Saturday, March 30, 2013

Christ is Risen from the Dead! The Easter Homily of St. John Chrysostom

Let all pious men and all lovers of God rejoice in the splendor of this feast; let the wise servants blissfully enter into the joy of their Lord; let those who have borne the burden of Lent now receive their pay, and those who have toiled since the first hour, let them now receive their due reward; let any who came after the third hour be grateful to join in the feast, and those who may have come after the sixth, let them not be afraid of being too late; for the Lord is gracious and He receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him who comes on the eleventh hour as well as to him who has toiled since the first: yes, He has pity on the last and He serves the first; He rewards the one and praises the effort.
Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness. Let no one grieve over his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no one weep over his sins, for pardon has shone from the grave; let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free: He has destroyed it by enduring it, He has despoiled Hades by going down into its kingdom, He has angered it by allowing it to taste of his flesh.

When Isaias foresaw all this, he cried out: "O Hades, you have been angered by encountering Him in the nether world." Hades is angered because frustrated, it is angered because it has been mocked, it is angered because it has been destroyed, it is angered because it has been reduced to naught, it is angered because it is now captive. It seized a body, and, lo! it encountered heaven; it seized the visible, and was overcome by the invisible.

O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? Christ is risen and you are abolished. Christ is risen and the demons are cast down. Christ is risen and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen and life is freed. Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of the dead: for Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the Leader and Reviver of those who had fallen asleep. To Him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Submit a Question!

My big girls (13 and 12) would like to write a guest post and ask you to submit a question you would like them to answer. 
Their post will be entitled "Being a Catholic Priest's Kid"
Feel free to write your question for them in the comment box below or email me at

The Light of the East

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Even The Good Priests Disappoint: holy tears and the gods of exclusivity & bureaucracy

Recently, there have been two good but disappointing priests in the lives of my extended family. They are 'good' because they follow the precepts of the Church, are dedicated to their ministries and are faithfully celibate.  But they are disappointing. There are many readers who say that I have no right to write anything negative about the Church and her priests, but souls are on the line. They say that it does not do to tell stories that might scandalize a non-Catholic. But does it do any good to sweep sin under the rug? We believe that priests can help us, through the sacraments, find our way to God. When they fail in their vocation, it can have serious consequences for us simple lay people. I hope these stories will inspire any clergy reading that they can do better!

One priest got to know a distant family member who became sick with cancer. She was living at home with her parents, and this priest helped them through their frustrations over the 'liberal' parishes in the area. He gave them the Holy Eucharist to adore in their house and told them that he understood that they would be putting their souls in jeopardy if they attended a 'liberal' Mass. He wasn't there when she died of cancer. He wasn't there to bury her; luckily the local priests were liberal enough to anoint and bury a non-parishioner. 

The other priest is worse, in my opinion, because he has bound himself to the god of bureaucracy, not just exclusivity. One of my sisters has become very close to a mother and father of more than five children. They want to become Catholic. They already go to daily Mass frequently, wear scapulars and pray the family Rosary. They get media from EWTN and National Catholic Register. The parents are using the Catechism of the Catholic Church to teach the homeschooled little ones.

This family already knows their Bible; they were Bible-emphasizing, non-liturgical Protestants. Their denomination does not perform baptism of any kind, so even the parents are unbaptized. The parish priest in question did not allow them to take RCIA classes for this Easter's vigil because they missed the first meeting in August. The entire family will have to wait almost two years for any sacraments. The family will remain unbaptized (a sacrament that any person who conforms to the sacrament's form can perform) for another year because they did not realize that the god of bureaucracy sometimes trumps the God of mercy.

The parish priest is a 'solid' priest who has six altar boys bring in hanging lamps to guard the Gospel during its reading at a simple daily Mass. The parish is as traditional as a 'normal' Novus Ordo parish can be. It is a mega-parish with over eight well-attended masses on Sundays. Their weekly collection equals what we collect in a year. But all this is mammon when we refuse to help the least of these. And if we believe in what the sacraments do, the non-baptized are the least of these- even if they have rosaries in their hands.

