Saturday, May 27, 2017

Working "for a living"

The term "people who work for a living" has been on my mind. You see, right there, in those last three words, "for a living" is the problem for many folks! I'm totally convinced that most adults – and many youth - either work or want to work.

But working "for a living" is not simply a matter of desire. It is not the sole responsibility of the worker to make enough money to pay for housing and food.

Let me put that another way. Most workers cannot set their own wages or salaries! That might be so obvious that you might even laugh. But do you see the correlation there? We – society, social media - sometimes blame people that they don't "work for a living", even though many do work, but many employees aren't given the opportunity to make an actual living. 

And most employees today can't simply work two jobs or work overtime, even if they have the health and enthusiasm to do so. It's amazing to me how many full time jobs require that their employees refrain from moonlighting, expect them to not pick up another job during their time off.  And this is often true even though they are not making adequate money to support a family or, sometimes, not enough even to support one person.

Then there are the many part-time jobs which never offer full time work for most of their employees, yet require full-time availability. May I respectfully repeat that one, for those who aren't aware of it? Many part-time jobs (retail is an example, but not the only example)...many part-time jobs require full time availability even while offering only part time work.

"We need you to come in for this meeting tomorrow." Or: "We need you to fill in (during a time that you don't normally work) for this person who called out (or who quit)." Oh, but when you do, then, next week you may get fewer hours, because we can't have you getting paid for more than "x" number of hours in a pay period. Often, it's tough for the "bosses" too. I'm not blaming them for this! The problem is much greater than their position, and I'm not even sure I understand the ultimate problems and solutions. I'm just saying it's the way things are today, and while I think changes need to be made, that's not my topic this morning. 

This isn't a rant about employers, but rather, it's about pulling together! ...instead of (verbally) beating each other up! (whether individually or in the things we say and pass on in social media). It's about encouraging people, in an empathetic way, and truly listening to them, instead of implying (whether intentionally or not) that we've got it all together and the other guy doesn't. 

It's scarier this way, though, isn't it?...especially if we do have it all together ourselves, at least economically, at this time in our lives. If I admit that maybe my brother's troubles might not be his own fault, then I'm admitting to myself that troubles might come my way, too. 

You see, it's true. Troubles might come our way! When they do, are we going to beat ourselves up or are we going to comfort and encourage ourselves? And do we want others to truly listen to us and try to understand? 

Or, maybe those troubles already have come for you, and for that, I am truly sorry. And I know most people do have some kind of trouble or another. 

We don't have to go it alone! Not, that is, if we accept one another and try to acknowledge the world as it is, and not only as we would like it to be. 

I believe we are all stronger, the more we pull together. Do you think so too? 

Love and blessings to you all
Margaret Mary

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day Thoughts

I once thought the climate issue - "global warming" as I often heard it called - was just a political football. I am not a scientist and I don't understand all of it. 

However, I do understand that if we don't care for our land, it won't keep caring for us and our children.

I do understand that if we pollute our drinking water badly enough, people will die. If we pollute our rivers and our air, people will die or be sick. If we erode the soil or put poisons under and into it, that affects our lives and even our food supply.

And I understand that these things are happening, and have been happening for a long time, in different degrees and different places, here and in other countries.

But I also know that sometimes things get better! I understand that smog is not what it used to be, back when I often couldn't see my beloved sky when I lived in Los Angeles. I understand that air quality is at least somewhat better in many places, and some of the reasons are that factories were more regulated and cars were switched to unleaded fuels. Solutions based thinking can be valuable.

I've begun to think that the so-called "climate issue" is not just about climate but that it's a whole lump sum. The important thing is sustaining life and preserving resources, just like when I was a child and we re-used and repaired. And just like when we went camping or stayed in a motel, my parents taught me by word and example to try to "leave it better than we found it".

My science education hasn't improved much over the years, but my life experience and logic whisper to me that the term "global warming" may at times be a misunderstood term, especially by those who, like me, are not experts in science. 
It doesn't really matter precisely what someone believes or understands about the climate. What does matter, though, is that we can all breathe and drink and eat, not just the rich, but all of us. 

Although concerns over this, mixed with politics, may at times lead to over-regulating the wrong entities, such as burdening individuals or small business, this does not take away from a very real need to regulate the extent to which companies can use and abuse resources. It does not take away from the need to minimize damage and to leave our resources a little better whenever possible, rather than a lot worse tomorrow for the sake of profits today. In some cases, those tomorrows may even be catching up with us.

