Tag Archives: Faith

Holy Water

Lucy has a theory.  She thinks that all we need to do to make the world a better place starts with a little Holy Water.  You take some of this “magical” stuff in a cup, and go find a bad person.  You have two weeks to do this, as she assured us this evening that the water stays good for two weeks.  When you find the bad person, you have them drink the Holy Water.  Then they won’t want to be bad any more.

I want to live in her world.

A month in the life of the Bakers

Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?  Nearly a month, actually.  If you’re still checking, I’m impressed.  There has been a lot going on, including my going offline for weeks at a time and some serious writer’s block.  But here’s the update.

School ended, thank God.  Everyone survived.  Summer is hot, hot, hot.  There will be not trips to the zoo any time soon, membership or no.  The goal is for everyone to survive the summer.

We’ve been keeping busy.  I can’t actually remember what happened right after school got out, but we spent some time at Craig’s parents’ house (mostly in the pool) and then came back to spend a day canoeing with Theresa and her friend Paul, and then a day of rapid laundry and packing, and off to Bunkie.  For nine days.  If you don’t know where Bunkie is, it’s in central Louisiana, near Alexandria.  It does not have its own Wal-Mart.  That tells you how small it is.

So we were on the outskirts of Bunkie, LA, helping to facilitate a leadership retreat for some of the finest Catholic youth of the Baton Rouge and Lafayette Dioceses.  It was really good (I think there are some pictures attached in some way I don’t understand to Craig’s Facebook page…or maybe he can see them but not share them…I don’t know) and we had a lot of fun and great prayer experiences and spent time with wonderful people.  The down side was the ridiculous number of chiggers and mosquitoes (which I am still scratching) and the two poor baby sitters who were left with my attached baby most of the day.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  There’s only one danger with attachment parenting – they might actually become attached.  And Samantha definitely is.  So that was hard on Samantha, me, and the two patient young ladies who volunteered to spend their week watching the facilitators’ kids.

Also, the camp is run by the Department of Education, so we had school lunches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week.  On the last night, vegetables were brought out as snacks.  I have never seen teenagers attack bell peppers and carrots, watermelon and cucumbers like that before.  The cookies were abandoned.  The granola bars, abandoned.  The Big Cheez-its were not abandoned, as they apparently complimented the vegetables.  This should tell you something about the nutritional content of school lunches.

[I have been told that the nutrition in school lunches “balances out” over the course of a week – sure, sometimes it’s pizza, but sometimes it’s meatloaf.  That only worked for our week if all the students were pregnant and needed 80 or so grams of protein a day, but only needed one serving of vegetables per day.  Over the course of the week we had corn twice and carrots (overcooked and drowned in sugar) once, plus the lettuce for hamburgers and tacos, which I don’t count.  I do not call eating French fries at least one meal a day balanced.  But I digress.]

So we were happy, after another two days at Craig’s parents’ house (for meetings and a youth group softball game – which we won!), to return to our garden and our kitchen.  We had pizza with chocolate bell peppers, a tomato, and basil and parsley all from the garden for dinner tonight.  We’ve also had two yellow squash now, a couple of other tomatoes (including a beautiful Cherokee), and delicious purple beans which have all been eaten raw.  There weren’t really enough of them to cook, anyway.  I have battled slugs in the squash/melon patch, and finally have plants large enough to survive their onslaught.  There are now beautiful yellow, black, and white caterpillars eating my dill plant, but the thing was taking over the garden, so I’m letting them go to it.  They don’t seem to be bothering anything else, and Stephen Locke says they make pretty butterflies, although he couldn’t remember which kind in particular.

Meanwhile, Lucy has taken to singing made-up songs with repetitive words, which is pretty funny, and she is writing beautiful letter “L”s and upside-down letter “U”s.  Samantha continues to learn new words to say, and to mimic whatever Lucy may be doing.  They both swim fearlessly with floaties now, which is great except we have to make sure Samantha doesn’t get near the pool without them, because she will jump in and expect to float.

In case you were wondering, the pooping on the potty seems to have been a fluke on all accounts.  There have been no repeat attempts.  Two steps forward, one step back.  Or something.

