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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Dearly Departed (PUT THAT DOWN AND PAY ATTENTION))

Recently, on Facebook, there was a letter making the rounds written by a Catholic woman.  In the letter, she extoled the virtues of praying for the souls of the dead by asking those hearing her letter - presumably for the first time as it is read at her funeral mass - to not just assume she is in heaven.  Rather, she was reminding them of her humanness by stating that she hoped she was on her way there but that she knew herself well enough to know that she was going to need their prayers because nothing unclean enters that realm.

I liked that letter.  I thought is was touching and lovely and real.  It got me to thinking, what do I want people to hear about me at my funeral?

More importantly, can I trust anyone I know to properly eulogize me?  Is anyone capable of capturing the true Leslie and describing her to the crowd (assuming there is one - for all I know it'll be me and the Dominicans).

Not that this matters, right?  I mean, once I am dead, I am dead until the resurrection.   If I am upset at the quality of my eulogy then at that time I can follow up with whoever  got up to speak at my Rosary or after my Funeral Mass.  I can then remind them that they left out how much I loved animals, that I never truly understood algebra and that I once spent three days in the Cow Palace Parking Lot in order to be up front for the Rolling Stones concert.  And I was - right smack in front of Mick.

If I am really concerned, maybe I can pull an Irish thing and hang out at my funeral as a ghost...and smack whoever is speaking on the head if they say something I don't like.

"Golly, Leslie was such a great gal...I wish she hadn't bothered us so much with all those Facebook posts about saints though (smack) OW".

Of course, if I am going to be very honest with my readers I have to admit that my biggest fear will be that people in my family who don't like me anymore will rush the ambo after Mass to tell everyone what a jerk I really was all those years.

"She shoved her religion down our throat!  We hated her and never spoke to her because she did not openly support gay marriage and thought abortion was evil...she wouldn't vote for Trump but she refused to vote for Hillary and we will never EVER forgive her for losing her temper with us when we were three".

"that woman told crazy stories when she was drunk - like how she knew rock and roll stars and did cocaine with astronauts - and then she could never remember what she said, which would just embarrass the hell out of all of us".

"She was a lot of fun until she got sober - then all that God stuff started up and she was a pain in the neck right up until she died".

"She kept yelling about the Eucharist and insisting that Once Saved Always Saved is a false theology.  I hated that she would not accept my reasons for leaving The Church were valid".

Now that I think about it, it would be a much more honest eulogy if there was a kind of Point/CounterPoint exchange.  On one side would be those people who regularly tell me how much they love me and how I have positively impacted their lives.  On the other would be people who are breathing a huge sigh of relief that I am finally dead so they don't have to worry about me showing up at their party and telling their preacher that I am a Dominican and we don't go along with heresy, thank you.

At least the ones in the Western Province don't - I can't vouch for those other guys.

The most important thing for me to remember is that I have tried my best to be a better and better me ever since I started my journey in sobriety.  At times I have failed miserably and I am sorry.  Other times I have done a pretty good job and surprised myself.  In fact, the number of times I have walked with grace and dignity through some really tough periods in my life are astounding when one considers the material God has to work with here. 

Maybe, if I were to write anything to be read at my funeral, it would be this:

She did her best.
She often failed.
God loves her anyway.
And she loves Him.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Please keep the soul of my friend, Macile Lejeune, in your prayers.  She has gone on to claim a dance with Jesus.  Macile, please pray for me as I pray for you.



Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Success in Today's World

Life is a series of events.  How we manage those events determines our success as human beings.

Whether or not I accept the above declaration as true hinges on how I define the word success.  If I drop that word into a Google Search engine, I am told  that success is a noun.  I am told it can mean three things:

1. The accomplishment of an aim or purpose
2. The attainment of popularity or profit
3. A person or thing that attains desired aims, purpose, popularity or profit

I look at this definition and I ask myself, does this definition fit?

What is my aim or purpose?  For a Catholic, my aim is to love God, to serve God and His creatures and to spend eternity with Him in heaven.  My purpose is to be a saint, to be (in the words of a popular Catholic writer), the best version of myself that I can be so as to bring glory to His Name.  My purpose, my aim in this life is to be the type of person that attracts others to Him.

