Wednesday, June 7, 2023

An Open Book: May 2023 Reads

I hope you all are having a beautiful start to summer! With the entrance of a new month, I'm linking up with An Open Book to look back on the many books that came my way during the month of May. It was a delightful reading month, with a mixture of fiction and nonfiction that kept me edified, entertained, and engaged. It has been a wild week so far, so I'm going to keep things short and simple. Let's dive in! 

Monday, June 5, 2023

The path of joy is uncomfortable

 In the vast stillness of the church building, the Responsorial Psalm rang out solemnly from the pulpit: 

"The law of the LORD is perfect,

refreshing the soul.

The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,

giving wisdom to the simple." (from Psalm 19)

Again and again, the refrain declared: "The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart." 

My thoughts danced around the 10 Commandments and all of the teachings that Christ presents in the Gospels. Yes, these DO give joy to the heart, a deep freedom from sin and the fullness of God's life-but do we let them?

Do we allow God to grant us joy and peace through his laws? 

Monday, May 22, 2023

The Tragedy of Mandatory "Sacrament Systems"

I remember how excited I was when I figured out that I could receive the Sacrament of Confirmation "earlier" than my peers at other parishes. My family had moved to a new state, and many churches in the diocese offered Confirmation for teens who were sophomores in high school. However, the Roman Catholic parish we joined offered Confirmation for high school students every two years--and it just so happened that I would be a freshman when the bishop came to administer this sacrament. With excitement, I tried to patiently wait for the day when I would receive this special outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as the Apostles did in the Upper Room (cf. Acts 2:1-4).  

I was ecstatic to be confirmed, and I was immensely grateful to God that I would be confirmed "early." In my excitement, naivety, and self-centeredness, I didn't even think about how tragic this was: that while I got to receive Confirmation as a fifteen-year-old, many of my friends would be deprived of this sacramental grace for another year. This was just "how the system worked." 

The "system" ("the way things are done here") decreed that the availability of this particular Sacrament of Initiation depended on what parish you attended. 

I had many classmates who belonged to parishes where Confirmation was only offered to sophomores, but these teenagers needed this sacrament just as much as I did. Why did I get the special privilege of not "having to wait" another year? 

The "sacrament system" at our parish worked in my favor.  

When you've grown up Catholic and you've seen things done a certain way for several years, it can be easy to assume that the way things are done is the one right way. If the systems seem to be working fairly well, we can just continue doing what we've been doing. We see no need to change things, so we don't. We attend Mass, celebrate the liturgical year in our homes and parishes, and we abide by the systems that regulate how the sacraments are administered. 

I've found that often, the people involved in the "sacrament systems" have a deep love for God and good intentions. Many times, these people have moved into a job or parish with no control over the existing systems that are in place. They try to do the best they can, with what they've been given. These people--both clergy and lay--offer a tremendous amount of their time and their talent to God, the parish, and the community. I am grateful for their many sacrifices. 

Unfortunately, there is a basic element that--at some point in history--went missing in our conversations about the "sacrament systems": A foundational examination of the Sacraments of Initiation. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Word from a Hermitage: Rest

As I prayerfully spent time with Scripture on a recent silent retreat, I noticed a certain theme that began to bounce back and forth in my prayers, emerging from the passages I read. This word brought with it multiple levels of depth, and through it, God presented beautiful challenges to me. I’m still pondering the various ways that God touched my heart in those twenty hours of solitude, when the sounds that greeted my ears were the happy gurgles of my baby and the low moos of the cows that meandered up to the hermitage's fence. 

In this silence and solitude, I came to God in prayer. I brought names and intentions of many people as the hours trickled by. I breathed in the joyous peace of the hermitage and the land that surrounded it, and tried to listen intently, deeply, to the voice of the Good Shepherd.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

An Open Book: April 2023 Reads

Another month has arrived, and with it An Open Book! In the past month, I dove more deeply into a creative project and struggled through a little bit of a reading rut (it was hard to figure out what I was in the mood for), but I thankfully managed to pick up a few great books-a selection of fiction and nonfiction. Let's dive in! 

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

A Living Church: The Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine

Our minivan chugged down the interstate and I gasped as the twin belltowers came into view: we were nearing the newly dedicated shrine to Blessed Stanley Rother, an Oklahoma farm boy who became a Catholic priest and martyr in 1980s Guatemala. Cries of joy and excitement rang out in the vehicle. After months of anticipation, we were finally here to explore the shrine and attend daily Mass as a family. My eyes began to well up with tears, and only continued to do so as we stepped onto that holy ground. The buildings and grounds were lovely, and the weather was gorgeous, but what choked me up the most was the experience of simply being there: The shrine felt alive!

