My Own Personal Sponsor

Everyone desires the support of their friends and family. It is my prayer that everyone gets that support, I certainly do, and it feels very nice. I’ll have to post about them one of these days.

There is another support that for me has been monumental. It is the belief and trust from someone you don’t really know all that well.

There is a woman in our parish that has always held a high opinion of me. We have become friends over the years, at least as much as our age differences can allow. Her children are older then me, so to her I am sure I am just a rather nice boy. She is a strong Catholic, and seeing me grow in my faith has been of great value to her personally for some reason unknown to me. I think it’s just because she is so much holier that me, that I can’t possibly understand.

St Catherine, my patron’s patron

She is the type of person who is willing to put herself on the line if she thinks someone can really be helped. I remember a few years ago getting a rather strange call from her. She had found a young homeless woman who was pregnant, and had taken her into her home in hopes of helping her keep the baby instead of aborting. This young woman did not really want to raise the child, and she was calling to ask if we would consider adopting the baby.

What? You are calling me to see if I might want a baby? I wasn’t sure if she was for real at first, but as soon as I woke up from the shock, I of course said heck yes! (My wife and I cannot have more children, so this was really an exciting prospect for us.) We got to know the young woman, and sadly, things did not work out, as the young woman disappeared one day, but I will never forget that she thought of us first for such a holy task.

Over the years we have grown much closer. When I started my first business as a window cleaner, she was one of my first customers. She heard I was starting something new, and dangit if she didn’t want to help me out. She is just like that all the time. Whenever I have offered services for auction at a fundraising dinner, she inevitably wins the bid, every time.

I remember once we were on a retreat together, and I grew rather fond of a statue at the retreat center. When it was sold, guess what ended up at my door. My wife and both daughters each have subscriptions to our favorite devotional, the Magnificat, all with her name on them.

She is truly a Godsend.

So I just knew that she would have no problem loaning me a few books. One of the mandates of the formation program is that we begin to pray the Divine Office. Yes, I have an old beat up copy of Christian Prayer, but I really wanted to try the four volume set for a little while to see if I liked it.

So I casually asked if she had it and if I could borrow it, and she of course said sure. I really planned on giving it back to her next month when I can afford the set, after all, that dang thing is $200, and I have a family that just made it through Christmas.

Low and behold, here she comes one day to Mass with a brand new set of them for me. Not only that, but they are of far better quality than her own, black leather with gold edging, I mean these things are really nice.

I tried to let her know that she could have just asked for them back if she really wanted her books so badly, to which she just laughed and said,

“I knew you wanted them, and I know you’ll use them. Just pray for me once and a while.”

No. I pray for her every day. I also pray that I can learn to be so generous.

Lawns are Stupid

It’s not so much that I hate grass, I am rather indifferent to grass in general. It is very pleasant for a green, living carpet if that’s your kind of thing.

What I truly dislike is yard work.

I know what you are thinking. “Nobody likes yard work Dance, it’s just what has to be done to make your house look nice.”

No. It does not “have to be done.” Lawns are stupid.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I know people who actually like this sort of thing. Their idea of a great day is getting out there, planting flowers and shrubberies and messing around in the dirt with their fancy flower laced gloves. I respect that. I am also fully aware that there are plenty of people who actually enjoy the labor of cleaning up their land, felling trees and running tractors like farmer John. That’s fine, whatever floats your boat is fine by me.

Why does that need to imply that I must have my yard look tidy? So you care enough about your curb appeal to work on it, so what? I don’t. I’d rather go for a walk, or a hike or pick my nose or any other myriad of things. I don’t want to mow my lawn and trim my hedges. It’s not fun at all.

Here’s what is even more frustrating. I like my grass long. Very long. Waist high. When I was a kid, I used to love running through the open countryside through the tall grass. I love the smell of it, the critters scurrying underfoot, the way the wind plays across the field. I think it’s far prettier than your silly green carpets.

I like dandelions too. (Gasp!)

