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My friends expect me to have something to say about the recent Vatican report on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Something, perhaps, about the hierarchical Church’s obsessive need for power and control. Or maybe a few words about the incessant infantilization of women. Even a cheap jab about how a German world leader droning on and on about conformity and obedience makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end…but no. I just can’t.

This is not to say that I’ve been worn down. Not at all. There is no human on Earth who could — even with an official excommunication — tear me away from my faith. I am a Catholic because I believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, because I need the sacraments in my life, because it makes sense to me. But the Church of my faith and the Church as the body of Christ are not, and never have been, synonymous with the hierarchical Church, who are simply men — mortal, imperfect, struggling men.

I would not like to be in their shoes. Their “crucial” issues are, for the most part, “crotchal” issues: abortion, contraception, homosexuality. It seems a weird area to concentrate on in light of larger issues, like war, injustice, and poverty. Moreover, it feels like just another way to exert control over personal, private bodily functions. There are things that ought to be left up one’s own sense of right and wrong. Whatever happened to primacy of conscience?

It must be sad to be so bound up in the maintenance of an aging, obsolete power structure that you have to pick on nuns. All I can find in my heart is pity. It’s too bad. I could have written a really terrific post about this mess.

5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
7 My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
8 Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

There’s a commercial for a birth-control product called Mirena that irritates and fascinates me.  A harried mother, hands full (of one child and what looks to be a professionally-decorated home) moves from room to room looking stern as her toddler finds trouble.

Somehow, this kid has been left alone long enough to paint his whole body, to scatter records (records?) all over the room and to have turned on the record player.  In the last scene, the child has wrapped himself in toilet paper, and we see him tearing down the hall as mom stands by, shaking her head.

They’re saying simultaneously kids are so cute and are you sure you want to do this?

I learned this lesson recently when my son’s friend dropped by with his brand new puppy.  His father dropped them off and asked if the puppy could visit as well, saying, “He’s no bother.”

The boys were inert, induced into a semi-coma by some video game, so it fell to me to take care of the puppy.  It was great fun for the first half hour, at which point I gathered (based on empirical evidence and forensics) that the sweet pup was not yet housebroken.  No bother?  Hm.  Swiffer mop to the rescue.

I took the pup out to my yard to do his business (which I’d have to clean up later.  No bother!) then brought him back in to sit quietly as I worked on a post.  Sit quietly?  What was I thinking.  He’s a puppy, so he raced around, barked a bit, got hold of my scarf and tore at it playfully.  No bother! By the end of the night, I was plum-tuckered and ready to hit the hay.

So the next day, my son’s friend came to the door, and I saw his dog expectantly hanging out the back window of the family car.  That puppy was so cute I almost forgot how much work it had been last time.  But when he asked, “Can I bring my puppy, Miss Ruth?”  I didn’t blink.  “Not this time, honey.”

Sometimes we want to make sure everyone else is happy, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  But if it’s at your own expense, you should do a quick Soul Inventory.

□ Do I have to do this?

□ Do I want to do this?

□ Does it sap my energy?

And the big one:

□ Do I get something out of this?

It’s not unkind to ask what’s in it for you when someone asks you a favor.  If you feel taken advantage of or put-upon in some way, there is no shame in saying “not today” to what someone else wants you to do, even if they tell you it’s “no bother.”  Doing the right thing is a way of life, and it has to start at home.

Holy Lord,
So many times
I would limit
your involvement
in the world
around me.

Help me instead
to see Your Hand
in all things
from the level of individual cells
to celestial spheres.

You are in All.

All is in You.

If only I can open my eyes
and truly see.


It never ceases to amaze me. When did we, as a society, lose sight of the fact that you could be both a Christian and a science geek? Did you know that Charles Darwin, he who can make a creationist foam at the mouth, was in fact a Presbyterian minister?

Read that again slowly.

Presbyterian Minister.


Admittedly, he may have been schooled in one (divinity) and called to the other (science), but he certainly embodied both.

Meet another scientist who does the same. Alexander Tsiaras is a mathematician and author. He is created a new scanning/imaging system. Initially developed for use in the aerospace industry, he has used it to study human development.

This isn’t a short video but take the time to watch it. You will see amazing, awe inspiring things. How can you see things like this and not see the hand of God at work? Science and God. They don’t have to exist independently.


Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.
Proverbs 10:19 NIV

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 12:18 NIV

He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
Proverbs 17:9 NIV

Center me, Lord,
as I bob and weave,
thrust and parry.

