There’s something about October

There’s something about October.

Here it is again!

The start of its splendor.

Rises to our recollection of what once been.

The heart wrenched news.

Their suffering dues.

All come reminding, their last days here.

Like dying leaves surrounding, our hearts go onto longing, their lives in many ways.

Why is it Dear Lord these souls ached or perished at the time of these orange skies?

How much they are missed.

Til we see them next, please keep them ever by your side.

The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena

Around August 15th, about the time the news broke out on Cardinal McCarrick and the priest sex abuse scandal, I had just received my copy of ‘The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena.  For some reason, right before this horrific news hit, I felt compelled to read it.  Even though I have read many books on St. Catherine, this one I hadn’t.  This book is the one big source to her total being.  It is odd to me that I hadn’t read it and yet now was the most perfect time to read it.

Quite frankly, I wish I could post a pic of each page and upload her text so you can just skip what I have to say about it and read what was written.

For those who don’t know about this book or St. Catherine, her life’s purpose in a nutshell had to do with reform of the Church. This book is the essential piece to the work she performed to help rid the Church of bad clergy.  Much of St. Catherine’s life was a selfless act of humility and servitude. All she wanted was for others to come to Christ and to defend the Church. Two things I hold dear in my heart.  However, I am no way near selflessness. But thanks to God, through St. Catherine, He used her at a time when much revolt was occurring and educated her to evangelize the masses during it.

St. Catherine was gifted with such openness to have our Father God speak to her.  With that, he gave her multiple “talks” on how to respond, how to pray, what to teach/pass on, how to stay on course of the faith, etc. during the time of purging and restoration.

The dialogue is based on “bad clergy” and Our Lord’s response to that.  He often refers to them not as bad clergy but priests who rather “self love” than to love God.

God’s speech to St. Catherine defines who follows Christ and those who don’t. He points out to her what He sees in both.

This excerpt is identifying those who are full of self love. From the book: “…nor the three vows which he promised to observe at the time of his Profession; he swims in the tempestuous sea, tossed to and fro by contrary winds, fastened only to the ship by his clothes, wearing the religious habit on his body, but not on his heart.”

Father God shares with St. Catherine that there are priests performing evil acts.  Some so far into it, they can’t even turn away or find God’s mercy.  So they continue to stay in their sin and filth.  He instructs St. Catherine to pray for them. Pray they come to ask for God’s mercy before they die and how worse is it for a Priest to commit their abuse and never have asked God for forgiveness then for anyone who has committed the same abuse.

He goes onto telling St. Catherine that as much as we despise these “priests” who are causing evil in the Church and letting it fester, that we not lose sight that they are still Priests.  To not slander their name or mock them. But to instead pray. To remember, they are priests and that they are His.

He tells her: ” You should love them therefore by reason of the virtue and dignity of the Sacrament, and by reason of that very virtue and dignity you should hate the defects of those who live miserably in sin, but not on that account appoint yourselves their judges, which I forbid, because they are my Christ’s, and you ought to love and reverence the authority which I have given them.”

After I read this, I completely understood it. It hit my soul….”of course.”  These Priests are under attack.  And some weak, they don’t even know it anymore. There are layers to these crimes committed and are being committed and who they affect.

Vow, Priest, sin, (mercy) >>>Church, Eucharist, faithful, (salvation).

It is not that Our Lord does not want us to be angry at what they’ve done, but to center on the problem that is causing this awful sin and that is the Devil himself.  The devil and all darkness is whom we are fighting.

The words and imagery used by Our Lord to St. Catherine speak with love and ferocity. His words are nothing but love and how awful it is for those who lose sight of it. What happens to us when we lose sight of Christ in our lives? Our world becomes foggy, we become clouded by our sin, our hearts are clogged.

