Putting the “Holy” back in Holy Week

Holy Week started penetentially with my flu on Palm Sunday. Things didn’t improve greatly for Monday or Tuesday despite my feeling much better. Wednesday I had decided last minute we would attend Tenebrae at our parish but Joseph had school Thursday and it was just going to be too late (we voted and next week Spring Break is scheduled for Holy Week–as God intended it).

Thursday after school, Joseph and I ate a quick dinner and then headed over to church 3 of 3 for Holy Thursday Mass. The Mass was beautiful. The priest had a great homily and it was a Mass of people who truly wanted to be there. I felt nourished  body and soul and knew that things were turning around.

Holy Thursday Tabernacle

The Tabernacle at All Saints on Holy Thursday…open and empty. (A lot of these pics were taken on my cell phone which is not great.)

Everyone was off from school and work on Friday. In the morning we just had kind of a lazy morning and a light lunch for Jeff and the kids (some of us were fasting).

At 2 pm, we headed back to All Saints for Veneration of the Cross. I had originally planned for Stations and Veneration at our parish but we had missed Stations all Lent (despite best intentions) and it was just going to be too long a day being as we would have to stay because of how far we live. At All Saints, families were encouraged to venerate the Cross together, so Joseph and I went up together. It made him feel more comfortable.

Good Friday Tabernacle

The Tabernacle at daylight on Good Friday.

Saturday was pure exhaustion. And it was all worth it. Growing up and still now, my mom had always brought our food to church on Holy Saturday to be blessed. It is a tradition in the Eastern Rite Catholic churches as well as the Latin Rite Catholics in Eastern Europe. My grandfather is Polish and we got the tradition passed down.

For years no parishes near where we lived did a blessing of the food. Last year our old parish offered it but we couldn’t get there with our move pending but this year while our parish wasn’t doing it, I found out that parishes 2 and 3 (Infant of Prague and All Saints) were. I decided to head in the other direction to Infant of Prague because I also had to go into town to get my work schedule for this week.

We raced into town to get my schedule and the last few things we needed for our Easter Basket/Food. Here is the list of traditional foods and their meanings. We made it to the church with just a few minutes to spare. I didn’t have a “basket” basket and used a plastic tub and a re-usable grocery bag and covered our food with cheese cloth instead of the fine cloths typically used. There were about eight families total there and the older parishoners loved to see young kids. Joseph was my photographer for this event.

It was Father Jeff’s first time doing the blessing and he did great!

My butter lamb was definitely lacking but it served its purpose!

Butter Lamb

Let’s just say, I could use classes, a tutorial, something!

Joseph insisted on going to “the four hour long Mass with fire” (it did have fire but it was only 2 1/2 hours) and William wanted to go to Sunday Mass. Guess what Mom ended up doing.

Joseph looked dapper for the Easter Vigil.

Joseph Easter Vigil

We got there way early but there’s no such thing as too much time for prayer! The Church looks even more beautiful at Easter because we haven’t seen it all prettied up for six whole weeks!

Easter Vigil Altar

It’s hard to see in the low light but the Tabernacle is still open before Mass!

Joseph made it through the whole Vigil! It was beautiful. We did all seven readings and Psalms and baptized one catechumen.

After the Vigil we lit a candle for Nanny Kathleen in the chapel. RIP Nanny Kathleen.

Praying for Nanny Kathleen

He slept all the way home.

William wanted Mass “just me and Mom” this morning. We had bad weather this morning so he and I went to All Saints. We had wanted to go to the beach chapel but the cool temps and rain changed our mind. It was standing room only but I remembered why I enjoy the Sunday morning liturgy so much.

Afterward we came home and hung the Easter poster the boys made Friday evening up on the front door.

Easter Poster

The boys came up with about 98% of this content. That big purple splotch is actually supposed to be the Precious Blood (it’s next to the Body of Christ) which William artistically rendered it in a “wine-glass chalice.”

We’ve decided to have “Easter Dinner” tomorrow night. I didn’t do baskets for the kids but they did get a Chocolate Bunny, jelly beans, and a couple other treats this morning. I’m sure tomorrow (when I go back to work and the kids go to visit their grandmother) will be a “holy hangover” but I can’t think of a better one! And in a few weeks, Joseph will make his First Holy Communion, welcome Easter, all 50 days!



Triduum like whoa

Yesterday was, um, interesting. Exhausting. Angsty. And for no reason whatsoever.

