postaday 2011 challenge: has japan’s crisis effected a change in your life?

 

Misawa Air Base Personnel and Family Members h...

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The challenge by WordPress was for bloggers to think of topic ideas, since the staff feels it’s been a one-way street, with them coming up with the 99 ideas thus far. So I suggested the topic that’s in the title of my post. Here’s the comment I left on WordPress Daily Post Challenge blog.

Have the natural disasters in Japan made a specific difference in your life? If so, what and why? If not, why not?

Living in Washington State, one of the places in the “Ring of Fire,” I’m preparing myself physically, including learning CPR, and mentally, by figuring out what to do…in case. I’m also trying to appreciate everything about the present, loved ones, memories. I’m also reaching out to connect with others in my community…while I can. In the final analysis, people are more important than stuff.

that’s my suggestion for a topic…in fact i’ll be writing about it…hugmamma.

 

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

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Last night Father Brian hosted our “neighborhood” dinner. In attendance were probably 75-80 people who contributed appetizers, salads, entrees, and desserts to the potluck meal. We took a favorite Hawaiian meatball dish, as well as a sliced tomato, mozzarella balsamic vinaigrette seasoned salad. Both were gone by night’s end… except for a couple of meatballs which I devoured at home. They were so good!

From the get go, another woman and I immediately connected. I overheard her telling an acquaintance something about ballet. My ears perked up. Stepping forward I asked if someone was involved with ballet, to which the woman replied that her 9-year-old grand-daughter was taking lessons at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Explaining that my daughter dances professionally, our conversation continued in earnest.

My husband and I shared a table with my new friend, her husband, acquaintances of theirs, a young couple, and another gentleman with whom we were already familiar. It’s not often we dine with new people, but my communication skills never fail me. I’m sure readers of my blog have discovered that for themselves. I can talk, and some.

Downtown Seattle, Washington and the Bainbridg...

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Having moved west 3 years ago from Scranton, Pennsylvania, Marilyn and Rich were happily settled near one of their daughters and her family, including 2 grand-children. Another daughter resides in Portland, Oregon with a couple of other grand-children. A very lovely couple, we spoke of life on the east coast, where we’d lived before moving here 13 years ago. We also learned that they had actively participated in their church community, and felt inclined to be a little more laid back now that they were retired.

Looking around at the other tables, I observed that everyone was engaged in lively conversation. Father walked about, chatting, laughing, very comfortable in his role as host. While expected, the transition to business was done without the usual moaning and groaning. In fact, people actively participated in discussions about making the church and its community more relevant in the lives of the church-goers. Some in the group volunteered to form a committee to move this neighborhood gathering to the next level of involvement.

Post church fellowship

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Funny thing is, my husband and I were at the wrong neighborhood dinner. Our zipcode gathering occurred last week. But, of course, we weren’t turned away. We enjoyed ourselves, and those we met. Now we’ll just have to find our neighborhood community, and work our way into their midst.

leave it to me…hugmamma.     

an energetic organizer, and true christian

Haven’t posted about our pastor, Father Bryan Dolejsi, in some time. But today’s Mass reminded me of the gifts with which he has been blest, and which he uses with enormous energy, and generosity. I’m sure there are many others like him, in positions of leadership, within the religious world, as well as within the secular. I, for one, have rarely seen someone possessing all that it takes to be a force for good, in a world that has gone so bad. I say we clone the man, and distribute him to the furthest corners of the universe. Yes, even the aliens could use Fr. Bryan.

Why do I go on singing his praises? Have you ever heard of a pastor, one in his late 30s, instigating neighborhood gatherings? After Mass, the parishioners were invited to sign up for community dinners according to our zip codes. If no one steps forward from among those listed, Father hosts the dinners at his own home. I’m certain it’s a pot-luck meal, but still. In my 61 years, I’ve never eaten a meal at the home of a priest. I’ve had them to our home, but never been reciprocated, and never expected to be.

