Saturday, May 4, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday # 4


~~1~~

So. . . it's Friday again.  Technically, it's Saturday (Happy Birthday to ME!), but I haven't been to bed yet, so I'm still counting it.  It is also (if it's Saturday), as my son likes to remind me, National Star Wars Day.  May the 4th be with you.  Yeah, we're nerds.  But we're fun!  Or at least, we have fun.  Whether or not you have fun when you're around us is solely up to you.  :)  Some people do.  Others just think we're crazy.





~~2~~

Well, as advertised, I've decided to get (somewhat) serious about getting healthier.  I rejoined my local TOPS chapter, and went for my first excuse for a run in nearly two years.  It was not pretty.  But, I suppose it could have been worse.  Kudos to Allison for putting up with me.  I was a little surprised to discover that I'm barely sore today, but when I thought about it, it made sense.  My cardio has to catch back up to my muscles.  Once that happens, my heart and lungs will be much happier with me, but my legs will be very angry.  Rather than doing any sort of real planned-out workout, I just did what I could of Allie's plan.  I think I like the C25K better.  So, most likely, on days when I run by myself, I'll still be incorporating that plan.  There are so many places I can't wait to go for a run.  Mostly I'm looking forward to being strong enough to run more than a quarter mile at a go again.  :)

~~3~~

I've enjoyed the opportunity recently to talk Catholicism with someone close to me.  Ah, the irony, though.  Writing is my strong point.  I can put things down in writing much better than I can speak them, because I have the opportunity to think about precisely what I want to say, look up any references I wish to use, and edit for clarity before hitting the publish button.  And then there are the curious souls who aren't online.  So, I can't refer them here, or to any of the other excellent sources of information I've found out there in cyberspace.  Yes, I know, there are also total fruitcakes out there in cyberspace, and I've found a few.  But I've also found some real gems, and in addition to helping me discover the faith, they also inspired me to write about it myself, in the hopes that some of those I left behind might better understand why.  I also hoped to clear up what I see as several misconceptions our Protestant brothers and sisters have about the Catholic faith.  But now, here I am, being challenged outside my "element" so to speak.  I think I may soon be buying more copies of my favorite books.  She is, at least, a reader.  :)

~~4~~

The car, despite a moment of premature elation, was not fixed after last weekend's fiasco.  I learned this after taking it on a semi-long trip, and worrying I wasn't going to get back home.  


Had the mechanic look at it Tuesday, turns out it's about another $400+ to really fix it, but he was able to adjust the timing and thus put a metaphorical band-aid on the situation for me.  So, until I can replace the busted knock sensor (am I the only one who thinks sensors are the most overpriced parts on a vehicle?), at least it's running better and getting much better mileage.  Works for me.

~~5~~

Went shopping for a wedding gift this evening.  Kinda had to; the wedding's tomorrow, lol.  I hear from the grandmother of the groom that one of the things they need is stuff for their kitchen, so hopefully I chose well. Seems to be an old standby of mine--the "cookie kit."  All the kitchen equipment necessary to make a killer batch of cookies.  If I'm awesome, I may even share some recipes.  I'm not sure I'm awesome, lol.  Right now, I just feel tired.

~~6~~

Being tired may have something to do with the mild bug I've been trying to come down with for the last couple days.  Not sure going for a run in the cold and wet weather we've been having was a wise idea, especially since I could vaguely feel the beginnings of an irritated throat, but I felt it had been put off long enough.  Of course, by bedtime last night, I had a low-grade fever and was achy all over.  Today, not so much on the fever and all-over aches, but my throat is croupy, I've started to sneeze, and my ears hurt when I go out in the cold.  Bleh.  Wondering if I'm actually going to make it to this wedding, or if it would be more considerate to keep my germ-infested self home.

~~7~~

Yes, you heard right on number six.  I said cold.  It's May, and temperatures here in Missouri are hovering just above freezing.  There has been snow, though none has stuck around here.  In Kansas City, that's an entirely different matter.  Often when the weather does odd things, I blame it on the fact that I live in Missouri, but this is odd, even for the Show-Me State.  That is an actual screenshot from my friend Jon's cell phone, showing the weather a mere 30 miles from where I live this morning.  Ugh.  Here, we saw mostly pouring rain, resulting in early dismissal at the local school due to flooding.  I keep telling myself we've been in a drought and we really, really do need this much rain.  But could we dispense with the frigid cold?  Please?  It's supposed to be Spring!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Cake

As promised, here is a picture of the cake I did for my friend's wedding shower this afternoon.


