Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last Minutes of 2010

Some birds who came by this afternoon.

The end of the year is here.  Which, of course, also means that the beginning of another year is upon us.  I have spent the majority of my life being unbelievably morbid especially at New Year's Eve.  I grew up with a very ill father.  I don't know how many times he had the Last Rites before he left us for good.  But every new year was a year I wondered  "is my Dad going to die this year?"    I was terrified of that eventuality.  Of course, he did die, but he was 81 at the time.  I managed to live through 40 years where my daddy didn't die.  And all that wasted energy and unhappiness in the meantime!  

At work, people have been saying "I hope 2011 is a better year!"  I look at them and wonder what they are hoping for.  2010 was a dreadful year at the hospital.  Half of the hospital was closed.  My assistant's job was abolished, I had to tell her that after 28 years, she no longer had a job.  That wasn't fun.  But I did manage to hang on to my job as did everyone else who is now wishing that 2011 is better than 2010.

2010 was just fine.  I logged nearly 600 miles of running on this old body.  I quit drinking Diet Pepsi - for Lent - and never started again.  I still want one every single day.  I had another year without a drink of alcohol - which makes 26 of them all in a row now.  It is nearly 20 years since I have had a cigarette!  Now, that is just crazy, because I didn't even want to quit!  

My son got married!  And his wife had a baby girl!!!  My son is a father!  He is a wonderful father!  Psalm 128 has an entirely new meaning to me now.

I am in my fourth year of Biblical School.  I will graduate in May 2011.  I don't know what that means, other than now I know how much I don't know.  But I also realize that I have learned a lot.  There is just so much to learn.  And I only have this lifetime to learn it in.  And I have wasted so much of my lifetime.  

I am sure I could go on and on, but it would be boring... and I don't want to test your patience.

Tonight I am going out with friends to a Chinese restaurant.  The place will close to the general public at 7:30 and then "we" will take over.  Oh, we have so much fun.  None of us drink, we will be out of there by 10 p.m. at the latest, but we have intense fun while we are there.  A whole restaurant full of us.

Tomorrow I will babysit my little tiny granddaughter for the first time.  And I will make a cheesecake for a party later in the evening.  And I will try to get to mass at 5 p.m., but it may have to wait until Sunday early morning.

My life is so full and happy.  Oh, I could complain.  I wish Mr. Right would come along.  But I have entertained too many Mr. Rights in my lifetime, and am now in the process of trying to get that untangled in the church.  Encouraged that the Archdiocese of Chicago took an automatic payment out of my checking account yesterday - the first payment that I agreed to.  For my annulment.  Does that mean it is happening?  Wouldn't that be something?  I have been working on this for 3 years.

I have things I want to happen in 2011, but I will think about that tomorrow.

"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day."  Matthew 6:34

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


A reading from the first Letter of Saint John 2:3-11
Beloved:  The way we may be sure that we know Jesus is to keep his commandments.  Whoever says, "I know him," but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.  This is the way we may know that we are in union with him:  whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.  
Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you but an old commandment that you had from the beginning.  The old commandment is the word that you have heard.  And yet I do write a new commandment to you, which holds true in him and among you, for the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.  Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness.  Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.  Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.  
This morning as I sat to do my reading and prayer, I was struck by how simple and clear this reading is.  There is no ambiguity whatsoever.  There is no ambiguity in the commandments.  There is no ambiguity in love and hate.  It may be simple, but it is certainly not easy!

I think if I spent the rest of my life trying to do this, it would keep me plenty busy.  A worthy kind of busy, not a frantic crazy busy.

OK - I better get busy!  I have a whole bunch of people to go out and love today!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Quality of Life?

I know this post is not in keeping with the purpose of my blog, but all the discussion about healthcare has been on my mind.

I am the youngest of five children, by the time I was born, my mother was 37,  my father 40.  My parents came of age during the depression.  They had values born of losing great wealth (in my father's case) and living through very hard times.  Those lessons never left them.

I was taught something that is not very popular today:

Whoever is paying the tab calls the shots.  That simple.  It makes sense.

In our culture, we like to have the government pay for things and then want to have it our way.  We have been able to do that for a generation or two.  But I think that time is over.

We (as a society, but not ME personally) wanted to have government paid healthcare.  We (as a society, but not ME personally) have called healthcare a RIGHT, not a privilege.  Therefore, it should just come with our other infrastructure - say, like our great roads, postal service, and the IRS.  Well, we are on our way.

And really, it is not new.  Blame LBJ.  On July 30, 1965 we started sliding down this exceedingly slippery slope.   When the US government became a payor for healthcare, it began.

If everyone who turns 65 automatically enrolls in Medicare, without means testing, we all eventually become recipients of healthcare with the government as the payor.  That means that we, as tax payers, are going to pay for the eventual healthcare expense (and it is expensive) for every single obese smoker dining at McDonald's.  We are going to pay for the hip and knee replacements of  70 year olds who happen to have stage IV cancer.

As we all know, the Medicare system also includes the disabled as well as the elderly, and the Medicaid system is the payor for low income folks.  So, the government is already paying for healthcare for the elderly, disabled, and poor.  A big chunk of this money comes from the states, and it is bankrupting them.

How long before the entity paying the tab wants to call the shots?  Really.  It only make sense.

In my first job in healthcare, I was astounded at the extremely expensive surgery being performed every single day on people who are not viable recipients of the surgery.  A hip replacement surgery on a morbidly obese person does not make sense.  And yet, that is one example of something that happens every single day.  I don't want to pay for that.  Sorry.

Now we have this gargantuan health care bill.  I printed it out and have it sitting in a 3 inch binder on my desk.  I have read parts of it.  I, like the lawmakers who passed it, have not had time to read the entire thing.

I don't need to read the whole thing to know that when the government is the payor for almost all of our healthcare, they will, of necessity, begin to start making some tough decisions for us.    Perhaps we will begin (as a society) to determine a person's likely worth to society as they struggle to live.  A tiny baby?  Not so valuable.  Especially if it looks like the tiny baby will have some impairment - that will cost money.

