Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Opening an Atrium

This Sunday will be the first session of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) at St. Brigid's Catholic Church in Memphis, TN. I have had nothing to do with the planning, assembling, and setup of the Atrium (the room where the Catechesis is taught), I just happening to show up along the way and said, "Hey, can I get in on this?"

Late last summer my family decided to go to Mass at a different parish, sometimes a change is good. We had been floundering a bit at our parish, me especially. Mass at this new parish was lovely and reverent and then, at the end of the Mass, the pastor announced that CGS would be starting up in a few months. I had to contain my scream of excitement! My son would be three by the time the Atrium opened. I was elated and quickly asked my husband if he would mind if I volunteered with the program. Being that he's awesome, he said I should do it. And, before we had even talked about it, my husband grabbed a parish census form so we could join. "I figured," he said, "it was a done deal."

It has taken a little bit longer to get the Atrium together than hoped, but it's finally starting. It has been over 10 years since I have had the chance to work in an Atrium. Yesterday I met with the other two catechists who are newbies and I got a chance to walk around the Atrium. We will have about 28 children in the Atrium at one time - that's a lot! There are plenty of questions to be worked out, but I can't wait for Sunday morning.

The role of the catechist is serious and important. We don't watch movies or color cheesy pictures of Jesus. You can't just volunteer to be a catechist; you have to complete the CGS training.  The children learn about the chasubles (the robes worn by the priest), the chalice and paten (used by the priest during consecration), the liturgical colors and calendar, the Good Shepherd, and the altar just to name a few things. The catechist helps to form the child to participate at the Mass - even at three years old.

It's hard to explain what an Atrium is like, you just have to see it (I'm hoping to get pictures up in a few weeks). Everything is at the level of a small child. Everything is smaller than child-size. The Atrium is not a nursery or a play area; it is the workspace of the child and the work is to encounter God. As the catechist, my job is to journey along with the children to meet God. I'm a fellow Catholic Christian seeking the Good Shepherd who knows me by name.

It is a very beautiful place. It's a mini Kingdom of God.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Forgive and Forget?

I'm still making my way through Set Free: The Authentic Catholic Woman's Guide to Forgiveness. It's a profound, thoughtful book that has led me to some serious introspection and I take it in small doses. Also, active three year olds aren't exactly understanding of the need for introspection. If you haven't gotten this book yet, then please do.

Genevieve Kineke addresses one of the most often quoted thoughts about forgiveness: forgive and forget. But, is that really possible? Kineke makes an excellent distinction on forgetting. In small, trifling matters I should forget the hurt, but for bigger, habitual, or traumatic injuries forgetting is not wise.

In the case of habitual hurts, say at the hands of an abusive parent, it would be stupid to "forget" the injury after forgiveness. Why? Because you set yourself up to be hurt over and over and over again. Protecting my heart from someone who has been known to trample on it is not selfish or un-Christian, it is wise. Sometimes I have to end a relationship because it is damaging to the soul and other times I have to be a little smarter in how much I trust or what I share.

In the case of traumatic hurts, forgetting is practically impossible and certainly not normal. Kineke shares a powerful story of a rape victim and her search for forgiveness, but you'll just have to buy the book to get the story. I'll share a quote though,

"We should not ask for the ability to forget the sins against us but rather to remember them in a way that we can manage, that will give glory to God for his great mercy..." (page 84)

The Sacrament of Reconciliation was part of my grad school studies, but it had more to do with the history of the sacrament, Biblical theology, and the nuts and bolts of the sacrament. Unfortunately, we didn't spend much time talking about the "how-to's": how to help people see the need for forgiveness and the Sacrament; how forgiveness is a process; how to pray to be able to forgive; how to know my forgiveness is earnest.

 I'm glad I've got Set Free now, not only for myself, but to help me in ministry.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Firing Squads

55 million souls...

That's more than the total population of the 20 biggest cities in the U.S.  Imagine that tomorrow no one lives in New York, LA, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonia, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Austin, San Francisco, Columbus, Fort Worth, Charlotte, Detroit, El Paso, Memphis...(which is only about 32 million...I stopped adding after the top 20 cities).  Imagine that all those people are suddenly gone.  Now instead of these people disappearing, imagine that they are murdered by firing squad with the blessing of the federal government.

If you lived outside of one of those cities, what would you do?  Would you go on with your day?  Would you stand up to the injustice?  Would you pray for the firing squads to stop?  Would you cheer on the firing squads?  Would you pay the salary of the firing squads?  Would you vote in favor of more firing squads with the power to increase the numbers of people shot?

I have to admit that I haven't done much to stop abortion other than vote for life, pray outside abortion clinics a few times, and pray for the end of abortion.  Every prayer is efficacious and every prayer matters, but action is necessary.  Somehow, some way, I'm going to find more ways to be involved to stop abortion.

A nation that kills babies shouldn't be surprised that other things in the culture aren't so rosy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Anne of Green Gables

I've been a huge fan of Anne of Green Gables since I was 11 years old. I am most familiar with the Kevin Sullivan movies that aired on PBS, Anne of Green Gables and its sequel. I read the books when I was young and made a pilgrimage to the real Green Gables nearly 12 years ago with a friend and fellow "Anne fanatic".

I got the bug to re-read the series last week and plowed through the first book Anne of Green Gables in a few sittings. It's one of those books that has multiple levels; there's something for young people and something for adults. When I was young I loved Anne and her world of imagination, because I had my own little world, but reading it now I have a deeper love and appreciation of Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert.

