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Archive for the ‘Catholicsm’ Category

Epiphany

I note with interest the Nativity at our church.  When we first started attending there, their Nativity Scene was in sore need of updating.  It was evident with the mismatched figures, so obviously different or else why would a lamb be the same size as a person?  I was relieved a few years ago when they purchased a new set.  It was new, lovely — and the figures in  proportion to one another.

Because the Magi don’t show up until the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6th, they are there on December 25th, but not nearby.  Holy Trinity handles it by putting the Magi on the far side of the church.

Last week they had made it midway across the church, by the altar.  In fact, they were hiding in amidst the poinsettias on the altar steps.  (They must have heard that Herod was in the neighborhood.)  So it was with interest that I noted their progress today.  There they were, outside the manger, adoring the Christ Child.  Their journey was complete.

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Help or Not

Although I now volunteer a half a day a week at the Catholic Social  Services, it is a job nonetheless. We help people by providing a food bank, access to a thrift shop, help with utility bills, court ordered evictions, steel-toed work boots, bus tickets, and even some prescriptions.  Poor people need a variety of help.  It is a challenge, but a worthwhile one.  My job is to interview people and determine what they need and if we can help.  I use most of the skills I developed as a mother, a teacher, and even as an older lady who has been down the road and around the block.

A few weeks ago I came home to tell Bruce, “I haven’t been lied to so much since I left teaching.”  Most of the people I saw that day were not truthful.  Their stories just didn’t add up.  Even the chronically poor, don’t need everything, everyday.  I had to turn down a lady saying she again needed to visit the food bank when she had been there two weeks before and had just received a large amount in food stamps.  I didn’t like to do that, as we try to err on the side of compassion.  But a lie is a lie — a scam is  scam.   Most likely she was selling her food stamps for cash and then coming to us to feed her family.  We shouldn’t enable such activities.  I told Sister Janet, who understood and nodded in agreement.

Last week amongst the ones I interviewed we were able to help two particular people.  They were not the perpetual poor.  They were regular folks who were just down on their luck.  Both, for one reason or another, had been out of work, and fallen behind in their utility bills.  It’s winter, even in the South, with a really frigid spell upon us.  No power, no heat.  Can’t cook, can’t have hot water.  That’s tough.

There are more people than we’d like to admit are one paycheck away from eviction.  That really hit home when a few months ago I realized a lady I was interviewing lived only a few blocks away.  She, literally, was my neighbor.  I know we hear about the plight of those in other countries and we respond generously, however, there are other ones who need our help too, and they live just down the street.

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It’s all Latin to Me

I grew up in the Catholic Church pre-Vatican II when the mass was still in Latin. I had a bi-lingual prayerbook and followed along with it. As a kid I was always quite accepting of the status quo. I think I was just too lame to question some things. With complete faith, I merely accepted. In the matters of faith, that is not a bad thing.

Last night we attended a Latin Mass down at our church. The altar servers were a bit gray-haired, since they are the only ones of an age to remember and know how to serve at a Latin mass. It was interesting — however. . .    As I pondered it, all the elements that I found “awkward” are the very same ones that Vatican II eliminated many years ago. The priest has his back to the congregation so we couldn’t see what he was doing, and the language barrier is obvious unless you’re fluent in Latin, and then there’s the lack of “participation” by the congregation.

Additionally, Father Gaspar (from another church in our town) was the celebrant. His accent is extremely difficult to understand (and I’m fairly good at accents.) So even when he spoke English it still sounded foreign. I managed to recognize about every a third of what he said. I realize that the more frequently we attend these, the less odd they will seem. However, I now see that there is a place for both. To receive communion kneeling at the altar, rather than standing means it feels less like a “drive-thru” and more reverent, which it should. For me now to get down on my knees in public — and then back up again — it a real sacrifice. Talk about a penitential gesture.

I do know one thing. I need to do my homework and study up before we attend another one. Maybe Bruce can tutor me in Latin, or I can search the internet for more instruction. Or just go buy a new missal.

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An Angel or Devil?