I think it turned out rather nice, and Bethany said the flowers match her actual wedding bouquet.  Score!  Which makes me happy, since I couldn't find a darn thing I actually had wanted to decorate with.  Wedding colors are blue and silver, and the blue beading at the waistband was the best I could do.  Blue flowers were pretty hard to find, for some reason.

In other news, I think I've fixed my car!  As we were leaving the restaurant this afternoon, my car firmly refused to move.  Great.  Here, I am, it's raining, and I have my mother with me.  And we aren't far from home, but I do not want to have to maneuver a wheelchair through mud and gravel, in the rain.  So, remembering that my second choice (after fuel delivery system) for identifying its problem was the air intake, I popped the hood.  Darned if my air filter wasn't in all crooked and wadded up, and getting worse all the time, apparently.  I straightened it out and made sure everything was as tightly closed up as it was getting, and now the car seems to be behaving just fine.  I am a happy sponge!


Betting that helps my gas mileage, too.  :)  I also feel both a little smug (because I fixed my car!), and a little silly (because I didn't clue into the problem sooner).

But, that's the quick update for the day.  Happy weekend, everybody!

7 Quick Takes Friday #3


~~1~~

Been a while since I've attempted a 7QT post.  Most often, Friday just blows right by me here lately.  Almost did this time.  Then I got on the internet and saw other 7QT posts, which reminded me it was, in fact, that time of the week.  :)  So I thought I'd try to put together a post and jump back in.  This promises to be a ridiculously late night anyway, since I'm putting together cakes for the wedding shower of some friends of  mine tomorrow.  Here's the idea I'm using, though the embellishments will be a touch different.
If all goes well, maybe I'll share a picture of the finished product before hitting publish.  :)  But that will require getting up off my lazy backside and making some frosting!

~~2~~

I was planning to share a photo with you of the rosary I made for my husband here, but apparently the picture was taken with my phone and not my camera, and the kids have destroyed my micro SD card adapter.  Perhaps another time.  Soooo, plan B.  It's been one for the record books at my house today.  The place looks like a bomb went off and a twister was in charge of cleanup.  So, I spent about half the day yelling at kids, who don't seem to understand the basic philosophy that trash belongs in trash cans, toys belong in toy bins, and shoes belong in the shoe basket (etc., etc., etc.).  Seriously.  I own at least four hairbrushes, and my hair has not been brushed today because I can't find even one.  That is how crazy this day has been.  And I'm making fancy cakes.  Thank God someone had the sense to find and shoot me a simple design that looks fantastic.

~~3~~

So my husband talked me into joining the Elks Lodge with him.  I blame my mother-in-law, who's been trying to talk him into it for years now.  She has finally succeeded, and last night was my initiation, which, as much as I'm digging on being a part of the organization, particularly with him (those who don't know me, it's been a rocky few years), it was hard to make it all the way through with a straight face.  I love the community service aspect of such organizations, but can't help laughing at the "secret society" side of the coin.  There's a convention in the fall, and we're going.  And all I can think about is this:


Love me some Ray Stevens!  ;)

~~4~~

The van's giving me grief again.  I have come to the simple conclusion that I hate vehicles, and they hate me right back.  Got the timing belt changed about a month ago.  Now I find out that the water pump is leaking.  And it's going to be expensive to change it because (wait for it) they have to remove the timing belt to get to it.  Ah, the irony.  It couldn't have been broken a month ago, so I could have changed it at the same time, nooo.  And something is wrong with my fuel supply system.  I'm banking on the injectors, only because I REALLY don't want it to be the pump.  Anyone out there who wants to be a real optimist, sorry, I already changed the fuel filter.  It helped for a little while, but now we're back to having issues.  So far the only bright side I'm seeing to this is that parts for this vehicle are cheaper than I've been accustomed to.  I'll take it.