I mean, I had Rage Against the Machine’s Bulls on Parade on really loud on my ear buds on repeat. Yes, this Bulls on Parade.

See, I think it’s a combination of politics and people that’s getting to me and extremism on every side is to be avoided as far as I’m concerned so I start to get angry and kind of extremist in my avoiding extremism and Bulls on Parade happens.

I’m kind of over people right now. I’m over the pushy ones who can’t keep an opinion to themselves. I’m over everyone trying to out-shout each other. I’m over the Bible and Jesus being props on social media. I’m done.

This week started rough. Anytime I don’t make it to Mass is very rough. To not make it and have the flu…then Monday morning I watched the funeral Mass for Joseph’s Godmother’s Grandmother. It was in Northern Ireland so I watched it streamed on my laptop. I spent it in tears. I only met the woman once and it was such an ugly cry, especially when one of her daughter’s got up and delivered an impactful eulogy.

Tuesday I had to work and it was a long, slow, boring shift. The kind I usually can’t wait to get sent home early during but, since it’s my only shift all week, I prayed I wouldn’t.

Yesterday I guess I was due for the emotional blow up. And still it caught me off guard. I had planned to attend Tenebrae with Joseph at our parish last night and I realized about halfway through the day that it was just going to be too late. I said on Google+ that I needed a break.

Then this morning, Triduum happened. And suddenly, things are much, much better. There is an intensity about these three days that I love. Long, drawn out wears me down. The quick, pull-the-bandaid off is much more my style. It smarts something awful but it’s over more quickly AND the reward more immediate. I’m feeling less connected to humans and more connected to God and it feels as though order is restored. And that is magnificent.

Triduum is such a welcome break right now. And I’m hoping others can see it as well. This year we’re staying home. Tonight is Holy Thursday Mass at parish 3 of 3. Joseph will be with me and fingers crossed William hasn’t had his typical pre-holiday meltdown (think Llama Llama Holi-drama) so he can go as well. Tomorrow will be Veneration (possible at home Stations but we’ll see how that develops) at parish 3 of 3. Saturday we get our food blessed at parish 2 of 3. Then the plan is Saturday night for Joseph and I to attend the Easter Vigil. William can’t do that yet, and it’s fine, he has a whole year to prepare. William wants to attend a sunrise Mass (6:30 AM) at the Basilica. It’s a nice thought, but we’ll see.

Yes, these three days of relative quiet and prayer…it sounds almost too good to be true and here we go.

Martyrdom and the Face of Jesus

I have cried many tears over the deaths of the Missionaries of Charity in Yemen. Seeing their faces brings fresh tears to my eyes no matter how many tears I have already shed. Hearing or reading their names brings an automatic lump in my throat. Their savage murders coming in the same year as their foundress Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be canonized into sainthood, there are no words I can come up with to describe how that makes my feel.

These women gave their lives to Jesus in more ways than most of us can understand. They knew they were in a dangerous place, but they knew that is where God called them to be. Their obedience is something I know is right but still sometimes struggle to understand. God chose them to be there. And that is where they gave their lives for Him while in service to others.

I can’t bring myself to read the entire eyewitness account. I’ve only read what I’ve seen in this screen shot  from twitter.

eyewitness report pic monkey

My heart especially go out to the Mother Superior whose life was spared. I cannot imagine what that feels like. My only inkling is the story of Imaculee Ilibigaza’s survival of the Rwandan genocide where her entire family was slaughtered and similiarly to the Mother Superior it was only by God’s grace that she was spared.

None of asks for martyrdom. Especially those of us in the US fretting over Supreme Court nominees and the like. Not a one of us expects it to happen to us, but it happens. Not just in the dangerous places either. Cassie Bernall was in the library of her Littleton Colorado high school when a gun was put to her head by fellow students and she was asked if she believed in God. After answering yes, her life was ended. Another student said she was praying the entire time.

We see the images of the Missionaries of Charity, of the Christians lined up on the beach and we think, “Thank God it doesn’t happen here!” But it could. It might. Would we be ready? Patrick Henry said he regretted he had one life to give for his country. Would we regret we had only one life to give to our Lord? We actually all are called to martyrdom if we find ourselves in that position.

