28 February 2008

Mean ol' devil


No, Mr. Bill, not the books!!!

We have been plagued by water this winter. I have no idea why. It's inexplicable.

This is the eighth winter we have been in the house and never before have we had these problems. Instead of running humidifiers, we are running two dehumidifiers. Our windows are covered by condensation that is well beyond normal and unlike any prior years. Water was dripping down the interior wall of my son's recently redone, refinished and repainted room, that now needs some serious touch-up work. The ceiling in the hallway had some water damage. Now, damnably, the interior wall on the stairwell leading to the second floor, where I store some paperbacks, has some weird mold problem, obviously the result of moisture.

Hubby and I are at a loss to figure out what is going on. There is no ice dam on the roof to cause this, nothing visible on the roof (hubby's been out there oodles of times this winter) and not even any snow to account for this. We have radiators, so the water is contained within the system. And, there really isn't an attic to have this warm, moist air condense on the cold attic ceiling and then melt in the warm weather. The only think we can think of is that late last fall we had a lot of rain before winter. Possibly, the water has pooled under the basement floor and is evaporating up into the house...except the basement isn't showing any signs of moisture. Or, we are just really becoming a family with a lot of hot air and it is condensing between the roof and the interior ceiling. I really don't know how there could be so much moisture from our respiration to cause this, especially since this is the first year we have had this problem and my parents-in-law used to live here with us and they should've caused more hot air than the kids.

And, the furnace seems to be fine, since we have THREE carbon monoxide detectors and they haven't indicated that the furnace isn't exhausting properly.

That leaves the devil as the culprit. He just doesn't want me to read any more Chesterton. Then had to drive a stake through my heart and wreck my Dickens books too. Mean ol' devil.

Cathedral builders

Another thing to pass along. This I heard at bible study. I must be getting mushy in my old age. For all you moms...

I'm Invisible

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, "Can't you see I'm on the phone?"Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I'm invisible. The invisible Mom.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, "What time is it?" I'm a satellite guide to answer, "What number is the Disney Channel?" I'm a car to order, "Right around 5:30, please."

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going, she's going, she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a hair clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, "I brought you this." It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: "To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees."

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

1. No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names.

2. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.

3. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

4. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it." And the workman replied, "Because God sees."

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become."

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving,"My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table." That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, "You're gonna love it there."

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Tossing "talking about touching" into the round file

For any parents of younger children, this may be of interest to you. I received the e-mail below and thought I'd pass it along.

Also, in the St. Paul/Minneapolis Archdiocese, you can also check out the "All in God's Plan" series offered at many parishes this year. From their website:

All In God's Plan is a three-part program for children and their parents. Each program is age-specific and intended to assist families in teaching youth about God's gift of human sexuality and the sacredness of human life, along with the importance of family. These programs are designed to foster communication between the child and the parent and to reinforce a positive family life.


Dear Friends,

It is with great joy and excitement that we announce the publication
of Sexual Wisdom for Catholic Adolescents, a free, fully Catholic,
one-on-one, parent-to-student human sexuality curriculum just
released by the internationally recognized chastity expert Dr.
Richard Wetzel. This is the course Dr. Wetzel put together to teach
his own late-adolescent children. It is only available as a free
download from our website.

Dr. Wetzel is the author of the "incalculably valuable book" Sexual
Wisdom: A Guide for Parents, Young Adults, Educators and
Physicians. Please note however that while that book was written
for a secular audience, this new curriculum is distinctly Catholic.

The course introduction to parents begins as follows:

The Holy Roman Catholic Church teaches that parents are the primary
sexuality educators of their children (see The Truth and Meaning of
Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education within the Family [1995]
by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family). This is a
challenging obligation for which, unfortunately, there are
relatively few available aids. Most Catholic resources on sexuality
education are either geared toward a classroom or group presentation
or to an age group too young for a full exploration of the issues.
Other resources include short books which are heavily weighted
toward a more general education on the faith but which offer little
education in Catholic sexuality, are not faithful to the magisterial
teachings of Mother Church, or are too dated to address some of the
current issues young Catholics face. As a Catholic chastity
educator for the last 20 years, I felt that none of the available
materials were the best possible option for my own children; so I
wrote this course for them. I am now presenting this course to the
public, for what benefit it may be to others. It is a true gift to
me each time I teach it to one of my children.

Please forward this email to anyone in your address book
or "Facebook" whom you believe might be interested in this
extraordinary and unique new product. If you are involved with
producing a magazine or newsletter, or have an Internet website
please consider running a review of this course, an announcement
about it or a link to it. If you are connected with a Catholic
school or Catholic home schooling community please consider
forwarding this email to those in your school. If you are involved
in Catholic parish or diocesan work please spread the word about
this resource.

The late Alan Guttmacher, past president of Planned Parenthood,
promised in 1979 that, "the only avenue in which Planned Parent­hood
has to win the battle is sex education." Over the last 30 years,
through classroom sex education courses, the liberals have
definitely held the upper hand. We pray that through this
curriculum and through the efforts of other chastity educators we
can create a dramatic, effective and sustained counterattack in this
battle for the hearts and minds of our children.

Also please note that we are continuing our free book offer. We
will send boxes of Sexual Wisdom books to any NFP educator, priest,
religious or health care worker upon request at no cost. The books
may be distributed at NFP classes, sold by pro-NFP businesses,
ministries, or bookstores, or donated to libraries. They may also
be given as gifts to speakers at pro-life functions, teaching
faculty, priests, physicians, elected officials, or to staff
members, board members and/or administrators of pro-life
apostolates, or to parish or diocesan staff.

For more information about these programs please visit our website
at www.sexualwisdom.com

27 February 2008

Change of address card needed

Someone should let Don King know he needs to update his addresses for his Christmas card list.

I have no idea what the Minnesota Wild were thinking when they made a trade where they got Chris Simon in the deal. Like Don King's ex-choir boy, Mike Tyson, Chris Simon is another goon who can't seem to fight fair. The neanderthal has been suspended eight times in 15 years as a pro. He's THAT guy who whacked opposing player (Ryan Hollweg) in the face with his stick last year. Not just a little elbow that you might expect, but a cheap hatchet job.

Oh, and then he stepped on the foot of other player. If ya can't beat 'em fair and square, I guess yous have to cheat.

It's a good thing sweet little ol' Bobby Smith (above) retired a long time ago, cuz this thug would've killed him.

I don't know why the Wild don't send their scouts to the set of American Gladiator to look for some prospects.

And, as long as I'm on the topic. What's the deal with the Vikings' Bryant McKinnie? Is Minnesota just the catch-all for professional bullies?

Sorry. Had to vent.

26 February 2008

The lifelong lesson

I was listening to Dr. Ray today on Relevant Radio. He started his show off by talking about a professor who appeared on a popular afternoon talk show (he declined to mention which one, but it's obvious). The topic of the show was "The Last Lecture," because this professor was terminally ill with cancer and he was giving his students what was to be his last lecture.

It's usually pretty easy to stay focused on what Dr. Ray talks about since he is both funny and insightful. Practical and sensible. However, it was moments later when I realized I hadn't been paying any attention to what Dr. Ray was talking about. Instead, I had been thinking of my own parents who both passed away from cancer and how I never got that last lecture.

Initially, I was kind of surprised that neither parent, in the final moments of their lives, had sought to impart some sage advice, to instruct or admonish, or even to encourage. It was a very fleeting thought before I saw very clearly that their entire lives had been a lesson. I had been left with an entire body of work, not just a death bed swan song.

While I was very close to both of my parents, I was especially close to my father who outlived my mother by twelve years. He was one of the wisest men I have ever known and I'm amazed at how much I learned from him that was solely by his example. We shared lively conversations on a wide variety of topics. In fact, it makes me smile to think our last conversation was about the unlikely subject of exothermic and endothermic reactions. My father knew my favorite old movie actor was the suave Cary Grant and that I detest Jello.

My father taught me to keep trying. God wanted me to be perfect, but didn't set the bar so high that I had to be perfect, just sincerely make an effort. It is the relationship I had with my father that I follow in trying to draw closer to God. I loved my father, trusted him and would do whatever he asked of me. Now, when God asks me to do things I would rather not, I try to listen to Him as I would my earthly father.

