30 August 2005

In awe of the way blogs work

One of the bloggers I follow lives in the south, and hadn't updated her blog for a few days, and I was worried. I don't know her personally, but I was concerned. So I looked around for other bloggers who might know her. At one's blog, I found a comment from the one I was worried about. The comment was dated today. Relief.

Oh, Katrina

Like so many, I'm praying and grieving for the dear people who have lost so much. Besides all the others to pray for, I'm interceding for those who've succumbed to the temptation to loot, and for those who would judge them. If you are someplace where you have the electricity you need to find out about the looting, if the air is cool and you have a working toilet and within your vicinity there's a refrigerator containing anything appealing to eat, you might want to take a moment to be grateful, and pray for the looters' souls. If you do that first, then be righteously indignant. Just a thought.

27 August 2005

This is my O/S result

What's yours? Click here to find out.

Keeping busy

I work full-time outside my home. Over the years I've often heard women of a certain age say, "I like to keep busy." When I was much younger and foolish (as opposed to now, when I am at that age myself, and no less foolish), I used to look down on them a bit and feel sorry for them. I thought they must have had unexamined grief in their lives, or something like that, which made it uncomfortable for them to sit quietly or read or meditate or whatever - all of which I would, and do, indulge in to excess.

Today I'm in the middle of a few days of vacation. These few days have been a profound blessing to me. The purpose of the time off was to make some progress on some tasks which have been hanging over my head for years - and I have done so. All kinds of things - housecleaning, financial stuff, paperwork of various kinds. Nowhere near done, but just wading in a bit on each project, as opposed to cowering on the shore. It feels good. My mood has been better than it's been in months.

Chicken or egg? Not sure, but the Getting Up and Doing definitely helps keep the momentum of progress towards wholeness going. So much so, that I realise I have now joined the ranks of those who "like to keep busy."

Part of my problem with it before was my perception that "keeping busy" was mindless activity, compulsive cleaning, or self-exhaustion. Thanks to FlyLady, I've learned how to keep busy in a helpful, healthy way which avoids the traps of perfectionism, anger, and despair which beset me in previous attempts to live a "normal" life. I used to feel very self-conscious, sometimes despairing, about my inability to manage my surroundings. Thanks that dear woman and her team, I have slowly come to understand that I'm not alone, nor is there something "wrong" with me. It's not the only way to learn how to take care of one's life, but it worked for me where other methods had not.

Although I've not (I hope) expressed my former condescending thoughts to anyone who said that to me, I repent of entertaining them at all. There is a wound in my own life which will not heal, which God has used over and over again to protect, guide, encourage and enlighten me. Until three years ago, I steadfastly refused to admit the depth of the injury. I could not even bear to consider it. Now that I've faced up to it, healing can begin. I shall never be the same as I was before the dreadful things happened, but the secret to life is not to pretend the hurt away or stifle it with food or dreaming. It is to face it, with the support of God and those who love you.

Instead of hiding the hurt from the Physician, I finally let Him do what he needed to do: reopen, then clean the wound. Now, after so much pain, rehabilitation can begin. My life can be rebuilt, but only by me, and only in small increments of purposeful activity. Before, I could not bear the thought of a routine, organised, well-paced approach to work and life. Now, I know better. I sleep eight or nine hours a night. I exercise and eat right. I know how to work hard for fifteen minutes, then rest for a while. I'm learning how to map out my days, and keep to a schedule. For so many, this can be done without thinking. For me, it is stunning revelation. I don't know why it didn't make sense to me before. I'm just glad that it finally does.

So, I like to keep busy. I like to make progress against clutter and dust and weeds. It makes me feel good to take control of my possessions. Absurdly small stuff compared to the crying needs of the world, but it's my field of endeavour, just for now. I must build the foundation to support a greater work later on. For many reasons I could not live that sort of life before; now is the time. God is good - and patient with me.

If you are the type who lives a normal life with schedules and routines most of the time, you can be grateful for it. If your life is chaotic and stress-filled, know that, when you're ready, you can slow down and learn a different way.

26 August 2005

Why Starbucks wins

I enjoyed this blog post from Metrocurean (H/T Dappled Things for the link).

