Monday, May 1, 2017

Just So You Know...

Well, for some time now, my posts have been at fairly long intervals. I think the time has come to take an official, long break from posting at all. 

Life seems awfully busy! 

My daughter's wedding is in just two and a half weeks! I lie awake at night sometimes wondering if we've forgotten anything. But mostly I've let my daughter worry about that.

Also, I'll soon be spending time taking care of The Fiance's children, as I did last summer; but this year, they will officially be my grandchildren. And The Fiance will be my son-in-law. Now, there's a beginnings, as it were, all the way around.

My husband's recovery from surgery etc is going well, but he'll be having another surgery (hernia repair) in mid-June. 

And other stuff...

So, farewell for now! 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Wiping the Face of Jesus

The other day, I went in to the Cathedral to change the antependium for Palm Sunday, and heard singing as I entered. At first my heart sunk, because I had been previously subjected to having to listen to bad music being practiced while I worked on the altar. But as I came into the church, I realized it was someone practicing chant! It was one of the Kyries.

The woman who was singing was standing way at the back of the church. No one else was present. I walked down the aisle to find out who she was. We chatted briefly, though I didn’t find out as much as I would have liked, because we both had things we were intent on doing. I asked her if she was a parishioner, and she said no, just an occasional visitor. Darn! I was hoping there was another parishioner who would help me push for some chant in the Mass at the Cathedral! She told me she is just learning the chant. She has a very good voice.

We talked a little about the state of the Church, and about the state of the liturgy in most parishes. She told me that there are a couple of things she tries to focus on when she is at a “bad” Mass, and one really struck a chord with me. She said she thinks about Veronica offering the cloth to Jesus to wipe his face. She talked about how awful the face of Jesus must have looked then – the blood, the spittle, the sweat, the dirt…the bruises and broken nose, the swelling: an almost unrecognizable face.

“The Mass is the face of Jesus to us,” she said, “and they have done terrible things to it. It’s ugly to look at. ‘There was no comeliness in him…He was bruised for our transgressions.’ So I think of Veronica wiping His face. I think of my participation in the Mass as a way to imitate what Veronica was doing.”

I liked that thought, and told her so. Then I said, “Well, I must get back to my antependium…”

“There! You see, your antependium work is your way of wiping the face of Jesus,” she told me.

I liked that thought, too.

May your Tridduum be blessed, and may we all comfort Jesus by wiping His holy face, especially when we see it beaten, bloody, and bruised in bad liturgy.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

God Has a Sense of Humor

I don’t think God engages in April Fool’s jokes, but He certainly proves His sense of humor time and again!

Long ago, I was the parish secretary at my current parish. I had been Catholic for just one year when I was chosen for the position. That is actually a joke in itself: I was given the job because the pastor couldn’t find anyone else to take it! It turned out to be a job I enjoyed more than any I had ever had before. But while I got along with the pastor for most of the time he was there, by the time he was transferred I had learned some things about him that drove a wedge between us. Interestingly, just two weeks before his departure, he was extolling my virtues and telling me he would recommend to the new pastor that I be given a raise; and 2 days before he left, I was his number one enemy, and he actually told me not to come to work for the remaining days of his tenure.

We later made amends, and I try not to harbor resentment against him. I haven’t seen him in at least 8 years.

My spiritual director is fond of telling me that “God writes straight with crooked lines.” And indeed, it is interesting at times to look back on my life and see how all the twists and turns resulted in bringing me “straight” to the truths of the faith, and into contact with various people who've had a big impact on my life.

Well…about 2 years ago, the wheels started turning which would bring my best friend Liz – we met in California when our children were playing T-ball on the same team, and we have been part of each other’s lives ever since -  to live in a town only 2 hours away from me. We were both happy that we would be able to visit in person more often now. But it was quite a circuitous route that brought her and her husband from California to Guatemala to Texas to Idaho, and it was filled with the little things that make you say, “Huh?!” and realize that God’s hand is on the steering wheel.

Liz and her husband found a good parish with an orthodox priest and a tradition-minded assistant pastor (who has been ordained only one year, and just happens to have received training in saying the EF Mass). Liz approached both pastors to ask them to consider purchasing antependia from my “Altarations” business. The assistant pastor was enthusiastic, and the pastor was open to the idea.  Their chapel has had a violet antependium and ambo frontal for most of Lent, and the big altar in the church will have a yellow-gold antependium for Easter. I’ve been to the parish a couple of times to work on the project and have talked with both priests, but mostly the assistant pastor, who is quite traditional in his outlook.

