Sunday, September 30, 2007

I know, it comes in spurts.

Maybe you'll want to space out yer reading, take an entry a day or every other- then it won't feel like I'm going so long between posts. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Writer's Unblock... (Three new posts)

Today at the family Mass our pastor told the kids about Ebenezer Scrooge. The story aligns pretty perfectly with today's Gospel reading, and he drew some pretty cool connections between the two stories.
What I realized as he was talking was this: the Christmas Carol story demonstrates CONVERSION. Not only did Scrooge hear the lessons and see the evidence, he took those lessons to heart- and then, they CHANGED HIM.
This, in a nutshell, incomplete kind of way, explains why faith formation in the Catholic Church had to (has to) change. We've long busied ourselves with teaching the lessons, but never bothered to teach this life-changing Good News in a way that might, -ahem- change lives.

And on another similar, but unconnected topic: It's a two way street I guess, with teachers working on teaching to the hearts of our students, and with students accepting the Good News and putting it to use in our lives.

This week on our retreat, a friend prayed for "a kick in the ass" to get him to change his life- and another friend said "remember you prayed for that, when you get it!" I can relate to his prayer, because so many times I have already heard the answers to my questions, but ignored those answers that I've begged for. If what you ask for is a kick in the ass, get ready to bend over. But before you bend, why not just listen, and be changed by what you have heard so many times?
Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.
James 1:5-6

Grab the rope

I've been thinking a lot lately about how parents form their children's beliefs. It's come up often in first Eucharist and Reconciliation prep, and now in Baptism prep too. Today at First Reconciliation class I was listening to the teacher tell the parents that they have to be careful that their own fears or negative feelings about rec. won't color their children's feelings about the sacrament. I think parents have to make this choice all the time- a parent who hates going to the dentist must sell it to their kids as a great thing to do, and they do it knowing that having one's teeth cleaned is good for everyone, even if it's uncomfortable and unpleasant.
The parents were reminded that at the First Rec. service, they too will be invited to partake in the Sacrament- and their kids will be watching. It reminded me of a time I went rappelling with a group of teenagers who I worked with at a residential treatment center. I was all for the trip and for all of them facing their fears and slipping down the rock face- the tall, scary rock face. I knew they would walk away from this experience exhilarated, proud of their accomplishments, and braver and better as a person. Yay for the kids!
One by one, the kids said "what about YOU? Are YOU going down the rock face?" and over and over I said "ohhhh you know, I want to make sure ALL of YOU get to go, in case we run out of time. I'm happy to SACRIFICE my turn so that you can have this IMPORTANT experience."
But my kids did not take my crap. They wanted me to try this crazy, dangerous activity, this one that called for new bravery- they wanted me to show them that not only did I believe in its importance for them, but also for me. And of course, they were right.
And now it's time for me to step up to the rope again, because here I am teaching parents how important it is for them to model this Sacrament, and I haven't been in nearly Forever. But, just to make sure everyone else gets a chance, I'll go to another priest. In another parish. Out of town. :)


And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. They said “do not approach the Lord without your parents’ permission. Please take this form home, have it signed, and bring it back to us with proof of Baptism before you may approach the Lord.”

“Further,” they instructed the children. “Inform your parents that we have put the Lord through strict screening and have had his CORI run several times. Assure them that you will never be allowed to be alone with the Lord. Remind them that this is for your own safety, as well as the Lord’s, for you may wrongly accuse him of abuse, and if no one else is around to witness to the Lord’s innocence, then He would be screwed!”

When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these…”

Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.

This really sent the disciples into a tizzy. “Lord,” they said, “Do not touch the children! If anyone misinterprets your affections, they can sue the cloak off of you!” They said “Lord, if you MUST show affection to a child, perhaps you could offer a hand shake, or a high five? At the very most, a side-hug...”

For the disciples reminded Jesus that unless he was willing to do His ministry in a detached, safe way, he would probably be sued and then unable to do ministry at all.

But Jesus continued, “Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it." And the disciples shrugged and said to each other, “well we warned Him! You saw me warn Him! Just to be safe, we should probably fill out an incident report.”