The sense of community is what I like it for - well, the coffee, pastries, and now lunch, of course - but I like being able to hang out with my notebook and a book, sipping coffee, and just being with others in a very comfortable setting - meaning that what we have in common is the location, and we're all there for the same thing.

It's very uniting, actually. People gather to sip coffee. There may be discussions, but the real issues center around whether or not to have a maple oat-nut scone, and is there a couch available. It is a comfortable place, no matter what one's mental furniture.

Key moments of my life have taken place in Starbucks. I have done some of my absolute best writing in one of their more atmospheric shops close by. Many years ago, a dear one's new job overseas was discussed at some length. When my best female friend was leaving to live in another state, the last evening we spent together in this state ended up at Starbucks. Treasured memories. There are few commercial venues which leave one with that kind of feeling, it seems.

However, as pleasant as the ambience is, I would not go if it weren't for their excellent coffee and tea, and the delicious little noshes one can buy, and the music.

I can do so much of that for myself at home - coffee, tea, scrumptious snacks, music, reading, writing, all of it - yet I continue to go out of my way to visit Starbucks at intervals. That is the incontrovertible proof that their formula is successful. I don't know how they express it within their corporate culture, but whatever it is, it's the "recipe for Coke" for their business. So long as I, a frugal, home-loving hobbity sort, will freely and willingly and gladly plunk down some dollars to go sit in their store and sip coffee when I could brew it myself at home, that company will thrive.

14 August 2005

For pleasure? or... ?

The Curt Jester had a great post, "Contraception as Bulimia." "Dr. Phillip Blosser from Musings of a Pertinacious Papist writes a must-read essay on contraception..."

I agree. It is must-read, and the link to Janet E. Smith's talk is definitely worth following. The quotes below are from her talk.

Young people today deserve to have a choice. Not just between pregnancy and abortion, but between truly living a full life, or following the pressure of the media to use their bodies in ways which are called "wrong" not because some stuffy somebody wants them to not have a good life, but because behaving that way can seriously impact their chances of a good life.

Couples who've abstained before marriage, have little or no problem with Natural Family Planning.... In fact, they think that abstinence is a way of expressing love. It's not this huge deprivation. The reason that they abstained before marriage was not because they weren't attracted to each other, not because the hormones weren't raging, but because they loved each other. They said, "I'm not going to have sex with you before marriage because I love you. I don't want to hurt you. I don't want to have a stronger commitment than I've made here. I don't want to put us in danger of having a baby when we haven't really prepared for that baby. Marriage is preparation for those bonds and marriage is preparation for that baby. And I love you and I can wait. That's how much I love you." Within marriage, abstinence has that same aspect. "It's not a good idea for us to show our affection at this time. We know how to be loving to each other at this time because we've done it before." And they can do it.

I know what it's like to have this kind of relationship (though, unfortunately, not in marriage), and I can testify to its worth and staying power.

Women who use Natural Family Planning have an amazing sense of self-respect and well being. They think that their fertility is revered by their husbands, and they think that they've got themselves particularly good husbands. "I've got my husband who's particularly good. He's a wonderful man. He's got high moral standards. He doesn't treat me like a sex object. I can trust him. He likes me even when we're not having sex together. He's a great guy. I got myself a good one." And males have a great reverence for their wives, for their fertility. They don't want to damage her body. They don't want her to take all these pills and use these devices. They say, "No. I love her. I wouldn't put her through those risks. And this willingness to have a baby for me, that's a wonderful thing. What a woman puts herself through! And I am going to respect that." So, there is this deep bond between the two of them.

Boys and girls both deserve to know their options. They are wise enough to choose - and they have been lied to in the most despicable ways. Dawn Eden has taken up one aspect of this institutionalized misleading in her relentless exposure of Planned Parenthood's tactics.

I know from experience what can happen when young men don't have enough information. I also know what it's like to go through this:

I've seen lots of people actually just slide into marriage. This whole notion that by having sex before marriage you could make a better choice of a spouse — I think is absolutely erroneous. It seems to me that the sexual passion can obscure things rather than clarify things. You get used to the sexual relationship and it makes you ignore whether this person is selfish, or lazy, or egotistical — things that, another two years from now, might really bother you. Right now, because of the sexual relationship, you overlook these things.

