Thursday, October 31, 2013

Josefina's Birthday: Our Miracle Girl Turns Seven!

Right out in our yard!
So we bid October goodbye again. Autumn has finally come to the Valley and the trees are "blooming." This one in our front yard has never looked better. There are glorious colors all around the neighborhood.

So much color
Of course, the daylight is shrinking. And for me, this stretch of time remains full of memories: mysterious and traumatic memories. I've written about these events before (see posts from Oct.& Nov. in 2011 and 2012).

One of them, of course, was the unexpected premature birth of Josefina on October 26, 2006. It was the beginning of her seven month stay in NICU and PICU, with the surgeries and the ups and downs and the waiting....

A few days ago, Josefina celebrated her seventh birthday. No, that's not a mistake: she is seven years old, as in "7". S-E-V-E-N. I'm talking about this child right here:

You still have to watch where you sit, or you might mistake her for a pillow!

She weighs 34 pounds and is barely three feet tall. She's a little tweety bird! If her voice were any higher pitched, only dogs would be able to hear it. She wears size 4T, and there are four year olds who are taller and heaver than she is. She climbs around like a monkey, and is quick to perch on my shoulders at every opportunity. My shoulders don't always feel up to it, but I try to bear up if I can... after all, she weighs almost nothing.

Don't worry, she was totally latched on, arms and legs. I was choking to death, but.... (just kidding!)

Its true that she got a very pretty haircut recently, which makes her look more mature. But gosh, she still fits into the Lamby costume that Eileen made for the kids when they were toddlers. Somewhere there's a picture of Lucia at age three practically bursting out this thing. Nobody has ever come close to wearing it at the age of seven.

Okay, I'll admit its bit tight, but still... she's a little lamby!

I'm beginning to suspect that Jojo might actually be a hobbit!

Seriously, she looks like a five year old who is on the small side. But she eats and digests normally. The doctor is not worried; all of this is still not unusual for a pre-mee with her circumstances. She is healthy and certainly has lots of energy (whew!). Mentally she ranges from preschooler to first grader. But she's coming along well. I pay a lot of attention to her, and I can tell she is going through a lot of development, even though its hard to believe since the "package" looks the same.

How old? I don't know. I'm pretty sure she still wears that outfit though!

Of course, she's bigger than her NICU days. Here is such a tiny little being, surrounded by what
Paul Hewson calls "science and the human heart." I often see her today and want to cry with
gratitude, to God and also to many people. Human beings can do so much good, if they choose.

Because I've been home so much in these years, I've spent a lot more time with her than I did with the other four during these early years of their development. I haven't replaced her mother (and, thank God, she's with her mother very much, even if sometimes its in the classroom). No one can "replace" a mother, who is so very different, in an essential way, from a father. Even when the father is the parent who is the "anchor" in the house (i.e. he's there every day, except when everyone goes out), he remains the father.

And he needs to come through and be the father, even in unusual circumstances and with disabilities. He doesn't have to be afraid of these limits; in fact, the children will learn some special things by being with him -- things that they may not have otherwise learned: things about flexibility, about their own important and active place in the family, about compassion.

But still, aren't fathers wrapped around the little fingers of their cute little daughters?

Somewhat, yes. But I don't pamper her all the time. Really, honestly, I don't! I can only be hoodwinked so far. I have three other daughters, so I have a little experience here. And I've learned a thing or two from Montessori about encouraging the child to grow without artificial praise, and disciplining her (whenever possible) by breaking down the problem and offering her possibilities to choose.

Of course, there's plenty of the old fashioned hollering. If we're leaving for Mass in two minutes: "put those socks on NOW!" Stuff like that. You all know how it is.

On the other hand, we sat for a couple of hours the other day with a globe and just talked about different countries and continents, and the North Pole and South Pole and the arc-a-tic kir-kul (Wait, wait, what kinds of sounds are made by "c"? You have a "c" and an "i" there...).

