Like Sun Shook Foil

Yesterday my Little Man, my Anthony made his First Holy Communion.

Yes, I got a little teary…just a little.  But, it was, ever again, one of those frozen in time moments.  Something about First Communion: the sweetness, the wild loud kids dressed in their best ever, trying so hard to find some decorum, sometimes failing.  The juxtaposition of their still flashing bright nature with the hovering pause before the consecration and them each approaching the altar….it makes me blink hard and hold my breath.  I smile as I see those wiggly boys just not quite be able to contain those wiggles or those distractions.  I gasp a little to see those sweet girls look like angels – old fashioned, maybe – but oh their sweet shining faces, glowing with the excitement of the afternoon and the fuss and hubub of veils and standing just so.

It’s a beautiful sacrament, one of the core foundations of our faith and our, ok – MY, strength and essential need.  These kids are old enough to “get it” and young enough to not be too jaded to care.  They really do embody the heart and flame of the love in this sacrament, to use Hopkins’ better words {one of my fav poems}, “like shining from shook foil.”

No wonder all of us parents and older folks stand around gaping and snuffling and grinning.  I’m so happy for my Little Man.  This sacrament is pure gift.

It was a sweet, happy day.

Stepping forward.

Today is the day.  Ash Wednesday.  I’ve written a bunch about this in years past.  But this link at Aggie Catholics has the yearly roundup (always updated to be current w/ good links) and here is what’s important to remember as well.  So, instead of my yammering on about it, this video below is a good quickie summary for us attention and/or time challenged folks. Take a look, it’s the fast 411 on Lent.

So, wishing you a rich and good Lent.  Into the desert.  Steady on…..

Presenting

It’s the Feast of the Presentation today! Also known as Candlemass.

Oh my.  This day, this feast has such resonance for me, this year.  I’m not sure I can even write it; not fully or well enough.  It’s almost, almost, a little kick in my chest at the same time as a soft smile.

Rembrandt: "Simeon with the Christ Child"

But……this feast is when we remember, liturgically in our Catholic church, but also in our prayers and hearts, how Mary took her son, her baby, to the temple.  She was dutifully fulfilling her obligation, as all good Jewish moms did, to present her baby boy to the temple elders. Little did she know what prophecy she was gonna run smack into.  Little did she know she’d run into Simeon, Anna, and their words.  And I’m guessing she was just gobsmacked by it all.  I would’a been.  I would have been really rattled.  But, then again, I’m just me.  I’m figuring she was held up by a waterfall of grace and maybe a few guardian angels to keep her on her feet and find her breath.

There is so much to this event, this feast.  Go, read.

But this is where it gets a little personal.  Because, this year, I’ve spent, well, the past  year, mulling over this entire concept: presenting.  Presenting my son to the Lord.  Because that’s what I did.  I know, I know, ya’ll will shout at me and say, um, “HE chose this, not you.”  “I KNOW Mary, and you Ma’am, are NO Mary.” “I know Jesus, and I know your son Chris, and he is not Jesus.”  I know.  Shhh.  Stop shouting and pointing.  I’m NOT saying that.

What I’m saying is that I, a regular old mom, literally took my son, my firstborn, and presented him back to the the Lord.  I hugged him tight.  I shook hands with the other priests and novices and hugged them as I choked back tears and yet they welled behind  my sunglasses.  I watched his father hoist his few chosen possessions out of our car and into waiting helping  hands.  I stood aside as I watched him, getting edgy, wait to hug his dad, me.  I watched him  hug his dad goodbye.

The tears overflowed, I bowed my head.  I hugged him tight, kissed him, crossed his forehead, again.  Pressed my cheek to his and then gave him a weak smile as his dad and I grabbed hands and turned to go; letting him go.  I felt that pierce of my heart.  Even as I felt that swell of love too, knowing that he was going to God and to answer his call.

I let him go.  That’s what presenting is, isn’t it? In many ways, I think so.  You present and let go. You don’t present something and wrap it up tight and keep it hidden away. You present it and let go.  Open your hands.  Let go.  We miss him so.  Some days more than others.  But it’s also a great joy to see him happy and taking on a whole new mantle, add a layer to who he is and who he is becoming.  But, my hands are open now; having presented him, I love him, but let go.

