This one's for you Bridge Building BFF
Let me tell you about St. Francis of Assisi in Hamilton, Montana. This is the church where I grew up as the first cradle Catholic in my family. My parents, brother and sister all came into the Roman Catholic Church just before I was born. My mom was the main reason they all joined. She, as an atheist, figured out one day that even if she believed with all her heart that something was true, that didn't make it true. This thought led her on a search for Truth and Truth found her.
She was blessed to have been introduced to Catholicism in a very traditional way (no R.C.I.A.). She sat down with the priest once a week and he taught her the basics of the faith in a very matter-of-fact way, nothing touchy feely. I imagine, to him this business of the Faith was a serious thing and he knew, because it is something we believe as Catholics, that God can be discovered by reason alone. This is how my mom discovered Him, or rather how He let her discover Him. That wise and traditional priest was tucked in the very small, very Catholic town of Cottonwood Idaho. Soon after my mom's entrance into the Catholic Church, my family moved to Montana and then I was born.
In those days just after the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church went through a major metamorphosis. It was supposedly a chance for the Church to enter into the modern world, to open up the doors and let the air in. It became a sort of psychedelic free fall into something that did not resemble the almost 2,000 year old historical Church. Mass, the primary place to worship God, which before this time was full of candles, incense, bells and reverence, became something very strange and very different than what it had been.
I grew up as a folksy Catholic. Our main instrument in the choir was a banjo. We sang songs that were fun and we sometimes clapped and even danced. The sign of peace was a party. There was glad handing and the priest ventured down the isle and back again sure to kiss all the babies and all the old ladies kissed him. St. Francis of Assisi is a very old, historical building, but I never saw the stained glass windows or the, what I've been told was, a gorgeously ornate wooden alter. Instead, the windows were a the then modern color of olive green and the altar, get this, the alter was Plexiglas. I understand now what the alter really is, it's the place where the priests offers the sacrifice of the Mass. He makes present again the sacrifice of Christ on the cross using bread and wine. That bread and wine then becomes the body and blood of Jesus taken from the past and given to us in the present. Plexiglas for that??? It does not make any sense. Not only was it Plexiglas, it was not in the center. It was to the left while the ambo, where the Word of God is read was equal to it on the right. And...and the tabernacle was moved off to a side chapel. Only a little votive lamp indicated the presence of our Eucharistic Lord and I was never really even taught what that meant.
I grew up with a happy, clappy, Catholicism devoid of any real meaning other than we knew we were Christians by our love (whatever that meant) and we let out lights shine for all the world to see (huh?) and Jesus was my big brother and I made collages about Him Sunday school. Sadly, because my parents were converts, they were completely unaware of what was happening. Also, at the same time there was a powerful move of the Holy Spirit (the Charismatic movement). They were involved in that and I can say that is what saved them and what saved me.
Over the years of my life and learning about my Faith, I have come to discover the real historical gem that it is. Over all its long history, until my lifetime, the Mass itself had hardly changed. Although I had been told it needed the change because it was stuffy, dark and stodgy, by changing the Mass so much and bringing the modern world into it, it has lost its timeless quality. When I walk into my childhood church, the ascetics are now out of date. The olive green windows need to be updated like orange kitchen counter in our first house. The music that used to seem so hip and fun, now seems silly and so 1980's. Gag me with a spoon.
When I walked into the ancient cathedrals of Europe, I did not once think, This place is so old fashioned, it's time to remodel. Oh my gosh, I can't believe they still have that crucifix from the year 500, that's so dated. It's the same when I hear the ancient music of the Church. Wow, this Gregorian chant is so out-of-date and that giant organ needs to be thrown out and replaced with a drum set and electric guitar.
No! It's the timelessness of the Church that has brought it through two millennia. There is a coherent and incredibly rich lineage in the Catholic Mass. What were those crazy hippies thinking? Probably not much since Mary Jane was a big part of their lives and I don't mean those cute shoes with a strap. I need some of those. They are classic. That's just it, classic is good. Classic lasts. Classic is not an alter made of of Plexiglass and the beautiful, gold tabernacle shoved to the side.
Over time, many of us in the Church have been on a slow and steady rediscovery of traditional Catholicism. More and more, while learning the meaning and history of so many things in the Church, we have begun to cringe at the "new" stuff (new meaning 1970's because churches can't keep up with the pace of the modern world). With the latest scandals in the Church, we now not just cringe, but outright despise what has happened to Holy Mother Church. We long for a time when we can worship as our ancient brothers and sisters did. When the priest again has his back turned to us and offers the sacrifice of the Mass to God for us. When we all come together to worship God, not to hold hands and hug. When we can again present to God our best music, our best art and our best dressed selves.
