Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones. (Psalm 116:15)
St. Joseph, your death was beautiful and tender. Your passing filled the room with love; your love, the love of your family, the love of God.
Joseph the dreamer, the worker, the father, the husband, the prophet, the protector, the meaning of your life settled with intense clarity on those who kept watch at your side and on everyone who ever knew you, flooding the hearts of them all. Help us when our time comes to leave this world, to have fulfilled our purpose, to have loved God and every human being he sent our way, to have lived with Jesus and Mary daily that we may also die in their arms and ultimately reach heaven in the company of the angels and saints, to be forever in the Heart of the Father, inhabiting his House filled with wonder. St. Joseph, Patron of a holy death, pray for us as we honor you. Pray for us always.
God of my fathers, Lord of mercy, you who have made all things by your word and in your wisdom have established man to rule the creatures produced by you, to govern the world in holiness and justice, and to render judgment in integrity of heart:
Give me Wisdom, the attendant at your throne, and reject me not from among your children: for I am your servant, the son of your handmaid, a man weak and short-lived and lacking in comprehension of judgment and of laws.
Indeed, though one be perfect among the sons of men, if Wisdom, who comes from you, be not with him, he shall be held in no esteem.
Now with you is Wisdom who knows your works and was present when you made the world; who understands what is pleasing in your eyes and what is conformable with your commands.
Send her forth from your holy heavens and from your glorious throne dispatch her that she may be with me and work with me, that I may know what is your pleasure.
For she knows and understands all things, and will guide me discreetly in my affairs and safeguard me by her glory.” (Wisdom 9:1-6, 9-11)
St. Joseph I can only imagine how overwhelming the prospect of being a father to Jesus the Son of God would have been for you. And Mary would have said, ”Joey you were made for this! God will give you everything you need!” And you believed. You were a strong good and kind man, humble and wise. Wisdom was with you, beautiful father. All the love and the example you gave Jesus made him able to do what he came to do and be what he came to be. Today we ask you also to be a father to each of us. And we thank you for every hug, every talk, every lesson, every game you played with Jesus when he was growing up, and most of all for just being there and filling his life with your love.
I’ve been following Leticia Ochoa Adams, one of my favorite Catholic writers, for years on social media and I’ve loved reading her blog posts. She has always said what I wished someone would say even though I didn’t know I wished that until she made me laugh out loud or feel totally seen by a Catholic writer in a way I had not felt before. I admire her fearless and thorough self assessments, her frank story telling. There is a freedom that inspires in the way she manages to be rigorously honest about herself without sounding self absorbed or over dramatic. Reading her writing feels like sitting at The Kettle late at night with a comfortable friend who still surprises with her stories and insights.
So when I saw she had a book coming out I couldn’t wait to read it. It’s called Our Lady of Hot Messes from Ave Maria Press. It is the author’s spiritual memoir; the story of her life, a record of her conversion, an experience of her spirituality, the lessons she has learned, her observations about the world, her commentary on the times we are living through.
Leticia Ochoa Adams is not shy. Thank goodness because the world needs her voice, the voice of a Tejano daughter of a single mother who has endured more than her share of trauma and tragedy. Most recently she has survived the suicide of her son, Anthony. She is able to talk about this and the abuse she experienced as a child without being either lurid or glib. She makes it easy to learn from what she has been through and in sharing these things she lights the way for others.
She writes about the ways she, and we, numb ourselves, attaching ourselves to activities and material things that keep us from being with God as fully as we could be like “doom scrolling,” on social media and even more innocent things we become inordinately attached to. She examines the mixed motivations she and we often have with a disarming simplicity and clarity.
She reminds us we should just be ourselves. The most important thing to her is being real. I think she has accomplished that with a strength and self possession that might make you raise your eyebrows a little as you read.
One of her chapters is called “Cussing is Normal” in which she challenges us to consider if it’s really enough to use words like “dumb bunny” instead of cuss words when we have the same amount of malice in our hearts when we say them to someone.
I enjoyed her passages about finding God among people. She saw how Christ-like bar flies can be when they care for one another having witnessed the lives and friendships of the men who hung out in the dive bar where she was once a bartender. She learned the Ten Commandments and honorable conduct as part of a community from the “G Code” at the majority black high school she attended long before she learned these things in church. God had been teaching her all along through the events and people in her life. Jesus had been there.
Jesus is real and immediate to her. He’s watching TV with her on the couch. He’s funny, he makes her laugh sometimes and he loves her. She tells him everything. I appreciate the way she shares how that relationship has grown throughout her life, through grief and love and her search for truth.