Then came yesterday…and my friend mentioned something about how some days you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck. So I sent her a private message asking, “Rough day?”

“I’m afraid to tell you,” she replied.  

What the ???!!!!

Turns out, she had just found out her newly-found beloved pastor is being moved! That was enough of a shocker for one day, but there was more. She said, “Guess who will be the new pastor?” I thought it an odd question, since I do not live in Idaho; and I know only one priest (other than the two at her parish) in Idaho. I know him because he used to be in our parish, and I was his secretary – yes, the priest who asked me not to show up to work for the last day or two of his tenure there!

So I said, “I only know one priest over there: Fr. R.”

“Yep,” she said.

No. Really? Seriously? Really?!?! What are the chances of that happening?! Out of all the priests in Idaho, it’s this one? Out of all the parishes in Idaho, that particular priest is being transferred to the only one – the ONLY one – where I have any connection whatsoever to any of the parishioners or priests?!  My mind was completely boggled.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t believe in coincidences!

Liz and I noted to each other how odd this whole situation is – all the way from her move to Idaho in the first place, the way things played out in her ending up at that parish, to my becoming involved, at least indirectly, in that parish.  What in the world is God up to? What is our role in Fr. R’s life? Because I have no doubt I will have some contact with him; the traditional young priest will most likely stay at that parish for the next year. Might we – Liz, her husband (who is a deacon), the traditionalist priest, and me – have a part to play in the conversion of Fr. R? (In charity, I must say that I have no idea what changes might have already been worked in Fr. R. However, given his environment, and the fact that he chose to go to that diocese, suggests that he has likely become more of a “liberal progressive” than he was. And his parish website states multiple times that “all are welcome!”, which as you know has become a code for … well, a less-than-orthodox viewpoint.)

In the end, we agreed that we should give Fr. R a chance, and that we of course must pray for him.  And we will do both.

Just thinking about it makes me chuckle. God really does have a sense of humor!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Friday, March 31, 2017

More Adventures in Hospitalization

Just when you least expect it…
My husband’s recovery was going quite well, we thought, and then he ended up at the ER again on Wednesday night. He hadn’t had any real severe symptoms – just a general feeling of low energy for a couple of days, and a little discomfort that he attributed to the healing process. But on Wednesday he kept going hot and cold, and when he finally took his temperature, it was 101 degrees. He called the surgeon, who suggested he go to the clinic and get checked out.

They did urine and blood tests, and he came home to await the blood results. His white cell count was elevated, and they told him to go to the ER. So off we went, where we did a lot of waiting till they finally did a CT scan. The scan showed an abscess where the small intestine meets the colon…or something like that. The doctor reading the scan said there was a perforation, but my husband’s surgeon discounted that, as he’d looked at it up close a personal during the surgery 5 weeks ago.

The plan was to stick a needle in and drain the abscess under the guidance of the CT machine; but that required a hospital with more technological resources than our rural hospital has. So my husband was transported to Boise, ID, about a two-hour drive away. The next morning, the procedure to drain the abscess was successful; my husband’s temperature returned to normal; and his white blood cell count has been steadily dropping. There are a couple of other tests the doctors want to do, though, so he has to stay in Boise; hopefully he’ll come home Sunday night or Monday morning.

I went to see him on Thursday, and he looked good, felt good, and was hoping they would let him eat real food soon (they did).

But while I was there, a woman came in and introduced herself as Mary, and said she was a "eucharistic minister" (which of course is the wrong term anyway! She is an “extraordinary minister of Holy Communion"). She asked my husband if he wanted to receive Holy Communion. I cringed inside, and I wonder if it showed on the outside as well! But she was looking at my husband, not me.

He said he had just eaten, and so he didn’t want to receive; and she started to tell him that it was okay, that he was dispensed from the fast because of being hospitalized. But wasn’t willing for this “event” to take place in my presence, so I said to my husband, “But do you want to receive from…uh…not-a-priest?” And then he seemed to remember that I had said I had contacted a priest and asked him to visit; and so my husband told Mary the Eucharistic Minister no thanks, he thought a priest was coming to see him and that he would receive Holy Communion from him. We did thank her for coming, though, and I said to my husband as she was leaving, "Well, at least that's more than we ever got at home!" At our local hospital, no one contacted my husband from the Church. Of course, if I had asked, the priest would have come, I have no doubt. But I think it used to be that the priest or someone at the office would check for Catholic patients, and someone would make a visit and ask about the spiritual needs of the Catholic patients. It is a Catholic hospital, after all. For what that’s worth these days.