Adapted from Mark 10:13-16

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fall around the manse

It's looking like Fall around the Hill here and I thought I'd snap a few for your viewing pleasure:

One of our morning glories out front.

This is the fruit fly trap which I built, and was roundly mocked for by my brother. But check out the thousands of fruit flies in there!! Effective!!

Our parlor maple, blooming away!

Cosmos. They're much taller in real life than they look on the seed packet!

Our back yard morning glories got tired of climbing and decided to creep instead. Still, pretty!

And finally our pumpkin! Yes, it's still green, and may stay that way for all we know, but it's still very pumpkiny, don't you think? Note the squirrel bite marks on the front.

Happy Fall!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


So, I'm here "near" the Cape (apparently not ON it, I don't know, it depends on whom you ask) on retreat- and we are in quiet time now, writing letters to those who have inspired us. Kyle, of Popple, read us something called the "Charles Schultz Philosophy" and then sent us off to pray and write to/about the people who made a difference to us in some way.
I wrote a letter to Michelle, whose last name I've forgotten- she was on team for my life-changing, world-rocking Search retreat in high school. She was fun and funny and I bonded with her immediately. She seemed to see something in me that I suspected was there, but no one else had ever noticed. She saw good gifts and qualities and blessings in me. It was such a revelation to be recognized by someone older than I, as someone worthy and special. I was in no way an abused or neglected kid, and all adults had been nice to me all my life- but she went beyond that. She SAW me. She saw me as a person of God.
One tearful moment we shared, that changed my world completely- she told me to always listen to my heart, because it was a GOOD heart. That was an amazing statement to me. I never knew, until she showed me, that my heart was something good, or that I could rely on my own gifts for guidance in the world.
I was writing to her that what she gave me was not affirmation, but confirmation- because I didn't know about the gifts that I had in me, she had to point them out to me- to confirm their existence, to witness to them, to me. This seems like a new insight on Catholic Confirmation- maybe it is to be an opportunity for the parish community to confirm for kids that they hold already the gifts of the Holy Spirit- a witnessing to them about their own giftedness... hmmm...
I really believe that it was Michelle who opened the door in my heart to God's call and to ministry, and I have often prayed to be the person who says that thing to a kid, that changes their world like Michelle did mine. I wish we had kept in touch so I could be sure she knew that she had this effect on my life, and through me, on so many lives.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I never answer my phone.

I got a message from a dear friend the other day, and all she said was "WHY DON'T YOU EVER ANSWER YOUR PHONE? WHY OH WHY???" or something along those lines. So, here's my list of reasons why I never answer my phone- you can choose your favorite one......

1) I always forget to move the phone when I move. For instance, right now, I'm in the living room and my phone is in the kitchen, in my purse.
2) It doesn't work in my office, and hey, that's a serious chunk of the day- that's a good excuse! And it's true!!
3) The battery on my phone is near-dead, and I can only talk for about a minute, really, before it dies, unless I am plugged into something. And the only times I'm plugged in are here in the living room (but the phone's not in here right now, remember? Plus it'd be ruuuuude to make Scott stop watching tv so I can hold a phone conversation) or in my car.
4) In the car, I usually have the radio up loud enough that I can't hear it ring. I do usually sit on my phone in case it vibrates but people just don't seem to call me when I'm in the car, very often.
5) I'm just always busy doing something else. Like, when this friend called me the other day, I was out on the porch folding laundry. And my phone was plugged in wayyyyy in here, in the living room. So.
6) My headphone thingy lost the rubbery thingy that fits into my ear. So... you know, dangerous to drive without that.

I think that's basically it. There's your answer(s). Now you can't possibly be mad at me for not answering the phone!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Don't forget to hug your vet!

