A few months ago, I resurrected a craft that makes use of recycled greeting cards. I had bought a couple ornaments at a crafts fair and had taken them apart to figure out how to make them myself. I have added some extra decorations and personal touches to what I now call “categornaments,” and have really gotten into making them again. Each ornament has a particular category—for example, deer, birds, Nativity scenes, children, and dogs. Needless to say, I am limited by the subject matter of the cards I happen to have. Each ornament requires 20 circular pictures.
I was taught brainstorming in high school as an aid to answering essay questions on exams or assignments requiring creative writing. It is a very useful problem-solving tool. We just storm our brains to list items on a certain topic and then work from there.
Of course, one thought led me to another, and I started considering just how much we all categorize things, sometimes unintentionally. When we are faced with challenging situations, our brains start going up and down the list of possible solutions.
Brainstorming for certain categories can be helpful in our spiritual life, too. Certainly, it helps with examining our conscience at the end of the day so that we can humbly tell our Lord any sins we may have committed. On the positive side, we can also categorize all the little daily blessings we have enjoyed and thank him for them, one by one.
So, like a lot of other people, we have to watch Moonstruck every six months or so.
Someone asked me, how can you watch the same movie over and over again? I said, because every time I watch it, I notice things that I didn’t see before. This time, for instance, I noticed that, in that movie, there are several messages for Ash Wednesday and Lent.
One of those messages is in a remark that Rose Castorini makes to her husband:
“Cosmo … I just want you to know that, no matter what you do, you’re going to die, just like everybody else.”
To which he replies, “Thank you, Rose.”
And, of course, that’s what the ashes remind us of today. The liturgy provides two formulas for the minister to use when applying the ashes. The one used most often these days is, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel,” but the old classic that is still used in some places confirms Rose Castorini’s statement: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” — you’re going to die, just like everybody else.
I have seen plenty of snow over the years here in Connecticut, including the past couple of weeks. After the recent accumulations, several snowmen have appeared, and they got me to thinking about what a Lenten snowman might be like.
The bottom section of such a snowman would have to be a good foundation so that it could hold up the rest of the body. During Lent, we are reminded in the readings at liturgies of many of the truths that are the foundation of our gift of faith concerning the Kingdom of God. For example, in St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians (6:2) we read about what God has said:
“‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’ See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!”
So God’s gift of salvation through Jesus is our firm foundation. We will also be reading about Christ proclaiming Peter as the rock, the foundation, on which Jesus is building his Church (Matthew 16). And in Chapter 6 of Matthew’s Gospel, we receive a wonderful foundational prayer—Lord’s Prayer.
There I sat on the stage. I was dressed in my green uniform jumper and white blouse, clip bow tie on my blouse collar, and green knee socks. I was chosen from my fifth-grade class to be in a religion bee. I had committed to memory the answers from my Baltimore Catechism so that I could fare well in competition with students from other nearby Catholic schools. I was ready.
Upon reading about St. Jerome Emiliani (1481-1537), whose memorial is celebrated in the liturgy today, I learned that he is credited with developing the “question-and-answer catechism technique” to teach children religion. A great protector of orphans, St. Jerome apparently never fell short in taking care of the needs of the poor and needy.
Thanks to St. Jerome, I did pretty well in the spelling bee, but I honestly don’t recall who won—probably not me. What I do remember is that I grew up knowing there were many laws and commandments I had to obey. I did go through a period of scrupulosity as a young teen. I got lost in the mountain of laws and prescriptions and, being a very conscientious and detail-oriented person, I found it difficult to be grateful for the underlying truth and love taught by the laws.
Dane was a big girl. She sat behind me on the school bus that transported us to a private high school in a nearby town. My cousin, Donna, was sitting next to me. I don’t recall what I said to Dane or what exactly provoked her, but, to my surprise, she grabbed the two ends of my winter scarf that was draped around my neck and proceeded to pull. I don’t think she was trying to end my life or even injure me, but she certainly scared me.
Dane was twice my size and probably did not realize her own strength. I poked Donna and she reached over and freed me from my predicament. I suffered no ill after-effects from the incident, but when my mother saw the remaining irritation mark on my neck when I got home from school, she had quite a phone conversation with Dane’s mother. Needless to say, I did not sit in front of Dane on the bus after that.
What brought that incident to my mind? Well, February 3, the memorial of St. Blaise, is the day we Catholics have our throats blessed in church. St. Blaise, a doctor and bishop of Sebastea, in what is now Turkey, is credited with having saved a child who was choking on a fishbone. Saints & Angels Catholic Online tells us that St. Blaise was a “physician of souls” and a “beast tamer” as well.
The Old Testament book of Tobit is interesting. As I see it, Tobit, progressed through about six life journeys before dying at a very old age. He certainly had a prayerful relationship with God; in the short book, we read his heartfelt prayers in chapters 3, 11, and 13.
Before Tobit was taken into captivity, with other Israelites, from Thisbe to Nineveh, he lived a life full of virtue and works of charity. He followed the law of Moses and was very generous with any money he could amass.
Once Tobit was taken to Nineveh, he courageously expedited the burials any of his people the king had ordered executed. Tobit faithfully performed numerous corporal works of mercy for his tribal brethren. However, one night, after burying one of his own people, his journey into blindness began after he fell asleep by a courtyard wall; his eyes were covered with sparrow droppings that produced white films that obscured his vision.
As my husband and I were out running an errand, we came upon a woman who had stopped her car on the side of a busy road. She was looking up at a nearby tree. There, on a branch, was perched a beautiful bald eagle. He was quite a sight to see.
In the colder New England weather, we often see vultures warming themselves as they sit on chimneys and rooftops near where we live. My husband and I do a vulture count on cold mornings if we happen to be out and about. This morning, the vulture count was very high! They were even populating the trees a couple of blocks from our house.
Vultures, eagles, sparrows, ostriches, and plenty of other birds are mentioned in the Bible; if you were to conduct an online topic search, you might be surprised at how many!
For some reason, the story of Jonah and his three days and three nights inside a great big fish inspired some comparisons with life circumstances today. Hmm! Does that sound odd? Let’s think about it.
My husband and I have been somewhat quarantined in our house since last March. Yes, we go out for a few errands now and then, but most of our time is spent inside the belly of our house. So far, we have been safe from the COVID virus waves. Praise God, who has blessed us with resources, retirement, health, and stability.
I went to the Bible and reread the Book of Jonah and found a great deal to consider. Whether we believe that this account is just a teaching story or a description of a truly interesting miracle, the reread was worth the time. Allow me to share.
Over the past ten months, I have limited my going to stores, churches, and entertainment venues. Consequently, I have had a lot more free time around my house. When I need a change of environment, depending on the weather, I take a walk around my neighborhood. I have revisited my conclusion that I take so many things for granted and that I need to be mindful of all the things I can do, even though there is a pandemic virus threatening. So a walk around a few blocks helps me to clear my head and focus on positivity; and my doctor encourages me to exercise often for my physical health.
Have we ever considered other opportunities a stroll can provide? If I am walking alone, I have the chance to pray the rosary or some other personal prayers. I find prayers of gratitude pop into my head as I observe beautiful clouds or hear sweet birds’ songs. I am reminded of how grateful I am to have the strength, balance, and flexibility to be able to walk; yet, I see happy people gliding along very successfully in wheelchairs and enjoying what outdoors has to offer them.
And I never know whom I might meet as I amble around the familiar streets. At times, God gives me chances to smile and greet others, and maybe even share brief conversations that could brighten others’ days or help solve little problems.