“Up Hill Both Ways In Two Feet Of Snow”

 It is a right of age, to be able to tell stories of hardship, from days gone by, to the younger generation.  I can remember my parents and grandparents relating to me events of their lives, the depression, losing the herd, outdoor …uuuh pluming, WWII, wringer washers etc.  I can remember my mother’s joy, when she got an automatic washing machine and dryer.  Life has its hardships for every generation.

My experience has been, when people look back, they do so, with an element of pride, about how they endured.  Sometimes, perhaps, even a bit of boasting about their ingenuity or fortitude to obstacles of life.  I guess my observation is that any misfortune is difficult in the moment, but there is much to be learned by it.  Perseverance alone, is a good skill to work on.  

People that I know, who have endured much, seem to have gained a lot of wisdom.  Their suffering, and what they learned from it, changed how they see things forever.  So, I don’t worry about my child “missing out”, because things aren’t the way they used to be. Instead, I try to help him find alternatives to what he used to do.  Trick or Treat will be different, socially distanced, to friends and family only, and safe, but aren’t we lucky to do it at all.  We talk about what is happening in our world, and how we still have it pretty good.  I teach him to accept it and move on, and not whine about what is lost.  I help him see the big picture, and don’t let him wallow in how unfair this is.  Because fair or unfair, it is his/our reality. We have to find the positive  and persevere, bearing it all in humility, and offer up these masks and our present limitations for the glory of God.

…When I was a kid, schools and everything closed, and we had to wear masks everywhere, but we did, and we appreciated the things we could do, and because of it, we learned…

Note:  Did you know that each part of a habit has prayers or sacrifices associated with it that are ever present to the sisters daily. 

Image: Thank you to the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration,  Canton Ohio

One Issue Voters

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Many christians, who want to take the abortion issue out of voting will list the many other concerns that face us in the world today.  Social concerns about racism, immigration, gun control, the poor, education etc, are important, for sure, but do they tip the scales over a basic right to life.  This is the debate.  Those who think that the basic right to life, or pro life issues, outweigh every other issue, are considered “one issue voters”.  Of this, I have been labeled, but I beg to disagree.

I am not a one issue voter.  I do vote for pro-life candidates, because I can’t in good conscience, let my vote promote another death of a soul, unborn or born.  I would argue that abortion isn’t one issue.  We have become an abortion society.  It’s like the frog in a warm pot of water.  It will remain in the pot as the temperature increases, until it is cooked to death, because the change is so gradual that it doesn’t notice.  If you place a frog in hot water, it will immediately hop out.  If we knew how abortion would change our perspective of life in the womb in 1973, would we have been so complacent about the issue.

Conversations about gender and sexual preference have gone as far as having prepubescent children choosing their sexuality and adults discussing how pedophilia is a sexual preference.  Babies can be aborted up until birth, and there is talk about infanticide too.  How have we become a society that can’t see this, for the evil that spawns it.  Abortion is changing us, our moral compass, our souls, and it’s inviting us to turn a blind eye to it.  Abortion isn’t one issue, it is the means of evil that persuades us to ignore the God given right to life.  

Here is my litmus test.  If I have children suffering from every social problem there is, and one child is being put to death, and I have only you to help, and you must choose one situation.  Who do you think I would want you to help?  I would want you to save the life of the soul God created, and I think He would choose the same.

Why Obedience?

My son practices piano every day.  He does it without being reminded now.  In the beginning, I had to direct him to the piano, and at times, it was a struggle to get him to be compliant.  He has come to find much joy in playing it, and has even sought out music to play, in addition to his required lessons.  

My initial thought was that piano would help him improve small motor skills, in an expressive and artful way, something he was having difficulty with in school.  He, of course, didn’t know that.  To him, I was asking him to play piano, when he found more pleasure doing other things.  As a parent, I was trying to make a growth experience something he may at some point enjoy.  I wanted his obedience in this matter, when he could not understand or recognize the merit in the task.

It makes me think of postures at Mass.  We are directed as a church to sit, stand, kneel etc, during certain times of the Mass. Recently our Bishop instructed us to remain standing through the reception of Communion, as an act of unity.  Well, this was not well received by several, because they feel compelled to kneel.  I get that too, it’s what we’ve done for years, decades, and it seemed right to me also, to kneel.  I have to say though, that recently, I’ve come to see things a little differently.

