On Giants' Shoulders

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Margaret Clitheroe

Standing in the courtroom,
Silent and alone,
Entreated by the jurist,
Still, plea she gave him none.

Processing towards the altar,
White robes she'd donned with care,
Surrounded by attendants,
Ribbons in her hair.

Down upon the altar,
Wooden though it be,
Stone there was beneath her,
Silent still was she.

Rocks were placed upon her.
The crowd stood silent by,
At the last her voice was heard.
"Jesu, mercy" was her cry.

This is a poem, still in essentially draft form, that I wrote this winter in honor of St. Maragaret Clitheroe of York. She died as a recusant Catholic during the reign of Elizabeth I. She was arrested for harboring priests and pressed to death for refusing to plead at her trial. She is considered by some to be the patron saint of homeschoolers since she taught her own children. She could also be considered the patron of converts, especially those who convert without their spouses. I discovered her on my way into the Church and she's been special to me ever since. She died on March 25, 1586, so today is her feast day. One of the reasons she's been special to me is that besides my identifying with her in various ways (the homeschooling, the conversion, etc) she died on my birthday or rather I was born on her feast day.

Of course today is also the feast of the Annunciation. Given that my mother named me (due to the influence of her Italian hairdressers) after St. Elizabeth and St. Ann and then managed to give birth to me on such an important feast day, my becoming Catholic seemed very much under the auspices of a number of saints. I am grateful to all of them.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Hidden Face

On a slightly more uplifting note than my previous post, I rented the movie Therese this weekend. It was really enjoyable and I especially liked the director's commentary and some of the deleted scenes. Watching it encouraged me to go back to reading The Hidden Face by Ida Friederike Gorres. This book was recommended to me by the parochial vicar at our parish a couple of years ago. I started it, but never actually finished it. The real value of the book is that it is a very real look at St. Therese based on all of her writing and the testimony during the canonization process, not just the edited version of The Story of a Soul.

The book is not hagiographical, it shows the Martin family warts and all. They appear not as cardboard saints, but as real people. Gorres demonstrates how St. Therese serves as a role model for the way in which ordinary people doing little things can achieve sanctity. The book also demonstrates the ways in which St. Therese was Salesian in her spirituality. Since I've been reading St. Francis de Sales during Lent, that was really a neat tie in for me.

I recommend the movie, the book and also John Saward's book The Way of the Lamb which has huge sections devoted to St. Therese while also discussing G.K. Chesterton, Charles Peguy, Georges Bernanos and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Saward's book looks at the spirit of childhood and the way that these Catholics rose up in defense and celebration of childhood at a time when contraception, abortion, and eugenics were beginning to rear their ugly heads.

I would also recommend the movie The Passion of Bernadette. This is the story of Bernadette Soubirous after the she leaves Lourdes for the convent. Sydney Penny does an excellent job of portraying a very spunky Bernadette.

The Continuing Saga of the Purple Sweater

I finally acquired a new dye pot yesterday. The sun was shining today so I took that as a good omen and decided to embark on sweater dyeing. I figured that either I'd end up with a shrunken sweater, no real change, or perhaps some good results. I really got none of the above.

I poured dye solution onto the wet sweater right where the light spot was (per my daughter's suggestion). Then I poured enough dye solution into the sink with the sweater so that the whole sweater got additional dye. Then I wrapped the sweater in plastic wrap and steamed it on a rack in the dye pot for 20 minutes. It should have done the trick. NO SUCH LUCK!

I now have a purple sweater with a light line and reddish purple splotches in several places (not artistic ones either). This whole project has gone from bad to worse.

My next move tomorrow is to take some of my left over yarn and try over dyeing it with several different colors to see which one might overdye the sweater the best. Whether it will deal with the splotches or not I have no idea. Embroidery is beginning to look like an attractive option. Black or even navy blue is certainly a possibility at this point.


Friday, March 17, 2006

What Are You Doing Here

As I kneaded bread this morning I was pondering the ways in which particular religious communities either do or don't make people feel welcome. I've had enough experience in different places to be able to make at least some observations on the subject. I'd like to offer some tentative conclusions as to the whys of it.

