Sunday, September 23, 2018

Beauty of the church

Our church is getting a make-over! I'm so very excited for this. The new plans look great and I was excited about them (still am), but when I saw how the church used to look back in the 1930's, I was shocked as to how much they took away with their updated modern look.



I don't mean to be critical of our church, but why on earth did they change it? It had a communion rail, beautiful adornments surrounding the statues, and they took all that away and replaced it all with wood. I don't understand it.

Perhaps they were trying to simplify, but sadly, we are creatures that need the adornment, the majesty and reverence in order to think of heaven--not earth. When I enter a church where everything is so ordinary....where I see felt tapestry instead of satin, or wood instead of stone...maybe I am just vain in this area, but I feel so uninspired. When I go to church, I need to be in a place that is different than the world, where the spiritual things are lifted up, not placed in the ordinary.

I think most people are this way. Look at the cathedral and Basillica and all the people it draws in just by its beauty--both religious and non-religious. They come to be inspired and in awe.

Photo credit Thousand Wonders

True, not every church is meant to be a cathedral but no church should be ordinary either--unless it is called to poverty, like the Franciscan order or something like that. And speaking of the Franciscans, God didn't exactly stop St. Francis when he misunderstood what "build my church" meant, did He? He waited until after he was finished rebuilding the church before God told Him what He meant!

My church is not the only church around here who has stripped itself of it's adornments but most of the churches our here in the west seem to like this. True, it is about the Mass--but all the more reason for more grandeur, I say.

So that's why I'm very happy that our church is bringing back a little of what it lost, for whatever reason that was. They are going to redo the Stations of the Cross, which so badly need it.

Not only will they be repainted, but they will have a backround to help them stand out--not blend in! 

And they're going to redo many other things, like put a little adornment back around the statues and the altar, among other big changes.

I'm so excited for this much-needed inspired make-over! Let the people be inspired and draw closer to God because of it!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Will you leave 'Me too?

I don't want to keep talking about the Church scandals, or the latest about the Pope. It has to be talked about yes, but I see this situation as a burning building. The fire needs to be dealt with, but the hysterics don't help. But don't misunderstand me. Just because I don't want to talk about it, doesn't mean that I don't think about it. Or have been hurt by it. Or am angry about it. Of course I am. But I need to stay away from the angry judgmental words of others--those who get angry at you if you don't have the right words to say, or want to talk of something else. I don't see getting emotional as helping. I just really wish those who are so angry and spread their angry words around would put all that energy into prayer. What fervent prayers would rise to heaven if we would all do this!

But I am bringing it up this one last time. (Unless for whatever reason, I feel like talking about it again.) As I was sitting in church last Sunday, I began to think about when people left Jesus, because he said something very bizarre. He said that "unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, you will not have life within you." (John 6:53) And many of his followers left. Turning to those remaining he asked, "And will you leave me too?" (John 6:67)

I thought about those words as I waited for Mass and thought to myself how fitting and prophetic those words are especially now, with so much scandal and betrayal in the Church. The tragedy has been too much for some, and many have left their faith. There will be more unfolding, and more people will leave. We have to pray for those people. They're are justifiably hurt and angry and probably confused. But I wonder what is the greater tragedy: the sexual abuse and cover up, or the people leaving their faith.

Funny enough, once Mass started, guess what the Gospel reading was? It was a bit of jolt to hear Father read those same words I had running through my mind just a few minutes before.

This is what it comes down to for me. When men fail us, to whom shall we go? Where should we set our sights to? What should we build our house on?

Even if the Catholic Church is only a crumb of what it was before, we're still Catholic. And our faith is as strong as ever if it is in God, not men. We have stopped looking to God for answers and have looked to the world and now we are shaken in our faith. So much that Jesus has to ask us, "Will you leave me too?"

