Religion: April 2003 Archives

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!


My Hungarian-Russian godmother taught me how to say the above greeting and response in Russian - I can still speak the first part but not the response and I have no idea how to write them down!
This will be a somewhat lonely Easter for us. I sorely miss my 5 older children. Two are in Memphis TN, two are in Eugene OR, and one is in Los Angeles CA. How quickly it has gone from having to pull out extra chairs and tables for the evening meal, to just 3 of us around the table. I cook way too much food, I have still not learned how to cook for only 3 instead of 8 plus. We were always the house that fed the neighborhood. Now I give away casseroles to my friend with a young baby and another on the way. When our children were younger, we always went to their paternal grandparent's house for Easter. They would play and fight with their cousins while the adults made dinner and sat around, and later the older ones would hide eggs for the younger ones. Dinner was preceded by prayers, said standing in the living room in a great circle. We had a traditional prayer:
We thank you for the house in which we dwell
For the love that unites us
For the peace accorded us this day
For the hope with which we expect tomorrow
For the health, the work, the food
And the bright skies that makes our life delightful.
Followed by a traditional 'Bless us oh Lord" and ending with prayers for the souls of the faithful departed, the morning (or daily) offeratory, and sometimes a Hail Mary, Our Father, and Glory Be for all the intentions of those present.
Then we would take plates and serve buffet style and sit around 2 or 3 tables and eat and share.
A few years ago, my in-law's health started to fail, and we moved festal meals to houses of the next generation. Then, family by family, we all started to leave the Los Angeles area, and the get-togethers became fewer and fewer. My mother in law failed rapidly, and died shortly after we left for Oregon. Her funeral was a bittersweet reminder of the times we had been together as a family. My father in law died shortly after we moved to the East Coast, and his funeral was the last time we were all together as a family.
As we sit, the three of us, around our Easter meal, we will remember the missing members who are still here on earth, but also those family members who have 'gone before us, marked with the sign of the cross'. I pray that you all have a holy and happy Easter with whomever of your family and friends are with you.

Death bed conversions


This account of the life and death bed conversion of Oscar Wilde started me thinking. It is a dangerous thing, to flirt with God - one never knows the day and time of the final call from this earth. What a signal grace has been given to so many sinners, the final opportunity to turn away from sin! Last week, my pastor preached about (among other things) a couple who came to him seeking the sacrament of matrimony. They had been living together, they had a house and several children, and they had finally been convicted of the need to repent, confess, regularize their life and to return to God and the Church. Praise god! said the priest - Although you did this backwards, God welcomes you home and so do we - welcome home. The confluence of this homily and the article about Wilde was, I am sure, no coincidence.
I have a bad tendency to be overly judgemental. I try to love the sinner and hate the sin, but all too often I hate them both or love them both. I have a tendency to think it unfair that a great sinner can, at the end of life, gain entrance to the Kingdom. Meanwhile, all the rest of us everyday sinners struggle along. As I was mulling this over, how I am not the arbiter of God's mercy (good thing, no?) I thought of two different parts of scripture. One is the parable of the laborors - found in Matthew 20:1-16. Those who worked all day, and those hired at the last hour, all were given the same wage. Is this just? It is certainly merciful - and by hiring the other laborors at the end of the day, those who had been there all along had less work to do. God brought in help at the end. Could this (along of course with God's desire that we all enter the Kingdom eventually - of our free will!) be part of why the signal grace of deathbed conversion is granted?
The other scripture that occured to me is Jesus's words to Dismas (the traditional name given to the Good Thief) - "Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise".(Luke 23:43) You can't get much more of a death bed conversion than that!
There can be so much anguish in a true conversion - to turn away from sin and stay turned away is extremely difficult. I do understand the temptation to delay making the necessary changes. A death bed conversion or a life time of hypocrisy - which is the worse? Yet once we know, once we are convinced and convicted of the Truth that shall set us free, how can we choose NOT to take up the cross and follow Him? Alas, all too easily.
Lord, grant me the grace of a continuous and ongoing conversion. In your mercy, grant me the grace of knowing that the time of death is near, that I might be able to make a final Reconciliation with You.