She's fascinated by geography and finding places, as she pipes away in her "helium-balloon" voice.

And so we celebrated here birthday and had lots of fun:

When it comes to opening her own presents, Jojo doesn't need any help.

But she's still thrilled by something like a pink ball (because its her ball).

But she also loves her new paint project set.

And then came Halloween. Here's Lucia, Teresa and Josefina in what I call "minimalist" Halloween costumes.

Josefina is a "Native American" girl. Most people thought she was Pocahontas. Even though
she fits into the "Lamby" costume, she didn't want to be a Lamby. So Mommy got creative
at the last minute, with the help of some feathers, a headband, and a dress she wears a lot.

Teresa, who turns 11 next month, is a "Cow Person" (LOL!) Hat, vest, and rope: all in stock; no purchase necessary.

Lucia (age 13) is taking French this year. So she put on a knitted beret, e voila! -- La Femme Francaise!
(Lucia is becoming a beautiful young lady. I'd love to write a blog about her, but she's shy... 

Well, that's a pretty good update as we enter the month of November. Don't tell me that the year has gone by "fast," because it has done no such thing. It has been some kind of wild and wacky year. A lot of things have happened, and we still have two months to go.

May the Lord show us the beauty of every moment.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Blessed Chiara Badano: My "Spiritual Kid Sister"

I probably talk to Chiara Luce Badano more than any other saint (except for Mary). I ask her to pray for a lot of things. I don't think I've asked for a miracle; I pray for many concerns (my own and those of others) where her intercession remains hidden, although I believe that she does intercede and that she is great and deeply inserted within the heart of Jesus.

There are some saints that I listen to, primarily -- which is not to say that I "hear voices," but rather that I learn from their teachings and the counsel they gave during their lives. Augustine, Benedict, and Bernard; Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure; Ignatius, Francis De Sales, Therese, Padre Pio, Edith Stein, Mother Teresa, John Paul II (although I talk to him a lot too).

Chiara Luce is like a kid sister (she would be 42 years old if she were alive today).

It seems easy to talk to Chiara Luce from within myself. She's a simple heart. She left no treatises and not many words, although the few we have are precious. But I want to ask her to pray for me and my children and our family; to pray for "young people," certainly (that's her special assignment), but also for all the suffering people I know -- especially people who have cancer with all of their grueling struggles. She's been through all that, and not long ago. She's also close to shut-ins and people with chronic pain; people whose lives are derailed by illness (young, middle aged or old).

I think she has a special understanding and a special compassion for those (like me) who suffer from mental illness. When she was in the hospital, she gave her time and her companionship to another woman suffering from depression (even though Chiara herself was in great pain and in need of rest). When she was younger, she once told her mother not to speak harshly about the drug addicts. "They are the lepers of our time," she said.

There's another reason why I am moved to open my soul to her. She was known in life to be an exceptionally good listener. She gave time to her friends, listened to their problems and doubts, and took things into her heart. She once said that she didn't speak much to people about Jesus, but just tried to be a living witness and instrument of His love.

Chiara Luce never condemns me. She is never harsh.

Yet the witness of her life scares me out of my wits. (And she knows that too.) Her life makes it so clear that this "Jesus" thing is really real; its not a mind game. It means tossing it all up and following Him wherever He leads me. Scared? I don't think I even understand what it means to surrender everything, to become His Love, with no regard for my own interest. I feel overwhelmed. I can't get it inside my head.

Not to mention the fact that I'm just so plain old fashioned selfish.
The Lord is teaching me through life and suffering, mercifully and with great patience. And Chiara Luce will stay with me and listen to me and be my friend along the way. I don't deserve the attention of so great a heart.

And I bring her the needs and intentions that people ask me to pray for. O yeah. Because she's the real deal. You should ask her to intercede for you, in bearing pain and suffering, and to grow in the love of God.

Ask her to pray for you. And expect miracles.

