Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Book Review - Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary

Have you ever picked up a spiritual book, opened it, and said, "I ought to read this"?  I have; but this is not that book. There was no ought about it. As soon as I started, I didn't want to stop…except that I wanted to write this review on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary so - for that reason only - I took a break.

Even though each part is written by a different person, each part that I've read so far has been equally engaging. As the title indicates, each of many authors takes one word from the Hail Mary to write about. Who would have thought that reading about the word "of" or the word "the", for example, would be inspiring? And yet it is! These are highly accessible, very real, short spiritual essays.

I look forward not only to reading all of it, but also to reading each essay again and again. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to preview this book, and although I thought I was getting to read a book for free, I am now looking forward to buying the paper copy to add to my little library. Thank you to the writers and especially the editor, Sarah Reinhard, for making this book happen. 

You can order the book, which comes out October 16th, here:

or here:

Friday, October 02, 2015

Grant Peace to Our World

As I checked out at Walmart today, I noticed how nicely people were dressed. I often think of the jokes about people at Walmart, and I often wonder if the people who frequent "my" Walmart are just classier. Maybe…

But this afternoon I had a different thought, also. However people who visit Walmart stores across the nation may dress, I think maybe the way we talk about them is part of what's wrong with our country.  Why do we have so many shootings? I wonder if it might be because we make fun of the way people are dressed at Walmart. Of course I'm exaggerating …at least a little. (And yes, I have probably made fun of the way someone has dressed at some time in my life. I'm not pointing fingers or, if I am, I am pointing back at myself, too.).

But let's think about it for a minute.  Across the airwaves go many angry thoughts every day, every hour, every minute, about all the awful people in the world who don't measure up to someone else's standards. It might be the way someone dresses or it might be the way someone lets their child 'misbehave' in public. It might be about the ultra liberals or the ultra conservatives, the republicans or the democrats, or whatever race or creed or group of people we think is "taking the world down".  

I'm not talking about discussing issues…and so, maybe this doesn't apply to you or me at all today. But I know there have been times in my life when I have been guilty.

What happens, I wonder, when an angry person, or a person who is in a particularly vulnerable position in his or her life, runs across so many angry thoughts? How do they feel when they are – at least at that moment in time – in the target group that some people are angry at, or throwing stones at?  Does it lift them up or tear them down? Does it give them peace? Does it contribute to peace in our world, in our nation, in our community?

Dear Lord, help us - help me - to look at others with your love. Help us to see people as individuals and to find the good in each person, created in your love, redeemed by your love. Help us to foster peace in the hearts of those around us, whether they are meeting us in our physical world or the internet world. We are so desperately in need of your help. Bless us all and grant peace to our troubled world. Amen. 

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

To My Friends Who Are Parents of Young Adults

I would like to share my young adult story. No, I don't mean the story of my kids' lives, but my own young adult story. But first, I will need to share a little background leading to that point in my life.

I was brought up a good Christian.

I was sexually abused by an older cousin when I was a little girl (young enough to be before the use of reason but old enough to remember. Even to this day - although some of the memories are fuzzy - I do remember). I told my mom about it the first time, and she thought she put a stop to it. She never realized that it continued after that, and since it continued, I then thought it was my own fault and my own shame. I was a praying child, but I hid that part of my life not only from my parents, but also from God. Of course, now I know that God knew, and he stayed close to me.

My mom tried to be a good mother, and she was...although when I was a teenager, I looked back and thought that when I was a child she hadn't been as present as I would have liked. She was physically present; she stayed home for my sister and me, but not as emotionally present as I would have liked. I wonder now if she had sleep apnea, as she slept a lot, and I believe sleep apnea was not yet a diagnosed "thing". I also wonder what perfect world I was wanting.

At any rate, with the abuse from my cousin hovering in my background – with me both thinking it had been my own sin and at the same time blaming my parents at some level - I was always trying to prove to myself that I was a good person, a worthwhile person. In the sixth grade I worked in the school cafeteria, not because I needed the free lunch but because I wanted to work; and I played flute in the band, was in Girl Scouts, and served as a Patrol Boy to help children cross the street safely. (In those days the position was called "Patrol Boy" even though I was a girl). In my senior year, I was the editor of my high school newspaper, and I also worked 20 hours a week at J. C. Penney.

As soon as I graduated, my J. C. Penney store promoted me to full time. About that time I found a note on the kitchen counter one day in my dad's writing. It said so much money per week (I don't remember how much now) if chores are done, so much if chores are not done. Yes, in my senior year I had gotten in the habit of neglecting most of my chores, leaving my mom to do most of the work (at that point there were only three of us).

Perhaps if my parents had sat down with me to discuss my neglect or their desire for me to pay my way, it would have been okay. I've even wondered, since then, if perhaps they were only considering charging me. But seeing it in writing on the counter, it seemed so arbitrary, and I made a decision. I would move out on my own.  I found an economical but nice place. In those days, I could afford that on a salesclerk's salary. I've compared the numbers a few times, and that kind of pay would not do today what it would do then. But at the time, it worked for me.

In the meantime, I had decided to become a Catholic. But my Catholic girlfriend's mother introduced us to what turned out to be a traditionalist cult instead. Of course, she didn't realize it was a cult; she thought it was the right thing. My girlfriend and I went to a ten day summer camp in another state where we were brainwashed into thinking there was no salvation outside the group. We stayed on without telling our parents why or where we were!