When I see the images of martyrs, I see the face of Jesus. I see the face of the one who makes life worth living; the one for whom we should be able to give up our lives. The Missionaries of Charity weren’t the only ones who gave up their lives that day. We do not know where the Salesian priest is currently but he may have been executed as well. And the lay workers who begged that the Sisters not be hurt, were slaughtered for their heroism. They begged for mercy for the lives of others and were murdered. Jesus has said,

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:12-13

How can we not see Jesus’ face in their images and in their actions? I pray for the strength of these sisters that if God delivers that cup to me, I will be able to have the strength of spirit to drink of it fully that I may see His face in eternity.

What if the Priest says no?

Katrina Fernandez…aka The Crescat has re-emerged at Aleteia. Her purpose in her post is answering a distraught mother’s letter asking how to make her teenage son more reverant at Mass. Before I even clicked I knew the answer–make him become an altar server. Boom. Mic Drop.

But what if the priest says no?

I know what you’re all thinking, no priest would ever discourage a possible young altar server, especially a male one. I thought that too until a few years ago when an older friend with many kids attempted to do just that in her small town with only one parish and her priest said no.

His reason: it is a job for those who want to serve not those who do not.

It has become quite the internet discussion lately about how young men serving at the altar is the awakening of a vocation.  It has usually surrounded the debate about girls serving at the altar. And while the question of vocation swirls around this being a job for boys and not girls the idea of this being the birth of a vocation can be used just as persuasively for some boys not to serve.

The meat of this priest’s argument was that it is not true service if one is forced into it. It is an argument also used by parents regarding “mandatory community service projects” for Confirmation or even graduation. Sure, sometimes a kid finds they like feeding the homeless or working with disabled children but more often than not, they go back to life and maybe volunteer around the holidays. I’ve had all but one kid to volunteer in various programs leave when the work was done and never be heard from again.

This priest interviewed each boy who “applied” (we’ll get to that in a minute) to serve and then allowed those he chose to proceed into training. He explained to the mother that no, he didn’t believe every boy who was trained was necessarily priest material or had a burgeoning vocation, but each of those boys wanted to be there. They wanted to serve. His first question was “what makes you want to be an altar server” and an answer of “my parents are making me” typically did land the young man “out of service” but the priest did have many follow-up questions so it wasn’t always automatic.

So when this mom found herself hearing “thanks but no thanks.” She was, understandably, upset. She didn’t have the option of driving over 100 miles each way tothe next closest parish to force her son to serve so she did what she could and complained to the Bishop. The Bishop backed the priest up.

In this case, there was more than just the priest’s original argument though. Remember I said boys had to “apply?” Well, at this particular parish there were a surplus of boys who actually wanted to serve. So many, in fact, that even all the trained young men sometimes would only get to serve once every six to eight weeks. It’s a problem I think most of our parishes would welcome.

When she told the story years ago, I also got the impression that this priest also felt like he was a pawn in a parenting agenda. “I want my kid to be more pious, so I’ll dump him on Father.” It seemed like the priest had been there and didn’t appreciate that particular method of parenting even when it wasn’t necessarily intended that way on the parent’s part.

We want holy priests who are answering the call of their vocation, not whose mom’s made them do it. I can understand how a priest may feel similarly with those serving at the altar with him during Mass.

I think Katrina is on to something as boys tend to be “doers,” but the fact remains, it might not be entirely up to us or as simple as contacting the person in charge of the ministry and dropping them off for training.

This is what my friend did when the priest said no and the Bishop backed him up:

  1. Kept making him go to Mass and tied everything “important” to him (sports, etc) to his attendance and his participation.
  2. Forced him to keep going to Catechism. Pope Francis has said in his new children’s book that we go to Catechism “to meet Jesus.” He’s right. The more we know, the more likely we are to feel engaged to meet Jesus through sacred Scripture and the Eucharist and other sacraments.
  3. Go to Eucharistic Adoration. They went as often as they could and made the kids come along. Friar Gabriel has a powerful story of how this actually solidified his vocation.
  4. Pray often with and for your child. Ask for St Monica’s intercession. She knows a thing or two about rebellious kids and faith, that’s for sure.

The great thing about what my friend did that she readily tells people, it can all be done for girls as well. Someone has in fact asked that question in one of the places I saw, what about girls? A few years later when this same friend had a daughter in a similar predicament, she didn’t have anything like altar serving to plug her into. This experience ended up being fruitful for her in a very unexpected way.

I do think it’s a great idea to get son’s involved in the Mass at the altar, but if that doesn’t work out, as it might not, take heart, all is not lost for nothing ever is with God.


