made it so clear through his own awe and reverence...the memory of it has remained with me to this day. We are so blessed that our last little one went to meet Jesus in the Eucharist in such a similar fashion. We are so grateful for this good that came from such an uncertain time. (Please keep #2 in your prayers as he continues to wait for his Confirmation day. I know that God has it well in hand but, as you know, I get antsy ;0p).

Our dear Fr. Robin. He baptized #1 and was good enough to con-celebrate
First Communion Mass
for #5

Greeting Godmomma

I took two pictures. He is my last kid. Forgive me. 


Grateful for our wonderful pastor. He is a teacher at heart and he gave us a wonderful lesson on the Eucharist. He also mentioned that our boy should be open to a priestly vocation. So important and so rare these days. 

Our beloved Miss Terri. She is ill with cancer and treatment after-effects but still insisted on attending because "I was at the first four, I wouldn't miss the last!" So blessed by our decade and beyond with this treasure.

Happy sibs and the secret service guy ;0)

This was taken at Deacon Scott's first Mass because we didn't get one on the actual Communion day. Oh well, I have a feeling we'll be in this space a lot more often in the coming years. (More on the hat another time)


The takeaway, I suppose, is this...trust that God knows you and knows what is best. In these uncertain times, we want so much to be in control and when things don't go as we would like, we are so quick to question and complain. What if, instead, we were quiet and prayerful and asked God to show us what He is doing in this situation. You never know...the outcome might be beyond anything you could have imagined.

We are blessed.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Exhale...

The last time I wrote, it was our first Sunday of quarantine. Coincidentally (ahem) I'm writing this post on, God willing, our last Sunday of quarantine. All thanks to Him, in-person Mass will resume tomorrow! (Yes, there are masks and fewer people but finally we get to receive Him in the  Eucharist!) It hasn't been 40 years in the desert, not even close, but it has been a long period of waiting and I am so grateful that it is ending.

Today is a really-amazing-Catholic-trifecta kind of day. It's PENTECOST the birthday of the Church; the day the Holy Spirit descended to the Apostles and the world to send them (and us!) out to spread the Gospel to the world. We attended holy Mass at the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady in Dallas, TX this morning
Simplicity, Gregorian Chant...beautiful

The priest who gave the homily spoke about the non-pandemic occurrence of Pentecost...that Jesus breathed on the Apostles and in those droplets, the Holy Spirit inflamed them to go preach the Gospel message...even to their death. That exhalation began the one, true Church and it has produced so many Saints over the last 2,000 years. Our call, he said, is to give up our plans and ideologies and simply inhale the Holy Spirit so that we may be clear about and fortified in our personal mission. 


Today is also the Feast of the Visitation; when Our Lady made haste to her cousin Elizabeth to announce the amazing news of the Incarnation. Upon her arrival, Elizabeth speaks to her as "the mother of my Lord" ... it's one of my very favorite parts of the entire narrative. It is the story of two women coming together to give all glory to God. Wow. These women were exceptional yes but, ultimately, they are perfect examples of those who breathed deeply of the Holy Spirit and went about on their personal mission. No fear, no hesitation, no personal goals...just living out the movement of God in their lives. How grateful we should be to Our Lady for her "yes" and how quickly we should share our "yes" with others. 

Third, this is the 4th anniversary of my Consecration to Jesus through Mary. I think it was actually a reconsecration because it was my second or third. Yes, that's right. If you haven't Consecrated yourself, go get one of these 
this is the more traditional, prayer heavy one

this is a better choice for first-timers
then plan your Consecration day (helpful charts in the back) and get down to it. I'm not answering all the questions about "but isn't that Mary worship?" Go watch Fr. Gaitley's video lectures...he'll explain it all. For my part, I just want you to work through it and see all the amazing changes Our Lord can make in you, simply by giving yourself to His mother. She will lead you to Him in ways you have never known and help you to stay close even in the most trying situations. If you've made the Consecration, don't forget to reconsecrate yourself periodically, even every day, and go through the readings once a year or so. This is one of my new goals...join me.

So, let's inhale as often as we need to...when we find ourselves low on grace and the Holy Spirit. Inhale the scriptures; inhale the Mass; inhale silence and fasting. Whatever you need to do, call out for the Holy Spirit to come to your aid...in haste (these aren't just funny coincidences...really!)

I would be remiss (and my title would be meaningless) if I didn't also remind you (and myself) to exhale often. Yes, God is in control and yes, He will make all things good. We were blessed to go to Confession as a family yesterday and my very wise priest said, "God is always good...He can't be anything else, but that doesn't mean people and their free will can't do very bad things as well." 

I can assure you that was not him speaking...it was Him speaking. How do I know? Well, just that morning, after a week or so of prayer and right hope...of four people listening to the Holy Spirit and agreeing on the goodness that could only come from Him...suddenly and completely derailed by a fifth person who chose to listen to the Earthly voices. I'm not going to beat this person up too badly. I can pontificate about Mary and Elizabeth and everyone's "yes" but, honestly, it's hard to have the strength to stand up to worldly things and say "yes" to God when it might mean persecution for you. We're all called to be saints but many, many of us are too weak to be Saints. It's OK. God works with everyone where they are. We may, in time, gain our "S".

Which brings me back to the Consecration and the exhale. The news of this denial of something that seemed so clearly "of God" and the disappointment resulting for two people whom I love dearly... well, my reaction wasn't "Yes, God, thank you for this cross...allow me to carry it along with you and gain graces for myself and others." I did pray and will continue to pray for the person who didn't embrace their "yes" and for their strength in the future to take the difficult road when needed.

