Topics of Crunching

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Daily Mass and the Ascension: Going to church "just because"

19 And the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sits on the right hand of God. 20 But they going forth preached every where: the Lord working withal, and confirming the word with signs that followed. (Mk. 16:19-20)
50 And he led them out as far as Bethania: and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, whilst he blessed them, he departed from them and was carried up to heaven. 52 And they adoring went back into Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they were always in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen. (Lk. 24:50-52)
2 until the day on which, giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the apostles whom he had chosen, he was taken up — 3 to whom also he showed himself alive after his passion, by many proofs, for forty days appearing to them, and speaking of the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:2-3)

Ascension of Christ (Dali)

Church Services for Ascention
This year (and, if I'm not mistaken, every year) in the United States, Roman Catholics celebrate Ascension Thursday on Sunday because the US Conference of Catholic Bishops - USCCB - has moved the Solemnity to Sunday. Normally, this feast day is a Holy Day of Obligation, meaning that Catholics treat it as we would (read: should) every Sunday, by attending Mass and refraining from work and unnecessary activities that detract the day's holy nature. Why is the celebration moved? I have heard the explanation that Holy Days of Obligation are often moved to Sunday in the US to consolidate two days of obligatory Mass into one. Thus, the faithful are not obliged to attend Mass more than once that week. Since it's a big no-no (cardinal sin) to miss Mass, it's important that the Church is clear that you aren't required to attend on Thursday. There are, of course, days that you are required to attend church outside of Sunday (most seem centered around Christmas and Easter), but it seems that for many of these feasts, the USCCB makes an effort to move the obligation and make it easier for parishioners to meet the expectation.

Attending when you don't have to
I was blessed to be able to attend a daily Mass on Thursday, and I do mean blessed. My return to work has allowed me that little freedom. It is a true pleasure to go to Mass during the week! I've spent nearly 3 year struggling through Sunday Mass with little one(s), unable to focus on anything other than keeping them still and quiet. Often, I wondered why I was even there - I didn't hear the homily, I didn't remember the readings, and my hurried prayer to confess sins seemed (though I was assured otherwise) insufficient to allow me communion. It was knowing that my family's presence was still of great benefit to us that kept me in the pew each Sunday - all the way through the recession (I think it's important to thank the host of a dinner party and not just bolt out as soon as dessert is over). 

As time progressed, I saw fruit from "muscling through" each week. My older child has grown accustomed to the quiet discipline (or at least semi-discipline) that Mass requires, and I believe that her weekly exposure to the experience is credited, at least in part, for the obvious influence of Christ in her life. At only 3 years old, she talks about Jesus multiple times of day without being prompted, is greatly comforted by prayer, and can recognize Christ, Mary, and St. Michael in paintings. It's also helpful for me to remember that the trials of going through church are refining for my character and soul, since being a mother is my greatest calling, even my vocation from God.

Traditional Ascension Icon
Why go to Church in the first place?
It's a very popular idea that we should "get something out of going to church." The notion of "being fed" by the content of a worship service is a wonderful one, but I earnestly believe it is not a deal breaker. Yes, we should be fed (Jn 21:15), but we do not worship for us. We worship for Him. If you are going to a Sanctuary to receive, there is a real element of selflessness missing from your relationship with God.

I say all this to point out that I went to church, even when the entire time was spend bouncing from pew to cry room to parking lot, tending crying infants or fetching my little pony from three rows up or worrying about the incessant ruckus. I'm glad I went. But man, it's nice to go to daily Mass while my sweet, wonderful, boisterous babies are in daycare.

The real blessing of worship
So often, I take these little things for granted. It's easy to do - very human, very natural. Thank God that he reminds me of the value of those small blessings in subtle ways. I know that, this week, I was not obliged to go to Mass on Thursday, but wow - it was really a pleasure to go anyway.

  1. "All About Ascension Day,",
  2. "Home," United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,
  3. "Feast of the Ascension," Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

For the love of Gaeilge (Irish)

From Far Beyond Designs

Three phrases that hubby found here that I love. I'm not a big fan of simply reposting, but with my new goal to learn as much Irish as my mind will absorb (which is shamefully little) I am trying to expose myself to as much as possible.

