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.