The Sacrament Electric

Today is a big day in the Coffeehouse.  Little Man is making his first confession tonight.  Or, to put it officially: tonight he receives the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Now, this is sometimes one of those divisive issues: that whole “Why bother with going to confession?” question.  Well, to that and to start an answer, I offer this perspective:

It’s true, in general our sins are always the same, but we clean our house, our room, at least every week, although the dirt is always the same.

Confession is necessary only in the case of grave sin. But it is very useful to go to confession regularly to cultivate cleanliness and beauty of soul, and to mature little by little in life.

Pope Benedict XVI
h/t to Julie at Happy Catholic
I’ve written about how much I have grown to love confession, here.   I didn’t use to love it.  And honestly, for a time in my life, I didn’t fool with it much.  That was sheer guilty fear, that.  Go read this post, you’ll see why I left it aside for a good while and how I came back to it. But again, the issue is with the need to go to and confess, to a real life sitting and maybe judging person.  Yikes! Why bother? I mean, you can pray and ask for forgiveness for your sins to Christ alone, inside your own heart, right?
Well,  yes.  But, the healing that comes from the actual grace of that sacrament is, simply put, electric.  Sometimes electric complete with the lit up ZING of it all.  Sometimes electric in the quieter sense of a warm light coming back on to chase away the dark.
But the actual, real, truth of this sacrament is that it’s another quietly radical event in our jaded world, playing out in the quiet corners of our churches and hearts.  It’s radical and true, it’s biblical: John 20:21-23.  Go see, I’ll wait.  This sacrament, the absolution received, gives us real strength and Grace to go out and try to do better.  What’s not to love about that? Who doesn’t need or want that?? I don’t know.
Some might think a second grader is too young for such a hefty sacrament, such a possibly scary sacrament.  He’s seven, almost eight.  But I disagree.  My son, my little man, he is old enough now to know the difference between right and wrong, between his selfish acts and his charitable ones.  He’s old enough to say he messed up, aloud, and to bow his head and say, “I’m sorry. Forgive me.”  He’s old enough to repair relationships that have been dinged.  And he’s old enough to understand how to stand up and step out and try again with new resolve.  Even if, especially at his age, it’s little things.  Even those little things, they make a difference.  They can chip away at relationships and our sense of self.  And trying to do the right thing, even in the little moments…?  Well, that’s how you can change the world.
And that, that knowledge of the power or reconciliation, of forgiveness, of faithfulness and repair…that’s a mighty strength.  An awesome gift.  Please keep my little guy in your prayers today, I’m proud of him and grateful for this boy and this gift of grace.

Advent is here! Happy New Year!

It’s the first day of Advent, which means of course that it’s the first day of the new year – the new liturgical year, I mean.

So, it’s an exciting day, liturgically speaking!  Not quite the kind accompanied by fireworks and excessive alcohol….better.

We prayed with the new missal at Mass today…and, frankly, I was kinda expecting a really bumbling stumbling through it.  I thought it was sound and feel all awkward and even a little weird.  You know, old dog, new tricks and all…me.  But it wasn’t! It didn’t feel so at all.  It was actually  kind of lovely.  It is a good new change, to more sacred language.  Also, there was just a great attention, and intention to the prayers, mine at least, probably  and particularly because it’s new and thus cannot fall into habit.  Today required more FOCUS than many days.  Ok, see, I admit it, I am possibly the most distractible person you could find.  And that’s saying something as I have several kids with bona fide ADHD…so, really, I know from distraction!  (And yeah, save the flaming on the adhd topic….really dated debates there; been there, done that….).  

Anyhow, so it’s a really quietly lovely day. My Jon is heading back up to college to finish off his semester, but he’ll be home again soon, happily.  It’s my Goddaughter’s birthday as well, happy bday  Livie!  It’s a quiet full Sunday.  We have new really  beautiful prayer and responses to savor.  We have a new liturgical year to start all fresh and focused.  And, of course, last in this post but not least, it’s the first day of Advent.  I’m pulling out my Advent candles and my celtic table wreath in prep for dinner, when we will light the first long purple taper.  We have set out on our walk toward Bethlehem, a road that is mostly interior though it has lovely exterior sights to see and ruts to avoid.

So, we begin.  Happy New Year, walk with me, I love the company….

photo source

The advent of Advent

Advent begins tomorrow!

