Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas is Coming...

The snow keeps on comin'!
I vacillate between great joy and a bit of depression and sadness.

I love Advent and the sense of anticipation it engenders in me. The readings at Vigils are beautiful and powerful. The prayers at Mass are exceptionally rich, it seems. I love having the Advent wreath on our table and lighting the candles at dinner time. 

And then there's the liturgical life of our parish...which is impoverished. 

This year, there will be no night-time Mass. Not at midnight, not even at 10pm, not even at 8 pm. Nope. Just the 4:30pm Mass on Christmas Eve, which in past years has been billed as the "Children's Mass". I don't think it is called that now, but I also don't think it has changed any. That Mass is usually packed, and I'm sure there are quite a few "Christmas-and-Easter" Catholics in attendance, as well as non-Catholics from the local community who like a little entertainment on Christmas Eve.

Our choices for Mass, then, are the 4:30 Mass (Nooooooo. I cannot bring myself to attend.), or the Sunday morning 9:30 Mass. That one will include plenty of guitar-strumming, though one can always hope the tambourine will remain silent.  The bishop will be at the Sunday morning Mass for sure, and probably the 4:30 as well, though I don't know for sure. 

That leaves us with the 11:30am Christmas Mass at the mission church. Well, maybe they won't be playing CD's this time; in the past, they have just sung standard Christmas carols. But I'm telling you, if they break into "Feliz Navidad" (because the Hispanics, ya know), I will be this close to walking out. Though I probably won't. Or if I do, I'll return when they are done.

Maybe I sound like Scrooge. Bah, humbug! Well, if you have a lovely Christmas Mass to attend - hopefully one in the extraordinary form - then please say a little prayer for me! I will sing the Office in my little chapel and try to focus on that. I will also sing the propers for the Christmas Masses, just because I can, even if there is no Mass to go along with them. Singing Gregorian chant almost always lifts my spirit!

Well, maybe things will be different next year.  But for this year, Merry Christmas to all of you who read this! 

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Monday, December 12, 2016

An Anniversary in Advent

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is the anniversary date of my profession of my  
personal private vow. This year was my 10th anniversary of that vow. However, since the vow is personal and private, the celebration of its anniversary is also private - but still significant, I think! 

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is the Marian feast on which I usually renew my De Montfort consecration to Mary, as well. I first made that consecration before I was even Catholic! A friend recommended the devotion to me, lo, these 15 years ago. And that means that next Easter will be my 15th anniversary of being received into the Church. 

Even though I've renewed the Marian consecration every year, I must admit that some years I am perhaps a bit lackadaisical in keeping up with the readings and prayers over the 33 days of preparation. This year, probably because it was in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of my vow, I was determined to pray and read with extra effort at attention, reverence and devotion.  And I was given a great consolation in the form of a deepening of my devotion to and appreciation of Our Blessed Mother.

We've had quite a bit of snow here
 in the last week.
This photo is from a few days ago...
there's more now. But you get the idea.
Another great consolation came to me in my own vocation as mother: my daughter went to confession last Saturday! I was so relieved, as she has missed Sunday Mass a few times with no excuse whatsoever, and I had been nudging her toward confession for months. We also went to Mass together that night, at with some additional urging, she received Holy Communion...for the first time in I don't know when. She was so reluctant, though...and I said, "It's not supposed to be torture!" But to her, she said, it was, because she feels angry and resentful towards our parish priest. Well, I can relate to that!  In the end, she overcame her distaste of the minister in order to receive the sacrament, and I am sure it did her good! I noticed that the next day her mood was the best it's been in a long, long time.

This whole escapade with my daughter made me sad, too. I'm sad that I didn't do a better job of catechizing her...but you can only give what you have, I didn't have as much to give her when she was young as I do now. She is not as willing to receive it now, though; I hope that will change. I am also sad that our Church doesn't do more to catechize all of us. Everything is so watered down. Our faith happens on Sunday, for most people, it seems; even in my own family! Case in point: since I was out of town and didn't give reminders to my husband and daughter, they both completely forgot about going to Mass on December 8! My husband was pretty embarrassed by his omission, but both husband and daughter defensively justified their mistake by saying "I didn't mean to". My spiritual director pointed out to me, though, that there is a "sin of negligence". The more we are attuned to the liturgical rhythm of our life in Christ, the less likely we are to forget a holy day of obligation, it seems to me.

And...the private pizza with which we celebrated the anniversary of the private vow:


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Happy Advent!

I like Advent! There are many parts of the Divine Office that I love - like singing "Conditor alme siderum" at Vespers, and just having a whole different set of antiphons for each Sunday. Then there are the readings at Vigils, and the constant message that "He is coming!" And when we get to the O Antiphons...O! O! O! I love those! 