This is an unofficial (i.e. non-liturgical) English translation of the Collect for her feast day. My hope is that God's grace will indeed "transform deeply my soul" -- beginning with an attraction to this light of love, a desire to live with this serene trust.

Father of infinite goodness,
who through the merits of your Son
and the gift of the Spirit
have set alight with love Blessed Chiara Badano,
transform deeply our soul
so that, following her example,
we too become capable
of always doing Your holy will
with serene trust.
Through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever,

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dear Eileen: What a Glorious Life

The engaged couple, Christmas 1995

Eighteen years ago today
I got engaged to my beautiful lady.
And now, looking at all the time,
filled with love and patience
and five precious, mysterious children,
with arduous work and failure and success,
with not much richer and mostly poorer,
and even with illness and pain,
there is only one thing I can say:
"What a glorious life we've had!"
I am so grateful to God and to you, Eileen Janaro.
I love you!
May we always be together,
and continue to share with tenderness and courage
whatever God asks of us.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Ancient Blog: Why Were All Things Bitter on the Tongue?

Paging through the Ancient Blog from the month of October in the year One Thousand Nine Hundred and Ninety (yes, that's 1990) I came across some scattered entries for the month, such as this page:

Hmmm. Edith Stein quotations have lost none of their vividness.

Television was "raising the kids" in 1990. The Box was indeed at its height. Cable was booming with new networks, and everyone had VCRs and at least one membership card to a video rental store. Of course, by 1990 we also had personal computers in our homes. They were planted on desks, and looked like bulky microwave ovens. They were useful for documents and data, but they weren't much fun. In those days, the television and the computer occupied two entirely separate worlds, and there was no reason to imagine that that would ever change. As for phones... well, they were your house, securely plugged into the wall.

TV was king. In a few months, Americans would get to watch their first "live war." Thanks to CNN, the bombing of Baghdad was brought into our living rooms like a football game. They even designed a eye-catching logo for "the Gulf War." TV was shaping all of us. It was defining the stories with its images. Upstart cable stations and poor quality homemade video tapes hinted at the possibility of "alternative media," but not much....

What about John Janaro in 1990? I was doing well in graduate school. "But I am not happy. I am not content. I am not satisfied." I was 27 and I thought that "all things [were] bitter on the tongue."

For all that has happened in recent years -- all the struggles and breakdowns and failures -- I would not describe my life today as "bitter on the tongue." No. It is a great life. Things are not bitter. Arduous and difficult, yes. But not bitter. It is a great thing to be alive, and to have hope for each day.

Perhaps in some ways I've grown younger with the passing of years.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Can God Really Turn Our Sorrows Into Joy?

"With weeping they shall come,
    and with consolations I will lead them back,
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
    in a straight path in which they shall not stumble.

I will turn their mourning into joy,
    I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow."
(Jeremiah 31:9, 13)

The promise of the Lord is to lead us, to transform our mourning and our sorrow, to bring us joy and gladness in Him. "I will turn their mourning into joy." But how can this possibly happen?

Sorrow is like a wound forever opened, and we mourn over what is lost beyond all recovery. Can this really change? The really deep sorrows, like the tragic loss of someone we love... how can these sorrows be turned into joy?

We really don't understand what this means. These are the sorrows that we make a certain kind of "peace" with, after awhile. The world tells us to "move on with life" and to forget, and in sense we have to do this, we have to "carry on" just to survive. But no one really forgets the deep sorrows. We learn to carry them with us. We find a way to "come to terms" with them. We live with open wounds.

But if we really have faith in the promise of the Lord, then we also have something more. We have hope. In faith and in hope, we know that God has made our sorrows His own. He has borne them all the way to the end.

God has revealed His love for us. God is Love.

God has revealed His infinite glory, His infinite mystery. But after 20 centuries of Christianity, the words "God is Love" can sound sentimental. We want "love" to be trivial, and so we make God trivial. We consign Him to the superficial places, to the margins of life. We keep His love at a distance, as though it were some vague comforting story.

