A Saint for the Rest of Us…

…meaning, this is the saint of the wild, the procrastinator, the know it all in each of us…
Its the feast day of St. Augustine!

Ok, most of us know Augustine.  But just in case: this saint, from north Africa, {born in Tagaste, in Africa, in 354} is one of the biggies: a Doctor of the Church and one of the great writers throughout Church history. I like him for so many reasons, not the least of which is his connection with his mom and her devoted prayers for her son. You know, I will always have a soft spot for a mom and son….

His teachings are noted throughout Christendom for their lasting influence and, simply put, their beauty. Sure, yes, of course, their brilliance and wisdom too.  But….it’s important to remember how he started, I think.  He started on this road with a left turn – years of living a life that was wild, utterly hedonistic, and dipped into all sorts of heresy and convoluted ideas of god…..but when he returned to the Faith, he did so in a big way, using his brilliant mind to convey the beauty of Truth to generations to come.

Indeed, this is the antiphon from evening prayer tonight:
“Late have I loved you,
O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, 
late have I loved you.  
You called, you shouted and you shattered my deafness.”

Late have I loved you…“ Indeed. And perhaps, that is part of his appeal to so many, so many of us (ok, me), have really felt that, lived that. Late.  I loved you late. I missed so much, for so long. The “band width” of my life was so slim, so small, and I didn’t even know it. I was fooled by the hedonistic life (now I”m not saying wild, let me be clear…not too much so or compared to today’s standards, anyhow.  Ahem) I lived into thinking it was so wide. I was arrogant enough to think I knew it all. Only, later, later when I finally let go of my grip on that did I finally come to realize how very very limited and small it all really was.

And it was then that this saint, St. Augustine, once more, came through for me with one of his most famous prayers:

“You have made us for yourself, oh God. 
And our hearts are restless, until they rest in you.“ 

Ah. I know, I’m paraphrasing that quote, but that’s how it sticks in my head and heart. And that about sums it all up: St. Augustine, life in general, me in particular.  Late.  Too busy to stop and see, to stop and hear, to stop and love.  For the real depth of it, the real deal.  Late.  But, not never.  So, for all of you busy hectic procrastinators and or know it all’s out there (like me)….St Augustine, he’s your man.

icon written by Nancy Oliphant

Really, it’s never too late to wake up to love.  
Thank goodness!
Happy feast day!
St. Augustine, pray for us!

Corpus Christie: mind blowing feast day

It’s the feast of Corpus Christi: the Body of Christ.
It’s one of the greatest Mysteries of the faith, capital “M” mystery again…one of those that boggle and baffle the mind. One of those you believe or you don’t. Period.
I do.

It’s the Eucharist. The body of Christ. It’s a gift, a sacrament, it’s utterly holy and sacred and, at the same time, the most intimate thing on earth.

I can’t do this justice of course. To read more about this, with historical support, go here.
To read a good piece on how to bring together your mind, heart and senses on this, go here.

All I know is that I like thinking about connections a lot. You know that. I like that whole connected relational brought together linked adopted bonded sense in (my) life. I see it so many places that it gives me chills if I stop to think about it. And that is what I find to the utmost, mindblowing, heart zinging way in the sacrament of Communion and the Eucharist: the most intimate connection and unity that can be. Ever – in this world. And I yearn for it and reach for it and I sink into it with relief and gratitude and wallowing comfort and thankfulness.
And I don’t understand it with my mind.
But my heart and soul know it’s more real than anything else.
John 6

*reposted from a few years ago. This doesn’t change for me, just keeps me sighing in awe and relief.*

Little Girl Lamb

It’s the feast of St Agnes today.

St Agnes by Zurburan

She is often depicted in art with a lamb; her name means “lamb” in Latin, “pure” in the Greek.  Thus, the iconography.  Not surprisingly, she is the patron of  young girls…more specifically,  the patron of young girls who have been victims of sexual assault.  Correspondingly, she is the patron of chastity, which is a topic I have been mulling for years now with the teens filling my house.  How to teach what the concept really means, the fullness of that word..not the tiny limited prudery that is inferred by our attention deficit surface dweller culture, but rather the mind blowing actuality of what true chastity/keeping to the truth of who we are – heart soul and body – can bring.  But that’s a whole ‘nother post, to be sure.

