Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ora Pro Nobis

I had something going on that while not really serious wasn't completely trivial either and it seemed inevitable. I pass that St. Jude statue at SJV all the time and it always has flowers in front of it, so I figured why not. I prayed about it, I asked St. Jude to pray about it, mostly for the grace to deal with said inevitability.

Then the inevitable thing didn't happen.

I'm honestly overwhelmed at the moment about this, since I'm not a cradle Catholic and whole intercessory prayer of the Church Triumphant thing isn't something I'm used to. I say Hail Marys, we do litanies of saints sometimes, but it's more like something I wish could be true.

I know cynics would say that I'm assigning cause where there was none, Protestants might say that it was my prayer that was heard and St. Jude had nothing to do with it. I just can't help but feel that asking for his prayer to be said with my intentions had something to do with this. We ask our friends to pray for us all the time, so really I shouldn't be so surprised that someone already in the presence of God would be happy to pray for me, too. Maybe his status as patron saint of hopeless causes was just the grace I needed to remember that nothing is beyond grace, that I should offer prayers about whatever I'm going through.

Thanks, St. Jude, for praying for me. Thanks for helping me learn to trust in God's grace a little more. I've been Catholic for almost eight years and I'm still learning the basics.

Monday, August 22, 2011

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Well, technically summer vacation doesn't end until Wednesday, when choirs of angels may well start singing when I drop the boys off for their first day of PreK & 2nd grade. They need the structure of school as much as I need a bit more time to restore structure to the house. Which leads me to how I spent my summer vacation. I thought that with the school routine and slightly older kids, I would finally be able to declutter the house. Ha. I did get rid of some things and some spaces are cleaner, but our den (which I optimistically named the sorting room at the beginning of the summer) is full of bins and boxes to be sorted. It's actually the master bedroom of our house, but we use it as living space. Well, did use it as living space. I'm just so thankful it has a door that locks so whenever someone comes over to play/eat/whatever I can lock the door and create the illusion of organization. Hooray!

One thing that's been incredibly difficult about the purging is that a huge part of the clutter is schoolwork and toys. I have a file folder box for each kid where I keep some key examples by year. I am very, very good at deciding which projects to keep. The kids, however, think that I must keep every worksheet and drawing they've ever done because they put their heart and soul into every single mark they make on paper. I've learned the hard way not to ever let them see me getting rid of their papers. "Oh, how did that get into the recycling? The cat must have knocked it in there! Let me get that out of there!" Once they go to school I can sort the papers and they'll never miss what goes.

And the toys. Oh, the toys. The boys have been big on video games this summer (it's really hot outside and I hate being hot, so send the parenting police on over, I will laugh in their faces) but they still do play Legos and Imaginext frequently. Everything else just sits around the house. If I suggest that maybe they could give those toys away to some kid who'd play with it they freak out. So again, there's going to be some culling done in a gradual fashion so they won't notice the toys leaving.

The clutter that is my fault: craft stash, books, magazines and clothing (fits now, will fit on the way up and down if I have another baby and full fledged maternity) is going to be harder to pare down. If anyone has any helpful solutions that aren't hiring someone to do it for me, please share!

The lesson learned from all of this -- just play with the kids and maintain the house over the summer. I will never again try to do any sort of house project when all three of them are home! For the record, we actually did all sorts of awesome things this summer, with Sea World and VBS and museums and tons of trips to the library.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Vigil, at home

Much like midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, Easter Vigil is something that has stopped being part of our liturgical life since we've had little kids. Long, crowded services lasting until hours past their bedtimes (and messing with their sleep for days to come) just don't seem like a good idea. Tonight I had a sort of a mom's Easter vigil. Clothes are set out and pressed, which never seems to happen on a normal Sunday. I have absolutely delicious cinnamon rolls in the refrigerator, ready to bake in the morning. The kids did run up to bed all excited about the Easter bunny, but Pete did yell "Alleluia, Christ is risen!" before he settled down. So are they more excited about the candy and festivities? Sure, but I think that's all about conveying to them the pure joy that is Easter. As they grow they'll realize more and more the source of joy isn't the trappings of Easter, but the Resurrection itself. I like to think that Easter, with the crowds and bustle and sense-jarring brass music, is the closest glimpse we get of the splendor of Heaven. So will I be a little more tired that usual tomorrow because I've been getting all of this ready? Sure, but they'll have incredible Easter memories that will hopefully tie them to the faith as they grow.

Happy Easter vigil to all the parents out there!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Can't Someone Else Do It?