Looking back on it, I think having a lay person show up to offer Holy Communion is a horrible practice; many people will say "yes" out of peer pressure, not wanting to look like a bad Catholic; and many will receive unworthily. Not to mention the fact of receiving from a lay person who also is a woman! Even a Novus Ordo deacon does not have his hands consecrated to handle the Holy Eucharist! Having been around the extraordinary form of the Mass as much as I have, I’ve become very sensitive to the hands issue. Even in the Novus Ordo, it really bothers me to see the priest not keeping his thumb and forefinger together after he consecrates the Host; that practice is not require in the NO, but why not?! It is still a consecrated Host! It is still Really and Truly Jesus! The same dangers of profanation apply. Etc.

In the case of a lay person coming to administer Holy Communion, there is not only the chance that the Eucharist will be received unworthily; it seems to me that the Eucharist is also being offered unworthily – being handled by unconsecrated hands.

Besides that, what about deacons?! It is a task for deacons to bring communion to the sick. Of course, in the NO, the deacon’s hands are not consecrated, but still. Today when I was talking to my husband on the phone, I heard someone come into his room, and he paused to see what was needed. I heard a female voice explain that she was a “Eucharistic minister” and ask if he wanted to receive Communion. Another woman! Aaargh. He declined again. Where are the deacons?

It seems to me, a better practice would be for a priest to show up and ask people in the hospital if they want him to hear their confession! I would think that hospital patients might be a bit more inclined to be thinking about their ultimate end, and they might therefore be more inclined to do something that would help them get to their desired destination!

Well, that is the state of the Church, I guess. It does make me sad, though.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

People in My Path, Placed by God

I’m sure you wonder, as I do sometimes, why God has placed a particular person in your life. Sometimes, it seems they are there to test your patience; sometimes, it seems that they are acting as a guardian angel surrogate; sometimes, the reason remains a mystery. And even when we think we know the reason why, we may not be correct in our assumption.

Here are a few whose paths have crossed mine recently:

A woman I knew in high school – barely – sent me a friend request on Face Book some time ago. (Another woman from our graduating class of 1971 created a “group” on FB, and I am a member of that group. Many of the others have “friended” me, but they are mostly politically liberal-progressive non-Catholics, and I have “unfollowed” most of them so I don’t see their liberal progressive nonsense.) Anyway…this particular woman who wanted to be friends is a lesbian, and I knew that. I figured her political views would be liberal (they are), and that she would quickly find that we didn’t have much in common. But she wanted to be friends, so I figured, why not? At least she would be exposed to some non-liberal stuff.

Well, she objected to something I said against abortion; we had a short back-and-forth on that. Then I posted about not going to see “Beauty and the Beast” with my almost-step-granddaughter because of the highly touted “gay moment”. That just irritates me. The lesbian woman – let’s call her Lana – objected. She went into all the gay stuff about how “normal” it is to be gay, how she was “born that way”, how all reparation therapy is evil and barbaric (apparently some of it is, but I know there are legitimate and effective forms of therapy for those who want to overcome their disordered sexual desires), that a Disney representation would be so nice for children and adults who are ashamed of their homosexual desires, etc., etc. I addressed those things in a couple of exchanges, and then I decided to “unfriend” her, because I didn’t want her seeing my posts and arguing in illogical ways about the stuff I posted.

And I let her know that I was doing it. I sent her a private message, and told her that I was unfriending her, and why. And I said I was open to discussing things via messenger. Since then, I have had numerous exchanges with her, and I feel like I am butting my head against a brick wall. My stomach tightens when I see there is a message from her. I am tempted to completely ignore her. But there is something that keeps drawing me into “debate” with her. She calls me names like “homophobe”, and wonders how I can be so stupid about homosexuality. She asserts that she knows more than I do on the subject because she wrote a thesis on it. She reads things into what I say that aren’t there, and puts words in my mouth (such as, “you think we’re weird” – no, I didn’t say that).

So, it’s a trial. I asked her why she even keeps trying to have this conversation with me; she didn’t answer that. I asked if she believes in truth, or relativism. “Your truth is not other people’s truth, and vice versa,” she said. Well, we can’t really have a conversation then, can we? But I’m still trying. For some reason, this woman is in my life. Something impels me to continue the discussion, even though it seems fruitless. But if she stops writing, so will I!

