18 June 2005

Liturgical soothing

Wonderful post over at Traditio in Radice, with quotes about the liturgy from our dear Papa Ratzi. I hope W (blessings to you and your bride!) and GFvonB won't mind if I copy out some of it here; it's partly for me, but also to share with others (not that anyone reads my blog ).

I entered the Church in 1971. In a few short years, the world seemed to be in such terrible trouble; the war, and Nixon resigning. It was in 1974 that I lost my dear one. Two years later, my father allowed something to happen with his new wife that resulted in my sister and me being estranged from him in the most hurtful, bewildering way, for the rest of our lives.

I'd joined the Church for what it was: the one beacon of stability and truth in my crazy world. But the Church went into the weeds liturgically, and, as I noted in a previous post, the people in charge were mean and cruel and implacable about it. It was a terrible time. I never lost faith in God, but I lost faith in the Church, and - since I felt rebuffed and unwelcome at every turn when I tried to go back - I wandered away.

Now I read the Holy Father's words, and they soothe my soul.

When people talk about being discriminated against as a minority, or persecuted for their faith, I know something of what they mean. It was a serious problem to be Catholic during the decades after VII. It's still tough, unless you find a traditional Latin Mass to attend. We who believe Jesus is present on the altar, who want to show reverence to Him, have been cruelly treated over the years. He has heard our prayers, it would seem.

I do not ask for the reforms to be rolled back. I ask for some Latin, some reverence, and a bit of silence after the Consecration and before Communion, so that I may visit with the Lord privately, in my soul, even as we worship Him together. I will celebrate with the others after Communion. But the moment of Communion is intimate and special. It is not a time for the inanities of folk tunes. It is a moment for silence, when Jesus comes to each of us, individually, healing and nourishing and nurturing each of us according to our needs. He has so much to impart; prayerful silence is the way to know Him, not tacky, schlocky music sung standing. If tacky, schlocky music was the way to know God, you'd hear it sung in monasteries everywhere. As it happens, you don't. You find silence. Liturgists: Get. A. Clue.

Liturgical Quotes

The Second Vatican Council
“...there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them, and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing...”

Sacrosanctum Concilium, 23

“Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites... Steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass that pertains to them...”
Sacrosanctum Concilium, 36, 54

“The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as proper to the Roman Liturgy; therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services...”
Sacrosanctum Concilium, 116

Venerable Pope Pius XII
“This persistence of Mary [at Fatima] about the dangers which menace the Church is a divine warning against the suicide of altering the Faith in her liturgy.... In our [future] churches, Christians will search in vain for the red lamp where God awaits them.”
On the message of Our Lady of Fatima

“One would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive table-form.”
Encyclical Mediator Dei, 62

“To separate tabernacle from altar is to separate two things which by their origin and nature should remain united.”
Address to Liturgical Congress in Assisi, 1956

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
(now Pope Benedict XVI)
“But the fact that [the liturgy] was presented as a new structure, set up against what had been formed in the course of history and was now prohibited, and that the liturgy was made to appear in some ways no longer as a living process but as a product of specialized knowledge and juridical competence, has brought with it some extremely serious damages for us.”
Cardinal Ratzinger on the State of the Catholic Liturgy, The Wanderer, May 8 1997

“I am convinced that the ecclesial crisis in which we find ourselves today depends in great part upon the collapse of the liturgy, which at times is actually being conceived of etsi Deus non daretur: as though in the liturgy it did not matter any more whether God exists and whether He speaks to us and listens to us.
Cardinal Ratzinger on the State of the Catholic Liturgy, The Wanderer, May 8 1997

“[there] is need for a new liturgical movement to call back to life the true heritage of Vatican Council II . . . For the life of the Church, it is dramatically urgent to have a renewal of liturgical awareness, a liturgical reconciliation, which goes back to recognizing the unity in the history of the liturgy and understands Vatican II not as a break, but as a developing moment.”
Cardinal Ratzinger on the State of the Catholic Liturgy, The Wanderer, May 8 1997

“Today we might ask: Is there a Latin Rite at all anymore? Certainly there is no awareness of it. To most people the liturgy seems to be rather something for the individual congregation to arrange.”
The Feast of Faith, p. 84

“One of the weaknesses of the postconciliar liturgical reform can doubtless be traced to the armchair strategy of academics, drawing up things on paper, which, in fact, would presuppose years of organic growth. The most blatant example of this is the reform of the calendar: those responsible simply did not realize how much the various annual feasts had influenced Christian people's relationship to time. In redistributing these established feasts throughout the year according to some historical arithmetic -inconsistently applied at that - they ignored a fundamental law of religious life.”
The Feast of Faith