The Weekend I Just Cannot Wait To End…

Friday Morning: 7:45 AM

William had his annual eye doctor appointment. Since he was six months old, William had been seeing a pediatric opthamologist initially because of a suspected muscular issue and potential stribismis. As he got older, a small difference in one of his optic nerves was noticed and while it could just be “his normal” we had been watching it for potential changes in case it was the start of something serious. To this point, his vision seemed good and passable. While we were in the parking lot, he had told me that his eyes were checked at school and “(I) didn’t do so good.” I hadn’t heard anything from the school so I wasn’t sure if that was his perception or not. Well, we’d been transferred after last year’s visit to an optometrist and she immediately knew something wasn’t perfect. Her exam revealed that William has some issues with close-up sight and needed glasses at least for reading, screen usage and other close-up vision. That wasn’t bad news, he was thrilled and picked out some awesome specs and was disappointed to find out it could be two-four weeks to get them.

Ultimately, William didn’t go to school because the dilation lasted longer than typical and his vision was less than stellar as a result. He did great though. Shelby was also absent on Friday because of a GI virus. That, I really could have lived without!

At the end of the day, Joseph was home everything was fine…

…until 11:30 pm when Joseph was in my room on the floor crying. He said his hip hurt. Wait, what? Kids don’t have joint pain. William was with him and they both denied any kind of horseplay that caused the issue (I hadn’t heard any either). I checked and there was no bruising or swelling and he said it didn’t hurt to touch, only when he moved. I got him to bed and gave him 2 motrin. He said he wasn’t in pain when lying on the hip in question and curled up. I said a prayer we’d make it til walk-in hours at our pediatrician in the morning.

God gave me a big, fat “no” to that prayer.

At 3 AM I heard screaming from the boys room. It was Joseph’s voice and he was obviously in pain. I dressed and ready and Jeff carried him to the car as he could not bear weight. It is equal distances to the ER we had been using at the hospital the kids were born in and the one in our county. So I went to the one that has a file on the kids already. I drove and we prayed. We said our morning prayers and then prayed a Rosary. We arrived at 3:45 AM to find that the ER was under construction. I parked at the Cardiac Wing and we walked toward where the entrance had been to find it was no more. We were at the ambulance entrance where a nurse took pity on us and let us in and walked us to check-in.

There was no triage that night and apparently it was a big night for Wilmington as there were multiple car accidents, heart attacks and strokes. Finally, 2 1/2 hours into our wait, they called Joseph back. He snuggled under a warm blanket and slept while the nurses took his vitals. After about 30 mins, we were moved again, this time to a larger, quieter room (we were told it was because he is a child and would be seen more quickly there). This room also had a larger tv. We took advantage of the time to rest. In the new room we had a nurse, a tech and a paramedic! Joseph was feeling much better but we were in it now. It was past 8 when the PA came in. He examined Joseph extensively. It is worth mentioning now that Joseph was diagnosed with strep throat on Tuesday and on antibiotics already. The PA was concerned there may be a secondary infection in the joint but the lack of accompanying fever and the fact that Joseph was already feeling much, much better alleviated that worry. Those infections also typically target multiple joints which wasn’t the case. Conditions like rheumatic fever and post-strep arthritis typically occur two weeks after the diagnosis and after antibiotics so we could rule those things pretty well out. They were rare but could have been the cause. Finally, it appeared he probably had sustained a very minor injury to ligaments or tendons during the day that day and they tightened up while he was in a resting state.

We finally busted out of the ER by 10:15 and were home at 11. Where I promptly took 2 aspirin for a noxious headache and then slept for five hours. Joseph had managed sleep in the ER so he was awake and ready to go.

I then managed a solid 10 hours of sleep that night before getting up for Mass at 8 AM on DST Sunday. Hello, #winning!

Joseph had his fifth soccer game today and he did well. Nary a sign of the pain at all. Thank you Jesus!

And Jesus did a lot of leg-work (pun intended) for me during my ER debacle. After check-in, I got on facebook and did what any red-blooded Catholic-American mom would do, I begged friends and family to pray for us. So many people reacted and commented with prayer as they started their day. I have no doubt that Joseph’s healing was so quick because so many people joined their intentions with our own in asking for his healing.

And God had a special treat for me for all of this. Remember my desire for the non-Scrutiny readings this week? Well, at 8 AM Mass at Church 2 of 3, we did the Cycle C readings.

That really went a very, very long way in making up for the ER…and the child currently refusing to go to bed. And the one asleep on the couch with fever and no other symptoms…

Yeah, let’s get this weekend over and done with!

