My Easter Bag

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​It’s hard to believe that Easter was only one week ago. Most of my Holy Week was spent in church between morning prayer services, the parish community dinner, evening prayer and mass. There is a lot going on and a lot packed into the second half of the week following Palm Sunday. The three days of Holy Week prior to Easter Sunday is called the Triduum, which is basically one long service beginning on Holy Thursday with the sign of the Cross and ending at the Easter Vigil on Saturday night the same way. At our parish we have hospitality or receptions on Saturday morning and evening, the former in celebration of the lighting the Easter fire and the latter in celebration of welcoming the new members to the Catholic church through the RCIA program.

It’s very fulfilling and spiritual, but it’s long and it’s tiring. Since my first Vigil, one of my yearly customs is that I will bring a small tote bag along with my usual purse to carry a water, cough drops, tissues. I’ll add my worship booklet so I have it for the entire three days.

At some point during Holy Week, I’ll realize that I don’t really need my pocketbook if I toss my wallet and kindle and phone and other necessities into the tote bag. That way I only have one bag to carry and keep track of.

Genius, right?

Well, every year, I’m surprised by the time Saturday afternoon rolls around at how heavy this tote bag is. I don’t realize it’s getting heavier as I add things one at a time until the very end when I go to grab it out of the car, and it pulls me back in.

Here is a picture of it when I arrived at church for the lighting of the Easter fire on Saturday morning:

The inside of my Easter bag on Holy Saturday morning. (c)2019

It has my large wallet, kindle, hearing aids, extra batteries for the hearing aids, clipboard and pad if the urge to write grabs hold of me, a pen, packet of tissues, bag of cough drops, daily reflection book for Lent, cell phone, rosary, Triduum worship aid, any of the other worship aids that I’ve collected during the week, bottle of cold water, umbrella for the upcoming rain (it wasn’t raining when I arrived but it was raining very hard when we all went outside to light the fire). I think there may have been a few other odds and ends in there. All I know is it was really heavy by the time I pulled it out of the back seat.
Admittedly, and embarrassingly, this one week later, it still has stuff in it, and needs to be completely emptied and put away. It doesn’t have much, but still, it’s long past time.

RCIA – First Day

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This morning was my first day as an RCIA teacher. It took me until last night to finally sit down with the readings and the notes from the Breaking Open the Word book that I’ve had sitting in my Adobe file for the better part of a month.

It’s not that I’m lazy – not when it comes to reading anyway, but in my subconscious I thought that if I prepared and read the readings and the papers, then I would have to go through with the class. Now, keep in mind that I was a teacher for over ten years, but those were kids, and in the end, it wasn’t for me. By last night I realized that whether or not I did the homework, the assignment wasn’t going away. I call it an assignment, but I did volunteer for it. To be honest, I want to do it. It wasn’t that long ago that I was on that side of the table in the RCIA program. Just like I brought something from my background as a catechumen, I think that I can offer something in return. I have a unique perspective, and I think everyone on the team has something special to bring to the new people.
They’ve been doing this since the fall. I was the new one again.

The catechumens are dismissed by the presider right after the Gospel is read and with me we go across the parking lot to the parish center. I glanced at my watch as Father C began his homily and tried to determine how much time I would have with them before they went on to part two of their weekly learning. Forty-five minutes. What would I say for forty-five minutes? I should have guessed that I overestimated my time when Father C said he doesn’t get to do this that often and he was going to use his time to talk about Mary.

I must admit that when he got to his fourth or fifth point about the Mother of G-d, I was almost gleeful at how much of my time had whittled away. Here I was worried that I’d run out of things to say before I ran out of time.

When we finally arrived at the parish center, the other team members were wondering what had happened to us. Father J was also there, asking if he could sit in.

Um, sure.

As it turned out, while it seemed as though he did a lot of the talking, it really was an even split between the four of us. And in retrospect, the point of breaking open the Word is to get the catechumens to think and to talk about their interpretations of the Scriptures and the Readings and to ask the questions that most concern them.

We talked about the prophet, Micah, and wondered why he wasn’t given more playing time so to speak. He’s the one who prophesies that the Messiah will come from Bethlehem. That’s a pretty important piece of information. We talked about the liturgical year and the three cycles, A, B, and C that the church follows. I didn’t get to add that this is my first C cycle. I started in A with Matthew.

We talked about Mary and Elizabeth. I added my own two cents about how through Advent, we’re waiting in our modern lives, and we know what we’re waiting for, but right there in the moment, Elizabeth also knew that she was waiting for her Lord and Savior, and was astonished that His Mother came to visit her. It’s kind of amazing to realize how they watched the prophesies come to fruition.

