Photos, sometimes with Commentary, from a lay Catholic.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Silo with Vines

Silo with Vines
Originally uploaded by marylea

I took a long walk with my dog one morning in early September and took some photos along the way. I love this old silo along one of the country roads we walked. Aging naturally has a beauty that can be overlooked if we aren't keen to see it.

Silo with Vines

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Omar Says Goodbye

Happy Morning Walk
Originally uploaded by marylea
Sad and a little melancholy today. On Monday, June 25, 2007, I lost a dear feline friend who had been with me for 15 years, longer than many of my other relationships! Omar came to our family as a kitten, rescued after being abandoned by her mother, a ferral cat. We nursed her until she could eat kitten food. My kids were in elementary school back then, and having a pet was a great thing for them, and for me.

Omar didn't like being dressed in doll clothes. She wasn't that type of cat. So we got Bailey a year later. (Baily died Mach 19, 2006.) Omar didn't care much for Bailey, who showed her far too much attention, and particularly moved in on any "favorite" spot she found to sleep. She was frequently moving to a new chair or window, only to have it encroached upon by him. We tried to keep Bailey from being so overbearing, but she was none too thrilled with him. Still, Bailey was good for the kids, and content to be dressed in doll clothes and carried by his tail if it got him attention. (And it did.)

But Omar was different, more aloof, a little more sophistocated, we told ourselves. She was an avid reader and loved the arts. Or so it seemed.

And she was a great mouser. In recent years her rodent count seemed to increase. In our new home, she had already caught three mice that got in the basement, and was working to rid the yard of these "pests". She was pretty good to leave the birds alone. By that I mean she must not have been very good at catching them, because we didn't see too many aviary casualties.

She loved the outdoors, was afraid during thunderstorms, liked her water from sink faucets, chased elastic hair ties around the house, begged for broccoli, had to be coaxed to eat turkey, preferred vegetables instead of meat (like me!), and was generally a homebody, usually nearby. If I were working in the garden, she would appear from nowhere. In cooler weather she slept indoors, recently preferring to nap on our headboard or my pillow, or on the couch in Kevin's office where the sun shines in through the window. In warm weather, she liked to be outdoors. She liked to sleep in my lap when I worked on the computer, or on the printer, if Seamus was in my lap. She adapted to Seamus' arrival to our household pretty well, and he, in turn, was good at "protecting" her if he thought she needed it.

Recently, she took walks with Seamus and me (see the above pic), keeping stride with us, although lingering behind sometimes to explore something that caught her eye, then catching up with us if we waited for her (and we did). She was spry for her age, and looked healthy.

She scrutinized strangers, keeping her affections for the chosen few, of whom we counted ourselves lucky to belong. On Saturday night, June 23, the night before she died, she slept on my chest, her purr a comfort to me as I drifted to sleep. (Seamus slept at my side...) This was something she had done since she was a kitten, and at night if she wasn't outside, she was either sleeping by my head or on my chest.

On Sunday night, she asked to go outside around 11:30pm. It was warm and clear and she liked to prowl around the yard and sleep in the culvert that runs under our driveway. Seamus and I always greeted her in the morning when we went out, and she would emerge from the culvert like it was giving birth!

But sadly, Kevin and I found her in our backyard Monday morning, the cause of her death unclear, but we suspect she tangled with another animal.

She is buried in our yard where I can be near her, and near the fields she enjoyed exploring. Please indulge me my small expression of sorrow today.

Although I work with people who are ill, and many of whom die, I never find the passing of life easy to bear, despite all the philosophizing and rationales that I review in my mind. I form attachments, and I grieve when they end. I recognize that things are impermanent here, but I do love many of the creatures with whom I share space.

After we buried her, I took a walk around the yard with Seamus, giving space for my feelings. There, Seamus noticed she had left us one last mouse outside the back sliding door... doing her best to earn her keep up to the end.