So.  It’s a gift this feast.  For me, I can unwrap this gift in a new and fuller and more meaningful poignant way than ever before.  Even more so than last year, when I knew, I knew, this presentation was approaching.  Now I have done it.  I am not Mary.  My son is just my boy, my dear son, now a man.  But.  Just as any family can model in a tiny fractionated shadowy way the truths in our faith and life, so to can my messy family in our teeny way.  So, today, I get a gift of remembering that other mothers, so many, have given their child back to God.  The Blessed Mother did it, not only because it was prophesied …. but perhaps so we could have the courage to do so as well.

Today I am grateful for this feast.  It means so much.  To us all, yes.  But, oh, so much, to me.

Epiphany!

It’s the Feast of Epiphany! I love this one!

The Star of Bethleham by Burne-Jones

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another path.” Matthew 2: 1-12

"Halt of the Three Wise Men" by LaFarge

Now, there is much to comment on about Epiphany….between the eastern and western traditions, the customs, folklore, liturgy, prayers, food (cake!) and so on.

But here is what I think about on Epiphany:  Men came from afar.  Far.  Like traveled and schlepped and persevered.  Following the glow of that star, with wonder and halting trust and maybe some arguing about the wisdom of such a journey (but hey, maybe I’m just projecting my own mode here…it could be…). But, for me, one of the nuggets is that they, quite literally, stepped out in faith.  Followed, but a dim light (sure it’s a big ol star and all, but heck, it was DARK and it was far)….and they kept on taking the next step.  They endured the journey.  Persevered.  They followed.  They followed not because they KNEW for sure what was up or where they were going.  They followed in faith.  And, they were rewarded with seeing Christ  himself.  And a baby! Which is always an automatic grin, right there, but Christ and the Holy Family?  Well, that had to just be a marvel and an awestruck wondrous smile.  They could see touch smell stand in his presence.  And I suspect, if we could but ask them, they would say that it was worth it.  Totally.

Today on this feast, that’s what I’m holding onto.  Following the light, hoping to stand in the presence and  joy of that same light when I finally get there.  In the meantime, following with hopeful perseverance.  That’s my epiphany, today.

Happy Feast Day!  Rejoice!

Exhale

I do it.

I pray the rosary, every day.

  • It’s a breath
  • a balm,
  • a comfort,
  • a fixture,
  • an exercise,
  • a respite,
  • a gift,
  • a present,
  • a journey,
  • an attachment tool,
  • a joy,
  • a mediation,
  • a love,
  • an exhale.
Today is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
I think, sometimes, people who get all worked up about the rosary forget that we are ASKING FOR PRAYERS, not worshipping.  Just like we ask each other, our friends, our pastors, the clerk at the market….. And they forget that Mary prayed too.  Better than anyone else, ever.  And still does.  For us.  And she’s the  mom.  Christ’s mom! And he’s the perfect son.  And what does a perfect son do? He listens to his mother!  And if he knows better, and can’t do what is asked, he gently explains….. So, I’m just saying, those prayers are worth much.  And regardless of that factor, the rosary is a meditative time that makes any day better and deeper..and so too, me.
Happy Feast Day!
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!

Falling Fire

It’s the Feast of Pentecost!

Makoto Fujimura, "January Hour - Pentecost"

I love this feast, not only for the terrific art through the centuries, the storytelling and imagery of it all….but for the entire concept of it.  It’s truly one of the mysteries in life and yet, it’s one we get to walk through often as well.

What? Sound a bit crazy?  Maybe…but I know and I bet you do too that you have had times when you were able to say something to a friend or family or someone that was totally the perfect thing to say, and you had NO idea you were going to say it.  And right after those words slipped out, you kind of marveled at them.  Did you really say that? Well…yeah.  Wow.  Good job and um, it wasn’t you.  Right? I know that very thing has happened to me.  Many more times than once.  And used to be, I’d kind of sit there and think, “Wow, how clever am I and who’da thunk it“…..until it dawned on me (like a beam whacked across my forehead) that um, it wasn’t me after all.  No way.  Now, I know better.  It’s NOT me.  It’s the Holy Spirit and when it happens, I’ve basically just finally shut up long enough to give Him an edge, an opening.  Really, I should do it more often.  I know, I know.

I get to feel it in my parenting too.  Not often enough of course cause I’m typically way too busy getting in the way with  my controlling ideas.  But, when I’ve been able to slow down and step aside, either through sheer exhaustion or sheer empty brain cells, then I’ve gotten the gift of seeing someone, something else at work.  And I marvel.  Because then sometimes if I quietly let that fire fall on me and through my arms I can bring my kids into the warm embrace of it – and we love and heal and grow.  At least for a moment or two before I start slapping it out with my own schedule and commands and ideas; back to the buzz.  But those moments, ah, they are gold.  They really do kinda glow.