In case you don't know Anne's story, here's the background:
The story is set in the late 1800's on Prince Edward Island, Canada. Anne was orphaned as an infant and taken in by neighbors who did little to educate her to proper behavior or God, but she has a very good heart. She was passed on to another family and made to take care of the children when she herself was a child. The husband was a violent alcohol who would smash windows when in a rage. Finally, she lands in an orphanage where she is adopted by Marilla Cuthbert, a spinster, and Matthew, her painfully shy brother who never married. However, when Anne arrives at Green Gables there is a great surprise because the Cuthberts were expecting a little boy, not a girl. Interestingly, after learning a little of her background the Cuthberts do not send her back, as Matthew says, "Maybe we could be of some use to her."

The things that stood out as I read the story this time was sacrificial love and Christian responsibility. There was no reason for the Cuthberts to keep Anne - she wasn't a boy and God only knows the kind of upbringing she had, but they kept her because they saw a young girl who needed them.

Anne's world produces nostalgia for a simpler time, which is not possible to attain. On a deeper level, though, it stirs a desire to be as loving and willing to face sacrifice, regardless of the cost, as the Cuthberts and that is possible to imitate.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Book on Forgiveness

I'm in the midst of reading a GREAT book on forgiveness: Set Free: The Authentic Catholic Woman's Guide to Forgiveness by Genevieve Kineke. I'm planning to write a proper book review when I finish, but I couldn't wait to share some of the wisdom.

Are you waiting for an apology from someone who has hurt you? Here's why Kineke says that is a bad idea:

"...if your forgiveness hinges on the other's contrition, then he or she is exercising a control over you that is entirely unwarranted. If you put forgiveness in the hands of the wrongdoer then you hand your eternal destiny to a finite creature..."(page 26)

Yikes! I had never thought about waiting for an apology in that way, but it makes perfect sense.  Christ commanded forgiveness, but if I'm harboring a resentment and waiting for an apology, then that is doing harm to my soul.

Another pearl of wisdom that got me was about the act of forgiving. "Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling." (page 31). I have been in the position when I have wanted to forgive someone - made the decision to put the hurt behind me - but found that I got upset again if I was reminded of the incident. I thought that meant I hadn't really forgiven the hurt and had to wait until it no longer bothered me. Not so! Her advice is to forgive and if you get upset about the incident in the future, then make another act of forgiveness. It makes so much sense since forgiving can be a long and hard process.

Is it necessary to say 'I forgive you' to the person who has wronged you? Depending on the hurt and who did it, it may not be necessary. In some cases, confronting the person can bring back painful memories or perhaps the person has died. So long as I can pray for that person and the idea of meeting them in heaven doesn't fill me with dread or anger, then the forgiveness is real.

These are just a few of the nuggets I've gotten from this book and I'm barely a quarter of the way through. I highly recommend this book for anyone.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Not appropriate

It's interesting the things I did not notice before I had my very own little person for whom I'm responsible...like kid's movies. I have watched lots kid's movies with my nieces and nephew in the past, but I missed a few things.

My husband and I have been working on building a DVD library of movies and shows we're okay with and that we are okay watching over and over and over again. Last week we added Cars to the mix. I'd seen it years ago, but while my son was watching it I caught a few things I had missed.

I was working on the computer and barely paying attention to the movie when suddenly the word "idiot" snapped my head around. Then, the phrase "hillbilly Hell" was used twice. Huh?! Really? This movie is targeted to my son - who is 3 - his pull-up diapers have Lightening McQueen plastered all over them! I know that he's going to hear these words, but does it have to be in a kid's movie? I want to keep the name calling at bay for all long as possible and I'd rather he never swear.

There are times I feel the desire to simply shield him from everything, but it's hardly possible and probably not healthy. And then I think about trusting in God. I have to trust that the Holy Spirit is helping me in this whole parenting process and I have to trust the Holy Spirit is guiding my son, too.

I guess it's time to hunt down more of the oldies: Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang, and Robin Hood and Lady and the Tramp...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


"Why Mommy?'
"What's that Mommy?"
"Why Mommy?"
"Who's that guy Mommy?"
"Why Mommy?"

My son is in the stage of asking all kinds of questions, most often, "Why Mommy?" Most of the time, I don't mind the questions, but there are times when they get annoying, like when I'm trying to do something quickly.

Often the questions can be easily answered, "What's that Mommy?" Uh...that's a dump truck, that's a grocery store, that's a cow. Some questions are harder to answer, "Why is that there?" Uh...I don't know, I guess someone left it there. And then, the hardest question to answer, "Why?" Some whys are hard to explain to a three year old.

This morning I was thinking about all the whys my little guy has been asking and how some of the answers are so obvious, but they can't be explained to a three year old. That's when it hit me that my intelligibility of the whole universe is much like a three year old when compared to God's infinite and all-knowing knowing.

The biggest mystery of all is probably the question of suffering and evil.  If God is good, then why do bad things happen? It's called the mystery of theodicy. And then the question that follows is why does suffering destroy some people and other people grow stronger from it? I suppose to God the answer to that question is very straight-foward and makes perfect sense but how do you explain that to a three year old?

Perhaps my son has the answer to getting the answer: just keep asking why, why, why until you get an satisfactory answer.