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…..

Well Then….

I had no idea.  But hey, I’ll take it!  See what I’m talking about, below, or here:

In a post last fall, Br. Ambrose wrote about how great it is to die as a Dominican.  Well, that extends to our parents as well. 

Each year, Mass is offered on Feb. 7 for the repose of the souls of our deceased mothers and fathers.  Each week, one of the Conventual Masses in each of our priories and houses around the world is offered for the deceased brothers, sisters, benefactors, familiars, and mothers and fathers of the friars for the same intention.  Moreover, each week five decades of the Rosary are also offered by every friar.  In other words, parents who give their children over to the Order then receive a gift back – a regular share in the Order’s prayers and supplications, each week and every year.

What a grace it is to die not only as a Dominican but also as a parent of a Dominican.

From the OP Vocations website, of course! Thanks Fr. Benedict!

See this?  Who knew?  I’ll take all the prayers I can get, now and beyond.

The idea that all those Dominicans are and will pray for me? For us old parents?  Boo-ya!  They must know, all too well, that we need it…..

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!

>Birth of St. John the Baptist

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It’s a Solemnity!
It’s a Solemnity of a happy day: the birth of St. John the Baptist!

Now, I’ve gone over this before but a solemnity is actually a big deal feast day…not really like it sounds – solemn in the sense of sad or grim.  Rather, it’s a specially marked day to remember some of the very important figures in our faith and history.  Obviously, St. John the Baptist…he’s a biggie!

Now this also means it’s a feast day of sorts for my Jon.  You know: patron/name and so on.  No surprise then, really, that I see many overlaps in character traits between these two John’s/Jon’s.  That’s how these things seem to go.  Names somehow evolve to seem very apt.  Maybe it’s all projecting by the parents, but even so….it’s my blog and I’m the mom and I’m going with it. 

So.  Here we have a day to remember and mark: the birth of this remarkable man, the herald of Christ to come, St. John the Baptist. 

Heck, even before he was born he was jumping around and making himself known, pointing (or kicking…) toward Christ.  When Mary went to visit Elizabeth, arriving and greeting her with a big hug, John lept in Elizabeth’s womb and Elizabeth knew, deep down, that something was up.  So I’m presuming it was more than your usual kick/bump/push by the babe.  Must’a been a whopper of a flip.  Maybe a little prenatal jump for joy?  Actually yes: 

“Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed in the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” Luke 1:41-44
Ok, this painting is  
Visitation by Mariotto Albertinelli (1503) and I saw it in the Uffizi.
I LOVE this painting. I do.  
  

So, that’s just cool.

But, what ya gotta also think of, ok, what I think of, is that little John…he was no milquetoast.  I mean, even before he was out and squinting at the light, he was already pointing and pushing and making a bit of a ruckus.  Elizabeth, she should have sensed what was to come.  Maybe she did.  Tho, not many moms will even dare look ahead to such radical futures for their kids: heading off into the desert, scavenging for food, not wearing the nice clean linens that we got or made for them…nope, not what might have been dreamt.  But it was precisely his hardheaded radical ways that made him who he is and was.  Those very traits of fearless speaking out earned him followers and prepared the way for Christ. It was exactly like it was supposed to be.  So he got the biggest honor of all: baptizing Christ.  Whoa.  He got to take part in a miracle for all to see.  And still he was his own kind of raggedy but strong difficult stubborn self.  To the very end, even to his beheading (another vision that no mom wants to even consider, yikes).

 El Greco, you know I love his stuff….

So, for all of us, we get to think about how to be countercultural today.  How to say the truth, even if it’s hard. How to stand up for what is right, not necessarily easy.  How to stay clothed in the less than flashy skins of integrity, loyalty and humble truth.  And my Jon, he has these qualities (maybe needing some work on the humble part…he’s 18 after all….): he has deep running integrity and a radar seeking truth, he is a champion of the small and weak. 

 {Yeah, even will stand up for his sisters…go figure}

He will speak out, in the desert or in the face of the powerful.  I know he too will do great things, even if hard.  And while sometimes I might personally want to roll his head down the hall in frustration…I DO wish him a different end than that of his patron.