This book came at the right time.  And since, I keep seeing clergy to the faithful, refer to St. Catherine as a reference on how to go forward. She is thrust out on the forefront again. Rallying the faithful to stop and recognize who we are in this fight against the evil that is in the Church by those who for far too long have kept it hidden.  The struggle seems the same but it is new to us. The push to make change or to put an end to the darkness is slowing happening. The task seems overwhelming. But if we take into account, this book, and its bits of instruction, we can plow through.  Let’s stay on the Ship.

St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us. +++

Parts Truly Unknown

On Friday morning, I get a text at 6 a.m. from my friend Angela informing me that Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.  She knew how much I liked him and knew this would be hard for me to hear. My husband was on his way out for work as I read out the text to him.  He said, “I know. I didn’t want to wake you up with that news.” But he knew, it wouldn’t matter how it came, the news was not good.

The rest of the day and now, I still feel a sense of sadness as I know I am not the only one. The media has continually been interviewing his friends, showing past Parts Unknown (his show on CNN), and my social media is covered with his face.  Mainly, because I follow many chefs. I have a big interest in the culinary scene due to Bourdain.

After a pilgrimage to Italy in 2006 which came with much anxiety because of fear of travel, my craving for food and travel grew.  At that time, to my knowledge, there were not many travel shows other than Rick Steves and Samantha Brown.  Much to my delight, the Travel Channel gave us No Reservations where I first became acquainted with Bourdain’s witty culinary ways.  It right away captured for me an escape from my life in concrete Phoenix suburbia, track house living.

The trip to Italy placed a sense of adventure in me that I knew had to be somewhat contained. Let me preface here, my life is greatly blessed.  To date, my husband and I have traveled abroad two more times after our first Italy trip (London, Paris, Italy again). We travel within the States quite often.  However, I long for travel in the sense that I would like to discover it like Bourdain captured it.  Places not necessarily on the tourist map.

On Sunday’s, I would look forward to his latest episode.  Where was he now? Thailand. Croatia. Turkey. Sicily.  His demeanor was also a familiar connection to me.  He had a bad boy, rebellious nature. Reminded me of my youthful past and the group of friends I hung around with. His taste in music too was much like mine. A like of rock n roll and classics.  His wit also had me laughing as I was amused by how no matter whom he had in his show, he never changed himself to interact with them.  He had them laughing. Giving me a sense that no matter what part of the world you are in, we are all the same.

Once his show went from the Travel Network to CNN, I stayed with it.  I adapted a viewer relationship via his program.  This means about 12 years of fan watching.  And with social media, there became another connection.  It gave the fan a closer connection to his person who we all believed had the best job in the world. Travel and eat the best food. What could be better? He was the one who introduced me to taking pictures of food and share my experience of it.

He was also very vocal on Twitter about social issues.  One in particular had to with the Mexican immigrant and how interwoven their culinary skills are wrapped in America’s fabric.  Always pointing out that if we were to walk into any kitchen across the U.S., you would for sure find Mexicans working the kitchen, citizen or not.

Bourdain was not a believer.  Often on his show, he would give a tidbit on how he couldn’t rationalize believing in a higher power.  I don’t recall him ever pointing out one god over another or Jesus in particular, but he was clear he didn’t believe in any of it. Even when his close friend Eric Rippert was on his show speaking about Buddhism, you could see Bourdain wasn’t fully embracing.  Despite him not having faith, I never heard him bash anyone for believing.  But I know, it would strike him if he felt a religion was, in his view, destroying a people or nation.

So why do I dedicate a blog to him?

Bourdain’s suicide not only shook me, but it had my mind going.  I thought of my cousin Gil who committed suicide in 2010.  Thought of my Godmother who was married to him, his two sons, his family. All of us who went through that day with them. The feeling of life spiraling out of control. The big black hard depth of despair.  The confusion. The pain.

Here we all saw this man Bourdain on TV just about every week or on social media, seeming to live the life we all wanted. Celebration. Laughter. Good food and beautiful environments. But it wasn’t all true. I mean, did he have that?  Yes, I do believe he did. But he also had demons that wouldn’t let him go.

