Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mary's first communion

Mary received her first holy communion today. On the feast of Divine Mercy, and the day of John XXIII and John Paul II were canonized. Pretty special day for the whole world! It was really beautiful to hear Father, during the collect, mention Saint John Paul II and John XXIII, for the first time. It made me get all choked up. I glanced back quickly and met eyes with my own John-Paul who is so excited about this day. Fred and I argued about naming him John-Paul while I was pregnant with him, as Fred said we should name him after a Pope, and I said we should name him after a saint. 16+ years later, we have done both! (And my sister Angela was named after Angelo Roncalli and so she is also officially named after a saint today as well!)
Grandma and Grandpa were here to celebrate the special day with Mary and so I'll post a mess of pictures, which will be better than me yammering on. We headed to the Grotto of Lourdes in the afternoon to pray the mercy chaplet, light a few candles for my cousin Steven, and celebrate the day in the sunshine.It was really special!
by our little backyard grotto
Our first girl holy communion
So happy Gram and Grandpa were here!
Daddy's girl
Mary and Pete

only a few more minutes!
with her 20 classmates
Fr. Holiday
Andy and Mary

party time!
Yes, The dress came off BEFORE she ate the cake!
Getting ready to visit the shrine
prayers for Steven
The statue had the right name already!
God is good
Ending the day with ice cream!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Planting Seeds and Practicing Catholicism: a Guest Blog

When Ellie and I discussed my “guest blogging”, I thought about sharing my entire conversion story, which would include my childhood, my wayward 20s and early 30s, and my final realization that I needed to be a part of something bigger than myself and even my family. However, I decided to write an abbreviated entry (yes, this is abbreviated for me) for three reasons:
1. It might take me years to write my conversion story and unpack all the emotions that led me to this place.

2. While my conversion story might be interesting there are more interesting stories here,  and if you really want to want to be blown away by a conversion story, you have to watch Father Donald Calloway, MIC tell his conversion story . It is well worth your time.

