Thursday, March 29, 2012

Where Two or Three are Gathered

Last Saturday I exhibited at the Catholic Women of Faith Conference in Franklin, TN. May I say it was another fabulous day of speakers and prayer and togetherness. Every year I know the event coordinator gets concerned that the number of attendees will be lower than previous years. Kinda like having a party and worrying that no one will come and you've wasted all that time and energy and food. But, as usual, when the Holy Spirit is involved, all is well. The day was not just wonderful because of the witness of Tim Staples and Leah Darrow and Deby Schlapprizzi and the music of Tony Melendez but also because of the women who gathered in one place to pray and to listen and to talk and to confess. The building was alive with the love of our great God. From the Mass to the praying of the Divine Mercy Chaplet to Benediction to Confession to the speakers, the whole place was filled with the gifts that can only come from Our Father. I witnessed one young girl sharing her story with Tim, crying tears of joy. I witnessed lines of women longing for forgiveness. I heard the story of a mom with five young children suffering through chemo. I heard the story of a husband and wife clinging to their jobs during these uncertain times. I heard stories of anger and stories of change and stories of fear. I heard about heroes and I heard about saints. Every year I drag boxes and crates of books and gifts through the halls to my tables and take several hours to set up my display. Every year I never know what to expect. Every year I walk away completely satisfied and uplifted. And, every year I am reminded: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Standing Up for What's Right

Yesterday I sat watching a basketball game with a lifelong friend and her 28 year old niece. We were seated behind a 40 something year old man and his mother. As the game progressed, the man started taking pictures...of the cheerleaders from the opposite team. We couldn't help but get a little worked up as we noticed that he continued time out after time out to take pictures of the girls performing tumbling stunts. He had a large camera. We could see the screen. We knew what he was doing. Finally, our 28 year old made the motion like she was pushing up her sleeves. Okay, here we go. "Excuse me sir," she tapped the man on the shoulder. "If you don't mind me asking, what are you going to do with those pictures?" The man just looked at her. His mother asked what she said but he shrugged her off. She was oblivious to what her son was doing. "I noticed you were taking pictures of the cheerleaders." Finally he said, "They are just of them standing around." "Oh no sir. I've been watching and they are not just pictures of them standing around. You know, there is right and there is wrong and what you are doing is just plain wrong. These girls are someone's daughters." Total silence. He had since propped his feet up on the wall in front of him and his body language was in total defense mode. "What you are doing is really bothering me. It's just not right." I couldn't hear everything the man was saying but I do know that he stopped taking pictures. As we left the game, this 28 year old girl asked if what she had said was okay. She explained that she had just had enough and what she saw happening was wrong. Personally, I was proud to be there. I was proud to know this young girl who was willing to stand up for this group of girls she did not know and would never meet. I was proud of her tone with the man and her insistence and yet compassion in her voice for his complete ignorance, or so we wanted to believe. As she said, "Maybe this will at least make him think about what he was doing. My guess is, since his mother was right next to him while he was taking those pictures, that no one has ever told him that what he was doing is wrong."
As we began to leave, my 10 and 14 year old girls walked up (they were in seats closer to the playing floor) and of course, wanted to know what was going on. I took the time on the ride home to explain what had happened and how beautifully our young friend had handled everything. I took the opportunity to remind my girls of the importance of dressing appropriately. I explained that the cheerleaders were not the ones in the wrong in their uniforms and yet there are people who take advantage of situations and there are people who have problems.
One young girl standing up for a group of innocent young women... One young girl speaking up in one obviously sad situation... I wonder, if she wasn't there with us would I have had the guts to say something? Lord have mercy our world.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Abandonment, Rediscovering, Writing

As Lent rolls on I continue with Abandonment to Divine Providence as my choice for readings for these forty days. I am also reading Rediscovering Catholicism because it was next on my bookshelf and On Writing Well because it was recommended by another writer and God knows I need help. Much to my surprise, the three books have similar messages for my spiritual, working and writing life. If I may quote from the Introduction to Abandonment by John Beevers,

"Caussade was a very simple man. He was obsessed by one thought: the necessity of loving God and surrendering ourselves to him completely. If we love God we cannot go wrong. But what is original about him is that he said we need do no extraordinary works, show no unique devotion, behave in no uncommon manner. All we must do is our Christian duty continually. Nothing must be too paltry for us."

In Rediscovering Catholicism, Kelly goes over and over the importance of knowing God through the Scriptures and loving Him and doing His work so that we may become the "best version of ourselves." In On Writing Well, Zinsser teaches the importance of being ourselves when we write. He explains that we need to get rid of all the clutter and stop trying to pretty things up with extraordinary adjectives and adverbs. In other words, all three men say one thing, "Simplify." Do the simple, everyday works in life that bring us closer to God. Simply read and imitate Scripture. Be yourself when you write. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

Seems so simple but it's much more difficult than it sounds. It's all about the little things.

