Oatmeal Season

This morning Joseph asked for oatmeal for breakfast. We’ve had two 40 degree mornings in a row. It might actually be fall.

The first time one of the boys asks for oatmeal signals the unofficial start of an unofficial season: oatmeal season. It’s the season when our after-school sports fall off  and the days are shorter and we spend more time hunkered down in the house. It also means the start of super-illnesses, which is why Joseph got his flu-shot Monday (Shelby has an awful sounding head and chest cold which she rarely gets). I’ll follow suit for the first time in years when I get paid next week and the other kids will get theirs eventually.

Last week a friend deactivated her facebook account and when I texted her she told me she craved a simple life. A day or two later, I hung my “Gone Fishing” sign on facebook and logged out. See, for me, oatmeal season is not just about warm food and hunkering down from the elements, it’s also also about hunkering down with my Domestic Church and growing away from the world and closer to God. Turning my face to the Son as it were.

This past Sunday our parochial vicar gave a homily on the Gospel reading that described the prayer of the Pharisee as praying to himself. He then went on to explain how people still do that today. “I’m a good Catholic, I don’t need to go to Confession.” “I pray everyday, I don’t need to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.” Sadly, I’ve known more than a few who’ve fallen into that trap. Even more sad, I’ve felt myself pulled that way more than a few times in my life.

And it’s at a time like now, just before this election of all elections and prior to Advent, the need for oatmeal season has felt right on time. This is really exciting for me as rarely do things EVER time up like this in my life. Here are some things that I am looking forward to during oatmeal season:

  1. Getting closer to God through prayer, scripture and worship.
  2. Getting closer to my family with more activities both inside and outside our home.
  3. Having a clean(er) home.
  4. Having less “brain clutter.”
  5. Reading more books.
  6. Exercising more often.
  7. Being outside when possible.
  8. Helping with our parishes first Advent Family Day.
  9. Cooking and baking (two things that rarely happen during the five+ months of triple digit heat index)
  10. Preparing for the celebration of Jesus’ birth

During Advent, I may deactivate a lot of social media, but I may just stay away like I’m doing now. It’s important to note that I’m not burying my head. My husband is an evening news junkie both local and national and adores talk radio and cable news so, I really don’t get an escape from any of that. And I’m still playing along on my facebook blog page through my shell account, there’s no true getting away from it totally. And I’m around on snapchat and instagram…so there’s that too. And Google+ where no one else is but I’m a-ok with that.

But right now there’s a nip in the air and oatmeal for breakfast and that’s right where I want to be. This is the sweet spot, for me at least. It’s already given me my Bible verse for the coming  year, John 3:30. I also have already selected my saint for 2017, Saint Cristóbal Magallanes Jara (thanks in part goes to Tracy at A Slice of Smith Life for that one). I’m thankful God has taught me to embrace this time and let the world do what it does while I do what I’m supposed to do, follow Him. Oatmeal and all.

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The Bishop, the Wonky Diocese, the Cathedral and the People

I live in the Diocese of Raleigh. Just this past Tuesday we received word that our current Bishop, Bishop Michael Burbidge, has been reassigned by Pope Francis to the Diocese of Arlington in Virginia. This news is shocking. To the point I have friends who do not know how to react.

In many corners, the Bishop is beloved. He set about to personally confirm every single young person in our diocese. That means he’s traveled long distances tirelessly and been in communities that are almost opulantly rich and devastatingly poor. He’s been in suburban “oasis” parishes, rural simple parishes and inner-city poverty parishes.

For years upon years Catholics were a paltry 2% of the entire state population in its two diocese. (Yes, you read that right, there are only two diocese in the entire state.) We now measure closer to 10% thanks to retiring Northerners and Mid-Westerners and Hispanic immigrants. We are not a glamorous diocese. We are not a prized assignment. The sister diocese (The Diocese of Charlotte) is becoming a jewel but we struggle.

If Bishop Burbidge had any misgivings or grumblings about being assigned here, he didn’t let us know. Instead he embraced the challenges and diversity of the diocese. He saw what many on the outside (and quite a few of us on the inside) failed to see: potential. He believed we could be great and he set about to prove it to us.

He became actively involved in as many parish happenings at as many parishes as he could. He embraced social media to spread the Gospel. He worked to get a parish designated a shrine to the Blessed Mother and later, a Basilica (the first in the entire Diocese). He worked tirelessly to support vocations. He didn’t just make appearances in Catholic schools but embraced the families who chose to homeschool. He supported our youth in many ways including helping create the pro-life “Love My Life” rally in the state capital. I know many priests came and went when I was a kid growing up. Never was the official installation of a new pastor as big a deal as it became during Bishop Burbidge’s tenure. And he increased the presence of the TLM throughout the diocese. It still has a long way to go, but it’s getting there.

And then he decided we could be more and do more. And he launched the campaign for the currently under construction Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh. This was no small undertaking as huge swaths of the diocese are in rural or urban poverty. But there are also some very deep pockets. And it would be this undertaking that would show a not unsignificant faction of the diocese who were not Bishop Burbidge fans. There was one parish, a parish with pretty deep pockets, where an anti-Cathedral campaign was launched to great success. The argument being used was that this money would be better used to feed the poor, home the homeless, etc. It’s an argument that, on its face, seems to carry a lot of weight. My parents made a substantial donation to the Cathedral but many of their friends were not on board (we once upon a time belonged to this parish and still have many friends from that time).

