Exercise?! I thought you said extra fries!

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Since one of my New Year’s resolutions is to be more authentic, I admit that the fun title for this post came from a little framed art piece I spotted in the aisles of JoAnn Fabrics. While I would prefer to confess my inspiration springs from all that Kierkegaard, Tolstoy, and Shakespeare I’ve been poring over lately (NOT!) or the endless hours minutes spent in daily prayer and reflection… I’m certain God continues to seek this undeserving soul’s attention. And He will undoubtedly work with what He has. Sometimes that’s the clearance section of a big-box fabric store.

The pithy little saying painted on a rustic white-washed backdrop gave me a chuckle, not simply because they expected some schmuck to shell out $10 for a farmhouse chic clearance item, but because it struck a chord. I tend towards a contradictory mindset at this time of year since I have never been much of an exercise enthusiast. I’ve paid for gym memberships that seemed reasonably priced, but when the cost is tallied against the number of times frequented—$260 divided by three?—not such a screaming deal after all. Naturally, my sensibilities bristle against the constant barrage of media messaging: Commit to this life-altering exercise routine! Eat according to that breakthrough diet! Apply our winning strategy and corporate domination will be yours! Who says? I laughed because the annual ceremonial calendar change signals a worldly lesson on self-improvement—and we are all expected to sit up and take note. Yes, O sage 21st-century pop culture guru, speak the truth that we may all absorb it and comply. As if rock-hard abs, perfectly exfoliated skin, and a lucrative promotion are the only noble goals out there. Deep down in my soul I know that’s not true. Besides, wasn’t it St. Athanasius who said extra fries are always an inherent good? Or it could’ve been Jim Gaffigan…

This New Year’s Eve, our family attended the anticipatory Mass for the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary. The priest remarked that everyone puts an emphasis on making New Year’s resolutions to get physically fit. Yet, we Christians should know we are much more than flesh and blood. We are also mind, spirit, and soul. He wisely advised that we do something for those other aspects of our being. That doesn’t mean we neglect our bodies. Taking care of the tabernacle that houses His spirit is important. But our lives should not be ordered to that single goal which is so fleeting. We must branch out and seek what stirs our minds and souls. We must be directed to wholeness as humans. Last time I checked, having a hot bod was not a requirement for holiness.

Our sincere, thoughtful priest challenged us to make a better New Year’s resolution. He suggested we turn to Mary who we rightly celebrate as the mother of our Lord. She will always point us to Christ. Some years ago, before my faith had been rekindled, I was invited to participate in a mom’s rosary group, but I had an actual aversion to the rosary. “It’s soooooo boring!” Those mumbling old biddies in the back of the church who frankly scared the crap out of me were always grasping beads. The last time I had prayed the rosary I was in the sixth grade. Did I even know how? I also had a deep desire to connect with other moms who were losing their minds nursing babies and chasing after toddlers, so I reluctantly showed up. I was completely caught by surprise, but I shouldn’t have been. Maternal love is dynamic, ardent, and overcomes insurmountable obstacles. The Blessed Mother, in her own quiet and steadfast way, lovingly led me by a string of beads into the arms of her Son. Through Mary, I finally met Jesus. No turning back. And that should be the primary goal as we forge ahead. To work to change our hearts and our perspectives in order to continually meet Christ. That we might meet Him and journey with Him each hour of each day. My conversion years ago has led to many more conversions since—thanks be to God! I pray that He may provide the grace for many many more.

Maybe St. Athanasius didn’t actually take a stand on the extra fries vs. exercise debate, but he did spend a lifetime defending and proving Jesus is God. Not coincidentally, this same second-century saint, and doctor of the church is also credited with writing a beautiful prayer to Mary which I plan to memorize over the coming months of the New Year.

Prayer to Mary

It becomes you to be mindful of us,

as you stand near Him who granted you all graces,

for you are the Mother of God and our Queen.