God offers forgiveness, not do-overs.

Thinking about choice

The blog feminine-genius is one of my occasional stops. I appreciate the time and research that goes into that blog. As I grow older, I'm finding I have less and less patience with those who would co-opt the thought of young women, to the point where the freedom of information is completely restricted.

It is simply criminal to raise young girls without a real choice: the information they need to decide how they want to live their lives.

Girls' choices are many, and complex, and a significant number of them have lifelong consequences. The easy way out is not always the best way.

In my visit today, I came across a link to this article, with this arresting quote:

A woman, with her cycle of fertility, is not a forest to be cleared or a mountain to be strip-mined. Instead, she’s like a garden, yielding her fruits to the patience and care of the loving husbandman. Neither are children pests to be warded off with chemicals. Instead, they’re a crowning gift of marriage, the visible fruits of a love too strong to be contained in just two bodies.

The whole article is worth a read. And a discussion with the young women in your life.


My previous post had been marinating in the drafts for a month. I was moved to post it today, because I just found something again on Ann V.'s blog I wanted to remember and (if you're visiting) share. It has a very special meaning to me - one which she, of course, could not know.

“The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content.” ~Proverbs 19:23
One can’t fiddle around with the Truth of His Word.

But I often do.

Substitutions like this:

If I live in fear of the future, I will cling to this moment with such passion that I will stumble into contentment.

If I live in fear of failure, I will drive myself so hard that I will seize contentment.

If I live in fear of rejection, I will curl myself up in such a shell that contentment will swaddle me.

And you know what?

My version of the Truth is a Lie...

(Read the whole thing.)

What caught my eye is "curl myself up in such a shell that contentment will swaddle me." My dear friend once said that, after our traumatic parting, he "curled up inside himself." Part of what we've done for each other is coax and persuade one another to emerge from our respective safe, but lonely, havens. His progress has reminded me at times of watching a crustacean begin to emerge from a borrowed shell, only to snap back inside at the first hint of trouble.

As for me, the one to watch out for is the fear of failure - driving myself so hard. As I have encouraged my friend to trust, so has he has led me to moderate my efforts and live more mindfully.

If you're going to fear something, fear the One who made you and knows you and loves you like no other. Bill Cosby had a great line, characterizing an exasperated father, something like: "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it!" He was, of course, joking; but, when raising children, especially boys, sometimes dads need to do the alpha male thing. There is no doubt in the kids' minds that Dad loves them with every breath he takes; but it is true that a father, secure in his role, commands a great deal of respect. Over many long years of pondering and prayer, I've finally figured out that's what the Scriptures mean by "the fear of the Lord." He loves us; we know it. But, in truth, He is in complete charge of us and all that is around us.

That's why I posted earlier about how I'd rather be God's child than His pal. As I grow older, my childish fear becomes profound respect and love; but you gotta start someplace, and very early on in our faith-walk, and sometimes in lapses after that, we shrink back from his majesty and cower in fear.

How that must hurt him. We've allowed the chatterers among us and the Deceiver himself to persuade us that God doesn't love us any more. What a crock. We have to keep watch that we're not turned away from the One who can really help and guide us. He wants us to part from our childish attachments to pleasure and possessions and pride, and that proves a stumbling block for many of us, me included.

The Deceiver is like the stranger who lures the child from his Father's side - come here, you pretty thing, look what I've got for you. Contentment lies in turning away in fear from him and running to Papa, trusting the One who caused you to live to provide all you could ever need. Maybe that's why sometimes men need to be fathers themselves before they can know God properly. Would any of you offer his son a stone when he asks for bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you, bad as you are, know how to give good things to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him! - Matthew 7:11.

When my friend was a worldly-wise teenager, he was cynical. Now he's more open, and he says he yearns sometimes for the kind of settled faith he perceives me to have. I don't want to laugh in front of him, so I don't, but me? settled faith?? When it's not amusing, it's scary to think I'm seen as knowing something like that, when I don't.