Will this allow me to attain popularity or profit?  Maybe.  I will, most likely, be very popular with some people and I might even be able to support myself while living the principles of Catholicism in the workplace.  I also have to accept that, with other people, I will not be very popular.  With those people who put the world first I will be considered an odd ball.  My experience is that people are uncomfortable with odd balls and have a tendency to try and make their lives miserable.  There will also be that group that will adopt some or part of the Christian life and proclaim that they have 'reformed' the Teachings of Jesus Christ and anyone who still clings to the 'old ways' is a bigot, a hater, a person not in touch with today's reality. 

My popularity, therefore, may not manifest itself in any earthly way.  I won't be elected to city council if I proclaim myself Pro Life.  I won't get to be the mayor if I state I do not believe in same-sex marriage.  Sure, I can tell people that I do not intend to not honor the laws of the land but they are going to have to accept the fact that I am a Catholic, I do not believe in sending tax payer dollars to organizations who provide abortions and I do not believe the government has a right to license a sacrament.  This stance will not get me elected to anything, including dog catcher.

My profit will probably be small.  I am not very business like.  I am good at administration stuff, not entrepreneurial stuff.  I like the fact that I am about to retire after 30 years at my job and will collect a little pension and medical care for the next 35 years (I plan to live at least as long as my Mom and she is 95 right now).

Yet my profit, at the end of time, may be the greatest of all - I will not lose my immortal soul.  If I stay the course and walk the talk, I can hope to be saved.  I can hope to hear those words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant".

Success is, as I see it, manifested in how I handle the every day trials and tribulations that come my way.  It means I must acknowledge that I have it really good right now - no one is holding me at an airport, no one is shooting at me as I walk to Mass, no one is telling me that God has okay'd my rape at the hands of Isis and that I should be grateful to be able to be a slave of someone who thinks women like me do not matter.  I do not have to march through the streets dressed as a woman's body part in order to feel important.  I am, right this minute, successful.

Tomorrow may be less successful...I don't know.  It is not here yet.  What is here is today and today, because of a loving God and His Church and 24 years of being in the 'pure breath league', I am a success.

How about you?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What do you mean, Resisting Happiness?

Matthew Kelly, a Catholic motivational speaker, has a new book out that is all the rage among my people right now:  Resisting Happiness.  As with most of his work, it is an easy read - the words flow like you are having a coffee shop conversation with a friend.  After reading Journey to God and still plowing through the work by Father Bedoule, OP on St Dominic, this little book is a kind of exhale for the brain....I read half of it while in the bathtub soaking my aching joints in epsom salts for twenty minutes.

The book has me thinking about something another like-minded and similarly afflicted woman I know says about her relationship with God.  She says that she had given Him every aspect of her life except for dating because - and I am paraphrasing - she was pretty sure God did not know handsome.

At the time she said it, the room full of people laughed.  We knew, whether we were male or female, straight or gay, exactly what she meant and our laughter was rueful and full of recognition.

The idea of resisting happiness, therefore, is not about stubbornly refusing to be happy - it is more about the trust I have that God really does have my best interest at heart.  My sin is this: despite all the evidence to the contrary, despite example after example after example that He knows what is best for His Creatures (all of them - human or not), I still think that He has somehow overlooked me.  I still think, deep down inside, that the phrase "God helps those who help themselves" means I have to make the decision about what is best for me in terms of people, places and things.  I am the one in control and so it is me who will decide what makes me happy.

This is really pretty funny.  If I am honest about me, about the decisions I make about my life, I have got to admit that what I have determined I need to have in my life in order to be happy is rarely necessary.  In fact, to tell the truth and shame the devil, I have very little in my life right now that I thought even ten years ago would be necessary in order for me to be happy and fulfilled.

I am not the size I thought I needed to be...my hair is not the color I thought it had to be....I have no husband and no children and am not a published author with a book tour on my horizon.  I am not filling halls as a speaker or staring in a reality show that brings people to the Catholic Church.  I am not working where I want to work and I still have all those pesky bills that need to be paid, by me.

