Inspire.

Standard

I’m looking for a new title for this monthly series. They will continue to include quotations, photos/art, and reflections. Let me know any of your title ideas in the comments. I’m looking forward to your thoughts.

A few quotations that struck me for the new year (in no particular order):

In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

Douglas Adams

And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.

Ranier Maria Rilke

The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.

Melody Beattie

You are your choices.

Seneca

Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.

Alan Cohen

You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.

Mary Pickford

Every moment is a fresh beginning.

TS Eliot

Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.

Meister Eckhart


Blessed are the Peacemakers

Standard

I was out this weekend for some breakfast and holiday shopping, and I saw a man wearing a dark hoodie with an American flag on it, although it was black and white with a blue stripe for the middle stripe. I recognize this as a call out in support of law enforcement. I don’t disagree with supporting law enforcement when it’s called for, however there is a lot to be done to improve their strategies, especially when it comes to working with people of color and the mentally ill and people not necessarily mentally ill but in crisis in the moment they meet up with LEOs.

I am certainly not going to solve this problem in one blog post.

On the back of this hoodie, above and below the black, white, and blue flag was the phrase:

Blessed are the peacemakers,

For they will be called the children of G-d.

Matthew 5:9

I was drawn to it in a negative way. It bothered me. It bothered me enough to start writing about it here. Part of that is some of the study I’ve been doing this Advent season through readings and a couple of faith enrichment and scripture classes throughout the month of December.

I recognized that phrase as from Scripture, although my initial thoughts were incorrect in assigning it to Isaiah (his readings are quite prominent during Advent) rather than where it actually comes from: Matthew 5:9; the Beatitudes.

The entirety of the Beatitudes is contained in Matthew 5:3-11

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

I won’t relay them here. You can google or open any Bible and read all of them. There is also an addition that Pope Francis expressed on an Ecumenical trip to Sweden in 2016 that can be read here.

Reading through this part of Chapter 5 of Matthew and getting to verse 9, it is clear to me that this Scripture is entirely misinterpreted by the people who created (and wear) that hoodie. The implication that law enforcement and military are the peacemakers is inconsistent and contradictory.

I also found it ironic that I saw this on the hoodie during Advent when we are reading the Book of Isaiah who prophesizes an unlikely peace among foes: the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the kid, calf and lion, cow and bear, children and snakes (reversing Adam and Eve’s punishment in the Garden of Eden). (Isaiah 11:6-8)

When I see these types of scriptures on hoodies that promote law enforcement and military soldiers as peacemakers it just fills me with exasperation and even a touch of anger. The misinterpretation that soldiers are peacemakers and not warriors first is simply wishful thinking. This isn’t to say that all soldiers are bad; I don’t believe that, and I understand the need for a military. I understand that when the UN sends its soldiers they are called peacekeepers, and I get that too. Peace is the goal. The UN tries to be neutral despite arguments of its futility and the presence of its flaws. I think that neutral isn’t the objective though as much as fairness and the desired overall good of society.

Are the peacemakers the ones with guns? Or are they the ones with food? With books? With pens and clothes and shelter? The pen is mightier than the sword is it not? That aphorism (as wella s many others) credited to author Edward Bulwer-Lytton has been known similarly as far back as before Biblical sources including an Assyrian sage in 7th century BCE and Greek playwright Euripides using different words in place of pen: word, tongue. Talmudic and Islamic sources also reference words, both oral and written, a means of knowledge and peace as being stronger than the strength of the sword, a means of war. The implication being that with the pen/word being mightier, peace is also mightier than war.

It’s important that we call out these misuses of words and reclaim our Scriptures that have been corrupted and used in opposition to what they actually say.

War is sometimes necessary, but it shouldn’t be considered inevitable, nor should it be considered the path to the kingdom of heaven and to the discipleship of G-d.

Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are those who mourn; blessed are the meek; blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; the merciful; the pure in heart; those who are persecuted; those who are reviled and persecuted falsely on the account of Jesus.