In my poverty of trust, I recognize my kinship with those who are desperately poor in the material sense. I've often been touched by the selfless generosity of those who have next to nothing; they often will share from their little as the widow did with her two mites for the temple. (Luke 21:1-4) So, if Papa gives me two pieces of candy, I shall offer one to my friend. If my friend thinks I have faith, then I won't deny it. I can only pray to the Father to help me fear the right things, and not try to do any of it alone.

A place to learn how to find peace

I found my way to the blog, Holy Experience, and it is now a place of spiritual refreshment for me. The woman who writes it is remarkable in so many ways. Her spirituality is expressed in ways most familiar to me from reading the saints. She is living out her vocation, and doing it with grace. Not just her own gracious ways, but by accepting, depending on, and working with God's grace, at every turn. Her spirituality reminds me of my patron saint's, whose Carmelite sisters wondered if there would be anything to even say about her after her untimely death. St. Thérèse of Lisieux' life within the convent walls was that quiet and unnoticeable. What they did not realize is what was subsequently revealed to the world: that the quiet, ordinary sister's spine was made of stainless steel, and, unbenownst to them, she had met her challenges with profound courage. And, sometimes, that courage meant giving up and letting go, letting God live through her in spite of her strong will.

One weekend I sat and read the archives. There were tears in my eyes the whole time. Later, I realized why. This young mother, many years my junior, is mothering me, too, by sharing her reflections and prayers.

The day of reading and mopping my eyes did more than just comfort me. I felt healed. For a few years now I've been grieving the choices I made which led to losses which were calamitous for my life as a woman. There is so much I just don't know... or I've had just enough exposure to it to know how much I missed, which is a special kind of pain.

By reading Ann's blog, I know now that I'd never have survived family life. My issues of trust would have doomed any relationship I attempted (and, in fact, did). God protected me. When other women my age were marrying and raising families, I needed to be where I was.

My lack of trust must be healed before I can move ahead to know anything like a normal life. So, as I put my life back together again, I go back to God, and hang my head, and confess my sin of pride - because thinking you can take care of yourself better than God can is pride, pure and simple. My entire adult life was organized around avoiding any more emotional pain of a certain type. I succeeded. What I could not fathom was how much - how much - I missed in my blind search for security.

Ann's reflections help me to see that, but in a loving, mindful way which, for some reason, doesn't wound me. I am more at peace about what happened in my life than I've been in years. She has helped me find peace... from the heart of her busy, growing family.


My dog likes corners to sleep in.

Some dogs stretch out on the floor in the middle of the room. Not my guy - I'll call him The Bear. He tucks himself away and hides in a quiet place. It's the last vestige of the way he coped with life when I adopted him five years ago.

He'd been in a noisy, crowded animal shelter, reprieved twice from the gas chamber because the people there liked him and thought he was worth saving. I was looking for a shepherd dog to walk with at night - a dog to be a companion and guard. He was looking for Anywhere But Here, Please.

He was terrified of his own shadow at first. It wasn't like he'd been abused, so much as he was just frightened. As it turned out, it was mostly inexperience. However he'd been brought up, it wasn't in thoughtful family surroundings. He displayed extreme terror of garage doors, SUVs with open doors, other dogs, young men in baseball caps, young men on skateboards, and male Asians. By extreme, I mean I'd be playing him at the end of the leash like a fighting fish.

The extent of his deprivation was made clear the first time he accompanied me through a drive-through for cheeseburgers one evening. He was in the back of the Volvo wagon, looking around, alert and a little nervous. I was explaining the whole way that it was about good things to eat, and just trust me, you'll see. He held it together until the kid at the window leaned over and reached out to take my money. The Bear feels strongly about the car, and even more strongly about me, and let it be known that he, The Bear, would take that kid's arm off at the elbow if he didn't back off right now. The kid visibly jumped. Bear's bark is magnificent and loud. The manager out in the store even looked over with a "is my kid all right?" look.

I happen to subscribe to the belief that dogs do that out of standard beta-pack instinct: their job is to watch the alpha's back as well as the den, and the Volvo is clearly a good den in Bear's mind. So I wasn't going to scold the dog, because he was behaving correctly in the situation as he perceived it. Instead, I thanked him. "Thank you, Bear - I know what this is. It's OK." He quieted down pretty much then, though still grumbling under his breath at the nerve of the kid.