She wants us to know she doesn’t have it all together, that we are at home in the Church whether we feel we have the perfect Catholic life or not.
It’s funny that she asked such hostile questions at the first RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) class she went to, she got kicked out. She only went to get her boyfriend to marry her, she says. She had been taught at a different church growing up that Catholics were idol worshipers and that the rosary was witchcraft. She was ready to be hostile again on her second try at the class but she was so blown away by the explanation of John chapter 6 she forgot to be mad when they got to the Virgin Mary and the rosary because she was still thinking about the Eucharist.
“The thing I love most about being Catholic is that I have found a place that hasn’t gotten tired of my questions. I can ask them without fear of being kicked out. Having a relationship with God and his mother does not mean that I know everything. It does not mean that I do not question why things are the way they are. But it does mean that I get to show up as me, even if that means I fall asleep when I try to pray my rosary at bed time.”
Her chapter on the rosary is my favorite one. “Praying the Rosary Like a Loser.”
“I also consider that Hail Marys are what make up the Rosary and each one is a rose laid at her feet. So when I don’t have time to pray the Rosary I just try to lay spiritual roses at her feet like not cussing out a coworker or not flipping off someone in traffic or paying for someone’s lunch. Those are all just as valid as roses to her. And that, my friends, is how to pray the Rosary like a loser when you do not have your life together. You just try not to be a jerk to others, and you think about those moments as roses laid at the feet of Our Lady. And you know that you are loved.”
Today is All Soul’s Day, the day we remember and pray for our beloved dead on their journey. It is a day to light candles for them, wash their head stones in the cemetery, to bring flowers. There will be masses and rosaries prayed for them in Catholic cemeteries all over the world today and every country has its own additional customs as well. Around here in some churches people bring pictures of their dead to leave there during the month of November. There will be a Book of the Dead placed near the door at church today so we can write their names in it and we will all pray for them during November at every mass.
Everyone is alive in God and we are still in communion with those who have gone before. I remember my husbands, my grandparents, my mother and my step father, my brother, and my friends who have died every day and I know they are with me. Love is stronger than death. And God is the God of both the living and the dead. All things are alive to him and therefor to me as one who loves him, and to you.
“… the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God. 1 Corinthians 3:22b-23
And Christ is all in all.
God bless you today and all of your loved ones who have died. May the tears you have cried for them be blessed. God holds every one of them close to his heart.
“You have stored my tears in your bottle and counted each of them. ” Psalm 56:8b
*The reason it says God keeps your tears in a bottle is because of the custom at that time to wear a small bottle around your neck when you were in mourning in which you stored your tears.
I tend to think of Zane in shades of color. The moods and thoughts that cross his face are less flickers of change than slight alterations in tint during most of the day. And then there will come a burst of laughter and squeals of hilarity as well as a series of short jumps from him- maybe from a joyful memory or some private joke. Or maybe he thought of something he looks forward to. Whatever it is he isn’t going to tell me; not because he is a teenager and I am an annoying adult he mostly gives the side eye to, but because Zane does not speak in words. Occasionally he becomes suddenly sad and will even weep and seek affection he usually spurns but I can’t know why usually. All of these triggers of joy and sadness tend to be internal and inaccessible to me. I do know that if a book we are reading has a particularly heart wrenching passage it makes him wilt in sorrow and then he walks away and doesn’t want to read that book anymore. This happened when I was reading him the part in Catcher in the Rye when Holden Caulfield is having a breakdown and keeps begging his dead little brother not to let him fall as he loses his sense of space crossing the street. Zane couldn’t stand that though he had enjoyed the rest of that novel. His feelings can be quite deep and all encompassing though I can lose sight of that in the comparative serenity his facial expression displays most of the time.
Zane can linger a long time looking intently at something that seems uninteresting to those of us who are more “neurotypical.” I imagine he sees patterns or details we don’t see. His favorite place to be is outside in the backyard in his “spot.” Zane feels best in nature. So most of our time together is outdoors. He hardly ever cares what kind of weather it is either. He just wants to be in it. Its not as if he isn’t paying attention to the weather although I think sometimes he isn’t. Nor do I think it is simply low body awareness. Maybe nature is his friend. Maybe he wants to take part in life that way as often as he can. It took me along time to realize that the melodic squeals he makes are an imitation of a backyard bird call we often hear. He amazes me all the time.
He has a little trouble with his gait but he still loves to lope along on long walks and he can really walk fast, especially if I play Cat Stevens on my phone. That is our walking music usually. Sometimes he stops to examine the leaves of a Dwarf Yaupon or a Crepe Myrtle along the way. Nature is his buddy and he’s checking in.
