Wednesday, October 27, 2010

choices and charity

 Did you ever stop a minute and look back over the events of your life and see the effect of a single choice that you made? How it led to chain of occurrences, and affected so much more than you ever could have forseen? I sometimes am astonished at the power a single choice has had on the world around me, rippling off into the future, taking on a life of its own. 
 One easy example is the birth of a child. If you, like I, went headstrong into the world as a young person, and did not wait until marriage to engage in sex with the boyfriend of the time, then upon becoming pregnant, had to decide how to proceed, then you know what I am talking about. So we decide, and that decision goes forward with us, whether we embrace or reject the life now created. After my first go at it, in which I chose to abort, I married and had seven children. Having learned from that the real agenda of the abortion/death proponents, and that it fostered death in my own life and those around me, I never had to actively choose if I would give birth to the rest. But in choosing to cooperate in the creation of each child,  whole new lifetimes of choice-makers are brought into the world. The ripples of effect from the abortion also followed me into the future, these being mostly negative, in the form of PTSD type symptoms, but the positive has been that I experienced God's grace and His willingness to entrust seven more souls to me, and that now I am able to enjoy all they give to me and to the world. 

  But even a seemingly smaller choice can resonate--something you say to someone, who takes that thing to heart and acts on it, positive or negative. Paying attention when someone is talking. Deciding whether to attend a daily mass, say a rosary, write a letter; they all go out from us and make their mark on the world. Do we always get to know what happens? No, but sometimes God allows us a window-we see someone we encouraged go on to pursue a certain path, or someone we discouraged with a harsh word, withdraw. 

 This reminds me of the discussion that can ensue with people who claim 
they are not puppets of any religion, or God. Who trumpet "choice" as a religion that worships whatever thought is in their heads at any given moment. Why would anyone think that choices belong to them alone? That they don't make any choice in a vacuum? God, in His wisdom allows us to live, free in every moment of our lives, to choose to live in Him and pursue holiness, or not. We know we never "arrive" at perfection but that the journey of a life relinquished to God  is the epitome of freedom. And alternately, a life dedicated to promoting separation from God (goes by the name of Pride) is really a life of shackles. The world, the flesh and ultimately, the devil are harsh taskmasters. Case in point, in observing the relationships of those who would eschew all allegiance to God, I see an angry, defensive lot that chews up and spits out its own as soon as someone doesn't toe the party line. "Wait!" I want to say--"I thought you were all about choice"? Oh--only certain choices--"who gets to decide which choices"? oh, a certain group of people--"who chooses which people"?--oh, only other people who reject God. okay. I think I get who "makes all their own choices" is not entirely self driven, but rather a reaction to those who willingly submit themselves to God, and especially if they dare to share their faith with others, and claim, as Jesus said, that He is The Way, the Truth and the Life. So it is okay to follow in lockstep with some person who says that you don't need God. (Whose narrative goes something like-"who is HE anyway, to try and tell you what to do, oh and by the way--do what I tell you to do, and don't mess up, or you're out"!). Well, all I can tell you is that THAT particular drama played out in the garden, and it seems to be in theaters near you, perpetually.

 "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." James 4:6 

This line of thinking then gets me to thinking about truth and charity. Many times, I hear people talking of Christian love, (charity), in kind of gloppy sounding terms, as though love=sappy words*, always agreeable words, words that would never hurt anyone's feelings, or in the terms of the day, "disrespect" them in any way. What is left then? How can you communicate truth to someone in error or (gasp) sin without ever countering the beliefs leading to their behavior? I firmly believe that to lie to someone is not to love them at all. I understand that a certain degree of relationship is needed to engage a person on that level, that is a given. With acquaintances we have to rely on our demeanor and example. So here, a demeanor that radiates God's love and peace are something to aim for. (of course, it helps to foster God's love and peace oneself before trying to import it). But there is a time for direct, truthful words. Ones that don't tiptoe around the truth. 

*what leaps to mind at the thought of sappy Christian love is the Franco Zefirelli depiction of Saint Francis, in Brother Sun, Sister Moon, a film from 1973, in which Saint Francis appears with an expression of ecstasy permanently stuck on his face.