I have tried to update my reading list, but the plug-in is on the fritz, so that will have to wait.  I’m busy with several sewing, framing, and card-making projects, which will hopefully be posted when they are done and/or delivered.  There are pictures, I just have to sit down and put them up.  I should really get Craig to work on that part I guess…

So for the rest of the summer we have a week planned with my mom’s family in Florida, and a week in North Dakota (actually, a weekend in North Dakota and the rest of the week driving there and back), and another weekend in Bunkie for Taylor’s wedding.  After last week’s experiences, I, for one, will be wearing eau de bugspray with my bridesmaid dress.  I’m still scratching.  And then the rat race starts again.  If, of course, you consider it ever to have stopped.

Triduum

I love the Latin with the double u’s.  And we had occasion over the past weekend to find out the real reason that we get Easter Monday off of school.  It’s to allow people with small children to recover from the Triduum.

Or not, since I think that’s probably just us.  But we survived it – two hours on Holy Thursday with an un-napped three-year-old, two hours Good Friday, and over three hours on Holy Saturday.  Here’s the blow-by-blow.

We arrived late for Holy Thursday, because we came straight from New Orleans at rush hour, straight from Craig’s FoodFast retreat at school (that means 50 or so high school students fasting and learning about poverty for 24 hours).  I cooked the closing meal, Hatian red beans for 50.  That is getting to be my specialty, if anyone needs catering in the near future.  (We made it for about 200 the Friday before – that’s another story!)

But anyway, we got there, parked in the boonies, and planted ourselves and our tired babies in a pew.  I’d been prepping Lucy for a couple of weeks about the people getting their feet washed and such, but we couldn’t see very well, and she was really too tired to care.  Samantha alternately climbed, fussed, and nursed the two hours away.  Then it was home to Nana and Papa’s to collapse, except collapsing doesn’t happen at grandparent’s houses, at least not right after you arrive, so we were up for  a little longer.

Friday brought sleeping relatively late and the (traditional?  I’m not sure) Good Friday fish fry at the Bakers’.  More fish, hush-puppies, fries, and the like that we could eat.  Then on to the Veneration of the Cross.  Samantha was very, very fussy, and I finally ended up nursing her in a side chapel.  Unfortunately, it was the crucifix chapel, and rather than bringing up a cross to the altar like I expected, the liturgical plan was to circle everyone through this very chapel to reverence the cross.  When I saw the altar servers and deacon headed my way, I had to very quickly detach sleeping Samantha and run for the pew.  As much as a person can run with a surprised, yet thankfully still sleeping, toddler in her arms, anyway.

But my close-escape was not the end of our trials.  As Craig came up to the chapel in the line (behind me unfortunately, so I didn’t get to see the festivities) Lucy, whom he was carrying, latched onto the wall with both hands and refused to let him enter the chapel.  (I don’t think “chapel” is really the best word for this space, now that I think of it, it’s really more of a nook, but that sounds funny to me.)  Lucy was apparently afraid of the crucifix, which was strange because the night before she had wanted to stay later so Craig could “show her Jesus”, but that was not about to happen during the silent watching after the Holy Thursday liturgy.  Anyway, Craig returned to the pew thwarted.  But yet, we survived and went home (well, to Craig’s parents’ home at least), again, to bed.

Holy Saturday dawned.  We made one excursion, then made sure there were naps all around.  (Lucy has been successfully avoiding them lately, but that was just not an option.)  We got all dressed up after a later-than-planned dinner and headed out.  Mass started at 8 PM.  We were as prepared as parents can be for such a thing – books, a lacing card for Lucy…but no snacks.  Well, we were almost as prepared as we could be.  The bonfire went well enough.  Lucy was interested, but Samantha was fussy.  But it wasn’t a big deal since we were outside.  The procession inside calmed her down for some reason, and God be praised, she nursed to sleep as soon as we got to the pew.  And slept through all the readings, the lights coming on, the Alleluia-ing, the Baptisms, and even the applause that went with them.  I didn’t get to see much since I spent the whole time sitting down, but I was so glad she slept.

Of course, she did wake up, as usual it seems, in time for the Eucharistic prayer, and so we spent the rest of the evening back and forth, in and out of the building.  There isn’t anywhere to hide a screaming infant in that church.  The final outburst, in the liturgical silence just before the closing prayer, was the loudest.  Father (apparently, I couldn’t hear it with the screaming in my ear as I rushed -again- for the door) mentioned that it sounded like a broken record, at which Samantha promptly changed her tone.  So she showed him.  Or something.

