Tragedy

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We were at a work event for my son’s job this afternoon when I found out that the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris was on fire. Just the view on the computer screen with the white smoke, the bright orange flames licking the stones and rising higher and higher was speech stopping; it was mind-numbing to me. I have a sensitivity to viewing buildings burning. I think it brings me to 9/11, it brings me to California wildfire devastation, and with television and social media it brings it literally into our fingertips.

As of this writing, I believe the two towers have been saved even though the spire collapsed. One of the rose stained glass windows was destroyed, but three remained. The statues that had been on the spire were removed four days ago as part of the renovation. The art, artifacts, and holy relics were saved after being removed during the fire. These are all good things.

This church is nearly one thousand years old. The person who laid the first stone was not alive at its completion. As it has been before, it will be rebuilt because like the church of people remains in perpetuity, the building will be repaired, rebuilt, and it won’t be the last time. The idea, the ideal of the church family lives on in the people who will return to Notre Dame.

In the meantime, we can mourn the physical building as we mourn the death of a loved one and know it will rise again.

I have never been to Notre Dame in Paris, France, but my son visited while on a school trip in his senior year in high school. Knowing how close I am to my own local church and my Catholic devotion brought this home for my souvenir from his visit, ironically also during Holy Week. It sits on my bookshelf where I look at it every now and then, and after seeing the cathedral burning, upon coming home I took this pewter replica in my hand and turned it over, touching the carvings, pressing on the spire, tracing the cuneiform. It was sad and comforting at the same time. (c)2019

Sundays in Lent – 4th Thursday

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With his feast day approaching in two days, I thought I’d share two photo collages of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland and the adjacent park named forr him where one of the wells attributed to him is commemorated with an engraved stone.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland. (c)2018

St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Park, Dublin, Ireland. (c)2018

Insta-Thanksgiving

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My church has a beautiful Thanksgiving tradition. Instead of the typical collection basket, there is a basket at the entranceways for donations to St. Vincent de Paul Society. They provide food for Thanksgiving and Christmas and gifts for Christmas for those less fortunate as well as throughout the year. During the offertory, parishioners bring up canned goods and nonperishable foods and leave them on the altar for the Society. At the end of Mass, we are given a loaf of bread to continue the communion of the Eucharist at home as well as to break and share bread with our families. (c)2017

Thanksgiving Dinner with my sister-in-law and her family. Good food, good people. (c)2017


Dessert: apple pie and pecan pie. (c)2017

Gratitude Through the Rosary

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​One of the things my priest spoke about this morning about gratitude and saying thank you really resonated with me. It wasn’t just about gratitude or the gospel where the only one to return thankful for healing was the Samaritan, although that was a part of it. There was also a reference to all of G-d’s miracles here on Earth, and that reminded me of something I wrote yesterday for Nanowrimo and my book on Wales. 

Writing yesterday about the church of Wales, in so much as the land is a huge outdoor sacred place to pray came back today with the homily, more reminders of the sacredness in nature – this mornng’s bright sun, the cool air, but not too cold, the leaves carpeting the ground in a multitude of bright and colorful hues.

Even after so much time, I still don’t understand how a homily can have such meaning in a personal way. How does the Holy Spirit guide my priest to say something that not only resonates, but almost gives me an electroshock at its accuracy.

Those of us who were there this morning, as he said were not there out of obligation. No one was required to be there, but there we all were, listening to the Scriptures, bringing canned goods and non-perishables, receiving a loaf of bread to continue our celebration of the Eucharist and to share in the breaking of bread with our extended families, feeling thankful and receiving words of encouragement to bring that thankfulness with us throughout our day.

One of the things I touched upon yesterday was how Wales itself formed a holy, living rosary. I love the rosary, and I feel very close to Mary in so many ways and for so many reasons. I also feel a similar attachment to my saint, Elen of Caernarfon. I enjoy praying the rosary, either alone or in a group, but when I’m alone, I’m often at a loss of how to start it. I know the Our Father and the Hail Mary, and I’ve gotten the Doxology down, but the in-betweens, the mysteries if I don’t have my “cheat sheet”, the Hail, Holy Queen, and even the Apostles’ Creed (the one I like the best.)

If I’m alone, I often have to make it up as I go along, and so I’ll choose five things or people to acknowledge and pray for (as I did in Ireland) to cover the five decades. I know that the group I’m with during the week will pray for the unborn. I’m not against this, but it seems…too political. I try to add women who have difficult choices. I do this silently for fear to offend but when I’m alone I don’t include it. It just doesn’t come up on my mind’s radar for the rosary. I think of the rosary as more than intercessory, but as gratitude. Thank you, Mary for your Son. Thank you, Mary for your guidance. Thank you, Mary for your support and holding me up when I need holding up.

