Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Family - Sticking Together No Matter What

It's hard to define family nowadays. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and situations. When I was growing up most families were about the same. Nuclear, mom and dad, kids, the dog. Once my friend's parents separated for a summer and then got back together. It was very exciting and romantic. All the makings of a soap opera but with a happy ending.

When my youngest was in grammar school, a cute little boy in her class had a less romantic story. Her father had murdered his mother and was now in prison. The little guy lived with his grandparents.

With all that can and does happen, it makes sense to find out about your relationship's family before making any commitments. But hardly anyone does. Love is supposed to "take care of things". We don't want to be suspicious because it makes us seem petty and small. Plus, what can happen?

Turns out, plenty. In the case of my daughter's boyfriend, a real doozy. Zach is still here with us and may be for another month. For now we are court appointed guardians in charge of daily baby care, his preemie appointments, and taking Elizabeth back and forth so she can see him. Our dog Trixie pictured above is brings Zach's pacifier when he cries.

Why do we do this? We are a family. We do not give lip service about how family oriented we are and then back off when things get tough. Plenty of people do this. I call them fake families. They look real on the outside but inside resemble stage sets made out of plywood. Many families, even good Christian Catholic ones turn their backs on daughters who made bad choices with men. But would Jesus?

Bad people can enter our lives through many means. Evil is a relentless stalker and we have no immunity. Some people believe that if we are good, God is somehow obligated to give us a happy and prosperous life, safe from evil. What malarkey!

If evil is destined to touch us somehow what can we do as a family? The glue that binds a real family is love. Love for each other in the love God has shown to us. It is a privilege, not a chore to give to each other. Forgive, wipe the slate clean regularly, and circle the wagons around those in danger. If we love, truly love someone, we participate in their destinies. Wherever that may take us.

There are not as many verses in the Bible about happy family making as one would imagine. Most of them deal with honoring and obedience. Jesus gives the example for us to love through sacrifice. We can learn and be inspired about real love from Him.

Love never fails...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summer is coming! Let's choose to still dress modestly.

Standards of Modesty in Dress
Imprimatur dated Sept. 24, 1956
"A dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat; which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows; and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees.  Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper."
The Cardinal Vicar of  Pius XII

I always know summer is around the corner because the church bulletin has an announcement that requests (basically pleads) for girls and women to dress modestly for Mass during the summer months. I always found it weird that one must be reminded to not wear revealing clothing to a sacred place for worship. Not trying to be judgmental or anything. Our culture has alot to do with it.

But how much? Shouldn't we instinctively know that showing our cleavage, midriff, and most of our legs is not appropriate? And I am going to go out on a limb and say not just to Mass, but anytime.

The quote by Pius XII may seem outrageous to some but these are almost the exact same rules we had at my private, all dress wearing high school. The only difference is that we were allowed to wear short sleeves above the elbow but no tank tops under any circumstance. They would send you home.

And you know what? We managed to dress attractively in spite of these restrictions. We respected ourselves and the guys learned how to respect us also. Women were not created to be objects.

What are some excuses we hear for dressing immodestly:

The way I dress is my business. If anyone has a problem with it, too bad.
Actually, as long as you are in public, the way you dress is everyone's business.

I can't help it if men look at me.
Isn't that what you are going for? Don't deceive yourself.

It's what is in my heart that counts, not what I am wearing.
Very true. What is in your heart when you choose to dress like a hoochy instead of a lady?

It's too hot to dress modestly.
In the desert countries that is exactly what people do to keep cool.

I'm too young to dress like that. It's time to flaunt it!
Youth is a time to start learning to make good decisions and develop a healthy self-respect. It will stay with you the rest of your life!

Modest means frumpy and I won't dress that way.
It does not have to mean frumpy! You can dress very attractively and still be modest.

I don't own any modest clothes.
Start with a couple of skirts. Make sure they are at least slightly below knee length. They come in every color and fabric under the sun and you can usually pair them with a simple top. If you have trouble finding a modest top try a nice tee shirt that is not skin tight or see through.

Let us respect our churches and our Mass. Dress appropriately.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Postpartum Depression

It’s been a rough month. A few weeks ago we took Zach home with us and he has remained these last three, going on four weeks.  We didn’t know what to think. My daughter had her on-again off-again boyfriend move in with her when he showed up for the birth. She honestly thought it was the right thing to do. Idealism at its most deceptive.

We were against it. If he wants to live with her he can marry her, we figured. Not that we wanted that, if we were honest with ourselves. He was not someone we want in our family despite his being our grandchild’s father. My parents were not so hot on a marriage either when they met him. The guy gives off a bad vibe.

On the one hand we are devout Catholics, believe in family, and especially believe in the sanctity of human life. Zach is such a blessing. We also know this guy is no good. And he has spent the last six weeks proving how “no-good” he is.  Things culminated when he threatened to kidnap Zach. We got him that night and a few days later a judge ordered him to stay with us until this matter is resolved.

Now something is off with my daughter. At first she missed him and came down on her days off work to be with him. Now she doesn’t seem to want to see him. She told me she is too busy to come up this week. A whole week! We know something is wrong. Really, really wrong.  

