Monday, December 29, 2008

21 Years Ago Today...

I lost my only child status.

And she hasn't shut her mouth since. Happy Birthday Baby Sis! I'm going to call her later and sing badly at her....
The picture is not actually my sister. I stole it from Holly, who borrowed it from Umm Adam. :)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Raised 'Slightly Catholic'

When we were doing the introductions at the beginning of RCIA, we were asked to give a short biography, and our faith background. I was raised Missouri Synod Lutheran, and I said that, but I also followed it up by saying that I was beginning to suspect I'd been raised 'slightly Catholic'. And I just recently re-thought about that, and how I believe it's really true, however it happened. I'm going to explain, and some of it may not make sense, but I want to get it out here on 'paper'.

I am the first of five grandchildren, born to my grandparents' only daughter. My mother has two daughters, myself and Baby Sis. My UncleB has one son, and UncleK has two. My grandfather loved children, and was thrilled with the prospect of me. :) Going off of the first sonogram, I was supposed to be named after him, Joseph. On the second sonogram, the umbilical cord had shifted. I became Josephine. :) Somewhere between that point and my actual birth, my mother changed her mind, and I became Amber.

This is the passage that was on my baptismal cake: Ezekiel 1:4 - And I saw, and behold a whirlwind came out of the north: and a great cloud, and a fire infolding it, and brightness was about it: and out of the midst thereof, that is, out of the midst of the fire, as it were the resemblance of amber. And, clearly, not the whole quote, it wouldn't have fit on the cake, but the last half, starting at 'and out of the midst thereof'.

Mom claims this is where she got my name, and I'll just choose to believe her. However, my grandfather still would call me Amberina Josephina. Which is not, by the way, my middle name, just his nickname for me, which no one else is allowed to use. Moving on...

My mothers parents, who did a lot of work helping to raise me and my sister when she came along, were/are devout Lutherans. What do you do on Sundays? You go to church. There are no other options, barring illness. My adopted-father's mother was a devout Catholic. We didn't see her as much, because her health was not so good that it permitted her to keep two young girls for extended periods of time. She had severe asthma, but she did what she could with us.

So, I either attended the Lutheran church, or went to the Catholic church, depending on who I was with on Sunday. And here's the thing- at the time, the services weren't that different! I was raised old school MS Lutheran, so there were kneelers, an altar rail for communion/blessing, everything. And the same at the Catholic church. So I just grew up assuming that they were just two different physical churches, but the same thing, at the core. Catholic grandma died when I was ten or so, and I was given (though I can't recall why at this point), one of her statues, some medals she had, and a little picture of the Virgin Mary that she kept in her car. I have carried these things around in my possession for sixteen years since I inherited them.

At my grandparents' house, in 'my room', there was always a picture hanging on the wall, of a woman hair covered, cradling a cross and a spray of roses. I always just assumed it was Mary, and never bothered to ask anyone. I inherited that picture when my grandfather died, and my grandmother moved into a smaller condo. I've carried her around for the past eight or nine years.

As I said, growing up, I attended either the Lutheran church, or a Catholic one. I assumed that all the churches were just like that.

If you had asked me, at any point in my childhood, who was the physical head of Christianity at that moment, (not that anyone would ask a kid a question like that), I would have told you the Pope. Keep in mind that my main religious formation was going on in the Lutheran church. I mean, who else was there? He was the only one I ever saw standing up for the faith, so dignified, so calm, so confident of the Truth he was teaching! I just believed that he was in charge of *all* the churches. After all, we were all Christian, weren't we? To be perfectly honest, even after I learned that wasn't, actually, so, I still sort of looked to the Pope. Again, who else was there?

I abandoned faith for a good, long while. I fell into paganism, heresy, a lot of stuff. But I was lead back out again, for which I am thankful.

I went to my mothers church, which is now Mennonite. She converted to marry step-dad, who is a wonderful man. I had, of course, by this point, learned the differences in Protestantism, Catholicism, etc. but I needed to figure it out for myself, and there was still something, in the back of my head, that told me that while the style of worship might be different, the theology would still be the same. Pft. That lasted until their second communion service. They hold communion once a month, they do not believe in the Real Presence, just like so many other Protestant denominations. I sat through a lecture about how it was the center of their worship, what brought them together, nothing more important, yadda. Then, the next month, they 'bumped' communion for a kids play. Yes, by all means, encourage the kids, but make the service a little longer and hold communion! If it's that important, people will hang in there for another ten freaking minutes! I know it's just bread and grape juice to them, but still, come on...