~~5~~

I should probably mention that if you linked here through the 7QT linkup, you should bounce around to a few other posts.  Light little blurbs and life updates tend to land on my quick take posts, while my more serious writing is to be found in other areas of the blog.  Feel free to poke around, though if you go WAY far back, you'll find more about running and weight loss than faith and family.  :)  Though I do plan to lace 'em back up and start training again soon, so that could work its way back in here somehow.

~~6~~

Yes, my friend Allison has just about convinced me that I need to train with her for a 5K--precise race and date to be determined.  Since it's been nearly 2 years since I've gone for a run, and I've gained back all the weight I ever lost, I figure she's probably right.  Best. Workout. Ever.  Seriously.  I almost learned to love it. So, my Garmin is on its charging dock, and I'm thinking I'll probably be logging miles again soon.  And hopefully dropping pounds and getting stronger.  :)  God knows, with this crew to keep up with, I can use all the endurance and strength I can get!

~~7~~

Did I say something about posting a picture of that finished cake?  Not as long as my camera keeps announcing "lens error" every time I try to turn it on.  Looks like it's time to try to squeeze a new camera into the budget somewhere.  Bleh.  At any rate, it's finished, and looks pretty decent.  Though I never cease to be amazed that a double batch of buttercream (Wilton recipe, at that) doesn't go any farther than it does.  Iced a grand total of 37 cupcakes.  With a double batch of icing.  Boggles my mind.  I intended to take more cupcakes than that, but there you go.  It's supposed to be a small party, and I didn't feel like putting together another batch.  Lazy?  Maybe.  Or maybe it's just almost three in the morning, and I'm shot.  :)  Maybe next quick takes, I'll have a pic to share.  The grandmother of the groom is sure to have a camera in hand, since she's a fellow blogger.  Perhaps I should just tell you to look for photos on her blog sometime in the next couple of days, lol.  Goodnight, blog world!  *Update:  You can find a picture here.*

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mary as Mother

If I am to accomplish what I set out to do here, I know one of the questions I will have to address is that of Catholic devotion to the Virgin Mary.  Frankly, that intimidates me, although not for the reasons you might expect.  It is simply that there is much, and I do mean much that can be said about Mary, and yet our Protestant brothers and sisters are (generally) careful to say as little about her as possible.  Mary is seldom mentioned at all, unless it happens to be December.  In December, Protestants become a hair more Catholic.  ;)  The statues come out, songs about Mary are considered widely acceptable, and a sermon or two about her might just be preached.

My grandmother's Nativity.  Nice, no?

Then January comes around, and she is packed neatly away with the rest of the Christmas stuff for next year.  (This may sound a hair snarky, but think about it for a moment, dear friends.  If it is not okay to talk about Mary or have images of her or songs about her any other time of year, why the exception for Christmas?)

I've decided the only way to tackle the subject of Mary (while keeping the posts a reasonable length) is to write a series of posts on this single topic.  Today, we start with Mary as Mother.

Mother of Christ

This one is easy.  Frankly, we can all agree that Mary was the mother of Jesus.  Unless you happen to not be Christian at all, but really, there's enough historical evidence for the existence of the man, and who His mother was.  Those who don't believe Jesus ever existed are just being obstinate.  The question is not whether He existed.  It's who He was.  But I digress.  We agree on Mary as the mother of Christ.  Where we part ways is on the implications of that fact.

Jesus honored Mary.  As a first-century Jew, Jesus would have been extremely familiar with the ten commandments, which include this:
 "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."  ~Exodus 20:12
If one believes (and I've never met a Christian who didn't) that Christ led a sinless life, it naturally follows that He honored His mother.  I've heard it preached that the term "Christian" literally means "Christ like" or "little Christ."  If He honored His mother, why shouldn't we?

Mary's influence on Jesus is clearly visible in the Bible, if one takes the time to notice it.  And why not?  Is any single person of greater influence on a child (in the normal course of things) than his mother?  And would God not have chosen (or, more accurately, specifically created) the perfect mother for His Son, the physical incarnation of Himself?

