Caritas · My world

2008 almost here

I have been reading the past few days about other peoples’ goals for the new year.  Resolutions tickle and haunt me.  Knowing that I am called to be the better me and the constant and constantly failing attempt to be that person is the thread that runs through the tapestry of my life.

Most of the past six weeks, with the noteable exception of Christmas, have found me stressed, overwhelmed, over worked, lacking in passion and pleasure and mostly just drained.  Time is wasted and wanted and left crumpled in a pile of must dos and must be done all pressing in upon me until I am crushed.  Stress just plain stress has condensed me to a point where I spend all my time doing nothing but worrying about all the nothing that isn’t being done.

A new start is most needed right now.  So I look forward to the chance to step into a new year.  I have two rather large projects and two small ones with my work competing for time right now.  We are taking next week off from homeschooling and I will have a little time to revise some of what we are doing.  There are two new approaches that I want to try. 

I wish I could just burn it all and start new right now.  But I can’t I need to work with where I am and go forward tweaking, dumping, and reworking what isn’t working to make life work better.  I have slowly been making these changes a little at a time.  Anyhow.    This post is more a brain dump than anything.  A place to begin thinking about making some lasting changes in the new year.


A sad day in a joyful season

So young, so small that they had barely begun to know that they were when they died in place of Christ.  They died to save the one who would die to save them.  The first martyrs, the Holy Innocents, who we remember this day.

There is almost nothing that I enjoy more than being surprised by a thought.  And Fulton Sheen can do that on a regular basis it seems.  Today was one of those times were I read something and just sat back and said, “Wow.”

Happy Catholic (yes, one of my daily readings) had this quote:

There is anguish for us, twenty centuries later, in thinking of the slain babies and their parents. for the babies the agony was soon over; in the next world they would come to know whom they had died to save and for all eternity would have that glory. For the parents, the pain would have lasted longer; but at death they too must have found that there was a special sense in which God was in their debt, as he had never been indebted to any. They and their children were the only ones who ever agonized in order to save God’s life …(F. J. Sheed, To Know Christ Jesus)

I have often wondered how Mary and Joesph felt as they fled ahead of the slaughter.  What did they think?  Did they know what was about to happen? These would have been their neighbors, the little babies they had seen growing up, the toddlers their own son had played with.  No wonder the “Flight to Egypt” is one of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. Even though they escaped the anger and rage of Herod there were those who died in Jesus place. The sorrow when they learned of the massacre must have been horrible. 

Blogs I Know · Faith in Action


I looked out the window this morning and it looks like the houses on the hillside above us are snow covered.  Funny how just a few meters means the difference between rain and snow. 

Happy Catholic shared something yesterday that started me thinking about the things we do and the things we say and the differences we make in the lives of others.    The things we do and the things we fail to do can draw others closer to faith and to God or they can turn them away.  They don’t have to be big things there just have to be enough of them.

Faith in Action

God gets their souls, science gets their brains

On CNN there is a nice article about the “Nun Study”.    I heard about this story and the very interesting results it has shown about seven years ago, it is really cool to hear that it is still going on.

The School Sisters of Notre Dame have assisted Dr. David Snowdon for about 20 years in his research into Alzheimer’s and dementia.  You can learn more about the “Nun Study” Here.

Christmas Alliance

Have Yourself a Merry Little Whatever.

The cashier at the store in the red Santa hat smiled and said, “Happy Holidays” as she handed me my change, I smiled back and said,  “Merry Christmas.”


I never envy retail workers and during the Christmas shopping season my heart really goes out to them.  It can be the worst time of year to be dealing with the public.  There are those cheerful souls, the ones who come in from pouring rain or drifting snow, if they don’t find exactly what they want they are delighted enough to find something they didn’t expect.  They are content to wait in line knowing everyone is busy and the store staff is working as hard as they can.  These are the ones who thank the floor person for the extra help, hum Christmas carols to themselves while they let the old woman with the huge package ahead of them in line; they hand out candy canes to the checkout clerk and drop a dollar into the Salvation Army bucket.  But these folks are literally one in one hundred. 


Grumpy and Unhappy customers seem to be much more common, maybe one in thirty. 


Grumpy the Holiday Shopper comes in with their nose out of joint that they had to walk a whole 100m across the parking lot and they grumble about the weather.  This person is likely as not to go ballistic when the latest in thing is sold-out and crossly interrogate to floor person to see if there might be one in the back storage.  They stand unhappily in line sure that the store staff is dawdling just to make people wait and feel very put out if another register is opened and the manager assists the old woman with the huge package behind them to the front of the new line.   To this customer there is nothing safe to say. Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, saying either could land you in trouble if you are a store clerk during the Christmas season.


