Saturday, December 21, 2013

Battlefield Church.

The secular media have been SO excited about Pope Francis on the social justice front and so many people admire how this Pope puts his faith into action in such a visible way. I love it too. However, many of the articles I've read suggest that Pope Francis is far less concerned about sin than previous Popes. "Finally!" they exclaim. "We have a Pope who realizes that suffering is the greatest evil." Why spend so much time talking about sin when people in the world are suffering?? Pope Francis himself described the Church as "a field hospital after battle."

There is a misunderstanding here. Catholics know that Sin is the cause of all human suffering. As Pope, Francis certainly knows this. It is impossible to eliminate suffering without eliminating Sin. And if we don't strive to avoid sin we will have an eternity of suffering. The Pope is not one of those fluffy theologians who believe that everyone is going to Heaven. He can admit that even some atheists probably go to Heaven. (I know plenty that I'm rooting for!) However, he notably did not say that all atheists go to Heaven. He talks about the Devil. A lot. He believes in the threat of eternal damnation. And so the most important thing that the Hospital Church is doing is saving people from spiritual death.

As Jesus said:
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna."

In fact, anything is better than Hell (even a life without sex!).:
"If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna."

Dang… that Jesus was a little too dramatic if everyone is going to Heaven no matter what they do (especially the people who try to be nice all the time).

An Aside: People joke that Hell is more fun than Heaven because Sin is not allowed in Heaven. But what is the reason for thinking that Hell is filled with worldly delights?? Come on, people. When you are in Hell, if that's where you've decided you're going, you will not be participating in orgies. You will be wailing and gnashing your teeth. You will be tortured. Forever. How is that more fun than anything? Especially more fun that an eternity of not being tortured.


The media seem to miss the obvious analogy. When Pope Francis says that the Church is a field hospital after battle he does not mean that the Church is literally a field hospital in the battlefield of life. He means that the Church is a field hospital for the spiritual battle. Some people will say, "DUH!" But the secular world easily, and understandably, misses the point.

The Church should provide spiritual services, including all of our worldly services, in the same way that medical services must be provided on the battlefield. Because the situation is dire. We do not know when we will die. And the most important thing is to save the soul. Then we help a person grow in holiness. If you come across a woman who is dying on the street after being hit by a car you very simply encourage her to repent and believe in the gospel. If she somehow miraculously lives through the accident, then you start talking about why she shouldn't be using birth control pills. That's why Francis describes the Church as a field hospital and says that we can't insist only on particular issues.

Pope Francis said: "It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else." This is true. But once the wounds are healed we must "talk about everything else." Because it is useless to heal the seriously injured person's wounds and then leave him with untreated and dangerously high cholesterol which causes him to die of a heart attack the next day. The Pope is pointing out that everything must be done in the proper order.

In the Church the patients are sinners, suffering from various sinful inclinations. The Church must welcome all patients unconditionally, with warmth and kindness. But once the patient is in the hospital we proceed with treatment. The sickness that the Church seeks to cure is not poverty, hunger, or injustice. Those are symptoms of the sickness that the Church seeks to cure. The Church should provide treatment for those symptoms in the same way that a doctor would treat any severe symptoms resulting from a patient's illness. Sometimes the symptom is so severe that it must be treated first in order to keep the patient alive long enough to cure the illness.

At my church we provide a winter relief homeless shelter for one week every year. This year our week was scheduled for December. Our committee had many discussions about the difference between a 'hand out' and a 'hand up', after one of our members read the book "Toxic Charity". Are we helping people to work their way up toward independence? Or are we encouraging people to rely on hand outs and increasing their level of dependence? While we tried to offer some hand ups, we ultimately realized that the primary purpose of the winter relief is to provide an emergency service. Today the Arundel House of Hope, which runs the winter relief program, will have a memorial service for the Victims of Homelessness. One man who stayed in our shelter last year is among the deceased. The winter relief shelter treats the symptom of homelessness to help keep people alive long enough to reap the benefits of the hand ups available through Arundel House of Hope. It is very important to treat the symptoms. But if we only treat the symptoms, then there is no cure.