I believe that both on a voluntary personal level (through education and awareness), and on the level of working toward the just regulation and restraint of large companies, especially mega-corporations, that we need to all work for that seemingly old-fashioned, real-life value, to try to leave things better than we found them…for the vulnerable among us…and for ourselves…and for our children. 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Some ideas to promote a sustainable economy

As I begin a new job, working with young children, it seems like funny timing for me to be writing about opportunities for youth and adults, and the economy. But then again, I want the young children I work with to be able to move forward into productive lives, so I guess it's fitting, after all. 

I started mulling these ideas over after a discussion I had with someone about population. I have always believed that we don't have too many people. We have too many practices born of greed on the part of some, desperation on the part of some, and etc.

I have lived on the West Coast, in the Midwest, and on the East Coast. I have lived rural suburban and urban suburban, and I've spent time with relatives and others who lived rural. I have lived throughout the second half of the 1900's, as well as into the 2000's. I've observed many changes over the years. 

Some of the following ideas come from how some things were when I was a child. A few come from how things were not, for example, although I had a school library, and although I grew up comfortably middle class, I did not have ready access to a full library.  

I thought of a few of the other ideas here after watching people, and reading books and articles over the years, about housing and shopping options, and business. 

Although I speak in commands ("make" or "provide"), these are, of course, just one woman's ideas. 

Rural and rural suburban

Make zoning regulations as friendly as possible for people to be able to raise food-producing animals, such as goats or chickens, if they would like. 

Encourage people, or provide appropriate zoning if necessary, to be able to rent a pasture for the use of a neighbor's cow as my grandfather did or to rent an unused garage to a neighbor, as my other grandmother did. Foster the freedom to be able to trade and make small community business proposals among one another. 

Basically, let rural people do what rural people do best.  


Provide incentives or encouragement for more companies to build smaller homes such as many people had in the mid-20th century instead of the only options, in some areas, being huge, expensive homes. 

Build the homes structurally sound and comfortable but without expensive luxuries, so that more people can afford to buy them, and to buy them without committing such high payments that if they experience financial losses, they will lose their homes, and also so that utilities and maintenance will cost less. Offer some with less expensive choices, for example, being able to choose a carport rather than a garage is just one possibility I can think of.

Offer some that are multi-level to get more space on a smaller property, but also some that are only one-level, especially for the sake of retirees and families with a disability.  

Provide some garden space and some play space. If there is an association, require it to allow hanging laundry to dry outdoors.


Let companies or non-profits obtain old business buildings that are not in use. They can then tear the building down if necessary or, if structurally sound, gut whatever isn't sound. They would be required to make it safe from lead, make sure the water pipes are safe, eliminate pests, replace wiring, and whatever is needed. 

Rebuild part of it into a grocery store, and such things as an independent library or used book store, a used clothing store, and a health clinic such as they have at some drug stores.

Rebuild the rest into apartment homes. 

If possible, provide some space for a little gardening and at least a little space for children to play outdoors. Provide space for hanging clothing to dry outdoors, even if it is some kind of racks that can be extended and retracted from the windows. 

Move low or no income people into the building, giving them jobs in the stores and as maintenance people for the building, training them for those jobs if training is needed. Move some of these resident employees into management positions as soon as that is appropriate.

Offer to move people off the streets, and also out of abandoned and condemned housing, into some of the new, inexpensive multi-family dwellings . Help them to move their belongings.

Then demolish the condemned housing and rebuild those as was done with the old businesses, hence making more of the same type of urban villages.

An essential component here is the hiring of local people, and not only hiring them, but training them, and providing for their continuing education to improve or move up in the job, and for some of them to take their places as managers.

Access to shopping

In order to assure better access to food stores in any area, urban or rural, pass regulations to keep "megastores" from building huge infrastructures, then shutting them down and refusing to sell the building because they do not want to help their competition, as sometimes happens now. 

Require them to sell the property or to use it in a way that benefits the community, for example, they could donate the space to a non-profit or use it for a farmers market. 

If they do not wish to actively use the infrastructure for the community, they should be allowed to take their building down but at their own expense and within an appropriate time frame, and be required to sell the property, either with or without the infrastructure they had built - which ever they decide. Going forward, they would be able to consider these needs pro-actively before they decide to build a store or to close a store.