Anyhow, I  have four teens now. St Agnes is a patron I will continue to hit up for prayers; for my girls’ courage and perseverance and sure inner guidance to what’s true and truly good….for them not to get sucked into and wounded, literally or emotionally or spiritually, by this sordid hard world we live in.  Because we all need all the help we can get.

St Agnes, by El Greco, of course.

From the Collect (prayers for the day): 

Almighty ever-living God, who choose what is weak in the world to confound the strong, mercifully grant, that we, who celebrate the heavenly birthday of your Martyr Saint Agnes, may follow her constancy in the faith. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


Checking it twice….stoves!

Its’ the feast of St. Nicholas!
And, as I’m working on my own elfin to do list, in the spirit of the real St Nicholas, I want to put this on the top of our Christmas list.  The real St Nicholas was known to throw small bags of gold over the walls of some of the poor in his village; not the standard help mode of the time….

A citizen of Patara had lost all his money, and had moreover to support three daughters who could not find husbands because of their poverty; so the wretched man was going to give them over to prostitution. This came to the ears of Nicholas, who thereupon took a bag of gold and, under cover of darkness threw it in at the open window of the man’s house. Here was a dowry for the eldest girl and she was soon duly married. At intervals Nicholas did the same for the second and third; at the lasttime the father was on the watch, recognized his benefactor and overwhelmed him with his gratitude

So, in light of the spirit behind that…by which I mean, doing what works to help families – because we all need it from time to time….I offer this.  This is what I want for Christmas.  I want a new stove.  I don’t want the biggest Viking house beautiful stove or cooktop. I want this stove.  Because it will be a way to make a home more beautiful, and a family do better, this Christmas.  Go, see.  Put a stove on your list!  Put ten!  This present will last longer, taste better, and bring more joy than any other gizmo that is topping the charts.  Step into the spirit of Father Christmas today…..
The Adventure Project Holiday Stove Campaign from The Adventure Project on Vimeo.
All I want for Christmas is…a stove or two or ten!”  
Think about THAT as you’re warming up your cocoa! “

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!

Girl talk and holiness: An advocate

It’s the feast of St. Teresa of Avila!
I love her. I claim her as one of my patron saints due to our shared tendency toward massive headaches and migraines. Only one who has them all the time can really understand how they scramble you…and she did. So, she’s my gal!

Painting by Francois Gerard, c. 17C

But more importantly, St. Teresa of Avila is just one amazing woman and saint. She is one of the three women Doctors of the Church (a distinction noting that her spiritual writings are both sound and very important, influential, indeed foundational). For a woman of medieval times, that is no small accomplishment, not to mention: staying power! Her books such as Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection are just amazing reads. Not fast page turners, but mind blowers. You have to stop every few pages and just sort of…digest it all. And then soak it in, let it sink in….it’s great great stuff and will change your prayer life. She founded the Discalced Carmelites (Meaning “shoeless,” again, what’s not to like?) and had an ongoing friendship and correspondence with the mystic and poetically powerful St. John of the Cross {And if you want a really phenomenal book, tough, dense, but OH so worth it: read the compilation/commentary on these two together: Fire Within, by Dubay}.

But on another level, not the “resume” angle…St. Teresa of Avila appeals to me because she was first of all a real living, breathing woman. I know, they all are, doh. But what I mean is that she was a woman of opinions and ideas and kind of stubborn and pushy, even when that wasn’t always overtly sanctioned in the culture of her time. She was extremely social and loved to sit and chat and flirt even…she was quite beautiful and knew how to use it too. She had to struggle against the urge to chat and flirt and gossip, and spend too much time doing it, because she could lose afternoons to it.

Sound familiar to any of you, especially you gals? Um, yeah. That stuff IS fun. Total temptation.  Sounds pretty modern to me.

St. Teresa’s monastic cell at the Convento de la Encarnación, Ávila
Kinda beautiful in it’s own stark simplicity, don’t ya think?

And yet, even so, St. Teresa could hear in her inmost self the whisper of God who loved her as she was, loved her more than anyone else could. And she responded, bravely, to that irresistible call. And it brought her the ecstasy of union with God in prayer. And that amazes me and intrigues me as I know firsthand how hard it is to push all those opinions and flippy chitchatty conversations out of my head to pay attention to God himself. She knew that frivolous conversation impeded her progress toward holiness…..and she dreaded nothing so much as delusion and the siren call of distraction from that path.  Frivolous conversation? Distraction? I’m the poster girl for it. But St. Teresa gives me hope and I have hope that she prays for me…for my attention to what is important, for responding to that call, that whisper, for my headaches, for being brave enough to listen through the din of my modern mundane life.

