Wednesday, April 27, 2011


On May 1, 2011, John Paul II will be beatified, and will become Blessed John Paul II.

I can go on and on about JPII, who had a profound influence on my faith. I am privileged to be one of the JPII generation. I was an usher at the Papal mass when JPII visited San Antonio. I shepherded a bus full of kids from the Bronx at World Youth Day in Denver, CO in 1993 (when the Mass was celebrated on my birthday! My bus leader, Fr. Stan Fortuna, said the Mass for me as one of the concelebrants).

In 1995, I entered the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family for my graduate studies (where I was one of a class of 10, including Chris West). Clearly,  JPII deeply influenced my life.

But the memory that is standing out in my mind now was the last time I saw JPII.

Choirs can apply to visit the Vatican and sing at a mass at St Peter's. In 2000, my choir director announced that we would participate in such a pilgrimage. It was exciting, but as a mom to two toddlers, there was no way I could afford to go.
ArtGuy had other plans, however. He took a second job as a pizza delivery guy, and signed me up. My mother, my Aunt Kathy., and my sister joined up as well (as part of the tour group, not the choir!). I will never forget the sacrifice my husband made for me, nor will I ever forget this very special trip with my mom, sister, and aunt.

The choir was gathered, and we began to practice. We found we were going to sing at High Mass at St. Peter's on Pentecost Sunday, June 3, 2001. Although the Pope would not be at the mass, we would get to sing at St. Peter's and give a concert at St. Ignatius Church in Rome, as well as doing the whole tourist thing.

A few months before our trip, we received a message. Our mass was now a Papal Mass! John Paul II would preside, and the body of Bl. John XXIII would be shown, as it was being moved to St. Peter's that very day!
Our little Texas choir was going to sing for Pope John Paul II! It was an amazing revelation, and threw us all into a head spin.
The trip finally came. The day of the Mass arrived. The Mass would be outdoors, in St. Peter's square. The day was sunny and quite warm. We had to be there very early, to go through security, and to be in place. When John Paul II came out, he appeared only feet away from where we (the choir) waited. It was amazing.
He was, of course, quite ill by this time. He was shockingly frail and old. But underneath it, he was still mentally sharp and loving.

I will never forget it.

I cannot find my photo album. It is panicking me. I haven't seen it since we moved a year-and-a-half ago. As soon as I can find my pics, or get them re-printed, I will post them!

JPII, pray for us.

Monday, April 25, 2011

In Service of the Church

Today is Easter Monday, or in my house, day of the dead! The dead!

Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, I logged 18 hours at church (singing at services and practices). The only reason it was that low was because I skipped out on one Mass and the Easter afternoon Mass I was supposed to cantor ended up with the Children's Choir instead (an Easter miracle, for sure!).

Holidays are lovely and exciting. But for those that work in any capacity in the Church, the biggies - Easter and Christmas - usually mean a lot more work and time away from home. Not that I am complaining about it - I do it because a) I love it and b) it is a small way I can offer my meager talents to God through the community. However, it is - at the same time - draining on me. And if it is tough on me, it is also tough on my family. They must sacrifice that time with me, work around my schedule, and often not see me for hours on a Big Holiday.

When you attend an Easter service or Christmas service at a church, think about all that is takes in order to make that service special. Usually there is a very hard-working group that decorates the church, which can take hours. And the maintenance people who keep it extra-clean and spiffy! Then there is the choir or the musicians, who work for weeks in order to prepare music to make the holiday services special and extra-meaningful. There are always behind-the-scene worship leaders who rehearse with many people in order to get each step of a service just right, or at least free from major distracting flaws. These people often literally walk step-by-step through a service - multiple times - in order to anticipate every need or scenario (not that they can cover every possible thing which can happen - which means on the Big Day they have to be on call and ready for anything). Then there are those that take part in a special part of a service that come for rehearsals. In addition, there are ushers, lectors/readers, Eucharistic Ministers, and greeters that put in extra time to prepare for the heavily attended holiday services.
Priests (or minsters) must set aside extra time to prepare in a special way for the high holy days. And deacons, who usually have their own families, are likewise putting in many extra hours.

In other words, it takes a large cast and crew many additional hours to pull off Easter and Christmas at church. It is really amazing! All that time and energy, given freely at the service of others. It is a quite moving thought.

So, today we took an extra day off, so we can all rest and relax. I was so tired yesterday, I literally could not see straight by about 10am! my head was about to explode. I have decided that high ceilings are much preferable to low ceilings when copious amounts of incense are going to be used in a liturgy!

A mid-morning snack of a nommy purple-icing-ed cupcake topped by a Peep helped me get through the morning! (Thanks, Lisa!)

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Resurrection Day

Hear the hush,
see the dawn.
Satan cries,
“I have won!”
For, lo! The sun
is rising now
showing sorrowful Cross
upon hill’s brow.

Over there,
the tomb shut tight
its burden hid
from morning light
Inside the broken
Body rests.
Trials over,
he passed the test
but seemed to lose the fight.

