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

Monday, September 28, 2015

How Strong and Sinewy Her Suffering Hath Made This Mother

Since having my fourth child, the ante has been raised.

It's not that the demands have changed, it's just that there are more of them.  More needs to tend, more bellies to fill, minds to educate, souls to form, bodies to clean and keep track of.

It's exhausting even when it's fulfilling.  It's impossibly difficult when it's overwhelming.

But tonight, rather than dwell on my usual pain and exhaustion, I contemplated the simultaneous and parallel reality that I rarely remember to think of, especially in the difficult moments.

After almost a decade of mothering, always with "a babe in arms" as my relative remarked this weekend, even in my the most painful moments of motherhood, I have practiced loving, and giving, and sacrificing, and offering, and forgiving, and getting up again and again, to my absolute limit.  Even beyond that.

All this suffering has not simply wrought a tired casualty of motherhood.  Far from it.

The consequence of my heart's "love membranes" being constantly expanded in directions and ways I never knew they could be has wrought a human being in me whom I actually can say I like.  I am not perfect by any means.  Far from it.

But I have loved stronger, for longer, through harrowingly lonely days, and sleepless, energy sapping nights.  I have given more to my family in the way of patience, repetitious correction, physical presence that I have ever given to anything else.

I am more sympathetic to suffering, particularly of parents. I am more sensitive to attacks upon the souls of children.  I am more aware than ever how everything I say or do, or how I express my body language, is always under the observation of little eyes and being absorbed by little hearts.

I know what it means to be driven to your ultimate limit of love and patience and kindness and yet find it in myself to give more love and patience and kindness than I thought possible.  And to do it all again the next day.

I know what it means to be constantly open to life, and to have to mourn two unborn children miscarried.  I've tasted the sweetness of complete union and the bitterness of abstinence and can tell you that you do survive the latter and that each of these intense feelings instructs your ability to love on almost a divine level.  To put it simply: with your whole being.

I've also learned my limits.  And oh, how I've learned them.. how to let go of a dirty house, look beyond the immediate when my spouse has gone temporarily insane, accept that there will be imperfection in almost everything I do.  I'm still learning how to shrug and how to laugh about it.

My suffering, in other words, whether I want to admit it or not, hath wrought a rather sinewy edge to me that I might not have otherwise.

As someone who is almost a complete stranger now to a full night's sleep, leisure time, the ability to eat without making sure a child eats, and to eat something other than children's food, I can honestly say I still have never been more free in all of my life than in the rigor (some might say cloister) of child rearing.

I am not free from sinning and making mistakes, but I am free from making the mistake of thinking that anything else in life is more important than my children, than forming them in Faith, than trying to become properly formed myself.

"Be a saint, what else is there?" asks Catholic Answers Live radio host Patrick Coffin.  I am blessed.  There is nothing else.  Nothing to stop me or my family or anyone from being a saint.  Would that we all realized how our sufferings are the golden rungs on the ladder to sainthood, and that by them we are made free.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Lawns and Liberty are Dying in California (But there is hope!)

You've probably heard of California's current drought.  The worst one in more than a millenium?

Well there's more than just a dusty Central Valley and trendy "dryscaping" happening in the West. Liberty, like our lawns, is dying slowly.  What do I mean?

Our pro-life pregnancy centers are under attack.

Kindly remember this on your Rosary beads: in June the state's House passed legislation to force pro-life centers to refer clients for abortion (read more about it here).   Right now our Senate is at recess but when they reconvene in August, they will vote on what pro-lifers have coined the "Bully Bill" or Action Bill 775.  If it passes, and becomes law, and if centers refuse to comply, that is if they refuse to refer women for abortions (which they will), good-bye medical license.

I can't stress enough that this could spell the closing of all pro-life medical crisis pregnancy centers in the state, maybe even the country. For on the horizon, I'm sure, lies a Supreme Court case on the issue - and we all know how well those have gone for Christians lately.

