Monthly Archives: May 2016

Sorry, not sorry.

I heard some good news today about an old friend who had hurt me a great deal a few years ago. It soured my day.

But it made me realize, yet again, how fragile forgiveness can be,  and just how difficult it can be to live as Jesus did, and as the Father wants us to. Funny how we can assure ourselves we have forgiven in our minds, but when shocked or surprised somehow – like when you run into someone unexpectedly – the truth comes out. At least in your heart.

So, what to do? I guess I could sit around, walk around, whatever, feeling glum, excavating the pain and rehashing all the terrible things I think ruined my friendship. Isn’t that what we all do? Those of us who are willing to admit it, anyway. I know I do. But I don’t want to do that. I’m trying to live my life better, by what I’ve learned and by the path God is asking me to follow.

I tried something new instead. I said two prayers. One for me, and one for my old friend. Nothing elaborate. Just a quick nod to the Lord acknowledging that it’s hard to control our feelings, even when we can admit they are sometimes a little irrational. I asked him to help me let it go and find happiness in someone else’s success. And to remember the goodness of that relationship, not the bad ending. It was a long one. Most of it was special.

I also asked God to bless my friend and her family. I’m not sure if she ever understood the impact her actions had on my life. I prayed for her happiness, and that she always keep in mind that others are part of the decisions she makes, no matter how insignificant they may seem to her. The people or the decisions.

I find again that being a Catholic is indeed a great challenge, every day on every level. Forgiveness is not a one time thing, where you say your sorry, shake hands and everyone goes on merrily. It’s an ongoing choice to fight off the negativity and maintain your desire to make that “I’m sorry” stick. 

We certainly don’t make it easy for one another. Here’s to trying harder to forgive and to forget.

Pop Quiz

Jay Leno often did a schtick on the Tonight Show where he would have someone go out into the streets, read something from the U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights, and tell people the government was thinking of implementing whatever it was. Most of the subjects would be outraged, or amazed, often remarking the excerpt was way too extreme.

I’ve seen more recent similar videos where interviewers have asked college students questions like “Which side won the Civil War?,” “Who is the Vice President?,” etc. with equally awful results.

I can’t help but wonder what kind of answers one would get if challenging Catholics with a similar pop quiz on the Bible and Catholic Catechism. My guess is that responses would be nearly if not more atrocious.

I’m not saying that to be insulting. In recent years, I’ve come to see that there is a great deal I do not know about Catholicism and what I’m supposed to believe or not believe. This is particularly distressing to me having attended Catholic school from first grade through graduate school, received instruction for five of the Seven Sacraments, trained as a Eucharistic Minister, written for a Catholic newspaper, read various books on Catholicism, attended numerous retreats and so on and so forth.

There always seems to be more to learn. Considering the many resources I’ve had over the course of my life, I wonder what Catholics who have not attended Catholic elementary, intermediate, secondary, college and graduate school do to learn about “being Catholic.” Although I must admit, I have a number of friends who are converts, who, much like naturalized Americans do about the U.S., know more about the history and rules than most lifelong Catholics I know.

While those believers out there who want to show us all how much they know about God and Catholicism would probably disagree, I don’t think it should surprise anyone that many, if not most, Catholics have more to learn about their faith. Unlike our Protestant friends, Catholics are less known to be big Bible readers. And if you’ve ever seen a print version of the Catholic Catechism, you might feel more comfortable picking up a copy of War & Peace.

The Bible, as one of my high school religion teachers liked to remind us, is far from boring reading. He loved picking out more risqué passages and asking an unsuspecting student to read them allowed. He particularly liked the story of Lot and his daughters after fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah. Also, David and Bathsheeba. Or Sampson and Delilah. You get the point. I’ve been reading my copy more these days. It comes in handy when people tell you “that’s not in the Bible.” Often, it is.

In recent years, when I lost two very special people to suicide, and was teetering on the brink of depression myself, I turned to the Catechism for clarity. I was comforted to know the Church recognizes mental health issues can indeed lead us to a type of distress that can only be quieted in death. I was under the impression that suicide was always mortal sin. Some may be surprised that in regard to homosexuals, the Catchism clearly states “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

We Catholics who are not theological or moral specialists might also want to consider reading and studying other Catjolic documents of importance – Humana Vite, anyone? How about Amoris Latetia? Do we know what the Church really says about infallibility? I used to think if the Pope said it, God said it. It’s much more complicated than that.

