Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Another Meme

I just love these things! I should get a life!

A is for Age – 51
B is for Booze – dirty martini
C is for Career – CWDP: Certified Workforce Development Professional
D is for Dad’s name – Edmour
E is for Essential items to bring to a party – I keep getting asked to bring my blender, a 2 hp Vitamix
F is for Favorite songs -- hard to choose just one.... but Kedrov's Our Father; Rachmaninov's Rejoice O Virgin; O Lord, Save Thy People in Obikhod Tone 1 - they always make me cry.
G is for Goof off thing to do – surf the internet
H is for Hometown – Everett, MA and Lake Sunapee, NH
I is for Instrument you play – I used to play all the brass except slide trombone, particularly the french horn; I can play the piano and guitar a little
J is for Jam or Jelly you like – Apple Butter, Freedom Acres brand champagne mint, damson plum and raspberry. There is no other.
K is for Kids - Just one, but she's a fantastic one
L is for Living arrangement – My cheerful little house in Richmond Hill with my almost 17yo dd, one spoiled male shih tzu and our female princess. I mean, our female kitten!
M is for Mom’s name – Beatrice Elena Cieri Babineau
N is for Names of best friends – My best girlfriends, other than my cousins, are Ellen, Cindy, Joan and Carla.
O is for overnight hospital stays – 4 for when I was the patient, and probably about a dozen for when dd or mother or father were the patients
P is for Phobias – Birds flying around near me! Blech! Scary!
Q is for Quote you like – Isaiah 40:30-31
R is for Relationship that lasted longest – It used to be with my life-long friend, Keith, but he died a few years ago.... so now, other than family members and my ex, I think its with my dear friend Ellen
S is for Siblings - No blood brothers or sisters, but two cousins who are the sisters of my heart - Ethel and Roseanne. I love you guys!
T is for Texas , Ever been? – Oh yeah, I've been, and not just in an airport, either. My folks and I and dd drove through it on our way from CA to GA, stopping everywhere we felt like. I particularly liked San Antonio.
U is for Unique trait – Not unique, but a predominant trait I have is that I'm overly helpful. My family and friends understand that I'm just trying to help, but my enemies think I'm bossy and a know it all.
V is for Vegetable you love – Love 'em all! Esp brussels sprouts, artichokes, asparagus.....
W is for Worst traits – See unique trait
X - is for XRays you’ve had – I think pretty much all of me has been x-rayed at some point.
Y is for Yummy food you make – Most things I make are pretty yummy, though I occasionally have to toss something in the trash
Z is for Zodiac sign – I don't really follow this kind of stuff, but I've been told that I'm an atypical Virgo.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christmas Meme

I got this from Lola and it looks like fun.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Tough choice. I think egg nog at Christmastime, particularly if it has some brandy in it. On the other hand, I love hot chocolate.....

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? I used to wrap everything carefully, but once you have a child, it seems pointless to do more than just wrap the presents. Now that she's almost grown, I do the bag thing.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? White. Always white. I come from New England, and white lights make me think of icicles.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Yes, always!

5. When do you put your decorations up? Until a couple of years ago, the earlier the better. I always used to put the tree up on Thanksgiving weekend. But then my parents were failing and it was hard to get everything up. Last year was the first year without my folks, and I just couldn't get into the spirit, so I think we finally got the tree up about a week or so before Christmas. Our tree still isn't up - we were going to do it this afternoon, but both of us are sick. This week for sure, though!

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? For Christmas, I like to eat either chicken cooked in wine or roast pork or kibbee.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: Most of my favorite childhood memories have to do with my mother, her sisters and my grandmother cooking for weeks prior to every holiday in that old green kitchen on B St.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I don't remember, I really don't. I don't remember that I was devastated or anything.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? As a child, the family would go to midnight mass, and stop at our house on the way home to wake me up so I could open my presents. Once I married, my husband didn't want to do that - he was used to Christmas morning presents. We moved to the other coast, and there was no family around, so it was easy to do the Christmas morning thing. I like it better.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? I have enough ornaments for probably 4 or 5 trees! I love Christmas trees! For a few years I did theme trees, but I usually prefer the old favorite ornaments that have been passed down from my parents and that I have collected. Every year I purchase or make a few new ornaments to commemorate that year, and always get a new ornament or two to put away for dear daughter.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Love the look of it! Hate shoveling it. Hate the cold.

12. Can you ice skate? Unfortunately, no. I am Uncle Conrads ONLY failure.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Yes, absolutely. Each year, I would receive a brand spanking new box of 64 Crayola crayons. What more could I have wanted?

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Passing traditions on to my daughter.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Cannolis. Buche de Noel. Baqlawa.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? The christmas ornaments that I've collected.

17. What tops your tree? A star with an angel just below it.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving? I really wish that presents were not part of Christmas.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? O House of Ephratha; Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming; O Holy Night; Slava Vishny Bogu (sorry for the butchered spelling!)

20. Candy Canes… yuck or yum? Nice to look at, not to eat.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

High School Nostalgia

1) What year was it? 1973

2) What were your three favorite bands? Well, these are who I was listening to: Mama's and the Papas, though they were over by then. Crosby, Stills and Nash. Carly Simon. Beatles. Bette Midler.

3) What was your favorite outfit? Jeans, very very tight hip hugger jeans, well washed, soft and faded. Very very tight tee shirt - any color - as long as it was tight. wide leather belt. orange workmen's boots. Red lipstick. My mother's persian lamb car coat from the 1940s.

4) What was up with your hair? Nothing. My hair does not now and did not then, do "up". It was long, straight and parted in the middle like every other lemming.

5) Who were your best friends? Keith Restaino, Donna Ricci, Frank Cavignano, Bob Gallant -- the band and AEPC kids mostly.

6) What did you do after school? If I wasn't practicing for band or the play, and if I wasn't harrassing polluters with the anti environmental pollution committee, then I was hanging out with my friends

7) Where did you work? Every summer I worked for my parents at Clearwater Inn, but during the school year, I worked on and off at Grants, a local five and dime.

8) Did you take the bus? No, I walked to school, most of the time alone. But I never walked home alone.

9) Who did you have a crush on? My really secret crush was Frank Cavignano, but I never let him know because he was hung up on Donna, and they were both my best friends.

10) Did you fight with your parents? A little - everyone does - but it wasn't major.

11) Who did you have a CELEBRITY crush on? Tom Jones and Omar Sharif.

12) Did you smoke cigarettes? I smoked my first cigarette with my cousin Lynne. She taught me how when we were 15.

13) Did you lug all of your books around in your backpack all day because you were too nervous to find your locker? I was never nervous about my locker. I never lugged books in a backpack, either - no one used a backpack, that's how long ago it was! The first week of school each year, I would clip an extra copy of all my textbooks from the storeroom and keep them at home so I never had to carry any books. I'm not stoopid!

14) Did you have a "clique"?Ah, yes. Several. There was the band/AEPC click, and the drama clique, and the smart kids clique. I hung around with everyone - I had entrance into all the groups that I want to be in.

15) Admit it, were you popular? Yes.

16) Who did you want to be just like? My grandmother, Josephine Cieri.

17) What did you want to be when you grew up? An artist or musician and eventually, a mother.


from Saint Cyprian's Writings:

You who are envious, let me tell you that however often you may seek for the opportunity of injuring him whom you hate, you will never be able to do him so much harm as you do harm to yourselves. He whom you would punish through the malice of your envy, may probably escape, but you will never be able to fly from yourselves. Wherever you may be your adversary is with you, your sin rankles within. It must be a self-willed evil to persecute a person whom God has taken under the protection of His grace; it becomes an irremedial sin to hate a man whom God wishes to make happy. Envy is as prolific as it is hurtful; it is the root of all evil, the source of endless disorder and misery, the cause of most sins that are committed. Envy gives birth to hatred and animosity. From it avarice is begotten, for it sees with an evil eye honors and emoluments heaped upon a stranger, and thinks that such honors should have been, by right, bestowed upon himself. From envy comes contempt of God, and of the salutary precepts of our Savior. The envious man is cruel, proud, unfaithful, impatient, and quarrelsome; and, what is strange, when this vice gains the mastery, he is no longer master of himself, and he is unable to correct his many faults. If the bond of peace is broken, if the rights of fraternal charity are violated, if truth is altered or disguised, it is often envy that hurries him on to crime. What happiness can such a man enjoy in this world? To be envious or jealous of another, because such a one is virtuous and happy, is to hate in him the graces and blessings God has showered down upon him. Does he not punish himself when he sees the success and welfare of others? Does he not draw down upon himself tortures from which there is no respite? Are not his thoughts, his mind, constantly on the rack? He pitilessly punishes himself, and, in his heart, performs the same cruel office which Divine Justice reserves for the chastisement of the greatest criminal.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I recently read Fr. Alexander Schmemann's journals. He delivered his last sermon on Thanksgiving Day, 1983 and here it is. It is moving and deep in its simplicity.

Thank You, O Lord!

Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy.

Thank You, O Lord, for having accepted this Eucharist, which we offered to the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and which filled our hearts with the joy, peace and righteousness of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You, O Lord, for having revealed Yourself unto us and given us the foretaste of Your Kingdom.

Thank You, O Lord, for having united us to one another in serving You and Your Holy Church.

Thank You, O Lord, for having helped us to overcome all difficulties, tensions, passions, temptations and restored peace, mutual love and joy in sharing the communion of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You, O Lord, for the sufferings You bestowed upon us, for they are purifying us from selfishness and reminding us of the "one thing needed;" Your eternal Kingdom.

