Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Resolve for 2010...

I love the time between Christmas and New Years. For me it has always been a kind of quiet, contemplative time. A time to sit in front of the fire with a much anticipated new book. A time to reflect on the past year and reevaluate goals for the new one.

Now that the school supplies have been broken in and well used, it's a time to break open a crisp new calendar, planner and journal. The unmarked pages lie full of hope and promise. Perhaps a colorful new pen and some stickers and stamps with which to decorate the record of a life. I know it will be another year where the pages of the calendar turn too quickly, the jobs in the planner will never get all crossed off, and the journal may not be written in as often as I'd like. But just for these few nights, I will reflect, and plan, and look forward joyfully to a fresh start.

I will try to be more realistic with my goals, flexible with my plans, more disciplined in my work.

I will worry less and pray more.

I will smile until I feel like smiling.

I will try a little harder to see and serve Jesus, especially in those I don't like.

I will sacrifice some of my excess and even, sometimes, some of my necessities, so that someone else may have basic comforts of food, shelter,clothing or education.

I will try to remember to make the best of every situation I find myself in, and if possible, to have fun with it. Even if others are determined that I should not.

I will play music, and read books, and walk in the woods.

I will share all these things with my children.

I will try to leave my little corner of the world a better place.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Catholics Come Home "Movie"


Civil Disobedience

It appears that very soon, Christians across the United States will be facing opportunity for civil disobedience on a scale that we have not experienced since the Vietnam War.

After the House passed their version of Health Care reform, eliminatng public funding for abortion at the demand of the people, the Senate has put abortion funding right back in to all of their options. And abortion is not the only issue. There is also the phasing out of medicare for the elderly, who have spent a lifetime already paying into that program; the danger of veterans losing their health care, which they often have to fight to get after fighting for our continued freedom; the possible "rationing" of services based on whether the government values the particular patient or not. The list goes on and on.

In theory, socialized medicine seems like a good idea - everyone gets health care. But in practice, there is always the danger of corruption. The unborn, elderly, special needs and "undesirables" are not protected. People are forced into treatments they have reasons of their own to refuse. Fines or jail time are threatened to those who cannot afford a plan and morally refuse to "go on the dole" (1930's talk for government aid). While I agree that the current system is not the best, more government control is not the answer.

One possible solution, Health Care Coops - like the financial credit unions - share in the expenses of members, and wield negotiating power with providers. Coops are formed around members' beliefs and ability to pay, so if one did not wish to fund someone else's elective plastic surgery, one would join a coop that did not pay for that. Unfortunately, too few coops exist to really offer an acceptable range of choices. The State of Washington offers an option for residents. There are Samaritan Ministries and Christian Care Medishare. What about our own Catholic Church? We used to run hospitals before the era of widespread malpractice abuse, why couldn't we set up health care coops based on our own principles?

But before we could even consider that route, we have to exercise our voices to our Senators over the next few weeks of their debates on health care.

I plead, let us rise up with one voice, united to our bishops - reject any plan that does not respect and protect life from conception to natural death!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bread in Abundance

Today's Mass readings speak of a richly generous God. Isaiah 25:6-10 "...the Lord of Hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines". Psalm 23 - need I quote? Matthew 15:29-37 is the story of Jesus feeding the 4000 (not including women and children). I grasped the point immediately: With 7 loaves and a few fish blessed by Jesus, the disciples fed the crowd and then gathered up 7 hampers full of leftovers. To me, this so obviously demonstrates God's abundant and generous love. He not only fills us, his love overflows and washes and consumes us. For me this is fact. He has demonstrated this to me over and over and over again in my life. Whether our feast was bread and butter sandwiches with water - and grateful for the butter to make the dry bread more palateable, or a Thanksgiving feast with all the trimmin's, God's gracious hand has provided.

The problem came when I read the meditation, written so carefully by - a human! It started out well enough, a little humor, a little historical background. Then I got distracted. It said Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother 77 times. Wait, I thought that was 70 times 7?! Then again - it said the disciples started out with 7 baskets - wait! I just read that, it said 7 loaves, not 7 baskets. I despise it when people misquote Scripture! It's a pet peeve, what can I say? I want to know what version they found it in and what chapter and verse. Mentally I slapped myself upside the head. Back off, cynical self. These are minor details. It's not like misquoting the words of Jesus and leading people astray or using them for corrupt purposes.