Other than that period of mercy, I acted like a baby for a while. I will say this; the "while" was shorter than it would have been 5 or 6 years ago. It's probably a little bit of aging (and realizing how disappointing people can be, myself included, because of our human weaknesses) but I'm certain that the bigger part is Our Lady reminding me to show mercy. She loves us so much. She wants us to live lives that will insure our future in heaven. She aches when we turn away from our mission. Loving our neighbors...even the trying ones...is part of our mission. 

Also, unlike 5 or 6 years ago, I knew what to do. Sacraments impart grace and so we approached the only Sacrament available (see above). Confession, when the sin is fresh, is a great gift. The burden is lifted almost immediately and, although there is still penance to do, it feels wonderful to turn in the right direction- back to God.

Today was a gift, beginning to end. We slept in, watched Mass as a family, then visited each of our three parishes to receive a Pentecost blessing. How wonderful to see Jesus in the Eucharist and know it's only two more days (God-willing) until we are again joined Sacramentally. 
One of our dear priests, blessing the cars who stop by. 
Tonight we took the ending hour of Adoration at our local parish. 

Again, pure joy, knowing that soon the separation of glass and monstrance will be no more. We will once again be directly in His presence. We are so blessed!

This year we had an extended Lenten fast. It has been difficult and long at times and yet so much good has come from it - so many extra hours with family because the added errands and activities were removed, the extra Masses and hours of Adoration, even the return to Mass with only the priest to distribute Communion. Perhaps, going back to some of the "old ways" and with fewer distractions, we will remember why we are here and Who is in charge. So go ahead and take a long, slow inhale...then exhale and get on with your mission. The world is depending on you.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Our first Sunday "in"

Were we quarantined last Sunday? I don't even remember. I guess not, but we went to Vigil Mass so I think we stayed in even though we didn't have to. Oh well, hindsight and all of that.

So, today was a week since everything in our known universe was cancelled. Luckily it's also Laetare Sunday - we're halfway through Lent!

From the entrance antiphon:

“Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exalt and be satisfied at her consoling breast.”

I know it seems like rejoicing is the last thing on peoples' minds. There is a rampant virus floating about, people are acting strangely (hoarding food and not really listening to mandates from the government), we are forced to watch Mass on our televisions instead of sitting in the pews. So, if you can't manage that level of "joy" right now, tuck it away until the day comes when this has all passed and we're back again to our regularly scheduled lives. 

That's in italics for a reason. The one thing that this week has been is unscheduled (except for the online classes - cue moaning from the kids involved). We have been floating somewhere between vacation and depression but definitely in a not-normal fog. The kids and I have been progressing through stomach flu, our washing machine has been broken, I haven't left the house in 6+ days, and in all of it I don't think I've raised my voice (except relating to one particular person and those of you with teens may be able to relate). Definitely not-normal. 

So, yesterday was Sunday and I've been reading about the fact that, not only should you be live-streaming Mass, you should also make an effort. In other words, don't just wander into the room and sit down; present yourself as you would (or even better than) you've been doing when attending Mass in person. So, we got up, had breakfast, then got dressed in Sunday clothes (this is a big deal after 6 days of sweats). 
pre-Mass instructions
I admit I've been enjoying the ability to just pop here and there for Mass each day. Today we're at a parish in our diocese, yesterday in Philadelphia...maybe Stockbridge or even Canada somewhere. It's going to fill my travel-void if this quarantine continues while we're supposed to be on pilgrimage!

Today we settled on our own St. Anthony's Chapel because, following the 11:30 Mass, they were going to have a procession and blessing with some special relics (St. Rocco!) to ask their intercession against COVID-19.

We went to St. Anthony's for Mass a few months ago and DH said, "this is definitely a Catholic's paradise - going to Mass among all of these Saints." He's right. It's so comforting to have them nearby, even via livestream, in the midst of life these days. 

The Mass was beautiful, with the Sanctus and Angus Dei, sung Gospel and a homily that included, "Usually the Lent that God gives us is much better than the one we choose for ourselves." Amen. The procession,  Litany, and prayers were a comfort to us who are currently fasting from the Eucharist. No matter where we find ourselves, we can remember that all we need do is invoke the Saints and angels and we are never alone.
After Mass the kids got to work. One of our dear priest-friends, who we met through our beloved Sisters of the Divine Redeemer, is celebrating his 60th anniversary of Ordination on Wednesday. What an amazing accomplishment. What a wonderful priest. He is old-school and not afraid to say what's what (he's also Slovak which makes that first part redundant). He calls me "Susan" in the most delightfully stern voice and always tells Gianni to "mind your mother and father". 

What do you give a priest who's had 59 years of Ordination anniversaries? We decided on prayer. A spiritual bouquet - more prayers for someone who has prayed for so many throughout his life. 
I totally reused a Valentine jar from years ago but it seemed to work. 

DH decorated the bag

For those who are worried...we called ahead, left the bag on the porch and rang the bell. As we were pulling away, Sister Ann opened the door and took the bag inside...
Let's pray for Fr. Ed and all of our priests. Those, like Fr. Ed, have worked hard their whole priesthood and now are at risk for the virus that is circulating. Those who are in active ministry are working and carrying the stress we're passing along to them. Pray for your priest by name today then pray for all the priests you've known and those you will never meet. Pray that Our Lady will keep them in her mantle and protect them. Ask that God open their hearts to be even more selfless during this time so that they might meet the needs of their flock and pray for them without ceasing.

We are blessed.