I can only imagine what was running through the minds of Peter and the Twelve when Jesus said these words they didn't understand. Things had suddenly gotten very intense and maybe he was wondering just who this Person was that he had left his family and life for.  But he said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of ever-lasting life." (John 68-69)

But these are the words we should be saying. Not the angry words. It's time to form a plan of reparation and honest evaluation of our own lives of where our prayer life is lacking, where we have gotten lazy or just quit altogether, with making sacrifices and practicing penance.  God will set everything to right. Let's give him back his throne and get on our knees where we belong.

Thank you for letting me express my thoughts, even if you don't agree with them.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

My thoughts on the Church scandals

Our problem is not with God, it's with sin and evil men. People need to keep this in proper perspective.

I hear a lot of angry talk but this gets us nowhere. Good priests are being persecuted, beat up, for just being a priest. Anger only fuels the fire. People need to be careful of their words.

We need to pray more, but no one wants to do this, because prayer requires a complete humbling of self; it means leaving something with God and trusting he will take care of it. It means no one hears our fancy words but God Himself. There will be no "likes" to keep us going. It means admitting to yourself that this is completely out of your hands, and God is your last hope, when he should have been your first.

We need to get back to fasting and sacrificing. This is living a holy life. It's what we've been called to. Now we see what happens when we avoid it for so long. Sin takes over.

We need to pray for our priests. How many times have we been told this over the many years? And finally, now, we understand why. They are under constant persecution from the devil. Priests are the most valuable weapon on earth because they give us the Sacraments--how can we be so negligent in thinking that they don't need our prayers and protection?

Last, as horrible as this is, as sad as it makes me, we are all sinners. We can't get distracted by the gravity of the sin. We need to only pray for the sinner--and pray for ourselves, that we might not get lost in our own weakness.

God owns us--the devil doesn't. "The gates of Hell shall not prevail against you." (Matthew 16:17)

Humility, people. Anger is not behind humility. Just anger gets you doing something about it, but emotional anger cripples you so that you can't move forward.


Friday, August 17, 2018

Oh my God!

Eye catching title, right??  I did that on purpose, ha.

So I just learned about the Italy bridge collapsing. (Yes, just now, I know. I am not really into the news right now because it is so depressing with the Church scandals.)  And what struck me other than the horror of the collapse and so many people dead, were the words that an Italian man kept saying as he recorded the collapse: "Dio Mio!" which means, "Oh my God".  I thought to myself that even in other parts of the world, in different languages, people are always saying His Name. I guess I always knew this but hearing it (the newscaster kept pointing out that he was saying "Oh my God") made me really see it.

"God" is the most spoken word in the world. Everyone is saying His name countless times, whether in vain or not (though sadly, I admit that it mostly in vain.)  I can't even count how many times in passing I hear someone say "oh my God!"

And yet, so many say that Christianity is dying out. This doesn't make sense to me. How can a so-called "movement" or belief of a God who is supposed to be a figment of our imaginations, constantly be spoken about by so many all over the world?? There is no other "god's name" out there spoken as much as the God we know. No one says "Oh my Buddha!"

I've already said this before in another blog post but as I said, it keeps coming back to me. Aside from the Gospels, miracles and other proofs that we have that God is real---this is what makes me believe more than ever. Everyone says His Name. Even those who don't believe, say His Name.  Everyone says His Name!

It's as though we have a tiny seed in each one of us; a fingerprint left behind from God as He created us. As though to remind us that He exists in each one of us. Like He wrote on the wall of our hearts, "God was here." We belong to Him.

I know that it might be argued that because we constantly are hearing the Oh my God phrase so many times a day that this might be why people say it and why it has spread literally across the world. But this explanation doesn't make sense either.  It had to start from somewhere. And it started with His Name. Why God's name?? Why Him, from so many that either hate Him or just ignore Him?  In moments of casualness and moments of tragedy, we always say His name.

So aside from all those wonderful miracles (and I'm glad we have them), this is all I really need as proof of the existence of God. Hearing His name spoken so many times from everyone is difficult to hear sometimes (I try to make up for it by saying, "Praise be the Name of Jesus Christ!")  but I can't help thinking to myself, "You see?? You do need Him! Somewhere deep inside, there is a place in you that knows you need Him. You say His Name over and over, whether in casual in conversation or not. You do need Him--you just don't know it yet."