Another way he takes part in life is through love in his family. Zane’s parents and his two older brothers talk to him respectfully and care for him in a matter-of-fact way. Something he loves and is always very happy about is when everybody is home. He loves having his family around him. He loves them all and his occasional outbursts of affection with them are touching. He is loved and supported at home. He goes wherever he wants to go and eats what he wants to when he wants to. His hands don’t work very well so he needs help with this though he is able to feed himself. He likes to gently take my wrist and set my hand on the food he wants me to make for him.
Zane has a sense of humor. His Dad was late to dinner one day and his mom was joking with Zane, “Well it was nice knowing Daddy. We’ll miss him but that’s how it goes. Guess he can move in with Billy.” Zane screeched with laughter. When his dad was finally at the door, Zane put his fingers in his ears in preparation.
He can answer yes no questions. We put our hands out and show which hand is yes and which hand is no. “Do you want Zaxby’s for dinner? Yes or no.” When it comes to Zaxby’s he will always slap the yes hand. Usually he will add “Ah” which for him communicates yes as well, perhaps for emphasis.
Something Zane loves to do is shake the bundle of colorful ribbons he always carries, look at it and put his mouth on it. This activity is called “stemming” and he enjoys it very much. Now and then we go to his ribbon closet and cut new ribbon of the color he is in the mood for.
His other great love is his stuffed friend, “Donkey.” Apparently that guy is hilarious. Sometimes they joke and party late into the night and Zane’s parents can’t sleep.
Zane enjoys music and it seems to be a great comfort to him. He likes opera and classical and country. He does not like Nina Hagen. His greatest love is The Wiggles.
His mother gave me a stack of books to read when I first started working with Zane to help me understand him. Some of them had some great ideas for communication and learning. I used to try these ideas out back then. Yes he can spell words on a letter board. But he wouldn’t for me. He would just throw it. He would choose the right answer when I tried a certain technique with him. His cooperation was grudging and I noticed he seemed to hate it when I said, “good job.” It was as if he were saying, “Lady I’ve been at school all day. This is not the relationship I want to have with you.”
One of the books his mother gave me when I was hired was called The Reason I Jumpby Naoki Higashida. Naoki is a nonverbal and autistic teen just as Zane is. He wrote his book using some of the techniques I had read about using a special computer set up for his letter board style of spelling out words. The young man writes about what it is like in his interior world and why he does the things he does, and what he wishes people would understand about him. It was beautiful; mind and heart opening to read. It occurred to me that since we had been reading aloud Zane would possibly identify with it. So we began reading it. The result was electric.
He listened intently and wouldn’t let me stop reading it. He would bring his head closer to me to listen more intently. We read it all day and during my entire shift the next day. At times he would uncharacteristically grab my shoulders or hands and stare at me with full eye contact with extreme excitement. His parents came out to see him and talk about it. We were all almost crying. It was as if Zane were exclaiming, “This is me! Please listen this is me!”
It was quite a moment, and one I know I will always remember.
When Zane is tired he puts his head on my shoulder and becomes unusually affectionate, even hugging me.
“Zane are we good friends?” I ask. He says, “Ah!” and he lets me hug him.
*Author’s note: I obtained permission from Zane’s parents to publish this piece.
I know I’ve been quiet this Summer. It’s been a busy, hot and stressful summer so far. I feel like I’ve either been busy or tired. I’m certainly not one of those writers that sits down at a desk and writes all day the way I have read that some do. I tend to write obsessively for a while and then not write for a while. I am always writing in my head though. So maybe I should be one of those writers who writes all the time. I will have to work on that. Whenever I have an “all the time” to do that in. 🙂
We took in a cat who is a great cat (Annie) but she turned out to be pregnant. She had six lovely kittens April 30. We live in a little apartment so when they began running around and then reached that really obnoxious age where they seem totally crazy and become destructive little gymnasts, it was a bit much even for us. However we had no trouble finding wonderful homes for all but one, the most hapless one who we decided may as well stay on. We love her. My granddaughter named her Princess Buttercup.
I’ve been helping to found a new non profit in my community. That’s been exciting. I will write more about it when we are closer to getting all the way off the ground. It will have to do with helping those in need, helping connect the dots for them and staying with them through the process of finding help until they have actually gotten the help they need. It will be a community center, a food pantry, and a hub for local available services (with comprehensive case management for people in crisis.) We already have an office too! We will have a community garden and oh my goodness we are doing so much stuff! So that’s the gist of it. We have lots of ideas and I am so delighted that more than we even expected is happening, really happening.