The words, "What are you doing here?" were actually addressed to me when I was in college. I had gone with a friend to the spaghetti dinner that the Catholic Center made available to any student who wished to attend (donations encouraged!) on Sunday nights when the cafeteria didn't serve dinner. I hadn't heard about it my freshman year, but my friend Maryann had been involved with an ecumenical group which met at the Catholic Center, so she was in the know. I was standing with her waiting for time to start lining up when someone I knew walked up to me. She was a girl who'd been in my classroom from first through eighth grade (we moved to another town after eighth grade). She knew that I had not grown up Catholic. The first words out of her mouth were not, "Hey it's nice to see you." or "Longtime, no see." they were, "What are YOU doing here?" said in a very accusatory tone.

What she did not know was that I was feeling some small attraction to the Catholic Church. I was pretty unenchanted with fundamentalism at that point, and a variety of things had happened that were making me give at least a timid glance at the Catholic Church. It was very tentative and it was incredibly timid (after all I'd been brought up to think of the Church as not Christian at all). I'd been to Mass a couple of times (again with Maryann) and there was something there that I couldn't put my finger on.

That encounter with Jane was like a bucket of cold water in the face. For a long, long time after that every time I thought about the Catholic Church, or the possibility of becoming Catholic those words reverberated in my head. Years later I had wondered about becoming Catholic for awhile before reading Rome Sweet Home, but I didn't know how or what the process was, or whether I really needed to do it. It felt like a closed club where perhaps I wasn't welcome. The priests I'd encountered at ecumenical gatherings seemed to be so intent on ecumenism and making people feel good about where they were, that they didn't really seem like people to approach about becoming Catholic. My Catholic friends all seemed to be Protestant wannabees, they couldn't imagine leaving the Church, but they could only gush about how lucky I was to not have been brought up Catholic. They made it seem like a closed club whose members weren't even happy about being in it. Since I also knew a lot of Protestants who used to be Catholic that impression was pretty well reinforced. It was only after reading Rome Sweet Home, that I began to see that a. I needed to seriously consider becoming Catholic and b. there was an actual established process to do it, even if you weren't marrying a Catholic. Fortunately at that moment I had an acquaintance (who became a dear friend), whose attitude was far different than Jane's. When I asked Ellen, again very tentatively, "Have you ever heard of Scott Hahn?" she nearly jumped for joy. Within days she'd introduced me to tapes and books and begun a real process of encouragement. She ultimately was not only my sponsor, but a year later, my daughter's as well.

Now I will not ever say that the Catholic Church is the only place I encountered a less than enthusiastic reception as a newcomer. The Congregationalist Protestant church I attended for years was just as unwelcoming at first, even though I was married to a member of the congregation. I've encountered varying degrees of welcome in evangelical/fundamentalist circles as well. My first encounters with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at UVM put me off the organization for two years (I was from a Pentecostal background and none of them were - there were definite sub-cultures in Protestantism as well!) I've developed a bit tougher skin over the years and am able to go into groups where I don't get an immediate welcome. I've learned to shoehorn myself in and, in doing so, have made new friends.

I don't think that I'm the only one who's ever encountered this sort of reception, however. My kids reception at the Catholic Center was far better, my son did RCIA there and my daughter made it virtually her home away from home her freshman year. Things were different for them, though. They were already at home in the Catholic Church before they got there. However, there have still occasionally been problems with people feeling excluded, even there.

The parish we attend is not intentionally unwelcoming, but a newcomer would find it hard to know that. There are no stuctures in place that immediate help someone connect with other people or feel invited in. As a now longtime member of "the club" I never know just how to be welcoming to new people. In the years after RCIA I tried a few times to go out of my way to connect with some of the catechumens, but most of them didn't seem to welcome that. Perhaps they were simply not interested in anything more than a quiet personal approach to Catholicism. If that's the case they sure found the right place. It's a parish where, if you shoehorn your way in, you are actually quite welcome, but if you don't you will remain on the fringes.

However, I've watched a few people, including one from my RCIA group, leave the parish because it really never made a place for them. Fortunately, there's another parish in the city that is quite welcoming and they've found a home there. The question I have to ask then is: what makes the difference? How can we be welcoming to people without being overwhelming (as some fundamentalists churches can be)? Is it merely a matter of the size of the congregation? After all with four masses a weekend it's sort of difficult to know if this is truly a new person, or if they just usually attend a different mass. The more welcoming parish, however used to have as many masses a weekend and they still seemed to exude welcome.

