Write In Between

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Writer's Wednesday -- Henri Nouwen

I am increasingly aware of home much we fearful, anxious, insecure human beings are in need of a blessing...

Let me first tell you what I mean by the word "blessing." In Latin, to bless is benedicere. The word "benediction" that is used in many churches means literally: speaking (dictio) well (bene) or saying good things of someone. That speaks to me, and I know how much you have the same need. Nowadays, we often say: "We have to affirm each other." Without affirmation, it is hard to live well. To give someone a blessing is the most significant affirmation we can offer. It is more than a word of praise or appreciation; it is more than pointing out someone's talents or good deeds; it is more than putting someone in the light. To give a blessing is to affirm, to say "yes" to a person's Belovedness. And more than that" to give a blessing creates the reality of which it speaks. There is a lot of mutual admiration in the world, just as there is a lot of mutual consideration. A blessing goes beyond the distinction between admiration or condemnation, bwteen virtues or vices, between good deeds or evil deeds. A blessing touches the original goodness of the other and calls forth his or her Belovedness.

-----Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Loving the Bride, Vol. 5

Something old

The early church got it right. It knew the Truth. We often need to be reminded of it.

On the Divinity of Christ:

"The Word, then, the Christ, is the cause both of our ancient beginning—for he was in God—and of our well-being. And now this same Word has appeared as man. He alone is both God and man, and the source of all our good things" (Exhortation to the Greeks 1:7:1).

"Despised as to appearance but in reality adored, [Jesus is] the expiator, the Savior, the soother, the divine Word, he that is quite evidently true God, he that is put on a level with the Lord of the universe because he was his Son" (ibid., 10:110:1).

---Clement of Alexandria, A.D. 190

"Although he was God, he took flesh; and having been made man, he remained what he was: God" (The Fundamental Doctrines 1:0:4).

---Origen, A.D. 225

Want more? Go here.


Something new

Actually, two new things:

Check out this new Catholic Search engine, by way of Dominic Bettinelli's blog.

Also, a new book book on Theology of the Body is available from Michael Waldstein, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology.


Something borrowed

A great quote from Scott Hahn (of St. Paul Center from Biblical Theology, above) with commentary from Julie over at Happy Catholic.


Something blue

Here's a Marian antiphon to use during Advent... print this one out and keep it for Advent is a only 8 short days away:

Alma Redemptoris Mater
The "Alma Redemptoris Mater," which dates from the eleventh century, is one of the four antiphons sung after Night Prayer. It is used in the Advent Season.

Loving mother of the Redeemer, gate of heaven, star of the sea,

assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again.

To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,

Yet remained a virgin after as before.

You who received Gabriel's joyful greeting,

have pity on us poor sinners.

Alma Redemptoris Mater, quae pervia caeliporta manes, et stella maris, succurre cadenti,surgere qui curat, populo: tu quae genuisti,natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem,Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore,sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Writer's Wednesday -- Marilyn Meberg

Mom had asked that her body be cremated... On the day I picked up the little box that contained my mother's ashes, I experienced a perculiar sensation as I tried to grasp the reality I was experiencing. I would never again see what was visually familiar to me about my mother. What I was carrying in my hands was completely foreign.

Ken was waiting in the front seat of the car. As I opened the door with the box in my hands, his eyes were averted in an attempt to be more casual about that moment than either of us felt. As I place the box on the seat, there was an awkward moment of silence. I broke the silence with a quiet, "Mom, would you like a seat belt?" Ken looked startled and I laughed--not hard and loud--but it felt good. My mom would have understood--in fact, she would have joined me. For a few minutes, my hurt was diminished--less intense. It was a painful moment relieved by a quiet laugh. It restored my control.

You may feel there are times in life that simply will not yield even an ounce of humor. May I suggest that during those seemingly interminable times of pain, you fight to see beyond the restrictive confines of the immediate; remind yourself that those moments will not last forever. Whatever it is that threatens to crush your spirit and claim your joy today will not necessarily be there tomorrow, next month, or next year. Life moves forward and circumstances change. You will not always be in a pit! That reminder in itself brings a respite to the soul. From there perhaps a glimmer of light can seep through the darkness, enabling you to search out that seemingly elusive but spirit-lifting smile or laugh that helps you regain control.