Sculpture by Bernini, “St. Teresa in Ecstasy”
So, happy feast day!St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us!

**Much of this was posted several years ago…I’ve been in the trenches, busy, but today I’m lifting my head up long enough to repost.  Because this gal is one of my chosen patron saints.  Thanks for understanding.


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!

St Vincent de Paul: for the orphans…..

..and the widows and the poor. This saint had the big heart.  The heart that, maybe, darn near broke from compassion.  The heart that put compassion first foremost and above all.  So, for all you adoptive families and mission going gals out there – he’s your man.  Heck, for all you guilt ridden, distracted, interrupted moms out there (ok, me…), he’s a great saint to consider hitting up for prayer.  He gets it. And, it’s his feast day today!

I also gotta wonder if he wasn’t one with a sense of humor, another joyful saint.  I mean, look at that face. All the paintings and images I’ve ever seen of him show that smile and a little spark in his eyes.  Love that.  But, I digress.

Anyhow, he’s French, from the late 1500’s.  No easy time that.  But, enough, to distill what he was about, I can do no better than to excerpt one of his letters (from this morning’s Office of Readings):

“It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible.  If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind.  Offer the deed to God as your prayer.  Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of god’s works is merely interrupted so that another can be carried out.  So when you leave prayer to serve some poor person, remember that this very service is performed for God. Charity is certainly greater than any rule.”  {From St. Vincent de Paul’s epistle 2546: Correspondance, entretiens, documents, Paris 1922-25, 7} 

Now, c’mon moms, does that not describe your every waking moment days in a nutshell? I think so!  It does mine.  What? I’m not surrounded by the poor? Well, not in the common sense of the term, no.  However, the poor are the little among us too.  They are the ones who need help, the ones who have no voice or a very tiny small one, the ones who might get overlooked. The poor get dismissed, either because they are the classic newspaper image of poor, impoverished and not just outside our door; or because they are children, our children even, and we forget their needs are so mighty as well.  So,  yeah, they count too.  Overwhelming? Poor ALL around us?? Well, yeah.  But, happily, we get props for trying to connect and make a difference, one glass of juice at a time, one band-aid at a time, one ear to listen, to serve, at a time.  I believe it.  The trick for me is remembering to DO it.  Again.  And again.  And again…well, you get the idea.

St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us!

Patron for the Moms

It’s the Feast of St. Monica!

Painting of St. Monica, by John Nava

Monica is special in so many ways….and especially special to me.  She hails from North Africa, so many forget that about her and Augustine..But I love her because she prayed without ceasing for her son (and her husband). I mean, it’s fairly widely agreed that her fervent prayers, and persevering ones, were effective in the conversion of her wild boy, Augustine.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  To fully understand why she is such a role model for me (and moms in general)…read on….

Painting of St. Monica, by Janet McKenzie
Monica was from North Africa, and from a culture where women didn’t always have the amount of power that we enjoy today (ok that was worldwide, but still…to set hte stage here…).  She was married to a tough husband and had a mother in law who hated her.  Not easy.  Even so, she weathered her Mother in laws barbs and she prayed for the conversion of husband….which he did, on  his deathbed.  Then there was her son.  You mom’s of teens, listen up:  Augustine was a son that would give any mom fits!  In our era raising him would mean many sleepless nights and teary phone calls with girlfriends. I suspect she had many a night awake fretting over her boy, and possibly many a tsking talk with her girlfriends as they worked.  Maybe she had to be quiet and weather the gossip about him…not easy…but OH so much fodder for it!  Her son was wild and ignored her pleas, getting into all sorts of revelry; ok, trouble…the kind of trouble we moms go gray over (can read more about him tomorrow on his feast day!).

But Monica persevered, because this was her son, she knew the truth and that he was Good (capital G good) and she had the faith that her prayers would be answered according to God’s will….sooner or later. Well, it was something like 17 years later, but it happened. Not only did Augustine turn his life around and step back onto more solid ground, but he converted to the faith and was ordained by St. Ambrose himself. So, not only were her prayers answered, they were abundantly answered!  How cool is that??