“Certainly, the results [of Vatican II] seem cruelly opposed to the expectations of everyone, beginning with those of Pope John XXIII and then of Paul VI: expected was a new Catholic unity and instead we have been exposed to a dissension which - to use the words of Pope Paul VI - seems to have gone from self-criticism to self-destruction. Expected was a new enthusiasm, and many wound up discouraged and bored. Expected was a great step forward, and instead we find ourselves faced with a progressive process of decadence which had developed for the most part precisely under the sign of a calling back to the Council, and has therefore contributed to discrediting it for many. The net result therefore seems negative. I am repeating here what I said then years after the conclusion of the work: it is incontrovertible that this period has definitely been unfavorable for the Catholic Church”
in L'Osservatore Romano (English edition), 24 December, 1984.

“As for the oriented (i.e., turned to the East) altar, the Cardinal notes, in his preface for the French edition:

The importance of this book lies above all in the theological substratum brought to light by this learned research. The orientation of prayer, common to priest and faithful - of which the symbolical form was usually towards the East, i.e., towards the rising sun - was understood as turning our eyes towards the Lord, the true Sun. In the liturgy we find an anticipation of His return; priests and faithful go to meet Him. This orientation of prayer expresses the theocentric nature of liturgy; it obeys the exhortation: “Let us turn towards the Lord!””
F. Gerard Calvet, O.S.B.,
Abbot, Monastery of St. Madeleine, Le Barroux, France, quoting from
The Feast of Faith (Abbot Calvet wrote the first preface of the English edition)

“What happened after the Council was something else entirely: in the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it - as in a manufacturing process - with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.”
Preface to the book The Reform of the Roman Liturgy by Mgr. Klaus Gamber.

“I was dismayed [by the ban of the old missal]. Such a development had never been seen in the history of the liturgy. I am convinced that the ecclesiastical crisis of today depends on the collapse of the liturgy...”
From his autobiography

I agree with the Anchoress...

(no surprise there) ... but I am perceiving it, too: that, for those of us who love the Church, the iron-fisted grip of the You Will Reform, Dammit crowd may at last be loosening.

You know, there was always one aspect of The "Spirit" of Vatican II that few seemed to mention, and the obedient sheep in the pews didn't protest (that I was aware of): the angry, mean, derogatory speech and behavior of those who were imposing their reforms upon us. I mean, think about it:

- the faithful who liked the old Mass told condescendingly that they had an "attachment" to a rite which had nourished the church for time out of mind - as opposed to a coupla decades.

- faithful, reverent Catholics being humiliated at the moment of communion by being scolded or refused if they chose to kneel before the Lord their God

- after so many centuries of devotion to our Lord's presence in the Eucharist, having the tabernacle hidden away

- churches demolished and ugli-fied over the protests of the faithful

Why could not the dignified, unifying Latin rite be maintained as an option? The most successful Protestant churches have "traditional" and "modern" services, all of which have beautiful music in different styles, all of which are conducted in order and dignity, and all of which have the same core teaching and structure. People move among the styles of worship as they feel led, or settle in one - nobody cares. All are happy. All are in church.

The whole scolding-if-kneeling thing is simply appalling. To scold someone in such a moment is, for me, the surest sign that whatever lies behind it or led up to it is wrong - especially since I came into the Church when for a layperson to touch the Host was Not Done.

In a local church, the tabernacle was tucked away from view, except for the extreme right side of the church. So people gather and huddle and stand and crowd on that side of the church to pray. (That was also the church where I was once interrupted in the late 70s during prayer by a young priest who tapped me on the shoulder and said, "That's okay, you can stop now. We all know you're holy.")

It is possible to rework a church's interior without stripping it of all things Catholic. Countless souls have been led to Christ by the contemplation of statuary, gorgeous windows, and soaring lofts. We need "and", not "or," with the only choice being a gym-like feeling.

The rationale behind all of it - the ruined liturgy, churches, catechesis - was to bring Protestants into the Church. If it wasn't so awful it would be funny, because many Protestants of my acquaintance were horrified by the changes (after all, they need us to be Catholic in order to have something to protest against, now, don't they?) and many of those that revert are staunchly traditional.

Charity never goes out of style. This is my litmus test about the changes: to the degree that the changes have been imposed cruelly, rudely, and without respect for people's sensibilities and faith, they are wrong, and inspired by other than the One who loves us, period. Our worship should educate, uplift and feed our souls. If you spend the entire Mass gritting your teeth and fighting the temptation to anger and judgment, and leave Mass feeling sorrow, what's happening is wrong. You can trust your gut. Mass is our refuge. If Father or His Eminence will not make constructive changes or treat you with respect and courtesy, cut off their allowance or vote with your feet. Do it kindly and without anger, but it's okay for there to be consequences for treating people badly.