Thank You, O Lord, for having given us this country where we are free to Worship You.

Thank You, O Lord, for this school, where the name of God is proclaimed.

Thank You, O Lord, for our families: husbands, wives and, especially, children who teach us how to celebrate Your holy Name in joy, movement and holy noise.

Thank You, O Lord, for everyone and everything.

Great are You, O Lord, and marvelous are Your deeds, and no word is sufficient to celebrate Your miracles.

Lord, it is good to be here!


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

One Word

Got this from Philippa.

One word, and only one word, so here goes!

Yourself: Contemplative
Your partner: None
Your hair: Gray
Your Mother: Strong
Your Father: True
Your Favorite Item: photos
Your dream last night: None
Your Favorite Drink: water
Your Dream Car: paid
Your Dream Home: large
The Room You Are In: Office
Your Ex: Ex
Your fear: Hell
Where you Want to be in Ten Years? Home
Who you hung out with last night: Priest
What You're Not: hypocritical
Muffins: cranberry
One of Your Wish List Items: boards
Time: Lacking
The Last Thing You Did: dinner
What You Are Wearing: jeans
Your favorite weather: brisk
Your Favorite Book: Psalter
Last thing you ate: Thanksgiving
Your Life: drama-less
Your mood: Hopeful
Your Best Friends: Precious
What are you thinking about right now: mother
Your car: Red
What are you doing at the moment: Blogging
Your summer: sweaty
Relationship status: divorced
What is on your tv: Nothing
What is the weather like: cool
When is the last time you laughed: today

How 'bout you?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Thnigs I've Done

Things I've Done...
...are in italic type. Swiped this from Meg, who swiped it from Philippa.

What have you done? Or not, as the case may be?

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you’ and meant it!
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s nappy
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Drunk champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse.
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Scored a winning goal
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment (its a dimly remembered moment, but its there)
39. Visited all 5 continents
40. Taken care of someone who was drunk
41. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
42. Watched wild whales
43. Stolen a sign
44. Backpacked
45. Taken a road-trip
46. Gone rock climbing
48. Midnight walk on the beach
49. Gone sky diving
50. Taken a train through Europe
51. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
52. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table, and had a meal with them
53. Milked a cow
54. Alphabetized your CDs
55. Sung karaoke
56. Lounged around in bed all day
57. Gone scuba diving
58. Kissed in the rain
59. Gone to a drive-in theatre
60. Started a business
61. Taken a martial arts class
62. Been in a movie
63. Crashed a party
64. Gone without food for 5 days
65. Gotten a tattoo
66. Got flowers for no reason
67. Performed on stage
68. Been to Las Vegas
69. Recorded music
70. Eaten shark
71. Buried one/both of your parents.
72. Been on a cruise ship
73. Spoken more than one language fluently (well, fluently for a 5 year old!)
74. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
75. Walked a famous bridge

76. Had plastic surgery
77. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
78. Wrote articles for a large publication.
77. Tried to lose weight seriously
79. Piloted an airplane
80. Petted a stingray.
81. Broken someone’s heart
82. Broken a bone
83. Eaten sushi
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Parasailed
86. Skipped all your school reunions (not, I hasten to add, by choice -- they all took place too far away)
87. Shaved your head
88. Caused a car accident
89. Pretended to be “sick”
90. Swam in the Pacific Ocean
91. Saved someone’s life.
92. Fainted
93. Been in the room while someone is giving birth (and it wasn't even me!)

94. Hitchhiked
95. Adopted a child
96. Been caught daydreaming
97. Been to the Painted Desert
98. Called off a wedding engagement
99. Donated your blood
Become a follower of Jesus Christ

Monday, October 09, 2006

Anger by St. John Chrysostom

Anger is a strong fire, consuming all things in its path; it wastes thebody and corrupts the soul, and renders a man base and odious to look upon. And if it were possible for the angry man to see himself at the time of his anger, he would not need any other admonition, for there is nothing less pleasing than an angry countenance. Anger is an intoxicant and more wretched than a demon.

St. John Chrysostom

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Becoming Myself

”As life goes on it becomes tiring to keep up the character you invented for yourself, and so you relapse into individuality and become more like yourself every day. This is sometimes disconcerting for those around you, but a great relief to the person concerned.” -Agatha Christie

I was struck when I read this quote by Agatha Christie. Its so true! I thought about how I have been decluttering my life and me this past year, and how the process has allowed me to be more authentic, more honest in my relationships, more able to focus on what is truly needful. Agatha is right, though - it *is* disconcerting to those around you. When you go through these kinds of changes, the pot gets stirred and the old ways of relating to others get redefined.

I've pruned away lots of dead wood and I'm hoping that lots of new growth will occur now, but as an Orthodox Christian, I understand Agatha's quote in terms of my belief as well. It does, indeed, become tiring to keep up the facade. Its like the plate spinner on the Ed Sullivan Show. when I was a kid. It was simply amazing, how many plates he could keep spinning on the end of a stick! And man, did he work - running back and forth, with not one second to take his eyes off the plates. By the end of his 5 minute spot, he was totally spent. That's how I've felt for a long time - too many plates to keep spinning, and no time for what is truly important and fruitful. Too many people in my life, all with their own agendas, sometimes working at cross purposes with each other and with me. No time to think. No time to figure out how I got from way over there to way over here. No time to organize and regroup. Its exhausting.

In some ways, now that I've begun decluttering, I am becoming more myself. More the me I understand myself to be. I love that. I hate it, too, mostly because the me that I know is so flawed. But shouldn't we all become more like Christ instead of ourselves? Isn't that the flaw in Agatha's reasoning? Of course this theosis would also be disconcerting, no question about that, because every time someone meets God and allows Him to shine some light into a corner of his soul, the rest looks even darker in comparison. I'm finding that the relief I feel is more about what *isn't* there any longer than about what *is* there. Surely that can't be "right"!

But I have to confess that putting down some of what I've been carrying is definitely a relief. It has freed up so much more than just time! My emotional life and my spiritual life have improved so much. I'm not as distracted during prayer as I was. I no longer second guess myself about everything, trying to figure out in advance how everything will "play". Not that I don't still do that to some extent - its good manners after all - but my major problems with that have disappeared. And I am GREATLY relieved. Last weekend, I had the energy and the time to spend with a dear friend who got some bad news about a tumor she has behind her eye. Had this happened just a few months ago, I would have been emotionally incapable of providing support to my friend, and I wouldn't have had the physical energy, either. Now, though, I was able to do what was needful last weekend and help my dear friend when she needed my help. Yay!

God is good!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

You Hurt My Feelings!

Once again, Fr. Joseph Huneycutt posted something that resonated deeply with me. I needed to read this, and read it with that detached self-understanding that I blogged about recently. I'm going to cut and paste this here so that I won't lose it and can read it again when I need reminding. This is Orthodixie's September 17th blog entry.


Remembrance of wrongs is the consummation of anger, the keeper of sins, hatred of righteousness, ruin of virtues, poison of the soul, worm of the mind, shame of prayer, cessation of supplication, estrangement of love, a nail stuck in the soul, pleasureless feeling cherished in the sweetness of bitterness, continuous sin, unsleeping transgression, hourly malice.– John Climacus, Ladder of Divine Ascent (LDA), p.87.

Whenever we become obsessed by some past event in which we perceive that we have been wronged, we give the devil ample opportunity to lead us toward greater temptation. We forget that our warfare is not with each other! We are to engage in spiritual warfare against the Enemy of our salvation and his willing hosts, the demons. When we remember wrongs we fall prey to the Father of Lies and engage in combat with our fellow brothers and sisters.

St John of Kronstadt writes:“The Devil cunningly induces us – instead of irritating us against himself – to notice our neighbors' sins, to make us spiteful and angry with others, and to awaken our contempt towards them, thus keeping us in enmity with our neighbors, and with the Lord God Himself. Therefore, we must despise the sins, the faults themselves, and not our brother who commits them at the Devil’s instigation, through infirmity and habit; we must pity him, and gently and lovingly instruct him, as one who forgets himself, or who is sick, as a prisoner and the slave of his sin. But our animosity, our anger towards the sinner only increases his sickness, oblivion, and spiritual bondage, instead of lessening them; besides this, it make us ourselves like madmen, or sick men, the prisoners of our own passions, and of the Devil, who is the author of them” [My Life in Christ (MLC), p.166].

The victory over this plague, remembrance of wrongs, is true repentance and a sincere struggle to love.

“The forgetting of wrongs is a sign of true repentance. But he who dwells on them and thinks that he is repenting is like a man who thinks he is running while he is really sleeping” [LDA, p.89].

“He who has obtained love has banished revenge; but he who nurses enmities stores up for himself untimely labours” [LDA, p.87].

How true! We can expend a great amount of energy in being, and remaining, mad at someone. Nursing enmities gives birth to sleeplessness, mental and emotional preoccupation, thoughts of evil, and worse. True love, God-pleasing love, bears the sweet fruits of repentance, forgiveness, compassion, and charity.

"True love willingly bears privations, troubles, and labours; endures offenses, humiliations, defeats, sins, and injustices, if they do not harm others; bears patiently and meekly the baseness and malice of others, leaving judgment to the all-seeing God, the righteous Judge, and praying that He may teach those who are darkened by senseless passions” [MLC, p.236] .

May we be vigilant in our repentance, our forgetting of wrongs and “hurt feelings.” Let us put aside our weapons used for mutual destruction and embrace the Love that is Christ in order to do God-pleasing warfare with the Enemy of our salvation.