Hear the hush, 
see the dawn.
Satan cries,
"My plan's undone!"
For, lo! The sun
is rising now,
showing Cross triumphant
upon hill's brow.

See the stone 
has rolled away,
the rising light
reveals the grave,
broken open,
"He is not here,"
there is no doubt -
but what does it mean?

When all seems lost
in endless night,
God's love revealed 
His greater might,
through tragedy -
not all is always
what it seems.
A Love stronger
than the hand of fate,
deeper than the swell of hate.

Death where is thy victory?
Oh painful end, where is thy sting?
For as the water
became wine,
making merely ordinary
simply divine,
now the Cross
and now the grave,
transforms our fear,
and casts it away
into the light
of Easter morn.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Beautiful Thursday, Somber Friday

Yesterday was the beginning of Triduum, the three high holy days that immediately precede Easter.

Holy Thursday's service remembers the Last Supper and when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. This service is one of the most solemn of the year. It is full of all the rite and ritual people typically associate with the Catholic church. To me, it is the Church in all her beautiful dignity.  It is not your typical liturgy. The service begins with joy and gladness, with the the triumphant Gloria ringing out for the first time in six weeks, and ends in quiet sorrow, as the Eucharist is processed around the church, then placed on the chapel altar for silent prayer, usually with the these words from a song accompanying it - "Stay here, and keep watch with me, the hour has come. Stay here and keep watch with me, watch and pray."

This is my first year in my new parish, so last night was my first Holy Thursday liturgy at St. Gabriel's. At my former parish, a few people were selected to have their feet washed during this service. So I was totally unprepared for the entire congregation to arise and line up for the foot washing. In several lines over the church, the whole congregation took turns washing each other's feet. (I should have realized it, as we had five songs listed for this part of the service). It moved me to tears, to see family members, friends, and strangers bend to tenderly wash the foot of person seated, then sit to have their own foot washed. It is something so humbling, so incredibly connecting, to re-enact this part of the disciples life. It reminds us to care for one another, to serve one another, to love the presence of God in each person. You can easily get ticked off at the jerk driving like a maniac just to get to the church parking lot before you, but it is hard to hold a grudge against anyone when you bend to wash their feet.

And of course, today is Good Friday. We have been building towards this day for weeks now. Just this past Sunday we participated in the reading of the Passion. There is something so horrible, so eye-opening to have to chant the words "Crucify him" in answer to Pilate's question, "What do you want me to do with this man?" It stabs me through the heart, to know that time and time again, with every hurtful choice I have made, I have crucified him. And today, it all comes to a head, as my sins place him on that Cross. Today is a day of sorrow and meditation. We place ourselves in the fear of the disciples, in the weeping of the women, of the duty of the centurion, of the sorrowful thief hanging at His side. We fast to show our sorrow, to participate a little in the Sorrow of this Day.
Good Friday service is one of my favorites. After a quiet and solemn day (well, except for doctor's appointments and music rehearsals), the evening is almost a relief. To gather with others in a church - it must have been similar to what the followers of Jesus felt when they were able to meet together after that horrible day.
All seemed lost then. Of course, we know the end of the story, and what awaits us a mere 24 hours away at the Vigil is Joy Unbounded.

Good Friday is the price to pay for the glory of Easter Sunday.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Modest Toddler

The Mad Toddler has thing about clothes. He hates anything short-sleeved. In order to get him into a shirt that will not broil him on a hot Texas spring day, there must be A Plan. Usually this plan involves throwing the shirt on his body and then immediately heading out to the door for a Fabulous Adventure. Even then, there is a lot of whining and screaming involved (him, not, me).

Today, he is quite concerned about my shorts. He carefully fingers the skin above my knees and says, with a hopeful voice, "Mommy, you want to go put on long pants."

No, Mommy does not.

Sharing our bed with The Mad Toddler raises the temperature in our room by at least 10 degrees. ArtGuy will sometimes sleep without a shirt (gasp!). Upon waking, The Mad Toddler will not let his father do anything until he gets a shirt on. Pronto. He stands in the doorway of the closet with a concerned expression, hopefully fingering a heavy-weight, long-sleeved sweater.

"Maybe this one?" he asks, with hope.

"," his father replies, choosing a more sensible t-shirt insread.

The Mad Toddler was horrified when we watched an old episode of Pokemon the other day. Misty, the girl character, sports a pair of Daisy Dukes, which admittedly leaves about a mile of tweener leg showing. The Mad Toddler watched her with concern before declaring, "Oh, no. She does not have any clothes on her legs. She needs some pants."  Well, he actually has a point there.

Actually, he is most comfortable in his pajamas. Winter pajamas, of course. Flannel is preferred.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spring Breakers

It is noon.

I am still in my pajamas.

I love spring break!

I plan on using this week off of school to clean the house a bit. It has reached that stage - kind of a "critical mass" stage, where it is threatening to explode any moment.

But not today.