I’ve been watching grandchildren on the days I am not working. Those are some stellar little kids. They kill me! My granddaughter I live with is getting ready to begin school again. (First grade!) This is a relief to her and to us as she has been so bored and driving us nuts!
My youngest daughter (who lives with me) started performing in public again. She is a singer/song writer/guitarist. It’s been years since she has done so and we are so proud of her for getting back out there. She heads back to college in a couple days.
My eldest has been into archery and modeling and painting cow skulls she sells at a store called “Cowboy Up.” Also she works as a secretary at an appliance installation place. Both girls are raising their children admirably though, there sure have been a lot of struggles in their lives this summer. Good thing they are both so tough.
I spend most of my work day outside and it’s been a crazy hot summer here in Texas! I can hardly keep my plants alive either!
My friend Molly flew me up to Duluth to see her for a few days. What a beautiful town and a wonderful escape from our weather! We had a blast. She is one of those friends that you end up having four hour conversations with. We talked and laughed our heads off!
So that’s my “What I did this summer” run down.
Most of all, however, I checked on my book today and was utterly astonished to see that it’s already available on Amazon Kindle. I can’t believe it! I wanted to let you know about this crazy surprise, reader!
The print version can be pre-ordered and will be released September 26th. But if you want to you can already read it! WHAT?!
What is Christian love? After my conversion to Catholicism (quite a leap from the way I was raised which was without religion,) my family had adjusting to do. My brother was the person I was closest to. We were symbiotic and as my mom said, “joined at the hip.” For me to make such a radical change in my world view seemed like a kind of betrayal by me. In the beginning we argued. I would say I loved him, which wasn’t especially well received when he was mad. Once he said, “I don’t want your ‘Christian love.‘ I just want you and YOUR love.” This upset me. I thought “What’s the difference?”
Pondering this interaction on the drive home, I realized what he meant and what his fear was. When we were kids my parents were very young, idealistic and nonconformist. We looked different. Our Hippie family was ill treated in the small Texas town my parents had moved to for school in 1968. It was a college town, yes, but unbelievably conservative. They did not allow women into the University unless they were married to a male student until 1972.
A lot of people who said they were Christian didn’t let us play with their kids, talked mess about our parents right in front of us, were harsh and cold with my brother and me and we didn’t understand why. We saw them as alienating people with fake smiles, and vacant eyes who were prone to heartlessness. When they said anything about loving us for Jesus’ sake it just sounded like they didn’t want to “love us” (whatever that meant) but Jesus wanted them to play nice. Which they didn’t.
My brother was afraid I would now love him in some generalized fake way, judging him as a person the whole time. It took him time and experience with me as a Catholic to disabuse him of that notion.
What does Christian love really mean? What does it mean to love someone for Jesus’ sake? I do think sometimes people don’t go very far with this. Maybe sometimes we do think it means to play nice.
Someone on social media told me he was tired of the Church being “the Church of nice.” I said I knew we weren’t supposed to be “the Church of Nice.” No we are supposed to be the Church of radical love.
I’m still working this out. All of us are, as my granny used to say, “full of prunes.” We don’t know what we’re talking about and we think we do. We think better of ourselves sometimes than we really are. We can wake up feeling like we love everybody and we hate everybody by 2 O’clock, or at least we hate several people. Some people. I’m no different. Sometimes I tell Jesus, “I know I’m not allowed to hate that guy. I know you love him, I know.” I tell him all about it. Then there is a glimmer, a hint, of what Jesus feels for that person, and I can’t go on with my tirade or hot headed attitude. I can perceive my self both as the fool I am and the affection and love God has for me. Most of the time peace comes to me pretty quickly if I’m willing. Life is so hard and I don’t know why it has to be so hard. It just is.
In that glimmer of understanding and touch of peace, I think lies the answer of the beginning of Christian love, real love, personal love for a unique and unrepeatable human being we may not know as well as we could, or a transformed love for someone we know as we know ourselves.
He has put into my heart a marvelous love
– Psalm 16:3a
Christian love comes from union with Christ, the transforming love of “putting on the new self.” (Eph. 4:24. This is how we begin to love others as Jesus loves us. (See Jn. 13:34.) I don’t think this ability comes from baptism alone. I think it comes from prayer and time spent consciously in God’s presence. It is prayer that taught me how to love more fully, to examine my inner motivations and attitudes toward others and myself. Prayer and fledgling love of God inspired me to own up to my character defects and wrongheaded, prideful or selfish way of loving- even my brother.
With prayer and being with God we receive a new clarity and freedom of heart. This doesn’t happen right away. It takes so much time that often I get frustrated with myself. I have to remember that God will “complete the good work he has begun in [me.]”
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it by the day of Christ Jesus.
