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Day One: Novena from Israel

The Missal is packed. It will make me feel connected to the Universal Church.

The nine-day countdown to Lent is here. Ordinary Time is giving way to Lent. Everything green is turning purple, liturgically.

I will arrive in Israel to the green of Ordinary Time and return home to the purple of Lent. Perhaps receiving the ashes at Notre Dame du Lac chapel. A massive effort to fast in the land that has always been a place of feasting for me.

This time is different. There is no agenda. Nobody to keep up with.

There is only grace. The Lord. The Church that traces her story back.

There is only a desire to be present to Him. To linger as long as it takes to know He is ready for me to move along.

An aloneness that is not altogether alone.

Would that this fire had already begun.

There is a yes inside me that is so loud you must be able to hear it, no matter where you are. There is nothing else.

So many are praying for my safety, asking if I ever feel afraid there.

Let me come to you and share about this journey, why it is so much more than all of that. Why grace is all there is. Why I cannot help myself. I must go back.

He is there. This is my retreat. This is my respite from all. This is my journey to His Sacred Heart. This is my dance with all the Bible stories I have ever heard. This is my song of songs and psalm of praise and ancient lyrics of the Ancient of Days and new words that spill from my own heart today, tomorrow, these nine days.

I don’t care that I ramble.

It is a rambling of consolations, and they can be so infrequent in some seasons of life.

Jesus, all for you. I trust in you. I need you. Need. You.

Let me come to You,

and let me be found.

Amen

It is the land where faith began.

It is the land where the world will end.

The Alpha and Omega walked there.

The Lord, walking and healing, the Messiah, whose left arm stretched back to the beginning of time and right arm stretches forth to the end.

In the beginning…

Even so, Maranatha…

The Holy Land fascinates me, but it is more than that. It calls to me, but not like a particular country’s culture intrigues a couple and they apply for a spot on House Hunters International.

Not like that.

I need Israel. I need to get off the plane and into a vehicle and start moving closer to The Galilee. I need to see the rocky, dusty, rugged hills and then press farther north.

I need to let The Galilee come into my soul. Shuffle my feet through Capernaum and gaze across the Mount of Beatitudes. I need it to feed me for a space of time until I am ready for the final journey.

The journey to Jerusalem.

The journey to Golgotha. To the Stations of the Cross. To the Tomb.

This year, I am making a retreat of it. A novena. Nine days.

And the ninth day will be my last, which will also be the first day of Lent.

Ash Wednesday.

Come along. Come. Facebook page. Facebook profile.

This website.

Enter the Holy Land Novena where we will prepare for Lent.

I’m taking your hand in mine. Come. Let us go to Israel and usher in these forty days.

Tiny House Catholic Show: The Noah House

I want to produce it.

What are you looking for in your tiny house?

Enough storage for two, maybe three, because, you know, we’re open to life.

A functional kitchen, because, well, we won’t have the money to eat out all the time and making memories as a couple in the first year or two, that’s pretty terrific.

Something that can be moved? Not really because her folks are going to let us put it on their property. When babies come, the sitters are close. They are close, but not too close. We can store off-season clothes and equipment with them, but still have the privacy.

Are we looking for a cottage style, rustic style, cabin style or a fifth-wheel? Ask her. Whatever she wants is fine with me. But let’s keep it under 35K.

When does it need to be finished? Not until the wedding. We are waiting–for everything. First, the honeymoon, and then the tiny house.

Any unusual additions? Yes… space for the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart. A little place in the sleeping area to hang our rosaries. A wall that can accommodate a nail. We want a Crucifix in plain sight.

Yes, that is how I imagine the show. I keep coming back to this idea. Today’s readings on the Ark took me back to the whole concept. For a space of time, a couple needs to have their own little ark. They need to be able to pair up, get close to God, enjoy the gift of finding one another and the beauty of sharing this space, their space.

And then, they begin to see the signs of bursting at the seams. They are multiplying.

It is time to go forth.

They sell the tiny home. Another couple comes along. And, with a bit of grace, they become the mentors to two more.

The Noah House.

 

Shirking Your Supreme Duty

St. Peter was an apostle to the Jewish people.

St. Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles.

From the beginning, from the first breath of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, the supreme duty has been to share Jesus Christ. To evangelize.

Not to create programs.

Not to practice hospitality in the traditional sense of the word.