As I wrote yesterday, I listed ten things, one simple decade that encompassed my “Welsh rosary” and now I’m starting art for it.

As my priest talked about the blessings we all have, and the hardships, family present and gone, far away, but with us in spirit, it made me think of that Welsh decade that just came to me so easily while I was writing. I didn’t think I’d do this, but it seems to be doing it itself.

A Thanksgiving Decade

1. The bright sun, warm on my face

2. The cool air, the reminder that winter is coming, and once we’ve gotten through, the joy and rebirth of spring will be upon us.

3. The brightly colored leaves.

4. The perfectly hued blue sky.

5. The music of the choir. The sounds of voices raised in song, the songs themselves a prayer.

6. The flickering candles.

7. The loaves of bread waiting to be blessed and shared.

8. The generosity of the parish with cans and boxes for the poor.

9. The cold wetness of the holy water forming a cross on my forehead.

10. The Spirit descending upon us all as we go forth into the world this Thanksgiving day.

Incense

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This was in response to a free write for the prompt scent in the theme of comfort. In other words, write about a scent that gives you comfort.

​I would not have expected to be writing about incense being a comforting scent. I was never a fan of incense. Perhaps, it was the specific scents that I was exposed to. Perhaps, it was Allan, who lived across the hall from me in my first year in college who used it to mask his pot smoking. At the time, I was so naive that I didn’t realize that’s what it was for. I thought he was just kind of dopey and laid back, and the incense was just him being a late blooming hippie.

Either way, the smell of it was enough to put me off both pot and incense.

When I visited church for the first time that they used incense was probably around Advent, maybe Christmas Eve. I remember the sounds of that day more than I remember the smells. Our music director is an amazing musician, and it is a joy to listen to his carols before the Christmas Eve Mass. I don’t know if there was incense that night, but I know that it’s been there as the liturgical season warranted.

Every Tuesday, the Host is incensed and a hymn is sung before adoration. I try to watch the smoke rise until it dissipates on its way to the skylight. I try ot make sense of the shapes it makes and the directions it flows in, but usually it just goes, and I continue to meditate on it.

After the Mass of Christian burial, the casket is incensed on its way out of the church to the burial or interment. 

The incense is carried in a bowl through the church during the Sunday procession during Lent. I know it is offered up with a solemn hymn that just touches me deeply. The whole process of the incense rising, the low singing of the prayer, the hush that falls over everything. It is very similar at Advent.

During one of the RCIA rites, I was standing in the back with the other catechumens while we waited together for our time to bring our oils to the altar. It may have been the rite of welcome, or perhaps, during the Holy Thursday Mass. I can’t remember at the moment, but I do remember looking to the front of the church where the incense was being carried, and i distinctly saw the smoke rise and form the shape of a Jewish Star of David. It was one of many signs that I received that I was making the right decision to go down the path of conversion.

While at first, the smell bothered me, the more I became engrossed in the Catholic liturgy and ritual, the more comfortable I became with the scents and the smells of the church and the incense.

I would not expect it during a service, and then I would smell it, and a warmth would come over me, a comfort, and it reminded me of what I found in the church, but not so much in the building but in the pews.

As we are often told, we are the church, and I find a small part of myself floating through the air along with the incense.

My Friend, Anne

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It’s hard to know the entirety about a person even when you see them often. We tend to group people into family, friends, work colleagues, acquaintances, but in all of those labels there are those who don’t fit or who fit into more than one.

My friend, Anne was like that. I met her at church. For a long time, I didn’t know her name. She sat two rows behind me, and every daily mass that we attended together, we’d shake hands and share the peace of Christ. She always smiled at me, and reached across the separating pew, and I looked forward to our daily rite.

She knew my name before I knew hers. Even after knowing her better, I would always confuse her last name with her first name since her last name was also a first name.

She was also part of the Red Hats group that I lunched with monthly. She never wore a hat, but she always had on a brightly colored jacket and scarf. She was always put together, and she had a brightness that expounded on her outfit.

She always welcomed me, and asked about my kids.

I saw her sometimes in the grocery store.