In his early life, he became addicted to heroin.  He spoke about the struggles of it and also shared how he was ‘recovered’, yet always conveying, recovery is day to day. Each day, he worked at it as many recovered addicts do.  I understand this well.  My Dad was a recovered addict. Difference was, my Dad found Jesus and lived his life with freedom from it.

However, from current family who is an addict, heroin is the worst of all drugs you could ever become addicted to.  This is one that has effects for the rest of your life. Now, that’s what I have heard scientifically, but I place all in God and know that if Jesus was in their life, it would be different. And you know, I’m no expert and I don’t want to go into heroin effects, mental illness, when is it not mental illness and we call it a demon, or lack of faith issues.  I don’t have expertise to discuss.

But what I do want to write about is the soul and how our faith responds to someone who has taken their life.

Because Bourdain was a self confessed non believer, my thought process on his passing made me think about the soul like I haven’t encountered before.  Some of his fans were leaving comments on Twitter or Instagram, saying things like “hope you have peace now in heaven or hell wherever you are’, or ‘give them hell’, etc.  I thought what darkness!

In my prayer time and reflection about Gil came forth. Thinking about his time of death and what we as a family learned. Although, Gil did believe in Jesus and was Catholic, family was confused on whether his soul went to heaven. And what I found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church forever changed my outlook.

Suicide

2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.

2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

Bourdain stood up for the marginalized. He brought to light topics of the poor, no one else was touching in this form of media. He used his celebrity to bring witness, life that the world sees as dejected because they don’t live like we live.  But in reality showed more riches in their cooking or family members.   In a sense, we saw the Beatitude come to life “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.  And he used that compassion, which I believe was placed in him by God. Even though, he never claim that. And it wasn’t always about the poor, but sharing stories of those living with wars around them.

In God’s mercy, we leave his soul and others who have taken their lives in such despair.  For we really do not know. I for one need to be aware to check on another.  From the one who we think has it all together to the one who looks like they are crumbling.

My food pics and travel will forever have root in Anthony Bourdain. For these I leave…

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Help us Lord to be more aware. Help us with courage to speak to those who do not show their belief in you Jesus, so that we may direct them to your love and mercy.  For we know as St. Peter says “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Heaven is not out there only in the sky, but can by the grace of God, can be attained in the heart with true joy.  In how Your peace can allow them to breathe again. +++

On Mom’s time

My Mom has a rare condition where she has a naturally grown shunt in her liver. The doctor said she was born with it. But over time and at her senior age, her body is beginning to work against it. This means her ammonia levels are always high. Now after, four years of pretty much the same treatment, the medicine (at times) is not enough.

This year, my sister and I, see her struggling more. There is a fine line on whether her behavior is all due to the ammonia or could be mental issues like a decline in her cognitive skills.

On a recent trip, my mom, sister, and I shared, she showed signs that concerned us. Signs that we were thinking could be dementia. Thanks to God on our return from trip, Mom had an appointment lined up with her neurologist. At this time, after an MRI, it has been ruled out.

Now that we know her condition is all due to the ammonia, we’ve been told to keep an eye on her different than before. When she hits those high levels, she’s unaware it’s happening. Life has changed once again. My sister and I no longer feel comfortable in leaving her alone. We also know the control we somewhat had in our day with her has taken another twist. Days, like I’m about to describe, made time stop.

First let me rewind a bit and describe our typical day. We would do some routine errands like going to Walmart. What typically would take 30 minutes would run into an hour or so. Trying to get her to do what she needed quicker time was my aim. I would lose my patience since it would take a while for her to decide what she was looking for or her physical movement would slow her. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about helping her do what she wanted or needed to do, it’s just that I wasn’t seeing the bigger picture.

Now turning to this more recent outing, we had already been in the store for some time. Her focus was off as she would drift in thought of why she was there. We were coming down a main aisle and approached a display of artificial flowers. These were no where on her list, but she wanted to suddenly get some for her room. As I see her reaching to grab some, it just hit me. The distance from me to her changed. I felt a pull in my heart. The conviction came in strong. That I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. That these flowers were the only thing that mattered. And my whole vision by the grace of God showed me its importance.