Friday, September 08, 2006


"Christians should judge no one, neither an open harlot, nor sinners, nor dissolute people, but should look upon all with simplicity of soul and a pure eye. Purity of heart, indeed, consists in seeing sinful and weak men and having compassion for them and being merciful. "

Abba Macarius the Great.

"Practice self-observation. And if you want to benefit yourself and your fellow men, look at your own faults and not those of others. The Lord tells us: 'Judge not, that ye be not judged,' condemn not that ye be not condemned. And the Apostle Paul says: 'Who art thou that judgest another man's servant?'"

St. Arsenios of Paros, Modern Orthodox Saints, Vol. 6

These words really hit me today. We all need to read these words with understanding and apply them to ourselves. Practicing self-observation is difficult. It requires us to put away our emotions, no matter how strong they are, step outside them and dispassionately considering the truth of our life. It requires us to seriously consider what those who love us tell us about ourselves. If what we believe to be true about ourselves constantly conflicts with what people who love us and want the best for us tell us, we owe it to ourselves to seriously consider the truth being told to us.

My spiritual father sometimes tells me things that are difficult to hear because he describes a person that I simply do not want to be. But, I owe it to myself, to him, and to those in my community, to step outside of my emotions and seriously consider what he tells me. When I was young, I couldn't do that, but as I matured, I became more able to do this, though there are times when it is very difficult. But I know that he has my best interests at heart, and that he loves me enough to tell me the truth. What a gift he is! I owe it to him to try to see things his way, instead of stubbornly clinging to my idealized ideas about myself. I've learned a lot by doing this.... I've been able to begin the process of decluttering myself, in a manner of speaking, and not just myself, but get rid of the useless or unprofitable flotsam and jetsam accumulated over 51 years of living.

Sometimes I think of what a sculptor friend told me years ago. He said that the work of art, the final sculpture, exists within the stone and has since the earth was created. Its his job, as the sculptor, to remove everything that is not the work of art. What is left is what God had intended the stone to be. Isn't this the perfect metaphor for the spiritual struggle we are all engaged in?

It difficult, this weeding away of that which is not necessary. Sometimes unprofitable things and habits and even people have to be chipped out.

But the end result will be beautiful.

Thanks to Orthodox Pilgrim for the quotes.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The trap of "Romantic Orthodoxy"

Interesting & thought-provoking posting in Rod Dreher's blog found at:


I just finished reading Fr. Schmemman's journal, and this quote can be found on page 276. Rod (and Fr. Alexander) give much food for thought. Here is Rod's post:

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The trap of "Romantic Orthodoxy"

In a journal entry from Nov. 1, 1980, Father Alexander Schmemann,
the renowned Orthodox priest, discerned a problem with what he
called "Romantic Orthodoxy", which can be distinguished by the
following characteristics:

"+ nominalism (e.g., non-existing Patriarchates)
+ blind liturgical conservatism
+ cult of the past
+ theological preoccupation almost exclusively with the Fathers
+ "apocalypticism"
+ hatred for the contemporary world (not for this world in general)
+ emotionalism
+ cult of externals (beard, cassocks, prayer ropes, style)"

"In other words," wrote Schmemann, "it includes all that makes
Orthodoxy weak, that makes it into an internal ghetto (and not an
appeal, a fight, life). Romanticism, in life and in culture, is, above all,
a dream, the primacy of the heart over discernment and truth. It pushes
reality away for the sake of an imagined reality; it is belief in illusions."

Father Schmemann, of course, was talking specifically about the
Orthodox church, but there is wisdom there for all of us who hold on
to small-o orthodox religion, in whatever tradition. My experience is
almost wholly limited to the Catholic Church, but there are some good
general principles in this for the small-o orthodox to watch out for. We
live in a time of such chaos within the churches that it's easy for the
orthodox to substitute slavish adherence to ritual and Henny-Pennyism
(i.e., "The sky is falling!") for authentic spirituality. For me -- and this
is something I would have added to Fr. Schmemann's list -- a particular
temptation has been to get caught up in Church politics, and to allow
"churchiness" to occupy much of the attention that ought to have been
going to advancing on the path to holiness. There was a time not all
that long ago when I imagined that being preoccupied with the
advances and retreats of the forces of Catholic orthodoxy was the same
thing as being and becoming a good Catholic Christian.

The "cult of the past" is a particular temptation too for us tradition-
minded Christians. It's very easy to look around at the loosey-goosey
religion promulgated by Father Frootloop and Sister Stretchpants (and
their dopplegangers in other churches and traditions) and to idealize
the 1950s, when the Church was rock-solid. But that solidity must
have been a Potemkin village at some level, or things wouldn't have
fallen apart so quickly in the 1960s, which is the decade we love
(appropriately, I hasten to add) to demonize. Could it be that in that
decade, very large numbers of people were going through the motions,
but the living faith itself never touched their hearts?

A few years ago I was in the Netherlands talking with a professor
about the collapse of the Church and cultural conservatism in Holland.
He said that when the Second World War ended, people returned to the
social forms that had existed prior to the war. But those forms had
been hollowed out by the trauma of the war. When the first gusts from
the counterculture blew through the Netherlands in the early 1960s, it
all went down like a house of cards. I wonder, then, if the Dutch
churches in the immediate postwar period were caught up in a "cult of
externals," mistaking the form of corporate worship and personal piety
for actual faith -- and so they didn't see the internal weakness

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

It Isn't the Church ... It's You!

It Isn't the Church ... It's You!

If you want to have the kind of a church
Like the kind of a church you like,
You needn't slip your clothes in a grip
And start on a long, long hike.

You'll only find what you left behind,
For there's nothing really new.
It's a knock at yourself when you knock your church;
It isn't the church -- it's you.

When everything seems to be going wrong,
And trouble seems everywhere brewing;
When prayer meeting, Young People's meeting, and all,
Seem simmering slowly -- stewing,
Just take a look at yourself and say,
"What's the use in being blue?"
Are you doing your "bit" to make things "hit"?
It isn't the church -- it's you.

It's really strange sometimes, don't you know,
That things go as well as they do,
When we think of the little -- the very small mite --
We add to the work of the few.
We sit, and stand around, and complain of what's done,
And do very little but fuss.
Are we bearing our share of the burdens to bear?
It isn't the church -- it's us.

So, if you want to have the kind of a church
Like the kind of a church you like,
Put off your guile, and put on your best smile,
And hike, my brother, just hike,
To the work in hand that has to be done --
The work of saving the few.
It isn't the church that is wrong, my boy;
It isn't the church -- it's you.

-- Unknown

Taken from The Best Loved Poems of the American People, pp.93-94.

I got this from Fr. Joseph Huneycutt's blog:

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Dear Daughter's I Am From Poem

I am from pasta and lentils, from Barilla and ballet,

I am from B Street, crowded, loving, scented with old wine and new detergent.

I am from the desert, from RV trips that never ended.

I am from common sense and strength, from my mother and her mother and her mother.

I am from tears of joy and sadness, from gardens failed and successful.

I am from "she reminds me of her mother" and my grandmother's hands.

I am from long hours standing in church, from incense, from wheat, wine and oil.

I am from Cape Cod, from granola and the one bite rule.

From watching war movies and trying to knit, from the lentil year and Sarah Morton's Day.

I am from my grandparents' desk, walls of photos, jewelry boxes filled with love and the occasional gem.

From an old steel box and recipes in my grandmother's shaky hand and my mother's elegant one.

I am from a line of women who are always together, even when apart, and the line will continue through me, my cousins and shared food.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I am from.....

I am from Grammies blue gravy pitcher, from maple sugar candy, from hand knitted sweaters and the old Singer sewing machine.

I am from the little house and little street; from quiet libraries and bustling kitchens; from Sunapee, cool, clear and deep.

I am from tomatoes, gardenias, cultured cities, mountains and lakes.

I am from seven fishes on Christmas Eve, from roaring fires and roaring laughter, from Josie and Bea and Judith.

I am from big noses and big hearts, from hard work and perseverance, from strength of character and adventure.

From "I love you" and "grosse fess" and "clean your plate".

I am from morning mass and rosaries worn smooth with use, from Pater noster qui es in coelis and Notre Père qui es aux cieux and Otche nash izhe ye see na nyebyesekh.

I am from New England, from Boston and Lake Sunapee; from Italy and Acadie, from gnocchi and poutine rapee.

From Grammies lost glasses, the old Garland stove, the dock floating away with the ice floes. From Memiere's silent laughter and harmonicas, from whalers and sea captains, plumbers and wanderlust, from Mexico and New Hampshire, from sea to sea.

I am from the memories of my heart, from polaroids and slides, from earrings and knitting needles, from shadow boxes of photos, from love expressed around the dinner table, from wine and peas and raspberry jam.

I am from paint brushes and baritones, french horns and icons, from singing and dancing and laughing, from endless support and love and pride.

I am from generations of strong women, holding hands, stretching backwards and forwards throughout time.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Courage Quote

I read this today.

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow". -Anonymous

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What I read this morning

A Prayer of Saint Isaac of Nineveh

Do you wish to commune with God in your mind? Strive to be
merciful... One should first of all begin to be merciful in the
measure that our heavenly Father is merciful.

The purpose of prayer is for us to acquire love for God, for in
prayer can be discovered all sorts of reasons for loving God.

Love of God proceeds from conversing with Him; this conversation of
prayer comes about through stillness, and stillness comes with the
stripping away of the self.

Faith in Christ is living, noetic Light.

A monk who with the eyes of his intellect gazes intently into his
heart while praying will quickly be deemed worthy of mercy.

