Wednesday, May 29, 2013

+JMJ+

I'm about 1/4 of the way through St. Faustina Kowalska's diary, "Divine Mercy In My Soul". I noticed she was writing "+JMJ+" at the end of some of her entries. Then I started seeing it in other places too... mostly in older, Pre-Vatican II material. I finally typed it into a search engine & discovered it stands for Jesus, Mary & Joseph, who, collectively, are known as the Holy Family. Things like this, along with devotions to the "infant" or "child" Jesus & his many wounds during His passion decades later, have always intrigued me. I mean, what's the point? Joseph was only a foster father (who was barely mentioned in the scriptures), Mary eventually got her own cult following & Jesus didn't stay an infant or a child... He grew up, died an adult & rose again as an adult... & though he still bears the scars of His torture to this day, his wounds were only temporary... why venerate a shoulder wound or the 27th random lash of the whip?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Meeting Padre Pio

While browsing a local thrift store, I found a book called "A Padre Pio Profile" by John A. Schug, OFM, Cap. It was tucked away on the top shelf of a world history section. Intrigued that I had the fortune to spot this little book (obviously out of place), I pulled it down & began thumbing through it. 24 hours later, I've all but devoured it & feel as though my faith has begun to burst at the seams.

Who was this Padre Pio? I had never heard of him til I began my journey to the Catholic Church. He seemed like just another old guy & I never understood what made him a saint, or why countless people chose him to be their patron... What was so special about him? What set him apart? I noticed that he always seemed to wear fingerless gloves & at first, I thought maybe he was just cold, having to live in a drafty old monastery & all... but then I read that he had received the stigmata- that is, the wounds of Christ- and he kept the gloves on because his hands bled constantly. Apparently, his feet & side also bled with regularity & his bedsheets would be routinely soaked with blood. The idea of stigmata is kind of creepy to this former Evangelical Protestant whatchamacallit. Pio's wounds remained for over 50 years & were well documented. Why would God allow anyone to be afflicted in such a way? What purpose could such suffering possibly serve? I suppose we could ask this question of a great many things in life.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

St. Gregory Speaks

"...We are in a sense our own parents, and we give birth to ourselves by our own free choice of what is good..."

"...Such a choice becomes possible for us when we have received God into ourselves and have become children of God, children of the Most High. On the other hand, if what the Apostle calls the form of Christ has not been produced in us, we abort ourselves..."

"...For Saint Paul every moment was a time to die, as he proclaims in his letters: I swear by the pride I take in you that I face death every day. Elsewhere he says: For your sake we are put to death daily and we felt like men condemned to death. How Paul died daily is perfectly obvious. He never gave himself up to a sinful life but kept his body under constant control. He carried death with him, Christ’s death, wherever he went. He was always being crucified with Christ. It was not his own life he lived; it was Christ who lived in him. This surely was a timely death – a death whose end was true life..."

Excerpts from a homily on Ecclesiastes by: 
Saint Gregory of Nyssa, bishop

Friday, May 17, 2013

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Well, life is about to change for me soon. After nearly 6 & a half years with the same employer, I'm finally moving on. After close to a decade of working the swing shift, I'll get to see the day's parting sunshine & can crawl into bed before midnight every night. After 6 months of living in a new town & commuting back to the old one 5 days a week, I actually get to stay put. My drive time will be 15 minutes as opposed to an hour & a half, which will afford me more time to do the stuff I actually enjoy.  I'll have more resources, both financially & physically & more access to a greater variety of people & activities because I won't have to try & cram everything into the weekend. All these things are "good". 

But giving my 2 week notice isn't as easy as I thought it would be. I've spent the majority of my waking hours with these people. They've become my weird little family over the years. When I clock in, I don't have to think about what I'm doing or what happens when. I know my job like the back of my hand & move about on auto pilot most days. Unlike a few of my co-workers, my supervisors know they can leave me be & I'll have my duties done, plus some. I barely blink & the day is gone. I rumble down I-5 home in the dark, tired & aching like any other day, knowing I earned my paycheck & can look forward to sleeping in the next morning. Realistically, I could be a "lifer" at this job. My employment & benefits are stable & my seniority would just keep growing. While all these things are "good" too, there's something to be said for change.

My new job affords elements of the old one & those past, but it will also be a challenge for me on many fronts. I'll be meeting new people & existing in a new space. I'll be handling different product in different  situations. I'll have to learn this company's "map" by scratch- what happens when, what goes where & why. It'll take time to figure out who does what & who can I count on & who just doesn't give a damn.  There are so many elements of uncertainty. I'll  have to wait for some benefits to kick in, but at least I'm not starting out on the bottom rung... I'll soon be making more than I do at my current job & am poised to move up when the need presents itself. All these changes are good. They're also kind of scary. Its going to take a lot of extra energy be "present" at work. But until now, I never realized just how absent I've been at my current job, how bored, how comfortable, how mindless my days have become because everything typically stays the same...

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Grateful Gardener

This spring, I've discovered a new hobby: gardening. Now I haven't gone & picked out a pair of lime green Crocs & a giant sun hat yet, but I do very much enjoy slipping on my gardening gloves (which ARE lime green) & working up a sweat.

I'm just a beginner. This is the first time in my life I've ever had a share in the responsibilities of taking care of a yard & garden. My housemate & I weeded & planted herbs & veggies in the back (I have to admit, I was slightly disheartened to realize that weeds are actually quite sanguine), then she outfitted the perimeter with whimsey (lanterns, rocks, stakes & chimes) while I contributed the practicality of a patio table & chairs, a bird feeder (is a bird feeder really practical?) & a thermometer. We begged & borrowed (but did not steal) motorized implements from various sources & a merciful friend of ours even came over to help us attack the overgrown front yard. At the moment, we have some semblance of a respectable residence & I can't put into words my joy at seeing that manicured lawn sparkling in the Oregon sunshine. It brings me great pleasure to gaze out over our deck & garden... to appreciate all the life (that we will later kill & masticate) sprouting in the back yard... Finches & sparrows & juncos routinely feed in our rafters, along with the red winged blackbirds & starlings that happen by on occasion to clean up their mess... I'm sure they could find sustenance elsewhere, but they keep coming back to us. Its kind of a nice feeling.

Some days, life just "is" & its so easy to go through it without really feeling much of anything.  But when I slip on my lime green gloves & step out in to the dirt to manage life, plant life or invite life, everything else seems to take on a different meaning. I feel like a super hero out there, full of purpose & resolve (sans boots, tights & cape). Yes, I am a vessel of charity toward plants & animals... a scourge to weeds & other invasive critters! When I spend time out in the garden, life becomes less about me & more about that patch of dirt & the living thing stuck in it. It becomes less about how I feel toward the world & more about what I can do to affect it... even if my swatch is only miniscule in the grand scheme of things.  Its a start...