In addition to the current college offerings, also provide more low cost occupational schools which teach occupations that do not require a college degree.

Include courses to help students ascertain where they can best use their skills, contribute to the community, and make a living, as well as learning job search skills. Make at least one such career preparation class available to each student in the high school curriculum.

Also offer classes either in high schools or in occupational schools, or perhaps in libraries to help youth learn enrichment skills that may not become their occupation but may help them spend less or live a fuller life. Some examples of possible offerings might include simple carpentry, home painting, how to maintain and care for one's car, menu planning, cooking, budgeting, sewing, gardening, and so forth.

Encourage satellite libraries so that more people have access to library materials. These could be as simple as an obsolete drive-thru photo development booth or a former snow cone stand, or perhaps a small dedicated space in a store or in a government building. 

Library patrons could request books online or by phone, and have them sent to their satellite branch where they would also return them. This should not take the place of full libraries which offer so much opportunity for education and enrichment, but rather to provide materials for those who otherwise would not have ready or frequent access to a library.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Thank you to all the women

Thank you to all the women I know who have been physically or sexually abused as children or teens or young adults, and have kept on going anyway. I understand only too well. And I care.

Thank you to all the women who have been fired unjustly from a job or have been mistreated on a job, and have kept on going anyway…who have done what they needed to do, gotten the next job, kept caring and giving to their families.

Thank you to all the women who have been violently abused by a husband or boyfriend or father or brother, and who have overcome to get away or who are struggling even now to figure out a way to do so. I respect you.

The other day one of my sons and I were out on an errand and I told him I needed to make another stop. I wanted to take a few clothes to Ruth's Closet. While I looked at purses for a moment, my son read that their mission is for women and children who need to get out of abusive situations. Back in the car he told me, and he said it lifted him up to know that people are helping. Thank you to those women who volunteer their time to help.

Thank you to women who have been left to care for their children alone, or whose husbands have mistreated them, left them, threatened them, or taken them to court unjustly to fight for custody after being the one who left. Thank you to those women who keep on getting up each morning to do what they need to do.

Thank you also to all the women who get up each morning to take their children to day care and then go on to work. Another son of mine, going to college, once observed to me that women and very young children would get on the city bus in the morning, the woman dressed up, the child with a little backpack; and she would get off to take the child to day care before going to work. Thank you to those women who work so hard just to keep a roof over their child's head.

Thank you to the women who sell me my groceries, who hold their heads up high after trudging through the snow or burning heat to get from home to the bus and then from the bus stop to the plaza where the store is. I see you. I see you serving every day, and I even see some of you smiling at everyone to give them joy. Thank you for brightening my day. Thank you for serving me. Without you, I wouldn't eat. Thank you.

Thank you to the women who stay home with their children, sometimes struggling to have enough, and sometimes struggling with loneliness for adult companionship. I see you too. I've been you at times.

Thank you to all whom I have not mentioned here. I know there are many other situations and life challenges.

Thank you to all the women who have touched my life in any way. I honor you, and may you be blessed.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Because Amelia Smiled - A Book Review

Because Amelia Smiled, by David Ezra Stein, is a lovely picture book for all ages, yes, adults included. 

This picture book gently exposes children to different cultures while also bringing home the beauty of the ripple effect, that Amelia's smile indirectly affects so many people in so many places in so many different ways.

Although Amelia was running down the street holding hands with her parents, the theme of the book made me think of a disabled person who, in the eyes of the world, might not seem able to give very much, but who, in reality, brings beauty and joy to the world with a smile. Or, on the other side of that coin, I know a few adults who are not physically disabled but sometimes cannot muster a smile, yet who give a kind word or help someone in need in whatever ways they can. And so it goes with each person's contributions. 

The positive contributions of one individual to our world are greater than we can measure or know, and I think this book beautifully reinforces this concept. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

My Experience with a Pseudo-Catholic Cult

This is the story of my experience in the early 1970's, in going to what I call a "pseudo-Catholic cult". In calling it that, I'm not saying or implying that all the individuals involved were not Catholic, but rather that the charismatic, dogmatic leader claimed to be leading all that was left of the Catholic Church, while the Catholic Church did not recognize the organization as being legitimate. But my story is simply for the purpose of sharing my own experiences, and it is in no way meant as an indictment of any of the generous people who I met along the way. 