So I went back to the Lutheran church. Ah...well...I'm not really sure what happened in the intervening years, but they'd lost so much of what I remembered, it wasn't like the same church at all. And, and, so, transubstantiaion, consubstantiation. I was not raised to believe that the host went back to being bread! Once the Body of God, always the Body of God! So I went to the Catholic church. And there it was. Just the same, and it clicked. It still took me months to work around to the point where I knew I needed to convert, but get there I did. And after I'd made that decision, and told my family, I learned some things.

My grandfather had been raised Catholic. He left the Church because a priest that he went to for help told him that it was his fault his father was abusive. For this, though I know he died outside of full communion with the Church, I know that God's Mercy will prevail. He was a child, and he didn't know, and so much as I can, though it might be wrong, I blame that priest.

'Mary', from my childhood was St. Therese of Lisieux, and this icon had belong to my great-grandmother, who died when my grandfather was a child. She now hangs over my bed.

The statue I inherited? Who I, (very sorry for this), called 'Saint Whosit' for a number of years, because I assumed he was a saint and had no way of figuring out which the Infant of Prague. The medals, are also both of the Infant of Prague. I wear one of them now at all times.

The picture of Mary from my grandmothers car? A green scapular. From - The (green) scapular is reputed to have special efficacy in bringing people back to the Church and to the sacrament of penance even after many years of estrangement from their faith.

I keep the scapular at home, but I do carry a piece of blessed palm from last Easter Sunday in my car's visor.

And David Danced Before the Lord...

I'm a musical person. I can't sing on key, I've forgotten how to play the only instrument I ever learned. I come from a family of people who sing and play like they breathe. The gene skipped me. But I am musical in the sense that I love music. I always have music on, somehow. And at work, when there is no music? I hear it in my head, in the rhythm of the people around me.

I belive that music is one of the purest, original forms of worship. It's transcendent, something so beyond just the physical bodies we use, the instruments we create. The angels themselves sing in worship of God, so why shouldn't we? I sing in the Mass, but softly, so as not to bother the poor people standing within earshot.

2 Samuel 6:5 - Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, horns, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals.

2 Samuel 6:14-16: And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouting and the sound of the trumpet. Then it happened as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.

Why did Michal despise David for his exuberant, joyous worship of his Lord? She thought it was undignified, beneath him as King. But God, clearly, accepted this worship. The Psalms were meant to be sung, chanted. We've been praising God in music since the beginning, so why stop now? Music is a gift from God, both the ability to create it, and the appreciation of it.

Some links:

Gregorian Chant - Salve Regina on YouTube. There's about a million others linked off of that one, and well, who doesn't love Gregorian Chants?

TransSiberian Orchestra's (and Metallica apparently) instrumental version of Carol of the Bells. Less traditional, more rocky, but I love the Carol of the Bells in all its forms!

Celtic Woman's more traditional version Carol of the Bells. There's an instrumental version out there done just with bells, but I can't find it on YouTube, and I'm still not home, with access to my personal collection.

Rufus Wainwright's Hallelujah - not a religious song, per se, but I love it anyway. It moves me.

The End of Advent and the Catechism

Advent, sadly, has ended. I say sadly because this is the first Advent that I have known what I am doing, felt the pull of faith in ways I haven't since I was a kid. I really set aside this time to focus on my faith, on God, and on what I am doing here.

I fasted, which as an aside, the Orthodox Church apparently also does during Advent. The fasting...I kept it a secret, except for here on the blog. The point of fasting is not so that everyone can see how holy you are (and if anyone who read this knew me in real life, they'd be on the floor herniating something at the thought of me being 'holy' like that). The point is to sacrifice to God, even if it's just a little something. To focus less on your body, and more on the spirit, which is the whole point of everything, isn't it. I believe this is a personal tradition that I will keep up.

I read religious, faith-filled books. I made my way through Catholicism for Dummies, the Shorter Summa, Rome Sweet Home, Hail, Holy Queen, Interview with an Exorcist (okay, that one not so lofty as the others, but it was interesting!), and the Compendium. I did not, as I suspected I wouldn't, finish the Catechism itself. That's all in four weeks. Plus, it goes without saying, the daily Bible readings.

Swimming, Modesty, and Personal Idols

"Ah, well, yes, sometimes I swim alone. It’s not a very safe thing to do though, so when I do that, I don’t swim laps, just sort of laze about, and I don’t do it for very long. I’ll mostly swim with female friends, or, I have one friend who doesn’t like to swim, but she likes to sit on the deck and read, so she can do that while I do some laps or something. And I don’t wear bikinis or two pieces. Just nice, solid one pieces. I’ve always been too afraid the bikini would…malfunction at an inopportune moment.