I'm off for an overdue retreat this week. Oh...and by the way, I have gone to the Saturday night Mass the last two weeks, and it is much more bearable! Last night, I actually could pray.

Happy Second Sunday of Advent from my chapel to yours!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Another Sunday, Another (unbearable) Mass

So...this was the most painful Mass I've been to in a long time.

When we came in, I was surprised to see the folk group poised to wield their guitars and that abominable tambourine. They played last week, and the schedule generally includes them every other week. I was immediately on the lookout for the bishop…and in fact, he was there.

Our bishop has a very nice voice, and he is able to sing the priest parts of the Mass splendidly. He did so on this occasion: he intoned some of the prayers, and he chanted the preface. But each time he does the appropriate chants, the contrast with the ridiculous country twang of the folk group is highlighted, and it almost makes me weep. (The off-key violins don't help.) It's especially unbearable when the bishop has chanted the preface, and then we have the guitars’ strum-strum-strumming of the “Holy holy holy” at the end. The bishop also intones the doxology (and so does our pastor, sometimes); and if the folk group hesitated for just one second, the people would spontaneously sing the proper Amen. But no, the folk group jumps right in with a quick guitar strum, followed by a triple Amen. I think they do it on purpose to prevent the people from doing the spontaneous thing.

Then there were the servers. One of the regular adult male acolytes was the "MC", and was vested nicely in cassock and surplice. And all but one of the altar servers were boys, though they were all wearing the stupid 7-dwarf hooded flour bags rather than cassock and surplice. There was one girl altar server; at least she had her hair neatly contained in one single braid, and she's pretty reverent. But still.

There was incense. Hurray! But then we were witness to a deacon-less bishop incensing the altar. It just seemed so odd. In the EF, of course, our pastor would have served as deacon. But in a concelebrated novus ordo Mass, he just becomes an ornamental cleric on the opposite side of the sanctuary from the bishop. In that role, he is unable to assist the bishop as a deacon would. He did read the Gospel, though, and the servers processed with candles and incense from the bishop's chair to the ambo.

So there was a lot of a leaning in the right direction, but there were enough oddities to make it apparent that no one had a clue as to why we might be doing those more traditional things. Since no one has a clue, it all becomes just a hodge-podge – a little of the old, a little of the new, and mix them altogether for liturgical stew. And that does not make for good liturgy, of course.

Why can't the folk group – who are excellent musicians – see/hear that their music does not match the bishop's intoning? Why doesn't the bishop correct this nonsense?!  He spoke at a recent diocesan chant conference, and said publicly that guitars were not appropriate at Mass; so why does he not change this practice at his cathedral, the mother church of the diocese!?!  

Apparently, the folk group will be playing their guitars and tambourine (yes, there was tambouring-playing today, even in the presence of the bishop!) next week, too. We are going to the Saturday evening Mass. I will not have the first Sunday of Advent ruined for me by attending Sunday morning Mass with the folk group.

I seldom post links here, but if you “resonate” with my complaints, and if you know the tune and some of the words of “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music”, you’ll probably enjoy this post.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Today's Mass

It's a beautiful Cathedral. Guitars do not belong here!
Mass today...with the "folk group"... ugh.

If I never hear the sound of a strumming guitar again, it will be too soon. And I don't mean just at Mass! It has reached the point that even guitar music in an appropriate setting evokes a negative response in me. In fact, a still photo of a guy holding a guitar makes me cringe!

And then there's that tambourine. The tambourine player isn't overpowering, thanks be to God, but still! Why is there a tambourine at all?!

And the violins. Oh dear. Now, I have been a violinist myself. I understand the difficulty of playing the instrument. That said, if you can't play the violin well, DO NOT PLAY IN PUBLIC. Especially at Mass. They are off-key and scratchy. The entrance song today featured an introduction by the violinists. They started off-key, and my daughter and I both winced. Things did not improve.

Then, the priest reverently intones, in chant modality, "Through Him, with Him, in Him..." etc., and instead of letting the people answer in the appropriate, simple, chant-mode, "Amen", the folk group jumps in with strumming guitars and a sung "Amen" that does not in any way, shape, or form match the priest's doxology.

I'd love for my daughter's fiance to become Catholic. I am not sure how to encourage that, but I do my best. One thing I will NOT do is take him to a novus ordo Mass with guitars strumming and tambourines jingling. That would be the kiss of death. No, I want him to know what the Catholic faith is really all about before he attends a Mass like that. Even then, I'm sure I would have to do some "repair" work. Even a reverently said Novus Ordo Mass (which our priest does accomplish) is destroyed by guitar music. That kind of music does not lead to reverent worship. In fact, I find it so distracting that I can barely focus on the prayers in my little red EF Mass booklet.