Scrutinizing the Scrutinies

So this morning you went to Mass and the Gospel reading was the Prodigal Son…unless you were suddenly transported to Cycle A, and if the Elect were being sent out for the second of the Scrutinies this week, you almost definitely did the Cycle A readings.

Lent is one of those oddly confusing times in the Church year when things suddenly change and sometimes the faithful don’t completely understand why. Liturgically we are in Year C. The Parochial Vicar at our parish apparently did the readings from Year C this morning at the earliest Mass because that’s what was on the Hymn Board. But just minutes before Mass began, the liturgist/music minister changed it and it dawned on me: Scrutinies.

This is one of the absolute best explanations of what the Scrutinies are that I have found on the web. The priest will often use the readings from Cycle A during the Scrutinies if the Elect are at Mass as they closely align with what the Elect are studying in the Scrutinies themselves. The Creighton website has a very clear description of how this works:

In order to inspire in the elect a desire for purification and redemption by Christ, three scrutinies are celebrated.  By this means, first of all, the elect are instructed gradually about the mystery of sin, from which the whole world and every person longs to be delivered and thus saved from its present and future consequences.  Second, their spirit is filled with Christ the Redeemer, who is the living water (gospel of the Samaritan woman in the first scrutiny), the light of the world (gospel of the man born blind in the second scrutiny), the resurrection and the life (gospel of Lazarus in the third scrutiny).  From the first to the final scrutiny the elect should progress in their perception of sin and their desire for salvation.

I don’t know about you but it makes me rather glad to have been born Catholic and raised that way. And I appreciate the priests who take the time to explain the change to their flock, particularly if those are mostly folks who are “cradle Catholics” like myself.

However, sometimes that doesn’t happen and the faithful are simply confused as to why the readings are not what’s in their Magnificat (in Years B and C). And that confusion can sometimes breed unintentional frustration and contempt.

I for example, no matter what parish I’ve attended over the last five years and which Mass I’ve been at…have always managed to be at the Mass where the Elect are dismissed for the Scrutinies. So, for the last five years, I’ve heard the Cycle A readings. Note: it’s not required for the readings to be changed, but is allowed at the Pastor’s discretion.

My mother and I were discussing this today and she related that her priest decided he would stick with Cycle C. When asked why he answered, “For the last four years, the people have heard Cycle A. The people are sick of Cycle A.” He has a point. Especially at a parish as small as theirs is and with only two candidates and no catechumens. Even without those qualifiers, pastors shouldn’t feel they have to make the change.

To me, the change of year feels more like a courtesy to the Elect as in most parishes I’ve been in, the priest makes a really big deal in the homily as to why those readings were chosen. But is it really discourteous of the priest if he elects NOT to change the readings? I would say no, it’s not discourteous as those readings also have important lessons and revelations in them. It’s not as if most priests would get up and say, “Well, today the Elect are being dismissed for the Second Scrutiny and I’ve decided to not have those readings at this Mass.” Yes, there could be that priest, but most of them aren’t him.

I don’t mind the Scrutinies, but I also sympathize with the woman at Mass today who dropped her daughter’s Magnifikid rather dramatically onto the seat. There is a sort of “what’s the point of having different liturgical cycles if we don’t utilize them,” feeling in the pews when things like this happen. So, what’s someone confused and frustrated to do?

Well, if you can figure out which Mass the Elect will most likely be dismissed at (and most parishes put it all at one Mass), avoid it for a few weeks. I know people who change up their routine for exactly that reason. But more importantly: talk to your priest. Tell him how you feel. Sure some priests are going to do whatever they want anyway, but many priests don’t know parishoners might feel that way or may not understand the change. I don’t know that anyone specific said something to my parents’ priest, for all I know he saw people’s eyes glazing over and decided on his own to shake things up by going with the program. And maybe a better understanding can be reached so that no one unintentionally resents the new members of our “one, holy,  Catholic, apostolic church.”

I decided next weekend to take my boys to a different Mass than our usual not because I resent the Scrutinies or the Elect, but because right now my soul and heart are needing something a little different this year. The original readings today seemed to really speak to me when I studied them before Mass and I’m thankful that it appears that there might be a homily for them I can listen to online from our Parochial Vicar.

How I Learned to Quit Worrying and Became a Soccer Mom

Well, maybe soccer mom is a bit premature but I am a mom and one of my kids plays soccer. As of last week.