The first instance I'd like to look at comes from Jesus' childhood.  He was twelve years old, Scripture tells us, when He went with Mary and Joseph to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  And afterwards, His parents traveled a day's journey toward home, while He, unknown to them, remained behind in the temple.  When they discovered His absence, Mary and Joseph were surely frantic.  Here all this time, they had assumed Him to be with the caravan.  Not right there with them, but somewhere in the company of friends and family, headed toward home.  He was, after all, twelve--very near the traditional age of manhood in His culture.  They would not have been concerned to have Him out of their sight.  Not until night began to fall, and they could not find Him.  So, they turned around, and headed back to Jerusalem--another day's journey to get back--to search for their son.  Only after three days had passed did they find Him, sitting in the temple with the "doctors" or learned men of Jerusalem, both asking and answering questions, and amazing all who heard Him speak!  And here is the conversation we're told occurred between Mary and her Son (taken from Luke 2):
48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
Here is Mary, reacting as any mother might.  "Son, why have you done this to us?  We've been looking for you everywhere!  You worried us to death!"  And Jesus' baffled response:  "Why were you looking for me?  Didn't you know I must be about my Father's business?"  It seems, from His response, that Jesus assumed His parents would know where to find Him.  But clearly, they didn't yet understand this, so, He went home with them, and was subject to them.  Consider, if you will:  He was, in the mystery of the Trinity, the Son of God, and the physical incarnation of God.  And yet, when His mother came looking for Him, He went home with her, and placed Himself in subjection to both her and St. Joseph, until He grew to manhood.

Second, we might look, several years in the future, at a certain wedding feast, in Cana.  Though we never know the identity of the couple, Mary, Jesus, and Jesus' disciples (because by now, He was 30, and had begun to attract followers) were guests.  (I'm going to stray from my usual path, and give you the NKJV here, because it's easier to read and understand.)
And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom.10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”
Notice what happens here.  Only partway through the wedding feast, the hosts run out of wine--a social faux pas worthy of some embarrassment.  And Mary comes to Jesus.  He has never done anything particularly miraculous before this, but His mother knows who He is.  And she brings this request to her Son.  Not so much a request even.  Just a statement of a problem, with the underlying assumption that she'd like Him to do something about it.  And what does He say to her? Many have criticized Jesus for His words to Mary here.  "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?  My hour has not yet come."


But Mary is unperturbed.  She simply turns to those serving at the feast and gives them one simple directive:  "Whatever He says to you, do it."

That's it.  She isn't put off, and she isn't put out.  It seems Jesus has turned her down cold, but Mary still expects Him to do something.  (Pretty sure we could all take a lesson in faith here.)  And. . . He does.  At the request, and simple faith, of His mother, Jesus performs His first miracle.



Mother of John

The next "Mother" role Mary would be called to fulfill was that of mother to the Apostle John.  After His betrayal and arrest, as He hung dying on the cross, Jesus placed His beloved mother in the hands of the "disciple whom He loved," John.

26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.    ~John 19:26-27
 One might notice that John is, in fact, the only disciple, even of the Twelve, to turn up at the foot of the cross.  The others have scattered and hidden, fleeing in fear, even after making bold
claims that they would sooner die with their Lord than desert him.  (One might also notice that John is the only one of the Twelve NOT to end up martyred.  Just sayin'.)

But, back on topic, Jesus looks down from the cross, and sees His mother, and His dear friend.  Joseph has now been dead for a number of years, and Jesus is Mary's only child.  She will need a son to care for her, protect her, and provide for her.  And so, Jesus entrusts His precious mother to the care of His friend.  And, in a way, I imagine, His friend to the care of His mother.  :)

And from then on, John took her into his home.  He cared for her, as a son would be expected to care for his widowed mother, until her death.  

Mother to the Apostles

I will start this section by admitting freely to you that I have little here to offer save personal speculation.  I still wish to include it.  You're free to ignore it and mock me if you will.  But consider my speculation before you do so.

When I was young, my friends were in and out of our home constantly.  I had friends over far more often than I actually went anywhere.  And my mom "mothered" every single one of my friends, some more so than others.  She became a second mother to them, someone they could turn to for help, for advice, or simply to talk through some thorny issue when they felt uncomfortable doing so with their own parents.  How many of us can remember our own mothers doing something similar, I wonder?  Becoming an honorary mother, whether in advice, or simply in affection, to those we attached ourselves to.

Is it, then, unreasonable to suppose, that to Jesus' disciples, particularly those He was closest to, his inner circle of Twelve, Mary became a kind of surrogate mother?

