Caritas · Faith in Action · Mothers for Vocations

The priesthood is tough


No question.  Being a priest is tough.  I have such limitless respect for those men who take on not just the priesthood, but also serve as military chaplains.   I found this story while reading this morning.

US Army, Major, Retired Chaplin Henry Tim Vakoc  was wounded in Iraq two years ago.  His progress has been slow but miraculous. 

Here is a wonderful article from the  Waconia Patriot and here is a beautiful slide show from the Star Tribune (you may have to sign-up for a guest pass, but it is worth watching)

Last week while driving to CCD I was listening to NPR (sometimes it infuriates me, sometimes it pleases me, that day it did both) After listening to a very infuriating segment I heard this: From Chicago to Anbar: A Chaplain’s View of War.  Fr John Barkemeyer tells about war, how he serves and a little bit about those he serves with.  It is intense and well worth listening to on its own, but the previous interview with Brian De Palma was sad and really just left me wanting to spit.  De Palma reduces his characters to stereotypical caricatures and his descriptions of the men serving made me wonder if he has bothered to speak with anyone actually who has been there.  I was frustrated.  Yeah, I hate the war too, but I am with Fr Barkemeyer — it doesn’t matter at this point why we got into Iraq.  We need to support our troops so they can do their jobs as safely as possible and we are morally responsible to help “give the people in Iraq the best possible chance of salvaging their country and salvaging their lives” .  It is their country and they will have to come up with the ultimate solutions, but you can’t just walk in, turn everything upside down and then leave — to do so would be dishonorable and dangerous as we saw with the USSR and Afghanistan.

Blogs I Know · Faith in Action

On the side of good

In Red Hat, Brown Radical over at Whispers in the Loggia we read about cardinal-archbishop Sean O’Malley.  It is a wonderful read.  Two points I would like to pluck for you:

Though canonically released from his vow of poverty on his appointment to the episcopacy in 1984, the Friar-prelate has gone to considerable lengths to maintain the simple state of life.

As bishop of Fall River, for example, O’Malley once got a group of priests excited by inviting them to dinner at his “new favorite restaurant,” the clerics only discovering when they pulled into the parking lot that their bishop’s choice was a Pizza Hut. Then, in Boston, he sold the Italianate palace occupied by a century’s worth of his predecessors to help fund the archdiocese’s abuse settlement, taking up residence in a spare room at the rectory of Holy Cross Cathedral.

and  his own comments:

Some people are advocating removing some of the concrete directives on prayer that are in the Constitutions and place them in the Ordinances. This would be a fatal mistake. The ordinances are unknown and irrelevant to most of the friars. The Rule and Constitutions will always be the documents that form us and teach us our identity. The Constitutions cannot be a weak exhortation to live a vague ideal of the most common denominator. Rather, the Constitutions should be a challenging document that incorporates concrete directives about the life of prayer, poverty, and austerity. We need more boldness in our Constitutions if we are going to inspire young men to join our ranks.

It is boldness not ease that is drawing young people into religious life and inspiring young families to lead a more “Roman” Catholic life.

Advent · Faith in Action · Simplicity

Living with less

Simply Catholic is the name of this place and when looking through the “Search terms” I find that a good number of people come here looking for “Simple Christian living”,  “Catholic Simplicity”, “Living Simply Catholic” and similar quests.  And it has been a while since I have addressed the concept of simplicity.  

Why do people search for simplicity?  Especially Christian/Catholic Simplicity?  I think the root has a lot to do with how cluttered our daily lives are.  We sense something important in our faith and we know instinctively that if we could focus on that we would be happier, more fulfilled, more ourselves and much more at peace.  But life is so overwhelmingly cluttered that we can’t fathom where to start, even how to begin.  So people go online and search hoping to find a solution or a path. 

I am not an expert on much, but I can do simple.  The first step is learning to let go.  And that can be really difficult.  I understand that.  But we do not find happiness in things, we find happiness in living and when our things (stuff, jobs, homes, activities) take away from our living for God and for each other then they are hurting us. 

Advent is coming soon.  For Catholics Advent 2007  starts December 2nd.   I plan on using the time between now and then to start decluttering my house (again) so that I will have more “space” to concentrate on spiritual things this Advent.  I look at it as “unpacking” for the journey.