I am just pretty darn sure that ol Augie’s conversion (as he might have been called in his party days) was in large part due to the faithful lasting sure prayers of his mom, as well as her prayerful example and steadfast love, no matter what. See that painting, just above?  It’s St. Monica praying for St. Augustine…see that intensity, this mom means business!  And no matter what trouble he got into, Monica didn’t shun him. She might well have corrected him, being his mom and all (whether or not he listened)…..….but she never stopped loving him.

And that is what will turn even the hardest furthest of hearts back to the truth of Real Love. So I love St Monica, and she reminds me to never give up. Ever. We mom’s can’t give up…it’s one of the things that keeps the world spinning correctly on it’s axis.  I know it.

Happy feast day, moms.
St. Monica, pray for us!

>Mom Feast


Feast of St. Monica

Painting of St. Monica, by John Nava

Today is the feast of St. Monica!
It’s a special feast day for us moms, because she is a special patron of mothers…especially the moms who have persevere in prayer and try to convert their worries and fretting and even fears for their kids into something more productive: prayer.
Here is one of the premier examples of patience, especially for us moms.
Really, I should unofficially consider her a patron, because here is a mom who showed such patience and perseverance in prayer…and these are some of the traits (especially that whole patience thing) that I severely lack.

Painting of St. Monica, by Janet McKenzie

St. Monica, a saint from north Africa, prayed for the conversion (successfully) of her husband and his mother. But, most famously, she prayed and prayed faithfully for the conversion of her wild, wayward son, Augustine.

Augustine was a son that would give any mom many sleepless nights and teary phone calls with girlfriends. And while Monica wasn’t of the phone call era, I suspect she had many a night awake fretting over her boy. He was wild and ignored her pleas, getting into all sorts of revelry; ok, even trouble…the kind of trouble we moms go gray over (can read more about him tomorrow on his feast day!).

But Monica persevered, because this was her son, she knew the truth and she had the faith that her prayers would be answered according to God’s will….sooner or later. Well, it was something like 17 years later, but it happened. Not only did Augustine turn his life around and step back onto more solid ground, but he converted to the faith and was ordained by St. Ambrose himself.

I like to think it is in no small part due to the faithful lasting sure prayers of his mom, as well as her prayerful example and steadfast love, no matter what. She didn’t shun him. She might well have corrected him, being his mom and all (whether or not he listened)….. {I know this is an old holy card image, but it makes me laugh.
It’s St. Monica praying for St. Augustine,
but that’s the same look my boys have when I’m giving them advice…
which is surely also a scene from the life of these two!}

….but she never stopped loving him. And that is what will turn even the hardest furthest of hearts back to the truth of Real Love. So I love St Monica, and she reminds me to never give up. Ever. We mom’s can’t give up…it’s one of the things that keeps the world spinning correctly on it’s axis.  I know it.

Antiphon from today’s morning prayer:
“You answered her prayer, O Lord, you did not disregard her tears 
which fell upon the earth wherever she prayed.”

Happy feast day, moms.
St. Monica, pray for us!
{Much of this reposted, not all, from last  year…it’s a busy time, but this feast day is not to be missed}.

>Sacred Hearts

> You know, I always get a little chuckle out of the biker tattoos and punk or rockabilly co-opting of the Sacred Heart image.  Some might well gasp in shock or tsk tsk…but really, I think it’s kind of a flipped, inside joke.

I mean, I know it’s supposed to be, in many tho maybe not all cases,  radical and all… and a way of thumbing their punk biker noses at organized religion or God or whatever.  But to me, it’s a little joke on them.  Because I really am  not sure  you can walk around wearing a Sacred Heart image without it somehow, in teeny tiny ways, rubbing off on you.  God’s funny like that.  He’s got a great sense of humor….look at my family, look at me!  Jesus, I would guess, is fine with a biker having a tattoo of His sacred heart…at least He’s there, right? Isn’t it a little bit like a small boy writing “Mama” on  his arm with a sharpie and then going in and being a out of control little rebel?  It’s that natural conflict that we all have.  These tough punkers or bikers seem to be much the same.  Can you say “arrested development?”  I can.  {Ok, now I am sure a fleet of rough tough bikers will want to come rumbling through my yard….please.  Have a sense of humor, life is short!}

