Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Jesus, please help them

New Orleans and much of the deep South will never be the same again. More importantly, the survivors and the families of the lost will need great grace from God and help from us.

The people at Wiki have established a Web clearinghouse for offers to help. Click here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Quote without comment

From Kathy Jo at Barefoot Meandering.

Roscoe: Did you know that God made you?

Sam: That’s what Jack said!

R: We tell God thank you for Sam every day.

S: I want to hear God.

R: You can’t hear God.

[a pause]

S: He said, “Yes.”

[a longer pause]

S: He said, “You’re welcome.”

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Canst thou can?

I finally kicked off canning season, a little later than usual. Pint jars of home-canned tomatoes and tomato juice are quietly cooling under a bath towel on my counter. Next week: peaches and peach preserves. Then corn relish. Pickled beets. Maybe pumpkin butter. The hell with pickles this year.

Besides the famous Ball Blue Book, I use old family recipes to make the old favorites in pickles, preserves and simple veggies and fruits. People act as though you bled into every jar, they are so impressed. They shouldn't be: it takes only lots of hot water, newspapers and a good timer to do a fantastic job of canning. (Sounds like emergency childbirth, doesn't it?)

Canning shifts your mind much like baking bread does. It takes you back to a more effortful time in making home pleasant and food good. You become sensitive to the seasons, worrying how much longer peaches will be at the Farmer's Market, frowning seriously at boxes of green beans, critically tasting plums "to see if they'll can." Canning books routinely contain chapters on smoking meat, drying fish, preserving nuts and beans. The older ones even tell you how to butcher hogs, and make sausage and render and store lard, and we're not talking 100 years ago, either. It is humbling to realize with what luxuries we live and how protected we are against the environment and against hunger.

Do you remember your mom, your grandma or aunts canning? Are their recipes still available? Make them a batch of something they used to make; instant happy tears. Or, if you need Christmas gifts for those hard-to-figure-out people in the office or in the neighborhood, consider canning. (The trick is to train them to return the jars and lids, with the promise some day of more, then all you have to buy for the next time are the flat lids for about $1.50 a dozen.)

I've had a great time showing a wide assortment of friends how to can. They are enticed by its unique combination of craft and cooking, and realize how much thought and love goes into every batch.

UPDATE: This entry has nothing to do with my walk with Jesus. But sometimes simple satisfaction in a job completed is the best part of a day, and I keep patting the jars as I walk by. The high points of my day today therefore are Mass and jamming tomatoes into jars.

Friday, August 26, 2005

You CAN take it with you

Oswald Sobrino at Catholic Analysis has a great post on Christian friendship as seen through the eyes of St. Augustine. Though many hold friends dear, not too many of us consciously consider the role that friendship plays in our lives.

I spent much of my youth feeling out of step with my peers. That instilled a longing for meaningful relationships that God has used to good purpose as he has drawn me into Christian community. When I was about 20 (I remember exactly where I was walking when this occurred to me), I asked the Lord to give me good, solid friendships with good, solid people. Over time, this prayer has been answered in a huge way and is one of the richest aspects of my life.

As a woman, at least I had cultural expectations on my side. In North America, it's less common for men to consciously foster a network of individual friendships. Natural groups of "guys" come about through work or sports, perhaps there's a regular golfing buddy, but there aren't natural outlets for the men who (perhaps more than we guess) want -- well, what can I call it? The words "closeness" or "intimacy" have a girly or sexual overtone to them, don't they? Perhaps we need to take refuge in the vocabulary of "strength," "support," "authenticity." That's okay for a start, but if I were a man, I'd be angry that perfectly good words had been co-opted by the Ninny Underground.

I want the men in my life to have good men in their lives who encourage, accept, exhort, inspire and energize them. I want them to have somewhere (besides their boudoir, if they're married) where they're free to be absolutely honest without timidity.

When we go to live with God at the end of time, the things that are only part of this world are going to peel away. Our appetites, possessions, temptations; the synthetic pleasures that in our ignorance we have substituted for joys -- all of these will be gone in a flash. But I'm firmly convinced that our relationships will go with us, better than ever.

Love never ends. (1Cor 13:8)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A word from the co-queen

Greetings, everyone. Thank you for taking a moment out of your blog cruising to read this procedural message.

Spam comments have become an increasing problem on this blog. We would like to avoid taking the step of banning anonymous comments because we welcome the thoughts of those who might not want to take the time to register with Blogger. So as of now (actually, as of about one hour ago), any comment that contains a link to a commercial site will be summarily deleted. Other comments that appear to be self-promotional or otherwise spammy will also be deleted, but we will use our discretion and happily apologize if a mistake is made.

If you are posting without being a registered user, it would be a welcome courtesy for you to sign the bottom of your post and include a web address or e-mail address if you are so inclined. It is one of the happy consequences of blog comments to start interesting conversations, so please chime in if you have anything to say.

