Sunday, April 27, 2014

Low Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, and canonizations, a full day!

From Missa Secunda, Hans Leo Hassler:

And at my home parish, we were treated to adoration, confession, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and Benediction. A beautiful day!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Lessons from William M. Joel, Philosopher, or, Fantasy vs Reality

Conformity vs Non-conformity.
Bland vs Edgy
Safety vs Risk
Cowardice vs Courage
Obedience vs Rebellion

All of these comparisons. So little truth. Think of how a young person judges whether or not something is cool. Or whatever the term that is now cool instead of cool. Sick? Whatever. Is it common? Is it original?

Really, what is meant, is, what group does it identify me with? How does it brand me?

Because really, folks. Nothing is new. Just like the word says. No. Thing. If you are trying not to conform to say, what "society" says is "normal," all you are doing is conforming to what popular culture says  is cool, rad, sick, progressive, alternative, etc. But is it? Or is it about finding a way to define yourself as special? To define yourself as being loved? (by the ____ group).

Let me try to sketch out a very basic example.

A young girl, let's say, projects her identity out to the world through her clothing, at least in many cases of American girls. If she picked up somewhere that she deems cool,  the message that to be a feminine looking girl is not very cool, she will not like the look of herself in a dress. It will not fit with the image of herself she wants to project. If she gets positive feedback from the group that is informing her ideas, then she is comfortable. If some other (non-cool) group compliments her on a day she must wear a dress, it not only does not make her feel good about the dress, but extra bad, because this is the group that she wants to distance herself from. A common occurrence, ever since the invention of teenagers, right?

After all, the great philosopher, Willam Martin Joel, said, "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, the sinners are much more fun." Of course, if he had written that in today's jargon, he would have put it more like, "I'd rather crusade with the alternative lifestyle warriors than bitterly cling to the Bible and maybe a gun." His way was a bit catchier.

If any of you reading are over the age of, say 40- ish, you may be realizing that being one of the sinners was not indeed the fun we once thought. It may have seemed so in the moment, but some of us are still reaping the "rewards"of some of our Billy Joel moments, and may now know better.

So, you get where I am going. There is no non-conformity. There is no edginess. There is no such thing as standing up to societies norms. There is only choosing who/what you will conform to. No human person can reinvent the wheel of what it is to be human. We can have a personal style, a way of being in the world, but when we base it on rebellion against xyz, we are fooling ourselves.

Especially in our current culture. This culture dictates with an iron fist that we must never, no not ever, call a thing right or wrong. To do that is to JUDGE (gasp). Oh, but wait a sec, there are some things which not only are we free to judge, but in fact MUST be judged, and we will be told how.

1. Do not ever utter a word against any (xyz) "alternative" lifestyle. (read: homosexual) You are then the worst person who ever lived on the earth.  (No distinction between the person and the lifestyle is allowed to be made).

2. DO rant and rave about anyone who does believe in God, who does believe there is objective truth, and paint them as The Oppressor. This is by far the coolest eh-vehr position to have. Those people need to be silenced. They may not breathe the same air as the cool ones.

Here is the Wisdom of the Ages from the Bible:

What has been, will be again. What has been done, will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 1:9

We all share the cloak of humanity. We are, at once, all individuals, and all a collective. God treats each one with the utmost respect by giving us free will that He will not violate. But, our human condition can only innovate so much until we just repeat the same mistakes over and over.

Pride is our hallmark. The "I will not serve" that is resident in all our hearts, has been with us since the Fall. When we think we are going against the mainstream, when we think we have found a way to call everything  "okay" and thus create peace, we are just repeating what ancient societies have tried over and over. All to just escape that awful thing that is labeled Conformity, or worst of all Obedience.

The grand irony, is that the most counter-cultural thing of all is to be radically obedient to Christ. To bow our heads and our hearts to the ultimate Truth. If you want to go completely against the current Norm, try to be a faithful Christian. It ain't easy. You will be opposed at every turn. You will be opposed by the people you love the most. By family. Friends. Yes, the dreaded Society.