Swimming, like anything, can be immodest. I actually, when I began to care about that sort of thing again, really thought about it. I gave up the beach, unless I’m just walking on it, and then I’m dressed. I only swim in my own pool, not other peoples. I know I’ve got bushes and trees and lots and lots of space between me an my neighbors, most of the people I know, don’t. I’m staying a friends house right now, house sitting, and she has a pool, and a cement wall around it, but her neighbors are right next door, and I’m just not taking that chance. I don’t have mixed pool parties anymore, and when my parents do, I don’t participate, and I actually try to avoid going out there. And until the hedge grew tall enough, I went into the pool in a big nightshirt and put it back on before I climbed out, just in case. And I made myself a big terrycloth headscarf for the pool too."

The above is my description of how I try to keep modest while also enjoying swimming. This was from a conversation on Umm Adams blog. She made a post about something else entirely, but it had this picture of a woman in a hijab-compliant swim suit, and of course we all latched on to the unusual outfit to discuss.

I love to swim. I could swim before I could walk. Growing up in Florida, that's what smart parents do. They teach their children to swim, as a precaution, because we are, of course, surrounded by water. Before my health issues made it impossible, I swam competitively in junior high. I just love the water, and everything about it. At the time, when modesty became important to me, I made all these changes just to enable myself to continue to swim and not violate my new sense of modesty. But looking at it, it seems like a lot to do just to immerse myself in water. Just saying that, though, doesn't reflect my enjoyment, the pleasure I get from this simple act. But on reading someone else's blog, that I can't recall, they were speaking about idols.

I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me. - This is a traditional Catechetical formula of the first commandment. It is not, obviously, a direct quote from the Old Testament.

In RCIA, when we went through the Ten Commandments, 'strange gods' was explained as being 'idols'.

An 'idol', according to the dictionary is –noun

1. an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed.
2. Bible.
a. an image of a deity other than God.
b. the deity itself.
3. any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion
4. a mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom.
5. a figment of the mind; fantasy.
6. a false conception or notion; fallacy.

The definition that we concerned ourselves with, mainly, was number 3. An idol is not just a false god, but anything that you place before God. This can be money, your job, family, a hobby, friends, anything. I know that I have many 'idols' in my life, and I am doing my best to turn away from them. It's simply hard, after a life time of it, to reorder your life. However, swimming is not something that ever occured to me as being one of my 'idols'.

But maybe it is. I love it, I've gone to great lengths to be able to keep doing it, despite what I've come to realize are problematic aspects of it. One of the women on Umm Adams blog, Emma, belongs to a conservative Mennonite church, which views swimming as immodest, and they simply don't do it. I see that it can be immodest, and I've done my best to curtail that, so much as is possible. But the question becomes, am I placing my desire to do a thing I love before my obediance to God? It's not as though I believe swimming is going to send me to hell, far from it. But swimming is maybe just a focal point for this general question in my life. What other things am I bending and twisting around to be able to keep in my life, when I might be better served to just cut them out all together?

If I became convinced today that God forbade swimming, would I be able to stop? Do I have the strength to obey like that, in all aspects of my life?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Midnight Mass

So, this is my year of conversion, and I'm going to be doing a lot of 'firsts'.

Christmas is a Holy Day of Obligation. Catholics are obligated to attend a mass on these days. To accommodate this, for ordinary days of obligation, most parishes will have multiple masses, where typically on a weekday they will just have a morning mass. For instance, my parish, has a daily mass at 8:30 am, Monday through Saturday. On Holy Days of Obligation, they hold mass at 7:30 am, 9:00 am, and 7 pm. This is to give people who work the chance to fulfill their obligation. The only exceptions to this, that I know of, are Christmas and Easter. Christmas they hold a children's mass at 5:30 pm Christmas Eve, which counts for the Christmas obligation, a Midnight Mass, a dawn mass, and then a mass during the day. On Easter they hold Easter Vigil on that Saturday, and that counts as fulfilling the obligation for Easter, though I know of many people who will attend Easter Vigil and then go to mass on Easter Sunday as well.

Why did I go to Midnight Mass, when technically I'm not yet obligated? I felt like it was something that I needed to do. Technically I'm not obligated to even go to Sunday masses yet, but I do. I need to be there, for myself, joined in worship, though I can't receive yet. Every Sunday, I go up in line, and I bow before my Lord, present in the Eucharist, and I long for the day when I can receive him.