Our country is so polarised politically right now.  We can’t agree on anything. As a matter of fact, if something comes up, opposite points of view are expected.  I think if Democrats and Republicans would agree on something, our nation wouldn’t know how to react.  Is this simple act of unity, as a directive from our Bishop, more important, than the pious act of kneeling during Communion?  I now believe that obedience trumps piety, hands down….and this is why.

When Jesus was found in the Temple, In Luke chapter 2, He said to his parents, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  Of course he would  be in His Father’s house.  This is the greater thing right?…to be in the temple in Jerusalem of all places, praying and teaching.  After all, “all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.”  So what did He do next, this 12 year old, who “astounded” those in the temple with His wisdom?  “But they (his parents) did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.”

Jesus had just spoken to the hearts of so many in the Temple.  May I use the word again, He “astounded” them.  But, Jesus chose obedience.  Jesus chose obedience, over astounding His children in the Temple.  

This is the only story of Jesus in His childhood in the Bible.  The only recorded story of the child Jesus is a lesson in obedience.  It gives me a new perspective of obedience, and I suppose of piety also… Jesus chose obedience, over astounding His children in the Temple.

Into The Desert

Our world has been plunged into an awareness of a danger, of a life threatening body that lurks about us, identified as COVID-19.  In order to avoid this contagion, we have to change our lifestyle, practice “social distancing”, and diligently wash our hands.  COVID-19 has become public enemy number one, and it requires our prudence and compliance to the mandates given us, in order to lovingly protect each other.

In all of this fervor, I found myself missing Lent.  It seems that so much attention has been given to our confinements, that I was missing the salvific journey of Lent.  The scripture “Then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” comes to mind for me.  I need to be a responsible citizen, but a steward of Lent also.  I need the mindset of offering up these sacrifices that have been thrust upon us, with submission to God.

This isolation has given us the occasion to truly embrace simplicity.  Maybe our challenge here is to live this confinement, and learn how God can move us, through this “desert”. I want to capitalize on this unique time in my life, and make it into an opportunity, to perhaps learn something about our Savior that I’ve been distracted from before.

Below are the beautiful lyrics and link to the song “Into The Desert” by Curtis Stephan and Sarah Hart.  I found this song to be a great reflection right now, during this Lent that has been so different from any I’ve known.

Into the Desert

Come, beloved, and rest your mind;

Leave the things of this world behind.

Here I will be your daily bread, all that you need.

Into the desert I will lead; here in the silence my word will speak.

And you will find the peace you seek here in the desert.

Stay, beloved, and lose your fear; there is healing and mercy here.

Here I will be a living stream, all that you need.

From this desert your life will bloom; out of despair is hope renewed.

And from this death you shall arise, arise with me.

A Week of Saints: November 18-24, 2019

Monday, November 18:  Dedication of the Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul

St Peter’s is located in the Vatican City State, surrounded by Rome, Italy.  It’ built on the tomb of St Pater. Constantine built the original structure that stood for more than a thousand years in 319.  It was losing its stability, so Pope Julius II reconstructed it, but it took 200 years for it’s completion. 

St Paul’s Outside the Walls the largest church in Rome, until St Peters was rebuilt.  It is built on the site that St Paul was beheaded.  Until the empire crumbled under “barbarian” invasions, the two churches, although miles apart, were linked by a roofed colonnade of marble columns.

Tuesday, November 19:  St. Agnes of Assisi, religious (1197-1253)

Agnes was St. Clare’s sister, and her first follower. When she left her family for the monastery, they tried o drag her out.  Her body became so heavy that several knights were unsuccessful at moving her.  When her uncle tried to hit her, he was temporarily paralyzed.  Agnes, like her sister was very devoted.  She was sent to be abbess to a group of Benedictine nuns, who wanted to be Poor Clares.  Agnes wanted to be with Clare and the other sisters, and after establishing the monasteries returned to San Damiano, when Clare was dying

“I come, O Lord, unto Thy sanctuary to see the life and food of my soul. As I hope in Thee,”

Wednesday, November 20:  St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, religious (1769-1852)

St Rose learned political skills from her father and love of the poor from her mother in Grenoble, France.  Her prevailing characteristic was her strong will. She entered the convent at 19, and during the French Revolution began taking care of the poor, sick, and children.  She risked her life helping Priests in the underground.  She came to America to be a missionary with several nuns. “In her first decade in America, Mother Duchesne suffered …poor lodging, shortages of food, drinking water, fuel and money, forest fires and blazing chimneys, the vagaries of the Missouri climate, cramped living quarters and the privation of all privacy, and the crude manners of children reared in rough surroundings.” (Louise Callan, R.S.C.J., Philippine Duchesne )

In poor health she got her lifelong wish, at 72, a mission, among the Potawatomi.