In fact, I don’t just think lawns are silly. I think they are stupid. They feel so industrial, all cut the exact same height. It’s like a desert of mutilated grass stalks. I bet they cry. Do you feel like butcher with green grass blood all over your shoes?

I know that this is silly to most of the people out there reading this, but I really honestly don’t want to mow my lawn. I actually, truly like it just the way it is. If I don’t mow it though, everyone else sees it as unkempt, and that saddens me. I don’t want to feel like a slob.

So here is my request for the day. You hard working, lawn loving fanatics out there, can we just shake hands and be friends? I’ll ooOOoo and Ahhhh over how nice your shrubberies are cut and how fresh and green your lawn is, and all you have to reply is, “Geeze Dance, I love that natural touch your yard has.” That’s it. Then we can be friends.

And while you are at it, pay no attention to the fact that my Christmas tree still hasn’t been taken to the dump.

Death at the Senior Center

I have a group I meet with every week to bring them communion and to spend some time with in prayer. It is a small group of about ten people, though it is rare for everyone to remember to come. Considering how bad my memory is now, I expect I won’t remember to come at all when I live there.

They are a very close group of people, and they share much of their lives together. They play bingo together, eat together, read the same books, and frequent each others apartments. My daughters come with me when we visit, and we always stay longer then we intend to. They are simply a fun group of people.

I love them all dearly, they all bring a magical quality to our gatherings. We have one who is the key organizer, calling everyone to remind them to come, we have one who always brings a little something to read aloud to everyone that is spiritually edifying. We have an old man who can’t hear much, but is doing everything he can to be engaged and present to everyone there, nodding approval, and the woman who always brings a letter she got in the mail from some charity showing the suffering in the wold to remind us to pray for them.

Francis (name changed) always brought her smile.

She was just plain cheery, all the time. A sweet, delicate woman, her husband was not Catholic, so this was her opportunity to spend some time with those who shared her faith, and she rarely missed a service. She would talk often about her son, though she had not seen him for several years.

When I found out she had passed away, my heart fell, not for her death, but for our loss. She was faithful to the end, and never gave up hope for her husband, her family, her friends. She loved God so dearly, and we all knew it through her joy filled life.

Her husband had her cremated before we even found out she had passed away, and he didn’t feel a service was needed, so we decided to have one of our own.

I brought a few extra hosts that day, because I knew everyone would show up, and show up they did. We had more people for her memorial then we ever have had for any service before. Everyone was full of joy, and we talked about her for at least an hour among ourselves before we even thought of starting our prayer.

After our communion service, I asked if anyone would like to pray the rosary with me. Normally, in any Catholic group I am involved with, my mention of the rosary is followed by a long drawn out ugggggh. Not today, not with this group. Most of them had brought their rosaries just in case, and I had brought a few for people who did not have one with them. I still had a pile in front of me when we started.

Now I have to admit something. I really don’t like leading the rosary. I lead so much prayer now, and the rosary is so feminine a prayer, that I am partial to hearing it lead by a woman. Personal preference mind you, I just like it that way.

The slow melodic voices of these woman leading us was just so beautiful. It was not overdone, nor was it rushed through. It took just as long as it was supposed to, and it just felt right.

God bless you Francis, I miss you, we miss you, and I pray that the Lord bring you into his peace.

You Aren’t an Authority Yet Buddy!

I’m a bit pig headed. I have a tendency to run around like a bull in a china shop. I can’t help it.

Sometimes, I just need to be put in my place.

I read so much information on a daily basis that I often have a hard time knowing where it came from. One day I’m reading a Church document or the Bible, the next I’m reading a blog I enjoy or some Catholic social commentary. When I first came into the Church, I went down to my local parish DRE, and borrowed every video she had, and watched them all. I’m really thirsty that way, and the info has a tendency to just pile up. Sadly, my brain does not always organize the information by trustworthiness, and once and a while I start talking about things as if they were factual, when in reality it may be rather speculative.