My mother had struggled with cancer for ten or so years. When she was terminally ill, I visited her late one night in the hospital after work and brought a notebook with me to write down her last wishes. She didn't have much to say. There was an item she wanted one of my aunt's to have and she told me she wanted me to have the German beer stein in our hutch. I hadn't known, but she recounted to me how she, my predominately Irish mother, used to play the German beer-drinking song from my predominately German father's stein to get me to sleep while I was in my crib. She told me she would miss not seeing my wedding, but there were no regrets or words of wisdom. She had taught me those things years and years before. To mention them now would be out of place and almost trivialize all those years of parenting.

My father, too, had no words of wisdom. He merely said that he was proud of me and that the last year we had spent in each other's company (I had moved back to MN from Seattle) was the happiest time of his life. That struck me as a bit odd until I had my own children and started to understand what he was getting at.

While listening to Dr. Ray, I was glad I hadn't been left with words on a video telling me to be kind to others and to follow my dreams. I had been blessed, very blessed, with two parents who instructed me by their words and deeds on how to live your life instead of trying to fix it all on your death bed.

25 February 2008

Death revisited

Where numbers are hard to tally

It has been over twenty years since the disaster at Chernobyl. Thousands of people lost their lives, if not nearly a hundred thousand. The government covered up and down-played the disaster as best it could and suppressed the numbers of those doctors considered to have died from the effects of radiation. Doctors were even prohibited from listing radiation poisoning or subsequent illnesses from it on death certificates.

People didn't even know what they were dealing with. From the Wiki article, "In the aftermath of the accident, two hundred and thirty-seven people suffered from acute radiation sickness, of whom thirty-one died within the first three months. Most of these were fire and rescue workers trying to bring the accident under control, who were not fully aware of how dangerous the radiation exposure (from the smoke) was."

Now there is a movement to clean up Chernobyl. The company my husband works for has been asked to bid on some robots/cranes to remove and replace the immense concrete sarcophagus that is in danger of collapsing and releasing radioactive dust/debris and what else into the environment. Something needs to be done. I just hope they get it right and this time don't view the lives of the workers doing the clean-up as expendable. According to one Russian analyst, "In principle [the sarcophagus] will last for hundreds of years, but our descendants may find ways and means of moving [the nuclear] waste elsewhere or rendering it harmless." Twenty years later and what have we learned?

A co-worker of my husband's is from Russia. He was in college at the time of the disaster and was duly conscripted into the military in kind of a National Guard status. In the days following Chernobyl, college men in this quasi-military status were considered expendable and were sent to the disaster site.


Closer to home, another life might be added to an insidious and hushed tally.

Like Terri Schiavo before her, Lauren Richardson is in danger of being starved to death against the wishes of her father, but ominously and alarmingly at the hands of her own mother.

From the American Life League:

"Lauren is 23 years of age and, due to a heroin overdose, is now in a persistent vegetative state. At the time of the overdose, Lauren was expecting the birth of her baby and reports indicate that she was 'kept alive' to allow her to give birth, which she did in February of last year. Her daughter is now about to celebrate her first birthday, but Lauren may never have another birthday.

Of interest is the fact that, during the pregnancy, Lauren relied on 'feeding tubes and a breathing machine' to keep her alive. Today Lauren has a feeding tube only. But there is a struggle going on regarding whether or not Lauren will live or die.

Lauren's case is more than a sad commentary on the plight of a family battling over what each of the opponents believes would be in her best interest. Her story is a testimony to the growing philosophy in this country that some, because of their condition, are better off dead than alive.

Like Terri Schiavo before her, Lauren is not dying nor is she in a terminal condition. She has been diagnosed as someone in a 'persistent vegetative state,' someone who is very much alive but locked in her body and unable to express her desires to anyone. The only thing Lauren is relying on is a feeding tube without which she will starve to death. Lauren's mother, who is Lauren's guardian, wants the feeding tube removed while Lauren's father is fighting to keep Lauren alive."

23 February 2008

Biblical commentary

Ray passed this along.

Great news for those of you following my posts on the Gospel of St. Matthew or anyone interested in biblical studies, a Catholic Bible commentary compiled by the late Rev. Fr. George Leo Haydock, following the Douay-Rheims Bible (1859) is now online. You can find it here.

Most excellent!

22 February 2008

Lenten levity

For all my minnow munching friends

Lost on a rainy Friday night during Lent, a priest stumbles into a monastery and requests shelter there. Fortunately, he's just in time for dinner and was treated to the best fish and chips he's ever had.

After dinner, he goes into the kitchen to thank the chefs. He is met by two brothers who greet him with, "Hello, I'm Brother Michael and this is Brother Francis."

"I'm very pleased to meet you. I just wanted to thank you for a wonderful dinner. The fish and chips were the best I've ever tasted. Out of curiosity, who cooked what?"

Brother Charles replied, "Well, I'm the fish friar."

Father turns to the other brother and says, "Then you must be...."

"Yes, I'm afraid I'm the chip monk..."

An Irishman moves into a tiny hamlet in County Mayo, walks into the pub and promptly orders three beers.

The bartender raises his eyebrows, but serves the man three beers, which he drinks quietly at a table, alone.

An hour later, the man has finished the three beers and orders three more.

This happens yet again.

The next evening the man again orders and drinks three beers at a time, several times. Soon the entire town is whispering about the Man Who Orders Three Beers.

Finally, a week later, the bartender broaches the subject on behalf of the town. "I don't mean to pry, but folks around here are wondering why you always order three beers?"

'Tis odd, isn't it?" the man replies, "You see, I have two brothers, and one went to America, and the other to Australia. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank as a way of keeping up the family bond."

The bartender and the whole town was pleased with this answer, and soon the Man Who Orders Three Beers became a local celebrity and source of pride to the hamlet, even to the extent that out-of-towners would come to watch him drink.

Then, one day, the man comes in and orders only two beers. The bartender pours them with a heavy heart. This continues for the rest of the evening - he orders only two beers. The word flies around town. Prayers are offered for the soul of one of the brothers.

The next day, the bartender says to the man, "Folks around here, me first of all, want to offer condolences to you for the death of your brother. You know-the two beers and all..."

The man ponders this for a moment, then replies, "You'll be happy to hear that my two brothers are alive and well... It's just that I, myself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent."

(From Belief.net)

John Smith was the only Protestant to move into a large Catholic neighborhood. On the first Friday of Lent, John was outside grilling a big juicy steak on his grill.

Meanwhile, all of his neighbors were eating cold tuna fish for supper. This went on each Friday of Lent. On the last Friday of Lent, the neighborhood men got together and decided that something had to be done about John. He was tempting them to eat meat each Friday of Lent, and they couldn't take it anymore.

They decided to try and convert John to Catholicism.

They went over and talked to him. John decided to join all of his neighbors and become a Catholic, which made them all very happy.They took him to church, and the priest sprinkled some water over him, and said, "You were born a Baptist, you were raised a Baptist, and now you are a Catholic."

The men were so relieved, now their biggest Lenten temptation was resolved.

The next year's Lenten season rolled around. The first Friday of Lent came, and, just at supper time, when the neighborhood was settling down to their cold tuna fish dinner, the smell of steak cooking on a grill came wafting into their homes. The neighborhood men could not believe their noses! WHAT WAS GOING ON?

They called each other up and decided to meet over in John's yard to see if he had forgotten it was the first Friday of Lent. The group arrived just in time to see John standing over his grill with a small pitcher of water. He was sprinkling some water over his steak on the grill, saying, "You were born a cow, you were raised a cow, and now you are a fish."

St. Matthew Bible Study - Lesson 18

Getting caught up, here's Lesson 18.

Becoming like children
The chapter starts out with some of the disciples asking Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. They are showing their jealousy of the favoritism that Jesus is showing Peter. Jesus presents a child to them and says, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.” Father Echert mentioned that “humble” means to “go to the ground.” His example of children in this case shows how we are to be completely dependent on our Father, to trust Him and listen to Him in showing us what is best for our lives and to remain innocent and pure. The greatest in the kingdom of Heaven is based on the possession of charity. Jesus is showing God to be a Father, and we are His children. God is not a master or slave owner. From our notes it says that “in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, it isn’t necessary to become like a subject but rather one must turn and become like a child.” And, “As a personal becomes more and spiritually mature, they also become more and more childlike.”