More on that in another rant that's percolating. Grrr.

In the meantime, the Anchoress is right: something's happening... something wonderful.

Which planet are you from?

You Are From Mercury

You are talkative, clever, and knowledgeable - and it shows.
You probably never leave home without your cell phone!
You're witty, expressive, and aware of everything going on around you.
You love learning, playing, and taking in all of what life has to offer.
Be careful not to talk your friends' ears off, and temper your need to know everything.

Found by way of the Anchoress.

17 June 2005

Joyful things

Not in any particular order:

1. The gardenias are blooming. I have one bush which I tend all year, and in the space of a week it bears lots of beautiful, big, heavenly fragrant flowers. Ahhh.

My grandmother had three huge avocado trees in her front yard, ringed by gardenia bushes. The smell of gardenias in the house makes me think of home, and her. I would be glad if I could make my house a home like hers was.

2. The BIG earthquakes this week were offshore. The smaller ones were plenty, thank you very much, God. I've lived in Southern California all my life and, like so many long-time residents, I can tell how large an earthquake is, how far away the epicenter, etc. I will never forget the afternoon when the Loma Prieta quake hit. I was talking to a friend at work, sitting at my desk, she standing. "We are having an earthquake," I said. She doubted and disputed. The motion was very slight... swaying, long gentle rolls in a circular-feeling motion. "Oh dear," I said. "It's a big one - very big and far away." And then spent all night watching the news in horror. :(

3. I was really upset earlier today over something, and now, after reading all the interesting and funny and encouraging stuff you all have written, I feel better.

I was telling someone about my blog the other night, and she asked if mine was funny. Uh... nope, not yet. She was kind enough to say I'm witty; she's biased, I think. But it is true I have been indulging myself terribly here, and really need to get my head up out of the bilge of my past and find some new bilge to comment on.

The weird thing is, I feel this way because a connection which I've relied upon heavily for the last almost-three years seems to finally be coming apart. We needed each other then; we helped each other in so many ways that only we could. But now, it's got a feeling like... it's over. I dunno. We'll see. In the meantime, I'll water my gardenia bush and take care of myself and my house.

Finally, my doctor sent me a slip with the results of Tuesday's lab work. My cholesterol is 152 ("good!" she wrote in the margin). You know you're At An Age when things like that cheer you up. Heh.

Oh, here's a great motto I found in a post on The Mother's Hour: festina lente. It means, "make haste slowly." Now, That describes me!

12 June 2005

Men and women

Anyone who's heard me rant about this - men and woman are EQUAL but not IDENTICAL - will understand why I enjoyed this posting at the Our Word and Welcome to It blog.

While I'm not entirely in agreement with the Hadleys' post, I believe it is time to give some serious thought to gender roles, looking at traditional practices (clothing, women at home, etc.) and seeing how they came to be in their day (if the answer includes the word 'paternalism' the point has been Missed, OK?) and what they have for us today.

I was privileged to know my grandmother quite well. She was born in 1892 and, in her long life, experienced the advent of everything from indoor plumbing to the space shuttle launch. She had a college degree and was well-read and had well-reasoned and passionately-held opinions about women's roles. She would never have agreed with many of the ways in which people go about life today, and her reasons would have been different from most people's - but she spoke from experience, not from theory.

Is it a coincidence that the blurring of gender roles and resultant confusion and discord started to happen right around the time the " springtime of renewal " (cough, cough) afflicted the Church?

Why I'm doing this blog

I read in another blog some discussion of bloggers whose blogs were self-absorbed, and how it was difficult to watch them devolve.

Ouch. I'm obviously doing a lot of navel-gazing, here.

My natural state has always been solitude. I'm quite uncomfortable with people, although I try not to show it. There are a handful of people with whom I feel relaxed, unguarded, at ease.

I'm not used to living in any kind of community. That doesn't mean I can't; it just means I haven't. Yet.

Blogging, for me, is Community. I revel in the bounty of thought.

I do not try to do politics or religion, because there is nothing I can bring to the discussion except to link to someone else's insightful commentary.

I am sharing myself because I want to write a type of memoir which will, if God wills and this is His leading, do for others what the best of the genre has done for me. I believe people can tell when writing is real.

This blog is practice for me, and a way to share with my family and friends at their convenience... dropping off notes which they may pick up and read at their leisure.

As I learn my way around the blog world, learn to 'talk' with people, share ideas and commentary, it helps me learn to be myself. Just because I didn't have the opportunity to be Social before in my life, doesn't mean I always have to be that way. You are helping me to learn how to be a whole person.