An article in the New York Times earlier this week brought back the specter of "death panels."  There won't be death panels (at first), but CMS (Medicare and Medicaid) will pay for "end of life counseling."  It actually sounds good.  Your doctor will sit down with you and counsel you on some end of life decisions.  Everybody should be doing this now.  Really.

But when they start talking about "Quality of Life," I get really frightened.  When I was 16, I didn't want to live to be 30!  I didn't want to get gross wrinkles and flabby skin.  I honestly remember thinking that if I ever got "fat," I would kill myself!  Funny, wrinkles came, flab came, I even got fat!  I still want to live.  I work very hard to maintain my health, another 59 year old would see that, but a 16 year old wouldn't.

When my father was in a nursing home, I started thinking of this whole "quality of life" idea.  He had none.  But he wanted to live.  He wanted to live until God had another idea.  And eventually God did.  I would then hear others say "If I ever get like that, please just shoot me!"  It makes my stomach turn.

I work in a state psychiatric hospital.  It is full of people who have no "quality of life."  Seriously, they don't.  But they don't want to die.  They want to live and occasionally, there is a crystal, sparkling moment when someone gets better enough to leave the hospital.

It is best not to let others decide what kind of quality our lives should have.

But then it is better to pay our own way, so we don't have to have someone else calling the shots.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Advent is Over

And I am almost out of photos of churches.  I have a few left, but they aren't my favorites.  So, here is a photo I took while out walking yesterday.  

Advent is over, and I am left with wondering what to do with this blog.  I had thought I might write about the Corporal Works of Mercy and the Spiritual Works of Mercy.  Yesterday I opened my Catechism to read about them, but there they weren't!  There is one little mention of the Corporal Works of Mercy, but no mention that I could find of the Spiritual.  Shows you how well I know the Catechism!  

It was a long weekend with not enough plans.  I spent Christmas Eve at my son, daughter-in-law, and new baby's house.  It was lovely.  I don't drink - at all - and in deference to that, we had an alcohol free Christmas Eve.  I didn't ask them to do that, but they did it anyway.  It was lovely to sit with all these young people and play Monopoly (do you know they have a game with credit cards and an electronic device for transferring funds?)  and Scrabble - and drink Pepsi, sparkling water, eggnog, and other non-alcoholic beverages.  I know very well that they normally drink beer, but I am fine with them forgoing that for one day.  Honored, really.  

On Christmas, I had not one plan.  And I did not one thing - other than go to mass and make Borscht.  About 15 years ago, I had such a craving for beet soup on Christmas Day, I made it and there began a little personal tradition.  After a month of wretched excess, I just want a bowl of vegetable soup.  And so, I made another pot this year.  It will take a week for me to eat it all, but oh, it is so good.  

I woke up yesterday with a migraine.  Horrible migraine.  I could not even get myself to mass.  I took my migraine medication which means that I will do nothing but lay in bed or on the sofa and sleep.  I turned on football games and slept on the sofa.  By mid-afternoon, I had to get out of the house, so I took a walk - see photo above.  By last evening, I had some realizations about my life.  And by last night's sleep, I had horrible nightmares.  

I can see that I am morbid still this morning, so I will wrap this up, get in the tub, get dressed as nicely as I can, and go to work.  High heeled shoes, stockings, a skirt, sweaters, make up and a hair do should go far to improve my gloomy outlook.  A couple of days alone don't do much good for my mental state.  

But I will sit and take a hard look this week.  And make some plans to make some changes in my 60th year on this earth.  I will look for a particular charitable work I think I am being called to.  I know I need to end my exile to this computer and venture back out among the living.

Enough out of me!!!  Thanks to anyone who has read this rambling thing.  

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Nativity of the Lord

A reading of the holy Gospel according to John 
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, an without him nothing came to be.  What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  
He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him.  He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.
But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God.
And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.  
This verse saved my faith at one point of great doubt.  I don't want to get into a big intellectual discussion on Christmas Day, so I will save that for a later day.  But I sure was happy to hear this read at mass this morning.

And happy to see standing-room-only at church.  It used to annoy me.  All the inconvenience of all those cars in the parking lot, all those extra people in the pews.  All of the crying babies, and chit chatting people.  However, I now thank God that that many people got dressed up on Christmas morning and headed out to mass.  

In our secular world, the grocery stores, gas stations, convenience stores, and malls still close on this one day of the year.  It gives me hope.

Merry Christmas to you all.   

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

Chicorica Luminarias, Raton, New Mexico
A reading of the holy Gospel according to Luke 1:67-79
Zechariah his father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying:
"Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free.  He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David.  Through his prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us.  He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant.  This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hand of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.  You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.  In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace."
The dawn from on high.  The fulfillment of the Old Testament - was right there, in John the Baptist and Jesus.  No wonder we celebrate this day!

Of all days in the year, second maybe to Easter Sunday, I love Christmas Eve.  When a child, I was taught about the birth of Jesus.  In my mind, it was all tangled up with Santa Claus and presents and trees and lights.  But I knew that Jesus was the real deal.  The rest of it was transient.  Oh, that is not to say that I didn't like it, because I certainly did!

In our home, all those years ago, Santa brought the Christmas tree as well as the gifts.  My poor over-worked mother worked like a slave to get all this stuff done, while my father sat in a chair drinking bourbon.  My older brothers would take me out for a "drive" after dinner on Christmas Eve, ostensibly to look at the Christmas lights - which weren't on for more than a few days back then.  They did not go up just after Halloween and stay up for 2 months!  When we got home we would discover that Santa had been there!  We had a Christmas tree, all aglow, with presents beneath it!  What magic for a child to see. We would open gifts and then hurriedly get ready for midnight mass.  We would bundle off to mass, oh it was glorious.