3. Not all of the readers of this blog know me, but they all know Ellie. So I am writing with Ellie in mind.

The first part of the title for this entry is “Planting Seeds,” and, yes, it is a reference to the Parable of the Sower in Matthew Chapter 13 . I can say that at all stages in my life, people planted seeds when my heart was the rocky ground, among the thorns, and the fertile ground.  When I first came to the Mount, a seminarian named Tim, now Father Tim, spent hours of his time talking with me about scripture and church teachings, and we attended several masses together; at my friend Paige’s “conversion party” a Franciscan priest named John prayed over me and told me, with great confidence, that one day I would be a member of the Church; Father “Call me Paul” Redmond has shared countless books with me over the years, many of which I have finally gotten the chance to read. Finally, countless “joyful” Catholics have evangelized to me on a daily basis simply by quietly living their faith, even in the face of unspeakable tragedies. This includes Ellie, of course, but also many of you who might be reading this.
My point is this: don’t be afraid to plant the seeds, even if they seem to be on rocky or thorny ground. Plant them anyway. You can do this directly, through an invitation, or indirectly, through living your faith and being a witness to others. Believe it or not, your faith is probably planting a seed in someone’s heart right now. Keep planting. You might not always see the seeds sprout but, trust me, if that person’s heart changes to fertile ground one day she will remember the seeds you planted, even if she never thanks you for it.
On to the second part of my title. Two years ago I watched an interview about Martin Sheen’s movie The Way (if you have not seen this movie you should) on the Tavis Smiley show. During the interview Sheen told Smiley: “I am a practicing Catholic. I just keep practicing until I get it right.” I expect that I will “practicing until I get it right” until the day my earthly life ends, and for that reason I am grateful for the sacrament of confession. Still, we need to remember that even those of us Catholics who are “practicing until we get it right” can be powerful witnesses. What went through Ellie’s mind when I asked her to be my sponsor was, in her words, "No, absolutely not! What is the matter with you Chrissy! You have good examples of Catholic folks all around you every day, I am a disaster. You just don't realize it."  Well, that is not what I had witnessed when I spent time with Ellie. I saw someone who fit the description of what Father Collin Poston called a “joyful Catholic.”  She doesn’t just say God is Love, she shows that God is love through the way she raises her beautiful (and indescribably great) children, through her kindness and patience with them (and me), through her generosity towards her friends and her family, through her virtue, and through the joyful way she does pretty much all that she does (which is too much to describe here—you all know her!). She is like Saint Joseph: leading a quiet life, which few outside of this blog know about. How could she not be my sponsor?
Having said that, I don’t want to be dismissive of how difficult this past year has been for Ellie, and I certainly don’t want to pretend that I really even know how difficult it has been. I cannot imagine losing my mother and my brother in the same year. God only knows how difficult this past year has been. I do know from experience that grief can shake our faith and wonder where God really is in the midst of all of this suffering, even though He is most near us during these times.
So let’s suppose that Ellie the spiritual “disaster” she believes she is. Why did Jesus choose her to plant the final seed that led my fertile heart to the Catholic Church? Why did Jesus tell ME to choose her as my sponsor when I am surrounded by all these supposedly “better” Catholics? Again, I am going on Ellie’s words, not MY experiences with her. If this is true, I think that Jesus chose Ellie for the same reason that He chose Peter to be the first Pope. Peter was not the “disciple whom Jesus loved the most” and, given his behavior during the Crucifixion, he was not the least sinful. However, as Ellie reminded me the night I was confirmed, it was Peter who first identified Jesus as the Christ. He was flawed but his awareness of who Jesus was never faltered. Furthermore, as Father James Martin has so eloquently stated in his book My Life with the Saints, “Peter is among the greatest of the saints because of his humanity, his shortcomings, his doubt and, moreover his deeply felt understanding of all of these things. Only someone like Peter, who understood his own sinfulness and the redeeming love of Christ, would be able to lead the infant church and lead others to Jesus. Only someone as weak as Peter could do what he did” (236-7).  Jesus didn’t choose Ellie in spite the spiritual struggles she has been experiencing, He chose her because of them. He also knew that Ellie knew Him and who He was, even in the midst of her pain. In fact, she knew Him better in the midst of that pain.
So, to Ellie and to her friends and family who read this blog faithfully: first, thank you for reading this, and for helping Ellie become who she is today: my sponsor and lifelong friend. Second, please don’t be afraid to plant seeds of God’s love. You might doubt the person’s heart is fertile ground, and it might not be. You might think you are a “disaster” at this particular time in your life, and you might be. You might think you have no business witnessing to others, let alone being someone’s RCIA sponsor. But remember Peter, and all the other saints who have inspired you, and think about how different our lives would be if they had been too ashamed of their own shortcomings to allow God to worth through them, and with them, to help others, and the saints themselves, grow in their faith.

Yours in Christ,


Sunday, April 20, 2014

My Christmas present came at Easter this year

To anyone who knows me, you know the last year has been marked by great loss. Enough to keep me from blogging through much of it. But God is faithful, especially when the cross is near to us, and I know that. Last summer before Greg, my brother died, I had a conversation with a friend. In it I invited her to join the church.


A little back drop.

Pope Francis had been speaking a lot about how we are supposed to behave as Catholics, and I woke up to the fact I was pretty much failing miserably. Oh sure, I have all the Catholic moves down, but I am a pretty lost soul most days when I am honest with myself ( and P.S. I am always honest with myself). So I decided to make  more of an effort. The worst part about that was that I was pretty certain what to do. I had been getting this nagging feeling for a while that Jesus wanted me to invite Chrissy into the church. I had been ducking behind the "its none of my business" cover every time the thought came into my head. But if I listened to what the Pope was saying, that wasn't really all right. At some point I would be held accountable for that ( you know, the whole 'what I have done, and what I have failed to do' part) So, I decided to I would summon the courage and have the conversation the next chance I got.