And that’s why I love this Feast. It reminds us that we can walk through falling fire. It doesn’t burn.  It’s a little bit of magic in our world, but better.  Because it’s grace.

Below is the song that I wake with, every feast of Pentecost.  It’s my tune for the day.

08 Let The Fire Fall

Happy Feast of Pentecost!

>Weekend Plans – Youth 2000

>

This is where we are going this weekend.  The Owensboro venue.  I’m taking Hannah, Marta, and three of Hannah’s good girl buddies.  I took the girls last year, and they begged to go again this year.  So, we go. It’s exhausting and wonderful and uplifting and just awesome coolness for a weekend.  It brings these kids out of themselves and breaks down barriers of “too cool for you.”  It makes old parental backsides sore and forces us to find ways to score a caffeine IV drip.  But it’s worth it.  To connect with these special kids and to have them connect to each other and to Christ, it’s worth it, all of it.  And the Franciscans who run this…well, they are simply awesome.

Keep us in your prayers if you’re of a mind to, hitting the road.

>Breath Deep and smile. Friday.

>This link is not what you might think…not a meditation or yoga anything…
Rather, it’s a link to a short vocation video for the Dominican Sisters {And I have no idea of the odd button at the beginning, it doesn’t link anywhere, ignore it, this is Catholic, but then again, so not.  It goes beyond denomination}.

After a hectic week, watching this makes me just smile a big deep smile and I find myself breathing deeper, calm.

This kind of faith and love is completely intriguing and compelling to me.
And it just makes me happy to watch it.
Especially worth paying attention to what she is saying at 1:30….about plans for happiness. 
So, I’m offering it here as a pause at the end of a hectic week, mine anyhow…
Have a great weekend everyone.

>Mardi Gras!

>

It’s Fat Tuesday! Mardi Gras! 
Carnivale! Shrove Tuesday!
Yup, it’s the last day of Ordinary Time, the day before Ash Wednesday.  So, today is the feast, the fest, the fete…the party.  I love the folklore and history of today, the tradition of pancakes for supper – to use up the fats and dairy stuff in the house before the ascetic season of Lent.  Now, that “using it up before it goes bad” isn’t a factor so much, but I love the tradition anyhow.  
Today I am stewing about finalizing my Lenten efforts.  This article is a good one, with a good reminder and perspective…but it has thrown my ideas on their head a bit and now I am rethinking.  It’s very easy for me to give up too much of or the ‘wrong’ food items.  It’s so ingrained for me to give up some foodstuff that I feel like a cheat if I don’t somehow.  And  yet, I have food issues (Because I have arrested development and am like a 4 year old if told I can’t have something……infantile, I know.)  due to my lack of discipline, the effects of said infantile issues on my children (Yes, cranky much? And, yes, again, my failing, I realize that, thank you very much), and being diabetic my body just whacks out easily somehow it seems.  So…not sure if I will do food at all again this year or focus more on this issue, also a struggle.  
Yeah, I think that the bulk of my Lenten consideration needs to be centered around prayer and silence.  I’ve been crazy distracted lately in prayer, and well, I’m  never very good at silence.  I crave it, but even when I find it, I can’t seem to get my whirling dervish of a mind to slow down and shut up.  Really.  So, to that end, I think I need to work on that.  Shush up and listen for pete’s sake.  Please.
I will type more tomorrow about this whole Lent thing, and my personal Lent thing (because I know that’s keeping you up at night….).  But for today, I once again refer you to the marvelous supersite of all things Lent: questions, resources, history, ideas: Aggie Catholics
So, tomorrow: Into the Desert, Lent begins.
Today: 
Laissez les bon temps rouler!

>For a Friday

>

Pope Benedict XVI, photo from the Times Online.

This is shamelessy cribbed from Deacon’s Bench. But it is OH so worth reading, and yes, taping to our bathroom mirrors, or oh, tattooing on us somewhere if you’re so inclined. And it’s from Il Papa: Pope Benedict.

“We all stand in a great arena of history and are dependent on each other. A man ought not, therefore, just figure out what he would like, but to ask what he can do and how he can help.

Then he will see that fulfillment does not lie in comfort, ease, and following one’s inclinations, but precisely in allowing demands to be made upon you, in taking the harder path.

Everything else turns out somehow boring, anyway. Only the man who “risks the fire,” who recognizes a calling within himself, a vocation, an ideal he must satisfy, who takes on real responsibility, will find fulfillment. As we have said, it is not in taking, not on the path of comfort, that we become rich, but only in giving.”