“…but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for hi to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” The millstone here isn’t just a small millstone typically used by women in the home, but an ass millstone that was so heavy that it could only be moved with great effort. To be tossed into the sea and never return was the equivalent of hell. To cause someone who was less knowledgeable (childlike) to sin would bring about this stiff penalty. This sin is called scandal. From the catechism (CCC 2284-2285):

2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.
2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep's clothing.

“And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut if off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.” Father said that sin is an act of the will – it is neither your hands nor feet that are evil. In fact, all of God’s creation is good; your body is a temple and should be cared for, not maimed. The act of cutting of your hand is not intended but is a Hebrew way of expressing things. The truth is not to mutilate that which is good but to fix your will.

Father mentioned that Gehenna was an actual place outside of Jerusalem where garbage was burned. From Wiki:
In English, Jews commonly use the term "hell" in place of "gehenna." The name derived from the burning garbage dump near Jerusalem (the Hinnom gulch), metaphorically identified with the entrance to the underworld of punishment in the afterlife.


“See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” Here is a passage that shows that we all have at least one Guardian Angel.

Jesus then switches from talking about children to talking about sheep. From the class notes: “Jesus is addressing not just the Church in a broad and generic way, but the apostles and their successors the bishops. This is where Jesus starts instructing the future leaders of the Church, so it’s here that he begins to use the imagery of shepherds and sheep.”

Fraternal correction
Again from the notes, “Jesus specifies that a lost sheep should be appraoched not as an animal, but as a brother. Notice that Jesus returns to the family analogy to spell out the steps by which a Christian is solemnly bound to correct his brother. Fraternal correction is to be done with respect and discretion, and to do this a person approaches his brother in private. A person whose initial correction is heeded should rejoice because he’s won his brother. If the brother won’t listen in private, then a person is to take one or two others along. The covenantal family situation is changing, and the Church is becoming a courtroom. Although a covenant establishes family ties, the familial relationship is founded on the concept of justice. Two or three witnesses are required under the Old Covenant Law of Moses (Deut 19:15) and that’s the number of witnesses required under the New Covenant. If the brother still refuses to listen, a person is required to bring the matter before the Church. Note the assumption of authority that Jesus grants the Church: ‘If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.’ The phrase “even to the church” says it all. Jesus plainly regards refusal to listen to the Church as unthinkable for a disciple and clear ground for excommunication from the community. Jesus underscores the Church’s authority with the words: ‘Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’”

Wicked servant
Father said this parable is about sinning against an infinitely good God, so our sin takes on almost infinite proportions. If God can forgive us such a great sin, we are certainly expected to show the same mercy and to forgive our brothers’ sins. In this parable, the servant can never pay the debt, so is essentially in hell.

21 February 2008

St. Matthew Bible Study - Lesson 17

Ok, I’m three weeks in arrears (chapters 17-19). Egads! How did I ever get so far behind?

Today at bible study, Father Echert blessed all of our religious items, along with salt, oil and water and he did it in Latin AND translated it into English for all of us Latin illiterates. I know (most of!) the responses to Mass, but beyond that and it all muddles together. I can’t wait until my kids start to learn Latin because I’ll be learning right along with them. I only wish I had had the benefit of learning Latin at their age.

I had some rosaries for my kids, a house scapular, a sick-call crucifix, a prayer book for my son and a third-class relic that I finally got blessed. Better late than never. I wished I would’ve known that we could bring salt and water to exorcise and bless. There’s always next time.

In this chapter we see one of the greatest theophanies, where God appears to man (although I’ve heard that epiphany is a better term in this instance). Previously, God appeared to Moses and Abraham (and some others along the way). This time it is at the Transfiguration and this chapter is full of symbolism/parallels. Some would say it is looking backward (tying in Moses and Elijah) and forward to Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. I like to think of it Jesus showing how He is the fulfillment of Scripture and is pulling everything together, tying up the loose ends. Our class notes indicate that it is no accident that the event confirming that Jesus is the Son of God is placed immediately after Jesus’ initial prediction of His Passion, death and Resurrection.

Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain and represent the Law and the Prophets. They both ascended Mt. Sinai and had a theophany and are both pivotal figures of the Old Testament. We know that Moses died before the Israelites came into the Promised Land and that Elijah is still to return, so this shows how the Old Testament prepares the way for Christ.

The chapter starts out by saying that after six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him to the mountain (fairly universally believed to be Mt. Tabor, but Father said that since it isn’t mentioned by name it allows us to mentally connect to the events with Moses on Mt. Sinai, tying the old with the new.). The six days indicate a period of preparation for something very important. Father Echert mentioned that three days also represents a period of preparation and this is twice that, so something important is about to happen.

This event parallels and harkens back to Moses on Mt. Sinai:
• both events take place on the seventh day
• both events are on a mountain
• Jesus and Moses had three companions
• their faces both shine (Jesus entire body shines)
• God’s cloud of glory descends on them
• God speaks through a heavenly voice
• Jesus, Moses and Elijah are known for spectacular departures

Of note, Father mentioned that even though Jesus was Transfigured, doesn’t mean He changed His nature. He is still fully human and fully divine.

Angels and the Fall
Father also made mention that in all the cases of theophany; it is just a manifestation of God. You are only able to see God in His brilliance/glory when you are in Heaven, which far exceeds what the disciples saw during the Transfiguration. Even the angels did not see God in Heaven before they were tested. Father said that if the angels had been with God in Heaven they would never have rebelled. Since we are created beings, Heaven is what we are created for, to be with God and see Him face to face; it would be complete happiness. So, the angels were in some ante-room to heaven and asked to decide and that’s how they were in a position to actually decide not to serve or choose God. The fallen angels have NEVER seen God face to face, since once a soul sees God, he cannot help but choose God. Even at our deaths, unless we go directly to Heaven, we will still not be seeing Jesus in His fullness at our judgment. This comment explained a great deal to me since I posted about not understanding how the angels could choose against God if they are so much more intelligent than we are. You can see the post here.

Peter, who is completely awestruck, can’t even get the words out of his mouth about erecting booths, when we are told of the cloud overshadowing them and God speaking, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; LISTEN TO HIM.” Previously, we hear these words at Jesus’ baptism (Mt 3:17), but this time with the addition of “listen to Him.” Peter’s desire to build these booths is related to the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. During the feast, the Israelites would commemorate the forty years wandering in the wilderness by Moses and the Hebrew people, when the Tabernacle was in a tent, and the people lived in tents. During the feast, “booths” were erected from grass and twigs. It was one of the three main festivals celebrated each year. Men would live apart from their family for a few days. Father mentioned that St. John’s gospel better shows how Jesus is the fulfillment of this feast, which would be celebrated until Jesus came. Peter was doing what he thought would be helpful to fulfill the words of the Old Testament prophets.

This cloud appeared at times in the Old Testament and represents the glory of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. I had never heard this word before, but a lady who is a convert to Catholicism was very familiar with it and said that many Evangelical preachers talk about “shekinah” a great deal. The shekinah is seen as a pillar of clouds that guided the Israelites in the wilderness, it is the cloud that descended on the tabernacle (cloud by day, fire by night). We also see it with Solomon and the dedication of the Temple, the cloud that came over the Virgin Mary and the cloud at the Ascension.

Face in the dirt
We see the apostles fall on their faces on Mt. Tabor when the cloud appears and they are confronted by God’s glory. We also see this in Genesis (17:3) when Abram is prostrate on the ground, Ezekiel (1:28b) is also prostrate, and the same in thing happens to sinful man in Revelation (1:17.)

The apostles are a bit dejected when they tell Jesus they weren’t able to cast out demons and Jesus tells them it is because of their lack of faith. Ouch. This event took places before Pentecost, because after Pentecost they could’ve cast out demons with a word. Father Echert said that the apostles were given an incredible amount of power to cast out demons and perform miracles in His name. This ability was primarily given to that generation of apostles and while subsequent priests can perform miracles, this ability has been greatly reduced. Father also said that the miracle in this chapter shouldn’t be diminished by the interpretation that the boy was merely an epileptic and Jesus was only comforting him. The boy was clearly possessed and the possession manifested itself in what people of the day would call epilepsy. Jesus performed a miracle in casting out the demon merely by His word.