There's an old episode of the Simpsons called "Trash of the Titans" where Homer campaigns for sanitation commissioner by promising that you won't even need to put your trash in the garbage can -- someone will take it from your house for you. His campaign slogan is "Can't someone else do it?" Then he spends the entire budget for the year in a month and disaster ensues. Hopefully disaster won't ensue when I try the same tactic this coming year. I think I've been volunteering too much. I love helping. The little time commitments that seem so reasonable when I'm offering my help then add up to a lot. I'm left with a family who needs more from me. They need more clean laundry, a more organized home, a less frazzled mom. Of course they should be coming first!

My first step, oddly enough, was volunteering for the nominating committee for my mom's group, ensuring that I would be unable to run for next year's board. I'm going to have to tell our wonderful DRE that I can't be a CCE teacher next year. I am still going to volunteer at the kids' school for easy things where I get to see them (lunch bunch!) or would be there anyway (team mom) but not for bigger commitments.

The biggest step of all is that I'm putting Kate, tiny little thing that she is, into a two day a week Mother's Day Out program. She loves our church nursery already, so I'm sure she'll love a few hours at her new "school." With the few childless hours a week I hope to get all of the errands and cleaning done so that afternoons and weekends are more relaxed.

Christian always says that I'm the center of the family, which I usually think is an exaggeration. I'm starting to realize how much my mood sets the mood for the family. A less frazzled mom will hopefully lead to a calmer family next year.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Family Prayers

We've been trying to pray more as a family. I have always prayed with each of the kids as I put them to bed, drawing a cross on their forehead with my thumb and praying that their guardian angel watches over them while they sleep. Somehow praying as a family felt weird to me, like it would turn us into fundamentalist wackos. My experience with prayer before becoming Catholic was at two extremes: public recitation of the Lord's Prayer at church with the entire congregation and silent, spontaneous prayer on my own. The only exception was when we'd visit my grandparents. There we always prayed before meals, with my grandfather always saying the same thing while the kids shot crazy looks at each other across the table. He'd say the same thing every time.

Heavenly Father we thank you again for this food you have set before us. Bless this food for everyone's use, help us to be overcomers. We ask this for Jesus' sake and in his name. Amen.

Once we became Catholic, we didn't give much thought to the mechanics of prayer as a couple. We rarely prayed together at all. Christian always wanted to pray the rosary, I'm so fidgety that the thought of twenty straight minutes doing nothing made me squirm. I truly cannot concentrate on the mysteries, as sad as that sounds coming from an adult. Three kids later and we're still figuring things out. Here's where we are right now.

At meals we do the standard, "Bless us, O Lord..." prayer. At dinner everyone says something that they're thankful for that day. The boys are usually thankful for either the food or one of us, which is very sweet. Before bed, we have family prayer time (and as yet we aren't weirdos, or at least I think we aren't). We do the sign of the cross, one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be. It's like a warmup to eventually get to the family rosary. On nights where things have gotten too hectic we've cut it down to a Glory Be. We can always find fifteen seconds, right? I still bless each one of the kids as I put them to bed and ask them if there's anything they'd like to tell God. John is starting to tell me that he's saying that part in his mind. Pete says, every single night, that he's thankful for me, Kate and Shark Pup, his stuffed orca.

For prayer as a couple, we're still struggling. Christian recently went on a silent Ignatian retreat and brought this up to the priest during his spiritual direction meeting. The priest made the suggestion that since I'm not able to sit still and focus for that length of time that I knit. I've been knitting since I was six and when working something simple like a sock leg I'm able to work without looking at my hands. Although we've not been horribly consistent, I am better able to concentrate on the rosary when I'm not internally grousing that I'm doing nothing. I hope to eventually be able to do nothing but pray, but that may be a long time coming.

It's not perfect, but we're trying. I like to think it's the thought that counts, along with the drive to improve.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

CCE, Week 3

CCE is not for sissies.

My kids range from refusing to talk (two of the girls) to refusing to be quiet (two of the boys). Almost all of my kids are going to be doing first reconciliation and first communion this year. Given their confusion with our lessons (and these kids have all been in CCE before), I'm not sure how on earth they're going to pass their first communion interviews. One kid gives joke answers to every single question. I think he's afraid of being wrong. I don't feel like there's any way I can do enough in an hour a week to teach them the basics of the faith. When we're only focusing on these fill in the blank answers while I'm trying to maintain order, I have even less of an idea how I'm supposed to teach them about the joy of receiving the Eucharist.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How I came back to the Catholic Church

I guess when I think back to when I had the first thoughts of coming back to the Catholic Church they all started here. But I suppose the seeds were planted much, much earlier. I was born to two non-practicing Catholics. I was baptized in Mexico City, at an old chapel, probably to appease my paternal grandmother. I never really attended church regularly, but there were times when I did. In 5th grade, I was attending a Lutheran school in Bakersfield, CA. I wanted to go to church there, so my father took me most Sundays. We moved and that ended. Fast forward to high school at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago. For some strange reason, I started attending daily Mass, even though I had never had first Communion or CCE (or as it used to be known, CCD). We moved again, and I went to a diocesan school in Erie, and it was there in my senior year I became Episcopalian. Mostly because I was really afraid of going to confession.