-----Marilyn Meberg, Choosing the Amusing. W Publishing Group, 1999.


And one more, just for the giggle value:

Wisdom doesn't necessarily come with age.
Sometimes age just shows up all by itself.

-----Tom Wilson
as quoted in I Don't Suffer from Insanity... I Enjoy Every Minute of It! by Barbara Johnson

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Support for Catholic Publishing

This blog reaches the tiniest of sectors of a Catholic audience, and for that I am grateful. It is my hope that you might consider showing your financial support for Sophia Institute Press, a Catholic publisher here in New England that is providing valuable, quality publications for what our beloved late pontiff, John Paul II, called "the new evangelization." You can browse books on-line or make a donation directly to them. In this day and age, it's a gutsy move to work in Catholic publishing. Sophia is a publisher we need to keep around for the next generation. Browse their on-line listings and keep your Christmas shopping list in mind as you do. Most books are price lower than $24.95 with many around the $10 range.

A more eloquent request for your participation comes from Karl Keating of Catholic Answers, another wonderful Catholic apostolate. Read Karl's appeal here.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Loving the Bride, vol. 4

Something old

Marriage is not, then, the effect of chance or the product of evolution of unconscious natural forces; it is the wise institution of the Creator to realize in mankind His design of love. By means of the reciprocal personal gift of self, proper and exclusive to them, husband and wife tend towards the communion of their beings in view of mutual personal perfection, to collaborate with God in the generation and education of new lives.

For baptized persons, moreover, marriage invests the dignity of a sacramental sign of grace, inasmuch as it represents the union of Christ and of the Church.

Under this light, there clearly appear the characteristic marks and demands of conjugal love, and it is of supreme importance to have an exact idea of these.

This love is first of all fully human, that is to say, of the senses and of the spirit at the same time. It is not, then, a simple transport of instinct and sentiment, but also, and principally, an act of the free will, intended to endure and to grow by means of the joys and sorrows of daily life, in such a way that husband and wife become one only heart and one only soul, and together attain their human perfection.

Then, this love is total, that is to say, it is a very special form of personal friendship, in which husband and wife generously share everything, without undue reservations or selfish calculations. Whoever truly loves his marriage partner loves not only for what he receives, but for the partner's self, rejoicing that he can enrich his partner with the gift of himself.

Again, this love is faithful and exclusive until death. Thus in fact do bride and groom conceive it to be on the day when they freely and in full awareness assume the duty of the marriage bond. A fidelity, this, which can sometimes be difficult, but is always possible, always noble and meritorious, as no one can deny. The example of so many married persons down through the centuries shows, not only that fidelity is according to the nature of marriage, but also that it is a source of profound and lasting happiness.

And finally this love is fecund for it is not exhausted by the communion between husband and wife, but is destined to continue, raising up new lives. Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents.

--Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI (1968)

Something new

Read the newest document Married Love and the Gift of Life from the USCCB. It is the complete and final text of the new statements from the bishops at their November General Meeting in PDF format.

Something borrowed

Here's a sermon from Father Cantalamessa, the preacher to the papal household on Marriage in Heaven.

Here's the the U.S. Bishops' Between Man and Women Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same-Sex Unions.

Something blue

Here's a prayer that spouses can pray together: An act of consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary is found here. (But it's not limited to married folks, anyone can offer this prayer!)

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Lessons of Paradox

I sat on the edge of her bed and squeezed her hand to let her know I was there. I listened to her labored breathing as she rested, eyes closed, propped up on her pillows. At that moment I knew I was sitting close to a soul that would soon be in the presence of God in heaven. Simple conversation and smiles were exchanged as she awoke, but less and less needed to be said. More and more was understood.