Another person who crossed my path is not someone I have actually met or even talked or written to. It was just a poor mother in our town who went out one day and plastered a little flyer all over the main streets. The flyer said, in essence, that her 19-year-old son was into meth, that she loved him and wanted him saved from that, and that his father was supplying him with drugs. She wrote, “I am a mother begging, please please do not use, sell, or give my son drugs. His family loves him. We cannot lose him to overdose, disease, suicide, violence, insanity, prison – all the things that come with drugs.” At the bottom of the typed flyer was a handwritten note that said, “Have you ever tried to save someone you love?” I shed a few tears for this woman, and have been praying for her and her son.

It was my hiking friend who alerted me to this flyer, and I alerted The Fiancé, who is a police officer. He contacted the woman, and I don’t know what has happened from there. But I thanked him for making the effort, and he said, “My mom did something like that for both of my brothers.” He understands, and she was at least comforted by his initial visit. I know he will follow up, and perhaps you can add your prayers to mine for this family.

A third person is one whom I have known since she was 2 years old, but I have had no real contact with her since we moved to Oregon in 2003. She is the daughter of my friend Pam who died when she was struck by a car a little over a year ago. It was this daughter who let me know that Pam had died, and we became “friends” on Face Book. I watch her from afar, with a sad heart. She has so much to overcome, and she has overcome a lot of it, in some ways. But she lives an immoral lifestyle without knowing it’s really wrong, I think. And some of the things she says break my heart, and I wish so much that I could have made a bigger difference in her life. Recently, she posted a meme that said something about wanting to marry just one man, have kids who all have the same father (she has two little ones by different fathers, and she’s never been married), and have it be forever. Or something like that. But her comment was the killer: “I just want whatever will bring me happiness.” She wants to be happy, and has no idea how that happens. I am pretty sure she doesn’t really know what true happiness is.

The other day, this same young woman wrote about her mom. I can’t find her post right now, but it was along the lines of, “I can’t believe you’re gone. I lost you way too young. I love you, mom.” And Pam was a woman the authorities said wasn’t a good mom, and that both of her daughters should be permanently removed from her custody.  That was prevented. And her daughters, now adults, believed she was the perfect mom. Might they have had different outcomes if they’d been adopted by a higher-functioning, economically advantaged family? Maybe. Well, certainly it would have been different. But would it have been different? Those girls loved their mom, and their mom loved them and did everything she could to give them the best life she could offer.  I watch this one daughter struggle along, and feel a little helpless to do anything substantive for her. I need to increase my prayers for her.

So there are three people whose paths have crossed mine. I hope I am doing what God wants me to do with them!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Best Laid Plans

Just when you think everything is going smoothly…just when you have finally organized your life with a list or two…another wrench is thrown into the works! God has a plan, right? He lets those wrenches come flying your way for a purpose, right? It’s what makes life an adventure.

I wrote in my last post that I had taken my husband to the ER, but that it turned out not to be an emergency. Well, two nights later, he again complained of severe abdominal pain, and off we went to the ER again – a little earlier in the evening, this time. At the ER, they decided to do a CT scan and some other stuff. My husband encouraged me to leave him there while he went through the procedures and awaited the results, so I went to visit our daughter for a bit.

A couple of hours later, he called to say that the news was not good. The immediate problem was still not the hernia, but it had caused the problems. The doctors suspected that the hernia had entrapped a portion of his bladder and his bowel…not a good thing. They also suspected, from the scan, that he had a perforated colon. They recommended immediate emergency surgery.

Well…we weren’t really expecting that!

While we were listening to the surgeon (a young man who looked to be all of 16 years old!) explain what had to be done, a thought passed through my mind: we should call the priest and have him come so that my husband could have confession and the anointing of the sick before the surgery. I did not act on this thought. I looked at the faces of the surgeon, my daughter, the Fiancé, the nurse…and it seemed to busy and distracting to speak to my husband about calling the priest. And the demons whispered, “It’s 11pm; probably the priest won’t even answer the phone. You don’t even know if there is an emergency number to call at the parish. It’ll be okay…just let it go.” Sadly, I listened to them. They took my husband into surgery at midnight, with the surgeon saying that he was 99% sure there was a perforated colon, and that surgery would take as long as 4-5 hours.

I went home and went to bed – exhausted but restless, of course; I thought about emergency surgery, and infection, and death. I kicked myself for not having called the priest. And I prayed and prayed, begging God to spare my husband’s life since he had not had the advantage of the anointing of the sick.

Then I forced myself to lie down and close my eyes, and I did in fact fall asleep. My phone rang around 2:30am; my first thought was that this was way too soon for the surgery to be over. Then the surgeon told me that surgery was successful, and there was no sign of anything being perforated! That’s why the surgery didn’t take as long – he had not had to remove any of the colon. This was very good news, and the surgeon was very pleased, as were all of the rest of us!  There was, however, massive infection, which the doctor had taken care of; the hernia would still have to be repaired at a later date.

