Photos, sometimes with Commentary, from a lay Catholic.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving, 2011

Life isn't perfect and Scott Peck told us "Life is difficult" in his book The Road Less Travelled. Even so, many of us can admit that there are moments that can feel nearly perfect, where we are content and at peace, if we are open to seeing them, if we are willing to create them. As these Autumn days become shorter and the weather turns more chill, the world may seem darker and dreary at times and my Irish disposition drifts toward melancholy, often despite my effort. What great timing to celebrate Thanksgiving at just this moment! Harvest: the time when we reap the fruits of our labors! This is a time when the world is wrapped in a beauty no one could have anticipated!

Recounting the very real circumstances of our lives today and the blessings we currently enjoy, as well as those blessings from our past, may serve as a quick remedy for self-concern. I have so many things for which I can be grateful this year, not the least of them is my health and the health of my family. Truly we are fortunate.

Canadian Thistle

And yet I have lost good friends, this year, too. Some have endured long illness. Others slipped suddenly from us. I know people who are unemployed and discouraged, some in my own family. I know those who are dealing with serious relationship problems and in pain. And, of course, I know people who are undergoing difficult medical treatments hoping for a cure for cancer. Each of us can recount stories of those who have lost loved ones to war, accidents, or even crimes of violence. The world is not an easy place to be.

We know that life is difficult. We know that it is wrought with emotional hurts and sorrows. This is why we gather together and recount our blessings. You are a blessing to me, and I must be a blessing to you. Our Faith tells us this, and our hearts confirm it!

I really *am* grateful this year. And I pray for all of my family, and for those friends whom I know well or only a little, and for any of you who read this, too.

I pray that we can encounter that place within us that is loving and courageous. That we can hear that Voice that speaks to us reassuringly. May each of us, inspired and armed with our own sense of duty, reach out and take the hands of those around us, and give them something to be grateful for this year and in the future.

The paths we tread are littered with sorrows but leading to glory.

Milkweed: Michigan Field Flower Buds

Milkweed Flowers, July 2010

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 11, 2011. Ten years later...

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States. Those living in New York City, those working in Washington D.C. and those traveling by air that day were vulnerable in ways which the world had never conceived. The nation watched in horror as civilians signaled for help but couldn't be saved in time, and died in an inferno before our eyes. We ached with the all of the country as we witnessed the first responders bravely enter the Twin Towers in an attempt to help those trapped inside, and then saw that they would never come out again. We can hear their voices in radio transmissions, their last words recorded. We saw images of our nation's capitol under attack before we understood exactly what was happening. And we learned of the heroic actions of a plane full of travelers who banded together to stop what would have been a second attack on Washington D.C. if they had not sacrificed themselves to prevent it.

We struggled to wrap our minds around the evil that had conceived of this blatant act of terror. And I'm not only referring to Osama Bin Laden, but to the very real evil that inspired the idea and recruited willing accomplices to carry it out. Osama Bin Laden was a tool. Sadly, he was a tool of evil and a perpetrator of lies, but he was a player in a much larger theater than even he knew.

We all must take care that we not become so full of zeal that we miss the very heart of the God we claim to serve. It is a danger, particularly in this age, when zealots are aplenty. The thing about zealots is that they are so self-righteous that this trait alone gives them away. None of us should be that sure of ourselves before God. It is humility that is the hallmark of God's true followers. They possess a humility not without conviction, but humility that recognizes their personal limitations and the greatness of the One who Is. They can be found in many religions. It is a shame that so many, who perhaps are or were well meaning, are led astray by lies, promises and empty reassurances. It is not the proud who will inherit the earth. It is not the self-righteous who will earn God's favor. It is in humility and dependence on God alone, and trusting in His providence, His justice, His will. We do not force God's hand.

So yesterday morning, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, our hearts were turned to remembering those who died. All of them.

This was my view outside yesterday morning, September 11, 2011. No editing. Calm and quiet. Somber. A fog hung over the sky, obscuring the view. Ten years ago we were shocked and horrified, saddened and confused. It's like it was yesterday, at times. The years have provided us time and perspective and yet we still try to understand and learn something from this tragedy. We remember and honor those who died. May there be peace in our world, peace in our hearts.

September 11, 2011, Ten Years Later

Today, September 12, 2011, provided a new view. This is the same tree that I photographed yesterday in the fog, yet this is a more hopeful image. In time, the fog of our grief lifts; it rises and we see that the sun still shines in the sky, illuminating our view. Be patient with yourselves and with others. Pray that our vision may be clear.

September 12, 2011, Hope is in the air.

And still, later this afternoon, this was the view out our back window. A full rainbow across the sky. A promise, written by His own hand.

