December 2, 2009 § 2 Comments
My grandmother has been in the hospital for almost two weeks now. She had and obstructed bowel that had to be surgically repaired, then the incision wasn’t healing properly and last night she had to have it operated on again to repair a small hole that was developing in her abdominal wall. I have spent a good deal of time in the hospital just hanging out with her. She suffers from Alzheimer’s/dementia and is 86 years old.
Last month I was reading A Child Called Noah and A Client Called Noah by Josh Greenfeld, which describes his family’s struggles dealing with their autistic son. One of the lines that stick with me was Greenfeld’s description of his feelings with Noah. He describes how, with a normal child when you do things together, there is the delicious feeling that one is storing up memories that will be pulled out in future years and enjoyed again and again. With Noah there was not that feeling for Mr Greenfeld. He felt that those things that happened with Noah were felting and vanished, there would be no echo of memory in the future of good times with a beloved father. Not knowing Noah it is hard to say how accurate that view is, I know with Rachel, who is roughly at the same “place” on the autism scale as Noah, it is not that case that she doesn’t remember, it is just that time seems somehow less anchored for her. Her lack of language doesn’t equal an inability to recall events, enjoy the moment or even anticipate something she desires, it just makes it more difficult for her to express those abstractions of memory, desire and hope.
It is very easy, since Rachel’s experience of time and events is somewhat “off” to say things like “Well, we will do Rachel’s birthday on Saturday because she doesn’t get that the 10th not the 14th is her birthday.” And this is true. Rachel is more than happy to celebrate a birthday or a holiday on an alternate day. Her sense of anticipation doesn’t extend to checking the calendar and as long as cake is eaten, candles are lit and “Happy birthday” is sung the actual day doesn’t matter so much. But her inability to anchor the memory or talk about it later doesn’t rob the event of significance. It is still important. A fact testified to by the way that Rachel is slave to routine, there must be cake eaten, candles lit and “Happy Birthday” sung in order for it to be a “Birthday.” Rachel is very much a creature of the moment. I hope that someday Rachel and I will meet in Heaven and share what all these things meant to us both.
My grandmother’s memories have lost their anchor. She doesn’t know if it is 1958, 1985 or 2002. She remembers people and relationships but there is no timeline. For her it is perfectly sensible that she is staying with neighbors in the town she left in 1968 while talking to me about my daughter born in 2001. Her short term memory is most horribly effected. She will not remember this evening that I was with her last night, she will be just as impressed with the sweater I am knitting for Hannah as she was the last 12 times she saw it and she will not remember what her surgery was for, how long she will need to recover or where she will go once she is discharged – we will talk about those things every 45 minutes or so.
If no one familiar is with her my grandmother not only loses her sense of time, but she seems to lose much more. Paranoia and fear set in with the constant parade of the unfamiliar. The nurse has no place in her long term memory and with no short term memory granny has no way of placing the hospital staff into her current experience. The staff is more than strangers, they are people who seem like they should be familiar, they call her by name and know details about her life, yet granny has no memory of having seen them before – this makes them seem threatening. Especially in the evening when coupled with “sun-downing” this lack of anything familiar aggravates the “normal” emotional effects of Alzheimer’s and granny spirals down into a paranoid, depressed place where everyone loved and familiar has abandoned her and left her alone in a strange fog of unconnected experience. In the morning though the terror of the night before is gone, lost and unconnected to any memory.
It is very tempting to say it doesn’t matter if someone is there or not because she will not remember. But is memory the judge of what is important or does the importance of our actions lie in the moment as experienced? Duty, that sense that she is my grandmother and I must be there for her, gives me a firm kick and says, “go sit with her tonight because being there is what is important”. Being there gives me a sense of importance in a way, a feeling that I am doing something worthwhile and somewhat noble. It allows me to work through the complicated issues with my mother – I can very clearly see that it isn’t “just me” that falls second or third on her priorities, but all relationships fall somewhat lower than prime in her priority list — where career is number one — and I can comfort myself, polish my somewhat bent halo, and note well and again that I am not doing what mom does. I can’t help but remember reading in psychology the perverse theory that all good things we do are in fact, no matter how unpleasant they might seem, actually attempts to gratify some internal need. The martyr proves their faith and fulfills their hopes in God even to death; death is in fact more palatable than forsaking a faith in which they have invested so much of their self-concept. C.S. Lewis muses on the “mother” in “The Great Divorce” where he speaks of the danger of a “mother-love” that becomes its own idol, the mother who loves through a sense of possession – that the child she claims to want only the best for becomes an expression of her own desire to feel needed, wanted and loved.