So, Midnight Mass. I'd been told that it was always insanely crowded, and it was recommended to get there an hour to forty minutes early, to ensure a seat and a parking space. I'd driven by earlier in the day, right before the children's mass, and it was packed! Cars parked up and down the access road, and I'm certain that there were more in the grass along the back of the church. So I got there about an hour early, around 11pm. At the time there weren't very many people there, so I found my favorite parking spot, and went inside. No trouble finding a spot in a pew, and I spent the time I had left praying.

The church did get very crowded, though there weren't people standing in the side aisles, like there was when I attended Easter Sunday. Father P conducted the mass. We have two priests, Father P's the pastor, Father A is our Parochial Vicar. I like both of them, they have slightly different styles. Father P is more down home, I guess, while Father A is younger, and tends to lean to the more formal side of things. Both are excellent homilists, it's just a matter of style, I guess. Father A chants when presenting the Eucharist, while Father P merely speaks the words. Father A makes certain to hold the bread close to the microphone in the altar so that we can hear the crisp snap when he breaks the bread, Father P doesn't worry about that. They're both great priests though.

Anyway, aside from the time, it was an ordinary Mass, which means that it was lovely, and I'm glad that I went. I was also dead tired by the time I got home, and so ready to do it again next year, when I will be receiving the Eucharist.
The picture at the top is Pope Benedict XVI celebrating Midnight Mass this year.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Shampoo Induced Memories

I was going to post about my first Midnight Mass and some other stuff, not that there's a schedule, or people who read this but me, but I have a friend coming over and we're going to watch Chuck and Supernatural dvds and just generally be girls about stuff.

I'm still house/pet sitting, and showering, I accidentally grabbed my friends shampoo. She uses Neutrogena, which is a sort of hypoallergenic brand. I put it back, but I sniffed it first. I've got to say, this is the first time that a scent brought back a memory. My grandparents used to use that stuff, and I can't tell you how long it's been since I've smelled it, it was oddly wonderful. My grandmother's still alive, but as an adult, we don't hug as much (hey, we're German, it's perfectly normal), so I don't get that close to smell her hair.

The thing about it is my memory is sort of swiss-cheese-ish about my childhood. Partially (according to doctors), it's because of my thyroid. It affects the memory somehow. Partially, they say, it's a defense mechanism. Some of the stuff I remember is bad enough, so we assume that there's other stuff my brain just won't let me recall. The point is, I don't get a lot of 'Oh! That reminds me of....from when I was a kid.' moments. But I got one for Neutrogena shampoo.


Home from Midnight Mass. Must sleep. Have to get up at 5am. Dogs.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Practical Headcovering Observation #2

Let's just say, theoretically, that you're house/pet-sitting. For about a week and a half. You go over Sunday evening, all packed. Come Monday morning, you're getting ready for work, and you realize, oh crap! You forgot to pack your hairbrush! And you won't use your friends whose house you're at, because you're just twitchy like that. So, quick finger-comb, pull it into a pony tail, on goes the scarf, and voila! No one can tell.

This is all theoretical, of course, because no one, certainly not me, would ever forget to pack her hairbrush. *facepalm*

Saturday, December 20, 2008

CCC: How Can We Speak About God

Muslims are, well, I actually think they're offended when we speak of God using metaphor and analogy, comparing Him to His creations. They say that we must only use the names that He has given us. I've read their list of 99 names, and I still think that they are all just analogies as well. Certainly, God contains all things in their perfect form, but when we say, 'mercy', or 'love', or 'father', we're limited to the human comprehension of those terms, which doesn't come close to the perfection of these things which is contained with God. Anyway, reading the Catechism, I came across this section on how we can speak about God:

CCC 39 - 43: In defending the ability of human reason to know God, the Church is expressing her confidence in the possibility of speaking about him to all men and with all men, and therefore of dialogue with other religions, with philosophy and science, as well as with unbelievers and atheists.

Since our knowledge of God is limited, our language about Him is equally so. We can name God only by taking creatures as our starting point, and in accordance with our limited human ways of knowing and thinking.

All creatures bear a certain resemblance to God, most especially man, created in the image and likeness of God. The manifold perfections of creatures - their truth, their goodness, their beauty - all reflect the infinite perfection of God. Consequently we can name God by taking His creatures' perfections as our starting point, "for from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator."

God transcends all creatures. We must therefore continually purify our language of everything in it that is limited, imagebound or imperfect, if we are not to confuse our image of God - "the inexpressible, the incomprehensible, the invisible, the ungraspable" - with our human representations. Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God.