Starting this fall, the state has prohibited teachers from giving any instruction that "reflects adversely" on the homosexual community (and school districts cannot sponsor any activity or group that promotes "discrimination," murkily defined, against homosexuals).

A law that basically kills speech and debate class is a bad law.   California's new FAIR education act, or Senate Bill 48, goes beyond anti-bullying: it requires school materials to showcase homosexuality as always a good all of the time.  It's unclear what will happen if you're a religious organization.

I'm all for inclusive academics but a law dictating that students MUST be taught to think about homosexuality only positively, like rainbow flag touting drones, is unprecedented.  What this new social science curriculum means for Catholic and private schools is yet unknown.  What is known is that our local media isn't reporting on this monumental change to the textbooks and school starts soon.  We shall see what happens.

Brendan Eich happened.
When Brendan Eich was forced to "step down" from Mozilla for a private donation to the Proposition 8 campaign, a chasm of despair ripped open in the Silicon Valley political universe. If a founder of Mozilla can lose his livelihood for privately opposing gay 'marriage' what chance do the rest of us have?

The message from the technology elites to their cogs was clear: no one is safe.  Do something distasteful to us and risk your career.  Mozilla and companies like them are trying to excise freewill in an area where they know people claw desperately for the scraps from their billion dollar tables.

But there is hope!
I don't want to leave you with an image of lady liberty submerged in the sand of our sunny beaches - or our Death Valley for that matter. We may be California but hey, we're still the Catholic Church.   Surviving adversity and persecution is kind of what we do.

With all the dire out here, many of us did a long, overdue happy dance with the announcement that Fr. Robert Barron is happening!

Let me just repeat that: FR. ROBERT BARRON is coming to LOS ANGELES as one of her auxillary bishops!!!
We're getting Fr. Robert. We're getting Fr. Robert. Woot,
Here's some more hope:  Christ Cathedral is happening. In a post-clerical scandal world it is a big deal to me and to many that the Church in the west shows signs of expansion and revitalization.  The cathedral is undergoing renovation right now but will hopefully open its doors soon.  I'm so there for mass next time we head to Disney.

The Walk for Life West Coast numbers continue to swell.  Also a big deal.

We still have our beautiful, historic Missions (a.k.a. the indigenous roots of our flip flop problem). Why our Mission Trail still isn't widely known as the Camino of America, I just don't know.

Catholic Answers is in San Diego. 'Nuff said.

And never, ever forget this: Californians voted not once but twice to affirm the traditional definition marriage.  Twice.  That fact alone should tell you two things about California: 1.) the people here do care and 2.) you'll never hear that we care, not in the mass media anyway, which has also been completely silent about our receding liberty.

It's tough out here.  So please pray for us. For rain. For the Church in California.
Our souls and our soil will thank you.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Why I Believe Greed is the Most Pervasive Sin of Our Culture Today

As a Silicon Valley resident I have a front row seat to some of the greatest financial disparities in the country. CEOs commute to work in their luxury cars on the same freeways as their vanpooling, underpaid workers.  Here, some live as kings while the majority are exploited.  Greed's theater.  It's a world surely envisioned by the enemy and sculpted by human greed.  

But even if I didn’t live here, per se, judging by how it’s going in other places of the country, I would argue that in many aspects of our culture, greed is the most pervasive sin of our time.  Here’s why:

Greed keeps people quiet, noses to the grindstone…if those people are lucky enough to have jobs, that is.  Are you sad the Millenials still can’t find work?  I’m sure our parents aren't happy about it either, but it perplexes me that so few have vocally protested.  But then again, they seem to be the only ones working, if not in the best financial positions of their lives… and they’re staying very, very quiet about it.  

Greed leads to corruption in schools, churches and charities.  Why is Fr. Liturgical Dance driving a luxury car while only one percent of his parishioners can afford his parish’s private school?  Why is Catholic School now for the wealthy (is this really what we want, Church)?  Why do charities and universities have six and seven-figure salaried leadership? There sure is a lot of money to be made as an administrator of a tax-exempt organization.  Speaking of taxes...