“You may dazzle the mind with a thousand brilliant discoveries of natural science; you may open new worlds of knowledge which were never dreamed of before; yet, if you have not developed in the soul of the pupil strong habits of virtue which will sustain her in the struggle of life, you have not educated her, but only put in her hand a powerful instrument of self-destruction”

Patron:  perseverance amid adversity,

Thursday, November 21:  The Presentation Of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mary’s presentation was celebrated in Jerusalem in the sixth century. The Protoevangelium of James tells us that Anna and Joachim offered Mary to God in the Temple when she was three years old. Though it cannot be proven historically, Mary’s presentation emphasizes that the holiness conferred on Mary from the beginning of her life on earth continued through her early childhood and beyond.

Friday, November 22:  St Cecelia, Martyr (3rd century)

Although Cecilia is one of the most famous of the Roman martyrs, there is little known about her. In the late fourth century  a church was named after her, and her feast was celebrated at least in 545. Legend has it that Cecilia was a young high rank Christian betrothed to a Roman and because of her influence he was converted, and martyred. The legend about Cecilia’s death says that after being struck three times on the neck with a sword, she lived for three days, and asked the pope to convert her home into a church. Since the time of the Renaissance she has usually been portrayed with a viola or a small organ.

“Death and hell combine to distract man with a thousand useless cares, and to engage his thoughts with a multitude of imaginary wants.” 

Patron:  musicians, poets

Saturday, November 23: St Columban (543-615)

Columban was one of the greatest of the Irish missionaries. As a young man who was greatly tormented by temptations of the flesh.  After many years of seclusion and prayer, he traveled to Gaul with 12 companion missionaries. They won wide respect for their dedication to the faith and rigors of their lives. Columban established several monasteries. His writings include a treatise on penance and against Arianism, sermons, poetry, and his monastic rule. The Liturgical Feast of Saint Columban is November 23.

“Seek then the highest wisdom, not by arguments in words but by the perfection of your life, not by speech but by the faith that comes from simplicity of heart”

Patron:  motorcyclist 

Sunday November 24:  Feast of Christ The King of the Universe

Pope Pius XI in response to the growing secularism in the West stated how he hoped the feast would impact the laity.

“If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God.”

A Week of Saints

Monday, October 11:  St Martin of Tours, Bishop, martyr (315-397)

A conscientious objector who wanted to be a monk, and one of the first who wasn’t a martyr.  He was born a pagan in Eastern Europe.  He was forced into the military at age 15, and Baptized at 18.  He was ordained an exorcist, and established possibly the first monastery in France.  The people of Tours demanded that he become their bishop. Some of the consecrating bishops thought his rumpled appearance and unkempt hair indicated that he was not dignified enough for the office.  Martin plead for the life of a heretic, and then was accused of the same heresy and was martyred

“Allow me, brothers, to look toward heaven rather than at the earth, so that my spirit may set on the right course when the time comes for me to go on my journey to the Lord.”

Patron:  poverty, alcoholism, beggars, wine maker, tailors, soldiers

Tuesday, November 12:  St. Josaphat, Bishop, martyr (1580?-1623)

Born Joseph Kunsevich in Poland to a noble family.  He was ordained a priest and became a gifted speaker.  He was an advocate for uniting the Orthodox Church with Rome.  Joseph made progress gaining support, but was killed by an Orthodox fanatic.  He was the first saint of the Eastern Church to be canonized by Rome

“You make ambushes for me everywhere, in the streets, on the bridges, on the highways, and in the marketplace. I am here among you as a shepherd and you ought to know that I should be happy to give my life for you. I am ready to die for the holy union, for the supremacy of St. Peter and of his successor the Supreme Pontiff”

Patron: Ukraine

Wednesday, November13:  St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Religious   (1850-1917)

Frances Xavier Cabrini was the first United States citizen to be canonized.She started work at the House of Providence Orphanage in Italy, and made her vows there and took the religious habit.  When the orphanage closed, the Bishop made her Prioress of Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. She traveled with six sisters to New York City, to work with the thousands of Italian immigrants living there.  In 35 years Frances Xavier Cabrini founded 67 institutions dedicated to caring for the poor, the abandoned, the uneducated and the sick. She also organized schools and adult education classes.