If a man is suffering from Type 2 Diabetes brought on by obesity, the doctor does not turn him away because he is overweight. However, the man should not be surprised or offended when the doctor tells him that the condition is caused by obesity and that the man should change his diet. When the man comes for a follow up appointment and has not yet changed his diet the doctor does not turn him away. But again, the man should not be surprised when the doctor insists, even more strongly this time, that the man really needs to change his diet. He should not be angry when the doctor reminds him that unless he changes his lifestyle he could lose his legs. The doctor may even explain to the man that his current lifestyle is very dangerous and could, in the long run, cost him his life. Maybe the doctor prescribes medication to help keep the man's blood sugar levels stable (treating the symptom). And yet, the doctor still insists that the man must learn to control his eating habits.

Imagine an older man comes in for a physical exam and tells the doctor that he has never felt better and has been playing basketball each week with his buddies. His only problem is a tiny nagging pain that has been bothering him; probably some muscle soreness from the basketball. After a certain test the doctor informs him that he has an aggressive type of cancer and needs to start treatment immediately. The man is shocked and cannot believe it, there must be some mistake. But he doesn't call the doctor a bigot and refuse to discuss the issue. The doctor is not judging the man. He is judging the illness. And so the doctor tries to explain it to the man and convince him to accept treatment. The doctor will schedule a follow up appointment even if the man refuses to start treatment. When the man returns and his cancer has progressed the doctor will welcome the man and yet will be even more insistent upon treatment.

We have to be kind and gentle and polite and personable like a good doctor. But we cannot tell the sick man that he is healthy or that he should ignore his symptoms. The sinner needs to know that he is sinning. And if he denies it, the loving response is to try to explain why his particular behavior is sinful and stress the importance of overcoming sin. If he continues to deny it then we must accept his decision out of respect for his human dignity. But we do not hide the fact that we disagree with him. When the diabetic refuses to change his diet the doctor may still maintain a friendship with him and they may continue their weekly golf trip together. But the doctor does not send him a box of chocolates and tell him how happy he is that the man has decided to open a cupcake shop. And if the diabetic is eating a box of chocolates in the doctor's waiting room, you can expect the doctor to say something.

Bigotry is intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself. Politely and lovingly expressing an opinion that differs from someone else's is not bigotry. If the only way to avoid being a bigot is to always agree with every other person's opinion or, at the very least, to never voice disagreement, then we are all bigots. Tolerance is not a willingness to affirm behaviors that I don't agree with. Tolerance is a capacity to coexist with those behaviors and respect the infinite dignity of the other person, dignity resulting from being made in the image and likeness of God. A person must be allowed intellectual independence. However, tolerance does not require one to allow others to engage in behaviors that do not respect the dignity of other persons. Tolerance requires recognizing that I cannot force another person to accept my opinion. But this does not mean that dialogue is pointless and that human beings cannot evolve in their opinions. We change our minds about things every day. And so tolerance is about respectful dialogue rather than no dialogue at all. One who cannot accept the intellectual independence of another refuses to discuss their differing opinions. In fact, a complete lack of dialogue is a far stronger indicator of bigotry.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy Belated Thanksgiving! 22-28

Here are a few more thanksgivings! Now I can get back to sporadic quick-taking.

Days 22 through 28 of Thanksgiving:

--- 22 ---

I am thankful for my great hosts for Thanksgiving week! The Cooks (not the cooks) fed me, watched Tommy Boy with me, learned to play Muggins, got me hooked on the first season of Dr. Who, started my car for me, and a zillion other little things.

--- 23 ---

I am thankful for fruit "butter" which contains so much sugar that it seems to never go bad. Several years ago I attended the Portsmouth candlelight stroll. One of the tour guides explained that sugar and salt were the main natural preservatives back before widespread refrigeration.

--- 24 ---

I am thankful for the celebration of Advent. Now my preparations for Christmas involve more than just a quest for material possessions that can give my loved ones lasting happiness. Advent emphasizes the need to seek my own lasting happiness, and not through acquiring material things. This year I'm giving up Dunkin' Donuts, since I've been developing a bit of an addiction. Every year I eagerly anticipate a quiet and prayerful Advent and then face the harsh reality of a season that provides far less time for quiet reflection and far more sources of stress and distraction (note that I did not give up caffeine this year). Every year I end up merely trying to endure the season without sinning any more gravely than usual. But it certainly gives me a yearning for the peace that only God can give. That is definitely NOT the same as the peace the world gives.