And really, even punk   hipster mamas can carry their babes in these “rockabilly punk slings”, see just below…I’m not even sure what to make of that!  Good or no? Hmmmm, good, really….but too few really understand so the public at large will think you’ve gone punk if  you cart your kiddo around in this.  But the really hardcore Catholics might give you a big high five!  What’s a mom to do??  Ha! And speaking of moms…tomorrow we could, maybe, look at some fun co-opts of pop culture and Mary, talk about conflicted children! Folks can’t stop splashing her around…but she’s cool, or, as the youngsters say, “chill” (they say that right?), because we old moms know that just like with celebs, any publicity is good publicity.  (To a degree…there IS blasphemy and sacrilege, but this is a happy post so we won’t go there this time.)

Anyhow, today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, June is the month of the Sacred Heart. {I lifted this part of this post, shamelessly, from a prior post on this solemnity, because of the travel thing, so cut me some slack ok!? Thanks!}  This is an old devotion, a private devotion and one that helps any day, every, day be more mindful. Read all about it here. It helps transform our mundane regular daily grind into something bigger than ourselves – and instead offers our mere efforts to Christ as a way of showing we love Him, despite ourselves and our habitual selfish nature. And it’s not just this month, it can be done year ’round, of course.

When I make this offering in the morning, somehow it helps my days. It doesn’t make them smoother, it doesn’t make them all jolly…but it makes even those “terrible horrible no good very bad days” into something more. It’s a comfort. Oddly, I am often more out of sorts when I forget this prayer to start the day. It’s like resting my head on His chest for a moment before I hop on the whirlwind of the day and try to lasso it.

So, yeah, it’s another Catholic post. It’s an uber Catholic post, really. Meaning, it’s one that might seem strange to those not familiar with it all (though I don’t mind explaining or questions either, I can take it!). It’s one of those old Catholic devotions, but it’s a goody. And if any of you are having days that are way stressed or out of sorts, I’d suggest giving it a go if you wonder… because really, what’s the risk? A little comfort? A little extra grace in the day? What’s not to like about that?

 Odilon Redon, The Sacred Heart
Heck, maybe you’ll want to get a radical tattoo…but because devotion to the heart of Jesus IS so cool, AND so radical, that you’d be hip to be square!  Who knew?

>Feast day of St. Jane Francis de Chantal

>Today is the memorial of St. Jane Francis de Chantal.
Now, she is a fascinating saint to me because, for one thing, she was mother to seven children.
That’s right!
Mom to seven kids, and STILL she made it to sainthood.

I’m tellin’ ya, it gives me hope, it does.
If nothing else, here is a gal that I figure can understand me to a fair degree and I can hit up for prayers on my behalf.
We moms of big families stick together!

She was french, born into a noble family. She also married a nobleman. Which is cool in it’s own way because, once again, we see that saints can come from any circumstances; it’s the disposition of our hearts and the choices we make, not the situations we are born to that determine the outcome. I think that’s fairly encouraging! St. Jane was widowed due to a hunting accident – her husband was shot. She struggled for many years to forgive the man who killed her husband; eventually she succeeded after much prayer and counsel.

Her closest counselor, friend, confident was none other than St. Francis de Sales (another top notch fav saint, and the author of this amazing book). So, here we have St. Jane showing us the importance of true friendship and how a holy friendship can lead to amazing things. Another reason I am keen on her. Her long friendship with St. Francis led her to eventually found the order Visitation nuns. Eventually she founded eighty-five convents.A woman who can be a mom to a bunch of kids, manage her household in a holy manner, forgive the hardest things and be a long and true friend, and still then manage to found an organization that does eternal good in the world…..now there is an example!
I have much to learn from a woman like St. Jane.
She is not of this era, but I daresay that Oprah and the modern reality tv micro-celebs could take a lesson from her too!

St. Jane de Chantal, pray for us!

>The Assumption

>Icon of the Assumption

Today is the Solemnity of the Assumption.

And solemnity doesn’t mean, necessarily, somber and morose…rather it can mean big time, important. Meaning, it’s a holy day of obligation, go to Mass. And while this is one of the “biggie” (Yes, I spent my summers in the seventies on the beach, we used that term, so what?) solemnities in the Catholic calendar, I don’t have the energy to give you all the scholarly apologetics behind it all (go see the link above for a start).