I've watched my daughter's friends include some rather difficult people in their group and befriend them. They've welcomed people whose social graces left a lot to be desired, not just the golden girls and boys. They've welcomed people who weren't Catholic, or even Christian. Some have stuck around and even joined the Church, others have drifted away.

When I look back on that encounter with Jane from the perspective I have now, I can see some different things than I saw then. First of all she knew me when I was an avid Pentecostal kid. Conversions were not that common in our town, nor I suspect in our state. Even now a significant number of people that go through RCIA do it because they are marrying or are married to a Catholic. I suspect that Jane, like my later Catholic friends, saw no particular reason for a Protestant to become a Catholic. She knew I wasn't part of "the club", she saw the dinner as a benefit of being part of "the club", and she couldn't imagine that I would ever want to join "the club." I don't think she really didn't want me there, she just couldn't figure out why I would be there.

Unenthusiastic, even if habitual, Catholics are not going to go out of their way to welcome people in to the Church. When you are looking, in a certain sense, either at the greener grass on the other side of the fence, or for an exit door to escape, the last thing you are going to do is encourage someone else to join you in your misery. If you don't see the Catholic Church as a treasure house, but instead view it as a prison you aren't even going to see why someone else would want to join.

In general evangelical churches I've attended have a lot of people who are happy to be where they are. The most enthusiastic ones didn't necessarily grow up there, they chose it. Consequently, they have all kinds of understanding about why someone might want to try it out. They regularly invite their friends to church and make sure they feel welcome.

Now interestingly, for some people that very enthusiasm is off-putting. They don't want their presence to be all that noticed, they'd rather acclimate quietly. Of course that sort of person doesn't often change "pews" so to speak. Even they are generally made somewhat more comfortable if they feel at least one person, whether the pastor, or the DRE, or the greeter makes them feel like they are welcome.

No one responds well to a "what are YOU doing here?" No one responds well to a, "Why would you want to leave your lovely green pasture for this prison?" I wonder whether the key to making people feel welcome isn't, in part, to help the people who are already there recognize the treasure they have. If you realize that it's the fullness of the faith, why would you encourage other people to settle for less?

We need our priests to encourage us to explore the depths of the faith. We need to hear homilies that don't just begin and end with "love everybody." We need to hear about the graces we receive and how they strengthen us. We need to hear about how to have a devotional life that nurtures our faith. We need to hear the truths that the early Church fathers taught. Only as Catholics in the pew begin to recognize what they have will they be inspired to "pass it on." As they are inspired to do that the welcome mat will begin to be more apparent to newcomers.

God graced me with the right book being in the right place at the right time. He graced me with a friend who had open arms. I am in the Church now, only because of God's grace. It's not because I was smarter, or holier, or more sincere than my friends. I know that I'm not the only Protestant that's ever felt out of the club, however. My sister told me when I became Catholic that she always thought it was an exclusive club. It's one she never got around to joining. I wonder if there'd been an Ellen in her life if things might have been different.

So, thank you Scott and Kimberly, and thank you, Ellen. Thank you to the Catholics who do treasure their faith and made me feel like it was a great adventure to share. Let's all dig deeper into the treasure store and then offer to share the treasures with the other treasure seekers.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Worldliness, Simplicity, and Following the Crowd

At lot of questions have been rolling around in my brain this week. It partly has to do with my attempt to live more frugally during Lent, it partly has to do with Karen's remarks about The Upside Down Kingdom, it partly has to do with reading St. Francis de Sales, but it also has to do with conversations with other people. I am struggling with the whole concept of worldliness. Strange thing that, I struggled with the concept when I was in my teens, struggled with it in my twenties, so here it is again, albeit in a different form. At least I think it's in a different form.

St. Francis sees some things that we see as quite innocent as problematic. I have to wonder what he would think about some of our modern entertainment. Actually I'm pretty sure that he would disapprove of a lot of stuff that we find innocuous. So does that mean he was too rigid, or does it mean that we have become too ensnared by the spirit of the world? That is truly a serious question for me. I spent a lot of my youth in a church that took holiness of a certain sort very seriously. There was no drinking, smoking, movies,dancing, or card playing. Modest dress was emphasized. Among the people I still know in that sub-culture I think that card playing (although not gambling) and some movies have gotten past the ban, the other items still mostly remain. As a grown-up evangelical about the only thing that I retained was the no smoking, and that was for health reasons. I don't wear immodest clothing, but I wear blue jeans most of the time. I wonder whether St. Francis would have been more comfortable around those fundamentalist Protestants than even most orthodox Catholics. However, I saw fundamentalist holiness as a rigid, pietistic stance, and I have to admit was happy to see that you could be a serious Catholic and not be tied to the list mentality. What I wonder is was this a positive thing, or was I merely wanting to embrace the things the list prohibited? In fact was losing the list a good thing or a bad one? I still think it was good, but St. Francis and St. Therese might differ with me.

