Friday, March 27, 2015

7 quick takes, the Lenten foible edition

I don't know about anyone else, but hasn't this been the Lentiest Lent ever? I am ever so glad to nearing the end. Yes, there is the big stuff, but it's the little stuff that threatens the sanity.

Station of the Cross, when we get to --

"I searched for comforters, but I found none."

here is where my mind goes.

2. Our exchange student made himself some hot dogs:

3. Two kids had this happen at the same time

4. I had a new dryer installed and nobody could be happier than I am about not having to be a laundromat dweller anymore. But the vent keeps coming loose and so I have this metal tape I have to put on, resulting in something like

5. Slightly stressing out over different things one day, decided to go to bed after dinner and watch Rainman on my Kindle. Forgot it was Stations night at church. Ate these while watching movie.

Not good for Lent or diet, or the fact that they were meant for Easter baskets. I did only eat a few handfuls, and only the pinks and purples. That's Lenten, right?

6.  Maybe it was that prayer I prayed, you know the one. Goes something like, "I
am willing to suffer for this and that prayer intention, for the good of my soul and others..."

Perhaps that was a mistake.

7. When this movie begins echoing my life---

--makes about as much sense as the real version.

See you on the other side, God willing!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

De Sales strikes again!

Happy St. Joseph's Day! I especially think of my friend Joyce today, and her special love and devotion to Glorious St. Joseph.

I want to share with you another bit of Roses Among Thorns

This is from the Chapter called, Saint Peter in Chains.

Do we love our sweet Savior? Oh, he knows full well that if we do not love him, we at least desire to love him. Now, if we love him, let us feed his sheep and his lambs, for that is the mark of faithful love. With what shall we feed these dear little sheep? With love itself, for they either do not love at all, or they live upon love. Between love and death there is no middle. We must die or love, for he who loves not, as St. John says, remains in death.
Or Lord said to St. Peter, "When you were young, you fastened your own belt and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will fasten your belt for you to carry you where you do not wish to go"(cf. John 21:18). Young apprentices in the love of God fasten their own belts. They take up the mortifications that seem good to them; they choose their penances and make up their own minds about God's will. But the old masters of the craft allow themselves to be bound by others and submit to the yoke imposed upon them, and travel down paths upon which they do not wish to travel. In spite of the resistance of their inclinations, they voluntarily allow themselves to be governed against their will and say that they would rather obey than make an offering, and this is how they glorify God, by crucifying not only their flesh, but also their spirit.

All I can say is. wow. With typical clarity and yet profundity, St. Francis de Sales strikes again. 

For me, this has been a very Lenten Lent. God knows how hard it is for me to put aside my own plans and preferences, so He has arranged that I am  mostly doing things that I am called upon to do, with a little of what I wanted to do for Lent and a small bit of  just what I want to do period, thrown in. I have also been dealing with some aches and pains, illness, emotional ups and downs and just a whole bunch of challenges from within and without. But this passage encourages me in that typically Saleseian way. 

His loudest message, to me, is always, not to fret about the limitations of my life or my humanity, but to graciously accept everything and also offer everything. Though I am worlds away from the "old masters" referred to above, I take heart that the small ways I am able to serve God through my daily life's path of running about doing small services, are taken into account.   

Lastly, friends, know that I am praying for you and offering my small struggles. Please pray for me also, especially my family and friends who are going through trials galore.

I am still being blessed with moments of joy this Lent, despite everything else! Not doing super great with some of my self imposed disciplines, but trying to hold that all loosely and let God lead.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Pardon Your Heart

I wanted to do a 7 Quick Takes on Friday, but the snowstorm on Thursday pushed all my errands to Friday, plus there is a nasty cold going around my house of which I was one of the lucky recipients. I am still coughing, sneezing and blowing my nose. And my voice has dropped an octave. I made it through work this weekend, but missed mass, Today I am trying to do some chores but also get some rest, which is admittedly not very realistic. But blogging is at least a sitting down thing, so. All that as a preface, here are some things I wanted to share.