So here I am, giving talks, classes, trying to spread the message of the Kingdom of God the best I can. Every once and a while, God decides to remind me of my need for humility and He lets me put my foot in my mouth. I think he must really enjoy this, as He does it rather more often then I would like.

So the other day I was giving a talk about morality, and the questions from the class moved into the realm of how do decide whether any given act was moral or not.

Piece of cake right?

So I started going on about the basic steps to defining whether an act was moral in the standard way, explaining the difference between the object, the intention and the circumstance of an act, and how these relate to the objective good or evil quality of the act.

Then I started talking about double effect. (Insert foot A into mouth B)

Now, You might not know what this principle is, but basically it means an action may have more than one effect, and if your intention was on of these acts that was good, and and the other effect was bad, then it might be a neutral act. Well, I got called to the carpet, and rightly so.

Now I’m not commenting on whether or not the principle of double effect is true, leave that to the moral theologians to figure out. My problem was I was stating this as if it were the teaching of the Church, which it is not.

(Maybe we should put both feet into the mouth)

This for me is the cardinal sin, to teach error in the name of official Church teaching. I deeply dread this kind of thing coming up. I constantly study, trying to make sure I am prepared for any talk I may have to give, but once and a while, one of those random ideas I have read about sneaks in to grab me by the throat. God save me from making such an idiot of myself.

The worst thing is, I held to it. I just knew I was right. Dangit, I’m like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way, I cannot make a mistake. It’s just not possible.

The group felt I was probably right, and everyone went home with my sage wisdom. Then I pulled out the Catechism. Guess what? No double effect. Nowhere. Not even hinted at. Crap.

The next time I met with them, I was a lamb. A dog with my tail between it’s legs. I’m still embarrassed.

Lord, save me from my own pride.
(If you are interested, you can find this info in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1749-1756)

Choosing Reflections

Somehow I got recruited to lead our parish’s communion services. This had been done by one of our deacons, but his work simply got too busy for him to be able to get away long enough to do them, so, I guess I am now doing it.

Seeing as it is not a Mass, I am allowed to give a short reflection after the reading the Gospel to help focus the community of daily communicants. I am however still in the early stages of my formation, and I my pastor and I felt that it would be more appropriate for me to read a reflection rather then come up with one of my own, at least for this first year of services. So we thought up a few safe sources that I could choose from, and other then that, I am given licence to choose whatever I feel is appropriate for the readings for any given day.

This has been a far more stressful practice than I thought it would be. I figured I would just open up the Divine Office or one of the other sources, and whatever would be written for that day would automatically be relevant.

Oh how I wish that were true.

Once in a while I will get lucky and have it be spot on, but more often then not, the writings that correspond with the day have a myriad of problems. Sometime they are too lofty and dense to be able to read aloud, sometime they are too short to really get the point across. Very often I find that they have no relevance whatsoever.

While this has be a firm source of frustration, I have also for it personally quite edifying. I spend so much time poring through these texts trying to find something just right, that I have gained a great familiarity with them. I find myself quoting odd saints that I had before never heard of. Our community is often rather shocked when I actually read from one of the many documents the Church has produced over the centuries. How many had never actually read any of the documents of Vatican II for example? Very few, I’m sure.

I was reading from one the other day, and you could actually see some discomfort with what I was saying. I could tell that some members of the congregation thought I was being a little too loose. (You know, it’s that look grandma gives you when you ask for more pudding) Then I just read where I got my quote, and you see this combination of relief and consternation on their faces. Truly intriguing.

It is my sincere intention to continue to pull from wealth of sources we have in the Church as I begin to structure my own reflections in the coming year. Listening to our predecessors in the faith or otherwise has become a forgotten art in our culture in general, as we seem to think we are so modern that none of those old, dusty books could possibly have anything to say.

Oh how deeply wrong we are.

The Ramblings, Teachings and Archive of a Catholic High School Theology Teacher, and Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church.