Help us for the sake of the King,

the Lord God and Master who was born of you.

For this reason,

you are called full of grace.

Remember us, most holy Virgin,

and bestow on us gifts

from the riches of your graces,

Virgin full of graces.

Amen

I’m confident Antanatius would gladly get behind a resolution that involved more reflection and devotion to the Mother of God. A grace-filled 2020 to all! It’s up to you how much exercise and or extra fries it includes. I’m opting for the latter. It’ll be Lent before we know it.

*photo credit: photos.icons8.com

A Mother For All

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When I was a wee lass, my grandma came to stay with our family for what seemed to me to be an extended period of time. It may have been in reality only a week or two, but to my fuzzy childhood memory, it was longer than usual. And yet, it felt excruciatingly too short.

When she stayed with us, it meant there was a smiling, warm face to greet me after an arduous half-day of kindergarten. My loving parents were hard-working Catholic school teachers trying to carve out a meager living, so they dealt with childcare by entrusting us kids with the heavy responsibility. My brothers were tasked with unlocking the door and not burning down the house until my parents returned a couple hours later. But as the youngest, they wisely thought it best I should spend my after-school time with adult supervision. It was arranged for me to stay with a neighbor mom who had a daughter my age. While we lived only two doors down from each other and attended the same school, our families were very different. My “little” playmate was at least twice my size and a physical and emotional brute. Today she’d probably be characterized by that popular buzzword, “bully,” but I didn’t have the vocabulary to articulate it back then. To add insult to injury, this mean girl’s mom was pretty mentally checked out and had a knack for turning a blind eye to her daughter’s mean-spirited mischief. She even mocked me when I complained. So I learned to quietly suffer through those seemingly interminable four hours, day after day.

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Signs You Suffer M.V.D.S on Your Faith Journey

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I drive a minivan. Don’t be jealous. It’s been seven glorious years since my husband and I decided to take the plunge and purchase our little Honda house on wheels. To my mind, we made the right decision. From the ease of the automatic sliding doors when hands are juggling groceries, diaper bag, and baby carrier, to the times we’ve happily hauled gaggles of kids on field trips, it’s been a helpful tool in achieving our family’s version of domestic contentment. However, there have been definite downsides that demand address. “What is that smell?!” Don’t get me started on the joys of finding hidden-away “treasures” in the very back row. Suffice it to say, the heralded discovery of a new antibiotic may be in our future. But a much more pressing and troubling concern regularly plagues me. Everyone else on the road who is not a minivan driver is suffering from a severe case of M.V.D.S.

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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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A Free Christmas Game For You

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To all my We’re Late For Church readers and followers, a heartfelt Merry Christmas! I hope your holiday is filled with the beautiful peace of this holy season. And I pray there are plenty of laughs to go around at your Christmas gatherings. While the holidays can be stressful, I always try to make time for some comic relief. Mother Angelica understood the Herculean effort required to be a good Christian during the holidays.  She once sagely quipped, “If it wasn’t for people, we could all be holy.” In an effort to spread some Christmas laughter with all of your people, I’ve created a game that has the potential to create some good-natured tomfoolery at your table. Thank you to my lovely group of “Sisters in Christ” who helped me road-test the game at a recent get-together.

I hope it brings lots of laughter to you as well.  In the words of St. Ignatius Loyola, “Laugh and grow strong!” Lord knows he was a real wimp. 

Christ’s blessing of laughter and strength for you and your family!

Introducing: The Saints and Sinners Game. It’s a twist on the game of Balderdash. You will need to print the two, easy-peasy PDF documents I’ve created to learn how to play. Enjoy! And may you experience one of the greatest gifts of all, laughter!

Saints and Sinners Game

Saints and Sinners Rules

If you feel so inclined, let me know in the comments section how it went over with your brood of holiday revelers… unless it didn’t go well. That you can keep to yourself so I can blissfully go on thinking it was a good idea.