The Light of Jesus is noetic Light, and blessed is the soul which is
accounted worthy to see it!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Am I a Control Freak?

Interesting question. My first thought would be to say no, I'm not a control freak. I'm in control most of the time, but not obsessively so, and I seldom seek control or power positions. I know one or two people would disagree about that, but they would be wrong. On the other hand, I do often find myself pushed into leadership positions, which I willingly (willingly, not gladly) take on, because I know that I am a competent leader and manager, and that what I commit to gets done. So when I saw this silly little quiz, I thought the results would be interesting, but instead, they are pretty much what I expected.

You Are 40% Control Freak

You have achieved the perfect balance of control and letting go.
You tend to roll with whatever life brings, but you never get complacent.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Training Readers

Late last night, one of the catechumens in our parish asked what Compline is. I hesitated about answering the question because it wasn't directed to me, but I knew that she is a person who needs "meat", so I went ahead and answered it.

As I was writing, and then rewriting for clarity, I realized that the information I was giving her is really the sort of information that Readers need. We don't seem to do very well with training Readers here in the US. I don't know what they do in Russia or elsewhere, but here, there is really no emphasis on training readers prior to tonsuring. Usually, men get pressed into service at Vespers or another service, and learn by doing. This is very, very valuable, but its not the whole story.

It seems to me that there are two "tracks" -- there are the readers who do just that, read whatever is put in front of them whenever they are told to read. These readers need only to concentrate on producing clearly understood chanting. These may be men, or women, or even children. This is is what most readers do.

The second track requires more in-depth training for future choir directors or men who may be tonsured in the future. These people need more than just vocalizing, pitch matching and fluent reading, they need to begin building up foundational liturgical knowledge. This is what excites me about the Readers Class that my pastor wants me to teach, and I know that by researching and teaching this, I will only improve my own understanding and knowledge. Its a win-win situation!

I also see the need to teach the choir how to read music and sight singing, perhaps using solfege with a moveable do, which is how I pitch the choir anyway, as well as teaching them basic voice placement and production and breathing. I've got a young teen in my choir with a very sweet voice and some musical talent that I would like to help her develop. I think she could grow into choir directing in the future. Also, for many personal reasons, I believe that learning more about music, and directing, would be something very positive for her. I've been thinking about this for a long time, actually. Her father and I spoke at length about her love of music and other things; he agreed 100% with me and gave me his blessing to push her if necessary. If I were to also teach the rudiments of music reading and vocal production at the Reader's Class, then perhaps I could train a Canonarch or two. This would allow us to do antiphonal chanting/singing in our new church, which will be such a joyous sound!!!! It should also be very engaging for the parishioners - I mean, who can go on autopilot and zone out when the verses are joyously bouncing from side to side of the nave??!?

As I was formulating my very brief explanation of Compline last night, I realized that I really need to spend some time on the Readers Services before I begin the Readers Training Class. It would be useful for potential readers to receive outlines of the various services and some understanding of the structure of the various services as well as their historical and cyclical context - especially the future tonsured readers and choir directors.

So, as I was writing, tried to put my answer in context. I'm posting it here so that I don't lose it and can flesh it out more for the Readers Class.

I guess its really a good thing that I'll be unemployed soon, hopefully for a short while, because that gives me time to work all this out and prepare lessons and handouts etc., as well as to work on my iconography.

If only I could pay my bills by doing the things I love -- like preparing this class, teaching it, iconography, etc....

As the Choir Director and the host for compline this week, I'll take your question on.

We know from the Acts of the Apostles that the early followers of Jesus prayed at certain hours of the day and night. This ancient Jewish custom evolved into the daily cycle of prayer of the Church. This daily cycle of prayer marks the passage of each day and occurs at seven set times, assisting us in fulfilling our Lord's command to pray always and to keep watch with the Church. The appointed times are basically every three hours, beginning at six in the morning and ending around midnight. Each service is called an "hour" no matter how long or short it is. All the hours together keep us engaged constantly in the work of glorifying God.

We follow the ancient Jewish custom of marking the day from sunset to sunset, so the day begins with Vespers at sunset (commonly held around 6 pm); then Compline (the after-dinner prayer) around 9 pm; Nocturns or the Midnight Hour; Matins and the First Hour (the longest service of the day), the Third, Sixth and Ninth Hours (corresponding to nine a.m., noon and three p.m.)

Compline was originally a strictly monastic service, prayed by individual monks alone in their cells, but over the centuries, it took on a communal, public character and evolved into the form we see today. Just like Vespers, there is a lesser form and a greater form, served with or without a priest. I won't confuse you with all the details of the differences between the two - an entire book could be written, and I am no expert. Here at St. Mary's, we pray Little Compline as a Reader's Service (meaning, without a priest) on the Saturdays when Fr. James is in Helena. We've been doing this for a couple of years now.

The basic structure of Little Reader's Compline goes like this: It begins with the Trisagion, or Thrice-Holy prayers; Psalms 50, 69, 142, the Doxology, the Creed, a Canon if specified, the vesperal Stichera of the day, the Thrice-Holy again, ending with the special prayers designated for the day of the week and the dismissal.

Compline will be at 6 pm at my house on Saturday this time around. You are certainly welcome to come. Give me a call on Saturday and let me know if you are coming, and I will give you directions.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Worry-Wort or Pollyanna?

I am really, really worried.

First of all, I'm worried for E's health. She hasn't been well since last January when she caught the GI flu that was going around. She vomited violently for a couple of days in January, and was completely wiped out by it. It took a long time for her to regain any energy at all. Since then, she has had ongoing stomach problems. She tells me that she wakes up nauseous most mornings, but it goes away in a couple of hours. I've told her that maybe its because she's got an upset stomach and she should eat some crackers when she first wakes up, just like for morning sickness, but I don't think that she is taking my advice, at least not regularly. Water tastes bad to her now, so she drinks juice, milk or soy milk. She used to LOVE to have a glass of wine, but now, the mere thought of it is sickening. She doesn't even drink the zapivka at church any more. I can cook with wine and that doesn't affect her, but its weird to pull out a bottle of wine and not have her begging for just a taste. She spends a day in bed being lightheaded and nauseous each month. She doesn't actually vomit then, but she is sick enough that she will have to stay home from school when this happens. Over the last month or so, she's vomited a lot. For her, at least, its a lot. I stayed home from church on Sunday twice in June because she was vomiting, or had vomited during the night. Last Sunday, she suddenly had to vomit at trapeza, barely made it to the ladies room, and then we quickly left. She vomited all the way home, and continued vomiting the rest of the day, and was nauseous on Monday and Tuesday as well. By Wednesday, 7/5, she felt better and was fine until yesterday, Sunday. Yesterday, she was fine until the evening when she vomited again. She doesn't have a fever with all of this. She and I eat almost exactly the same food, so its not food poisoning over and over. She might have some kind of food sensitivity or allergy, so I'm having her keep a food diary for a week or two. I think there may be a psycho-emotional layer to this, since whenever she gets really upset or stressed, she gets an upset stomach. But then again, last night she told me that she doesn't feel particularly stressed right now.

What I'm really worried about is whether the cancer is back or not. If its not stress and its not food allergies, then it must be something more serious. If not cancer, then maybe irritable bowel, Crohns, colitis, gastritis.... pancreatitis has nausea as a sign, I think. I can't remember what else --- its been a long time since I did medical transcription.

I'm worried about her health. I have to make an appt for her to get checked, but not until she gets a week or two of a food diary written down.There is definitely something wrong, though. I pray that its nothing serious, and especially that its not a recurrence of cancer. I'm scared.

My second major worry is that I won't find a job here in low-paying Savannah that pays enough for me to live. I really don't want to move and leave my cheerful little house and the support system I have here, but I would do it for the right job. The funding for my program is ending for sure at the end of August, and I've sent out about 15 resumes in response to known openings, without even a nibble. I'm starting to think about ways to become self employed at this time because well-paying middle-management positions in Savannah are pretty hard to find. I don't want to leave this area because we've been through too much upheaval in our lives as it is, but I would for the right job. I don't think my back will allow me to become a personal chef, so I'll have to figure out something else. I'm very worried.

Deep in my heart, I know that things will work out eventually, because they always do. But still, I'm worried. And I'm tired of always carrying the load. It would be so wonderful to have someone to help carry some of this, but that is not to be. I've never had anyone to help me, so why would someone come along right now? I'll get through this just like I've gotten through everything else - by putting one foot in front of the other and trying to do the right thing. I need prayer. I need to pray for myself. I never do that, but I should. I need to redouble my prayers for my daughter, too. I'm just, I don't know, I'm upset and worried about everything. At least my relationships with others seem to be ok and I don't have to spend my precious peace of mind on anything other than my daughter and my job search. *THAT* is a blessing!

See, there's always SOMETHING!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I'm a jam cookie

You Are a Jam Cookie

On the outside, you project a straight-laced, innocent vibe.
But on the inside, you're complex, exotic, and full of flavor.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Six Things Meme

In the six things thread, I get to reveal six "unusual or little known" things about myself.