I, who had been so responsible, both seriously worried my parents and let my employer down. With no notice, not even a single phone call, I simply didn't come back to my job, and I never did get in touch with my boss, a dear lady. I simply didn't come back to my apartment or pay the rent either. After some time (maybe a month), we finally got in touch with our parents, and I also mailed my landlady a letter of apology, offering my furniture as payment for the one month's rent I had neglected to pay. My parents later told me it hadn't been my furniture to give, although I was sure they had given it to me. The way I saw it was that I had just been trying to be responsible, to pay the missed rent the only way I knew with what I thought was mine.  They saw it differently.

I learned the words of Jesus the hard way, "If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:3.)

At that point, my girlfriend and I went home to settle our affairs before returning. I can't even tell you how much I hurt my mother's feelings at the time, and it's still hard to deal with that shame. I think I was mad at her that I was leaving her. Go figure. Maybe I was mad at her for not really stopping the childhood abuse that had affected my life so much, even though she wasn't really aware of it. Maybe I thought she should have been more aware. At any rate, it wasn't a great farewell, and then I left.  

When a woman prepared me for reception into the Church (supposedly the Church, supposedly all that was left of the Church), she told me I had to "take a Christian name", that Peggy was not a Christian name, only a nickname. I did not want to change my name, but I didn't think I had a choice. (I did, however, choose my own new name.) It was a missionary priest who had recently returned to the States - who didn't realize what this group really was - who baptized me. He didn't realize my birth name was Peggy Ann or else I know (now) that he would have set us straight. So, not really liking it, but thinking it was necessary, I changed my name. Unthinkingly, I told my mom on the phone, "I had to take a Christian name", and I broke her heart again. Have you ever wished you could take back your words but it's too late?

After I had returned to the group, whenever I was anywhere with a phone, I use to wish my parents would call me, just to say hi, just to ask how I was doing. I told that to my father many years later, and he said, "We didn't think you wanted us to." Well, that made sense. And I wasn't trying to blame him; I just wanted him to know that I missed them and wanted them.

I only stayed with the cult for a short time, but life, and new contacts, took me in different geographical and career directions. I never went back to my home town to live, and later my father told me that had always bothered my mother. Always, although we were in touch, I felt there was a curtain between my mother and me, until our last visit before she passed away unexpectedly. That last visit was the best.

I've learned much over the years but especially I've learned that I believe in family. I believe in friends. I believe in God (I've never ever stopped). I believe in the Catholic Church. I believe in the Pope. But most of all, I believe in love!

As my son who died a few years ago used to tell me, "God is love."

What else is there, really, but love?  

And so, I don't always do well at hearing that young adult children are "awful". I was one of those awful ones!  And both my parents and I could have handled it better. I also had a young adult child who, at one point in his life, sometimes stayed out late, drinking, and sometimes worried me not coming home (staying over with a friend but forgetting to call me) who later became a great witness for God and Mary and the Faith. He died in his sleep at the age of 26. Both the visitation and the funeral were filled with people he had touched with his short life.

So when I sometimes hear parents talk about what awful things their young adults do, it kind of breaks my heart a little for so many reasons. For one thing, as parents, we signed up for this when we said "I do". Our kids didn't sign up for it. They didn't ask for us. They are trying to find their way. They have to find their way; we can be there for them but we can't do it for them. And sometimes we don't even know what kinds of past experiences, thoughts, and feelings they are dealing with.

Even when we think our hearts are breaking for one reason or another, let's keep trying to give them our best, unconditional love. It's not easy, and I think I often fail, still. But we can just keep trying, and keep forgiving ourselves, when we fail them in one way or another. We can keep forgiving them, when we think they have failed us, or themselves, in some way or another.  

And let's trust in God, who is Love, always loving all of us.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What I Meant When I Said "I have no regrets"

"I believe I've reached this point where I have no regrets and no bitterness," I wrote recently on Facebook. A few of my friends questioned that statement, so I would like to clarify. 

Really, there are a few things that I would - if I could - go back and do differently. Definitely. 

Probably there are many things I would do differently, but there are a few that stand out from the rest.

There was the time I told someone I was thinking about what to do with the rest of my life, but what she heard was, "I'm going to take you down". Of course, it was way more complicated than that. But I could have been more careful with my words, and I've always been sad it turned out that way.

There was the time I got caught up in a cult, and because I had to leave my mom, I got mad at her (go figure). 

There have also been simple human mistakes I made that may have caused serious harm to loved ones. 

I would be irresponsible or calloused if I said that if I had all those things to do over again, I would do exactly the same thing. 

But that's not what I meant when I said that I have no regrets. Here's what I meant: 

I no longer beat myself up. 

I'm not only a sinful person but I'm also a fallible person. I guess that's why they call me a human. And I'm in good company.

King David saw a beautiful woman who caught his eye, so he sent her husband into battle to be killed. David repented, and he went on serving God. 

Mary and Joseph, the best of parents, lost Jesus for three days on the way home from the temple when he was twelve. True, Jesus knew where he was and what he was doing. But, although Mary was sinless and Joseph is called "the just man", they were human, and they didn't know where he was. 

Maybe what I meant when I said I have no regrets is that God made me human, and I don't regret being human. 

I laugh. I cry. I get mad. I rejoice. I sin. And I make mistakes. And God "gets that". Sometimes there are consequences to sin, and I might regret the consequences; and sometimes simple mistakes that are not sins at all go horribly wrong. Because darn, we are human. And sometimes I might still be sad about some of those things. 

But I no longer beat myself up. 

Because God is good. And God is love. God loves me. God loves those who have been hurt in some way because I am human. God loves my loved ones way, way more than I do. 

Know that God loves you. Know that He loves your loved ones even more than you do. God loves us every minute of every day - until he will love us every moment of eternity.