This is what takes real courage, real risk. Want to be stretched intellectually? Try reading St. Thomas Aquinas. Try reading the Church Fathers. Those guys used their intellects to the degree which, for us, would be the breaking point.

In the Gospel, in the Church, resides the Ultimate rebellion. Christ destroys death. It can't get any edgier than that. The Radical of Radicals, He hung on the cross, that so we would not ultimately lose our lives, he gave His.

Oh, you can say that you aren't going to go along with how God made you in some way, you can dress yourself as whatever you want, you can yell at the top of your lungs against Him all day long. Try as we might, none of us can defeat reality, defeat Truth. There is one certain Prince of Darkness that would love for all of us to go on trying. He has already lost that war, but misery loves company, and he would love to have us as company for eternity. However, God has seen to it that we can be happy with Him forever, in the great Company of the Angels and the Saints, of life and love.

We will all face our own earthly death.The great leveler of playing fields. The human condition that we all share. It will not matter then how we have dressed ourselves up, only if we have dressed our souls with Christ.

There is no human on earth right now that He has not died for. No one who is out of the reach of His love.

Try reading  this aloud to yourself, slowly. I dare you.

 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.  You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.  Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,  even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,"  even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.  For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,  your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you. If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!  They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.  Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you?  I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.  Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

H/T to Manny  for bringing this work to my attention.

A holy Good Friday to all. 


Saturday, April 12, 2014

7 quick thankful that we're almost there takes

1. I am really ready for the Easter season. I know Lent is always the same number of days, but this year it has seemed particularly long. I am thankful that tomorrow is Palm Sunday. Either I am doing Lent really right, because I am weary, or really wrong, because. I am weary.

2. Thankful for family. Last night, I attended my Uncle Cliff's 90th birthday party. He is the last living sibling from my father's family. He looks fantastic! I will add in a picture or two, once they get posted. About 140 were there to celebrate! And that was limiting it to his kids, nieces, nephews and their kids. Yikes, there are a lot of Biehls. And the world is better for it. Rachael went with me, as Bob could not get off work, so she had a nice dose of that branch of her family. Her quote of the evening, "Wow, I have never seen so many people that look like you." (meaning me). And that was a high compliment, given what a good looking bunch they are.  It can take effort to stay in touch with extended family, but it is so worth it. As I get older, I realize this more and more. I had a lovely time talking with my cousins.

3. I am thankful for the weather change, and days like today. The ability to start hanging out my wash, and that my hyacinths (above) bloomed and smell wonderful.

4. I am thankful for the fun of planning nice things, like Easter dinner, what to plant in my garden and front planter, trips I want to make this summer, the Chicago Piano competition trip (soon!) and even the cleaning for Holy week, and the wonderful smell of the new hyacinths we will put inside.

5. Very thankful and grateful for my 11 year anniversary of being Catholic.

6. Thankful for every day I am given to live on this earth, and the grace and mercy of God, who gives me another chance to love and serve Him each day.

7. Of course, thankful to God for loving us so much that He sent His Son to live on this earth and die for us.

Monday, April 7, 2014

day out with my some of my best friends

 Today, Rachael, Malaika and I went to pick up Corrie from a friend's home in Southern Chester County, (where I lived from about 1990-1996 ish), and it being such a beautiful day, we stretched it out a bit and also went by our old house and then over to see Melissa's new apartment in West Chester. Ben was there already, visiting with her, and we all went to have pizza together, Adam very generously picking up the check. (Just to give all the props, Rachael paid for drinks and the car wash). All the kids are so generous that way.

Chester County, Pennsylvania has some truly beautiful and often historic, idyllic sights. It was great to breathe some fresh air, and visit with some lovely people. We also got to visit some lovely kitties! Ones that need homes. I fell in love with this little guy (I think, guy).

 yes, that is a tan shirt. please.

I  mean c'mon! Who could resist that face? But he is too young to leave his momma, so the point is moot for a minute.