This lovely passage from Roses Among Thorns, which I will type out, to avoid that weird box that comes with pasting text.

  Be patient with all, but especially with yourself. Do not trouble yourself about your imperfections. Always have the courage to pick yourself back up and begin again every day, for there is no better path to success in the spiritual life than always to begin again and ever to think that you have done enough.

Pardon Your Heart

We must always desire to carry out our spiritual exercises well and with precision, both prayer and the exercise of the virtues, and we must never be troubled, anxious, or surprised if we fail to do so. Our desires depend upon our fidelity, which should always be total and yet should grow from day to day; our failures are caused by our infirmity, which we will never be able to leave behind during this mortal life. When we have committed some fault, we should immediately examine our heart and ask ourselves whether we retain a lively and thorough resolution to serve God.
One hopes for a heart that would rather suffer a thousand deaths than fail to keep this resolution. We reprove our heart, "Why, then, are you hesitating now? Why are you so cowardly?" And we make our excuse,:"I was taken by surprise, and I hardly know how it happened, but now I am again thinking of my resolution." The heart must be pardoned. It is not through infidelity that it failed, but through infirmity. It must be corrected gently and calmly, that it not be brought to anger or further trouble. We should say to it, "My heart, my friend, in the name of God, be courageous. Let us walk together, taking care as we go, lifting ourselves up to our help, to our God." And, we must be charitable toward our soul, not taking it to task severely, provided we see that it is not offending purposefully. Do you not see that in treating it this way, we practice a holy humility?

It really strikes me how many times he unapologetically uses absolutes and commands; always, never, must, should. We in this present day are taught to avoid speech like that, yet if you read it and glean the message, it is anything but offensive, just clear and forthright. Yet, the message is one of having patience, compassion, and clearly seeing oneself. Which is as De Sales says at the end, the very definition of humility. Seeing ourselves as we really are.

My Lent has been full of such messages, and I do take them to heart as being straight from God. Not only as a way of dealing with myself, but also with others. The tender conversation between the person and his heart is so gentle but spot on in its message. "Okay, that thing happened, (maybe AGAIN). Let's go forward and offer it to God, asking for the grace to remember next time before we do that." Or something.  If you have kids, what a good message about correcting with patience and without rancor. That correlation of God as Father and we as parents can also be applied to our souls/hearts. 

For those of us enjoying our first tastes of Spring, hurray! Right? 



Friday, February 27, 2015

A fast and sloppy 7 quick takes. with a lot of links.

                                                                                                                                                            Because I have to go to the laundromat, and my idea-maker, also loosely referred to as my brain, is not working at optimal speed.


1.  This blog is one of my favorites to read. Not only is it inspirational, instructional and beautifully laid out, the monks are based in Ireland, where I dearly would love to go someday. Today's post about fasting is outstanding. And I am referring to this one throughout Lent, as a reminder. And Ireland.

2. Our Chinese student, who I will refer to as Chili to protect his identity, and because that is what I actually call him, had a birthday this past week. we took him to an Italian restaurant (owned by a couple that happen to live on our block, and have incidentally appeared in an episode of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares). It was definitely no nightmare, the food being the kind of Italian you enjoy at your Nonna's on a Sunday. Chili likes Italian second best to Chinese. And waffles. Oh and Bacon, eggs, cereal, hot dogs, steak...anyway. He is 18, so. But the POINT is, Lent went out the window that night. As it rightly should have for a birthday celebration. But so did Bob's diet, my sorta kinda diet, and any sense of restraint. Chocolate Mousse Cake. I am still burping a little. Scusi.

3.  You should also read this blog. Today's post is funny AND spiritual. Good combo. But if you, like me, are bookish, you will like it all the time.

