Reflections on Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, Ch 3

When the Christmas break first began there was an explosion of time and thought. Then came Christmas and New Year’s and with it all the tiredness that naturally comes with such things. Thus I have been delayed posting these reflections. I completed the book prior to Christmas, an accomplishment I am quite proud of. Yet little time has there been for computer-based reflections. So without further ado, here we go.

From the moment of his birth, he belongs outside the realm of what is important and powerful in worldly terms. Yet it is this unimportant and powerless child that proves to be the truly powerful one, the one on whom ultimately everything depends. So one aspect of becoming a Christian is having to leave behind what everyone else thinks and wants, the prevailing standards, in order to enter the light of the truth of our being, and aided by that light to find the right path.

 I read in The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand that in the fall we became deluded into believing that strength is better than weakness. This delusion leads to the belief that men are better than women or the denial that women are, in fact, physically weaker than men. The belief that to be strong is better than to be weak is such a part of our perception of life and the world, it is seems impossible to think of it in any other way. It is like the falsehood that to be tall is better than to be short. If you say to someone “you are tall” it sounds like a compliment. If you say “you are short” it sounds like an insult. They are merely observations. Strength and weakness should be mere observations. We have to leave behind our old way of looking at things. God really doesn’t care if we are rich. In fact, to be more accurate, he delights in our weakness, our poverty because it puts in us in a position where we must trust him, we need him. It is a good thing not to hold onto riches. That statement flies in the face of everything I was ever taught about money. This does not mean I will go out and spend our rainy day fund on a lavish feast, but I can worry less about our position in the social stratosphere.  Worry less and enjoy more. The $20 I saved two years ago isn’t actually helping me now. Not that I should be irresponsible. Two competing voices. The moral of the story is, do not worry, or worry less.

But Christianity has always understood that the speech of angels is actually song, in which all the glory of the great joy that they proclaimed becomes tangibly present. And so, from that moment, the angels’ song of praise has never gone silent.

 This quote stood out to me. It stood out to me like a sound in a quiet place, a light in a dark room. What he illustrates here is a thought I little think about it but it imbues our whole existence. The angels speak in song. Isn’t all good music a shadow of what their song must sound like? And couldn’t good music lift our hearts to the song of the angels? I think and write about the transcendent quality of the arts. I rarely have an image of what we are transcending to. God is so mysterious, so high. This is one step down, a big, big step, but something just a bit closer to us here in the mud. The speech of angels is actually song. It is a song that from that moment has not gone silent. In our heart, in the exterior silence is when we can hear that song. Do we surround ourselves with songs or sounds that will remind us of the angel’s song, or lead us to put the ear of our hearts to heaven’s door to hear it? Imagine your guardian angel who whispers to you to do the right. He speaks in song. This is an image that can alter my day-to-day life, taking me once more out of the mud to see better what God has made me for.

Peace to men of good will – so men “with whom he is pleased” are those who share the attitude of the Son—those who are conformed to Christ.

How many Christians make haste today, where the things of God are concerned? Surely if anything merits haste—so the evangelist is discreetly telling us—then it is the things of God.

We all know what extent Christ remains a sign of contradiction today, a contradiction that in the final analysis is directed at God. God himself is constantly regarded as a limitation placed on our freedom, that must be set aside if man is ever to be completely himself. God, with his truth, stands in opposition to man’s manifold lies, his self-seeking and his pride. God is love. But love can also be hated with it challenges us to transcend ourselves. It is not a romantic “good feeling.” Redemption is not “wellness,” it is not about basking in self-indulgence; on the contrary it is a liberation from imprisonment in self-absorption. This liberation comes at a price: the anguish of the Cross.

Isn’t it so true? My wild, wild children are pushing me to my limits. There in my limits, in my utter weakness, the tears come, I turn off the facet, put the dishes aside, rush to my room and cry out to God. I shake, I tremble. My heart twists in knots as the cries and fits of my little brats before bedtime ratchet up my nerves and anxiety. I am called to this life and at times it is so, so good. When I see myself losing my grip, I try to talk myself out it, calm myself down. Walk down the hallway, prepare myself, then I walk into a recently cleaned room and see a thousand little pieces of torn paper, or I see the four-year old, shoeless and sockless, without a care in the world, while I wanted to leave home fifteen minutes ago. I lose control. I yell. I scold. Her expression collapses in the shock of what her buddy just said, not what her buddy said but how it was said. “You’re making me sad, Mommy.” Am I a failure?

