Thursday, February 28, 2013


And so begins our long Holy Saturday. Like the tabernacle during the long, silent hours that end the Triduum, the chair of Peter is empty and we wait--expectantly, but bit lost. We know, of course, that on Easter we will celebrate the Resurrection, and that one day in the future we will celebrate the election of a new Pope, but in the meantime we're in a sort of fog, rudderless and fatherless.

When Pope Benedict was elected, I was very happy. I believed that he would be good for the Church and that he would do things that needed to be done, and say things that needed to be said. I didn't know, however, how much I would love him. I didn't know that he was so lovable.

I haven't read much about Benedict's resignation, but much of what I have read has caused me pain. I've debated, and am still debating with myself whether or not I should write a response to some of what I've read, but that would be for another day. Today, I'll just leave you with my favorite picture from the last few weeks. I like to think that's me, and all of us with our father, saying goodbye.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Few Things

When I got home last night, I found these guys on top of the piano preparing for the conclave.

I think that's Cardinal Dolan on the right.

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Further Chronicles of a Montessori-ish Catechist

Last night on my way home, I stopped at Walmart because I wanted to buy a Ken doll. Now, even though I've raised four children, this was a new experience for me. I need the Ken doll to use in my PRE class because I want to make vestments for him to teach them about the different vestments and to let them change Fr. Ken into the correct liturgical colors when the seasons change. My problem is this. Fr. Ken really needs to wear something under the vestments and, well, Ken's clothes are really inappropriate. You can get Dr. Barbie and teacher Barbie, and scientist Barbie (I think.) but apparently Ken doesn't have a job. He either wears cool surfer dude clothes, or prince clothes, or tuxedos--black-and-white polka-dot tuxedos with bright pink ruffled shirts and velveteen pants. The prince outfit had black pants and black shoes, which would be all I needed with the passable knit shirt the doll came with. Unfortunately, the black pants were sewed to the prince jacket. In the end I bought the tuxedo with the black-and-white spotted jacket and bright pink ruffled shirt because I don't think the kids will much notice that the pants are velveteen. The jacket and shirt went in the trash. I never knew the trials I would have to endure and the decisions I would have to make when I started teaching this class.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This is a quote from a book I'm reading, "...small girls with black legs and white frocks, men in straw hats, women with Zulu headresses...." Does it present an entirely different image when I tell you that it's part of a description of an early 20th century English garden show?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
And finally--the Graffiti Dome. It's better than it sounds. There some interesting bits in the story, especially the bit about the thimble. I like the colors. They remind me of the mosaics at Ravenna.

H/T to Owen Swain at luminous.miseries.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More Distraction

Sunday before last, our priest opened his homily by describing the video below. I'm sure many of you have seen this little vignette of an older woman who moves distractedly from one task to the other, never getting anything done. He told it as a kind of joke, and it is funny to watch, but it's very frustrating to live.

I don't have really have this problem at home, but I frequently feel this way at work. I usually do manage to get things done, but I'm frequently six jobs deep into a hole of confusion and have to dig myself out. Sometimes it's because people keep asking me to do things right away while I'm in the middle of other jobs, but sometimes I do it to myself. I don't think I was like this when I was younger, but then, I never had this kind of a job before. I also wonder how much the internet has formed a sort of habit of distraction in my mind. 

Today I got a lot done, but never had time to write anything, which is why I'm posting a video at 8:36 p.m. 


Monday, February 25, 2013


When I was talking to my husband about how distracted I've been for the last week or so, he said that my daughter had told him that St. John of the Cross or St. Augustine, or someone like that said that distraction was like having a monkey loose in the house. That pretty much describes the situation inside my head lately. I cannot have two thoughts together before one of them goes zooming off in another direction. When I sit down to read the Office or any spiritual reading, I get to the bottom of the page and realize I don't have a clue what I read. I start over again--same thing. I cannot get through a short morning offering without going off on a tangent in the middle of it. This is making me crazy, and making me do some crazy things.

This morning, I had an appointment to have some blood drawn in preparation for my physical on Friday. When I was about halfway to the doctors office, in other words when I had gone about 20 miles, I realized that I had planned on getting there at 8:00, which was the time for Friday's appointment and not 7:10, which was the time for today's appointment. So, with another 20 miles ahead of me, I was already two minutes late. Thankfully, they were very nice about it.