I'm really fed up with this.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day

Well, it's been a while since I posted here. Life is busy, it seems. Time flies.

And now we arrive at election day. I am anxious, and yet at peace. God's will be done. I hate to think of Hillary as our next president; I think her election would usher in persecution of Christians, and especially faithful Catholics, the likes of which we are barely prepared to accept. But...God's will be done. Next year is the 100th anniversary of Fatima, after all. I'm expecting something big. It might be painful, too, at least in this world. But the payoff in Heaven will be spectacular.

If Trump wins, I think all that will happen is that the slide into the abyss will be slightly less rapid. This society is going down. We've already got one foot in the pit, and really, it doesn't seem like there are too many in our country who understand morality well enough to begin to pull us out of it. Even the well-intentioned, who want to do the right thing, have been so brain-washed and intimidated by the liberal left, that they are unsure whether their moral inclinations are correct, or whether they are simply "right for me".  Moral relativism is the order of the day, and is fast infiltrating (or, has already infiltrated?) the minds of those who still think there might be a right and wrong. There is a remnant, though, and this remnant will have to rebuild once the collapse is complete. So, know your faith! You might have to teach it to new converts.

I look forward to the end of today. There will still be questions about our future, but at least one question will be answered!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Ora and More Labora

I have recently placed two orders for linen, totaling 42 yards. That’s on top of the 5 yards or so I already have on hand. Two large orders for altar linens came in over the last week, and I can see I’m going to be very busy. Linen is time-consuming.

A past linen project, before I had
my big work table. 
On one hand, I wish I didn’t have these orders, and that I could spend more time praying. Having the work makes me a little anxious at times, and thoughts about the projects creep in while I am praying the Office. I stress over it too much.

On the other hand, I think I need the work. The desert fathers worked – braiding their ropes, making their mats…stuff like that. “Ora et labora,” after all. I do find that when I don’t have the work, I tend to waste more time doing frivolous things; I don’t necessarily spend more time in prayer or in spiritual reading. There is that saying, “if you want something done, ask a busy person.” Someone who is “busy” tends to organize their time and have fewer wasted minutes.

It’s about balance, of course. And trusting God. And abandoning oneself to Divine Providence.

Soon, I will be awash in linen. There are worse things!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Inviting Them to the Wedding Banquet

A couple of weeks ago, the Sunday Gospel, in the Extraordinary Form, was from the 22nd chapter of Matthew:

The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who made a marriage for his son.
And he sent his servants, to call them that were invited to the marriage; and they would not come.  Again he sent other servants, saying: Tell them that were invited, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my beeves and fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come ye to the marriage. But they neglected, and went their own ways, one to his farm, and another to his merchandise. And the rest laid hands on his servants, and having treated them contumeliously, put them to death.

But when the king had heard of it, he was angry, and sending his armies, he destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city.

Then he saith to his servants: “The marriage indeed is ready; but they that were invited were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways; and as many as you shall find, call to the marriage.”

And his servants going forth into the ways, gathered together all that they found, both bad and good: and the marriage was filled with guests. And the king went in to see the guests: and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. And he saith to him: “Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?” But he was silent.

Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
For many are called, but few are chosen.

When I read this at Vigils, I was struck by a few thoughts that haven’t occurred to me before, related to my own life. First, I thought of the servants who were sent out “into the highways” to compel people to come to the wedding feast. I remember how often we were exhorted to do this in the Protestant Pentecostal church I once attended. But the other night, it occurred to me that I’ve also been out there calling people I know to come into  the heavenly banquet, and have been ignored, just like those servants; I have also been in that second group of servants, doing my best to convince the fallen-away Catholics I know to return to the fold. I haven’t been murdered for my trouble, like the servants in the Gospel – at least in a literal sense! But I have been attacked in some subtle ways by family members who resent my reminding them of their fallen-ness, and sometimes those subtle ways hurt quite a bit. But it is a small price to pay, if only someone will listen!

It has become more and more important to me to tell people the Truth of our Catholic faith, and yet, no one has responded to my pleas. It breaks my heart, especially when I think of those people burning in hell because they failed to heed a warning from me or some other servant.