This morning I have gifts to wrap, a pie to bake, and a potato dish to assemble, complete with a beautiful cheese sauce.  My daughter, (the one you have been praying for - thank you!) will come over later and we will go purchase her gift from me - a new smart phone.  Last night she posted on facebook that she thanked God she was no longer using drugs.  You know, I have spent a lot of time around addicts and alcoholics and I just have never heard that kind of language from someone who is still using.   So today, I shall just go ahead and believe her.  We will go to my son's house for dinner.  Well, we will be helping to cook dinner since my son is now on crutches due to a torn meniscus.  He cannot even take care of their tiny baby.  Oh, I can help there!

And all day, I shall keep ever present in my mind, the image of Our Lord as an infant.  God loved us so much that he gave us his only begotten son.  Born in a manger.

Deo Gratias!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 23

Spirit of Christ Catholic Church, Arvada, Colorado
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke 1:57-66
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son.  Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.  When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, "No.  He will be called John."  But they answered her, "There is no one among your relatives who has this name."  So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.  He asked for a tablet and wrote, "John is his name," and all were amazed.  Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.  Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea.  All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, "What, then, will this child be?"  For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.  
This child was special indeed.  A Nazarite for life, as told by the Angel Gabriel.  With my imagination, I think of Elizabeth with her precious boy - she's waited all of her life for him.  And she can't comb his hair!  Imagine what a mess that would be!   But these were holy people, after Zechariah's initial questioning, he got over it - they named the child "John" without hesitation, and I guess they raised their son as a Nazarite without question.  

Oh, I am so excited today. I have only one meeting.  It is at 10 a.m., and then I am done for the year.  I have a week without one thing scheduled next week.  Don't get me wrong, I have plenty to do, but I don't have all these pressure-filled meetings where I have to get materials ready and present them.  Yesterday I had two meetings where I had to get volumes of data ready and present them.  And be prepared to answer questions about them.  Today I have one tiny meeting I am chairing.  I am so relieved.  

My son called last night and expressed his concern about his sister, my daughter.  He thinks she is using drugs again.  I think she isn't - but I have been fooled before.  After speaking to him for about a half hour, I began to lose my composure, I was starting to cry.  I tried to hide it, I wrapped up the conversation, got off the phone and sat and cried.  And prayed.  I thought about Our Heavenly Father and how he must hate the way we judge each other.  My son was very kind and said everything as nicely as possible, but it still cut my heart.  I can't imagine how we wound the heart of Our Lord with the cruel things we do and say.  

I am a bit frightened.  I will be praying a lot.   And I would ask for your prayers for my daughter and our family.  Thank you.  God bless you.  

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

December 22

Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, San Antonio, Texas
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke 1:46-56    a.k.a.  The Magnificat
Mary said:  "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant.  From this day all generations will call me blessed; the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.  He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.  He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit.  He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.  He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.  He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.
Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned to her home.  
How beautiful is this prayer!  I had not realized until recently that this New Testament prayer is so similar to an Old Testament prayer - the Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10).  I love to think of Mary knowing this prayer, surely she did.  I love to look at the Old Testament and realize that I am pondering the very words that Jesus knew, that Mary knew.  I am reading the same words they did!  It may not mean anything to anyone else, but it is awe inspiring for me.

I live far too much in my intellect and not enough in my heart I am afraid.  Yesterday two women I work with took me out for lunch for a late birthday treat.  The restaurant was absolutely packed, we would have had to wait a half hour for a table, so we sat at the bar.  We got to watch the cooks at the grill.  It was an amazing thing to watch.  They put whole potatoes into a contraption, applied who knows how many pounds of pressure by hand, and turned them into french fries.  And then cooked them immediately - and they were good!  But I was fascinated with how hard on a body that must be!  And the fry cooks frantically grilling hamburgers and the occasional chicken breast - I cannot imagine what a work-out that must be - they were moving at a frenetic pace!  I started pondering these things aloud.  I speculated that their staff turnover rate must be staggeringly high.  One of my friends asked me if I ever stopped doing my job - could I not just go to a restaurant without analyzing work process.  This sounds like she was being harsh, she wasn't.

She was dead-on right about me.  I guess years as a psych nurse does give a person insight.

I used to have a friend who talked about "the 12 inch trip" from one's head to one's heart.  I need to be living more in my heart and less in my head.

God alone can help me with this!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December 21

Light of the World Catholic Church, Littleton, Colorado

A reading of the holy Gospel according to Luke 1:39-45
Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."
As Catholics, most of us pray Luke 1:42 every day.  How wonderful to find these words in their context, from the mouth of Elizabeth - in a loud voice, having had her child leap in her womb at the sound of Mary's greeting.  

Yesterday one of my friends posted this video on facebook.  I absolutely loved it and wanted to post it here.  I went to Igniter Media and found I needed to pay $14.95 for it.  I opted to link to it instead.  Call me cheap, that's OK.  

Last evening, in less than an hour sitting at my computer, I spent nearly a thousand dollars.  I finally just entered my credit card to join the professional organization I need to belong to - but have not wanted to pay the fee for.    I purchased my son's Christmas presents online - and paid for 2 day shipping to get them here on time.  I was so thrilled that my son, the formerly confirmed bachelor, now married and the adoring father to his little baby girl, Lilah Rose, asked for old Christmas movies in Blu Ray.  No shoot 'em up violent films, or vulgar tasteless comedies, but Miracle on 34th Street, the old Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim, and It's a Wonderful Life - they will be gifted in answer to his request.  

Then, since I am a runner who has not been running, I registered for a half-marathon on May 1.  I need to run.  For my physical well-being as well as my mental health.  I need to run.  Since my marathon (26.2 miles) in October, I have logged not many miles.  I have had no motivation.  My coach has been telling me to never be without a registered race out there on the horizon.  So, now I have one.  And since it is a couple hour drive from Denver, I have also reserved a room at a fancy-schmancy hotel in that town for two nights.  There were no simple rooms left for that weekend, so I was FORCED to get an upgraded room.  Darn!   I am excited about the race, it is one I have wanted to do for a couple of years, but it is always full by the time I decide to register for it.  At this time, it is over 80% full.  I think I just squeezed in!

