Eggo Waffle, Your Holiness? March 14, 2013Posted by philangelus in food, geekery, religion.
Tags: Ecumenism, Pope Francis, tweens
The first action of Pope Francis was to get all my laundry folded. I found out about the white smoke via Twitter and immediately searched up a live feed, then propped the computer on an inverted laundry basket and started folding the four loads on the couch.
As I was finishing the last, my daughter and two friends came into the living room. What are you watching? I’d already gone on the balcony and said, “Kiddo2! White smoke! White smoke!” and she’d cheered, then explained to her friends. So now they kind of hovered, and I explained we were waiting for the announcement of who the next Pope was.
Of the two girls my daughter had over, one is Jewish and the other is atheist. The atheist declared, “I don’t care who the next Pope will be,” and I said, “That’s perfectly fine. I didn’t ask anyone to care. I’m watching it because I want to.”
They started asking me questions, though. Yes, that balcony is called the Loggia. Yes, it’s raining in St. Peter’s Square. Yes, there are like a quarter of a million people standing there in the rain. No, it’s not nuts — people have done worse to get One Direction tickets. They all decided they wanted to be called back inside to watch when the “master of ceremonies” cardinal came out on the balcony to introduce the new Pope.
At that point my computer was running out of charge, plus the feed crashed, so I plugged it back in and had two computers side by side running separate news feeds, that way if one crashed we’d at least have the other (Catholic Geek in the Information Age, TYVM) and I settled on listening to CBS’s reporting but looking at Reuters’ pictures. The time came. I called them back.
There was a round of “Who?” when the cardinal announced the name, and then my daughter started shouting, “POPE! POPE! POPE! POPE!”
And then, so help me, her two friends started jumping and screaming, shrieking, “He’s here! He’s here!” and cheering. Kiddo3 was there too, staring with wide eyes. “This is history!” shouted the atheist friend. “This is so cool!” And for a minute, we had something I have to call spontaneous ecumenism. There was no preaching, no arguments with attempted conversion, no pretended “tolerance” while everyone glared daggers. There was just genuine rejoicing from three girls with different viewpoints, unrestrained joy that Catholics once again had a pope. And they listened to his speech, and they were pleased.
I was shocked. This was awesome. I looked up more and more about Pope Francis, and I related it to them, and they kept sighing. He rides the bus. He kissed the feet of AIDS patients in hospice. He lives in his own apartment and cooks his own meals.
Later that night, I said to my Patient Husband, “I feel like I should invite Pope Francis over for dinner. Except he might actually show up.”
“Oh, don’t do that,” he replied.
But I can see it happening — the Pope “just happens” to be in the greater Angelborough area, and we get a phone call: would it be okay to stop by for dinner? So I throw something together and invite Father G from the parish (“You really, really need to be here!”) and we clear out one of the Kiddos’ bedrooms for the Pope, and in the morning he wanders downstairs and I’m like, “Well, you can have a bagel or some cereal, your Holiness… Eggo Waffle, maybe?” and then the Swiss Guard comes in and glares at me, saying, “We’ll just be going now.”
He just seems like that kind of guy, you know? The kind of guy who collects his own luggage from a boarding house and pays his own bill rather than sending a Vatican flunky to do it for him. He might just show up for coffee, and if he did, I’d have to tell him how for a just a few minutes, he had three girls screaming about him as if One Direction were standing on the Loggia.
PerNoWriLent March 4, 2013Posted by philangelus in religion, writing.
Tags: discipline, Lent, writing
Lent is a superb time to get fed up with yourself.
I’m a writer who’s got a novel-in-progress since, oh, forever. I blogged about it, and everyone liked the idea. I told my agent about it, and eventually she admitted she liked my idea too (she doesn’t want me to get too cocky). Best of all, I liked the idea.
But that was months ago, and it’s not done.
Now to be fair, I’ve been doing other things. I did edits and suchlike on two other novels, one of which you all went out and bought last November (right? RIGHT?). But you know…come on. It should take me 100 days to write a novel. Three months. And then another three months to edit. Nine months? A year? That’s nonsense.