Yesterday I went to Danielle Bean's site and she mentioned the Duggar family. Interestingly, I had seen one TV program about them and watched another last night. I went to their website and looked at some of their links. There was one for modest swimwear (always an interesting subject to me) so I clicked on it. I suppose the swimwear was, well not totally ugly, it would have made ok beachwear, I guess. Frankly, I can't see ever getting my daughter or any of her friends to even consider it, however. I can't even see wearing it myself, well maybe the culotte one... So does that mean that we're just too caught up in following the crowd? Or does it mean that sticking out like a sore thumb on the beach turns people off so much they can't hear your message?

While we were watching the show last night Abby commented that she thinks that people like to watch the Duggars because they can point at them and have them reinforce their ideas that Christian homeschoolers are freaks. She said it's nice that big Catholic families don't dress like that, or have the girls and the mother wearing those particular hairstyles. That sort of shocked me because the main reason I don't wear my hair like that is that frankly it is too fine and too thin to pull that look off. I've always wanted to have hair like that. I didn't dress her in dresses and jumpers all the time, but the Polly Flinders dresses she wore when she was a little girl certainly were comparable. I thought she loved them. Maybe it's just that she doesn't see them as every day wear.

I love watching the Duggars because of their openness to life and their demonstration that having a big family is still an option. Would I make all the same choices if I were in their place. No, I wouldn't. Does that mean that they are right and I'm wrong? I don't think so. The Duggars are involved with Gothard's Basic Youth Conflicts program. David and I looked into that at one point and so did my sister-in-law. We all found it too rigid and placing too much emphasis on outward appearances and linked holiness with worldly financial success. The families we've known who've embraced it do seem weird, at least by worldly standards. The question the I'm pondering is whether that means that they've really gone too far, or whether we've been too influenced by the culture?

Embracing simplicity, without the Little House on the Prairie dresses and the Beaver Cleaver haircuts, is a challenge in its own right. How much that we have do we actually need? The microwave went on the fritz this month. Yesterday we hauled in the microwave the kids had at college (a cast off of my mother's) and set it up. What I've been pondering for a couple of weeks is, do I really need a microwave. After all I didn't even have one until about 20 years ago. I certainly functioned in the kitchen competently without one, so why do I feel such a need for one now?

This seems like a small thing, I'm sure. Yet, I think that the reason that so many young couples have a difficult time envisioning living on one income is due to small things like that. The very concept of using penny pinching techniques like eating oatmeal for breakfast instead of cold cereal, or using powdered milk (at least for cooking), or eating things that aren't your favorites seems foreign to a lot of the twenty somethings I know. The idea of buying clothes at the second hand store or eating whatever is on sale rather than always being able to get boneless chicken breasts and steaks, or cooking for yourself rather than eating out, or ordering in, is becoming a something unthinkable. The idea of being without a television, dvd player, vcr, computer, DSL internet, Play Station, cell phone (in addition to a land line) and an Ipod and Palm pilot is very foreign to them. They've grown up with that stuff and they figure they need it. Even one quite poor couple we know has insisted on DSL, the expensive cable package, the huge television, etc. Then they wonder why, despite the fact that they have been provided with super cheap housing, they still need two incomes to survive (and are still hitting someone up for loans constantly).

So, many of them would rather sacrifice having their children raised by their own mother than sacrifice their creature comforts, even a little bit. That bothers me, a lot! I spent a lot of my time as a child with a mother who worked, albeit only part-time and in the family business. I know what it's like to come home to an empty house. I know what it's like to get put with the babysitter. I even know what it's like to go to work with mom. My sister and I both chose against that and stayed home with our kids because quite frankly we felt like we were always second to the business. We never felt like our mom took any particular interest in the things we were doing. My father was even more married to the business. He was so married to it that he didn't come to my college graduation and barely made it to my high school one. So when I see the next generation starting down that path, thinking that financial well-being is the most important thing, I cringe. The irony is that my parents never had that financial well-being until we were all grown up. They ended up not even enjoying it for very long. By the time they'd actually achieved it my father had less than two years to live. All that work, all those hours of family time sacrificed, for what?