Handed over
One interesting point, is when Jesus predicts His Passion, death and Resurrection, He mentions that “the Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men.” In asking the question, “who is it that’s going to deliver the Son of Man into the hands of men,” I thought He was referring to the chief priests, elders and scribes. Some people thought it was Judas, others thought it was Pilate, but really it is Jesus Himself who will hand Himself over by going to Jerusalem and fulfilling what was prophesized in Scripture.

More parallels
Taken from our class notes, it says, “That Jesus is planning some sort of an exodus to coincide with His Passion, death and Resurrection begs the question: From where is Jesus going to be leading this exodus, and where is he going? The answer is closely connected with Jesus’ mission to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, not to abolish them. As the new Moses, Jesus will lead the descendents of the 12 tribes of Israel from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, which encompasses all the nations of the world. Jesus’ new exodus also is from the old Jerusalem to the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city.”

When the issue of paying the Temple tax arises, Peter is quizzed about who pays the tax. Jesus is pointing out that in the household’s of kings, the sons do not pay tax. Jesus is the Son of God and is exempt from any tax. However, Jesus tells Peter to go fishing and whatever fish he catches he is to open its mouth and find a shekel. Peter is to use the shekel to pay the tax for Jesus and himself. This shows the spiritual union between them (Peter is His appointed and doesn’t have to pay the tax because the king is paying it for him) and is showing that Jesus isn’t here to abolish the laws. He is willing to pay the tax even though he is not obliged to.

20 February 2008

Happy 75th

Today would be my mother's 75th birthday. She passed away just over 20 years ago. She was the middle child of seven. My grandmother had three children in rapid succession (practically Irish triplets!) then a series of miscarriages and a nearly fatal ectopic pregnancy. Then, after my mother was born, my grandmother had a few more miscarriages until three more children joined the family.

My grandmother's mother died when my grandmother was only four and was named Catherine. When it came to naming my mother, the name Catherine was bantered about. My Swiss grandmother agreed to name my mother Catherine on the condition that she not be nicknamed at all. It was Catherine or it was nothing. My Irish grandfather agreed, albeit with a twinkle in his eye. So my mother was named Catherine Anne. It was only a short time later and my grandfather started calling my mother Nancy, which I am told is an Irish nickname for Anne. So, true to his word, he didn't nickname Catherine but did nickname Anne.

When my mother got to school, she wouldn't answer the nuns who called her by her given name of Catherine and would only answer to Nancy. Sorry grandma, they out-foxed you!

Happy birthday mom. May eternal light shine upon you.

Up, up and away!

Our journey begins...after a little head ache.

I finally bought tickets to visit my brother and his family in Geneva.

After looking for airfare on just about every airline, with combinations of flights to just about every city in Western Europe, I finally found flights for my son and me...to Paris. Somehow we have to get ourselves from Paris to Geneva, but that is far less worrisome than getting the tickets from the US to Europe were.

Originally, I had hoped to fly to Amsterdam, rent a car and drive to the very small town in Northern Germany that my dad's family was from. But, that seemed a bit sporty to attempt with a four year-old. I could've gotten a flight to Amsterdam and then flown on Easy Jet to Geneva, but the coordinating of all this in terms of time, finances and stamina, were more than I really wanted to undertake.

Then came the airlines. I hate, hate, hate trying to find airfare. When I first started looking, the flights were right around $1000 each. Too much for my blood. I visited every airline that flew from the US to England, Germany, France and Switzerland. I checked endless combinations of flights on different days, times and with multitudes of connections to different cities.

Northwest and Delta decided to merge during all my efforts and I was very sheepish about going with the hometown carrier because of its recent reputation of cancelling flights and the uncertainty of the impact the merger might have. Plus, Northwest was not really any cheaper than the rest and the flight times were fairly undesirable, especially considering I'll be flying with my son.

So, I went with the airline I have flown before and one that had the cheapest airfare and best flight times: Icelandair. The tickets cost around $1200 combined, which isn't bad considering when I started that was the cost for just one ticket.

We fly from Minneapolis to Reykjavik and have a very brief layover there before we head to Paris. There are a few sites I want to see in and around Paris and my brother and his family might want to join us, so I haven’t figured out how we are getting from Paris to Geneva yet. There are daily trains and even Easy Jet, so I’m not to concerned about that. Once my brother and I solidify some plans, I’ll make some arrangements.

I’m thrilled to be going! Right now, however, I’m a bit disappointed at the things I had to cut out of my itinerary. Cutting out the trip to the town in Germany where my father’s family was from is a bummer, along with not visiting Mont St. Michel, which was to be one of the highlights of the trip. I still have Lisieux and Chartres on the list, along with some sites in Paris. I have two day-trips planned from my base in Geneva. One to the south to the monastery, La Grande Chartreuse, and the shrine at La Salette. Another trip to the west to Ars (St. John Vianney), Paray-le-Monail (Sacred Heart/St. Margaret Mary Alacoque) which is on the way to Nevers for the shrine of St. Bernadette Soubirous where her incorrupt body lies in the chapel.

I would love to go to Chur to go some genealogy research on my Swiss branches, but it seems more of a hassle than it’s worth at this point. My brother wants to take me to all the touristy sites, like Geneva (?), the Jura, Interlaken, and Lucern. I mentioned taking the kids (my nephews and son) to Disneyland and was summarily chastised for coming all the way to Europe to go to Disneyland. I thought it would be a welcome break for the kids and them from all the shrines/religious sites I planned to visit (even though I planned to do the day trips on my own with my son). I don’t know what there is to see in Geneva, but Interlaken would be nice. Parts of the Italian areas of Switzerland would be nice, like Lugano and Bellinzona. And then there's the Château de Chillon on the northern shores of Lake Geneva and...

19 February 2008

And all I wanted was a Chris-Craft

A friend told me about a man in the Netherlands who is building a version of Noah's Ark. I just checked out a video, Walking the Bible, a PBS show, from the library which traces where things happened in the first five books of the bible. One of the things I watched on the video just yesterday was on Mt. Ararat in Turkey, where Noah's Ark supposedly came to rest after the flood.

I love wooden boats. If I win the lottery I'm planning on buying an antique Chris-Craft. When we lived in Seattle, there was a neat boat restoration/sailing lessons place on Lake Union called the Center for Wooden Boats. It was one place my husband always wanted to go on the weekends and where he learned to sail. I'm sure if he cashes the lottery check before I do, we will end up with a sail boat. I guess as long as it's wooden, I'll survive.

From the BBC: Dutchman builds modern Noah's Ark

Mr Huibers started work on the ark last summer. Dutchman Johan Huibers is building a working replica of Noah's Ark as a testament to his Christian faith. The 47-year-old from Schagen, 45km (30 miles) north of Amsterdam, plans to set sail in September through the interior waters of the Netherlands.

Johan's Ark is a fifth of the size of Noah's and will carry farmyard animals.

Mr Huibers, who plans to open the vessel as a religious monument and zoo, hopes the project will renew interest in Christianity in the Netherlands. Although Mr Huibers has tried to remain true to the ark described in the Bible, Johan's Ark is constructed with American cedar and Norwegian pine, rather than "gopher wood".

'Smell of dung'
According to Genesis, Noah kept seven pairs of most domesticated animals, and one breeding pair of all other creatures. This will speak very much to children... they'll hear the creak of the wood, smell the smell of the dung.

Johan Huibers
Noah's wife, three sons and three daughters-in-law lived together on the boat for almost a year while the world was flooded. Mr. Huibers' vision is more modest - he said he plans to stock his ark with horses, lambs, chickens and rabbits - mostly baby animals to save space. "This will speak very much to children, because it will give them something tangible to see that Noah's Ark really existed," Mr. Huibers told the Associated Press news agency.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be just under 1m euros (£0.7m; US$1.2m) and was funded with bank loans.