The Acts of the Apostles places her in the upper room with them, following Jesus' ascension.  She would have been there when the Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost, and she would have been a vital part of the early Church.  According to tradition, Mary would have been less than fifty years old at the time of Jesus' ascension.  I don't believe she just sat back and waited to die.  No, she would have held a special place in the early Church, and in the hearts of Jesus' dearest friends--that of a spiritual Mother.


Mother to All the Church

Now we're heading back out of the mists of my speculation and taking a direction where I can give you something concrete to hold on to.  :)  But I think I'll open with logical speculation anyway.

If the Church is a family, and God is our Father, that makes Jesus our Brother, and, in fact, makes all of us, as believers, brothers and sisters.  (Remember that post about saints?)  Most have no objection to this concept.  But ask yourself this:  If the Church is a family, where, in the dynamic that I have just described, is its Mother?  Would any of us really be so foolish as to suggest that a mother is an unnecessary element of a proper family?  And God's family is more than simply proper; it is perfect.  So, surely there must be a mother.  But who is she?

I think we all know what I'm about to say here.  Some are cheering, some are cringing, and others are pondering this truth for the first time.  The Mother of the Church is none other than the Mother of our Lord, the Virgin Mary.  If He is our Brother because we share a Father in God, how could His Mother not be ours as well?

But turn, if you will, to the book of Revelation, chapter 12.  All of it is worth reading, and there's little doubt to be had, even for those of us who are mystified by this particular book of Scripture, that the woman spoken of is Mary, and the child she bears is Jesus.  But, that said, I'd like to call your attention to the final verse, verse 17:
17 And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
That's us, Church.  We are "the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."  

Mary is our Mother, too.  Maybe it's time we stopped ignoring her.


Monday, April 8, 2013

I Will Remember

I've been putting off writing this post.  Not that I've dreaded it for any particular reason, but I'm not sure how to write it and do it justice.  I didn't think, until far too late, of the fact that one of the ladies at my church is a professional photographer, and would have been more than happy to snap a few shots, and so I have no pictures from my Confirmation and First Communion to share with you, except for the ones in my head.

My first confession took place Wednesday after my final prep meeting with Father.  I had not been aware our church (the one in Salem, that is) even had a confessional.  Just never noticed it before.  And I had certainly never notice a line for confession!  Which makes me wonder if I'm just that observant (dripping sarcasm here), or if having a line was a special event in honor of my first confession.  ;)  Nothing like knowing you intend to take up all the time Father has with almost 24 years worth of confessions, only to have to share him with six or seven other people, lol.  As it happened, it didn't take as long as I expected.  I noted later that I probably should have thought my examination of conscience through better, as I went through one (using an app) for married women, and I've been a married woman less than half my life since baptism!  Thinking there were several child-specific sins I probably missed!  Oh, well, did the best I could in good faith, and they're gone now.  :)

My Triduum proved to be completely insane.  Maundy Thursday, I went to Salem to do some laundry at the laundromat (because my apartment has no washer/dryer hookups, and laundry had reached desperation levels), and blew back into town just in time to be about 10 minutes late for Mass--after the fastest stop for gas in the history of driving, because my van advertised 4 miles to empty, and the station would not be open after Mass.  I observed rather than participated in the foot-washing ritual.  Almost wish I had participated; the shot of humility might have done me some good, but I also had on hand two of the squirreliest kids EVER!  Could not believe their behavior that day, not only for Mass, but also for the entire afternoon/evening preceding Mass.  Yikes.  Suffice to say, I was very relieved to just get home that evening, even if it did mean I had to miss Adoration.

Good Friday was crazy busy as well, though mostly in terms of trying desperately to get the house cleaned and a spot cleared in the bedroom for the new shelves I bought Wednesday.  Also ended up finally remembering to check the transmission fluid in the van.  Good thing, too, as I'm pretty sure no transmission fluid on the dipstick is a bad thing.  (And yes, I know you're supposed to check it while the engine is running, for those of you wondering.)  And while I was taking it for a quick post-top-off test spin, I swung into a local resale shop to look for a dresser for the middle boys' bedroom--bought one, too.  Then I rushed into the house, NOT dressed for church, with 30 minutes until time to be there.  Yeah, I'm rocking this thing--not.  Changed, took along a kid who wanted to go.  Good Friday service, veneration of the Cross, then back home to stick some swai fillets in the oven and fix some rice and carrots to go with it.