The one thing I didn’t get to say was about how the Incarnation is in tandem with the Death and Resurrection of Lent and Easter time. Jesus is born so that he may die and be reborn. Sometimes, it’s a lot to understand. That’s one of the reasons that I enjoy going over this with the catechumens and each year as we get another Gospel writer’s point of view.

I think having Father J at this, my first class and having Father C take up so much time before dismissing us was just the icebreaker that I needed to begin my role in this ministry. I will be better prepared, although I was ready today, but next time I won’t be as full of anxiety. I’ve already met the two women, and as I walk with them on this path, I am still learning and growing in my faith.

We also talked about the interconnectedness of everything that we do and see and how it all relates around us. Father J mentioned the Star Wars connection this week in his homily, and I’ve seen things on my journey that relate back across my entire life. I’ve been wondering what I was looking for with this year of mercy, and our parish’s holy doors. I still don’t know what I want for this year, not entirely, but tomorrow is when I’ll walk through the doors. I’ll have more about that tomorrow.

Anniversary

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I saw the head of the RCIA program at mass tonight. She asked me if I thought about the upcoming anniversary of my baptism. I have been thinking of it. A lot. On one side I can’t believe a year has come and gone so quickly; it’s really flown by. On the other side it feels as though I’ve been Catholic forever. It’s an exciting feeling, though knowing how I feel about Jesus, and knowing that he is always with me.

Lectio Divina

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Last week I was introduced to Lectio Divina, a fancy Latin name for Divine Reading and something that I had been doing already much of this for the last two years even though it was unbeknownst to me. Honestly, it came so naturally to me that I recognized my participation immediately as it was described and I wondered why this is considered a unique concept and why this isn’t done by everyone all of the time.

I try to read the Mass readings daily. Once I’ve done that, I currently have two other daily devotionals that include meditations and individual perspectives on the day’s Scriptures. Unless I am attending Mass, I let my feelings dictate when I will read. Despite leaving it to a sign of wanting it and not obligatory I have rarely skipped the readings.

During this time of Easter until Pentecost, I have been reading the Little White Book which I like for its combination of facts and related particulars along with Scripture and the Gospel of Matthew.

Upon becoming Catholic, I received a gift of Grace by Max Lucado from my best friend and after the other readings, I will read the morning page and then the evening section right before bed.

Many of these days I will latch upon a word or a phrase that strikes me as important or so closely related to my life that I can’t ignore it even if I wanted to. As a writer, there are days when I’m fortunate enough to take one or two of those wisps and express my heart.

Lectio Divina, to me is very much like this with a deeper meaning as it relates to my relationship with Christ.

I understand and appreciate the divine and the sacred, but I also find it sacred that many of my questions in my life, tangible, practical concerns that I seek guidance on are found in ancient texts that happen to know when I’ll need to hear them. I have the faith to accept this, but it is still a wondrous happening all the same.

It was explained to me as a fine food that you take into your mouth by small morsel and let it lay on your tongue so you can identify what it is that is so special about this tiny piece, savor it until you can taste all it has to offer and then seek more.

In researching online I have found that this is not far from what is happening while savoring the Scriptures.

Read whatever you’ve chosen for today and if something jumps out at you, grab it and hold onto it. See how it fits. Why did this word or phrase speak to you?

I have a perfect example of this happening today, so I’ll share it here: In reading Max Lucado’s Grace for this morning, the Gospel reading is from Matthew 7:2:

“You will be judged in the same way that you judge others.”

I found this appropriate that it should come today. One of the things that came between my murdered friend, whose anniversary of death was yesterday, and me was my judgmentalness. It is a reminder of all the negative that I projected when I should have been listening. I’m also afraid of being judged harshly because of my way of judging too harshly, so it makes me insecure and fearful about how others feel about me and whether or not they really like me.

In an essay I read yesterday by Mary Stommes, her quote, “A love you could come home to any time…” flew out at me quite unbidden. As an adult, married with children, I always felt that I didn’t need to worry; I always had a home to go to in my parents’ house. It wasn’t until after they both died that I realized I could not go home again. It left me drifting. Even though they hadn’t abandoned me, they both would certainly have chosen to remain here, but they were gone nonetheless and it left a hole, but not only a hole in my heart that losing a parent (or both) does to someone, but it left a frightening chasm that reminded me that if I took a misstep or made a huge mistake, I had nowhere to run to. I couldn’t hide and on an unconscious level this scared me.

It wasn’t until I had no childhood home to come back to that I began to search for myself, and where a few years later, I continue to search for other parts of myself still missing.