"....that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, in heaven and under the earth..." 
(Philippians 2:10)

Friday, August 3, 2018

How to grow a mustard seed

When I was in adoration yesterday, I brought all my worries and concerns to God as I usually do. They have really piled up lately, as one of my big anxieties is school starting again. Especially adding in a third school--high school. I don't feel ready for school this year, not in the mind set and not ready to start the year with all the stress if brings. It doesn't matter what school we go to, there is always stress and worry.

But after praying about it for a while, and feeling some consolation, I again circled back through all my anxieties. And then I got this distinctive thought that this was not pleasing to God that I would worry so much, because I should trust Him. Yes, I should, and yet I went right back to my worrying again today.

Today I received some emails from school for "save the date" stuff and school preparation. And as my calendar began to fill up, I also remembered that Lucy is getting her braces on on the day of Open House, which will not be fun (three different Open Houses in one day, plus a miserable child who will probably have a sore mouth!) And the thought of her braces reminded me of her dentist appointment next week to get her three teeth pulled in preparation for her braces and my stomach tightened even more, because I am dreading seeing her pretty teeth full of gaps (though temporary) and putting her in that agony right before school.  And thinking of next week reminded me that we're supposed to be shopping  for a new van and I still don't know how it will all work with bringing all the kids along.
And then the butterflies and palpitations started again, and then the next thing I know, I feel sick to my stomach and close to tears.

But then as I stepped over Ace, who was sleeping on the floor, I remembered that God had answered my prayer of healing him. Ace had pulled his ACL and the vet wanted us to schedule surgery for him. A surgery that we couldn't afford ($8,000). Instead, we opted to let him heal on his own but we were warned that it would take about 6-8 month for complete healing.

It was difficult seeing Ace in pain so we prayed for his healing and now, only a week later, Ace only walks with a slight limp, whereas before, he couldn't walk more than a few steps. It might be that the vet was wrong and he only pulled a muscle but I still consider it an answered prayer since Ace is doing so much better and we now have the weighty problem of surgery solved.

And then I remembered how God had also taken care of us when our van broke down, and how He let it happen at my mom's house, when it could have happened on our road trip from WI. We could have been stranded on the highway for hours. God took care of us then too.

So it made me wonder why I have such a hard time trusting Him; He has taken care of us even at times we didn't think to call on Him. Why couldn't I just leave everything to Him? Why was it so hard to trust?

The answer that came to mind automatically was simple and honest: "Because I can't see You. I can't hear You. I can't touch You. Sometimes I can't even feel You. How do I really know You are there? How can I leave such difficult problems to You when it's so hard to believe? How do I know You will really take care of it? How do I know You are real?"

It's the first time I've been that honest with myself of my struggle to believe. And yet, even though I have so many logical reasons to doubt, I do believe.

In my spare time, I like to watch tornado videos on YouTube, even though tornadoes scare me to death. I think of it as therapy or something, helping me get over my fear of storms. Anyway, in the comment section, these videos never fail to have someone commenting about God. There is usually a person for Him and a person against Him. The person against Him is usually an atheist trying to convince the Christians that there is no God and the tornadoes and destruction are proof of that.  And of course, the Christians speak up, as they should, in defense of Him. Though it sometimes feels like a losing battle,  I have joined other commenters that God exists and is real. I have proven my faith in Him over and over again.

But at this time when I was so honestly looking at my lack of faith in God, I couldn't help wondering how I was different from these atheists. Yet, I did believe, I did have faith, though maybe it was small. That was the difference. The atheists did not believe at all. That is what a person who has no faith looks like. It scared me a little, because I don't want to fall into that road. I did believe, I do believe, I can take consolation in that.

All of this led me to my original question: If I do believe in God, as I say to myself and to those atheists, then why do I struggle so much to trust Him?