I wish I had a videotape of what I saw in the rear-view mirror as I drove away. Bear sat up with a busy nose. The aroma of cheeseburgers filled the car as I made my way back to the house. He was, eventually, allowed a taste. Since that day he is an old pro at drive-throughs, and has extended his nonchalance to all the old phobias, with the singular exception of a couple of elderly Daschunds down the street. If they're out when we walk by, they scurry across the street and fearlessly set upon poor Bear. He gets truly scared, for he doesn't know what he's done to arouse their ire (nor do I), and he knows I won't let him retaliate and extinguish the little twits. So he cowers while I dance between him and the dogs until the owner comes to retrieve them. The predatory Daschunds. Heh.

However, to this day, my big strong dog still likes to sleep in corners. He has several around the house which are his favorites. All are readily identified by the smudges on the walls. One is an unused shower. One is by the front door. It makes him feel safe. One of the things I've noticed about him is his evident and obvious gratitude for quiet, peaceful surroundings. He's just like me, in that regard.

He and I both like our versions of corners, places where we can feel safe and be quiet and rest and sleep and recharge. My dog will never be a social diva, nor will I. But we have each other, and we understand one another, and feel a certain camaraderie in our taste for solitude and retirement.

In the cage where I found him huddled against the wall, silent and enduring amid the horrible noise of the enclosed kennels, I wonder if he was hoping for such a life, or if he even knew there might be a reprieve. I remember how it was for me at a similar time in my life, not of literal noise but internal torments of a similar, unrelenting nature. That Bear and I found each other gave me hope that one day I, too, could be free. With him at my side, I've found the courage to do more than ever before, watching him take on new challenges and suppress his fears out of a desire to please me. Corners are good for resting, but only in between forays. Some adventures are great (cheeseburgers). Some are not favorites (the doctor; the groomer). Bear and I know. We're figuring it out, together.

(In case you're curious, Bear is a mix, but he's mostly Belgian Tervuren - a breed I never knew existed until I found a picture on a website after his adoption.)


Clayton has a series going which, although I haven't read it in too much depth, I find very interesting and helpful.

For a very long time in my life, I had no friends. It happened after I was married; the kind of people I liked would have been highly uncomfortable with my husband. (Okay, so that would've been a clue...) The isolation from friends lasted so long because I'm not the type to give up easily, and also because I was suffering from that lonely sin, pride. I learned the hard way that when you're lonely, pride, or one of its endlessly morphing manifestations might be lurking around somewhere in the ol' psyche.

The newly humiliated me (I shall not yet claim to be humble - I'm blogging, aren't I? ) has learned to reach out and offer friendship to those around me. I was an only child for ten years, and a solitary soul by nature; my mother's alcoholism just isolated me further. I'm not at all comfortable with "joining" anything. (Over at Amy's she asked people to describe what they liked about their parishes; every time I read "people are so friendly!", I cringe. I don't know how to express it properly to people, but to do the friendly thing with me at church is to frighten me off for months at a time. Just give me a cordial nod and a smile, then leave me alone to look around and take it all in. I'll get back to you when I'm ready ... really I will.)

I've been reflecting on friendship, because I have two very stalwart friends now, and their encouragement and sharing have transformed my life. I am at a loss how to repay the favor, except by being as good a friend as I can in return, and by allowing their encouragement to be reflected in my life.

As I try to understand the choices I made at certain points in my life... figuring out why I chose the way I did... my relationships with friends, and my attitude towards friendship, are what I think about now. For so many years I would snort in derision to hear a husband or wife prattling on about how they'd married their best friend, blah blah blah. I see now that the derision came from deep hurt and confusion. Reading what Clayton has posted about friendship is like repair work on my understanding. Sometimes it helps to go over the ground and, while one cannot start fresh, at least work to fill in the thin spots with truth.

I came this close to marrying my best friend. Circling back to talk about it with him was the blessing of a lifetime. Neither of us really knew what we had in one another. Or, if we did, we felt sure the other was only pretending to like us, or that such bliss could never be ours. Somehow, kids have to be enabled to think they are worthy of friendship. In our extreme self-doubt, my friend and I were suffering from the worst kind of pride, the kind that believes we are so insignificant - so somehow extra-achievingly unworthy - that no one in their right mind would ever take us seriously. And, for that reason, we didn't take ourselves seriously. The love and respect and awe we felt in one another's presence, we experienced in solitude, even as we embraced one another.