Obviously Father Bryan’s purpose is to bring his congregation together, to know one another, beginning with small groups, and eventually growing so that there is camaraderie among all in the parish. Sensitive to the isolation of individuals, Father attempts to gather all unto himself, infusing us with his love and energy to go forth and spread God‘s word of charity and compassion towards others.

Breaking of the bread.

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After Communion, Father Bryan asked that parishioners of less than a year gather before him to receive his blessing, and ours. Then he asked that they turn toward the congregation and receive our applause, welcoming them into the fold. He then asked that we speak to our new members, say “hello” or offer assistance if needed.

Now what mom wouldn’t be proud of a son like Father Byian? Not having met the woman, I’m positive his mom couldn’t be prouder of the man she raised from birth. 

for a leader who shows by example…and for the mom who set the example…huge hugs…hugmamma.

like family, church

Our parish has a very special “shepherd” in Father Brian. He brings us together like family. If you’ve followed me through my other church-related posts, you know I’m more about what’s going on around me, than I am about the rituals of the Mass. I know those more or less by heart since I was born a Catholic, more than half-a-century ago. What constantly changes, on the other hand, are the dynamics of the congregations in the churches I’ve attended.

It is my fervent belief, one which I’ve extrapolated on before, that the “sheep” in any organization behave according to the management style of the guy with the staff in his hand. Remember Moses? Granted, some follow better than others. I’m one of the peripheral “sheep,” not buying everything I’m being fed. I follow, but in my own way, in my own time. Give me a charismatic “shepherd” like Fr. Brian, and I’m on board 98%. The remaining 2% I retain on behalf of my own counsel. I think my husband and daughter are of a like mind. We don’t “bite,” when someone says “chew.” Sometimes we’re in the mood for meat, other times grain.

My perception of how well a boss is doing, is garnered from how well those he manages appear to be doing. From what I could see at Mass this morning, and truthfully at all I’ve attended, Father rallies everyone around him like a real father who cares about his children. And that’s saying a lot, since he’s only in his late 30’s!

Parishioners who left because of the “fire and brimstone” style of the previous pastor, have returned. Everyone is relaxed. Children are children, but quietly. They talk amongst themselves, or with their parents. We smile at one another, nodding our heads in acknowledgement, even toward complete strangers. Father Brian tells jokes to further a message. The responding laughter is easy, comfortable. This morning he explained that despite his wearing a purple vestment with gold trim, he was not advertising his support of the Huskies football team. From Bellingham, he neither roots for them, or WAZOO.

Then like a patriarch, Fr. Brian reminded us of those less fortunate. He spoke of the Catholic Services Society and all they do for the needy in our area, welcoming its director to address us personally. Unaware of the specific contributions made by CSS until now, our family was moved to make a donation on the spot. One recipient of the organization’s aid, Joan, wrote a letter of thanks. Explaining that she’d been poor all of her life, then finding herself pregnant at age 40, she was unsure where to turn. Thankfully CSS reached out to provide housing and food for Joan and her newborn. They provided her hope, and isn’t that what we all need to survive another day?

Looking across the aisle from where we sat, my daughter and I watched the obvious love between a mother and her daughter. Arms entwined around one another; whispers back and forth between the two; both “canoodling” as if no onelse existed. The charm of this Rockwellian scene? The mother was white; the daughter as black as night. But it didn’t seem as though either noticed the difference in their skin color. All my daughter and I could see was the extraordinary love in their eyes.

Behind this mother and daughter pair, was a family whose mom was Asian and whose dad was White. The young boy and girl were a mixture of both. I commented to my daughter that they looked to be Mongolian. Since I’m Hawaiian-Chinese, I’m very conscious of the differences in Asian features. I mention this family for their mixed heritage, but also because they too were smiling upon the mixed-heritage pair in front of them. A couple of pews behind the family were young parents with a newborn. Both were cooing to their baby, oblivious to those sitting nearby.