And blessed are the peacemakers; those who make peace. They don’t force something they call peace on others; they create a lasting peace, an eternal peace.

Those are the peacemakers; they are the children of G-d.

One Year

Standard
(c)2022

I read this quote attributed to St. Jerome awhile ago, and since my priest was also a Jerome, I recognized him in this quote. Do your best. Be your best. I always wanted to do my best for Father Jerry; not to impress him or for accolades but because he made you want to be a better person. There is no perfection , but I am definitely a better person because of my friendship and faith journey with Father Jerry.

Last week was the first anniversary of his unexpected death. So many who were close to him are still mourning; I miss him every day. That’s not to say our new pastor isn’t wonderful and special in his own ways, but I’ve said many times in the past year, and I’ll continue to say it, but I would not be here today if not for Father Jerry. He guided me, not only through my faith, but also showing me a different focus, a different way of being, a gentler, more compassionate, more giving way of being.

He was a gentle soul, gently guiding you, not always where you wanted to be, not even where he wanted you to be, but to where you needed to be.

He accepted my silly questions and loved my family even though they didn’t come to church. The last time I saw him he had just celebrated mass and was rushing from one thing to the next – the busyness was written on his face, and still he took time for me, he sat me in the sacristy and heard my confession. I didn’t want to leave on vacation without reconciliation.

His memorial garden is complete and it was blessed and dedicated on his anniversary. It was moving and the day was beautiful. The design of the garden is extraordinary in my opinion. It was put in an area where Mary was already standing. I often sit by Mary’s statue and pray and look to her for guidance, so the space is a familiar one. The garden designer laid out five separate gardens so that when you walk it, beginning at Mary and following the stepping stones you can pray the rosary; one decade in each garden space.

Father Jerry had a secret garden in the back of the rectory. A place where he could sit with his dog, Grace, and spend time with the Master Gardener. He shared it with us during the pandemic through videos and a newspaper story. I think the idea of a memorial garden was a natural one, and a way to share his secret garden more permanently with those of us who loved him, and miss him, as well as those who will come later to worship at our parish.

Earlier in the week, I had seen the new sign, and then I sat in my car for a bit, reading through a paper on moving forward in grief. As I was reading, out of the corner of my eye, I could see a shadow moving just in and out of my peripheral vision around my car, but every time I looked directly at where I thought I saw the figure, there was no one there. This went on for a few minutes, until I finally just rolled my eyes, and thought, Father Jerry?

It was gone after that moment.

The Garden of Grace.
(c)2022

Inspire. October.

Standard

There are so many things happening in the last 24-48 hours and I’d love to write about them and share them here, but putting them all in one post feels as though it would diminish each of them and not give them the attention and love that they deserve.

I decided to give a little piece of each, a tease if you will, and then write more in depth with the feelings that are rising within me.

Continue reading

Inspire. August.

Standard

I’ve often talked and written about how profoundly life-altering it was when I returned from my first (and at the time I thought only) trip to Wales. It was barely forty-eight hours and yet it left an indelible mark on my soul. It led me down new paths that branched off and created new adventures and journeys within these past thirty-five years. If I recall correctly, that first summer was spent working at (the now defunct) Waldenbook’s bookstore, where as an employee I received a 33% discount, and folks wonder why I had less money at the end of the summer than I started with. I was straightening and dusting books, and performing an additional wide plethora of mindless tasks when I noticed a small mass market paperback book high on a shelf. It was the title that drew my attention: Here Be Dragons. I thought it would be fantastical and in line with my hobby of playing Dungeons & Dragons, but I was to be disappointed in that, and extremely gratified to discover that it was a novel based in medieval Wales centering on the life and world of the Prince of Wales, Llywelyn Fawr.

I was drawn into this story quickly. This is the only book that I’ve owned three copies of: one that I read several times and gave to someone to read, a new copy to replace that one, and a digital copy for my Kindle. There were two subsequent novels, Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning, now know more or less as The Welsh Trilogy. I was all in.