And then there is that last bit about the man who entered the feast without a wedding garment. I think here of my friend who was all set to be received into the Church, but for the wrong reasons. He wanted to be Catholic because he and I were friends, and since I was Catholic, and had told him he should be, too, he wanted to comply. But he didn’t believe in the Real Presence, nor the perpetual virginity of Mary, nor the hierarchy of the Church, nor a few dozen other things.  So although he says he believes in Jesus, he really doesn’t – at least not in the Jesus who founded the one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church! Now, when I realized he did not believe the critical doctrines of the Church, I told him he could not become Catholic. He said he still wanted to; I told him he wanted to for the wrong reasons. And when I told him that he would stand before the local congregation and say “I believe and profess all that the Catholic Church believes, teaches, and professes”, he saw that he could not say that; and he dropped out of RCIA at that point. Well, thank goodness! Because in the end he’d have been receiving Holy Communion unworthily, and he would have eventually been “cast into the exterior darkness”!

Sometimes I feel like a complete failure at this whole evangelization thing. On the other hand, who knows which person might be influenced by something I have said to him or her? Just because I don’t see an immediate result doesn’t mean that my efforts will remain fruitless. I just keep on trying.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Monday, September 19, 2016

My Mom Makes an Appearance

The other night, I dreamed I was at Mass; Mass had just ended, and people were milling about and visiting. My daughter was with me, and we sat down to visit with Connie, an old friend of ours. I also saw my now-deceased friend Pam and her two girls (at a younger age), and went over to say hi to them. Pam looked better than I’d ever seen her, as if she had lost a lot of weight and grow in intellect (she was slightly retarded in this life). The girls were as I remember them from about age 7-8 (they are now around the same age as my 22-year-old daughter).
My mom, as I most like to remember her;
not the best quality photo, but you get the idea.

I went back to Connie and my daughter. Then, all of a sudden, my mom showed up. She had come to surprise me (Ha! I'll say, since she's been dead for 24 years!). She was radiant, healthy, mom at her best. I hugged her, and introduced her to Connie. 

I forgot about the dream till the next morning when I was praying Lauds. I can't remember what triggered the was something in the psalms, I think. Anyway, it really hit me then that I had dreamed about my mom. She doesn't tend to show up in my dreams, and this was so real I could remember little details, like how it felt to hug her. In fact, thinking about it made me shed a few tears, because it was so wonderful to see her. I wondered if she was in Heaven, and I said a prayer to her for my daughter, her namesake.

But then I reminded myself that my mom was not Catholic. I didn’t become Catholic till some years after my mom died, and I didn't come to the knowledge about the necessity of the Church for salvation till a few years ago; but after I became Catholic, I knew about purgatory, and so always prayed for my mom as if she were in purgatory, awaiting her move to Heaven. In recent years, I have often wondered if she could possibly be in Heaven. I know that she could be, if it was God's will. I know she expressed a heartfelt belief in God before she died. I know I want her there! And I know I have prayed countless prayers for the repose of her soul. I guess that's as much as I can know. I keep praying for her, even though it looks like she couldn't really be in Heaven.

So, it was a bittersweet awakening from that dream. But the very next day, when I was napping, I heard a rap at the window. It was probably a bird, which happens frequently, but the sound permeated my dream as a knock, and in the dream, I somehow knew it was my mom. “Mom?” I called out. “Mom, what do you need?” That was it. I woke up enough to realize it was a dream, and dozed off again.

Thinking about it later, I wondered if perhaps my mom’s soul was in fact going to enter Heaven. I wondered if perhaps she was there in the dream as an impetus for me to have a Mass offered for her. And so I have done just that. The Mass is to be said today, Monday, Sept. 19, 2016. Will you add a prayer for the repose of her soul? Her name is Ruth Collins.

I dreamed about her again yesterday. That dream is fuzzier in my memory, but she was there.

This experience has given me hope! It is very saddening to think that your non-Catholic loved ones might not be in Heaven. These dreams, and the sense of my mom really being there, reminded me that God does have the final say in terms of souls entering His Presence in Heaven. There is always hope.

In addition, it was a nice consolation, somehow, to have my mom seem so close. We were very close when she was alive, and I was at her side during her illness (cancer), and at the moment of her death. I can’t say that I miss her, really; at least, I haven’t missed her in years, because her absence has just become a fact of life. I suppose the dreams have made me miss her again, a little bit. Mostly, I just want her to be in Heaven!

Sometimes I wish my mom were alive still; other times, I think I have become her. Ha!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Guilty Conscience

My husband’s sons are all married and have children (and they all live far away from us).  Son #1 is married to a woman who is a fallen-away Catholic who pretends to still be Catholic, though he himself appears to be a faithful Catholic. Son #2 is married to a woman who has never been Catholic, and he himself is a fallen-away Catholic. Son #3 is married to a fallen-away Catholic, and I don’t really know whether he is a faithful Catholic or not.