As I have trained for half-marathons, triathlons, and my one marathon, I have wondered how this could possibly be pleasing to God.   The only rationale I can come up with is that God gave me this body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, and I am supposed to take care of it.  Not worship it, not make it my God, but take care of it as a gift from God, and as a holy receptacle of the Holy Spirit.  My body needs to run.  I am old, and I am a pitiful runner, but it is what makes me function well - and then perhaps I can serve him well.  I hope.  

Thank you for your kind comments yesterday.  You have encouraged me to continue - and I appreciate that.

Deo Gratias!

Monday, December 20, 2010

December 20

A reading of the holy Gospel according to Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary.  And coming to her, he said, "Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you."  But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end."  
But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relation with a man?"  And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God."  
Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, May it be done to me according to your word."  Then the angel departed from her.
I wonder when I read this what the difference was between how Mary asked "How can this be?" and how Zechariah asked "How shall I know this?"  Mary was reassured, while Zechariah was struck dumb for his doubt of Gabriel.  I think that if the Angel Gabriel came to me, I would just nod and do whatever he said.  I would be so afraid!  I wonder if he would say to me "Be not afraid..."  I certainly hope so!

We have only four more days of Advent.  I intended this blog to be a trial, and had hoped that I would continue after Christmas.  I am not sure there is any point in this blog.  There are such wonderful Catholic writers blogging.  They far surpass me in knowledge and writing ability.  I don't know that my blog serves any purpose at all.   I will pray this week about whether or not I should continue.

And I will thank anyone who has been kind enough to read and comment.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday of the Fourth Week of Advent

St. Jude Catholic Church, Lakewood, Colorado

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew   1:18-24

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.  Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means "God is with us."  When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

 This is just so beautiful.  "Do not be afraid" the angel says. How many time is this repeated in the Gospels?  

I am quite sick, have no idea what is wrong with me.  I spent yesterday morning making candy with my daughter.  We make candy every year for Christmas gifts for co-workers and other friends.  After we had made candy, we went to see the Harry Potter movie for the second time.  I started to feel ill while at the theater.  When we left the theater, we went to get a gift certificate for a fancy-spa-pedicure for my daughter-in-law who has just had her first child - my beautiful granddaughter.  While walking to the store, I told my daughter that my back hurt so bad I felt like I had just been in a car accident!  She sort of rolled her eyes at me - I do have a flair for drama.  

By the time we got home, I wilted into the sofa and stopped all planned activities.  By dinner time, I ate 5 saltine crackers as my sole nutrition in an interest to not to aggravate my sick stomach.  By 7:30 p.m. I was in bed, fast asleep.  

I did manage to get to mass this morning.  And now I will have to go to confession and pray for forgiveness for the evil things I was thinking at mass.  So, I will ask you, how is it that you can go to mass without being bothered by people who will not stop talking during the entire mass?  At the 7 a.m. mass, a family comes every week.  Every week they are late.  Every week they talk through the entire mass.  Every week they hold each other and stroke each other through the entire mass.  During the sign of peace, they all kiss each other, on the lips, and extend this ritual between all five of them, long past the time when others have turned their eyes back forward, in reverence to the mass.  Then they go to communion, and come back and talk with each other all over again.  

I know it is not my job to judge them, but it is so distracting I sometimes will move so that they are not in my line of sight.  But when they come late, as they do each week, I don't know where they will sit until mass has begun.  Today, they were right in front of me.  I prayed, and I tried to focus on the mass, and tried to ignore them, but I didn't do too well.

Maybe it is because I don't feel well.  But now I have to find a church with confessions this week - I think I know where one is.  

I am grateful for confession.  And I am grateful for my sofa on a Sunday morning.  I am grateful for the hand-knit (by me) mohair afghan which keeps me so warm today.  And if anyone should read this gibberish, I am grateful for you!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

A reading from the beginning of the holy Gospel according to Matthew
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, teh son of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of of Ammiadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.  
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa, and Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manassah the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.  
And after the deportation to Babylon:  Jechoniah was the father of Shealtie, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerbbabel teh father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the fathe of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.  

I love this genealogy of Jesus!  Prior to studying the Bible, I thought this was the most boring part, and I always skipped over it.  I thought it was an artifact of the Scripture's antiquity... surely no longer something we would be interested in.  Once I studied the Old Testament, I could read this genealogy and have an inkling of the rich history contained in those names.  I hadn't understood how many of these people were deeply flawed characters.  I have a few favorites in the list, of course - I am a human with my own likes and dislikes.  As a woman (and not a feminist), I love that there are women in Jesus' genealogy, which was very unusual for that time.  And the women included are awesome.  How would I pick a favorite of them?  Well, I couldn't.  But I have to say that when we studied Rahab and were told that she was a part of the genealogy, I was astounded.

Probably most people find comfort in the great and inspirational heroes of the Old and New Testaments, but I take comfort in the weakest and most flawed, who were still found worthy to serve some useful purpose.  That gives me great hope.

It is snowing outside and I am thrilled.  On the front range of the Rockies, in Colorado, we have had just a trace of snow so far this year.  I have longed for the arrival of winter weather.  It looks like we will have some.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

A few panels of the ceiling at St. Stephen Catholic Church, Glenwood Springs, Colorado

A reading from the holy Gosepl according to Luke  7:24-30
When the messengers of John the Baptist had left, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, "What did you go out to the desert to see?    Someone dressed in fine garments?  Those who dress luxuriously and live sumptuously are found in royal palaces.  Then what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  This is the one about whom Scripture says:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.
I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."  (All the people who listened, including the tax collectors who were baptized with the baptism of John acknowledged the righteousness of God; but the Pharisees and scholars of the law, who were not baptized by him, rejected the plan of God for themselves.)
The Gospel of Luke adds the outcome... all who listened "got" the message, with the exception of the Pharisees and scholars of the law.  Those were the people who should have listened.  They were too busy protecting themselves and defending the rules to accept the actual Son of God.  I find that frightening.  I have become a rule follower, I pray I don't fail to see the forest for the trees as the Pharisees did.