Mr. Huibers plans to charge people to tour the boat and said a drink and religious pamphlet will be included in the admission price. At least 100,000 people will need to visit for the project to break-even financially.

Mr. Huibers said his wife was not very keen on the idea. "She always says: 'Why don't you go dig wells in Ethiopia?'," he said. "I've been involved in projects there before but she understands this is my dream."

18 February 2008

Skating the ice

I have to admit one of my deep dark secrets is...

I was once a HUGE hockey fan.

HUGE. Pathetically. I even dated the goalie for the rival high school. Over the weekend the movie, Miracle, was on TV. Brought it all back.

Back in the day, which would be sometime in the late 70s to mid-80s, I was obsessed with hockey. I knew all the teams and knew all the players. I hated the New York Islanders and the Boston Bruins with a green and gold passion since both teams always managed to edge out the Minnesota Northstars.

Somewhere along the line, the North Stars headed to Dallas and professional hockey left Minnesota. By this time I wasn't even watching anymore.

But, even people who didn't like hockey remember the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid. Everyone has heard the story of how US college kids bested the unbeatable Reds. It was a great source of national pride.

The US embassy had been attacked in Iran by a group of militants and 52 diplomats were taken hostage. One of the militants has been identified as current Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Russians had invaded Afghanistan, drawing the US into the conflict. Iran-Iraq war was still simmering. Saddam Hussein was in power and so was the Ayatollah Khomeini. Back home, Jimmy Carter was busy giving away the farm to the Russians, the economy was bottoming, there were gas shortages and all we had to relieve our distress was Jimmy's clown and beer-drinking brother, Billy.

The US was ripe for some good news, some national pride. Then the US Olympic hockey team scored big on our own home ice. Reagan became president. The hostages were freed. Finally, there was light on our domestic and international landscape.

Nearly 30 years later, it seems our country is looking for the same shot in the arm. Oddly, our problems are much the same. This time, however, we are the ones in Afghanistan. The Middle East remains a political quagmire and our old friend, Mahmoud, is still sticking it to us. Gas and some commodities are at an all time high and the housing market is in a tail-spin. Once again, the American president is making us cringe and the economy is tanking.

Even though our problems may be much the same, it doesn't appear that our knight in shining armor is about to arrive. History may not repeat itself with our next president.

The Republicans have no candidate who reflects what most of the party stands for. John McCain, Mitt Romney, Rudy, et. al., none of them lined up with me on the issues I considered most important. They have all shown an incredible lack of character and integrity, taking opportunistic positions, changing positions and maintaining indefensible positions. There is no Reagan on the horizon, not by a mile.

Obama and Hillary are even further apart from me on just about every issue. Obama appears to be basket that everyone is dumping their hopes into. And, like Caroline said, he does remind me of her father: charismatic, but short on delivering the goods. I think people are excited about him because there just has to be something we can take pride in. Anything. Don't look too closely, just get on board.

The Summer Olympics don't hold much hope either. In a word: China.

I should get back to watching hockey. Winning US Olympic hockey goalie, Jim Craig, is currently a motivational speaker. Maybe he's what we need right now to get us through the next election because there isn't much else to grab onto.

"Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
-Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle during the 1988 debates

15 February 2008

A virtuous child

St. Monica is one of my favorite saints. For Christmas, I got the book, St. Monica, The Power of a Mother's Love, by (Father) Giovanni Falbo. It is very informative and a fairly quick read. One of the things that is interesting about St. Monica is that she is one of the patrons for alcoholics. Considering the trials her husband, husband's family and especially her son, Augustine, caused her, it is easy to see how anyone would resort to drink.

Turns out, the story is far tamer than that. Here is what the book has to say on the topic:

"If the old servant woman decisively corrected every one of the girls' (Monica and her sisters) failures, she was also wise, loving and prudent in her teaching and advice. She was a fervent Christian, and she instilled in Monica and her sisters a Christian view of life, reverence for the prayers and customs of the Christian community, and love for the poor. The accounts contained in the Augustinian breviaries about Monica praying through the night, sneaking out of the house to do to church, and depriving herself of food in order to give it to the poor are legends. But given her good natural disposition, the work of grace, and her upbringing, it is likely that she made quick strides towards holiness even as a little girl.

As would eventually be the case for Augustine, Monica's conscience was so delicate that in her latter years she would recount to her son things that she considered shameful failings, although these may well produce a good-natured smile from the modern reader. For instance, Monica's parents had given her the job of drawing wine from the casks in the cellar and bringing it to the table, because they knew that she was a sober and virtuous girl. Forbidden fruit tends to exercise a unique fascination on the young. Why should she not be able to say taht she, too, had drunk wine? It was something reserved for her elders, which was precisely why trying some herself became so attractive.

Monica may have been virtuous, but she was still weak enough not to be able to resist this temptation. She began by barely touching her lips to the flask; then, sipping a little more each time, she got to the point of gulping down almost a whole glassful. The only witness to her actions was another servant who accompanied Monica to the cellar. Shortly afterward, a disagreement arose between the two for reasons we do not know: In the course of the argument, the servant hurled in Monica's face the epithet meribibula, meaning "wine-swiller." Instantly ashamed of herself, Monica acknowledged her fault. So great was her humiliation that she decided to quit her bad habit immediately."

St. Monica, ora pro nobis.

13 February 2008

A Valentine's departure

Yesterday I turned on the 5pm news just a few minutes early. Oprah was just ending and had Michael Flatley on. Or, maybe it was David Cassidy.

Is it just me or could they have been separated at birth?

For the record, David Cassidy was a bit before my time. However, I did have a huge crush on Shaun Cassidy. And, in case Cathy is keeping a tally, I think they are hairless fellas.

"I Think I Love You"

I'm sleeping
And right in the middle of a good dream
like all at once I wake up
From something that keeps knocking at my brain
Before I go insane
I hold my pillow to my head
And spring up in my bed
Screaming out the words I dread:
"I think I love you!" (I think I love you)

This morning, I woke up with this feeling
I didn't know how to deal with
And so I just decided to myself
I'd hide it to myself
And never talk about it
And didn't I go and shout it
When you walked into my room.
"I think I love you!" (I think I love you)

I think I love you
So what am I so afraid of?
I'm afraid that I'm not sure of
A love there is no cure for
I think I love you
Isn't that what life is made of?
Though it worries me to say
I've never felt this way

Believe me
You really don't have to worry
I only want to make you happy
And if you say,
hey, go away, I will
But I think better still
I ought to stay around and love you
Do you think I have a case?
Let me ask you to your face:
Do you think you love me?
I think I love you!

Thoughts for Lent

I heard this at bible study...

Satan called a worldwide convention.

In his opening address to his evil angels, he said,'We can't keep the Christians from going to church.'

'We cannot keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth.'

'We cannot even keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship experience in Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken. So let them go to their churches; let them have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time, so they can't gain that relationship with Jesus Christ.'

'This is what I want you to do angels ...

Distract them from gaining hold of their Saviour and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!'

'How shall we do this?' shouted his angels.

'Keep them busy in the nonessentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds,' he answered. 'Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow.'

'Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their empty lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children.'

'As their family fragments, soon, their home will offer no escape from the pressures of work!'

'Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive. Keep the TV, VCR, CDs, and their PCs going constantly in their home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-biblical music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ.'

'Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogues, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes.'

'Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines so the husbands will believe that external beauty is what is important, and they will become dissatisfied with their wives. Ha! That will fragment those families quickly!'

'Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted, disquieted and unprepared for the coming week'.

'Do not let them go out in nature to reflect on God's wonders. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts, and movies instead.'

'Keep them busy, busy, busy! And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotions.'

'Go ahead, let thern be involved in soul winning; but crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Jesus.'

'Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause.'

It will work! It will work!

It was quite a convention. The evil angels went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there.

Author unknown

12 February 2008

From bicycles to the Black Adder

Just when I started reading a bit on the Spanish Inquisition to fill in huge gaps in my education and checked out a (so far) decent CD set from the library (The Modern Scholar, Heaven or Heresy: A History of the Inquisition, lectures by Thomas F. Madden from St. Louis University), I learn of some columns by should-be-Catholic Oxvay Ayday (his name has been pig Latinized to hopefully keep me below the Technorati radar).