When I read over my stuff, I realize that I'm taking way too much time on it; that it's a bit stuck-up sounding, and stilted. That's (alas) normal for me at first, even in person; please forgive it for now. I'll loosen up in a bit. I have a good sense of humor; it'll come through in time.

What some people can take for granted as part of life did not happen to me, partly through my own ignorance and pride. I kept my head down, followed the white line, and marched grimly ahead through my 20s, 30s and 40s.

It is time for me to live. My 50th birthday is not about looking back over the years and noting the times of triumph and pain, and 'remember when?' and looking at photograph albums. It is about the truth slamming into my soul.

A friend of mine who knows my story once said, "Maybe now is the time for you to live about the things you read and write about in stories." Maybe so. I wait on God for that. I am alone, but I am loved by God, my family, and a few very dear friends. I am being healed and fed as I read, write, learn and live. Since I've been reading and blogging, I've been coming out of the dark, tired place where I've lived most of my life. Life is having moments when it feels like - dare I say it? - fun. :) One reason it does is because I have a community of people who allow me to share moments of thought, episodes in their lives, and what they think about the Church and the world. It makes it easier for me to consider going out into the world in real time, speaking instead of typing. I feel I was led here. Pray for me that I may use this forum in a way which will help others as well as myself.

This has made me hopeful and happy

This comment on Pontifications from Fr. Newman.

I found it by way of David Bennett in his post. (H/T, David)

I'm going to natter about this in more detail one of these days, but suffice it to say I am one of those who felt chased out of the Church. The Latin-loving, meditative, prayerful Catholic me was anathema to the current régime. Reading this kind of thing here on the blogs makes me think there might be a place for me, eventually, somewhere. Where I live, it's a very chancy thing; I'm in Mahony territory. But without a community, I didn't know any better; I thought the whole church was like that. Thank God for all of you. Keep writing. Through your rants and ideas and observations and suggestions, you are saving souls. Really.

Faith: how do you know?

A friend of mine has always wanted to be a believer and experience that sense of calm assurance believers sometimes radiate... so today I asked: if you did believe, how would you feel? In other words, how would you know you'd begun to believe?

The response was, "i guess i'd not be ... bothered (logically? ...) by 'doubts' ... i'd 'know'."

For me: if I Knew, it wouldn't be faith. "Faith gives substance to our hopes and convinces us of realities we do not see." Faith is about letting go of what's known for what's not... but, at the same time, faith is about hanging on and refusing to be pried off.

What is it for you? How do you know you believe?

As I type that, I think of my patron saint, Thérèse of Lisieux, and the unimaginable desolation she endured towards the end of her life. She was tormented by doubt. Both she and John of the Cross helped me to glimpse something of the truth of which Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13: "the greatest of these is love." Faith can seem evanescent. By itself, I wonder if faith can even exist. Because look what else Paul wrote: "There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, its endurance."

Is that where faith comes from? For me, that is the answer. To the degree I've been able to grasp the Scriptures, and to quiet myself enough in prayer to apprehend Jesus' presence, I have known what of him I could - and to know him is to love him.

To us Catholics, he is a Real Presence. He is here among us, in a mysterious way which intrigues or repels, but never allows indifference. If the Eucharist is seriously considered for even a moment, it compels a reaction on many levels. The instant it is understood as a nurturing act, a desire to be one with us to the point of perfusing our bodies with himself - an act of the most tender love - faith follows like a reflex. For me, it started with the love I felt for Him. It was much later that I faced my most serious challenge to faith, to accept that He loves me. "Faith gives substance to our hopes and convinces us of realities we do not see." I hope that He loves me; I believe He does, though I have no clue why, given my KNOWLEDGE of how far I've strayed from what He wanted for me. I must take it on faith: God loves me. And there is the logic: I love Him; therefore, He must love me, even though I cannot see how that could happen.

We can do that for one another, by loving, openly and truly. There is that moment when the loved one finally gives up the attempt to make sense of it ("I am SO unlovable - what does s/he see in me??") - and accepts without understanding... takes it on faith.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Update: In response, my friend offered this link on the Babelfish. I know a good-natured "phbbthth" when I read one. ;)

Telling secrets

This blog is so moving ... and thought-provoking. As a convert to the Roman Catholic church at the age of 15, I found the Sacrament of Penance (as it was known then) to be one of the toughest, yet most healing, parts of life as a Catholic. If I'd not had regular confession - and been spurred to do it by my overwhelming hunger for the Eucharist -- I don't know what might have happened to me, as my life got to be very difficult immediately after I entered the Church.

My heart aches for those who send in their postcards, their secrets... but I am so grateful they do, because they teach me and guide my prayers. And I am grateful to the one (those?) who maintain that blog; in a very real way, it is a ministry.

