Holy Homerun

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Recently, a friend candidly shared with me her worries about the amount of faith her son was getting in our Catholic school. It concerned her that every single subject was neatly tied to Catholicism. She expressed frustration that it all funnels back to the faith.

“Religion in Phys. Ed.?! I mean, are they just peddling the Catholic kool-aid?”

This was my chance. Very rarely in life do you get lobbed the absolute perfect pitch, just standing at the ready, anticipating the moment you are about to connect with the sweet spot. While I didn’t share this mom’s concern AT ALL,  I understood it completely. More than understood it, I had lived it. Growing up, I picked up on the mistaken and misguided message that our Catholic faith was something that we trotted out for religion class and at Sunday mass, but once you entered the parking lot, AKA real life, all bets were off. You hopefully lived life as a decent human being—read: good enough, but not aiming all too high, making sure not to murder or maim, intentionally anyway. Under this pervasive philosophy of Catholic-lite Christianity, the faith never truly informs the ins and outs of day-to-day-life. People whose lives were always guided by faith, we called priests, nuns or just plain cuh-razy.

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Stalked By A Saint

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I noticed her eyes immediately. They seemed to be following me. I was in a meeting, explaining something when mid-sentence—Zap! Poof… everything I was saying magically evaporated.

Awkward silence. “I’m sorry. I just had a senior moment,” I heard myself saying to excuse my inexplicable, abrupt absent-mindedness. She responded with mild laughter, but I just swallowed and tried to reorient myself.

The Parish staffer with whom I was meeting had a smattering of photos on her wall, some I recognized as famous 20th-century saints, others not at all. But there was one black and white headshot of a young woman that seemed to be imploring me to look back. As I gained my composure, I found myself continually drawn to those familiar, heavily-lidded eyes. Each time we experienced a lull in the conversation, my gaze landed on that photo. While I had undoubtedly never seen the young woman before this moment, I was strangely convinced I knew her.

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Weeping on Easter

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Photo by: Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Without fail, the tears start welling up at almost the exact same time. It’s always Easter Mass. I could set my watch to it, but I’d never dare because the annoying alarm would draw even more attention at a time I’d prefer to simply disappear. Like it or not, there’s no stemming the tide of my mounting emotions. I bow my head and clench my eyes shut hoping no one around me notices. Usually, I get by without drawing too much attention to my red nose and watery eyes. But occasionally my reaction is so intense, a series of muffled involuntary sniffles gives me away. The kids or my husband will look at me with startled questioning eyes. My children especially probe my face with their intense, troubled looks. To lessen their worry, I flash a huge toothy smile and roll my eyes to let them know I’m fine—not only fine, I’m overcome with sheer joy. These are tears of complete happiness.

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Can I get fries with that?

My oldest brother is not a cook. His idea of homemade is the “take & go” rotisserie chicken from Costco. When he’s channeling his inner Bobby Flay, he shreds it, adds some mayo and voila—chicken salad!

And this guy can put it away! His bean-pole stature is very misleading. You’d think he got by on a steady diet of saltine crackers and water. In actuality, his appetite is legendary, at least in the circles of our extended family where a hearty appetite is a highly-sought accolade. When we were teenagers, I recall an instance after a gluttonous Thanksgiving feast. While my mom bustled in the kitchen doing clean up, the rest of us sat immobile, just staring at each other, eyes glazed over, contemplating the vast amounts of food consumed. Tim, however gleefully walked up the stairs and shouted, “I’m getting hungry again. Can anyone go for a Big Mac?” He was already strategizing his next culinary chess move.

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Bees & Beads

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My oldest son is a good speller. Many might even say, “a great speller.” As the woman who bore him, I put him squarely in the “great speller” camp. Heck, I’d even classify him as:

S-U-P-E-R   D-U-P-E-R

Last winter, he took part in the Denver Archdiocesan spelling bee for 4th and 5th graders. He was in the 4th grade and had never been in a contest in his life. (Unless you count the times he and his brother and sister test their skills to see who can make the loudest armpit farts. And these challenges never result in a clear winner—their fit of giggles and my shock and horror put the legitimacy of the judging into serious question.) Continue reading “Bees & Beads”

My Mother’s Eyes

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I remember my mother’s eyes. They were clear, light blue, deep-set with a faint perimeter of feathery skin that crinkled when she smiled. Those calm, translucent eyes managed to communicate so much. But her childhood snapshots were incongruent somehow. As a child myself, paging through tattered, old-fashioned, black paper photo albums, her youthful eyes seemed slanted and squinty, only faintly reminiscent of the woman I knew. I actually felt a little pity for my homely, little mommy. Her face must have needed to grow in order to accommodate such complex and interesting eyes. As she aged, the skin around the eyes became more delicate, thinner and fainter, giving her penetrating eyes a whitish, oval frame. Now, when I look back at photos of her during her mothering years, I see so much light emanating from her face. I’ve heard it said those who are filled with goodness sometimes seem as if they are shrouded in light. Her goodness radiated from the eyes. Continue reading “My Mother’s Eyes”