Then, I lost my glasses at work. I kept looking in the three places that I had been and the glasses had just disappeared. Other people were looking. I sent an email to the entire staff asking them to keep an eye out for my glasses. Unfortunately, this was attached to another email that said that I had found the toaster that I had lost earlier, but that's another story. At least I provided everyone with some amusement. Well, I finally found them in the restroom where I had already looked three times. I can't recall that I ever took my glasses off in the restroom before.

My run-away thoughts haven't kept me awake at night, but I've been having very involved and intense dreams. They aren't bad dreams for the most part. Some of them are really nice. Most mornings I wake up remembering some pleasant things. But they are very busy. Apparently my brain is still working overtime even when I'm asleep.

Well, my daughter just called and said that she doesn't remember that conversation, but that it sounded like Teresa of Avila, so I did a Google search and came up with a passage from a book called Don't Trust the Abbot:Musings from a Monastery by Jerome Kodell, which says that Hindu tradition says: 
When I sit down to pray it is if I am under a tree full of monkeys  As soon as I begin my prayer, the monkeys begin to chatter and swing back and forth to get my attention. Suddenly, I find myself in the tree with the monkeys  as soon as I realized this, I descend to sit under the tree again.
It reminds me of one of my favorite books that I think I've mentioned before.

 I don't seem to be able to descend. Further on he says that St. Teresa of Avila said that distractions were like having a crazy woman in the house. Well, that's for sure, but I don't seem to be able to rid myself of myself.

So, I'm just trying to offer it all up. Maybe the Lord has decided that it's a good Lenten exercise. Should you happen to be having a nice little quiet time of prayer, you might offer one up for me.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Last Sunday

This morning when I walked into my PRE classroom, the first thing I noticed was the picture of Pope Benedict, and I realized that I would have to take it down before next week. This made me sad. Then during Mass, Father paused for a second after praying, "Therefore, Lord remember now all for whom we offer this sacrifice: especially your servant Benedict our Pope...." It was striking and it struck me to the heart and left me in tears.

On a brighter note, it gave me a good opportunity to explain to my class of 7-11 year-olds the role of the Holy Father and how a new pope is selected. One of my students was pretty excited to hear that the guys who would choose the new pope were named after his favorite baseball team, and he wondered if his father could be pope, but, no, he's married. It's consoling to for them and for all of us to know that we know what, if not who, comes next.

My students also made their first Confessions today. I was a little astonished at how nicely they lined up behind me and walked quietly into the Church, and how quiet and still most of them were while they were waiting for their turns. It all seems to have gone well. 

Now we are in the home stretch with only the Mass and the Eucharist left to study this year. Let's see, to do that right, I will only need about 50 years. But, I have something like seven classes, and will do the best I can. I'm really excited because I have this.

To give you an idea of the size, the paten is about 3" in diameter. I really wanted one of these when my kids were young, but couldn't afford it. My husband is making a little altar which doubles as a carrying case and I am making some altar cloths. The class was pretty excited about it, especially when they found out that if you look through the top of the cruets it makes everybody's head look really big.


Saturday, February 23, 2013


I have to watch this every Lent.

There was an interview with Johnny Cash on NPR this morning and the interviewer mentioned the full Johnny Cash archive on the NPR website. I haven't had time to look at it yet, but it looks interesting.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Upon This Rock

Today is the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. A feast that at the present moment is worth some thought. This time next week the chair will be vacant, and no matter how sure I am that the Lord has things under control, I always feel rather bleak and bereft when this happens. It's like a long pause between breathing out and breathing in.

I had a very short time to write this post this morning and ended up spending most of it trying to find out something about this chair.

I wanted to know if Peter was really supposed to have sat in it, and indeed he was. You can find out more about it at New Advent.