I understand well that a priest cannot run himself ragged or he will have nothing left to give to his parishioners. But this priest is withholding sanctifying grace from over seven people. Is there no room for compromise with the god of bureaucracy? perhaps he could perform 'just' the baptisms now and wait until they jump through the hoops of classes for the rest of the sacraments next year. But he cannot give special treatment. Or can he? Won't he look to the example of Pope Francis, while Archbishop in Argentina, who baptized seven children of a poor widow? Is there no mercy?

and the 'holy tears portion' of my title? Those would be my husband's...tears of exhaustion and awe...
We went to Mass yesterday morning. It was Roman-rite, so the readings were not for the Annunciation. But it was still a day of obligation for us Byzantine Catholics. 

My husband got choked up when he elevated the Holy Eucharist and had to sniffle his tears back.  Occasionally he gets emotional at this time, thinking of the good God does in our lives and gift that the True Presence is. I just hope that the believers can respect that he loves the Lord in the Eucharist and excuse an infrequent retreat into a bit of emotion. He certainly does not want to be 'that priest' who disappoints the faithful for any reason. It is a difficult task he has set before himself.

So I didn't ask him about his emotion until hours later. He said he got teary for the 'usual' reasons. But he also was disappointed because the Feast of the Annunciation was moved until after Easter in the Roman-rite. If it fell on Holy Thursday or later, I could better understand the move. Yes, dates are arbitrary and God is timeless, but Christmas is December 25th on our calendar. Pray for him!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Annunciation Before The Cross

Today is the beginning of our salvation,
And the revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
"Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!"
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.---Luke 1:26-38

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Forgotten Pope- Some Thoughts on Holy Fathers John Paul, Benedict & Francis

I was at the edge of my seat, first watching EWTN online and then listening to the radio while I was getting Boy from Kindergarten. Francis! 
He's the third Pope I have known. Perhaps it is silly to feel anything personal for a man who lives across the ocean and leads more than a billion people. He certainly doesn't know me. But I suppose it is the human condition to be selfish and apply massive historical events to our own small lives.

I felt a kinship with John Paul II. He was already Pope for a long time before my family became Catholic when I was 12.  When he was in Los Angeles for World Youth Day, I was a part of the youth choir in Portland, Oregon. We did a satellite hook-up and I got to sing a solo for the Pope (a verse of Flow River, Flow- Fr Z would not be pleased). He was the perfect Pope for my youth. John Paul also lifted the indult against ordaining Eastern Catholic married men in the United States. We are here in the United States because of him.

John Paul and I were also 'together' in suffering. We lost our baby boy 20 weeks in utero less than a month before John Paul died. The morphine-aided labor with this baby was more painful than my previous two successful labors that had been drug-free. So, I named the baby John-Paul. That name hadn't been our plan if the baby had lived, but I felt that only Pope John Paul could understand my pain at that moment.

So, Benedict's election was ignored by me. I didn't watch any of the coverage. I didn't listen to any radio announcements. I didn't realize this until I was reflecting on the conclave that elected Francis. Slowly, I got to know Benedict through his writings and exciting developments such as the Anglican Ordinate, Summarum Ponticum, and the corrected English translation for the Roman rite. He is well-loved in this household and remembered in our prayers. 

Even though we miss Benedict, I believe it is a beautiful thing that Francis has Benedict here on earth to pray for him and to perhaps advise him. And both Benedict and Francis choosing these names show a return  to a monastic sensibility- a spirituality that I believe is necessary when living a holy celibate life. 
Many blessed years in health, happiness and holiness to both Benedict and Francis!
Blessed John Paul- pray for us!
(as usual- this post is not even 10% of the thoughts swirling in my head- maybe I will update...or at least edit...but I am a mom before blogger!)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Five Favorites....for now

1. All I can say right now- these beautiful sisters show...
2. In case you have missed my recommendations...I love listening to pray-as-you-go and Fr Z's Lenten Podcasts for some Lenten listening. And no- I don't find these two podcasts to be in a battle with each other.   We are Catholic, no? 

3. This is my favorite scene of any movie, anywhere.
The video is missing the line "I know your face...," but pop in your dvd to relive the magic. I'm sorry, but pity was 'worth it' for Gollum, but for Grima? A little jail time would have been good for all.  Rohan forever! I am definitely a second movie person- Empire Strikes back is my favorite from the other trilogy. 

4. We have been plugging away through Lent, food-wise. I have loved the 'green soup' from the book LoveSoup- so many great meatless ideas! Read this article for inspiration...basically saute onions with garlic, then add any greens (I've used spinach, kale, broccoli, anything from the veggie box), boil with potatoes for silkiness and then puree. Add salt, herbs, and a bit of lemon juice. I've added croutons made from old bread to contrast with the soft texture of the soup. It's very good- a splendid way to use up vegetables before they belong in the compost pile.