But we celebrated with cake and cheese cubes and broccoli and punch afterwards, and slept late on Easter morning.  We were tired.  It was so worth it.  I love the Easter Vigil.  I started going in middle school (or earlier?) when my mom was doing RCIA for children.  I got to hand the brand-new neophytes (is that redundant?) the towels after they were Baptized one year.  I have always loved the liturgy for this night, the fire and water, the litany of the saints, the lights coming on in the middle of the service.  The oil and the smiles on 10-year-old faces afterwards.  (And Fr. Tom does not spare the oil.  He slathers.  Even after they changed, the poor boys all had holy-oil cow-licks.)  St. Jean does beautiful liturgy, and it was a blessing to me, screaming baby and all, to experience it this year.  It was that little taste of the Holy that I miss sometimes now that I don’t get to daily Mass, or adoration, or those other quite times that I used to so often.  It was totally, entirely worth it.

Easter included an egg hunt at one neighbor’s house, and then Mrs. Mary Lou’s feast at the other neighbor’s house.  Many, many desserts were sampled.  A bunny had his tail straight-pinned on.  There was a pinata, but I missed that part.  Monday Craig and I had a movie date (finally cashing in one of our Christmas presents) and we drove home.  And today I finally finished unpacking.  We are nearly recovered.

Happy Easter!

How peculiar…

“The Lord, your God, has chosen you from all the nations on the face of the earth to be a people peculiarly his own.”

-Deuteronomy 7:6

This was part of the reading of the Morning Office today, and it really struck me.  Forgive me if I stretch the translation a little!  You might think, hearing that God’s people are “peculiar” I would be a little concerned.  But no, this is actually comforting to me, because I’ve been feeling a little peculiar lately.  Mostly when I’m out in public.  For example, when at a Catholic schools week dinner, the Ave Maria melts seamlessly, without even a breath of pause, into the Pledge of Allegiance, complete with gigantic waving flag on the projector screen.  I know that I blanched at the juxtaposition of the two; it was like being punched in the gut.  And once the whiteness passed, I wondered how I could sit in a room and continue to smile and make small talk.

Or watching the nightly news, when my stomach turns at not just the story they tell, but the images they show.  When did they start showing people dieing on TV?  Real people, not cartoons, not even movie special effects.  I don’t watch the news often, usually only when it’s on at someone else’s house, but I had noticed they showed an awful lot of very gory footage the last few times I did watch.  The movies are bad enough, but no matter what point the story is making (the one I saw was doing its best to vilianize Iran – justifiably or otherwise) I can’t see how showing someone dieing like that is not taboo.

And this keeps happening.  I’ve never fit comfortably into most social situations, but it’s getting worse and worse, not because I feel personally awkward, although there’s enough of that, but because I find myself asking, “Why are we doing this?”  “Why are all the waiters black?”  “Can Catholics live like this with a clean conscience?”  “What about the people who can’t afford to eat tonight?”  And on, and on.  So to know that God’s people are “peculiar” gives me a little hope that I’m not crazy, and maybe I’m even on the right track.

Merton and Day

So I finally did it.  I went out and got myself a spiritual director.  And as I was explaining to her what I’ve been doing recently in my prayer life (this was difficult and guilt inducing!) I mentioned that I had been reading a lot of Merton, and before that some Dorthy Day.  Which Sister thought was an odd combination.  And for half a second or so, I nearly began to correct her, and say that it wasn’t odd at all, actually, but I thought better of that and moved on.  But I have kept thinking about it, and I think I was right (though the ideas are rough and not backed by specific texts at the moment – my Tulane degree is cringing as I write this!), they are really not far removed when you get down to what they each preached.  Simply, love your neighbor.  And that means everyone.  Both felt senses of guilt for the state the world was in, based mostly on their pre-conversion lifestyles.  Both argued that love of God comes to fruition in caring for other people as well and as sacrificially as we can.  Merton did this with prayer behind closed doors, but there seem to be times in his writing where the thinks that if her were worth his salt, he would be out doing exactly what Dorthy Day was doing.  On the other hand, Day emphasizes the need for spiritual grounding to survive the sort of work she engaged in.  The two complement each other clearly.  The fact that both felt they had been forgiven so much stirred both of them to charity and forgiveness, though neither ever shied to name and denounce sin wherever they found it.  The honesty, often the bluntness of both of their writings shines of the desire to know and be known, to open themselves and to thereby lead their readers further down whatever their personal paths might be.  Merton felt he needed the cloister to keep him from the temptations of the world, and that that sort of solitude was necessary for his salvation.  But he repeats that it does not free him from the necessity of loving his neighbor, within the monastery walls or without them.  The two have different methods, because of their different gifts and struggles, but one message.  Love greatly, for you are greatly loved.

