Twitter Lenten Penance

Lent begins on Wednesday. Like other Catholics all over the world, I will attend a Mass where the priest spreads ashes on my forehead in the sign of the Cross upon which my Lord died.

Lent is meant to be a sober reflection period. As part of that reflection, Catholics self-impose a kind of penance on themselves to help them share more fully in the suffering of the crucified Jesus.

This has always been a difficult period for me. My brother, Gary, was killed at the age of 20 in a car crash at Easter time on a slick Indiana country road made icy by a snow storm.

I was five then. (Gary was my “brother” in the sense his mother also raised me as if I were her daughter. She was my step-grandmother.)

Sixty years later, I remember that period of time. The state troopers coming to the door, my Mom’s scream and collapse. She would go on to have a white streak in her jet black hair where her hand came to her head on hearing the news.

I remember how Gary looked in his coffin as my Dad (really my maternal grandfather) carried me around the funeral home on the night of the viewing.

Easter is tough for me because it brings to mind a tragic accident that forever changed the trajectory of our family life, not always in the best ways.

As each year of my Catholicism passes (I converted in 2008), I greet Lent with trepidation and difficultly in choosing an appropriate penance. I don’t drink or smoke, and while I love it, I rarely eat chocolate. Not because I don’t love it, but because I do!

Fasting is not an option for me due to my autoimmune and other ills and the medications I take for them.

The past couple of years, I have tried to “take something on,” to add an extra burden so that I might feel a heavier load in my life and walk in the Way of the Cross.

This year, I have decided on the more traditional penitential act by giving up my activity on Twitter.

Simply put, I tweet too much. Not that I believe what I have to say is so significant or because that many people read and either like, retweet or comment on what I have to say.

It’s just that a long time ago, I was a journalist. And like the paths not taken, we often wonder what our lives would have been had we stayed on our original path and not taken that fork in the road.

Naturally I dream mine would have led to a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia and a staff position at “The New York Times.” Oh, and maybe a Pulitzer or two.

Because Twitter is so news and politically focused, it has become my social media platform of preference. Although I have grown to love Pinterest for all the new yoga poses, Klimt renderings and crochet patterns I have started saving.

Still, Twitter is my thing. It has been since I detached myself from the GOP in 2016 even before the nomination of Trump.

It is my way of having a voice to protest all I abhor about this President’s hateful rhetoric, incoherent policies (especially his astoundingly bad foreign policy), and his unsuitability to govern this country that have nothing to do with Russia’s interference in the 2016 election on his behalf. Although that is upsetting in and of itself.

I fear for the future of my country, and that our representational government – rooted in democratic principles – will hold.

And as a person of faith, I do not like seeing people who would seek to impose their Christian values on others. Nor did our Founding Fathers.

Everyone who comes to Christ does so in his or her own personal journey. We would do well as a country not to enforce the will of believers on our system of government. That isn’t why Christ became Incarnate. He came so we could each choose whether or not to accept His Divine Mercy. He came to save souls, not nation build. He already has a kingdom of His own.

So talking about these things is one of many reasons for being on Twitter and speaking out.

Which is why my penance is to give it up. Because it matters so much to me.

And so I can allow Christ to matter more.

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A Star Shone

A star shone over Bethlehem

To draw our eyes to see,

The Christ child who would grow,

Our Lord and Savior one day to be.

Wrapped in rags, lying in a trough,

The cows mooed lowly round him,

While shepherds on their knees did drop

And angel song resounded.

For the one to be Shepherd of all,

For the Man of Sorrows, Mercy, Love,

Who would break our sin upon the Cross

And all our fears dissolve.

This is the gift he gave us –

His love, our spirits free –

From hate, disputes and prejudice

For all eternity.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all. 

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I Am Satisfied

For those in my cadre of blog followers and curious Twitter readers who have been wondering where my spiritual side has disappeared to amidst recent political posts, let me assure you it is still there.

I continue my ministry activities, which have lessened in leadership positions and increased in worship service, as I am now a Lector, Cantor and occasional choir member at Mass.

I am still active in a social outreach ministry as a mentor, take the minutes of Pastoral Council meetings and lead a study group focused on Marian and Divine Mercy subjects.

My prayer life has suffered inconsistencies, though I speak to Jesus in my head and “at” him to the Divine Mercy image on my altar at home.

Still, this has more to do with personal struggles right now than my social activity regarding politics on Twitter.

It seems I am always running away from Jesus at the times I should be running faster towards him.

That has more to do with my desire to self-isolate when times are tough than a lack of faith or desire to pray. My secular self triumphs over the spiritual in these moments.

And of course, I still struggle mightily with auto-immune dysfunction that has run headlong into aging.  So, to those who don’t mind doing so, please send up a health prayer for me as I am going through a particularly difficult time right now.

Still, on balance, my blessings are greater than my trials.

And my virtual “pen” is still mine to wield.

Yesterday I wrote that words echo down the ages, though I doubted my own would. I say that because I am not a famous person, nor particularly profound.