We now return you to your happy wandering.

Don't ask me for directions to the Narrow Way

I don't like where I am on this journey:

"My friend never fails to irritate me when she says those things. God, open her eyes or smite her or something!"


"I always fail to cast off my irritation when my friend says those things. God, forgive me and purify my heart!"


"There is my friend, a child of God! I rejoice in any hurt she unknowingly or knowingly does me, joining it to the sufferings of Christ!"


"There is my friend, a child of God! How can I serve her?"

I have the Directions, and the Heavenly Fuel. I have companions for the journey, and yet there I am, pulling 360's in the parking lot....

Monday, August 22, 2005

To know, know, know him

I heard a wonderful talk yesterday about knowing God -- not "knowledge" in the sense of being acquainted and familiar enough to appreciate and accept, but knowledge in the sense that Adam knew Eve his wife and that God knows us.

Being known by God is far more than being in His awareness. He not only knows what we do, think, believe and feel. He surrounds us, loves us, draws us in, gazes on us, pours goodwill into us, knows us. Are we willing to allow him to make Himself known to us in that same way?

In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul prays for the Christians there. He's not exhorting them to faithfulness in duties nor adherence to theological beliefs. Instead, he prays,
"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe." (Eph. 1:17-19)

What Paul lovingly desires for his brothers and sisters in Ephesus is that they individually and together know God better. It's not enlightenment of their minds here, but their hearts, which will bring to them the depth of hope and participation in the riches and power that the Holy Spirit wants to give them.

In my experience, Catholics and Protestants have different blind spots in this area. My Protestant friends tend to individualize messages like these and apply them (validly but incompletely) to the individual's relationship with God. They may miss the power of the sacramental and corporate blessings God intends for the Church collectively as his Bride. Catholics, on the other hand, frequently jump first to the application that it is the Church -- God's people as a whole -- with whom the Holy Spirit does business. It's not untrue but again incomplete. It can be a way of emotionally keeping the power, devotion and yearning of God for each of us at a more comfortable distance, causing us to miss out.

It's clear through the entirety of scripture and sacred tradition that God wants each and all together. He will bless his people as a body, if only because that is the way he chose to manifest himself on earth after his death, resurrection and ascension. But he in love with people, persons, men, women, kids, individuals. If each of us isn't stepping up to ask for and receive more knowledge of him and more experience of his huge love for us, we are missing out bigtime.

May we all know him better.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Nothing is impossible with God

In my experience of journalistic outlets in southeast Michigan, The Detroit Free Press has consistently displayed the most inflexibly liberal perspective, not only in politics (unsurprising in this Home of the Auto Worker) but also in general world-view.

Today at the online Features Section page, I was surprised to find (right under the link to the "Are you a Cosmo Girl?" quiz) a most beautiful profile of the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. I'm sorry to bore you about them, but I found this prayer-soaked essay one of the most inspiring accounts I've read in a long time. I'm not an official or unofficial "friend of the order"; most of what I know I have learned along with you as I've read these pieces.

Let's pray for the men and women who write feature pieces for newspapers and magazines, that they might take the opportunities they've been given to allow themselves to be personally touched and to communicate the spirit of the works of God that they see to their readers. I've written a note of appreciation to the article's author. It's the least I can do.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Blessed Ones

This painting, Madonna with Grape by Mignard, is on the cover of my parish's Missalette this season. My eye fell on it while I was waiting for Mass to begin. Although I have only a passing intellectual acquaintance with spiritual art, I found myself gazing at it, engrossed as if I were deep into a compelling mystery story.

The Mother is a real woman, sturdy, beautiful yet not necessarily "pretty", genuine, her full, tender attention on the actions of her young Son. Of all the fruits available at her elbow, she is offering him the grapes, an anticipation of the sacrifice that is to save her and us all. Jesus doesn't grab at the grapes greedily nor spurn them, but he lays his hand on them, taking possession. He reclines peacefully, protected for the moment in her arms and under her veil.

Whatever has attracted the child's attention, his mother doesn't appear to have heard or seen it. He raises the draped veil, looking out, his expression carrying a bit of "Yes? Were you speaking to me? Were you calling me?"

Is he looking at us? at his Father? It could be either, because he is Love. He loves the Father enough to live toward the Cross out of obedience; He loves us enough that the love between Him, his Father and his mother will be ours one day through the Holy Spirit, and the grapes of sacrifice will be ours too. "All in good time," he tells us. "I have come for you. Save me a place."

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Habemus blogum

It turns out the Pope is a blogger. Who knew?

Don't even consider missing it.

Good catch, Whappers!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Good Sisters

"They were smart. They were good at sports. They were fun to hang out with."