It feels early this year, but I suppose that can’t be.  Once again, it’s sorta snuck up on me and I’m feeling all behind before I even begin.  Yikes.  So, to that end, today I’m going to mindfully try to prep my interior self to accept my inevitable winding sloppy stumble through this season of Advent.  By which I mean, I already KNOW I’m not gonna be as prepped as I hoped to be.  I do NOT have the christmas list finished, heck, it’s not even begun…I”m still in a minor denial of it and a squinting gaze of “Hmmm, how best to tackle this, this year?”   This year is a bit untethered; there are changes this year inside and out.  We are in the midst of a noticeable, keenly observed, evolution (Which is to say that we all are in the midst of the unmarked evolution, all the time, right? But this  year, I’m seeing  feeling marking it).

So, here’s what I know:  The big: in our Church we go to new, more precise, liturgical phrasing and a revamp of the missal, the liturgy of the Mass in order to better direct our hearts souls and prayer vertically – toward the holy, the divine.  It will increase our awareness of the sacred, right here, right now, and beyond. How exciting is that?  I’m sure a whole ‘nother post to come on that one, it’s that big.

The other big: my eldest is having his first Christmas with his “new family:” his Dominican family.  And while I might leak a tear here and there, and try to push (with fluctuating success) the blues that threaten to buffet me from missing him….I want him to have a really happy holiday season and just relish his new traditions.  I want him to savor the richness and goodness in these beautiful new traditions, to laugh at the quirks of his new family/companions, and to really enjoy and appreciate these holidays.  I think he did for Thanksgiving, I heard it in his voice and it made me very happy and answered my simple but fervent prayer of the day.  I want only the same for him for Christmas and Advent…and that’s the same as I claimed for myself when I started out on my own and began my own, now much loved, holiday traditions.

The smaller, but also so important: I want to accept my inevitable inability to “do it all” and not let that tank my holiday happy before it even settles in.  I want to TRY to get most of it sort of figured out and/or taken care of this coming week (Bwah ha ha ha! – hey a gal can dream!) and then I want to slow down (My friend Zoe, she inspires me).  I want to read and be PRESENT and just soak in the richness of this season.  I fail every year.  But, hope springs eternal and I’m hoping, once again.

So the stuff:

  • I will link if I can to the UCSSB Advent Calendar, daily, because it’s a goodie and  has other cool links to follow too.
  •  You know that there will be a glut of Catholic stuff, great saint feasts this month and just because golly, it’s Advent and that’s what it’s all about, right?  That’s why this season is so great!
  • I have some adoption updates and managing through the season, the landmines, kind of thoughts rattling around in my head.
  • I have life in general posts, and lets not forget this month/season begins the bithday-palooza calendar in my house, so you’ll be seeing a bunch of bday posts.
  • I have to put up wreaths, but not too soon as we keep them up til Candlemass
  • Need to help Coffeedoc find a fir tree to cut that is LESS than three hours drive away, as the kids are in mutiny regarding the schlep drive….possibly impossible
  • Need to get our Advent candles ready – done (hooray, a first!)

So you see, I have a lot of stuff rattling around in my head.  And instead of waiting to come up with profound or pithy posts, I think the  only way for me to simply and mindfully wend my way through this season is, oddly enough, to sort it out through typing and posting.  Only then, perhaps will I be able to declutter my brain and find the silence and slow there too.  So, thanks in advance for enduring if you will.

last year's school Christmas play

It’s the advent of Advent.  I love this season, not for the surface, but for the deep.   Exciting times ahead!

Last year.

Friar Friday Fun

Just to show that I’m not simply wallowing in melancholy about Brother Peter Joseph and all these changes, I thought I’d shoot this post up as a change of pace for you all on this overloaded “Black Friday.”  While we all sit around, still full from the feast, and/or out busting down the deals, this is a refreshing glimpse into a part of religious life we don’t tend to see.

It’s a palate cleanser, of sorts!

Because religious life is a way of living life to the fullest, I think.  The boot camp novitiate phase of it is a bit more restricted on purpose, though they still get out and play and engage in sports and whatnot.  But take a look at this, bet ya don’t think of friars as surf rats, now, do ya?  That’s what I love about these Dominicans, they can’t be slotted into one type…they are each their own unique wonderful selves….maybe more so than any of the rest of us.  Now, there’s something to chew on over this weekend feast!