After running all over hither and yon yesterday, I am too tired to do much more than grunt out a "oh" or "hmmmm" when the kids talk to me.
The Mad Toddler is still running a fever, but no other symptoms. Very weird and very frustrating. I am hoping whatever bug he is fighting will disappear by tomorrow. He is not one of those quiet sick kids, like Cookie Boy always has been. Instead, he is more wound up than normal.  A little hectic.

I did manage to stir enough to run the dryer, and if I don't forget, I will actually fold that load of laundry later.

It is good to have goals.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Murphy's Law

So, ArtGuy and I almost never go out on any dates. Not from my lack of wanting to, I assure you!

Tonight was to be our first date night in....well, in a very long time. ArtGuy was going to pick up the babysitter after he and Cookie Boy went to Mass (Cookie Boy was on a Boy Scout campout this weekend, so it was a late church service for him.). It was already a busy day. I was up at 5:30am in order to get ready for singing at 7am Mass this morning. The Young Adult and I went to early service, then home for an hour before choir practice for the next service. The Young Adult went to work in the Toddler Room while Romeo and I went to the 11am service. By the time we got home, ArtGuy was already gone to pick up Cookie Boy. I had 45 minutes at home before off to a two-hour choir practice. Finally, I got home and the whole family was together! For an hour, until ArtGuy and Cookie Boy left.

So, you can see how I might have been looking forward to having a dinner out with ArtGuy tonight. The amount of time we actually spend together would effectively make this more like a blind date than a married-persons' outing!

Yesterday was a similarly long day. The Mad Toddler did not get a nap, and by the evening, he looked stunned. Our homeschool coop's spring program was last night, and The Mad Toddler kind of stumbled around in a daze. I laughed it off with everyone, telling my friends about how tired the poor kid was.

We finally put him in bed around 9pm. As I went to cuddle with my little guy, imagine my surprise when I realized his forehead was burning hot!

My poor baby wasn't just tired, he was sick!

I felt terrible dragging him all over yesterday, and for exposing everyone at the program last night. If I had known, we never would have gone.

Needless to say a temp of 103 date night.

Oh well. There's always next year!

Friday, April 15, 2011

All Over

ArtGuy took Friday off this semester to teach in our homeschool coop, taking my place. In other words, this spring I have had NINE Fridays off. Bliss!

Today is the last day of spring coop.

I am sad.

I honor of my last Day Off, I am not writing or cleaning or anything else that is getting me no where!

I just returned from a long walk. The weather is absolutely gorgeous, although the wind in quite whippy. Now, my muscles are pleasantly painful, I have done my exercise, and I am ready to watch movies, read, and otherwise indulge until they all return home this afternoon and the jog is up.

It has been a wonderful nine Fridays. Sure, I ran errands and had meetings, but mainly it was about time and space. Space to be a person (grocery shopping without kids - gasp!), space to write (even though when I read back through it, it makes me feel like a total loser), and time to move around without the demands and arguments of four growing boys.

Thanks, ArtGuy.

This has been one of the best gifts ever!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Nothing But Fluff

Yesterday, we made a trip to the library. As I strolled the aisles, browsing for books, I realized that all I was interested in was pure, unadulterated FLUFF! A little embarrassing, but it is the truth.

All day long, I teach. I read up on history, science, math, language arts, literature, writing, current events, and Latin. Sheesh! I can't even keep up with all that. In addition, I still try to read a little theology from time-to-time.

So, when it comes to my downtime, I want happy. I want funny. I want fun.

This all occurred to me when I realized I was re-shelving any book praised as "sobering", "thoughtful", "gripping," and most especially "poignant". Nope. Not at this time in my life. I prefer "sassy", "rollicking", "romp", "witty", or even "sly".

Life is hard enough. My pleasure reading is all about fun. And that is a word I struggle hard enough to be on familiar terms with.

Maybe one day I will get back to books with more backbone than a book with a title like "Summer on Cully Street". Someday.....when I no longer share a bed with a toddler (who kicks me all night); when I have more than five minutes to think to myself; when my husband isn't just some man I married to have someone help me drive my kids around.

But for now, I am happy to be a reading airhead!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Mad Toddler Strikes Again

Okay, so I only have a few more weeks before the Mad Toddler is no longer a toddler.


He is, however, always mischievous!

His latest trick is to sneak into The Young Adult's room and scatter his millions of Pokemon cards all over the place. He can throw an amazing number of cards in 30 seconds or less. Surely soon The Young Adult will realize the wisdom of his mother's suggestion to lock his door when he is out of the room. Or to stop playing Pokemon cards. Honestly, we thought (when he was 3), he would outgrow Pokemon in a few years. Or not.

The Mad Toddler is refusing to wear shorts or short sleeves. He fusses and twists and cries. Even on the 90 degree days. I finally wrestled him into a short sleeve shirt this morning, but it took 30 minutes of fussing before he settled down. In fact, most days, he insists on pajamas all day. Not that I blame him. I would like that, too.

The Mad Toddler at the lake

Mommy and her sweet boy!