#WorthRevisit: A Recommended Lenten Practice

Lent is only one week away! Here’s a suggestion for a virtue to cultivate in the upcoming season. From February 2009, some wisdom from the dearly-missed Father H:

This morning at Mass, Father observed that in today’s first reading from the book of Sirach, the phrase “fear of the Lord” was repeated four times. And he explained that God is not someone we are to be terrified of, like something in a horror movie. That’s not what fear of the Lord is all about.

He recommended that this Lent, we all practice growing in the virtue of fear of the Lord: wondering at the mystery of God and all that He created. He said that the more you grow in this virtue, the more awesome you understand God to be.

Read here what one of the early Church Fathers, Saint Hilary, wrote about fear of the Lord.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Boycott Burnout?

This afternoon I was listening to my favorite radio show, The Catholics Next Door, on Sirius XM (totally worth the price of the subscription just for this show, by the way!)  Hosts Greg and Jennifer Willits were discussing boycotts.  I wish they’d allotted more time to this issue.

That topic has been on my mind quite a bit lately.  For about the past 20 years, my family has participated in the Life Decisions International boycott of companies that support Planned Parenthood.  That means no Levi’s, no Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, no Texaco gas–among so many other things.

And then there’s the Dump Starbucks Campaign, triggered by their announcement that same-sex marriage is core to who they are and what they value as a company.  More recently, Target announced that proceeds from a line of Pride T-shirts would fund the Family Equality Council.

Now, I don’t get Starbucks much; I don’t like their coffee.  If I want a $4 fancy coffee, I’ll go to Panera and get my latte there.  But Target is right around the corner and it’s my go-to store for a lot of things, replacing Wal-Mart, which is farther away and which has boycott issues of its own regarding labor issues, Chinese suppliers and more.

Maybe I’m just wimping out because this is hitting too close to home.  But it’s starting to feel like I won’t have anywhere to shop if I support all these boycotts.

Do they do any good?  Do the companies really care if I (not a big spender anyway) spend what I do spend someplace else?  Does anybody care?  After all, the American Cancer Society has been linked to support of Planned Parenthood, yet my parish still participates in the local Relay for Life.

So, am I lazy?  Tired?  Wimpy?  Is the devil on my back?  Or do I need to find another way to make a difference?

To love, honor and obey

Every January, my Secular Franciscan fraternity celebrates with a ritual called Extraction of Saints, in which we are assigned a patron saint for the year, a virtue to develop, a maxim to live by, and another fraternity member to remember in special prayer.

This year, my virtue was Obedience.

I knew I was in for it when that one came along. Ask God for a virtue and He’ll generously respond with a challenge to help you get there.

This is not to say that I think God is in any way responsible for the medical condition (endometriosis) that led to my recent surgery. I don’t think that’s how things work. But that surgery is an opportunity for me to use God’s grace to grow in virtue.

It’ll be another three weeks, at least, before I’m allowed behind the wheel. I can’t be running down the basement stairs, hauling laundry, mopping, vacuuming, and bending over to get heavy pots and pans out of the cabinets.

They sent me a babysitter in the form of Mom for this week, to make sure I don’t do anything I shouldn’t. Next week, my husband will be working from home with the same end in mind. But I admit, I’m not super-tempted to cheat at this point. Thought about it on Monday, then reconsidered.

The resentment about not being able to do my usual things is evaporating. Offers of help from friends are accepted, tough though it can be for me to let someone do things for me. Grace has been busy, I guess. And I am very blessed, and very grateful.

 

Obedience

I can command it (fourth-graders fear me) but living it is another matter.

After all, it’s my way or the highway.  Isn’t that what we all expect?  It’s taken me 40-mumble years, but I am coming around…a little…to the realization that it’s not always going to be my way.  Not even close.

Every January, the Secular Franciscans in my fraternity start the year off right.  We pray together, and then each of us is given the name of a patron saint, a virtue to cultivate, a maxim to live by, and a person within the fraternity to hold in prayer through the year.

My virtue this year is Obedience.  (Cue eye-rolling.)  Obedience?  Really?  I follow the rules, except for the speed limit.

There’s a little more to it than that, though.  It’s the question of attitude.  Like the “how dare they” mentality I get when I’m asked/told/required to do something that really IS the right thing to do, but since it’s not what I happen to want to do at the moment, I’ve got no mind to obey it.

The word “obedience” comes from a Latin root meaning “to hear.”  That’s what it’s all about, really.  That’s why, when I’m dealing with fourth graders, I’ll sometimes ask them to repeat directions back to me so that I can make sure they heard them correctly.

But what do we hear?  To whom do we listen?  There are so many messages to listen to:  Facebook, Twitter, the news media…I’m reminded of a line from Pippin that asks, “Would a newspaper ever print anything that wasn’t true?”  Are we listening to those sources that have our best interests at heart?

