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' ?

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

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Found a gem to kick off Lent 2015

One of the books I am reading this Lent is Roses among Thorns, Simple Advice for Renewing Your Spiritual Journey. by St. Francis De SalesIf it sounds perfect for Lent, that's because IT IS. I was going to reread Introduction to the Devout Life, and then I saw this. I have only read the first two pages because I couldn't stop reading them over and over.

Jesus the Gardener 
Do not be anxious. Rouse yourself to serve the Lord with steadfastness, attentiveness, and meekness. That is the true way to serve him. If you can refrain from trying to do all things, but instead attempt to do only some one thing, then you will do much. Practice the mortifications that most often present themselves to you, for that is the first duty to be done. After that you can take up the others. Lovingly kiss the crosses that our Lord himself lays upon your arms, without looking to see whether they are of precious or aromatic wood. They are more truly crosses when they are made of a wood that smells dirty and is considered useless. Mary Magdalene tried to hold on to our Lord; she wanted him for herself. His appearance was not as she had wished it to be, which is why she looked at him without recognizing him. She wanted to see him arrayed in glory, not in the common clothes of a gardener. Yet in the end she knew that it was he when he said to her, “Mary” (John 20:14-16). You see, it is our Lord garbed as a gardener whom we meet day by day, here and there, in the ordinary mortifications that present themselves to us. We want more noble-seeming ones. But the ones that seem the most noble are not best. Before we see him in his glory, he wants to plant many humble flowers in our garden, according to his plan. This is why he is dressed the way he is. Our task is to let our hearts be ever united to his, and our wills to his pleasure.

I am so glad I stumbled upon this book. I won't try to interpret this passage because the way it fits into my life may well be different from the way it fits someone else's. But ALREADY, it is solving some of the problems I  routinely encounter. Good ole St.Francis De Sales. And I haven't even gotten my ashes yet!

Tonight, the TLM at Holy Trinity is being offered for my MIL Louise. So that makes it all the more special. This is what we get to immerse ourselves in as we pray the Mass:

Day one, Not too shabby.

"Let us, then, continue to put one foot in front of the other. Provided our hearts be true, we will walk aright"

Roses Among Thorns: Simple Advice for Renewing Your Spiritual Journey by de Sales, St. Francis

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

the best laid plans, with a few updates

A few thoughts before Lent gets going.

Today I am enjoying a snow day and having a few treats. I certainly am enjoying a slower pace and only have to go out into the Philadelphia tundra once.

Typically, I want to do too many ambitious Lenten practices and sacrifices and burn out two days after Ash Wednesday. This year, I actually gave it some prayerful thought and came up with something a little different.

The overriding theme I want to pursue is to get clear, once and for all about guilt vs. conscience. I am growing weary of  not being clear on my examination of conscience, so that by the time I reach the confessional, I have very little as far as well defined sins and lots of generalizations. I am very aware of my thought patterns, but not so confident about how they have translated into actions, and less sure still about what was definitely a sin. I can define what constitutes a sin, venial or mortal, clearly, but when it comes to my own inner life, things become muddy.

So, I am setting about doing some reading, praying and doing better, more conscious, examinations. Already I have come to a few preliminary conclusions.

1. God's voice does not cause confusion.
2. Generalized feelings of guilt are not inherently virtuous, helpful, or from God.

Certainly, I want to increase daily mass, adoration, Stations of the Cross, the Rosary and frequent confession.

Definitely going to unplug. This blog and doing some reading on my Kindle will be the exceptions. Looking forward to that. A little TV, not none, especially a certain PBS drama on Sunday nights. Ahem.

Anyways, that's it. I am already watching my dietary intake. Besides, I agree with the adage ," Lent is not a diet." I do try not to overdo anything during Lent, food-wise. But I don't plan to go into full monastery mode.

I DO hope to go to the silent retreat at the Carmelite Monastery though. So, Monastery mode for that one day.

I especially want to try to do one act of love for someone every single day. It could be something I do that I normally avoid because I don't like it. or something that comes across my path to do for someone that makes me go out of my comfort zone (read-anything that makes me talk to someone I don't know--eek). Whatever. And to do it as secretly as possible. To try to be generous with my precious alone time or with my (our) resources. Try is the operative word. This could prove to be more challenging than giving up all the chocolate in the world for the rest of my life. Because, if you know me, you know I love to sit and read. Love. it. I can get through many things in the course of a day if I know my book is waiting.



So, there is the plan. I will try and blog as Lent trundles along.

I recently read this, from Saint Scholastica. The brother she refers to is none other than Saint Benedict.

My venerable brother says that Lenten joy is the most important thing of all. Some would make of Lent a time of gloom and lamentation. Not my brother! When I asked him on my last visit to Monte Cassino how my nuns were to keep Lent, he smiled broadly and said, “Let each one spontaneously in the joy of the Holy Spirit make some offering to God concerning the allowance granted her” (RB 49:6). My brother is known for his gravitas, but to me he reveals a heart brimming over with joy in the Holy Spirit. It is true that he has no time for silliness, or giddy laughter, or talkativeness — he has always loved silence more than talking, even from the time we were children — but that silence is the seal of his joy. He pours out his joy like a fine wine, with discretion; but his joy itself is boundless.

A perspective we don't often consider. I often wonder at the passage, "the joy of the Lord is my strength." Nehemiah 8:10  God undoubtedly sees all that goes on the the world, and much of it is not joy-inducing. But, one must conclude that His joy is a constant, and not a reaction to the world. In fact, His perspective sees everything beyond time. He freely shares His joy, and though we cannot escape the bounds of earthly time, we can escape the bounds of earthly sorrows and worry.  


I'd forgotten to include this article from Catholic Vote which I think sums up the spirit of the whole deal nicely:

Update 2:

Last year I wrote this post about the very thing I wrote about here. Sometimes I frighten myself.

Happy and Joyful Lent everybody!



Wednesday, February 4, 2015

All the Way

This song has probably been around for a while, but I just started hearing it. As usual, it has been one of those songs that feels like it comes straight from the mouth of God. I hope to learn it, and maybe share it with my Nar Anon group. I don't know if people ever sing songs at those meetings, but I guess there's a first time for everything.

Don't feel bad, I'm so glad that you are here tonight.
Sometimes we lose our way.
Take a ride with me, and forget yesterday.
Way up high, and way down low. Most things we can't control.
But you don't walk alone. Wherever I may be, there you'll have a home.

If you forget the wonder that you are I will remind you.
And if you lose yourself, don't worry darling, I'll know where to find you.
I'm right behind you, all the way.
Da dada da, da dada da

Way up high
Da dada da, da dada da
Way down low
If you forget the wonder that you are I will remind you.
And if you lose yourself, don't worry darling, I'll know where to find you.
I'm right behind you, all the way.

I'm right behind you, all the way.