We had one of our Red Hat luncheons at her house, just last year, and I saw her collections from her travels. One was a miniature tea pot with a red dragon on it from Wales. Her house was full of greens, and her back porch was almost identical in shape to ours, so she let me take a few pictures for my husband who’s been wanting to make ours more functional and less storage. She even invited him over to take a look at how theirs was decorated to give him some ideas.

We disagreed vehemently on politics, but the few conversations we had proved to be more discourse than argument, and a benefit to us both. 

She was just so kind to me, and vibrant. She had a booming way of talking, but she didn’t leave you being shouted at. She was just full of spirit.

She died last week. She suddenly became sick and that became worse, and than something else happened, and it just limped along, but her faith kept her. Her family and friends visited, and she called on our priest to come to see her, as recently as a few days before she died.

When I read her obituary, I discovered things I hadn’t known.

For one thing, she was 82. I know that my Red Hats group tends to be older, but I would have pegged her for 70 at the most, and more likely I thought she was in her sixties.

She was born in the town where I went to college, and in fact attended that college, studying education as I did. We graduated thirty-one years apart, both with Bachelor’s of Science degrees in Education. I don’t think either of us knew that we had that in common. Our school’s mascot is a Red Dragon, like the national symbol of Wales.

In realizing that she had been a teacher I could now recognize how she spoke. Teachers have this way of getting things across, and Anne was no different.

Her funeral is tomorrow.

She was steadfast and kind, faithful and spirited.

She will be greatly missed.

Busy, Busy Weekend

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Beginning at the top, L-R: Our Common Home book cover, Wonder Woman Pop keychain, Wonder Woman cape hanging at the comic store, March for Truth art, Carnival, Pentecost, Gishwhes Tea Party art, green flower for my hair, Pride flag. (c)2017

Some weeks go by with nothing to do or that rare week that has one or two things every day just to keep the week moving along and easy to handle. Then there was this past week.
On Wednesday, I was invited to a Ramadan dinner, a community dinner to break the daily fast that Muslims globally follow. This dinner is one that the Islamic Center holds every year. It was wonderful, and I was glad to have gone. I’m already looking forward to next year.

On Thursday, I had a church  meeting but that was cancelled, so at the last minute, we decided to pick up my daughter’s friend and go to the evening showing of Wonder Woman. I’m not sure if Thursday counts as opening night or pre-openng night. The movie was amazing, and for a moment I considered going to see it again this weekend. Yes, it was that good. It was also a school night, but it’s Wonder Woman! We’ve been waiting a long time for this one.

On Friday, I started to read (for the second time) Our Common Home: Visual meditations of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’ by Michael O’Neill McGrath, the catalyst being the Trump Administration’s short-sightedness on the welfare of our shared planet Earth. I am reading it slowly, and I am planning on using some of Brother Mickey‘s artwork as inspiration for my own tonight. Friday night was also the school’s rec night for my daughter. It was an introduction to the middle school rec nights that they have throughout the year. Then her friend slept over in anticipation of Saturday.

Saturday began with Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast – a day late and a donut short for National Donut Day, and then we were off to our local comic store to celebrate Wonder Woman Day. Free comics, tiaras, and bracelets, pins, and key chains! Fun, fun, fun. After that my son had a birthday party that turned into a sleepover. We brought him home for a shower and a change of clothes. He and my husband went to buy him a bicycle that he’s been promised before the sale ended.

In the meantime, we took the girls out to lunch, then to a local carnival. They dropped me off at church where I was reminded it was Pentecost, something I will reflect further on later in the week. The Holy Spirit is something that I have felt my whole life without knowing exactly what it was that was guiding me. While I was at church, the girls decided on another sleepover at the friend’s house. I went home and drew some art for the March for Truth that I attended virtually continuing with the Wonder Woman theme by using her lasso of truth.

My husband and I began to catch up on Sense 8, only to find out that it wasn’t renewed for a third season. I’ve already joined the online movement to try and bring it back. It is just so much and so wonderfully well done. I can’t help but feel attached to the sensates.

We are currently at our local coffee shop – Starbucks. I’m wearing a green flower in my hair ane a matching Gishwhes shirt for the International Gishwhes Tea Party taking place around the world at this exact moment.

It is also Pride month, and I spent much of last night drawing and coloring a pride flag, mostly for my own amusement, but also to share.

So much done, and this weekend isn’t even over yet. We still need to get the kids back from their respective sleepovers, watch two more episodes of Sense8, decide on dinner, and then prepare for the return of Fear the Walking Dead.