When my mom shared the rumblings from this parish, I was floored. So many people had so much they could give, why did they close their fists tightly when it came to their fellow Catholics? (It is worth noting this parish has been vocal about chafing under Diocesan policy sometimes with good reason and other times with questionable judgment.)  When my mother presented me with the argument about other uses for the money, immediately I thought of Matthew 4:4:

It is written, one does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Surely we are to physically feed the hungry with food but what about those whose souls are hungry for truth? This cathedral is not being built to glorify the wealth of a few in the diocese, but to glorify God and to feed the souls of the faithful and those who are still searching.

But Kristen, St Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary…use words.” I have heard some claims that we might attribute that quote incorrectly, but besides that, it’s important to note that in all cases and situations at some point it will be necessary to use words. Any atheist can fill plates at the soup kitchen and do it with dignity for the person on the other side of the plate, but we have more to heaven. We have physical bread, but we also have the “bread come down from heaven.”

That was the Bishop’s goal in the cathedral. And it was during this “anti-Cathedral” campaign that I began actively praying for the Bishop as I felt the over-whelming sense that he was under attack spiritually as well as in the court of opinion. I don’t claim that my prayers have helped him specifically but I was heartened to see him presiding over the blessing of the animals at the parish where the anti-Cathedral campaign originated last week.

I am so excited for my friends in the Diocese of Arlington like Elizabeth, Mary and Ginny. I am overjoyed for them especially because Bishop Burbidge was the joy our diocese needed for the last ten years. The joy that said, “Yes you can. You are God’s chosen one. You were made for this.” (HT to St Joan of Arc there). But I would be lying if I didn’t say I was sad too. My faith-formation class is learning the Rosary this month and we’ve entrusted both diocese involved in this transfer as well as Bishop Burbidge to the Blessed Mother and are offering our prayers for those intentions. Here in eastern NC, we have no idea what the future holds but we hope and pray and know we are worthy. Thank you God, for sending us Bishop Burbidge to teach us that.

What’s My Age Again?

No one should take themselves so seriously
With many years ahead to fall in line
Why would you wish that on me?
I never wanna act my age

-Mark Hoppus & Tom DeLonge

What’s My Age Again

If you really like my posts about faith that aren’t so navel-gazey…this might not be the post for you. Maybe it will be, I don’t know. Like the rest of my life, I’m just winging it here.

I’m listening to the Original London Cast Recording of Crazy For You. I know what you’re thinking, “recording of whaaaa???Crazy For You was an 1990s created stage show that was a “New Gershwin Musical Comedy.” And in the early 90s, when I was in middle school (some of my favorite years of my life), my friend Elizabeth had us in her old downtown Raleigh home and we listened to this alongside Hole, Sonic Youth and assorted others. Let me make clear, Crazy For You is a Broadway produced musical featuring the music of George and Ira Gershwin in a new setting (Someone to Watch Over Me, anyone?). We were listening to Broadway alongside grunge. We attended a public visual and performing arts magnet middle school where we all studied dance and theater. This was totally normal. And I longed for that soundtrack and today, I bought it on iTunes. More than 20 years later.

I don’t know if I’m the only one of my friends who still has the same eclectic tastes in music and entertainment (I’ve also purchases Snoop Dogg’s Cool Aid, the Wadjda soundtrack–mostly for Grouplove’s Tongue Tied, Adult Swim singles and Lenny Kravitz in the last six months) but some days I really feel like an alien that landed here on Earth just trying to pass as human. I’m this close to downloading Hamilton even though I’ve never seen it because: Hamilton.

I’ve often found myself forgetting despite three active children ages 10-7, a marriage of 13 1/2 years, two cars, living in our second house and having a big-girl grown-up job that I’m not 19 or 13. It seems as though a grown-up would remember that when they call and ask for “Mrs. Herrett” that that person is me, not for it to take three minutes to remember it’s me they are asking for because I prefer to be called by my Christian name, Kristen. An adult might have set preferences like period-dramas vs my netflix current watch list which is a crazy mix of favorite sit-coms, current dramas, comedy specials and cartoons I watched as a kid. I was even born at the tail end of Generation X and just ahead of the millenials and therefore don’t really feel like either. I just registered to vote (after 3 ridiculous attempts) and for the first time did so “unaffliated.” Because, y’all, this election…

In anyone else, I would say these same contradictions simply mean they aren’t living to the world’s expectations but maybe to Gods and to embrace these little things that make us us. So why can’t I give myself a break? Because I am fallen. Just like we all are. And I struggle. I’ve been told this is a sign of progress that I recognize the struggle. I spent an hour and fifteen minutes Wednesday night telling a group of third-graders that sin is a conscious choice we make to turn away from God and then got in the car with my kids and let three four letter words roll of my tongue when someone cut me off in traffic. Yikes! Should I be teaching religious education to small children? Even my own children? I feel like a kid myself most days. I even have moments of “who are these kids and why do they keep calling me mama?” because I don’t feel all that qualified most of the time.

It’s not lost on me that all this is cramming the front of my brain ten days before my 37th birthday. I’m staring down 40 and this isn’t how I thought it would feel. The world’s changed a lot in my lifetime. I’ve changed a lot. And yet, I haven’t. When Blink-182 first released What’s My Age Again (in 1999 when I was 20) I felt like that was total stupidity,  who didn’t grow up? Yeah…listening to show tunes tonight made me download that song because…here I am laughing at jokes about Uranus with my kids and watching Garfield and so yeah, what’s this acting my age thing about again? What does that mean? How is my age supposed to act?