Someday’s here; now what?

My neighbors’ generators hum in the background as I rummage through a pile of work assignments in search of one I can perform without benefit of internet. The power’s out, after an overnight storm. As a freelance writer and researcher, I find the lack of internet access nettlesome. Even cell service is affected today.

It’s quiet as I select the files I can work on. Only a few billable hours in there, but that’s better than nothing. I can work without distractions. The only device at hand is a pen.

As I realize that, it occurs to me that I’ve spent much of my life wishing for days like this. I was sure that if I only had more peace and quiet, less need for structured time, I could…fill in the blank: pray more, study more Scripture, read more devotions, study Church history. I’d go on retreats. I’d have time for more than a morning offering before diving into the day.

I am blessed with children, and grateful for them.  I was blessed to be their “stay-at-home” mom. My husband made that possible. Parenthood never ends once launched, but my kids are now grown. The intense day-to-day five-kids-at-a-time whirlwind is behind me. I distinctly remember thinking in the midst of that whirlwind that someday, things would slow down. Someday, I’d have quiet days to work on other things.

So what am I doing this quiet day? Setting up to work, that’s what. No work, no pay. The power outage nonetheless leaves me a few hours of open time. What to do?

Draft a pitch to a client. Cull no-longer-useful files. Practice a presentation I’m scheduled to give in a few weeks. The to-do list lengthens.

The quiet day I used to call “someday” is here, and I’m finding all kinds of things to do besides the Mass and prayer and study I was sure I’d spend my somedays doing.

The very intensity of today’s quiet – no phone, no apps, no flickering screen – is forcing me to pay attention to what I’m doing, which quickly leads me to what I’m not doing.

I pick up my rosary, trying to put aside thoughts of clients and presentations and when might I get electricity back.

This “someday” stuff is hard. I thought for sure it would be easy, maybe even come naturally. Here I am, though, alone in silence but for the hum of generators down the street. I’m pacing and praying aloud in an effort to turn my attention to God and turn away from the to-do list.

Someday, it turns out, is a matter of intention. Anything less is merely a wish.

As I recite another Hail Mary, a voice inside me is mocking me for ever thinking that someday, all I’d want would be time to live my faith more fully.

Stripped of intention, left to my own undisciplined habits, my spiritual life keeps receding into one someday after another.

What was it St. Paul wrote to the Romans? The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.

Any resemblance to present company is purely coincidental.

I doggedly finish the Joyful Mysteries. I stop pacing. I sit down, pick up pen and paper, and resume work. That comes easily. The prayers didn’t.

Maybe that was the best reason to see them through.

An Advent Thought

If I had sworn off Twitter for Advent, I’d have missed this from Cardinal Dolan. Great example of the three basics that I teach when I’m introducing people to social media: clarity, charity, brevity.

Veni Emmanuel!

“The world says ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’. Advent reminds us that the world, and our lives, are a mess. We need something – *someone* – to make us whole. We need our Savior! Our lives are like the empty manger awaiting the birth of Christ!”

Grief and Gratitude on Good Friday

Great griefs are like great joys: they bend time. My sister died twenty years ago. Sometimes it seems so long ago that mercifully, I can barely remember the details. Other times, those details rush back at me so sharply I have to steel myself for impact.

Suicide does that.

I can smile now at the memory of my sister. I felt disloyal the first time I did that, as though permanent grief could be the only fitting monument to her memory. Time, mercy, and God’s grace have done their work, bit by bit.

For the first time since her death, I am writing about her and about losing her. This is an anniversary, and the time is right. For years, I thought she had taken Easter away with her and left nothing behind but wreckage. Gradually I found that she left me other things: a greater appreciation for the gift of my family, and how to live with gratitude despite wounds that are bone-deep. Those aren’t compensations. They don’t cancel out anything. They are gifts nonetheless.