In telling my story, I avoid giving names except those of leaders, most of which are readily available in a simple search. My avoidance of names may make for awkward reading on occasion, and a little repetition, but please bear with me.  This is my own account, based on the facts as I saw them, written from my personal memory and understanding. I do not want to misrepresent anyone, should I remember something a little bit wrong, and I don't want to hurt anyone or their families, many of whom have already been hurt in so many ways.

Part 1:
As I said to a friend, decades later, "I came in to the Catholic Church through the back door," to which she replied with a smile, "You came in through the bathroom window."  Allegories aside, I grew up as a Protestant - as we called ourselves in those days - in the 1950's and '60's in Vancouver, Washington (a small town across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon).

Through a childhood friend, I became acquainted with some of the rich culture of the Catholic Church at an early age. I enjoyed hearing the stories of the saints; but I was also very content with my own church, where I had encouragement in my prayer life, and support for my daily life, first from my Sunday school and later from my youth group.

But one weekday afternoon I went with my Catholic friend to St. James Cathedral for a visit.  There, among the statues and candles, I was filled with a deep sense of peace. Although it wasn't an instant conversion, it was the sense of Presence, I think, more than anything, which gradually drew me to the Catholic Church. In my senior year of high school I decided to become a Catholic. Little did I know what a rocky road stretched ahead of me!

My girlfriend's mother was very upset about Vatican II and the changes in the Church, especially the changes in the Mass. So I went with them to a traditional Latin Mass at St. Birgitta's Catholic Church in Portland. Later, we drove ourselves. Of course, it was an adventure for us Vancouver kids to be driving to Portland for church.

I learned that, because it was a Croatian mission church, the priest answered directly to Rome rather than to the local bishop; consequently, he was able to offer the Latin Mass in an era when it was usually not allowed in the churches.

I told the pastor, Fr. Milan Mikulich, that I would like to become a Catholic. He told me he was going on an extended trip to Europe and would begin instructing me after he returned. I was disappointed by the delay, but in the meantime, I read Catholic books, including Chats with Converts (Fr. M.D. Forrest); The Autobiography of St. Therese; Fr. Smith Instructs Jackson by Archbishop John Francis Noll; and The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.

I also read a book by a traditionalist, Patrick Henry Omlor, which was called, Questioning the Validity of the Masses using the New All English Canon. The author posited the theory that the "new Mass" was not valid, based on the changes in wording. What was a young prospective Catholic to think? The same as her friend and her friend's mother, and some of the people with whom we had donuts and coffee after Mass, or the young people we met with for "cell meetings" with the Fatima Crusade, an organization founded and directed by a man called Brother Francis, who had formerly held an active role in the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima.

One weekend in the summer of 1971, after I graduated from high school, Brother Francis, with his right hand man Brother Denis, and a lay missionary sister came to our little town. We went to listen to them speak at the lecture hall of the PUD (the Public Utilities Department). They were quite charming, really.

After the talk, my friend and I drove the lay missionary sister to where she was spending the night. On the way, she told us enthusiastically about a 10-day summer seminar which was coming up in August in a camp in Idaho. She was very sweet and charming, and I had always loved going to my church summer camps; so it was easy for her to talk me into going. My only concern was getting time off from work, but I did, and my friend and I both headed to Idaho.

Part 2:
Someone from Portland offered to give us a ride from Vancouver to the camp in Idaho…a gentleman whose daughter was a sister with the group. I have no recollection why we accepted the offer instead of driving ourselves in my car; perhaps it was to save money since I had recently rented an apartment and things were a little tight for me.

When we checked in to the seminar, they took our watches. 'But wait. I've had my watch since I was in third grade. No one told me I was signing up for this.'  I don't know if I said it or only thought it, but they reassured us that they would give them back at the end of the 10-days. (Of course we didn't have cell phones in those days.).

And so began ten days filled with hours and hours of torturous lectures by Francis Schuckardt, all about the many terrible things that were "wrong" in the Church and in the world.  I have no idea how many hours he actually lectured since we were not allowed our watches; but I know we had a little time for Mass, which was offered by an elderly retired priest. We had a little time for sleep and meals. We were expected to practice silence always, except during recreation, when we had a little time to play volleyball or go to the chapel to pray privately. Even though I'm normally a talkative person, one of the first days I chose to go to the chapel to be alone, because I wanted to try to sort out my thoughts. But thinking for myself had become increasingly difficult as the days wore on; and I gave up.