As we strode past the font, dipping our fingertips in the holy water to bless ourselves before leaving, my daughter recalled an incident which we both perceived as significant. In line to receive communion, she noticed 2 women, one in front of the other, gently holding hands. If they were lesbians, they were evidently comfortable admitting so before the entire congregation. Their simple gesture is momentous in that it speaks to Father Brian’s tolerance for all who come to worship. These women felt he would not condemn them. No fuss was made, so I didn’t take notice. We were all one, receiving Christ into our lives.   

Such scenes as I’ve mentioned, warm my heart, and make me very grateful for Father Brian. He enables us to be better people, better parents, better spouses, better neighbors, better bosses, better workers. There’s something to be said for the generosity of enablers. I don’t only toot my own horn, for I enable my husband to be the best boss he can be, and my daughter to be the best ballerina she can be. But the world is full of enablers, those who happily work from the sidelines, cheering others on to greater glory. The world needs both, those who do, and those who enable. And God blesses both.

Father Brian was the emcee at the recent inaugural ceremonies for our new archbishop, which took place at St. James Cathedral in Seattle. Unfortunately for us, his “sheep,” Father is not long for our parish. Having worked in the corporate world for many years, I can spot an “up-and-coming,” personality. And Father Brian is a star on the rise. He would make an excellent archbishop, cardinal, even Pope. Of course, these predictions are just that, predictions. No one has so much as voiced these opinions in public. Except perhaps the former archbishop whom we met at a farewell party in his honor. I seem to recall that he made a comment acknowledging that Father Brian’s talent hasn”t gone unnoticed.

While the Church needs men such as our pastor who has the passion, ambition, youthful energy, intelligence, people-skills, generosity and grace to lead the institution, I personally think more men like Father Brian are needed as pastors. The Church, after all, rests its weight upon the shoulders of its “sheep.” Without charismatic shepherds, sheep have a tendency to stray, even becoming tantalizing meals for wolves, and the like.

Of course the decision belongs to Father Brian and ultimately, the Pope. Father’s a young man, with a long journey ahead of him. He must answer his calling. Whatever it is, he has touched our lives along the way, and we’ve been made better for his gift of service.

prayers for Father Brian, and hugs…hugmamma.

“blessed are the children”

Fr. Bryan was his usual, charismatic self. At 38 years old, he’s got the talent and ability to run a business, so the Catholic church is lucky to have him, especially at the salary they must pay him. I’m betting it’s less than $20,000 a year. Today’s homily was proof of his capability to manage the “firm.”

Our parish must submit a 20 year plan for its projected growth. Father indicated that we are a suburban congregation on an urban plot of land. Physical expansion is nearly maxed out. To assist in his plan, Father conducted paper surveys during masses, over the course of 2 weekends. The first dealt with the demographics of the churchgoers; today’s asked which of 4 options we favored. Should we maintain the status quo? Should we stay put, expanding to the max, including constructing a parking garage? Should we consolidate the elementary, middle and high schools on one campus? Should we consolidate all of the church buildings, and the schools onto one compound? Of course, the price tag escalates with each option, from half-a-million dollars to $18 million. 

Father explained that when parishioners asked how soon various and sundry items would be fixed or initiated, he would tell them “We need to come up with a plan.” Interestingly enough he made more sense than my husband who tells me to show him a business plan, when I’ve expressed the desire to open an antique/gift shop. Another question often asked of Father is how long he’ll continue to be our pastor. He told us today that his 3 year contract is up in the spring. We’ll know then whether or not he’ll be renewed for another 6 years. 

Maybe parishioners are wondering  whether or not they want to commit millions of dollars, if Father Bryan is not around to enjoy the “fruits” of his labor. That’s what happened with the parish’s last major church remodel, about 10 years ago. Father Clark accomplished the task with a league of faithful volunteers. He was soon reassigned, and when another priest took his place, many left because the new pastor was not blest with people skills. Even my patient, long-suffering husband experienced moments of frustration. And that’s saying something.