I had the thought during this day, and many others, that I am so incredibly blessed to really enjoy the company of my kids. I know many parents don't. I know I didn't as a kid. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty of love, and it was expressed in various ways, but there was not the kind of closeness that I enjoy with my own.

I attribute it to many things, the topmost being the grace of God. I have written about some of our struggles, and it has not been because of any moral fortitude on my part or any of ours, but that He reached in and brought, is bringing, us along our separate and intertwined journeys home to Him.

My own life, before and after my conversion, is markedly different, yet I am completely still Kelly, just with some of the sin and disorder sorted out. Our lives from 2002 took an uphill turn, of course not straight uphill. But not many people can withstand a straight uphill climb anyways. We need the twists, turns and switchbacks, along with the rest stops to get used to the altitude.

I also have to recognize the blessings that came with our difficulties. The poverty made us thankful for what we have now.  The emotional morasses we plowed/are plowing through made us humble and empathetic to others.

 I remarked to Rachael how I have lost friends for 1. the turbulent years, or 2. from recovering from the turbulent years. Some didn't like that it happened at all, and some liked me better broken, I guess. But the kids have been through it all with me and had front row seating. Perspective is everything.

I have also come to see, to the degree I am able, that parenting is a process. (duh, right?) That to take a snapshot on any given day and react to just that snapshot, causes stress and sometimes, division, within a family. To remember my own long and arduous process of growing up helps a lot, seeing how God led and  protected me. I am not saying we don't parent our children at all, just that it is unhelpful to demand the end product be realized in a day. 

Anyways! All that. And then this.

                                                                                                   * mountain pass photo credit:                                                          

Saturday, April 5, 2014

7 quick about to bloom takes


Yesterday was the kind of day in which I was too busy and subsequently too tired to do my quick takes post while it was still Friday. So, here is the Saturday morning version.

1. There is definitely some bug going around our area. I had it last week, my husband got it in spades and had to go to the doctor yesterday. Then, Malaika came home for lunch looking awful, and had to stay home. Just as Spring is trying to wedge it's foot in the door. Other places in the country are still having snowstorms. My deepest sympathy to you folks.

2. My thought for this week, one I have had many times before which is driven home the longer I live: Everything we do matters. That's it. I look at a single event in my life or my kids' lives, and can trace it directly back to something I did in the past, good, bad, or neutral. Here is one example:

 Setting: an assembly in fourth grade. A group demonstrating musical instruments and asking who might like to learn to play one. I mean to choose the trombone, but accidentally say saxophone. I take lessons, have one excellent teacher after another. Also teach myself guitar and sing, In high school, get invited to play and sing in local church. Confess Christ. Parents and brother come to hear and have their own spiritual conversions. I go on to have turbulent years, but many years later, am asked to play and sing at a Catholic charismatic prayer meeting. I am drawn back to God through this and convert.
--this is not the only music/faith related line I could draw, as it happened in numerous times and ways. Still is!

I have written about similar strings of events with much more difficult consequences that have stretched into the present, the worst which have affected my kids.  It makes the present a bittersweet affair, but one in which I am learning to grasp how powerful is our God, how merciful, and how present He is in every moment. I am also learning that each day contains in it His will for me to follow, That whatever today brings, I can embrace it and enter into doing His will, knowing He will be present to supply the strength and grace I need. So, my past bad decisions, whether done out of fear, ignorance, stupidity, or whatever, can be remembered with regret, but also with gratitude. Even those things can be redeemed and the years the locusts have eaten can be restored. I am always humbled by this realization.

Which brings me to--

  3. I am reading a book called He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Ciszek,S.J.,  about a priest that lived in Russia beginning in 1940. He survived solitary confinement and labor camps. The book is not as much about the timeline and outer happenings, as it is his inner journey. The story of the former is told in his book, With God in Russia. The amazing thing is that both he and a friend began wanting to go to Russia years before, as young seminarians.This, before the times of Hitler, not knowing the maelstrom they would be entering.