Not even to teach, heal, or serve along the lines of generic service.

We were called to go into all nations and baptize. To call to repentance. To guide and lead everyone to the Truth of Jesus Christ.

Too many of us have lost our focus.

It is like we were hired for a job with a “supreme duty,” clearly written in the job description, and we have focused on everything BUT the supreme duty.

We write books and buy books that are only slightly better than self-help drivel. And they sell.

We listen to talks that emphasize any number of things yet omit the one thing that is our supreme duty.

We don’t evangelize.

St. Paul’s number one goal was not to meet up with those who were different and learn about their culture. He didn’t spend his time and fill pages with writings about how to welcome the stranger and celebrate their differences. He didn’t preach about giving money to social programs or even about demonstrating for a cause or becoming an activist for social change.

He talked about something far different. He wrote about something far better. He died for something exceedingly more important.

Encounter Christ Jesus. And be converted.

We are not a closed group. We are not a social experiment. We are not about making the world better now or even about becoming the best version of ourselves. (Even if all those things seem to fit nicely in the Christian ethos.)

It stings. Doesn’t it?

We are made for heaven, and we are called to go into the world and share the good news … for the purpose and ultimate goal of conversion.

Don’t expect to feel comfortable. You might expect to feel distinctly uncomfortable.

You might even think you are putting your life at risk.

Put down your self-help books, even the ones that seem Catholickie (I made that word up).

“No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty, to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” – Pope St. John Paul II

There is only one group of people who have a unique relationship with God and our evangelization to them will be different, something more like talking to our grandparents and great grandparents. There is only one group of people who pre-date us in the faith and their covenant pre-dates our own. The Jewish people.

But everyone else is rudderless.

Even so, Jesus Christ loves his own and came to them first. He awaits their Great Recognition with joy and anticipation. So share. Even here. But don’t approach your matriarchs and patriarchs in the faith with arrogance. Definitely don’t do that. Begin with your common ground. And there is so much. SO. MUCH.

There is still a gentile world that rejects the Gospel message. There are still many who are comfortable with your social projects… just keep your mouth and message to yourself…just don’t try to tell us about Old or New Testament. Keep your Sacramental life hidden from me.

St. Paul would not be silent. So why are we?

He would not settle for service programs. So why do we?

He would shake things up a lot with his words and with his pen. So why don’t we?

Evangelize.

It is your supreme duty.

 

Leveling this word at someone is a sin.

The word, when used to define a person we do not really know, is sin.

It is the worst kind of gossip.

It leads to division, unrest, and evil. Yes, evil.

The sad truth is that the word “racist” is being flung at people right and left today. For the most part, we don’t know each other well enough to make that call.

The crowds thought they knew Jesus. He was a blasphemer. He was a troublemaker. He would ruin them all with his preaching and teaching.

They joined together to bring him down. They ended up killing the Lord of Life.

Here’s the kicker.

When we level an accusation at another person that is as toxic as “racist” when we do not know the heart of that person in a full and complete way, we drive the nails into the hands and feet of Jesus.

We crucify the Lord of Life.

For what we do to another, we do to Him.

Someone once called me a racist Zionist because I love Israel. Spend some time with me and you will discover why I love Israel.

Someone once thought my husband and I were white elitist. Spend some time with us and you will see that we are rural people with biracial grandchildren and a heart for immigrants – especially from countries that speak Spanish. I. Love. That. Language.

Me gusta mucho …

You don’t know me.

My confessor knows me.

God knows me.

My husband knows me.

Nobody else fully knows me.

And I do not fully know you.

The Things You Learn After Fifty

I am learning a new trick in my old age.

I’m learning how to be sad when I am sad and not let that sorrow become anger.

In my family, you weren’t allowed to be angry. Being angry was sin. The one who was able to hold his or her temper had the higher moral ground – and knew it.

I learned how to be soft. And then something would happen that made me hurt, and the emotion I would express was anger.

I’m in my fifties now, and I’ve learned a couple of things.

It is far better to be sad. Sadness can be taken to the cross. It can be immersed in the Precious Blood. It will give you strength and clarity after a little time.

Anger can’t.

Well, only righteous anger can do that, but who of us has pure righteous anger?

So let the hurt be the hurt. Be willing to be sad without being angry.

That is the first thing I have learned.