Continue reading

Good Works, While There’s Time

International Women’s Day is upon us again. I see the hashtag du jour is #ADayWithoutWomen, referring to a gender-based strike to show the world what happens when women bow out of work for a day.

They don’t get paid, for one thing. Those of us who don’t work on salary already knew that. To each her own, though. I’ll leave the day-without-women adherents in peace.

There’s another observance going on today, or rather a feast: the feast of St. John of God – “the Waif,” as he is described in one account of his life. He spent the last few years of his life in unstinting service to the destitute, for the love of God. My Laudate app (I do love certain bits of modern technology) advised me this morning of something the saint said:

“Labour without stopping; do all the good work you can while you still have the time.” Continue reading

Waugh on Campion

Today is the feast of St. Edmund Campion, Jesuit priest and English Elizabethan martyr. His story was told in 1935 by Evelyn Waugh, better known for his fiction, chief of which in my estimation is Brideshead Revisited.  Waugh wrote in the Preface to Saint Edmund Campion that he was not attempting a scholar’s approach to his subject.

All I have sought to do is to select incidents which strike a novelist as important and to put them into a narrative which I hope may prove readable. The facts are not in dispute so I have left the text unencumbered by notes or bibliography. It should  be read as a simple, perfectly true story of heroism and holiness.

I’m marking the saint’s feast by re-reading Waugh’s book about him. When we think of English Catholic martyrs nowadays, I think most thoughts turn to St. Thomas More – a man worth remembering, to be sure. Campion more than holds in own in such company. His apologia to the Queen’s Privy Council as he was undergoing persecution is provided by Waugh as a final chapter, too important to be designated an appendix. These are Campion’s own words, written as he knew his execution by the anti-Catholic government was a foregone conclusion:

And touching our Societie, be it known to you that we have made a league – all the Jesuits in the world, whose succession and multitude must overreach all the practices of England – cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood. So the Faith was planted; so it must be restored.

…I have no more to say but to recommend your case and mine to Almightie God, the Searcher of Hearts, who send us His grace, and set us at accord before the day of payment, to the end we may at last be friends in Heaven, when all injuries shall be forgotten.

My edition of Saint Edmund Campion is a reprint from Sophia Institute Press from about twenty years ago; I’m sorry that the book is no longer listed in the publisher’s online catalog. Amazon.com steps into the breach with at least two editions.

Writing in the mid-1930s, Waugh in his Preface to Campion wrote presciently about how the sixteenth-century martyr would speak to us in our own day.

We have seen the Church driven underground in one country after another. The martyrdom of Father [now Blessed] Pro in Mexico re-enacted Campion’s. In fragments and whispers we get news of other saints in the prison camps of eastern and southeastern Europe, of cruelty and degradation more frightful than anything in Tudor England and of the same pure light shining in the darkness, uncomprehended. The hunted, trapped, murdered priest is amongst us again, and the voice of Campion comes to us across the centuries as though he were walking at our side.

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“Advancing the Freedom to Serve”: Archbishop Lori has ideas for the next President

The Obamacare HHS contraceptive mandate prompted the American Catholic bishops a few years ago to speak unanimously in strong terms about the policy’s undermining of religious liberty. Since then, the bishops’ conference has made a point of trying to keep the Catholic faithful apprised of our religious freedoms and some threats those freedoms are facing.

If you tweet, follow @usccbfreedom. If you prefer email, sign up at usccb.org/freedom. Read what Archbishop Lori of Baltimore published today via Catholic News Service about steps the incoming federal Administration can do to respect the rights of all Americans to practice their faith at all times, not just an hour a week inside a designated building.

President-elect Trump has the opportunity to ensure that people of all faiths can continue to do their good work in serving their communities without having to violate their consciences or face crippling fines or onerous lawsuits. Our hope is that the next administration will ensure that Americans remain free to serve.

Read the full post for the steps Archbishop Lori recommends. Repeal of the contraceptive mandate is just one of them.