Recently, our daughter and the The FiancĂ© had dinner with Son #1 and his wife – I’ll call her Jane. During the course of the dinner visit, Jane took my daughter aside for a "confidential" conversation, during which she explained that she might not come to our daughter’s wedding because of me. She fears it would be "uncomfortable" because I (allegedly) think Jane is the prime example of a bad Catholic (or something like that), and she thinks I would manipulate any conversation to make it into an opportunity to berate Jane for not being a good Catholic (for the record, I have never done this, and have not seen my daughter-in-law in person for close to 10 years).

Jane told my daughter that she goes to Mass every Sunday, implying that this makes her a "good Catholic", I guess. She also said she hoped that this frank conversation about me wouldn't upset my daughter, who replied that it certainly did. My daughter also suggested that the only reason Jane thinks I would manipulate a conversation is because Jane herself does that all the time! Ha! My daughter is getting bolder and less willing to put up with that kind of nonsense. My daughter also told Jane that her wedding is HER day, and she certainly hoped that Jane and I would refrain from any kind of interaction that would result in a distraction from the purpose of the day.

Jane said she had hoped that their conversation would be kept just between the two of them, but my daughter said there was no reason I shouldn't know. Jane hoped I wouldn't send her a barrage of emails. Well…I don't think I've ever sent the woman an email that wasn't a response to something she sent me! 

I pray for Jane's re-conversion to the faith every day; I count her as one of my “most stubborn” cases. I care about the salvation of her soul, and I've told her so in the past. I'm taking her confession of discomfort as a sign that my prayers are having some effect. To me, it seems perfectly clear that Jane is uncomfortable because she knows I’m right, and she doesn’t want to admit it. She doesn’t want to admit that she has created God in her own image, just like so many other Protestants have done. Once you leave the Catholic Church, you leave true authority behind, and everyone suddenly becomes free to interpret Scripture in the way most pleasing to each individual.  God is what each individual creates Him to be.

Jane, quite simply, has a guilty conscience. I think she knows that her use of artificial contraception all her adult life was wrong; that omitting the required once-yearly sacrament of reconciliation is wrong; that sending one’s Catholic children to a Protestant school is wrong; that condoning and supporting her daughter’s outside-the-Church marriage is wrong. But she doesn’t want to ever admit these things, and I am a constant reminder – just by my very existence – that she has missed the mark.

The prayer I pray specifically for Jane, and for a few other stubborn souls, is the prayer to Our Lady of Victory; in part, it says, "...we pray, that their hearts being softened by the rays of divine grace, they may return to the unity of the true faith..."  

Now, if only this effect can be seen in the rest of the family!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Wherever You Go, There You Are

From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (which includes a couple of “Desert Mothers” as well):

Amma Theodora also said, ‘There was a monk, who, because of the great number of his temptations said, “I will go away from here.”

As he was putting on his sandals, he saw another man who was also putting on his sandals and this other monk said to him, “Is it on my account that you are going away? Because I go before you wherever you are going.”

It may seem like a pleasant proposition to live all alone, to not have to interact with others very often. I know it often seems so to me! But the truth is, no matter where you go, there YOU are. You can run away from others who trouble you, but your own soul, with all its sins and short-comings, will always be with you. And sometimes, accepting that person who is you – and striving to purify her – is harder than putting up with the faults of others.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Well, I don’t really have “summer vacations”.  The last time we, as a family, went on a summer vacation was…the last time. Upon our return, or maybe somewhere along the way…it’s hard to remember…I told my husband I would never go on a trip like that again. I guess he believed me, as he has never even broached the subject of a summer vacation ever since that fateful announcement. But that’s another story.

This summer, our daughter’s fiancĂ©’s children did have summer vacation, from school of course. I’m sure I mentioned that somewhere along the line. They have now returned to school, and so most of their time will be spent at their mother’s home in a town that is an hour-and-a-half away. I will see them on alternate weekends.

I must say that it was something of a relief to have them go back to their mom. It was not an easy summer, though I like to think it was productive. I think I had the children 2 0r 3 days per week, at least, and many of those were 9-hour “shifts”, with a couple of overnights, and an occasional 12-hour stint. I’m not used to that! But it was a task which Our Lord had set before me, and I did my best to complete it faithfully.