It could be that Grumpy the Holiday shopper is not a Christian.  They are just there because their toaster broke and they needed one.  It could be that they are very sensitive to the different faiths of our plural society, they don’t want to see anyone offended and are put-out that they have to buy Christmas presents for their nominally religious family members because they are going to “The Big Holiday Feast” at their mother-in-law’s.  For any myriad of reasons Grumpy the Holiday shopper doesn’t want to be wished “Merry Christmas”.  And Lord have mercy on the clerk or store manager if they are because Grumpy is going to take out all their Holiday frustrations on them both.  And if the clerk and manager don’t bow low enough and act subservient enough you can bet that Grumpy will be writing letters to headquarters instead of Santa.


So the manager will bow low to Grumpy and tell the staff “No more ‘Merry Christmas’, let’s just stick to ‘Happy Holidays’”.  Happy Holidays is safe enough.  No one could be offended there.  It is traditional, been around a while, featured in songs and cards for as long as any of us remember.  Safe, won’t make anyone angry and certainly won’t lead to complaint letters being fired off to head quarters.   


Then comes in Unhappy the Christmas shopper.  They are there because it is Christmas and they are Christian.  They Celebrate Christmas with a Capital C and they always remember the Reason for the Season, it is emblazoned on the bumper sticker on the back of their car.   Last week at worship they heard a great sermon about the “War on Christmas” and, being a good prayer warrior, they are looking to defend traditional Christian values in a secular world, while making a quick stop at the local store to pick up the latest consumer item.  They aren’t happy to be there.  They are less happy when they realize that said item is sold out.  They are not happy that the floor person won’t go back to the back room to look for it on the flimsy excuse that they had checked earlier.  They don’t want to wait in line and when the new register opens up and the store manager escorts the old woman with the huge package to the front of the new line they feel a twinge of guilt that they hadn’t noticed her behind them because they were too busy looking at the clerks un-godly nose piercing and wondering if they would be able to find a quick way to witness to them.  Finally Unhappy reaches the front of the line and forces out a cheerful “Merry Christmas” to which the clerk dutifully replies “Happy Holidays. How dare they not acknowledge the religious significance of the Lord’s birth in our Great Nation founded on Faith, God and Religious Liberty? Lord have mercy on the clerk and store manager because Unhappy is going to take out all their Christmas frustrations on them both.  And if the clerk and manager don’t bow low enough and act subservient enough you can bet that Unhappy will be writing letters to headquarters instead of Santa.


It is at this point that the floor person reconsiders the offer to work in their brother’s auto body shop, the store clerk with the nose-piercing decides to go back to college and the store manager decides to enlist in the Army.  Life in retail during the big shopping season is hard.  And right now the “Christmas wars” are just adding to the frustration.


I have mentioned before that I am a big fan of a firm separation of Church and State.  But I am also a big fan off people just lightening up a little bit and not taking things so very, very seriously.  If your local “Shop Mart” or “Mall Store” aren’t plastering Nativity scenes and “Merry Christmas” all over the store it is actually pretty normal.  As a child I remember Christmas in “Small Town America”.  I remember a lot of  “Happy Holidays” banners, sure the court house had a nativity in the front,  but the decorations around town consisted mostly of white garland and green and red Christmas bows and balls and lots of flocking.  Ahhh the 70s in ranch country Oregon. 


But it also will not kill anyone, nor should it offend anyone to hear a store clerk say “Merry Christmas”.   And when stores and shopping centers do the almost unheard of thing of having “Christmas” included in something it is more a matter that most Americans celebrate the nominally Christian Holiday know as Christmas by shopping for all the latest consumer good and  giving lots of gifts.  It is the minority of Americans who actually celebrate Christmas the Nativity of Jesus Christ.  While Christians “own” the Nativity of Christ the word “Christmas” does not necessarily dictate that one is celebrating that event.  “Christmas” is also celebrated as a completely secular event by many people. Jesus is the “Reason for the Season” but there are other reasons to celebrate Christmas and not all Americans are in it for the same thing. In a free society where diverse religious expression is honored that should be OK.   I think both the secular and Christian community would benefit from remembering this.


So, for what it is worth, here are my “let’s be sensible and get a grip” suggestions:


Jesus is the reason for my season.  If you want to celebrate Santa and presents have fun.  You can even call your celebration Christmas. It is OK to celebrate Christmas however you want.  It can be a religious holiday or not as a person’s conscience and pleasure dictate.  


If your local community has a Nativity Scene, Christmas tree or “Charles Dickens’s Christmas on Main Street Celebration” that’s OK.   Because the community, municipality, state or other, is not creating a State religion they are honoring the diverse religious expression of their community by paying a brief and innocuous homage to a very important celebration of one of their cultural groups.  If you would like them to honor your particular celebration look into setting up something.   Chair the annual Summer Solstice Picnic and art festival in the park and see what happens.  If your Christian neighbors complain promise them that come Christmas time their Nativity Scene is safe on the Courthouse lawn and that the annual Summer Solstice Picnic and art festival does not mean the community, municipality, state or other, is creating a State religion they are honoring the diverse religious expression of their community by paying a brief and innocuous homage to a very important celebration of one of their cultural groups. 