Amazing Grace


Thursday night, after returning home from the Maundy Thursday liturgy, I was inspired to pull my copy of Kathleen Norris's book "Amazing Grace" off the shelf. Allow me to share with you a brief excerpt from the introduction.
Language, used truly, not mere talk, neither propaganda, nor chatter, has real power. Its words are allowed to be themselves, to belss or curse, wound or heal. They have the power of a "word made flesh," of ordinary speech that suddennly takes hold, causing listeners to pay close attention, and even to release bodily sighs - whether of recognition, delight, grief, or distress.
On Good Friday, it is traditional to meditate on the "Seven Last Words (actually, phrases)" of Christ. I was leafing through my 1940 hymnal (Anglican) earlier tonight, searching to see if it uses the same translation of "O Sacred Head" as Kathy the Carmelite posted (it doesn't, but nor is it the version I find in my missalette) and I found what looks to be a musical meditation on these seven phrases. Here it is from the Oremus Hymnal online. There are three verses for each phrase.
I remember hearing about the "Seven Last Words", but I never really knew what they were - foolish me, I thought it was seven individual words and I couldn't make sense out of that. This year, I have a subscription to Magnificat magazine, and I found in the Holy Week volume the actual words and a well done meditation as well. Something to remember and learn. I have been Catholic for 30 years now, and have studied my faith as well as I could in between the inane perversities of everyday life, and I am still learning new things! How do all you cradle Catholics keep up with 2000 plus years of tradition?

From today's readings


This is after Jesus was seized in the Garden of Gethsemane, when his closest friends were too sleepy from the Passover dinner (Last supper) to stay and wait with him. It is recorded that Peter, James and John were there. I am not certain who all else was in the crowd that followed Judas to see him betray Our Lord with a kiss.
Mark 14:51,52
51: And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body; and they seized him,
52: but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.
I assume that the 'him' being followed was Jesus, else why would they try to seize the young man? I don't know why, but I never noticed these verses before. Mark is the shortest Gospel and it does not contain extraneous details, so why is this important to record? Who was this young man? Could it have been Mark the apostle and gospel writer? Are there legends or tradition? I know it wasn't Peter, because we find out later what Peter was up to later that long night. Could it have been John or James?

Happy Palm Sunday


My 14 year old daughter amused children and adults alike by making palm crosses before and after mass. For directions, see the listing in my blogroll. Remember that blessed palms are sacramentals - the ashes for Ash Wednesday come from the palms blessed the year before. Now back to excavating my desk so my husband can finish our tax return. Yes, I know it is Sunday.



The thing about my work that keeps me slogging through the Bandini is the chance to witness miracles. Life is full of the ordinary everyday miracles, like birth. I had a few births recently that are stuck in my mind.
One was this mom's third baby. Her first baby she had a one hour labor, her second she couldn't remember how long it took - her memory was that it was "Fast!". I had delivered her second baby 2 years ago and my memory is also that it was around one hour. So with this baby she was very anxious that she wouldn't know when she was in labor early enough to get to the hospital. She also was very vocal that she wanted me there again for this baby, too. I told her that I could only guarantee being there if she birthed on Wednesday, the day I am always on call. A few Wednesdays ago, she called me around 10 AM to say she felt kind of funny and could she come in? I told her to come to the office. I checked her, and she was just starting very early labor, far too early to go to the hospital, we both thought. So I told her to go out and hang around, and come back to the office around 1 PM for a recheck. At 1PM, she was a little more dilated, and she was nervous about staying home, so she headed over to the hospital. This labor was going more slowly and much more gently for her than her first two, and she was so grateful and happy. She gave me permission to stay in the office and see patients, and I told her that if she needed me at any time to tell the nurses and I would clear the rest of the afternoon and come hang out with her. But she didn't really need me, she said - she had her husband and her mom and the nurses. She was also OK with having the OB resident involved in her care, as long as I was there to supervise. She spent some time in the Jacuzzi, got her IV antibiotics (preventative in her case for a specific reason - another reason she had been antsy) and around 430 PM I saw my last office patient and headed over. She was then 9 cm and doing great. She quickly got to 10 cm and pushed 13 minutes - as the baby's head was just out the resident unwrapped one loop of umbilical cord from around the neck - then another, then another. And as the body was born we could see that this active baby had tied a true knot in the middle of the the cord as well! Not once during labor had the baby's heart rate shown any signs of stress, let alone distress. A healthy placenta maintained enough blood pressure in the cord that even with all the loops and the knot, the baby always got enough blood flow. As I said - I love it when God sends these little miracles to make life easier.