Now when Lent came around, I wasn’t sure what to do, and nothing felt right. Sometimes God will give me a kick in the pants as to what it is I need to be doing, but nothing presented itself this year, and I entered Ash Wednesday with three ideas, none of them front runners. Eventually I punted and went for the no-brainer: I’d read An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales.
A few days into Lent, I was talking to my agent, and I realized: I just need to buckle down and get the book done. The problem is lack of discipline. I’m losing my will to go on.
Discipline. Oh, right, yeah.
God gave me two vocations: writer and mother/wife. If I’m not writing, I’m failing a vocation God gave me. And when is a better time to get back to doing what God wants than a time of year set aside by the Church to get closer to God’s will for your life?
So I’m doing a Lent-version of NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month.) I can’t sustain a NaNoWriMo pace without burning out, but I can and have sustained a slightly lower pace for indefinite periods of time.
We’ll call it my Personal Novel-Writing Lent. PerNoWriLent.
A thousand words a day. Few excuses. (Sorry, but I already had one child-related emergency, and as I was packing supplies for what I thought would end up as an ER trip, I told God, You don’t get your words today.) That should get me about 40,000 words by Easter Sunday (on top of the 35K I already had) and if I can’t just whack off an ending after that, then my agent needs to buy a train ticket up to the Swamp and roundhouse kick me in the head.
But she won’t need to do that. Because this is scrupulosity central, and I don’t want to have to tell God I didn’t write enough. Besides, I love ♥My Book♥. It deserves better than to sit neglected. It’s time to be a writer again.
Ash Wednesday’s schedule fun February 13, 2013Posted by philangelus in religion.
Ash Wednesday is not an HDO, but we like to go to Mass anyhow. Typically my Patient Husband takes the school-bound Kiddos to the 6:45AM Mass and then I go at 9 after dropping off Kiddo4. This year, the new priest decided to discontinue the 6:45AM and add a 3pm.
Okay, so I can take the school-bound Kiddos at 3pm, and my Patient Husband…hmm. Fortunately he found a parish closer to work that has a 6:30. Back on track.
Kiddo2 decided to walk to the 3pm from school. Why? Something about not wanting to eat when she got home from school. Okay. I’m not going to stop her.
Then I remembered the gas company is supposed to be hooking us up between noon and 4pm. Rearrange the schedule: I’ll go at 9 as planned and some of the Kiddos won’t go. No, Kiddo2 still wants to walk to the 3pm Mass, and then she’ll walk home. (I gave her my cell phone. That’s nonsense. She’ll call and I’ll pick up.)
At 7:15 there’s a knock on the door. Workmen. Oh, right — they had to come in the morning before the gas company! So (still in my PJs) I let them in and then get everyone dressed.
7:45: Kiddo3′s bus comes and then I have to drive Kiddo2 and a Huge Untransportable Homework Project to her school. I come home and wait for 9AM so I can drop off K4 and go to the 9AM.
8:10: K3′s bus driver calls: he puked on the bus, so he’s bringing him back home. This means no 9AM school drop-off for K4, and it also means no 9AM Mass for me.
8:30: the workmen shut off the heat and the water. This is exactly what you want with a puking child.
Fortunately, God does look out for fools, drunks, the United States of America, and me. We still have about 25 gallons of water in various containers. We saved them before the blizzard because we’re on a well and want to be able to flush toilets if we lose power for three days again, and I hadn’t gotten around to using them up. Ta-dah! Now if only I could fill the washing machine…
9AM: my Patient Husband starts rearranging the afternoon in order to accommodate my going to the 7PM. And my thought? I fully intended to go to 9AM, then the 3PM, then the 9AM again, and it’s not an HDO. So I’d rather go, but at this point, if I don’t, I think it’s fine. Fine. Fine.
For Lent, I have given up any illusions that I’m in control around here.
In which my cynicism astounds even me January 23, 2013Posted by philangelus in angels, religion, sarcasm.
Tags: advertising, app, cynicism, marketing, rosary
Yesterday I followed a Twitter link to a survey about the rosary. It began normally enough (age, gender) and then started asking whether I’d ever used a rosary aide.