If your local school has a Winter Pageant and there are Christmas carols and nods to other faiths and traditions that is all ok.  Don’t get in a twist over the carols or the fact that it is a “Winter” pageant.  Since you were a kid in school many families have moved into your community, some of them are Hindi and some are Muslim and a few are other things you haven’t heard of.  The school wants to include them all and that is ok.  If you just moved here and don’t like the carols grow a thicker skin, this is a plural society and some of us sing carols. 


If you are a teacher or a principal and your students say Merry Christmas or sing carols or write poetry or essays or do art work depicting the birth of Christ that is OK.  They have the right to express their faith.  You have the right to express your faith too, or lack of faith, even if it is different than mine, but you don’t have the right to try to indoctrinate the children in it.  That goes just as much if you agree with me as if you don’t. 


If you are a Christian business owner, or just one looking to market to Christians it is ok to play carols and say “Merry Christmas”.  It is also ok to say “Happy Holidays”, “Happy Hanukkah” or “Good Yule.”   “Have a nice day”, is ok by me too.  Please feel free to celebrate Christmas or not.  If I am in your store and you wish me a good Eid ul-Fitr I will smile and say thank you.  Your Holiday, not mine, but that is ok I am not particularly in a rush to freak out over other people exercising their constitutionally guaranteed liberties.


The Christian community who would seek to blackmail stores into “Keeping Christ in Christmas” are not only misguided they are shooting themselves in the foot.  You can not force someone to faith.  If they don’t believe it they might say it to placate their Christian Christmas shoppers, but is that really the change we want?   By boycotting stores who sing out “Happy Holidays” we are only doing that which we should fear most.  We are telling others how they must worship, what their faith should be.  We are infringing on religious liberty.   The time may come where mainstream Christianity is a definite minority, in some places this is reality.  Caution should be our watchword when it comes to what we view as acceptable when it comes to commerce and religion.


If you are in a store in December and you had to walk 100m across the parking lot in the sleet only to find the item you wanted sold out, thank the floor clerk when they let you know they have none in the back storage. When you get in line and the line is long, relax, hum a little tune, maybe even a Christmas Carol.  Let the old lady with the huge package ahead of you in line.  Don’t stress out if people behind you are beckoned to the newly opened register.  When the checkout clerk says “Good Yule” smile and say “Marry Christmas” and give her a candy-cane or at least a smile and don’t forget to drop a few coins in the Salvation Army bucket.  Write your letters to Santa or if it is to the store’s headquarters say something nice about the staff, working retail in December is hard.  


And last but not least.  Have a Merry Christmas.

Christmas Alliance

My world

Golden Morning

This is one of those overcast winter mornings where the sun breaks just under the clouds and bathes the city in a gold light.  It is so beautiful.

 I have survived another crazy weekend.    Blogging is light right now — real life is pressing in all around and I just don’t have a great deal of time.

We are working on the usually insane homeschool, Catholic, Christmas.  I will try to post more later.

Christmas Alliance · My world

Cards and Letters

I will admit that while I love the idea of Christmas cards I really fail at sending them.  Once in a while, about every five years or so,  I will get the time, energy, stamps, cards, addresses and inspiration together long enough to get them out.  But usually I just look at the boxes of cards in the store… I used to buy them and then feel badly as I tossed them sadly unset into the recycling in mid- August.  The worst year I found about 1/3 of my Christmas cards, stamped and ready to go, under the passenger seat of the mini-van in mid-February.  It seemed rather late to send them at that point.

I am in generally a horrible correspondent.  I really enjoy writing and I love reading what my friends are doing, but I also suffer from a raging case of procrastination and will sometimes go for months or even years between contact with people I really like.  So I love getting the obligatory Christmas letter that seems so often maligned.

I can understand that some people find that letter annoying.  You know the one.  It comes exactly two weeks before Christmas sporting the family picture with everyone (including the pets) wearing matching sweaters and your old friend from years gone by gushing about their latest wonders and the perfect home/spouse/job/kids and their fantastic accomplishments/vacations/awards.   Actually I don’t get that letter.  I get the ones from the people I know — sometimes in March.  They talk about babies and homeschooling and all those fun things that I love hearing about anyhow.  Sometimes they have picture with half the family blinking and the other half with demon eyes and most the time there are little anecdotes that include all the rough spots as well as the good. 

I would love to send letters and cards.  Just to let those people I know and love see how big my babies are and how we have all managed to make it through another crazy year.  Maybe I will get around to sending Ordinary cards when we go back to Ordinary time.   Just don’t expect them to hit your mailbox before Christmas.

