Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Blame Game

This was the first year EVER that one of my kids was an altar server on Christmas, despite their collective 8+ years of service. Little Brother was so excited to be serving in a special day.

So excited, in fact, that he fainted in the middle of the Our Father. TheDad and Middle Sister ran right over to him (she's a sprinter and is not afraid to use her abilities in church when her brother is passed out on the floor.)

From where I was standing in the musicians' area (not a choir loft by any stretch of the imagination--more like a choir prison) I couldn't see him at all, so by the time someone got my attention, there were two other people plus my husband and daughter helping him out.

Our neighbor, a middle-schooler also in the choir, was sitting behind me, so I sent her down to Little Brother with my water bottle.

As it turns out, he was fine--just overheated and dehydrated. Those robes are not made with breathable fabric.

Tonight, he tried to blame his fainting spell on our friend Mr. H, who had teased him before Mass about the hairstyle he's trying to grow into and pressed down on his head to make the hair stop sticking straight up. The kid looks like Spaceman Spiff.

Big Brother and I were having none of it. His defense: "Abraham Lincoln was shot in the head and he DIED 24 hours later. So I could faint from this."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Incorruptible...or Just Incorrigible?

Because sometimes you just need to laugh in the midst of it all.

I know I can use a laugh today. Maybe you could, too. So here's the latest Little-Brotherism.

On Friday night, I was trying to convince him to be an altar-server for Saturday's funeral. There wouldn't be a coffin, I told him (in case that was spooking him about the whole thing) because Mary had been cremated.

Apparently he didn't know what cremation is, so I had to explain that. The concept horrified him.

"When I die, I want to be all together, with my bones and everything," he informed me. "And you know what I want? One of those glass coffins, you know, like the saints have...with the little air conditioners inside to keep them fresh."

Someone's been studying St. John Neumann at school, I see.

But I had to burst the kid's bubble and let him know that those things don't come with air conditioning.

In all seriousness, it's good to know that he's aiming high. He speaks very matter-of-factly about possibilities for sainthood. I can't take credit for putting that idea into his head, but I'm certainly glad that it's there.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Making Sense of It All

Yesterday was an extraordinarily difficult day.

I already knew I'd be spending the evening attending a wake service for one of the Secular Franciscans who'd passed away after a long illness. Much as we are relieved that her suffering has ended, we mourn her loss and grieve with her family.

When I stopped at the parish office for a Mass card, the secretary was mourning for one of her own family members who'd passed away. All I could do was squeeze her hand across the counter as she wept...I've been praying for her since then.

One of the other Secular Franciscans has a birthday today. She will spend it at a funeral for her longtime friend and neighbor.

Little Brother had a half day, so he got home around 1, and in the middle of arguing with him about what constitutes a "clean" family room, I started seeing news reports about the horrible events in Newtown, CT. People on social media were saying, "hug your kids" and my 10-year-old is accusing me of not loving him because I wouldn't let him play a video game before he'd finished his chore.

28 people died in Connecticut yesterday. The story just kept getting worse and worse. The media interviewed traumatized little kids and mis-identified the shooter.

And the parents of 20 little children will have to get through Christmas without those children. They will be wishing for the opportunity to tell their child to clean up his toys.

After dinner I went to the funeral home for the wake, where the deacon wisely began the prayer service with a prayer for the New England community that had suffered such a tragedy. And we all agreed that Mary M, a mom of 6 and grandmother of 9, was probably welcoming those little children to Heaven yesterday.

I was glad, last night, to have all my kids under the same roof when I went to sleep. I hope that they know every day that I love them. Even when I take away their video games, make them clean up their own messes, and enforce curfews. Someday they will realize that I do these things BECAUSE I love them, that I wouldn't be loving them very much at all if I didn't.

Today, when they wake up, I will hug them all just a little harder. There is just no way to understand this. All I can do is try to be better at loving my family. And I pray for Mary, for the people of Newtown, CT, and for our parish secretary, Mary's family, our Franciscan community and all others who grieve.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

And may the Lord comfort those who mourn.

Updated to add:  I was asked in the comments how to get to the point of praying for the shooter. I don't know. I just don't. But Friar Charles has a good starting point here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I Confess

I fail at Confession.

Sometimes I feel like Confession fails me.

I definitely have to stop attending those "communal Penance services." It's like drive-by Confession, and it's never a good experience--which is why I let two or three years go by between Confessions, until I feel absolutely driven to seek absolution, and I drag myself there.

For me, "communal Penance services" are a near occasion of sin. (So why do I go? Because they're not on Saturday afternoons, which are always so nutty that I can never manage to get to Confession for the 45 minutes our parish offers it at that time.)

If it were up to me, these services would be simple affairs consisting of a hymn or two, a Scripture reading or two, and a short homily from Father explaining how to make a good examination of conscience. After that, everyone lines up for Confession.

