My thoughts and reflections on my Catholic Faith, Fulton Sheen, the problem of suffering, and books

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Why I Get Up Early on Saturday Mornings

Have you ever had one of those "Holy Spirit nudges?" You know, the ones where you know He's nudging you in the elbow, saying "Go! Do this!"

Two summers ago (2013), our parish announced a new religious education program: SPRED, or SPecial Religious EDucation. It's religious education for children with special needs.

And I felt one that "Holy Spirit nudge": Em, go, do this!

Now, I love children, but at that point I had had very little experience with children with special needs. And I hate trying new things. So I was scared.

But I went ahead, filled out the paperwork (I'd done VIRTUS training the year before, so that was taken care of!), attended the training sessions, and then plunged into it.

SPRED meets for 12 sessions during the school year, from September through April. The format of each session is as follows:

  • Play time, in which the children each pick a sensory activity. This kind of settles them in and gets them ready for the lesson and for prayer.
  • The lesson, in which there is a craft activity...for instance, coloring a cross that is labeled with the parts of the Sign of the Cross, then practicing it. (Even non-verbal children, for instance my friend Lu, whom I talk about below, can make the Sign of the Cross.)
  • Then the children gather around one of the volunteers, talk a bit--especially in the first session after the summer vacation--about what they've been up to, then wash their hands in preparation for going to the Sacred Space.
  • The Sacred Space is in a different room, with a table covered with a cloth. There is a cross, flowers, and electric candles on the table. Our Group Leader reads an (adapted) Bible passage to the kids, then goes around the room to each of the kids and volunteers with the day's message, for example: "N., Jesus says to you today: Live in My love."
  • Then the kids sing a song, complete with hand motions, before we walk back to the first room.
  • We set the table--the kids help--in preparation for the agape meal, a simple but yummy meal of bread with butter and jelly, sometimes fresh fruit, a pastry of some sort.
I missed a lot of sessions in the fall of 2013 because of other obligations; but then in the spring of 2014, I made a new buddy.

We'll call her Lu. She was 7 then, and she's a dear! She's non-verbal, but she can look into your eyes with the deepest's like she's reading your soul!! ;-) Somehow--the Holy Spirit?--we bonded, through those soul-searching gazes, and my determination to try to get her to engage in the activities. (Lu would sit and amuse herself for hours staring out the window if you let her, but I like to try to get her to engage.)

The area where she does engage is music; she loves music of any kind, and will jump around and dance very happily.

It's always a joy when Lu walks in the door; I feel my heart leap, and her face breaks out in this huge smile when she sees me. Her mother and I have managed to meet up a few times during the summers; and she always jumps for joy (her mother calls it the "Happy Dance") when she sees me.

It's a joy knowing that, somehow, in some way that I'll probably never know in this life, I'm making a difference in the lives of these children and--please God!--bringing them closer to God.

God Love Y'All!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

#1000 Gifts

It's a quiet Sunday here in Northern Virginia. And it's time for another "Grateful on  a [Sunday]" post. (I'm too forgetful to do these posts on Monday, or "Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real" on Thursday, or What I Wore Sundays. So y'all are stuck with my sporadic blogging.

In My Cup: English Breakfast tea.

Sitting in: Sitting on the rug on my bedroom floor.

Listening ToVirginia's Positive Hits, 89.9.

The Sun is: shining and hot.

Something Beautiful: My tea mug. My best friend and roommate for 2 years, Sister Veronica Mary of the Wounds of Christ, gave this to me Freshman Year. It was my coffee mug until I graduated and "converted" to black tea. :-) It has a huge crack, proof that it survived being banged into the wall (running down the hallway to a bonfire will do that to you).

What's On My Mind:

Today marks ten years since my uncle, Jerome Vincent Philip Pillus, DVM, died. Normally it doesn't bother me much...but when my (mentally ill) mother feels the need to email me to remind me that today is his anniversary, as if I had forgotten, that really bugs me. I know when Uncle Jerome died; he was my uncle, and I remember every single stinkin' year. He was my only Catholic uncle; the only relative other than my mother who came to my Confirmation; and the only one of my uncles who's actually related to me by blood rather than marriage.

Uncle Jerome, possibly in 2003

What I Am Praying For:
+ the repose of the soul of Uncle Jerome
+ the repose of the soul of Fr. William Erstad, a priest from our parish when we were in CA. He had a car accident about the same time Uncle Jerome died, and died early the following morning, June 15, 2005.
+ so many other friends and intentions

This Week Will Bring:
Work Monday-Wednesday. Then on Thursday, I'm heading to IN for my neice's wedding. She's 21. I'm pretty sure there's a rule somewhere that says you shouldn't get married before your aunt does. ;-) O well.

Grateful For:
#36. The guys at Bull Run Bicycles, who fixed a few small things on my bike yesterday. For months, I've had cloth and duct tape wrapped around the clamp that holds the saddle on, to keep the nuts from wearing holes in my jeans. Danny (I think that was his name) took one look at that mess, said my clamp was on wrong, and adjusted it. Now, not only does the saddle not rock under me while I'm biking, but I don't have to worry about tears in my jeans.