Spiritual Birthing

There is an amazing article in this week’s America magazine.  (The Oct. 5, 2009 issue.)  It’s called “A Fiery Gift: A spiritual case for natural childbirth.”  Susan Windley-Daoust has a deeper perspective on the issue, one I hadn’t considered, and I think everyone (female, or otherwise, and likely to give birth sometime soon or otherwise!) ought to read this.  I think she is absolutely right-on.

The gist, if you don’t care to read it for yourself, is that the process of birth, if left relatively un-tampered with, is a powerful parallel experience to some parts of the journey through prayer to God.  In fact, she worries about the effect missing out on a “natural” birth may be having on the spiritual lives of the women of this country: “But when an overwhelming majority of women in the United States have unnecessarily scheduled or medically augumented births, we must ask: Do we lose a window to God?  A window to the interior life?  When the Holy Spirit initiates a spiritual birth to something greater within us, will any of us be able to say, ‘I’ve been here before?'”

Go to your library, or do what you have to, but read this article.  It makes me want to stop the pregnant women I see every time we go to the zoo (there are always a ton of pregnant women at the zoo!)  and ask if they have considered (really, carefully considered, with the benefit of good information) how they are going to bring their babies into the world.  I am convinced that childbirth is transformative.  I am convinced that God designed it to be that way.  Not easy.  Most things worth doing are at least a little hard.  But transformative, in part in preparation for the challenges the next many years of child rearing bring.  Perhaps, if Susan Windley-Daoust is right (and I think she is), in preparation especially for the spiritual challenges these little ones bring us.  I think she asks a very important question:  What are we, as a community of women, as a church of women, missing?

Summer Breeze

[A note:  I started this post on June 14, 2009, and finally was able to finish it today.  That explains the time differences, if anyone would have noticed them!]

I hope I never forget those afternoons last May when we were going without air conditioner.  (We mostly made it until June, by the way, but I’m not strong enough to do without when it’s getting up over 90 degrees every day!)  I’d be trying to get the girls down for a nap, and it seemed so hot, and just a little breeze would come in through the open window, and it felt so cool and refreshing…how I praised God for those little breezes!

I had occasion to remember those afternoons yesterday while I was helping my father-in-law shovel dirt/tree shavings from a pile the size of our living room into wheelbarrows to deliver to various gardens around the house.  It was too hot, and just the time of day when we probably should have been inside, or at least in the shade, but my father-in-law doesn’t believe in leaving for later work that can be finished now, so I was out helping.  And here and there we would get a cool breath of wind, and well, I would almost fall down in rapturous praise.

Silently, of course.

Because my father-in-law, though respectful, is not a religious man.  (Unless you count the cult of LSU in some way, which I do not.)  He does, however, have a great appreciation for nature.  He and I share a yearning for mountains and forests, wild things as yet untamed.  He brings what he can of this nature into his gardens, where he spends hours digging, potting, transplanting, mulching, and doing all those little things which I hope I’ll learn as I try to grow my own little patches of paradise.  It is not worship, I don’t think, but there is certainly sacrifice involved!  For me, as I think I’ve said before, gardening can be a very spiritual experience, a chance to slow down and appreciate the wonderous creation God has put on this earth for us.  I had to wonder, as I tried not to swoon from joy during one of those welcome breezes, what does my father-in-law feel out here?