Enjoy!

Surfing and Spirituality from Province of Saint Joseph on Vimeo.

h/t to Fr. Benedict!

Novitiate, how’s it going?

So, my son has been at the Novitiate for almost four months.  He’s been in spiritual boot camp for almost 1/3 of a year; or, he’s almost 1/3 of the way through his intensive friar boot camp.

He has a new name, Brother Peter Joseph.  He has new clothes, for most of the time, his white habit and black copa (cape).  He has 12 new brothers, and as I’ve now begun to get to know them….they are great guys.  Now, I guess that’s no surprise, they would be, right? Well, by and large, they are.  Which is a comfort to my mom’s heart too.  It’s getting cold up there but I sent up his coat (and cookies).

Brother Peter Joseph spends his days in prayer, study, and service, with time out for basketball and hikes and music as well.  He is choir master, for now.  Halfway through they switch jobs, and they might then make his new job master of the laundry…or maybe not…  They have movie night, dvds from their library, every week.  They have game night, I think.  They walk into town for errands.  He drives now and then; every week he has a day when  his team of brothers works at an assisted living facility, doing whatever is needed to help out.  They do a lot of manual labor, they have some big projects in process around the parish and priory.  They laugh a lot, they are a funny bunch – and that makes me so so very glad too.  The brothers have class most days, but not the test/paper kind of class…more the deeper learning/study kind of class.

It all sounds kind of calm and quiet and routine.  And, in so many ways, it is, I think.  But it is carefully crafted to be so, in order to detach from the noise and distraction of this loud busy world and go into the deep; to turn the heart and soul toward God and the ear to his voice.  To listen, fully, finally, and really.  But that, right there, is where the real rigor begins.  I don’t know about you, but oy, for me to really QUIET, and listen…?  That’s a workout.  I am like a gabbling goose (I know, I know – evidently, right?!) and to actually STILL my body and mind…well it’s a JOB.  It’s actually totally countercultural anymore, really, isn’t it? I think so.  And that, the very rigor in that process, is why this novitiate year is hard.  To come face to face with your attachments, distractions, little idols, irritations and indulgences and set them aside for something so much bigger that you can’t even wrap your head around it fully?  That’s something kind of unfathomable to me.

It’s radical.

So, when my son says he’s “…really good. But it’s hard.”  He means just that I think.  It is a deep, but good difficulty.  It’s time.  It’s his time.  And he is approaching one of the hard seasons of the novitiate year.  Not the most difficult; that would be Lent.  But the next two holidays are big.  Big changes, big adjustment…for us all.  He will miss, for the first time and for onward, Thanksgiving and Christmas (and lent/Easter, etc) at home with his family.  We will miss, for the first time and for onward, having him with us.  Oh, it makes me tear up to even type it, dork that I am.  And it’s not like I didn’t know…I KNEW, even last year, that it was the last.  But, there it is.  It is hard.  For us all.  But, even so, it is good.

He says, “Please keep praying for me.”  So, I ask  you, any or all, to please keep my boy in your prayers; heck, keep all those young men in prayer. Because it’s a tough season ahead.  Jolly, yes. Joyful, yes.  And rich? Beyond description, I suspect.

So, how is it going, that novitiate?  It’s going really well.  It’s going just like it’s supposed to.  It’s hard.  It’s rich, peaceful, bittersweet, lonely, irritating, surprising, funny…it’s good.  It’s radical in the desire and the depth and the choosing of it all.  And, I suspect, and hope and pray, that’s it’s radical in it’s accompanying (divine) light and goodness and joy.

Roundup: Third Birthday at Fifteen

So, I just have to put up a little post bday roundup…..indulge me.  Big news: the big bday bash was a success.  The day, all day long, was a success.  By which I mean, it was happy, joyful  and full of laughter. By which I mean, it did NOT tip over into any sulks or tantrums or trigger rage or grief or nasty ungrateful gimmie’s.  It didn’t dwell in the land of attachment/adjustment issues, nor did it fall into the developmental zone of three year old pouts and melt downs, or just mundane teen age drama and angst (if that is ever mundane…).  It could’a.  But it didn’t.  It was her third birthday ever celebrated, officially.  And it was her fifteenth, in chrono time.

