The world is so strange, Lord. Maybe you’ve known this, but I keep on pinching myself (not literally). Why am I surprised about what’s happening? We are under attack as we have always been. This is a spiritual battle. Maybe there are fewer people aware of this fact and fighting back. Maybe I am aware and not doing my part. Looking at my part is what I can do. Praying the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet, loving my family, getting to know people, forming relationships… these are things I can do. I need to have faith, hope, and love before I can give it away. I need to stay in the present moment with you, Lord. To take care of my responsibilities at home. Do not grow faint – Run the race – Read Your Word. Seek the Truth in the places I know I will find it.
“For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor 4:17-18
I’ve read the new Motu Proprio by Pope Francis. It’s troubling me and I’ve been trying to figure why because I don’t even attend the TLM. I did one time. I was on a trip and wanted to go to a Saturday morning Mass. I may have been in New York State or New Hampshire. I can’t remember. I do remember having trouble finding parking and the entrance to the church. I could barely hear anything the priest said, and I felt like I was dressed inappropriately. The women wore dresses and head coverings and I most likely was wearing jeans and a hoodie. But I did like that most of the families had similar appearances to my homeschooling friends, holding babies, and filling up pews with toddlers and teens. I don’t remember music. I was not moved to search for a Latin Mass back home.
That was before Covid. I’ve been thinking about going to one for many months now. I’ve struggled with identifying and feeling my feelings about wearing masks at Mass and receiving communion in the hands rather than on the tongue. I didn’t want to be deprived of receiving Jesus when the churches opened up after the shutdowns, so I received Him in my hands. I felt very sad and disappointed. I saw a few women not receiving the Eucharist at all when communion on the tongue was denied and wondered if what I was doing was selfish. I prayed about it, asked for guidance, and decided to receive Him as reverently as I possibly could at the Masses I attended. The rules changed frequently. I often got anxious when I would wait until the end of communion wondering if the priest would wait in the front of the church for those receiving on the tongue as planned. And I did not enjoy sometimes being the only one to walk up to the front of the church, kneel on the kneeler, and receive Jesus on my tongue.
I talked with friends who attended Latin Masses about 30 minutes away from my home. They shared that they didn’t have to wear masks and they could receive communion on the tongue. And kneeling at an altar rail! They said the homilies were moving, the music was beautiful, there were lots of families… I continued to go to Mass close to home to go with my family. My daughter plays the piano at one church once a month. The other weeks we go to our parish where my children are comfortable. They used to be in the choir there when that was allowed. And I’ve been receiving communion in my hand in NYC because that is what the priest allows. So I have been holding onto a desire to try a Traditional Latin Mass for a long time now, but not taking action. Then I heard about these new rules. And they don’t make sense to me. Question # 1.
This morning during my prayer time, I was journaling and more questions came to mind. Why would you want to get rid of the growing communities and make those people go to the declining ones, which they may have left because they wanted to be more reverent? Why would you ever want to discourage faithful practicing Catholics at all? Will this put priests in a dilemma of obedience or disobedience? This seems very similar to what is happening with the government and vaccines, and it doesn’t seem necessary. It looks to me like forcing people to choose what side they are on. Are you with the current leadership or will you resist or oppose it? Do you trust us completely or do you have reservations? Will you believe what we say or do you see the contradictions in speech and actions? The leaders speak of desiring unity but they make rules to cause disunity. What is the intention or purpose of what is happening?
As I was thinking these thoughts I realized that my thoughts are not God’s thoughts. I barely know anything. I asked Him: Lord, do you wish for us to choose a side?
And guess what I remembered. We are either with Him or against Him. We cannot serve two masters. We cannot serve God and mammon. We are sheep or goats. Jesus wasn’t afraid of division.
I’ve made a plan to go with a friend to a Traditional Latin Mass in CT this Sunday morning. I’ll continue to live my life one day a time, enjoying the moments, trusting that God has a plan and I don’t need to know the details yet.