Finally, the long ordeal was over. At this point, you might think we would have run, not walked, to get out of there. But there were two problems with that. First of all, the person from Portland who drove us up there was nowhere to be found. Secondly, how could we go back to "the world"?  There was nothing for us out there. Francis had told us about the "humanoids" and "possessed persons" who wandered the streets, who lived among us in the worlds we came from. He had also told us that, "All of the bishops are apostates! And anyone who follows an apostate bishop is ipso facto excommunicated!"  There was nothing for us in the churches we came from.

Pretty much, if we didn't want to go to hell, we better stay. There is little that is as powerful as threatening people with the loss of their souls.

I would like to share a free verse poem that I wrote a few years ago about going to that seminar, and then I will share the next chapter in the journey.

Ten Day Seminar, by Margaret Mary Myers

Our watches gone,
Time dragging on.
“The wicked world is dangerous!
Be safe with us.”
Endless listening to
Endless ranting.

Free time – one time.
Time alone, with God.
“What should I do?”
“Keep My commandments.”
Moment of connection.
Moment of sanity.

Cling to the connection.
Cling to the sanity.

Our watches gone,
Time dragging on.
“The wicked world is dangerous!
Be safe with us.”
Endless listening to
Endless ranting.

Connection fading.
Sanity sliding.

Endless time ending.
Watches returned, intact,
But broken to our needs;
Our spirits broken, like their usefulness.

Time to go home,
Yet not home, to the world,
Where dangers lurk
And devils dwell. 
Part 3:
So there we were…without a car, without a phone, without the desire to go home. We might have gone to "The Center" to phone home to our parents ('the center' was where they sold books and gifts, and had a phone); or we might have written a letter. I can't remember which it was after all this time. I do remember I wrote a letter to my landlady and offered her my furniture in exchange for the rent I couldn't pay. And then, finally, the man who had driven us to Idaho returned from wherever he had gone and offered to drive us back.

We went home, said our good-byes to our puzzled, and probably heart-broken, parents; we gathered a few of our things; and we headed back up in my car.

We were told we could stay as guests in the convent. They generously shared their meager food with us, one or two cubes of bouillon to a huge pot of water, and fruit and bread from dumpster diving at the nearby grocery store, but also good eggs and milk from farmers in the community. I don't remember where my childhood friend slept (if I even knew at the time), but I remember sleeping under the table in the dining room; of course I still had my sleeping bag from the camp. I also remember sleeping upstairs on a bedroom floor, hoping that the missionary sister - the one who had come to Vancouver way back in what seemed like another lifetime –would not step on me in the dark when she came in from the home of some family in the group, whom she had gone to visit.

The sisters I lived with came to call the lay missionary sister my "guardian angel", as she was assigned to prepare me for reception into the Church and we spent a lot of time together, poring over books and talking. As it turned out, my missionary sister taught me the same things I had read in Catholic books in past months. But some of the things we talked about seemed different from some of the things that Brother Francis was teaching. She came to trust me, and she told me confidentially of her concerns about some of the things he had been saying. We had to talk about this in the basement or while taking a walk because the cardinal rule and atmosphere was that no one must ever question Francis or anything he said.

But soon it was time for my Baptism at the big church in the country. A retired missionary priest, Fr. Ernest Speckhart, who had served in South America and was now living in Los Angeles, came up to help out at a weekend conference, and Sister arranged for him to be the one to baptize me. I felt sorry for the people who had to wait through the Confession, conditional Baptism, and First Holy Communion before they could attend the long Mass. But there was a bit of a spirit of festivity after it was all over, and people congratulated me.

At that same weekend conference - part of which was held in the little town - I came out after the evening talks one night and my car wouldn't start. A couple of the young men (teenagers, perhaps) tried to jump- start it for me, but someone said they accidentally jump-started it backwards. So there it sat, parked along the curb, and it got impounded. Someone else drove me and my friend back to the convent, and there sat my car in the impound lot. Of course I didn't have any money for repairs or impound fees; although I don't know where I would have gotten money for more gas, anyway. Now I truly had given up almost everything. Now I was even more completely dependent…I who had been so responsible from an early age.

Part 4:
After a few days or weeks (who knows which it was), I wrote Brother Francis a letter telling him that I had decided I didn't want to become a sister; I would rather be a lay missionary. He had someone take me to the center so I could call him; and he told me that was a Protestant idea. Being a new convert, that hurt. But, he said, since you feel that way, you should leave the convent, and there is a woman who works, and who has two school children boarding with her. You can go live with her and help take care of the children, he said. And so I did.