We do not want to think about real love, because it is so fundamental and mysterious, because it encompasses sacrifice, and because our human experience of love is so often one of failure, limitations, and disappointment. And love is so often for us the road to sorrow.

We love someone, and then they die.

How can we bear this? We envision a hazy "afterlife," strange and inaccessible, or else we allow them to disappear into a supercosmic nirvana. But in life we knew a human person, someone we could walk with, by brooks of water. Here is our great sorrow: we want to walk again with the person we love. We want to see two pairs of feet, and instead we only see one. We walk alone.

And then, a stranger appears.

He walks with us. We don't know who the stranger is, but hope is awakened within our hearts. Are we willing to follow that hope, and take the stranger into the home of our hearts? Or will we let him pass by?

Only if we let the stranger in will he open our eyes. He will show us that he has all the deep wounds of our sorrows. He has them.

But there is no easy way to learn this. We have to let the stranger in. We have to see His humanity and let the fire of hope burn in us.

Then we will begin to discover that the promise has been fulfilled, that love is not a lie or a trick, that our sorrow is even now being turned to joy. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why Are We Always So Frustrated?

Everything is grace,
Everything is the direct effect of our Father's love. 
Everything is grace, because everything is God's gift....

--St. Therese of Lisieux

Everything? Really??

Okay, I can do the theology here, but when it comes to actual stuff that happens ... its very hard to see everything as a gift. Sometimes "everything" is a train wreck. Where is the "gift"?

At such times, it seems easier to understand that proverb of contemporary worldly wisdom, which might be paraphrased as: "Life stinks and then you die!"

But no. Those are always words of profound dissatisfaction. The human person knows they are wrong. If there is any "resignation" in them, its only in the attempt to make a cynical peace with the idea that the universe is one big scam.

But I can't say "I've been cheated by life" except from the expectation that life is supposed to give me something, that at the heart of life there is a promise.

Thus, people go on hoping for something, and if they say things like this its because they are trying to cope with a sense of frustration that seems to renew itself over and over again.

I usually don't go so far as to say that "life stinks..." (well, not lately anyway). But I do feel that "life is often frustrating."

How can my frustration be a gift? Why do I have to live with frustration, day after day; dull, throbbing frustration aching through the day; frustration like a prison that seems to build walls in every direction? What's the "gift" in that?

Well, frustration provokes me; it challenges my freedom, and my sense of who I am.

In the face of frustration, I can choose to give up. I can say "life stinks" and wallow in pity for my isolated self.

Or I can remember that my very self is a gift, and that this moment of frustration (with all of its bitterness, pain, and incomprehensibility) is a gift because it deepens my awareness of who I really am. It reminds me in a concrete way that I am made for something greater, something beyond my control, something I don't make or measure or manage, something that I can't find anywhere in this world.

Nevertheless, this "something" is real. It is at the root of me, it sustains me, and it carves itself into my heart in the form of a promise.


What does my six year old daughter do when she's frustrated by something?

"Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy! Help! Please help!" She asks for help. She asks Daddy to come.

What do I do if I see Josefina crying, helpless, frustrated by something because she's just too small to understand it?

I go to her and pick her up and hold her. She still cries. Sometimes she cries even more. It seems like she doesn't even notice I'm there.

But I am there, and I keep holding on to her.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

John Paul II: Opening Wide the Doors For Christ

Pope John Paul II at his installation,
October 22, 1978
It has begun to seem like a long time ago. The world was different in many ways. It was the world of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall; the world of unimaginable stockpiles of nuclear weapons, the world of "mutually assured destruction." It was the world that had risen from the ashes of two horrible wars, the vast explosion of technological power, and the emergence of peoples and nations struggling to affirm their own identity.

It was the world of my youth. The Communist Empire of the Soviet Union seemed indestructible, an awful reality that appeared to be one of the permanent fixtures of the wild and scary new epoch that was emerging. There were no great ideals looming on the horizon (at least none that I was aware of). There was (it seemed) only the exponential growth of human power over the external world. But human hearts were full of strange dreams and empty of God. He was ignored or had been forgotten by the "free" world, and He was banned by communism.