So, being human my motives aren’t pure, they cant be. How can I ever completely separate the corporal work of mercy, visiting the sick, from wondering if sitting with my grandmother is as much about storing up “karma”, setting up an example and expectation in my children that this is what family does? Will they internalize what the see me doing so that, at some point in the future, they will feel duty kicking them to come spend time with their aged mother? Part of me doesn’t want to disappoint my grandfather, who passed away in 1994 – does he worry about his “little-bride” all alone at night? Is he glad that I am there? Do angels sit with me and wait in this strange place, not quite in the Valley of Death but approaching it? Will she look back when she is on the other side and think well of me? While I am definitely there for her, I am also there for me and the hope that what I do is pleasing to God, my grandfather, my children and to the person I am meant to be but am not quite yet.
In the end none of my internal wanderings and even struggles really matters — what matters is the current moment and the experience that we all are going through right now. It doesn’t matter if she remembers last night, or Sunday, or who her nurse is or even where or when she is. Granny needs a familiar face, a hand to hold, someone to hunt down a cup of ice or the nurse or adjust a pillow — most of all she needs someone to anchor her to her own experience. Experience is more important in this sense than memory, for granny right now they are unconnected. In a way the memories are really mine. They are really her’s also, but for the moment they can’t be her’s, they are just mine and I hold onto them for her and I both in the hope and expectation that at some point we can share them again.
December 22, 2008 § 2 Comments
The goal is all 50 states — If you live in one of the states below without a mass or know someone who does would you please consider sponsoring a mass? If you leave a comment with your I will send you the information to have your mass intention liste.
Advent greetings to each of you to as we round the corner to Christmas,
Just wanted to give everyone a quick update. Feel free to share this with others.
You folks are awesome! Through your efforts, we have added twenty Masses in eleven states this past week, bringing our total to 19 states and 48 Masses. Please check the roster to see if you know anyone in the states that aren’t covered.
Thanks to each of you who have reserved a Mass for the intention of our new president. Can you imagine the effect this will have? Please check below to be sure your Mass is entered and entered correctly. I apologize for any omissions or errors.
If you were planning on having a Mass offered for this intention and haven’t yet done so, it would be good to do it soon as parish schedules are filling up for January. Even if your local parish is already offering a Mass for our new president, I encourage you to contact a different parish, a monastery or a priests’ retirement center. Catholic colleges are another a great option. Since our parish was already covered, I sent my request to a semi-retired priest who serves at a convent. He was glad to do it.
Little funny: One priest mentioned that elected officials seldom keep their campaign promises so we can be hopeful!
May God’s richest Christmas blessings be upon you and your families, and may He hear our prayers for the sake of the unborn and the most vulnerable among us in the new year.