Blogs I Know · Faith in Action

Only for Today

I am one of those people who is a compulsive planner and worrier.  I really spend far too much time fretting about some things then it actually requires to do the thing I stress over.  I found this small devotion written by Blessed John XXIII  at  Daughter of the Kingand I am copying it here for easy reference:

How Much More Will the Father Give

1) Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.
2) Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behavior; I will not criticize anyone except myself.
3) Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.
4) Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.
5) Only for today, I will devote ten minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.
6) Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.
7) Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.
8 ) Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.
9) Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.
10) Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for twelve hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.
~Blessed John XXIII

My plan is to reference this for the month of November each day.  Each day is its own, its troubles and its graces and I really need to get better about keeping that in mind.  We will see how this goes.

Caritas · Faith in Action

For my Children

vocationtag1.jpgThis is something I have been working on for quite some time in my head, but I am letting the cat out of the box today.

I feel a very strong call to help foster vocations as much as I can.  To help this I am starting a small endevour online as part of this blog.  Mother’s for Vocations.  It is my firm belief that, while God calls many young people to religious life a good number of them are diswaded from answering this call by their parents.   Sometime it isn’t even the parent’s intention, but it is the result of the way children are commonly raised to view their life goals as educational, family and career oriented… not based on the vocation that God has for them.   But I think many parents want to support their children in their vocation but are somewhat at a loss when it comes to how that should play out in their daily family life.

So here is my tiny offering for now.  I will be expanding this as time and my imagination and God’s will allows.

Mother’s for Vocations.

“Mary, Mother of Vocations, pray for us.”

A while back I posted on vocations and ways I feel that parents can encourage vocations for their children.  You can read those thoughts here.

Blogs I Know · Faith in Action · My world

Moms for Modesty

If you stumble into this older article please check out my “Heads up” update.

It seems that Moms for Modesty has sort of gone by the way-side.  Kind of a sad thing as it was a memorable little grassroots action that crossed a lot of boundaries.    Even though the founder wasn’t Catholic I know a lot of Catholic mom’s who really supported the work of making it known that as mothers we value modesty for our children, especially our daughters.

Here is the Mom’s for Modesty Mission Statement:

Moms for Modesty Mission Statement

As a Mom for Modesty I believe in common-sense modesty for girls and young women.

I believe in refraining from sexualizing our girls and young women.

I believe that it is unwise and unfair to taunt boys and young men by permitting my daughter(s) to dress in an immodest manner.

I believe that true beauty comes from within and I strive to teach my daughter(s) this truth.

I will loyally shop at retailers that provide girls’ and young women?s clothing that is modest, affordable and stylish.

But Everyday Mommy seems to be gone replaced by Everyday Design.  I wish Jules well in her new endeavor.

I found something in passing that really made me laugh, Amy Caroline, over at Knit Together in Love said, “Now I am off to church… Let’s hope I have the guts to wear my mantilla!”.  This is SO me.  I have been tumbling over the whole idea of covering my head at mass for over two years (yes, I know that is an obnoxiously long time to be dwelling on something) … needless to say I really identify with Amy in this.  It takes guts to take this on because it is such a statement.  It is much more a statement then putting a pro-life bumper sticker on your car or having a big crucifix dangling from your neck.  This is something that you are saying about yourself.  It is a statement that you are in some sense a Holy thing.  And that is a frightening  — how do you do that without being self conscious?  I haven’t figured it out yet.  I just don’t have the guts yet to say… “Yeah, I am sacred”!

Faith in Action

“A tribal faith”

Yesterday was the beginning of CCD for our parish.  We have a wonderful program that draws not only from the parish families, but from the Catholic homeschool community as well.  The tradition has been that the first class is short and the children all attend mass together. 

DS4 and I sat at the back of the church while DS8 and DD6 were sitting with their classes.  The homily was really interesting.  Fr spoke about  St Januarius’ blood in Naples and how the miraculous liquefaction was such an important thing to the people of that city.  While we (just about anyone who isn’t Neapolitan) might view it as superstition and tut-tut it to them it is faith enhancing and faith promoting.  He used a very interesting term to describe it “Tribal”.  I think it is a very good term and it brought to mind several of the descriptions of faith in the later Dune books.  That faith, human faith, is a powerful thing.

There is something about Catholicism that seems much more real than many other forms of Christianity (ok yes I see my own bias here… but at the moment I don’t care I am emoting) We are a faith of blood and flesh.  We worship a god, a sacrifice.  “Lord God,  Lamb of God: You take away the sins of the world.”  It is this essential aspect to Catholic worship that makes a Catholic mass very different from other Christian Worship services. 