Because it seems to me that if there is anywhere that it should be easy to meet God, it must be in nature.  Of course you can meet Him in the Eucharist, in other people, in great art; but I think that in these sort of places, you more often have to be looking.  God can give you the flash of knowing, like Merton on the street corner in Louisville, but I have to think that experience would be hard to take when you are not disposed to try and see other people as your brothers and sister.  Out in His creation (as opposed to our concrete creations – there’s another post!), where He made the rules, there are fewer hangups – no race, to gender, no strange clothing or hair colors.  No maniacal drivers to dodge.  No repetitive, square, bland, (and did I mention repetitive?) buildings.  Everything sings the praise and glory of our God, every creature joins in extolling how wondrously it is made, how carefully its designs fit together with its surroundings so that all survive and thrive.  It is a simple kind beauty, in the way, I think, that we speak of God as “simple”.

So standing there, wondering these things, shovel in hand, mother-in-law’s straw hat on my head, those little breaths of wind brought me more refreshment than relief for my steaming body.  They carried to me, for those whom I love who doubt, a little breath of hope.

Feast of St. Dominic

Happy feast of St. Dominic, especially to those of you affiliated with the Order of Preachers!  (And those of you with O.P. leanings!)  Here is the little prayer from our Picture Book of Saints:

O God, let St. Dominic help Your church by his merits and teaching.  May he who was an outstanding preacher of truth become a most generous intercessor for us.  Amen!

Friars Trudge 300 Miles and Find Kindred Souls on the Way


This is a great story, a beautiful witness, so I thought I’d post if even though Craig sent it to some of you already.

By William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

They’ve been mistaken for Jedi-wannabes headed to a Star Wars convention. They’ve been investigated by police, approached by strangers, gawked at from cars and offered gifts of crumpled dollar bills and Little Debbie snacks.

After trekking along more than 300 miles of dusty Virginia country roads and suburban highways, six Franciscan friars reached Washington on Tuesday, having seen it all during an offbeat modern-day quest for God.

For six weeks, the brothers walked from Roanoke with only their brown robes, sandals and a belief in the kindness of strangers to feed and shelter them.

The sight of six men in flowing habits, trudging single file on the side of the road, prompted many to pull over and talk, even confess. People on their way to work described their loneliness. College students wanted help figuring out what to do with their lives. Children, mistaking them for the Shaolin monks in movies, ran up to ask the friars if they knew how to beat up bullies.

“Dressed like we are in our habits, it’s like a walking sign that says, ‘Tell us your life’s problems,’ ” explained Cliff Hennings, the youngest of the friars at 23.

In every instance, the friars made time for conversation. They shot the breeze with a gang of drunk bikers, dispensed relationship advice to the brokenhearted commuters and bore witness to one and all, yea, even to the Chik-fil-A employee dressed as a cow.

The pilgrimage was the idea of four young friars just finishing their training in Chicago and working toward taking lifelong vows. Seeking to emulate the wanderings of their founder, Saint Francis of Assisi, they wanted to journey together as a fraternity, ministering to one another and to strangers, while depending on God for every meal and place to sleep.

Joined by two older friars supervising their training, they picked as their destination a friary in Washington, D.C., called the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land — a symbolic gesture, because the actual Holy Land was too far away.

Then last month they drove from Chicago to Salem, just outside Roanoke, parked their van at a church and set out on foot.

They tried to live by the ascetic rules Jesus laid out for his 12 disciples: “Take nothing for the journey — no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic.” The less they brought, they reasoned, the more room they could leave for God. The friars did make a few modifications, carrying a toothbrush, a wool blanket, water and a change of underwear (“a summer essential,” one explained), as well as one cellphone in case of emergency.

Some rules, however, had to be made on the fly. They had agreed not to carry any money, but just minutes into their first day, strangers were pressing dollar bills into their hands. So they made a pact to spend what they received each day on food, often high-protein Clif bars, and to give the rest to the needy.

They walked 15 miles their first day and found themselves at dusk in front of a fire station just outside Roanoke. One of the friars, Roger Lopez, a former fireman himself, knocked on the station door and asked whether there was somewhere they could sleep. As they talked, the friars spotted a giant trampoline out back.

“It seemed like such a good idea at the time,” said Lopez, 30.

