Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tortoise and Hare

The other day after I had finished my first glass of iced coffee, I was making breakfast for Scott, and he asked if I wanted some more. I said "sure, I'll have some." He filled my glass to the brim. To Scott, "some" can very easily mean "all." It got me thinking about the two of us, and how different we are in some ways.
Scott is impetuous. He gets an idea in his head and just goes ahead and starts. I am more inclined to wait and let things develop, make sure things are set, get things ready. He just goes. When I need a new car (or anything new, really) I do research, comparison shop, check the finances, read customer reviews... he gets to shopping. When I get in a pool, it is an inch at a time. He dives.
Well, you get the picture.
Over the years (8 to be exact, this Tuesday) we have learned a lot from each other. He has learned how to slow himself down, and doesn't spend like he used to. On the other hand, I have learned to be a bit more free. It's only in the last year that I realized that I could indeed buy two cartons of milk, or two dozen eggs, or whatever, rather than buying one, using it up, and then going to the store for more. I don't know why it feels so decadent to me to buy two cartons of milk, but there you go.
We are indeed good for each other. He can get me up and moving and I can slow him down. The other day he said to me "we are a good team." He's right.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Moment of Silence, please!!

Today as we tooled around the North Shore on a daytrip celebrating Memorial Day, we were listening to the Red Sox game on the radio. At 3:00 they announced that they would have a moment of silence for our veterans, and then immediately started playing a song. That inspired us to write our own song. Here are the lyrics, you'll have to insert your own tune:

This is a song about a moment of silence, a moment of silence, a moment of silence!
A moment of silence is what we'd be having, if we weren't singing this song!

I think we have come up with something truly moving that will improve all moments of silence from now and on through history. Everybody sing!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I am Catholic.