I know all the pros and cons and in general I’m not a huge fan of kids sporting leagues but since in the Western world we seem to know no other way for our kids to be outside and active aside from them…there we are.

Jeff was a super athletic kind of kid one of these all-stars in basketball and baseball. I never was. My brothers were but seriously, not me. Not.at.all.

The attitude we adopted in parenting toward sports was, if they express interest, we’ll do it and when they want to quit, they’re done. Same as with other interests. Present them and leave them alone.

When we moved we figured it was as good a time as any to re-ignite the sports discussion which we added would help us integrate in the new community. And both boys ended up signed up for soccer only for it to be scheduled at the exact same time as Faith Formation.

This spring was a new season, and William didn’t want to play but Joseph was game. So there we went. We’re two weeks, three practices and four games into his first season. And I’m surprised to say, we all are really enjoying it.

Joseph’s team is small (only seven kids) and he’s the only kid who’s never played before, but he has natural skill and talent and he learns fast. The other kids had no idea. The other parents had no idea and have been asking me where he played last year. He plays hard and listens and learns.

I’m talking to other moms, wait, what?

And Shelby is a rockstar at home games where everyone already knows her name. William enjoys cheering for Joe. Maybe he’ll want to play this fall, we’ll see.

Jeff is fine with whatever for sports so that’s pretty cool too.

There have been some really great things to come out of it thus far including:

  1. Joseph is learning teamwork and how to effectively communicate.
  2. Concussion awareness is all the rage and so these little guys are not heading balls…yet.
  3. We’ve witnessed sportsmanship above and beyond anything I’ve ever expected.
  4. We’ve all enjoyed fresh air.
  5. Less screen time all around!!!
  6. We watch as much futbol as anything else when at home. (Seriously, Jeff makes sure to have a Barclays Premier League game on tv when we get home from Mass to help himself and Joseph learn the game even better.)

It’s been really fun learning how to be a “soccer-mom” in this league and I will say, despite all our running around, I will be sad if Joseph says he doesn’t want to play this fall. But I’ll be even more grateful for our time at play.

soccer boy

Opportunity vs Ability

If you watch Rachael Ray’s show, you may have seen this week her video chat with the staff at Beau’s Coffee. The local coffee shop was started recently by the parents of special needs children and employs them as baristas, cashiers etc. I think it’s a wonderful venture started by truly wonderful and amazing people. It has created jobs for some who might otherwise not been able to have them. As Rachael Ray said, she wants to see one on every corner in the country.

The only negative I have heard regarding this particular business model is that it will still allow people who do not want contact with those with special needs to avoid them. I think it’s an interesting premise and actually could also be a positive (because, really who wants to deal with someone who dislikes them).

Beau’s opens up an interesting conundrum, however. What about the kids (and adults) with special needs who shouldn’t be working in these kinds of businesses (or any customer facing business) but are?

I’ve worked with many with special needs over the years. Some were mostly physical while others had cognitive and intellectual disabilities and many a combination of the two. Many of my friends have gone to Beau’s and remarked on the outstanding quality of product AND customer service. And I’ve found that in my jobs if the customer service portion was fulfilled by any employee (with special needs or otherwise) then there typically wasn’t a problem. I’ve also found that some companies do not care if the employee can do any portion of the job but will hire an employee simply for the tax cut.

Let me use two real life examples I encountered. I worked at one job with a young woman with some physical limitations but mostly intellectual disability. She smiled and was friendly and engaging with  the customers. She took extra care to follow their directions as to bagging their items and always offered carry out service and even made easy conversation. She was a gem and people fought over getting her to bag their items.

Many years later, I encountered a young man who you only wanted to bag for you if you liked your bread flat bread and your eggs scrambled. He often made inappropriate and offensive jokes (he had an intellectual disability). There were many complaints before a manager finally decided he could clean bathrooms (under supervision) and collect trash but really shouldn’t be customer facing. Management and other staff (including myself) worked with him to try and improve both his technique and attitude but he made it clear telling myself and another employee, “It’s a free country, I can say what I want, people shouldn’t get offended. And it’s not like they’ll fire me!”

He was right on that last one. Hiring a special needs employee is the easy part. If they are found stealing or doing a poor job or anything else, termination is usually a huge headache.