48 Masses in 19 States and Washington DC
Santa Paula, CA: TAC (St. Thomas Aquinas College), Fr. Rafftery
St Petersburg, FL: St. Raphael’s
Sebastian, FL: St. Sebastian’s (Jan. 23)
Canton, GA: Our Lady of Lasalette’s
Honolulu, HI: Father Damien’s on Aliamanu Military Reservation
Westmont, IL: Holy Trinity
Iowa City, IA: St. Mary’s
Dodge City, KS: Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Garden City, KS: St. Dominic’s
Livonia, MI: St. Michael’s,
Crookston, MN: Diocese of Crookston Chancery,
Crookston, MN: Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception,Hillsboro, OR: St. Matthew’s
Joseph, OR: St. Katherine’s
La Grande, OR: Our Lady of the Valley
Portland, OR: Holy Rosary
Sherwood, OR: St. Francis’
New Hampshire (NH)
New Jersey (NJ)
New Mexico (NM)
New York (NY)
North Carolina (NC)
North Dakota (ND)
Belfield/South Heart, ND: St. Mary’s/St. Bernards, Fr. Lucht
Bismarck, ND: Fr. Richter
Bismarck, ND: Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, (both 6:45 and 8 AM)
Bowman, ND: St. Charles, Fr. Mormon
Dickinson, ND: Queen of Peace, Fr. Zwack
Dickinson, ND: St. Patrick’s, Fr. Kreitinger
Glenburn, ND: St. Philomena’s, Fr. Gardner
Hebron, ND: St. Ann’s
Linton, ND, St. Anthony’s, Fr. Benz
Mantador, ND: Sts. Peter and Paul, Fr. Anderl
Valley City, ND: Maryvale-Sisters of the Presentation Convent, Fr. Seeberger
Valley City, ND: St. Catherine’s
New England, ND, St. Mary’s, Fr. Basil
Williston, ND: St. Joseph’s, Fr. Schafer
Beaverton, OR: St. John Vianney Retirement Center
Mars, PA: St. Kilian’s
Rhode Island (RI)
North Kingstown, RI: St. Frances de Sales’
South Carolina (SC)
Rock Hill, SC: St. Anne’s
South Dakota (SD)
Aberdeen, SD (2 Masses)
Redfield, SN: Sacred Heart
Sioux Falls, SD: Holy Spirit Parish
Rio Grande City at the Benedictine Monastery of the Good Shepherd
Camas, WA: St. Thomas Aquinas’
Seattle, WA: Sacred Heart,
Vancouver, WA: Holy Redeemer
West Virginia (WV)
Evanston, Wy: St. Mary Magdalen’s
Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Not guaranteed on 1/20/09)
Missionaries of Charity, Fr. Wayne Sattler
This grassroots Inauguration Day Mass Intention project is being promoted . . .
on AM 1370 in Grand Forks.
in Fargo Diocese paper, New Earth, December issue
by Human Life PAC of WA State
by USCCB Respect Life Committee
by Lighthouse Catholic Media
by History Links—Integrated Learning for Catholic Families
Here is the original request:
If you are like me, you have felt somewhat concerned about the results of the election and the future of our country. I am sharing an idea with a few close friends in the hope that others will join me in doing one little thing that could help to change the course of history.
WHO: A few faithful Catholic lay people and priests. (Anyone can do this: stay-at-home moms, singles, retired people, students–anyone–and we can have a huge impact on our country’s future.)
WHAT: Have a Mass said on Inauguration Day for our new President. It can be said for his conversion or, “That our new president will work to protect the dignity of each human life.” Consider that St. Leonard of Port Maurice said that one Mass offered before death may be more profitable than many after it, and St. Anslem affirmed this.
WHEN: Tuesday January 20, 2009 Inauguration Day
WHERE: Throughout our country in as many Catholic churches as possible.
WHY: Because offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for an intention is very powerful. Please see my story below.
HOW: Simply call your local parish and ask to reserve January 20th for your intention. Then send a check for $10 to the priest for your Mass intention. (More details below.) Next please choose three friends (or more) to pass this email on to.
But now, let me share the story behind this inspiration.
A young friend of ours owns a barbershop. One day a gentleman came in, interested in renting space from her, but he said that, as a Jew, he was offended by the crucifix that she had hanging there. They got into a long discussion/debate and when they parted she said, “You pray for me and I will pray for you.” Later she shared this story with her family and her younger, teen-age sister decided to have a Mass offered for the intention of this man’s conversion. Six months later the shop-owner was entering the cathedral and a gentleman who was leaving the church said, “Do you remember me? I had wanted to rent space from you. I am becoming a Catholic.”
This story of one simple act inspired me and helped me to realize the profound impact of a Mass offered for the conversion of heart.
Thanks for considering my request and may God bless America!
Your Sister in Christ,
RESERVING A MASS INTENTION: We will have to move quickly because the dates in many parishes are already filling up. If January 20 is already taken at your local parish, you may choose another date or contact a nearby parish. Also consider having Masses offered at local hospitals, nursing homes, monasteries, etc. Consider retired priests who may be offering private Masses. There is no limit to how many Masses you can have offered on any given day. You may also have the Mass offered for a “Special Intention” if you prefer.