Pope St. Leo the great says in the Office of Readings today: 
Out of the whole world one man, Peter, is chosen to preside at the calling of all nations, and to be set over all the apostles and all the fathers of the Church. Though there are in God’s people many shepherds, Peter is thus appointed to rule in his own person those whom Christ also rules as the original ruler. Beloved, how great and wonderful is this sharing of his power that God in his goodness has given to this man. Whatever Christ has willed to be shared in common by Peter and the other leaders of the Church, it is only through Peter that he has given to others what he has not refused to bestow on them.
And the closing prayer for the Office of Readings:

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that no tempests may disturb us, 
for you have set us fast on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


Thursday, February 21, 2013


For about a month now I've been trying and failing to get a decent picture of a murmuration (flock) of starlings, but so far no luck. I see them fairly frequently, but my poor phone camera just can't begin to give you any idea of what I'm seeing. For instance, there are probably about five times as many birds in these pictures as you can see. The day I took these pictures, I parked the car and almost ran down the road trying to catch them, but they always got ahead of me. 

The other day I was driving home, and when I turned a corner, there were a couple of hundred flying low across the road in front of the car. I just stopped in the middle of the road, but by the time I got the camera ready, this was the best I could do.

The flocks have not been particularly large this year, but I have really been enjoying them. I know that if they decide to hang out in the city, they can make a big mess and irritate people, but in the country, they are just beautiful, if sometimes quite loud. Sometimes they come an perch in the little woods on our property line and  they really make a lot of racket. That hasn't happened this year.

One day last year, I looked out of my kitchen window and the field on the side of my house was black with them. They are really fascinating to watch. As soon as feet of one wave touch down in front of the flock, the rearguard rises up and comes forward. It's like a big, sinuous, continuous loop moving slowly forward. After I had watched them for a while, I had to leave, and as I was approaching the end of my road, a huge black swirl rose up from the fields, dipped and circled over my car for a bit and flew off. It was lovely.

I have never seen a murmuration as large as the one in the video below in my area, but we used to pass a very large field on our way to work where there would sometimes be thousands of starlings. Unfortunately, someone has now built a huge, ugly, block of a warehouse on the field and the birds don't land there anymore. We also used to see several very large murmurations when our children were younger and we would drive through Arkansas on vacation. Sometimes we would see one after another for over an hour.

There are several videos of murmurations on the internet, and some of them are technically better, but I like this one almost as much for the reaction of one of the young women as for the performance of the starlings. 

There are some really great still shots of murmurations here.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Standing the Shadow of the Hill

I wish I could have found a YouTube version of this song, Standing by Patty Griffin, that sounds more like it does on the album Impossible Dream, but this is the only thing I could find. I hope you get a chance to listen to the real thing.

I'm standing in the shadow of the hill
I'm standing in the shadow of the hill
Feel the fear everywhere
Hope it don't get me killed
I'm standing in the shadow of the hill

I'm standing in the shadow walking blind
I've been unfair and unkind
Turned away from your suffering far too many times
Now I'm standing in the shadow walking blind

Sister, brother, there's a fire on the hill
And it's burning like a lantern
Making all this time stand still
I'm standing, I'm standing, I'm standing
I'm standing, standing, standing

Mother, I am weak but I am strong
Standing in the darkness this long
But in the deepest darkness
I listen to your song
Mother I am weak but I am strong
I'm standing, and I'm standing, I'm standing
I'm standing, standing, standing,
I'm standing Standing in the shadow of the hill

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When I got back to the car after taking the picture above, I found evidence of enemy reconnaissance.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013


March 14. I'm not concerned. It seems to be a pretty frequent procedure. It should be a short and easy recovery, but then this is what I thought about the cataract surgery, so prayers are always welcome.


Praying for the Pope

Saturday when I went to confession, my penance was to pray that the cardinals would choose a new pope who would carry on the work of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. I thought it was a bit odd. If the priest had told me to pray for a pope that would undo the work that the last two popes have done, I would have had to say no. Since I really want a pope that will carry on their work, I did pray for what he asked, but most of all I prayed that the cardinals would select the pope that the Holy Spirit directs them to select. I don't really have any doubts that they will. 

While I was praying, it occurred to me that God already knows who the new pope will be, and that I could start praying for him right now. I can pray that he will be ready to assume the world's most difficult job and that he will be peaceful about his choice. So I will! And I think that the prayer of St. John Fisher for holy bishops, the prayer that my husband and I have been praying for all our bishops, is a pretty good prayer to use in this respect. I wrote about it in one of my first posts, and I will go ahead and copy it here.