So, it was a double helix of timing, converging into one sugar coated tiara of a day.

This birthday was simpler in many ways than the previous two, and thus, it was a gift to us as well.  This birthday was kinda cool, actually…it was so much a “three year” birthday…but without the typically attendent birthday-itis of most three year olds.  And without the attitude of a teen as well.  All the gifts, big or small, were received with simple surprise and glee.

Every one.  From the zany princess crown from a friend at school – worn all day  with great pride – to the gummy bears and candy sour worms, to the coveted “cow boots” and “cow hat”….all were received with open mouthed delight and laughter and hugs and claps of joy.

Honestly, it was delightful to watch.

What was even more delightful, for me (because, as ever, it’s all about me me me), was the simple ease and joy of this birthday.  It could’a gone either way.  Holidays and big events are loaded, triggers often.  But this one went off without a hitch; and to see that ability to just be happy and enjoy, in a happy revelry…well, it made me grin with delight too.  I am gonna take it as a sign of healing and stepping forward, even if it’s a baby step.  And yeah, I know, that part of this is just dumb luck and that fact that cupcakes and cakes were liberally sprinkled throughout the day (Thanks Teach! Thanks Coach!)….but even so it was marked progress from the past two years of birthday celebrations.

We had no tension, only glee.  She got to do her favorite things in the world: be at school, say hello to all her friends and everyone she passed at school (wearing her crown), and then go to basketball practice to boot (again, with surprise cupcakes).  Then home to her favorite, chosen, meal and dessert, presents and more songs and attention.

Overkill? Maybe. You might think so.  But then again, maybe not.  She has a lot of birthdays missed to make up for.  Did she kind of wear us out leading up to it? Did we just start giggling at watching her be so over the moon over every tiny thing? Oh, yeah, surely yes to both.  But…….Why not milk it for every single bright blingy sweet moment she can?  Why not let her simply relish every last drop of it? It’s a goodness and an attention that any one of us, in our deepest heart of hearts, really maybe craves.  So, we are happy for her to have it.  Not every day, no.  But one day, or a third time in fifteen years?  Oh yeah, you betcha.

It was a very good day for that birthday girl.

This might be my favorite pic of the night, makes me grin to see it...that's a happy laughing girl!

Fabulous Fifteen!

Happy Happy Birthday to our Marta Therese!

She is now a fantastic Fifteen years old

And here are fifteen things about our girl:

  1. She is now a helper for the girls basketball team!
  2. She is a big sports fan.
  3. She is gifted at working with the elderly.
  4. She loves her some boots!
  5. She is fashion crazy.
  6. Shopping is a favorite event.
  7. As is going to the movies.
  8. She’s crazy for country music.
  9. And, always and ever: pasta
  10. Her newest friend is Father James
  11. She adores her older brothers
  12. and her bulldog puppy.
  13. Her braces are off!
  14. and so she is chewing a LOT of gum!
  15. And, she has “magic hair.”
We are so proud of you and hope all your birthday dreams come true!
We love you!
And yes, I’m making your Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake!
Because it’s your birthday, and you LOVE LOVE cake!
Happy 15th Birthday, our Marti!

Eyes Open: marking the good.

So, because I tend to be a cynical gal…I often forget to see, or mark, the good out loud.  I don’t know why exactly, I’m sure some therapist could buy a house in Boca spend decades unraveling it.  But, to try to offset that tendency, and to keep from only being a “debbie downer” kind of gal, I want to make sure that now and then I mark the good.  Publicly, even.  So that I never forget it (because I will) and so that you all can see that progress happens.

Eventually, progress happens – maybe only tiny moments, but those might mean so much.  I think they do, if you have the eyes to see.  I’m trying to keep my eyes open.

About a week ago we went on the one and only official family visit up to the Novitiate to see Brother Peter Joseph.  Sounds simple, no big deal, right?  Well now, consider who is traveling: my family.  That means, of course, that no, no, it’s not simple.  We don’t do ANYTHING simply.  Geez, you’d think you’d know that by now!