And I did. I stumbled through it awkwardly,but I spit the words out. I told her if she needed any help if she did decide to join, I would be there. I walked away from it hoping I didn't sound like the biggest wing nut on the planet. But Chrissy was gracious and said she'd think about it.

And then Greg got sicker, and the conversation faded from my mind along with the sting of feeling foolish. And the days of his life came to an end. And in the midst of grief, it can be hard to find God, not because he is far, but because He is so painfully close. Mid-September he passed. By the following Sunday after a week of painful goodbyes, we were back home. Mindlessly I clicked on my facebook page and saw the message light come on. A note from Chrissy read as follows:

How are you holding up? We have been thinking if you. I started my RCIA classes last Thursday..

I stared at those words endlessly. Jesus might as well have written them himself, they impacted me so strongly. And I thought back to the conversation and scratched my head wondering to myself, did Jesus really work like that? Through my stumbling words, and awkward invitation? Was that possible? And so, cynically I told myself not to get my hopes up, and that time alone would tell. But inside, it felt like Him.

Before Greg died we had a short conversation one afternoon. He wondered if I thought he had changed his life enough to make it to heaven. I told him he had reconciled with everyone, and had the sacraments faithfully, and that yes I believed he was ready. Greg loved the Eucharist, and in that conversation I promised him I would remember him at the table and that I really believed I would be united with him at every mass. He asked me to promise to remember him at communion time. I told him I would.

And I got busy back at life, and school, and sports, and activities while the ache was healing in my heart. And every once in a while Chrissy would mention something more. Or she'd ask a question about the rosary, or the catechism, and each time it caught me off guard as she kept walking forward. She was so quiet and sincere, her questions so thoughtful. I finally told Fred and the kids that the biggest Christmas present I could ask for in a year of so much sadness, was for Chrissy to enter the church. Christmas came and went.

At the end of January she asked me to be her sponsor.

I wanted to say "No, absolutely not! What is the matter with you Chrissy! You have good examples of  Catholic folks all around you every day, I am a disaster.You just don't realize it." But I thought of what I told her last summer "If there is anything I can do to help you, if you decide to join, I will be there for you." Babysitting while she went to classes would have felt more my speed, but I hadn't made that clear. So I said yes. And then we began walking together towards Christ. And there were entrance rites, and scrutinies, and examinations- things was getting serious.

 The love in her heart grew. Her sons and husband all supported every step she took.They were happy for her and excited, and my own family prayed for her regularly and they too were excited. and because she is so genuine it became contagious and renewed my own weak faith. She loved Pope Francis, and we were both inspired by his example, and exchanged articles, and movies, and conversations about saints.

Last night Chrissy became Catholic along with a dozen others in her parish. In the midst of a three hour glorious ceremony, led by a holy, humble priest who was a convert himself, she entered the church.  When she received holy communion  my heart felt such joy, and I thought of Greg and I spoke to him about the seed that had been planted those months before. He felt close to me last night, and healthy, and at peace. As Easter morning settled in, I realized Jesus had given me a belated Christmas present.

For the last few days Chrissy has tried to "Thank me" repeatedly, for helping her along on her journey
( which has just really begun today). And I kept losing the ability to tell her she had it all backwards. She wasn't seeing it for what it really was. It was I, who should be thanking her! But that would have sounded so sappy and pious unless you knew the whole background. As you can see, its a long story. But now, Chrissy, you know. So, welcome to the Catholic Church dear friend. Thank you for your gift of faith. May it continue to bless those around you, as it has already blessed me.

Its a very Happy Easter for me, and also a  very, very, Merry Christmas.

He is Risen.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

The girl and the filberts

Fred was putting the girls to bed tonight. He's been reading them Aesop's Fables lately, a few fables a night. Sophie, he tells me, just wanders around the room, not seeming interested in the least. Oh well, Mary and Sarah enjoy the stories- good enough. Tonight, he read them The Boy and the Filberts  but when he got to the end of the story little miss disinterested Sophia humphed and called out "he should have just dumped the jar upside down, then he could have them all!" and bounced herself into bed.

She outsmarted Aesop folks.

We're in for it.