The woman I lived with seemed like a reasonable person, and the little girls were sweet, but it might have been the first afternoon I was there that a neighbor woman came over to scold us that the girls, for heaven's sake, should not be playing in pants. They must wear only long skirts always, not just for church and school but for play too. I guess my hostess hadn't understood the rules. Also, the girls, just like the women, must cover their heads with a mantilla or a scarf at all times, this neighbor told us.

Then one day someone came to drive me to the center again, because Brother Francis wanted to talk to me once more. He was all sweetness and charm this time. He said, since I wanted to be a lay missionary, he had an opportunity for me. I could go to Phoenix with a couple who were returning to their home there. I could help at their center. And the lay missionary sister would be going too, and we could help with this couple's little girl, also. Francis said he would pay to have my car repaired, so that we could all drive down there in it.

And so, I left my childhood friend behind, just as I had previously left behind my family, my extended family, my other friends, my job, and my apartment. And I set off on another adventure.

In spite of that sorrow, as we drove further and further south, I felt a sense of relief at leaving the place behind.

Within a day or two, the couple left for Chicago where they were going to meet Brother Francis. We would stay behind to care for their small daughter. Before they left, our host said to us, "Feel free to help yourselves to any of the books in the library while we are gone!" We thanked him and said good-bye.

My missionary sister was delighted to see the books, because she was concerned and wanted to check some things out. The day before they left on this trip, the woman had told her she was picking up something for an ordination. I think she hadn't meant to share that and let it slip out.

Well, Francis had recently told Sister about a bishop he had been in touch with in Chicago, a Bishop Daniel Q. Brown, a bishop of the "Old Roman Catholic" Church.  And here we were with a Catholic Dictionary and a whole set of Catholic Encyclopedias at our disposal. And so, in between taking care of the little girl, we went to work on research. We learned that the Old Roman Catholic Church had broken with the Catholic Church at least as early as the 1800's. I have learned more recently that Daniel Q. Brown had been a Catholic layman, and had left the Church in the 1960's due to the changes brought about by Vatican II, joining the Old Roman Catholics, where he was ordained and consecrated. At some point, I read, he rejected the Old Roman Catholic Church; however, he took full advantage of his orders to pass them along.

My missionary sister and I felt we could not stay, knowing what we did about how Brother Francis was getting ordained. We packed my car, filled it with gas, and parked it, facing out and where they could not inadvertently block it when they came home. We were ready to go as soon as the couple returned from Chicago.

We fully expected the couple to return to Phoenix and tell us that Francis had become a priest, but both they and we were in for a shock! Their shock was that we were not delighted…and that we were leaving. Our shock came when they told us that Francis Schuckardt had not only been ordained a priest, but had also been consecrated a bishop the very next day.  Of course, they were not happy that we were leaving! But away we went, driving through the night to Los Angeles, where Sister had friends, including Fr. Speckhart, the priest who had baptized me.

Part 5:
We arrived at a home in Los Angeles in time for Sunday Mass. People warmly welcomed us with open arms. In the coming days, my friend found a chance to talk to Fr. Speckhart privately, and she told him what she knew about the ordination and consecration of Francis. He then did his own research. At the next week's Mass, Fr. Speckhart explained it to the people during his sermon, telling what was wrong with what Francis had done. Fr. Speckhart's talk was not well received, as the loyalty was not to him but to their distant charismatic leader, Francis Schuckardt.

Later that week, a friend showed us a letter that had gone out immediately, to all the followers in the L.A. area, as soon as someone had phoned up to Idaho with news of Father Speckart's talk. The letter came directly from Francis Schuckardt. In it, he named the three of us…my missionary sister friend, Fr. Speckhart, and me. In the letter, Francis said that we had chosen to become enemies of the community. No one was to have anything to do with us! And all the way down in Los Angeles, the people obeyed completely it seemed, all except for the one family, the ones who showed us the letter. But to get to or from their house, we had to park far away on another street and walk in, hoping against hope, for their sake, that no one would drive by and see us walking. This family still had children in the boarding school in Idaho, and we didn't want to endanger them in any way.