 A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity, Proverbs 17:17

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful
. Proverbs 27:6

Who knows if the words spoken today will not shape someones future? Who knows if those words might even shape their eternal future? If we have the truth within us, we have a treasure that Jesus asked us to give away freely. He tells us we will be hated because of Him. Hated. Wow. Not irritated, not annoyed.
 But are we willing to go that far? Not to go around ready to bite heads off for Jesus, but to carry His love and mercy in us, and be ready in season and out of season, to give witness to him?

 18"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.'[b] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. 23He who hates me hates my Father as well. 24If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'[c]
 26"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

 John 5:18-27

Monday, October 25, 2010

hooray-I can post again! and tell you how I met my husband. or ~ providence~

Whew! it's good to be back. I had a pesky computer bug that wouldn't allow me to post to my blog all week. The nerve! But my dear husband found a fix, and Ta Da! Here I am.

 Well, while I am on the subject of the DH, I think I will tell you the story of how we met. 

You may remember that I was song leader for the charismatic prayer group during the period of my conversion. This group held a mass a couple times a year in one of the neighborhood churches--the one Bob went to, turns out. He functioned there as a sacristan at times, among many other things. Of all the things that come to mind, I will be as charitable as possible and just say that he was a great help and support to the priest that served there at that time. The prayer group masses were always on a Tuesday evening, and Bob attended a few so as to keep Father from having to come over and close up. (Father was not terribly "into" the charismatic arm of the church. -again-Understatement- but he did allow us to meet at the church, so many thanks to him). Apparently, Bob had attended a time or two when I was there functioning as cantor for the mass, and "just happened to be there" one Tuesday in February 2005, and approached me after mass to offer his services as pianist "if I was interested".All the quotations are a little elbow to the ribs to point out that he was, in fact, coming to these masses because of his interest in me, as WELL as to close up for Father. This was not apparent to me as I took his number, written on the back of a number for a crisis pregnancy center. I was kind of used to being approached by people, (okay, men), that said they played guitar (didn't I already play guitar?), who frankly, seemed a bit to odd to want to work with. Plus, I have experience with people who say that they sing or play...and, no. But, Bob seemed quite genuine, didn't play the same instrument I did, and the thought of having a piano appealed to me. 
So on a Sunday night a couple weeks later, I dug his number out of my purse while on the way home from doing a kid pick up in Delaware. Melissa and I went back and forth about what we thought his last name was, so when I called, I just asked for Bob. Again, I wasn't aware of any other agenda than the music, so when I asked if he remembered who I was, he apparently had a moment. We decided to get together to run through some music and see how it went ( he still refers to this as his "audition") on March 3rd. Needless to say, it went well. Even on the little toy keyboard, I could tell he really did know how to play, and he was such a darn nice guy! 

And so the story goes--we had a lovely courtship, under the counsel of our favorite Augustinian priest-Father Terry-- Bob, crediting St. Augustine to his return to the Church, me, being a parishioner of Saint Monica Church--well, it all fit so nicely. We married on May 13th (first day of the appearances of our Lady at Fatima).  Our mentor and friend, Father Terry, died on October 13th. (the last of the Fatima appearances). We were his last wedding; we were told he had our wedding picture on his nightstand.

 I have been asked occasionally about our Augustinian devotion. I haven't researched the daylights out of it- but what I have learned about Saint Augustine, is that he was a thinker and a lover. To read his writings, one has to really dig in, it is not your average novelette. He is a Father and Doctor of the Church, and his writings shaped the Church's very foundations. But he was also filled to overflowing with the love of Christ, illustrated by his famous exclamation, "Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new." It was Father Terry's love that taught us more about Christ and the church than anything else. While waiting to confess, we would often hear laughter wafting out of Father Terry's station. His viewing at Villanova was attended by scores of Augustinian Friars, some of which shared funny and heartwarming memories. They were a joyful lot, all radiating that same peace and good humor we remember of Father Terry, despite all his illnesses and setbacks. So those are my thoughts on that.