Here's how it went last night:

  • Arrive and find a pew. Listen to announcement by cantor that if you forgot a "worship aid" you should raise your hand and a "team member" would bring one to you.
  • Hymn, Liturgy of the Word, prayer.
  • A combination skit/prayer/examination of conscience in which 6 costumed actors represented Isaiah, John the Baptist, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary and Jesus and lectors read prayers relating the examination of conscience to each of these Biblical figures.
  • Lineup for Confession. After the initial scramble to get in line for your favorite priest, I waited 40 minutes, only to end up with the hard-of-hearing priest who was older than Moses and looked like he might not survive the night. (Good thing the church has its own defibrillator. I was afraid we might have to use it.)
  • Parting gift. After absolution, Father handed me a handy-dandy refrigerator magnet "to remember this evening by."

I don't need "worship aids," "team members," costumed actors with props, and refrigerator magnets. And frankly, I don't want them. For me, they get in the way.

I know I shouldn't be snarky, and I'll need to go to Confession again over that. To be fair, the service was well-done. Good music, well-prepared readers, good flow. But it felt like a performance, not a prelude to a sacrament.

In the end, the grace of the sacrament is enough--which brings to mind this prayer by St. Ignatius of Loyola:
Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my will; all that I have and possess. You have given them to me; to you, O Lord, I restore them. All things are yours: Dispose of them according to your will. Give me your love and your grace; for this is enough for me.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Question du Jour

...or, more accurately, del día.

I sent Little Brother off to scrub toilets after he finished his homework. He's always been a fan of that job.

While he was busy creating toilets full of bubbles, he noticed the bilingual label on the Comet. "It says '20% más'. What does 'más' mean?"

"In Spanish? It means 'more'," I replied.

More scrubbing, then:  "Do people in Spain have toilets?"

Sunday, December 02, 2012

A Holiday By Any Other Name

It's that time of year again, and this year I'm just tired of it. This morning's paper carried the announcement that my township will be lighting its "Holiday Tree" later this week.

At least they waited until December, but that's a rant for another day.

Yes, they called it a "Holiday Tree" in the announcement. But honestly, whom do they think they're fooling? Santa's going to arrive (via fire truck, not reindeer sleigh) and there will probably be candy canes. That, plus the decorated tree and musical entertainment by the middle-school chorus gives everyone the first clue:  this is not Labor Day.

Call it what you want; we all know what the holiday in question is. And I don't think that ranting about the problem is going to fix it.

This Advent and Christmas season, I encourage you to remember the reason for the season, cheesy though that expression may be.

Take time to listen to some sacred music. My Advent soundtrack this year, in addition to the rehearsal music for the Festival of Lessons and Carols in which I'm participating, is Advent at Ephesus. I got my copy a week ago; today I'll listen to it for the first time. If a church or school near you is hosting a Festival of Lessons and Carols, don't miss it!

Light the Advent wreath.

Study the Gospel of Luke.

Make a Jesse Tree.

Decorate gradually, and keep those decorations up past December 26. We don't "undecorate" around here until after Epiphany.


And have some fun. Watch the Christmas specials on TV or DVD. Don't miss Charlie Brown or the Grinch.

I wish you a blessed Advent and Christmas season!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Tiber River Review: Style, Sex and Substance

Don't let your pride get in the way of your reading this encouraging book. I'll admit that mine did, for a while; I'm pretty sure that most of the 10 contributors are a good bit younger than I am. But after reading several excerpts of Style, Sex and Substance online, I was convinced that while the women whose essays are featured in this book may be younger than me, they've got plenty of wisdom to share. The writing is honest and real, and by the end of each chapter you'll feel that its author is a new, trusted friend.

Don't let the title fool you; I found that this book is a whole lot more about "substance" than sex. Yes, there are humorous, real-life stories (and I loved those!) There are also reflection questions at the end of each chapter that would work as well for small-group study as they do for individual reflection and journaling. A small sampling of these include:
  • sins vs. quirks
  • nurturing yourself
  • putting your schedule in order
  • fostering intimacy in marriage
  • personal holiness for single women
  • making rash judgements
  • healthy friendship
  • building your marriage
  • goals for motherhood
  • the Christian life and popular culture
Not all chapters are for every woman at every time, but this book doesn't need to be read start-to-finish to be appreciated. Start with the introduction and chapter 1, then pick and choose as the Spirit moves you. You'll be hooked, and you'll want to keep this book around for encouragement in the various seasons of your life as a Catholic woman.

Style, Sex and Substance would be a great gift for a young woman just starting out on her own, a bride-to-be, a new mom or even a "woman of a certain age" like myself who's in need of a new perspective.

After all, there's always something new to be learned--even from women who are younger than you.

My compliments to editor Hallie Lord and all the contributors to this excellent book.

You can purchase this book here.
I wrote this review of Style, Sex and Substance for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.
A review copy of the book was provided to me. I did not receive other compensation for this review.