Lent Day 43: Not Doing It

Wednesdays are traditionally the glorious mysteries.  I finally got back to praying the Rosary today after a gaping hiatus caused by a succession illness (it is a physical act, and thus requires one or another physical abilities), chaos, and inertia.

What was on my mind as I prayed was my inability to accomplish certain tasks before me, and thus my reliance on God to take care of them.  This is a good problem, because relying on me is not the wisest course, and in any case the tasks are God’s.

Here is a miracle, to give you an idea of the scope of the whole thing: I made a craft.  Not just any craft; one that required both bright colors and straight lines.  Also, I had to do it with supplies that I didn’t have spares of, which meant everything had to be done exactly right the first time.  No sane person assigns me a job like this.  Just never.

So anyway, I get around to the fourth glorious mystery, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Do you know what our Lady did during that mystery?

Nothing.

Just laid there.  Didn’t lift a finger.

God did it.

This seems to be the way it works.  Want me to conceive the Messiah? I can’t do that Lord, but however you want to handle this go ahead.  Out of wine?  Son, could you take care of this please?  So you’re saying the plan is that you’re going to die on that cross–? I’m just gonna stand here, and you figure out what the system is.

It’s not that Mary does nothing.  It’s that she does only the part she can do, and lets God worry about the rest.

 

***

Request: If you have a charism for bringing empty jars to the attention of our Lord, please consider joining the newly-formed Catholic Evangelization and Discipleship Intercessory Prayer Team group on Facebook.  It’s a closed group, but any member can add new members.  If you are in the work of discipleship or evangelization and would like people to pray for your mission, please join and post your requests.  (Also: Introduce yourself and I’ll add you to the pinned post of who’s who at the top.) Thank you!

 

File:Albert Cornelis - Assumption of the Virgin - ES BRHM BPV 009 12.jpg

Artwork courtesy of Wikimedia [Public Domain].

 

Lent Days 31 – 42: Enough Already

There are a few spares in the “forty” days of Lent, which makes up for some of the ones you might have skipped.  Most years Lent doesn’t begin on the first of the month, so it’s not as obvious.

I was aware already of the way that attempting a Lenten penance can show you your weakness when you keep slipping up.  You try to carry out some small laudable act of prayer, fasting, or almsgiving, and even that is too much.  You are smaller than you thought.

More stark: When you stick to the penance but flail miserably at ordinary life.  Not because the penance sunk you — quite the contrary.  Rather, because you just aren’t ever all that good at carrying out ordinary life.

***

Outside of Lent, little lapses hide more easily.  Big lapses are robbed of their sting, clothed in busyness and festivities.   When all your actions are played against the bare purple curtain, the holiness-failures are radically more obvious.

Things I’ve learned:

  • If I have to push, push, push through a bunch of logistical challenges — not problems, mind you, just the challenging side of carrying out some good and desired goal — it wears me down.  I run out of willpower.
  • What I think of as my “ordinary prayer life” requires my ordinary life.  It requires pockets of silence and privacy and extra energy that I normally schedule into a typical day.  Even if the way I “schedule” is to shove a rosary in my pocket and pray it during the silent half of never-the-same kid-errands, the space is there.  When the space isn’t there, I’m sunk.
  • Being more tired than usual means I can’t do as much as I could when I’m less-tired.  You’d think by now I’d know this, but I’m a slow learner.

And the killer: My sins run in packs.  Circumstance A leads to Pressure B which leads to Reaction C which transmorgifies into Capital Sin C which, don’t let the name fool you, engenders I-can’t-believe-I-did-that-and-I-don’t-want-to-quit-either sins D, E, and F.

One of the St. Joseph’s Baltimore Catechisms for children reminds us that “venial sin is worse than the measles.”  Oh yeah.  This is worse than the measles for sure, and the measles are bad.

It’s like I can’t save myself.

 

File: Crucifixion of Jesus, Russian icon by Dionisius, 1500.jpg

Icon of the Crucifixion courtesy of Wikimedia [Public Domain].

Lent Day 30: What Makes Me Happy

Do you know what makes me happy? Getting good writers matched up with venues worthy of their work.

More to follow.

(What doesn’t make me happy? Rain so heavy that when a truck splashes by you can no longer see the road.  At all.  I don’t care for that.)