1. I'm not REALLY an only child. Yes, its true that my parents had only one child - me, but I have two sister/cousins, Ethel and Roseanne. See, my grandmother owned a two family house on B St. (later made into a three family house)where she lived with my grandfather, one unmarried daughter (Auntie Nettie), one married daughter and her husband (Auntie Anna and Uncle Harold), two of Auntie Anna's daughters (Roseanne and Terry) and one of Uncle Tony's daughters (Ethel). The family relationships are too convoluted for this post. My parents had an apartment a couple of blocks away when I was born, but I went to Grammies for a few weeks first. I grew up as much in my Grammie's house as I did in my own, sharing a dormitory bedroom with Ethel, Ro, Terry, Grammie and Auntie Nettie. I spent a couple of months in the fall and in the spring living there when my parents were in NH at the Inn and I had to go to school in MA. As Ethel, Ro and Terri had families of their own, they lived in that house as well, and I continued to live there part-time... So, I have the experience of sharing a bed and bedrooms, and putting up with nosy older sisters and nosy younger sisters as well. I may be an only child by birth and maybe even by temperament, but not by experience.

2. I learned early that there is a lot of heartbreak in life. Lots of death, lots of sickness, lots of separation, lots of tragedy. But I also learned early that there is a lot of laughter and joy and love as well. Life is messy, love is messy, and if you can't deal with the messiness of human relationships, you might as well cash in your chips. I learned this early by watching my grandmother cope. She was the coolest lady I know.

3. I used to be fluent in Spanish because I lived in Mexico as a child. Yes, my parents owned Clearwater Inn in Sunapee, NH before I was born, and after I was born, they decided to continue running it in the warm weather, from Memorial Day to Columbus Day basically, and spend the cold weather months in Mexico. So, until I went to school, I wintered in Mexico with them. My mom became fluent in Spanish as well, and my Dad was passable, but couldn't help pronouncing everything as you would in French. Weird.

4. My college career is pretty checkered - I studied everything. Yeah, I picked my college because it was cheap and was directly on an MBTA route so I didn't need a car to get there. I didn't have a clue as to what I wanted to do - the things I enjoyed the most and were best at --- well, I just wasn't good enough to make a career as an artist or a musician. Or so I thought. So I went to Boston State College and aimlessly majored in cafeteria for 2 1/2 semesters, took 2 semesters off, and returned to full time study, year round, for five more years. I took every course that was interesting to me. I majored in French and minored in Spanish, switched to Biology with minors in music and art, then switched to Psychology with minors in music and art. Along the way, I took every course (and then some) needed for majors in English Literature and History except for the senior practicum/project.

5. I am painfully shy and lack a lot of social skills. I have a hard time functioning in front of people - but I do it anyway. I sometimes say that I overcompensate, and I think that's true. Most people do not believe me when I say this, because all they see is the Denise I play, and I play her very, very well - I grew up in a hotel, so I can turn it on and off. But the Denise in real life is quite tentative, emotional, lacks self esteem, is jack of all trades and master of none, and is afraid of failure and rejection.

6. Some little known facts: I love gardenias because they were my grandmother's favorite flower and I always think of her. My wedding bouquet was copied from my mother's in every way, except instead of an orchid, I chose a gardenia in memory of my grandmother. I don't have a favorite color - every color has its own beauty, IMHO. I wish I owned the Inn still - if I ever hit the number, I will buy it back. My mother's ashes are in my closet, just as she and I discussed, and I say good morning and good night in my heart to her every day. My pets: the chihuahuas - Scampie, Dona Bandita (Dona), Dona Carla (Carla); the mutt - Rhett Butler (aka Stupid) who was half long haired dashaund and half beagle; the rescue dog - Charalambos (Harry) the lhasa apso who looked into my eyes at the pound and I fell in love; and my current dog, Puccini (Poochie) the shih tzu who loves me to death. Also the kitten Maybelle Sweet Maybelle, and the guinea pigs Dots and Ginger, as well as E's fish: Dawn and Joanna and the seven beta fish named Michael. I'm afraid of birds, especially when they are flying near me, but I've gotten much better than I used to be. I hate housecleaning. I can't stand country music but I like bluegrass and folk music. I adore opera and classical music. Whenever I look at pretty red shoes, I hear my grandmother saying that only puttanas wear red shoes, so I don't buy them, though I have had a couple of pair of burgundy shoes.... and I don't let my daughter wear them either. My eyes are not really dark brown - they are a golden brown with charcoal gray around the edges, and extra large pupils, so they appear dark, but they aren't. I fit the crunchy granola stereotypes. I love lobster. I'm lazy and a procrastinator.

Funny that I would want to explain myself to who? Who reads this? Why reveal all this stuff? Why just put it out in the universe like this? Why the need to be known by someone, now that Mom is gone? I just miss her so much. I had no idea how intertwined we were until she was gone. I really thought that it would get better, this yearning for her, but it hasn't. And now I yearn for my father as well, since only his body remains, but most everything that makes him himself is gone.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

An Orthodox Meme

1. My saint is the Theotokos. I didn't choose her - she chose me. When my mother was pregnant with me, she didn't have any girl names, and when I was born, she said, "I finally have my Denise Marie." And so she did. When I finally took the plunge and converted to Orthodoxy, Fr. John didn't even ask me if I wanted a patron saint - he used Mary since that was already my name. But over the years, I have found that the Theotokos is a never ending source of inspiration and love for me. Her "Yes!", though God's plan was incomprehensible to her, is something I try to emulate, with profoundly sad success. I need to understand. Everything. All the time. But I keep trying to be more like her, though I fail miserably. And now that my mother is dead, I have no other mother to turn to. Unto the Mother of God, let us sinners and humble ones now diligently have recourse, and let us bow down in penitence, exclaiming from the depths of our souls: O Sovereign Lady! Help us, having compassion on us. Show zeal for we perish with the multitude of our sins. Turn not thy servants away empty, for we have thee as our only hope! Painting the Platytera for St. Nicholas Church was one of the most profound spiritual experiences, very intense - so intense that I couldn't work at it steadily.

2. St. Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist - I also longed for a child for many years. I used to pray that she would somehow convince God to give me a miracle baby. And He did. I named her Elizabeth.

3. St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco - some people question whether he was a saint or not, and whether he was incorrupt or not, but I don't. I know people who knew him and don't think much of him, and some who think a lot of him. I guess his personal hygiene put a lot of people off... but all I know is that when I visited his tomb, I had the most profound experience of what I believe to be holiness that I have ever had. I went there specifically to pray for a baby. One month later, I was pregnant - a miracle pregnancy. I am forever grateful to him, because I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that he interceeded for me.

4. St. Joseph the Betrothed - this is my father's Christian name, and all nice French boys have Joseph as a middle name. But its not just love for my own father that makes me love St. Joseph - its the tender duty of faithfully providing a home for the Theotokos and Jesus - everything that a man and a father should be. Like my father.

5. St. Sophia with her Three Holy Children, St. Sophia of the Never-Ending Cup and St. Sophia the Mother of Orphans - Sophia means Wisdom, and I wanted to name my daughter Sophia. It's still my most favorite name. But its not the beauty of the name or how it rolls off my tongue that makes these saints so special to me - its the different ways that they manifested wisdom in their lives that speak to me. I hope I never have to defend my faith, but if I do, I hope I can urge my daughter to defend it as faithfully. I hope that I, too, can wisely husband my resources and provide limitless hospitality and love to those who desperately need it. I hope that I can provide a safe haven for not only my daughter, but for everyone who comes through my door. I took St. Sophia as our homeschool's patron saint because if you have wisdom, you have everything.

6. I have a great respect and fondness for the hymnographer saints, particularly St. Romanos the Melodist and St. Ephraim the Syrian. I'm still learning about some of the others, but I have to say that my life mirrors St. Romanos' life. I also could'nt sing a note and people would ask me to stop singing because I stunk so bad. But one day, I was asked to join a church choir just because the director couldn't stand to have a peanut gallery during rehearsals, and shortly thereafter, my voice began to improve. Suddenly, I was a good singer. It was a miracle, truly, because if you had heard me before....... blech.

7. Blessed Maria Skobtsova - She is a saint for our times, a worldly, cultured, educated woman who led a normal life in an extraordinary way, in times that were far from ordinary. She kept her focus on the one thing needful, and let everything else go by the wayside. This has caused some people to feel she isn't "holy" or "Orthodox" enough, but she is a real inspiration for me. She did what needed doing, at great cost to herself, even to losing her life, and she did it all because she saw the image of God in everyone. I wish I could get past people's .... peoples SELVES enough to see God in everyone.

8. Whatever saint I am currently researching for an icon. When I am painting, I feel such love and closeness to the saint, and I pray that he or she will find my meager offering acceptable and will guide my hand. Currently, I'm working on St. Melangell of Wales and St. Genevieve of Paris. When these are done, I'll go on to St. Christina of Tyre for the mission in Fremont and then maybe St. Thekla for myself.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Goodbye, dear Cousin

Yesterday, Sheila sent out an email that intimated that Kathy has very little time left. It was a tough day at work after finding out that for SURE that I'm losing my funding, and as I was driving back to work after lunch, I really needed to touch home, so I called Roseanne and left a message. When she called me back, we talked about a lot of things, mostly Kathy and Mothers Day, and how scary it was, especially for her at 70, that her peers were dying. I was struck with a real, palpable terror of her and Ethel dying, almost as much as when I would think of my mother dying. I was melancholy all day, and wanted to sleep.

When I checked my email when I got home from I Cantori late last night, I got an email from Sheila saying that Kathy had died minutes before, and there was a beautiful picture of her and Joe as preschoolers, with his arm around her. That's how they were throughout their life, weren't they? They were so close. She followed him pretty much everywhere he went throughout her life.

Now that I've watched my mother die, and have lived without her for more than a year, my heart is broken for Sheila, Nicky and Kathleen. And also for June, Maryann and Emily. The alone-ness and forever of death is such a constant ache. It never goes away. Never.