I attended church for my last one and a half years in high school, and for my freshman year in college. Since I was basically un-churched through most of my life, and there were few other Episcopalian students I knew in college, I drifted away and became an atheist. My turn towards atheism was the product of hanging around with charismatic Episcopalians. I never "felt" anything, so I thought there must be nothing.

Life went on. I got my degree in physics, and met my wife-to-be (as you now know) at in interview in New Mexico. We were the sort of couple that for the first couple years of our marriage were pretty much your standard secular humanist types. Our sacrament was the Sunday New York Times (world and politics for me, fashion and crosswords/puzzles for Brynne).

We decided to attend graduate school, so we ended up in Boulder, Colorado. This certainly excited my liberal secular sensibilities. I was thrilled to live in a town of (mostly) like minded individuals. For some reason, we decided to start attending a church. I don't remember why or when really, but it just happened organically. I felt that there had to be something that created existence, a first mover if you will. I would later discover that this idea was something written about nearly 800 years ago by Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Anyway, I persuaded Brynne that via media was the way to go. It was liturgically traditional, which was something that attracted both of us, but theologically liberal. It was there that we first met the ever thoughtful Reverend James Cavanagh, who ran the student ministry. The church was perfect for us: a nice house to study during the day (with a full kitchen!), and the real deal was the $20/semester parking right next to Brynne's department. We made friends, had a church wedding, and everything was settling into a nice pattern. We were busy with graduate school and active at the church. The first cracks started to appear when Brynne got a book at the Boulder Library. The book was by Elaine Pagels, a scholar of gnostic studies. Brynne wasn't really impressed by the book, but it spurred me on to read the New Testament (NRSV). In reading the Gospels in particular, I started to, particularly with regards to divorce, I started to question the Anglican tradition. It was at this time the whole Gene Robinson debacle broke. This issue proved to be divisive in our little college parish. I made it into the Pauline letters, and started to question my own thoughts on his ordination. Initially, I thought "what was the big issue about?", but again it started chipping away at my Anglicanism. How could a church both promote and condemn same sex relationships? There seemed to be a lack of consistency.

Dipping our feet in the Tiber

Anyway, we went on a vacation to my in-laws house in Illinois. We were having a good time and enjoying some well deserved time away from research and classes. One afternoon we were sitting on their couch and watching TV. We happened across a channel with two priests talking about philosophy. It was kind of interesting, and no one was around, so I kept watching. Brynne came by and initially was surprised, but also got sucked in. We learned that the channel was EWTN, and the show was called Web of Faith. The vacation ended without consequence, and we began our long drive back to Colorado.

Now what happened next requires a little bit of explanation. I usually am the driver of the family - before we had kids, after the kids: I almost always drive. Brynne is good at many things, but navigation is not one of them. Everything was going fine on I-80, until we hit Des Moines, IA. I was asleep and Brynne unknowingly got onto I-35 southbound for Missouri. Several hours later I woke up and said this didn't look like western Iowa. We stopped at the nearest gas station, found out where we were, bought some ice-cream and planned our next move. We would drive through Kansas.

We were cruising through Kansas when we kept seeing signs for the "Cathedral on the Plains". I've always enjoyed going to cathedrals, and we decided to stop since it was only a mile off the highway, and seeing as how we were already severely detoured, we figured "hey, why not!". We walked into the Cathedral, and looked around. It was gorgeous inside, and we were the only people there on that late summer evening. As we were walking out I saw a schedule for monthly programming on EWTN. Since I liked the little bit of one show, I would see what else was on there. If nothing else, it would be kitschy and fun for a while.

Life went back to normal, and we started going back to church, where the whole Gene Robinson ordination was still pretty hot talk. I started reading some histories of the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church. I read about the Lambeth conference in the early 20th century that changed the stance on contraception. It started to make me question my faith even more. I started reading theology, which was something I had not done since high school. I started having serious doubts about Anglicanism in general, but the idea of being a Catholic seemed opposite to everything I had believed for most of my adult life - I was a pro-choice, pro-contraception libertarian. If this was going to happen, then I was going to have some serious choices to make. So one night in bed said I was thinking of leaving the Episcopal Church. I think Brynne thought I was nuts, but wrote it off.

That changed with Father James gave us a little book on the night before we were headed out to a Ben Folds concert at Red Rocks. The little book was an introduction to patristics, or studies of the early Church Fathers, also known as the Didache, I remember Brynne reading the first line of it to me while we were getting a quick dinner at a McDonalds drive through window.

There are two ways, one of life and one of death; but a great difference between the two ways.

I think this little book made up my mind, but Brynne's hard decisions were just on the horizon.