So thank you, Lord, for all the good and beautiful creatures that make our lives so rich, and let us not cling too closely to those things which are not ours at all, but Yours. Let it remind us to cling ever more closely to You.

Omar Sepia

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy Azaleas

Happy Azaleas

Does life get any better than having beautiful pink blooms on a gray day?

For me, flowers are better than any other mind altering substance. They will lift my spirits, and symbolize everything that is good. They represent extravagant beauty. I would rather grow flowers than vegetables, which tells you how impractical I can be. Flowers appeal to all my senses: sight, smell, touch, hearing (the silence can be so full of thoughtful reflections that it is hardly silent at all!). (I know, there is taste, too, but for me, I don't need taste as much as the others...) I am so grateful after the many months of winter to see some color, some living things, again.

These were a gift to me this year on Easter, which, here in Michigan, was snowy and cold! What a welcome sight they were!

Today, as I post this picture, we have had a glorious day of 70 degrees and blue skies. I have been able to take a short walk outside, play with my dog and his ball, and stand barefoot in the grass. My life begins again! :-)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Hidden Mysteries

Hidden Mysteries

Some reflections today about Easter and the Ressurection... At Easter we celebrate Jesus' victory over sin and death. I personally have always found the transition from contemplating the cross to celebrating the Ressurection more difficult. It seems to me, though, upon some reflection, that one of the most important lessons of Easter, is this: We only achieve the power of the Ressurection by embracing the mysteries of the Cross. There is no ressurection without the cross. By accepting, by embracing the cross, we conform more perfectly to Jesus' example of embracing the Father's will completely, and the true power of the Christian life can be realized. Some form of suffering is intrinsic to the Christian walk. The disciple is not greater than his Master. Part of our freedom as Christians is having the freedom to choose the way that He walked, the way of love. Suffering comes in many forms; one needn't create opportunities. If we practice the virtues, if we practice love, we will have ample opportunity to choose others over ourselves, and this is always good for the soul. For true love requires that one suffer for the sake of the one they love. It is the Pascal Mystery.

There are hidden realities that can't be seen with the unaided eye. Details of the flower that are usually invisible to me can be seen with a macro lens, opening up a world of surprise. A microscope can show us bacteria or cellular variations that we otherwise would not know existed. So too, prayer opens our eyes to spiritual realities that remain hidden if we do not exercise our spiritual senses and improve our acuity for things other-worldly. Lent offered us opportunities to see with our spiritual senses. Let's not walk away unchanged, but bring those insights with us to assist us on the road ahead.

I walked through an old cemetery this afternoon, reading names on the tombstones and reflecting on those people who have lived before me. Most of those I saw died in the mid 1800s. Considering their lives and the world in which they lived, I was struck by the hardships and frequent losses they endured. Infants and small children, young men and women of 18 were buried in this small church cemetery along with just a few who lived to be in their 50s or later. On so many of the tombstones were professions of faith, statements of their belief in the ressurection, and the eternal nature of our lives. If we stop and don't see past the deaths, we will miss the very important truth of the Ressurection. But we can't skip ahead to the Ressurection without really understanding the Cross, either...

The Ressurection is a reality which we will all know one day. To achieve it, one must accept the suffering that is inherent in this world, and live with our eyes fixed on the Kingdom which is to come.

I wish you Easter joy, and Life in His Name.

Friday, April 06, 2007


St. Cecelia Window

The tabernacle in the Catholic Church remains empty from the end of Holy Thursday's Mass until Easter. There is nothing to describe the loss I feel when I see the empty tabernacle in the church. I am separated from my Lord by the death He accepted on my account.

He is not there. Not physically.

On Good Friday, we are witnesses to the ultimate sacrifice that has changed the world.

"...the Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity... through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear... he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses." -Isaiah 53:10, 11, 12

Friday, March 30, 2007

Subtle as the Breeze

Subtle as the Breeze

"And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave." I Kings 19:11-13

I've always liked this story of Elijah. It's so easy to picture him waiting to hear God's voice. It makes sense that we might expect Him to speak in the booming voice of a mighty wind, or in the powerful action of an earthquake, or in a myriad of other grand or frightening ways. But He speaks to us best in the quiet. In the still, small voice that we hear within ourselves when we seek Him humbly, open to whatever He might say.