4. One of the good things I am reading a lot about this Lent is that we shouldn't try to do things that interfere with our vocation. Such as, the well worn scenario of the woman that goes to mass all the time and neglects her family. Or the person who fasts so strictly that he or she feels terrible and can't do their work well. Stuff like that. Something that comes to mind when I want to say, go to a morning weekday mass but can't due to duties or chores is this: When Bob and I used to play/sing music weekly for our parish's Sunday 5PM masses, we liked to arrive as early as possible to set up and rehearse in the church before people started to come and sit in the pews. Father Kelley would sometimes be praying in the empty church, at the side of the altar. We would come bustling in, lugging Bob's keyboard and all our stuff, and when we saw him, would apologize for having disturbed his prayer. I forget his exact words, but he never made us feel bad, saying something to the effect that he never would complain about that, because people were more important. I try to remember that when I am trying to BE SPIRITUAL but, people.

5.  If you like to cook or bake, or know anyone who does, this is the very best recipe blog around,  Any time my kids ask me for "that cheesecake recipe"or "that chili, or chocolate cake recipe'" it's always from Smitten Kitchen. She is a funny writer as well, and has wonderful step by step photos.

6. On a more serious note, I would ask you once again for your prayers for my family. Everyone has their own thing right now. Also for a couple of dear friends going through deep trials. Also for a family that has recently been in a terrible car accident and are all in various stages of injury, some serious. Their last name is Kurtz, they are from the area west of Philadelphia, and they are an amazing pro life family, having adopted 20 and helped scores more. This link takes you to the St. Francis house, which they helped start. It tells the story and asks for donations.

7. And now, because the laundry awaits, a joke,

GOD   to    ST. FRANCIS :
Frank:    You know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet?   What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago?   I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I  expected to see a vast garden of colours by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.

   It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with   grass.

   Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colourful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

   Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

   The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.  

   Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it - sometimes twice a week.

   They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

   Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

   They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

    No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away!

   Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw 
it away?

   Yes, Sir.

   These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

 You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

 What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.

   You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

   No! What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

   After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

    And where do they get this mulch?

   They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch .

   Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

   'Dumb and Dumber,' Lord. It's a story about...  

   Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

Happy weekend everybody!



Thursday, February 26, 2015

so, how YOU doin' ?

Winter Scene Hd Wallpaper

I hope you all are having a fruitful, holy and joyful Lent! Doin' okay over here.

I want to share a few small excerpts from my readings. Here is one from Roses Among Thorns:

Jesus in Our Heart

"How happy you will be if while you are in the world you keep Jesus in your heart! Remember the principal lesson he left to us, and in only a few short words, so that we would be able to remember it:  "Learn of me, for I am meek, and humble of heart"(Matt. 11:29, Douay-Rheims). It is everything to have a heart that is meek toward our neighbor and humble toward God. At every moment give such a heart to our Savior, and let it be the heart of your heart, You will see that to the extent that this holy and considerate friend takes up a place in your mind, the world with its vanities and trifles will leave you."

As my friend Caroline mentioned, I also just love the practicality of dear St Francis De Sales. Frankly, it s refreshing to have someone say, JUST DO THIS! So many times, we hear, "well, I can't tell you what to do.." Haha.

Another book I am reading is The Way of Serenity, Finding Peace and Happiness in the Serenity Prayer, by Father Jonathan Morris. You may have seen him on EWTN or Fox News. In the book, he takes apart the Serenity Prayer; you know:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 
courage to change the things I can, 
and the wisdom to know the difference.

This prayer is most associated with twelve-step programs. If you are a reader here much, you may remember I attend Nar Anon. So, I am familiar with the prayer, and was attracted to the book's title, and somewhat also by the author, having heard him on TV and Sirius Radio's Catholic Channel. He is candid about some of the struggles in the life of his family that initially caught my ear. 

Here are a few passages I have highlighted:

"The serenity to accept the things we cannot change must involve the ability to be patient with those things and decide they will not alter our state of mind and heart."
*(My observation-Notice how well this goes with the above passage of De Sales). 

"Given the fact that we cannot avoid all trouble in life, we have a choice to make regarding how we will deal with what comes our way. We can live in bitterness and sorrow, either from the real and present woes that afflict us or from the fear that trouble could be just around the corner. Or we can choose to live in peace despite our real trials and tribulations and in the confidence that nothing can befall us that we cannot handle with God's grace."


