Sunday, March 24, 2013

7 Quick Takes, Late Again

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 193)

1) It's weekend!  And it's Holy Week!  I can't believe it's here already.  This is such a momentous week, and it always amazes me how few people see that.  I'm not talking about people that understand it's a big week but due to other things going on in their lives don't really get much out of it in a particular year.  I'm talking about people for whom celebrating Easter is on the same plane as celebrating St. Patty's Day.  One is about shamrocks and green and corned beef, and the other is about eggs and pastels and ham.  And each are only a day long in celebration.  But this is about life and death and principalities and powers.  This is about love conquering all of the insanity and pain and vanity and confusion of the world.  This is the week that we really live the fact that salvation is already here, but are are reminded by the pain and worries and struggles of our lives that it is not yet complete for us.  Huge.

2) Since it is Holy Week, someone was asking me how I would celebrate.  Well, liturgically of course.  To me, this really is that holy time that is all about the liturgy and the other stuff is side stuff.  I love all that holy smoke!

3) There is a problem this year, though.  I've noticed the couple of times that I went to Stations of the Cross that the incense was really getting to me.  And last Holy Saturday Mass, I had to leave early because of feeling lightheaded and ended up having some seriously violent chills for a while.  I love incense!  It's going to really suck if it now makes me sick!  I still plan to try to attend each of the Masses this week.  I'll sit towards the back and on the end for a quick get away if needed, but I don't want to resort to missing them.  My sister reacts to incense, and doesn't even go to Holy Saturday Mass anymore.  I get it, but I LOVE Holy Saturday Mass, and I don't want to skip it!

4) Let's discuss that Lent is almost over.  I'm excited about that, and I am definitely ready to give up giving up stuff.  On the other hand, it has been a good thing to give some of this stuff up, and I would like to keep going with moderation.  But less.  So, moderating the moderatioon?  We'll see how that goes.

5) I am still loving Pope Francis, and I am loving this post by Simcha Fisher.  I also loved the story that I heard from last week.  Maybe you've all heard it already, but I only saw it in one spot, so maybe it's a new story to some.  Anyway, the cardinals and Pope Francis were all having dinner together shortly after the election, and one of the senior cardinals stood up to toast the pope on behalf of the cardinals.  Pope Francis then stood to return the toast.  His toast to the cardinals that had elected him? "May God forgive you!"

6) Well, it turns out that I have exercise induced asthma.  I pretty much thought that for the last couple of months and the pulmonologist confirmed it on Thursday.  Well, pretty much confirmed it.  He didn't do the tests that actually confirm it, but we agreed that the symptoms are classic, and the test wasn't going to do much but be a pain in the butt.  So I got an inhaler, which was magic.  I was hiking yesterday, and I could talk while going uphill and there was no annoying tightness while I was walking.  Sweet.

7) I'm now debating posting this because it's SO late, but whatever. I was hoping for the link up in the reverse order so that I wouldn't be so, so far down the list.  But apparently that doesn't work, so I'll be there at the bottom of the list.

Head over to Jen's for more QT's.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam!

Obviously, I can't tell you anything that would actually be considered news.  I guarantee any info you find here in this post is hours old and has already been repeated ad nauseum. (Like that? In honor of an historic day in the Church, I threw in a little Latin, just for you.)  As for the rest, it is merely my thoughts and opinions on the day, in the midst of thousands of other thoughts and opinions about the same thing, but stated better.  In other words, you may want to skip this post unless you really have nothing better to do.  I wouldn't add to the noise, but I figure that I want to be able to look back on my thoughts and feelings on a day like today.  I know I wish I could look back on my thoughts when Pope John Paul II died and Pope Benedict was elected.  But I can't because I wasn't cool enough to have a blog or even know what a blog was back then.

In 2005 one of my favorite things watching all the coverage was to see how people from all over the world were affected and how this Church is bigger than my parish and my country.  It was a reminder that the Catholic Church is for everyone, and here were people from everywhere being caught up and affected by the things that were affecting me.