And, while Pope Benedict was speaking of vocations to religious life here. I believe this applies to us all. Especially moms, families, marriage….heck, life in general, heck: ME. It’s just so hard to remember and harder to actually do, isn’t it? Ah, don’t I know it. Sigh. I’m taping this to my mirror, so I can see it each day….and try again…

>I love happy endings

>

Freed French-Colombian hostage
Ingrid Betancourt hugged Pope Benedict on Monday

I have been following this story over the past few months, and it’s riveting. This is a wonderful, happy ending. It makes me smile, when she talks of hugging the Pope and protocol…somehow, I don’t think he minded. I think I would end up doing the same thing, I do it every time with our dear Bishop. Lastly, the Pope points out that her prayer was the right kind, the kind it’s so easy to forget:

‘He heard you because you knew how to ask. You didn’t ask for a miracle to be
freed yourself, instead you asked to understand what was His will.’

Just a nice read to start to the day. Again, at Deacon’s Bench, go read.

>Bricks

>

Photo by frangrit: Flikr

Bricks are falling around here.
For those who know, it surprises us too, yowch.
But this was one of them on Sunday, in addition to the homily at Mass, which pretty much mirrored our dinner conversation the night before. Oof.

I’m off to buy a few hardhats….I’m just saying….

>Feast Days!

>It’s a big weekend around here for feast days. Kind of snuck up on us, it’s been a hectic week.

First we had St. Christopher’s Feast Day, yesterday (Friday, July 25). Now officially, it was the feast day of St. James the Greater. And while I am quite sure he is an awesome guy, I mean, he’s a saint and all, we don’t have a James in our bunch and we are not all that familiar with him – despite him being the first apostle to be martyred (which again, lends itself to the awesome holy guy factor).

St. Christopher, Cologne Cathedral, Germany

But, used to be, yesterday was also St. Christopher’s feast day, until he got booted off the official saint feast calendar. And despite Sister Mary Martha really not being keen on St. Christopher (due to his dubious status), we are kind of fond of him around here. She makes a valid point that he is suspected to be legendary, lived well before tidy historical records, and thus was dropped off the formal calendar of the Church. [She explains it all well, go read.] And that is probably a good thing, as we all want the Church to be as careful as can be about the whole saint thing, making sure T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted and all; and the calendar was way too crowded and so the Church didn’t want any saints on it that couldn’t be historically traced and proven….because the whole communion of saints thing is too terrific to mess up.

But, that being said, we don’t much care if he is legendary or if he existed. I mean, c’mon, I got my graduate degree in Folklore and Folklife from U Penn, I love oral tradition and history and how it traces and carries cultures over eons (and maybe is another reason I talk and type so much…but I digress)! We love the story of this saint and he is the patron of my Buddybug, and his name means “Christ-bearer” and I think that right there is just beautiful….and very apt for my son. He is all too often the Christ-bearer in this house, bringing kindness and gentleness to our home. So, we think that while it might not be traceable that St. Christopher actually was a living man and saint, we think it is not improbable and so we will celebrate St Christopher and the concept of being a Christ-bearer. That is worth a bit of thought and attention on any given day and yesterday was the day to do it in our house.

Saints Joachim and Anne, at the Church Saint Pantaléon, France.

And tomorrow, Sunday, is the feast day of St’s Joachim and Anne. It’s another patron of one of my kidletts: Bannas. These two are considered to be the grandparents of Jesus during His life here on earth, Mary’s mother and father. Anne is also the patron of all christian mothers and Joachim, of christian fathers. And while we don’t know so much about these two, we can presume they were typical grandparents, crazy in love with their grandson and proud of their daughter and her husband (I mean, they are saints, not petty grouchy old folks like some, and no I”m not pointing any fingers). So, tomorrow we will ask them for a few extra prayers on behalf of our sweet girl and for our family – as well as for all the orphans who are waiting for new families across the world.

Some might think it’s nuts or strange to think about saints and feast days, much less have a bit more prayer and/or celebration, but well the communion of saints is the coolest thing. I love having a big old extended family to hit up for prayers and support, whether they are here walking the earth or have moved beyond this world. I have had so many stop me and ask, “what do you mean, asking ‘a saint’ to pray for you….that’s wrong, you should just ‘pray to Jesus.” Well, yeah, I do. And will. But I also tend to ask my close friends and family for prayers, heck I’ve been known to call them up and beg! And it is no different asking a saint for prayers, except that they are closer to God, in the Beatific Vision itself, and no longer all smudged up by our natural tendencies toward selfishness and concupiscence. So, heck yeah, I’ll hit up a saint for prayers, I’ll take all the help I can get.