Teresa of Avila wrote about detachment in relationships, especially in Chapter 7 on spiritual friendship in her book The Way of Perfection. “Detachment” sounds cold to us today. Based on my own experience I think I know what she means a little bit that we can apply here. This doesn’t mean less love for someone! It really means a detachment from self, from selfishness in our relationships.
How do we do that? Admittedly I don’t have this figured out yet. However, there is a lot of mystery involved so I don’t blame myself for that!
Similar to our efforts and experience of prayer there is an active part to this new kind of human love, and a mystical part.
The active part is more obvious. We decide to be more self aware to notice what to let go of in our ways of relating. Some of this is simple. Let’s have a look at my brother and me. When he went to rehab at age 16, we learned from the staff there how to better communicate. At first we felt silly like we had to learn to talk all over again and we would get tired of it sometimes and revert to old ways. Or we lost our tempers and had outbursts. We talked about this. We decided to see our progress. The progress was we noticed what we were doing wrong. Then with practice we got where we noticed even before we were mean and stopped ourselves. Then later, we didn’t even think about being mean anymore. Or controlling. Or selfish anymore. This is basic stuff for some people but to us it was a whole new fish bowl.
In the mean time I was learning to pray. I must have been quite an emergency to God because he set about teaching me what real love felt like right away. It was the way he loved me, and the way I learned to love him back. His love is simple and tender and clear. It stops the thoughts and worries running through your mind and you don’t even think “Hey I’m being loved.” It just is.
My own love started to simplify itself, both my love for God and my love and regard for other people. I learned to listen to people in the same way I was learning to listen to God. This took work and came from an urging I think was from him, that I do so. But the transformation took time.
My brother decided I was still me and that he didn’t have to worry about me turning into someone else or loving him in some impersonal creepily fake way. He noticed me growing as a person and that he could translate my new language of spirituality into his own understandings about life and his pragmatic view of spiritual things. He noticed I judged him less, not more. Sometimes, like his early sober days, we reverted to old fears in our relationship, both of us afraid of not being accepted as were were. We both learned, we both grew. We learned to accept one another.
And that’s how it is. What do you know? When we are able to love someone in a Christly way, they don’t just experience Jesus through us, we experience Jesus through them as well, whether they are Christian or not. We want to know a person better when we meet them and we know that every one of them belongs. We may not know how we know, but we know.
And pretty soon the whole thing gets out of control and our way of loving grows a new dimension. The world opens up and the possibilities are endless.
What does God say about this?
Beloved, we are God’s children now. What we shall be has not yet been revealed. However, we do know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he really is.
Applied to learning to love others, I take this to mean in this case that we are already God’s children, but we ourselves are a mystery unfolding, known only to God. The closer we get to the Lord, the more we are transformed as we come to know him and love him as he is, which is for himself; the way he loves us. We will not be perfect at this in this life. However we can cultivate God’s kind of love through prayer, self awareness, God awareness, and the service he inspires. In his mysterious way he will work his beautiful will in us all our lives more and more in pathways of love.
And then we have so much to look forward to: the absolute fullness of love, the fullness of God and union with him.
Have you ever wanted to witness a living miracle? The miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is in Mexico City and is one of the most-visited holy sites in the world. This is an opportunity to visit with others from the Diocese of Austin and led by clergy that knows the story and culture… [Read More]
JOIN US FOR A 9-DAY PILGRIMAGE (SEPT. 12-20,2021) TO THE SHRINES OF MEXICO! The pilgrimage will be led by Fr Juan Carlos López and Deacon Guadalupe Rodriguez Lady of Guadalupe also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a venerated image enshrined within the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City…. [Read More]
Excerpts on St. Michael the Archangel, Conductor of Souls were taken from the messages from a Soul in Purgatory [Sister M.G.] to Sister M. de L. C. who was under the care of a spiritual director (priest) when receiving the messages. The messages were published in a book called: AN UNPUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT ON PURGATORY The… [Read More]
One of my favorite sections in the book “CONSECRATION TO ST. JOSEPH, THE WONDERS OF OUR SPIRITUAL FATHER” by Fr. Donald Calloway is Day 21 – St. Joseph Most Faithful, Pray for Us. This section and meditation show St. Joseph’s faithfulness in rescuing Jesus and Mary in different life and death circumstances (Mat. 2:13 &… [Read More]
One of my favorite parts in the book Consecration to St. Joseph, The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father by Fr. Donald Calloway is Day 29 – St. Joseph, Hope of the Sick, Pray for Us. This is and was a powerful part of the book during the consecration because it covers the miraculous physical healings… [Read More]