On October 22, 1978, the sun rose on a dark and terrible world. Who could imagine that something new might happen? Who would have guessed that this day would inaugurate the beginning of a great energy, an expression of intelligence, and above all a witness that was destined to leave an ineradicable stamp on the emerging epoch? No one had predicted that the greatest man of the 20th century was about to take the stage of history. A man was about to appear who would help us begin to understand what had happened in these tumultuous decades of colossal growth and vast destruction. He would help us understand the continuing changes at the end of the second millennium. He would point the way forward, open new vistas of understanding and affectivity, and above all he would remind us of the love of God.

The greatness of John Paul II, of course, was his witness to Christ. It was a singularly powerful witness. He entered into so many realms of human experience and endeavor only to efface himself so that Christ might shine through him. We learned that Christ had never left us, and that at the beginning of the third millennium it was Christ who alone was sufficient to subordinate the new power of human beings to a new and deeper awareness of their dignity as children of God.

The feast day of the man who will soon be St. John Paul II commemorates a moment in his own life and in the life of the Church, but also a decisive moment for the history of the world. There were some who heard his words that day and recognized that something great had begun. There were some who, on that day, began to discover a new courage in their lives.

"Do not be afraid.
Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ.
To His saving power
open the boundaries of states,
economic and political systems,
the vast fields of culture,
civilization and development.
Do not be afraid.
Christ knows 'that which is in man.'
He alone knows it.

"So often today,
man does not know that which is in him,
in the depths of his mind and heart.
So often he is uncertain
about the meaning of his life on this earth.
He is assailed by doubt,
a doubt which turns into despair.
We ask you, therefore,
we beg you with humility and with trust,
let Christ speak to man.
He alone has words of life,
yes, of life eternal."

Blessed John Paul II
October 22, 1978

Friday, October 18, 2013

Mental Illness Happens to "Good Priests" Too

A week and a half ago, I received some terrible news. It saddened and shocked many people. It saddened me, very deeply. But it didn't shock me.
"Father X, a local priest, died unexpectedly yesterday...." So begins an obituary. Some people don't need to read any further to realize the awful thing that has happened. But in a few days, it becomes common knowledge.
Another priest has died by suicide.

This was not a priest who abused anyone, or was under any accusation, or who had ever even dreamed of committing a crime. This was a priest who suffered from depression.
Lord Jesus, grant him eternal rest, and console his family, his friends, his parish, his brother priests. Jesus, have mercy on him, and on the souls of other priests who have disappeared in this darkness, and all other people driven to such an end. Have mercy on those who are afflicted by this terrible disease, and by every oppressive suffering. Jesus, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Jesus.
I don't know what to say about this on a blog. I've prayed to God; I've asked Him, "What can I say?" Does God want me to say anything at all? Maybe it would be better to remain silent.

This is a time to mourn.

But it is also a time for vigilance. A time to pray for the dead and the living. And also a time to do whatever we can to fight against the stigma that remains attached to mental illness, and to build up adequate, Catholic, Christian, human ways to reach out to people who suffer from mental illness. Let us face the fact: we do not yet have enough of these resources. We're not even close. This must change! 

Priests are also human beings. They have brains. They have emotions. They have human problems, human suffering, human loneliness, human illnesses. There are plenty of good priests who suffer from mental illnesses. They struggle with them, they find ways to get through the day with them, they limp with them. They are good men -- some of the best men I've ever known, men who have been instruments of Christ's grace for many, men who have never been a threat or a danger to anyone. Except themselves.

Mental illnesses are diseases. For some reason, we still tend to assume that the sacrament of Holy Orders makes men immune from these diseases. It doesn't.

But what can any of us do? How do we help with a problem like this? Its too enormous. We feel powerless. What can we do?