Yet if I am going to continue down this truthful path, I also have to tell you that I am happy.  I am happy being 45 pounds away from my final goal weight, happy with my natural hair color, happy with the crummy job I have surrounded by people who just have a way different value system than me (a value system I find frightening and ugly).  I am happy living where I am living.  My bills are all paid.  I have a Scottie and two cats and yesterday my nephew came by to visit for no reason other than wanting to stop by and spend some time with me and Mom.   Today I get to take her shopping and tonight I get to be of service in my 12 Step program.  I am on vacation this week which means I do not have to drive in fog or rain.  I get to take the dog for a walk later.

I get to share my thoughts with all of you.

What is making me happy today?  Why is it my life, as small and mundane as it is, is a life that is second to none?  Being sober is a big part of it, of course, but it is more than just physically not picking up a drink.

I think, and I may be wrong, my happiness is rooted in my determination to be closer to God.

I just am no longer concerned with doing what the world thinks is necessary as much as I am concerned with being able to stand in front of Jesus Christ, at the end of my time, and hear the words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant".

Years ago, when I returned to Holy Mother Church, I was attacked verbally by people who saw my return as a betrayal of feminism and liberalism.  They saw my return to The Church as an indictment of them.  They saw my decision - and my willingness to state that this was my decision - to put receiving Him in the Eucharist at the top of my list of things to do as far more important than whether or not a woman could become pope or if homosexuals could get married.  I have lost family and friends and I am considered a fool by many people.  I refuse to change that decision - and because of that decision, I am happier than I have ever been...without having anything I thought I had to have in order to be just that - happy.

Do I still occasionally resist happiness?  Heck yeah - it is my concupiscence.  When it is a cold Sunday morning and I would rather stay inside...when I see other people being lauded for their open mindedness and congratulated on being inclusive...when I feel lonely or overlooked .....all that stems from my taking my eyes off the prize - the ultimate prize:  eternity with God.

But I am blessed.  I am blessed because I have a Sacramental and Liturgical life that draws me closer and closer to Him.  Even when I fall, I know I can get back up, ask for forgiveness and grace, and then keep on trucking.

Today I do not want to resist what makes me happy.  Today I want to live life as He would have me live it and so, today, just for today, I give Him my will and my life...I offer it to Him as a sacrifice and a sign of my love.

And I ask Him to help me live the way He wants me to live - just for today.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Devotion to the Mother of God


As a Cradle Catholic I have  been guilty of taking for granted the love Mary, the Mother of God has for God's creatures.  My devotion to Our Lady has been kind of just 'there'.  I mean, let's face it - she is reliable and constant like any good mother and so I just assumed she was always in my life.  I also assumed that everyone loved her and that people understood the difference between loving and honoring Our Lady and worshipping God. 
I have been educated in that area, let me tell you.  The number of people who are absolutely adamant that loving Our Lady is somehow blasphemous is astonishing and I am so sad for them.  To disrespect the Woman, the Ark of the New Covenant, the Mother of Our Lord - they are losing so much of true Christianity by doing so.  They leave themselves open to spiritual attack.  They take the most important woman ever born, ever created, and reduce her to a body part 'rented' by God.
How sad.
During my time away from The Church I never considered giving up my Catholicism; rather, it was an inconvenience to the life I was living.  I could not participate in the Life of The Church and be the person I thought I needed to be in order to survive in the world.  I was wrong, of course, and when I got sober I was put back on the right road, the road to recovery from alcoholism AND the road to recovery from the damage  caused in my life by giving in to the world.

So first I got on the road to recovery.  At two years sober I got back on the road to salvation, through the praying of The Rosary and attendance at Sunday Mass.