The only “rosary aides” I own are rosaries (about eleven or twelve million at last count) and one audio rosary I got free in the back of the church (well, free with a three dollar donation, but I can’t wrap my head around that so I try to think of the donation as an entirely separate action from the receipt of the CD.)
The CD is a recording of six people in a room saying the rosary, and its purpose is so I don’t drive into a tree while fumbling with beads and contemplating the Scourging At The Pillar.
The first batch of heavy-duty questions asked whether I’d ever used an audio rosary with music and meditations. Um, no, sorry. I have books of meditations if I want them, and I also have this thing called a brain, which is full of meditations of its own and is sometimes receptive to ideas God wants to give me. Sometimes. Occasionally. Well, even a stone warms up if you sit on it for five years.
Regardless, I have something called “limited time” which means a 20-minute prayer should not take 45 minutes, or else I’d never do it and then my guardian angel would be forced to wake me up in the middle of the night again to make me finish. This isn’t good for my spiritual development for several reasons, the primary one that I’m not a nice person, even less so when someone wakes me up in the middle of the night for anything other than “I’m only two months old and I’m starving to death.” We’re supposed to respect angels as higher-order beings, and “So finish it yourself if it’s that important” isn’t exactly respectful.
We reached the survey’s true agenda: how much would you pay for a smartphone app that would assist your rosary-prayers? This even after I’d noted that a) I don’t own a smartphone and therefore b) I’d never purchased any apps for the smartphone I don’t own and c) No, I probably won’t be spending more than ten dollars apiece on the apps I’m not going to purchase for the smartphone I don’t own.
Penultimate question: If you believed an app would forward your spiritual life and bring you closer to God, how much would you pay for it?
I answered $5.
Final question, and I’m not making this up (although I’m paraphrasing because the question itself was about 300 words long): Some people think if they under-report their spending on these surveys, the products will be priced lower. So please be honest: if you really, honestly, truly believed that an app would bring you closer to Heaven and impact your eternal soul’s eternal destination and more closely unite your soul to God’s vision for your life, how much would you spend on it?
Once again, I answered $5.
That’s when I realized just how cynical I’d become. Because I know there’s nothing more valuable than growing closer to God. For one young man, the cost was selling everything he had and giving it away. And here I’m saying I’d spend about as much as I pay in library fines.
I’ve been exposed to so much advertising and experienced so many false promises about products, that even in theory, I couldn’t imagine this product actually delivering.
The more insignificant the product, the more outlandish the claims. So this lipstick will turn you into Miss America, and that diet snack bar will burn calories and lengthen your life by ten years. I’m more likely to trust a McDonalds ad saying “This food will taste okay and stop you from feeling hungry for three hours” than “Enjoy our juciest burger yet — two pounds of pure angus heaven!”
So if you claim your app is going to bring me closer to God, I’m going to react as if you told me your shoes will improve my marriage. The minute you say your app will advance my spiritual development and help unite my soul to the Almighty Triune God, my innate cynicism kicks in: “Yeah, your app is worth about five bucks.” Because even in fantasyland, I can’t imagine a product doing what it’s supposed to.
And that’s beside the point that really, an app can’t do that. Prayer and grace? Sure. But an app? A freaking app…? Oops, my cynicism is showing again.
Anyhow, thank you Advertisers for saving me a ton of money. If anyone needs me or my spare change, I’ll be the one with the string of beads.
Breaking the yarn January 17, 2013Posted by philangelus in knitting, religion.
Tags: cancer, knitting, shawl, trust
Two weeks ago, a friend showed me a shawl she knit for a woman with breast cancer, and I said, “Philangelus, you idiot…” because I too know a woman with breast cancer. And suddenly I needed to knit her a shawl. (Peer pressure! I can’t handle it!)
As soon as I got home, I dove into my yarn stash, but nothing would work. First off, there had to be enough of it. Secondy, due to where this woman lives, the shawl had to be light. And since she’s dealing with breast cancer, I wanted it to be machine-washable so she wouldn’t worry about having to keep it clean. Someone spilled coffee? Sure, wipe it up with the shawl. No, really.