I grew up in southern-central Maine, the youngest of 5 children in a solidly Catholic family. We went to Mass every Sunday (I tell people now that we could only miss Mass if we were vomiting or bleeding, and could produce evidence of such) and Holy Day, went to the parish suppers, belonged to the church's credit union, volunteered for the Christmas fair, and of course attended CCD and then Youth Group. I remember not knowing what religion most of my friends were, unless they attended my church, or unless they were Baptist, because the Baptist ones were always talking about being Christians.
While we were a devotional family, doing our Advent wreath every Saturday night before Christmas and eschewing meat on Fridays of Lent, I would say we weren't a particularly spiritual family. Our family prayer life was basically the recitation of Grace before dinner, and that was said at top-speed- I remember realizing that there were in fact actual words to that prayer- up until then it had been sort of a blur of syllables, like the ellemenopy section in the alphabet. But never did I hear anyone offer to pray for another, for instance. I remember one night my Grandmother was visiting, sleeping in the other bed in my room, and in the dark I told her I couldn't sleep. She said "why don't you say your Rosary?" and was horrified to learn that I didn't know how. Of all the many sets of Rosary beads I have now, the one given me by my Grandmother, allegedly blessed by a pope, is the one that I most treasure.
It was, then, not through my family directly but because we Talbots were habitual church-goers that I found my real faith. As teenagers, we were invited to attend retreats, and I followed my siblings first to a 9/10 grade retreat called Gift, then to a 11/12th grade retreat called Search. I think God opened my heart through Gift and then filled it to overflowing at Search. At Gift, I learned that I have gifts and that God loves me. At Search, I learned that God has a plan for me, and it was here and through other transformational Catholic activities that I received what I was sure was a calling from God, to Youth Ministry.
Now I have been in professional ministry in the Catholic Church for 14 years, and never would have guessed when I started that I would be where I am now, working primarily with adults and studying for a Master's Degree in Religious Education. The Church, the local Church, has changed so much, and I have grown with it and because of it- often painfully.
I was so stunned at the sex-abuse scandal. I remember at a Youth Ministers' meeting just after it had started in earnest, praying against the persecutors who were accusing the Church of horrible things. Now I know that they weren't so much persecutors as liberators. I remember pulling my car over to the side of the road more than once when hearing the news was more than I could bear and drive safely at the same time. I remember reading reports in the paper, and getting phone calls, about priests I knew. I remember the very real fear in not knowing who to trust, who to believe. It was a time when I realized that anyone could use the awesome power of fear- any call to any rectory with any accusation (no confirming evidence was necessary) could have a priest removed from his parish overnight, and exposed in the daily papers the next day.
It was a frightening time for me, who had devoted my whole life to serving the young of a Church which had spent many years abusing them. Now, my faith and my calling were in question. Suddenly teachings that I had disagreed with out-of-hand, teachings that I had overlooked as simply wrong, nonsense- teachings that I had avoided passing on, even in my ministry where I was paid to do so, became more important to really look at. I wondered if my credibility as a minister of God was in question if I continued to work for this Church, so full of evil.
At one point, I visited the Episcopalian Priest in town, who acknowledged my crisis of faith and gave me some guidance. A few days later, my lawn was struck my lightning. I was away from home at the time, so I didn't consider it altogether a direct message from God, but still... I think I'd probably be a pretty great pastor, and I think the Church would probably be improved by female leaders- at the same time I know that the local Church runs greatly on the backs and hands and feet of women, in partnership (or in direct opposition to) male leaders. It doesn't feel like a calling I've been given, at least not now. I am in a good place, a place where my gifts and talents are being used to glorify God, right now. I haven't always been.
My faith has been saved over and over again. At one point I heard a speaker at a Youth Ministry conference speak about those who are called to be Prophets. It was like hearing a diagnosis of a long-suffered, unnamed disease. He said that prophets can't help but be prophets- but that they should remember that historically, prophets are ultimately either listened to, or killed. I began to understand why I seemed constantly to be butting heads with church leaders who refused to focus on the Mission, who cared more about their own glorification than the glory of God, who worried more about their financial audits than the care of the poor, the young, the old, the needy in their parishes.
Now I work at a parish that is everything I've dreamed of- the pastor is intelligent, engaged, excited and happy to be a priest. He says and believes words like "conversion," "evangelization," and "discipleship." He reads articles and books about ministry, he knows his theology, he cares about people, he loves being Catholic, he does not live in fear of the Hierarchy, even as he respects it. These, I am sure, sound like no-brainer qualifications for a pastor, but in fact they are quite rare.
The staff at this parish is engaged, knows the people of the Church, is constantly trying to grow in personal faith and in professionalism. We have fun together, we respect each other. We laugh a lot. The people here are gracious and faith-filled. They are friendly and welcoming. They want to know more. They show up. They praise and give feedback all the time. It is a holy place, and I know, a spiritual retreat that God has sent me to, in order to keep me sane and to keep me Catholic. So far, so good- but I know this can't, being the Catholic Church, last forever. Someday I will be sent back out into battle. I am trying to Be Here Now.
My husband has the most pure and child-like (but not childish) faith of anyone I've ever known. He quiets my panicked fears with surety. He digs in to discuss our doubts (he has them too), he prays for me, he prays grace conspicuously at restaurant tables, he reminded me that God was indeed here with us, during our lowest points. Our marriage is truly a spiritual union, and a Catholic one at that.
I remember going to Rome for World Youth Day in 2000. I marveled at the architecture, the Catholicism pulsing through the air, the bells and smells, all so exotic but so personal and familiar to me. I remember thinking "ahhh- so here is my ethnicity!" I grew up with very little palpable connection to what I call "all the white peoples of the world" with whom I share ancestors. No traditional ethnic foods, songs, dress for me. But in Rome I found my true ancestry. I am Catholic.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Peace be with you. There, I said it.

Today was the day of prayer for religious-ed types at a beautiful convent/nursing home in Ipswich, sponsored by the Archdiocese. Last year's was great, with a wonderful speaker who spoke to us like the professional professionals that we are. Oh and it was at Gonzaga retreat house in Gloucester, overlooking a rocky ocean shore. Ahhh.
This year's was, as I said, at a lovely convent/nursing home, with lush green lawns and ticks, we were warned, and turkeys that would attack us, I guess. I dunno. The speaker, too, was lovely, but not life-altering. Too bad, really.
ANYWAY, the point of my story is that our staff was there, our wonderful wonderful staff, and a bunch of other people. My former staff was there from my former parish, including so many great and wonderful people who had made my time there good. But also, my replacement was there, and the person who had been my supervisor... I felt my blood pressure spike a bit when she walked in, old resentments and un-expressed tongue lashings fresh again. It was, like I've written before here, like being at an ex-boyfriend's family wedding. SO good to see some people, so tense seeing that ex.
But then we went to Mass, and I ended up next to her. I knew what was coming.
I read (and have taught, so I hope it's true) that the sign of peace at Mass is really about making peace before Communion. It's to remind us of this scripture, and so, when we turn and shake hands or meet eyes with the people around us, we're supposed to be making sure we've forgiven and have been forgiven by the other members of our faith community.
And there I was, next to the woman who really did not help me in my time of need- who, I felt, had betrayed me, who I just really don't like, darnit. I've prayed about it, worked on it, let it go and caught it back again.
I pulled myself together and did a quick examination of conscience, and worked myself up to a stage of forgiveness that would allow me to shake hands with her, look her in the eye and wish her peace. Because, you know, I do wish her peace. I think one reason she was was so disappointing to me as a supervisor and a co-worker is related to her having a real lack of courage, and that must be a pretty un-peaceful way to be. Think that's good enough for Communion? Link