So I summon up my self discipline and return my mind to the original point of the readings. Trusting in the abundance of God. In good times and bad. We are more important to Him than even the birds of the air, who neither plant, nor gather in, yet look at how our Father provides for them. (Did I quote that right?) If it's small stuff, don't sweat it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wicked Halloween!

I frequently hear people refer to Halloween as a wicked or evil celebration. In fact, it is only in the past several centuries that some people have made it so. For most, it is merely a day to dress up in silly costumes and visit the neighbors begging for treats. The smiles I see on the faces of some of my neighbors, old and not so old, when the little ones come trick-or-treating, are priceless. They joyfully dole out sweets as parents silently calculate cavities. Or maybe that's just one of the pleasantries of small town life.

Granted, there are those who like to make this night a "high feast to the devil". All I can say is that there is and always has been sinfulness since the fall of Adam. Halloween, in the Catholic Church, began with trying to convert the various non-Christian peoples. Many had some kind of harvest festival involving the warding off of evil spirits. The church merely moved the Solemnity of All Saints to the following day, allowing the potential converts the practice of their custom on "All Hallows Eve" and then educating them about salvation with the Feast of All Saints the following day.

On All Saints Day, the Catholic Chuch celebrates the entering into eternal life of all those persons who, when on earth, strove to follow Christ. Including "canonized" saints like Francis of Assisi, and others, like perhaps someone you know.

The very next day is the Feast of All Souls, in Mexico, the "Day of the Dead". On this day, we Catholics pray for the souls of all who have died, especially those dear to us. It is said that with God there is no time, so prayers said even after a person's death can influence that dying soul's decision to accept Christ's mercy and attain final salvation.

What a blessed thought. What unfathomable mercy has our God! Praise and Glory to Him!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Our Lady of Sorrows

Every year on my birthday I look at the parish calender and see it there. The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. How apropos, I used to think, with an ungrateful heart. Let's have a pity party. I felt sorry for myself and what I percieved as my sorrowful life.

In recent years, I have come to feel blessed and honored instead. To share my special day with Our Lady in all her Blessed Motherhood. I received a little pamphlet in the mail once, that explained the seven sorrows.

Simeon's Prophecy - imagine bringing your baby to be baptized and some old coot comes up and says "oh, what a cute baby - a sword of sorrow will pierce your heart". And Mary pondered this.

The Flight into Egypt - just at the most vulnerable time in both thier lives, Jesus and Mary, with Joseph, have to flee the country to save Jesus' life. To have to leave all their friends, family, home and jobs and live in a foreign country, with a different language, for an indeterminate period of time.

The Loss in the Temple - what parent would not panic and be consumed with anxiety over the loss of their child for even a few hours, much less several days?

The Carrying of the Cross - to watch her son, of whom she must have been so proud, undergo such shame and humiliation; the precious life she had protected for so long, bleeding out of him. And she was powerless to do anything but stay near him and watch.

The Crucifixion - as far as we know, Mary was not privy to God's plan. What faith, what trust, to watch her son die a criminal's death, yet to stay near him, trusting that there WAS a plan, and that it would be eventually revealed.

The Taking Down from the Cross - what paralyzing grief she must have felt as she held her son for what she may have thought was the last time. What questions plagued her? What struggle did she overcome to stay strong and faithful?

The Burial of Jesus - in what must have been a moment of great despair for her, Mary had only her trust in God and her Son to cling to. Mercifully, we have Mary, Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit, and all the angels and saints to comfort and strengthen us to go on.

Her trust, her faith, her strength in all her uncertainty, trials, sufferings, and misunderstandings. And her joy! The glory of her risen Son, and her special mission to lead us closer to Him. What a woman to look up to and emulate! What an honor to share my birthday with her feast!

Friday, July 17, 2009

CatholicVote releases Life...part3

Come Aside and Rest Awhile

I went to daily Mass with my parents the other day. They still go to the same church I grew up in, though the building has changed. The readings and homily were about the Sabbath. The Old Testament reading about how the Jews were to keep the Passover, and the Gospel about the Jewish leaders reprimanding Jesus' apostles for pulling grain heads on the sabbath because they were hungry - this was considered "work", not allowed on the sabbath. Father Ted's teaching on that day's Word addressed the preoccupation we tend to have these days with work. How we rarely take time to rest anymore. Frequently we don't rest until illness or disability overtake us. We're in a hurry to fulfill our Sunday "obligation" so we can get back to work. How even sometimes priests will rush through the Mass to get people out in a timely manner.