I had covered my bed with unsuitable yarn when I came up with the last skein, something I’d bought on a whim and then forgotten. It was perfect.
I went to Ravelry. On the first page of search results, I found a pattern I’d “favorited” a long time ago and then forgotten. And it was perfect for this yarn.
Okay, so clearly God looks out for fools, drunks, the United States of America — and me. I cast on and knit like the wind.
I knew I wanted it to end right on one of the dark blue stripes, but of course you can’t control the stripes on self-striping yarn. Nor, I guess, could the manufacturer, because two thirds of the way down, the yarn broke, and there was the wrong color beneath. Mill-end.
Joining it to the wrong color right beneath it was going to mess up the pretty striping pattern and look like heck, and this shawl deserved better. So instead I reached into the center of the ball to more of the light blue, snapped it there, and joined light blue to light blue. And when I reached the last row…? It turned to dark blue. Just like I’d wanted.
I knit along chattering to God what a gift from Him it was that the mill-end had happened in my skein of yarn, otherwise there wouldn’t have been so much light blue, and then the bottom inch would have been dark blue instead of just the very bottom…and then I realized I was running out of yarn. What if I didn’t have enough to finish the bind-off?
I refused to watch the yarn ball decreasing. I had the “wrong” color yarn still, but can you join yarn on the bind-off row? What if I ran out?
And then, another Philangelus, you idiot moment: if two years ago God had seen that I needed this yarn, this flawed yarn, for this pattern, for this person, and had even managed the mill-end such that the shawl turned out just the way I wanted it to…wouldn’t God also know I needed to bind off?
I couldn’t very well say God was smart enough to make sure the yarn was defective in just the right way but then not trust that God would give me enough yarn to finish. So I forced myself. I had to trust.
God indeed looks out for fools.
And as for the shawl? Yeah.
Pizza and sainthood January 16, 2013Posted by philangelus in food, religion.
On Sunday I ended up at a bowling birthday party, the kind where thirty four-year-olds produce a slow-motion physics video of a bowling ball in realtime. After the bowling they had pizza and cake, and the attending parents were offered the same. It was lunch time and I was famished, so I took a slice.
While everyone was standing around after pizza and before cake, they still had a pie and a few slices left. Sveryone had eaten at least one slice and some had taken a second, and because I was hungry, I took another. At the end, they ran out of pizza. I’m not aware of anyone who didn’t get enough, but there were no leftovers.
There’s your backdrop: no one went hungry; everyone enjoyed it. Clearly there was nothing wrong with any given guest taking a second slice of pizza.
But the next day, it came to me — it would have been better not to take the second slice, and not for the reason you’re thinking. I know we talk about good food as “sinful” and that dieters talk about declining food as virtue, and there was nothing wrong with having a second slice of pizza when hungry. It’s not gluttony and it’s not depriving someone else of nourishment.
But for some reason, I ended up dwelling on the concept of sacrifice: precisely because it was good pizza. If I hadn’t taken the second slice, I wouldn’t have starved, but I’d have made way for someone else to enjoy it. And that turns the good of enjoying a piece of pizza into something more like the virtue of putting others first.
I hadn’t framed it that way. I’d framed it as the practical “Does anyone else need pizza?” and “Would there be anything wrong with taking this?” but never asked, “Where’s the greatest good?” It’s flipping the question over. Not, “Will someone suffer if I do this?” but “Will someone increase their joy if I don’t?”
That’s not to say my enjoyment counts for nothing, but for a minute there I made a connection I hadn’t before. I knit for the joy of creating and then give it away so someone else can enjoy the product. And similarly with the food, you can have two good effects from the same slice of pizza: the good of enjoyment as well as the good of sacrificing something enjoyable so someone else can have it.
The good you see before you January 9, 2013Posted by philangelus in religion.
I was listening to a youtube video today while knitting a shawl (a shawl that fills me with panic again on every row, because it’s only getting larger. It started by casting on eleven stitches, but it’s well over three hundred now, and I’ve got many, many rows to go… Whoops, I’ll start over.)