So why do companies so often hire those with special needs who are unable to perform the tasks required or with questionable other issues? The simple answer: money. A co-worker who once worked for a large grocery chain in New England told me they only hired special needs baggers because the state gave them a huge tax incentive to do so. So anyone who applied, was hired. The results, he said, were very mixed. Some individuals were great at their jobs and others very clearly didn’t care or were completely unable to do them. But the company essentially got back every dime they paid these employees at tax time. They also rarely made full-time because Social Security restricted how many hours they were able to work and full-time wouldn’t pay enough to live off of. So it was a double win for these companies.

At the nearby big box store where we used to live there was a greeter with multiple disabilities. He was great at his job but in the case of an issue requiring more assistance than he could provide, there was always another associate nearby. When the greeter position was eliminated at corporate, instead of allowing him to continue (as it was literally the only job in the store he could perform), he was put on the floor where he simply followed other associates around and watched them work (occasionally he would hold something on his wheelchair but that wasn’t always possible). I felt bad for him because it wasn’t his fault the company eliminated the position but why did management not request an exception be made (as I later found out many other stores had done for employees in similar cases) to allow him to stay in that position? It just didn’t make sense. He was physically unable to stock items, so why was he on the floor?

I think the practice of hiring those with special needs is a great thing, if, the person hired can perform the job required satisfactorily. The young girl I worked with years ago and the employees at Beau’s are great examples of this. The original position the greeter I mentioned above was in was ideal. And I realize that this can be difficult to gauge at an interview, but it’s reasonable to say that the normal 90 day trial period should apply so that if it becomes apparent that this individual is not able to fulfill the duties of the job satisfactorily that can be dealt with accordingly. My own child would not be able to do any type of customer facing work and I wouldn’t want her to be hired with that expectation anywhere. But if whatever work she was doing she was doing poorly or not able to do because of her limited ability, I would rather the manager tell me it’s not going to work out rather than keep her on expressly because of her disability. No one, not the company, the customers, the fellow employees nor my child would win in that situation.

Let’s applaud Beau’s and all those creating opportunities that otherwise did not exist, while keeping in mind that just because the opportunity now exists it should not be given to just any person.

Finding God’s Plan

You is kind, you is smart, you is important.

Aibileen, The Help

Last Sunday I read a facebook message from a non-blogging Mommy-friend that said,

Your blog is awesome and you are a great writer! Have you ever thought of submitting to (a large blogging/ministry made of women bloggers–mostly mamas)?

I smiled and thought for a minute before responding:

Thank you for your kind words and encouragement! I enjoy writing and blogging and even got my degree in it. I had hoped to turn it into a paying venture but have yet to find success with print publishers or in the blogging world. At least, success as defined by our world. [The site you mentioned] does not take submissions but invites writers to contribute. While I know people involved and have even probed carefully (no sense in offending good people) I have never been extended an invitation and don’t anticipate getting one anytime soon. I have been submitting to several other sites (blogging conglomerates) but either get rejected or no one acknowledges my submission. Similar results continue in the print world. I have stopped feeling rejected a long time ago. My voice is my own and it, like me, is not for everyone. In fact, it appears to be for a very select few which, in some strange ways, feels even better than the big accolades. I think this is how God wants my writing to be heard and felt, by a special, chosen few.

If I’m being totally honest, there are days I wonder what makes someone else’s voice so much more appealing than mine. My voice was the only thing I had to count on back when I started blogging. I had no kids (and the prospects weren’t great) and once I did, I didn’t homeschool or have a theology degree nor was I a convert. Those seemed to be the real ones who shined (and still do). But my voice was/is strong. Unfortunately, your average blog reader and editor don’t always appreciate a strong voice over authority, ingenuity and/or relatability. Mea culpa.

And when autism came around, my lack of establishing audience in the Catholic sorority made it impossible there and because I chose to write about the joy of autism and the blessings of my child and not poop-smearing, meltdowns and physical altercations, I was shut out of HuffPost and other secular media. But I knew what I was doing was what I was supposed to be doing.

A few years ago at a Bible Study Fellowship group meeting, our small group leader asked everyone to go around the circle and say a ministry they helped with in their church. I happened to be sitting to her left and she started to her right listening to everyone else in my group. At the time, I was not a part of any active ministry and so I wasn’t sure how to answer. Many helped in nursery or Sunday School. Some did administrative duties (one being on the board of directors for her church’s attached school). There was the lady who was a professional photographer who offered her skills capturing different events in still shots and video. And then there was me. I had once been a youth leader. I had once been a catechist. I shared that and then added, “Right now, God has called me to minister to my own family and that is the way I can best serve my Church.” A broad smile came across the face of the group leader and I saw many other women smile and nod in agreement. I wasn’t sure of my answer, was I doing enough or right? But they all acknowledged that what I was doing was important and had value.