Prayer for Holy Bishops by Saint John Fisher
Lord, according to Thy promise that the Gospel should be preached throughout the whole world, raise up men fit for such work. The Apostles were but soft and yielding clay till they were baked hard by the fire of the Holy Ghost. So, good Lord, do now in like manner with Thy Church militant, change and make the soft and slippery earth into hard stones. Set in the Thy Church strong and mighty pillars that may suffer and endure great labors--watching, poverty, thirst, hunger, cold and heat--which also shall not fear the threatenings of princes, persecution, neither death, but always persuade and think with themselves to suffer with a good will, slanders, shame, and all kinds of torments, for the glory and laud of Thy Holy Name. By this manner, good Lord, the truth of Thy Gospel shall be preached throughout the world. Therefore, merciful Lord, exercise Thy mercy, show it indeed upon Thy Church. Amen.
It's on a page on the sidebar, too, if you need to find it quickly. I also put a page with links to the stations there yesterday.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Last year when I was having to make so many trips to the eye doctor after my cataract operations, they found that I have another problem with my retina that will require surgery if it continues to get worse. It has begun to affect my vision a bit and today I am going to see the retina doctor. So, if you have a moment to pray for me, I would appreciate it. Thanks.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Sometimes the juxtaposition of my spammers' messages with the name of the posts they have chosen to leave them on cracks me up.

Ηеre іs my web page :: payday loans My web blog ; payday loan online on The Third Station~Jesus Falls the First Time~Humiliation

Poor Jesus, humiliated by debt, can find help on this guy's blog.


UPDATE: Well, I tried changing the name of a post about Tessa because it was a name that seemed to be drawing unwanted attention. Didn't seem to work. Six pageviews since then and a comment in the spam filter.

Very shortly this web site will be famous amid all blogging users, due to it's good articles Visit my web page - PhlebotomistTech on Granddaughter-Name of Post Change to Protect the Innocent-me

Might be a vampire.

The Cross

Certainly in times of tranquility the cross should give you joy. But maintain the same faith in times of persecution. Otherwise you will be a friend of Jesus in times of peace and his enemy during war. Now you receive the forgiveness of your sins and the generous gift of grace from your king. When war comes, fight courageously for him.

Jesus never sinned; yet he was crucified for you. Will you refuse to be crucified for him, who for your sake was nailed to the cross? You are not the one who gives the favour; you have received one first. For your sake he was crucified on Golgotha. Now you are returning his favour; you are fulfilling your debt to him.
From the Catecheses by Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, bishop

I've always loved this passage from the Office of Readings for the Fourth Thursday in Ordinary Time. I meant to post it when it came around, but never got the chance. 

If anyone is interested in the meditations on the Stations of the Cross that I posted last year, you can find them all here, backwards.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Race that Knows Joseph

When I was reading the Anne of Green Gables books to my daughter, I noted that one of the characters would say in speaking of a friend, "She is one of the race that knows Joseph," and I was curious about that phrase. I knew that it must be a Biblical reference and I finally figured out that it came from Exodus 1. 
Then a new king, who knew nothing of Joseph came to power in Egypt. He said to his subjects, "Look how numerous and powerful the Israelite people are growing, more so than we ourselves! Come, let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase; otherwise, in time of war they too may join our enemies to fight against us, and so leave our country."
When I came across this passage in the Office of Readings on Thursday, I realized that it's a pretty good parallel to the situation of Christians in the United States and in much of the world today.

By using the gifts that God had given him, Joseph saved the Egyptian nation in a time of famine. The people of that time, even the Pharaoh, honored him, and therefore the Hebrews found a safe haven in Egypt. After the passing of many, many years, however, the Egyptians had forgotten Joseph and the good that he had done, and had learned to fear and hate the Hebrews because of their prosperity and strength.

I don't think I need to say much about how Christians are now in a situation similar to that of the Hebrews. It did catch me by surprise several years back when I realized how poorly we are regarded, and by how many people. A couple of generations of children have been taught about the disservice that Christian missionaries did the Native Americans, for example, and not taught about any of the ways that Christian virtue undergirds the fabric of our country.

More surprising, perhaps, is that many of the people who have a poor opinion of Christianity are Christians. In the past eight years, I have had to interview hundreds of Protestant ministers and one of the questions that I have to ask is something like, "Do you think the world's problems would be solved if everyone was converted to Christianity?" Now I know that that question calls for more than just a flat out yes, for instance, it would have to be a real conversion, but only a small minority give any kind of positive answer at all. Probably around half just say no, and frequently, they give a little laugh before they say no.