Admittedly, in speaking about God like this, our language is using human modes of expresion; nevertheless it really does attain to God Himself, though unable to express him in His infinite simplicity. Likewise, we must recall that "between Creator and creature no similitude can be expressed without implying an even greater dissimilitude"; and that "concerning God, we cannot grasp what He is, but only what He is not, and how other beings stand in relation to Him."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Note to Self From Catholic Prodigal Daughter's Blog

More on the Sacrament of Reconciliation

This is from Catholic Prodigal Daughter's blog. Just a note to myself, so I can reread it when I need to, and I'm sure I will.

Car Again

Car is at Sears. Did the funny thing again. Mom and Dad think it's the battery, but none of us really know cars. I'm hoping it's the battery, because battery is still under warranty from Sears, and I need to have a car, as I'm house/pet sitting starting Saturday, for a week and a half. I was calm though, this time, when car did it's thing. It's an improvement.

Edit: Was not battery, according to Sears. They cleaned the contacts, etc. anyway. Took it to Ford, with a list of possibilities that the Sears guys said could be wrong with it. Ford could find nothing wrong. *headdesk* They did some maintenance, yadda, and can't get it to do the funny thing anymore. Maybe they fixed the issue when they were cleaning/maintaining. I certainly hope so. If not? Back to Ford, and they'll just have to keep at it until they find the problem.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

On to the Catechism

Finished the Compendium, now on the the whole Catechism. Even with this being the only thing I read, I'm doubtful that I'll finish the Catechism before the end of Advent. I'll still read it, after Advent, but it'll be slower going. Of course, who knows, I could just finish the entire thing.

Evil is Evil all the time people

An evil done for a 'good purpose' is still EVIL. Why is that so hard for some to understand?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rome to the Compendium

Finished Rome Sweet Home. I enjoyed the book, maybe even more the second time around. Different parts of it hit me harder this time, and it's certainly more than just their story.

On now to the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I remember reading, when I was just starting out, that a person working towards full comunion with the Church should (aside from reading the Bible daily), in order to get a beginners grasp on specifics, go to RCIA, read Catholicism for Dummies, then The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and then read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Working your way up, as it were, from the 'for dummies' level to the whole kit an' kaboodle. So that's what I'm doing, with a few others in between.

RCIA Day Fourteen

Last class of the year.

We went over Mary and the Marian dogmas and doctrines. Interesting, but nothing that I hadn't learned before. Also the mechanics of the rosary, which, again, I've been praying the rosary nearly daily for most of a year. When class starts up again in January we're getting into the sacraments, and then moral doctrine, so I hope to learn much more then.


One thing guaranteed to make me angry? Things going wrong with my car.

So, no sooner do I start thinking about the need to work on my anger than guess what?

My car does a funny thing this morning. It's...not happened again, but still. Urgh.

Coincidence? Or God's and my angels way of helping me get better control? Need patience? God'll put you in situations where you need to practice it. Just a helping little hand. Funny, but I thought that, and then thought, 'okay, thanks, I appreciate it, but, could you try something else, something not the car?' Which would probably be the point. The car's an easy target.

Or, this could all be a giant coincidence. I'm really not one who's comfortable going, 'oh, such and such happened, God did it'. Not sure why, this just makes me uncomfortable.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Still in the Hahn roofrah...

Finished Hail, Holy Queen. It's a fairly short book, and very easy to read. Mary for Beginners, as I think of it. Now I'm on to Rome Sweet Home, which is Scott and Kimberly Hahn's conversion stories. Again, one of the first Catholic books I picked up, after the Bible and the Catechism. Something I have read before, and enjoyed, and will most certainly enjoy again.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sisters are Fun...

Baby Sis just called, luckily Mom and Dad are out at a Christmas party.

Sis: Guess what I just did?

Me: thinking: She's just gotten another speeding ticket and is heading to jail... Not a clue. What'd you just do?

Sis: I got a tattoo! Don't tell Mom!

Yeah. Twenty year old Sis, just got a tattoo of her drum core logo and their wins on her foot. Congrats. She intends to hide this from Mom for as long as possible. Perhaps her entire life, if she can. I...have my doubts about this. She's coming home for Christmas on Wednesday. She says she'll just wear socks the entire time.