Illness had rendered its change. My friend, who was once taller and more vivacious than I, was now stooped and bent. She had shrunk in height and weight due to the gravity of her illness. Her frame reminded me of a little girl’s, nothing but sinew pulled taut over bones. She looked small. She took on child-like form on the outside, but through this final crucible, her soul was growing exponentially. Appearances can be deceiving. Such is the nature of paradox.

Time and disease marched on. More and more had to be done for her. A grown woman--a wife, a mother—was now mothered in return by her grown children in her final days. She needed help to bathe and dress. Someone else prepared the meals and tidied her home. I watched her husband ably cradle her and adjust her position in bed when she could no longer lift her body weight. Then he tenderly tucked her in, again, like he would a little girl, but with complete dignity befitting a beloved wife.

I saw her every week and witnessed the decline. Toward the end I was taken in by her complete surrender to what had befallen her. (Midlife is not when we are “supposed” to die!) And yet, she found delight in momentary joys –like playful romps on the bed with giggly grandchildren, or a friendly visitor bringing Holy Communion from her church, or a tasty bit of take-out food from a favorite local restaurant.

Her littleness, indeed, her final humility, unlocked the mysteries of spiritual paradox: yes, there can be strength in weakness. Yes, an adult can become like a little child. Ultimately we need both to become childlike and dependent… on him who made us, knows us, and loves us.

Christopher J. H. Wright in Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament states: “Self-sufficiency is the diametric opposite of the prime quality needed for entrance into the Kingdom of God—humble dependence on God.” Wait a minute…there’s my struggle. Aren’t we supposed to be self-sufficient? Don’t we spend our lives striving to act like grown-ups? I know I do. It took me four and half decades to get this mature! Still, I’m finding there’s a tension inside of me, a longing to live out the delicate balance of wisdom that comes with experience coupled with a holy winsomeness.

Jesus said, “I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child, will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15). My friend’s childlike faith through her extended illness and death epitomized that. In the final hour, it was nothing more than her holding onto the hand of her Father and taking the next step.

I find living examples of the Gospel paradox whenever I encounter vulnerability, littleness, meekness, or humility.

I see it in older senior citizens I know--especially those who are more frail and living with some level of elder care. Their hearts have child-like wonder. Their faces light up with joy at the simple pleasures of life: holding someone’s hand, sharing a story, or watching children play. Slaves neither to jobs or fashion, they live with a certain freedom and detachment. They don’t mind if they fall asleep or stay awake as long as you don’t call them late to supper. You know the kind of folks I’m talking about – they are rare gems in our age – people who are simply grateful for any little thing you do for them, any little kindness you bestow, and any little time you can afford to be with them. Humbling, isn’t it? It’s supposed to be.

So, in my own limited paradoxical experience, this is what I conclude: God, who made us, like a good parent, wants to raise us with enough self-sufficiency to be able to choose him freely. As a Catholic parent, I’m striving to raise my own children to be “independent and responsible,” but, hopefully, in such a way as to not be blind to their own need for God. For myself, and for my children, I pray for the humility to take the hand of my Father every day. And when I actually do that? Less needs to be said, and more is understood.

This article is also appearing at www.Catholic.Mom.com.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Writer's Wednesday -- Vinita Hampton Wright

Creative work requires that we do something, and keep doing it. It's the doing that brings real results.

As a writer I know that nothing really happens until I write. Now I may write for hours or days before what I write turns into anything meaningful. But I have to write for all those hours in order to arrive at the hour in which the "inspired" writing happens.

If you want to cast this in more clearly spiritual terms, then consider that part of what you do in order to create is to submit. As a participant, you are submitting to the a divine process that is beyond you. If you are a person of religious faith, then you participate and submit out of faith in the One who watches over the process and your involvement in it.

---Vinita Hampton Wright, The Soul Tells a Story.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

It's hip to be square

Went to the ortho doc to talk about my hip. Yes I will need a total hip replacement on my right side...eventually. The big question is "when."

The doc has one timetable and I have another. His relates to bone-on- bone scraping and I'm not all the way there yet. Like, do I really want to know what that pain is like? What I've got is bad enough! But I seem to cope most everyday. Some cartilage is gone and some is still hanging on. Doc says "use a cane." Good grief.