File:S-Bahn at Hauptbahnhof Berlin.JPG

I just like this picture.  Photo by Martin Falbisoner (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Lent Days 24 & 26-29: The Size of Solidarity

The highlight of the week for L. and I was doing laundry.  We visited and helped out at one of those places where homeless people can come and take a shower and get their clothes washed.

“We aren’t the only game in town,” the director told me.  There were charts taped to the wall with a catalog of services offered in the area — other shower places, where to find clothes, meals, shelters, everything.

It was good we were not the only ones at this, because the place was small: Two showers, three washers, three dryers.  One small combination waiting-and-laundry area, then the private bathrooms in the back, a storage closet, and that’s about it.  In the space of a morning, perhaps a dozen people came through.

By the end of the morning I was convinced we were exactly the right size.   There were enough people that if you wanted to mind your own business you could, but few enough people that there was time and closeness for conversation if you wanted that.

A lady told me the story about when she was five years old and she wanted to run away, because she was mad at her father for not letting her join the Brownies.  She asked her mother to come along, since she’d need someone to cook.  Her mother agreed. They slipped off early on a Saturday morning, but then out in the yard her mother remembered she had a phone call to make before they left.

“Don’t go back in there! Daddy will be up!  He’ll see us!”

“No, I’m sorry. This is an important phone call.  I have to go back in.”

“Who do you have to call who’s so important it can’t wait?”

“Santa Claus.”

“What?! Santa Claus?”

“That’s right.  I have to tell him not to stop at our house anymore, since you won’t be there.”

“Oh.”

“And the Easter Bunny.  I need to call the Easter Bunny, too.”

Having considered the repercussions, the little girl decided maybe they should stay for now.

If we had more space and more showers and more rooms, it would turn into an assembly line.  There’d be separated stations for each step of the process.  The waiting area would be larger, and washing and drying would be in another room.  Maybe folding in yet another room.  You’d barely get to know anyone.

It’s easy to be friends with a hundred or even five hundred people, but it’s impossible to make friends except one at a time.  You would miss that story.

File:Illustrated front cover from The Queenslander December 15 1937 (7960424470).jpg

 By State Library of Queensland, Australia [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Lent Day 25: Suscipe

The Annunciation should be a bigger feast than it is.

The chocolate chip cookies at lunch were especially good, but I assure you I say this for theological reasons.  I mean seriously, kids: It’s the Annunciation!  It’s the re-beginning of EVERYTHING.  Sheesh.  Festivate!

Also: St. Ignatius is the man.

More also: We’ve got some mighty good priests in this country.

And that’s all for now, back to the feast.  Have a good one!

 

File:Caravaggio - The Annunciation.JPG

Of course I picked the Caravaggio.  I couldn’t be expected to do anything other, once I learned it existed.  View the image detail, the better to feast upon.  [Public Domain, via Wikimedia.]

Wikipedia, by the way, has a nice article on the word suscipe.

Lent Days 21 & 22: St. Joseph Delivers the Goods

St. Patrick may have declined on the green candy, but St. Joseph came through with Krispy Kreme.  He came Monday afternoon, in the guise of our crazy-happy-Catholic friends who stopped by to pick up a child from a homework-date, and held out a dozen hot-doughnuts-now.  Can I help it if the Church in her wisdom made Monday a solemnity?

No I cannot.  If you’re going to observe the fasts, be in on the feasts, too, or you aren’t so much a Christian as a Stoic.

So I was obliged in Christian duty to welcome the doughnuts with delighted gratitude, and you’ll be glad to know I did my Christian duty wholeheartedly.

Would St. Joseph Bring Home Krispy Kreme?

There are of course wrong-headed people in this world who have been deceived into believing Some Other Doughnut is a better doughnut, but that is not the question I mean to address.  All we can do for those people is pray; reason has nothing to do with it.

We can, however, reason out the question of: Was St. Joseph the kind of father who’d bring home the doughtnuts?

[Insert for the word “doughnut” the 1st-century counterpart: Some kind of scrumptious but utterly uneccesary low-budget treat that young Jesus would have jumped up and down when He saw it coming, and the Blessed Mother wouldn’t have minded if she did, thank you Joseph, what’s the occasion?]

I argue that he was.

Mary, being preserved from sin, would have been careful with the money.  When she shopped, she would have had in mind the hours and strain of the work Joseph did to support the family.  She would have looked for ways to make the feasts festive, yes, and she may well have had some small savings from her own work that she used for the odd splurge for the family.  But I don’t imagine the Holy Family was overloaded with junk food.

