Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Lenten Thoughts

We're two weeks into Lent. I just loved the Gradual for last Sunday. Not sure if you can read it: Ps. 24, 17, 18. Relieve the troubles of my heart and bring me out of my distress, O Lord. Put an end to my affliction and my suffering, and take away my sin. I kept praying this over and over all day Sunday. And although I'd resolved not to whine about the migraines during Lent, I could not bear the pain nor the discouragement, so failed in my resolve. A wise friend reminded me that we don't get to choose our Lent. I'm so grateful for all who pray for me and listen to me patiently. God hears our prayers and even says Yes when He wills! Praise Him! Every Mass is a healing Mass. I am so conscious of the Divine Physician--His molecules becoming part of my body. Monday morning I knew I'd turn a corner. Today, a glorious spring day that melted away the pain and sorrow of the past 15 days. I was also happy to meet my Feb. deadlines!

Monday was also Max's birthday. It's strange not having him home to celebrate. But I wrote a meditation and it's a gift. I don't know whether he's had a chance to read it, but I hope he does. This year I purposely chose to write the Daily Gospel Reflection for dates having some meaning for me--the kids' birthdays and our acceptance into the Church. I find it amazing that even when I've chosen random dates, the Holy Spirit always leads me to choose what I need to learn the most.

Anyway, I'm going to attempt another round at detoxing from the painkillers. I never take the same thing more than two days in a row but it's ridiculous when you take something every single day, even if it's just an aspirin. It's not normal. It's frustrating when all the things you try work for a while and then stop. I bought a TENS unit (read the 2nd review--it's hilarious) but my hair was getting in the way so had it cut short. Not thrilled with it, but it's Lent and I can give up vanity too.

I hope those of you who are celebrating Lent are finding yourself growing closer to Jesus. And if you've failed at your Lenten resolutions, begin again and again. Tomorrow's a new day!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

An American Tragedy

News of the school shooting in Florida was sickening. This type of tragedy is typically American and people are quick to blame the gun. Yes, but there's a person behind that gun. And that is whom we have to address. A few years ago, at the thrift-store I picked up We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. The moment I began to read the first pages, I knew I was in the hands of a master storyteller. The premise was good--nature vs. nurture, a mother's sorrow of the crime her own flesh committed. Layers upon layers. And the end is devastating--it is even more horrifying than what I knew at the beginning of the book. It is a descent into hell getting to know Kevin. He is probably the smartest person in the whole book, but he's evil. A psychopath. I think perhaps we all should read this book if we want to understand how these killers are made in our society. 

Our pastor gave some good thoughts on the first Sunday of Lent. We heard the powerful account of how Jesus was tempted in the desert before He began His public ministry. We need to repent, re-form ourselves into Christ, start over--give up sinning, bad habits, bad attitudes. Believe in the Gospel. Father spoke about how each and every one of us has to change, so that the change can come about in our communities and our nation. First, we have to reform how we care for the mentally ill. Many are in prison; many are homeless. Second, our attitude towards guns. How is it that an 18-yr-old can buy a military-grade weapon? Third, our media glorifies violence. Fourth, the family is being destroyed; many children do not have a stable home environment. Fifth, we live in a culture of death. We have lost respect for life. He said something very interesting: Evil is always crazy. It's the absurdity of sin--we choose to sin even though we know it won't make us happy. So change begins with each and every one of us.

Archbishop Chaput said it best at the end of his short statement: “This is Lent. As a people, we have a lot to repent and confess. And let’s not lie to ourselves that tighter gun restrictions — as vital and urgent as they now are — will solve the problem. We’ve lost our respect for human life on a much broader scale, and this is the utterly predictable result.”

I'm praying for all of us to have a blessed and fruitful Lent. Saint Francisco and Saint Jacinta, pray for our children and pray for us!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy St. Valentine's Day

Putting on of Ashes, Missal à l'usage de Saint-Didier d'Avignon, c. 1370 
Memento homo, quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris:

Remember man, you are dust and to dust you shall return.

The children's writing community is shaken from the allegations of sexual harassment. But we are no different than others in the entertainment industry. Just because we write about bunnies doesn't mean that we haven't breathed the same air that puts Hugh Hefner on a pedestal. We live in a culture that objectifies women and women are sick of it and finally pushing back. But until we can see people as people and stop using them like things, nothing is going to change. 

Although I have never been harassed at a writer's conference (there are perks to being older and wiser), I have observed and heard inappropriate comments by the few men in attendance. I was grateful that it wasn't as bad as it was in academia/science where women were in the minority. Alas, these days, in our efforts to be just like men, it's not unusual to hear equally crass jokes from women. Sigh. I do hope that bringing this infection to the surface is going to allow us all to heal. Lord, help us to stop sinning.    