My mother-in-law once told me that she thought that one of the really bad things about television was that it made people think that it was normal and usual to have things that only fairly rich people could actually afford. She thought that it really caused working class people to attempt to live far above their means. I think that she was right. If we are attentive at all we notice that the programs on television are taking up less and less of the time slot and the commercials more and more of it. What are all those commercials doing to our attitudes?

We lived the simple life back when we were growing up because all the money that got made had to get poured back into the business. Our clothes were hand-me-downs from cousins, purchased at the second hand store, or the discount store. With my own kids I used the second hand store when they were too little to be bothered by it. Later we did things like making them pay the difference between the designer brand and the generic type. They have learned to buy quality stuff, but to be satisfied with less of it. We've lived with the frustration of wood heat and a partly finished house (built by my husband) because by doing so we could live on one income.

Our choice to live simply now is not so that we can someday have more. It's more a reflection of the fact that we don't think that we need to have our security and well being so tied up in material stuff. I hope we've gotten that message across to our kids, but I'm not always so sure that we have.

The culture out there is always pulling at us. It's telling us that we need status jobs, status clothes, places to play, exciting things to do. Am I wrong in suggesting that Christ is calling us to something different? It's not that the jobs are necessarily wrong, but when they take the focus away from God and our primary vocation, they create problems. It's not that dressing in a contemporary style is wrong (as long as it isn't provocative), but when people are judged only by what they wear, isn't that a problem? Father Romano spoke about this at Mass this morning. He mentioned having deliberately placed a poorly dressed person (who smelled badly as well) in a pew to see what people would do. People changed their seats. It gave him an opportunity to do some catechesis (I gather the person was in on the object lesson ahead of time). We judge by appearances in many ways.

Activities can be a problem as well.Going out for coffee, going to the theater, going to concerts, going skiing, or snowboarding, aren't wrong in and of itself. When it pulls our focus away from our faith life, or when particular entertainment eats away at our faith life, then there is a problem. When it involves spending money that could be spent in better ways, it may be a problem. When you choose the place you live because of the entertainment available, is that a symptom of something amiss?

So what does it mean to be ensnared by the world and its values? Is it only about embracing the culture of death by supporting abortion and euthanasia and the culture of pleasure by embracing illicit sexual relations? I think there really is more to it than that. The reasons behind abortion and euthanasia are at the core about not being able to have as much stuff, or as much time, or not wanting as many burdensome responsibilities. At the core of that is selfishness. We are addicted to pleasure, we are addicted to self-centeredness. In America, that is true to one degree or another of the best of us. Some people take jobs that conflict with what they say are their core values because the jobs pay well. Some people take jobs when they should be staying home with their children because it pays for a nicer car, better vacations, nicer clothes, a bigger house. Often we don't even notice when we're doing it.

So do I need a new microwave? Probably not. Will I end up getting one? Well that's probably going to be up to a family vote and I may get outvoted (everyone else thinks we NEED one). Will I continue to struggle over these issues? Probably. Would I appreciate inpur? I certainly would. I especially would like input from those of you who are living frugally and simply, and don't feel deprived in the process. I'd like input from people who are wearing less than up to date fashions. I'd even like to hear from some of the twenty somethings who are hearing the siren song of the world and are struggling with it. I'd even like to hear from those of you who think all of this is making a mountain out of a molehill. So talk to me please.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Why Don't We Hear Homilies Like This Anymore?

This week I began reading The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales For Lent, Given in 1622. The introduction to the book makes it clear that St. Francis used a homiletical style, not the formal sermons of many of his contemporaries. These particular sermons were addressed to religious, but as is usually the case with St. Francis are also applicable to lay people as well.

Here's a snippet: "It will be well to state clearly what must be done to fast well these forty days. Flrst although everyone is bound to know it and to practice it, religious and persons dedicated to Our Lord are more particularly obliged to it. Now among all the conditions required for fasting well, I will select three principal ones and speak familiarly about them.

The first condition is that we must fast with our whole heart, that is to say, willingly, whole-heartedly, universally, and entirely. If I recount to you St. Bernard's words regarding fasting, you will know not only why it is instituted, but also how it ought to be kept.