--- 25 ---

I am thankful for the cheap Tom's canvas shoe knockoffs at Five Below for--get this--$5!!! I got a pair of pink sparkly and another in solid black and they fit great. So I'm finally throwing away the holey black flats that have seen me through two AGU fall meetings. Allison will miss them.

--- 26 ---

I am thankful for Silver Moon 2, a Baltimore diner which hopefully will not go out of business. The owners make sure that FrC eats every once in a while.

--- 27 ---

I am thankful for my mom and everything she has done for my brother and our family. And now she has a blog about her spiritual journey!

--- 28 ---

I am thankful for museums! According to a museum I visited on an elementary school field trip, we grew up in the Slate Valley region of Vermont, although I never knew it had that name. I knew that people would get drunk and go swimming in the slate quarries and that sometimes people would throw junk cars and other garbage into them. In the year 1891, three hundred quarrymen were recruited from Wales. A Welsh Presbyterian church was erected in my hometown in 1901 and I've been told it is the last functioning Welsh Presbyterian church in the United States. However, I don't  know if that's actually true. A Pearle Vision eye doctor, whose name is also Jones, once told me that Wales is the country with the most castles per land area. Also unverified. And I'm not sure how people feel about Wales being called a country. The picture shows the prize winning children's choir from Christmas Eisteddfod 1904. What the heck is an Eisteddfod??

Friday, November 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes: More thanking.

Another Thanksgiving post. And one more to go!

Days 15 through 21 of Thanksgiving:

--- 15 ---

I am thankful for NAPPING!!!!

--- 16 ---

I am thankful for martyrs! I got this video from another quick taker.
As far as I have strength I will never fail to accept the grace of martyrdom, if some day you in your infinite mercy should offer it to me, your most unworthy servant. I bind myself in this way so that for the rest of my life I will have neither permission nor freedom to refuse opportunities of dying and shedding my blood for you, unless at a particular juncture I should consider it more suitable for your glory to act otherwise at the time. Further, I bind myself to this so that, on receiving the blow of death, I shall accept it from your hands with the fullest delight and joy of spirit. --St. John de Brebeuf--

--- 17 ---

I am thankful for online stores that offer free return shipping. Otherwise I would never ever buy shoes or clothing online.

--- 18 ---

I am thankful for perpetual adoration chapels, especially one within 15 minutes of where I live. The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration have a community near the National Shrine. You can literally knock on their door any time between the hours of 7am and 7pm and they will let you into their parlor where you can worship Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. During one of our summer storms that knocked down tons of trees and took out the power I decided to visit the Poor Clares. Without any electricity that was the sweatiest Holy Hour I've ever prayed though.

--- 19 ---

I am VERY thankful that one of the guys at our science meeting in Hampton, VA drove me back from lunch after walking "three blocks" in my high heels to get there--which translated into half an hour of walking time.  I literally prayed for a way out of walking back because my ankles had started turning toward the end of the first walk.

--- 20 ---

I am thankful for separate checks! It seems like on every work trip there is at least one dinner at which half the people order appetizers, steak dinners, bottles of wine, and multiple desserts and the other half order a small salad with a glass of water (thank you very much!). The second half waits around for at least an hour after finishing eating until the rest are finished and the bill comes. Then the organizer of the dinner, generally from the first half of the group, decides that it makes the most sense to split the bill evenly. Yes. I am cheap. Deal with it.

--- 21 ---

I am thankful for Mormons (see #20). One great thing I've learned about Mormons is that if one happens to be organizing your dinner party, he/she will probably arrange separate checks in case someone wants to buy alcohol.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, November 15, 2013

7 Quick Thanksgivings 9-15

I started this so I guess I should keep doing it even though it's impossible to adequately express my gratitude for the most important things like family and friends.