Billy Joel is one of my favorite musicians. Vienna is one of my favorite Billy Joel songs. It popped into my head as I sat down to write this post. It begins…
Slow down, you crazy child
You're so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you're so smart, well, tell me
Why are you still so afraid? Mm
Where's the fire, what's the hurry about?
You'd better cool it off before you burn it out
You've got so much to do
And only so many hours in a day
“Slow down” seems to be the theme of this blog, and maybe of my life. I often come here to ponder “aloud” my desires to be simple. To remind myself of what’s really important, which is doing God’s will and not my own. And slowing down seems to be the only way that I can hear my Lord. The noise of constant busyness drowns him out for me. I keep cycling between feeling close to Him, then doing too much work or socializing and not spending enough time with Him, and then feeling burnt out and disconnected. I’m learning that I love getting things done, I try to please others, and I tire easily. I seem to be married to the Energizer Bunny, and my life would most certainly be more boring without him. And I have six children and relationships with family and friends. I wonder if God has given me the gifts He has given me to continuously show me how much I need Him. Maybe I just need to keep practicing putting first things first.
So the details are, that I am recovering from two days of shopping, cleaning, triple birthday party prep and hosting. And that was after two weeks of traveling to and from New York City, including shopping, packing, and moving into our new apartment there. Yes, we have an apartment in NYC, and a home in Western Massachusetts. I don’t think I can call myself an aspiring minimalist anymore.
My husband will be commuting there for work. I have been helping to set up and furnish the place. It’s a big change happening in our lives, which means I really need to rely on God. And I need to not look into the unknown future, but to stay in the present moment, where He is with me. I need to slow down and listen.
I hear myself breathing. I try to drop all my worries and trust Him. He takes care of all always. I need to reject the illusion that I am in charge. I do not even want to be in charge. I will bring Him everything and let Him decide what the outcome will be.
Nothing needs to be done but what He asks me to do. I do not need to do things for Him to love me. My existence is enough. Every part of me, body and soul. There is not anything that I can do that will stop His love for me. And He tells me that when I am weak, He is strong. All my strength comes from Him alone. I don’t even think I can surrender without Him. His grace seems make it happen.
He tells me to enjoy the gift. He means of His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, which I feel privileged to enjoy. But I think I should enjoy all the gifts. I have so much to be grateful for.
It’s good to be reminded of the beauty of surrendering, and of the futility of hanging on to my own will.
Whaaat??!! What a difference a day makes. Why, only yesterday I was…
Let me start from the beginning.
I don’t know when it started, but I know was on a media binge. I had been reading loads of articles on my phone, and I spent a large part of Wednesday afternoon watching inauguration festivities. I don’t think I’ve ever watched one before, but for some reason I thought this one might be historically significant like 9/11 or 476 AD, so I watched it live. There were beautiful buildings. I love the architecture and hope I can see it in person someday. But the events were rather dull except for the commentary, which disturbed me more and more the longer I listened to it. I went out to adoration, prayed the rosary and talked with some friends which made me feel a little better.
Later that night, I continued to “feed” on news headlines, articles, and videos. So and so calls for such and such…
Yesterday morning, I woke up and “consumed” an article recalling the events of 2020. Then I indulged in a heaping plate of anger, with a side dish of self-pity. (I’m going all the way with this eating analogy.) I let my feelings pour out with God. I had a lot of questions, and a few requests. Maybe you could call them demands. “Why?” I was whining. “Explain this to me.” I was murmuring. (Like those crazy Israelites who forgot that God just parted the Red Sea.) I was emotional. And I’m grateful that I feel my feelings today. That wasn’t always the case. But I know from experience, that holding onto anger is no good for me or anyone around me. I went to morning Mass and began to look at my part in this situation.