My dear friend and I both suffered greatly in our lives from keeping secrets, but we could not imagine an alternative, and had phobic reactions if it was even suggested. It was how we were brought up. Keeping silent about one's wants, needs and feelings was taken for granted. Anything else was self-centered and wrong to the point of wickedness. It has taken most of our lives to learn that the opposite is true of love relationships: no hiding, except for presents. :)

11 June 2005

Seems to be my week for this type of thing

Yet another blind-sider of an article for me. (H/T Titus 2.5 Catholic for the link).

A sample quote:

Teen pregnancy is not the problem. Unwed teen pregnancy is the problem. It's childbearing outside marriage that causes all the trouble. Restore an environment that supports younger marriage, and you won't have to fight biology for a decade or more.

It is impossible to express how intensely in love I was at 18. The boy was the dearest male friend I had before he became tall and handsome and came looking for me a year after high school graduation. I held back from revealing how much I cared because I had a constant litany of "you're too young" ringing in my ears. He was not thinking at all of marriage, likely having imbibed much of the same sort of cautionary messages. But, after some months, our relationship had nowhere to go, and another young woman, not so restrained as I, intervened. After he left, I was assured "there will always be someone else." There wasn't. Not even close.

(Never, ever, EVER say that to a young person. Ever. Please. It is as thoughtlessly cruel and untrue as it is to say to a grieving parent, "You can always have another one.")

A pattern of late marriage may actually increase the rate of divorce. During that initial decade of physical adulthood, young people may not be getting married, but they're still falling in love. They fall in love, and break up, and undergo terrible pain, but find that with time they get over it. They may do this many times. Gradually, they get used to it; they learn that they can give their hearts away, and take them back again; they learn to shield their hearts from access in the first place. They learn to approach a relationship with the goal of getting what they want, and keep their bags packed by the door. By the time they marry they may have had many opportunities to learn how to walk away from a promise. They've been training for divorce.

In my case, this was true. I married after ten more years, but by then I was unable to trust and kept a wary and wide emotional distance from my husband, as he did from me. I fully expected him to leave me at any moment, and there was nothing he could do to convince me otherwise. I hung in there 20 years. That's a long time to spend with someone you can't confide in, and who is afraid to get close to you.

In recent years, some friends have kindly suggested that I was fortunate to have lost my dear one, because "who knows what might have happened if you'd married and then he left you?" I think I would have preferred to be left at least with children and the experience of being with my dear one. But I was a respectful, obedient girl, and did as I was told, and put the thought of early marriage right out of my mind. "You have lots of time," they said.

Yes, lots of time... to cherish the memory of my six months of chaste dating with a very special young man as I live a quiet, solitary life in my 50th year.

(Thank you, Sara, for posting that link.)

06 June 2005

Another hike along the path of healing

It's too long of a story ... and I won't tell it here ... tonight, anyway ... but I've been reading my fellow bloggers' posts, and I am in tears.

Dale Price wrote the most beautiful thing... here's the whole thing:

I am sitting in an easy chair at my parents' cottage, blearily nursing a cup of freshly-brewed coffee. I have gotten my usual six hours of interrupted sleep, woken by our eldest's unfailing internal clock. Just as blearily, Heather joins me. All three kids are playing on the floor in front of us, for once harmonious about the toy distribution. Each looks up and smiles or offers a variation on "Hi, daddy!"

At that moment, it hit me: with all due regard for the delights of the activity that gave us our children, this was way better than anything I had imagined in college. In that moment of grace, the only word that came to mind at that moment was "Thanks." To Heather, and to God.

and then from crazyacres, this.

Tonight I am praying for you all with such gratitude. I beg God to bless your dear hearts and your families. Please hug your dear spouses and your tykes and cherish them for just one moment in between all the busyness.

When I was young, in the 70's, and a new Catholic, I was afraid. I could not trust God enough. My mother and the Church were both going through an amazingly similar transformation (which I shall write more about later) - everything that made sense in my life was becoming unrecognizable. In the middle of the maelstrom, God gave me a dear and precious gift - a chance for happiness - but I was afraid of the future, and I let it go.

Now I look back, and I think: what in the world could I have been so afraid of? Is there anything that is harder to endure than the moments which ambush me like these, tonight? Lord, when I went through my mid-life grieving two and a half years ago ... wasn't that enough?

I am a child and selfish and spoiled and I know it. So many have heavier crosses to bear, full of splinters and with demons along for the ride. I pray for strength and courage. I cannot go back; the years are gone. I can go forward, for a walk, and then to bed. Tomorrow will be another day.

- - - - - - - -

What's really sort of funny about this is that people often remark on my patience... my incredible calm. God and I get a private chuckle out of that one; He knows I am nothing of the kind. He also got a bit of a giggle out of my teenage resolve to live so as never to have any regrets. Pride is a lonely sin, my friends.

