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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Theology of Sacramental Bookkeeping

When I began this job as the Coordinator of Children's Catechesis for a large Catholic Parish in California, I had limited understanding of what my role would entail.  In fact, I had no idea what my job would be and since my hiring in April of this year I have learned more than I could have ever anticipated.  For the first time in many years I feel as though I am fully engaged in life - body, mind and soul.  I am working for The Church.  I make very little money.  It doesn't matter, because  every day I discover a deep and loving theology behind each of the tasks my job encompasses.  I am truly an important, though small, part of a great whole.

Recently we completed 'Sacramental Season'.  With the exception of a few little ones who will be receiving in August, the majority of our children received either their First Reconciliation (went to confession for the first time) or their First Holy Communion (received the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the first time in their lives!) during the past few weeks.

The First Holy Communion (FHC) kids looked so wonderful.  The girls, dressed in white dresses and veils resembled little brides - Brides of Jesus - while the boys looked so handsome in their formal attire.  I made it a point to tell all the boys that if men knew how darn handsome they all look when they are dressed in suits and ties they would wear them swimming just so they could always impress the girls.  They laughed, but I saw that some of them got what I was saying....every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man.

If all we had to do to make this occasion special was have them show up dressed to the nines, walk down the aisle and receive Our Lord my work would have been over the afternoon of June 10th, 2017.  However, that is only the beginning.  The real work begins after the Sacrament is received.  It is then that the information is entered into the Sacramental Registers for the Parish, certificates are created, seals are made on those certificates and they become ready for distribution to the Faithful children to keep forever.

I really did not know how important this work was but God provided me with an angel, a former RCIA Director who offered to come and help with the task.  This wonderful woman (a Persistent Widow, just like me) trained me, my Office Assistant and an eager volunteer in the task of Sacramental Bookkeeping.

There was more than training involved.  My Angel imparted to the three of us the importance of the work we were doing.  Covered specifically by Canon Law, the recording of Sacraments received must be done in a specific and special way.  The names must be correct.  The Baptismal information must be correct.  Without it, or if not correct, a person could be prevented from future Sacraments until the information is substantiated.

In March of 1995, the book How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Thomas Cahill was published.  I purchased a copy for my father that year as a present for Father's Day.  In the book, Mr. Cahill argues that the Irish people, specifically Catholic Irish Monks, preserved information essential to the history of the people of Ireland, Scotland and the rest of Europe while Rome was being overrun and collapsing.  These devout and devoted men, in particular St Patrick, St Augustine of Canterbury and St Columba (of Loch Ness Monster sighting fame)  "single-handedly refounded European civilization throughout the continent." (p. 4), according to Cahill.

This might not seem important to a lot of people today; to me, I see the significance because I often read on social media  an attempt by people with specific political agendas to re-write history.  Example: recently, a man I know insisted that Napoleon hired Michelangelo to paint over all the artwork that depicted Jesus as an African man.  The fact that the two men he wrote of lived close to 300 years apart does not deter him from his insistence that evil White European Men destroyed the 'truth' that Jesus Christ is a Black man, and that this was done in order to keep Africans down.  This is a result of either poor scholarship or way too much marijuana - either way, it shows me that there is importance to keeping accurate records.

This importance is more than simply historical.  There is a theology surrounding this task.  Each day I correct another certificate, each day my office assistant re-checks my work against our records or makes another phone call to verify spelling, we find ourselves caught up in the Sacredness of our task.  The beautiful volunteer right now stamping Father's signature on each completed certificate, and then sealing it with the Seal of The Church, is doing something holy.  We are the modern day version of those devout, Irish Catholic Monks.

We are living the teaching of The Church that all work is important.  All tasks done for the Glory of God mean something in His Kingdom.  We are not just 'the people in grey' like the Kinks sang about - we are doing something lovely and important and meaningful in God's House.  Our work matters - WE matter - and our determination to do it well and the lack of 'oh no not again why can't this be over' just indicates to me that the Holy Spirit has permeated our chores. 

We love what we are doing.