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I know, I know, I go from righteous indignation to cat-ridiculousness. Such is the blog. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Anyone else have a problem with this?

Check it out, give it a listen, and then comment- D. Scott Miller's planning to forward our thoughts on to the Catholic Channel. Hey, maybe you think it's a riot, I don't know- but let your opinions be heard!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Shepherd Sunday thoughts, only a few weeks late...

I've heard a lot of different versions of Good Shepherd Sunday homilies, and most of them talk about how stupid sheep are (not the best place to start when you're preaching TO the sheep! Still, it's true, my shepherd-friend will concur, I believe. Sandi's dad used to say something like "the IQ of one sheep is 10. The combined IQ of 10 sheep is 5." This I have found also to be applicable to middle school boys. But I digress). 
But if I were going to do a homily on Shepherd Sunday, I would tell this story:
I grew up in Maine, yes, and did have a dear friend in high school who raised and showed sheep. I was lucky to be invited to travel and help her with some shows, and had a blast doing it. We wore tan pants (so as to make the sheep look whiter) and blucher mocs (so as to easily scrape the poop off the smooth soles) and tickled the sheep's bellies (so as to make them stand up straighter (but not too much, or they'd hunch, just like we would with too much tickling). I learned a lot. 
One thing I learned was a great model of community and youth ministry. We were at the Big E fairgrounds in Springfield MA, and between our turns we watched the Border Cheviots compete.  I remember the name because Sandi called them "Border Idiots." They are a bouncy breed, and if you want to know what the word "gambol" means, you can see it demonstrated by a Cheviot. 
At one point, one of the Cheviots got loose from its handler. Here is where I witnessed this beautiful image. As the sheep bounced around the pen, impossible to catch, I saw people rise from their seats all around the ring. People from all sides stood slowly, and began to step toward the bouncing sheep. Soon I could see that they were forming a ring around the bouncy devil, slowly closing in on her. Finally the circle closed in around the sheep and someone got ahold of her and returned her to her rightful spot. Satisfied, everyone else went back to their seats for the rest of the festivities. 
I have come to see that this was a great example for a church community. When that sheep was bouncing around, out of control, everyone was ready to help- the owner of the sheep didn't even have to ask, and no one demanded thanks. Everyone cared enough to do their part. Together, they did what one person, or a few people, could never do. And that circle of concern... well, that seems, still, so beautiful to me. Surrounding one in need with a circle of care is just what we should be doing for each other- and especially, I think, for the youngest of us, so often bounding and bouncing out of control. I dream of a church that responds this way. 

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


A week ago Saturday, my sisters came by to visit me. They pulled in the driveway in the early afternoon, and we spent some time together on the porch. It was a lovely day but I was feeling kinda groggy with a cold and was all wacky on cold medicine at the time... before long, we had to get ready for work and they headed toward home. It was about that time that I realized they'd come to SEE ME. For some reason I had thought they were out on a day trip and were swinging by because they were in the neighborhood- but they had really come down to see me, and Scott! I felt kind of embarrassed- I was grubby and not very effervescent, had no food to serve, and we were even out of toilet paper, for crying out loud!
So I invited them back down this past Saturday for a do-over. They graciously claimed to have been on cold medicine the week before as well, and brought some toilet paper just in case. We had a great dinner, soaked up some sun, laughed a lot, and ended the night around the fire pit. It was a really nice night, with just a bit of a nip, a great red sox game on the radio, good laughs, and no mosquitoes. Welcome, Summer (or at least Spring!) and here's to many many more nights by the fire, on the porch, with great friends.