Christmas Alliance posting alive and well.

Blogs I Know · My world

The Big Religion Speech

I am going to break from my usual “I don’t blog about politics”  idea and I am going to talk for a moment about Mitt Romney and the Big Speech.   I really enjoyed the Anchoress’ take on it which you can read here:  On Mitt Romney’s speech.  I wanted to add just a little too what I have heard said so far. 

Mitt Romney is not just a rank and file Mormon.   This is not your typical goes on Sunday for Sacrament meeting, holds a calling at the local ward, does his home teaching and pays 10% of his gross income to the church.  Mitt Romney was not a pew warmer.  Mitt Romney was a Stake President.  In fact he was MY stake president when I was a member of the Cambridge first branch/ward back in the early 1990s.  For those of you unfamiliar with the structure of the LDS church each local congregation is led by a Bishop or Branch President, above them is a Stake President.  The stake President is roughly equal to a Catholic Bishop. 

While I can see the eagerness of the comparisons between Kennedy and Romney (religious minorities running for high office) I can’t believe that the media has ignored this crucial difference.   Kennedy was a rank and file Catholic; Romney has been part of the LDS hierarchy in a rather pronounced way.   To “advance” through the ranks in the LDS church you don’t need to go to a seminary or be ordained.  The Mormon church in fact prides itself in the fact that it is locally and regionally led by  “lay ministers” and that all male members hold the priesthoods of the LDS church.  Men are “called” from among the local worthy members by those above them in the hierarchy. 

On a sort of funny personal note if Romney faces Hillery  in the general election it will be the first time I have actually met both major party canidates (I met Hillary back in 1987 in Arkansas — and intensely disliked her).   I agree with the assessments that Romney is bland.  He is bland, jello-salad sort of bland.  I don’t get fired up about him at all, and I would have a hard time voting for him, but I would hold my nose and do it.

 I am not worried about Romney being Mormon.  I wouldn’t care if he was Buddhist, Islamic or believed in the Blue Martian Monkey Cult.  Intelligent people can and do balance the demands of faith and the secular world.  In fact most of us to it all day every day.  I don’t see any one’s faith as an issue to them holding public office a long as they understand that the USA is not a theocracy.   I would rather vote for someone who is honest and forthright about their faith or lack of faith than someone who dissembles or claims it to be only a personal matter.   Romney is at his best when he says:

“There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers – I will be true to them and to my beliefs. Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it. But I think they underestimate the American people. Americans do not respect believers of convenience. ”

That sentiment is exactly what I would want to say if I was running for office and the topic of my faith came up.  I love my faith, I believe my faith, I live by it, it forms me.  If you don’t like that so be it, I am not stepping down from that.  And I really wish he had closed with that because just about everything else he said jumbled it up.  Romney seems to be saying that the most important issues to the faithful are issues where the faithful agree.   That is not the case and smacks of ignorance or worse indifference to the profound differences that exist in the faith community today.  Yes, we have similar values on many things, no there is not a substantial agreement on MANY important issues, especially social issues.

I suppose being Catholic I am more cautious about the separation of Church and State than many Christians.    It is a very powerful thing to think that as a Catholic the Constitution of the United States specifically disallows a State Church.  We will never be subjected to the horror of the Church of England or the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association  where the state controls our faith and turns it to its own ends.  In America I can say I am a Roman Catholic, loyal to my faith, loyal to Rome and that in no way diminishes my patriotism and my patriotism doesn’t infringe on my faith.  That is what religious liberty means. 

That is why I oppose “prayer in school” or religious dogma being taught in any form–I basically don’t trust the government to get that right.   But at the same time there is a plurality of faith in our nation and  I don’t mind someone wishing me Happy Hanukkah or sending me a Solstice card, I don’t want to have to curb my Merry Christmas either.  Carve wisdom from all our faiths deep in the stone of our public buildings, light our buildings in any array of lights for whatever occasion the population of town or city desire,  celebrate it all, celebrate us all, but don’t drown me in the drivel of “we all are all on the same path.”  for we aren’t.  There are differences, some of the seriously profound and important.  By playing down the differences too much we reduce each faith’s individual character.   Mix enough colors together long enough and you loose them all.

By Romney talking overly much about the commonality of faith he looses the bit of color he has.   I would much rather have heard Romney wax eloquent about the fact that, although he believe his own version of Christianity with all his heart he can respect that others view God differently and he does somewhat pull this back together near the end of his comments where I agree with Mr Romney and Samuel Adams.  I don’t care what your faith is, I don’t care what your personal beliefs about God are I can pray with you.  I MAY look at your faith as a guide to how you might vote on issues I feel are important.  I certainly won’t vote against you because you were my stake President once upon a time,  even though our faith paths diverged many years ago.