But today is the day to celebrate the BIRTH of St. John the Baptist, not the end.  To think of the promise that even that little baby showed and that his intuitive saintly mama knew, from the very beginning: he was special.

Happy Solemnity!

Tintoretto, 1563

>Connected. Part 2: The beauty

>It’s the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker.

That’s the same St. Joseph that is the dad on earth of Jesus and the patron of families.
Plus of course, he was no slouch as a worker…hence a day to remember that.
And today, as our family is in a struggle and we are working hard to somehow find a way through it, I have offered up my petitions to St. Joseph, for his intercession, relying on his kindness and understanding as a father, and a worker-bee too.

That said, I have spent this past week tumbling many thoughts around in my head. And yeah, you know what that means: I gotta post. And this is a stumbling exploration of all those thoughts and yup it’s centered on faith and prayer, and it’s Catholic too – so fair warning. Just stop right now if you’re not interested. But I gotta, I’ve already told you, it’s how I process.

Way back in July, I wrote a post on connections, here.
And in that post I marveled at the connections we find in blogland, and beyond.
This week, I’ve been able to marvel at those connections all over again, much more viscerally and intimately than ever before.

As most of you know, this time, almost exactly last week, our trip to Addis was boxed. I had just finished up my ugly-crying scene at Barnes and Noble and was at home, doubled over in sobs, watching Coffeedoc turn his mouth to that determined set and get to work trying to find another way to get to our daughter. I sniffed up my tears again and again and he kept researching and calling. We are still in that same process, just beating different bushes.

This week has been one of physical grief and frustration, glimmers of hope and kicks in the gut of reality…again and again. Worry and fretting and fear.
And much much prayer.
And this is what I’ve been tumbling around…all this messy mass of contradiction: hope, prayer, suffering, worry, acceptance, and connections. Coffeedoc and I have been talking a lot about all this, what it means, how to walk through it.

So, bear with me as I lurch along here:
Prayer. We have been praying. So hard. My prayers and this struggle is so much that I don’t actually have real, speakable words to verbalize anymore. Those were gone, just about this time last week. We are taught that the Holy Spirit will interpret out meager prayers, with unutterable groans, and carry them to the Father.
And really, I think that at this point maybe I’ve saved him a step.
My prayers are sort of an unspeakable toss. They are sort of “You know what’s best and You know my heart of hearts, here, here take it..it’s too much for me.” And after that, even then, I can’t actually iterate those or any words, they are kind of silently, internally groaned. But this leaves me to question..is that prayer? Is that good enough? What if they are not? But those, that, is what I’ve been left with before – in those most stressful times of hospitals and threats. So, maybe those prayers are worth enough anyhow.

Suffering. You know, this is a suffering. Not nearly so deep or intense as so many out there, I so realize that. We are grateful it’s not more, we recognize how fortunate we are to have this, relatively measly, suffering. God knows what wusses we are. But, even so, it is a suffering. It is full of fear and worry and physical literal hurt and depression. And for what? So many say, “worry won’t change anything.”
Well. Hmm. True.
However, suffering, it does.
Suffering, it transforms.
This is not to say we want to suffer.
Uh-uh, not me, um, ever, ok?
But that when we do, it transforms – not only us, dare I say it, but the world.
A little bit.
And in that, there is such beauty.

Now, before you all wig out and think I am some creepy masochist, I’ll tell ya now, “I’m not.”
But I have seen the beauty of this suffering first hand, intimately, both times connected to a daughter. The first time was when my little four year old girl had a life threatening status epilepticus seizure and was life flighted to the downtown children’s hospital and was in the pediatric ICU for three days. (A different long story. She recovered, thanks be to God.) This time, it is with another daughter, one I haven’t hugged yet and she is stuck in a bureaucratic trap, half a world away. Both times, the outpouring of love and caring and prayers and support, helped us, lifted us up, and also humbled us and blew our minds. Yup, now, I’m there.

Because here is where the transforming, the prayer, the connecting, the suffering becomes beauty. Prayer doesn’t change God’s mind. We are not praying as if we can somehow pick a tune on a jukebox, “I’ll take Elvis, B6.” Prayer transforms our hearts to grow to accept God’s will, if we truly want God’s will. And in the process of that prayer, we are brought closer to His heart. And in suffering, we get a chance to also come closer and have others called closer to that same heart.