While knitting a shawl, I was listening to a Youtube video in which a man testified about being kidnapped and tortured in Columbia, and how at his lowest moment, his conscience was illuminated and he had an intimate mystical experience that resulted in his conversion. I tend to listen to these kind of testimonials with a critical ear because of all the iffy ones I heard in years past (bunker, anyone?) but nothing in this triggered my “You’ve got to be kidding me” meter. Plus, it didn’t fill me with dread.
In the middle of it, he says that “grace comes to us today.” He then explains (and this is a rough paraphrase) “Tomorrow’s grace comes tomorrow. The grace wasn’t there yesterday, otherwise you’d already have it. Today you have the opportunities God gives you today.”
The shawl I’m knitting is for someone else, someone I think might need a hug because she’s having a difficult time and should know she’s not in it alone. It’s the opportunity God gave me today. (And tomorrow, and maybe the day after, because this thing needs a lot of stitches…)
Walter Cizek said in He Leadeth Me that the will of God is doing the work He puts in front of you. There’s no shortage of need in the world. So if you’re wondering what God’s will is in any given situation, he says, you do the work He’s put in front of you. Cizek makes it sound simple. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to do in the situation God put you in, but then I think it’s important to act on a well-formed conscience and to act in a spirit of love.
In the video, Marino Restrepo also says we’re responsible for the gifts of self we don’t give to others, that God acts through us to give good things to others, and when we refuse (or just don’t notice, or put it off and off and off) we’re responsible for the good we didn’t do. In the past I’ve ignored those little urges, and then I haven’t been able to make it up again.
I’m not much for “New Year’s Resolutions,” but if you are, here’s one for you — every day, do one good thing you see in front of you to do. It doesn’t have to be much. It just has to be done in love and because it needs to be done.
I wouldn’t have gone back either November 22, 2012Posted by philangelus in pensive, religion.
I have a question: Did Jesus like people to follow the rules?
Jesus said that not one jot of the law would pass away, and he certainly followed the rules himself (see the bit about paying the Temple tax) but there were times he didn’t (picking heads of grain on the Sabbath). But what about breaking the rules he’d set out?
I’m a little flamboyant with the phrase ‘breaking the rules’ though, so I’ll just cut to the chase. Luke 16 shows us ten lepers who ask Jesus to heal them. Jesus doesn’t say he’s going to do it; he just tells them to go show themselves to the priests (which sounds a lot like “fill these stone jars with water” and “bring it to the steward” because at no point does he say “and then a miracle occurs.”) And they go.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story, on the way there, they notice they’re healed, and one of them turns back to go tell Jesus thank you. Jesus says, “Weren’t all ten made whole?” and asks why only the foreigner (a Samaritan) came back to thank him.
All my life, when I’ve heard that story, I’ve resolved to be more thankful. And the last time, I realized, that’s not the point at all.
The point was, nine of them followed the rules and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. The one who didn’t was the one raised outside the Jewish system, the Samaritan, who probably didn’t care so much for the rules of Jewish society as much as he cared, “Sweet! I’m healthy again!”
We don’t know that the other nine weren’t going to track back and find Jesus to thank him after they did what he said to do. But I can tell you right now that if it were me that happened to, that I would go and do everything Jesus had told me to do. And yes, a large part of that would be for fear that he’d take away the good thing if I didn’t complete the task he’d set me. (And no, he didn’t. God doesn’t take the gifts away if you’re insufficiently thankful.) But also because, well, when God tells you to do something — you do it.
I’ve read about Lot’s wife, turned into a pillar of salt for turning back to look at a burning Sodom. Would I want to be turned back into a leper? No. Therefore, if Jesus said, “Go show yourself to the priests,” there I would have been, showing myself to the priests. And then I’d go over to Burdick Chocolates to pick up a little thank you gift for Jesus to show him just how happy I was.
So what did Jesus expect, I wonder? Didn’t he want people to do what he said?
Kind of a scratch-your-head moment for your friendly neighborhood rules-conscious Philangelus.
Putting the capital “I” in “irony” November 17, 2012Posted by philangelus in food, religion.