Because Baby Sis called Mom to complain that Mom had ratted her out about Baby Sis smoking (which she swears she's not, but I don't believe her, and am pissed, since I just had a friend die of lung cancer!), Mom knew that *something* was up, from a comment Baby Sis made. Consequently, Mom now knows of tattoo, but will not say anything until Sis is home. Mom had no problem with tattoo, as I knew she wouldn't. Baby Sis is twenty, will be twenty-one very soon. I promised Sis I wouldn't tell Mom, not that I wouldn't confirm a guess.

I Am Not the Person I Want to Be - Anger

I am not, to my own mind, an angry person. I don't run around, cursing all the time, yelling, or even quietly fuming.

I like to think of myself as fairly even tempered, all told. That being said, I do get angry. Everyone does, it's natural. We can't help it some times. The question is, what do we do when we're angry? Some people have inappropriate responses to things that anger them. They take it out on others, on innocent people, or animals, or even inanimate objects. None of these responses are appropriate. None. I don't have a good suggestion as an alternative, but there are therapists who do, that's their job, they studied for it.

I've never, in so far as I can remember, ever been angry like that. I've been angry enough that I want to scream, and cry, and throw things, yes. I've been so angry that I can't even speak! I have been incoherent with rage. But, thankfully, it's internal for me. Except for the throwing things urge, which I have never given in to, because I don't like breaking things.

Earlier in the week, something at work made me so angry that I was twitching with the urge to scream and tell someone off, and make them understand why they were such total, abject morons, and how their decisions made other peoples lives harder, and made it impossible to do our jobs properly. I did none of these things, because the abject morons in question own the place where I work, and all of this would get me fired.

Now, with several days between the incident and me, I can sit here and think:

Why does any of this make me so angry? I am lucky! I still have a job, no, it doesn't pay well, but it's a job, in a time when many have none, and no prospects of getting one. I have a roof over my head, and should something happen, I wouldn't lose it if I couldn't make any money. My car is paid off, I have a loving family, I have found faith, and happiness, and contentment in so many places where before I was just a raw, wounded nerve.

So why do I let this stuff get to me? Oh, there are reasons, reasons that a psychiatrist, or just a counselor would give me, on why my anger is not my fault. And, you know, I'm calling crap on that, for myself. Others have been through much, much worse, and they can have those reasons. I don't want it. I don't want people to know and look at me, and think, 'oh, well, yes, she's got a temper, but it's because...'. No.

The only reason that anything in this world matters, is because this is all a test. In the end, money only matters because I need it for food and shelter. My job only matters because I need it to make the money. But in the larger picture? None of this is going to be around forever. None of the things that I own are going to help me get closer to God's plan for me. But it can all make me stumble. And in letting my anger get to me like that, no matter how rarely it might happen, I believe I'm letting the world win, even if it's just a little.

I'm resolved to not let this happen again. I'm pretty sure I'm going to fail at that, but I'm going to try. I'm just not sure what, exactly to do, aside from keep in mind that this is all a test, one that I do not want to fail.

Fasting During Advent

My personal theory on why the Church does not mandate fasting during Advent as they used to, and continue to do during Lent?

It's HARD.

You wouldn't think so, but Advent is the month of Christmas, even for the non-religious, which means cookies and candy and parties and happiness and excess on, and on, and on, for the whole month. For the four weeks of Advent. So, fasting, and keeping the fast? Is difficult.

I have, thank God, managed thus far. And I feel good about it. It's been more difficult, because I'm also on a diet, and I have to eat so many calories per day, in order to keep my body from 'starvation mode', but I've just sort of shifted the calorie intake around, and eaten a larger (but still healthy!), dinner than I typically do.

But yesterday, one of the girls at work, her niece brought in some snacks that she had made. Little red velvet cake's, some just with frosting, others in chocolate cups, with fruit or frosting or syrup, you get the picture. I was actually leaning over them, taking in the smell of sugar (and it does have a scent, I don't care what anyone else says!), and thinking about which one I could eat, because 'it won't hurt my diet that much, I've been so good'. And then my brain kicked in and reminded me that I was fasting, and this would most definately break the fast. It was still hard to just walk away, but I did.

From Aquinas to Demons to Mary

I finished Aquinas's Shorter Summa yesterday, and started Interview with an Exorcist. It's a very short book, done in a question and answer format. Interesting, which I say a lot, but I find so much to be interesting! There were some things in there that I'm unsure of the orthodoxy of, but the book lacks an imprimatur or nihil obstat, so I'll double check those things, but they're not really hugely important.