The author, Sharon Kay Penman had a way of bringing me into the medieval age, and I read the rest of her books – all of them – voraciously. Not one was a disappointment. One of the things that drew me so deep was Penman’s Author’s Notes, where she discussed and explained her researching process and she defined some of the things that seemed implausible but that had in fact actually happened.

  1. Lady Joanna’s affair, the burning of the prince’s bed, and the execution of her lover. True.
  2. Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, the prince’s son was held hostage by King John and the terms of his release were detailed in the Magna Carta; yes, THE Magna Carta. True.
  3. Eleanor de Montfort kidnapped by pirates. True.

And much more.

Earlier this week, I discovered that Ms. Penman died in early 2021. I am heartbroken, but I’ve discovered her last published book, The Land Beyond the Sea, which I began this afternoon. The memories of reading her well-researched and well-developed books will continue to inspire me as I continue to gain insight into the process of writing and the joy of reading.


“We’d become aliens in our own land,” he’d warned, “denied our own laws, our own language, even our yesterdays, for a conquered people are not allowed a prideful past. Worst of all, we’d be leaving our children and grandchildren a legacy of misery and loss, a future bereft of hope.”
― Sharon Kay Penman, The Reckoning

“But in all honesty, I do not find it so peculiar a notion, that a Welshman should rule Wales.”
― Sharon Kay Penman, Falls the Shadow

“Poor Wales. So far from Heaven, so close to England.”
― Sharon Kay Penman, Here Be Dragons

“Fretting about time’s passing will not slow it down one whit.”
― Sharon Kay Penman, Here be Dragons

“for each age interprets the past in the light of its own biases.”
― Sharon Kay Penman, Falls the Shadow

Dolwyddelan Castle, built by Llywelyn Fawr (the Great) in or around the 13th century. Dolwyddelan, Gwynedd, North Wales. (I don’t imagine it looked much different in his time, especially from this angle.)
(c)2022

Inspire. July.

Standard

I’m not feeling particularly inspired this month after last month’s partisan, rogue display by the Supreme Court, so I will leave you with two quotations that I listened to today on Jon Meacham’s podcast, Reflections of History, both by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall:

We must never forget that the only real source of power that we as judges can tap is the respect of the people. We will command that respect only as long as we strive for neutrality. If we are perceived as campaigning for particular policies, as joining with other branches of government in resolving questions not committed to us by the Constitution, we may gain some public acclaim in the short run. In the long run, however, we will cease to be perceived as neutral arbiters, and we will lose that public respect so vital to our function.

Thurgood Marshall, 1981

I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever ‘fixed’ at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today. They could not have imagined, nor would they have accepted, that the document they were drafting would one day be construed by a Supreme Court to which had been appointed a woman and the descendant of an African slave. ‘We the people’ no longer enslave, but the credit does not belong to the Framers. It belongs to those who refused to acquiesce in outdated notions of ‘liberty,’ ‘justice’ and ‘equality,’ and who strived to better them.

Thurgood Marshall, on the Bicentennial of The Constitution, 1987

Inspire. May.

Standard

I know we’re a little late with our inspiration, but May has been both inspiriing and challenging. When I decided to share my inspiration received from St. Hildegard of Bingen, I needed some quotes. Then I went to a workshop about her. Then I thought I’d add a picture, and here we are.

Friday Food will continue to be delayed but I expect it to be published within the next seven days, despite the end of May creeping upon us.

“To sense each creature singing the hymn of existence is to live joyfully in God’s love and hope.”

Pope Francis, Laudato Si

“Humanity: take a good look at yourself. Inside, you have heaven and earth and all of creation. You are a world. Everything is hidden within.”

St. Hildegard of Bingen

Last week I had the privilege of attending the first of three explorations of Catholic mystics, Hildegard of Bingen; the other two are St. Catherine D’Ricci and St. Julian of Norwich. I have long been intrigued by St. Hildegard, both because of her strong personality at a time when that was frowned upon in women as well as her body of work in a plethora of fields.

“We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.”

St. Hildegard

Her words from the 16th century are equally true today for us as they were then; perhaps moreso. Her words of advice remain a strong reminder that we remain brave and strong, and in control.