I had a beautiful birthday.  I enter my 60th year!  One of my daughters could not come to dinner last night.  I was not too terribly sad about that, but I am worried that she is.  No matter what, she has always been able to be at family events.  But yesterday, there were just too many obstacles in her path.  Her life is a bit overwhelming right now.  She is in my prayers constantly.  God has done so much for her, but I am afraid some of the rest of what needs to be done in her life is up to her.

Then more circumstances prevented my son from being able to come, sick baby, a car seat that needed to be washed and could not be used to transport sick baby, etc.  At that point, I sat and cried.  But my other daughter came over and convinced me to pack up the food I had spent the day preparing and drive the short 3 miles to my son's house.  Oh, we had a wonderful time!  I got to sit in a chair and hold my 2 month old granddaughter! - and she did not get sick on me!

Thanks to modern communication and social networks, I heard from so many friends, it made my head swim.  I got a beautiful e-mail from my ex-husband in Australia.  I heard from childhood friends, college friends, nieces, nephews, brothers, sister, and my children.  By the time I was getting ready to go to bed, I spent some time reflecting on the blessings in my life and wept (again!) for gratitude.

I hope you can forgive my sentimentality.  Pretty soon, I can blame it on age, eh? 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wednesday of the Third Week in Advent

Icons in my home - St. Michael the Archangel was "written" by me.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke 7:18-23
At that time, John summoned two of his disciples, sent them to the Lord, saying, "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?"  And when the men had come to him, they said, "John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, `Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?'"  In that hour he cured many of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many that were blind he bestowed sight.  And he answered them, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.  And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.
It always puzzles me when we repeat Gospel readings in the same week.  On Sunday, we had Matthew's account of the same thing.  I guess it bears repeating.  

Today is my 59th birthday.  Who knew God would keep me around for so long?  I was on a seriously self-destructive bend for the first half of my life.  I am constantly amazed that I got to live this long and that I have had so many years to reconcile my former horribleness.  I realize I have so far yet to go, so I hope the Lord grants me many years more.  

I took the day off work and am cooking today - I told my adult children that I would make dinner so that they could save their money for my present (ha ha).  

God has been so very good to me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

A reading of the holy Gospel according to Matthew   21:28-32
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:  "What is your opinion?  A man had two sons.  He came to the first and said, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.'  The son said in reply, 'I will not,' but afterwards he changed his mind and went.  The man came to the other son and gave the same order.  He said in reply, 'Yes, sir,' but did not go.  Which of the two did his father's will?"  They answered, "The first."  Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you.  When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did.  Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him."  
I never understood this parable until this morning while pondering how I was going to write this.  I always imagined Jesus' response to them being a rebuke for answering the question incorrectly.  It wasn't the question they responded to incorrectly.  It was John the Baptist they failed to respond to.    And now I have another parable to take great comfort in.  Being late to the party, having said "no" early in life, I am so frightened that I am too late.  That my earlier "no" counts more than my later "yes."  But there is more than one parable in which Jesus tells me this is not so.

It appears I am going into my annual weeping mode. Last night during the lecture at Biblical School I fought tears the entire time.  During our closing prayer, there were tears streaming down my face.  Stories of changed hearts do this to me.   I know that I cannot change my heart, I know that no one else can either.  Only by divine intervention does my heart change.  I heard a story last night of a child being cruel and causing great pain to another.  In a flash, he could see what he was doing was wrong, and changed it immediately.  And gave the credit to Christ, because he knew he was not able to do this.  His best efforts had him being a hurtful bully.  But God was able to change his heart.

I pray to Our Lord to change my heart to conform to his will.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday of the Third Week of Advent

Spirit of Christ Catholic Church, Arvada, Colorado

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew  21:23-27

When Jesus had come into the temple area, the chief priests and elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, "By what authority are you doing these things?  And who gave you this authority?"  Jesus said to them in reply, "I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things.  Where was John's baptism from?  Was it of heavenly or of human origin?"  They discussed this among themselves and said, "If we say 'Of heavenly origin,' he will say to us, 'Then why did you not believe him?'  But if we say, 'Of human origin,' we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet."  So they said to Jesus in reply, "We do not know."  He himself said to them, "Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things."

When I read this, I see that Jesus does not answer the question of the chief priests and elders as he had answered the question of John the Baptist.  Their trickery and deceit were obvious to Jesus and he refused to answer them.  So, drawing my own conclusion about this, Jesus will answer the honest questions of those honestly inquiring, but not questions designed to trick.  I find this very reassuring.

Yesterday I went back to the church I attended 20 years ago.  It was the church where I "reverted" to my Catholic faith after leaving for a chunk of my early adulthood.  I have not been there for 15 years.  In fact, they have an entirely new church since then.  When I was a parishioner, we were sitting on plastic chairs, no pews, and no kneelers.  Now they have a grand and beautiful church.  

I met my friend there yesterday.  Imagine our surprise when we saw that we were dressed alike.  One little difference was that I had on a rose colored scarf - for Gaudete Sunday.  Imagine our continued surprise when we were approached by the ushers and asked to bring the gifts to the altar.  I have never been asked to do that before.  There we were, two middle aged women, dressed alike, walking up the aisle, presenting the gifts.  It was very special to me.  

I spent a bit of time reflecting on this church and my current parish.  The church that had so much appeal to me 20 years ago is so different than the parish I have chosen for my home today.  It is loud and theatrical.  The priest dramatically walks about while delivering his homily.  There are large screens placed about the church with the words to the music so that we can sing along.  They ask if there are any birthdays in the week and the birthday people come to the altar for a blessing - and a singing of Happy Birthday by the whole congregation (I was one of those yesterday - my birthday is this week).  The message is heavy on hope and love.  

My current parish is quiet and old.  Most of the heads are gray.  The 73 year old pastor stands at the pulpit and reads a homily.  The choir accompanies the organ.  There are missals in the pews, we read music and sing with the choir.  This church has an average of 3 funerals a week.  The message is heavy on eternal life.  

So different!  I wish I could find something in between the two.  But I guess I will "bloom where I am planted" and right now I am at the old church.  And I do love it.