SENDING THE EMAIL TO OTHERS: Please copy the information I am sending you, but if possible, add a personal introduction for each person you send it to so this is a personal invitation from one pro-life Catholic to another. My hope is that each person will send this on to at least three other people.
You can also feel free to ask local priests if they would be willing to waive the stipend and offer the Mass for this intention. There are many priests that I think would be willing to do this. Once it is on the parish calendar, please add it to our “Ongoing Roster” below.
I would like to try to keep track of how many Masses are offered and where. I will send out periodic updates. I would like to see at least one Mass offered for this intention in each state (or many more!). So, if you can think of people outside your local area that might like to do this, please send this on to them.
June 26, 2008 § Leave a comment
Such a sad but beautiful thing. Baby Cate didn’t make it. I will continue to keep her family in my prayers; I know their grief is just beginning.
April 22, 2008 § Leave a comment
10 When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. 11 Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize. 12 She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. Proverb 31
I find it sad in Ms Bennetts article where she says what she really thinks about her husband. I couldn’t do it justice so I will give you a long quote:
And yet everyone acts as if Jeremy deserves some kind of medal just for making a run to the supermarket. No one has ever suggested that I’m a heroine for doing the things every mother is expected to do. I admit that my husband helps out more than many men, but here’s another news flash: It isn’t because he’s such a fabulously enlightened being. Left to his own devices, he would doubtless park himself in front of the TV like some sitcom male-chauvinist couch potato while I did all the work. The reason Jeremy “helps” as much as he does (an offensive terminology that itself suggests who’s really being held responsible) is simple: He doesn’t have a choice.
From the beginning of our relationship, I made it very clear that I wasn’t going to be any husband’s unpaid servant. If Jeremy wanted to be—and stay—married to me, let alone have kids, he couldn’t stick me with all the boring, mundane stuff nobody wants to do. We were going to share the work, or we were going to forget the whole deal.Unlike my first husband, who announced after our wedding that he didn’t like the way the French laundry did his shirts and he now expected me, the Wife, to wash and iron all of them, Jeremy recognized both the righteousness of the principle involved and the intransigence of the woman he’d married, and proceeded to pitch in.
I rather like Aristotle’s “On a Good Wife“.
Therefore not only when her husband is in prosperity and good report must she be in agreement with him, and to render him the service he wills, but also in times of adversity. If, through sickness or fault of judgement, his good fortune fails, then must she show her quality, encouraging him ever with words of cheer and yielding him obedience in all fitting ways—only let her do nothing base or unworthy. Let her refrain from all complaint, nor charge him with the wrong, but rather attribute everything of this kind to sickness or ignorance or accidental errors.
Now of course the whole work is hopelessly sexist and all that but the above passage if rendered to fit more with today’s norms has a bit of really good advice. It is easy to be kind and loving to your husband when everything is good, when the world looks at him and smiles, when he is successful and healthy. But sometimes men fail. They loose their jobs, they have problems, they fall ill. Then is when the marriage vows become a buttress against the world. When he has tripped and needs a hand, when the world has crushed him down that is when the good wife’s character shows. When she hides his shame from the world, when she builds him up instead of tearing him down, when she never speaks ill of him, she becomes his best friend, his help and his joy. That is when his heart can trust in her.
I have often found it distressing how many women come online and drag their husbands through the dirt. How often they complain about the minor little things he does. How they whine about the things he doesn’t do. Now maybe they are all sweetness and light to their husbands in real life, but I can’t imagine how heartsick these husbands would feel if they read what their wives say about them. But it isn’t just that women do this to their husbands they encourage it. It become at times a sisterly hobby of sharing all the dirt on their husbands.
My own good husband would be crushed if I said half the things about him I have seen other rattle off as though they were talking about what was for dinner or how to prune roses. It all goes back to love and motivation. When you love someone you don’t want the world to see their faults. People frequently tell me how great Kyle is because he does something or another. If the neighbor told me how great he was for going shopping the last thing I would think is “nahhhh, he only does it because I bribe him or whip him into it, I am the great one.” I wouldn’t even think “Well how come you don’t think I am great when I do all the shopping most weeks?” When someone says something about what a great guy my husband is I think “Yeah! He is a great guy.” Because he is. He doesn’t do it all, he isn’t perfect, but gosh darn it he tries and that means so much.