5. and for some not-so-serious girlie fun, my favorite perfume is Manifesto. That, or some rose oil...I can't abide any notes of musk in my perfume at all...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Just a Leprechaun Trap

because I can't take the seriousness of the's a little kindergartener's project to catch a leprechaun...
and yes, we will be enjoying corned beef this Sunday...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Throwing Priest's Wives Under the Bus

or The Grass is Always Greener
or What Would You Really Do if You Were Celibate (notice my usage of the subjunctive)

Fr Dwight Longnecker, former Anglican priest and now married with children Roman-rite Catholic priest, wrote a beautiful post titled Celibacy, Lust & Love last week. And then this exchange occurs in the comment box...
Fr Longnecker said: The superiority of celibate priesthood does not negate the good of marriage for a priest. My marriage is happy and my ministry as a priest is happy, but without denigrating marriage at all, my priesthood would be even fuller and more dedicated without the responsibilities of wife and family.

I said: This is the conclusion that I don’t understand- HOW does having a wife and family diminish your ministry? Is it because you can’t run off to Haiti at a moment’s notice?... because all priests I know get about 8 hours to sleep and then 4 or more hours a day that are not directly related to ministry.

Do you feel diminished because you sometimes think of your wife during a staff meeting at school (she’ll find what Mr. X said funny…I have to remember to tell her during dinner…) instead of thinking of the latest Mass collect? Is your ministry diminished because you decide to play Nerf guns with the kids instead of staying another hour at the chancery…talking shop with fellow clergy after the meeting? Is your ministry diminished because you decide to grocery shop with your wife instead of golf with buddies? I’m not ‘anti-celibacy’ by any means…but let me tell you- the fact that my husband has to support wife and family makes him wake up at 3 in the morning to go anoint someone at the hospital…passing 8 sleeping celibate priests on the way

Fr Longenecker responded: By being free to not be concerned at all about money and also being free to live more simply and move anywhere instantly.

My question now is: Speaking generally to all married priests with these dilemmas-  Would you really be free to not be concerned about money and would you really move anywhere instantly if you didn't have the responsibilities of a wife and family? Or is it just a thought- knowing that being burdened with wife and family makes it impossible to change ministries instantly- Not that you would ever do that. 

Priests, married and celibate, are given faculties and assignments by their bishops. A priest can request a change, but it is the bishop who makes these choices. So priests very rarely "move anywhere instantly." 

I understand the financial concerns that come from being responsible for others, but a priest, married or celibate, is responsible for himself and ministering to all of his parishioners. Remember when Pope John Paul II installed a swimming pool in the Vatican? Some were scandalized by the supposed decadence, but most understood that the health benefits of swimming would be beneficial for the Pontiff. It is the same way with the local parish priest. All of the celibate priests I know have housekeepers, cooks and gardeners. Why do they receive these benefits? He will be available to minister to the people and so he will be physically capable of ministry. This is why a priest who is "worth the wage" receives a stipend for his ministry. If he doesn't eat or receive medical care, he cannot minister to the Church. 

Of course, we can talk about simplicity. And yes, there are some priests, normally monks who are in strict observance communities or the even rarer hermit, who live on almost nothing. But the run-of-the-mill Catholic parish priest receives housing and a salary. Depending on the ability of parish and diocese, these celibate priests can receive much more. Yes, he can compare himself to other professions which require a Master's degree and feel like he is living in relative poverty, but the typical parish priest makes much more money than the very rare missionary to Haiti.

I feel the lesson is this: everyone should accept and develop their lives depending upon their vocation and not advocate against their state in life. It is ungrateful to be otherwise. Fr Longnecker's public thoughts of being a more devoted priest if he weren't with family responsibilities is unfair. While he can advocate for celibacy in general, theological terms, the specifics of his situation should be positive only. I know these are strong words, but he is ungrateful in that he is a minuscule exception to the celibacy requirement in the Roman-rite. I understand that some married priests want to stay 'under the radar,' so don't mention your marriage at all. We all have misgivings and frustrations with our state in life, 

Have you ever met a mother who is vocal about her preference for the opposite sex that her baby turned out to be? The baby is all dressed in blue, and the mom sighs that she's disappointed that she doesn't get to buy all the cute pink ruffly clothes. I must confess that I find that attitude really disturbing. It's one thing to say 'a girl would be fun' before the sex of the baby is known, but when that sweet baby is in your arms, he needs your total acceptance and love. 