Days 9 through 15 of Thanksgiving:

--- 9 ---

I am thankful for the Cook family. My much younger cousins have somehow persevered in believing that I am a fun person. I'll admit, there were brief moments throughout their childhood during which I mustered the energy to be fun. But for the most part I'm the tired grump sitting on the couch chatting with the grown ups. I am thankful for their continued assurance that I can be fun if I just make up my mind to be. I am also thankful for their parents who were in the "fun" grown up position when my brother and I were kids. They willingly participated in synchronized swimming competitions and the ten foot pole game (until I decided to start throwing the pole). Definitely fun people.

--- 10 ---

I am thankful for my landlords whom I frequently overhear saying great things like, "If the theology you are learning does not affect the way you live your life then it's not a true theology." They share their dinner with me several nights per month, listen to my venting, and provide sound advice. One of their baby's few words is Jesus and he has started picking up a little wooden crucifix on a stand in their living room and kissing it. He did this when they were about to leave the other day and his parents told him "That's so sweet! Now we're leaving Jesus here." "But he's still with us." "That's right! He's coming with us because we're among the Baptized!" Now that's what we call a Domestic Church.

--- 11 ---

I am thankful for my vacuum cleaner, which sucks up all the creepy bugs that I don't want to smoosh. Some day I may transition to the bug gun which supposedly catches the bug in a chamber so that it can be released back into the wild. I guess it's like the bug version of a have-a-heart trap.

--- 12 ---

I am thankful for Freecyle through which I received an amazing bright yellow desk and chair. I also ditched some weird things that have moved around with me since college, including some awkwardly sized poster frames which had never even been opened AND the broken down remains of the wooden loft bed that I used in NH.

--- 13 ---

I am thankful for my car, which has treated me well during five years of service. I'm really hoping to get to and from VT at Thanksgiving and Christmas without spinning off the road like that one other time. But that reminds me that I'm also thankful for AAA and the state trooper who helped me.

--- 14 ---

I am thankful for a place to live, for heat and blankets and winter coats and hats and scarves and mittens--all of the things that keep me warm so that snowflakes are a blessing rather than a curse. I am thankful for the masterpiece of creation in which no design was ever repeated. And I am thankful for the photographs of Snowflake Bentley, a really awesome Vermonter.

--- 15 ---

I am thankful for my friend Jeremy and all the seminarians at Mount St. Mary's. So far I've met at least five of the other guys and they're all amazing. I can't wait to see Jeremy's story when the Spes Nostra video comes out!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

7 Day-Old Quick Takes.

I see lots of people doing the however-many-days of Thanksgiving thing. I assume it's 28 days? Well it seemed like a good idea for November quick-taking. Since Friday was the 8th, I'll count my gramma bday post as my first day of Thanksgiving. Like I said, gram was always getting us out of jams!

Days 2 through 8 of Thanksgiving:

--- 2 ---

I am thankful for my brother, who at certain times has been my only friend. He can always make me laugh when I'm sad. And he never believed me that January is spelled with 2 r's.

--- 3 ---
Science conference church in San Francisco

I am thankful that my work allows me to attend Mass almost every day, and that I have time to stay for the rosary and divine mercy chaplet. And for 91 year-old Joe who brings me a bag of dried fruit and a granola bar for breakfast every morning and chats with me about the time Micky Rooney flew his airplane.

--- 4 ---

I am thankful for all of my coworkers whom I see every day and my colleagues from around the world. The science community is like a strange family, with the same fun and the same drama. It's such a blessing to go to work with a bunch of people I actually enjoy being around!

--- 5 ---

I am especially thankful for Allison, who is largely responsible for the successful completion of my previous several AGU posters, including Knudsen's Magical Diffuse Aurora Eraser. Without her help there would NOT have been anything magical about it. We survived the mudslides of the Maroon Bells and a trolley car robbery. It will be interesting to see what the next trip has in store.

--- 6 ---

I am thankful for the prison ministry and everyone I have met there. Sometimes people send us poems they've written or pictures of their kids. One person decorated some pottery for me. But most of all they're all so loyal in prayer. Sometimes I wonder what kind of a miserable person I'd be without so many prisoners praying for me!