Most of my life I wanted to matter....to people, to my family, to my husband, to someone.  Today, because I took a chance and answered an ad in the Church Bulletin I get to be a small part of a greater whole.  I get to do something that was done with love and determination and a sense of higher purpose by Irish Monks and Missionaries and prisoners and Catholics hiding in Catacombs.  I get to preserve the information of the People of God.

Sacramental Bookkeeping - whether you are an ex-rock and roll wild child in California or in a monastery in Scotland, it means something.

I am so glad I get to be a part of this today.  I am forever grateful.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Awards

Tonight I will gather with others in a Parish Gymnasium to eat dinner and accept an award for being a  Catechist for 15 years.

I am pretty sure I won't be giving a speech, just as I know for a fact there are men and women getting honored tonight that have been passing on the Truth of the Faith far longer than this kid.

If I was going to give a speech, I would give thanks to God for sending His Son to found a Church that helps me walk towards heaven.

I would also thank my Mom.

Yeah, yeah...I know.  EVERYone thanks their Mom when they win something or make a touchdown or round the bases for home.  

However, I really am thankful for my mother.  She was raised a nominal, Cultural Catholic in a farming community.  She is the first person to state she was not well catechized as a child.  Yet she sacrificed a lot to make sure her only children received their Sacraments of Initiation and learned The Faith.

What did she sacrifice?

Mom became a divorcee in the early 1960's.  I was the only child of divorced parents at my little Catholic School and I will tell you the majority of the kids in my class were cruel and nasty.  I won't go into it - it is water under the bridge and all is forgiven - but my Mom struggled to maintain her integrity in a world that was changing fast. 

She did just that - maintained her integrity.

Mom never dated.  She told our parish priest that just because her husband would not honor his marriage vows did not mean she wouldn't and she embraced her vocation of Motherhood with her whole heart and whole soul.  Mom told me she was mocked for being so devoted to her children.  Her only support was her family and her best friend, Harriet.  She took her children to Mass.  Her son was an Altar boy.  Her daughter sang in the choir.  We prayed every day at home.  She received the Sacraments because she lived the life Holy Mother Church told her she needed to live.

Both of her children strayed.  One came back.  Not bad - batting .500 - better than a lot of the SF Giants this season.

Today my mother is 95 ½.  She is tired and she is sometimes disgusted by the world today but she is still Catholic.  She reads my books on Dominican spirituality and the saints and she never stops learning.

I am glad I get to be a Catechist today - but I am deeply grateful for the life my mother modeled for me and my brother.

I have big shoes to fill.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Time Travel and History

Recently a friend on FB posted that Napoleon hired Michelangelo to paint over all the art that depicted Jesus as an African or a Black man.  When I pointed out to him that Napoleon lived almost 300 years after Michelangelo he dismissed me with a 'thanks for your two cents".

This got me thinking about all the claims being made regarding 'fake news' and 'alternative facts'.  It seems to me, and I may be wrong, that despite our being able to access more information than ever before in human history we still are having a difficult time figuring out truth from lies.

Read anything on FB today and you are obligated to do so through the lenses of your own particular prejudice.  People of intelligence who are well educated can hear the same Senate testimony and come to wildly divergent conclusions as to what was said.  An intelligent African American man can be given proof that Napoleon and Michelangelo never met and, because it is a white woman giving him that information, dismiss it because it does not fit his own particular narrative.  Even worse,  people read these posts and because they trust the people posting think they have been given new, secret information previously withheld from them by some sort of international cartel of horrid truth killers.

Things were not quite so polarized 25 years ago when I was making my way home to the Catholic Church.  By the time I was ready to test all that stuff the nuns had taught me at Christ the King and Carondelet I could go http://newadvent.org/ and start reading.  The internet offered me the chance to learn from a reliable source about the Early Church Fathers and Mothers.   I found myself becoming more and more mesmerized by Early Church History.  What I did not know was that the fires of my Baptism and Confirmation were being fanned alive by the Holy Spirit.  What had begun as a challenge to find out if those nuns had lied to me so I could worship Jesus just like those FIRST Christians did became a journey into a spirituality that is deeper and wider and more mystical than any I had ever known - and I went to Berkeley in the 1970's!