I went back to sleep, and got up at my usual time to go and see my husband in the hospital. The first thing we talked about was the fact that we had not called the priest. My husband said he also had thought about it, but things were moving so fast…we got swept up in the worldly aspect of the whole thing. We both expressed our gratitude to God that we were sitting there together in the hospital, with my husband having come through the surgery just fine. We also were amazed at the miracle of his not having a perforated bowel. And apparently that miracle was not lost on the surgeon, who admitted his surprise that he had not found the damage he had expected. We hope and pray that this is a strong witness to the surgeon about the power of prayer and the mercy of God (I do not know anything about his religious views, but I do know he is not Catholic).  We also hope that The Fiancé sees the power of God at work in all of this.

My husband had to spend 5 days in the hospital on IV antibiotics. He didn’t complain, but I know it was torture for him! He is a person who doesn’t sit still, and for 5 days there was “nothing” he could do. He went for walks, though! He was so grateful that know bowel was removed and that he did not have a colostomy, that he decided not to complain about anything else!

He’s been home now, for a week. He still “can’t do anything”, and he’s become a little more vociferous about being bored. He knows it will be a long healing process, and that as soon as he is healed enough, the surgeon wants to do the hernia surgery. That will likely be in the first week or so of April. So, in the meantime, I am the chief horse feeder and stall cleaner…not my favorite jobs. But you now what? It’s Lent! And I think this is a very good Lenten penance.  It will be a daily chore from two weeks ago till May. It will not go away!

There are many spiritual lessons in all of this. I’m still digesting them.  But clearly, God’s providence was, and continues to be, quite evident.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Making a List

Once upon a time, I was a time management fanatic, of sorts. I had a planner; I prioritized; I checked off the items that were completed, and forwarded the ones that weren’t.

I haven’t done that in a long, long time.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally had to make a “to-do” list. Not only did I have a list of things to do, I had categories. I think that might be the “too many irons in the fire” routine. At any rate, I had my list separated into “house”, “chapel”, Altarations orders, wedding stuff, autistic step-grandchild-to-be stuff, and “other”. To be honest, not too many items have been checked as completed, but at least I have a more organized view of what needs to be done.

When unpacked, the volume of fabric and
trim is overwhelming!
The orders…wow…I haven’t ever had so many orders to complete at one time. There are three orders for rose antependia. There’s one for a black antependium. There was a pending order for a violet antependium, which I have completed, as of two days ago. There are a couple of miscellaneous other smaller items.

Despite the list, I still have had trouble falling asleep a couple of nights, as I mull over the things I must get done, and when I must complete them. My brain starts spinning out of control, with a thought process along these lines: “Gotta get a copy of the wedding rite. Ash Wednesday is sooner than I thought. When can I deliver that violet antependium? St. Stephen's tabernacle veil...ugh, that's hard. Oh...need a long linen cloth to go over the violet antependium. I know which readings I want for the wedding; should I push the issue? What are we gonna do with our little autistic guy at the wedding? Wait, how long is that other altar? Oh, wait! I have to help my friend pick up his new motorcycle on Tuesday! How do I get myself into these things?"

A casualty of the snow load...
And in the midst of that semi-organized chaos that has become my life, my husband wanted me to take him to the ER the other night. He will need hernia surgery, but it turned out that we weren’t facing an emergency situation after all, thanks be to God! But as for his daily chore of cleaning the horse stall, which is full of giant puddles, melting snow, and patches of ice, he’s out of commission; and that means I take over. I don’t mind doing it for his health, of course, but it is just one more thing to work into my schedule.

That schedule, of course, is comprised largely of liturgical prayer and private devotions, and all the other stuff has to fit into the cracks of time in between praying the hours of the Divine Office. The temptation is to cut short the prayer time in order to get a little more work done on any particular project. Actually, the temptation more often goes the other way: extend the time working on a project, and then end up having to cut the prayer time short. Once I am working on a project, I sometimes find it difficult to stop. Ora et labora, yes...but it is sometimes difficult to strike the balance between the two!

At least the snow is melting!
Surely, this is Satan’s joy: to see a person who is striving to maintain her spiritual life become distracted with more worldly concerns. Lent is almost upon us, of course, and while I usually look forward to that penitential season, this year I have some apprehensions. The Lenten practices I have adopted are not easy for me, and the more stressed I am with worldly concerns, the less inclined I am to do the hard stuff. But I will make an additional effort to keep my Rule.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.