I can not imagine being Leslie Bennetts husband. With the insulting things she has written about him I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he decided her over-entitled-ego was too much and left to find someone who wouldn’t verbally upbraid him for the entertainment of the world. I will hold out the same hope for them that I did with Corinne Maier and her children. I hope he was in on this all along. Maybe he has a strong enough ego and is secure enough in her affection to see this article out there and be fine with it. Maybe she is hopeful that this will build up sales for her book and he encouraged the whole thing. They will open the big royalties check together and laugh at the world as we all get up in arms about what a harpy she is. She will look at him while they are getting ready for bed tonight and she will smile and tell him he is the best guy in the world and he will know she means it. I feel very sorry for him if that is not the case.
March 5, 2008 § 8 Comments
Being Catholic and the parent of an Autistic child has led to many questions that are unique to the parents of children with disabilities. “Should my child receive communion?”, “Does my child need Confession?”, “Is it a sin for us to miss Mass because of my child’s possible behavior?”, “Does the Church have any direction, programs, help for us?”. In order to help anyone out there also searching for answers I am sharing what we have learned over the years.
Going to Mass
It is not uncommon to hear: “I feel uncomfortable bringing my son to Mass. I know he is going to make sounds, he might get upset, it would be one thing if he was a baby, but at seven people stare. The stares are unbearable.” Parents all too often stop coming to Mass with their child with an emotional/behavioral disability out of concern that they will be disruptive. In some cases I think this can be warranted. But in general, most parishes will be very welcoming to a family if they know what is going on.
When we moved parishes after purchasing a new house we were very nervous about how Rachel would be perceived, what other people would think as she started hooting at the ceiling fan, what if she had one of her melt-downs? When we took our pew we were delighted to see another large family with a child who had those tell-tale signs. Instantly there was a bond, we became friends. The small parish was very open to its two little angles with the odd behavior quirks. The priest was accommodating and loving to the girls and we were relieved and happy to find an accepting place. You never know when you will be the family that gives hope of acceptance to someone else.
Don’t be afraid to call your local parish and schedule an appointment with the priest to talk about your disabled child. While there are always the few priests who give horrendous advice most priests are open and caring people who want the best for your child and your family. You may find there is one or another mass that is shorter, or the music more to your child’s liking, or even one where a family with a disabled child is already in attendance.
In some dioceses there are special programs for disabled people and their families. In Oregon there is The Office for People with Disabilities. They sponsor “adapted liturgy” which accommodates those who need something other than the usual mass. Pretty much anything is accepted there because everyone is in a similar situation.
If mass is simply too over-whelming for your disabled child you might have to miss mass. It is a valid exception to the weekly obligation to be caring for a child who can not attend mass. Most priests will be understanding of this, some will let you receive communion for the home-bound especially if you are a single parent. You also might get creative with your mass attendance: consider alternating parents staying home with one child while the other attends mass with the rest of the children, one parent attending a different mass, attending mass during the week while the disabled child is in school, or scheduling respite care so that the rest of the family can attend mass together.
note: I am not a cannon lawyer, I am sharing what I have read and been told as a starting point. Please talk to your local priest and diocese about the exact procedures in your community. You also might read Welcome and Justice
for Persons with Disabilities from the USCCB and “Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities“. I have pulled some quotes from “Guidelines” and added my comments below.
Baptism: Every child, no matter their disability is entitled to baptism.
Communion: This is the one that was very difficult for us. “It is important to note, however, that the criterion for reception of holy communion is the same for persons with developmental and mental disabilities as for all persons, namely, that the person be able to distinguish the Body of Christ from ordinary food, even if this recognition is evidenced through manner, gesture, or reverential silence rather than verbally.” For Rachel this was a hard thing to tell, she is almost non-verbal and finally it took a small miracle for us to see that she did have some understanding of the sacrament.