Double Rainbow, September 12, 2011 Afternoon

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Regarding Multiple Birth "Reduction" Procedures

Regarding the article in Slate Magazine: Half-Aborted Why do "reductions" of twin pregnancies trouble pro-choicers?
By William Saletan


My initial reaction is horror that anyone pregnant with twins would consider a [sanitized term-->] "reduction". But it's possible to sell any idea, no matter how outrageous it may seem.

I liked the article by William Saletan for its balance, and lack of hyperbole. It was informative even if unsettling.

As I considered it longer, maybe there is some room for encouragement. As stated, multiple birth reduction provides the needed visual that drives home what may appear obvious: that the difference between two children in a multiple pregnancy in which the mother elects a "reduction" is only: gestational time and the mother's will.

With so many who hold a different opinion from my own, I find this encouraging: that a multiple pregnancy reduction makes some who lean Pro-Choice recoil and feel uncomfortable. Because in 9 months, when that mother holds her new baby, she will understand what is difficult to understand: Life is precious, and not cheap. And the connection between a mother and her child is powerfully moving. At that moment, it becomes so much clearer that the child that was "wanted" or "saved" was no different than the one destroyed, and the emotions that follow that great insight will illuminate the soul.

Who among us, which mother, wants to choose which of her children will live and which will die? It is a blessing that we haven't grown so numb as that.

Queen Anne's Lace

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lessons from the Maple Tree, Lessons from the Saints

Maple Tree Seeds Blowing in the Wind 2010

"You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope."
- Thomas Merton

"Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself, and if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself."
— Thomas Merton

"If you want to identify me,ask me not where I live,or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail,ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for."
- Thomas Merton

Maple Seeds Dancing Against the Sky: April 2010

"Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance."
- St. Augustine

Hope of Things to Come!

"MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."
- Thomas Merton

New Maple Tree 2010

‎"Some seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge: that is curiosity. Others seek knowledge that they may themselves be known: that is vanity. But there are still others who seek knowledge in order to serve and edify others, and that is charity."
- St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Maple Seeds in Springtime: April 2010

Note: Thomas Merton is not regarded as an official Saint within the Catholic Church, meaning that his life has not undergone the scrutiny of a formal Canonization process. He is, however, regarded with respect as a prolific and profound Catholic who through his writings and journals conveyed many spiritual insights which have merit and value for all of us. He is most certainly a "saint", as all of us are who seek to conform our lives to the teachings of Jesus and to live in the Father's will.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hope and Promise

Hope and Promise: The First Year the Yellow Tulips Bloomed

In April, Spring came again to our northern climate and the grey and white landscape was replaced with colors and shapes, and the birds returned to their singing. Our moods lifted and the possibilities of all that we could accomplish filled our spirits like blood rushing into our head. Our thoughts ran swiftly like the spring streams, and ideas flowed with renewed energy. The world had awakened, and we with it. The doors and windows of our houses opened and the neighbors stepped into their yards, and blinked away the drear that had been our winter. Perhaps better things lay ahead after all.

Oak Tree in Afternoon Light, April 2010

Yellow Tulips: First Time They Saw the Sun

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wisdom Speaks

Red Geranium Bloom: Indoor Beauty

The first reading from the Mass on Sunday, July 17, 2011 was from the book of Wisdom:

"There is no god besides you who have the care of all,
that you need show you have not unjustly condemned.
For your might is the source of justice;
your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.
For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved;
and in those who know you, you rebuke temerity.
But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency,
and with much lenience you govern us;
for power, whenever you will, attends you.
And you taught your people, by these deeds,
that those who are just must be kind;
and you gave your children good ground for hope
that you would permit repentance for their sins."
- Wisdom 12:13, 16-19

God has no need to prove Himself to us. His might is the "source of justice", it is the measure of what is just and right. And yet His "mastery over all things makes Him lenient to all." That is a profound thing to consider. If our all powerful God shows His leniency toward us, we are obligated to do the same to our fellowman, and fellow creatures. Those who are strong should protect the weak.

The passage from Wisdom spoke to me on many levels today, but perhaps the most relevant to my circumstances at present was this: "In those who know you, you rebuke temerity." For those who are in relationship with God should not exhibit temerity. They are, after all, His. This is different from arrogance and free of caprice. Those who walk with Him should recall that they are in good hands.

If our God is just and cares for us, and if he shows us mercy and has provided a means of forgiveness, why should we be timid, fearful or insecure? Why exhibit temerity? He rightly rebukes this in us because it reveals a small faith in His providence. It is as though we have forgotten who He is! Rather, we should remain confident in the assurance that whatever befalls us, He will be there with us. He is our source of all that is good.

In the Shadows: Red Geranium