No, I am not. I am living these moments of the cross. My children are not the cross, but my tight-gripped anxious heart is the thing that must die in order for me to be free from this natural-born prison of self-absorption. How do I know I am not failing? It isn’t high self-esteem, I can tell you that. As I entered the nursery to put my infant to sleep, I saw the dolls in the dollhouse. The mommy was in the rocking chair, with the little girl sitting on her lap. That is how she sees me. I’m doing something right, and it buoys me on.




Reflections on Gift from the Sea, Part Two

With a small group of ladies, I am reading Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. We begin by noting the quotes that resonated with us and why. I will share them with you now.

Capitola beach 10

I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core of my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can.

  • This is my desire as well and has been for some time.

I mean to live a simple life…but I do not. I find that my frame of life does not foster simplicity.

  • I struggle with this. I want a simple, uncluttered life, yet I grew up surrounded by the act and encouragement of accumulation. I want it, but I always want things. I am attached to things. Then I struggle not to condemn myself for that (condemnation was a toxic struggle for me when I was younger). When I read this woman, who I know nothing about, and hear her voice the same desires and the same yearnings in a poetic voice that resonates with me, saying, I am like her, she is like me, and then I hear her say her frame of life does not foster simplicity, then I hear her say “it is okay. You desire it, but it is okay that you do not possess it in the way you think you should.” With the review of just a few pages, she became a comforting mother for me. I did not expect to find that in these pages.

Her description of a life of multiplicity. “And this is not only true of my life, I am forced to conclude; it is the life of millions of women in America.”

  • What is this? Am I not alone in this longing and in this struggle?

But how? Total retirement is not possible. I cannot shed my responsibilities. I cannot permanently inhabit a desert island. I cannot be a nun in the midst of family life. I would not want to be.

  • Again I read her example to me and it is a consolation. I would not want to be. It is true. I desire it and yet I do not want it fully. Because I want my shell to be beautiful. She describes her actions to make her “little seashell house” beautiful. It is a simple beautiful. We can be active to do this, but in a simple manner, with that spirit of the sea.

Yet the problem is particularly and essentially woman’s. Distraction is, always has been, and probably always will be, inherent in woman’s life. For to be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the central mother-core, like spokes from the hub of a wheel. We must be open to all points of the compass…how desirable and how distant is the ideal of the contemplative, artist, or saint—the inner inviolable core, the single eye.

  • It is something true to woman. And when I read this I feel that I can I see myself more clearly. Yes this is something about me, deep at my core. My interests, my many, many interests which cannot be expressed in a single profession or project. My visions blurs a little less. It is something of woman. And isn’t it? I look around me and see the women in my life in a new light, a little more clearly. This facet of my personality, that it is multi-faceted it not something that sets me apart, but is something that helps me to be part of something greater.

It is not limited to our present civilization, though we are faced with it now in an exaggerated form. It has always been one of the pitfalls of mankind.

  • Ah how true this is! And now that many years have passed since she wrote this how much more painfully true this is today! We not only have a multiplicity of things, we are enslaved by them, compulsively checking and checking and checking. Bored, and so we check. A dull moment, a thought, a question comes to mind, and so we check. A ping, and then we check. It helps with directions, it simplifies life. But it increases the buzzing and the distractions and harms in the way it is meant to help us. We are even deeper in this sickness than in her day because of our glorious technological revolution.

Capitola waves

“To ask how little, not how much, can I get along with. To say—is it necessary?”

  • Thus I come to the conviction I feel most deeply from this passage. These last words echo in my mind. “Is it necessary?” I read a spiritual exercise online wherein a woman laid out the opposing vision to the woman of Proverbs 31. What stayed with me is the description of the woman who spends the money her husband has earned. I spend too much money. I want things, distractions. I want to take my worth in what I wear. I want to be beautiful. I do acknowledge I enjoy the art of fashion and some things are simply the artistic exercise of putting things together, much like I enjoy in my home or on a table for a party. But if that were all I would be more content than I am…always looking, always distracted, always wanting more.
  • And with the urge to condemn myself I might have stopped there, but I come back to the act of decorating her seashell home. I do not have to live the life of a nun when I am a wife and mother. Elizabeth Scalia, who I read devotedly, debated over the purchase of a purse and the struggle of desire and materialism. She comes to a conclusion. She purchased two purses. If one were perfect, she would simply return one and keep the other. Neither are perfect, and rather than continue searching for the perfect one, she accepts this. She will use one for summer and one for winter. They have a function. They cannot be perfect. She is not absorbed by materialism feeling they will answer every need.
  • I have to remind myself it is okay. There is a middle road and that is what I am called to. I am still learning. In a few years I will come back around again and need to hear these words again, because I will have forgotten them once more. To me that is grace, for the author, it is the call of the sea, bringing us back to where we belong. It is a gift from the sea.