The second thing I have learned is to speak the truth. Sometimes, I speak it and my language is a little salty. That’s okay. I grew up believing that you couldn’t say gee, geez, gee whiz let alone any of the really raw stuff.

It was all swearing.

Again, there is a need to discern a little here. Swearing a blue streak can do real damage to your witness for Jesus Christ and your soul.

But it is okay to be a little salty. To speak the truth with a rawness and realness that makes the point known.

And then move on.

Burning anger requires the confessional and a spiritual director.

Sorrow usually just needs a bit of the cross of Jesus Christ.

I choose sorrow.

Words that speak what you feel, provided they do not seek to lay curses on another using the name of the Holy One, well… that’s not a sin.

It’s just a word.

A prayer is better.

But as long as another person is not the butt of your salty word, you probably don’t need to see a priest.

Gee, that feels better.

Just as true sorrow is a whole lot easier to lay down that chronic anger.

 

Conception after Rape

Last night’s dream could be analyzed by an amateur.

I was pregnant with my third child. I was back in high school taking a class or two, embarrassed that others were finding out what happened because it was all coming out, spilling out on a public stage.

I wasn’t a teenager. I wasn’t even the young mother I had been with my third pregnancy. I was my age. Me. Right now.

And it was all coming out.

There was a swimming pool at our high school, which there never really was and still isn’t.

I had to get in the water, with that six-month-baby growing inside of me.

I loved that child. Fiercely.

But what was everyone thinking? They were staring at me. And now they knew.

The child was the product of a rape-in-marriage.

 

I woke up then. I do have three children from my first marriage. The third one was a girl. I love her fiercely.

She is six months pregnant with my eighth grandchild.

We talked yesterday, and that may have seeded my dream. Not that we talked, because we do that every day, but the content of this particular conversation was new. Healing. A treasure that will stay with me always.

We talked about her conception. It was one of many conversations we have had about that night. She asked me questions with love and so much gentleness that I cannot write it now without a few tears.

“Mom, she said, “what else could it have been if not rape? I have always known that was what it was even if you didn’t use the word.”

I have always thought of it as molestation. Middle of the night. Sound asleep. Just a month after a marital separation.

Back then, I wasn’t Catholic. I had been on the pill. But during the separation, I had stopped taking it while I was living with my parents.

Then, he changed his mind about not loving me anymore, deciding that he did want to be married, that he wanted me back.

I went back. It’s what you did when you married at 18 and your dad was a pastor and you didn’t know there had been infidelity, especially when you had children together.

It’s what you did.

But the middle-of-the-night-thing needed to stop. It had become a trend with him. I hated it. If I wasn’t good enough to love in the middle of the day or at night before we fell asleep, why was the middle of the night the time? Wake me up out of a dead sleep? And, wow, could I go into a deep sleep after a day of running after two toddlers!

I made myself clear:

With moving back home after a separation, no longer on any contraception, I underscored the stipulation and doubled down on it. Don’t touch me. And especially not during this week.

Lord, I could not get pregnant now. Our marriage couldn’t take it. I didn’t realize that there wasn’t a marriage. Not really. Even though the truth was pretty darn clear.

I’m saying no to that intimacy. No to the middle of the night whatever-that-is. And no especially on the precise night that I am most likely to be fertile.

I blocked off a week and highlighted the three most worrisome days.

I woke up to the moment of our daughter’s conception. I knew immediately that I would conceive. It shook me to my core.

For years, I thought of it as a kind of marital molestation. But yesterday, my conversation with my now-grown daughter was incredibly healing.

“Mom,” she said, “what else could it have been if not rape? I have always known that was what it was even if you didn’t use the word.”

I suddenly felt free. I felt a bond with Kari. Love beyond description. She let me talk about it. Encouraged me to talk about it. Called it what it was. Gave me the freedom to do the same. And she is the only one who could free me from the memory. Redeem it, in a way.

This is it. The gift of yes to a little life that grew within me in the darkest hour. A gift I didn’t fully accept for five or six months into the pregnancy. But a gift that has become one of life’s best surprises and greatest treasures.

She looked at me and smiled. She gave me the freedom to see the truth, to call it for the first time what it was. And there is no pain in naming it because she said it from her own lips.

Man, I love that girl.

The last six months haven’t been easy. I have been thinking about this, in a kind of desolation spiritually, contemplating whether or not to write it, to include it in a new book.