I don’t care anymore. I don’t care how long it takes to do routine things with my mom. I don’t care that she asks me the same questions every time we go there or anywhere. “Should I buy this?” “Should I take my sweater?” “Do you think it’s cold in there?” “Have you checked the mail?”

I’m grateful too my sister and I are honest with her with this all. Explaining what the doctor found and what we’re seeing in her. She acknowledged she’s glad too even though we know she may not fully comprehend what it means.

My prayer now to Our Lord is that He will grace her with better health and that her condition does not get worse. That my family and I can be attentive to make her live the rest of her life with comfort and peace. And if my life, my sister’s life, family’s life is just to respond to her – that we push ours aside for her well being, then we do. I know we just want her to be cared for and safe.

I thank my husband and thank God a million times more because He knew how much I would need Ruben. Not just for the sake of my soul, but for this time in my life. My mom too.

Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” – John 21:18

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Help us Lord! Help us draw nearer to you. +++

Little Talks with God

Little Talks with God by St Catherine of Siena edited by Henry Carrigan Jr.

Any book about St Catherine of Siena will catch my attention.  I hope someday Mel Gibson will make a film about her.  Because I believe that many women will see her as a fireball of strength.  Talk about feminism in the truest sense of the form.  Her femininity was one of her many strengths our Lord used to make her one of our greatest Saints of the Church.

Littletalks

In Carrigan’s best description of St Catherine’s life is “mystical experiences with fervent activism”.

During her later years, she had a several priests write down her thoughts that were later put into books and shared with communities.  At a young age,  St. Catherine had a burning desire to know more about God and truth. This desire would change into fortitude that became spiritual lessons others to this day still learn from, like myself.

I learned much from this book.  I pretty much have each page ear dogged.  Self contemplation to the greatest degree.  Where to start and where to go in prayer, examination of conscience, courage, and faith in action to name a few.

img_6695.jpgSt. Catherine’s passion for Christ grew even more so when God showed her the needs of the world and the offenses being made against God.

St. Catherine had a selflessness that at times frightened me. She understood the punishment God could give and at the same time his limitless mercy.  She would rather suffer for those who had no clue of their sin because she knew it would be redemptive in the suffering so she spoke in prayer always to take that cup for their sake.

 

“How very pleasing to God is the willing desire to suffer for him.”

Through St Catherine’s writing, my life has learned the beauty in suffering. How I had no clue that there is purpose in suffering.   Used to think any physical or mental suffering was a kind of punishment by God. Learning more about suffering through St. Catherine, has taught me the meaning of it by explaining how it is redemptive, unifies us with Christ, offering it to Christ, and understanding His love for us.

Her writing takes you to a realm that no other writer has taken me.  I feel like I’m in another place even though I’m most likely sitting on the couch in my home.  The power in her words gives me a sense of heaven that truly gives me a connection I’m most grateful I am aware of now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shake the dust

During these days as I’m dealing with a lupus flare triggered on by what is referred to as “overdoing it”, it has me reviewing my life as these occurrences often do.

For one, “overdoing it”. For someone else doing same task, may cause some minor fatigue. Nothing that a good nights rest won’t heal. For me, it puts me out of commission where I have no energy, get exerted easily, body aches (pangs in bones), and fever like spells. Thanks to God, mild, compared to others who suffer flares.

This week I thought I would have open to catch up with some friends and family. With Thanksgiving being next week and the busy holiday season beginning, I thought I could get to some undivided visits but this will have to wait.

With the flares and change in plans, it makes me revisit a repeated life encounter. A situation that for 17 years I’ve had to deal with multiple times and still find people who do not understand – the I’m sorry I have to cancel – or – I’m sorry I cannot attend. Either because I’m not feeling well or to pace myself for events that I had to prioritize.