The non-Catholic worship services I have been at have usually been very uplifting types of event.  I mean absolutely no disrespect in this.  To gather to praise and worship God is a wholly good thing, a holy thing.  And I have certainly enjoyed the protestant events I have attended.  But they aren’t mass. 

I have heard too many Catholics complain, and too many non-Catholic visitors wonder, at the rather subdued nature of the mass.  In fact we are only slowly recovering from the “mass should be more entertaining” post-Vatican II debacle of the past three decades.  Mass isn’t supposed to be entertaining.  This isn’t about going and sitting in a pew and having church functionaries get up and put on a show for you.  Mass is about going and re-becoming part of the sacrificial meal, the Eucharistic event, the moment in time that is for all time, the offering of the Lamb of God.  That is mass.

We have surrounded that moment at the alter with ritual that has become rite.  We read, we sing, we light candles and incense and most of all we pray.  We do things in a certain order and with tradition and meaning to nearly ever gesture, to every item, to the colors we use and songs we sing and the art work on the walls.  It all matters. 

I think it is somehow sad when I walk into the bigger suburban parishes that have attempted to modernism the mass.   While their motive are good and genuine the results are disaster.  In wanting to appeal to a population seeped in a culture of entertainment, where if something doesn’t grab their attention in five minutes they become bored and disconnected the obvious answer seems to be to change the mass.  Make it more fun, liven it up a bit… bring in dancers and a lazar show (I wish I was kidding there I really do).   This hasn’t worked, it can’t the nature of the mass forbids it.  They inevitably have lost the very nature of Catholic identity and as a consequence unhitched themselves from the universal Catholic experience.  While universal the Church is also primordial and tribal, the rite is primal and tribal.  While it might vary slightly from place to place it doesn’t depart far from its origins and rite without also losing its authenticity.   It is exactly that authenticity that become so very important in a world where the superficial is so important in every other sphere.  People turn to faith to reconnect to the primal, the tribal, the Real.  When that is removed or decentralized in an attempt to entertain the mass looses all relevance.

The nature of the mass is sacrifice.  One can not take the offering of Jesus, His death and His resurrection the connection with our Creator in the intimate way of partaking of His Body and His Blood and turn it into something light and fluffy.  No matter how many whiz-bang ideas you try to superimpose on the mass you aren’t going to make it fun.   God, become flesh offering His very self for our sins and the sins of the world to reconcile our fallen natures to His perfect love is not “fun”.  It is important serious and real.

 Mass can be the best experience of the day or week.  It can lift us up, give us hope, take away our pains and fears, give us the opportunity to leave our sins at the foot of the cross and the chance to wait quietly in the special and real presence of our Savior.   It sends us out into the world renewed and prepared to make a difference if we are willing to go there.  We have to be wanting to make a difference in ourselves we have to actively participate in the mass with our hearts, minds and prayers.  

Faith in Action

Too much to say

…and no words to say it.

 I have been a bit quiet lately.  Not because I have nothing to say, but because there are so many things I am thinking about but I am having a bit of trouble getting it all written down.

So I will start with something easy.  Girl’s clothing.  Slate (of all places) has a very funny take on shopping for you 10-14  year old daughter.  In Lolita’s Closet Emily Yoffe describes a recent shopping trip in which she tries to outfit her daughter in clothing that is fashionable, comfortable and not screaming “Please molest my daughter.”  A tough thing to do as any parent of a pre-teen will tell you. 

Every parent out there has been in Ms. Yoffee’s shoes.   There are only so many options when looking to clothe our children: you are either given clothing, you buy clothing or you make it.  Most of us head to the mall or department store where things start to go wrong some how.  Ms. Yoffee and myself look at these racks of suggestive and sometimes downright scandalous clothing and steer our little girls to the least offensive options we can find.  But SOMEONE is buying this stuff.  Someone has to be or they wouldn’t sell it.   Who is buying it?  Why the parents next door or down the street or sitting next to you at the ball game.  The “why” is what I find interesting.  I am still working on that one.  But I can tell you it was a serrious shock to me when one of my daughter’s classmate’s mothers made the remark “If you got it I guess you should flaunt it.”  This about her own 12 or 13 year old child…  What a weird world we live in.

Caritas · Faith in Action · My world

By His wounds we are healed..

I just received a phone call from Sr Mary Immaculate of the Sisters of Reparation of the Sacred Wounds of Jesus.   Sr Anne Joseph passed away on Sunday Afternoon at 3:15 pm.  The hour of Divine Mercy.