Catholicism is a living, breathing faith. Just like our relationships with people, we must attend to our relationship with God. What we hear and learn at Mass simply isn’t enough in a day and age when there is such challenge to our tradition and freedom to practice it. I forget this a lot. My children are learning more about Catholicism at Catholic school today than I believe I did as an elementary school student. They challenge me to know more and be more devout. And know the answers to their Catholic questions.

I challenge you, my fellow Catholics, to refresh your knowledge of our faith. It’s one thing to know the rules – yet we should know where our rules come from. We should recognize both the good and bad of our history, and realize that the humanity of Church leaders can lead them to sin just like the rest of us. We must know what conventional wisdom about Catholicism is correct, and what has been exaggerated to discredit our beliefs and values, should we be called on to defend God.

Catholicism is good and can be shared in love and with respect among lapsed and non- believers. Study up for those more and more frequent pop quizzes. Evangelize, don’t hide.

For Example…

My favorite superhero is my mother. I’ve told many people that if I’m lucky, I WILL turn into her someday. I’ve always known that, but I’m not sure if she knows that I’ve always felt that way. The way I hadn’t realized that my youngest daughter feels that way about me.

This weekend, we’ll celebrate moms everywhere, all over the place. Well make brunches, breakfasts in bed, do her chores, clean the house, bring her flowers of every color, shape and size, laud her at church services, shower her with jewelry and school-made crafts. And moms will love it all, because it comes from us.  You see, being a mom comes with a responsibility that is very personal. Because its responsibility for who WE are.

I was driving along in my truck today, a beautiful spring afternoon, enjoying a Tim McGraw song when I remembered my nine-year-old daughter had been singing it the previous night in the kitchen while emptying the dishwasher. She’s been wrestling emotions lately related to growing up, identifying friends, and working hard at being a good-hearted person. The friction that can arise from interpersonal interactions in fourth grade have her feeling rather alone and realizing that doing the right things isn’t always the road to popularity.

She tells me often, and because she’s always been “my girl,” has been declaring for some time now, that I am her best friend. Her mom. While I regularly tell her how much I love her, I’m not sure I myself realized the responsibilities that come with being a nine-year-old’s best friend.

BFF’s at that age like the same things, do the same things, and model one another’s behavior. I forgot that until Tim started singing “Meanwhile, Back at Momma’s” today on my radio. She’s never liked that song, but I’ve always loved it. And suddenly, a whole lot of my daughter’s recent behavior issues began to make sense. 

She seems confused when I’m angry that her room isn’t picked up. That’s because my house isn’t picked up. She never puts laundry away, and often, to my chagrin, folded clothes end up back in the hamper instead of on her body or in a drawer. Yet I leave full laundry baskets in the family room for days. 

She hates doing dishes, loves Star Wars, sings with Miranda Lambert, steals the covers, and won’t go to the basement without a companion. She stomps and bitches when she’s mad and talks incessantly when excited about anything. Guess who else does or once did all of these things?

Yep. Me. Being a parent comes with a responsibility we mom’s don’t often get the whole gist of because we’re busy worrying about how we feel about ourselves in the mommy role. Sure, we all know kids imitate. But those lovely little mirrors of ours often tell us what we don’t want to know. My older daughter may have inherited my old talent for drawing and my thick brown hair, but my youngest, my BFF, is picking up my bad habits by trying to emulate someone she loves the most. 

Flattering? Sure. But it’s also a wake up call. Being a worthy example to someone learning the ropes of life is not easy. But I owe her and her sister my best effort everyday. 

To help my child grow and succeed, it’s time that mommy/BFF gets her butt in gear. She’ll likely never clean her room if I don’t start tidying up our house. She’ll never do dishes unless she sees me do them. Telling her to find pants for school in the laundry basket next to the couch while I’m trying to hoist myself out of bed will never teach her the importance of organization, the need to let go of habits or how to respect others in her household.

This Mother’s Day, I’ll get a lot of accolades. My own mother will congratulate me for successfully juggling chronic illness with raising good kids. My husband will love me for guiding our two shining stars through weeks of cheerleading, gymnastics, music lessons, school work, meals, baths, bedtimes, chores and sibling rivalry without any trips to the ER. My childless brother will shake his head and smile at me with the kind of love that tells me “You’ve got this girl. Keep going.” And my father will delight in every moment he spends with the two girls who make him the happiest man alive.

But me, I’ll know there’s more work to be done. Not in the kitchen or the laundry or in the car, but in my own heart. I’ll be working to push myself harder – to become the best me I can be. Because when your looking for an example of how to act, or do something, your probably going to look to your BFF. 

God help me. Really.