Soon, this couple decided to drive to Idaho to bring their children home. They invited us to go along, as we had left some of our belongings behind when we drove to Phoenix. They told no one they were coming. When we got close to the town in Idaho, the two of us crouched on the floor in the back of the car, concerned, for their sake, that someone might see us with them before they reached their children. They drove us to the home of friends who had already left Francis's group previously, who graciously welcomed us to stay in their home for a few days, and even generously lent us the use of their car.

Our Los Angeles friends were going to pick up their children and head home, while the two of us were going to stay behind for a few days, and then take the train back. Our first stop was the center, where my friend stuck her foot in the door and they quickly slammed it, but too late. She was wearing a very solid boot of mine and she took advantage of being stuck there, telling them that Francis was ordained and consecrated by someone who was not Catholic, while they tried to talk over her, so that they would not be listening, telling her repeatedly to go away. Finally, she said, "I will, if you'll let me get my foot out of the door."  And they did.

The next day we went to the convent to pick up our things, but they wouldn't open the door to us. They were not supposed to, anyway, of course, but after the previous day's adventure, they were probably well prepared. We went to the police and asked the police officer to speak to them. The police officer did talk to them and he called to tell us to come to the convent the next day. We did, and there were our things, not on the porch, as we had guessed they would be, but in the middle of the yard in the snow.  At least we were able to get them back.

We must have shipped the belongings we retrieved, since we were taking the train. Some details are hard to remember after 45 years. Some other things are easier to remember because they were so impressive or because we retold them so many times.

We stopped by Vancouver and had a nice visit with my parents. And then we went on to the home of my missionary friend's family in Central California and stayed with her mother.  We made frequent trips to Los Angeles where we spent time with families who had left the group or who had only had a brief encounter with the group. We attended the Latin Mass of retired priests or priests who had special permission to offer it. Sometimes we attended an Eastern rite Catholic Mass, which had remained essentially unchanged.

Eventually, we both got jobs in Central California. I saved up some money and bought a car (mine had seen better days long before), and I took a few classes. Three years after that fateful summer of '71, I packed everything into my old VW Beetle and moved, by myself, to Los Angeles, where I later met my husband – a great guy - and the rest is another history, not entirely pertinent to this story.

I have told this story from my own viewpoint, as accurately as I can remember. There were many other stories and many details that I have left out because it is painful to re-live that period of time. Also, there were many other happenings and details that I learned about from others, later on, but those involve other people's journeys, and they are neither my explanations to give nor my stories to tell.

Today, forty-five years later, I sometimes attend the Latin Mass in a historic church downtown that is part of our local Catholic archdiocese, especially to hear my husband sing in the choir; and I also attend the mainstream Mass at my vibrant local Catholic church.

I have come full circle back to why, when I was a teenager, I wanted to become a Catholic. Whenever I hear someone complain about the way things are done in the liturgy at this parish or that parish (whether in person or online), I like to say, "Is Jesus there? Then I'm there." 

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Five Things We Can Do About Politics Today

Yesterday, I said I might go on a political rant. I might, at some point, but first I want to make something clear. No matter what opinion or information I share, someone may be tempted to either think that I'm "part of the right" or "a leftist".  Whatever I may (or may not) share in the future, let me say this clearly first: I see myself as neither left nor right. You can label me any way you want if it makes you feel good (though it might hurt my feelings); but I'm just little old me with all my experiences and a lot of love in my heart, and sometimes a lot of frustration too.

As many of my friends and family know, when I was 18, I went to a cult. I'm not proud of that; but I learned a lot from it. I learned how dangerous it can be to focus too much on the negatives in the world. Why? It actually makes a person more vulnerable! I also learned it can be hazardous to think of people of other "groups" than "our own" as being "the other". Most of all, I learned the grave danger of people adhering to one group, or one man, as having all the answers, as being completely *right*, while that man or group adamantly tells us that everyone else is *wrong*.

If you voted against our current president, fight the issues that are most important to you, but please be careful to take care of yourselves too, lest you become more vulnerable from fighting the fight, and burn out.

If you voted for him, please understand that not everything about any man or any party can possibly be right.

Yes, truth in disclosure, in case you didn't see, or don't remember, my posts from last summer or fall, personally, I could not in conscience vote for President Trump. But my words here are for both those who did and those who didn't. We are all in this country together, and let's get through this.

First, let's be aware of self-care…and family care. By self-care, I don't mean selfishness. My desires are not more important than someone else's needs. But, for the most part, only I can keep myself physically and emotionally healthy. And for some people, caring for themselves and their families are all they have the resources to handle at a particular time.