The six spread out on the trampoline as if they were spokes on a wheel. But soon they realized gravity was against them, pulling everyone toward the center. Some tried to sleep clutching the side railing. When one person rolled over, the rest bobbed uncontrollably like buoys. No one got much sleep, but the firefighters did send them off the next morning with corned beef sandwiches.

Since then, they have slept on picnic tables outside Lynchburg, basement floors in Charlottesville, even on office tables at a food pantry.

One night they were hosted by a man with tattoos on his arms, an unkempt ponytail and all of his front teeth missing. He had pulled up in his beat-up Jeep and offered to let the friars stay with him in an old one-room schoolhouse in Nelson County.

“He looked like he had just gotten out of prison,” said Hennings, but the man turned out to be a Native American healer. The friars stayed up all night talking to him. He told them Native stories and played his double flute. They chanted Latin hymns in return and told him stories from the Gospel.

Such moments of grace became a daily occurrence for the friars. Sure, some passersby gave them the finger. One guy even leaned out the window to add a sprinkling of Nietzsche (“God is dead!”) to his vulgarities. But most encounters were meaningful, even profound.

Just outside Harrisonburg, a woman in her 40s with a young daughter pulled over in her old Dodge sedan to talk to 25-year-old friar Richard Goodin.

She’d recently caught her husband cheating on her. He had kicked her and her daughter out of their house, she told Goodin. Now, like the friars, they were wandering through the wilderness, unsure of their next meal or their next move.

As they talked, the woman’s daughter rummaged through the car and gave the friars a soda. Then she found a chocolate bar and offered that. As the conversation began winding down, the daughter said there was nothing more in the car. The woman reached for her purse and told Goodin, “I want to give you what we have left.”

She pressed $3.52 into his hand, which he accepted reluctantly.

“I realized she wasn’t giving this to us or to me,” Goodin said. “I think she heard us talk about trusting in God and she wanted to try to trust in the same way. She was giving that money to God.”

He and the other friars have thought about the woman a lot. Last week, they thought about her as they walked along Lee Highway in Fairfax, where Mary Williams and her three kids pulled over in their minivan and offered to take the brothers to a Chik-fil-A.

“It was the oddest experience sitting there at Chik-fil-A with everyone staring at us,” said Williams, 45. “The high point was when the guy dressed up like a cow came out and gave us all high fives. He was in costume. They were in robes. A lot of people were wondering what was going on.”

People had much the same reaction Tuesday as the friars crossed the Memorial Bridge and wandered past the Lincoln Memorial. In an instant, tourists went from posing in front of Lincoln’s statue to posing with the Franciscans.

Their plan was to spend one last night wherever God provided and then arrive this morning at the monastery near Catholic University. They hope to spend the day there, telling the story of their journey and the goodness they encountered to anyone who wanted to listen.

Their message will be simple: “Anything can happen when you live in the moment, one step at a time,” said Mark Soehner, 51, one of the mentors to the young friars. “But to find that out, you have to be willing to take that one step.”

Another Year

Craig has started teacher orientation again.  This summer flew by, especially since we were out of town most of the month of July.  His return to work, and my non-return, have raised a number of questions for me again.  “Can we really afford to live on one income?  Why did we get such a nice car so now we have those payments to keep up with?  Where can I spend a few less dollars?  Can I really handle two little girls all day?”

Meanwhile, we’re trying to build a homeschool library, eat more locally and organically, and be generous where we can.  Of course, in the midst of my worries, the liturgy came through again.  Just as I was thinking, “How on earth are we going to do this?”, the lectionary brought up the feeding of the five thousand (twice!) and the Bread of Life discourse.  I say, “This is a problem!” and again God says, “Trust me!”  On the heels of our traveling, just as I was starting to get my head reoriented to running a household, and so just as the worries began to build, there was my answer in Scripture.

And this is where I think my *attempted* prayer routine is going to pay off.  The Liturgy of the Hours has never spoken to my heart in the past, but now when night prayer asks for rest to renew our tired bodies, I’m there!  The Psalms are somehow always appropriate, and time and again the daily readings sneak up on me with just what I need to hear, whether I think I’m ready to hear it or not!

So from the depths of the screaming toddler, the sound of the washing machine, buzzing computers, and splashes at bathtime, the Word of God speaks softly, but clearly, as long as I am willing to make the time to listen.