#37. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
#38. The doctrine of the Communion of Saints
#39. Air-conditioning and Gatorade.
#40.  My friend Caroline, who introduced me to the book Stardust, by Neil Gaiman, a fairy-tale for adults, written in the style of C.S. Lewis. After fruitlessly trying to get it from the library last year and then a few weeks ago, I finally got it yesterday. It was such a fun read!
#41. My bicycle
#42. The ability to ride a bike.

That's all for now.
God Love Y'All!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Peek Inside My Brain

Linking up with Mary at Passionate Perseverance. She normally does these #1000Gifts posts on Monday, but I was feeling inspired to blog today, and decided to follow her example on Thursday:

In my cup:
English Breakfast tea, courtesy of my roommate, who gave me 100 tea bags as a birthday present. 'Cause we all know that Em-before-she-has-had-tea is almost as bad as Em-after-you-insult-Fulton-Sheen-in-front-of-her.

Sitting in:
The comfy computer chair that was left in our old apartment. I claimed it, and made sure it came over to the house when we moved. It's the perfect chair to sit in, especially when the lower back thinks it's 96 instead of 26. ;-)

Listening to:
This playlist I created on YouTube:

The first song, "Here for a Reason" by Ashes Remain, is one I discovered last October. It came on the radio, and the message totally made my day. I've listened to it repeatedly since:
You're not forgotten, you're not alone
You think you're worthless, but you're worth it
And He calls you His own
Made in His image, you were made for more
You think there is no plan, that it's all by chance
But don't believe that anymore:
Every time that you wake up breathing
Every night when you close your eyes
Everyday that your heart keeps beating
There's purpose for your life
So don't give up
Don't lay down
Just hold on
Don't quit now
Every breath that you take has meaning
You are here for a reason

The sun is:
Hiding behind clouds. Today's a wet, cold, miserable day. I hate rain more than a cat does...there, y'all know the deep, dark truth now. And yet I love books more than I hate rain, so I biked 2.5 miles in a light sprinkle to go to the library. :-) I have now decided that my glasses need wipers, ya know, like windshield wipers? Think I'll patent those and make my fortune.

Something beautiful:
The array of birthday cards, and cards from my little pen pal, on my wall.

What's on my mind:
Well, several of y'all have encouraged me to be a bit more honest on here, to give my readers a peek inside my brain. If y'all run away screaming, that's okay. I sometimes want to do the same. Here goes....

1) I've kind of hit burn-out on my job as a caregiver. It's very exhausting working with a woman who can't talk because she had a stroke. It's more exhausting when she gets upset, and screams, and you're reminded of your mentally ill, emotionally abusive mother.
     Things have been a bit stressful lately, because she broke her leg and was in a rehab facility for a while (that was good driving practice...driving 20-odd miles one-way on curvy, country roads three times a week to visit her); but things are slowly returning to normal. And the person who lost their temper last week wasn't her; it was me. (But working for 23 hours straight--actually 17, because I slept for 8 of them--will do that to you.)
     I think I will try to keep to my commitment to work for them until October; but after that, I'm outta there! Now that I have my driver's license, I have slightly more flexibility...but that flexibility is hampered by the fact that I only have access to a car sometimes. My goal for the rest of 2015: save enough money to buy a very cheap, used car.
2) I'm feeling overwhelmed with all of the stress of 90% of my friends. From Brendan's cancer, to the anniversary of the death of a 23-year-old friend, to a horrible tragedy in a friend's family, to the deaths of two friends' grandfathers, to a sad loss for another friend...sometimes I don't think I can bear one more piece of bad news.

3) I'm realizing that I have serious issues with trust. Specifically trusting God, trusting in Divine Providence. Which evidently is all tied in to the fact that it's hard to understand the notion of God as my Father, when my own biological father simply wasn't there for 7 years. My dad wasn't there, he wasn't reliable, he wasn't trustworthy; so how am I supposed to trust that God the Father is there for me, that I can trust Him, that He's not going to leave me or drop me or give me trials simply out of a vengeful spirit of seeing how I deal with them?
     I fought that idea for several years; I thought it was a bunch of "psychobabble" and "hogwash" to say that; but I am slowly, ever so slowly, admitting that, yes, my biological father was supposed to show me what God the Father is like. His example then colors my idea of God the Father now.

What I am Praying For:
+ healing for Brendan, and peace and strength for his family...and for all of us who are blessed to be his friends
+ peace and healing and strength for so, so many friends

(The rest of) This Week Will Bring:
* Work tomorrow. 6 hours. You know you're burnt-out when you spend your day off counting the hours left in the work week.
* Looking forward to a weekend with my roommate and a college friend.
* The movie "I Am David." I just read the book. I've seen the movie at least twice, but I guess I hadn't realized there was a book. It's a children's book, and, boy, it was a page-turner. Looking forward to seeing the movie again; it's so beautiful to see David learn how to trust. (See #3 in "What's On My Mind.")

Grateful For:
The gratitude list has fallen by the wayside; it's been months since I put it on the blog, and almost three months since I wrote it down in my journal. The last entry in my gratitude journal, from March, is: the ability to walk, even if I hate walking in the rain.