PHRASE: cuimhnigh i gconai
PRONOUNCED: cweeve-nee ih go-nee
MEANING: Always remember 

 PHRASE: Is fearr Gaeilge briste, na Bearla cliste
PRONOUNCED: iss far gale-geh brishteh naw bear-elh clish-teh
MEANING: Broken Irish is better than clever English 

 PHRASE: Ni tir gan teanga
PRONOUNCED: nee tier gon tyan-geh
MEANING: No nation/land without a language

Deployment Survivor: Confessions of a Military Spouse

From Far Beyond Designs
After nearly 10 years of active duty service in the Army, my family will exit military life around this time next year. This has been our decision for over 2 years now, and so far we have no second thoughts. As a military wife of 7 years (on Monday!), I know that is taboo. For those in the fray, married to "lifers," (Soldiers who plan to retire after 20+ years) or for those who left military life to face troubles, my optimism may be taken the wrong way. Please be assured that my perspective is only a realization that is right for me, my children, my marriage, my Soldier and my lot in life. I know it's not like that for everyone.

There are a lot of reasons we are leaving but one factor is so large in our decision that it practically eclipses all others. Deployment. Together, my husband and I have weathered 3 deployments to Iraq. Separations up to 15 months at a time, not to mention trips to train "in the field" and away from home for a month or more at least once a year. All told, in our first 5 years of marriage, we spent about 65% of it apart. And I'm here to say today that it was awful.

There was a time when I would have scoffed at the paragraph above. In the midst these separations, I thought these kind of comments were weak. What good did it do to think that way? Man up. Dig in your heels and play the hand that was dealt to you. But in the past 2 years since his last deployment, as we get further and further from the possibility of another year apart, I've begun to see how injured I was (and am) by those thoughts. And I see now how much I, like my husband, carry the emotional and mental scars of war.

I don't say this for pity. That is, I promise, the very last thing I'm after. In fact, I may have held onto these thoughts for too long because I didn't want any sympathy at all. There are too many who lost too much. I will not claim any right to this country's limited sympathy pangs for their sake. Moreover, I don't really want anyone to share in my pain. It's mine - it's one of the only things I got from that experience. I hold onto the pain because it reminds me that I did something great once - something most people won't. I keep it private, safe, and to myself. I bet there's more than one person out there that understands that.

From Far Beyond Designs
So why am I finally writing this? Why have I chosen to write publicly? Because if I had read this 2 years ago, 4 years ago, 7 years ago... Maybe. Maybe I wouldn't struggle with anxiety when someone wants to hug me. Maybe I wouldn't see the stars and stripes as a bittersweet image. Maybe I wouldn't worry that it is only a matter of time before all my husband's good fortune catches up to him. Maybe so much of my life wouldn't be about fear, jaded hopes, and learning to be hard.

The small, high-schoolesque military community where we spent most of our marriage is coming up on a milestone. The same unit that I watched deploy twice with my husband is preparing to go again. We have been in a new duty station for a long time now, but I still have friends there. I see their online photos of farewells, of fathers holding new babies that will be toddlers when they return, of yellow ribbons and combat gear and tears. That's how I know I'm not over all this - because each photo, each military wife's prayer posted on a profile, each family readiness event invitation - it brings every bit of those old feelings back.

I see things so differently now. I said that there was a time when I would have thought that this post was weak. Sentimentality, better left unsaid. Shame on me for thinking that. There are too many people that will have to say goodbye again. There are even some who will say goodbye without the relieving joy of the hello. Do not confuse me. You are the unsung hero, and I can do nothing but say thank you for what you do each day.

But maybe there's someone out there who is growing hard. Maybe there's someone out there who is just now discovering how hard they've become. If there is, you aren't alone. What you're doing is unendingly difficult, and I ask you not to forget that. It's not the kind of difficult that people talk about when they tell you "I don't know how you do it," or "I could never go through that." It's the kind of difficult that you don't have a choice about. But you do have a choice to keep feeling. Keep feeling. Don't make my mistake. Better a year of hurting than a lifetime of numbness.

Are you a deployment survivor? Do you cringe at the sight of a chaplain in dress uniform? Does a flag folded into a triangle cause your stomach to drop? Do you avoid the news, politics, and even the outside world at times, so that you can live without thinking every second about your loved one? I did. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to just take a moment, stop all the noise I filled my life with and breathe.

You, dear Warrior's Bride, are a beautiful creature. You are worth more each day that you suffer. Let your hurt be a song, and let it be in harmony with all those who walk beside you on this road. You aren't alone. Somewhere, I know, there is someone who understands.