Anyhow, back to this particular travel weekend.  To get our crew to this event entailed a car ride that technically should be five hours, but with our quantity of kiddos takes six.  It’s just math, that: x number of kids multiplied by x number of stops for gas, snacks, potties (every time)…with integer factors of contributing age/bladder issues (young/old), equals at least one or more hours added to the trip time.  Plus we have to take two cars because we don’t fit in one (though this works out best with regard to space issues as well as personality conflicts between some sibs and the parental desire for peace and sanity).

 So, get the image in your head: it’s a mini caravan, with excitement and prickliness vying for top spot.  Fun,  huh!?  Happily enough, autumn is a nice time to travel – not too hot and humid, not icy cold – and the visuals are usually nice with the fall colors.  Any outbound leg of a trip is typically better than the trip homeward because, lets face it, the anticipation can carry the day, almost as well as a flat out bribe.  In fact, this trip up was MUCH better than the homeward trip and we won’t even talk about that leg of it because this post is all about  marking the good.  So the return leg goes “into the vault”….get it?  Yeah.  ‘Nuff said.

So, to bring this rambling back onto point:  travel with Marta can be a tricky thing.  It can be exciting and  happy and fun for her; but doesn’t tend to be so when it includes long car rides with the other kiddles all packed in.  It can be a major anxiety producer, because by definition it means a change in schedule and routine (not to mention location, time zone, weather, beds, housing, clothes, etc etc etc).  For a hyper-vigilant kid with rigid needs for routine and stability and so on, travel can be a mixed bag, no pun intended.  And if you’re going to a new place and/or event and the activities and/or venues are unfamiliar, that anxiety can simply TAKE OVER.  It can spin out of control.  It can shut her down. So, this is all to say we’ve had some tricky travel times over the past few years.  But this weekend was super important.  We all missed Chris/Peter Joseph, and we were all motivated to try to make it work smoothly to go visit.  So, Coffeedoc and I held our breath and just knew we would work  hard and hope for the best!

Now, I’m not gonna give you a blow by blow of the weekend.  You’re welcome. We had ups, we had downs…you know…”it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”  But here is where I finally say it: we had a minor/major breakthrough moment.  Seems minor. Is major. Huge, really.  You mom’s of kid’s from hard places will know just what I mean, I think.

But here it is, Mark It:  I was driving.  We were about 3-4 hours into the drive.  Marta had moved into the passenger seat next to me.  She was plugged into her tunes, seeming to zone out.  It was a beautiful, glorious, day: sunny, glittery, color explosion of leaves all around.  Gorgeous.  I was thinking about how pretty it was, just kind of savoring it.  And Marta sat up, took out  her earbuds, swiveled her head a few times, did a Vanna White hand wave and said, “Trees, much color, so pretty!”  I said, “I know! I was JUST thinking that! I LOVE it, so beautiful, my favorite!”  She nodded, “SO pretty! Very nice!”  Then she smiled at me and she put her buds back in and sat back and picked a new song.

And I marveled.

Because, you see, that’s a multi-step wow.

First, Marta was relaxed enough to open her eyes and sit listening to music as we drove.  Next, she was relaxed enough to open her eyes to see the colors.  Next, she was relaxed enough to ENJOY the colors! Lastly, she was relaxed and, ok, I’ll go there, maybe connected enough to comment on the colors.  She saw beauty.  And ya know, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think you can take in beauty, really soak it in and go “ahhh” unless you are relaxed and even a little bit happy.  And, she was relaxed and a little bit happy and we were traveling!! In a car! To somewhere NEW and unknown!

So, that’s it. That’s my marking the good.  It’s a biggie, though some of you might pooh-pooh it.  But, if you know this girl, you won’t.  If you’re a mom parenting a hyper-vigilant kid, you won’t.  This is a good, a big good and I’m gonna wrap it up in a red and gold sparkly bow and file it away under autumn healing goodness.  Because that’s what it is.

My eyes were open, they saw they beauty all around me.