We can pray for our priests, living and dead. We can have greater compassion toward them (and toward one another). We can recognize that these mental illnesses are real, and try to understand them. We can support efforts to build up adequate mental health services for priests and for everyone in our dioceses.

We can encourage and support Catholic men and women who feel called to be psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, mental health care practitioners, researchers, neuroscientists, and health journalists. We can stop mocking these professions and stop showing contempt for the real problems they are grappling with. Yes, there is a lot of error and confusion here, but also a lot of positive accomplishments and a lot of real medical and therapeutic treatments that exist and that continue to be developed. We must recognize these things; it is a matter of justice and mercy, of life and death.

We can think more carefully, make the appropriate distinctions, listen to people whose judgment we trust, and build up what is good here. Let us help our priests, other people, and ourselves to find the genuine healing that is available. Let us work to erase the stigma and the shame that cause so many people to live in denial or hide the reality of their pain.

We can try to remember that every human being is a person--and that means my neighbor, my spouse, my child, my colleague, and also my priest and my bishop. Every human being is a person who needs to be loved and appreciated, who is vulnerable and weak, afflicted and wounded by sickness and sin and the inexhaustible thirst for God.

We can learn to look at the person. Love the person, first, always....

Monday, October 14, 2013

She Understands My Heart

Yesterday Pope Francis renewed the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The statue of Our Lady of Fatima was brought from Portugal to Rome for this simple but beautiful moment.

There was something about this iconic statue that struck me powerfully as I watched the Mass yesterday morning. This is the statue that bears in its crown the extraordinary relic of another Pope who will be canonized next Spring. The bullet that carried the future of the Church and the human race in its flight is now a jewel in Mary's crown.

Pope Francis knows that the Mother of God is our mother, that she is the "untier of knots," all the knots that bind us up inside ourselves, and keep our hearts from growing.

The heart is a mystery. I think it is a place where Mary is especially important.

Mary is the Woman. "Be it done unto me according to your word." Her submission, from her heart, is the beginning of everything.

She understands my heart. She knows how I struggle with "sub-mission," with saying YES to God and allowing Him to draw my freedom into the His Great Mission -- the giving of Himself, the pouring-out of Himself in love. I compromise, complicate things, evade, resist! I tie myself into knots.

Mary unties the knots. I have to let her take care of it. She has a patience and a compassion in her heart that has been given to her precisely to accompany me, as my mother. She has the supreme empathy for my destiny. This is true for each and every one of us.

Thus the Pope knows that it is meaningful to consecrate the world once again to Mary's Immaculate Heart.

Why would he do this if she's not really there, or if she doesn't matter or doesn't help?

Mary is not a doctrine to be puzzled over. She's a real person, she's really there, she's our mother, she cares for us, she helps us, she loves us... and we don't have to understand "why" in order to go to her.

Either she is a real person who hears the Pope's prayers, and your prayers and my prayers, or else WHY BOTHER WITH ANY OF THIS AT ALL?

My heart? Its a mess. It doesn't want to submit. It doesn't know how to open up, to let go of its smallness, to receive a gift greater than itself, and be transformed by sharing in God's infinite love.  My heart is proud. My heart is afraid. My heart is petty.

I give it to Mary. "Mother Mary, untie the knots."

Friday, October 11, 2013

Give Thanks

"In all circumstances
give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you
in Christ Jesus"
(1 Thessalonians 5:18).

"Giving thanks" in a time of difficulty does not mean trying to force myself to feel good about it. It means trusting in God's goodness and love for me in this moment.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"What I Wore on Monday": WITH PICTURES!

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I introduced a new "series" that will henceforth appear at (extremely ir)regular intervals, called What I Wore on Monday. What had begun as a depressing post about my exhaustion and my dysfunctional brain took a turn in the (dare I say?) "humorous" direction when I got the idea to write about my clothes (you can find that post here).