The thoughts we’re tempted to

Santa Cruz Mission chapel

Is anyone done being fascinated by our Holy Father, Pope Francis? I continue to read news outlets attempting to pinpoint him. He truly is a man of the middle road and for those who hold fast to left or right, he is an enigma, and a frustrating one at that.

I think that Pope Francis’ own words at the close of the Synod point to what he is about. And those with the ears to hear, can hear it.

He speaks of joy. Do they think he is lying?

He speaks of temptations. As much as cotton-eared so-called traditionalists want to paint him as a “liberal pope” he speaks openly about the devil and temptations. He calls out the faithful on sins so common we forget how scandalous they are (gossip) and how they destroy our efforts to evangelize by their scandal. The so-called “left” wants the Pope to be their darling, but cries against his silence at not passing sweeping legislation in a Church which is not governed that way at all.

What humors me now is how our Holy Father calls out each of these groups, and indeed all of us, in his words at the close of the Synod. Please take the time to read the full text. Here are some substantial excerpts. He speaks regarding temptations faced during the Synod. There is something for everyone here.

– One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

 – The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

 – The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

 – The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

 – The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

Let’s think about these words. There are few who are solely guided by these temptations and nothing more. Later on the Pope recognizes the good will of those involved and rightly refers to these as “temptations.” Everyone has, based on their genetics, personality, beliefs, environment and upbringing, certain temptations they are more likely to fall into than others.

Regarding the first: a logical, faithful, rigorous person may be moved deeply by a love of the Law and logic in our Church’s teaching. So they find the love of God through this path and want to share that love with others. Then creeps in Satan with the temptation…

Regarding the second: one cares deeply and first found God through the open arms of the Church and perhaps specifically through the parish life. He was not asked questions when he arrived, but for the first time in his life experienced unconditional love. His faith is formed and his devotion to God begins. He wants others to know this great love he experienced, this love with no strings attached. Then creeps in Satan with the temptation…

Regarding the third: she works hard. She was raised to believe that the things you love, you work for, and this is how you show your love. Her character is one of strength and steadfast dedication. When she makes a decision she sticks to it. If she falters, it means she was not dedicated or in-love enough. It is hard to understand others who cannot fulfill their commitment. Then creeps in Satan with the temptation…

Regarding the fourth: a seed among the thorns. Perhaps he was raised and works in the secular world. Perhaps he grew up seeing another suffer greatly and never formed an understanding of the beauty in suffering and as the world believes, thinks it must be avoided. His goal is to help people, to alleviate their suffering. This motivates him in his love of God and Church. Then creeps in Satan with the temptation…

Regarding the last: she feels so at home in the Church. She is dedicated to her parish and serves her parish before considering her needs. This is her parish. This is her faith. Perhaps she does not know a lot about the universal Church or the Magisterium, but she knows parish life and knows what it takes for a parish to be successful. Then creeps in Satan with the temptation…

Have any of these failed? No!

Are any of these terrible people who hate the Church, the world, or those in the world? No!

They face temptations, as we all do. We can probably see ourselves easily as one of those. If we don’t, I think we ought to think a little more about it. I experience and sometimes fall into the first temptation. How about you?

We should not despair. The Holy Father continued, “Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.”

If that’s not enough, here is a little more:

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

If you feel confused about his meaning and his vision of the Church, please read the rest. It only gets more beautiful. The Catholic Church is a hospital for the sick. She is precise in her treatment, but can treat at any stage (On Gradualism). With open hearts, let’s seek the truth, and rejoice as our Holy Father does in the beauty of our some times chaotic unity!

Thinking about ambition.

Thinking about ambition. I grow eager to move on to the next thing once I feel the challenge of the present has been met. I may still have room to grow, but I no longer feel stressed or challenged by the present circumstances. What is the next thing? I shared feelings with my mom like this when I was a senior in high school. That was the first time she seemed to fully understand. She was just the same. Ready to move on, to a new field or up in the present one, but on…anywhere…on. I would experience this again and again. What is the next thing? Ever ready for diversity. Missionary work, college, Minnesota winters, marriage, full time work, Virginia, graduate school, a baby in graduate school, one baby, two baby, three babies under age four, low income. What is the next thing? What challenge can come next?

I’ve compartmentalized my life. Here is my work, my professional life. I’m looking for networking, for opportunities. I want to progress, want to do more, want to be more. I’ve honed my skills, ready for the next challenge. But I can’t. I’m stuck.

I’m stuck because I have three little miracles under three feet running amok in my beautiful home. The youngest does not yet run, she merely reaches, but she’s definitely on her way, ready for the next challenge. I’m stuck because I am living the greatest call imaginable. We came together and made little people in the overflow of our love and they have to be raised, reared, taught the ways of the Lord and civilized society.