So, here we go, with the thirty-first item on the blog:
#31. Library books.
#32. English breakfast tea.
#33. Dark chocolate. (Although, honestly, I prefer the dark chocolate that has been sweetened; I don't like my chocolate too bitter.)
#34. This song, "What Love Looks Like":
#35. This reminder from a friend that "God is in control...He laid the foundations of the earth. Trust Him."

(Chocolate and tea are often-repeated items in my journal...wonder what that says about my priorities in regards to things for which I am grateful....)

Anyway, that's all for now.

God Love Y'All!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Prayer Request, and a Few Thoughts on Friendship--UPDATED

UPDATE via his brother: Brendan's surgery has been completed, and it was successful. Obviously, he still has a long road of treatment ahead, so please continue to keep him in your prayers.

My dear friend and former history professor Brendan is having surgery today to remove the tumor (recurrence of Ewing's sarcoma) in his shoulder-blade. Please keep him in your prayers!!!

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for Brendan!
St. Peregrine, pray for Brendan!

(Brendan in January 2012, one month after he finished chemo the first time)

Friday, April 17, 2015

2015 ... Can I have a do-over?

Okay, y'all. I want a "rewind" button. I want to rewind the clock back to January 1...or at least, the end of January, and start this year all over again.

I want to rewind the devastating news I got on January 30, the prayer request from the friend who rarely asks me for prayers; I don't want to find out that Brendan's cancer is back. He was supposed to be in remission! He was more than half-way to the five-year mark! I was counting the months down! It's not fair!!!

I want to rewind Lent, and actually read Job this year. Except...would I have read Job if Brendan hadn't gotten sick again? Probably not. So let's skip Job, thank you very much.

I want to rewind the horrible tragedy that happened to a friend's family only a month ago.

I want to rewind the death of Brendan's if the man doesn't already have enough to deal with.

I was going to take a break this week from social media, to try to wrap my head around all of this; and then the work week was sooo crazy, it gave me no time to breathe, much less sit and pause and wrap my head around all of this.

I have taken a break from Facebook; but I blog so infrequently these days, I figure this wouldn't hurt my attempts to clear my head. In fact, seeing as I think best when I get my thoughts out of my head and "onto paper" (in this case, "onto the screen" of whatever device you are using to read this), I thought it might help. That's why I started blogging 4 years ago, anyway.

So, yeah...I want a do-over button. I want to start 2015 over again.

Unfortunately, I can't start the year over again. There is no "rewind" button.

All I can do is keep going forward.

And one of the ways that's keeping me going forward is this: I am learning, slowly, step by step, and fighting it all the way, that prayer is not simply "the only" thing I can do for all of my friends; prayer is the most important thing I can do for all of my friends who are suffering in one way or another this year.

So I guess I just have to keep plodding forward, and praying, and plodding, and praying, and falling down and getting stuck, and praying some more.

Because the God I'm praying all-powerful. He's all-knowing. He's all-loving. He's all-merciful. And the best thing I can do to help my friends, and myself, is to ask Him for help.

Oremus semper pro invicem!  (Let us always pray for each other!)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

2015...Three and a half months in

Can you believe we're already more than 1/4 of the way into 2015?

I can't.

2015 started off so beautifully...then the end of January brought devastating news, and sorrow, and prayers...and my hopes that 2015 would be better than 2014 were dashed.

Somehow I slogged through the snowy month of February, which quickly became Lent, and tried to read the Book of Job.

Then March brought more snow, and the decision to sign up for driving lessons and make 2015 the year that I get my license. (Two more lessons to go; and, God-willing, before the end of April, I will have a driver's license.)

Then Holy Week was upon us, and I had only made it to chapter 9 of Job (out of 42 chapters...) and my Triduum and Easter in Front Royal were good, if quiet (which enabled me to catch up on Sheen's Life of Christ).

Now somehow it's a week and a half since Easter; Divine Mercy Sunday came and went.

I'm currently taking a break from  Facebook and my email account in order to get my head on straight, to get my priorities in order, and to try to wrap my mind around some of the things that have happened in 2015.

Because it's been a rough year so far.

I'll be back around April 26 or 27.

Oremus semper pro invicem!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Stillness--and yet the Hope--of Holy Saturday

It is Holy Saturday.

Our churches are empty; there is no red sanctuary lamp telling us that Our Lord is there.

Because He is not.

He is dead, and buried; and we weep, but we weep with hope because we know He will rise again.

The Apostles did not know that; they thought all hope was gone, as Ven. Fulton Sheen writes in Life of Christ:
The very fact that the women brought spices proved that they did not expect a Resurrection. It seemed strange that such should have been the case after the many references by Our Lord to His death and His Resurrection. But evidently the disciples as well as the women, whenever He predicted His Passion, seemed to remember more His death than His Resurrection. It never occurred to them as a possible thing; it was foreign to their thoughts. When the stone was rolled to the door of the sepulcher, not only was Christ buried but also all of their hopes.
However, our hopes are not buried, because we know "that we have already won--only the news has not yet leaked out!" (Sheen, Our Grounds for Hope).

We have won.

Because He has risen.