What if your husband was having second thoughts about being married to you? What if he fantasized about being married to the girl he dated before you met him? What if he published a Facebook status update like: "I would be a more devoted husband if I didn't have to deal with Sarah's lupus. I could have devoted more to my career if Maria had married me." Devastating, no? 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My Pretty Happy Funny Real Briefcase

I thought this fabric bucket-of-sorts was very 
pretty when I saw it at my sister's house....and I was very 
happy when I got it as a hand-me-down (we call it a 'permanent loan'- reserving the right to ask for it back even though we never is just easier to say goodbye to stuff that way)... I suppose my begging for it and her giving it to me with the permanent loan string attached is 
funny of us...
so what is my real?
This is my briefcase for my teaching job. I teach four evenings a week, 1 hour twice and 3 hours twice- so only eight hours, but teachers know that the mental energy of teaching takes up many more brain hours...
It finally occurred to me that if I am working 4 evenings a week, making dinner together impossible, I would have to make a change. Now, I try to have breakfast on the table at seven so we can share a meal together. 

Quit the Snark: In Defense of "Christian" Music & Being Uncool Non-Hipsters

One of the best priests in my life, a Franciscan monk named Father Augustine of blessed memory, would say in his Irish-American, Midwest voice that was just..his voice...- "Negative humor is from hell....(wait a bit.....glare at listeners.....wait a bit)...Leave it there!"
We miss you, Fr Gus! Pray for us!
But it seems that we Christians are missing this lesson. We get embarrassed when others see us as optimistic and innocent. Negative humor and negativity abound in this age, and Christians are falling into line with the spirit of the age. My evidence (very anecdotal, I admit)?..

Can we just stop it with the tobacco, please? Is this a hipster thing? Or is it a cool way to slowly waste away? So many of the Catholic men I know smoke. They like to claim G K Chesterton as their model. Well as much as I love Chesterton, he lived in a time before every single medical study says that tobacco is of no benefit to the human body...yes, I know that a pipe looks cool, but...and I'm sorry- cigarettes are just gross. And Chesterton didn't have a brood of ten children who were depending on his livelihood and support. I think it might be a dirty little secret of negativity and feeling overwhelmed among a certain group of Catholic men with children who hang out with single men and smoke and drink to claim their masculinity.  I also find it ironic that this small subset smokes to be 'politically incorrect' when President Obama, who they detest, smokes cigarettes!

But Mostly- in the tiny part of the blogosphere that I visit, there has been a little rebellion against 'Christian' music. Bad Catholic doesn't like music that is labelled Christian. Marc Barnes writes in his post '5 Reasons to Kill Christian Music': 

"1. Writing a “Christian” song reduces Christianity to a modifying adjective.
The well-intentioned creation of the Christian genre deems Christianity as equatable with as any other genre, like “Easy Listening”. Thus our earth-shaking, intellectual and faithful assent to the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is degraded into a choice amongst equally labeled choices: “R&B”, “Rock/Pop”, “Christian”, “Soundtrack”. (Circle which one doesn’t belong.)
A Christian genre insinuates that Christianity is the modification of a pre-existing reality. “Oh, you have music? Well here, have Christian music.”
But Christianity is reality. It makes a claim that we come from Love and are destined for Love, and that this is the very nature of every human being’s existence. Such a claim cannot modify music, it can only be the reality from which all our music springs." continue at Bad Catholic....

and Blimey Cow riffed on subset of this music subset with their parody of worship music:
and Simcha published a reader's question: What is some good music for my twelve-year old that is not Christian music? I got some terrific ideas for new (to me) music in her comment box, but the question bothered me. 
Because I am not against 'Christian' music. In fact, we listen to Air One (oh no! Positive, encouraging! - I assume it is the same company as KLOVE, but we don't have that in the area) and the classical music station exclusively at home and in the car. Sometimes, I play my Pandora stations that have a mix much like Simcha's combox recommends, but I got tired of running to turn off a scary news item of no benefit to myself or the children. And yes- does my five-year old need to know the English words in Gangnam Style? Now he knows to sing 'Hey.....PRETTY lady!' I'd rather have Bible verses and cheesy chord progressions going through my and my kids' heads. 
There is a place for Bad Catholic's thesis- all music is Christ-centered so 'Christian' music is unnecessary...but...I can't wait to read Marc Barnes when he is a husband and dad. I guarantee his opinion will change when he catches his precious little ones singing 2025's Lady Gaga equivalent of 'Alejandro.' 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Merely Players: A Shakespearean Life

"Sit by my side, and let the world slip: we shall ne'er be younger.”

