Category Archives: My Lenten Journey

My Easter Confession

My Easter Confession

 

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Bless me Father for I have sinned.  It has been so long that I can’t even remember when I last went to confession and these are my sins.

Or at least the latest ones.

Or the ones I can remember.  BTW are we responsible for the ones we can’t remember?

Oh Lordy.  Well here goes.

I did not attend any Easter services this season.  Not Holy Thursday.  Not Good Friday.  Not Easter Vigil.

Zero, zip, nada.

I did this intentionally so now you know why I’m here today.

Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.

Instead..

I cleaned my house and did my Target, TJMaxx and Trader Joes shopping. I worked in my garden, fertilized all of my succulents and marveled at the first spring flowers on my Cecile Brunner Rose. I cooked a bit and squeezed lemons to freeze for future Lebanese delicacies.  I went to dinner and a movie with a good friend. I finished a novel and started a new one.  Took a morning hike and photographed several cows with their calves.

For the grand finale, Easter, I shared a meal with my wonderful family, chased toddlers around the house and played with my little grandson.

For these and all my sins I am sorry.

Now, Father, I’m sure you want to know why this cradle Catholic defied all of the rules.

My reasoning?  I wanted to see what it was like to live in a secular world without the sacred.  I wanted to see what it’s like to not believe, to not have my Catholic community, to not sing and pray for my loved ones and the world at large.  I wanted to see if God in nature was enough for me.

All in all it was a very spiritual experience.  But here is what I discovered.

I realized that I missed the incense, the chanting, the candles and the ancient scripture.  I missed the washing of the feet and the opportunity to meditate on service and being a woman for others. I missed the veneration of the cross and the church bells and the bowed heads. I missed the experience of humility that comes from believing in something that is beyond myself and out of my control.  I missed the celebration and the lilies filling the sanctuary.  I missed the Alleluia and the joy that comes after the sacrifices of Lent.

I missed the good old fashioned Catholic aerobics… standing for a half hour gospel and then springing up and down and up and down to the rhythm of the rituals and the liturgy.

I missed it all.  And now I feel an indescribable void.

So, Father, I guess you can take the girl out of the Catholic but you can’t take the Catholic out of the girl.  I’m sure you have an appropriate penance for me?  10 Hail Marys and a Glory Be?  100 continuous genuflections?  A Novena with my head covered?

You missed it, my dear.  Penance done.  Amen.  Hallelujah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loved!

Loved!

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Today we celebrated Ash Wednesday at Presentation High School.  To non-Catholics, this must be the weirdest cult practice that one has ever experienced!  Being doused with ashes in the shape of a cross and being told to turn from sin and live the gospel.  The scriptures proclaimed at Mass today told us that we are forgiven and loved and invited to be our best selves!  These students certainly look happy, don’t they?

I’m so proud of my Catholic faith.  It has really emerged as a positive force in this troubled world.  Our Pope has taken great pains in living a simple life and rejecting the pomp and circumstances of Vatican City.  We are encouraged, during the season of Lent- the forty days and nights before Easter- to do something positive in our lives rather than give something up.

Be kind.  Serve the poor.  Love your neighbor.

When I was in high school I practiced all the Catholic rituals without understanding them.  These students are doing the same.  They have no idea how this gospel message will come to nest in their souls and take fruit in their lives.  God bless them!  They are beautiful young women with the whole world at their feet.

I pray that they go forth and make a difference.  That they love tenderly and serve with open hearts.  That they become women of God with lives that impact others in a positive way.

I feel so blessed to be able to witness their transformation to womanhood and support them as they look forward to all of life’s blessings.

Amen

Blessed

Blessed

Hail Mary, full of grace

At a Lenten overnight retreat with 65 adolescent girls.

The Lord is with thee

Yoga pants, push up bras, still trying to make sense of their bodies and their souls, clear skinned and broken complexioned, immature and seeking- all seen and heard and embraced by a higher power.

Blessed are you among women

You are precious and perfect in God’s eyes, a temple of the Holy Spirit, hope for the world.  Don’t ever underestimate what lies yet dormant within you.  You are destined for goodness and prosperity.

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus

Co-creators with God, the capacity to bring forth life both literally and figuratively.  Nurturer, dreamer, lover, sanctuary.  You have so much to give.  I wish you could see what I see when I look at you.

Holy Mary, mother of God

Look within yourself for inspiration and strength.  Look outside yourself and see your journey unfold.  Reach out and make a holy connection with all of human kind.   You are never alone in this world.

Pray for us sinners

Let Mary be your spiritual mother.  Let her life and her sacrifice inform your every decision.  You are loved and forgiven.  Again and again and again.