"Although we have sinned and chosen to do things our own way, God makes a promise to us that out of every instance of suffering and sin in this world, he will bring out of it a good even greater than the good that has been lost and that now we mourn. We see the fulfillment of this promise most perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ who gave up his life so that we might live with him forever in eternity, where every tear will be wiped away."

Did you see that? A good even greater? Hard to wrap our minds around, especially since we are not able to look into time in such a way as to see what may have happened in the past had different choices been made. We CAN however, look into our own past at certain choices, then follow them forward, and see where God really did bring immense good out of what seemed at the time to be extremely sorrowful, even hopeless.

So, on that note! 

I was awakened last night by some knucklehead who rang my phone at precisely 3AM. Not recognizing the number, I let it go to voicemail, when said knucklehead must have realized he or she dialed wrongly. But  then I was awake. (big sigh). Sometimes when awakened, I just cannot get back to sleep. This was one of those times. I remembered that the Divine Mercy Prayer is traditionally prayed at 3:00 PM, the hour when Jesus died, also called the "hour of mercy." I know 3AM is NOT the hour Jesus died, and is thought by some to be the hour that those who hate Jesus use as their "holy hour." I decided, in reclamation of that time, and for the souls of all who are undergoing persecution and slaughter around the world, to pray as much of the Divine Mercy prayer as I could until falling asleep as I could. So, a grace there. 

Happy Lent-ing, everyone! 

winter scene photo source:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Some musical inspiration for your Monday

Today, February 23 is Handel's birthday. I heard this piece on the radio as I was driving this morning. I couldn't find the same version and arrangement, which was absolutely breathtaking. It had robust sweeping strings and a lovely choral hymn. Here is a nice arrangement, but it is not the one I heard.

Hope it adds some joy and peace to your Monday.

Friday, February 20, 2015

7 Quick Takes; the portal edition


Door from the Tuileries Palace


O gates, lift high your heads; 
grow higher, ancient doors.
 Let him enter, the king of glory!

from Psalm 24

St Marys Church West Porch Door


Go within his gates, giving thanks.
Enter his courts with songs of praise.
Give thanks to him and bless his name.-from Psalm 100-

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The glory of these forty days
We celebrate with songs of praise;
For Christ, by whom all things were made,
Himself has fasted and has prayed.

Alone and fasting Moses saw
The loving God who gave the law;
And to Elijah, fasting, came
The steeds and chariots of flame.

So Daniel trained his mystic sight,
Deliver'd from the lions' might;
And John the Bridegroom's friend, became
The herald of Messiah's name.

Then grant us, Lord, like them to do
Such things as bring great praise to you;
Our spirits strengthen with your grace
And give us joy to see your face.

O Father, Son, and Spirit blest,
To you be every prayer addressed
And by all mankind be adored,
From age to age, the only Lord.

Text: Latin , sixth century
Translation: Maurice F Bell 1906



He has strengthened the bars of your gates, 
he has blessed the children within you.
He established peace on your borders,
he feeds you with finest wheat.

-from Psalm 147-

5. So, numbers one through four were taken from today's morning prayers, called Lauds. They are from the Salesian tradition. I thought, since I am reading De Sales, it would all kind of go together.
The doors, gates, portal-like theme kind of jumped out at me, though it is by no means a dominant theme in the whole of the prayers. But I did find it to be very Lent appropriate. You know, like the "turning a page" saying, also we can, "go through" to a new way, a new and different season, which indeed we will.


6. The hymn, the Glory of These Forty Days, struck me especially as I read it instead of singing. The words had different meaning somehow, the way they brought me through time, all the way from Moses forward. I have to admit, while reciting the words, William Shatner leapt to mind, and I had to work to banish him.

7. I hope the grace and mercies that float around in the air (or seem to) during this season are touching you. 

The next stanza of Psalm 147 talks about sending down snow and scattering hoar-frost. Which, if you are anywhere in the Northeast or Midwest United States, you can relate to, but probably would rather not. 
So, I pray any floating graces and mercies are of the warm variety.



Parham Park - Cootham, West Sussex, England