I was alerted to his Monday column on the Inquisition. Below is just a snippet, you can read the entire column here, some names in pig Latin.

It is a curious thing considering how often it is brought up in conversation and Internet debate by lay a-theists, but in "The God Delusion," Ichardray Awkinsday conspicuously neglects to detail what he describes as the "horrors" of the Spanish Inquisition. Ristopherchay Itchenshay and Anielday Ennettday both avoid discussing it altogether. Only reason's clown, Amsay Arrishay, is sufficiently foolish to swallow the old, black legend, hook, line and sinker, as he attempts to portray the collective inquisitions as one of the two "darkest episodes in the history of faith."

On June 9, 721 ad., Duke Odo of Aquitaine defeated Al-Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani before the walls of the besieged city of Toulouse. This battle, followed by the victories of King Pelayo of Asturias and Charles Martel at the battles of Covadonga and Tours, brought to an end a century of remarkably successful Islamic expansion. Over the next 760 years, the Umayyads' conquests on the Spanish peninsula were gradually rolled back by a succession of Christian kings, a long process disturbed by the usual shifting of alliances as well as varying degrees of ambition and military competence on both sides of the religious divide. The "Reconquista" was completed with the fall of Muslim Granada in 1492 to the Castilian forces of King Ferdinand.

The Spanish Inquisition, which began in 1481, cannot be understood without recognizing the significance of this epic 771-year struggle between Christians and Muslims over the Spanish peninsula. What took the great Berber Gen. Tariq ibn Zayid only eight years to conquer on behalf of the Umayyad Caliphate required almost 100 times as long to regain, and neither King Ferdinand II of Aragon nor his wife, Queen Isabella of Castile, was inclined to risk any possibility of having to repeat the grand endeavor. Isabella, in particular, was concerned about reports of conversos, purported Christians who had pretended to convert from Judaism but were still practicing their former religion. This was troubling, as it was reasonable to assume that those who were lying about their religious conversion were also lying about their loyalty to the united crowns, and it was known that some Jews were encouraging Muslim leaders to attempt the recapture of al-Andalus. ("It remains a fact that the Jews, either directly or through their coreligionists in Africa, encouraged the Mohammedans to conquer Spain." The Jewish Encyclopedia (1906). Vol XI, 485.)

An investigation was commissioned, and the reports were verified, at which point the Spanish monarchs asked Pope Sixtus IV to create a branch of the Roman Inquisition that would report to the Spanish crown. The pope initially refused, but when Ferdinand threatened to leave Rome to its own devices should the Turks attack, he reluctantly acceded and issued "Exigit Sinceras Devotionis Affectus" on Nov. 1, 1478, a papal bull establishing an inquisition in Isabella's Kingdom of Castile. One tends to get the impression that Ferdinand was less than deeply concerned about the potential converso threat and may have even been acting primarily to mollify his wife, as he promptly made use of this hard-won new authority to do absolutely nothing for the next two years. Then, on Sept. 27, 1480, the first two inquisitors, Miguel de Morillo and Juan de San Martín, were named, the first tribunal was created, and by Feb. 6, 1481, six false Christians had been accused, tried, convicted and burned in the Spanish Inquisition's first auto da fé.

10 February 2008

MN Home Education Conference has Fr. Pacwa

Father Mitch Pacwa, SJ will be the keynote speaker at the MN Home Education Conference this May!

Regardless of if I homeschool this fall or my son gets into the school we applied to, I still want to go to the conference to hear the great speakers, attend the workshops and shop the vendor booths. It is really a VERY nice conference.

The conference will be the weekend of May 30-31 at the University of St. Thomas. Check out the website for more information.

And I missed it...

The new branch of my husband's family is quite interesting. If you're keeping track, we just found out that my husband's great-grandmother had a baby out of wedlock and the baby was given up for adoption. About a week ago, descendents from that line contacted me and we've been sharing information ever since.

Here's the latest.

One of the relations to the person that contacted me died a few years back. The information I have says that this person was twice married and twice divorced. They suffered a heart attack that resulted in them ending up brain dead. Their "living will" stipulated that they didn't want to be kept alive on any machines (from what I understand, the Catholic Church allows you to remove machines in this instance). Nearly a week later, the person "died." Their ashes were then scattered at an artists' colony, again as stipulated in the "living will."

During the funeral MASS, the priest's homily included his rendition of a song from the Phantom of the Opera that was reportedly the deceased's favorite.

I'm kind of partial to A Chorus Line for a funeral Mass myself.

09 February 2008

Middle name meme

Karen tagged me for a few things and I'm just trying to get caught up today. I honestly thought that things would calm down last fall after we closed up the cabin, but things just keep getting busier and busier.

Friday we went to the nature center again and my "inappropriate talker" had at least learned to raise his hand before blurting out random facts and observations. However, he's too smart for his own good in some respects. When the instructor at the nature center would ask a question, he would raise his hand, feigning to respond to what was asked, because he saw it as an opening to talk about what HE wanted to talk about. Whatever the question was he would reply, "Well, I don't know about that, but I like rockets." And, then he'd proceed to ramble on about rockets.

Lord have mercy on me, a mom ill prepared to deal with an out-maneuvering four year-old.

So, here is my middle name meme.

Again, the legalese/rules:
1. You have to post the rules before you give your answers.
2. You must list one fact about yourself beginning with each letter of your middle name. (If you don't have a middle name, use your maiden name or your mother's maiden name).
3. At the end of your blog post, you need to tag one person for each letter of your middle name. (Be sure to leave them a comment telling them they've been tagged.)

My middle name is THERESE, so here goes.

T - travel. I love to travel and have been lots of places. Now that we have kids, that isn't the case and we spend most of our time at the cabin. I do hope to go to Europe this spring. In fact, we just applied for my son's passport on Friday. One case of government efficiency. The lady at the Vital Records was very nice and we were able to get a certified copy of my son's birth certificate AND submit his passport application all at one time, one place, one visit to the counter. It was wonderful and efficient. I had blocked out three hours for the "event" and it only took 20 minutes (Granted, I had everything I needed and was totally prepared, but they didn't make us go to another counter for the passport and didn't make us take another number for the two transactions!). Holy moly rocky!

H - humor. I'm my father's daughter. I have a wacky sense of humor. I've finally embraced it. I was going to say Helvetica, as in Confoederatio Helvetica (Swiss Confederation), but that wouldn't be much fun, so humor it is.

E - One of the first of three e's I have to surmount. I'd have to say even-keeled. I don't get too emotional one way or another, don't hold grudges, don't get irrationally angry, don't get too off in la-la land. For the "T" in Therese, I almost said temper, since I have found that I do have a temper with my kids that I'm trying to overcome, but otherwise I don't really get angry and fly off the handle (Ah, the things that having kids brings out in you!)

R - realistic. I don't know why some theologians are so against pragmatism, but I think I'm pragmatic and practical. Not jadedly so. My husband thinks I have a lot of common sense, so maybe that's where it comes from....maybe not pragmatic, just realistic.

E - electrons and Einsteinium. Chemistry is my favorite subject. I do love statistics and math, but seem to have a greater natural ability for chemistry.

S - studious. I love school. I love to learn. I've been in school in some form all my life until recently since having my kids. I really miss the excitement and thrill of learning things. If I was independently wealthy, I would be in school right now, but since I don't have an employer footing the bill...

I could read/study on my own, but have learned that I can't really read a book and absorb it. I more of a tactile/kinetic learner and like to do hands-on things to learn. That's why I took the class last weekend in bread making. I had to actually make bread in a class instead of read how to do it in a book. Weird, but something just clicks in my brain if I do it instead of read it. That's why I always did really well in the lab classes in college compared to other classes.

E - everything...within reason. I like to try new things and am more of a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none kind of gal than an expert in anything. I'm not a thrill seeker, just have a variety of interests. I have never wanted to go bungy jumping or blast off into space! Not that much of everything!

Wow. That was probably the most challenging meme I've done.