--- 7 ---

I am thankful for the Happy Fault and for God's mercy. Felix Culpa: "O happy fault. O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer."

"In order to die for us--because as God he could not die--the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Immortal One took on mortality that he might die for us, and by dying put to death our death."
--St. Augustine--

--- 8 ---

I am thankful for the B.I.G. Book Sale in Annapolis, where I can donate all the weird books I've accumulated and pick up gems like "Three by Flannery O'Connor" including Wise Blood, The Violent Bear It Away, and Everything That Rises Must Converge. Her stories are brutally violent and meant to convey the "action of grace in territory held largely by the devil." She also said and wrote amazing things about her Catholic faith. She must have been an introvert. In one of her letters she described so well how I often feel when attending dinner parties and/or explaining the faith:
I was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner with Mary McCarthy and her husband, Mr. Broadwater. (She just wrote that book, A Charmed Life.) She departed the Church at the age of 15 and is a Big Intellectual. We went at eight and at one, I hadn't opened my mouth once, their being nothing for me in such company to say. The people who took me were Robert Lowell and his now wife, Elizabeth Hardwick. Having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but overcome with inadequacy had forgotten them. Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously suppose to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child she received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the "most portable" person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, "Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it." That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Happy All Souls Day--a celebration of death!!

Today is All Souls Day, the final celebration of Hallowmas (the Triduum of Hallows) which started with the Vigil of All Saints Day (All Hallows Eve) and is celebrated as Dia de los Muertos in Mexico.

In celebrating this triduum, we make the bold assertion that death is a gift! As St. Ambrose wrote: "Death was not part of nature; it became part of nature. God did not decree death from the beginning; he prescribed it as a remedy. Human life was condemned because of sin to unremitting labor and unbearable sorrow and so began to experience the burden of wretchedness. There had to be a limit to its evils; death had to restore what life had forfeited. Without the assistance of grace, immortality is more of a burden than a blessing... No longer will the bride be held in subjection to this passing world but will be made one with the spirit." Death is the ultimate display of God's healing and mercy.

I disagree with National Geographic that this is a minor holiday in the Catholic Church. Rather it is one of MANY major holidays in the Catholic Church. Hallowmas was traditionally celebrated as one of several days-long festivals. Fr. Steve Grunow explains that "A holy day of obligation has not always meant spending 45 minutes in church for Mass and then going back to work. Holy Days were times for a party and if you look at the Church’s calendar, past and present, with this ethos in mind you will discover that the reasons for a party happened with great frequency." I think we need to return to the tradition of grand celebrations.

So let's visit a cemetery and remember where we came from and where we are headed!

Friday, November 1, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Happy Bday Gram and Andy!!

Today is one of the awesomest days of the year. It's my brother's birthday AND my gramma's birthday AND All Saints Day. Happy Birthday to Gramminator and IndiAndy Jones!! :o) Perhaps someone in the family could show gramma my Quick Takes? Thank you in advance. (Is this a Quick Take rather than an intro? Am I cheating?)

My brother's girlfriend made him a totally amazing cake! Last I heard, she was the only one brave enough (er... "hungry" enough) to eat any of it. But I still think it's a HUGE success.

Dear Andy, let me send a much belated response to a letter you wrote (quoted below) and say that I would, in fact, like to do something fun while I'm home for the holidays.

I want fun! :o)
No fun! :(
Dear Sarah,
Sorry to keep
Bugging you
But there's
Nothing to do.

Dear gramma, I remember you always helping us out of jams. I particularly remember gramma reading Andy the literary classics that were required for school because he just hated reading. I would hear her voice start to tremble and she would pause and say "This is really sad!" at the tragic death of yet another faithful canine companion. But gramma persevered through Where the Red Fern Grows and Sounder and a host of other traumatizing youth fiction novels.

One year my class at school had an International Food Day. We were divided into groups and instructed to choose a country. Someone in my group decided to make Swedish meatballs, forcing the rest of us to identify and produce some other Swedish dish. (Seriously??? Name another food with the word Swedish in the title.) In a small Vermont town of about 3000 people, we did not have a Scandinavian store within a reasonable driving distance. So I did the only thing I could think of in that situation: whined to gramma! She found the one Swedish recipe in her old cookbook, for cookies that we had never heard of and certainly couldn't pronounce. But wouldn't you know, those sandbakelsers were amazing!