Daughter #1 as Bianca
Daughter #2 as Petruchio
"Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign, one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labour both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe,
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks, and true obedience,
Too little payment for so great a debt."

So the girls performed their play last weekend and did an amazing job. I'm surprised that Taming of the Shrew is still performed; it isn't very modern to come to the conclusion that wives should appreciate their husbands.
This is their sixth year in the Shakespeare program, and the sixth year I haven't paid for the dvds. I didn't buy the dvd for their six Nutcracker ballets, either. I didn't pay extra for official choir photos. I didn't buy them flowers. It can exhausting, all the extras. Shakespeare is certainly not as bad as ballet. 
The Nutcracker costs $200 for each dancer (while they are also paying for classes). Tickets to the actual ballet cost $25 per person. Then, parents buy ballet telegrams and flowers to be delivered at intermission. It is obvious which parents don't treat their dancers. Then, photos and dvds can be purchased. And the audience is given a lecture before every performance, "Ticket sales only cover one third of the cost of renting the theater; please donate extra..." I have no 'Catholic guilt,' but parental 'I-refuse-to-pay-one-more-dime-when-gas-is-almost-$5-talk-about-blood-from-a-turnip' guilt. We have to be satisfied with the snapshots I take and the memories they make. In any case, they did splendidly well. HUZZAH!

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Simple Woman's Daybook for March

Outside my window...the orange tree is in bloom, so I'll pretend it is Spring. It's abnormally hot here today; the swings in temperature are really the only thing that gets me reaching for the Tylenol. Now, I'm just waiting for the Santa Ana winds...headache, here I come!

I am thinking...about the sister-in-law of one of my sisters who is gravely ill. Please say a prayer for K., won't you?

I am thankful...for employment and I am praying hard for those I know who are unemployed or under-employed. Lord have mercy! Here we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, yet the 'equalization board' just raised the gas tax (yes- highest in the nation...but not the best roads that's for certain).

In the kitchen...I am trying to use up the vegetables from our CSA box. 

I am wearing...a green top and gray pants...nothing interesting

I am creating...yet another tofu recipe

I am be a stage mama this weekend. 

I am wondering...if everyone has seen this album about Pope Benedict- beautiful and informative- even if they did use the comic sans typeface 

I am reading...just Family Fun and National Geographic magazines...I really need to get into some spiritual reading for Lent, but my brain is weary...

I am finally see Les Miserables next week- it was out of the 'normal' theater three weeks ago (!), so I am hoping it will soon make it to the 'cheap' theater. It wasn't my intention to wait this long, but time got away from us...

I am looking forward to... my Spring Break from my college classes...shhh...don't tell my students, but the teachers like a break, too! It is disappointing that it is during Lent, but that's okay. I'll take what I can get.

I am AncientFM. Try it; you'll love it!

Around the house...big girls are trading naptimes, trying to get over their colds and coughs before their Shakespeare performances this weekend.

I am pondering..."I would like to invite everyone to renew firm trust in the Lord. I would like that we all, entrust ourselves as children to the arms of God, and rest assured that those arms support us and us to walk every day, even in times of struggle. I would like everyone to feel loved by the God who gave His Son for us and showed us His boundless love. I want everyone to feel the joy of being Christian. In a beautiful prayer to be recited daily in the morning says, “I adore you, my God, I love you with all my heart. I thank You for having created me, for having made me a Christian.” Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith: it is the most precious good, that no one can take from us! Let us thank God for this every day, with prayer and with a coherent Christian life. God loves us, but He also expects that we love Him!"- Pope Benedict, yesterday

A favorite quote for today...“I am a pilgrim who is beginning the last part of his pilgrimage on earth.” -also Benedict

One of my favorite things...Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm -have you tried it?

A few plans for the rest of the week: The Taming of the Shrew! Daughter #1 is Bianca and Daughter #2 is pressure, girls! And then we will watch Kiss me Kate with well-buttered popcorn.
A peek into my day...