As an aside, however, Coffeedoc pointed out that today was the feast of the Assumption to Marta – Ethiopian Orthodox celebrate this feast in a big way and it is called “Filsata Mariam” – and she jumped up and down with excitement. So it’s a big deal even in the the other ancient Christian faith traditions.

Ethiopian Orthodox Marian icon.

Suffice it to say that this Solemnity is totally cool and has so many threads connecting it all that it blows my mind with a grin. And that, as so much of life is, it’s one of the Mysteries. That’s mystery with a capital “M;” theologically speaking. By which I mean, if I really could understand it through and through, well, I would be be both presumptuous AND wrong. Because some of the mysteries that make life and faith so rich, are not for my puny mind to dissect.

So, that all disclaimed, ahem, I give you my personal gloss on this feast day (My blog, massively opinionated, you knew it was coming.):
Mary was a mother who loved with perfect love (unlike myself). Her son was a perfect son, who also loved with a perfect love. Now, if I, with my very imperfect love can love my sons SO much that it can make me cry and mope when they leave for their very fun new exciting lives in college (Next week, I”m just saying.) once again……then how much more so did Mary ache to see her son leave this earth and his time with her in such a grisly unbearable event? And how much did she miss him, achingly miss him, all those years? And therefore, at the end of her life, when she was able to be reunited with her boy, her Son….just think of the joy, the unbridled radiating shimmery JOY, of that reunion! And in this feast, we believe that they were reunited in Heaven.

Frankly, I simply love everything about this. I mean, just having my boy come back home after a few months at college makes me want to whoop, jump for joy, run down the stairs and hug him tight, not let go, feed him pie and just look at him. It makes me ridiculously happy. So, this feast is a promise of that to me, that reunion, that that kind of love between mom and son (or, ok, kids, but hey, let me run this out), doesn’t just die out…it is eternal. And that is the best promise of all and that is nothing but cool.

So, there, moms….that’s something to smile about.
Happy Solemnity of the Assumption!

Detail of painting of Assumption, by Titian

Magnificat (Luke 1:36-55)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.
He has mercy on those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm
and has scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
to remember his promise of mercy,
The promise made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Lodovico Caracci, The Assumption of the Virgin, about 1586-7

>Feast of Corpus Christi

>It’s the feast of Corpus Christi: the Body of Christ.
It’s one of the greatest Mysteries of the faith, capital “M” mystery again…one of those that boggle and baffle the mind. One of those you belief or you don’t. Period.
I do.

It’s the Eucharist. The body of Christ. It’s a gift, a sacrament, it’s utterly holy and sacred and, at the same time, the most intimate thing on earth.

I can’t do this justice of course. To read more about this, with historical support, go here.
To read a good piece on how to bring together your mind, heart and senses on this, go here.

All I know is that I like thinking about connections a lot. You know that. I like that whole connected relational brought together linked adopted bonded sense in (my) life. I see it so many places that it gives me chills if I stop to think about it. And that is what I find to the utmost, mindblowing, heart zinging way in the sacrament of Communion and the Eucharist: the most intimate connection and unity that can be. Ever – in this world. And I yearn for it and reach for it and I sink into it with relief and gratitude and wallowing comfort and gratitude.
And I don’t understand it with my mind.
But my heart and soul know it’s more real than anything else.
John 6

“Institution of the Eucharist,” painting by Nicolas Poussin

>Another Day Older, Again!

>Well, today is my birthday, again!
I am 47 years old today. Whew.
Since this seems to come around every year, I can’t really justify any big ol’ post about it.
It’s another day. Another day older and another year to claim.

Last year’s bday.

And as I mentioned last year, here, I have always had this weird “go underground” sense about my birthday. “Don’t make a big deal of it, don’t tell anyone, you don’t deserve the notice or the fuss” But I did finally realize that my children deserve the example of rejoicing in a birthday (not that they have much problem with that…but you know that particular oddness sneaks up on you…maybe at, say, age 32, fair warning!).

And I want them to be grateful for every year and day they are given: good, bad, frustrating, harried, stressful, electric, dull, full and overflowing. Every one, it’s a gift. And every bit of my old body; it’s a gift, even when I notice all the many ways that age is taking it’s inexorable claim on me. I could go on, you know I do {But it’s my bday so I’ll give YOU a gift a spare you. You’re welcome…}.