My timeline is varied and non-descript: when I lose some weight, when my son graduates the eighth grade and is in high school (2007), when my daughter is done visiting colleges and when my husband has another job so we can have better health care insurance.... I think this pushes this non-emergency surgery idea out at least another year.

In the meantime, for me the action items include doing as much as I can for as long as I can -- and purchasing a fashionable cane!

(Well, if I'm gonna need such an accessory, at least it's gonna be hip!)

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Loving the Bride, vol. 3

Something old

God's Soul is the wind rustling plants and leaves
the dew dancing on the grass,
the rainy breezes making everything grow.
Just like this, the kindness of a person flows,
touching those dragging burdens of longing.
We should be a breeze helping the homeless,
dew comforting those who are depressed,
the cool misty air refreshing the exhausted,
and with God's teaching we have got to feed the hungry:

This is how we share God's soul.

--- St.Hildegard of Bingen, ( 1098-1179) Hymn

Here's something old, but a better, improved website over at Catholic Music Network.

Something new

The Pope buys bonds to support immunizations for children.

Something borrowed

The Curt Jester gives great commentary on the rosary, currently gracing the cover of Time Magazine.

On another note, here's a good post on the Eucharist being "real" featuring a quote for Benedict's encyclical "God is Love."

Here's a great list from Catholicity on Catholic links you may wish to explore.

Something blue

Renewal of our country's consecration to Mary, our patroness, taking place this Sat. Nov 11th in Washington DC's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. For details go here.

New Christmas stamp will feature the Madonna and Child; see it here.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Writer's Wednesday's -- Caryl Houselander

The history of the Incarnation is like a fugue, in which the love of God for the world is the ever-recurring motif.

... It always returns to its lyrical simplicity: is always gathered back to its first phrase.

For the fugue is the music of the Word of God, God's spoken Word, telling His love; and the motif is always gathered back to be concentrated again in its first simplicity.

We always come back to the beginning.

In the beginning the love song of God is a folk song. Folk song is the telling of the whole world's story through the singing of one man's heart.

The Word of God uttered in Christ's human life is a folk song. In it is all the primal love and joy and sorrow of all the world.

It explains and simplifies all human lives in all times.

We hear it as children playing by the seashore hear the music of the ocean in a little shell.

We hear it in the voices we know best: our own children's voices, the voices of our parents, wives, husbands, and friends.

We hear it in laughter and tears, tuned to the dullness of our hearing, tuned to the beating of our hearts.

We hear it as sweet and clear as bird's song in Nazareth.

The song of the Incarnation is a folk song.

It is the song of the mother rocking the cradle.

It is the song of the children singing their nursery rhymes.

It is the song of the shepherd calling his sheep.

It is the song of the lover standing at the door.

It is the song of the bridegroom sing to the bride.

-----Caryl Houselander, The Reed of God.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Just call me "hippy"

Tomorrow I go to see a leading orthopedic surgeon to discuss total hip replacement. This is my fourth major consult on this subject. For four years now I've been limited in motion by pain from a degenerating hip. It is caused by bilateral hip dysplasia, a congenital deformity that is finally catching up with me here at mid-life. One hip is in poor shape and the other is starting to show symptoms. Finally we will be discussing not if, but, when this surgery will take place.

For months now I have longed for a precise diagnosis--having bounced around between doctors these past few years. Not every surgeon wants a hip patient in the their 40s. Now that I have a correct diagnosis and a competent doctor, I'm sad to know what it is and even less enthused about the corrective measures I need to take. And yet I need to do something as I'm getting worse. This past year I've endured two painful injuries that have resulted from my unsteady gait.