When these situations come the most exchange that may happen is simply a decline to an invitation or cancel out to a casual meet up. If it permits, person asks, I will give more detail why, which helps me relieve stress. If it doesn’t happen, then I can most likely assume they don’t understand or don’t care. That may be harsh, but at this time in my life, I can basically read it.

So what does this mean? It means I no longer worry for the other person’s reception. For years, it would concern me. Worry me. Make me feel like I would have to make it up to them. Even if I felt I proved I truly cared about them or demonstrated that my relationship to them was important to me in multiple ways. But there are some who count things against you and just like that, nothing you did or who you are is enough to show you mercy.

This passage in Matthew 10 comes to mind when I struggle with letting go of the situation.

MATTHEW 10:12-14
As you enter a house, wish it peace.
If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you.
Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.

In my bible study, it was taught this means to move on, let go. If you did what you can and they still don’t receive it, it’s not your problem, it is theirs!

Does it mean you don’t forgive them? No! Don’t remove yourself from them with a hardened heart. Give over the situation to the Lord, let Him take control. It just means you cannot waste your energy on something you no longer have peace with.

It has taken me a while to get to this point in my life. But as I get older with lupus, the challenges are tougher and at times I just go for what is easiest. Some will understand and some will not.

Thank God for those in my life who do understand.

Time

Lately, I’ve been in some kind of mode of embracing the present.  It’s not that I have never had these moments before like when at a family gathering, or a trip, or an outing.  I have had many that I’m thankful Our Lord push that button in me to recognize so that I can grab onto it.  But lately, it seems to be more prevalent.

As I mentioned before, my Mom lives with us.  It’s now going on 3 years.  However, these last months, she’s been staying with my sister in Tucson. My sister and I both knew this is how it would probably work out with my sister now living in Tucson. It gives Mom the flexibility of having both of our homes to live. Tucson is her hometown and we both want her where she’ll have most peace.

So in this time, Mom not being home with me, I have the time to work on things or be a part of things that I have held off. That’s mainly my issue since I tend to give my attention fully to her when she’s with me.  I have not mastered to balance my life and responsibility of her very well.

These days, in whatever it is I’m doing, I find myself stopping to a moment or fixate on what I’m doing more often. It can be anything from a physical ability or the wind hitting my skin. A memory from childhood or a book I’m reading that will make me stop and center on it.

When I recently saw my Mom who I hadn’t seen for three weeks, I just held onto her. Recognizing how I really have missed her. Thanking God to have the time shared.

I’m not sure I fully understand why it’s happening.  Part of it, I admit, could be the world news.  Random shootings, natural disasters, family suffering…I also think about where my husband and I are in our lives.  I’m 46 yrs and he’s 51. The clarity is there that we are letting go of that youthful time and entering the next season.  We have lived in our first home for 19 years. And with some recent home projects we have done, I have remembered the memories we have had or our marriage has had living here.  Also being aware of some blessed wisdom we have received and awareness of faith in our lives has added to that present moment thought process.  In no way am I saying that we are a well oiled machine and got it all right, we are learning each day. But to know and use that basic toolbox of faith and apply it to our lives, means so much at this stage in our lives.

I take this current situation in my life as a gift. I’m sure many of us have it.  I’m going to try record about it more.  With time passing by fast it seems, I at times get a little anxious because I physically can’t see all I would like. I truly love each one who I know on the most part understand. I can’t get to everyone in the sit down way I would like. Most of the time, I have to compromise how I use my energy. But I can for sure say, I have remembered a life event or given a prayer for each one in present moments each day as I think of them.

I just found this article.  I’m sure I’ve learned about this before, but lost its significance.  I’m linking it to share so that it may guide you too.

It’s from Catholic News Agency titled ‘Are you missing the gift of the present?’

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/cw/post.php?id=67

Thank you Lord for giving me this gift I didn’t first recognize as one. Now I will be sure to embrace it even more.