How often I have complained about this very thing when attending Masses in the "big city". I've called it the Speed Mass. To me, there is a very mechanical feel to it, a seeming lack of reverence. I am so grateful that some of these same priests have since slowed the pace a bit. After all, those who come to daily Mass are really there by choice, and not because of "obligation". Also addressed in that day's homily was this sense of "obligation". For years we were taught that Sunday Mass was a requirement, and that missing it was a mortal sin. Well, it still is, but see it through the teaching of Father Ted: rest is a natural part of the rhythm of life. Rest is necessary in order to keep working. We are given this great blessing of rest and spiritual refreshment time one day a week.

My thoughts on this - someone bigger than our boss says we need a day off once a week, to relax and refresh our minds, rest our bodies. Can we refrain just one day a week from unnecessary work and come together as community to give thanks and praise to our Creator? Love and support to one another? Not "obligation", but a joy and pleasure. A treat. One day to clear our minds so that we can think better the rest of the week? One day to rest our bodies (or maybe to exercise our sedentary ones) so that we can work better the other six? Is it more important to make money in the short term by working (for money) on Sunday? Or is it better to make just that one day holy, to care for our bodies and minds and souls, for better health in the long run, and eternal life at the end of our mortal days?

I spent many years working on the Sabbath. I see now I had other options. It took more years than I will admit to here for me to come to the conclusion that I will keep Sunday holy. Since that time, Mass has not ever been an "obligation" for me. It has been joyfully anticipated and gladly celebrated. I jealously guard my Sunday rest time, and allow myself the indulgence of an afternoon spent reading or lying around. Of course, there does come the occasion when I have to round up goats that have escaped from their enclosure, or tend to a sick animal, family member or friend. But Jesus addresses that issue in later Gospel readings. Today He asks us to "come aside and rest awhile".

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Walking with St. Francis of Assisi

This is soooo cool and inspiring. 16 Franciscan friars walking from Virginia to Washington D.C. Depending, in the spirit of St. Francis, on the kindness and generosity of those they meet along the way. Check it out here www.friarwalk.com and here http://tinyurl.com/dksy7q.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My Baptism Day

On this Friday, during Lent, when I am supposed to be fasting, I look at the calendar and am reminded that today is the anniversary of my baptism into the Catholic faith. Also, incidentally, my half-year birthday. Either way, good enough reason to celebrate.

On this day in 1965, my mother, newly widowed, and godparents stood before Father Albert Piekarski in the church of St. Augustine in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and promised to teach me and model for me the joys and the discipline of being a disciple of Jesus as a Catholic Christian. I never really got to know my godparents, as mom was just coming back from California after burying my dad, and taking grandma and me back out with her to live. I did have many fine substitute godparents. Grandma, a Jehovah's Witness, daily took me onto her lap and read the Bible to me. I was fascinated with the "red letter version", where Jesus' words are printed in red and began reading long before I started school.

I do not remember learning to pray, but some of my earliest memories are of saying my bedtime prayers with mom. We always wore our Sunday best to Mass when I was little, complete with chapel veil for mom, and a little round piece of lace that we little girls wore whose name escapes me, for me. I had little white gloves and a little white covered basket "purse" for my hankie and if I misbehaved there was no crying room for me - I got taken out for a spanking and solitary confinement in the old Rambler.

Our parish school did not have kindergarten at that time, so mom had an extra year before she chose to sacrifice a good portion of her paycheck to send me to Catholic school. There was no tuition assisstance, no tax credit for school of choice, and on top of all that, there were uniforms and shoes and stockings to buy, extra jackets and sweaters for my sickly self, lunch boxes and lunches (no school lunches then), myriad school supplies (my favorite), and miscellaneous for special activities, band, field trips, etc. We were fortunate to have mostly nuns teaching us at that time, nearly all of whom seemed to love their work, and us. You have not lived until you have played a vigorous game of four-square or kick-ball with a nun in full habit. There was a saint for every situation and then there were angels! There were plenty of priests and we had several daily Masses, special school Masses, regular confession times where there were actually priests waiting in the confessionals for you. There were all kinds of feast days. Anyone who desired could help with reading, singing, playing music, serving (boys only back then). Of course there were many volunteers because it meant getting out of class for practice! We were taught to have a very personal relationship with Jesus, Mary, the angels (especially our guardian angel) and the saints. Jesus, God the Son, our loving brother, was the big man, but it always helped to have intercessors and friends on your side up there to put in a good word for you.