Already I have lost so much. Rolling over in bed can be painful. I can't wear fashionable shoes. I used to love to live in my loafers but no more. I used to walk vigorously for miles. Now a mile's walk feels too tough. I loved to hike outdoors in the woods, but now stable, flat terrain is mandated. The last mountain I climbed was in the summer of 2000. I used to take stairs two at a time. Now I gingerly watch my step and firmly use handrails. Riding my bike doesn't bring the same joy it once did. My exercise workout times have gone from 90 to 60 to 40 minutes. My weight has gone up 10, 20 and 30 pounds the past three years. (Now, I'm slowly reversing that thanks to Weight Watchers!) Sitting in the bleachers at my daughter's games can be punishing. A fall on the ski slope gives me pause. Worst of all, standing or even sitting and playing my guitar for anything close to an hour, can wreck me for hours afterwards. For these and other reasons, I should really seek the help I need. But I guess I'm just nervous and pessimistic -- like what if I'm worse after such a radical surgery? No one can really give me definite answers to these ponderings, I just have to weigh the risks and the benefits, and as you can see, I'm complaining enough, so alright already, let's get on with it.

It all makes me feel so much older than my years. I know several people who sing the praises of total hip replacement-- and all of them are 60+. I have yet to meet someone 45ish who has done it, but allegedly one of my girlfriends met a bartender who did and sang the praises of all things titanium. So if any of my readers have any hip replacement stories or any young friends who have had this procedure, I'd welcome those comments.

In the meantime, I'm searching my family calendar for open chunks of time in which to book this adventure in orthopedics. Lord knows the impact this will have on the whole family. Moms just ain't allowed sick days, you know.

If nothing else, this should give me some interesting material to write about in the coming months.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Loving The Bride, vol. 2

Something old...

God says to each of us: "Give me your heart, that is, your will." We, in turn, cannot offer anything more precious than to say: "Lord, take possession of us; we give our whole will to you; make us understand what it is that you desire of us, and we will perform it." If we would give full satisfaction to the heart of God, we must bring our own will in everything into conformity with his; and not only into conformity, but into uniformity also, as regards all that God ordains. Confirmity signifies the joining of our own will to the will of God; but uniformity signifies, further, our making of the divine and our own will one will only, so that we desire nothing but what God desires, and his will becomes ours. This is the sum and substance of that perfection to which we ought to be ever aspiring; this is what must be the aim of all we do, and of all our desires, meditations and prayers. For this we must invoke the assistance of all our patron saints and our guardian angels, and, above all, of our divine mother Mary, who was the most perfect saint, because she embraced most perfectly the divine will.

--Saint Alphonsus Liguori, (1696-1787) from The Redeeming Love of Christ

Something new...

U.S. Bishops discuss guidelines for receiving communion.

The cause for beatification of Pope John Paul II.

Something borrowed...

From Fr. Stan Fortuna's site, a video blessing from Poland!


Don’t you know how to spell family? F.a.m. = forget about me -- I.l.y.= I love you*

from his great lyrics from his song: World F.A.M.I.L.Y. World F.A.M.I.L.Y..

Want that message in a wristband or button form? Go here.

Something blue....

I must admit, the Catholic understanding of Mary as "ever virgin" has often been hard for me to explain in short order. And yet, Catholic Answers does a very good job in this article. I love the historical references that show that even the earliest Christians seemed to have understood this concept, much better than we might. For instance, this historical record from Origen in 248 AD:

"The Book [the Protoevangelium] of James [records] that the brethren of Jesus
were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honor of Mary in virginity to the end, so that body
of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word . . . might not know
intercourse with a man after the Holy Spirit came into her and the power from on
high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the
firstfruit among men of the purity which consists in [perpetual] chastity, and
Mary was among women. For it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her
the firstfruit of virginity" (Commentary on Matthew 2:17 ).

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Saints & Souls

Mary Kochan's All Saints Day and All Souls Day article The Harrowing of Hell on Catholic Exchange is dead on. Pardon the pun.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Writer's Wednesday -- Ralph Martin

"There are those of us who find God vague and diffuse and in hidden ways want Him to remain that way. When God is vague and distant our following of Him can be vague and distant and leave us with an experience of 'good conscience.' When God is close and specific and concrete, it calls for a response to Him that both allows and demands a more total yielding of our lives in specific ways... There must be an inevitable moment of crisis where the claims of Jesus become irreconcilable with my style of life."

---Ralph Martin, Hungry for God, Ignatius Press

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