I hear from friends that Triduum tends to be a trying time, particularly for those entering the Church.  Like Satan feels like he can frazzle us out of it at the last minute--or at least ruin the event for us.  Nice try, is all I can say.  Your efforts were wasted.  But hey, if you're bugging me, maybe you're leaving someone else alone, so bring it on.

Saturday night, I got to bed ridiculously late, after getting all the kids bathed and in bed, myself showered, and Easter baskets put together.  But I was up uncharacteristically early Easter morning. Baked cupcakes for the potluck after Mass, got dressed, got the kids and husband up and dressed.  Still managed to turn up almost late for Mass!

Amazing how many things they forget to tell you. . . when we arrived, my dear friend and sponsor, Marca, was waiting outside to inform me that we were to sit up front--thankfully they had saved us seats, because our tiny church was packed full to bursting!  We hurriedly took our seats, someone passed me a corsage--still not really sure where that came from--and a candle, which I ended up passing off to my oldest son, since I was kind of busy during the candle part of the Mass.  :)  And the magic began.  I will remember all of it, and none of it.  I felt utterly removed from everyone and everything around me.  The smell of the incense, the sound of Alison dropping the thurible (you only thought no one noticed!), the beauty of the palms and the lilies, the return of the music after the long weeks of Lent, the joy of having my husband and children there with me--these are things I will certainly remember.  I'll remember the smell of the chrism, and the nerves at being the center of attention during the recitation of the Creed and profession of faith, and of thinking that surely I screwed up some liturgical etiquette by not bowing or something as I approached the podium to read those words, but the nerves had me, and I wasn't exactly sure what I should do or when.  Hopefully, my dear friends will forgive me my faux pas.  :)  I will also remember feeling as though I could practically see the angels and saints all around the altar, and Mary and Monica waiting to walk beside me.

Then Marcia, kneeling beside me, leaned over and whispered, "You go to Communion first."  O.o  Well that's good information to have!  I'm sure I should probably have already known this, and as much reading as I've done, Father can be forgiven for not seeing the need to mention it.  But somehow, that little bit of information slipped through the cracks!  So I stood, alone.  All eyes on me, again.  (Should I mention that my constant prayer of the morning was, "Please, God, don't let me screw this up."?)  And stepped forward to receive my Lord.  And in that moment, it was just He and I.  As it should be.  I realized after, as I watched the rest file by, that I'd forgotten the Sign of the Cross between the elements, but really, I doubt God was displeased.  I can hardly see Him being the sort of Father who, when His child does something, for the very first time and with every intention of pleasing Him, would chastise her for a small mistake.  He was pleased; I could feel it in my heart.

And I will remember (and, truthfully, after a couple more Masses I can honestly say I continue to feel) a profound sense of gratitude.  Gratitude that Christ would come to me in this way, and give Himself to me.  Gratitude that, unworthy as I am, He counts me worthy, because of His love for me.

I will remember being surrounded by the love and best wishes of these friends who are, now more than ever, a family to me.  I'll remember the beautiful gifts they gave me, and the fun my children had hunting for Easter eggs.  I'll remember Rachel's beautiful eggs, decorated with stickers and glitter and mod podge (I think is the term), and how she taught me that farm eggs actually dye up quite beautifully--I wouldn't have expected that.

I'll remember floating through the day on a cloud of happiness--not altogether unlike my wedding day, but perhaps with a bit more performance anxiety.  :)  The day I got married, I didn't care what went wrong, just so long as I was Mrs. Christopher Duncan at the end of it.  And I'll remember my darling husband amusing the kids for a while in the evening, granting me the rare opportunity to take a nap and recover from all the lost sleep of the night before.  And how my bedroom still smelled of chrism later that night, from it rubbing off on my pillow.

Yes, even without photos (though I still wish I had them to share), I will remember.



Monday, March 25, 2013

Thanks, Mom

This was not intended to be my first mention of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I had great plans for a series of posts explaining her role in the life of the Church and the lives of the faithful.  And that will come.  It will.  But tonight, I have one particular facet of our dear Mother in mind.