In America, when we talk about cousins, they are sort of on the periphery of our adult lives. But what I've learned, since I'm one of the few who has moved away from Cieri epicenter, is that time and space don't affect the love, the complete comfort and acceptance, the shared history, the remembrance of times and places and people long past. Now is forever tied together with yesterday in the person of cousins.

Who else remembers Kathy as a young teen? I do. As a candystriper spending long hours at my mother's bedside after her first surgery. As a shapely teen working at our inn together with Ethel and Terry. What a summer that was! So many memories of NH and Uncle Nicky and Joe and Kathy with us, the B Street group.

But what I need to say about Kathy right now, just hours after she has gone on to become her true self in heaven, is that she was only ten years older than me, but she is the only person in my life, including my parents, who took an active interest in my spiritual life. Even when I was about 10 or 12, before I started my major questioning and spiritual searching, she must have recognized something in me, and talked with me about God and her experience of Him, and she took me into her home a number of times so that I experience worship in a more engaging way. And she did this when the rest of the family was incredulous that she and Joe Boy had found religion at all -- the two sinners par excellence - one just a bad, worldly boy, and the other a crunchy granola type before it was fashionable - and everyone denigrated their lifestyle choices. But she was brave enough to either not care, or just bear it, and take a particular interest in me, a snotty, know it all, agnostic kid, and try to guide me towards God. No one else spent any energy on my spiritual life and my relationship with God. Just Kathy.

I'm not sure why she did that, except that we are family, and she loved me. She certainly did love my mother, and my mother always, always had Kathy in a special place in her heart, and was always, always grateful to her for her care of my grandmother and her care of her. And maybe some of that spilled over onto me.

I always thought that Kathy was beautiful. And when she lost her hair and was bald last year, I thought she was really, really beautiful. She always had lovely eyes and a beautiful smile. I didn't care that her lifestyle was different. I don't think anyone else did either, though we never spoke about it. I never cared that she became a charismatic Catholic, though the spontaneous prayer thing makes me very uncomfortable. Everyone else thought her lifestyle was a little weird, up there in Weare in a log home.... but I loved her home.

So, now, Kathy and Joe are together again, with so many other loved ones. I wonder if, when we die, we recognize each other in our transformed state? The urge to love flesh and blood family is so unquenchable - can it survive the presence of God? Does it just drop away in the bliss of being in God's presence? God, I hope not. I can't imagine that the terrible pain of separation would not be healed by the comfort of being together again in Heaven. But a joyous family reunion would take our eyes off the throne, wouldn't it? No matter what I personally choose to believe and choose to hope for, it won't be the reality of death and heaven. The only thing we mortals know for CERTAIN is that death will bring us to judgement and to reunion with God, and that will be such a joyous thing that everything and everyone else pales in comparison. It is beyond our human understanding.

But a void in me still hopes to be filled with a reunion with my loved ones. And today I have to add my cousin Kathy to that ever-growing roster. I hate it. Death sucks. When I meet Kathy again in heaven, she will say to me, "See honey? I *told* you God was real!"

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Things I wish I could do over

1. I wish I could relive the last day of my mother's life. I regret leaving her for half an hour so very much.

2. I wish I had gone right up to my grandmother's coffin and kissed her goodbye when I was 15 years old

3. I wish I hadn't married who I did

4. I wish I had worked harder at truly learning instead of coasting through school

5. I wish I hadn't been so hot to get married and had continued as an undergraduate through the spring semester, or maybe even the summer semester, so I could have graduated with a triple major

6. I wish I had gone to graduate school

7. I wish I had gone to Mass College of Art or NE Conservatory as I wanted to

8. I wish I hadn't given up my career in human resources and hospital administration to move to CA in 1980. By now, I would be running a large hospital and making beaucoup bucks

9. I wish that I didn't grow up during the days of sex, drugs and rock and roll

10. I wish that I had kept my virginity until I married

11. I wish that I had taken my mother to the tea house for her last mother's day

12. I wish that I told my godmother how much I loved her before she died, but I'm so glad that I didn't make that mistake twice and told my other auntie over and over

13. I wish I had left my husband after the honeymoon - I knew that we were mismatched on the honeymoon and wish I had enough guts to just cut my losses right then, at the beginning

14. I wish I could relive just that one special day - I know the one I mean. I keep it in my heart and pull it out when I need to.

15. I wish that I had gotten therapy when I was going through infertility. That's when I began to change and lose my self esteem and self discipline

16. I wish I had gotten intensive therapy when dd was going through chemo and afterward, because maybe I could have coped better and not have thrown my husband out, but I'm not sorry that I ended the marriage. Not one little bit. I should have done it after the honeymoon, such as it was.

17. I wish I was different. I wish I had a true gift in something so that I could more easily focus on one thing, and then I'd have direction. I've been floating and flapping around all my life because I can't settle on one thing

18. I wish I hadn't settled. I keep telling dd - don't "settle" - hold out for what you really want. Its better to do without than to have something that is not what you want. Don't settle for something that is "good enough" - do without until you can get what you want.

19. I wish I had had higher standards for myself, in every aspect of my life, when I was young

20. I wish I had applied for scholarships and gone to a good college. I had amazingly high SATs - 1490 - and I could have gotten in pretty much anywhere I applied, but I didn't even apply. Why is that? Fear of failure? Thinking small? My mother's influence? I should have just gone for it.

21. I wish I had kept up the french horn

22. I wish I had taken piano lessons as a child and young adult

23 I wish I had kept up my french

24 I wish I had talked with my oldest friend, K, one last time before he died to make sure that he knew I loved him

25 I wish I could relive that afternoon a few weeks before Grammie died, when it was just her and me watching TV and she hugged me so hard and said, "You love your old Grammie don't you?" and I was just a stupid kid and didin't know what to say back - I said something inane instead of taking the opportunity to tell her how much I loved her, and how much I admired her.

26. I wish I could take back the whole Ernest and Samantha friendship, as well as the Cat and Thom friendship. They were so much fun, but they were bad for me and I knew it, but it was too much fun to give up

27. I wish that I could go back in time and told Memiere and Pepiere that I really did love them, and that it took me until I was an adult to understand that there is more than one way to love, and that the noisy, messy Italian way of loving is not the only way, and that the reserved and quiet New England way is just as deep. I didn't know that as a child but I do now, and I wish I could tell them that I understand them now in a way that I couldn't then, and that I love them.

28. I wish I could relive that camping trip B and I took with dd. That was the kind of life I wanted to have as a family. I carry mental snapshots of that trip in my heart.

29. I wish that I had told my former pastor no when he asked me to be a godmother. But I was prideful and flattered when he talked to me as an equal minister about her needs and prideful enough to think that I could help her.

30. I wish that I could relive Dr. Guidice's phone call to me, telling me that I was finally pregnant. That was a good day.

31. I wish that I could relive 7/14/93 through 7/14/97. Its a long series of heartaches and bad choices. Maybe I could do it better now.

32. I wish I could relive the last two years of my mother's life - maybe not relive it, argh! it was horrible! But I wish I could do parts of it over. I wish I had had more patience and had been more understanding of the pressure my mother was under. Conversely, I wish I had spoken up more and not allowed her to talk to my Dad the way that she did.... It was a bad situation all around and neither of them should have had to go through that at the end of their lives. What a sucky way to end your life together, after 59 years, too. If I could do it over, maybe I could find the right balance this time around.

33. I wish I had never gotten hooked on Mr. Moonpie. I wish I hadn't been taken in by his moonpie eyes. He gave me just enough to keep me hanging on and hoping and I got so entangled that I missed out on living an authentic life and maybe even meeting a nice man. I wish he had never kissed me, or taken me out. I wish I had never settled for the crumbs he gave me, keeping me on a string. He took up five years of my life - I should never have allowed that to happen. I wish I could do that over.

34. I wish I could redo my last haircut. I hate it. With a passion.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Meme Time

Another meme sent to me by my blogger friend, Susan. I just love these things!

Video Games I Play: Mah jongg

Television Favorite Shows: Sell This House, Giada DiLaurentiis, Michael Chiarello, Ina Garten, Alton Brown, Sell this House, Clean House, McLeod's Daughters, Monarch of the Glen, Sopranos, Big Love

Favorite Channels: HBO, FoodNetwork, HGTV, Bravo, A&E, BBC America, WE

Favorite Reruns: Everybody Loves Raymond, Will and Grace, Vicar of Dibley, Third Rock from the Sun

Most Addictive Show: Clean House, Vicar of Dibley

Favorite Late Night Talk Show: I'm still mourning Johnny Carson. I'd rather read late at night

Show I Secretly Watch: Soap Network

Where I shop: Online

I like to wear: Jeans, no bra, no shoes

Can't live without: Internet!

Favorite Music Artists: The Pretenders, King Crimson, Renee Fleming, Meatloaf, Tim Curry, Maria Callas, Placido Domingo, YoYo Ma, Fr. John Platko, Rosemary Clooney

Favorite Genre: Opera, show tunes, Orthodox Music, Russian romantic music, classic rock, classical, some alternative, some pop. Hate country - ewww! But, I do like folk and old time bluegrass music, which is VERY different from the modern icky modern country top 40

Favorite Songs: Respondez a ma tendresses, Rachmaninov's Rejoice O Virgin, Arkhangelsky's Unto the Mother of God, Chain Gang, I'm a Mother, I Can Make You a Man, I Go to Sleep, 2000 Miles, An Ordinary Couple, Other Pleasures, My Man.