In my senior year of high school I took a French class which included a French Food Day. I remember one guy basically made grilled cheese sandwiches out of French toast, which is apparently something that French people do. Again gramma came to the rescue making a Strawberry Glace Pie. To this day we do not know if the word glace has two syllables or one. UPDATE: the word glace does have two syllables, like the McDonald's Frappe. THANK YOU GRAMMA FOR COMING TO OUR RESCUE!

I found this picture of me and Andy looking very serious outside of our indoor play tent. Bed Bath and Beyond sells play tents but they look way too high in quality. Simply scaling a grown up product down to a child's size takes some of the fun out of it. How about stretching the imagination?
I have to admit that All Saints Day overwhelms me. How am I to celebrate ALL of the Saints in one single day??? This year I went with friends to a beautiful vigil service (All Hallows Eve!) at the Dominican House of Studies. I did not see Fr. Justin this time but I did see a Brother who happens to be the godfather of my landlords' baby. But, speaking of Saints, the Bishop of Northampton has begun the fact-finding necessary to open the cause for canonization of Gilbert Keith Chesterton!! This gigantically wonderful and brilliant man is not your typical image of a Saint. But I'm rooting for him, along with Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Dorothy Day, Blessed Mother Teresa and some others (like Mother Angelica and His Holiness Benedict XVI, whenever the Lord decides to take them).

"Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around."
--Orthodoxy, GK Chesterton, 1908--

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, October 25, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Seinfeld Spirituality

The shut down is over. Just when I was getting used to retired life!

Much to my surprise, several super nice people read my Quick Takes last week. So I've decided that everyone who comments on (or just reads) my blog will be added to my book of prayers. Here it is relaxing in my prayer nook which, it turns out, is not a nook at all for it is not a corner or recess and does not offer seclusion or security. My prayer book is decorated with stickers commemorating satellite missions--All for the Glory of God!! ;o) Holy Mary, St. Monica, St. Anthony, and I will intercede for you each night--expect amazing things!

My snazzy prayer book reminds me of His Holiness Benedict XVI, a great lover of science. Here is a small portion of his interview of the ISS crew. Cutest Pope EVER!! Now that he has some free time he should come visit NASA. Check out his Coat of Arms HERE--really interesting stuff!

I've been scanning images from my old children's books and The Almost-Forgotten Teddy Bear by Ann Harler is a book that seems way more creepy to adult Sarah. I think Toy Story ruined it for me. This looks WAY too much like Sid's room. Spoiler alert: Teddy almost gave up on life but somehow made his way back into the light and avoided lifelong imprisonment with the misfit toys under the bed.

This past weekend I went on an Opus Dei retreat for young professional women. The Opus Dei ladies leading the retreat were pretty much the opposite of the creepy albino guy from The Da Vinci Code in every way I can think of. I suggest that anyone wanting to know the truth about Opus Dei read John Allen's book. He covers the good, the bad, and the ugly. I guess any spiritual direction that is good enough for Scott Hahn is good enough for me.

Part of the retreat focused on living a life of integrity, which is a goal that can be embraced by anyone. If I want to be respected at work and, therefore, avoid telling crude jokes then maybe I should seek to be equally well respected outside of work rather than allowing my mind to dive into the gutter. Rather than lower my standards whenever I can get away with it, why not always hold myself to the highest standard? Something to consider.

Public Service Announcement: this item tastes like neither pumpkin nor cider. It tastes like ginger. If you like carbonated ginger juice then this is the product for you. You can find it at Aldi. Happy Fall!!
My mom is on a spiritual retreat called Walk to Emmaus, which is apparently based on Cursillo. I've been told that Cursillo is pretty much the coolest thing in the whole world. So hopefully mom is experiencing a similar level of coolness this weekend. Anyway, I wrote a poem for her which I guess I can post here since she doesn't have internet access on the retreat. It's based on I Love You More Than Applesauce by Jack Prelutsky.