There were people strolling across the plaza, people walking up the Tepeyac hill replica, people in the pilgrim center and its museum. People moved through the main church in prayer and awe before packing the chapel for daily Mass. 

In the ensuing months, my children and I have continued to visit regularly, and I am still struck by the life here. Even on days when we do not see huge numbers of people, there is still a unique vitality to the Blessed Stanley Rother shrine. From a married couple from South Carolina to Dominican sisters from Texas to the local families and individual people from the Oklahoma City area and the ever-present geese that wander the grounds, there is a sense of joyful renewal in this place.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Tornado Warning

It was a calm and lovely morning. The kids covered our living room in toys as they created imaginative games to play with each other. I drank coffee, worked on writing projects, and played with my baby and toddler. Our neighbor's chicken flew into our backyard, and my kids happily tried to sneak up on it. The weather was perfect for shifting from outside to inside to outside again. 

After lunch, I told the kids that I could watch the street so they could ride bikes. One of my sons cheered, and my kids all dashed outside. I settled on the grass with the baby, and was about to pick up a novel as my preschooler zoomed up and down the quiet street. Suddenly, I heard it: a faint whining sound in the wind. Is that a tornado siren? I wondered. I squinted my eyes, trying to concentrate on that sound. Maybe it was a tornado siren from a nearby area. Or, it could just be someone mowing a lawn. I decided on the latter. 

My kids continued to play as I glanced up and down the unmoving street. And then I heard a mechanical voice ring out over a loudspeaker: 

…This is a tornado warning. Take shelter now…this is a tornado warning. Take shelter now.

 Huh, I’ve never heard a voice accompanying the siren before, I thought. I wonder why—perhaps the tornado is moving especially fast. Should I be concerned?

The voice continued to drone on, naming a tornado in an area just a couple miles away from our home.  

This is a tornado warning. Take shelter now.

“Kids, time to put up the bikes,” I declared as I grabbed the baby.  

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

An Open Book: March 2023 Reads

Another month has arrived, so I'm linking up with An Open Book to chat about what I read last month! I honestly felt like I was struggling to focus and read at some points, but I thankfully still managed to get to some great nonfiction books and a novel! Let's dive in. 

Thursday, March 30, 2023

A PreK Gourmet

 My four-year-old proudly walked over to me, holding a stone aloft in his small hands. “Dinner!” he proclaimed, before holding out the stone, on which lay a selection of mint leaves. I ate a couple, and he scurried off to his “jungle”—a corner of our house that is overgrown with grass, weeds, and some variety of mint plant that I thought had died off long ago.

As my son happily continued to work and play in his “jungle,” nibbling on green onions and mint leaves, my mind drifted to the “local food movement.” With its farm-to-table meals, foraging classes, and countless workshops offering expertise in a variety of topics, there is a wealth of information and resources for people who desire to get “back to the land.” However, I’ve noticed that there also can be a trend to complicate matters.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Teething: a haiku

I have some thoughts and reflections on life and the world that are simmering. 

However, my toddler currently loves hitting the laptop's keys when I'm trying to write, and because all the kids now know how to unlock my bedroom door, there is no place I can hide to blog during the day...except the tornado shelter (which does not have an outlet for my laptop. Otherwise, I may consider it). 

This fact, combined with my total lack of energy thanks to lots of behavioral and physical developments my kids are going through has caused my writing life to be a bit lackluster lately. 

So, instead of a long post about Catholicism, literature, parenting, or whatever else I'd like to rant about, please enjoy this brief poem that was inspired by the lovely springtime and the not-as-lovely bout of teething that my baby is currently enduring ;) 

Friday, March 10, 2023

When God works, can I sit still?

Each week, I find myself in a classroom on our church’s grounds. We often may think of classrooms as places where rows of desks clutter the room and where brightly-colored posters scream out from the walls. Yet, this classroom is different: A low table with a wooden figure of the Good Shepherd and his sheep sits in the middle of the room. A simple prayer table is tucked in a corner.

Against a wall are shelves featuring 3D models depicting different parables found in the New Testament. Along another wall is a large 3D map of the City of Jerusalem at the time of Christ, including buildings that the children can place onto the surface: the Temple, Herod’s Palace, the Tower of Antonia, the Cenacle (upper room). A simple raised map of the Holy Land stands nearby, as well as 3D models depicting the Last Supper and events from the infancy of Jesus Christ.  

There are “practical life” materials and an area with a model altar, a corner of the room includes materials that children encountered at their Baptism, so they may sit and ponder the gifts God showered on them in that sacrament.

This is no ordinary classroom; this is an atrium for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program. Here, tremendous prayer and lessons overflow into the hearts of small children and those of the catechists.