I’m stuck and I compartmentalized. But I was wrong to do that. If I feel like I’ve overcome the difficult, stressful part of my wonderfully important job, isn’t that a blessing? Because the constant challenges of parenting tell me I have not yet overcome that battle.

So some things will have to wait for now. If I can see my life as a whole, integrated, the waiting will not be so difficult. I get up, get dressed for work, dress little people before work, go to work, meet with clients, come home, nurse a baby, put a toddler down for nap, eat something delicious prepared by my debonair husband (actually, geeky-awkward-amazing husband), go back to work. I stop at home before going to meetings in order to nurse the baby. I work only two days a week and I will not work back-to-back days.

My life is one. My vocation is one. I do not need to separate them into two separate lives and think one is utterly challenging and I’m failing, and feel “what’s next” in the other. If I see it as one, there is enough for me to apply myself. I can love those children better. Good gracious, I could start cooking again. That’s challenge enough.


“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” Matthew 6:34

Challenge enough.

In medio stat virtus

In all things moderation.  Jealousy in moderation, particularly.

A study (link: shows us we’re less happy when see people’s picture perfect lives on facebook.  We can probably generalize those findings to other forms of social media as well.  I see the home she bought with her banker-husband all set up.  I don’t see the toys lurking behind the couch in the current favored hiding spot of her three-year old toddler.  I see the new hairstyle, the fancy dinner, and I think, oh, they have money or they have time and freedom to either make or cook such a meal.  Ah, to be a newlywed!  And I feel a little bit less joyful about the life I’m living.


And then what happens?

I either defend my lifestyle by defending my undone hair, baggy clothes, laundry mountain, my tired expression and say all that matters is my children are not starving and are loved.  Or perhaps I internalize the messages sent to me via facebook and multimillion or billion dollar marketing strategies to make me believe that truly, my life should be spotless, my face should be spotless (then painted with make up), my wardrobe complete and my cooking completed with the ease and flavor of Rachel Ray’s 30-minute meals. Then I will put endless amounts of pressure on myself and hate myself when my life does not measure up, when I don’t sleep well enough, when pregnancy prevents me from doing anything other than holding a horizontal position.  Is there some middle way?

According to Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics, Book II) vice lies on either side of the virtue.  It is the extreme, the excess or deficiency. Virtue lies in “the golden mean.”  In the Summa (Question 64) Aquinas says this is consistent with Christian morality.  In medio stat virtus.

Why should I dismiss the idea of a life well ordered, presenting myself as put together and working on a house maintained, just because it can’t be perfect?  Why is it I hear that message so often from women on social media?  “Don’t be my friend if you can’t handle a messy house.” Comments then follow about how clean her house looks in the photograph.

My guess is it may be a response to guilt.  But is it guilt over not fulfilling one’s vocation or guilt over not meetings one’s standards of perfectionism.  In medio stat virtus.

We have to find the middle way.  We have to allow ourselves to have an ideal that is realistic. I can dust, but I should not expect the toys to be carefully concealed in a toy box for the duration of the day.  I can vacuum, but should expect to see crumbs, pasta sauce and yogurt on the floor beneath the highchair one hour later. I should expect that I will clean again.  I can shower, do make up, and dress very chic, but I should expect to see my tired face again in the morning after spending a few hours up with the baby.  And I need to know that this is okay.


Where is the lie?  We go can go on social media every moment of the day.  I go just when my life is look the most bleak in my ill-fitted pajamas, gray robe, stuffed nose and messy hair.  At that moment I see that everyone else’s life looks put together and perfect?  Of course that is only the moment he or she chose to photograph.

Perhaps it is not that people only post attractive pictures of themselves, but that the time I am most likely to access those photographs is not during a coffee date but at 5am after the baby just went back to sleep and I can’t sleep because my nose is overrun by allergies.  So the fault is with me.

Should I then dismiss any aspirations towards beauty and order?

I should not!

I should rather take stock of my position in life, find ways to make the most of the situation, make a realistic plan and implement it accordingly.  In my plan I should include consideration that things will not go according to plan, but expectation that I will not chuck the plan when that occurs.

We’re called to know our weaknesses and our strengths.  We aren’t called to be the wife of Proverbs 31 literally. But we aren’t called to dismiss her either.  In medio stat virtus.  We’re called to find the middle way, the golden mean, and live our lives to the full.

I won’t claim and special insight here.  I would like at add the conviction I found in this weblog:

What’s really happening, whether I obsess or dismiss perfection and the call the perfection, is the focus on myself deepens.  I lose sight of the love I am called to give those in our lives.