Now I'm on to Scott Hahn's Hail, Holy Queen. This is actually one of the first books I'd picked up when I became interested in Catholicism. Coming from MS Lutheranism, Mary wasn't as big a problem for me as she evidently is for some others, but I wanted something simple to read that explained where the Church found the evidence for their doctine's and dogmas, and this book came well recommended. I still enjoy it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

St. Thomas Aquinas - The Mother of Christ

I'm having a discussion on someone elses blog about the phrase 'Mary, Mother of God'. I read this section of Aquinas's Shorter Summa tonight:

"The error of Nestorius, who refused to acknowledge that Blessed Mary is the Mother of God, is likewise excluded. Both Creeds assert that the Son of God was born or was made flesh of the Virgin Mary. The woman of whom any person is born is called his mother, for the reason that she supplies the matter for human conception. Hence the Blessed Virgin Mary, who provided the matter for the conception of the Son of God, should be called the true mother of the Son of God. As far as the essence of motherhood is concerned, the energy whereby the matter furnished by a woman is formed, does not enter into the question. She who supplied the matter to be formed by the Holy Spirit is no less a mother than a women who supplies matter that is to be formed by the energy latent in male seed. If anyone insists on maintaining that the Blessed Virgin ought not to be called the Mother of God because flesh alone and not divinity was derived from her, as Nestorious contended, he clearly is not aware of what he is saying. A woman is not called a mother for the reason that everything that is in her child is derived from her. Man is made up of body and soul; and a man is what he is in virtue of his soul rather than in virtue of his body. But no man's soul is derived from his mother. The soul is either created by God directly, as the true doctrine has it, or, if it were produced by transplanting, as some have fancied, it would be derived from the father rather than from the mother. For in the generation of other animals, according to the teaching of the philosophers, the male gives the soul, the female gives the body.

Consequently, just as any woman is a mother from the fact that her child's body is derived from her, so the Blessed Virgin Mary ought to be called the Mother of God if the body of God is derived from her. But we have to hold that it is the body of God, if it is taken up into the unity of the person of God's Son, who is true God. Therefore all who admit that human nature was assumed by the Son of God into the unity of His person, must admit that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of God. But Nestorious, who denied that the person of God and of the man Jesus Christ was one, was forced by logical necessity to deny that the Virgin Mary was the Mother of God."

Clearly, St. Thomas was not a biologist, and he was working with the scientific knowledge of the time. But I find the argument interesting.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

St. Thomas Aquinas - Forgiveness of Sin in the Next World

From Aquinas's Short Summa -

"But we should understand that those who are condemned to final misery cannot have after death what they craved as the best. Libertines in Hell will have no opportunity to gratify their passions; the wrathful and the envious will have no victims to offend or obstruct; and so of all the vices in turn.
But the condemned will be aware that men who have lived a virtuous life in conformity with the precepts of virtue obtain what they desire best. Therefore the wicked regret the sins they have committed, not because sin displeases them, for even in Hell they would rather commit those same sins, if they had the chance, than possess God; but they cannot have what they have chosen, and can only have what they have detested."

It's interesting, a different take on Hell than what I'd thought. I'd have thought, once condemned to Hell, souls would know, and regret, their sins, but, being condemned, their regrets would be too late. After all, after you've met God and been judged by Him, how much of a question is left?

This seems to say that even in Hell, those condemned do not hate their sins, rather, they only regret that those sins have kept them from being able to commit more sins.

I might not be a very nice person

Baby sister is in a drum core, and they've been invited to perform at the Inaugeration! Whee! And, of course, the Secret Service is going to do a background check on the kids who go.

I called her last night, while she was at work, and left her a message. It went something like this:

"Hey Baby Sis, mom told me about the Core getting invited to the Inaugeration. Congrats. Ah, just wanted to mention, that I may or may not have, at some point, committed some acts that may keep you from getting vetted for this. I'm not really sure what they consider a 'crime' any more...Yeah, just wanted to, you know, put that out there. Bye."

I am, possibly, not a very nice sister. I'm waiting for her to call me back.

Edit: She finally called back:

"What did you do?!"

*me, laughing* Nothing, Nothing...

"No, I want to know what you did! Tell me now!"

I finally conviced her it was nothing, that I just thought it was hilarious to mess with her.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

God is Action

I'm about 92 pages in, and there's a lot in there, even though this is the abreviated version of the Summa Theologica. There is much that's gone straight over my head, I'm sure, and this will be one of those works that I reread multiple times, as I learn more and more.

However, interesting thing I've come away with thus far: God exists as pure action, there is never any potential action in God. He doesn't think of doing something, and then as a separate action, do it, He thinks, and it is done. Pure action, no potential.