So, what are we to do to defend ourselves against this mistaken reputation that we have? I see a lot of people trying to put up a defense, but I wonder who is listening. And I wonder if it is our business to be defending ourselves. The scripture makes it pretty clear that the Lord is our defense. Peter says, "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope ...," but that's different from always being on the defensive. He then says, "For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil."

Perhaps what we need to be doing with our time in this time when we are looked down upon is what we ought always to be doing in any time, which is what we will hear over and over in the readings for Lent--something like this passage from Isaiah from the Office of Readings for Ash Wednesday,
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish; releasing those bound unjustly,  untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke;Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.
In other words, we need to be practicing the corporal works of mercy, and not just giving alms, but, in a sense, being alms--giving ourselves. Looking the suffering in the face until our hearts are rent and we have no choice but to help.

The one thing that really bothers me about public assistance is that it has led in many ways to an evisceration of the work of the Church in this respect. Much of what used to be done by religious and other Christians in the way of healthcare and the education and feeding of the poor has been handed over lock, stock and barrel to the government. Instead of receiving Charity in the real sense of the word, i.e. the love of God, people are given a cold, dehumanizing kind of help, often from people who hold them in contempt. It's a tragic loss for the poor and an even more tragic loss for the Church.

I am probably the last person in the world that should be preaching this. For years and years I have stood in church feeling pretty good about what I was hearing from the pulpit until we got to readings like this. I would think, "I just don't do this. I don't." So lately, I have been making some small efforts. I was really fearful at first, but that fear immediately melted away to the point where I couldn't really tell you anymore what I was afraid of. I don't really have much more to say about it at the moment, but I encourage you if you aren't doing anything along these lines to pray about some small thing you could do.

Which brings me back to Joseph. Joseph did not spend his time in Egypt in his own defense. In fact, he completely lacked the ability to defend himself. But when the opportunity came, he used his gifts to do God's Will and what that Will happened to be at the time was that he was to make sure that the people had something to eat when food was scarce, and because of this, he was held in high repute. We cannot, of course, engage in charitable works for the sake of our reputation. We have to be charitable for the love of Jesus, or we will become cold and jaded. That said, however, the result may be that people will come to love the Church through the acts that we do. And if they don't, well then we will be back with Peter, suffering, because it's God's Will, for doing good rather than evil.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Moses and Peter

The Biblical Reading for the Office of Readings this morning (which designates Friday of the 0th Week of Lent) tells the story of Moses. As I was reading along it struck me that Moses was very much like Peter. I'm sure that someone must have noticed the parallels before and done a much better job writing about them than I'm about to do, but I've never seen anything about them.

The first thing that I noticed was that at heart they were both cowards. Moses kills the Egyptian that had struck one of the Hebrew men, and when he learns that people know about it, he runs away. I found it a bit amusing that the Responsory, which is a short prayer after the reading, was, "When he grew up, Moses, guided by faith, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to suffer with the people of God rather than have the fleeting pleasures of sin." Really? Well, that's putting a nice face on it, but I don't think so. He ran away because he was afraid of the consequences of his actions; however as so often happens, what he intended for evil, God used for good. Peter, of course, denies Christ and runs away during the Crucifixion.

Another likeness is their impetuousness. Moses kills that Egyptian in the heat of the moment and shatters the tablets of the Law in anger. And he makes a mistake when he strikes the rock at Meribah that I don't quite understand, but which keeps him from entering the Promised Land. He does these things in a sort of righteousness indignation, but he would have done well to stop and think for bit. Peter's impetuousness  isn't always so misguided. He strikes off the ear of the soldier in the Garden of Olives, which is a mistake, but he also jumps out of the boat on the Sea of Galilee.

Moses encounters God in a burning bush and is called to lead his people to the Promised Land; Peter receives his call to feed the flock by the side of a fire where Jesus is cooking a meal. Moses is given the tablets of the Law; Peter is given the Keys of the Kingdom. God told Moses that His name was "I Am"; Jesus asked Peter, "Who do you say that I am?"