Psalm 119 says:  “Train me to observe your law, to keep it with my heart.  Guide me in the path of your commands; for there is my delight.  Bend my heart to your will and not to love of gain.”

It’s all about “Thy will be done.”  And we don’t want to have to say that.  But if we really believe that God has our best interests at heart, we will learn to say it.

My prayer this year, then, will not be one written by Saint Francis but instead this one composed by Saint Ignatius of Loyola:

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.

Lazy

Laziness is the mother of ingenuity. I firmly believe that this is true. While the saying goes that “necessity is the mother of invention,” in my experience, most clever creations wind up falling in the category of Saving Time And/Or Effort.

One of my very favorite books–from the time I was about ten or so–has been Cheaper by the Dozen. I was always fascinated by the parents’ line of work: they were efficiency experts. I’m a big fan of efficiency, because I learned pretty early (by second grade or so) that if you got your work done quickly, you had more time to read.

Things haven’t changed. I’d still rather read than mop, as evidenced by the state of my kitchen floor. And while I loved the idea that the Gilbreths figured out the quickest way to get something done, I haven’t followed it to the extreme of stalking my children in the bathroom to time their personal hygiene routine. (Then again, some of that, in the Gilbreth’s case, was surely due to the 12-children, 1-bathroom situation.)

Back in high school, I worked in a bakery. I figured out that I could add up the total of people’s purchases in my head while I bagged the bread or tied the cake boxes. That way, I wouldn’t have to manually enter all the prices into the cash register. It drove my boss nuts, but it helped turn over the customers a whole lot faster (a boon on busy weekend mornings).

Now, I’ll brown several pounds of ground beef at a time so I can have quick tacos or skillet stroganoff later. I route my errands, saving myself time and gas.

I guess shortcuts are generally good, if you use them to free you up for what really matters. Like reading. Or playing “U-Build Battleship” or “Rack-O” with Little Brother.

An Exercise in Patience

I got to daily Mass today for the first time since my surgery. I’m moving slowly (as I told a friend the other day, I’m definitely the “tortoise” rather than the “hare” these days) but I get there.

After church I was hungry and really wanted some Chick-Fil-A breakfast. So I headed over there and ordered my Chicken Minis and a sweet tea in the drive-through. In no time at all, I thought, I’d be home munching on chicken.

But the car ahead of me took a long time. I felt kind of impatient until I started paying attention to the occupant of that car. It was an older woman with a handicapped tag dangling from her rear-view mirror and a “Conquer Cancer” license plate. A store employee repeatedly poked her head out of the drive-through window to speak with the customer, offered her a daily newspaper, and generally spent some extra time making sure everything was taken care of. The whole time, she had a smile on her face.

Needless to say, once I’d observed a little bit about who was ahead of me, I was ashamed of my own impatience.

When it was my turn, a different employee handed me my food and apologized for the long wait. “It was not a problem,” I told her.

I’m impressed with the level of service that was provided to the woman ahead of me in line. I’m not surprised, because this is Chick-Fil-A, and that restaurant never fails to exceed expectations in terms of service, cleanliness, and food quality. The employees are unfailingly helpful and polite.

Today I will take the time to contact the Chick-Fil-A manager and compliment his employees. And I will take the time to pray for the woman ahead of me in that drive-through line. You never know what someone else’s needs and cares truly are; you never know their circumstances; and sometimes you are kept waiting for a very good reason.

In the coming year

My Secular Franciscan Fraternity held its annual “Extraction of Saints” on Friday evening. This is a beautiful custom and we just love participating in it. In fact, we have members who have moved out of state, as well as the Sisters who no longer minister in our parish, asking to remain included in it. Naturally, we would never turn them away!

This year I was given the virtue of FAITH as the virtue I am to strive to develop. The Scripture that is to inspire me this year goes along with that virtue: “Come to my help, Lord God of my salvation.” And my patron saint for the year will be St. Michael the Archangel.

I’ve heard people say, “Watch what you ask God for–you just might get it!” And every time someone says they need to pray for patience, they are warned that what they might get is plenty of times in which they need to USE patience. So when we host our Extraction of Saints, and the virtue is chosen for each person, that’s the time when we all hold our breath. (Nobody likes to hear “Poverty” or “Fortitude!”)

I know that my husband is very worried about what will happen for people of faith due to the inauguaration of the most anti-life president ever. I know that this is a time in which we cannot hide our faith–we must be sure to let it show, and to work hard to defend it. With that in mind, and calling upon the help of St. Michael the Archangel, I will try to keep the faith and not be shy about standing up for what I believe in.