That’s how I feel about my writing. God is asking me to do it this way at this time and the rejection by large publishers and blogging sites is not a sign to give up but to keep doing what I am doing. His plan, at least for now, includes no major publishing and a very small audience. (Hey, if getting shout-outs from Jennifer Fulwiler and Simcha Fisher don’t increase your readership–I’m really not sure what will!) And while sometimes it seems, I don’t know, unfair?, it’s how it’s supposed to be. Someday it will all make sense to people like me, my mom, and my sweet friends who enjoy my writing and wish it would catch on. In the mean time, thank you God for your wisdom in this and all areas in my life.

Trying to Find more in Holy Week and Easter in the US

Apparently this post by actress Rita Wilson about how her family celebrates Pascha has been around for a while. A few days ago was the first time I saw it and it left me with longing.

I deeply love Catholicism in all its many forms, Latin Rite, Eastern Rite, you name it. In a country that is a melting pot though, it can be difficult to have a celebration much like the mostly ethnic Orthodox churches. The worshipers found in these churches share often more than a religion: they share a language, culture, nationality and heritage. In Wilson’s case, it’s Greek. For others it’s Russian, Arabic, you name it. A few years ago there was only a Greek Orthodox church in the town I went to college in. A small upstart Ukranian Orthodox church quickly abandoned the ethnic/nationalist identity in favor of “Eastern” Orthodox (which is listed on their website as Russian, Greek, Romanian, Serbian and other nationally associated Orthodox communities). I believe this was a big reason that it succeeded.

In this country, at one time, Catholicism was much like that. I often tell my Faith Formation students about how in places in the northeast the Irish worshipped at St Patrick’s or St Brigid’s; Italians at St Joseph’s and St Leo’s (my grandmother’s Italian family attended a St Leo’s in Buffalo); and the Polish at Infant of Prague (my Polish grandfather’s family attended Infant of Prague in Buffalo). In fact my grandparents’ marriage, despite being between two believing, faithful Catholics, was controversial because it was considered “interracial.” To their credit, my great-grandparents both loved their new in-lawed children (my grandmother’s father used to tell his Italian friends and family that, “Sue’s going with a Polish boy, but he’s one of the smart ones.”) and celebrated the wedding at St Leo’s. But what they were doing was, for that time, somewhat rebellious.

I’m happy going to the parish of my choice, not my ethnicity. I love the diversity I see in the pews. I enjoy that my parish has an International Festival for our patron (St Mark, patron saint of Venice) on or near his feast day. But I miss some of the “old world” tradition. I miss that I live in a place where it’s hard to find a blessing of the Easter baskets that my Eastern European relatives celebrated. (For more on the basket brought to this blessing  see this post by Priest’s Wife at Fear Not Little Flock.) And the butter lamb molds that my great-grandmother and mother made (my mom still makes them).

The longing I feel when I read articles like Wilson’s is a longing for tradition that makes Holy Week and Easter even deeper. And it makes sense. It doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be from our ethnic/national origins, although I do think the nature of the US lends itself to our losing many of those.

One thing I think that I think inadvertantly contributes is that none of the Holy Week masses are Holy Days of Obligation. I think it would bring a greater gravity like it does for our Orthodox brethren. Listening to Wilson talk about the liturgies each night gives a really clear picture of just how much these liturgies mean to the faithful. And in our busy American lives we are so quick to say, well, we aren’t getting our feet washed, so we can miss this one. We don’t know any of the Catechumens so we’ll just go to Mass on Sunday morning (I’ve been guilty of that one but hearing two different friends say it out loud really drove it home).

I don’t have any hard and fast rules for those of us who really struggle to make Holy Week especially extra-special without getting caught up in the craziness of the secular celebrations (read: egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, Spring Break) and even the touch of malaise I’ve witnessed amongst some of the faithful. In fact, I don’t have any suggestions. I’m going to do my darndest to get the Easter basket done and blessed and make it to all the Holy Week masses. I love the red egg idea and sweet bread so I’m going to try it. I’m going to have Joseph come along since he’s making his First Communion this year. Maybe we’ll even have lamb for Easter dinner…well, let me not get too far ahead of myself.

I want my kids to know that first and foremost, we are celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior and that everything else is secondary and doesn’t really matter. And that tradition is what makes us truly stand out in this world for all the right reasons.