When Peter and Moses got together. Moses knows what's what,
but Peter is still fairly clueless.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Someone posted a cartoon on Facebook this week. It pictured a man dressed in 3rd century garb and carrying his own head standing in front of a couple who were obviously enjoying a romantic dinner at a restaurant. The caption read, "Hi, I'm St. Valentine. I was brutally beaten and beheaded in the year 269 A.D. I just wanted to thank you for remembering me on this day of romantic love. Enjoy your dinner!

I've often wondered what St. Valentine must think about the way we celebrate his feastday. Candy hearts and sexy underwear don't seem to have been a large part of his life and ministry. Of all the strange transmogrifications of Christian feasts into secular holidays, this has to be among the strangest. Today's Google homepage is a nice, weird example. If you haven't seen it, there are two Ferris wheels (today is the birthday of the inventor of the Ferris wheel) at a carnival. By clicking on a heart, you can match up an animal from each Ferris wheel and then see their little love story. Well, I guess you have to see it for yourself.

I don't really have much to say about this. I'm just observing. If you want to read more about St. Valentine or both St. Valentines, maybe, I'm sure there is abundant information, both true and weird, elsewhere on the internet.

I'll just say, "St. Valentine, and Sts. Cyril and Methodius, pray for us all."


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday

Sally posted this one on her blog last year, but I thought this time I'd save it for myself.


Shuffling forward to be marked anew,
Dry as dust, I do not have to wait
Or feel the ash to know my ashen state.
I know full well the earth that is my due.
Forty days and more a cross to hew
To follow after Him and imitate
That sacrifice that saves me from my fate.
O, give me patience to await the dew.

Here within the hush that fills this place
Along with hundreds more all marked the same
A thousand faces smudged with black design,
A thousand souls now resting in this grace,
And now a greater grace calls forth the lame
To stumble forward once more, now to dine.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Getting Serious

Several years ago, I listened to some tapes by Fr. Thomas Dubay. He talked about three stages of spiritual growth and the second, the second was getting rid of all venial sins. This threw me for a loop because I had pretty much figured that if I got rid of all sin, I would have it made--not that I thought I would ever make it. It was daunting to me to hear that there is progress to be made even after we are sinless. 

Well, I figured that, having such a long way to go, I had better get started. I tried--really I did. I prayed that God would help me not to commit this one particular sin, and I confessed it when I went to Confession, which wasn't all that often, but I didn't see much progress. Not only that, but it seemed that I didn't even have the ability to quit because I would do this thing without even thinking about it. By the time I thought about restraining myself, it was done. It didn't seem that I had any conscious choice.

At some point, though, I decided to get serious. I made some mental step that made a difference. I can't even tell you what I was thinking, but there was a difference. I decided that I was going to go to Confession and confess that sin week after week forever if I had to and I didn't care how embarrassing it was to go in to the same priest, who was a friend, and say the same stupid thing over and over. And I did. And at some point I noticed that I had a choice. Before I opened my mouth and said what I shouldn't have said (It was that kind of sin.) it was as if a little space in time opened up for just a split second, and I could make a choice. 

As I said this was years ago, and I would like to be able to tell you that I have been to Confession every week since then or that I always make the right choice when the time arises. But barring a couple of years when I got lax, I have been to Confession at least a couple of times a month and usually more. And though I'm still confessing that sin, I'm not confessing that I do it endlessly, day in and day out, but much less. I can usually even put a pretty small number to it.

I'm not writing this to let you all know how wonderful I am, but to say that when God sees that we are serious, He gets serious with us. He doesn't let us get away with the little excuses that we hid behind before. I would even go so far as to say He nags us to death--or, I guess, life. If I wake up on Saturday and decide to go back to sleep instead of getting up and going to Mass, it's like I can sense Him standing there just looking at me--laughing at me probably--until I get up and get in the car. I know that I can resist that, and that if I do it often enough He will leave me alone for a while. I resisted to that point in the lax period I told you about, but I was never really peaceful.

So, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Lent is the perfect time to get serious. The time when the grace to get serious abounds. 

One of the things I plan to do during Lent is write something every day. It might not be much but there should be something. Pray for me that I might be able to be faithful to that. 