Now and at the hour of our death

Live like there is no tomorrow.  Take joy in this day.  Be the woman you are destined to be.  Start now.  Don’t dilly dally.  Your life is precious and you are already on the path.  Be kind.  Be in solidarity with the poor and the poor in spirit.  Be the womb that gives forth life.

Be a woman of God.

Amen



 

Getting my ash in gear…

Getting my ash in gear…

 

Yesterday’s Ash Wednesday Liturgy at Presentation High School was a beautiful thing.  Eight hundred young women in formal dress uniform exuberantly singing an old Protestant hymn, Amazing Grace.  The gym was filled to capacity- standing room only.   The homily was delivered by a woman- our own resident bible scholar, Claire Foley.  Peer ministers doused their fellow students with ashes.  A slide show highlighted one of our Sisters of Presentation, Sr. Rachel Pinal, who works as a missionary in Somotillo, Nicaragua.  The liturgy kicked off our Mission Drive month, raising money to support our Sisters of Presentation working for peace and justice in South America.

No wonder Pope Benedict is resigning.  This old church ain’t what it used to be!

However, in the faculty room over lunch one would never have known that we have progressed this far as Catholics.  People were still talking about “giving something up” for Lent.  I assumed we were a more enlightened and progressive Catholic faculty.  Is it really that simple?

During Lent, the forty days and forty nights culminating in the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday, we are called to conversion, reconciliation, mercy, grace, self reflection and humility.  How do you get there by giving up candy?

I’m just sayin’….

But the most amusing thing for me as the Senior Class Counselor was one of my naughtiest students carefully tracing a cross of ashes on my forehead and advising me to “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel”.

Oh Lordy..

My life is plaid.

Beautiful Easter!

Beautiful Easter!

Nothing is more practical than finding God,

that is, than falling in love.

In a quite absolute, final way, what you are in love with,

what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.

It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,

what you do with your evenings,

how you spend your weekend,

what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart,

and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.

– Attributed to Pedro Arrupe. S.J.

 

It was a very Good Friday!

It was a very Good Friday!

I’ve had at least two people ask me in the past two days why it’s called Good Friday.  Funny… in all the years of being Catholic I’ve never asked that question.  It just goes to show how much we Catholics take in and accept as truth in faith.

I guess I could google it.  But I’d rather think that it’s “Good” because Jesus died and paid the price for our sins so that we can have eternal life.  Granted… I have never questioned that either!

Yesterday I attended Good Friday services at the Santa Clara Mission.  The lights were dimmed, the incense plentiful and the music was prayerful.  It was a solemn liturgy and I had some heavy things on my heart.  A good friend from high school recently died of a heart attack.   Another family’s 21 year old son was killed in an accident by a drunk driver.  A young teen has disappeared from Morgan Hill and has not been found.

I felt such solidarity with the congregation as we marched forward to venerate the cross singing “Were you there when they crucified my Lord”.  People knelt to kiss the cross.  Others bowed.   Ok.. I get emotional at these things.  I’m an N and an F on the Myers Briggs.  It doesn’t take much to make me weepy.

But just as I began to search for yet another tissue in my purse, the presiding priest asked us to join him in the Lord’s Prayer.  The somewhat feeble and elderly man standing next to me grabbed my hand firmly and raised it up in his and began to pray in earnest!  His strength and conviction shot through his hand into mine and straight to my heart.  I felt suddenly transformed by his faith and a presence of love.

Maybe it’s all hocus pocus.  Catholics were New Age before the New Agers were!  Beads and incense and smoke and mystery.  Death and resurrection.  I’ve bought it hook line and sinker my whole life.

I don’t need to explain it or google it.  I experienced it yesterday.  And it was certainly a “Good” Friday.

 

One last Lenten prayer…

One last Lenten prayer…

Lent officially ends tonight and I never really decided on what I was doing or not doing to observe the 40 days and 40 nights.  I guess I wanted to keep my options open!  So here we are at the solemn end and what do I have to show for it?

In hindsight I realize that I did get into a habit of praying.  I often feel like such a flake when I tell someone that I will pray for them and then it dissolves into the thin air of my best intentions.  So during Lent I kept a prayer list by my computer.

And I prayed in the morning when I got to work.

And I prayed in Savasana after hot yoga.

And I prayed when I was falling asleep at night.

As I prayed I put a line through the answered prayer… (like I do with my “to do” list).

Well Barbara who was suffering from cancer went to meet her maker in heaven.  Jen is pregnant.  Claire and her husband are in the process of adopting a baby.  Mounir got a job.  My friend Nancy’s husband got in to a special program at OHSU for his cancer treatments.  And my cousin Anna Marie looks beautiful in her facebook pictures even though I know she is in the midst of fighting breast cancer.   Prayer works!

But we’re not done yet God!  There is one more thing on my list!