In the late second century, St Irenaeus described in his work Against Heresies a parallel between Eve and the Virgin Mary, that  "... the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith."  This became, several centuries later, the inspiration for a painting by Johann George Melchior Schmidtner (c. 1700) known as Mary Untier of Knots, or sometimes Mary Undoer of Knots.  Either is, to the best of my knowledge, correct.


In turn, the painting has sparked a particular devotion to Mary in this capacity, as the untier of the snarled-up mess of our sinful lives.  And in this capacity, I feel a particular warmth and affection toward her, because, you see, she reminds me of my own mother.  I am thirty years old, and still, when I reach the end of a skein of yarn while knitting or crocheting, and what is left has become a snarled and knotted mess, I hand my yarn to my mother.  And she lovingly untangles it, and presents me with a tidy, neatly wound ball.  One would think by now that she would tell me to untangle my own bloody yarn like a big girl, but every time, she takes my tangled heap and fixes it. And so Mary, as Mother, and as undoer of the knots of our lives, speaks to me.  The particular prayer to Mary, Undoer of Knots speaks of the "ribbon of my life," but I fear I will always envision a skein of yarn, that I have tossed around and taken no particular care with, and the loving Mother who gently untangles the knots and winds it into a neat little ball for me.

You may have noticed that I haven't written any posts in the last week or so, and that has been because my life has been busy, and everything worth writing about has been judged too personal for public presentation.  Only my nearest and dearest will completely understand, and that's alright.

Tonight, I just have to say, "Thanks, Mom."  Not only to the mother who untangles my yarn without a single cross word to me, but also to the Mother who untangles the seemingly impossible knots of my life.



Continue to pray for me, Mother.  I know the yarn isn't tidy yet.  But I have confidence that the King will refuse you nothing.  He is, after all, your Son.  :)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Rosary for Pope Francis

I'm back!  Due to a broken laptop cord, I've been unable to blog or properly follow most of the news surrounding the conclave and Pope Francis' election, but I'm now back online, and I'm going to try hammering out some of the posts that have been floating around in my head during that time.  I started this one on my Kindle, but quickly gave up, as for some reason Kindle and Blogger do not get along with each other, and it tries to eat my words as I type them, resulting in me having to try several times to type each word.  Maybe now that my son has rigged up a temporary fix for my power cord, I can finish.  :)

I had the opportunity Wednesday, between class and Mass, to spend bit of time in prayer, so I decided to use it to pray a rosary and dedicate it to our new Holy Father. If you are Catholic, you know that during the season of Lent (which we are currently in, for you non-Catholics), the Sorrowful Mysteries are meditated on daily.   I was a bit torn, to be honest with you.  The Sorrowful Mysteries on such a joyful day?  But, I also could not determine which set might be most appropriate.  So, I stuck with tradition.  And I ended up very grateful for my indecision.

I want to share my reflections with you here.  I realize I have yet to write a post explaining the nature of the rosary.  Non-Catholic friends, try to keep up and feel free to ask questions.  I would do a better job, but my new laptop cord is still in California, and my Kindle is not Blogger-friendly.

The Agony in the Garden

This first meditation focuses on Christ's prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane immediately prior to His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion.  We should also not forget His disappointment in being abandoned by His friends, who he asked to watch and pray with him, but who fell asleep instead.  How often, I have to ask myself, am I caught "sleeping" (literally or figuratively) when I should be praying instead?  Prayer is an important part of the duties of a Pope.  He has the entire Church to pray for--the entire world, in fact.  He must also pray carefully for wisdom to guide the Church well.  Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has retired to a life of prayer, but we should never forget the importance of prayer in the life of the one who now holds the office.  And we should never forget the importance of our prayers, both for the man and for his intentions.  Will we be faithful, or will we be found sleeping?

The Scourging at the Pillar

The second meditation focuses on Christ being bound to a pillar and scourged--history tells us with an instrument called a flagram (hope I spelled that right), which is a whip with multiple "tails."  At the end of each tail is a small piece of iron, stone, or bone.  There is little doubt that the Pope, as head of the Church and Christ's most visible representative on earth, takes a scourging.  People from all corners of the world lash out with spiteful words against him.  Many (as I expected) wasted no time at all labeling Pope Francis hateful, and expressing their disappointment, or even anger, that, once again, the Pope is Catholic.  It has always been so, and so it will always be.  The world hates the Church.  Christ told us to expect it; why then would we be surprised?  What has, since that night, surprised and appalled me is the number of Catholics who have lashed out against the man.  Liberal Catholics find him too conservative (boo-hoo, contraception is still a sin, and women still can't be priests); conservative Catholics find him too liberal.  (How can he disrespect the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by offering it in the vernacular rather than Latin?!?  Can you believe he prayed in Italian?!?)  Oi.  