I see that I wrote a bit about this last year, but just a paragraph, so hopefully you will forgive me for being repetitive.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Driving down the road to Mass at 5:30 this morning, I was thinking about how the road is a different place in the light than it is in the dark. In the daytime, a good part of the road runs through fields and it feels wide and open; in the early morning darkness, it's an intimate little circle of light in the middle of a mystery. As I was engaged in all these lofty thoughts, there began to seep into my awareness the lovely, ineffable fragrance of a dead skunk. Actually, it might have still been alive. It was too dark to see if there was a corpse. There's nothing like that funky, musty signature perfume to bring you down to earth.

A bit later I was thinking about how this odiferous experience reminds me of what you might call the adolescence of my spiritual journey. I was about 30, I think, and I was wonderful. I was so holy. I was holier than you, I'm sure. And after I had been roaming around the earth seeking to do what damage I might, one day I noticed a kind of  funny smell. I would have liked to have ignored it, but, you know, that skunky aroma tends to stick around for a while. 

After that, I spent some years in what I think of as my Robbie Burns period, you know, O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us. I actually prayed that one time. It was an answered prayer and it was truly dreadful, but salutory. It would probably make a good examination of conscience now and then. 

Over the years, I thought that as I grew older the skunkish visitations would grow fewer and further apart. Well, that was a sad misconception. It seems that they have multiplied exponentially, but I think I might just have a more finely-tuned skunk sensitivity. More than likely, this is good. Sometimes I actually am able to avoid them. I hear something scraping, scrabbling, and scrooging around the metaphysical corners of my mind and I back quietly away before the worst happens.


Friday, February 1, 2013


Today my boss has granted me a boon in the form of day off in return for my month of grueling service. The best part is that it's not a vacation day or a personnel day, it's just an extra day off to rest and catch my breath. So far, it's been a great day.

I went to 6 a.m. Mass this morning so I could come home and have the whole long morning uninterrupted. On the drive home, I was looking around the fields and thinking, "Well, there's nothing really special this morning. It's just it's usual pretty self, but then, you never know when something will turn up."

When I pulled in my driveway, there were birds swooping all over the place. After I stopped the car, I looked out at the yard and noticed that all the leaves seemed to be moving. (Yes, I still have leaves in my yard. I like them.) The yards was full of birds. Most of them were sparrows and were pretty well camouflaged in the leaves. Then there was a cardinal, showing up to add some color to a pretty drab landscape--well, except for the brave little stand of daffodils that had been trying to cheer us up, but who were bowing their heads before the cold. They'll probably perk up later this afternoon. Then there were a couple more cardinals and I discerned a couple of their wives among the sparrows, and there were blue jays and a pair of robins. The little birds kept bobbing around in the leaves and the big birds kept swooping around in the trees, and the robins sat up on a branch and looked like they might be discussing where they would like to set up housekeeping.

Some of them look happier already.
I sat in the car for about 10 or 15 minutes watching them bob, and swoop, and perch, and then they slowly started migrating to the south. A few would go, and then a few more. Pretty soon all of them were gone except a woodpecker, knocking away at the top of the pecan tree, and a fat cardinal perched in the bare branches of an oak with the waxing moon sinking behind him. 

I wonder if they do this every morning. Do they all show up for an early-bird worm-catching party after we've left for work in the dark? I'll have to check tomorrow.

A few days ago, a Facebook friend, a seminary student, posted this, "Is sin the bending of goodness upon oneself? Rather than giving good to others, sin becomes making sure I get good." I know there is a context to this comment that I am ignorant of, and that probably he wasn't using the word "goodness" in the way it might sound, but it got me thinking about goodness. Because it sounds like he's implying that there is some limited amount of goodness and that if I hold on to some myself, I might be depriving someone else of his share. And, of course, that can't be right. Goodness is an attribute of God, and is, therefore, infinite. We were made for God and we yearn for Goodness, and there is plenty out there for everyone. If we have; Goodness, we can be good to others; if we don't, we'll probably just do harm.

One way I know that God wants us to have good is that He sends us these good moments. Sitting there watching the birds, I realize that the moment is a gift, and the gift is for me. No one else saw it, and no one else ever will. I could try to take pictures; I could sit here and try to describe it all day long; but I'll never be able to convey a tenth of what I experienced. I can remember other moments, for example, Tuesday night when I was driving home and four deer ran across the road in front in me--thankfully far enough in front of me--or another night when I came home late and caught a little vision in the headlights, a fat black and white cat perched in front of that same little stand of daffodils. And I saw that it was very good.