Greed leads to the misuse of your taxes.  I live in a state with almost the highest taxes on absolutely everything.  Where does it go?  Oh to things like this, this, and this.  Thanks for nothing, Sacramento. 

Greed leads to the spreading and acceptance of more greed.  Is it not in the interest of the greedy to lower social mores and encourage greed in everyone else? Trust me, even the poor can become greedy.   We’ll march off and get our birth control, kill our babies, kill our own bodies so long as the uppers of society will keep us employed.  Don’t forget to tell us our decisions are somehow ‘empowering.’  The manufacturers of liberation are sure profiteering as the serfs buy their propaganda.

Greed insulates against having to feel any responsibility for anyone else and fools you into thinking you are just being practical.  Money Insulation.  This is the condition wherein plenty of comforts can be purchased to distract you away from truly caring about the state of the world.  What else do you need? Just a 401K, right?  Practical.  Just like, say, building barns to store surplus wealth.  Oh, wait…(and no, I'm not saying retirement plans are evil).

Greed delays true maturity.  Why do people put off marriage, kids, and growing up, i.e. real life?   Many may be desperately trying to establish themselves, which is honorable.  However, there is a wisdom in starting a family “before it’s too late” because of its positive effect on you. 

The family is where you learn to sacrifice, share, to let go of worldly treasure and of course, raise kids.   Starting young-ish means you are not too old or too set in your ways to change.  Many who delay starting families even for practical reasons (see above) inadvertently risk never growing up, and getting stuck pursuing prosperity as an end unto itself (i.e. greed). 

Good ol' Rover.
Greed replaces children with “stuff.” It can kill the family before it ever gets started. You’ll have lots of stuff though!  And pets! And lots of stuff for the pets!  You get the picture - and it’s probably a framed one of the Boston terrier on the mantle.

Greed makes you compete for handouts instead of fixing the system.  All of my friends who voted for Obama did so based on just one thing, “He’s going to get us free health care.”  I sympathize.  When your rent increases hundreds of dollars in one month, as it is like to in the Bay Area, you are desperate not to die.  Free healthcare should be something the Church provides… justly.  But we don’t, do we, Church? 

And now Generation Desperation will elect whatever corrupt politician promises them what they need FOR FREE.  This politician or series of them, will stay in office until the Church finally figures out that if we don’t fix problem of the uninsured, someone else will, and it will probably come at the expense and persecution of the sitting-on-our-hands Church.

So to sum up, greed is the most pervasive sin of our time because it is responsible for an era where a working class remains silent in the face of injustice, of over-inflated salaries for administrators, misuse of taxes, lowering of morals, indifference, immaturity, materialism as a substitution for children, and it keeps people clawing for handouts and electing corrupt politicians who promise to fulfill their needs for FREE.   (Side note: murder-for-hire organizations such as Planned Parenthood are thriving in this environment.) 

Hmmm…sounds like my generation.  Have I missed anything?

What the Holy Father has to say about greed.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Dear Upcoming Presidential Election, I Already Hate You

Dear Upcoming Presidential Election, let's just get this out of the way now.

I already hate you.  In fact I've hated all four of you that I have voted in so far.

I see you for what you are.  An overly expensive, farcical dog and pony show whose two candidates leave me morally bankrupt on different levels.

None of the lesser known candidates I really admire will ever make it to President let alone lead the party platform.  They'll get shot down in the first round...again, as will my hope for true change.

Let's skip to the final chapter, shall we presidential election?

At your culmination, we will again have a president who will sit in office for the next four years, passing policies that will rarely ever inspire me on a good day, and blame the opposing party for stalling them the rest of the time.

I just want you to know ahead of time from me that we are not friends, presidential election. You don't like, know or even care to know me and I certainly am sick at the very mention of you.

I am disappointed in you, ashamed of you and if I could avoid ever mentioning you to my children I would.  But the day will come when I will have to tell them about you, and what being a part of you means for someone so wholly and repeatedly disappointed in you with no end to the let downs in sight.