He says that fasting was instituted by Our Lord as a remedy for our mouth, for our gourmandizing and for our gluttony. Since sin entered the world through the mouth, the mouth must do penance by being deprived of foods prohibited and forbidden by the Church, abstaining from them for the space of forty days. But this glorious saint adds that, as it is not our mouth alone which has sinned, but also all our other senses, our fast must be general and entire, that is, all the members of our body must fast. For if we have offended God through the eyes, through the ears, through the tongue, and through our other senses, why should we not make them fast as well? And not only must we make the bodily senses fast, but also the soul's powers and passions -- yes, even the understanding, the memory, and the will, since we have sinned through both body and spirit."

He goes on to talk about the various practices that would be appropriate for these interior sorts of fasts. He also discusses the need for humility, and the need for not fasting more than is required as well as not less than is required. We are to avoid the vanity and being "particular."

One thing he points out is that those who fast during the season of Lent ought not to conceal it, since it is a requirement of the Church and the Church wishes everyone to be aware that we are actually following her orders. "We must not, then deny this, to those who expect it of us for their edification, since we are obliged to remove every cause of scandal to our brothers."

Now we seldom hear much about fasting at all. Of course the rules have changed somewhat, especially in plaes like the United States where even abstaining from meat on all the Fridays of the year seems to be uncommon. We hear a lot more about almsgiving (a laudable thing in its own right) than we do about fasting. We certainly don't tend to hear about joining the fast of the mouth with a fast of the eyes, ears, memory, etc.

Anyway, I highly recommend St. Francis de Sales sermons as Lenten reading.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Water in the Desert

Two very nice things happened this past weekend, one the result of the other. I finally made it into the brand new CATHOLIC bookstore in Rutland. I went in in fear and trembling that it would be full of all kinds of progressive dissident stuff that I've seen in a couple of other places in Vermont in the past. Lo and behold there was all the sort of stuff I'd find at Franciscan University of Steubenville's bookstore. They don't have ALL of it yet, they are still building their inventory, but the stuff that was there was wonderful.

I had a great conversation with the owner (a nice young man whose wife is supporting them by running a nursery school while he runs the store). He lives in our town, actually just up the road from us. Since we don't attend the local parish, I'd never met him. I had thought that the local parish didn't have daily Mass on a regular basis, since the last time I'd seen their bulletin it seemed to be offered only some days. Come to find out they now have it at 8:30 in the morning Monday through Friday. That means that I can now go to daily Mass without driving 10 miles each way. It's actually within walking distance if I get up early enough.

We probably will continue going to our parish in Rutland for Sundays because we're established there, but I went to daily Mass in Pittsford this morning and I plan on making a regular habit of it.

So two little founts of water have sprung up for me in the midst of Lent.

I'm currently reading St. Francis De Sales Sermons for Lent. He points out in his Ash Wednesday sermon that it isn't necessarily more holy to be thin than fat. What a nice thing for those of us who are no longer thin to hear.

Friday, March 10, 2006

When is a sacrifice not a sacrifice?

That's the question I'm pondering today. You see I decided that we needed to live a bit more frugally during Lent and one of the ways to do that was to eliminate the bakery bread I'd been buying at least three times a week. My kids don't really like the packaged stuff, so we've been buying Delvineri's bread, Baba a Louis bread and some other deli types whose brand names I forget, but which are extremely expensive. In lieu of bakery bread I'm back to baking my own. That's a sacrifice, right. I mean it's a whole lot easier to simply pick up a loaf of the $2-5 per loaf stuff than to hang around in the kitchen mixing and kneading dough.

The only problem is that what I've been reminded of is that I actually enjoy baking bread. I love kneading the dough, I love the feel of the soft warm dough, I love the sensuous feel of the dough as it gets silky smooth on the outside. I like shaping it into loaves. I love the smell of baking bread. Of course, I also love eating hot bread right out of the oven. So is this a sacrifice or not?

It does take time away from other things. However, it also helps my resolve to identify more with those people who can't afford to buy gourmet bread. It makes dinners of soup and bread more acceptable. Cleaning up afterwards is my bete noir, so there's a real sacrifice there.