And just as before, with those very honest thoughts of weakness, I also suddenly realized that my struggle to believe is actually an act of trust. Every prayer that we pray, every problem that we bring to Him, is an act of trust. Choosing to believe even though we can't see Him, we can't hear Him, we can't touch Him, we can't feel Him. We could give up right here and right now, agree with those atheists that God is just a fairy in the sky. But we don't. This mustard seed of faith that we have, grows with every struggle that we have, every time we still believe even when it goes against human reason.

I believe that sometimes, a struggle to believe is part of the act of faith and trust. It goes against our human nature to believe in something "not real" to our senses. For the first time, I could understand why atheists think we crazy Christians are relying solely on our imaginations to believe in God. We are crazy! What we proclaim to be true is bizarre and totally crazy. And yet, not for a second can I believe that it isn't true. I know there is a God and I know that He loves us. But that isn't my act of trust.

My act of trust is leaving my problems with God and waiting for His answer, believing that the outcome to be for my own good, even if it causes me some suffering. Every time we pray, this is an act of trust. Sometimes this is a struggle. I don't always get a sense of peace of "everything will be alright". Sometimes my trust is challenged and I find myself wondering, "will everything be alright???"
And, "how will it be alright??" My question on "how" always reminds me that it is because of God, that it will be ok. I don't know how He will do it, but He will make it ok. Every time I look back on a prayer of the impossible--He somehow made it possible. He makes a tragedy into something good.

What I struggle with is leaving the problem with God and not continuing the worry. "My daughter, this is not pleasing to Me" is what popped into my head in adoration when I went through my list of worries again, after having already prayed about them. God knows we struggle with belief, but He doesn't want us to intentionally keep worrying right after we said we trust Him. This is intentionally choosing to not trust--insisting on sticking our finger in the wound for a little proof and human consolation. But Jesus said, "Blessed are they who have not seen, but believe." (John 20:29) We have to live the crazy life out here, believing in what we can't see, but knowing in our hearts what is real.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Noonday Devil

School starts August 29th or 28th (I can't remember) and so it feels like it's right around the corner. I'm back to worrying and stressing about it, though not quite as bad as last year or the year before. Somewhere along the way, I accepted that my kids are going to suffer at times, and though it's painful to watch, I have the consolation knowing that the suffering is for their own good. At least, this is what the spiritual side of me says. The neurotic side of me just obsesses and worries that they are suffering.

Lately, I'm dealing with the Noonday Devil, or acedia. I am tired nearly all the time, taking sometimes two naps a day, which is unusual for me. It's been so bad that I've made an appointment to check my iron levels.

Along with the acedia, I am also unmotivated. Those dishes. That laundry. Those kids. Those weeds. Nothing is appealing, everything looks like so much work. And when I force myself to do the tasks that have to be done, it is with dragging feet which usually lead me back to bed. I find myself on Facebook too often, so  much that I'm bored by it, and yet I keep going on.

This Noonday Devil has even bored me of my TV time, which I usually watch one show during the day. I am so tired of screens. The screen on the TV, phones, Kindles, laptops. And yet, I feel myself drawn to them.

The one good thing of all this boredom is that it got me looking for relief in doing something different.  And that something different, was instead of watching a show or going on Facebook, to have some prayer time and read a spiritual book (a real book with real pages--not screens!) I had no sooner read about three pages when I fell asleep. But when I woke up, I didn't feel guilty or like I had wasted time. I felt refreshed, both in body and soul. I needed a rest for whatever reason, and reading had relaxed me enough to let me sleep. And when I fell asleep, it was thinking of spiritual matters, not trivial things.

My prayer time each day is short--only five minutes, as it is so hard for me to get into. Most of the time, I am doing spiritual reading. But I feel a lot of peace and even a nod of approval from God that I'm on the right track. I don't know how much longer I will struggle with this acedia, if it is self-punishment or something from the devil, but I know to fight it with prayer. (And rest!) And then, get back to work.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Poor Souls, our greatest friends

This is the first time in nearly three months, that we haven't had a dog here. It feels strange....quiet...and freeing! It's nice to have our house back again and to turn our attention to other things that have been neglected.