Firt Reading


Today's first reading at Mass is the story of Susanna, found in Daniel chapter 13. If you don't have a Catholic Bible, you will not find this inspiring story of lust, sin, false witness, virtue, and justice. It is quite inspiring, and reminds one (just a bit) of St. Maria Goretti.
One of the great treasures I gained upon my conversion was the gift of the books titled Deutero-Canonical ( or labelled by some apocryphal, a term I prefer to reserve for such as the Gospel of Thomas or the Proto-Envangelion of James). For a long time, I was uneasy with the book of Tobit, the Book of Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon, but I have come to appreciate the value of their contents. I was recently leafing through my copy of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer (the old Anglican equivalent to the Roman Missal) and found that many of the first readings for Morning and Evening Prayer were taken from these books. I also recently learned that the original King James Bible included these books integrated into the Bible (not segregated out as they usually are in the rare cases where they are included in a Protestant translation of the Bible), and that it was not originally the intent of the Protestant movement to delete these books from the Canon. Anyhow, If you have not read or heard the story of Susanna, please read it.

The Bishop and th Atheist


This caught my eye from Priests for Life.
The Bishop and the Atheist by Fr. Frank Pavone, Priests for Life
Bishop William Weigand of Sacramento has something to say to pro-abortion
politicians who claim to be Catholic. So does Doris Gordon, an atheist and the
founder of "Libertarians for Life."
On January 22, 2003, Bishop Weigand preached the following words:
"As your bishop, I have to say clearly that anyone - politician or otherwise -
who thinks it is acceptable for a Catholic to be pro-abortion is in very great error,
puts his or her soul at risk, and is not in good standing with the Church. Such a
person should have the integrity to acknowledge this and choose of his own
volition to abstain from receiving Holy Communion until he has a change of
He made explicit that fact that his words have direct application to Gray Davis,
the Governor of California, who is pro-abortion and says he is Catholic. The
bishop's homily made national news. And many of the faithful are saying It's
about time.
Yet to speak this way is the duty of a bishop. More surprising to many is that an
atheist would say the same. My friend, Doris Gordon, founded Libertarians for
" and recently wrote an article, "A Libertarian Atheist Answers
‘Pro-Choice Catholics.’" She issues this challenge:
"The Church holds that such children are human persons with rights, yet the
"personally opposed" hold that it should be a woman's choice to destroy themIf
there is a credible reason for such a position, what is it? Opposition to legal
abortion cuts across the religious and political spectrum. I'm an atheist. I was
born and raised Jewish. Catholicism had nothing to do with my coming to
understand why abortion is a wrong, not a right, and why it should not be legal."
Both Bishop Weigand and Doris Gordon are calling for consistency. If one claims
to be Catholic, he/she should accept the teachings of Catholicism. It's as simple
as that. Holy Communion, moreover, reinforces the need for consistency.
Communion means "union with." To receive Communion is not magic. It is,
rather, the summit and source of all our efforts to think, desire, choose, and live
in union with Jesus Christ. When one knows the definitive teaching of Jesus as
expressed in the Church, and deliberately refuses to accept it, he/she rejects
"communion" at that moment. It no longer makes sense to receive physically the
One whom you have rejected by clinging to your own conflicting doctrine.
Moreover, both the bishop and the atheist are saying that abortion is wrong not
because the Church says so, but because of what abortion is. The taking of a
child's life is simply not a civilized act. Nor is stealing. The Church teaches
against stealing, but we don't hear people complain that laws against stealing are
an imposition of religious doctrine. They realize that stealing does not only violate
religious doctrine; it violates basic human rights. So does abortion. That truth isn't
so hard to understand. But if we forget, then fortunately, we have both bishops
and atheists to help us.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Religion category from April 2003.

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