I have tried every angle with my supplication.  I’ve consulted with my mother in heaven and asked her to go see what’s holding up the works.  I’ve held a painful pose in yoga and “offered it up” for a special intention.  It seems only fair that if I can hold standing bow pose for one full minute on a fake hip that God can grant this one wish!  I’ve worn this little cross as a good luck charm, rubbing it every few minutes to remind heaven that I haven’t given up the fight yet.  Today I posted my prayer request on www.prayerrequest.com!  (you can google anything you know..) Lastly I’ve told the whole world with this blog that I’m on my last nerve.

Lord have mercy!  Just one last thing…

 

 

 

Seek Forgiveness

Seek Forgiveness

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and this one would certainly qualify. I remember this moment as though it happened yesterday.  This particular permutation of the daily squabbles among my three munchkins was not the norm.  Patrick (my peace maker) was rarely the villain on the scene.

My two bookends, Rob and Peter, maybe..  :)

But I can assure you that minutes after this photo frame the three of them were playing nicely and had forgotten about the theft of the baby doll. Why would they continue to fight when they have one another to play with?  Forgive and forget.  So easy at this age.

This same scene in 20 years could potentially have a different outcome.  You betray me or take something that belongs to me and it may be very difficult for me to forgive you.

Because I am stubborn.  Because I have this thing called pride.  Because I don’t respect the history we have had together and am not willing to put aside my “rightness” in order to mend the relationship and find a way to move on from here.  Or perhaps I just don’t know how to do it.

How do we seek forgiveness?

Have a contrite heart.  Be vulnerable.  Put pride aside.  Admit to being wrong, or stubborn, or cross, or oversensitive.  Then ask for forgiveness.

Allow God’s grace and mercy to work their magic.  And begin anew.

 

 

Live Simply

Live Simply

This picture of my son, Peter, in our back yard in Whittier, California, takes me back to a time when life was much simpler.  Our morning ritual went something like this…

Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and then a tour of the vegetable garden to see what was newly sprouting and/or ready for harvest.

On this beautiful morning Peter uprooted a bumper crop of radishes and held them in awe and wonder only capable of a four year old reveling in his stay-at-home mom’s undivided attention. (Judging by Peter’s age I’m guessing Robert and Patrick were tucked neatly away at school for the day.)

The weed infested grass in the foreground wouldn’t win any awards I can guarantee you!  And our front yard was no different being that it was the designated area for the neighborhood slip and slide on hot afternoons.

But we were oblivious to the imperfections.  Life was good and we didn’t care what the neighbors thought. After all.. their kids were at our house playing and they were most likely home drinking ice tea and watching Phil Donohue!

During this lenten season I want to live more simply.  Drive less.  Spend less. Worry less.  Pray more while lying in Savasana pose after hot yoga class.  And find more joy in little things.  A phone call from my brother Mickey.  An impromptu lunch with a good friend.  An early morning stroll with a cup of black coffee (sans little boys, sadly) in my Morgan Hill garden to see what’s newly sprouting and/or ready for harvest.

 

Remember who loves you, baby!

Remember who loves you, baby!

Does this look familiar? 

No..  It’s not the collection for the pagan babies.  That was SO yesterday.  It’s been cleaned up and repackaged in a more politically savvy wrapper.  It’s Operation Rice Bowl.

The premise is the same…

Have a simple meal or pass up the venti nonfat vanilla soy decaf latte and deposit the money you save into this little box.   Write a check at the end of Lent to Catholic Relief Services. This organization supports programs all over the world in an effort to alleviate hunger and poverty.  orb.crs.org

And while we’re on the subject..

What happened to all those pagan babies we saved in elementary school?  You know.. the ones we gave up our milk money for?  The ones we were told we could purchase for $5, have baptized, fed and housed and saved from the fires of hell, in order to fulfill our Lenten obligation of almsgiving?

The topic of pagan babies stimulated some interesting posts on Facebook:

Remember naming your pagan baby?  That was the fun part!

We nominated, voted, and named it after our teacher.. always.

Since the girls donated 5-1, it was usually always a girl.

The term “pagan baby” sounds so horrific!  We thought it was so normal in Catholic grade school in the 50’s and 60’s!

I used to give them all my birthday money!

How innocent were we?  What other things did our parents tell us that we bought hook line and sinker?  “Clean your plates because the children are starving in Biafra.” Where is Biafra anyway?  And how will we get my uneaten peas to them? 

If only we could have Googled that to see if they were telling us the truth.

Regardless of how they dished up the message (pun intended), the proof is in the pudding.   If you are reading this blog you probably have more peas on your plate than 925 million people.  There’s also a good chance that you stopped at Starbuck’s this morning and that you will enjoy a satisfying and nourishing dinner tonight.

I’m just sayin’…