We took a rare trip to the vet today with our Zarley. She had developed sores/spots all over her backside and belly and was starting to pull out all her ass hair again, after enjoying a nice lush Summer. Zarley is a special cat, which is to say, she's a little...special. She has never quite mastered the litter box, for instance, digging a hole and getting in there and then pooping over the side onto the floor... and she still suckles, leaving holes and big wet spots on my shirt when I hold her. She even got STUCK IN HEAT once, which is another story for another time...
So as I was typing... every year Zarley ocd-like starts to pull out all the hair on her back end. But she's never had spots like this before. So we brought her in to the Danvers Animal Hospital, where they took excellent care of our Pip a few years back. Our doc was absolutely wonderful- gentle and respectful of Zarley and of us- I've visited vets who treated me like an absolute dunce and some who have been rough and gruff with the cats, and I am not a fan. Today's vet gave Zarley lots of love and praised her for her beauty and sweetness, and praised us for raising her up pretty well. Even while they were squeezing her anal glands (!) they were cooing about how beautiful she is, and what big paws she has. I bet they tell all the cats that they're beautiful, but still, a big part of me wants to believe they really meant it.
We generally don't take the cats to the vet unless there's a problem- Zarley hasn't seen a vet in around 5 years now- and we don't keep up on vaccinations, which I imagine makes us very bad pet owners- (sorry Sandi!) but they're indoor cats, and never mix with any other animals, and and good and healthy and "mature" now so I don't think it's necessary to kick out a couple hundred dollars for vaccinations every year. (Plus, I heard they may cause autism.) I always get a little nervous that the vet will judge us badly for that, or for the cats' nails being too long, or... something... Wondervet actually was fine with our vaccination policy and only gave her the legally-required rabies vac. The whole deal cost us a mere $125.50. (I think they threw in the anal squeeze for free!)
Money well spent for our little Zarley-kins, sleeping peacefully now and soon to be spot-free.

(By the way, the diagnosis is Miliary Dermititis... but NOT from fleas and not from mites. Allergies is the guess. A steroid shot should do the trick over the next couple of weeks! Sweet relief!)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Don't say it!! (two new posts)

I know you've been waiting and waiting for me to blog, and I haven't in a while, but here I am. Remember that I generally don't blog when things are going badly... but here's the thing. I haven't blogged in a while because I've been a little afraid to say... I'm HAPPY. Yikes!
My new job is awesome. Wonderful staff, great pastor, great faith formation ministry. Great people! Great Masses!! Even my office is pretty bitchen! Good computer, good salary, I'm even getting better gas mileage with this new commute.
I'm finding that this new happiness, it's kind of uncomfortable... I have been fighting and battling in my job, in this Church, for so long- forever-- now how am I supposed to handle being in such a good place? And, admitting to this happiness... well it's really asking for trouble, isn't it?
Remember that series Once and Again? Near the end of the series, one of the characters is visiting her therapist, and telling her that she's happy. Life is good- her relationship, her kids, her work, life is good and she's happy. She walks out of the office and it's a lovely sunny day, and she's smelling the sweet air, and feeling the sun on her face, and BAM! She gets hit by a car. I keep thinking of that scene, now that I am feeling so happy. I guess I was taught at an early age that the key to happiness is keeping your expectations low. The whole list of Beatitudes is built on this premise. Suffer now, enjoy the payoff later. But I guess we'll see.
Maybe this is my new spiritual challenge- to feel the blessings of God without looking for the cosmic slap- to find and feel contentment... it's a whole 'nother ball game for me. But I'm willing to give it a try!!

hoooo boy

I am sick and tired. And happy!
This was our first weekend of Generations of Faith. GOF is in its 4th year here in the Archdiocese of Boston, in those brave and brilliant and patient parishes who took the chance and made the commitment to a new way of educating and evangelizing the faithful. I've been to GOF information meetings and trainings and workshops with three different parishes who then didn't dare to take the leap. Change is hard, and changing the paradigm for a whole parish is WICKED hard. But right- and worthwhile- and good. (At least in this case!)
Anyway, here I am finally doing the model of faith formation that I have wanted to do forever, and it was so gratifying to be there this weekend and see all the work we've done as a team come together.
Now I'm exhausted. And I have a cold!!!! Dammmmnn!!