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.

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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.