Technically, Duke was supposed to be with us another week, but he went home on Tuesday. His owners decided to give him up. While this was a hard decision, I have no doubt that it was the right decision. I haven't felt so much turmoil over such a situation before. The couple had a six year old son with another on the way, and this dog was fearful and dominant over children.

Having Duke for the one week that he was here was probably the most stressful week that I've had in a long time. I had to constantly protect the kids. And any time he went after the kids, I had to reprimand him by putting him on the floor. Sorry positive reinforcement people, sometimes there's no other way!

Duke was always on a leash and any time the kids passed by, I had to have them make a wide circle to bypass him so he wouldn't lunge at him. Working in baby steps was a key here and it seemed to be working. But every so often, he would go after the kids with no warning.

There was one time when I was talking to the kids about Duke. They were in the living room, and I was in the foyer, holding onto Duke with the leash. Anna crossed over to sit with me on the bench and I thought nothing of it, since I was busy talking. All of a sudden, Duke lunged out at Anna and without even thinking, I blocked him with my fist. Imagine this in slow motion: Anna comes to sit with me. Duke sees Anna "too close." Duke launches for Anna, opening his mouth and aiming for her face. I block her, putting my fist out in front of her face. Duke's mouth encloses around my entire fist. This would have been Anna's face.

You might be wondering why I didn't send Duke home that very day. Well, so many reasons. Reasons of obligation; wanting to give Duke a chance, wanting to give training a chance, wanting to give his owners some hope. It was only his second day with us and I didn't want to send him home without even working on him.

He got better when we took things slow with the kids. We even got to the point where I could walk Duke on one leash and Anna holding the other leash. In some ways, he got used to the kids. But the unpredictable dominance was very hard and I constantly had to watch him.

But then one day he bit me. Me, who he had bonded with and trusted. It was just one of those moments when he was in one of his unpredictable moods. He was licking a sore and when I went to inspect the sore (he allowed me to do this before with no problem), he bit me. My hands were bruised and a bit swollen after the bite but it didn't break the skin. However, that was only because he used to chew on metal in his previous home, out of pure boredom, and ground down his teeth to the point where they were flattened. I'm sure that if he had normal teeth, he would have broken the skin.

That day was a hard day for me, because we had a week to go with Duke, and I didn't see how I could tell his owners with a clear conscious that he was "safe" for their six year old and soon to be born baby. I was sure if they were very good with leadership, disciplined him for every lunge, gave him lots of exercise, and kept him on a leash, then it could work. But that was no way to live for either of them. Duke was unhappy in this family and the family was scared of Duke. And yet, they had so much hope that he could be rehabilitated.

I know the answer seems so obvious, but when you are wrapped in a problem and people are putting their hope in you, it's hard to let them down. It's hard to say, "I'm sorry, but I can't train your dog. No one can train your dog. You need to give your dog up."

So I went where I usually go when I'm weighted down with problems. I went to the graveyard to pray to my friends.

The graveyard is not just a graveyard to me, it is the place were all those who died are now saints. To me, other than church, it is holy ground. You can't be closer to the saints than in a graveyard. And these holy souls are so willing to help us with our problems. They have been there, living ordinary lives just like us, and now know what they could have done differently and want to help us avoid mistakes like they did. In return, they hope and ask for our prayers. So, when I have a problem, I go to the graveyard to make a "deal" to the holy souls that I will pray a rosary for their release, if they will pray for my intention.

As a "down payment", I prayed one decade of the rosary right there in the graveyard,  and then proceeded to tell them my problem about Duke. I had decided that I had to be upfront with the owners and let them know I would still finish training with Duke, but that I didn't feel he would ever be safe with their son and baby. Duke had problems--lots of problems. And yet, he was a good dog that never had a chance. He had been neglected and ignored and mistreated (not by his current owners), and unfortunately, all of this took a toll on him mentally. Duke was not a family dog anymore; he could only be a one-man dog, living in a house with a yard, not in an apartment with little children.