Of course there were the less enchanting times, but the whole point of it is learning to draw on the strength of the good stuff to get through the bad stuff. We Catholics call it GRACE. We receive it in the sacraments - in baptism, holy communion, confession, confirmation, holy anointing for all; matrimony and holy orders for those called to that life. We receive it at Mass. We receive it at those odd times when God touches our hearts and fills us up. And it all started with Baptism.

So after Stations of the Cross tonight, there will be a meatless feast, and maybe a teeny little cake with a candle on it, in remembrance of my birth into Jesus' awesome life.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I Believe in Angels

Oh my. Nearly a month since I've blogged. Not like nothing's been happening, or that I haven't had about a hundred opinions on a thousand different issues. Catholic schools, pro-life, parental rights, near fatal accidents, I have enough in the back of my mind to keep blogging non-stop for at least a month. That's not going to happen. I will start with a little bit about what's been keeping me otherwise occupied...

So with it being winter, my many animals are eating alot of hay, and hay is getting very expensive. At times like this, when sane people are getting rid of animals, I am shopping around for cheaper hay. Within a 200 mile radius. I found it, 200 miles away. When it is cheaper to drive 400 miles round trip, including the gas and motel room, to get enough hay for a month I have to ask myself, "Is there something wrong with this picture?" I have had successful dealings with this hay broker in the past, so trusting that the trip would be worth it, I checked out the truck and readied it, then tackled the old utility trailer. Problems there. Between the goats and chickens playing hide and seek underneath it, the wiring was trashed. The license plate got lost the last time we loaned it out. The hitch is oversized, heavy and involves oversized and heavy stabilizer bars. Much better to borrow the neighbor's trailer and avoid all this, right? The adventure begins.

I brought the borrowed trailer home without incident. Inspecting the ball and hitch, they looked properly matched. Loaded truck and started down the road. Luckily the first leg of my journey was down a state highway at a time of day with very little traffic. The trailer was a little bouncy, so I slowed my speed, continually checking it in the rearview mirrors. Suddenly I felt a tug, and looked back to see the trailer swerving. "Oh God!" I repeated my earnest prayer. I hit the brakes, the trailer slammed the truck and bounced back. Unbelievably, the chain was still holding it on the truck. I sped up a bit and began to back off my speed more slowly, all the while inching to the edge of the highway, ready to pull off whenever I got the trailer to stop. Soon I was successfully off the road and safe. I watched as 2 small cars and a pickup truck passed me. My prayer changed to "Thank you God!" as I began my post trauma shaking and tears. I discovered that the tow ball was a size too small, that's why the trailer bounced off. Thank God it was before there was a load of hay on it. All problems were remedied and hay was brought back to the farm. I've since made another hay run, with the old utility trailer - fewer problems.

The fact that the chain held the trailer amazes and baffles me. I have lost a lighter trailer and chain just around my farm. This one could have caused a major accident, possibly fatal. I believe angels saved us all that day, and kept that trailer from flying into several cars.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Grand Canyon Caverns

One of our favorite day trips is to the Grand Canyon Caverns in Peach Springs, Arizona. About 17 miles west of Seligman on Route 66, it is actually about 3 hours from Grand Canyon National Park. The Caverns get their name from the source of the fresh air that flows through them - the Grand Canyon, which is actually about 200 miles further up the road on Route 66, then I-40, then Route 64.

Being 200 feet under the earth is a leap of faith for me, I don't like to be enclosed and "trapped". But I have never had a problem with the caverns. Perhaps it is because of the airflow. We got to descend in an elevator. Original tourists, in the 1920's, got to pay 25 cents to hang off a rope with a lantern. This trip, the whole trail was open. We got to walk through all the rooms on the first and second levels, including where the giant sloth is reconstructed. One room is loaded with C rations dating from World War II: barrels and boxes of food and water, and one roll of toilet paper. Hmm... There are several more levels beneath that have not been fully explored or excavated. The privately owned caverns depend on paying their own way in developing their potential. What? No government bailouts? You gotta admire that.

These could be earlier visitors - but aren't those battery powered headlamps? In addition to the giant sloth, a popular attraction on the tour is the mummified bobcat, right next to the perfectly preserved wedding bouquets. Several weddings have taken place in the caverns. Guides will explain that the caverns were once underwater caves, and tease your imagination with visions of the creatures who might have lived there. They will point out several ancient (now dry) waterfalls, and as you leave, offer you petrified ham and eggs. Don't overdress for the tour, the caverns stay 55 degrees F year round. And don't forget you tennis shoes in the summer - you're not allowed on the tour with sandals.