- - - - - - - -

I am back from my walk in the cool summer evening. Everybody's got white star jasmine; everybody's jasmine is blooming; it smells wonderful. My good dog is so happy to be out with me. As I walk, I prayed... and God blessed me. He reminded me, deep in my soul:
There is no sparrow which falls from a tree which I do not notice; do you think I do not know what you feel?
I feel like those words were said all those centuries ago just for me, tonight. And then, another unbidden thought:
You have confessed your lack of trust. Shall we try again?

I have to smile at such loving, gentle humor.

There is comfort for me, more than I can tell in this forum. Let's just say that God sometimes gives, and gives again, in His own way, and in His own time. In my life, it's all about do-overs. I've no idea why I should be so blessed. I think maybe it's because I am so weak, He takes pity on me - whatever it is, I'm grateful.

Tonight, if I could have any thing in the world, I would ask only to hold my gift from God once more, just for a moment - but of course that is the one thing I cannot have. However, I believe fiercely that God gives no desire without a purpose. Tonight it's to turn my attention firmly from the gift to the Giver. Let's see if, thirty years later, I'm getting the hang of this trust stuff.

In the meantime, please: hug your dear ones for me, and kiss their faces, and look into their eyes. Pray for me that I may trust Him, this time, no matter what He asks of me, and that I may use these feelings to write something, someday, that will help those who also live with full hearts, and empty arms.

05 June 2005

Oops... you know you've over-blogged when...

On my way into the kitchen to get some fruit for dessert, I noticed a small plate with drippings which I intended for my dear dog's dinner. He wasn't trying to get me to take him out... he was hungry! (He has now been satisfactorily kibbled.) (as my dear friend would say, there is no noun which cannot be verbed.)

I have spent the whole day reading.

That essay, "Sanctuary," is so thought-provoking.

It's interesting that, in today's in-the-name-of-tolerance-we-forbid-you-to-say [whatever it is] P.C., the conversations have just moved out of the gathering places ... couldn't have that many people in one place, anyway ... and onto the 'Net.

For someone as solitary as I, it's a great thing. If my mother hadn't died in 1992, she'd be dead by now, because she would have forgotten to eat and drink, she would have been SO enthralled. She loved a good argument - absolutely loved it - and would have been in heaven with comment boxes and chat forums. I'm just hungry to find out what people are thinking, and doing, and what's important to them. I suppose everyone can find a group that's interested in whatever they're interested in, sooner or later.

Those who would control the discourse in this country must be simply appalled. The Internet is all about liberty... letting the people figure out what they want. People are smart. They tolerate a lot of discussion, one way or another. Trolls gotta go, but the trolls can be fun, too, and informative. It's good to know what people are thinking out there.

And here am I, with absolutely nothing of merit to say, rambling off at the fingers because I want to practice writing for people, and this is a Great Way to Do It. Why give an editor clips when you can send them a link to a blog? This goes a lot farther than a cover letter to show what kind of person I am.

It's a bit - no, a lot - uneven right now, but I'll get the hang of it, eventually. My sister had an art teacher who said, "Every artist has 10,000 lousy drawings to do. You have to do them." I take great comfort from that. Every writer must have 10,000 lousy paragraphs to do, too... maybe whole chapters. You just gotta slog through to find the diamonds.

And, with that - time to take out the trash.


My dog is making little polite reminder noises which mean it's almost time for our walk. He does so love a walk.

There is a neighbor who walks her dog at the same time I often do. Hers is a cranky American Eskimo. She tells me all about his bad behavior at the vet's with almost a kind of pride.

She and her husband are elderly, and the husband is not well. Instead of a peaceful retirement, she's working harder than ever, trying to take care of him. I remember how it was when my mom was sick... I would not wish that on anybody. In those days, I was phobic about asking for help. Now I beat the bushes shamelessly. I think my neighbor friend may be back in the bootstrap era I came out of, so I'm trying to make the encouraging kinds of suggestions which helped me, finally, to pick up the phone. And I am nagged with guilt... should I offer to help? But I work full time... and I have a proven tendency to Over-Do, and am particularly susceptible to those who need help. So I cannot make those decisions on my own, but must seek counsel before offering.

Her kids don't help much, I gather... not sure why, though an easy guess would be the dad, whom I've heard pontificating out in his garden often enough. They don't just wake up at 70 like that; it takes years, and sometimes young persons just get Tired of It All and can no longer be bothered. If so, that's sad.

But I cannot possibly know. What I can do, is pray.

Read: Sanctuary

Great essay here.

Settle in to read it. You'll need a beverage.

My Bible verse is...