If I just stop these motions of conflict,
I might find the war is already over.

Calm me, Lord,
as I hold onto hurts
and antique grudges.

If I put the past behind me and stay in today,
I might just find the present really is a gift.

Craft me, Lord,
as I haggle with You
to remain where I am.

If I put my life in Your Hands,
I might just find I’m becoming more
than I ever imagined I could be.

Once upon a time, Charlotte and Renee took a trip to Nantucket. No, this isn’t the beginning of some risqué limerick.  Check your gutter-brain at the door, please.  This is a prayer blog!

But back to our tale.  They’d been old friends since before Charlotte’s marriage to Evil Harold.  Even prior to Renee’s twenty-year relationship with a singer in a Zydeco band who loved her daughter like his own.

Something went awry on this particular trip and they had a falling-out.  When they got back to central Jersey, word of the ballistic blow-out spread like wildfire.

Then the cold war began.  They refused to be in the same room with each other.  We started to have to see them in shifts.  Charlotte at brunch on Sunday at the Cajun place; Renee at the corner bar for cocktails later that same night.

“You won’t believe what that witch did to me,” Charlotte said in a theatrical stage whisper.  “Girl, let me tell you all the dirt….” And she did.  She told her version of events, all right.  To me, to all our friends, to the UPS guy, to the cashier at the market.  She told the world how she’d been wronged, in graphic detail and colorful language.  At the end of her spiel, you’d have thought Renee was evil incarnate.

By contrast, Renee said this. “In order to keep both of our reputations sterling, I will not be commenting on the matter.”  This is a true story, and that is what my friend said, verbatim.  The only thing I’ve changed is the names to protect the innocent, the guilty, the dramatic and the diplomatic.

I guess I’ll never know the truth of what happened on the trip, but I’m inclined to believe Renee, since she was so circumspect.  I’m sure there was an argument and they’re both strong-willed, so I know words were said.

Making a mistake is excusable.  Handling the aftermath can be combustible.  Here’s to taking the high road even when others try to drive you off the road and out of their lives.  No matter how much dirt they try to throw on you, it’s up to you to keep your own karma clean.

Be not far from me,

for trouble is near,

and there is none to help.

Many bulls encompass me;

strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

they open wide their mouths at me,

like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,

and all my bones are out of joint;

my heart is like wax;

it is melted within my breast;

my strength is dried up like a potsherd,

and my tongue sticks to my jaws;

you lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs encompass me;

a company of evildoers encircles me;

they have pierced my hands and feet—

I can count all my bones—

they stare and gloat over me;

they divide my garments among them,

and for my clothing they cast lots.

But you, O Lord, do not be far off!

O you my help, come quickly to my aid!

Deliver my soul from the sword,

my precious life from the power of the dog!

Save me from the mouth of the lion!

You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

I account my woes anatomically. I know that churning feeling in my stomach is worry — worry about my sister who is suffering, and my mother who, like me, holds her troubles inside instead of hanging them out for everyone to see, like a clothesline of consternation. It makes my mother unwell, too, and at her age, that’s a problem. Me, I’m young. I’ve got plenty of years of worry left in me.

I keep thinking about Psalm 22, particularly the line that says, “I can count all my bones.” I would have to be considerable thinner to count my bones, but I still relate to the line. My problems are under my skin, so deep that sometimes I forget them. My stomach hurts, so I must be worried about something. What was it? Oh yeah. Count those bones.

And yes, I know, worry is an unnecessary emotion. I think SueBE once said, “It’s like praying for something you don’t want.” Not just a waste of time, but self-defeating, too. I don’t want to pray for something I don’t want. But try telling my stomach that.

It’s not easy shifting faith from soul to tummy. My tummy doesn’t reason well, for one thing. But then I recall that Psalm 22 doesn’t say, “Just stop worrying.” It says, “Get it out.” Yell! Cry! Craft insane metaphors about bulls that are really like lions! Call on God because you can. You don’t have to suck it all in.

So that’s what I’m gonna do. Hey! God! I know there’s not that much on my plate, not compared to many other people who are suffering far more than I. But I’m small, and I’m selfish, and I’m scared. You, of all people, know that. So please, send me some succor. Soothe my sore tummy with some answers and a big ol’ splash of hope. And help my mom and my sis and all the rest of us who internalize our troubles to give up hoarding and let them all out. There’ll be an awful racket, but you have big ears. You can handle it.


Have a Mary Little Christmas

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