Songs I hate: Anything rap. Anything where you can't hear the words,either because the person is whispering instead of singing, or because the beat and/or the background music is too loud. Folks don't know how to mix music anymore.

Guilty Pleasure: Barbra Streisand!

Favorite Movies: Moonstruck, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, The Sound of Music, The Quiet Man, Amelie, The Mask of Zorro

Favorite Actors: Antonio Banderas, Clark Gable, Susan Hayward, Armand Assante, Deborah Kerr, Johnny Depp

Favorite Directors: I don't know

Favorite Genre: I want to be entertained, not beat over the head with a social message. So, mostly romance and comedy

Favorite Soundtracks: Anything Rogers and Hammerstein like the Sound of Music, South Pacific, Oklahoma, Carousel... and then theres Rocky Horror Picture Show! Oh yes, "toucha toucha toucha me - I wanna be dirty!"

Movie Quotes I say all the time:
Look at my hand! You have YOUR hand, you have YOUR girl. What about MY hand? What about MY girl?
Who's dead?
The man may be the head, but the woman is the neck, and the neck can turn the head anyway it wants

Movies I can watch over and over: See my favorite movies - also, anything with Clark Gable or John Wayne

Actor that would play me in a movie: Dawn French is who would be cast, but I think of myself more like a young Elizabeth Taylor, actually. LOL - I bet others would think of me more like Rosalind Russell! I could do worse!

Favorite Cuisine: Well, anything but Southern. I'm not sure that dead, grey vegetables, lard, cool whip, sliced bananas in vanilla pudding and mayonnaise equal a cuisine. I guess I'd have to say: Mediterranean and Asian cuisines

Favorite Dishes: too many to list really. But lobster and chocolate.

Favorite Desserts: anything chocolate

Favorite Drinks: good coffee with cream, no sugar, or a splash of liqueur

Favorite Junk Foods: McDonald's fries

My Original Recipes: Everything I cook is original because I tinker with everything. Its been hard to actually write stuff down and give precise directions and measurements on my food blog

Favorite Restaurants: The Union Oyster House, No Name in Boston; The Stinking Rose and Jacques and anything in China Town in San Francisco

Foods I hate: pickled herring in sour cream. What a waste of sour cream!

High School Name: Everett High

Status: graduated

Class of: 1973

Attended: 1970 - 1973, grades 10, 11, and 12

Sports: LOL! But I used to be a like a fish in the water and I like to watch figure skating on tv

Organizations: Anti Environmental Pollution Committee, marching band, stage band, concert band, drama club, student government, National Honor Society

Religion: Eastern Orthodox

Interests: Raising my daughter, reading, cooking, needlework, iconography, my new food blog, water colors, travel, getting a new job!

Expertise: very competent jack of all trades, but master of none.

Occupation: mother, choir director, singer, artist, manager

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


I talked with my cousin Roseanne the other day. She had a wonderful birthday...she told me that she turned 70. I can't believe it - in my mind, when I think of her, I see her as a young woman in her mid-20s, when I was a child. When I look at her photo, as I am right now, I see that she's aged some, but she looks pretty damn good for someone who is 70 years old, and she is still just as beautiful as she was when I was little.

Roseanne was 19 years old when I was born, and in many respects, I'm more her child than her cousin. She and I have always, always had a very special relationship, a closer relationship than is usual, even for our family with its intergenerational tangled web of love.

When my mother and I came home from the hospital on September 23, 1955, my parent's 10th wedding anniversary, we didnt' go home to our apartment on Marie Ave, but instead, came home to my grandmother's house - the Catalano family headquarters, as it were - on B Street, and from that day onward, there I was mothered and petted and cheered and spanked and hugged and fed in every possible way by the women of the family: Grammie, my nanas - Auntie Anna and Auntie Nettie, Roseanne, Terry and Ethel.

But Roseanne was special. She and I just loved each other so much - that's all there is to it. We are both pretty emotional people and we always have to cry for the first few minutes of every phone call.

Let me list some memories of Roseanne: She was so very beautiful, stunningly beautiful. She looked a lot like Natalie Wood, and cars would slow down to look at her on the street. She was lots of fun and laughed a lot. She and her girlfriends were kind of mischievous and skipped a lot of school, but now, at 70, they are still tight. I wish I had friends like that. But Roseanne does, and thats because she knows how to love people. Its just a gift - some people have it. Our grandmother had it, and Roseanne does too.

Ro is also endlessly supportive, no matter what it is that you are involved in. Even when she disagrees with me (and that has happened a lot in my life), she still loves me and cares for my wellbeing. Even when she is wrong, and that has happened as well, the love and care is still there.

Ro is a funny person in some ways - she is intensely private and also very open, at the same time. It took until I was more than 40 years old for her to talk to me about her childhood, when her father died, and her feelings of abandonment. On the other hand,I know that she feels things deeply and speaking is difficult when your throat is closed from the tears.

I remember Ro ironing my taffeta dresses so I'd look nice in the school photos. She used to give me Little Miss Tonette perms when I was kid, and sometimes she'd cut my hair. Blood and guts don't faze her - and she's removed countless splinters, and patched me up a million times. She and Terry taught me to fight so that I could defend myself in the schoolyard. She helped me practice my lines for plays and assemblies when I was in school.

Roseanne always had very elegant taste and wore beautiful and expensive clothing. I remember sitting on the bed and watching her get ready to go out. I used to think of her as a princess... as soon as she was gone, I used to try her clothes on, put her lipstick (always a shade of peach) on, and wear her shoes. She had beautiful, high heeled shoes. Unfortunately, I wore orthopedic shoes, and they were knotted on so I'd put her shoes on right over mine.... and once they got stuck - I couldn't get her shoes off my feet and those gorgeous spike heels had to be cut off.... Man, was she mad! But not for long - that's one thing about Roseanne. If she has something to tell you, she will, and she won't beat around the bush. She can be very direct, and she does have a temper. But then, its over. She doesn't hold grudges, and she doesn't stay mad for long.

Sometimes we'd go in Jerry's convertible to the beach to get clams or ice cream, just her and me. She had a few miscarriages after they married, so I didn't have to share my place in her heart with anyone for a while, and sometimes we'd go places. I used to like to go shopping with her, just to see the beautiful clothing and to spray the fine perfumes all over my plump 10 year old body.

She was also pretty unshakeable as a mother. When Joseph Michael would stop breathing, she'd just move him around and pat his back and talk nice to him: "Now Joseph, breathe for mama now. Come on and breathe for mama." And he always did - who could resist her? There isn't a male alive who could resist her. Another mother would have freaked out, but Roseanne just dealt with the situation.

Ro is also a great cook. I had dreams that I was eating her steak pizzaiola this past winter and had to call her up for the recipe. Man, was it good.

I just love her so much. No matter what was going on her life, she made time for me and made me feel smart and special. And I was special to her. Some kids never get that from anyone.... I'm very lucky to have her. My life would be so much poorer without her.

I can't believe that she is 70. I'm looking at the picture of her, me and Ethel, and I can't believe that she is 70. And I can't believe that just the three of us are left to remember what it was like when Grammie and Grampie were alive... the garden in Miss Boutelier's yard, the old cottage, the summer kitchen in the cellar, the concord grape vine growing up the tree, the peach tree in the front yard where the door to the cellar apartment is now, the roses on the front stoop... The old green kitchen, the garland stove, the smell of the Easter baking, the pasta drying on floured sheets on every flat surface of the house... Just the three of us to remember.

I love my cousin Roseanne so very, very much - I don't have words to express it. I hope she knows.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

50 Things I'm Grateful For

1. My daughter is healthy and her cancer has been in remission since 1992.

2. My father still recognizes me.

3. A long life with my most beloved mother from whom I learned so much and who I miss so much.

4. Ethel and Roseanne

5. The B St. kids who are kids no longer

6. That time and space and even death do not change love.

7. The smell of my Grammie's gravy cooking, and all the wonderful memories it evokes... what a wonderful life I've had!

8. An adventurous and well rounded childhood, full of exciting experiences, lots of travel, and meeting many different kinds of people

9. That my daughter has grown into a kind, loving, sentimental, but still strong and don't take no shit young woman.

10. Fr. James. The one man I've met who is not overpowered by me and always, always has the guts to tell me the truth. And I can be pretty scary to men.... Yes, I am VERY thankful for Fr. James.

11. for having found Orthodoxy at a relatively young age, because it takes so long for it to really penetrate and I'm kind of dense about some things....

12. "Beautiful" perfume and "Noa" perfume

13. That crayola still makes boxes of 64 crayons.

14. Puppies, especially my current canine, Puccini

15. The ability to learn how to do stuff from research. The love of research. This has served me very well in my various careers and avocations. And I LOVE learning new things.

16. Learning to swim when I was a baby.

17. That God made lobsters

18. That I know from experience that every cloud truly does have a silver lining.

19. For my ex-husband, who not only gave me the most wonderful daughter, but who has resisted becoming adversarial for her sake, and now is a very good friend. Who would ever have thought it could happen like that?

20. For a loving family, though I miss them so much: Gram and Grampie, Auntie Anna, Auntie Nettie, Uncle Tony, Uncle Joey, Uncle Nicky, George, Jerry, Memiere and Pepiere. Especially Grammie. I'm grateful for Grammie from whom I learned so very much... She was a real character. A real woman. I should be so strong. No matter what life threw her way, she survived with her humor intact. When I grow up, I want to be just like her.