Today, I think the thing that strikes me the most is the old and the new.  This is a Church that is ancient and ever new.  Ancient customs such as the conclave and the smoke, but new ways of making it more obvious. An ancient office of the papacy, yet the first pope from the Americas, the first Jesuit, the first Francis.  The one thing that encapsulated this whole idea for me more than anything else are the two words: "Latin tweet". When I first saw the report that the papal twitter account had tweeted, "Habemus papam Franciscum," it struck me as almost absurd, and yet so completely, deliciously awesome.  An ancient announcement, words that have given Catholics a thrill of new hope for many centuries, now on Twitter. LOVE it. Ancient and new.

I knew nothing about Pope Francis as a cardinal, but what little I have heard so far, I love. Initially, it's a strange feeling.  When Pope Benedict was elected, it didn't feel quite right initially, but Pope John Paul was dead, so it was clearly needed. Today, my brain and my heart had a bit of a hard time accepting that Pope Francis truly is the pope, because Pope Emeritus Benedict is still alive. (Is that the proper terminology??) And yet I am excited that he is our new pope.  Most of the controversy that the media was already trying to stir up was either expected (I mean really, are you surprised that he was against abortion, contraception and gay marriage in Argentina?) or of the stuff that is easy to criticize looking back with pieces of information but without the whole story.

I think everyone is struck so far with his quietness, simplicity and humility.  I hope they don't take that to mean that he'll be a soft touch!  I think they're in for a surprise if they think that's the case. I truly love how much social justice is such a big part of his heart.  I think it's a part that has somehow gotten separated from solid doctrine and theology, but it is what solid doctrine and theology should lead to: love of God and love of neighbor.  I think he is a pope that will challenge us to new places in bringing these things back together as he helps to rebuild the Church.

I know that none of the popes have been perfect, either before or after becoming pope.  I know that Pope Francis will be the same.  But I do believe that he has a servant's heart, and that is likely the only reason that he responded to this call; in order to serve. I have already heard a number of naysayers discussing various points of discontent, particularly that they are "afraid it will be more of the same". (*Snort.* Ya think? With all the "firsts" about Pope Francis, he's still Catholic!)  I have heard some blow off the conclave and "politicking" and "smoke and mirrors".  I won't deny all politicking, but I would bet that those that have that impression would be surprised at the amount of prayer and silence that goes into it.  It is nothing like a political election.  The pope is not someone that "won" after a campaign, but rather someone that responded to the call when he was asked to take the position.  I'd bet money there's a large part of him that would rather be headed back to Argentina next week.

Anyway, that's a lot of rambling.  I wish I had a prize for you making it through all of that!

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Conclave

I hear the rumor that the conclave starts in a few hours.  So excited!  But definitely there is plenty of praying to do.  I enjoyed reading a couple of blog posts from Cardinal Dolan.  It's interesting to hear the perspective a cardinal who is there rather than all the speculation from the media. I especially love that he clarifies what name is getting tossed around the most during the lead up to the conclave (that would be the most holy name of Jesus Christ) and what he's thinking about (getting home to corned beef- especially since he will likely miss St. Patrick's Day- and clean socks). He also clears up some common misconceptions about picking a pope.

As I have said here before, I think it likely that the future pope will be Catholic.  He will also be human, and not perfect.  I do have high hopes that he will have a servant's heart and a great love for the Church. Beyond that, who really cares to speculate?  Okay, all of the media.  But they can speculate until the cows come home and that doesn't mean that they'll figure anything out!

Sunday, our priest chose to read the readings from cycle A. The first reading is what really caught my eye with the conclave coming up.  It was about Samuel being sent to go anoint a king from the sons of Jesse.  I love what happens next:

As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, "Surely the Lord's anointed is here before him." But the Lord said to Samuel: "Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him.  Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart." In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, "The Lord has not chosen any one of these."

In the end, it was David, the youngest son, the one that they didn't even bother to bring to the sacrifice. They had to go bring him in from tending the sheep before they could begin.  As soon as he shows up, "The Lord said, 'There- anoint him, for this is the one!'"

I don't know this for sure, but I suspect that even the cardinals don't really know before the conclave who will become the pope.  Perhaps like Samuel, they go into it thinking, "Surely this man is the one." Only to find out that the Holy Spirit is leading them to someone different entirely.  I pray that they will be open to His guidance.