I started as a personal ‘dare’ – I dared myself to go to Mass on Sunday for one month.  At the time it did not even dawn on my that going to Sunday Mass for one month meant four times, for the love of Pete; rather, it was just the idea that challenging myself to do something out of my comfort zone for thirty days would kick start a new chapter in my life.  I was right, and I have not missed Sunday Mass without the proper dispensation since that first challenge.
My challenge to pray the Rosary once a day, Monday through Friday, for thirty days came next.  I knew it would be difficult but I also knew, by this time, that I could do just about anything for 30 days.   By golly, I was right and praying The Rosary, five days a week, has been a part of my prayer discipline ever since.
During the past 20 or so years, I have learned much about Our Lady and my love and admiration for this woman has grown.  As a Dominican, I have a special relationship with her because it is in our tradition that it was to St Dominic she taught to pray The Rosary.  We love her as we love our own mothers and for those unlucky enough to have lousy mothers, Mary gives a special grace. 
Today, my devotion to Our Lady manifests in my utter dependence upon the instructions she gives to all of us.   I believe that when I am frightened or worried about the consequences of following Jesus, His mother will help me do it. His yoke may be easy but I can make it hard through my own attachment to people, places or things.  Our Lady helps me overcome that attachment and walk through life with dignity and grace.
My belief is this:  If you need a woman role model in your life, someone unselfish and strong and willing to do what is necessary to advance the good in you and in the world, Mary, the Mother of God is the girl for you.  We can learn much from her, this humble and mighty woman.  We can thank her for much as well.  Most importantly, we can always count on her to give us right direction:
Do whatever He tell you to do.
Together we can pray:
REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

 

 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Hanging between The Stages

I am once again reading Father Antoninus Wall, OP's book The Journey to God and once more questioning where I am on my personal journey.  I think, if it is possible, I am bouncing between the stages Father Wall describes in the book and quite frankly it is getting a little boring.

Father Wall reminds us of the teachings of St Thomas Aquinas and how the great saint differentiates between carnal men and men of the spirit.  A carnal man (or woman) relates primarily to the world she can hear, see and feel.  It is the senses that guide a carnal woman.  St Thomas used the way the Shepherds in the field and the Three Wise Men found their way to Jesus.  He argues that these guys were carnal men for whom reality was found in the senses.  Because of that, they were lead to Jesus through the external - the Shepherds through the external appearance of the Angels and the Magi through the Star of Bethlehem.

I see myself all over this kind of idea.  I would like to think I am a real spiritual giant, a woman who has found Christ and no longer depends upon outside stuff to make her feel okay.  I would like to think I am, as St Thomas describes, a woman of the spirit who is totally aware of the Presence of God   at all times because I 'just know' - I am moved by the Spirit.

Father Wall, in his book, lists the characteristics of those people of the Spirit.  I am cool with a lot of the list (it is really too long to recreate here - go buy the book on Amazon) but then I see things like:


  • They are forgiving and do not hold grudges
  • They have little 'ego' and seem to have no need for praise or recognition

And I come to a SCREECHING HALT.

I believe that I am growing and maturing but I also am acutely aware that I still depend way too much on the outside, on the world of the senses, to feel okay.  I still care what others might think of me, whether or not I am making a good impression and if anyone likes my earrings (or shoes or whatever else I deem important at the moment).  While I have lessened my dependence upon people, places and things it does not take much to remind me that I am far and away from a total communion with God.

I am reminded that the purpose of the journey is to find God.  I am also reminded that the journey itself can be amazing.  I have been an active drunk, I have hit bottom, I have gotten sober.  I have aborted my children and lost one to miscarriage.  I am a widow.  I am a daughter, a Supervisor, a Catechist, a Lay Dominican, a writer and a player of FarmVille 2.  I am an aunt and a sister and a cousin.  I am a Niner Faithful and someone who would love to someday go to a World Series game where I watch Bumgarner strike out batter after batter after batter.

I am, still, a carnal woman but I am moving closer and closer to be a woman of The Spirit.  Every day I pray and try again to live a life worthy of Jesus I am making an attempt to be someone better than I am right now.

I am grateful for Holy Mother Church and Her guidance on this Journey.  Without Her, without the Sacramental and Liturgical Life offered to me I would be stumbling far more than I do.  Never one to pretend I got this, it feels good to know that the answers to the kind of life I want to live are easily accessible.

Easy?  no.  Simple?  yes.

Keep me in prayer.