Secondly, let's be there for those in need, in whatever ways we are called to and able to, whether that's physical help or moral support, prayer support, or encouragement. (And let's try to "do no harm". Personally, I don't find name calling to be very encouraging. Sorry, but that's a pet peeve of mine.)

Thirdly, let's be knowledgeable about a topic before we talk about it or share about it. I'll admit it. I have occasionally shared something because it seemed to be "on my side" about an issue, before checking it out thoroughly. The fact that a post, an article, or a meme is in agreement with what we believe does not guarantee that it contains factual information. Also, memes can be untimely. A number that was true one day may literally be 10 times different a few days later. I say this for myself too:  if we're not sure, let's move to a topic about which we are more knowledgeable, and share things which we have checked out very carefully. Or, if we're too tired to do that, we can always share - that day - about the weather, cloud formations, recipes, pretty flowers, pets, and of course, coffee.

Fourthly, let's be willing to step away from loyalty to party lines and loyalty to individual leaders to look at individual issues. Maybe you agree with this politician or party about this situation, but what about this other issue? Might your friend who is concerned about it have a point? 

Fifth, let's be most involved with those particular issues which are most important to us - or which we have a talent for - in whatever healthy ways we can. It might be easy enough to sign a petition or make a phone call to a senator but when we do the larger things, we might need to remember that no one can be all things or do all things, remembering, again, the importance of self-care, which is not taking care of myself as narcissistically important while other people are not, but loving ourselves, and opening ourselves to be compassionate to others. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Not a Disney Movie

I've got a secret. I'm going to let you in on it. Shh. Here it is: We are not living in a Disney movie where it's all the good guys and the bad guys. We are living in the real world where some people do some really bad things some of the time, where some people do some really good things some of the time; where most people have a lot of good in their hearts, and where there's never anyone among us who doesn't ever do anything "bad", however large or small.
Oh no, but, 'I thank thee, Lord, that I am not like one of these sinners', said the Pharisee, whom Our Lord mentioned in order to say that the Publican who called himself a sinner did the better thing. And I am not using this example to call names; I'm not calling anyone a Pharisee as if I'm better (that would make me the Pharisee, wouldn't it?). Someone dear to me and I used to laughingly refer to this parable in order to remind ourselves of who we should be. I share it in that spirit.
Sometimes we talk about all the division as if it's a bad thing, and yet then sometimes fall into saying the divisive word, "they". Who is "they"? I fear we fall into the Disney movie or the sports competition mentality sometimes, and we either make everyone 'the good and the bad' or we think of it as 'our team and the opponents'. But really, aren't we all just mostly good but fallible human beings? Unless the antecedent to our pronoun is very, very clear, we would be better off to stop using that pronoun "they" as much as possible. My opinion. But I am right, am I not? :)
Another thing. If a public figure does or says something we don't agree with or approve, and it is highly public - or mostly if it is something that could directly affect us or others we care about - then we can talk about it because it is of public knowledge and concern (although again, public figures are human beings and should all be treated as such). But if someone talks about someone in a derogatory way, someone involving a victim of people's tongues, and then, in our outrage, we pass that along, saying, "Oh my, that's so terrible....Did you hear about that?", then I'm afraid more people come to know. More people come to be talking about that person. Are we sharing it to help that child or to help our goal of pointing out how bad our "opponent" is...that "they"? I learn so many things from social media that I honestly didn't need to know. Don't you? Or maybe that's me because I don't spend a lot of time watching the news. I mostly read the news, and mostly what I feel is pertinent to my concerns.
One more thing. It's not unloving to have opinions. It's not unloving to discuss those opinions. But name calling hurts real people. Even if we would not call our family member, friend, or neighbor a name, if we call names about "people who"...(fill in the blank), we might inadvertently being calling our family member, friend, or neighbor that name.
Love isn't about saying, "We all need to agree". It isn't saying we shouldn't fight, in respectful ways, against attitudes and actions that concern us. But love says, I see you. Love says, "I see you as God's beautiful creation, loved so much by God" (that's hard to remember sometimes, isn't it?). I see you having a different opinion or a different conviction than I do on this topic or that topic, but hey, maybe where you're coming from is different than I believed it was. Or maybe we might agree on something else. Love says: I don't have to agree with you to believe there is much good in your heart.
As St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:13, "So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."