For me, humility means learning that I'm not so clumsy or despicable as I think I am. I'm not extraordinarily sinful, nor am I particularly virtuous. My talents are good in some areas, but mostly I'm just typical. I am muddling thru, by the grace of God, like everyone else. And, if I will quit focusing on myself, for God's sake, maybe He'll be able to act in my life without having to shove me out of the way to do it - which He very rarely will.

At the Dominican Nuns' blog, on June 25, they had a quote posted which, alas, I cannot find there now. I'm glad I printed it when I saw it; I have it on the refrigerator and it has inspired me ever since. It's a quote from Fr. Walter Farrell, O.P.:

"Let God tend to the hopeless-looking things ... It seems to me quite entrancing to be able to pile into bed realizing there is someone as big as God to do all the worrying that has to be done. Worry, you know, is a kind of reverence given to a situation because of its magnitude; how small it must be through God's eyes... You can't get everything done in a day, nor can you get any part of it done as well as it could be, or even as well as you'd like it; so, like the rest of us, you putter at your job with a normal amount of energy, for a reasonable length of time, and go to bed with the humiliating yet exhilarating knowledge that you are only a child of God and not God Himself."

For a very long time, I was unable to do just that. I spent untold hours of misery, castigating myself because I could not work harder and Do Everything - with the predictable result that I got nothing done! I was constantly discouraged. Now, I'm learning to do just a little bit - give thanks - do a bit more - rest. God has blessed me in this season of my life by letting me finally see that it's not all about me, and it all doesn't have to be done today. Just because I cannot see the end of the work, or understand why it's not getting done, doesn't matter. I'm to do what I can do, today. Tomorrow, I will do some more. And I will do all of it better if I'm well-rested, well-fed, and in the proper frame of mind.

The most humiliating thing is to realize that it took me so very many years to figure all this out. There is no pride left. :) And, with pride slinking away, at last - in come friends. Deo gratias.


I'm pretty good at it, in some ways, though not in others. My grandmother taught me a lot about how to get along on very, very little, yet still enjoy life. After my grandfather died, she didn't have much income. She did house-sitting and watched children now and then. I remember how surprised I was when I asked her innocently how it came about that she did it, and she said simply that she needed the money.

By the time I knew her, those days were past. Her savings, stock dividends, and social security - which my grandfather, all agreed, determinedly lived just long enough to qualify for - provided what she needed, and enough extra for occasional treats like nice presents for me, her only grandchild at the time. Grandmother had the gift of giving incredibly practical presents that were still full of charm and value. (Where IS that gene when I need it??)

But, all her life, she was careful with her money. I learned from her to walk right by the temptations hung on the end of grocery aisles, and to this day hear her "You don't need that" as I walk through stores or shop on line. Now, if you read that and heard a scolding voice in your head, it wasn't like that at all. Grandmother's "You don't need that!" wasn't a reproach. She said it cheerfully, affirmingly. It was a "Aren't you lucky? You don't need that gazingus thing!" Although, in truth, she never used the word gazingus. I ascribe it to her, though, because if she'd known that word, she would've loved it - and the book where I learned it, Your Money or Your Life. That's a great book. It's one of the few which Changed My Life, Permanently.

There is something of an art to frugality - the joyful variety, that is - and I think a lot of it has to do with merely waiting. The time goes by so quickly; will you really miss that thing, that object, that must-have item in two weeks? That's my way of managing those impulse buys: I simply wait. When I do, finally, purchase something, it's because I want and/or need it. I've thought it over, done my research, and made my plan to pay for it.

These days, I'm fortunate to have enough money for good food (meaning, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables), a decent if neglected house, and a trusty old Volvo. Due to a change in my family situation, I'm having to be extra careful for a while. Due to a change in the engine of the aforementioned vehicle - a total rebuild due to a timing chain failure - "careful" has meant No Discretionary Spending Except for Orchids. Trader Joe's has beautiful orchid plants for exceptionally reasonable prices. I award myself one about every month or so, Just Because.