I also pray for our new pope, whoever he may be.  I pray that like David, he has a simple shepherd's heart, but is willing to face the Goliaths that come against the Church.  Like David, he may not be perfect, but I also pray that he is willing to turn back to God and lead us there with him if he does make mistakes (and while I pray they are not as egregious as David's sins, he is a man and won't be perfect.)

I'm glad someone linked the Popealarm (I can't remember where, or I would link it, too), because I can't wait to hear when we have a pope!  I really wish I could plunk myself down in front of EWTN from now until it's announced, but I don't have access to EWTN, and I have some crazy long hours at work right now.  So I won't get to hear the announcement, but I will get to have a new pope when it happens!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Quick Takes Whenever

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 193)
1) I don't love writing these this late, because they are for Friday and usually Friday morning, and here it is, clearly NOT Friday.  Not that anyone else cares one way or the other, but that's just the way I feel about it. I'll have to get over it, though, at least until Lent is over.

2) Yesterday was a little strange.  I stayed home.  That's right, a perfectly good Saturday, and I stayed home all day, except for a brief trip for groceries.  It was a long day, y'all.  If I wasn't limiting my screen time, it would have been much faster.  But I was, so it wasn't.

The plan had been to go snowshoeing, but that would have required driving.  I'm usually good with that, but there were a lot of unfavorable forecasts out there.  It may have been okay, but judging by some of the snow and ice covered vehicles at the grocery store, I was kind of glad that I wasn't out for what would have been a 2-3 hour drive in good weather. Where I live, though, we didn't get anything.  Okay, technically there were at least 5 snow flakes falling simultaneously a couple of times, but when it was all said and done, it didn't look like much more than this (the top photos).  I could have taken pictures, but around here, that amount of snow is considered nothing, because it's not even measurable.  No snow days for us. (Sorry, Mary, I had to.  Well, that's not true.  I wanted to, so I did! ;))

3) Yes, instead of going snowshoeing in the wonderful glorious mountains with other fun people, I stayed home alone and did taxes.  SO not a good trade.  On the other hand, hopefully the roads will be better next weekend, and the mountains will be waiting and the taxes won't.  So it's not all bad even though it wasn't that fun. Besides taxes, I got caught up on some paperwork, actually have groceries in the house, did some cooking, did a little catching up on some work things, got the dishes and laundry done, cleared out and shredded some old files, and the house is (relatively) clean. I was so BORED.  One of the big benefits of being single is that I usually go play and play hard on Saturdays (yes, I would drop it in an instant for family, but I really do enjoy it now).  This did NOT cut it!  Although, there should be less stress this coming week with so much being done.  I sure hope so, anyway!

I'm still amazed by how much I got done yesterday.  I have maybe almost never been that productive.  Granted, the bar is often set pretty low when it comes to those types of chores, but still!

4) There is even more good news to this day of boredom.  As I was lying in bed looking for the willpower to get out of bed and get started on the day (as opposed to most Saturday mornings when I jump out of bed excited to get outside and enjoy the day), I realized something. Time is somewhat what we say it is, right?  In general, I'm all for agreeing with the rest of the world on this (it makes scheduling so much easier.)  However, I had a whole, long day without a single commitment.  So I made the decision to lose an hour in the morning, rather than overnight.  Best decision ever!  The day of boredom was one hour shorter and I didn't miss any sleep.

5) If you can spare a prayer between praying for the cardinals, please pray for our priest.  He's recovering from a surgery for cancer.  It's still highly treatable, but it was spread more than they were hoping for and his surgery was much more extensive than they thought it would be.  I'm still not nearly as involved with my parish as I would like to be, but I do have respect for this priest and he could certainly use the extra prayers.  I wish there was some way to really let our shepherds (from the cardinals down to the priests) know how much they mean to all of us!  I pray they know!

6) Today I decided that I wanted an omelet for breakfast.  I had all the stuff and that sounded like a great Sunday breakfast.  However, I was almost too late getting out of bed to have it before church.  You would have thought I was waiting for the maid to bring it to me!  

In all honesty, I probably should have waited for the maid.  I didn't end up with an omelet so much as a mess of eggs and veggies on a plate.  I don't know what happened!  When I first started making omelets several months ago, they turned out beautifully. Now they keep getting worse and worse!  My parents always told me that practice makes perfect, and somehow I'm getting worse instead of better.  This whole issue may bring on some sort of existential crisis on top of the poorly cooked breakfast problem.  Really, when you can't trust your parents on something like "practice makes perfect", what can you believe in?