On this Feast of St. Joseph, a man who simply said "yes" to all that was asked of him, may we learn to simplify our own lives. May we respond to our daily tasks with love and sincerity. May we rid ourselves of all the complicated clutter. May we journey with one another and bring this world back to the only One who can save us.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Here is the Church, Here is the Steeple

I've been in the best place ever this past week with 5 of my 6 children and my parents. Being in Naples, FL is close to being in Paradise. I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's awesome.
Living in Nashville all my life, I am used to being one of the few in a crowd to be Catholic. I am used to mission sized Churches and daily Mass in a Chapel. Now I can say that we have grown and during the week we pack the Chapel full during our two morning Masses but I have witnessed a different kind of full in Paradise.
As I ventured to St. William Church with my parents this past week, I was floored by the amount of Catholics who gather for morning Mass every single day. The Church was almost full and they have 3 Masses a day. Three Masses, over 400 people at each Mass and four Priests to celebrate. And, it's not the only show in town. They have two other Churches down the road a bit and they are actually tearing this one down after Easter to build a larger Church to better serve the flock.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life."
These people believe and they are grateful. They give back. They participate in the One Body. They gather. Every. Single. Day. Hundreds of them. Here, in Paradise.
I am sure there are other places that pack them in like this and I know it is all a matter of perspective but I was truly moved. All I could think was "open the doors, here's all the people."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Little Sisters of the Poor

Today I had every intention to blog about a story my mom told me of the Little Sisters of the Poor. We have been in Chicago the past two days buying for the bookstore and our time together included quite a few stories about her when she was a little girl, which I love to hear. Then, as I sat at Mass, I realized that today is the Feast of St. John of God, one of my favorites and the Gospel reading was about Lazarus. I thought that God could not have given me a better sign to write about the poor and the sick until I got to work, to catch up on a few things, and found a message for my mother that read: Sister Clare called from the Little Sisters of the Poor. She said to tell your mother and Mrs. McGinn hello and that she missed St. Mary's and Nashville and that she prays for you all and the store. She is now in Totowa, NJ. She used to be in Indiana. Wow!
St. John of God served the sick and the poor in the streets and in the hospitals. He would have cared for Lazarus who would have taken even the scraps from the rich man's table. Moved by the poor, sick elderly lining the streets of cities in France, Jeanne Jugan founded the Little Sisters of the Poor in the 19th Century who today serve the poor and the elderly in 31 countries. The story is told that one day when Jugan begged a young man for money, he hit her in the face. She said to the man, "You gave that to me, now give me something for the elderly."
In the early 1900's the Little Sisters of the Poor were brought to Nashville by Bishop Byrne to care for the aged poor. My mom recalls the story her grandfather shared. He was the chief of police and the Little Sisters begged at the station quite frequently. In true imitation of her community's foundress, one of the sisters entered the building and asked the policeman at the front, "Can you give something for the poor and the sick today?" As she held out her hand, the man leaned over the counter and spit right in it. The sister calmly put that hand behind her back and putting her other hand forward said, "That was for me. Can you please give something now for the poor and the sick?"
Today, in a special way, remember the poor and the elderly and the sick. But, pray also for those who care for them and dedicate their lives in this service. God bless the Little Sisters of the Poor and the doctors and nurses who donate their time and their services to help those who cannot help themselves.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Measuring

"For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you."

There's a reason for me to stand up and notice the Gospel reading for today. All seemed so cut and dry, don't judge, don't condemn, forgive, give gifts. Difficult, no doubt, but understood. The way we judge others is the way we will be judged. If we blame and condemn and point fingers, then we shall receive a fair share of the same. Forgive and we are forgiven. Give and we will receive. Understandable. But the end throws me only because I am not good about measuring. I so to speak even ad lib a little in the measuring department. If I do not have sticks of butter with the nice little measurements on the side, I scoop some spoons from the crock o' butter. I grab a spoon from the draw and add sugar or flour or vanilla or salt. I don't always have my glasses so I guess when it's about 2/3rds of a cup. I hem pants by what looks good to the eye and I hang pictures by what seems to be the middle of the wall. Now, I can't get it off my mind that the reckless way I measure is the measure I will get in return. I believe it's time in my life to get a little more serious about what stands before me day after day. I am hearing the message for the day to read, start being a little more deliberate with your actions. Words pop off the page for a reason and I think the message for me is that if I truly believe in the Gospel message and I truly want to live that message, God wants me to be much more precise in what I do and in what I say. A pinch of this and a dash of that is not gonna cut it at my age. He wants the full measure.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Work Ethic

I noticed as I entered that there was a different girl to wash hair. Again? That's three in 3 or 4 months now. Hmmm. The talk started when more ladies arrived and noticed a "new" girl. "These young people just don't want to work." "Things are a lot different than they were in my day." "Young people just don't get it." I wanted to say, "Whoa there ladies! Let's not generalize." But, I stayed somewhat quiet. I did mention that I do not have many problems at our store with the ladies or the high school and college girls. I did mention that I believe that those who have a true belief it right and wrong seem to be more responsible when it comes to a work ethic. They seem not to leave others hanging and if they have to miss a day, they find a sub until they can get back. I did mention that I believe a certain amount of the work ethic comes from the examples set by the family. I did mention that part of being a Christian is just doing the right thing. "But the woman who was here talked about reading the Bible all the time." I stayed somewhat quiet. I did mention that reading the Bible and living God's Word are two totally different things. And, I speak to myself on that as well.
I hope and pray, that no one ever speaks about my children in this way. I hope and pray, that my children never feel they are entitled. No one should feel entitled. There is so much work to be done. (For this life and for the next.) If you are finished, if you are done or feel that you have "paid your dues", then take the time, accept the challenge, pass it on. Show up. Do the right thing. Follow through. Expect. Be there. And, for the sake of all that is right and just, help our society and hand it down.