And that, in turn, would give St. Joseph his opening for bringing home the doughnuts.

He who put in the long hours, and worried about savings, and was well aware he’d need money for lumber to patch the roof next autumn — he was a normal man.  Mostly he’d want to make his wife and child happy by providing the daily necessities; but sometimes he’d want to show up at the house at the end of a long day and pull out the donuts.

 

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, original, out of the oven and on the conveyor belt about to be glazed.

Photo by Neil T [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.  FYI if you like less-sweet doughnuts, when the “Hot Doughnuts Now” light is on you can request a dozen “Original Glazed” un-glazed and they’ll pull them off the line for you at the point shown in the above photo.  Take them home and top them with whatever you like.

 

Lent Day 20: The Things You Learn About Yourself

 Just woke up the boy. Called through the bedroom door, “You are 6 feet, right?”

Tired boy, awake but not ready to join civilization, “Ymnf.”

“Need to know for your passport application.”

He is. Minus one inch for E (they just went back-to-back last night), and the two littles are a mystery.  We’ll have to measure.

[I am, meanwhile, praying the youngest gets tall enough before our trip to no longer require a booster seat in Switzerland.  One less hassle.  So if that prayer is answered, she may be traveling on an already-outdated passport.  All kids do, one hopes.]

Held my breath and put down “brown” for E’s hair color — I can never decide if it’s dark blonde or light brown.  Put down blonde for myself, which it is, mostly, but with the amused awareness that it’ll no longer be that by the time the new passport expires.  My eye color was debated for years — blue or green? — but at 15 standing in the passport office we all agreed on grey with a yellow circle around the iris pupil, hence the confusion.  Grey they are still.  Also I’ve grown half an inch (taller) since my last passport, I know because last fall when we were measuring kids we measured me too.

Thankfully the State Department knows better than to ask your weight.

Oh, you wanted to talk about Lent? Scott Reeves has you covered, as usual.  Self-examination of the deeper sort.

Passport application from 1922.

Scanned passport application, circa 1922. US passport office (US passport office) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Click through on the Wikimedia link to see whose it was. Ha!

Lent Day 19: Is it Pink Yet?

My deep thought for the weekend: I wish it were Laetare Sunday.

Nope.  Not yet.  But it is the feast of St. Joseph, so I was practically obliged to have some of that Lenten cheesecake.

Also, I wore my pink sweater to Mass in solidarity with all the people who think it would be nice if we sprung forward a week.  Which led to me to thinking, during Mass, that sometime we should organize a practical joke in which everyone shows up wearing the color associated with a holiday that is not on that day.  Red on a week that is not Pentecost.  Green on July 4th.  Something like that.

Someone do it and report back, please.

Also: I should be paying better attention during Mass and not thinking up practical jokes.  Even if they are related to liturgical or saint-themed colors.

Brown and grey-black floppy-eared rabbit. File:Mini lop.jpg

If the rabbit sees his shadow, four more weeks of Lent. Photo by Franie Frou Frou [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

Lent Day 18: Catholic Childhood Memories

From St. Patrick’s Day:

Child climbs in car, we’re driving to the Catholic homeschooling co-op for drama class.  Late and having rushed out the door, as per usual. “Mom, are you wearing green today?”

“Yes I am.  I have my green sweater on.”

“Shoot.  I’d better find something green.”

Mother, feeling resourceful: “Want to borrow my green scapular?”

“Um.  No thanks.  I’ll clip this green hand-sanitizer holder to my belt loop.  That’ll work.”

 

More St. Patrick’s Day:

Same child, having solved the green problem and moving on: “St. Patrick was supposed to come last night and leave us candy.”

Skeptical mother: “Oh was he, now?”

“Or green toys or something.  Or a leprechaun comes.”

Mother, still skeptical: “Oh I see.”

“It’s okay.  He can come tonight instead.”

 

Then, Saturday morning . . .

“Mom. St. Patrick forgot to come last night.”

Mother: “St. Patrick doesn’t come to our house.”

“Or a leprechaun.  All my friends get candy from the leprechaun on St. Patrick’s day.”

“All your friends, eh?  What are the names of those friends?”

Hems and haws for a moment, then clarifies that it’s actually her sister’s friends.  “All of A’s friends at St. Urban’s get candy.”