Throughout the day, some truth came to mind but a sadness remained. I fluctuated from thinking of what behaviors I could change, to not accepting what I cannot change. Besides the obvious fact that a media binge is a bad idea, and the fact that I continue to support businesses that I don’t think I should be supporting, I also thought of Mary. I don’t know a lot about her apparitions, but I think she always says to pray the rosary daily. I’m really inconsistent with it. I have prayed it for years, then stopped for years. I’ll do a novena (even the 54 day ones) when I’m desperate, then stop again after she comes through to help me. I’m pretty sure when she appeared in Fatima that she said to pray it daily or Russia’s errors would spread. I’ve seen this happening. Why haven’t I been praying it? It’s only 15-20 minutes of my day.
Bobby and I have been doing our annual (in January) Lord of the Rings movie marathon. As I was vacuuming, I imagined that I felt like Sam in The Return of the King (SPOILER ALERT) when he knows Gollum is up to something, and he accuses Gollum of taking the bread. Then Gollum twists it around by accusing Sam of taking it, and with lies, tricks Frodo into believing him. Sam gets really angry, but when Frodo says, “No Sam, it’s you.” and “Go home.” Sam cries. So I guess I felt like that. Like crying.
While I was mopping the floor, I listened to some of this Taylor Marshall podcast. He talked a bit about God chastising us. He said that a good father does this to discipline his children. I’ll admit that I’ve thought of this idea before. I haven’t concluded that this is what is happening, but it’s a good possibility. It reminded me of Chapter 4 from Uniformity with God’s Will. I love the whole thing, but especially this chapter. (Audio here)
Here is the wording on chastisements:
Even chastisements come to us, not to crush us, but to make us mend our ways and save our souls: “Let us believe that these scourges of the Lord have happened for our amendment and not for our destruction.”
So that may have helped get me off the pity pot. “God wills our good” always helps. And I may have let a tear(s) fall (SPOILER ALERT) when Frodo said good-bye to Sam at the harbor.
Sam is a model of perseverence. I want to be like Sam. Frodo wouldn’t have gotten far without Sam. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) So last night I deleted my facebook account. And this morning, when the alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. I got out of bed. And I prayed, journaled, and did some spiritual reading. The girls and I attended morning Mass. And during my lunch break I read and journaled until I was at the place I was at the beginning of this post. I think it’s natural to feel angry or sad. But I don’t want to feel bad for myself. Having a temper tantrum will not do anyone any good. I want to be brave, like Sam, and to not give up when life seems scary or difficult. And I want to mend my ways. So I surrender. I know cannot do anything without God’s help. And I don’t want to think I know what’s best.
It was just one day without reading, scrolling, watching, or listening to the media.
I woke up at 6:00 a.m. to the sound of the alarm. I pressed snooze, so I could take my comfort for nine more minutes. I rationalized that I could pray lying on my back under the warm covers and I started my prayers over and over as I went back and forth between waking and sleeping. When the alarm went off the second time, I made my way into my (War Room) closet. I remembered my media fast and right away I noticed that I was feeling lighter… more free… as if I had permission to slow down and enjoy the present moment. I journaled a bit, then read the above quote and wondered if the things I’ve been thinking about recently meet these standards.
The first one, “whatever is true”, has been really hard to know these days. There is so much contradictory information out there on the Internet, that logically, cannot all be true. There cannot be evidence of election fraud and no evidence of election fraud. The vaccines cannot be both lifesaving and dangerous at the same time. Those are two examples, but there are many more. For me, it’s tempting to research the heck out of things. In some cases, I can confidently judge something based on what I’ve seen, heard, or experienced. But I often feel like it’s a he-said-she-said situation. And that usually happens because someone is lying. Or maybe he or she is in denial. (Don’t Even kNow I Am Lying) But in either case, the deceiver (even if well-intentioned) is manipulating to get his or her own way. So which narrative do we believe?
I think people are just believing the sources of information that they trust more. But are there any sources that are trustworthy?