But here is what I choose today to think about: instead of the ‘whats,” (as in what’s wrong, what’s old) I prefer, if only today, to think of the “who’s”….by which I mean the people who mean something or so much to me.

The connections.
That is where you find the riches of getting older, another day, another year.
With that in mind, there are connections that spring to mind today…
And while I would go on about my husband, children, family, friends….this is not an award show or a roast and I’m not Sally Field.

Today the connections that spring to my mind are of a ridiculously cute small boy, who is precociously potty trained (not that I’m envious, not me, no sir…) and has a smile that lights up a room (I think it’s actually a combo of his smile and his beautiful mama). It’s his bday today too, go give him a big bday shout!

Another connection, dear to my heart: Today is the feast of St. Anthony of Padua.

Painting by El Greco

St. Anthony is a saint that I have long loved. Not only because we share a special day, but because I have found him to be a comfort and a trusted saint to turn to for prayers. He was known for his kindness, his courtesy, and his deep humanity. His appeal endures even now in this modern age; and it’s no wonder, really. Because in this modern age, what we lack the most in our postmodern harsh world is just that: kindness, courtesy, humanity.

Which brings me back to the whole point of this post. To mark another day, another year older. And with that, to remember the best part: I am happier now than ever and I seem to be happier each year I get older.
How cool is that?
This inexorable claim of time gives me my mother’s hands, and now feet and hair. This added day, added year, also gives me more connections, more relationships, deeper ones. Love is the wealth in life.
And so, on my birthday, I have the best gift.
I know.
I love so many.
I am rich.

>Happy St. Valentine’s Day!


Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ok, so this is one of those holidays that have loads of different pieces to it all.

Of course we all know the Hallmark marketing blitz version, replete with buckets of kitschy figurines and teddy bears and flowers and chocolate. Don’t get me wrong, I like being remembered as much as the next gal!
Will I turn down flowers or champagne?
Not me!
Chocolate or raspberries?
Hugs and kisses?
Never ever!!

But there’s more to this day than just marketing. And you know I love those multi-layered bits! There is also documentation of an actual St. Valentine, three actually.

Most often St. Valentine is depicted as a priest of Rome and a martyr…which (not to fuel any flames on the misguided meaning of this term) is, really, an event which cannot be defined without the concept of Love. By which I mean, if you didn’t really, truly, utterly love your faith, well, then you surely wouldn’t be martyred for it now would you?

Happily, most of us never have to go anywhere near that far. Though some of us like to pretend that those chores really do have the same effect….ahem (not me, nosirree). But I digress. Below is a fun book to read to the kidletts today, for you moms out there who want to enrich the day without fat and sugar.
So, similar to St. Nicholas and St. Christopher, St. Valentine is a real guy but which one we are actually remembering on the calendar….well, let’s just say we can remember them all!

And so we get to remind ourselves to remember all those around us that we love so much, chores of martyrdom or not!

It’s a fun day, it’s winter, we need a break:
a happy bright red googly heart sort of day.
It’s here in the nick of time, if you ask me.
So go have some chocolate and smooch someone already!
Love the ones you’re with!
Happy Valentines Day!

>St. Francis Xavier: Feast Day!

>It’s the feast day of St. Francis Xavier!

Now, this is another of the saints I’m fond of, this Spanish saint is patron of African missions. He was also (in a timely link) a successful missionary in India for ten years, he loved it there. He eventually set out for the islands and China. He never made it to China, but he was an intrepid voyager, facing stormy seas and strange customs and countries. He relied on his faith and purpose, and he persevered. In doing this – persevering and respecting the foreign cultures he encountered – he not only followed God’s will for him, but pulled many to him and to God. He is considered “to have converted more people to Christianity than anyone else since St. Paul.” (see more, here).
For those homeschoolers out there, or anyone who wants an interesting, quick reading bio of this saint (and others), get Louis De Wohl’s book on St. Francis: Set All Afire.

You know I like to remember the feast days. With my daughter still in Africa, a saint that is a patron of African missions and was a courageous traveler is on top of my short list to ask for prayers: for her, for us to be together, to go get her, for all the traveling families on the road to bring their families together. That’s what St. Francis Xavier did too, just on a bigger scale.