In the book, Fr. Ciszek talks of being drawn to the plight of the Russians, wanting  go and minister to them. Not having any foresight into what he would endure, he admits a certain sentimentality in his desire, but also a dose of mystery. It was not a shaft of light kind of revelation, but a desire in his heart. God did not phone him to let him know what His will was, so Father followed this desire on faith.

The one big principle I am taking away from this book is what I mentioned above: God's will is what we find every day by putting our feet on the floor and going about our day. The people we encounter, the meals we prepare, the floors we sweep. The daily joys of time spent with our children while they are still under our roof. The difficulties we experience with the same.

It is made the more profound when reading about Fr. Ciszek's experiences in solitary confinement for four or five years, and then in the labor camps of Siberia. He would not have been able to foresee himself enduring those situations on a daily basis, but then, he did. And after struggling with trying to discern and follow God's will, he had a near breakdown and collapse of his faith. On the heels of that, God helped him see that He was there in every moment, and that His will was for Father to live in each of those moments, whatever they brought, in accordance with his faith in and love of God. From that point, Father Ciszek was able to make his way though that experience knowing that whether he accomplished something in the eyes of men or not, he did so in God's eyes.

It has been the best read of my Lent this year.

4. Thursday night, I went with my son Daniel,

to a concert by these guys 

 The Reign of Kindo. At Ortlieb's Jazzhaus. My phone died, so this image is not from the show we saw. Daniel took one, and when I get it, I'll share it with you. And here it is!

In a nutshell. Good tacos. Weird venue, long and skinny, with the band in the center, facing across the ten foot wide space. But we stood right in front of the singer, which was awesome. They all are phenomenal musicians. Great band, great show. Great company.  We also had a drunk girl doing the Elaine (from Seinfeld) dance in front of us. Until she had to sit down. On the stage. I also appreciated the head banging, because this band so often plays in uneven meters, it got kind of funny. All the wobbly looking movements. But the crowd was super into them, they were very gracious performers, and most of us sang along at the appropriate places.  Good Times.

 5. It's only twelve days until the beginning of the Triduum.. The good news is that I can still work out my salvation with prayer, penance and almsgiving to the best of my ability for twelve days. The other good news is I can start planning what yummy food I am going to make, get the Easter decorations dusted off, finish up cleaning and decluttering and get ready to celebrate the victory of the Risen Lord.  So, it's all good news about the Good News.

6. On God not being a respecter of persons. I often think about this, now that I am Getting Older. Well, we are all getting older, but I can now capitalize it. The people in life that are involved in becoming Important People are generally not very available to say, go shopping with you, or come over for dinner. It's the people that either aren't trying to ascend the ladder of the Influential, that are making their way through life in a smaller way, those are the ones you know you can call up to drive you to the Emergency room when you cut yourself with a knife while slicing butternut squash, and you're feeling dizzy about the blood. Or you can call up when you think of something you really want to share with another person, and they will actually answer and talk but mostly listen. Stuff like that. Of course, the world needs superstars in all manner of categories. Medicine, the Arts, Politics. Well, maybe we could do without that last one.
That's what I think about when I think about God not being a respecter of persons.

7. Bob came across this video and watched it a couple times already. It is beautiful and compelling.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gosnell Movie

The closet door is going to be opened folks, allowing light to shine on the most covered up, misrepresented industry the world has known.

No surprise that there will be all kinds of contortions made by those that have a stake in keeping people in the dark.

Please pray, and if you are able, go here to read about the project and help fund it.

If you are interested, the hashtag on Twitter is #gosnellmovie.

I saw the story initially on The Kelly File. I admire Megyn Kelly more and more every day. She also was aghast at how University of Michigan cancelled the showing of a movie about "honor" killings (Honor Diaries) and other atrocities done to Muslim women and little girls, and at the same time calling abortion  "life-giving."


Good on you, Megyn. And Kirsten Powers, too. God bless you ladies. Megyn's interview with the CAIR rep about Honor Diaries was awesome.

Oh, and I think the Kelly File far outshines ol' Bill. IMHO.