Now I'm reading about how the human soul is incorruptible, meaning that it is not able to be destroyed. It exists, within the body, and then when the body dies, without it.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

RCIA Day Thirteen

Well, it was mostly a review, how we felt about the Rite of Acceptance/Welcome. But we did go over the liturgical year, and how it was laid out, why Easter moves on the calendar every year, why December 25th was chosen to celebrate Christmas, etc. Mostly very simple stuff, and then we're off this coming Monday for the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is a Holy Day of Obligation.

Reading Material

I finished Catholicism for Dummies. An enjoyable, easy book, and I do think that I learned a lot. A good companion/expansion on RCIA, because there's only so much time in class. It also corrected a few things that the Deacon didn't explain correctly, or that I misunderstood.

I've moved on to Aquinas's Shorter Summa. A bit more weighty, heh, but still the shallow end of the theological pool.

Self Torture

I question the wisdom of watching my foodie shows while fasting. Perhaps not my best idea.

Friday, December 5, 2008

*scratches head*

I'm filing both of these under WTF?

Planned Parenthood Gift Certificates - I'm not even sure what to say about this one. I mean, how insane is that? 'Merry Christmas. Hang on to this for after the New Years drunken one night stand.'

Not Well Thought Out - I actually saw this on the Daily Show last night. No, really, does no one step back and look at these things before they decide to prduce and sell them? A cross that looks like it's on fire! Brilliant! Every one will want one!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

God's Love

This post at a muslimah's blog, Only a Few Will Attain the Love of Allah, made me start actually thinking about how I view God's love for me. I often read blogs and compose reponses in my head that I never post. It makes me actually reason and argue through my own postitions, rather than just going, 'well that's what I believe, live with it'.

I was never taught that just because God loved us, so long as we belived in Jesus we were going to Heaven. Never.

I was raised viewing God as a parent, metaphorically. (Which got me into a lot of trouble and strain when my father turned into an abusive bastard, but I've mostly worked through that.) Good parents, and we assume that God is a good parent, because He's God, and by definition, good, love their children, unconditionally.

That doesn't mean that the children can't hurt them though. Parents lay down rules (laws) for the good of the child, because they've been there, done that, and have years of experience to draw from that the child doesn't. A parent wants certain things for their child, what they believe to be best, but the child, being their own person, can and often does choose to do their own thing, whether or not their own thing is the right thing.

When a child chooses to do something that their parent would rather they didn't, does the parent stop loving them? No. Does it hurt the parents? Do the parents sometimes have to punish the child, chastise them, be angry with them? Of course. But does any of this mean that the child has lost the parents love? I don't think so. A parent, because of their love, is hurt, terribly, when the child breaks the rules, goes a way that the parent sees is wrong for them, and only going to cause them pain. If the parent didn't love, it wouldn't hurt. And yes, in some cases, all a parent can do, when the child has grown and will simply not change, will not learn and listen and realize that the path they are travelling down is hurting them, all a parent can do is step back. Hold up their hands and walk away, because, while they still love their child, they can't force them to change.

And that's how I view God's love. He loves us, and has laid down laws for us, things to keep us on the right path, the one that leads back to Him. But we've got free will, we're our own people, and we can choose to do what we want, regardless of the consequences. And I think that that hurts God, immensely, because He loves us so much. But He doesn't stop loving us because of that. If that was the case? Everyone, every last person on earth would be going to Hell, because no one has lived a life without offending God at some point, even if it's just the tiniest, tiniest thing. But does that mean that everyone is going to Heaven, because God loves us so much He can't stand sending us to Hell?

Well, no. Because actions have consequences, and laws exist for a very good reason. And at some point (death), there are no more chances. God must, despite how much I believe it must hurt Him, step back and accept that there's nothing more He can do. He gave us every chance, every time there was a choice, He wanted us to make the right one, but He can't force it on us. But death is that last moment, when all your choices are done, and the ones that you've already made have decided the rest of your life for you.

Heaven or Hell. God loves us, and desires that we all be united with Him in Heaven, but He can't make us behave. He's the ultimate parent, the Father, and He'll love us even when we're breaking His heart. And He'll forgive us, when we ask Him to, when we realize our errors and truly, truly regret them, and change our ways, because of His love.

So, my conclusion is this: God loves everyone, it's in His nature. But it's not His love that saves us. His love for us is what makes Him offer us His grace. And it's our acceptance of the gift of grace, and our obedience and continual striving to be what He desires us to be that saves us. We can accept the gift, and we can also reject it, and OSAS doesn't enter into it.
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