To me, some are obviously not. As for the others, time will tell. I tend to trust what people do, more than what they say or what others say about them. In my opinion, censorship is a red flag. I know I cannot trust people or organizations that are taking away the rights of others to have a voice and to share information. They are also taking away my freedom to make informed decisions by weighing information from all sources. I want to hear arguments from all sides. Let me decide what witnesses are credible. Thinking for myself is an important part of my humanity. I don’t want it to be stifled. And expressing myself freely leads to intimacy in relationships. It’s sad that I’m already at the point where it feels like a big risk to share my thoughts, ideas, or opinions with anyone outside of my own household. Maybe I lack courage. I’m afraid of confrontation. Or I need the approval of others. I imagine that “most people” will reject me if I were to be honest. It seems we have become so full of fear that hearing an opposing view brings our anger to the surface in an instant. I tell myself that I’m being loving and kind by staying silent, so as not to upset or offend anyone. Sometimes I wonder if I may be one of a silent majority.
Not many will read this. So I’ll voice it here. I call being spoon fed the so-called truth from organizations that are afraid I’ll believe the “lies” of others – propaganda. And I’ll go even further to say that this propaganda, the censorship, and the sensationalism of the media, are causing me (and likely most of society) confusion, anger, and anxiety. And I’ll even say (in my timid, understated sort of way) that confusion and anxiety do not come from a loving source.
There is a source that is trustworthy. He is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. He is the Truth. He is the Light in the darkness. He is also a person, with whom I need to spend more time in order to have peace. He will give me direction and clarity. He has done it before. He never fails me.
When I take a break from the noise, I see that I am a truth seeker, but maybe I’ve been looking for truth in the wrong places. My fears make me forget what I know is true. My God loved me first, He loves me now and He will always love me. He knows everything. He has a plan for me, for my good, to give me a future full of hope. I do not need to worry or to be afraid. I know very little. He knows what I need and He gives me everything I need. He gives me ideas of things that will nourish my soul.
prayer and meditation
reading verses from Scripture
taking my own inventory (examen)
praying the rosary
devotion to Mary
the sacraments and adoration
talking with people about things that matter to me
listening to the experiences of others
sleep, good food, exercise (not caring for my body affects my soul)
slowing down, rest
leisure, taking time for important things
enjoying the present moment
time outside, appreciating nature
beauty, truth, and goodness
Psalm 98 (a reminder)
My Dear Jesus, please help me to trust in You. I really want to do your will. Please enlighten my mind and strengthen my will, and let me know when to speak and when to be silent.
Recently, I’ve become more aware of my pride, resentment, self-reliance, fears, perfectionism, and do I really need to go on?
One day, during mental prayer, some ideas were passing through my mind. I decided that I will try to put these ideas into action. I don’t know if they will be helpful, but I don’t think they would harm me in any way.
For one week, seven consecutive days, pray the Litany of Humility each morning, listen to the audiobook, Uniformity with God’s Will (St. Alphonsus Ligouri) each afternoon, and pray three Hail Mary’s each night.
Summer of 2020. It’s starting out as usual in some ways… laps in my dad’s pool, movie nights, and eating ice cream; but in many ways it will be different. My family’s annual Fourth of July party has been canceled. Birthday and graduation celebration plans are up in the air. I’m wondering whether or not I should invite my adult son over to visit us, when I’ll see my friends in person again, and when it’ll be considered safe to hug my parents.
And, we are wearing masks.
Staying in the day, in the moment, without thinking about all the future unknowns helps me to enjoy my life. It’s easy for me to worry or to get frustrated when I read news articles. There are recommendations and mandates, postponed decisions, and perhaps, inconsistencies with the decisions being made. There are things I don’t fully understand, having only partial information, and these same things are clearly out of my control.