I last saw Sr Anne Joseph at Christmas time while rehearsing for the performance at the Grotto.  A month or so ago  my oldest was at their annual Vocational Retreat and they were able to visit Sr in the hospital.    Her funeral will be on Friday morning and we will attend to say goodbye and pray for the repose of her soul, or ask for her prayers while we struggle on in this life.  I have no doubt that she will be praying for one thing: Vocations.  Both for the Church as a whole and for the small order she leaves behind. 

For now there are two.

 In an article in U.S Catholic  some while back Mother Mary of the Angels said:

“”I am convinced that we will be granted novices,” says Mother Mary in a tone brooking no disagreement. “God has here built a rich treasure, and we have great trust in the Lord. He will provide. We are in his care.“Our work is to offer up each day and walk with him wheresoever he leads. Each minute of your day, each act, each word, is a prayer of immense potential beauty, and our work is to live each minute with him in our hearts and bring him to the sick and the sad and the impoverished. We are charged with helping people toward reparation with God, and such reparation can only lead to joy, so that’s what we do, and we don’t worry about what might happen in the future. We think about it, sure, but it’s not our place to worry. ”

I hope and pray that they are able to increase their numbers in the next few years.  You might look at the pictures of these nuns in their rather modern habits, most of them older, none of them younger and think “Liberal nuns dying off — good riddance”  You would also be completely and utterly wrong.  This is not a liberal group of women, they are loyal to the Magisterial teaching of the Church.  This is a young order, barely 50 years old, but one with a unique and beautiful voice.  It was started by women who love the Church, love God, love music and service.  These are good, active nuns.  I have never known more peace then when I am with them.  I love them.

Mother Mary of the Angels is one of those people who is so demanding so firm in her resolution that it takes a moment to realize that this is a woman who also just loves you.  Sure she can see all your faults, she knows that things aren’t perfect and a bit more effort might have made things better.  But at the same time she is the first to say “We work with what God gives us” and march right on knowing full well that God’s will will be done and that she, I, and everyone else around us are His right through and it will all work out in the end.   I love her so much and wish I could be more like her.  Not be like her in the sense of having her vocation and gifts, but to be more perfectly me as God wants me to be.  To be more of who I really am the way she is who she really is.  Perfectly authentic.

Sr Mary Immaculate is a joy.  I love her grin and the way she and I can just talk.  She reminds me of my great aunt and my grandfather.  Open minded, intelligent and having the pleasant interior peace that comes from being good and doing what you are called to do. 

These are the two women who are the Sisters of Reparation of the Sacred Wounds of Jesus.  It makes me pleased to see the young women at their convent during their vocation retreats.  I hope and pray that some of them will be called to join the Sisters in their work.   I hope some younger women will put on their somewhat modern looking powder blue habits and join them in adoration and prayer.  

Sr Anne Joseph you will be missed.

Blogs I Know · Caritas · Faith in Action

New Habits

I am so happy to see the Anchoress blogging again after her recent health issues slowed her down a bit.  Today we have one of my favorite topics: Religious communities growing.   One of the most beautiful things in the world. 

You can see the communities she links to here: A flourishing of novices, Part I

I suppose like many women not blessed with a call to religious life I find myself somewhat envious at times of those who are so called.   But no matter the reason I love seeing religious communities grow.  It gives me hope that our faith will survive.  

The Anchoress also links to Gerald Augustinus at The Cafeteria Is Closed.  Mr Augustinus has a rather interesting observation that the  Sisters who have kept their habits are growing in numbers while those who switched to modern dress in the sixties and seventies are going the way of the dinosaur.  Fair enough.  This isn’t by any means a unique observation;  I have heard it dozens of times.  — more on that in a minute.

Right now I want to rant for a moment.  There is one little thing that torques me about the site and the discussion there and it isn’t something that I am laying at Mr Augustinus’s feet alone, but it is the main reason that, while I read The Cafeteria Is Closed almost daily, I rarely link to it.   It is the appalling lack of charity and at times even a lack common decency on the part of the commentors especially that just make me shudder.  Yes, I am unfairly picking on this one site at the moment there are many others that are far far worse.  I know that Gerald actually did a good deal a few months ago shutting down some of the more outlandish comments and I applaud the effort… but.     (check here to see the post I am referencing)  I was not really surprised that two pictures were cherry picked to show happy, young smiling nuns in habits and a rather not so happy,  unfortunate picture of a aging nun sans habit at a conference for ((double shudder)) women’s ordination.   Some of the comments that followed were predictable and rather ugly — but it still floored me — what is the point of that?