Last night was the Easter Vigil wherein the church baptizes, accepts and confirms new Catholics to the faith. We had met earlier in the day to walk through the ceremony so all would go well. Our RCIA leader, a patient man, had everything organized and scripted. He had planned as well as one could. There were children there in the group and one little boy, a beautiful boy, a child of two or so, yelled whenever he didn’t get his way. We, who were sitting in the back section, said we couldn’t hear — several times. Finally, the father took the hint and took the kid out. I later said to the young father, “You might want to bring some suckers tonight, just in case.” He laughed. I repeated, “You really might want to bring suckers tonight.” (Plug up that cry hole, I was thinking. . . .)

Well, as could be expected the kid screamed through the first hour of the service — after all, he had practiced earlier in the day. He hit his mother and father and stomped on the pew and yelled at the top of his lungs! The father, unfortunately, smiled back at the kid when he swung at him. Grrrr. For all of us who were raised by firm strict parents, it was terrible. Not only did my siblings or I not do that, neither did either of my children. You did not embarrass your parents in public. It was a hard, fast, common sense rule. It was easy to to see why the boy behaved so badly in public; he did it at home. No firm looks, no harsh voice, no thumps on the head. The child was a tyrant. They tried to sweetly talk to him. One doesn’t reason with tyrants.

I knew as a parent that the reason you made your children behave was so they would be socially acceptable. No one — no one — enjoys a screaming bratty kid. The entire congregation wished the brat was about a mile away. Unfortunately, I was sitting several rows back directly in the line of vision from the devil child. The tension was evident from all the adults. You could feel it. I finally had to stop looking at the lttle monster and try to tune him out. That also meant I missed some of the service. I don’t attend church to hear a child yell. Catholic churches have wonderful Cry Rooms, designed for that very purpose. You can see and hear the service; the congregation can’t see or hear the bellowing child. A win-win situation.

Parents need to be in charge. Children can’t be in charge. Do we put the person with the least knowledge, wisdom and experience in charge of anything? Heavens no. Parents — burn the psycho-babble book about not hurting a child’s fragile self-esteem and step up to the job of firm leadership. Be a grown up. Take charge. Insist your children behave appropriately. Even two year olds can learn that.

Fortunately, today we sat behind a family with well-behaved, well-dressed children. It restored my faith.  Afterwards I complimented the parents on their children’s behavior. We all smiled. Praise be.

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A Good Friday

It rained last night, and blew, and hailed. In our pine forest that can be a cause for alarm. The good news with our recent heavy rains is that the drought is over; however, the bad news is that our septic system gets easily overwhelmed now. So, between worry about trees and toilets, our Good Friday night was exciting in a middle-aged, middle class kind of way.

We had spent half the day at church, with a Good Friday service at noon and the Stations of the Cross later after lunch. Somehow the thunder and lightening seemed appropriate on such a solemn day of the church year. (I was wishing I had ordered “Passion of the Christ” from Netflix, as it is a good choice for Holy Week. We’ve seen it before, but it’s one of those films people should watch every so often. It reminds us of aspects of the Passion we’d prefer not to remember.) At the service, the Veneration of the Cross exacts an act of humility that was moving. One of my gripes with modern society is that people think to be humble is to be weak. Quite the contrary. Only the truly strong can express humility and understand how it strengthens character. It is honest and true, and very liberating.

The storm is long gone. The house plants I placed on the deck got a good watering and this day is fresh and new. The neighbor’s tree that Bruce had feared would flatten his beautiful tool shed, actually fell last week — toward the neighbor’s house, damaging a corner of the overhang. I guess, the good news is that their insurance will fix the damage.

So with Holy Saturday today we move one day closer toward Easter. The very reason for this glorious season.

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Ciao!

We got back from Italy last Thursday and I haven’t blogged yet because I can’t seem to stay awake long enough to do it! During our ten days in Italy, we had early wakeup calls and long days and a flight home where I could only catnap. I guess, I’m catching up as well as fighting jetlag. Either way, there have been afternoons where I either had to lie down or fall over. Bruce was much the same. Last Sunday afternoon, I stretched out on the bed for a long nap, then later moved to the sofa, snoozed there until I finally gave up and just went to bed, like under the covers.