I use Lectio Divina in my secular life, grasping onto the words and phrases that stand out, and when I started relaying that kind of meditation to my spiritual life through the daily Scriptures, I could see and remind myself of G-d’s love and the never alone feeling that eluded me for so long. If that reminder was in a Bible written more than 2000 years old, some parts more than 5000, there was somewhere to turn to reconcile me to afjusting my thoughts and my deeds and that things were not impossible.

With Lectio Divina there are four steps: Read, Meditate, Pray, Contemplate.

Clare of Assisi had a noted four step method to hers: Gaze on the Cross, Consider, Contemplate, Imitate (as in become more Christ-like). Her method seems very much like the one that I’ll describe below.

I’ve also discovered that the Cistercians (as well as other monastic orders) used this method of meditation and contemplation. They were the White Monks in Northern Wales during the Middle Ages and whom Llywelyn Fawr was a patron of.

The meditation itself is a slow progression from one to the next, but it is definitely a quiet contemplation, a time to be alone with Christ.

I will almost never find myself in silence, so I try to adapt. The white noise of a coffee shop, headphones listening to music without lyrics, the hub of the house ,if it’s not too loud and through a closed door, so long as I can focus my energy on my reading. The important part for me is centering my spirit. The willingness to look deeper needs to be available. Music without words. Tea. Water. The day’s reading. Sometimes I find myself choosing a random page in a motivational book or checking a particularly insightful horoscope, and see where that guides me. For me, even these seemingly mundane inspirations still find their way to becoming closer with Jesus.

I leave the passages and the amount that I will read in G-d’s hands. I try to have no set plan as to x number of words or y number of verses. When you find it, you will know.

Read it slowly.

Repeat it until it becomes a mantra on your lips and in your mind.

Ponder the words, pay attention to how they feel on your tongue. When something comes to you – an answer, another question, a face or an item, savor it, meditate on it and then pray on it.

It should be quiet and contemplative.

Sometimes, I know I am too wound up to have any positive affect and so I’ll walk away for a bit. Read a book, make a list. It is very rare that I am not called back to my reading.

One of the most exciting parts for me is that there is no set time. This can be a ten minute exercise or twenty minutes or an hour.

It’s possible that I’ve so easily adopted this method of meditation because of my work with quick, ten minute or less writing prompts that this seems to fit into how my brain works.

However it does it, I’m happy that it is something I can do and feel comfortable with.

Pain Brings the Snow

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Or is it snow that brings the pain?

I had the most severe back pain last night. I could barely move. In fact, I had to take two Tylenol just to get to sleep for a couple of hours.

I haven’t had pain like that since I was pregnant with my second child.

Actually, I don’t typically get back pain. Oh yes, the little spasms here and there from overdoing something or falling asleep in the chair at the wrong angle. I refuse to ascribe anything to “at my age” and even when I’m 80, that phrase will still be more appropriate for someone twenty years older than I am at that moment.

After all, I’ve been told that the reason I had hearing loss was age.

I was 23. (It wasn’t how long I’d been on the Earth; it was how long I was in front of the speakers at a Stray Cats concert in high school. My ears still ring.)

I’ve been really good about no soda for breakfast, however… No tea this morning. It won’t make me feel better. Tea is comfort, and soothing and quiet and calm. I have an appointment I can’t cancel and it’s snowing. I don’t need calm; I need courage.

Tomorrow it’s going to be so warm there’s a chance of flash flooding. Today it’s snowing. Light and fluffy, but I think that’s just to lull you into a false sense of security until the drifts swallow you up.

RCIA (Mary-Mother of G-d), possible phone call depending on schedules, editing, Sherlock: The Reichenbach Fall, plan visit to uncle, plan daughter’s bday party. $5 pizza for dinner.

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Claimed by the Corner Office

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I immersed myself in Supernatural on Netflix while I did the one chore claimed by today – cleaning my office. I would call it success. I filed all the papers (except church papers and kids’ drawings). I have 2 magazines that need to be shelved. I forgot to put my 2014 jar back (but I will do that tomorrow after I drop off birthday cupcakes at school).

I’m very happy with my space.

Tomorrow I’m going to take everything off the mantle and dust and then replace and rearrange a bit. I may share some pictures.

I used my Amazon gift card today to buy Vicki Vantoch’s book, The Jet Sex and once this posts I will begin reading it. *excited*

Tomorrow is filing the slips of paper from the 2013 jar and properly setting it up for 2014. I will begin writing in my new journal. I will print 2 pictures of my closest friends&family to keep in it. I will set up my green notebook, which is catch-all for all my brain’s ideas. I will start deciding on my resolutions/goals for this year.

Lots of questions for next week’s RCIA class. Today I read the handout on the rite of election and now my stomach is in knots. Next week, I also have a memoir workshop. The prompt is basically do whatever you want. Sometimes that freedom is worse.

First official day after the holidays. I feel pretty good.

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