But yesterday, in my old church, we sang "Immanuel," and I cried when I remembered my first "coming back" confession - almost 20 years ago.  It was the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent.  I hung around church for the 5 o'clock mass.  We sang this song that day, and I cried that day.  When I heard it yesterday, I remembered the amazing experience that was.  And it made me so grateful to be back among the fold.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday of the Third Week of Advent

San Fernando Cathedral, San Antonio, Texas

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew  11:2-11
When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?"  Jesus said to them in reply, "Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.  And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me." 
As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, "What did you go out to the desert to see?  A reed swayed by the wind?  Then what did you go out to see?  Someone dressed in fine clothing?  Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.  Then why did you go out?  To see a prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  This is the one about whom it is writing:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.
Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."

John the Baptist himself - the one preparing the way for the Lord - asks for verification that this is it, Jesus is the one.  And Jesus provides the evidence for John.  He doesn't ask why John fails to know this, he doesn't blame the Baptist for needing to know.  He simply provides what John needs to know.

Just as he does for Thomas after his resurrection.  He doesn't blame Thomas, he just asks Thomas to do what he needs to to do believe:  "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put your your hand and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing."  John 20:27

Today my prayer is to be among the "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday of the Second Week of Advent

St. John Francis Regis Chapel, Regis University, Denver, Colorado
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew  17:9, 10-13
As they were coming down from the mountain, the disciples asked Jesus, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"  He said in reply, "Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.  So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands."  Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
When we were studying the historical books of the Old Testament, one of the homework questions was "Is John the Baptist Elijah?"  I actually thought that was a silly question until I tried to find the answer to that question based on scripture.  There are so many passages that seem to say that the Baptist is Elijah.  But in John 1:21, John the Baptist himself says he is not Elijah.

Please understand that I do not think I have any of these answers that great scholars have pondered over the millenia.  I am just beginning to ponder them too.  I love the Bible, and writing this every morning is a wonderful way to start my day.  I have my study Bible by my computer.  By my prayer chair are two other Bibles, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and a bunch of other books.  When you have summoned up the nerve (the gall!) to write about Scripture for all the world to see (as if!), I think you better at least try to get your facts straight.   It makes me take a look at this from a different perspective.  I guess the perspective of a regular student.  One who might be asked questions.

And that is good.

And now I shall get ready to go meet my running club for our regular Saturday morning run.  It is 30º outside, which is downright steamy for a December Colorado morning.  But it is still 2º below freezing and it is cold!  I will be glad after I am done.  I am supposed to run 8 miles this morning, but I am not sure I can.  I have run very few miles since my one and only marathon in October.  It will be good to join with my friends this morning though.  One of them is a Catholic and we spend a lot of miles talking about things Catholics talk about.  She is not big on going to church, but I think I am working on her.

And I have another non-practicing Catholic friend who called last night and asked me to go to mass with her tomorrow.  Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I would be happy to!  We will attend the church where I was welcomed so warmly and cared for when I was called back to the church over 20 years ago now.  And it is a church I haven't photographed before, so I will get there early to snap photos.  Something that makes me feel somewhat sacrilegious, but I love the beauty in our churches.

I am rather verbose this morning.  I guess that's what happens when I am not rushing around trying to get to work.

God bless you all.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday of the Second Week of Advent

Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Houston, Texas
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew  11:16-19
Jesus said to the crowds:  "To what shall I compare this generation?  It is like children who sit in the marketplaces and call to one another, 'We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.'  For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, 'He is possessed by a demon.'  The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, 'Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'  But wisdom is vindicated by her works.
Criticism.  How often I have felt like this!  There is no pleasing some people - because they are committed to being displeased.  The worst thing to possibly do is cater to the whims of the displeased, because they will always be displeased.  But wisdom is vindicated by her works.  To me, that tells me that we stay the right course, regardless of whether or not we are in fashion or favor.

How difficult it is to live as a Christian in our society.  I am having a number of difficulties right now.  They are minor compared with things other people are dealing with, let me hasten to tell you.  One very high placed individual in my workplace has decided to "hone in" on me for the last two weeks.  He does it to everyone eventually, there is no reason it should not eventually be my turn.  So, now it is my turn.  In two meetings last week, he spent at least a half hour each, grilling me.  In public, in front of everyone. Somehow, I managed to pray and sit still and not cry!  I answered his questions as reasonably as I could. Later, people who have either witnessed this or heard about it and want to hear all about it.  Yesterday afternoon a woman was asking me, standing close, staring intently into my eyes... as if she could will me to say something evil about this man.  Oh, I want to.  I want to find a way to make his life miserable.  But that is not what we are supposed to do.  So, I pray for him and try with all my might not to say anything evil about him.  

And today I have a job interview elsewhere.  After 16 and a half years in the same place.  I don't want to go.  But I might just go anyway.  So, I better get dressed, all shiny and happy looking for my interview.  

I am asking for your prayers - and thanking you in advance.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent

Christ on the Mountain Catholic Church, Lakewood, Colorado
A reading of the holy Gospel according to Matthew  11:11-15
Jesus said to the crowds:  "Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force.  All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John.  And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come.  Whoever has ears ought to hear."  
This is a challenging passage for me.  I do not understand.  

I am reminded of our first homework assignment at Biblical School.  We were to read an article about "understanding the Bible" and write a paper about it.  The article said that it is difficult to understand the Bible, and that trying to do so would produce humility in a reasonable person.  I have been humbled repeatedly.  The Book of Isaiah almost made me drop out of Biblical School.  Prior to attending the school, I would have told you Isaiah was one of my favorite books.  Now I will tell you that I simply do not understand it.  I can pray for understanding, but my intellect is not going to "figure it out."  

Thankfully, I am increasingly spending time with people who are also praying for understanding.  I can't help but think this is good.  

