Jumping for Joy

So I got some fantastic exciting news today.  I was literally jumping for joy and yup, might have cried a wee bit.

Turns out that we might have a quick drop in visit from the Novices this weekend! I know! Haven’t seen  my boy since October…and have been gearing up to go see him in August for first vows.  Another whole post or two, that.  Anyhow, turns out they are helping one of their priests move down to the our town and so the whole crew is coming along to lend a hand, and visit some of their sister Dominicans.  Mercifully, Fr. James has decided that we are on the way home and that they might just be having a craving for some MamaDo’s (the brownies that I make from the recipe of one of Peter Joseph’s best friend’s mom).  So they have asked if it would be too much trouble to stop in for a quick visit, “Just family, no muss no fuss.”  Hmmm….”Um, yeah, yup, I think that would be all right…”  That’s what I said, I’m pretty sure.  All cool and collected like that, just like that.  (Tho, it might, just maybe, have also had a few leaking tears, stupid grin, and gibbering, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!” )

gonna do some visiting


So it’s a family only quick visit, but with all those brothers and ours too and I am simply giddy in anticipation.  I have been warned to not kill myself cleaning or make too big a fuss.  So I will try, try I tell you, to heed that directive and simply bask in the pure joy of it all.  But I will admit to a little happy dancing around my kitchen this morning when I told the big girls, and that I will be thrilled to be hugging the neck of my other big boy heading home when he arrives in the wee hours of Friday morning.

best brothers

And I’m gearing up: gonna be making multiple batches of MamaDo’s, some for here and some to go!

I can’t wait!

Further Up, Further In

So, it’s just past the half year mark for my son at the Novitiate.  So people ask me all the time, “How is he?  How’s it going?”  And…I don’t have a perfect answer for that.  So I say, “He’s good.  Please keep praying for him.

That seems to sum it up, really.  He’s good. He sounds like himself when we talk.  That alone is such a big deal!  He still has the essence of ‘him’ and doesn’t sound or talk differently when we chat on the phone.  Stupid, I know, to think he might.  But, ya worry.  Ok, I worry.  I worried. Past tense now.

This year is such a huge year of change for him; a radical year of leaving behind and choosing other…that I guess deep down part of me worried that I’d lose the essence of him somehow too.  But, I have seen and heard that it is not so.  In fact, of course, it is much the opposite.  He is becoming  MORE him.  That is the really radical beautiful part of this choice….by growing closer to God, we become more ourselves, our truest selves.  By him living this life, intentionally and fully without reserve, he too is growing closer to God and thus becoming more and more himself.  It’s kind of like a warp speed growing out and growing in all at the same time.  Rather Narnian. “Further up, further in!” as the children were called into the Aslan’s country; and the land became bigger and more beautiful the further  and the higher in they went.  So too, it seems, novice life, Dominican life.

Not that Novice life is all easy.  It’s rigorous. It’s spiritual bootcamp, as I’ve noted many times before.  And, now, of course it’s February <Shudder>.  February is a tough month no matter where  you are, I think.  It is/was the dreaded month in the homeschool calendar.  It’s the  housebound gray cold dull month where everyone gets on each other’s last nerve.  Ok, well, it is here at any rate.  I can only imagine that it must be that way for the novices too.  I’m guessing.  But, still.  Thankfully, it’s the shortest month in the year.

Spring approaches.  But first, lent.  And this is where the real crux of the novice year (I think) lies.  The novices have completely settled into their life.  They have new clothes, habits.  They have new religious names: my son, now  Brother Peter Joseph.  They  have new jobs and learn new skills, they have classes, they study, the do work outside the parish in the community.  They know each other very well, are becoming a sort of family.

But lent is upon us and I have been told that this lent is the one lent they will get the opportunity to really, FULLY, live the liturgical season of lent.  I have been told its the most beautiful lent they will ever have (due to really mindfully living it, daily) but also the most rigorous and with the most spiritual growth.   This lent, this growth, will help lay the foundation these novices need if they are to go on and live the call to Dominican life.  If my son is called to this, I want him to have that foundation to stand on.  Thus, this next forty days will be an intense growth period for these young men.  It will be rigorous, challenging; filled with hard and beautiful both.   So, I will ask for your prayers for my son, for all these novices.  They will need them.

So, how is it going? It’s going well.  It’s a struggle, it’s a joy.  It’s funny and hard and happy and peaceful and difficult.  It’s a year of living prayer; of learning to live prayer.  Please, keep them in yours.  They are halfway through.  Further up and further in….

Now, they will be spending much much time in prayer over this lent, of course.  But this video shows the Irish Dominicans, having a bit of fun.  These Dominicans, globally, they have such laughter and fun, even with their deep prayer life – it just  makes me grin.  And it’s totally in sync with that whole ‘further up, further in” thing……

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.

It’s all thematic: halloween, souls, treats, brothers…..

So, here on All Hallows Eve….happy Halloween!