While Father Bryan was speaking about our parish’s “mission,” since today was Mission Sunday, I was admiring the loving relationship of adoptive Caucasian parents for their Hispanic, 7 or 8-year-old son. Sitting in the pew in front of us, I first noticed the husband rubbing the small of his wife’s back in a very loving way. Initially I thought they might have had a little spat, and he was trying to get back into her good graces. But then I noticed the youngster between them, arms wrapped around his father’s waist. For a few minutes, I was distracted by something Father said. When my eyes returned to watching the family, the boy had his arms around his father’s leg. The man looked to be a little over 6 feet tall. Later, mother and son had their arms around one another, she stroking the arm he held across her tummy.

If ever I felt a child belonged to his parents, he was standing right in front of me. The aura emanating from that family was so organic, their love so natural. The difference in their ethnicities meant nothing to them, and yet it spoke volumes about them. I couldn’t help but lean forward, touching the mother on her shoulder, and telling her “I love how you love your son.” She smiled her thanks, sidling over to her son, both of them moving closer to her husband, his father. Tears welled in my eyes, which I had to quell before they trickled down my cheeks. My daughter put her arm around my waist, love in her eyes. She too smiled upon the family, and understood what a blessing they were, especially for those who beheld them.

While I listened to the wisdom of one mother’s son, I beheld another who was so loved by his parents. God touches us, when we least expect it.

all God’s children, hugs for…hugmamma.

meditation, “down time”, hope

My earliest memories of sitting through Sunday Mass as a child was leaning my butt against the bench, forehead  resting on folded arms on the pew back in front. Before long, my mom pinched my backside prompting an immediate reaction. I’d jerk into an upright position, sleepy eyes wide open if only for a few moments before I relaxed against the bench once again. At the time, the ceremonial ritualism was probably the only thing holding my attention: vestments embellished in gold and silver threads, exotic incense scenting the still air, angelic voices singing words beyond my comprehension. When the magic of showmanship wore off, however, boredom for adult activities quickly took over. Not understanding the Latin spoken by the priest, not seeing what he was doing with his back toward the congregation, and awaking early (never my strongpoint) made church attendance another chore. Didn’t I already have enough of those?

Attending a Catholic girl’s school meant Mass was a regular event, whether weekly or daily, I can’t remember which it was. The only time I was overwhelmingly grateful for the habit was when President Kennedy was assassinated. Upon learning that our Catholic president was dead, the entire student body and school administration filed mournfully into church, seeking comfort within its hallowed, marble walls. It was incomprehensible that the man seen by Americans to have ever-lasting youth and charming, good looks was forever gone. I’m certain school girls and women around the globe identified with Jackie as she bid farewell to her partner in “Camelot.”

Of course marrying the man of my dreams in a Catholic church was a coup of my own. I’d captured his heart and left “wannabe me’s” out in the cold, “eating their hearts out.” Being suppressed by the teaching of nuns didn’t mean my natural instincts were dead, sublimated maybe, but not extinct. Knowing how to catch a mate is in the genes, having been passed down through the ages, beginning with Eve. Our wedding Mass was beautiful, like millions of others before and since. What made ours special was the ensemble of friends from my husband’s seminary days who accompanied the ceremony with song and music. Con-celebrating the Mass were 3 priests, the church’s pastor, a priest who’d known my husband since childhood and a priest who’d been an instructor at the seminary. Having grown up in awe of the religious, I felt privileged to have so many witness my humble marriage. And humble it was for a friend of my mother-in-law’s made my simple gown, another fashioned my bridal bouquet, I made my own headdress as well as my bridesmaid and flower girl’s dresses, our few wedding pictures were taken by my sister and a friend of my husband’s, and we paid $75 for the Chinese food prepared by my sister-in-law’s mother-in-law, a caterer. The reception was held on the rectory lanai, since my mother-in-law worked part-time for the priests. Less than 100 guests visited, and ate with us. There was no music, no band, no dancing. But still a very happy occasion, especially for my husband and I who were grateful to be starting a new life together.

Baptizing our only child in a 100-year-old country church was another dream come true. A miracle baby after a fruitless 16 years of marriage, she was a welcome addition to our relationship. Raising her as a member of the church family meant our daughter had many who cared about her welfare. They followed her growth, were swayed by her charms, bestowed her with tokens of their love, and baby-sat when asked. She learned at an early age that the church was a place of solace from the oft-times unfriendly, “rat race” in which we all find ourselves entrenched.