People say,"Gosh he was my teacher
20 years ago and since then I've had ten
kids and gotten a Ph.D. but I still don't
want to call him by his FIRST NAME!" 
As an "Academic Sometimes Work-At-Home Dad" (we use the acronym ASWAHD) my life is lived in a variety of contexts which call for a diverse wardrobe. In public environments I am required to cultivate a style that conforms to my social status as the eccentric old professor. This is relatively simple; its a matter of throwing a tweed jacket over pretty much anything (lately I've gone for polo shirts). Its the "He's-Wearing-That-Because-He's-Thinking-Deep-Thoughts-and-Therefore-Doesn't-Realize..." look.

But I chose Mondays in particular because they pose special occupational challenges. Mondays combine intensive scholarship (e.g. Zzzzzzzzz) with intensive Daddy-ing (i.e. Josefina and I are both home all day). I need an outfit that's comfortable and durable. I need to be sufficiently presentable to be seen from the neck up on Skype, but I also need to be prepared for a variety of At-Home-Daddy tasks, which include scrounging under a bed looking for the video she wants to watch and also being ready, at any moment, to be turned into a Daddy Jungle Gym.

A couple of weeks ago, I described my Monday outfit in great detail, inspired by those heroic Mommy-Bloggers who cook for, home-educate, and give mommy-love to fifteen children aged six and under, scrub every inch of the house every day, shop in thrift stores or even make their own clothes, and still manage to look smashing!


I wanted to put in a good showing on behalf of the Daddy-Bloggers.

I gave an excellent fashionisto description, but readers (including some Mommy-Bloggers) immediately pointed out that I had not included any pictures!

Duh. The pictures are everything. After all, I wanted to encourage Dads everywhere that they too can look good, even under the special home-life pressures that they face (such as, "Where will I take my nap today?" or "What can I still wear even after I've spilled the child's yogurt on it?").

So this time, I've got the pictures to prove the look.

Yesterday, I went with basic grey (blue trimmed collar for the shirt, and a diverse hue for the "exercise pants"). There was a small hole (okay, not small, but not really big either) on the shirt collar, but it didn't matter because it was in the back. I couldn't see it, which meant that no one else would either. Right?

But on to the pictures. Perfect for your At-Home-Dad Monday:

Just to make it clear: Dads at home are REAL MEN.

Thus the top, with "stretch collar" maximum mobility. (And can you even see the hole? See, I told you, the hole is not a problem.) And now the pants, with the camera capturing the grey diversity.

With athletic socks, and another fist pump, I'm ready for the day!

Well, men. There are your pictures. Be inspired. And rest assured Mommies, we've got everything under control. Well... more or less under control, haha:

Josefina! What are you doing?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mary Always Wins

Our Lady of the Rosary. Our Lady of Victory.

Both Eastern and Western Christian traditions commemorate times when the Blessed Virgin Mary has defended people from hostile invasions, famines, or natural disasters: through the prayer of the Rosary (at Lepanto) or through her icons or various expressions of her local patronage. This is not superstition. Mary is not manipulated; she participates in God's mysterious plan to communicate to each of us a love beyond all understanding, which travels paths that don't necessarily correspond to temporal success or even safety.

But Mary is also our Mother. And she wants to draw us into a more profound trust in the tender care she has for us. She wants us to turn to her in all our needs, and she promises to respond in the manner that corresponds to what is truly good for us.

The Rosary, in particular, is a place where we discover how Mary cares for us, and the "victories" she wins for us every day.

The victory of Our Lady is the loving protection of a mother for her children. It is a sign of the strength of her maternal heart, which is our refuge if we seek her like children. In the Rosary we follow Jesus and find our unity with Him as His brothers and sisters in Mary's heart. We will win today, in time and in eternity, by bringing all our sorrows and troubles and fears and concerns to Mary's Immaculate Heart.

In her heart we will encounter Jesus and learn how to abandon everything to Him, our God, our brother, our source of new life.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

"Combox Rage": Where Does It Come From?