Since my middle name had seven letters, I have to tag seven people. I think the number seven in the bible indicates completeness, so my seven letters should be enough :)

Guys, I'm so bad with rules. Most of the people I would tag (Vincenzo, Cathy and Terry) would rather have their eyes poked out with a sharp stick, so I will tag only a few and place very high expectations on them to conform. They are: White Stone Name Seeker, Adrienne and Tara. Since I'm kind of late to the party, ya all may have been tagged already.

Note: Nix Tara...now I know what Karen was referring to on her blog. What the...?

07 February 2008

Gospel of St. Matthew - Lessons 16 and 17

I have to admit, studying St. Matthew's gospel was not my first choice. I doubt if it would've even been one of the books I would've considered studying in bible study. But, we are really getting to some of the meat and potatoes. However, each chapter seems like meat and potatoes and it just keeps going and going. I learn more about readings I have heard at Mass and now I have a new appreciation for them, understand the context, the people, the times, the fulfillment and even the message with greater insight and understanding. Still, there are times I wish we were studying a different chapter of the bible. These two chapters however, chapters 16 and 17, haven't disappointed. I just wish Father Echert had more time to cover things in even greater detail since we covered the Sign of Jonah far more than Peter being the ROCK than I would've preferred.

The Sadducees
Father briefly spoke about the Sadducees and that very little is known about them. They were very different from the Pharisees. The Sadducees didn't believe in an afterlife nor did they believe in a Resurrection. Members were generally of the aristocracy and they typically aligned themselves with the Romans. At one time, they were a powerful priestly group, but became more and more of a political group. Supposedly, their origins are from Zadok (Sadoc => Sadokite => Sadducee), the High Priest, who lived during the time of David and Solomon. This is much debated, however.

Chapter 16 starts out with the Pharisees and Sadducees trying to find a way to trap Jesus in false teaching. So, they ask Him for a sign from heaven. Jesus remarks that they are able to see and understand many natural signs but fail to see all the supernatural things He has been doing before their eyes: "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' And in the morning, 'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah." (Matthew 16:2-4)

Sign of Jonah
Poor Jonah. He's an unwilling participant in God's salvation plan. Then there's that getting eaten by a whale thing that probably wasn't too much fun. I had never heard that people thought Jonah was a coward since he ran away when called by God. Father also mentioned that this isn't just a cute fairy tale, but most certainly happened since it certainly paints the Jewish people in a bad light. Previously, the prophets God sent to Israel were ignored or harassed or worse. The people didn't even listen to God's own prophets, but here we see God sending Jonah to the Ninevites, a foreign people, and they repented. Also, Jonah knew that the Ninevites would destroy Israel and he doesn't want to assist God in saving the people who will bring about Israel's ruin. Being a prophet isn't all fun and games.

According to our class notes:
"In reality, Jonah wasn't cowardly, he was patriotic. Called by God to serve as a prophet, Jonah knew where he was supposed to go, what he was supposed to do, and even the most likely outcome of his mission -- Jonah was expecting God to show mercy to the Ninevites. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, the most ruthless and brutal military foe the Israelites ever faced. When Jonah is sent by God to call the Assyrians to repentance, he heads the other way -- not out of cowardice but because he desperately wants to see Assyria destroyed. Jonah's fear isn't that the Assyrians won't listen to him, but that they will. Jonah knows that should the Assyrians repent, they're quite likely to be spared God's wrath.

So deeply does Jonah hate the Ninevites and Assyria that when the ship he's booked passage on in an attempt to escape from God runs into a deadly storn, Jonah prefers to be thrown overboard rather than risk returning to shore where he might fulfill his God-given mission."

"Eventually, Jonah does fulfill his mission to the Ninevites, and when the people repent, Jonah throws a temper tantrum (note: he also asks God to take his life!). Why? Jonah knows that God has spared the Ninevites only because He plans to use them as the axe to chop down the kingdom of Israel. Jonah is no dummy. Among the prophets, his contemporaries are Hosea, Amos and Isaiah -- all of whom have foretold that God intends to use Assyria to destroy the northern kingdom of Israel. This is, in fact, exactly what happens in 722 BC, fewer than 40 years after Jonah's mission to preach repentance to the Assyrians."

There are parallels being drawn here between Israel and Assyria during the time of Jonah, and Israel and Rome during the time of Jesus. Parallels are also being drawn between Jonah and Jesus.

Jesus and Jonah were both "dead" for three days, Jesus three days in the earth and Jonah three days in the belly of the whale. Both are "swallowed up" for three days - Jonah in the whale and Jesus at His crucifixion. Both "come back," Jonah gets spit out by the whale and Jesus by His Resurrection. The Assyrians and Romans are both considered wicked, but both are spared by God (Rome by the blood of the martyrs) and bring about the downfall of Israel nearly 40 years after the prophets' missions -- Assyria destroyed the northern kingdom nearly 40 years after Jonah and Rome destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem nearly 40 years after Jesus' death.

More bad leaven
Again, we see Jesus warning the disciples to be careful of the leaven of the Pharisees. Jesus is referring to the leaven of the Pharisees as the spread of corruption -- an infection on a moral and intellectual level. The disciples, true to form, think Jesus is literally talking about bread and also forget the miracles Jesus had just performed in multiplying the loaves and fishes. Here we find the famous quote, "O men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to perceive that I did not speak about bread?" Ok, this passage makes me laugh, but I'm sure I wouldn't have done any better than the disciples. Sometimes we all need a good smack upside the head!

I wish that Father had more time on this part of Chapter 16, since it's all about establishing Peter as the Pope. So critical.

Like Abram before him, Peter gets a name change. Simon is now called Peter, just as Abram's name was changed to Abraham...reflecting their new role and responsibilities (Peter is now the chief patriarch, like Abraham was). Father Echert said that the translation is poor and Matthew 16;18 should read, "And I tell you, you are ROCK, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." Substituting "Peter" for "rock" kind of loses something in the intent and magnitude of what Jesus is trying to convey although I understand why it's done.

Moreover, the thing I learned that was interesting is the allusion to the rock has great meaning. From our class notes it says, "At the time of Jesus, Jews regarded the Temple foundation stone as the 'lid of the netherworld.' Called Sheol (in Hebrew) or Hades (in Greek), the netherworld referred to an interim state where both good and bad souls awaited the coming of the Messiah. As the foundation stone of Jesus' Church, Peter is given the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" and told that the "powers of death" won't prevail against the Church. The keys are an image from the prophecies of Isaiah, in which the keys of the house of David are given to Eliakim, making him the chief royal minister, or "prime" minister. 'And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open and none shall shut; and he shall shut and none shall open'. (Isaiah 22:22)

Peter is told by Jesus: 'Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.' Peter is entrusted with the keys of the kingdom that not only enable people to go up (as the foundation stone enables the Temple to be built up) but that open the gates of the netherworld (through which people will go down). Jesus will entrust this spiritual authority to all of his apostles, but particularly to Simon peter. It's an authority that renders binding decisions in such Church matters as excommunication, but it applies especially to liberating people from sin."

It is interesting to note that Jesus no more than immediately and directly appoints Peter as Pope, than Peter stumbles and Jesus rebukes him saying, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men." The Greek word that is translated as "hindrance" is skandalon, which means "stone of stumbling." The notes say that this detail shows that Matthew is making the point that the Church will be built on Peter, but only on Jesus' terms.

Will get to Chapter 17 a bit later....

06 February 2008

Hot cross buns

I took a bread making class over the weekend at Cooks of Crocus Hill on Grand Avenue. The Christmas before last, I got the book "The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking," and had hoped to learn how to make bread then. But, things don't run like clock-work when you have kids and the class had to wait until this year.

I was glad I took the class to learn the things you don't get from just reading a recipe or even a book on how to make bread. There is some finesse involved and I wanted to know all the little "secrets" on how to tell if the dough is right, how to know if it is kneaded enough, and to not be intimidated by yeast. During the class we made some super tasty herb dinner rolls, a loaf of white bread to take home to bake and two soups we ate with our rolls at the end of class.

Yesterday, I made stew for dinner and wanted to make the same dinner rolls. Unfortunately, I think my year-old yeast was a goner. It didn't do anything and the water was the correct temperature. Bummer. So, I got some new yeast today and wanted to make some hot crossed buns for Lent, but didn't have any currants and apricots. So, at the moment I have two loaves of oatmeal bread raising. Keeping my hot fingers crossed that they turn out.