And thank you to anyone who is reading my blog.  I appreciate it.  I once had a "successful" blog, in fact, although I abandoned it at the beginning of Advent, it still is "successful."  After writing daily on it for over five years, it comes up frequently on Google for many things.  Over 100 people a day end up there as a result of a Google search.  In the course of those five years, I came to realize that it was not where my heart was.  My heart longs to write about Jesus and his church.  In this, I am not articulate.  But I need to be.  If I can spend an hour a day preparing to write this blog, in addition to the time I am already spending in prayer, at mass, at adoration, etc., I hope I can become more articulate.  We are charged to  "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19).  I cannot be effective in my attempt at this until I can speak of it.  (I think)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

St. Stephen Catholic Church, Glenwood Springs, Colorado
A reading of the holy Gospel according to Luke 1:26-38
The Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary.  And coming to her, he said, "Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you."  but she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end."  But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?"  And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power ofthe Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God."  Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word."  Then the angel departed from her.  
Years ago, I had an Anglican friend.  A very good friend.  I credit him with forcing me back into the Bible in a deeper way.  He loved to argue.  He loved to argue about religion.   And unfortunately, he usually won the argument because he knew more about my religion than I did.  

But I am haunted by our conversation about the Blessed Virgin.  He said although he admired her, he would never pray to Mary.  He went on to blast the Rosary - he said we prayed to Mary for the forgiveness of sins.  He said that the Rosary was not scriptural.  I knew enough to argue that point.  I told him that the Hail Mary could be found in the Gospel of Luke.  But that was the only thing I could speak to.  I have wanted to write him a letter to describe how very scriptural the Rosary is, to go, point by point, through every prayer and reference it back to the Bible.   I have composed this letter in my mind many times.  But then I have wondered if I would just be trying to prove a point - and therefore prove that I am right - or if I am truly trying to show him something wonderful.  And hence, I have not written the letter.

But I am grateful this morning that I get to go to 6:30 a.m. mass.  It is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.  And I won't have to argue with anyone at mass.  But I know I will still be thinking about that letter...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent

At St. Mary Catholic Parish, Littleton, Colorado
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew 18:12-14
Jesus said to his disciples:  "What is your opinion?  If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?  And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.  In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost."
I am more grateful than words can say for these passages in the Gospels.  I was, for so long, a lost sheep, a lost coin, a prodigal.  In my ego, I would think that I was just too bad for anyone to care about.  I surely didn't think that God could possibly want me.  What a revelation it was for me to read that He really does.  He wants me!  No matter how "bad" I have been.  I can repent and just be one of the flock of sheep, one coin in the purse, one "son" in the family.

My computer has done strange things twice in the last 12 hours.  I have had to shut it down and pray it would start back up.  It is a computer I longed for, and spent a great deal of money (for me) for, it is only 2 1/2 years old.  I thought it would last longer than this.  I wanted an Apple so very badly.  And I have loved it.  I absolutely cannot pay for a new computer at this time.  I have just spent an equivalent amount of money to save one tooth in my mouth - after insurance.   Then I wonder, is this a message about my computer usage?  I do spend an inordinate amount of time sitting looking at this screen.

I go back to what I said a couple of times last week, it has been such a long journey for me to just get here.  I know I need to go so much farther.  I hope I have the time.  I am relying on Our Lord to help me get there.  To stop worrying about stupid things (like my computer) and start living in Joyful Hope.

Three Theological Virtues:    Faith     Hope      Charity

May I live by these today.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday of the Second Week of Advent

St. Peter Church, Charlotte, North Carolina
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke  5:17-26
One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there, and the power of the Lord was with him for healing.  And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence.  But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle in front of Jesus.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "As for you, your sins are forgiven."  
Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies?  Who but God alone can forgive sins?"  Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply, "What are you thinking in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" - he said to the one who was paralyzed, "I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher and go home."
He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God.  Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, "We have seen incredible things today."
"Some men" brought this paralytic to Jesus.  The paralytic has no voice in this passage.  The men have great faith, they take the paralytic to the roof - and lower him through the tiles into the house!  Jesus forgives their sins!  And then he heals the man on the stretcher.  So, there is great merit in bringing the "ill" to Jesus - he forgave the sins of the bringers before he healed the ill.  

I know a lot of people who have their own version of illness, including myself.  I have the opportunity to bring them to Jesus.  I will pray that I be shown how to do this.  

What a wonderful day I shall have today.  Working all day long, then Eucharistic Adoration, then Biblical School.  I love Mondays!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Second Sunday of Advent

A window on the hallway to the Adoration Chapel, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Lakewood, Colorado
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew  3:1-12
John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"  It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,  Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel's hair and had a leather belt around his waist.  His food was locusts and wild honey.  At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.  
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.'  For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.  Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.  Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and throw into the fire.  I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I, I am not worthy to carry his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fan is in his hand.  He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."  

At mass this morning the priest said today's readings were not about hell, but about "The Kingdom of heaven is at hand!"  He went on to describe how this is true - right now.  I guess that is the difference between a wonderful priest and me.  My eye is drawn to the chaff burning with unquenchable fire.  The way to avoid being chaff?  Producing good fruit.  Oh please dear Lord, may I bear good fruit.

One week after starting this blog - what do I think?  I am happy to be spending more time studying each day's Gospel.  I have become even more aware of how little I know.  But I  am willing to admit my ignorance and go forward in faith.  I have been heartened by the comments of visitors.  I have been heartened by the feedback of the one and only person I know in "real life" I told about this blog.

And yesterday, I went shopping.  Shopping is one of my problems.  I can't ever seem to get enough clothing.  I am invited to a Christmas party today, with people from work.  I wanted to purchase something "festive."  I went to one of my favorite purveyors of quality women's clothing.  I tried on clothes.  I purchased nothing.  Undeterred by this, I got back into my car and drove to another purveyor of women's clothing.  However, I could not find a parking place.  I started to get annoyed.  I thought about how wrong that was.

Instead of continuing in my determination to purchase something, and becoming increasingly irritated that everything was not going my way - I stopped for a second.  I thought about a nearby church with a Perpetual Adoration Chapel.  Instead of persisting in my endeavor to "get stuff," I changed course and drove to the church.  I spent a beautiful silent hour of adoration.  It was the best part of my day.

Would I have done that if I had not had "An Advent Journey" blog?  Probably, but maybe not.