“Even in a world that’s being shipwrecked, remain brave and strong.”

St. Hildegard
Continue reading

Inspire. March.

Standard

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accesible and wisest of counselors, and the  most patient of teachers.

Charles W. Eliot

One week ago was World Book Day, although everyday is a good day to read a book. This is proved by the fact that this is one week late. Things happened, one of which was laziness, but not entirely. Last week was a particularly not great one, but nothing that can’t be overcome.

This is the list of books I read since last Monday. The ones with the asterisk are the ones that I completed before tonight (although most were not read entirely in seven days.)

  • Daily Reflections for Lent: Not By Bread Alone 2022 by Amy Ekeh and Thomas D. Stegman, SJ
  • Thirsty and You Gave Me Drink from Clear Faith Publishing, various authors
  • Quantum by Patricia Cornwell *
  • Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone by Rev. James Martin, SJ
  • Spin by Patricia Cornwell *
  • The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones, The NY Times Magazine *
  • The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton
  • Never Tell by Selena Montgomery (Stacey Abrams) *
  • Search Me: A Way of the Cross in Solidarity with the LGBTQ Community by John T. Kyler *
  • Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside by Nick Offerman


It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. –

Confucius
Sunflower. (c)2022

My thought daily are with Ukraine, each morning and throughout the day checking on updates. My thoughts have also been with my parish (and selfishly myself if I’m being completely honest) as the search continues for a new pastor. I wrote a short reflection on Facebook a day or so ago, and I do feel a slight weight lifted as the parish trustees announced on Sunday our new incoming pastor (who will start at the end of April).

A friend described her feelings as “being at ease with the decision” and I would agree with that sentiment. I’m not anxious although it helps that I’m acquainted with the new (to us) pastor and looking forward to his ministry, but of course, my feelings are bittersweet. Fr. Jerry, my only priest so far in my journey would talk during his homilies at funerals as the bittersweetness of the Christian journey: we who are left behind are sad, but the one whose gone home is with Jesus and so how can we resent that.

I’ve written before about my struggle to move forward in my faith and my practices and I’m reminded of something else that Father Jerry so wisely said during funerals.

He has also talked about a life that’s not ended but changed, and I think with this new pastor announcement, I feel that my Catholic journey isn’t ended, but it has changed, and with this resolution, I may be able to be changed and follow this new path. I also feel more reflective things to say on this subject, but my words need a bit more study and discernment.

At the moment as I look around at my messy table and my busy calendar, I hope that I can spend some prayer and meditation time to get back on track for Lent. There are other challenges ahead, and I need to organize myself for them. It may be time for a list; a very, very long list.

Inspire. January. 2022.

Standard

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

Andy Warhol

…any writer who waits for “inspiration” to strike will never finish a book. Inspiration is all very well, but it will never replace sheer dogged determination.

Author Elizabeth Peters in an interview that appears at the end of The Golden One, one in her Amelia Peabody series.

Pointsettia. (c)2022

Every year, just after midnight on January 1st, I take out my new calendar/blog planner. It is perfectly even. No bent pages, no stray marks, no correcting tape, no bookmarks, no stickers. Empty pages and I never go to bed until I’ve filled in the dates that have been piling up in lists at the back of the old planner. New appointments, new school days, new writing assignments and ideas. Over the days and weeks, it will fill in and be the guide that I use throughout the year.

Resolutions get broken. They start out with good intentions, but often they fall by the wayside. I try to set goals; to have determinations; to focus. I do this a few times a year beginning in the fall and adjusting and re-adjusting what I want to accomplish.

I have a few writing series that I will continue including this Inspire series. It may have a change of name, but all in all, it will continue in the same format.

I am continuing the new Instagram and Spotify compilations; Instagram as the mood strikes and Spotify during the last week of the month.

I would also like to begin a more definitive travel section, including places of interest as well as giving more time to my book writing.

So much to do, but I am determined to take those two quotations to heart and simply keep moving forward.