“Oh do they?  What are the names of those friends?”

“Um. Well there’s Benedicta.”

Mother is not surprised.  Benedicta’s mother is like that.  “Anyone else?”

“And Assumptua.”

“Isn’t she Benedicta’s sister?”

“Well, yes.  But they both got candy. The leprechaun comes to their house.”

“The leprechaun doesn’t come to our house. Good try.”

 

Good problems, Catholic School edition:  When your child is sobbing and begging to be allowed to go to school, and swears she really isn’t that sick.

 

Weird problems, Saint Books edition:  

Bored child: “Mom, do we have any of those little saint books but that aren’t about  someone who becomes a monk or a nun and all they do is pray?”

Mother chooses not to argue, though there may have been a slight eye roll.  “Um.  Let’s go look.”  Thumbing through the shelf that contains middle-grades saint books, Mother pounces on St. Isaac Jogues, who was neither a monk nor a nun.  “How about this one?”

Child frowns and shakes head.  “No.  I want one of these saint books.”

Ah.  Well.  In that case . . . “How about this one?”

“Is it boring? What did he do?”

“He got tortured by Indians.”

“Okay.”

Saint Isaac and the IndiansSaint Isaac Jogues -- With Burning Heart

For all your tortured-by-Indians needs, book covers courtesy of Ignatius Press and Pauline Media.

Lent Day 17: Cultural Propitiation

Next best thing to selling indulgences* is writing this:

Begging here – if anyone is looking for an alternate penance so you can have your corned beef for St. Patrick’s day, I’ve got you covered . . .

Sure is handy living in a dispensed-with-conditions diocese, when you’re in a pinch for nursery workers.

I’ll probably skip the St. Patrick’s Beast-plate myself.  Reason?  Compared to cheese pizza for dinner, the other prospects for penance are more annoying and less convenient. But it’s nice to have a meat-card in the pocket just in case.
File:Ballinasloe St. Michael's Church South Aisle Fifth Window Sts Patrick and Rose of Lima by Harry Clarke Detail Patrick Preaching to His Disciples 2010 09 15.jpg

If ever there were a day for Catholics to complain about “cultural appropriation” it would be today.  Okay and also Christmas, Easter,  St. Valentines, and Rosaries-as-Gang-Signs, but St. Patrick’s is right up there on the list of Catholic Things People Have Distorted Beyond Recognition.  Hey, guys, a saint!  Who nearly starved to death in slavery!  Who risked his life to evangelize the people who wanted to kill him!  Let’s get drunk on bad beer, that’ll show our love!

Not that Catholics are above that sort of thing, you know  — weirdly slipping into mortal sin just when they meant to be doing something right for a change — but still.  The word saint is right there in the title of the holiday, there’s no real hiding the part about this being a Catholic feast day.

But you know what Catholics don’t do?

We don’t go around saying, “Hey!  Are you actually the slacker child of a late Roman-era British patrician Christian family, who was kidnapped by barbarians, had a conversion experience, escaped with divine aid, went to Gaul to be ordained, and returned to Ireland to fight fire with fire in overcoming the persuasive power of the druids?  No? You’re not??  THEN NO GREEN BEER FOR YOU.”

Okay, so not all of us love the green beer.   What is even in the green beer?  Don’t drink that.  But here’s how Catholics feel about our vast collection of holidays and customs and cultural traditions:  The more the merrier.

That’s a doctrine.

It’s our job as Catholics not to hoard our faith but to share it with prodigious generosity.

Well, yes, if you insist on keeping the feast by breaking the faith, we’re going to have a few words about how to clean up your act.  But we aren’t going to tell you to keep your grimy hands off our religion; instead, we’ll show you where the washroom is.

We don’t keep our faith by carefully guarding it for the pleasure of the select few.  We keep our faith by giving it away.  What we have is so good and so big and so explosively powerful that a trillion-billion people could all be in on it, and it would only be more authentic, not less.

 

File:St Patrick Purgatory.jpgFile:Heidelberg cpg 144 Elsässische Legenda Aurea 338r St. Patricks Fegefeuer.jpg

Here are some pictures of purgatory.  That’s what people used to draw when the topic of St. Patrick came up.  It’s because of this place, which is the pit where we throw all the people who serve bad beer with creepy fake Irish accents.  

Artwork in this post:

*PS: I don’t approve of selling indulgences and neither does the Church.  That was joking.