Thank you for your kind support and comments.

Your humble blogger,
Mary Christine

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturday of the First Week of Advent

St. John Frances Regis Chapel, Regis University, Denver, Colorado (my Alma Mater)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew  9:35-10:1,5a, 6-8
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.  At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest."
Then he summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.
Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them this, "Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  As you go, make this proclamation: 'The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.'  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.  Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give."

This reading is so dense. Since I am writing about the reading every day, I go to my Bible with my own notes, and another study Bible (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, New Testament) and really study it.   I am struck by how much is in these few words.   Today I will just focus on "His heart was moved with pity for them  because they were troubled and abandoned."  

Today I will meditate upon his mercy.  

I am greatly in need of it.  

Last night I went to bed full of happy anticipation of today's activities.  All three of my grandchildren (including a 7 week old infant!) are coming over to help me decorate our small Christmas tree.  I am making dinner for them - and after considering gourmet meals they would not like (because I love to cook), I arrived on a menu I know they will love - homemade macaroni and cheese.  A salad.  And hot cocoa with marshmallows for desert.  

At 2 a.m., I woke with a migraine.  At 3 a.m., I decided it was worthy of taking a very expensive medication which wipes me out the next day.  At 4 a.m., I went back to sleep - the time I normally wake up and get busy.  At 7:30 a.m., I woke up, without a migraine, but sick from the medication and the after effects of the migraine.  And I am foggy from the medication.  Now it is after 10 a.m., and I still have not started cleaning the house and making dinner.  

I will offer this up, and hope to suffer it with a grateful heart.  

And get to work.

Your prayers would be greatly appreciated.  

Thank you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday of the First Week of Advent

St. Jude Catholic Church, Lakewood, Colorado - my parish!

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew 9:27-31
As Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him, crying out, "Son of David, have pity on us!"  When he entered the house, the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I can do this?" "Yes, Lord," they said to him.  Then he touched their eyes and said, "Let it be done for you according to your faith."  And their eyes were opened.  Jesus warned them sternly, "See that no one knows about this."  But they went out and spread word of him through all that land.

Let it be done for you according to your faith.  I can imagine that I would have one eye's sight restored, or some sight, but mostly fuzzy, if healed according to my faith.   But their blindness was healed.  

And then they went out and told everyone - although they had been warned sternly not to by Jesus.  

Is there one person in the Gospels who doesn't let Our Lord down?  As I ponder this question, the only person who comes to mind is Mary.  Everyone else let him down or even betrayed him.  And yet, he went to the cross for them, and us.  Even me.  

I overslept this morning - slept until 5 a.m. instead of my usual 4 a.m. - and I need to be at mass at 6:30 - so I need to skedaddle.  I will endeavor to have faith to have Jesus heal my vision today.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thursday of the First Week of Advent

Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, San Antonio, Texas
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew  7:21, 24-27
Jesus said to his disciples:  "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kindgom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
"Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.  But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.  And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.  And it collapsed and was completely ruined."
The will of God.  How can I know if I am truly doing the will of God, or if I am just deluding myself?   I have done some strange things in my life, being convinced it was the will of God.  When I was following popular culture and its endless self-absorption.  When it was all about me and how I felt.   

Later, when I spent a lot more time reading scripture and getting humble about my importance in this world, I came to a different view.  I don't claim to know what the will of God is, but I can kind of tell what it isn't.  If I am worried about myself and "what's in it for me," I am probably not doing God's will. If, however, I am doing things I don't feel like doing (like following all Ten of the Commandments), or not doing things I feel like doing (like bad-mouthing my co-workers and thereby ensuring justice in the workplace!)  - I think I am probably getting closer.  

I want my house to be built on solid rock and to stand firm.  It is my heart's desire.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wednesday of the First Week in Advent

St. Anthony Catholic Church, Long Beach, California
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew  15:29-37
At that time:  Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there.  Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others.  they placed them at his feet, and he cured them.  The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel.
Jesus summoned his disciples and said, "My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.  I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way."  The disciples said to him, "Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?"  Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?" "Seven," they replied, "and a few fish."  He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.  Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.  they all ate and were satisfied.  They picked up the fragments left over -- seven baskets full. 

As I reflect on this reading, I get completely side tracked by my background and experience:  I left the church for a number of years after Vatican II coincided with my own crazy years of late teens and early 20s.  I was confused and it felt to me that the church was confused.  I longed to go to mass that actually "felt" like mass.  I couldn't understand why this place of holiness had suddenly turned into a free-for-all - singing Bob Dylan songs- paraphrased for church.  I just didn't understand, got angry, and left.

When I came back to the fold, I found a church that felt welcoming to me.  It was a very modern church, no pews, no kneelers, no lots of things.  The priests were wonderful and helped me tremendously.   I went to mass daily until necessity forced me back to full time employment - and even then I attended daily mass as often as possible.  Later I moved across town and found another church.

But when I really pondered this reading this morning, I was struck by the memory of the homily about the loaves and the fishes by one of those priests I loved so much.  He explained away the miracle, very logically, very compellingly.  He explained that in that time and place, there were not McDonald's and Burger Kings on every corner.  When people traveled, they carried food with them.  He explained that when they passed around the seven loaves and few fish, people unfastened their bags of carried food and shared.  And that was how, he posited, they ended up with baskets-full left over.  

I believed that - and many other things that priest said.  He taught the first Bible class I ever attended.  He studied in Rome.  He was brilliant.  He was funny.  He helped me tremendously.

And now he is in prison for abusing young men in that parish.  

Now I read this passage and understand that it wasn't some kind of holy sleight of hand to get people to share their food.  It was a miracle performed by Our Lord Jesus Christ.  It prefigures the Eucharist.  He will not leave us hungry.  He will feed us.  

I hope no one reads this as my commentary on Vatican II or the clergy abuse scandal.  I am just sharing my own experience with these things.  How we are influenced by the people who have been in our lives.  Again, I am so incredibly grateful that God has allowed me to live long enough to get back to the Holy Catholic Church, and to come to a real faith in the real true God.  Miracles and all.