Tomorrow seems just as busy as I renew my driver’s license and get my glasses adjusted. I’ve been getting headaches and they’re barely a week old. I’m definitely seeing better, but I’m not sure constant headaches are worth the benefit. I also plan to get my international driving permit for our trip to Ireland.

I’m not sure if I have time to catch my breath.

While I do, what are some of the ways you cope with the busyness of your lives? If you comment with yours, I’ll include them in tomorrow’s post of some of my hints and tips to get through our days.

15/52 – Chosen

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​Lent is over. The Easter fire is lit. In just about seven or so hours, it will be blessed, we will light our candles and illuminate the church. And so begins the Easter Vigil; practically the same way across the world in their own time zones. It begins so late because we wait until dark.

Every year from Ash Wednesday until tonight, I am asked if it brings back memories of my own first Easter Vigil. I never know what to say. Of course, it does, in many ways, but in others it fosters new memories that blend with the old ones. It is also hard to explain that my Easter Vigil is often somehow with me more often than not. Every time, I cross myself at the holy water font. Every time, I receive the Eucharist, I think back to that very first one. Each one feels like the first time, and each subsequent one is a crumb on the path I have chosen.

For many, Christ is chosen for them, through their families and traditions, through their spouses or wanting to give something to our children to connect them to “their people”, but as we get older and understand more and hear more, and even listen more, we make choices along the way, every step of the path we follow. Turn left? Or right? Confirmation? Or not? Weekly communion? Or is that first one enough? Is it all that I need?

I didn’t know what was being offered when I chose Christ. I had only intended to choose a ritual, a place of being that make me feel…something; feel better about my life. In staying, I chose a new path, a dim path until one day, just like that, it was lit, brighter than the sun, all encompassing, my eyes rising to meet the glow. Despite the glow of suns and brightness unimaginable, my eyes stayed. I didn’t hear words or sounds, but my heart heard the words. Not words, but something translated, engraved on my soul, that while giving me many choices really gave me none.

Once it was there, it can not be taken away. My only choice is to accept what I’ve been gifted and continue my direction, my directing, my learning, my new way.

Every day that I have not been on retreat, I have attended the daily mass during Lent. For the past two weeks, I have remained in the church to recite the rosary. Those two commitments have given me a steadiness to carry me through this time in the desert.

Easter begins and Passover is ending, and they both celebrate the release from bondage, the exiting from the desert, the wilderness, our yearly exodus.

(c)2017

Massaversary

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Tuesday was my Massaversary. By the calendar, it was really about a month ago, in March, but the first Mass I ever attended was on Holy Tuesday, which was two days ago.

I remember it clearly because of the recommendation of my friend, Tim. He said I should try to attend the masses during Easter’s Holy Week, that they were really lovely. I went to that first one on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday, I went to the second one.

And then I discovered that that’s it for the daily  masses in Holy Week. Thursday and Friday and Saturday were all simple prayer services; the big services or masses were held in the evening.

I went to the following prayer services, and was shocked on Saturday to have been caught up so emotionally at the lighting of the Easter fire. It was overwhelming, and almost too much, but it was.

Going back to my first Mass on that Holy Tuesday, it ran just like a regular mass. The fabrics were still purple, the flowers were a mix of greenery and red, leftover from Palm Sunday, although at the time I did not know that.

I sat alone behind an older woman with a colorful embroidered jacket. She was also wearing a hat. I would find out later in the season that her name was Shirley.

I was struck by the synchronicity of it all. Everyone doing the same thing, at the same time, sometimes before the priest gave the signal to move. There was a call and response, and everyone knew all the words. Everyone except me.

I was also struck  by the exercise program of it all.

Sit, stand, cross yourself. Bend your head, sit, stand, cross yourself. Kneel, stand, raise your hands, drop your hands, kneel, stand, raise your hands, drop your hands, shake hands with your neighbor, walk to the front, eat, drink, and walk back. Bow and sit. Then stand, bow, and genuflect.

Add a little bit of music and you’ve got a Richard Simmons video.

It was foreign, and I spent most of my time watching the others, trying to emulate what they did, just slightly slower than they.

That was the beginning.

I still go to the daily mass; at least I try to. I have returned for Lent, and I have indeed missed it. I think I’d gotten lazy, but I’m hoping to make it part of my daily prayer time again.

This year, since last week, excepting today, I’ve stayed after the daily mass for the recitation of the rosary. I have some issues with the after rosary prayer, but that is a subject for another day. All in all, I get good feelings from praying to the Holy Mother; something I couldn’t have imagined five years ago.

So, happy massiversary to me!

And Happy Easter to all of you.