It is so much easier to keep it tucked away in a room with a door only a few people could open, a door marked “molestation” and not “rape.”

I have come full circle, and it is a peaceful, grace-filled, miraculous embrace by the Divine One who makes all things new.

The water in last night’s dream? I think it was a beginning, a cleansing. Sure, I am still nervous about the crowds knowing. But it happened.

And there is joy and beauty on the other side of dark nights. There is peace in the middle of a terrible truth. There is laughter that gets multiplied when the grandbabies come along.

I won. The pearl of great price. It is mine to behold.

The non-Sacramental marriage fell away, but my yes to God and to a little girl made all the difference.

Kari, I love you.

 

 

Holy Land Pilgrimage On A Budget

The American Prerogative to Change Her Mind

Maybe it happens to every American who lives past the age of fifty.

You see your country change. You see opinions do a 180 degree turn.

What was once a cliche meant as a slam against women, suggesting that we are all fickle, is now totally an applicative accusation against Americans.

Charles Dickens in American Notes observed how dearly we like to put people on a pedestal just to knock them down again. And, we do.

We also do it with our core beliefs. We set them up. We knock them down.

Our country was once pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-chastity, pro-work ethic, pro-frugality.

We now embrace something else.

 

 

Today, I am toying with another memory from the past. There is a growing mindset that Israel is the occupier.

As a child, I was told something quite different, not merely from parents and grandparents, but at school.

Public school.

Our country advocated for the Jewish people to have a homeland.

We were horrified during the late 1970s when the PLO terrorized Israel. It was in our current events. We saw the filmstrips. And we stood with Israel.

Either our country was clueless on so many levels “back in the day,” or we are a fickle country. The American prerogative is to change her mind, again and again.

We keep putting ideas up on pedestals just to knock them down.

We stand on stages and proclaim things to be absolute Truth, only to reverse our position a few decades later and call old ideas archaic, deluded, misinformed and new ideas … progressive.

Truth is unchangeable. But we beg to differ.

I am so very tired of the American audacity to think this modern era can make it up as she goes through history. By “it” I mean truth.

Our children’s children will not agree with our children. They will consider themselves far more progressive than we.

Americans will continue to fulfill Dickens’ observation. Set it up. Knock it down.

Reword.

Revisit.

Rewind.

Redefine.

Repress … truth.

 

Yes, I am happy, no thanks to…well, some

This has been the year of more negativity than I can ever remember.

It makes me think about how I find my happy place. It can’t depend upon the voices swirling around me. Goodness, there is no way out of the mire that way.

These are my tried and true methods for peace.

  1. Read the Scriptures for the day. I love my Missal. For someone who may be a negative nelly out there and think, “Why didn’t she say the B-I-B-L-E… yes that’s the book for me.” It’s because the Missal is Scripture. It is a lot like those compilations of daily readings so popular in the 1990s… Read the Bible in 365 Days. So, don’t judge me.
  2. I put on music. Good music.
  3. I walk. In my own back yard. With my dog. And I look at all that God has permitted us to have. Yes, I know those are sentence fragments. I have an M.A. in English. I use phrases for emphasis. So, don’t judge me. An English professor once told me that I could break the rules when I had mastered them.
  4. I don’t listen to the negativity. It’s not that I don’t see it. I see and hear it all. Hearing and listening are two different things.
  5. Other people do not get to have power over me. I used to have this necklace that said I’m a King’s Kid. I was ashamed to wear it back when I was in high school. It’s tough enough being a preacher’s daughter without advertising it every day in a public school. But now, I let my King’s kid status shine in bright neon letters. I’m not only the daughter of the King of kings, I am Catholic. And I am not ashamed.
  6. I love Mother Mary. Goodness, how does one keep from feeling anxious without her constant companionship and intercession. We all need a mother. A mother who sticks with us no matter what.
  7. I pray. All. Day. Long.
  8. I hug my grandchildren as often as I can.
  9. I try to be a giver rather than a taker.
  10. I go to confession and when I receive the Eucharist…I lower my head because I am not worthy. Praise God for the words of absolution! Praise Him with loud cymbals and close-packed branches waving joyfully…I am not worthy, but just one Word, and I am healed.

Amen.

Bonus ideas:

  1. I say the daily offering before I get out of bed.
  2. I pray the prayer to St. Michael… often.