Church has been, and always will be, a welcoming environment where our family de-stresses and decompresses. Sitting quietly, emptying our minds of worldly cares, providing a blank slate for spiritual thoughts, opens us up to compassion for our fellow-men and women, and restores our positive energy through hope. Humbled before our Creator, we feel His benevolence and forgiveness. All He asks in return is that we continue in our attempts to live our best lives according to His tenets. We are asked to be Christ-like towards all species of His magnificent creation.

Every Sunday, I recommit to being the best I can be, and doing the best I can do. But what older age and experience have taught me is to “cut myself some slack.” Throughout the years I’ve done what everyone is prone to do, “beat myself up” over what I perceive as failings. Habitually seeking approval engenders self-deprecation, which engenders low self-esteem, which engenders dissatisfaction with one’s life, which can harm loving relationships. I came to realize that the latter were what mattered most in life. So preserving them became my life’s purpose. Shedding negativity in my surroundings, including persons who cared little for my well-being, was a necessity. Therapists may call it self-survival; I call it loving myself.

It seems from an early age we learn not to love ourselves. Why is that, I wonder? Against what image of perfection are we measured?  Is it something our parents or others instill in us, consciously or unconsciously? Or is it our own perceptions of what others want us to become, or not become? Whatever the answers, we seem to steamroll through life accumulating so much negativity, toward ourselves and others. There are positive moments for sure, but they can be overwhelmed by the “luggage” we drag around with us, so that peeling through the layers of bad stuff can wear us down, physically, mentally and spiritually. At some point we MUST erect a barrier against more negativity, begin discarding the “baggage”, and replace it with mountains and mountains of positive experiences. These eventually become the thoughts and memories with which we occupy our lives. When negativity seeps back in, we must fight back, never again letting it gain a foothold.

All easier said than done, but so necessary for our own happiness and well-being, as well as the happiness and well-being of those we love. Of great consequence to them is that we fight to love ourselves. Value yourself, and you value them. Isn’t that all God asks of us?

compassion and hugs, for ourselves…and others…hugmamma.

return to venice

During a recent visit to Venice I felt a longing to return someday and spend more time, perhaps a month. Living as a local, I wanted to wander the narrow alleyways as if time were a luxury. Traveling the globe as a tourist is not my idea of experiencing the real face of a country. Doing so seems more like being on this side of the glass in an aquarium, observing underwater creatures swimming blithely through their sea world. With eyes wide, face pressed close, my imagination wanders, piercing the “barrier” separating me from them, be they natives of the sea or of the land. Momentarily, I’m one of them. Excitement lures me in, but fear of the unknown pulls me back into the comfort of my own skin. I envy those who can abandon themselves to what’s new, undeterred by the consequences. Like the “I Love Lucy” episode where she, wanting to “soak up local color” to prepare for a small part in an Italian movie, is drenched in grape juice when she wrestles with a villager in a vat of grapes. I’m up to scheming like Lucy, but lack her bravado in following through. What is it that holds me back? Is it my island mentality, older age, my husband’s antipathy for “dancing on the edge,” or my dysfunctional past? Whatever it is, I am fine living within this “moment.” But life has a way of changing things up, so I never say never.

A Thousand Days in Venice is the author’s story of her life-altering, middle-aged marriage to a Venetian. “He saw her across the Piazza San Marco and fell in love from afar. When he sees her again in a Venice cafe’ a year later, he knows it is fate. He knows little English; she, a divorced American chef, speaks only food-based Italian. Marlena thinks she is incapable of intimacy, that her heart has lost its capacity for romantic love. But within months of their first meeting, she has packed up her house in St. Louis to marry Fernando–“the stranger,” as she calls him–and live in that achingly lovely city in which they met.”