Comments on social media. Comments on so many circumstances in the news. Often, people don't seem to read carefully, or pay attention to what has happened or how it has been reported. They just sound off. Some switch has been flipped inside them, and they spew stuff out: insults, rash judgments, panic, anger, ranting and rambling.

Reading comboxes can make you pretty depressed about the lack of common sense, charity, or even fairness in people's hearts today. It can make you want to do a facepalm over what appears to be an impenetrable cultural illiteracy in people. All this information accessible through the media is not helping people to learn; rather it seems to be stressing them out, oppressing them, provoking them to lash out.

I don't tend to rant in comboxes, but I have my ways of lashing out, in daily life. Why do I do that? Why do I use words to hurt others? I think its because there are certain circumstances that poke the tender spots; that dig into my fears, my gigantic emotional immaturity, all the wounds and anguish from five decades of life, and all the residue of sins, the crushed expectations, the frustrated hopes, the depths of soul still starving for love, the isolation and loneliness that comes from just being a fragmented and fragile human being.

Some mundane circumstance can stir up in me the deep places of fear and pain. Irrational forces rise up, the issue at hand becomes blurry as I wrestle with the feeling that I need to defend myself.

This contentiousness does not come from peace of heart. It comes from the "old self" that can't be defended, that needs to be surrendered and to die with Jesus and be healed.  

We all have this broken life, full of fear and pain. We must pray for God's mercy and healing, for ourselves, for our loved ones and friends, for all those who have been entrusted to us, for the whole world. We can't "defend" the places inside ourselves that are broken. Instead we must go out, away from these places, to seek out others who are wounded within themselves -- wounded in ways that we cannot comprehend.

Its not hard to find "the poor" in this sense. We are all poor. Our neighbors are poor, and if we are honest with ourselves we know that we have no grounds for treating them with disdain. Of course we try to help them recognize and overcome problems, and we do this with the same compassion that we hope to receive from them. We are Christians because, even with all of our mess, we have been changed by the compassion of Christ. We have come to know His mercy.

Lets never allow ourselves to forget this. And lets share it whatever way we can; lets draw on the patience and magnanimity of God that we have experienced in faith, and accompany the people who are in our lives, who have been given to us by Christ. Lets accompany them with love, even if we don't see any way to "make them better," even if we don't know what to give them. We don't know how to bridge the distance between our unfathomable pain and theirs. Lets remain with them in patience (patience with them and with ourselves). Lets love them and trust in God, because the face of Jesus looks upon us through their suffering.

The only thing that can heal people (that can heal us) is the love and mercy of Jesus.

We can all help one another to give everything -- more and more, deeper and deeper -- to Jesus. We have to give Him especially the stuff that is broken in our lives. Because we can't fix it. Only He can fix it.

Whatever weighs upon us, lets give it to Him and ask Him to have mercy on us. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Feast of St. Francis: Letting Jesus Look at Us

"Where did Francis’s journey to Christ begin?
It began with the gaze of the crucified Jesus.
With letting Jesus look at us
at the very moment that he gives his life for us
and draws us to himself.
Francis experienced this in a special way
in the Church of San Damiano,
as he prayed before the cross....
On that cross,
Jesus is depicted not as dead, but alive!
Blood is flowing
from his wounded hands, feet and side,
but that blood speaks of life.
Jesus’s eyes are not closed but open, wide open:
he looks at us in a way that touches our hearts.
The cross does not speak to us
about defeat and failure;
paradoxically, it speaks to us
about a death which is life,
a death which gives life,
for it speaks to us of love,
the love of God incarnate,
a love which does not die,
but triumphs over evil and death.
When we let the crucified Jesus gaze upon us,
we are re-created,
we become a new creation."

Pope Francis (Assisi, feast of St. Francis)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Nothingness into Fire

"Yes, in order that Love be fully satisfied, it is necessary that it lower itself, and that it lower itself to nothingness and transform this nothingness into fire!"
(St. Therese of Lisieux, Man. B, 3v)