Coming alive as a Catholic happened as a result of my reading and listening to radio shows like Catholic Answers.  In particular, I was lulled back into The Church by people like Jerry Usher, Tim Staples and Jimmy Akin.  There was no slightly snarky behavior, no attempts at humor that was hurtful but could later be excused because the person who heard the remark is somehow at fault because "they didn't hear it right".  I remember one time being incredibly impressed because someone called in and chastised the host at the time for their tone of voice, saying to him that he sounded so smug and self-righteous.  The host did not try to justify anything.  The host simply said, "I am so sorry if I sounded that way.  It was not my intention.  I hope you can overlook my sinfulness and not let my bad behavior steer you away from The Church".  I almost stopped my car on the freeway.  I was in awe.  Such humility.  Such love.  No "but" to that apology. 

I have not always been the best at evangelizing - in fact, I am pretty sure I am the reason some people will never be Catholic - but I know that my bumbling attempts at sharing the Truth have improved.  I am a better Catechist today.  I am a better Catholic today.  I even apologize better today.

What I fight today is my need to be liked and loved.  That need is diminishing; however, it rears its ugly head once in awhile especially when someone shoots a verbal dart my way.  Hurts, it does.  Why?  Simple - they don't think I am wonderful.  ACK...how dare they?

Seems to me that the striving for humility must be a never ending mission for anyone trying to walk the path of Truth.  Without humility, one can start to believe their own BS...they can fall prey to the sin of pride and start to want to be like God.

You know...that whole Original Sin deal.

Keep me in prayer everyone...and let's send up a prayer for The Warriors tonight.  It would be nice to sweep, but let's remember that pride goeth before a fall....even in basketball.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Forgiving When They Stepped Over the Line

The latest public freak out is over Kathy Griffin, a just-barely famous entertainer who currently is well known for hosting a NYE show on CNN with Anderson Cooper.  I think she used to be a stand-up comic but I am not sure.  I barely remember her from guest appearances she did on the old Seinfeld series.  What I remember from that is that she stunk. 

I am not the person to give you any kind of critique of her talent or her career.  As previously stated the little exposure I had to her as an entertainer did not impress me.

I did see the horrific video splashed all over social media of her holding what appeared to be the severed head of the President of the United States, dripping blood.  It sickened me.  I was shocked and I immediately clicked it shut and will not look at it again.

The backlash does not surprise me.  People in the entertainment industry have lost lucrative and/or rising careers for much less.  Michael Richards was blacklisted for using the 'N' word during one of his routines.  Billy Bush sat and listened to then-candidate Trump discuss his piggish actions towards women and lost his job as a result of not leaping to his feet, shouting, "HOW DARE YOU, SIR?" and stomping out of the trailer.

On the other hand, there are Pedophiles - both homosexual and heterosexual - still in power in Hollywood despite the death of a Cory and the vague accusations of another.  It took almost 50 years to bring to light the actions of Dr. Bill Cosby but there are NFL players with 11 children scattered across the country all because they impregnated as many different women as possible and they are held up as role models for little boys trying to get out of poverty.  A former President is accused of rape and sexual assault and the women who make the claim are vilified by the same people who screamed with horror at the tapes of the Billy Bush Interview of Trump.  Their response to a man in power abusing women?   They knitted little pink hats to wear in marches to 'resist' the current President.  Their reaction to Mr Clinton abusing women while in a powerful position?  They still swoon when he walks into the room.

If any accusations are made against a Catholic Priest it is front page news but suggest that there is something horrific about what is going on in the Public School System because of the number of teachers who cannot seem to keep their pants on around junior high and high school kids and the wrath of the Teachers' Union shall fall upon thee.

We are, in this country, definitely twisted when it comes to what we consider wrong and what we consider right. Maybe we always have been, I don't know.  I mean, we can pine for the 'good old days' when we prayed in school and everyone saluted the flag and I will remind you that Once-Saved-Always-Saved Upstanding Deacons in the Baptist Church threw bombs into the basement of a Southern church where the people worshiped the SAME way they do.  These same Christian Men  blew up little girls in that basenent because those little girls were the wrong color.  Start talking to me about how wonderful the familial systems of Native Americans are and I will be glad to tell you the story of St. Kateri Tekakwitha who had the NERVE to want to be a Catholic and, as a result, endured  physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the natural and enlightened members of her tribe.  And why is it I never hear ANYONE talk about Black Elk the Holy Man of the Lakota Sioux?  Oh yeah, I forgot - wrong religious choice again....quick, let's pretend he never existed.