The rest of the time, I'm just - careful. Sometimes, though, I have to just bite the bullet and take care of myself. Shoes: I waited a long time to buy new shoes; now I still only have a few pair, but at least they're not completely falling off my feet. And today - what brought on this whole meditation - I must - simply must - order some new clothes. One particular necessary item in my wardrobe has, through attrition, dwindled to the point where I cannot make it through a week without washing. So - I shall buy something today - a rare enough occasion that it gets mention in my blog.

It would be great to have more money to throw around. I hope someday I will. And, when I do, I'll spend and donate more. One just does. But I'm grateful that I somehow managed to learn that there are a lot of things I don't need to have Right This Minute. That, in its own way, is as much of a gift as the thing itself and the means to obtain it.

07 August 2005

Showing true colors

I ran across something this morning which seems to hint at Cardinal Mahony's intentions in performing the liturgy the way he does.

He gave a talk in Bellevue, Washington, in late May. The Archbishop of Seattle, Alex Brunett, wrote an article about it in "The Catholic Northwest Progress" on June 2. The tone of the article can only be described by invoking an extremely vulgar phrase which I shall not use. However, along the way, the Archbishop managed to convey a distinct lack of familiarity with aspects of Eucharistic devotion:

"Too often in the past, we Catholics have thought about the Eucharistic presence as simply a static reality or human body. This has led to some notable misconceptions about Jesus’ Eucharistic presence. For instance some Catholics in their devotions have considered Jesus a prisoner in the tabernacle who is lonely and waits for us to visit Him."

Without questioning that, for some souls, any such concept can get over-emphasized at certain stages, the Archbishop might want to proceed with caution before using a word like "misconceptions," especially when that exact idea led to the development of the spirituality of one Thérèse Martin. At this website, we read:
"Moreover it was a prayer card of Jesus, the Divine Prisoner in the tabernacle, that inspired Therese to be His Little flower of love. Painted on the card, which was given to Therese by her sister Pauline, was a little flower growing towards Jesus in the tabernacle. It was on its stem that Pauline wrote her name. Wishing to emulate this, St. Therese wrote, “The little flower of the Divine Prisoner told me so many things that I was immersed in them. Seeing Pauline’s name written at the bottom of the little flower, I wished Therese’s name could be there too and so I offered myself to Jesus to be His little flower.”

Since St. Thérèse is a Doctor of the Church, and the Archbishop is not, yet, and since St. Julian Eymard and others have expressed this same idea, and there are religious orders whose devotional charism includes this concept of our Lord's voluntary and extreme humility in putting Himself entirely at our disposal (which, unfortunately, is what happens to Him all too often), the Archbishop might want to temper his tone.

But then, you have to believe it's Jesus. Apparently, those of us who've become afflicted with that conviction since reading John 6 are out of step with The Spirit of Vatican Two. As the Archbishop reminds us:

"As Cardinal Mahony’s comments and my pastoral letter on the Eucharist, Sign of Unity, Bond of Love, make clear the Year of the Eucharist is an opportunity to think about our Eucharistic devotions in a new way, but first we must learn to see the Eucharist not as a human body but as an event happening in our lives."

With all due respect to the Archbishop, it's easy to find a couple of contrary texts:

"I am the living bread that has come down from heaven; if anyone eats this bread, he will live for ever. The bread which I shall give is my own flesh, given for the life of the world... my flesh is real food; my blood is real drink." John 6:51,55

Because "human nature was assumed, not absorbed", in the mysterious union of the Incarnation, the Church was led over the course of centuries to confess the full reality of Christ's human soul, with its operations of intellect and will, and of his human body. In parallel fashion, she had to recall on each occasion that Christ's human nature belongs, as his own, to the divine person of the Son of God, who assumed it. Everything that Christ is and does in this nature derives from "one of the Trinity". The Son of God therefore communicates to his humanity his own personal mode of existence in the Trinity. In his soul as in his body, Christ thus expresses humanly the divine ways of the Trinity:
The Son of God. . . worked with human hands; he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin...

(Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph #470)