Tags: food donation, Hurricane Sandy, irony, power outage
I read an honest-to-goodness “life changing” article when I was a kid, and it came back this week like the Ghost Of News Articles Past.
I’m pretty sure the article came from Catholic Digest: a woman writing about how her church took up a food collection to help a parish family on hard times. She grudgingly bought a whole bunch of cheap stuff and shoved it in a paper bag. Two months later, she herself fell on hard times, and the person who’d done the food collection showed up at her door — holding her paper bag. “There was a mistake, and we forgot to deliver your food, so we’re giving it back to you.”
So here’s this woman now on hard times, in need of food — and she’s got this bag of crap, and she can’t even be furious at the person who donated it because she was the one who donated it. Ever since then, she wrote, she made sure to donate only things she really liked. When her church would put out a call for food donations, she’d look on her shelves and think, “I’d better give them coffee. I can’t live without my coffee.”
For all my adult life, I will only donate food I myself eat. (Exception: when they ask for something gross, I buy it.) I try to buy multipacks and cull out donations from those.
When Hurricane Sandy hit, I managed to keep my freezer cold for the first 36 hours, but at that point the stuff toward the front started getting warm. I called a friend who had power: “Are you hungry? How about half a freezer full of food?”
Either way, it was gone to me. Either it went rotten and I didn’t have it anymore, or she ate it and I didn’t have it anymore. I preferred the latter.
I ended up getting her husband on the phone, and he said, “Um…sure,” so I went through the freezer packing a cooler with anything still frozen rock-hard. But there was a lot, so I pulled out the best stuff. The frozen seafood, the chicken wings… I dropped it off with her husband, saying, “Don’t worry about returning the cooler any time soon. It’s not as if I have anything to keep cold.”
With that food out of the freezer, I was able to put in a bag of ice to try keeping the rest cold, and it worked, somewhat. I cooked some of the remainder the next day on the propane stove, and the rest I wrote off as a loss.
Well, God has a sense of humor. Clearly.
Last night, I came home to find the cooler sitting beside the fridge, and my husband said, “Look what came home.”
Because my friend brought back everything. I was perfectly happy with her feeding her family, but instead she brought back everything, and that’s the irony: because I packed up the best stuff to bring to her, what came back to me was the best.
There’s a lesson here for me, putting the “I” in irony. It’s Ecclesiastes 11 in real life: Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.
And that’s not what I intended. I intended to feed someone, and instead she’s feeding me.
The perfect parent October 11, 2012Posted by philangelus in family, pensive, religion.
Back when I had Kiddo1, my mother told me not to try being a perfect mother, but instead to be a good-enough mother. Since there are no perfect mothers, you’d pretty much kill yourself trying to live up to the standard. The advice sounds good, and I think the theory is sound, but of course we never know what’s good-enough. You can always find a way you fell short.
At church, the homily was about God as a perfect parent, and the priest (who, I might add, has no biological children) said something about how we can see glimmers of God’s perfect parenting in the parenting we see around us. My reaction to that is always to compare myself to “a perfect parent” and of course we get the big “SURVEY SAYS….X.”
Today, though, it struck me: when I picture a “perfect parent,” I also picture a perfect child. These perfect parents in my head are painting at the kitchen table, or doing crafts, or going for long walks in the park, and the child is pliant, clean, cheerful, well-rested. I don’t picture the perfect parent dealing with a child who’s screaming “I HATE YOU ALL!” because he can’t find his left sneaker, or a child who’s still on the couch twenty minutes after saying she’ll set the table. I’m certainly not picturing the perfect parent dealing with a child who’s destroying someone’s property during a meltdown or being physically violent.
If God is a perfect parent, and none of us are perfect…well, the conclusion here is that I’m missing the point. That the state of the child is not a verdict on the state of the parenting. Because if God is the parent to us all, and people are people (think of the person who infuriates you the most, or the person whose behavior leaves you shaking your head) then there’s something more to perfect parenting than rearing perfect children with their loving smiles and their clean clothes and their crafts at the kitchen table. In other words, perfection is in the loving response to the child rather than the child as a product.
I haven’t processed this yet. Feel free to tell me where I’ve missed the boat.