I love you more than internet,
Than Facebook and my blog,
Than cheap used books,
And knowing looks,
And going on a jog.
I love you more than power naps,
And caffeinated tea,
Than winter hats,
And fluffy cats,
And laughing til we pee.
I love you more than corned beef hash,
Than smashed up eggs on toast;
I love hugs and ladybugs,
But I love you the most.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, October 18, 2013

7 (moderately) Quick Takes

Since I'm horrible at communicating with long distance friends I'm starting 7 sort-of-Quick Takes on Fridays. I don't promise regularity or that the 7 takes will necessarily be from the last 7 days. 

I have begun a two year formation period with the Lay Missionaries of Charity (LMCs)! This is an extension of the Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The LMCs make annual vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and free and wholehearted service to the poorest of the poor. The formation period involves discernment (Am I really called to make vows as a Lay Missionary?), spiritual formation (Am I able to live by the statutes of the Lay Missionaries?), and integration (adoption into the lay community and closer collaboration with the Missionary of Charity Sisters). In other words, a lot more of this.

The Sisters asked me to stay and serve dinner to the residents after our September LMC meeting. The Gift of Hope houses roughly 10 men, many of whom were previously homeless, suffering from HIV/AIDS and a myriad of other ailments. Fortunately the guys are good at helping each other because I must have been the slowest volunteer they've seen in a while. Fortunately Albert, one of the LMCs, was there to supervise the house for the night and helped serve while the guys continued to ask me, "Have you been here before??" But I must have served well enough because the Sisters allowed me to come back and serve breakfast during the shutdown. The guys were a little slower moving early in the morning so I was able to keep up.

As we cleaned up after dinner, Albert began to explain the Sisters' view of the vow of poverty. Not only do the Sisters try not to own or spend money on anything they don't absolutely need, but they also live in the spirit of poverty. They want to be united to the poor in their suffering, something that makes little sense without an understanding of spiritual communion. However, the Sisters also claim that the more "comfortable" we are, the less we think about the poor. So the Sisters try to use hot water as little as possible, wash and reuse everything including foil and plastic bags, and turn down even hand-me-down donations of things like electric mixers--"We do this by hand." Good thing I've got two full years of formation!

One Sunday the Sisters needed a ride to Mass and I readily agreed. Turns out the Mass was of the Syro-Malabar Rite and was celebrated by the Cardinal from that Rite. Pretty neat experience but 3 hours long! Fortunately the other Latin Riters next to me, who had driven the Missionaries of Charity from Gift of Peace in DC, were just as incapable of following the translation in the book since we had no clue how the swirly written language related to the syllables that were uttered.

Perhaps inspired by Pope Francis' example of how to live a vow of poverty, I decided to downgrade from my apartment. Why spend three times as much money on rent when I live alone and would be perfectly happy renting the master bedroom in a Cape Cod style house with a young couple and their baby and two cats? And PERFECT timing. I was able to weather the government shutdown.

I have a new friend named Lion Heart. Or is it Lionheart? Anyway, Charlamagne is not quite my friend because he's much crazier. But he is also orange.

The shutdown gave me extra time to check out the new neighborhood. One day I visited the Belair Stable Museum which is far more entertaining than I expected. Who knew that Gallant Fox is not just the name of a street near McDonald's but also the name of a triumphant racehorse? His brother Fighting Fox was apparently quite a stud too. Most interesting was the history of black jockeys in the 1800s.
The other day (and by the other day I mean three weeks ago), I was grabbing something from the back seat of my car and noticed an old cigarette butt on the floor. Eventually I remembered that while walking through Baltimore with FrC one night, a homeless man asked for prayer and a ride to the hospital. Of course, FrC jumped at the opportunity (in his mind, the privilege) to give this man a ride somewhere. On the way to the car he informed me that I would be driving the three of us, which was surely my penance for calling him a maniac Baltimore driver. Some time between picking up Aaron on the street corner and leaving him at the ER the cigarette butt must have fallen on my floor. As I picked it up I thought that if I could only bring FrC with me wherever I go then I might seem like a compassionate person.

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