I have added two posts that more fully explain some of what we have done for First communion:
Confirmation: “To receive confirmation a Persons who because of developmental or mental disabilities may never attain the use of reason are to be encouraged either directly or, if necessary, through their parents or guardian, to receive the sacrament of confirmation at the appropriate time.”
Confession: “Only those who have the use of reason are capable of committing serious sin. Nevertheless, even young children and persons with mental disabilities often are conscious of committing acts that are sinful to some degree and may experience a sense of guilt and sorrow. As long as the individual is capable of having a sense of contrition for having committed sin, even if he or she cannot describe the sin precisely in words, the person may receive sacramental absolution. Those with profound mental disabilities, who cannot experience even minimal contrition, may be invited to participate in penitential services with the rest of the community to the extent of their ability.”
Anointing of the Sick: “Since disability does not necessarily indicate an illness, Catholics with disabilities should receive the sacrament of anointing on the same basis and under the same circumstances as any other member of the Christian faithful”
Community and Parish Resources: Don’t be afraid to ask. You might discover there are many resources in your community for your family. Even ask at your child’s school or pediatrician and don’t be afraid to share with them what you are doing for your child’s faith life. We found that our daughter’s teachers have often been very helpful in finding resources for helping Rachel in mass (social stories, board maker pictures, sharing what they know other families are doing).
Your Dioceses website should have links to any special ministries they offer, and as more families request these things more of them are developed. You may find your parish or a neighboring parish has a support group or would like to form one.
Last thoughts:Having a child with a disability can be a blessing and a cross. Keeping your own faith-life alive, finding time for prayer, time for mass, time for anything can be a struggle but the grace and peace of God can be that one thing that keeps you going. I hope that anyone who has read this will keep us in your prayers as I will prayer for those who read it.
February 25, 2008 § 1 Comment
This weekend I found the video that I had originally wanted to put with this post so I am bumping it. I hope no one minds. Thanks to the Anchoress.
A couple weeks ago the Anchoress took a little break from blogging and on the way out left us with a link to an essay about Johnny Cash which can be found here. I read the essay really hopeful, ended up somewhat disappointed, but came away with a few useful thoughts. Key among these thought was this: God can bring the worst of us to moments of pure gold for His glory and for our good.
I will try to help you understand what I mean by that. One of the first few comments following the article was this, ” A rather shallow article about an unrepetant[sic] sinner. Can’t Catholic writers do better than this?” I have seen this attitude from my fellow Catholics far too often and Christians in general more times than I could remember. A slightly “holier than thou” attitude, pleading to the good that is really nothing more than thinly veiled self righteousness that smacks of deep-grained ugliness. This is not the light and saving love of Christ, liquid and vibrant, blood and flesh, fertile and open. It is a brittle, dried up attitude that claims itself superior while becoming more and more detached from the obligations of need and weakness on the human heart. It is the Pharisee and the Priest crossing to the other side of the road — tisking at the sinner, crime and the state of world while offering no balm to sooth it. And the greatest irony is the sinner they are tisking in the above comment was the one offering the balm to so many.
McMullen spends a good deal of time quoting Cash’s lyrics and relating them to his feelings as a Catholic. It is all in all an enjoyable read. But I feel it really didn’t go deep enough. There are two thoughts I feel are important.
First Cash is a man of his time. His voice spoke to men, hard working country men, men struggling with modern life and men for whom the Church had taken a feminizing turn that really turned them off. His songs struggle with faith as I am sure the man did, as many men of his generation did and many still do.
Second that Cash’s personal character and the state of his soul had very little to do with ability to serve as a tool in God’s hands. This is a thing that slips the minds of many Christians I fear. God doesn’t need us to be perfect, good, or even trying. God doesn’t need us to be in a state of grace, saved, believing or even wanting Him. He can take us while we are running at a break neck speed straight to the gates of hell and wring out of us something good. Sometimes for our souls and sometimes to save someone else.
January 11, 2008 § Leave a comment
I stumbled across this story today and I hope everyone can take a moment to pray for this family: Tricia, Nathan and baby Gwyneth. Gwyneth was born at 24 weeks, her mother Tricia has CF and is waiting for a double lung transplant. Tricia is remarkable in deciding to carry her baby she might well have cut her life very short and made it impossible for her to receive the lung transplant she needs.