It really astounds me how often people’s appearance is dragged out when others disagree with their thoughts.  And it is just sad folks  it is really really sad.  First off it is sad because it is demeaning to the creation of God.  We are all in our beauties and uglies His first and foremost with our imperfections intact — we are His as he made us.   To go off on the lack of youth or beauty in the face of a person based on a picture or two is just wrong.  It is poking at the veneer. 

 Second it muddies our real complaint.  By all means roast the heretic for their heresies.  Those of us stepping into middle age have a right to be good and ticked-off at what the baby-boomers handed us.  We have a reason to be angry at a church that taught us the whole “feel good Jesus” with no mention of sin or hell.  We should be none too pleased about our churches being built to look like theaters and all those felt banners, horribly insipid music, a culture that tells us it is a matter of conscious to kill unborn children and that sex is play and poisoning our bodies with decades of hormonal birth control is a good thing.  Yes BE PISSED!  There is a LOT to be pissed about…. but don’t stoop to tossing mud about appearances.  We traditional Catholics should be above that sort of thing.  Leave it to the little children who don’t know better.  

This whole, drag the ugly, aging political woman out and talk about how old and ugly and angry she looks is getting old.  I don’t care if it is Hilary Clinton or Sr Chittister or Susan Sarandon to talk first about the appearance of someone as though that was as important as their message is juvenile.   This goes back to why I normally don’t blog about politics.  The tendency to dehumanize the opponent is too common.  And yes talking about someone’s cankles or wrinkles is just that — a sniggering attempt at mocking a lump of flesh.  If your argument is strong enough you never have a reason to mention the opposition’s age, color, nationality, language, gender or beauty.   A good argument will stand on its own… so stop with the rotten tomatoes and pick at what matters… the ideas.  Face those ideas with what is worthy of respect – better ideas.

Which brings me back to the habit.  Habits are coming back.  I think this is just smashingly wonderful.  Congregations with habits are growing at a rather speedy clip while those who gave it up entire are shrinking.  The reasons for this has no causal relationship to the habit. The real antecedent is that congregations that honor obedience and strive for a traditional expression of Catholic spirituality are speaking louder to the hearts of young men and women who are striving to find a way to live out their God given vocation.  The world is full of Gaia worshiping and/or self indulgent/ feminist/ social worker life style opportunities.  The orders that incorporated the 60s and 70s into their communities and tossed out tradition have nothing to offer those seeking something more than what society has to offer.  That liberal mind-set pollutes society at large so deeply — young people looking at realigious life want more.  The habit is a indicator of a community that holds Catholic tradition more important than the whim of what society says is cool.  For young men and women awash in a transitory world that is very powerful.

A couple years ago I went to the funeral of a nun with whom I taught CCD at my local parish.  She was a wonderful old lady who had spent her entire life educating children.  Sr Jane Francis of the Sisters of St Mary Oregon.  If you look you will see a mix of women with habits including veils and others who aren’t.  The funny thing is you can almost group them by age.  The most humorous thing to me is how many of the youngest members have their veils on. 

 Sr Jane Francis wore a veil — she was quite a bit older.  While at her funeral I met one of the young postulates.  It was one of those really weird times where I had the feeling that only one foot was on earth and the other was closer to heaven.  I saw this young woman in a sweater and veil, her face smiling and me hugely pregnant with my belly sticking out having just said good bye to a friend, but not at all sad because I knew she was home at last.   And this young woman and I face to face and I smiled and said “Thank you.”  It took a small instant for her to realize that I was thanking her for her life.  For listening to her vocation.  But I didn’t have to explain anything, because we were in the same “place” and she grinned at me with all the understanding that sisters have for each other and she said “Oh no thank you!” and she touched my huge belly and we both laughed and loved each other and Sr Jane Francis was no doubt smiling at us right there and loving us both.

So I love nuns.  I love that they have a special gift that they give to God — they give the whole world, their whole lives, all their love and faith.  I am a mother, it is my vocation to bring new little lives into the world and educate them so they understand and love God, the faith and the Church.  Nothing makes me happier than to see pictures of young women in their habits giving their lives to God and pictures of smooshy little baby faces just beginning this wonderful adventure we call life.  There is so much hope and so much love in both.