But on THIS particular All Hallows Eve, I’ve got soul formation on my mind and heart.  I like to think thats a bit more thematic than simply my usual grasping for what candy I can snag and coax from my little cute trick or treating kiddos.  So, indulge me a moment….

This past weekend we had our one and only OFFICIAL visit up at the Novitiate with my eldest son.  My Chris.  My Brother Peter Joseph.

We all piled into two cars, texted directions to my Jon so he could drive down from campus and meet us too, and six hours later the whole family was together again for the first real official visit since July and the last time til next August.  It was wonderful.  And the added benefit was that we got to get to know a little bit of our new larger family: the Dominican brothers of my son…thus, in a small way, my new sons too.  (They like to eat the cookies I send, and that’s good enough for me!).

I have much to say about the visit {I know what a surprise}…but I’m tired and processing all the big emotions plus am buried in laundry and chores of re-entry (and, um, Halloween traditions).

So, until I can coherently sort out my thoughts, I want to leave you this.  It’s a little phone video, lifted from the Novice blog of Father Benedict…and because he’s such a great nice guy I don’t think he’ll mind.  The link is worth checking out too, because he’s got all kinds of interesting stuff up there and also, often, pictures of my son and his new brothers.  Now, I don’t want you to think they only sit around in cafeterias and bang around on the banjo – this was a special night and they were trying to keep us parental types entertained and happy.  They succeeded!

But, they are doing serious work up there.  They do have fun and laugh a lot too.  But, in fact, they are doing the most important work, and it’s utterly apropos to this day: they are forming their souls.  Today is the eve of all saints.  And these  young men are discerning God’s call to them in an intentional, prayerful, mindful manner.  And it’s hard work.  It’s because they aspire to become saints.  Now, I do too.  I just am much more distracted about it and keep stumbling along that long road…but we are all called to it…so to see these thirteen  young men live it, really, is inspiring and makes me cry.  Happily for us all, I was sitting to the rear left of Father Benedict so you can’t really hear me wrassle Gabey or snuff up my tears when my Peter Joseph sings and plays his guitar.  But, I did.

Roll away your Stone, by Mumford and Sons.
Cover, performed by Brother Peter Joseph and Brother Timothy
for Parents Weekend ‘talent night’ in St. Gertrude’s Cafeteria.
Thanks Father Benedict for the video (and allowing my shameless lift)
“Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine
Together we can see what we can find
Don’t leave me alone at this time,
For I am afraid of what I will discover inside
You told me that I would find a home,
Within the fragile substance of my soul
And I have filled this void with things unreal,
And all the while my character it steals
The darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek
It seems as if all my bridges have been burned,
You say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive at the restart
The darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek
The darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek
The darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek
Stars hide your fires,
And these here are my desires
And I will give them up to you this time around
And so, I’ll be found with my stake stuck in this ground
Marking its territory of this newly impassioned soul
And these here are my desires
And I will give them up to you this time around
And so, I’ll be found with my stake stuck in this ground
Marking its territory of this newly impassioned soul
But you, you’ve come too far this time
You have neither reason nor rhyme
With which to take this soul that is so rightfully mine.”

>My Baby Bro, Happy Bday!


The quintessential John as a boy

 Happy Happy Birthday and St. Patrick’s Day to my dearest baby brother!
John is 45 today, which means I’m getting old.
But so is he and for the record, he is grayer than I am!
But even so, he is still cuter and has those eyes that sparkle and laugh, to go along with his crooked goofy grin and his razor sharp wit.

I miss him so, but I know he’s having a great day surrounded by his gorgeous wonderful wife and two beautiful brilliant daughters, not to mention sparkling blue water, tropical palms and no doubt some great breaks as he heads out to surf this morning.
He’s in Micronesia, still.  But to our great familial joy, and my parents relief and giddy exhales, he is coming home.  His family returns for good in only a few days and we are all counting down to the moment they get to go hug on them at the airport.

John and I were always partners in crime, play, you name it.  We were “the little kids,” which we now lord over our older siblings with relentless pleasure.
I was terribly jealous of him while I was young, because he was the baby and ridiculously cute and was terribly spoiled and I couldn’t stand it.

 I was spoiled too, as the  youngest girl, but I didn’t understand that then.  Now, having many kids of my own, I get it.  It’s the baby thing.
And John was and is the baby and favorite in the family.

 It can’t be helped, we all accept it now..and admit it’s just true.
Even though I was terribly jealous and imagined great suffering because of him, he could and still can make me laugh harder than anyone I know.  He makes me laugh until I cry and one of my favorite things is when all of us kids can get together and reminisce around the kitchen table, start telling stories which get bigger and more um, vivid, with every telling.  Soon enough we are hooting and wiping tears.  Great stuff.

So, today he’s on my mind and in  my prayers and I wish him a last tropical blast of a birthday.
I love you so much John, I miss you and wish you safe swift travels home.
Catch some great waves and I can’t wait to see  you soon.

My new favorite pic of him, ever.
 Happy Happy Birthday Little Bro!
I love you!