Not what we might expect from a teenager about the fully-habited nuns who taught in her high school. However this young woman, now known as Sister Maria Faustina, just made her permanent vows to that same order, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is part of a trend of growth among more traditionally-focused orders. The Sisters of Mary, founded in 1997, expect 17 new postulants in September and have launched an ambitious building program to accommodate their increasing numbers.

I wish I could show you the photos from the print version of the story that appeared this morning in the Ann Arbor News. The sight of young nuns, with white veils over their heads, prostrated in front of the altar of Christ the King Catholic Church (my home parish) was striking. The piece is surprisingly well done, despite the obligatory curmudgeonly quotation from a faculty member from somewhere, ( "There's always been a rear-guard action among Catholics who don't like Vatican II . . . "). More typical is the following:
The order is different from many others today in that members wear the traditional, floor-length habit; place strong emphasis on community life; and spend at least three hours each day in traditional, communal prayer, some in Latin.


"Young women are attracted to the total gift of self,'' said Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, vocations director for the Sisters of Mary. "They trust Christ and are willing to pour out their lives first to him, then through him, to all his people,'' Sister Bogdanowicz said. "This total commitment is most attractive to a generation starving for authenticity.''

Since the Sisters have their own chapel, I don't see them often at Mass at Christ the King. I wish that weren't so.

P.S. Just to prove that Sister Mary Faustina wasn't kidding about the "good at sports" comment, here are the good Sisters tuning up their Kick-the-Can skills.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Potential patron of the fainthearted

I fully expect to be a wimp in the face of persecution and hardship. I've lived a pretty soft life and I could be tempted to forsake faithfulness for a television show, a frivolous conversation, or a noodle kugel from Zingerman's, much less a genuine threat to something I care about. There could be no more laughable contrast than between this nebbish and the persevering saints of the past who were faithful through thick, thin and even more thin.

Well, today I was reading a back issue of Magnificat and ran across a story of someone who surprised me. Blessed John Hambley was a youthful convert in the days of England when becoming a Catholic was dangerous. He studied abroad for the priesthood but was captured and arrested after his return.

So far, it's no different from anything we might expect to read about Catholic heros from the dangerous 16th century. But this young man, upon being bribed with release, yielded to pressure and forswore the faith. After being set free, he returned to the Catholic faith and was arrested again. Once more he "conformed" to the Protestant religion, but this time he betrayed fellow Catholics into the bargain. Freed yet again, he returned to Catholicism and (surprise!) was arrested again. (The officials must have been delighted to have developed this pipeline of regular information on the Catholic Underground.)

According to trial accounts, Fr. Hambley seemed to be at the point of once again betraying his beliefs and his brothers when there came a turnabout. Some say it was sparked by a letter from a fellow prisoner.
"Upon reading it, the priest wept. Although Father Hambley refused to divulge the letter's contents, he thereafter became steadfast in professing the Catholic faith, expressing deep remorse for his inconstancy, and bravely endured death by drawing and quartering."

Now this is my kind of guy. And my kind of God. I have felt that deep disappointment of failure to live up to even my own modest expectations of virtue, much less the pure goodness of Jesus' example. And when I fall, I am convinced that I am hopelessly faulty and incapable of right action. If you can't do it, my inner sinner tells me, why waste energy trying?

Well this Fr. Handley, young, impulsive and ill-prepared as he was, kept getting on the horse that was bucking him off. He repented; he accepted the shame that he must have experienced every time he appeared as a penitent in front of the faithful. He also seems to have been unskilled at evading arrest, a circumstance that led to his betrayals but which also was foreordained to be an occasion of supernatural and unexpected grace.

Ven. John Handley is the perfect example of a truth I keep repeating to encourage myself and others: "God's grip on us is stronger than our grip on Him."

Monday, August 01, 2005

Less blogging and less behind

The second thing first: I posted a couple of months ago that I had joined Weight Watchers (in early May, I think). I am happy to say that I've lost nearly 25 lbs without biting hunks out of the couch, and look forward to losing lots more. God be praised! I give credit not only to Weight Watchers but to the Sacrament of Penance. Grace is truly given when I confess to the cardinal sin of Gluttony. While it's humanly just plain embarassing to have to say, on bended knee, that I sin in that way, it's also very purifying. And Jesus Christ has given me, to my bemused surpise, more and more strength to overcome it, with less of my own prideful effort and more reliance on Him.

If you have to grease yourself to fit into the confessional, but not confessing to that particular sin, please, humble yourself and name yourself a big old glutton. The Lord will bless you and help you reduce and refine your earthly appetite and strengthen your appetite for the things of Heaven.


I will be blogging a little less over the next couple of weeks as I help my mother through serious surgery. I'll check in, but I won't have much time. I welcome your prayers for all our parents, as they face serious illness and their own mortality, and for us, as we guide and walk with them in patience, charity and love.


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"There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know."

Pres. Barack Obama, Feb 5, 2009