punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Divine Mercy and a Miscarriage

This year I experienced what could be called a most un-self mortifying Lent.

In one respect, at least, it was excusable: in the midst of the season, I learned I was pregnant.  As such, sacred vessel of new life that I was, I mostly felt excited and jovial over the news, instead of the prescribed solemn and penitent.

But that’s not why my Lent was lame.

It was more the fact that, expecting a baby or not,  I only managed to keep my 40 days for life vigil a handful of times and indulged in meat abstinence on Fridays with obscene sushi consumption.  Add to this that I fell asleep twenty minutes into the Passion of the Christ and failed to read more than thirty pages of Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection and it’s obvious that any dedication to 'subduing one's flesh' or doing something extra and spiritually enriching never rose above ankle level for me.

Ergo, I decided make a Divine Mercy Novena, which begins on Good Friday and ends on Easter Saturday as a way of making up for my general Lenten lethargy.  Where I had failed to enter into the mystery of Christ's cross, I was determined, at the very least, to bring a profound sense of Christ’s resurrection into my heart and home.

And then I had a miscarriage.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  Back to the novena, for a moment.

Almost as soon as I began trekking through the prayers, Easter week started shaping up as a harried, and awful week.  I’ll spare you the details.  Suffice to say, the devil circled nearby all week long to beleaguer the faith out of me (I noticed he did not come around when I wasn’t really making an effort).

But in the backdrop of all of this was the novena.

Everyday a different group of souls (mankind, priests and religious, those separated from the Church, unbelievers, those ignorant of Christ, souls in purgatory, the souls of children, the humble, meek, devout, faithful and, finally, the lukewarm) is prayed for.  Immediately, I was struck by how realistic and practical those ‘divisions’ of souls were.  I say this because everyone falls into one or more of those categories at any given time during their lives (knock on wood for purgatory). 

Like a ‘camino’ of self-discovery, as I prayed for ‘them,’ i.e. the souls that Jesus wants to deliver into his unfathomable mercy, I discovered that I was essentially was praying for myself.   So often I’m the one who is ignorant of who Christ is.  I separate myself from Him and His Church through sin, I become inexcusably lukewarm during key times such as ahem, Lent, for instance.  

But, wait, this novena is about Divine Mercy and not self-loathing!  I also prayed for good, meek and devout souls and for myself as someone who can be faithful, devout and yes, even meek at times. Throughout the novena I could not forget that true humility (as well as mercy) also requires acknowledging our good points and those of others no matter how difficult that is at times.  

I, for one, struggle with understanding God’s mercy, which is probably telling of how I too often fail at extending mercy to others.   The novena deepened my understanding of the goodness of our Lord as the source of inexhaustible mercy.  I also learned that I still have much to learn when it comes to growing in humility and regarding others mercifully.

This Easter, however, I experienced what it means to humbly surrender to His will and trust in His mercy in a very personal way.

On the sixth day of Easter, we learned that our baby had died.

On that very sleepless night, in that cold emergency room, my husband and I cried, held hands, and hugged each other. And yet even in the midst of our loss, we concluded that, in the end, we trusted God.  By grace, we were able to place our trust in His will and plan for us, and to entrust our baby to His loving mercy.

And in the backdrop of all this, still, was the novena, in which the souls of children are particularly prayed for.

Jesus, I trust in you.

On Divine Mercy Sunday, we attended mass. As I gazed at the still fresh Easter lilies surrounding the tabernacle and image of the Divine Mercy that hangs behind the altar, I felt a profound sense of resurrection both for myself and for my little one.  My baby is alive somewhere and one day I hope to meet little him or her in Heaven.   

Yes, it is a saddening thing to lose a child.  There will always be a hole in our hearts for never having known them.  But it’s an equally beautiful thing to experience being immersed with them under the tent of God's hounding mercy and compassion. 

That evening, after mass, we named our baby and I finally a felt splinter of joy in my soul as I left for home with my husband and with the two beautiful children God has blessed me with in this life.

It was the first time all Easter.

“Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 Jn 5:5  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Toddler Explains Hell Using a Guidebook of Italy

The following post recounts a conversation that took place in our household on the Tuesday before Easter Sunday, the Year of our Lord, two thousand and twelve.

Names have not been altered.

In this conversation: Dada the Wise, Abby the Toddler, and Very Italian Uncle "Taco" (toddler for 'Franco').

Abby: Dada, Do you have a sister?

Dada: Yes, Abigail.

Abby: Where is she?

Dada: She’s in Heaven.  

Abby: What’s Heaven?

Dada: It’s where we go when die if we have been good.

Abby:  (thinks about it) Where do you go if you are bad?

Dada: You go to hell.

Abby: What's hell?

Dada: It's where the bad guys live.

Abby: Bad guys?  Well...what do they do?

Dada. They hurt you.

Abby:  Why do they hurt you? 

Dada:  Because that’s what they do.

Abby: (frowns) I don’t want to go there.  I'm going to go to Heaven.

Cute as heck, right?

Later that evening, when Very Italian Uncle Franco, aka "Taco"  comes to visit:

Abby: (holding a guidebook of Italy, reading a 'story' to our visitor)  ...and the Spanish ships invaded Italy.  Oh...Uncle Taco, that’s Hell.

Very Italian Uncle Taco: That's Italy, Abby, not Hell.

Abby: No. That's hell (pointing to something in the guidebook)...