And He spoke to us in the words and actions of His Son. Through His Son we understand more about the God who is our Creator. The One who willingly laid down His life on our behalf, to pay a debt that was too great for us to pay, to ransom our lives for Himself, and to show us the way we should live.

I draw near to Him when I contemplate His life, and when I read the lives of the Saints, and consider their example. And I find solace in the earth around me, in its myriad signs and endless evidence of a Creator that loves beauty.

The blue sky, the sight of plants and birds, the slightly warmer breeze-- all evidence that there is a change at hand. The dark of winter with grey and cold, is giving way to something new.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Virgin Mary

Our Mother

I love the depiction of Mary here, and her warm and tender countenance both toward her Son, and toward us. I am grateful for her intercession for my family and friends.

I am aware though, that for many, the concept of Mary, and the place she holds in the hearts of many Catholics is confusing and perhaps troubling. Mary is a type of surrogate mother, but so much more than that! I do not worship her, but I love her dearly and hold her in high regard. Jesus gave her to us as Mother, and gave us to her as children. I ask her to pray for me, and for those people that I hold dear. For just as my own mother might have been called upon when I felt the need for support, insight or some special help, so I turn to her, considering her life and devotion to Jesus.

It's difficult for me to adquately explain the Catholic's devotion to Mary. There is ample theology to explain her position in the Church. Mary does hold a highly esteemed place within our Faith, because she, apart from all others, was selected by God to be God's Mother. And she, in turn, gave her complete "Yes" to God the Father's will, graciously accepting that she was to be "Christ Bearer".

In spite of our inability to fully understand God's will for us, her example of simple faith and trust in the One who created us shows us the way. God will do what He wills if we give our assent.

Jesus did the same, humbly accepting the Father's will. We are, none of us, worthy of the high calling to which we have been called. But because of the Father's extravagent love toward us, we have been found worthy to be called his sons and daughters.

In the history of salvation, Mary is integral, and *always* points to her Son. Our devotion to her as Catholics, is because of her favored position with the Father. As our Mother, she is always disposed to help us through her intercession.

So when I entreat the communion of Saints, I am happy for Her love for me. She is not only Jesus' mother, but she is mine as well. And her prayers, together with ours, can change history.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time

We are well into Lent this year. I'm reading some inspiring books, and sharing insights with others who are doing the same.

These Stations of the Cross are chiseled into the concrete or plaster wall. The image that you see is actually created from negative space. You can place your hand into the image. The textures and depth are created by the shadow and depth of the plaster/concrete that has been removed. Quite unique and beautiful in their simplicity. The Chapel of St. Basil, University of St. Thomas, Houston, TX. February 26, 2006.

The quote below is from one of the books I am reading, from the Third week of Lent, Tuesday meditation-- "The humility of recognising the many debts we owe to God helps us to pardon and to forgive others. If we look to see what God has forgiven us, we realise that what we ought to forgive others - even in serious matters - is little..." --from Francis Fernandez, "In Conversation with God'

Francis Fernandez's daily meditations are a few pages long and reference many scriptures and spiritual writers, but especially correlate with the scripture readings for that day. I only reproduced a sentence or two that seemed to convey some of what touched me, and when I look at the cross and this particular image of Jesus falling, it makes me consider what he endured and how he has forgiven me my own (many) faults.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Waiting in Silence

Waiting in Silence
Originally uploaded by marylea.
Lent began a little over a week ago, providing time for additional prayer, fasting, and reading.

I was lucky to wake early last Sunday morning to see this beautiful sunrise, and remember the line from Psalm 30, when David considers the condition of his soul, and rejoices in God's saving work.

"Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning." -Psalm 30:5

Blessings to you this season.