So my priority for this summer (and always, but I get sidetracked), is prayer. I want to find a balance of prayer, work and rest. So here is the basic plan:
7:00-8:15 Hygiene, chores, morning prayers, breakfast, spiritual reading and meditation
8:15-9:30 Mass, rosary, start laundry
9:30-11:30 Projects/food shopping/weekly cleaning
11:30-12:00 Reading (fiction)
12:00-1:00 Angelus, lunch, chores, finish laundry
1:00-4:00 Driving lessons, French lessons/pool time, work out
4:00-6:00 Shower, dinner prep & eat, chores
6:00-10:00 Angelus, meeting/movie/blog post, family time
10:00-11:00 Iron, hygiene, night prayers, reading (non-fiction)
I’ve been trying to follow this schedule for a couple of weeks now. I’ve not been praying the rosary or the Angelus consistently yet. Because it hasn’t been raining much, we’ve been swimming at the pool almost every day. I also haven’t been consistent with my reading times. Projects, movies, hanging out with Bobby, and helping my mom (or the kids) seem to take over my time.
One benefit of following a schedule, that I noticed recently, is that it helps me to enjoy the present moment. Doing the tasks that need to get done at a certain day/time each week, helps to get rid of the overwhelming feelings that I am behind, or forgetting things I need to do, that clutter up my mind and make me feel anxious. For example, knowing that we are going to clean the house on Friday morning, or that I’m going to take Joseph driving after lunch, allows me to relax when I’m reading a book on the couch, or sitting at the pool with my family. I don’t have the guilt that I should be doing something “more productive” at that time.
I can also see when I am avoiding doing something on my schedule. Sometimes there may be a good reason for doing so, but other times I may be avoiding feelings, or maybe my priorities have gotten out of order. So the schedule can also help with self-awareness and with being intentional as people often say nowadays. Most of all, I hope it will help to make God, rather than me, the center of my life.
After at least a week of obsessively scrolling facebook, chuckling at toilet paper memes, and reading news articles; I am back to believing that God has a plan for my life.
So I got off the beam for awhile there. It’s hard not to panic when your food’s running out, there’s a rumor that everything will be shut down for two weeks, Walmart is packed with people who might be carrying the Coronavirus without symptoms (or worse, might cough on you) and every few aisles, you turn down one that is just about wiped out. Add in the fact that most of the activities that keep me grounded are canceled indefinitely, and the unsettling feeling that I always have when I read sensational media.
I don’t want to feel like I’m reading propaganda. I just want the facts. I don’t want to read that in a population of 300 million, the number of cases is “ballooning” to 48. I started out with my usual skepticism. Aren’t we overreacting? Look at the numbers. How can China’s cases be going down now with only 80,000 cases out of 1.4 billion people? Are we going to destroy the economy and give up our freedoms for something less serious than the seasonal flu? Why are people not questioning this? I understand the argument for “flattening the curve”. But the argument is only true if the premises are true. And why is everyone assuming that hundreds of thousands of people are going to be infected, when many of the tests are coming back negative? And why isn’t testing available for everyone who wants to be tested?
But on the other hand… I don’t want my mother or my father-in-law, who both have COPD to get sick. And I don’t want my father to get sick, or my kids, or my husband, or me, or my next-door neighbors, or anyone… I’m social distancing. I’m not letting my kids have their friends over. I’m dropping groceries off at my mom’s door. I’m attending ZOOM meetings, talking on the phone, texting, and counting or singing while scrubbing my hands with soap and water just like the rest of the world. It was all so disturbing.
And it was all so distracting. Until I decided to take a break one day. No news, no facebook. I prayed and I journaled. I took these notes from this video. It reminded me to be patient.
This trial is God’s will. God has a plan for you. Nothing is so bad that God can’t use it for your good.
Stop thinking of the negative aspects of it. Start thinking of the positive aspects of the trial. Discover truths today and dwell on them.
This won’t last forever. Only eternity is forever. Answer with faith and patience, not anger. God has a loving plan for you, be patient.
I struggle with acceptance and surrender. I think I know better. But if I think I do, I’m already in a trap. I have been distracted. I forgot the truth – that God has a plan for my life. I must make him the center of my life. Not curiosity, or knowledge of what’s happening in the world, not seeking to control what is out of my control. I do not know why this is happening right now, but I will use this time to grow closer to God.