I doubt my kids even know the current president's name.   President?  What's that?  Something that requires an election that you dread coming around every four years, I guess.

So can we just skip this next election, please?  Obama can just hang up his hat and let's just not bother with a replacement.  Please? Congress can continue being constipated and the rest of us holding the country together on the grassroots level can keep our day jobs?

Heck, if we must have an election, maybe we can just draw straws this time?

Who will you parade around this year, presidential election?  The wealthy candidate who uses my values to bait me into voting for them or the wealthy candidate who uses my uses my values to bait me into voting for them?  Hm.  Let's see.

Nope.  You can keep it to yourself, presidential election, or announce it to the world, I really don't care.  Your very name now dishonors the veterans who have died for your sake. I vote almost solely out of hallowed respect for their sacrifice and valor.  

Valor, and honor, by the way, presidential election, are those qualities that command respect in and of themselves and not just because someone in Hollywood threw you a fancy fundraiser.

Let's get this over with, presidential election - I know you are going to come anyway and you know that I am going to have to vote one of your circus animals into office.  It's inevitable.  Let's do this. 

 I only ask that we get this over quickly so that the rest of us busy with real life can get back to it soon.  At least give me that, won't you?  The ability to forget you?   Until the next time.  In which case just reread this then too.  

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Temptation to Skip a Sinner's Funeral

I recently faced an unusual temptation to skip the Catholic funeral of someone whom I know did not live well.

Shame on me.

Pope Francis has literally just called for a year of Mercy and here I am, sinner so aware of my need for mercy, not willing to extend it to my fellow sinner in Christ.  As if it was too late for that person, and like it would be a ...waste?...of my time to attend their funeral.

Again, shame, shame on me, giving them the cheap mercy of "I'll remember you when it is convenient to me and my arms-length, no effort on my part, compassion."

No, my friends.  Only paying homage to those we perceive as deserving of honor in death will not do.  It is not merciful, it is not reverent, it is hardly Christian.

And seriously, which soul needs my prayers the most?  Probably the one at whose funeral it will be a struggle on some level for everyone to pay respects.

So what happened?  I attended the funeral and it was a solemn but respectful affair.  This person, despite their human failings, had always been kind to me and apparently, to others who were grieved for their loss.  It was a good lesson for me never to sweep someone's life under a rug just because their sins were grave and public.  Even heinous sinners leave behind friends and family whose commemoration of their loved one's death also seems to help their own healing.  So it seemed to be the case with this person.

All life and death are empty without Christ and I would not wish separation from God on anyone, whether living or deceased.  So kindly remember to pray for that soul who passed away that if she is not yet in the peace of Christ, she be there soon.  Also, kindly pray for a sinner like me to grow in love for all people during this very aptly named Holy Year of Mercy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

So why do you prefer the Latin mass, really?

Alright, Latin mass attendees, here's you chance to gush.

I want to know what you love about the Latin mass.

As a Novus Ordo goer, who has only attended a handful of Latin masses (and probably only because she didn't make it in time to her preferred venue) I struggle to know why anyone becomes a devotee to that form of the mass.

It's not the Latin thing.  I love Latin.  I just really love the Novus Ordo.

Permit me a moment of gushing.

I love the Novus Ordo.  I love its structure and flow.  I love hearing the Word of God proclaimed in English.  I love listening to the consecration prayers (when I can, over the kids) and I love feeling the mass resound in my soul - it's not this way all of the time, of course, but grace mostly comes.

I love the songs.  My particular parish uses the Adoremus Hymnal, and I know many hymns by heart.

I love how we have options for how to receive the Eucharist.  My particular parish uses a communion rail which I appreciate as my family can kneel together.  But whether we kneel or stand (depending on how many kids we are holding or if I am pregnant), receive in the hand or on the tongue (because flu season) I appreciate that there are many ways to reverently receive Christ.