Bruce and I have been discussing the merits of tours versus individual travel. We got to see lots more on this pilgrimage than if we’d been by ourselves — and the price was right. However, we went at a killer pace for someone with a bad knee and another with a bad hip. Ibuprofen gel and Tylenol saved the day. “Magellan” also saved the bum knee. He is the cane/seat I bought for the trip — a cane that folds out into a small seat to rest on while waiting in long lines or standing around (in my case, sitting around) listening to the tour guide. Magellan’s.com is written across the seat, hence the name. That was a goodly purchase, worth every penny. (I will write a review of it on the website.) Most of the streets in the older parts of Italy are cobblestones, with rounded edges and spaced about an inch apart. I had to watch every step to insure I didn’t fall which would have been most disastrous! A coach was our mode of transport from town to town and even around Rome, but even then we walked — a lot! Unfortunately, my arthritic knee decided to get worse last fall, right after we committed to the trip. But, never-say-die-Kathy wouldn’t hear of canceling.

There are advantages to each version of travel. One is handy in a country where you don’t speak the language. Since this trip was a pilgrimage, we saw more churches than we would have by ourselves, and that was only a mere fraction of the ones available. It was nice to have informed guides tell us about the places we saw. We also traveled easily from Venice, to Florence, to Assisi, and to Rome, and in relative comfort. However, there is something to be said for ferreting out places on your own — researching, exploring, hunting around. It makes you “own” a place, if you will. It develops a different significance. And, we would never impose a 5 AM wakeup call on ourselves unless we were catching a train or plane. However, if you’re game for seeing the Pope at the papal audience and want a good seat, early up you are. In Assisi the bell tower of the basilica was very near to our room. Wow — those boys got us up and going! We attended Mass with the priests with us, at many lovely little chapels. We even had Mass in a chapel in the crypt of St Peter’s Basilica, near the tomb of John Paul II. Because of the guide’s advice we were able to see Pope Benedict in his popemobile drive right by us. It was, of course, the coldest day we had in Rome, and held outside in the square. Bruce lamented he had forgotten to pack his gloves, however, we each had packed warm hats. It was so windy we watched the pope’s cap get blown off. A cardinal had to chase it down! His podium area was apparently heated as he sat without gloves and without shivering. Maybe popes are impervious to such discomfort?

Anyway, more Italian stories to follow. Right now, I think I need another nap .

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Since we’re in the process of converting/returning to the Church, I’ve been trying to get to Mass a couple of times during the week. We’re both very trained to go to church on Sunday, but during the week still feels a little strange.  I want it not to feel strange, which it will, with more familiarity.

Tuesday we got up late. Both of us had a restless night, which happens every once in a while. Ginger Dog really needed a bath, so after breakfast into the tub she went. She’s a small dog and pretty well-behaved so it doesn’t take long to get her shampooed and conditioned and towel-dried. However, the bathroom cleanup takes a bit to dump all the hair out of the strainer several times and bleach the tub again after it drains.

By the time I had showered and dressed I was running a bit late, but I drove down to the church as quickly as I dared. The parking lot behind the church was full and two cars had parked on the lines so they had lots of room but two more spots were gone. I finally found a place I could squeeze into. I hurried into the church passing four men in the narthex who seemed rather well -dressed for a weekday service. That’s nice, I thought. Since the service had all ready started I slid into a back pew, opened up my missal but realized the readings were not the ones appointed for that day. Hmmm, that was odd. Also odd, was the number of well-dressed people filling the front of the church; it was half full.  Gee, this service is catching on, I thought to myself. After stepping to the right to better see the priest, I finally saw the coffin in the aisle.

Well — I actually enjoyed the eulogy. Apparently, Cordelia was a good woman, a pillar of the church and fine wife and mother who believed in all the benefits of a college education. I hope someday a priest will say all those nice things about me. Perhaps some soul will wander in off the street and listen to my eulogy as well. One just can’t have too many people attend your funeral. May her dearly departed soul rest in peace.

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