Turn Key in Adoption: Forgiveness

So, I’ve written about turn key’s in adoption, specifically in adoption adjustment and attachment.  If you’ve read my blog  you know that I talk now and then about various keys or concepts in the adjustment process; the turn keys are the ones that seem to really matter.  At least they do ’round here.  If I was really organized, I’d  have them all on a separate page about adjustment  in adoption.  But I’m not that good a housekeeper, even on blog.  In the meantime, if you want to check out the other posts in this series, go here, go here, go here, here, here, here, here, and here.  Whew.  I didn’t realize I’d written all those posts over the past few years.  Guess this is something we just keep dealing with and I keep processing.  Um, yup, yup it is.  If you are parenting an older adopted child and/or a child with hard history or issues,  you might well be in the trenches too.  If you are, read on.  I’ve been thinking and that means I gotta write.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about attachment lately, due to the awesome Empowered to Connect Conference and ongoing discussions with Coffeedoc.  But also, just the intensity of parenting these past few months has been kind of insane.  I’ve also had some great conversations with friends lately, one more recently got me thinking out loud and hence, this post.

Anyhow, attachment in adoption is a long, nuanced process.  Adjustment to a new family for a child is a long, nuanced process.  It takes much much longer than most folks realize.  Indeed, it’s a lifetime, isn’t it?  Well, yes, of course it is.  And, to stay thematic, there are turnkeys to that process. These are some critical components that can help the process along.  These keys can open doors, to the heart of a new child, to the blending of a family.  But one of the keys, one of the most important keys to attachment in the whole adoption process is a key that is for the mom.  Ok, it’s for the new child and for the sibs and the dad, the whole family.  But, the blingy diamond studded key to this is maybe, especially,  for the mom.  That key is FORGIVENESS.

Ok, set down those flame throwers.  Hang on. Now, attachment is a two way street.  And it’s so SO SO easy to forget that.  We adoptive parents turn cartwheels trying to heal and help our new kids, to check off the copious list of attachment markers and tools.  Are we nurturing, feeding, tutoring, clothing, rocking, walking, singing, playing, holding (and on and on) this new child?  Can we sit out the storm and hold them through their grief, weather their rage, calm the fury, be present through it all?  Can we help them feel safe, can we help them feel heard, can we help them trust?  Yeah, it’s a big list, in more ways than one!  And each and every one of those items on that list is so big, so important.  And each one is critical in helping these kids attach to us, to their new family, their new lives – to bridge from their past to the future in the now.

But the one factor that doesn’t get talked about too much is the attachment flip side.  It’s the dark side of attachment when you’re adjusting to an older child or a child from hard places or with tough behaviors.  It’s so easy to have the best motives and intentions.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the honeymoon of a baby or toddler or new older kid and the romance of it all.  But you know, that honeymoon ends and the romance fades and real life  happens.  Sometimes after, oh, twenty minutes.  Some of you might get a little more lead time.  But sooner (20 mins) or later (20 months), real life hits ya.  And you realize, maybe this isn’t exactly what you expected.  Sure, sure, you read the books.  You took the classes.  You heard the experts and knew the possibilities.  But, a raging storming angry grieving child in a textbook is quite a very different thing than a raging storming LOUD angry crashing grieving child that is turning YOUR ACTUAL household upside down.  And who continues to suck the time and attention and sometimes very air out of a room with their need and the seeming impossibility  of meeting it.

That’s precisely when you need to go looking for your keys.  Take a deep breath, look at your key ring.  Remember, touch that kid, tears are ok, food and dinner is safety.  But, look closer.  There is a small but shiny, flashy diamond key on your key ring.  See it? Grab tight.  Look at it again.  It’s the key of FORGIVING.  Because, ya know….that’s YOUR key.  For you.

You have to forgive that kid.

It’s easy to forget that, though it sounds shocking to say it out loud.  (And don’t flame me, ok? Try to understand where I’m coming from, read the blog backwards if you must).  But that hurt scared little kid, or big teen, didn’t ASK to have this change, this adoption, this move, those hurts, those losses, those disabilities, that complicated brain chemistry, that rage, this new family…you.  I don’t think anyone stands in a cosmic line asking to be handed a big bag of trauma and loss, please, and then “Please, sir, can I have some more?” discombobulation, dislocation, and grief.  Even so, those things are no picnic to be instantly parenting either.  Thus, there is a chasm.  And the only way to cross it is to bridge it….with forgiving.  You, for YOU, have to forgive that kid for the uproar and commotion that is happening in your family.  You have to forgive her for her lack of ability to cope.  You have to forgive him for the tailspin that you are in, due to the dance you two are slamming.