While Pope Benedict the XVI was still our pope, he gave some sort of allowance for people to have Masses said in the old Latin Rite. I thought, Oh that's nice for the old people who miss that kind of Mass. Little did I know that the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) would start to be popular, not just with the old fogies, but with young families with children who spilled out of the pews. Yet, this is happening all over the United States, possibly the world. If you want to see young Catholics, go to a TLM. There you will see pretty moms in chapel veils bouncing rosy cheeked babies and handsome dads in button down shirts holding restless toddlers on their hips. Often it's a stark difference in a "new" Mass where the ever-aging baby boomers find an awesome social club for themselves and increasingly squeeze out the young with their old fashioned ideas, decor and music (aakkk).
The whole reason for this post was for me to tell you about what I did today. I, for the first time in my life, went to a TLM! I walked in to a beautiful church, new but built to be timeless. The altar was not to the side and not Plexiglass. It was beautiful white marble and the tabernacle was directly behind it. The people were assembled already in prayer, no chit chat or snack and chat. It was quiet and reverent.
During the Mass, I admit I did have a hard time concentrating. I'm not used to the priest saying and doing everything and only the alter servers giving the response. Even though I couldn't hear anything, it was in Latin, so I guess it didn't matter. This is how Catholics used to worship, I thought. It's beautiful, reverent, and a little boring. I missed being able to sing and say the creed among other things. But, what amazed me was that my kids didn't hate it and I think, with time and more experience, I could grow to love it. Our eyes were full with the beautiful church, the priests vestments and deliberately decorated altar with tall gold candles and Lenten purples, our ears were full with the angelic chants, timely bells and ancient prayers and responses (although quiet). Amazingly, the wiggly kids in the pews somehow knew, it seemed, that something important was happening here as they stayed quietly respectful. I guess maybe this is what it feels like when time and eternity collide.
I have some unlearning to do. My Norvus Ordo upbringing taught me to place a heavy reliance on my emotions and feelings to judge my faith. Admittedly, my emotions and feelings were not engaged today, but I'm left with the sense that, yes, I'll try that again. Next time I'd like to have a better guide for where I am in the Mass (what the priest is doing or saying). I'll read the readings ahead of time. I'll take my rosary for the long silences. I'll get better at settling in and being present to the timelessness. And, I'll wear my chapel veil (given to me by a very special TLM lover).
(This was the first TLM in the Boise area. There were over 400 people there. Not bad!)
I was questioning my own self worth (again) the other night as I listened to some really great music. The lyrics, the feeling, everything spoke to my heart. I was overwhelmed with awe of the artist. How does she do it? How is she so talented and gifted to create something so beautiful? Inevitably the next question: Why am I so lame? Why can't I be as creative and gifted as (fill in the blank because these questions follow me whenever I see people who excel in all areas of life)?
I think what it boils down to is the age old question of human flourishing. How does one become truly happy (content, at peace, abiding in joy that runs deep)? It has something to do with following one's passions, but it's more than that. There is also the actual work that must be done. The practice of one's art. The use of one's gifts. That's the part that's hard. That's what keep me banging my head against the wall of lameness.
The people who succeed, and find fame if they want it, are inherently driven. I know this is a thing. My husband wakes up every day with a fire burning. The only thing that stops him from checking everything off his list is that pesky need for sleep (sometimes his need for food can slow him down too). I am convinced if he decided to seek fame, he would find it by his sheer determination and his tenacious spirit. Whatever he puts his mind to, he achieves.
I am not like my husband and, darn it, whole world is not made up of driven personalities. So what about the rest of us? What about those of us who languish, or those of us that are more drawn to comfort than success? St. Irenaeus of Lyons once said, "The glory of God is a man fully alive." Is it possible to be fully alive and not be driven? Is it possible to find happiness, true contentment, and be a little bit lame?
I think the answer is partly yes, and partly no. As I have said, not all of us are as driven or as talented as others. It doesn't necessarily follow that we are losers, although without the constant fire to push us to success, we have to be careful not to languish in mediocrity entirely. Each person does have a "thing" that is unique to that person. Maybe it's something great and showy, like an incredible singing voice, or it may be less showy, like a person who keeps a beautiful home that only those close to her see. Somehow we must be humble enough to recognize our own "thing" and do that thing well.
In the end, if you're like me, we need to stop beating ourselves up for not being great. Being ordinary is good too. Embrace being ordinary.
We just returned from a road trip to Montana for Thanksgiving. As a family, and even before the kids were with us, we have traveled so many miles that we can define ourselves as a Road Trip Family. Our destinations usually involve visiting family and are rarely less than seven hours. When I was a child I spent a lot of time on the roads with my parents as well. In Montana, the fourth largest state in the union, to get anywhere takes a few hours. It's just in my blood to get on the road again and I just can't wait.
All the memories of trips we've taken, especially now with the kids, makes my heart swell with gratitude. We pile in the tightly packed van with blankets, pillows, books, CD's and screens and settle in for the long haul. We try to keep the kids off the screens for long periods of time so they can look out the window or we can have lively conversations (which mostly happens at the end of the trip when my nerves are frazzled).
Road trips are also a time for reflection. Adam and I make our plans for the future over sips of Starbucks and around potholes or even herds of cattle. We also take advantage of the time together to listen to inspiring CD's (usually about Saints) and pray the rosary together. It's good for a family to get away together and our road trips provide a that time for us. It's like a mini family retreat.