This will not be an easy year. Obama made that clear by rescinding the Mexico City policy, and there is the threat of FOCA (though cousin Thomas doesn’t think that threat is as imminent as some might believe–read more here.) And we’ve got the Speaker of the House, third in line for the presidency, telling our nation on national TV that federal funding for contraception will be helpful for the economy. That’s right–she has suggested that it will help our nation’s economy if people stop having babies; she contends that educating children is too expensive, as is their health care. Children are the future of our nation, but the Speaker of the House, a mother and grandmother herself, considers them more of a drain on national resources than a gift from God.

I was heartened this morning to hear a teacher at my younger children’s school explaining the dangers of FOCA to our library aide. I am disappointed that my parish has done nothing, however, to join the postcard campaign or even include a bulletin announcement about the issue. So my first step this year will be to contact my pastor and encourage him to do this.

If we take even the smallest action in faith, those actions will add up. They will make a difference.

Winning Isn’t Everything

“I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

Yesterday Big Brother’s track team had a meet against a local rival. Big Brother told me last week, “To the captain of the team, this meet is the Super Bowl.” Both teams were undefeated in the local matches, going into this meet.

But Big Brother’s team was handicapped: one of the runners, the captain of the team who competes in at least 3 events per meet, was injured and would not be running. Everyone was sad for him, that he wouldn’t get that last chance to prove his strength against this other team, and for the whole team.

Big Brother was asked to run the 400m hurdles (1/4 mile) even though he has never done this in practice. (He ran the hurdles during one meet earlier this season). He doesn’t feel very confident about this event, since he has never had the chance to practice, but he agreed to do what was asked of him and he did the best he could.

Track & field is interesting in that it is uniquely an individual AND team sport. Each individual competes not only to defeat an opponent, but also to achieve a new “personal best.” In addition, points are awarded to the whole team for first-, second- and third-place finishes.

I was really impressed with the spirit and heart the team showed. They knew they were missing one of their key runners, but the whole team was in the stands, making noise, encouraging each other, and when they competed, they all tried their hardest. They didn’t win the meet but they have cause to be proud.

Can we say the same? Do we “fight the good fight” in everything that we do? Do we run our races with all our heart, all our energy, all our strength, with our eyes on the ultimate goal? And if we lost our race, can we do so with dignity, and with renewed resolve that next time we’ll do just a little better than our “personal best?”

Serenity NOW!

Over on the left sidebar you will see that the virtue chosen for me this year by our Secular Franciscan Fraternity is: serenity.

I laughed my head off when this was announced. Anyone who knows me is well aware that I am usually anything but serene. So, OK, something to work on.

And I do feel that this year I have been given the gift, the strength of this virtue. I haven’t obsessed and felt anxious to the degree that I usually do over small things. I think that this is the first time in the 8 years or so that I have participated in the Extraction of Saints, and been given a virtue to work on, that I have felt that I’ve improved in practicing this virtue.

Which leads me to today. Tonight is the first night that I will preside over our SFO meeting as Minister of our fraternity. YIKES! I do not feel that leading fraternity meetings is one of my strengths. I’m hesitant to reel people back in when they veer off track (and we have some wonderful members who can veer way off track). Surely I’ll get better at it with a little more experience, but I don’t want to treat my fraternity members like my children or my students. For one thing, these are “more than” my peers–they are my elders; in some cases they are old enough to be my grandmother, and I don’t want to step on their toes.

I also have this dread feeling that I am being “watched” and my performance tonight will be “evaluated.” The last thing I need or want tonight is someone whose purpose there is to give me a report card.

Finally, tonight is our first meeting in our new meeting space, and that means the entire fraternity will be feeling a little unsettled.

So there is no serenity now.

An Open Letter to Martin Sheen


(since I don’t have his home address)

Dear Mr. Sheen,

I recently learned that my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, has chosen to award you its prestigious Laetare Medal.

I really wish they hadn’t done that.

This award is designed for Catholics “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.”

That’s right–Catholics who have illustrated the ideals of the Church. The Curt Jester provides just a few examples of how well you’ve done that–bashing conservatives, backing pro-abortion candidates and giving the weak excuse that you would never deny someone the “right” to choose, particularly a woman of color. (HUH? What makes them different from white women in this regard? Perhaps you agree with Planned Parenthood that these women should be specifically targeted for the grisly procedures that kill their babies.) Yes, you have worked on behalf of the poor, of immigrants, and against the death penalty–but you failed to protect some of the most vulnerable, as well as their mothers.

Remember, Mr. Sheen, you’re not the President. You just played one on TV.

The medal you will receive from Notre Dame carries with it a responsibility to do good work for others and to live by Church teachings. Please learn what your Church teaches about certain matters before you use your bully pulpit to speak about them, because as the winner of this award, you are representing your Church.

UPDATE: Life Decisions International lists Martin Sheen among celebrities who support Planned Parenthood and/or legalized abortion.