A little while back, the Anchoress posted a thought-provoking question: "What Scripture verse is YOU?"

I don’t mean which is your favorite scripture verse - I mean what verse is the one you feel spells out what you are called to do, that speaks to you personally on a very deep level?

Her clarification is so challenging. I confess I'd never thought of it like that before. But instantly I know which one to pick:

5 For he who has become your husband is your Maker;
his name is the Lord of hosts;
Your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
called God of all the earth.

6 The Lord calls you back,
like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
A wife married in youth and then cast off,
says your God.
7 For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great tenderness I will take you back.
8 In an outburst of wrath, for a moment
I hid my face from you;
But with enduring love I take pity on you,
says the Lord, your redeemer.

Isaiah 54:5-8

The context of that verse has nothing to do with an individual; yet, in one of those ways that makes you Wonder, my eye fell on it when I least expected and most needed it, years and years ago. I stumbled across this text when I was at verse 6 in my journey. God comforted me with verse 5, encouraged me with verse 7, and sustained me with verse 8, until I could finally do what I needed to do. God's tenderness came to me through someone who doesn't (yet) know Him at all, and yet who has always been one of His messengers to me. God does take pity on us, "for he knows how we are formed, remembers that we are dust." (Psalm 103:14)

I am deeply blessed and grateful.

A persistence of thorns

By the back gate, I used to have a bougainvillea. This was not some tame, pretty, lipstick-leafed little vine; this was massive, a huge and gnarly shrub which was as high as the house. It had to be trimmed with chainsaws or else it reached for passersby with clawed tendrils. It sprouted red vines from its top like a faceless, thorn-ridden Medusa.

I had it assassinated in January by my intrepid gardener.

The gardener is good at cleaning things out, less good about keeping plants alive. I had bought two lovely climbing roses as a replacement for the monster. Whatever he did to them during the planting killed them on the spot. The former expanse taken up by the bush made a lovely flower bed, in which I planted stock, nasturtiums, and morning glories, to clamber over the ugly fence. I came home from work one day to find the bed cleared of all but the nasturtiums. Sigh.

However, I've got to get that ugly chain link covered, and quickly; I will not consider putting in a new fence until the rebuild of my car's engine is paid off. So, on my way home from work on Friday, I stopped at the drugstore, and made an impulse buy. Can you guess? Indeed: a bougainvillea, thriving, with green-and-yellow leaves, which I am going to plant today. Take that, fence. Take that, gardener.

I think this goes somewhere in that weird place of life which is that you think you want to be rid of your troubles, but, given the alternative, you end up taking back your own again, or something like that.

04 June 2005

Hey, geeks - open up a port for this one

Great post at the Curt Jester...

In some ways I have thought about the internet in relation to the Mystical Body of the Church. We can see the saints in the role as routers that amplify and pass on our prayers. We can ping a saint for a special request. Everywhere we go we can log on via an IP address (Intercessory Prayer) and be confident that our prayers never bounce or get returned as undeliverable. Though maybe it would be cool to pray for someone in Purgatory and then have it bounce back with a forwarding address when they have moved on to the Beatific Vision. If only we realized how much grace that can be downloaded. The only problem with grace bandwidth is our own disposition which can serve as a bottleneck. In fact I find it quite annoying about myself that when receiving the Most Holy Eucharist that instead of opening up a Transubstantiation 1 (T1) line to Christ I am more like to get a bad dial-up connection especially if distractions are considered as loss of connection. Perseverance in prayer can be seen as continuing to try to log on despite connection problems.

One good thing is that God never spams us, though sometimes he sends things our way that we try to filter or delete like in the case of the rich young man in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. And the only thing he wants to enlarge is our life of faith.

I also wonder if lesser know saints have referral logs like Sitemeter where they can check to see how many intercessory hits they have had in the last hour. That they would rejoice in a spike of traffic since it means they get to help lend a hand in intercessory prayer. Though I also wonder if St. Anthony gets annoyed when the subject line again and again reads "Find something for me." I mean maybe he would like to pray for a special intention every now and again.


June - already?! and other surprises of time

That's how you know you've arrived at a Certain Age: if you let your attention wander briefly, it's next week; if you turn around twice, the month is gone. What feels like a few weeks pass by, and half the year has sped away. Then you look in the mirror one evening and it hits you: more than half my life has passed by.