But it would take courage to do this which I didn't feel I had. And so I asked that the Holy Souls find a way for me to do this; to find a solution for Duke. I wasn't sure what that answer was. I wasn't sure what the outcome for Duke or his family would be. I wasn't sure if they were going to take him home and then weeks later, tell me that he bit their son and that somehow, I would be held responsible for it. I wasn't sure what to do and I felt in over my head.

I went home and decided to make a video of Duke, explaining what happened with Duke biting me, what set him off, and that his unpredictability continued to be a factor. I told them that he was definitely trainable and that I was willing to finish the training if they wanted me to, but that I was almost 100% that he would go right back to his old habits as soon as he got home since apartment life was not what he needed right now. I explained that he needed open yards where he could sit outside and relax, openness where he didn't feel trapped. I planned to send the video later that night as I always did, and prayed that his owners would receive the news with an open mind.

And then, only a few hours later, I got an unexpected email from the husband who said that he and his wife and been talking about Duke, and decided that they would rehome him. They asked me to keep Duke to the end of the of the week as planned, while they looked for a new home for him as they didn't want him in a shelter, where he would most likely get worse or maybe even be put down.

I had never even sent the video.

For sure I felt certain that this unexpected turn of event was due to my friends, the Holy Souls, who interceded for me. I was sad for Duke but so relieved. I had no doubt that his owners made the right choice. I had temper down the relief I felt in my email when I assured the owners that they were doing the right thing.

I told my sister who called later about the experience with Duke and the Holy Souls. I told her that we were going to keep Duke for a few more days while we waited for his owners to find him a home.
"What he needs is a man," I told her. "He does best with men. They have a natural authority about them, and he's never growled or bitten Dennis or his owner."

"You should pray to the Holy Souls for a man to adopt him, then!" My sister encouraged me. "A man who has a big yard so Duke will get the space that he needs."

I wasn't sure I could push my luck with the holy souls....could I? I had to remind myself that they are not like us in this way; they don't have limits on what they will do for you, as long as it coincides with the will of God.

So I prayed again to the Holy Souls, asking for again another favor. That Duke may be adopted by a man with a big yard for Duke to play in. I didn't want him to be rehomed in a rescue, by a well-meaning woman who would coddle him and then he would eventually bite, only to be transferred from rescue to rescue. But I was pretty sure that a rescue was the route his owners would take.

I shouldn't have been surprised when I got another email from his owners the next day, saying that they found a place for Duke, and they would come and get him the following morning. Again, I felt relief but some sadness for Duke. I hoped wherever he was going, he would have a chance for a happy life. But at the same time, I would be so happy to let my kids wander around the house again, without worrying about them being bit.

It wasn't until they picked up Duke that I dared to ask where he would be placed. And I couldn't believe their answer, though I shouldn't have been so surprised: He would go to live with a man who worked at the shelter where Duke was adopted--but live with him in his own home, where he had a house and a yard for Duke to run and play--and in the meantime, work with Duke to get him rehabilitated again. A single man in a house with a yard.

It was hard suppressing the rush of joy that I felt and said enthusiastically, "That's great!" Then I said a little more calmly, "He would do best with a man, I've been hoping all along that he would be placed with one."

And so, Duke now lives with a man in a much less stressful environment, where he can sit in a yard and smell the air, be free from children, and get the leadership that he's looking for.  And Duke's former owners have forced themselves to move on, knowing that they did the best they could for Duke, and knowing he is placed in a good home. And believe it or not, they are already looking for another dog. Because they so want to give their six year old a dog who will love him and be gentle with him. They gave me the good news today that they will be fostering a Lab/Golden who has already grown up with both children and babies! Now how's that for a happy ending?!