The Jesuit Breadbaking book I got last Christmas is full of little spiritual and informational tidbits. I also appreciate some of the Jesuit "militaristic spirituality" it contains, like cleaning as you work, which I HAVE to do for my own sanity. My kitchen is a disaster if my husband merely makes a peanut butter sandwich, so maybe I should introduce him to Brother Curry's philosophy. The downside of the book is that I wanted it to learn how to make boules and other "artisan" breads and this book has more loaf-type breads. Still a good book, but now I know what my husband can get me for Valentine's Day.

04 February 2008


Hubby has started another semester of grad classes. Finally, he has gotten past most of the fru-fru courses and is on to the "good stuff." This semester he is taking a DOE class. No, that's not a department in the State of Minnesota. It stands for Design of Experiments.

To me, this is nirvana. I love this stuff. It's not about how to set up equipment to do experiments, but how to create a statistical plan to test for and block variables in your design and eliminate noise. It's all about statistics. Statistics. Statistics. A real class, with a real answer, not just the "I'm OK, you're OK" mentality and not the kind of "statistics" you hear about in the news. Not any touchy-feely stuff either. Down and dirty numbers. This is where my true inner geek thrives. For a time one summer before I graduated from St. Thomas, I pondered being an actuary. However, even I wasn't geeky enough for that.

Bad news is that one of the books for hubby's class, a paperback, is not even an inch thick and it costs $45.

I did some DOEs at Boeing. Nowadays, if you work for most medical device or chip manufacturers, they are big on DOE. They even have programs for Six Sigma and if you climb high enough in the stats world you become a Black Belt. I never took any of these classes, but would've loved to have made it to Black Belt.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my sweet daughter has been working to rid our home of bad influences. She's almost two and a half, so isn't teething any more and certainly isn't hungry, so the only reason I have for her trying to eat the library copy hubby used of The DaVinci Code for his prior class, is that she is trying to take one for the team, sacrificing her own well-being so that we don't read this drivel.

I just hope the library finds her actions as noble as I do.

All I need are these

and some Star Trek technology.

After I die, if technology has progressed far enough, I could beam these shoes up with me to show St. Peter that there must've been a St. Avia cuz here are her shoes.

01 February 2008

Ain't that a kick in the head

Terry did a post about confirmation names, related to the post Sister Mary Martha did. I commented on Terry's blog that my confirmation name, selected when I was a goofy teen, was Avia. Yeah, like the shoes, but I picked the name before the shoes were really mainstream and cool. Sr. Mary Martha also mentioned that our confirmation name is the name we will be known by in heaven. Goodness, no one told me that when I picked it or I would've picked a name that sounded a little less like Britney or Tiffany. And I don't even chew gum and twirl my hair.

I then commented on Terry's post that I haven't been able to find much on St. Avia lately, even though when I selected St. Avia I had to write a report on her and used information I had found about her in a book of saints. A book of saints, mind you. Isn't that almost like quoting scripture or something?

We also had to make a felt sash with the saint's name on it to wear at confirmation, but that's a memory only years of therapy can correct. That and having Archbishop Roach confirm me.

Turns out, according to the link about St. Avia that Sr. Mary Martha provided on Terry's blog, my confirmation saint is fictitious. Yep, a FAKE. Here's info from the link she provided:

One version of the legend of the virgin and martyr Saint Avia tells that the saint, imprisoned for adhering to her Christian beliefs, miraculously received communion from the Virgin Mary. In this miniature the crowned Virgin appears with an entourage of adoring angels carrying liturgical objects, including an incense holder and a processional cross. The Virgin herself offers the host and holds the chalice.

In this book of hours, the miniature accompanies an intercessory prayer written in French rather than in the more common Latin. The use of French rather than Latin illustrates the local and contemporary popularity of Avia, one of many fictitious saints who were widely venerated in fifteenth-century France. Intercessory prayers, appeals for assistance addressed to God or to specific saints, were grouped together in books of hours. The contents of these sections varied, since they were personalized with prayers dedicated to locally popular saints or to saints with personal meaning for the patron.

Now what am I to do? Am I really Catholic? Will I be stuck in the ante-room of heaven trying to sort out paperwork resulting from not having a "legal" name? Can I even go to heaven?

No one warned me. I want a do-over!

Jean Bourdichon
French, Tours, about 1480 - 1485
Tempera colors and gold on parchment
6 7/16 x 4 9/16 in.
The Getty Museum

Just between you and me

Father Echert again mentioned in bible study that if a couple that was living together came to him and ask him to marry them in the Church, he would tell the couple that they first needed to physically separate from each other -- no longer live together. If they proposed living together as "brother and sister" until the wedding, he still wouldn't marry them. The reason is scandal.

From the Catechism:
2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.

2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep's clothing.

2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion. Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to "social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible." This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger, or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.

Father briefly spoke about political leaders and how they cause scandal. He also said that when society begins to allow scandals to persist, then more and more people begin to see a particular sin as acceptible and society becomes tainted by it and jaded to it. This is one thing my own father was keenly aware of. He never troubled himself about what others thought about him (in the more secular sense, like if he had the biggest house or coolest car), but he certainly was aware of how actions would look to others. For this reason, and probably because he was no fool and knew it provided a near occasion of sin, I was never allowed to have a boy in my room. I wasn't allowed to stay out late (which was also a good character developer) because of appearances. There was no way he was going to be involved in scandal.

We see St. Paul taking quite a strong stand against scandal in 1 Corinthians 5 where he chastises a group who thought themselves as pious, but allowed a man to be in an incestuous relationship with his mother-in-law. He calls for them to toss the man from their midst. But, as we are called to charitably correct sinners, we are also told to show mercy and compassion. And, to "forgive seventy times seven."

She had to go away for awhile
I previously wrote about divorce from a dispassionate genealogical perspective. But, another thing that has caused pain in families is the scandal that an out-of-wedlock birth used to cause. Today it is fashionable to have a baby without being married. Not that long ago it was a huge scandal. Women went away to have their babies and often times gave them up for adoption. I'm a big proponent of adoption, so I'm certainly not bashing it, but the circumstances that brought about the adoption often times have long-term consequences and ramifications.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from a woman whose father was born out of wedlock to my husband's great-grandmother. Great-grandma was left a widow with a young daughter when her husband of only three years passed away. Great-grandma left her daughter in the care of her parents and siblings while she went to the city to find work to support her daughter. No one really knows the circumstances, but great-grandma got pregnant and gave the baby up for adoption. In this case, the baby was adopted by the paternal grandmother. However, great-grandma took this "secret" to her grave and allowed her daughter, my husband's grandmother, to believe she was an only child. Great-grandma never had any contact with her son, even though he only lived a short distance away.

In my own family, a great-aunt had a baby out of wedlock. She went to some length to make sure that no one knew, afraid to even use her own name on the birth certificate. For awhile, she tried to care for the infant herself in the small apartment she had in St. Paul. City directories show she even claimed to be a widow, just to avoid the stigma. Financially unable to care for her daughter any longer, she placed the baby in an orphanage in St. Paul and visited her as often as she could. The rest of family, who lived in Hudson, WI, never knew about the baby. It wasn't until her parents had passed away and she was respectibly married that this great-aunt and her husband "adopted" a young teenaged girl. The daughter they "adopted" was really her biological daughter she had finally claimed from the orphanage.

These situations are not all that uncommon. Every family seems to have some scandal or another. So, what are we to do? Admonish the sinner? Remove them from our midst as St. Paul suggests? Does ostracizing the person stop the "bad leaven" from infecting society?

That's the problem with sin that many people don't seem to understand -- their sins, their leaven, affects everyone. Nearly a hundred years after great-grandma had this baby out of wedlock, her descendents are just beginning to see and feel the impact of her choices. Part of the real scandal is the selfish and libertarian notion that we can do what we want as long as it doesn't affect our neighbor. Another part of the scandal is not letting these people see Jesus in us -- showing them a little bit of mercy that might've helped them get back on the right track instead of spending their lives covering things up.

"When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own strange laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family we step into a fairy-tale."
- Chesterton, Heretics