Over the course of the many hours I spend with the children, it seems that the little boy, who is now 5-1/2 years old. I can’t remember what name I used for him before, so for now I’ll call him Timmy. As you may recall, Timmy has been diagnosed with autism, though I am now convinced it is a very mild form, and I think that he could regain a “normal” diagnosis with the right type of help and a little time. (And no more vaccines…yes, I am one of those.) While we started out the summer with a pretty good relationship, Timmy, as of a couple of weeks ago, runs to greet me with a smile and hug (okay, it’s really a head-butt in the stomach, but I know he means well!). And he shares his Kindle with me at times, as he watches both the therapeutic program I procured for him, as well as a variety of other apps that are educational in nature and which have provided him with some very necessary scripts and skills for real life. In fact, I have noticed that he often re-enacts some of the games and videos he watches in real life. But you have to know what he’s been watching in order to “get it”. Sometimes Timmy watches a video or app, and then shows it to me with a big smile on his face when he thinks it’s funny. I figure if he has a sense of humor, there truly is hope for him to lead a normal life!

But with the girl, who I think I have previously called Mary, things went downhill. We had many discussions about “religion”. She is very concerned about baptism and going to Heaven, and equally resistant to believing that her gay relatives might not go to Heaven because of their homosexual actions. (We have gone round and round about the fact that the statement “gays go to hell” is false, and that I have never said it; I have tried to impress upon her that it is the behavior that is sinful, and that if two homosexual people love each other, there’s nothing wrong with that, but they must not indulge their sexual feelings for each other. This is a lot for an 11-year-old to understand, I suppose.”

Meanwhile, Mary has a mother and a grandmother who are working to undermine any authority I might have in this area. I have now been told both by my daughter and by Mary that “mom doesn’t want you to talk to me about that stuff”. Well. My daughter told the mom that “my mom answers Mary’s questions; she doesn’t bring the stuff up on her own. And if Mary asks a question, my mom is going to tell her the truth.” Yay, daughter!

When Mary told me that her mom didn’t want me to talk about “that stuff”, I explained that “that stuff” is my life, and any question she asks me, anything we talk about, will come from a Catholic viewpoint. My faith is my life, my life is my faith. I don’t know if Mary can understand this, but I tried. I told her, too, that her mom can feel free to talk to me directly. Frankly, I think it is ludicrous for the mom to tell Mary to give me the message. Man up! (or, mom up!?) I respect parents’ preferences, but I can’t and won’t change my beliefs to suit them! It is the children’s father’s choice to use me as the child care person; I suppose if mom objects strenuously enough, a change might be made, and a different sitter might be found. God’s will be done.

Add caption
The last week before they went back was especially hard. I felt like I was in hand-to-hand combat with the demons for this poor girl’s soul. I had talked to her very bluntly a couple of times about the ways she lets demons into her mind by watching titillating spooky stuff on you-tube, or reading books like Harry Potter. She cried every time we talked about baptism, and she asked if she could get baptized in some other church besides the Catholic church. I guess the teaching on homosexuality is really standing in her way with regard to the One True Faith. There is so much to overcome in her family. Did I mention that her grandmother is a fallen-away Catholic? Mary asked me if her grandma would go to Heaven automatically because she was a baptized Catholic. Oh how carefully one must tread at times! Because of course, grandma is not guaranteed a place in Heaven by virtue of her practically nonexistent Catholicism.

Anyway, Mary is still stubborn and unreasonable about other aspects of the faith (and even other aspects of life! How early the root of pride issues forth sprouts!). The initial seeds of the faith that were sown have been washed away by floods, pecked at by birds, stolen by demons, till there is not much left.  But she does know the story of Jesus, and that is something she didn’t know before. I cling to that, because it is easy to feel discouraged at her resistance to the truth. She participated in a hypnotism show at the county fair, she told me; when I tried to explain the dangers of hypnotism, she scoffed and said it was fun…even though she has no memory of it whatsoever – only the stories her friends and relatives told of how she acted. Sigh.

So, in your kindness, please pray for me and for these little children. And for their mom, too; I realize that I need to be praying especially for both parents’ conversion in this case!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Life and Death Outside My Chapel Window

I opened the window in the chapel to let the evening air in, and started to pray Vespers. I heard a little chirping noise (a bunch of little chirping noises, actually), and interrupted my prayer to see what was going on. A whole little flock of quail was right outside the window; they were all dusting themselves - probably 15 or 20, of various sizes. They were making a little contented-sounding cooing noise as they fluttered softly in the dirt.


I went back to singing the psalms. Then I heard more chirping, so I looked again. One by one, they were fluttering up to one of the rails of the fence. They were lining up shoulder to shoulder, and all perched there for a few seconds. I wanted to take a picture, but the screen on the window really obscures the view from the camera.


Then the quail all went into a tizzy, and the chirping became more alarmed-sounding. They started to fly away – the ones on the fence, as well as the ones still on the ground. They were in a hurry! Then I heard frantic chirping and saw a little clump of bushes moving right at the bottom of the fence. I couldn't see what was happening; I wondered if one had gotten stuck and couldn't get through the fence and was struggling to get free.