I have to say, fellow Catholics, I'm disappointed.  Criticism of our Holy Father is supposed to come from without our ranks, not from within.  If you disagree with the man, pray for him, don't slam him to whoever will listen.  Especially when it's been less than 24 hours since his election, and you have no idea how the charism of the Office will affect him.  Do we not believe that this man is ordained to be Christ's representative on Earth?  The Vicar of Christ, we call him.  Take a few seconds to let the implications sink in.  Then get to confession.

The Crowning With Thorns

In the third meditation, Christ is dressed in scarlet robes, a reed placed in His bound hands (a mockery of a scepter), and a crown is fashioned of thorns and placed--probably none too gently--on His head.  The soldiers bow before Him, not in reverence, but in mocking derision, and spit on Him.  Many outside the Catholic Church will mock the trappings of the papal office--the vestments, the mitre, and the tiara (though this last seems to have fallen out of fashion), among others--but it occurs to me that, in its own way, the papal mitre is the Pope's crown of thorns.  It is a symbol of honor and authority, yes, but it also causes suffering in the man who wears it.  From the time he first puts it on, he will be pierced by it.  Most will bear it until the day they die, but I am convinced that even in those rare cases where a Pope sets the mitre aside, the marks it leaves on the soul will always remain.  


Some may argue with me that the crown of thorns was never meant to be a symbol of honor, and was, in fact, intended as the exact opposite.  I submit to you that the cross was intended to become the symbol of His greatest defeat, and instead became the symbol of His victory.  Anywhere this crown is seen, people think of the King of Kings, Jesus, the Christ.  It may have been intended for mockery and scorn by those who fashioned it, but God remade it into a symbol of His great glory.

The Carrying of the Cross

This fourth meditation could be introduced in a number of ways.  The Carrying of the Cross, the Way of the Cross, the Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering) are a few of my favorites.  Here we focus on Christ's journey from Jerusalem to Golgatha.  As was customary, our Lord was given His own cross (though history suggests it was the crossbeam, rather than the entire cross) to carry to the place of His execution.  Consider this for a few moments if you will.  The man is battered, bruised, and bleeding.  He is, by now, barely recognizable.  And a heavy wooden beam (most likely rough-hewn and splintery) is laid on His wounded back, so that He may carry the instrument of His own execution to the place where He will die.  He was arrested the night before.  He has not slept; He has not eaten.  Is it any wonder that three times He stumbles and falls under the weight He carries? And so a man is summoned from the crowd and compelled to carry the cross for Him.  Our Lord stumbled.  Our Lord fell.  Our Lord required help to carry His cross.  Who are we, mere mortals that we are, to assume we can do better?  We will stumble.  We will fall.  We will, at times, need help to bear our crosses.  There is no shame in it; Christ shows us this by His example.  Pope Francis has just been given, and has humbly accepted, the greatest cross a human will ever be asked to carry.  The weight of the world, literally, now rests upon his shoulders.  Because a Pope's responsibility is not just to the Church, but to the World.  When Christ instructed Peter to, "Feed my lambs," He did not mean only those within the fold.  The Pope's responsibility extends far beyond the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.  He must do all he can to bring the Gospel of Christ to every soul on Earth.  And aside from very rare exceptions, he will carry the cross to his death.

The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord

The final meditation is Christ's crucifixion and death.  And there is no Christian on Earth who must, by necessity, die to himself as perfectly as the successor of St. Peter.  He is to be, in a very special way, Christ's representative to His Church on Earth.  In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul wrote, "I am crucified with Christ:  nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:  and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."  These words are obviously a call to all men and women who wish to do as Christ commanded and "take up his cross and follow me," but how much more do they apply to the Vicar of Christ himself?  We should all pray for Pope Francis, that he may perfectly mortify self, so that Christ may perfectly live in him.

Servant of the Servants of God

God bless you, Papa Francis.  May you always be His humble servant.