My personal experience has given me an interesting perspective.  I made some really dumb choices in my life, both before, during and after my reconversion to The Faith. I have been forgiven by Jesus and His Church but not so by many of the people in my life.  I accept that as just punishment for my sins and I am okay today with who and what I am.

The choice made by Ms. Griffin was beyond dumb.  It was even beyond 'poor taste'.  However, before you all tear your clothes in lamentation, let's be honest.  She is not the first person to show incredibly ugly aspects of her personality when it comes to criticizing a President she does not like; just ask those women who called Mrs. Obama a gorilla in a skirt.  Ask the men and women who  made sexual remarks about her husband loving a monkey to make her daughters.   Some of those people were public servants.  They thought they were so clever, so funny....and they revealed themselves to be degenerate scum, not much different than Ms. Griffin.

What makes Ms. Griffin's choice so awful is the absolute disconnect she showed between what is going on in the world today and her 'right' to voice her opinion.  To hold up a 'pretend' severed head in a world that has been subjected to the videos of Islamic Fascists doing this for real shows she is either completely cut off from reality or she is as dumb as a box of rocks.  To think what she was doing is ART is one of the reasons Artists are laughed at in the world.  I mean, come on....Picasso you ain't, girly.

And now, of course, she has a lawyer (Gloria Allred's daughter, Lisa Bloom) and she is crying about being 'bullied'.   She is crying that the Trumps are ruining her life.  She is talking about getting death threats.  She says he 'broke' her and her lawyer is suggesting that Mrs. Trump was out of line to question Ms. Griffin's mental health.   Are you kidding me?

Ms. Griffin says she is the only person in the history of the United States to experience this type of backlash - you know, kind of like Mr. Trump's assertion that he is the only politician in the history of our country to be so horribly treated.

Golly, megalomania looks awful on everyone..doesn't it?

I believe that she has received death threats because that is how we roll today as a society.  What I cannot believe is that she is surprised or shocked to have received death threats.  For the love of all that is holy, Ms. Griffin, where were you when Leslie Jones was driven from Twitter for no other reason than she is a strong, tall, beautiful Black American woman?  Did you honestly think the trolls and those as scummy as you would not LEAP on this opportunity to go after YOU?

Now...the big question is:  Is it RIGHT?

Of COURSE it isn't right.  NO one should be subjected to this type of abuse.  NO ONE.  I don't care who you hate or who you love, if you cannot express your opinion without being snarky and nasty and outright MEAN you should keep quiet.

You won't, of course....but you should.

And if your answer to what that woman did is to point at the opposition and shout the equivalent of "but they started it", then shame on you.

I forgive Kathy Griffin. I forgive her because my religion requires me to do so and my experience has been that if I follow my religion I have a really good chance of having a happy and healthy life.  If I forgive her, then I can walk with ease and comfort and grace and dignity.

Do I feel sorry for her?

Let me get back to you on that one, ok?







Thursday, June 1, 2017

I WANNA PUPPY

Okay Okay Okay - don't tell Robbie the Rescue Scottie but I am so ready to get a new Scottie puppy.

I have always wanted to have two Scotties.  I have never been in the position to own two at once but now that my life is settling into a wonderful routine - and my new five minute commute to work helps with that - I am reviving the dream.

Two little Scottie faces - maybe one could be a Wheaton! - at the top of the stairs when I get home every night.

Two little Scottie faces sitting next to us at the dinner table wondering if we really need to finish ALL that stuff on our plate and shouldn't we be willing to share?

Two Scotties to patrol the backyard and torment the neighborhood cat who is not allowed, ever, to get down from the top of the fence. 

SO - let's start the praying for God to bring the perfect little Scottie into my life...I have room to spare.....