But as the motion continued, I could tell it was something bigger making the bush move, so I thought perhaps a cat was out hunting and had caught a baby quail. More movement...I caught a glimpse of something, not as big as a cat...I still couldn't tell what it was, and thought it might be some smaller mammal. Then it emerged: a small hawk, with its talons sunk into the quail. I couldn't see the quail very well, but could see that the hawk was holding onto it. The hawk cocked its head to look down at the quail every now and then, but did not peck at it. It was as if it was saying to the quail, "Are you dead yet?"

Finally, there was no more struggling under the feet of the hawk. The quail was dead. The hawk moved behind a rock, as if God was telling me, "This scene is too graphic for you."  I could now see the top half of the hawk, but could not see the quail at all. The hawk then began to peck; it would reach down and its head would come up with a feather, which it was toss away. This continued for some time.

I went back to the psalms, but couldn't help but glance out the window occasionally to see that the hawk was still working on its meal. Meanwhile, I noticed I was singing, "Eripe me Domine ab homine malo; a viro iniquo eripe me" [Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man: rescue me from the unjust man.]  I'll bet the little quail had been thinking something along those lines, too!

When I finished Vespers, the hawk was still there. I wanted to see what was left of the quail. I went out and around to the back of the chapel, but by the time I got there, the hawk was gone. I crept up to the killing-place and looked: there were only a few feathers left – no other sign that a quail had once existed there. The hawk must have taken the rest of the little corpse away.

And then I jumped, startled: there was our cat, sitting silently just on the other side of the fence! I hadn't noticed her at all, and have no idea when she showed up! Perhaps that's why the hawk was gone. Had the hunter become the hunted?!

Oh, the drama!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Without God

I often wonder, when I read about horrific tragedies (and even the not-so-horrific ones), how people who have no faith deal with such things. How would you deal with an alligator snatching your toddler if you didn’t have the consolation of knowing that God is in control and that there is purpose and meaning even to the death of your baby? How would you handle a devastating disease that afflicts you or a loved one?

My sister is one such godless, faithless person. She is a “good person”, I am sure. She thinks good thoughts for people when they need them. She participates in charitable, secular organizations. She doesn’t cheat people or say mean things. Etc. My sister’s ex-husband is remarried; he and my sister are still “friends”, and my sister seems also to socialize frequently with this man and his wife. They are all civil and pleasant to each other, and enjoy the grandkids, and all that. Now I see from Face Book (the knower of all earthly doings) that the wife of my sister’s ex-husband has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Now, if I disclosed such a traumatic and devastating diagnosis to my circle of friends (which is small, and includes you regular readers here), I would be asking for and receiving prayers – of that I have no doubt. People would be offering Masses for me. A priest would be counseling me, with the emphasis on the spiritual aspects of the issue. I'd be preparing my soul to meet my Maker. The same is true for all of you, I’m sure.

But what do those without faith do? Well, sometimes they do ask for prayers. Usually it’s “thoughts and prayers” they seek. In the case of my sister’s friends, it isn’t even “thoughts” they want: it is “awareness” and donations toward a cure.  My sister’s ex-husband said, in part, on his Face Book page:

Many of you have asked if there is anything you can do to support us during this time of medical uncertainty. We will ask you to contribute financially and/or Walk with Us to End Alzheimer’s. The Walks are scheduled in xxx on October 1st and in xxx on October 8th. These events are designed to bring greater awareness about Alzheimer’s and the importance of early detection.

On her own page, my sister had this post:

Hello friends - I hope you can make a contribution...anything helps! I am taking a stand along side(ex’s wife) and (ex) to end Alzheimer's. Let's Get Ready to RUMBLE!! Click below and go to the "donate" button. Join me in supporting (ex’s wife) - help me show her our love and friendship! Remember, anything you can spare is a blow against Alzheimer's! Positive thoughts, likes, shares – anything  :) Love WINS! Thanks so much!!

“Love wins”? I wonder, really, what she even means by saying that. What does she think "love" is? And what does she mean by "wins"? 

And really, what effect does “walking” and raising money for Alzheimer’s research do for the afflicted individual? Not. A. Thing. But this is the world we live in. Even many Catholics have fallen prey to this mindset: do something in the world (the “social justice” mentality); don’t think about eternal life. Stay in the here-and-now. All this activity accomplishes only one thing: making the “supporters” feel like they are “doing something”.