I guess in a way it's like a lot of the rest of our lives, sacrifice often comes accompanied by joys. It is a sacrifice for a mother to get up in the middle of the night to nurse her baby, but it is also a joy to snuggle with an infant. Marriage is accompanied by sacrifice, and yet it also is accompanied by joy. Roses have thorns, but they also have soft colorful flowers with a lovely fragrance and crisp green leaves.

So I guess I'll take the cleaning up with the pleasure and figure that it's still a sacrifice of my time. Of course there's also the sacrifice of only eating a small portion of that hot bread. Now that's more of a sacrifice than only eating a small portion of the deli stuff. So on balance there truly is sacrifice. It's just nice that I get to enjoy the kneading as well.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Lent, Suffering, and Spilled Fry Oil

As Danielle Bean has pointed out so eloquently, God has a way of sending us the penances He wants us to have for Lent. We may choose to give up things, but cheerful acceptance of what comes our way is sometimes even more difficult.

This has been a week for little, not big suffering, at least so far. I haven't been writing or blogging because my back has been a problem and sitting in the computer chair is one of the things that predictably makes it worse. Kneeling in church is another thing that predictably makes it worse, but since I've only been to church three times in the past week, that hasn't been too much of an issue. Interestingly, the chair I sit in to spin does not make it worse, so I have gotten some spinning done, go figure.

On Saturday morning there was a fry pan full of congealed fry oil (actually a mixture of Crisco and oil, so it wasn't all that congealed)sitting on the stove. My husband doesn't approve of dumping hot oil in the garbage so it had to cool off before being disposed of. As I was doing my morning cleanup in the kitchen(but obviously before I got to the fry pan) I managed to bump the handle and tip the whole thing over on the kitchen floor (which my dd had just cleaned the day before because her boyfriend was coming down on Saturday). I tried to be cheerful about cleaning it up, but I will admit my first reaction was not, "oh joy, something to offer up." That was only my second reaction (or maybe the third).

Next I could not find the package of pine nuts (which I knew I had), so making the meatless lasagna for Sunday dinner got put on hold. I managed to get through the rest of the day without too much trouble until I was cutting the vegetables for the minestrone soup for supper and sliced off the top layer of skin on the side of my left thumb (I swear I need a thumb guard or something, I'm always cutting that thumb). Still dinner was a success. DD and her bf picked up the pine nuts for the lasagna while they were in town renting a video. Of course by the time they got them home I'd run out of steam for making lasagna.

On Sunday morning I got up early and spent over an hour putting the lasagna together without too many complications. Sunday actually went reasonably well, as a matter of fact. The only problem was the dishwasher which dd had loaded on Friday. It got run again on Saturday (of course), but not unloaded. What did I discover on the dishes Sunday morning, but guck (due to the fact that dd had put three jars for recycling through the dishwasher with labels still on and the filter had gotten clogged). Of course this meant that most of that load had to be rewashed, only I couldn't really do that before church because we had four more people to take showers at the point I discovered this. Our hot water heater is marginal under the best of circumstances, dishwashing on Sunday morning doesn't fit into its capacity. So the first thing I had to do when I got home from church was dishes.

On Monday evening I had put together a plate of dinner for myself (leftover lasagna and salad) to eat while the guys were at town meeting. I got the salad dressing out of the fridge and lo and behold someone had put a bottle of French dressing back in the fridge, but there was no dressing left in the bottle. I grabbed the rapsberry vinagrette as a second choice. It wouldn't open, so I ran it under the hot water. The cap came off easily, but when I went to pour the dressing, it did a Mt. Vesuvius type discharge out of the bottle. Hence, I now had salad dressing, not only on the salad, but all over the lasagna as well. Offering it up was still not my first reaction.

Now in the midst of all of this I am trying to do meatless meals because we have one person who's given up meat for Lent. I'm trying to do Light Weigh type eating as my own Lenten sacrifice and waiting for level three hunger all the time is tempting me to crankiness under the best of circumstances. So when you're at level 3 or maybe even 4 salad dressing all over your meager meal is more of a big deal than it ordinarily would be.

I'm spending a lot of time reminding myself of all the hungry people in the world, but so far Lent has been a series of temptations to not be cheerful and to forget to offer it up.

And oh, to make things more interesting today, I now have to go to the dentists for a cleaning and my dentist's hygenist belongs in a horror film. It's not just my opinion, but that of every patient of his I've spoken to. She macerates your gums.
So offer some prayers for me while I go offer this one up.