 Bob and I are approaching our fifth wedding anniversary. My seven kids became his step kids and he has loved and cared for them valiantly through thick and thin. Mostly thick, I think. We love to play music, we are active in the pro life movement-with a group called Helpers of God's Precious Infants, which  incidentally, he was a member of for some years before I met him. (remember the crisis pregnancy card with his phone number?) We know that we are blessed, even through the struggles, with the many gifts the Lord had given us. We hope to continue to be faithful and grow in Him and serve Him well all the rest of our days.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!

I say this as a prayer when the priest is receiving the Eucharist, right before we go up to receive. 

I have often thought that if we really believed that we were in the presence of Christ's actual body,  (*note--we are.) we would fall on our faces and be unable to move. We would be frozen with awe, overcome by the power and passion of His presence, terribly aware of our shortcomings, but simultaneously overcome and filled with His all encompassing love and mercy. This is not strict church teaching or theology, just my thoughts about how little we grasp of what is actually going on at mass. 

I have heard Father Corapi speak about how much we could change just by receiving the Eucharist once. If we were able to fully cooperate with, and submit ourselves to God in that moment, there is no telling how much we would grow. ( a very loose paraphrase)

 It is not that we have to understand the mysteries of the Eucharist with our minds in order to receive grace, but rather that we believe the realities of what is contained in the host, and through faith, are open to the effects the Lord would lay upon us. After all, what Christian would not agree that if Jesus were to stroll in to a Sunday mass or service, we would all either 1. flee under the weight of or own sin and condemnation, or 2. be changed on the spot.

When I am at adoration, I have to continually reign in my mind. Interestingly, I often experience clearer thinking and have ideas about different things-both weighty and trivial, while in the presence of Jesus. My strategy is to have a pen and paper handy to jot things down so I then can not strain to remember them and let my mind quiet again. Many times, I must do this over and over. A very helpful thing to do, and this told to me by a beloved priest and friend, is to contemplate the crucifix. Another help, for me, is to picture Jesus standing or sitting in front of the exposed host. He is there, truly, so by doing this I can visualize what my place is before Him. I must do this because of my unbelief. Don't get me wrong, I believe. But my human limitations are such that I can't appreciate the Lord's presence completely . 

So, what the above phrase means to me, when I breathe it in prayer is; Lord, I believe in you as much as I am able at this moment; please increase my faith and allow me to absorb and appropriate as much of you as I possibly can.

Here is a larger section from which the passage I spoke about is taken-

Mark 9:20-29 NASB
They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. “It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!” But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”

It is interesting that the man, upon being told that "all things are possible to him who believes", knows his own limitations, and wants to be full of that kind of belief, so he asks Jesus for it. That is my aim during mass and in many other situations, that I ask Jesus for what I don't have, and can't get without Him. Another nugget from Father Corapi, is to recognize what we need and ask for it. I am not talking about a shopping list here! But if you need faith, ask for it! If you need to have more disciplined prayer time, ask! If you need to want to pray, then ask for the desire for God! I have to laugh, but really it makes sense. Just keep backing up until you get to the thing you need first.
 I definitely need to exercise but I desperately need to pray regularly. I have thought of this before, but today I started a "rosary-walk". On days I can't make it to mass, but still want to pray, I want to grab my Rosary and walk while I pray. This accomplishes two things: 1. I move around and count it  as exercise while I pray, and 2. I don't have the distractions of the house (phone, laundry, kids, etc...). It was nice today, I hope to see some spiritual and physical results!

God's Blessings, 

~and now, for something completely different~

You know you live with a Lot of People when... 