I spoke to some of my CNA pals at work. They have been along for the whole ride from pre-eclampsia, preemie birth, to here. They believe my daughter has post-partum depression. Of course, why didn’t I think of that! Who wouldn’t be depressed after all she has gone through?

Now we just need to get her some help. I know it won’t be easy but we will persevere. Things are still unresolved with the boyfriend which is a bummer. But at least we know where to turn.

"charity beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Living With Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality by Esther de Waal

Life does not add up:  the longer I live, the more that is brought home to me.

     This book is recommended reading for Benedictine oblates at the Mt Angel abbey near my home. It speaks of our deep need to be healed and whole in life. Indeed, the world gives us many books, classes, and ways in which we can be healed once and for all. The Benedictine way shows us how to find balance and rhythm in living with the contradictions, unresolved issues, and paradoxes of life.

The greatest paradox of all is the paschal mystery; Christ's death and resurrection.

The Christ on the cross is the ultimate contradiction, holding together the vertical, pointing towards the Father, and the horizontal arms stretching out to the world. This is the Christ to whom St. Benedict is pointing.

     We need not be caught between naive hope and meaningless despair. This book emphasizes contemplation, service for others, and balance within myself and my relationships. Listening rather than imposing our own agendas helps us to love and appreciate others.

     Another aspect of Benedictine spirituality is humility. Humility is facing the truth rather than hiding behind illusions and self-deceptions. Humility is letting God be God. Shedding false ambition and pride and other destructive tendencies is the beginning of real communion with God.

     This is the first book I have read on Benedictine spirituality and found it quite liberating. It does not deny the tough stuff, try to gloss over pain, or give simple answers to life's often agonizing questions. So much of the Christian healing seems steeped in denial and it was refreshing to see St. Benedictine's way does not go down this same tiresome road. I am looking forward to reading A Guide to Living in the Truth: St. Benedict's Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Saved In Hope: Spe Salvi by Pope Benedict XVI

"... it is the great hope based upon God's promises that gives us courage and directs our action in good times and bad."

     Saved in Hope is Pope Benedict's second encyclical to the Catholic Church. For those who don't know, a Papal Encyclical is a letter addressed to the bishops or a wider audience regarding a matter of doctrine or significant issue.

     The title is taken from Saint Paul who wrote "in hope we have been saved" and speaks of the courage to face the challenges of life with the hope that comes from knowing God.

     But it goes much farther than that. Pope Benedict talks about our responsibility to be a community as opposed to having a individualistic faith. He speaks of how individualism is prevailing with the help of "reason" and "progress" brought about by enlightenment theories starting several centuries ago. Faith in God turns into faith in progress which can lead to terrifying consequences which he calls "the perverse end".

If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man's ethical formation, in man's inner growth, then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world.

   The Pope is not opposed to progress. In fact, he encourages Christians to use technology for the purpose of doing good. Benedict answered questions online during a Good Friday service and will be calling the Endeavor, led by mission commander Mark Kelly, while it is in space. However he feels that moral growth must match that of progress in order to truly differentiate good and evil.

All serious and upright human conduct is hope in action.

     Absolute love exists with absolute certainty. I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me. Hope survives our own personal failures and even a "breakdown of historical significance."

Only the great certitude of hope that my own life and history in general, despite all failures, are held firm by the indestructible power of Love, and that this gives them their meaning and importance, only this kind of hope can them give the courage to act and to persevere.

     I cannot say enough good things about this inspiring book. I highly recommend it to my fellow Catholics and Christians from other faith traditions. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I've Ordered Some New Books!

We are putting most of our tax return into savings. But we decided shoes for Jim, a sewing machine for me, and a few goodies would not put our finances out of whack. I wanted to expand our Catholic library just a bit and here are some good deals I found. I loved the stories of the Desert Fathers and others from the first few centuries. The Fathers includes Saint Clement, Bishop of Rome, Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Origen of Alexandria, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Basil, Saint Gregory Nazianzus, and St. Maximus of Turin. I can't wait.

God is Love got great reviews. It seems like such a simple concept but so many miss it. Here is a quote from the book.
"In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant. For this reason, I wish in my first Encyclical, to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us, and which we in turn must share with others."

Pope Benedict's second encyclical takes its title from St. Paul, who wrote, "In hope we have been saved". A good quote from the book is...
Hope enables us to look to the next life, but it also inspires and purifies our actions in this life.

As a Catholic and lifelong Christian, I am baffled by some of my brothers and sisters in Christ and their absolute unwillingness to modify their beliefs in the seven-day Creation story. It has become so dogmatic that they actually piggy-back belief in God onto it! I saw this book and thought, thank God. I can't wait to read this.

I love the Divine Office and am slowly learning to be faithful to it. Truthfully, it goes in fits and spurts. I wanted to see what Phyllis Tickle does with it. My husband and son get up in the middle of the night to deliver papers and I am up early for work. The Night Offices intrigues me since I have never prayed them. This will be a new experience for me.

I am excited about my new books. They should be trickling in one by one for the next couple of weeks. Perfect!