As for feast days, it’s always nice to remember family on their important days, whether or not they are still with us here. It adds a richness to our lives; it helps us move out of the immediate craziness and think about a bigger time frame, the eternal one. So, we like feast days around here, especially those of our patrons. So we’ll remember them and their lives, look to them for good example and ask for a prayer or two; if we are lucky we can celebrate with a traditional tasty dessert! Life is hard, why not have a bit more fun and enjoyment, another layer of richness woven in, when you can? It works for us!

So, for all those parents, grandparents, and families out there: St’s Joachim and Anne, pray for us!

>Why adopt? again?

>Ok, people ask. Why adopt? And again?

So you can have Christmas mornings like this.

And every other day too.

Yes, it’s messy.
In so many ways and levels.

But it’s also glorious. In so many ways and levels.

Because even though it, adoption, is in many ways, a
wildly selfish thing to do – because we WANT another child, want to feel them in our arms and kiss them and feel their chubby arms around our necks and have them fall asleep on our chests so we can take a nap too……even so, it is a thing that we are called to do. All of us, in one way or another. To care for each other, in the ways that we can.

We are all the church, the Body of Christ and we are made to take care of each other. These little ones need us and we need them. We need each other. For different reasons maybe, but for nothing less than that. We need each other. Kids need and deserve a family . I am made to be mom and my kids are made to care for their brothers and sisters. We are made for each other. We are called to each other.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think everyone is called to adopt. But everyone is called to care. We all do that, of course, in different ways. And adoption doesn’t solve the world’s problems. Our adoption in Ethiopia in no way solves the problems that are there. Our adoptions here in the states didn’t solve any of the problems here. But, adoption is one way to make a tiny ripple of difference.

And, adoption did bring this family together in what we believe was part of a plan that is bigger than us. Someone said once to me, “I guess it must have something to do with your beliefs.” Um, yes.
Absolutely.

I believe this boy was meant to be my son. My first born, 18 years ago. {yes, he’s the tall boy in yellow shirt in Christmas shot above, yes, time flies!}

I also believe this boy, my Little Man, was meant to be my son and is just as much so as the first one, above, and the four others in between them.

So, why adopt? The first time? And again? First it was because we had always talked about adoption as an option and something we knew we might pursue. Then, it was because we were finally ready to pay attention to JPII’s theology of the body and being open to life, in all manner and form.

Because we couldn’t let the idea of it go…..God nudged and nagged, chased us down.

Then we did. We adopted our first, a tiny little new baby girl, then another (ok, and another)……Then we realized the most important idea in the world, to us:

Love is a verb.

Love is not a warm feeling, all fluttery and gushy, except sometimes. Love is not being loved back. In no way is it a hallmark card.

Love is doing. No matter what.

{Now, you probably know all this already but I told you I am a slow learner, didn’t I?}
And the cool thing is – when you do for someone…when you walk the floors w/ a crying baby that won’t stop, when you hold a sick kid w/ a fever or bad dreams, when you make yourself get out of bed, again, for the fifth or sixth time that night to go soothe them, when they pee on you, when they ask you for another cup of juice, again….well, you do it. And that brings love. That is love. And there is the bond. It doesn’t matter then how they came to you. You love them. They are yours and you are theirs. You are a family.

So, not to go on, but it comes up so often, especially now, when we are adopting again and our family is getting large – larger than is comfortable for the average American. People look at us sideways like we might be a little bit nuts. And maybe we are. But in the best way. And often they say “Gee, shouldn’t you be done by now? Why are you adopting?” Well, because we can, fortunately. Because we want to. Because long ago we realized we needed and wanted to be open to all the kids God chose to send us.

And send them He does, no one else.

And it is a little crazy maybe.
And it is messy.
And tiring at times.

But it is glorious.

And that is the answer to why we adopt. Again.

>Divine Mercy Sunday

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It’s Divine Mercy Sunday. The eighth day in the octave of Easter. In our measly effort to mark the day, we are going to watch the Saint Faustina movie this afternoon and maybe try to be merciful to each other, in the little things. Just maybe, be mindful of being a tad more patient and tolerant of those irritating day to day things that happen in a family. Not so easy. There’s that line in the ‘Our Father’: “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Sigh. Gets me every time. Ow. Much harder than it sounds, eh? For me, at any rate. Read more about Divine Mercy Sunday here.