1. a regular dinner uses all the dishes in the cupboard.
2. the refrigerator is emptied daily.
3. you need lane markers and a blinking light to regulate traffic in the hallway.
4. you have made two trips to go places when everyone would not fit in the car.
5. everyone's schedule is so different that there are only one or two hours in which there is no one awake in the house at any given time.
6. the bathroom never really dries out.
7. whenever you approach the house, you can always hear the hum of the dryer--it is known as the House of Perpetual Laundry.
8 .there are so many shoes piled up inside the door, people think they have stumbled onto a thrift store.
9. on the rare occasions you all go to church together, you take up a whole pew.
10. you have to jockey for a seat on one of the couches. Usually a few end up on the floor.
11. You have to jump over bodies when they are playing video games (certain ones lay on their stomachs stretched out horizontally across the traffic lane in the living room.
12. you refer to any place in your house as the traffic lane.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

those two days after Friday. you may know them as the "weekend"

 I am not able to sit very long today, as I need to catch up from the whirlwind weekend. I have found that there are times when the idea of the weekend does not hold the same thrill as it once did.  TGIM is more the right speed. This one was kind of a blur, but as best I can remember, it started out on Friday, with my work shift, as always. I drive to my job at 4:00 every Friday, while the rest of the world is streaming out of workplace doors, wildly anticipating a few days of calling some time their own.  

 I worked until midnight, then tried to get up the next morning and tackle the day's activities. I should mention here that my husband always comes to pick me up from work, so he is up late too, but he seems to be able to get up no matter what. It is some genetic thing. I also used to have it; mine went away. Something else that expired was my ability to be ready to walk out the door in 45 minutes from the time my feet hit the floor. I was kind of proud of that, so I guess I just answered my own question...
  We had breakfast, ran an errand,  attended a wedding mass, ran some more errands, took an hours' crash-nap ( a staple of my existence), made and ate dinner, then spent the evening with my mother in law for her birthday. There was cake. 

 Sunday; mass, breakfast, Columbus Day Parade in which two of the kids were marching. This involved lots of walking, and for the record my feet were not recovered from Friday's work shift, so...some pain. But lots of pride for my kids. Even if the band as a whole was not in it's finest hour, it didn't stop the formation of the  Parental Lump in the Throat Syndrome.

 Then, home and getting a birthday dinner and small family party ready for our youngest. It featured  birthday pie (her choice), churros, (also her choice) a kazoo band, and lots of silliness. It was fun. Exhausting fun.

So, Monday found me with some nice memories, sore  feet, thankfulness for my family, and a lot of leftover cake. The pie went.

                                                                   ~next day~

  It has taken me until Tuesday just to get this finished and posted. That alone speaks of the weekend recovery time I require. I also am still in my pj's, and it is just about time for Malaika to appear for lunch.

I do have a few things I want to write about soon, of course the promised story of how I met and married Bob; but also something I have been chewing on for some time, and that is the problem of hating "the world" in the biblical sense, but loving the people in it. I usually cringe when I hear the "hate the sin, love the sinner" phrase bandied about. Not because it is wrong, but because it is put out there with about as much effort as pushing a button or waving a wand. We who live in the world and do love "the people" as a whole, often are faced with specific people, that we in fact already love, who are, in fact, in disordered lifestyles or situations. What does our love for them, then look like? If you are reading this and have some ideas feel free to share! Please, pretty please, though, stay away from platitudes or phrases as the one I mentioned above, at least if it is without a more in depth explanation. I have been meaning to order and read "Reaching the Left from the Right", by Barbara Curtis, well known blogger of Mommy Life (featured on my blog roll).  I do have some thoughts already on the subject, but I will wait until I can do a thorough treatment.

As I was writing this, a funny smell wafted through the house. Now, I am used to this, because I live with six kids; I live in a row home, which affords us up close and personal  access to other peoples sounds and smells. This one was kind of like a cooking smell, again, not too unusual. I mentioned above that Malaika comes home for lunch...well, when I finally decided to go to the back door (via the kitchen) to see where the increasingly burning-like smell was coming from, I remembered. I had put on some eggs to hard boil--oh about an hour ago or so, then gotten into this posting again (amongst other stuff), and forgotten. Just as I approached the pot to turn it of the eggs exploded. 


Suffice it to say that I now have two exhaust fans going, a steaming pot of rock hard eggs on my back patio (I can still see the smoke going rising past my window), and, no doubt, my neighbors are all wondering where the funny smell is coming from.