“Did a Magdalene, a Paul, a Constantine, an Augustine become mountains of ice after their conversion? Quite the contrary. We should never have had these prodigies of conversion and marvelous holiness if they had not changed the flames of human passion into volcanoes of immense love of God.”

Patron:  Immigrants, hospital administrators

Thursday, November 14:  St Lawrence O’Toole, Archbishop (1125-1180)

St. Lawrence, when ten years old, given, by his father, as a hostage to the king of Leinster, by whom her was treated inhumanely. The king finally handed him over to the Bishopand Abbot. .Upon the death of the Bishop St Lawrence was chosen Abbot of the monastery.  He was made Archbishop of Dublin.  On a trip to England to see King Henry II.  As the archbishop was going to the altar to officiate, a maniac  struck him a violent blow on the head.He was thought mortally wounded, but the Lawrence asked for some water, blessed it, and and washed his wound with it.  The blood was immediately stopped, and the he celebrated Mass.

Patron:  Archdiocese of Dublin

Friday November 15:  St. Albert the Great, Bishop, Doctor (1206-1280)

Albert the Great was a German Dominican, who influenced the Church’s stance toward Aristotelian philosophy brought to Europe by the spread of Islam. He was the eldest son of a powerful and wealthy German. Despite opposition from his family, he entered the Dominican novitiate. His interests prompted him to write a compendium of all knowledge: natural science, logic, rhetoric, mathematics, astronomy, ethics, economics, politics and metaphysics. He was a Dominican provincial and even a bishop of Regensburg for a short time. He defended the mendicant orders and preached the Crusade in Germany and Bohemia.

“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for “God is Charity”

Patron: scientists and philosophers.

Saturday, November 16:  St. Margaret of Scotland, queen (1050?-1093)

Margaret of Scotland was free to be herself. For her, that meant freedom to love God and serve others.  Margaret was the daughter of Princess Agatha of Hungary and the Anglo-Saxon Prince Edward Atheling. She spent much of her youth in the court of her great-uncle, the English king, Edward the Confessor. Her family was shipwrecked off the coast of Scotland. King Malcolm befriended them Because of Malcolm’s love for Margaret, she was able to soften his temper,  and help him become a virtuous king. she promoted arts, tried to correct religious abuses common among priests and lay people. She and Malcolm had six sons and two daughters. Margaret personally supervised their religious instruction and other studies.  Her private life was austere. She had certain times for prayer and reading Scripture. She ate sparingly and slept little in order to have time for devotions. She was always surrounded by beggars in public and never refused them.

Patron:  Scotland

Darkness My Old Friend

I recently watched a movie about St Ignatius of Loyola, where he suffered from the memory of his sinful past.  He accused himself relentlessly over and over, while he heard lies of despair instead of Hope in his head.  He later identified the voice of despair as satan.

My confessor directed me to find were the lies were that satan was speaking to me in my life.  I found sins that I would revisit and feel bad about, or times where I could only see injustice, and not the Light.  Although placed there as temptations to despair, I could admit my cooperation with this way of thinking, and confess it.  

I know that my Father is Love, and satan wants to separate me from the Love of my God.  I think it fair to say that if there is something that makes me feel unloved by God, then the fault is mine.  So I was motivated to revisit these difficult memories and find God in them.  If its a forgiven sin, who am I to hold onto it.  If its an injustice done to me, then I need to look for how God was present to me through that experience.  I need to replace the negative feelings associated with these things, with the Truth. I have to stop listening to the mantra of evil.  I can’t linger in the darkness of satan’s suggestion.  I need to find these little seeds of demise, and quickly bring Light to the darkness.  I need to exercise vigilance.

The movie can be found on “Formed”, and is titled “Ignatius of Loyola”.