There are revealing moments in their relationship. When Fernando makes his first trip to America to see Marlena in St. Louis, she asks why the hasty visit, since she’d just arrived home a couple of days before. In response he explains that he was “…tired of waiting. I understand now about using up my time. Life is this conto, account,” said the banker in him. ‘It’s an unknown quantity of days from which one is permitted to withdraw only one precious one of them at a time. No deposits accepted. …I’ve used so many of mine to sleep. One by one, I’ve mostly waited for them to pass. It’s common enough for one to simply find a safe place to wait it all out. Every time I would begin to examine things, to think about what I felt, what I wanted, nothing touched, nothing mattered more than anything else. I’ve been lazy. Life rolled itself out and I shambled along sempre due passi indietro, always two steps behind. Fatalita, fate. Easy. No risks. Everything is someone else’s fault or merit. And so now, no more waiting,’ …”

Laughing until she cries at something he said, Fernando asks ‘And about those tears. How many times a day do you cry?’ Later Marlena’s thoughts return to his question, “Much of my crying is for joy and wonder rather than for pain. A trumpet’s waiting, a wind’s warm breath, the chink of a bell on an errant lamb, the smoke from a candle just spent, first light, twilight, firelight. Everyday beauty. I cry for how life intoxicates. And maybe just a little for how swiftly it runs.”

My daughter has said more than once that my tear ducts are intertwined with my heart-strings. My tears flow easily when she is ecstatic or unhappy, during old films, when listening to sad, or happy, news. I don’t think I cry as much as I laugh, but it probably runs a close second. During Mass yesterday, I braced myself for a hymn that always brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. “Be Not Afraid” had been a favorite of the pastor who presided over our 100-year-old church in Redding. He’d baptized our 5 month-old, walking her proudly down the aisle, showing her off to fellow parishioners.

Father Conlisk was a close family friend who dined with us regularly. During a visit I asked our toddler to go and find her father, in answer to which she readily climbed up onto the priest’s lap. One particular Christmas morning as we sat in the front pew at church, he asked her if she’d been visited by someone special. Without hesitation she showed him Dumbo the elephant, her new stuffed animal. He held it up for all to see; the congregation broke into peels of laughter.

When Father died as a result of lung cancer, I took our daughter to the funeral Mass at our small church and later, to one held in a larger church at a nearby parish. Both times I allowed her to stand just outside the pew, so she would have a better view of the proceedings. In preparation, I explained that Father Conlisk had gone to Heaven where he would be free from pain, and find happiness with God. We  followed others to the gravesite, where I showed our 5-year-old Father’s final resting place. I think she found closure because from then on, she seemed to accept his absence from our lives. Perhaps it also helped that we became good friends with the priest who replaced Father Conlisk.

So like Marlena, I tend to shed tears for “Everyday beauty…for how life intoxicates. And maybe just a little for how swiftly it runs.” What we may all have in common with the author is “this potentially destructive habit of mental record-keeping that builds, distorts, then breaks up and spreads into even the farthest flung territories of reason and consciousness. What we do is accumulate the pain, collect it like cranberry glass. We display it, stack it up into a pile. Then we stack it up into a mountain so we can climb up onto it, waiting for, demanding sympathy, salvation. ‘Hey, do you see this? Do you see how big my pain is?’ We look across at other people’s piles and measure them, shouting, ‘My pain is bigger than your pain.’ It’s all somehow like the medieval penchant for tower building. Each family demonstrated its power with the height of its own personal tower. One more layer of stone, one more layer of pain, each one a measure of power. I’d always fought to keep dismantling my pile, to sort and reject as much of the clutter as I could. Now, even more, I made myself look back straight into that which was over and done with, and that which would never be. I was determined to go to Fernando, and if there was to be some chance for us to take our story beyond this beginning, I knew I would have to go lightly. I was fairly certain the stranger’s piles would provide enough work for both of us.”