7) Though we didn't get enough snow around here to suit me (even though they weren't predicting much right here, I still wanted it), the wind and the cold have still been pretty strong.  Today it was quieter in the lower elevations, but you could see the wind blowing the snow on the higher mountains a couple hundred feet up!  It was impressive and knowing how much colder and wilder it is not so far away from me is one of the reasons that I love the mountains.

Hope you're having a great weekend, and head over to Jen's for more QT's!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Out of the Darkness

I was crabby when I got up this morning.  Probably because it was four.  The four of the A.M. variety.  I knew I was wrenching myself out from under the warm covers for a workout that can be best described with the words "torture-fest". I don't know if that's even a word, but it should be, because that's what this work out is.  I honestly don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing that I'm usually only about half awake when I get out of the car.  On the one hand, the awareness of what awaits might be a little dulled.  On the other hand... holy crap, what a rude awakening.

My friend in Germany (who can only be described as bat crap crazy, since she misses joining us on these jaunts) texted me and told me to have fun.  I texted her back and told her that she couldn't make me.

I only do this hike when I'm going with a friend, because it's so intense, you need to have someone there, just in case.  Of course my friend is in better shape than me, anyway, but then I also seem to have picked up some possible exercise induced asthma.  So now I'm all kinds of slow on top of the rest of it.  Yep, it's early, dark, cold, and for breakfast I'll have a heaping plate of your full-on beating with a side of wheeze, please.

So, yeah. Crabby.

When I get to the trail, I park my car and sort through my stuff.  Most of it was packed the night before (because I am NOT getting up early enough to pack in the morning), but I had to take off and stow my fleece and my hat and put on my headlamp.  Not to mention that I was stalling getting out of the warm car to head for the trailhead.

However, since there's no stopping the inevitable, I got out and joined my friend.*  We exchanged pleasantries almost-but-not-really-joking complaints about what is wrong with us and why do we do this to ourselves and ugh.  Once we reach the base of the trail, my friend wishes me good luck and takes off. Our plan is to meet at the top; this is the type of workout that is best done at your own pace.  You would think his headlamp would stay visible for a while since there is nothing else to obscure the view, but no.  He's soon beyond me in the darkness and it's only me and the steps.  Well, and a little ice to make it more fun.  Along with the aforementioned wheezing.**

It never ceases to amaze me how small my world becomes on this trail.  I know what's coming, and I do dread it, but really all I can deal with is the one step I'm taking. Finding a stable place to step. Deciding if there is enough firm surface to step or if I should put on my traction. Breathing in and out. I do take an occasional sip of water, but I'm usually breathing too hard to want it.  Focus on the fact that I just need to keep moving, and eventually it will be over.

Every once in a while, I may see my friend's headlamp flash back toward me.  Then, even though I'm feeling alone in the misery, I know that he's still checking.  And he knows that if he needs something I will (eventually) catch up with him. Once he gets to the top, though, he usually turns out his light to conserve the battery.  He's still checking, even though I can no longer see it.

When I finally approach an end point for the day, out of the darkness I hear "Good job! You made it!"  That makes me feel good- and VERY happy to be done-, even if I'm entirely too winded to make an attempt at a response (typical of that workout; not even a byproduct of the possible asthma). He knows not to expect an answer, and I know he won't be offended.  The way down is glorious, the torture is done, plenty of air for the taking, and the sun coming up and lighting up the sky.  People accuse us of being crazy, but those are the moments that we know why we are there, and we decide that they are crazy for wanting to stay tucked in their beds, missing out on a beautiful morning.

*Don't get any funny ideas. He's a good friend, but my friend in Germany? His serious girlfriend.  There are other reasons we wouldn't work as a couple as well, but those are moot.

**It's really quite minor, and if I notice it, I slow down and it immediately goes away.  It's not bad, but I'm a whiner and I'll whine if I want to.


This is a workout that I've talked about before on a couple of different occasions.  It's so intense that it lends itself to numerous posts. (I will not link those posts, because you just read this post, and I doubt those are much different.) Today, my thoughts are with a number of people that are grieving for lost family members and friends.  Unfortunately, I know a couple of people who have lost someone in the last week or so.  Not only that, but there are more that have lost someone in the last year.