21. Lake Sunapee, NH. San Francisco, CA. Boston, MA. Quebec City.

22. That I'm liberal in the truest meaning of the word.

23. For music and art and all the things that make life beautiful

24. The special quality of sunlight in the early morning

25. Mountains and lakes and rivers

26. Babies after a bath. I love to nibble them!

27. Fishing.... nothing like doing nothing on the water all day....

28. My Vita Mix and my french press coffee pot. Yes, and coffee too!

29. Long drives all by myself

30. Silence - its a good thing!

31. Birch trees. Gardenias. Jonquils. Irises.

32. Tomatoes right off the plant.

33. My pillow. I love my pillow.

34. Guadalupe.

35. My dearest friends: Ellen, Cindy and Joan. They are my family as much as my real family.

36. Freshly laundered sheets

37. Having had the opportunity to love a man deeply

38. That there is always tomorrow. Which is when Scarlett and I will think about it.

39. Internet and email. I am DEEPLY, DEEPLY thankful for internet and email. Deeply.

40. That I still have a couple more careers left in me.

41. That my family lives long, because I am just not taking care of myself the way I should. I'm relying on good genes to carry me through right now...

42. That I never got into drugs or alcohol much when I was younger

43. Jussi Bjorling; Placido Domingo; Chrissie Hynde; Eric Clapton, guitars, harps, flutes, french horns, pianos.... and my most favorite instrument - the human voice

44. I am thankful that I was exposed to opera and classical music as a young child, because I really love them both.

45. I am grateful that when I was 12 years old, on the very last day, my mother finally signed the permission slip so that I could learn the baritone, which allowed me to learn to read music, and as they say, the rest is history

46. Palm Sunday, 1976, St. George Antiochian church choir under the direction of Dean Limberakis, singing a capella (meaning, "of the church") in the gymnasium at Holy Cross Seminary, Boston MA. I fell in love that day, and I have never fallen out of it.

47. That Jarrett Higgins gave me real artists oil paints and took my artistic leanings seriously when I was 10 years old.

48. That Miss Evelyn Murphy, my shorthand teacher in high school, told me that she thought I could do ANYTHING. No one before or since has ever said that to me, and I treasure it in my heart.

49. My new little house - it is so cheerful.... it makes me happy. It doesn't drag me down. Surrounding truly do count.

50. and my number one, most important thing that I am most grateful for: That God has given a wonderful daughter to love. The experience of mothering this particular child has been the most awesome (and I do truly mean, full of awe) experience.... far more than I could ever, ever imagine.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Missing Bea Cieri

I can't even begin to express how much I miss my mother right now. Mothers have an almost mystical quality of safety and love... my mother did, anyway. I talked with Fr. James and he is soooo understanding and honest with me. I value that so much and I don't think I've ever told him how much he has helped me. I don't think I could have gotten through the last year of my mother's life without knowing that I could count on him to tell me truth and to understand.

But he's not my mother. Right now, I just want to lay my head on my mother's shoulder and have her put her arms around me and tell me that everything will be ok. That is not to be. That can never happen again.

Sometimes I think the aloneness and the forever of it all is just too much to bear. And I think it adds to the emotional twisting and turning that I do. Fr. James said that emotions don't mean shit and I know he's right. Its what you DO that matters. But emotions are powerful and you have to allow them to run their course without keeping them going. If you don't allow yourself to FEEL what you are feeling, then you are not living.

And the desire to be known by another is so strong that it surprises me. I didn't feel that way with my husband... but I feel that way now. Why is that? There is no one person that I want to know me, and there certainly is no romantic interest in my life...its not a romantic thing at all.

I think part of why I miss my mother so much is that she is the other. She is the one who knows me, good and bad, and accepted both. Without her, I'm just fluttering in the breeze, hanging on by a thread. Without her to reflect me to me, I don't know what I am. I am lost.

I know intellectually that God knows me and loves me. I know that he has counted the hairs on my head. I know and believe that if he can care for a sparrow, he will care for me. I know that my pastor knows much about me. I know that he accepts me as I am and wants me to grow and mature. I know that he speaks truth to me. I know that I have a wonderful daughter who is far more mature about human frailty that most adults I know. She loves me and emulates me, even in my weaknessess. She knows me intimately because I have allowed her to see into my heart a few times this past year.

But I still miss my mother and that she knew me best. And I knew her best as well. The give and take of knowing and being known is gone now. Its such a loss. Such a loss. And when things happen between myself and others, like with some people I know at church, now I have no anchor to keep me stable, so I'm just fluttering around, a big gaping wound. This can't be healthy.

But I really don't know how to sooth myself... I don't really don't know how to provide that safe haven for myself that my mother was. I pray, not the way I should, but I do pray. And I really trust that God is true and that He is intimately involved in my life. But he's not my mother.

Times like this is when the loss is so fresh. I guess as time goes on, these moments will become fewer, with longer periods in between... at least that's what others have told me. I just have to wait it out. And trusts that God's plan is a good plan and that he is burning off that which is not needed. Just have to wait it out. That's all.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Two Quotes and a Recipe

We must always have old memories and young hopes.

~ Arsen Houssay ~

"The fidelity of a dog is a precious gift demanding no less binding moral responsibilities than the friendship of a human being."

~ Anonymous ~

Tangy Olive Dressing

1 cup ripe green olives, drained and packed

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup water

1 tsp salt

2 cloves fresh garlic

Liquefy all ingredients. Add herbs of your choice for taste. Ripe green olives are best.

Yield: 1 3/4 cup

Monday, March 27, 2006

From Unseen Warfare

"Each affliction has its own peculiarities and each requires its own
remedies; but I speak now about them in general, having in view their
common quality-to trouble and agitate the soul, and having in mind a
general remedy against them. This remedy is faith in the good
Providence, which arranges the course of our life with all its
accidental happenings, for the good of each of us, and a serene
compliance with God's will, expressed in our attitude, in accordance
with which we call from the bottom of our heart: Let God's will be
done! As the Lord wills, so let it be, and be for our good."

St. Theophan the Recluse and St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, ch
27, Unseen Warfare (SVS Press, 1987/2000), p 155

Thursday, March 23, 2006

This Came From Me

You know, I get so worked up about the some people I know ... its because their arrows (and there are many arrows sent my way) hit a tender spot. I was reading today and found this essay which has really made me feel tranquil and not wanting to strike back in some way.


The Following Testament circulated widely in the Russian emigration during WWII, and came to us in America with the ever-memorable Archbishop John (Shahovskoy) who received it when he was Rector of the Russian Church on Nachodstrasse in Berlin. Not until the recent publication of the life of our Venerable Father Seraphim of Vyritsa was it attributed to one individual. Those who knew Staretz Seraphim believe it was written by him and addressed to an imprisoned hierarch.

This Came from Me

Did you ever realize that whatever concerns you concerns Me too? For what concerns you concerns the apple of My eye. You are dear in My sight, of great value, and you are My beloved; therefore, bringing you up is a task close to My heart. When trials confront you, if the enemy is approaching like a river, I want you to know that THIS CAME FROM ME, so that your frailty would be in need of My strength and that your security would be confined to your giving Me the possibility to fight for you.

Do you find yourself in difficult circumstances among people who don’t understand you, who have no consideration for what you like and don’t like, who push you aside? THIS CAME FROM ME. I am God, and I have arranged your circumstances. You didn’t find yourself by chance in your present situation: this is the situation I predetermined for you.

Didn’t you ask Me to teach you humility? I’ve immediately put you in that school where such a course is taught. Your surroundings and those living with you are fulfilling My will.

Do you find yourself in financial difficulties? Is it hard to make ends meet? THIS CAME FROM ME. I outfitted your purse. I want you to run to Me and be dependent on Me. My riches are inexhaustible; I want you to be certain of My faithfulness and My promises—so that you would not be able to say to yourself when in need, “You didn’t trust the Lord your God.”

Are you undergoing a night of sorrowing? THIS CAME FROM ME. I am the Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. I allowed this so that you would turn to Me and could find everlasting comfort.

Were you let down by a friend to whom you had opened your heart about something? THIS CAME FROM ME. I arranged this disappointment for you so you would get to know that your best friend is the Lord. I want you to bring everything to Me and to trust Me.

Did someone slander you? Leave this matter to Me and cling more tightly to Me, your refuge. I will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday.

Were your plans wrecked? Are you wilted and tired in your soul? THIS CAME FROM ME. You put together your plans and brought them to Me to be blessed by Me. But I want you to leave it to Me to arrange your circumstances, and then the responsibility for everything will lie with me...for this is a little too much for you: you can’t fix everything yourself; you are an
instrument, not the main character.

Have you dreamt of doing something special for Me and, instead of that, found yourself lying in bed sick and weak? THIS CAME FROM ME. When you were buried in your work I couldn’t attract your thought to me, and I want you to be taught My deepest thoughts and your work to be about Me. I want you to learn to acknowledge that you are nothing. Some of My best coworkers are those who were cut off from outer activity in order for them to learn to be masters of unceasing prayer.

Have you been called upon to occupy a difficult and responsible position? Come, relying on Me. I entrust this difficulty to you. For this the Lord God blesses you in all your doings, in everything done by the labor of your hands. On that day I will give into your hands that vessel of holy Oil—My blessings:

use it freely, My child. Let every difficulty that comes up, every insulting word, every obstacle in your work that might give rise to feelings of disappointment in you, every revelation of your own impotence and incapability be anointed with that Oil. Remember that every obstacle is a Divine exhortation. Every sting becomes weak if you have been taught to see Me in everything that concerns you. Therefore, store up in your heart every word that I have made known to you today. I am not
giving you something empty, this is your life.”