You have to forgive him, not because he needs forgiveness, but because YOU need forgiveness.  You need to lift that burden of responsibility OFF your new child.  And off of you.  Neither one of  you would choose this tough path.  I betcha you’d both rather just instantly fall madly in love with each other and go have ice cream as you feed the ducks in the park.  Well, that’s for Spielberg and  the movies.  What’s true is that you cannot love what or who you cannot forgive.  And you can’t like the one you can’t forgive.  That’s how it’s set up.  That’s the deal.

But ah, forgiveness….?

It heals.

Everything.

That’s how it’s set up.  That’s the deal.  So, if you can’t intellectually do it, pray for the grace to do it.  It’ll come.  You may have to do it over and over and over.  I hope and pray that my family forgives me over and over and over.  I need it that often.  And, because they are my family, I expect them to try.  And because this new little (or bigger) one is your new family, because you COMMITTED to them, then you need to try too.  That’s how it’s set up.  That’s the deal.

We forgive each other.  And if we turn that key, then the door to healing and love and even like…and maybe even attachment…it opens wide.

The Departed.

It’s the Feast of All Soul’s Day!

"All Souls Day" by Perry Morgan III

Now, this is the day we remember all the faithfully departed.

You might think that we did that yesterday.  Well, yes and no.  Today we remember those souls that have passed out of this earthly life, our loved ones…and might still be in (get ready for it) Purgatory.  Yup, I said it.  Well, I typed it.  Purgatory:  that uber Catholic doctrine.  That historic sticking point between Catholics and other christian denominations.  So many find the entire concept of Purgatory offensive, somehow.  I think it is just SUCH a comfort!

Because let’s face it, it would be really nice to think that every single one of us, when we die, goes straight to heaven and is blissfully happy for the rest of eternity.  But, that would be a fairy tale.  Or, it might be your idea that it’s ALL a fairy tale and there IS NO hereafter, after all.  So, in that case, “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.”  But, that would be a nightmare.  So, what’s left? Well, whats left is the all too reasonable concept of purgatory!  Because it only makes sense.  Think about it, as a mom, say my kid screws up…say, breaks a window with his baseball.  Well, yuh, he can be well and truly sorry, he can apologize, I can and will forgive him.  But, um, the window? It’s still broken and needs repair or replacement.  Reparation.  So, there is a real actual consequence, in real time, for his bad decision/error/accident.  So, he takes the time to fix the window, or do the chores to earn the money to help replace the window.  THEN, after the repair/consequence, it’s all over, gone, done.  We move onward.

Isn’t that the same in our lives, here? Aren’t we, here, supposed to model love and the family of it?

Well, yuh, when we are doing it right, that’s just what we are supposed to do.  So, when it comes to dying….yes, I will pass on.  And I do and will confess my sins and feel true sorrow for them and want to repair that relationship and I trust and know the divine mercy we are promised and taught.  But, um, I still gotta repair the relational consequences of my bad decisions/ actions/ choices…both with those I’ve hurt here on this earth but also on a spiritual level.  Because it IS all a relationship.  And really, God’s mercy doesn’t outweigh justice. They are both omnipresent.  So, his mercy forgives.  Ahhhh.  But his justice means that until my soul, my-self, is truly pure, repaired…then I can’t even try to stand in the light of God – meaning heaven.  So, purgatory is the gift of a foyer.  It is a genius stroke of creation by the smartest architect…the one who knows that we need a place to scrape the mud off our boots, so to speak.  To do the last checks of sorting out and repairing our foolish choices, and then take a deep joyous breath and enter the heavenly bliss.

Walter MacEwen, 1860-1943, "The Absent One on All Soul's Day"

It’s a gift of mercy, really.  It’s merciful AND just to require that reparation.  Because we all know that we don’t really feel right about our  mistakes, until we’ve set them right again.  God doesn’t need us to repair the window.  WE need us to repair the window.  It’s merciful AND just for there to be Purgatory, to have a place where we can do the work to repair our souls, to fully prep.  And while it might SEEM like it would only be merciful to let everyone, everyone, go to heaven as soon as they pass on…that VERY instant…well, maybe that wouldn’t be very merciful at all.  Not to them, because they wouldn’t maybe be ready for it, not really.  And, it’s not like going to the park, the beatific vision is like the most amazing reunion, ever.  You prep for that sort of thing.  It wouldn’t really be merciful to us left behind, either.  Sounds comforting, but are we SURE, really SURE that each and every one of our beloveds were totally prepped for their passing?  Were they ready for an instant step into mind blowing bliss or the eternal turn-away from that very bliss?  Are we sure that they had sorted out all the hurts or the questions or the actions and repaired those that needed it?  Hmmm.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t seem to figure out what my teen is thinking on a good day, much less old Uncle Jasper or loved ones from far away that I don’t see nearly enough.