Erk. I’m not saying this well, or right. {I talked about some of this to dear sweet Becca, too.}
But, through our suffering (and really, this is hardly cancer or dying or anything, it is just really really hard and frustrating and feeling so desperate….and that’s our own doing, as the pills we are)….I have seen such beauty in the compassion and outreach of friends and family and most of all, the blog community. Blog friends gave up food for us, fasted, for our needs yesterday. So many have been praying, and fasting even, for us. It is utterly humbling.

But, I think, me {so really, take it for what very little it’s worth}, that really is where the transformative nature of prayer – and suffering – starts to play in. By our (measly) suffering (tho doesn’t feel measly, you get my drift); we offer it in prayer, and unite it intimately with the suffering Christ experienced. And that, Christs own suffering is what is calling to all of you others who are so giving and kind and supportive of US….that intimacy, that call to help, that urge to help that you/others feel is a response in LOVE which is nothing if not Christ, who IS love and so we are all transformed, and there, there is the glory of God.

It’s not in having our wants/needs worked out perfectly, but in bringing more of that glory, that love, into this dark hard world. It’s in each of us stretching out in love to console the other…there it is, right there.
It’s us getting to participate, willingly suffer/help carry the burdens of others, so that, like a small kid, we can help, even to change the world a little bit by the effort. We get to help. I see the big huge GLORY of it even as I feel and know the small personal intimate union of it all too….. Ack.

That is the transformative nature of suffering…you get the whole package, and it calls to others and so, mirrors, images, unites, us to Christ.

So. That’s just way cool to me. Even as I wallow and feel sick and so so deep blue down…..I can recognize that much, because God knows what a weenie I am and need something to hang on to. And I can, and do, and will hang on to the connections…and hope to be able to do the same for someone else, next time it’s needed. I see it in many many repeated emails, the flowers Jess sent me, and in the fasting Becca started, in the unexpected, providential or coincedental (?), connections like Lori…….and it all humbles me and makes me shiver in awe.

My kids make fun of me for my blog and my blog friends. But I don’t care. Because I said it last time, and I’ll say it again: We are connected, amazingly enough. I, even if only I, am lifted up by the connections. Which help me to remember one of my very favorite hymns, and one of Jana’s and one of it’s really good lines:

“We lift our hearts before you and wait upon your word”

At the best, when we are all at our best, when we, dare I say, are transformed into our best……we can walk through this all together – adoptions or other things – suffer, wait, help bear the burden and shout with glee, as we each wind our way through this long, often difficult, road….looking for the light at the end, waiting on His word.

“and whether our tomorrows
be filled with good or ill,
we’II triumph through our sorrows
and rise to bless you still”

So, maybe this is just a very long stream of consciousness thank you, because I don’t really have the words to say it well or nearly nearly enough. But for all of you, your thoughts, prayers, support…no matter the outcome: Oh, my, thank you. Thank you.

>Packing in Prayer

>

Yup. Packing. Praying.Not done yet.

{You might think so….but NO,
still missing three more suitcases
and three more backpacks.
And quite a bit more prayer for good news to go.}

Tomorrow…..?

>Marathon news

>

photo from London Telegraph

Pope Benedict XVI has begun a marathon.

Our Pope -and many others, Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Protestant and Jew- is reading the entire bible in a seven day span. It is a marathon week. It is going out over the television and airwaves, across Italy and ultimately, to the world.

And for anyone who thinks that this is a mere trivial exercise, take a look at these pics and be reminded of the world presence this Pope has. These are from World Youth Day in Cologne, a few years back. Coffeedoc took Buddybug and Booboo and it was packed, over a million youth from around the world.

Now you’re talking multicultural!

The Anchoress has a good bit of the timely balm of these words. Like her, I don’t think it’s just a coincidence of timing. I think our Holy Father is a wise man and knows how to bring out the big guns.

This marathon reading then is transformed into a seven day prayer, participated in and shared by countless, throughout the world, just when we need it most. It’s a nervous time, worldwide. And instead of being worried about hitting rock bottom, we can remember to touch the foundation, the rock and stand back up again.

>I love happy endings

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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.