A recent issue of Fortune magazine was at the chiro's office yesterday. I read a gloomy article about execs in their 50s getting let go from their jobs and never finding anything else. But, oddly, it shows how far I've come in my understanding. There was a time, not too long ago, when an article like that would have depressed and frightened me. What has changed? Well, in no particular order:

FlyLady. I won't try to explain; just click on over to flylady.net and see for yourself. Before you scoff: I think the list is around 250,000 now, worldwide. We all have our reasons for living in CHAOS ("Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome"); it's a strange place we go in our heads and our hearts. And it is the purest of blessings to be liberated from it, one flung cluttering thing at a time. And not just things, but habits ... attitudes ... memories. This woman is ministering to us in a wonderful way - and helping us minister to our families. There are 250,000 on the list; their progress brings the number of people positively affected by the FlyLady's wisdom to - conservatively - way more than a million.

Experience. I've done a lot of kinds of work in my life; I can do a lot more.

God. No matter what: He's been there for me. If it is His will that I get laid off, or fired, and I lose my house, and all my money, then I shall schlep myself down to the Mission and see if I can help out there for a bed for the night. He sends us like that, you know; it's my belief that the more tightly we cling to anything not-Him - people, surroundings, income, health, you name it - the more cataclysmic it will seem when he pries all that out of our clutching fingers. And He will do it; just as you pry the chocolate bar from a screaming toddler's hand before the tyke makes itself sick, or to give it something even better, which it can't yet imagine.

One of the people who influenced me most in my understanding of God is St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She gave up everything voluntarily, leaving God only one thing to remove from her life: the sense of His presence and love. So, she was tortured by temptations of doubt - and this during a time when she was so ill. Even my dear patroness had to give up the very thing which had made her live her life the way she did. She understood what was happening to her and bore it like the strong saint she was.

We call her "The Little Flower" and think of her as a little shy girl, but she was actually a tall woman, with a wonderful sense of humour and extremely intelligent. I would've enjoyed her as a friend, but I'm glad I don't have to know her here on earth: I'd be too abashed. She was strict with people! ;)

I was in love with the Discalced Carmelites, but never made it into the order, or even the active branch which is out here in California, the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart. I'm still not sure of my vocation, after all these years. What is that great saying: "life is what happens while you're making other plans"? That's me. I look back, and it's not what I'd call a structured life. The weird thing is, I don't feel that I want it to be. I sort of follow my nose in that; I consciously try to allow God to guide me, by staying out of the way and listening and watching for the signs that He wants me to follow a certain way, remembering St. Teresa's advice to look for what brings you that certain peace in your soul.

The peace to which she refers is not a relaxed sense of leisure or sureness, like you feel at the beach. It is a quiet knowing that This is what God wants: it matches His teaching, it makes sense for and in your life. It is not without pain. I felt that peace when I watched the love of my life walk away from me at eighteen years of age. God pried the little trinket away from me only to give me, in His own time, a better gift, which I could appreciate with more understanding. Now I know where my dear one is; I know he's doing well. Like the toddler, I am comforted; the candy is forgotten; I do not even notice as my face and hands are wiped clean of the stains of my greedy self-medication; my whole attention is focused on the new and wondrous gift I've been given. And, like a toddler, there is nothing I can do to pay back the gift, just as I did nothing to deserve it. I can look into the eyes of my Parent and breathe, "Thank you," in childish wonder... but the moment doesn't last. I cannot take my eyes off my prize. It is so marvelous that I just sit and gaze at it, overcome with joy. I don't need to even touch it to feel the bliss it brings me.

I had to let go of a lot before I was ready for that. Fortunately, God's allowed me to work and do what I love and do best, and learn while doing it. I've been provided for, not only materially but because I've learned the joys of frugal living - my monastic leanings, perhaps ;)- and I'm even at a point in my life where I have the greatest treasure of all, solitude and time to write and think. In many, many ways, this is the best time of my life. It probably always has been; it just took me this long to figure out how to appreciate it.

And God has always been there.

He's there for you, too. He loves you. You're His child - His thought, His idea. He is a firm and wise parent. When He's prying your fingers open from around whatever you're clutching, deaf to your howls of protest and your terror that you'll never see it again, ever, and how COULD He, etc. & so forth & so on - just... stop. Trust Him. Stand (or kneel!) there, face wet with tears, breath coming in sobbing hiccups, sniffling, lower lip trembling, emotions all in a storm - and wait for a moment. Watch and see what He's got up His sleeve. Whatever it is: you don't need to be afraid. This is not some mortal, fallible, selfish, confused, ignorant, depraved, callous or merely fatigued parent; this is your God. Let Him be a father to you, just for a minute. After 60 seconds, you can resume your tantrum. But let Him give you His love first, OK? You may not sense anything happening, but in that moment of silence He can fill your soul with the love of a lifetime. Whether what you're crying over is a mere trinket, or your dearest, most precious dreams - open up. Let Him do what He will with what you're hiding from Him. He already knows what's in there, anyway - He made whatever it is, too - remember?

Sixty seconds. That's all I ask. Ready? Go.