That whole judging another’s soul thing – quite beyond my pay grade.

So, I turn back to purgatory.  Again, such a comfort and a hope.  Because it’s still heaven, it’s just the foyer.  And the “pain” purgatory comes from being SO close but not yet there, and now what’s waiting is revealed and even MORE desired.  Talk about tantalizing! But, even so, it’s enveloped in hope and mercy and justice.  So it’s wrapped up in gold.

Whew! Another long rambling scrambling traipse through my brain.  Sorry ’bout that.  But, this is what I’m thinking about today.  This is why I have this blog.  To show that I had brain function and synapses firing at one point in time…if only to prove it to myself…even if they randomly fire and spit out jumbles of ideas.  And to remember things I  might not want to forget (because, yes, it’s still all about me me me).

So, for all our departed, happy All Souls Day.  You’re not forgotten.

Photo by Evana, Pruskow, All Souls Day

From the Mass for the dead:

[for all our departed brothers and sisters]
Merciful Father,
hear our prayer and console us.
As we renew our faith in Your Son,
whom You raised from the dead,
strengthen our hope
that all our departed brothers and sisters
will share in His resurrection,
who lives and reigns
with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen

ALL saints day!

Today is the Solemnity of All Saints!

All Saints Day, Wassily Kandinsky 1911

That means that today is a big, big feast day! I know, we call it a “solemnity” even though it’s one of the biggie high feast days.  You might think we’d call it the “big bash feast day” or the “fabulous feast” or something.  But, in her wisdom, the Church knows that we all love a good feast/party quite well enough and that we need to also recall the fullness of the reasons for any given feast that’s big enough to be called a solemnity.  She’s always teachin’…our Church.  But, even though the word “solemnity” makes you think we are all serious and gravely solemn, it’s not really all about that.  It’s more about the SCOPE of the feast.  It’s a way to label a feast as really big, deep, wide, broad…FULL.  So, how does all that carrying on apply to a feast of the saints?  I mean, the saints: ya da ya da…we talk about them ALL the time, right? Well, you know I do!

But today is the day we get to remember the full spectrum of the saints! Not only the rock star saints and the celebrities and the poster boy or gal saints.  Today we remember that there are a legion of saints enjoying the Beatific Vision that are not on any rosters, except the rosters of our own little families and our individual hearts or forgotten history.  Meaning, all those little folks who lived saintly holy lives, way back when and even now in our modern era…but didn’t do anything in particular to be recognized, to be noticed…well, today is their big day.

Today is the day we can look to those quiet or ‘regular’ lives of holiness and know that they count; even if they actually, at their own time, flew under that radar.  So, for the Joe’s and the Janes, the Ida’s, the Elizabeths, the Tomas’, the Abe’s, the Godada’s, the Guday’s,  Vladimir’s, Ezra’s, William’s, Belaynesh’s, Judit’s, Amelia’s, Francois’, Helen’s, Lida’s, Lavida’s, Oliver’s, Orville’s, Paulos’, Myng Joo’s, Sylvia’s, Gustav’s, Constantin’s, Violet’s….well, you get the idea.  For all those names that we can’t really know over the centuries – today is the day we recall that they too, these ones we don’t know, yet, are enjoying eternity and are part of the “communion of saints.” They too, are cheering us on in our little mundane regular lives; praying for us even.  Because they know, certainly more than the rest of us, that these little lives count….despite or perhaps because of their small quiet ripples.  So, this feast day is for the little guys.  Ok, for the bigs too.  But, that’s why it’s a solemnity – it’s for all of them, and thus, for all of us.

All Saints Day 1, Wassily Kandinsky 1911

How cool is that?

I love the communion of saints! I love the liturgical year!

{And, if you’re feeling like really marking this feast, here is the Litany of the Saints…

and for those of you who want to know more,  here is a good explanation of this prayer.}

Happy All Saints Day!