I started this blog in January of 2009. That means in a couple months it will be ten years of blog bliss (I just used my fingers to count...I can't believe it has been that long!). I'm so grateful for my little corner of cyberspace where I can share my tumbled thoughts, and you are free to take or toss them.
Scattering Agates began, so I thought, as a way to communicate the contents of my brain in a cohesive way that all the world could understand. A friend at the time told me, in essence, that I think about things and they roll around my head until someone comes along and picks up my thoughts like she picked up agates on the beach. Hence the name of my blog.
At that time, I thought blogging would be the answer to my communication problems. I hoped I could scatter my thoughts, my agates, in a way I wasn't able to in conversations. Instead of incomplete thoughts with a person here and there and everywhere, I could actually complete my thoughts and make a difference in the world.
What I found by blogging (that may be a word now because my computer didn't underline it in red) was that I was still misunderstood. Eventually, I decided it didn't matter, and in the meantime, my reason for keeping a blog changed from a desire to be understood and communicate effectively to a place to continue and pursue my passion to write. Here is what I understand now, readers hear what they want or need to hear. My writing takes on a life of it's own after I hit publish. Most interestingly (to me) is when I write to vent frustrations, often readers find what I say funny. I never imagined I could be funny. I also never imagined the positive feedback I've received by scattering my thoughts.
And so I've continued on and on for ten years and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon!
It seems a little silly to be so grateful for a space to dump out the contents of my head, but I truly am. Thanks to you, my faithful readers, for sticking with me. I wonder if any of you are still with me from way back when I started (besides my mom, of course)?
I'm grateful for the completion of November Gratitude Notes. This was a task I set out to do to get myself back in the writing game. The format was good for me because it was a challenge. I intend to keep writing on a weekly basis, maybe more. It seems this writing thing really soothes my soul and I need some soul soothing. Don't we all?
~The Holy Rosary~
Oh where to start with my gratitude for the Holy Rosary? Well, for one, the picture above is my rosary and I love it for many reasons, but mostly because of the natural beads and beautiful colors. It is from company called Rugged Rosaries and I specifically bought a rosary from them because they claim to be unbreakable. Mine (like all my rosaries) broke. I had to send it back. Thankfully, it's good as new. But, that's not the reason I love the rosary.
Maybe it's best to list:
1. The rosary is very Catholic. It's not (gasp) in the Bible and so non-Catholic Christians don't get why it's such a big deal. I'm not thankful for it because it's not in the Bible and other Christians don't "get" it, just thankful for it's very Catholic identity.
2. Each of the five decades of the four different sets of mysteries (Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, Luminous) help me to recall different scenes from the life of Jesus, ironically, from the stories of him in the Bible (so it is Biblical!). I'm grateful for how the rosary helps me to recall those important moments without flipping through the Good Book and also how my imagination comes into play. Often I imagine myself in those scenes while I meditate on them.
3. I am grateful for all the different kinds of rosaries and how they range from highly functional to ornate. Each rosary has it's own personality and usually fits the person who owns it (see photo above of my rosary). It's kind of like dog owners and their dogs.
4. I love our Blessed Mother and am so thankful for her in my life as my mother in heaven loving intercessor (we call her Queen of All Saints). She is pretty central to the prayers of the rosary. In each decade we pray ten "Hail Mary's."
5. The #1 reason (I should have done a countdown) that I am grateful for the rosary and its prayers is....PEACE. Have you ever seen that bumper sticker that says, "Pray the Rosary for Peace"? It's true! In those times when our family is not at peace, when I'm not at peace, when things are scary, horrible, sad, frantic, or mean, praying the rosary brings peace. I pull out those beads and begin to pray and the demons flee.
Seventeen years ago on the 24th of this month, Adam and I were married. That happens to be one of the top five best days of my life (we have four kids). Adam and I were married about six months after we met. Those first few years were a bit of a shock as we got to know each other. Plus, Grace joined us just under a year after our wedding day. Of course Adam and I both have personality quirks and selfish tendencies, but what amazes me is how marriage and children has slowly chipped away at our pointy edges. Both of us have changed and grown over the years as we practiced the, sometimes very uncomfortable, dance of give and take.
I wouldn't say our marriage has been rocky, but it has not been easy. What I am most grateful for is our shared faith which we have depended on to get us through. When times were tough, we each had a fountain of graces to draw from that gives so much help in the hard times and it's also a place to come together in times of thanksgiving. We have stood side-by-side during the joyful times of our babies' baptisms, and have stood in line together, heads bent and hearts heavy, for confessions. In each circumstance we have come out refreshed and ready to begin again.
I'm so grateful for this day, our anniversary. It is such a joy and a privilege to be married, to have someone to walk side-by-side with to our final destination. I am especially thankful that my partner is Adam. Even though we didn't know each other very well, God knew each of us intimately, and I'm convinced it was a match made in heaven.