Our hope lies in our salvation through Our Lord Jesus Christ. This life is dust and ashes. Our earthly life is a pilgrimage aimed at our true home in Heaven. The trials of this life are our means of sanctification. The big picture – the economy of salvation, the salvific value of suffering, the unfathomable mercy of God, His perfect justice – is so incredibly beautiful, that it boggles my mind to think of facing life without the Catholic faith. I wish I could convey this to people like my sister and her friends, to my future son-in-law, to my hiking buddy, to my nieces and nephews, and to so many others…including the fallen-away Catholics in my own extended family.

In the end, all we can do is offer this Truth to others and hope they are given the grace to receive it. 

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Like a Roaring Lion

1 Peter 5:8
Sobrii estote, vigilate. Adversarius vester Diabolus tamquam leo rugiens circuit quaerens quem devoret. Cui resistite fortes fide…

Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist ye, strong in faith…

So, perhaps you have seen the news item from a wild animal park in China, about a woman who, having had an argument with her husband, exited their car and was promptly attacked and dragged away by a Siberian tiger. Her husband, we can see in a video of the tragedy, leaps out in pursuit, but stops a few steps from the car. Then the woman’s mother charges out of the back seat of the car, without hesitation and without return. We are told that she was mauled to death by another tiger. Her daughter has apparently survived.

To me, this is an earthly demonstration of that scripture I cited at the top of the page. Our enemy, the devil, is out there, ready to snatch away our loved ones, and ourselves. But a mother’s love for her daughter will take precedence even over her fears for her own life, and she must pursue her daughter and the evil attacker, even if death comes to her in a horrible fashion.

At least, that’s how I feel about my own daughter. I suppose it might be suggested that physical death at the fangs and claws of a Siberian tiger is more terrifying than spiritual warfare waged in one’s own private chapel; and surely that is true on the purely physical level. But there are other aspects to the spiritual battle, of course. And while the physical mauling and death are horrendous, the thought of a daughter’s eternal damnation is almost unbearable…and that torment doesn’t end in an instant, as a physical death does.

And so…I pray, as I'm sure you pray for your own children. This prayer was recommended to me by my spiritual director:

Parents' Prayer

O LORD GOD, Who hast called us to holy matrimony 
and hast been pleased to render our union fruitful, 
thus making glad the sublime state of life wherein Thou hast placed us, 
by a certain likeness to Thine Own infinite fruitfulness;
we heartily recommend to Thee our dear children; 
we entrust them to Thy fatherly care and all powerful protection, 
that they may grow daily in Thy holy fear,
may lead a perfect Catholic life
and a be source of consolation, not only to us, who have given them life,
but chiefly to Thee, Who art their Creator.

Behold, O Lord, in what a world they must pass their lives;
consider the cunning flatteries whereby the sons of men everywhere
endeavor to deprave their minds and hearts 
with false doctrine and wicked example.
Be watchful, O Lord, to help and defend them; 
grant us the grace to be able to guide them aright 
in the paths of virtue and in the way of Thy Commandments, 
by the righteous pattern of our own life and practice,
and our perfect observance of Thy holy law 
and that of our Holy Mother the Church;
 and in order that we may do so faithfully, 
make us certain of the grave danger
that awaits us at the hands of Thy Divine justice.
Nevertheless all our efforts will be unavailing, unless Thou,
O almighty and merciful God, 
shalt make them fruitful by Thy heavenly blessing.

This Thy blessing, therefore, we humbly ask of Thee, 
from the bottom of our hearts,
trusting in Thy great goodness and mercy hitherto shown unto us;
we ask it for ourselves
and for the children whom Thou hast been graciously pleased to give unto us.
We dedicate them to Thee, O Lord, 
do Thou keep them as the apple of Thine eye,
and protect them under the shadow of Thy wings;
do Thou make us worthy to come at last to Heaven, 
together with them, 
giving thanks unto Thee, our Father, 
for the loving care Thou hast had of our entire family 
and praising Thee through endless ages. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Seeking Silence and Solitude: Time for a Retreat

It's been a busy summer with my child-care duties, and I am ready for some silence and solitude. I'm going on retreat this coming week!

I admit to being stressed out by a lot of things going on in the world today. I suppose we should all be stressed, on some level: atrocious things are happening. And yet, God is still in control. His will is the safest place to be, and abandonment to Divine Providence will always be the best course. Prayer and penance, prayer and penance...

Anyway, I thought I'd leave you with some pretty pictures, since I don't think I've posted many lately.

And here are a couple of pictures of the children, taken at the parish Vacation Bible School (I'm avoiding shots of their faces to protect their privacy):

The girl in the pink top and the little boy beside are "mine"!

My little guy with autism enjoyed the parachute activities!

Big sister is almost always happy to help little brother.