St. Francis Xavier, pray for us!

>Feast Day: Saint Augustine


Image courtesy of Augnet.org

It’s the feast of Saint Augustine!

Yup, his mom’s feast day was yesterday. I think it’s nice to have them together on the calendar, fitting. And yup, yesterday I made mention of a brief bit about him: Doctor of the Church, Bishop of Hippo, born in North Africa, biracial, lived in Italy and Africa. But go to the ever interesting Anchoress, here, or here to read more, in depth.

Here’s the deal with Augustine. He is recognized by so many, not only Catholics, as an intellectual giant. He was brilliant. But the thing about Augustine that is so appealing I think, at least to me, is that he lived a real honest to goodness human life that so many of us can relate to. I mean, he was a total hedonist for a good while, he led a live that was centered in well, him, and what was fun and felt good if you didn’t like it (mom) then, that was too bad but oh well. He thought fairly well of himself, knew he was smart and thus knew better than his old mom and those stodgy fogies.

He was, well, us, me.
Only, finally, realizing the emptiness of such a life, did he bitterly cry out from the depths of his soul to God . And of course God responded. He was just waiting on him.

As St. Augustine said, “Late have I loved thee.” Ah, that’s it. That’s me. Again and again.

And the rest, is, well, history. And we are so lucky, no, not lucky, so graced to have this intelligence and tempered faith be turned in eternal service to the Church. We are all so fortunate to have his writings and prayers to learn from and soak into our hearts and souls.

“You have made us for Yourself, O God.
And our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”



Mary’s house in Ephesus, where she is believed to have lived out her days.

It’s the feast of the Assumption of Mary!

I know, another uber Catholic post and event. Still, fascinating and cool for us and if you want to know more, go read here. I love this one!

This is one of those Marian Catholic things that makes some folks a bit nuts. But really, it all makes sense. It is traced back to the apostles themselves:

At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, when bishops from throughout the Mediterranean world gathered in Constantinople, Emperor Marcian asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem to bring the relics of Mary to Constantinople to be enshrined in the capitol. The patriarch explained to the emperor that there were no relics of Mary in Jerusalem, that “Mary had died in the presence of the apostles; but her tomb, when opened later . . . was found empty and so the apostles concluded that the body was taken up into heaven.”
In the eighth century, St. John Damascene was known for giving sermons at the holy places in Jerusalem. At the Tomb of Mary, he expressed the belief of the Church on the meaning of the feast: “Although the body was duly buried, it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay. . . . You were transferred to your heavenly home, O Lady, Queen and Mother of God in truth.” from Catholic Culture.org

Again, it makes sense to me and to me, it’s beautiful.

“The Assumption completes God’s work in her since it was not fitting that the flesh that had given life to God himself should ever undergo corruption. The Assumption is God’s crowning of His work as Mary ends her earthly life and enters eternity. The feast turns our eyes in that direction, where we will follow when our earthly life is over.” From Catholic Culture.org

When I think of and meditate on this mystery, this feast, I always can’t help but think of Mary and her close relationship to her Son. A love from two pure souls, not smudged up by selfish hurts or striving, pure true love.

And, because it’s always about me, I think of me and my son(s). I am about to, again, take my eldest up to school, to move him back out of the house. And I am already starting to leak tears here and there. And it will make me cry when we have to begin our drive home again, without him. I will try not to bend over in pain and sob (not in front of him on campus, ok?). But I will grieve him going. I will be happy for him to be there, but it makes me cry to let him go.

And then, I remember, when he comes back on break or I go to visit him, the electric JOY that makes the world light up and a grin break across my face and dance to my feet. And that, that feeling, that reunion is what I think about, finally, every time, on this day.
Because no matter how old the mom is or how old the son…..that feeling surely cannot change, it hasn’t yet.

The sheer undiluted JOY that must be had at THIS reunion – when Mary is lifted to heaven, after being physically separated for so long from her only dearest Son, and His for her. Think of that glee, those grins…I don’t imagine a static statue of elegant repose and small appropriate smile on their faces. I hear and see whoops of laughter and hugs and glee and tears and grins and kisses. The best reunion of all. Glorious.

So, does the Assumption make sense? Oh yeah, to a mom, I think it makes Perfect sense. And it is a happy glorious feast!painting by Botticini