One in particular is on my mind and heart.  I never met her, but I honestly am not sure how I missed out.  So many of my close friends do know her and are hurting at her loss.  I remember one of my friends talking about her about a year ago.  I thought at that time that she seemed like she would be a good person to get to know, and I was pretty sure we would be friends if we did meet.  Even if I knew nothing else about her, she obviously has great taste in friends!  Besides that, I am especially thinking of those that have lost babies, one in the last week at about 17 weeks gestation, another who would have been due this month, as well as several others.

First thing I want to say to those that are hurting right now, I'm sorry and I'm praying for you. I wish I could do more.

Beyond that, it's been making me think quite a bit.  Losses of a loved one are completely overwhelming. Most of my thoughts can be summed up in that workout that I did that morning. (Yes, I know that is completely trivial to the kind of loss we are speaking of; I do not mean disrespect.  The workout is merely an illustration.) We start out together on a journey, but sometimes someone gets ahead and we don't get to see or talk to them, or touch them or spend time with them anymore.  We say they are "gone".

The thing is, they really aren't gone.  Every once in while, we can see the light of their presence looking out for us up ahead.  They are there. They will send help if we fall. And they are faithfully waiting for us at the top. We will eventually get to the top, and we will eventually hear their voices again out of the darkness, "You made it. Good job."

The pain and weakness of loving others is an insane, intense, and crazy journey. But the glory of it when you get to the top together and the sun starts to finally break out over the horizon is well worth the work. Suddenly, all the people in their beds who said it was too crazy of a journey to start have become the crazy ones as they miss out on that in the end.

A couple of other things that I think about are that when these things happen, I do not really believe that God "takes" these loved ones from us.  I do not believe that He takes a child from his or her mother's womb, or takes a woman from the husband and children that she loves.  I do believe that God receives them joyfully, and yet is also with those that have to stay behind for a time.  I do not think that He causes any of these bad things to happen, but I do believe that His grace and love will conquer even the pain of death in the end, though it is a mess of grief here on earth.

I praise God again for the Mass, the supper of the Lamb, that pulls back a little bit the veil that divides us. As Therese of Lisieux said about receiving Communion after her mother had died:

Oh! no, the absence of Mama didn't cause me any sorrow on the day of my First Communion. Wasn't Heaven itself in my soul, and hadn't Mama taken her place there a long time ago? Thus in receiving Jesus' visit, I received also Mama's. She blessed me and rejoiced at my happiness.

The other thing I think about is that phrase "gone, but not forgotten".  We act as though those who have gone ahead of us are somehow missing out on life, and we forget that they that have died in Christ's love are living so much more fully than we are ourselves!  I think it's more important sometimes to remember that they have not forgotten us.  I love this from Catherine of Siena in her "Dialogues" (these are words to Catherine from God the Father):
Their desires are a continual cry to me for the salvation of others, for they finished their lives loving their neighbors, and they did not leave that love behind but brought it with them when they passed through that gate which is my only-begotten Son. So you see that in whatever bond of love they finish their lives, that bond is theirs forever and lasts eternally... What these blessed ones want is to see me honored in you who are still on the way, pilgrims running ever nearer your end in death. Because they seek my honor they desire your salvation, and so they are constantly praying to me for you. I do my part to fulfill their desire provided only that you do not foolishly resist my mercy.
 I think it's also important to remember that these bonds of love that we have with others are not just special here on earth, but will continue to be special in heaven. Also from St. Catherine's "Dialogues":
And though they are all joined in the bond of charity, they know a special kind of sharing with those whom they loved most closely with a special love in the world, a love through which they grew in grace and virtue. They helped each other proclaim the praise and the glory of my name in themselves and in their neighbors. So now in everlasting life, they have not lost that love; no they still share love and share with each other even more closely and fully, adding their love to the good of all.
 In the end, I am hurting for those that are in such pain right now, but I am rejoicing that this pain will not last forever (even if now it is simply trying to get through one moment at a time).  I am sorry that they have this painful separation, but I am thankful that their loved ones in heaven are thinking as much about them as vice versa.