Taco: (looks to where she is pointing) No Abby, that's not Hell.  That's a cathedral...

Abby:  Uncle, that's hell.

Taco: No Abby, that's a church.

Abby: (thinks about it, then points to a picture of a big spider*) Ok…that’s hell.

Taco: The spider?

Abby: Yes.  (she then turns to a map of Sicily)  What's this, Uncle Taco?

Taco: That's Sicily.

Abby:  Sicily?  Ok...that’s Hell.

Taco:  Yes, Abby.  Yes, it is.

(No offense intended to any Sicilians out there!  And if you are unfamiliar with the dynamics between Sicilians and main land Italians, let's just say that Sicilians don't consider themselves Italians, and nor are they considered so by the folks living on the 'boot')!

*Where in Italy are there famous spiders?  Anyone?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

5 Stupid Reasons I Resisted Having A Catholic Radio Bumper Sticker on My Car

I heart Catholic radio.  I need it.  I pine for it.  I crave it like it's pure audio mocha (which is probably the closest thing I’m going to get to a real mocha from they-who-shall-not-be-named for a very long time.)

So why did I resist affixing a Catholic radio sticker to my car for so long?

Stupid, stupid, stupid reasons, which nevertheless, effectively stopped me from announcing my devotion to my beloved Immaculate Heart Radio to everyone on the road.

Someone, anyone, please tell me that you can relate and that I am not alone:

1. A bias against bumper stickers in general.
Bumper stickers are reductionism at its most grotesque.  Some egotistical blowhard’s attempt to bludgeon other drivers with their own beliefs. I felt this way even before Catholic radio came to town.

You see, I live in the Bay Area.  As I describe it to people out of state: near San Francisco (where the Church is really popular) Berkeley (where shoes and shaving are illegal) and Santa Cruz (which has outlawed taking showers, but their awesome mountain bikes kind of make up for this). So you can imagine how many times I have had to swallow my own upchuck when I've come across “I Voted for Kerry” “Coexist” "Go Vegan" and “Arms are for Hugging” (get it?).

People put this on their car.
To be asked to be another bumper sticker out there, even though I heartily believe in the mission of Catholic radio, still feels like someone is asking me to wear a garment made out of tie-dyed tree bark that my kids have finger painted all over.

And yet, I admit, that every time a car with a Catholic radio sticker passes me on the road, I actually do become hopeful knowing that someone out there shares my Catholic values (which, I guess, would be the antithesis of the ones I just mentioned… “not Kerry,” “Divide and Conquer,” "Steak..."and “Hug my leeettle friend, Mutha…”).

In other words, I’m genuinely encouraged when I see one.  How great is that?  And how silly is it that I resisted doing the same for others for so long?

2 - 4. I would feel guilted into obeying the rules of the road, driving politely, and I would cause scandal to others and the Church if I failed to do so.

I reasoned that having a Catholic radio sticker on my car would be the automobile equivalent to having one of those Jesus portraits where the eyes follow you.  I would feel it staring at me. All of the time. The bumper sticker, that is.  

It would also 'ping' God every time I drove slightly above the limit in school zones and didn’t make complete stops at stop signs.  And each time, my status in heaven would decrease half a wrung (though I doubt its ever been higher than ‘maintenance staff’ anyway).  You get it – I would feel so stressed at the very thought of driving and being good at the same time that I wouldn't make it out of the house.

Which was also the basis for my third reservation: I’d have to be a polite driver all of the time.  Right now you're thinking, "But, aren't you supposed to be this way anyway?"  To which I say, "Yes.  But have you ever driven in California?"  ( I confess that this is my usual rationale for forgoing traffic etiquette).  

Should I dare creep up close behind a slowpoke (i.e. impolitely pressure the slug in front of me to actually drive the speed limit), I could just imagine the other drivers sniggering when they saw that it was a Catholic radio listener doing so. “Oh, so that’s how a Catholic drives?”   “Looks like the Immaculate Heart really hasn’t done that gal any good,” “Ghandi was right about Christians,” etc. But if they didn't know which station I listened to, I didn’t have to worry about all of this, you see?

And this fed into my fourth reason for not displaying a Catholic radio a bumper sticker. “What if I do get pulled over?" I worried, "What will people think of me?  What will they think of the Church?”  Better not risk giving scandal to anyone which meant no bumper sticker, of course.  What a chicken.

And here’s my stupidest one of all:

5.) I don’t want the other van driving, homeschooling moms to think I’m trying to fit in. 
Because my massive van, the homeschooling cooperative, the NFP and meeting up with them at daily mass once a week doesn't already make my affiliations obvious.  Pathetic, I know. 

In short, all of my stupid reasons were mostly concerns for my image.  Dear reader, can you ever forgive me?   Immaculate Heart Radio, can you?

I promise the bumper sticker is there now! I promise to make a good pledge this spring (oh wait, is that already over with?) And I promise that I will try to drive more like a Catholic Radio listener should: with the Chaplet of Divine Mercy blaring at red lights, and in the background in drive throughs...

Hey, this gave me an idea!  The Theology of Laundry is now launching its own bumper sticker!  Vote on which one is the best (or worst):

#1 The Theology of Laundry: Because God’s Mercy has a Rinse Cycle!


#2 God <3s Laundry Piles: Read The Theology of Laundry


#3 The Theology of Laundry: WWJD? Fold the Laundry (Jn 20: 6-7)! U Shud 2! 

 (Too much?)