We all seem to emerge from childhood with “baggage.” Perhaps a lucky few escape, body, mind and spirit intact. But spending our adulthood living in the past, wastes what’s left of a good life. As we peel away the layers of yesterday’s disappointments, we make way for tomorrow’s possibilities. Better that we declutter, rather than hoard negative experiences simply to have someone, or something, to blame for our inability to cope or our downward spiral. The process may vary for there are probably as many paths toward resolution, as there are individuals in the world. One size doesn’t necessarily fit all. However the common denominator should be compassion and a positive attitude, toward oneself and others. We all deserve to live our best lives, going forward. Maybe when we disavow our mountains of past pain, we’ll be able to abandon our fears of the unknown, and…return to Venice. 

live our todays and tomorrows, never our yesterdays…hugmamma.

discipline and community

My mind may wander during Mass, I may glance around looking for familiar faces among the congregation, smile when a friend recognizes me, admire Father Brian’s recently purchased vestments, puzzle over the types of flowers arranged in vases around the altar. But when we sit and Father begins the homily, he has my undivided attention. My husband agrees that our pastor has a gift for public speaking.

I’m sorry to say I’ve no idea what the Gospel was about. I was lost in thought attempting to make sense of the previous reading, the Epistle. The woman seemed not to understand what she was reading so she stumbled over the words, saying “disciple” instead of “discipline.” I’m always impressed by these volunteers who must appear to understand the words set in front of them, even though they may not grasp their full meaning. Some may take a few minutes before Mass to familiarize themselves with their task, but it’s not always possible to do so, I’m sure. So while Father was reading the Gospel, I was probably feeling sorry for the previous speaker, and thanking God that I had not been in her shoes. Unlike her, I would have been blushing to my white roots.

My ears perk up when I hear Father speaking “regular” English for it makes comprehending simpler; narratives in the Bible require that I focus. And as I’ve said, my mind is multi-tasking. When Father begins with some personal anecdote everyone seems to straighten up, and tune in to what he’s saying.

Father spoke of his early days as a seminarian, and how difficult it was to learn discipline. He did not relate well with the first person charged with instructing the novices. He did better with the next person, the “student master,” who would explain the reason for leveling discipline upon those in his care. When students at the UofW Newman Center asked Father Brian to join them for a weekend retreat, the ‘student master” denied the request. When Father asked if he might attend the wedding of friends elsewhere, he was again denied. The explanation given for the denials was that he needed to focus on the vocation he had chosen, and the community in which he lived. He needed to learn discipline, understanding that he could not have his way in everything. As Father’s words washed over me, I pondered their meaning for me.

Over breakfast my husband and I discussed the homily.  I explained that as Father spoke, I could feel myself turning inward, humbling myself as Catholics of my era are wont to do. Talk about “glass ceilings,” I think Catholicism cornered the market on that centuries before it ever occurred to feminists trying to work their way up the corporate ladder.  Throughout the 12 years I was schooled by nuns from Boston, we students were constantly reminded about our need for humility. So I wondered if I was confusing the need for discipline with the need to be humble, as taught by my religion. 

I was interested in my husband’s perspective since, having been a seminarian, I assumed he’d had more theology than me. Ever the pragmatist he replied that his theological schooling had not exceeded mine and furthermore, every person needed discipline within himself, that it had nothing to do with religion. He was right.

Without self-discipline, we usurp the rights of others, including other species which share our natural resources. Without self-discipline, personal happiness eludes us because we are never satisfied unless we have more. Without self-discipline, we set ourselves apart from our community. Without self-discipline, we are unable to teach our children the values necessary for their evolution as good citizens. 

I think having humility might make it easier to learn self-discipline; but having self-discipline doesn’t guarantee humility. Being a Catholic raised in the 50’s and 60’s, I have to be careful not to mistake being humble with self-reproachment. Catholics of my generation bought into the guilt trip, “hook, line and sinker.” So while I humbly acknowledge my gift for writing, I realize that with it comes the need for discipline, knowing that I have a responsibility to my readers in what I say, and how I say it. I think all writers have that responsibility, though some may not think so.

While I paid no heed to God’s gospel, I think I got Father Brian’s homily. I think I’ll need him as a middle-man to gain entrance to Heaven. Father speaks my language, “regular” English.

pray for me…hugmamma.