Yesterday, I went to a drive up adoration at my parish. I listened to a beautiful version of the Divine Mercy Chaplet in my van. I felt so grateful to be across the street from the Blessed Sacrament. This experience has opened my eyes to how much I took for granted. We often had weekday Masses at 7:00, 7:15, 8:30, and 12:10 in different churches in my hometown, and sometimes I’d sleep in or get too busy to go to them. There would be adoration on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and everyday in the next town over. And now the church doors are locked.
But God has a plan for me. Today I have hope and I will trust him. I will let him guide me to where I should go, what I should do, and what I should say. I don’t have to worry. I can choose to, but I don’t have to. I can have peace in any situation.
It has taken me fifty years to really believe it. It would take a book to describe how it happened. It’s been slow and steady. And obviously, it is still unfolding.
Right now I see it as hundreds of seemingly unrelated events, situations, conversations, memories, and truths learned. It’s taken thousands of prayers and much pain was endured (never alone). I guess I wanted to be self-sufficient. Maybe I wanted things my own way. But letting go of this illusion of control brings me hope. Seeing that God has a plan that has been there all along, and trusting that His plan is going to be better than mine ever could have been, gives me peace.
This is what I was thinking during Deacon Roger’s homily this morning. Today’s gospel reading was from Luke 15:1-32. (The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Prodigal Son)
I have heard these parables so many times before, that I wasn’t expecting to have a new perpective on them today. I’ve identified for many years with the prodigal son. I went away and wasted my life. I sought pleasure in sinful ways. I’ve experienced the loneliness, remorse, shame, desperation, and sorrow that I imagine he felt. I have known humility and the joy of God’s love and mercy. (I have meditated on Rembrandt’s painting, shown above.) He gave me a new life and I was grateful. I wanted to serve Him and I stayed in close contact with Him.
But not perfectly. I’ve been the lost sheep. I wander off and at some point I find myself on my knees. And He sees I’m lost and comes to get me. And He picks me up and holds me close. And I remember how much He loves me. And I thank Him for always being there for me. (I have often meditated in churches on sheep paintings or mosaics.)
I could be the lost coin, but it’s hard for me to identify with an inanimate object. I’ve just never gone there. No lost coin meditations. And I didn’t think I was the prodigal son’s brother either… until today.
When I used to hear the story, I would be happy that I was lost, but then found. I was dead, but now alive. And I thought the brother was a jerk for not being happy for his brother’s return. Today, I realized that I’ve been the brother!
Somehow, over the years since my own return, I got lost again, right here at home. I started to believe that after all the sacrifices I have made for God, that he should do what I want. Of course, I didn’t realize I was thinking that way. But I know as I came out of the fog, I’d hear myself say things like: I’ve worked so hard and let God lead me in so many areas of my life. So why do I have to do more?
Maybe I thought that if I worked hard and didn’t complain (verbally) that I would be happy in Heaven someday. I don’t know, but it only made me angry and resentful. I believe God wants obedience more than sacrifice, and that He wants me to obey him out of love for Him, not to get what I want. The anger I didn’t know I had, kept me away from the closeness to Him that I could have been enjoying.
Now I see that the poor brother was lost too. He tried so hard to please his Dad, but he had certain expectations and some selfish motives hidden from even himself. He was self-righteous and proud that he was the “good” son. He was giving himself pats on the back and didn’t realize that he too had many faults. He wasn’t humble. He lacked compassion and had a hardness of heart that kept him from feeling His father’s love for him. His father loved him SO much… not for all the good things he did, but because he was His beautiful son. The brother needed to let go of his anger, forgive his prodigal brother, and have compassion for his brother and for himself as well. He needed to surrender his own will, trust his father and feel His love.
Deacon Roger pointed out that the parable doesn’t say what happened to the brother. But I know he can enjoy his life. He can be emotionally close to his father. He can be loving to all, even himself. He can be grateful for what he has and for having such a generous, merciful and loving father. His father is not a slave driver. He really cares. He wants what’s best for His children. And He knows what’s best for them, even though He lets them choose whether or not to trust Him. And you know how I know? I’ve been the brother!