The antidote is, of course, real love. In the preparation for Lent we heard the passage from 1 Cor 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.  It's fitting that this St. Valentine's Day falls on Ash Wed. I include a link for a wonderful article on dying to self for love. Wishing you a happy St. VaLENTine's Day. God bless.   

Friday, February 9, 2018

Immaculee Ilibagiza -- Light and Salt

Last Friday, we had the wonderful opportunity to listen to Immaculee Ilibagiza, author of LEFT TO TELL, a miraculous story of hope and forgiveness during the Rwandan holocaust of 1994. I'd read the book a few years ago when a good friend recommended it to me, and then Max read it in his Theology class. We both agreed that it's grace from God that allows a person to forgive such heinous crimes. Briefly, in 1994, when the plane carrying the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi was shot down, within the hour, Hutus began killing Tutsis. It had been well-orchestrated. The world did not intervene to stop this massacre--I remember hearing the news and could not understand why nobody would stop the killing--and by the time they did, three months later, 1 million people lay hacked, shot, or burned to death. It was neighbor against neighbor. People forgot their friendships. Immaculee says hatred masked any and all love and the truth. She prayed what Jesus prayed on the Cross, "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do."

This short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzuK_NXyE8U gives a good summary and this slightly longer one shows how and where Immaculee, along with other women, survived:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7Od6V6Z3ug  and this short article explains the conflicts between the two so-called tribes. And our local newspaper did a wonderful write-up of the event.

Briefly, Immaculee's parents were prominent teachers in their community, devout Catholics. People came to them for advice but they only had their faith. She said that her father told her to go to a Protestant preacher's house. He was Hutu and would keep her safe. He put her in a tiny bathroom (3 ft x 4 ft) off his bedroom. She said, "I can't stay here. It's too small." But no matter. Things can always get worse. He returned with five more women. And later still, with two more. They had to be absolutely quiet and they stayed like that, sitting, standing, sleeping on top of one another for 91 days! The preacher would bring a plate of food whenever he could and the eight women would share the meal.

After a week, she was fed up with the fear and anger and sorrow in her heart. The preacher kept a radio in the bedroom so that they could hear the news. Private radio stations were used to propagate hate. They were giving away prizes for the most number of Tutsis killed.

She had the presence of mind to ask for a Bible from her protector. He gave her one and she already had her father's rosary. Prayer brought peace. She prayed many rosaries each day. I loved how she explained it--the rosary is simply meditating upon the life of Jesus with His mother Mary in a very organized manner. And Mary really teaches her to pray--to pray with her heart. She'd being with "Our Father" and get stuck.  "Are we really all His children? No, no, no. Not the evil people who are trying to kill us. Alas, they too are God's children and He loves them." That simple "our" helped her to see her would-be killers as her brothers. In our Lord's Prayer, we ask to be forgiven as we have forgiven those who've trespassed against us. This is the verse that she could not pray. So she skipped it. However, Our Lord is very patient and eventually Immaculee was able to ask for the desire to forgive and later was able to forgive those who killed all her family (except for one brother who was out of the country at the time).

She told a very interesting story about Our Lady of Kibeho. It is the only Marian apparition that has been approved on the continent of Africa and the message from our Lady is not just for Rwanda or Africa but for the whole world. She appeared to three young girls and encouraged them to pray from the heart, take the faith seriously, and to love one another. She showed them visions of what would happen--the massacre--if the people did not turn to God. Immaculee remembers this from the time she was a child, how the girls shook from the terrible visions they had. This was twelve years before the massacre.

This is the same message of Fatima--return to God. But we don't listen. Immaculee is trying to change that. She is light and salt with her message of hope and forgiveness, without which there can be no peace. Parce, parce, Domine! 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

An Interview with Me

Hello friends, hop on over to the website of David Alan Binder to read an interview with me. I get to feel like an expert for just a few hours. I don't actually know how people find me and I should've asked that but I do appreciate getting to know other writers. Oh, another thing. I lied. Perhaps you'll catch it and share in the comments.  

We are fighting the flu here. Or rather, Dagny is. I'm trying not to catch it. I've been disinfecting keyboards and doorknobs because of my many years as radiation safety monitor in the Membrane Group  lab. I'm hyperaware of how things get contaminated. Your pointy fingers are the worst at spreading everything. All you sick people, sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.

As you can see, we have the best help! Our furry friends teach us to rest, smell everything, and go for the soup. Please pray for us. Thank you.