No kiss of peace or corn for you!
Admittedly, I am a bit of a kiss of peace curmudgeon...we keep the kisses in-family and gesture at everyone else but I really don't mind when someone politely extends their hand.  I just slap it away in disgust a la Nacho Libre.  Okay, not really.

I just love the Novus Ordo.  Respectfully, reverently done, even with several traditional elements (we sing the Ave Maria in Latin at the end of every mass) with holy priests at the helm,  it rocks my world.

The Latin mass...not so much.  A bit of a spiritual dry well for me.

But maybe I'm missing something?  Hence I want to hear from the Latin mass goers: why do you prefer the Latin mass?  In responding, please limit your answers to the Latin mass, or the spirituality of the mass itself and how it feeds you personally.

The reason for this is that many times when I've posed this question, I've received more of a venting response against the Novus Ordo. Responses like, "The people who go to the Latin mass dress better and are more respectful," or "It's high mass (implied tone: why would I ever want to go to a low mass?)..." or "The Latin mass used to be the treasure of the Church..." which as nice as that is, still doesn't answer my question about why they personally attend the Latin vs. any other form nowadays.

By the way: the same Novus Ordo mass that I profess to love is not perfect by any means.  People don't always dress like it's Easter or come on time (Guilty! Yes, flip flops do happen in California I am afraid!). Sometimes you hear a cell phone and many enthusiastic individuals elbow their way to the communion rail to receive Jesus in a shameless display of eucharistic line olympics.

So why do I still love the Novus Ordo, in sprite of that?  Because I go to mass to go to mass and for no other reason.  And I attend one that feeds me. Period.

How about you, Latin massers?  I want to know! Comments are now unmoderated just for you! Go!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent for Tired Moms

It’s baack.  It’s Advent.  We laid out the Advent wreath, blessed it and lit the first candle.

I reveled in the blessed flame for a sweet moment until the demands of the infant in his high chair needing food shoveled in his mouth brought me back to domestic life.

I confess it: I secretly envy those who aren’t in the baby stage years anymore.  I have to fight the bitterness as I wipe up mouths and messes all around the table while the season of joy is burning away faster than the lit purple candle.

“Mommy, the wax is getting everywhere…” my six year old points out that the candle, which is just slightly tilted, is apparently off kilter enough to burn unevenly and make a huge mess of things at its base. 

“Thank you, darling.” I say.  I guess Advent has started.

How I want to savor every moment, crooked candle and all.  But even the joy is work; it is a labor, and the worker is often too tired to really experience it.

I think of Mary at the end of her pregnancy during this time.  There was no Advent yet. There was just this Roman imposed census and this journey she was going to have to make while she neared her delivery.  

Did she too have to labor to experience joy in her un-ideal circumstances? It couldn’t have been all rosy and mystical like we get to experience with our advent wreathes, nativity scenes and baking marathons.  What was it like for her?

For the past few months I have been keeping close Our Lady of Guadalupe in the hopes of, I don’t know, actually getting to know her.  And maybe I just need her.  I need to know that it’s okay not to be in perpetual spiritual bliss twenty four seven. 

I need to know that the tiredness of being a mom is a part of and not separate to what Advent means and that I don’t have to try to fake being joyful.  I need to know that the joy of the season, hard work it though it may be, is still a valid joy and that the grace to feign off that bitterness towards life is pretty substantial grace in itself.

To those that are able to immerse themselves in Advent with daily mass, devotional readings, special advent prayers etc., please remember those of us who are just glad that the crooked purple candle gets lit a couple of times.

Please pray for those of us who can’t go two feet without a request or boo-boo or kid problem needing attention and that only get to experience some of advent while the kids are busy watching Mickey’s Christmas Carol.   I'll admit it! I am probably watching Mickey too. This is as good as it gets for now, and sometimes we just need the encouragement that that’s okay.

And Blessed Mother, please pray for those parents who, like yourself at this time of you, aren’t living in the most ideal circumstances.  This joy of the season, for some is a labor.  Please help us remember the greatest labor and joy are yet to come.