But I have written poetry that has touched some hearts. I am satisfied. I have tweeted thoughts that have been “liked” or retweeted by a few famous people. I am satisfied. (Not because they are famous people, but for the size of their social platform and the number of others they reach.)

I also have more than a thousand Twitter followers with wide platforms of their own.  I feel “heard.” I am satisfied.

I have a loving family, loving friends, a solid roof over my head, a fairly new car in the drive, food in the fridge, an elderly cat who is living comfortably with palliative care.

I am satisfied.

“My soul is satisfied,
My soul is satisfied;
I am complete in Jesus’ love,
And my soul is satisfied.” *

*Daniel S. Warner, 1893

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“As The Deer Longs…”

Today has been very emotional and tearful.  I have by turns been morose when alone and manically “on” in conversation with others, playing a role designed to hide my pain.

At times like these, I slip away from God for a bit, but slowly return. Usually my devotional will be exactly at the needed page with just the message I needed to hear.

Today is ending as one of those days.  It took me to Psalm 42 in the Bible, which I share with you here:

For the leader. A maskil of the Korahites.*


2 As the deer longs for streams of water,a

so my soul longs for you, O God.

3 My soul thirsts for God, the living God.

When can I enter and see the face of God?*b

4 My tears have been my bread day and night,c

as they ask me every day, “Where is your God?”d

Those times I recall

as I pour out my soul,e

When I would cross over to the shrine of the Mighty One,*

to the house of God,

Amid loud cries of thanksgiving,

with the multitude keeping festival.f

Why are you downcast, my soul;

why do you groan within me?

Wait for God, for I shall again praise him,

my savior and my God.


7 My soul is downcast within me;

therefore I remember you

From the land of the Jordan* and Hermon,

from Mount Mizar,g

8*Deep calls to deep

in the roar of your torrents,

and all your waves and breakers

sweep over me.h

9 By day may the LORD send his mercy,

and by night may his righteousness be with me!

I will pray* to the God of my life,

10 I will say to God, my rock:

“Why do you forget me?i

Why must I go about mourning

with the enemy oppressing me?”

11 It shatters my bones, when my adversaries reproach me,

when they say to me every day: “Where is your God?”

12 Why are you downcast, my soul,

why do you groan within me?

Wait for God, for I shall again praise him,

my savior and my God.

New American RE Bible

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“God Bless Texas”

For the past couple of days, I have written about the looming issue of teen rape allegations that have been leveled against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by Dr. Christine Basley Ford.

It has roiled emotions in me that as a 65-year-old woman you wouldn’t think would still be so tender.

But I have always been a deeply reflective person, admittedly with a bit of the drama queen thrown in.  Hopefully it makes what I write a little more worth reading than it might otherwise be.

I just read a “Washington Post” article by a writer named Elizabeth Bruenig that I wish I could lay claim to – except she deserves every accolade she receives for having written it so beautifully.

It is the story of a teen rape that occurred in her high school and how justice was never obtained by the victim, even though she reported it in a timely manner.

But mostly it is about the cruelties of high school and small, insular communities and how people come angrily together in their denial to harm a victim even more.

And it is how the gentlest, most vulnerable among us are easy prey for hunters who can kill us with harmful acts and deadly lies as easily as if they shot us.

This story took me back to my own teen years and school experiences. As it takes place in Texas, it also makes me wonder about what one of my nieces may have experienced that has led her to a life outcome I desperately didn’t want for her.

Some things I know.  But a great deal I am sure I – or maybe anyone – know nothing about.

She doesn’t know how much I still love her and ache for her to turn her life around.  She doesn’t know this because we don’t speak any more.

That is on me.  Because there comes a point when you have held out your hand to help someone, and they continually slap it away, you just stop.  There comes a time when they do something that – while you can forgive it – you can’t stand by and quietly observe it any more.

Because maybe what they did hits a little too close to a raw childhood nerve that never heals. Even when you are 65-years-old.

Ours is a family dominated by a matriarch who was never my mother, not in a daily sense, as she didn’t raise me.

But her imprint was stamped on me at birth and repeatedly pointed out to me by the parents who did raise me, my grandfather and his second wife. Down to a “sneer” I didn’t know I possessed and a physical resemblance I am constantly told of by my sisters.

As I came to know her as an adult, we searched out the similarities in each other, from the exact same outfits hanging in our closets to our shared love of reading and doing crosswords.

Although I don’t think she graduated high school, as she was 16 when I was born, she was a smart cookie, my mother.

I am a smart cookie too. Except we both had terrible taste in men. In fact, except for my youngest sister, none of us has had much luck on that score.

It’s generational, it seems, touching my niece’s life in very dramatic ways.

Which is a round about way of getting back to the main issue. How, in a society supposedly as advanced as is our own, are women still prey and men the hunters?

What are the biological and psychological imperatives that drive that dynamic so that it cannot be educated out of us? Even at the “highest “ levels of our society?

If we are, indeed, created in God’s image, what does that make God? Why ever would the angels envy us, as my Catholic religion teaches, we creatures with one foot in the material and the other in the spiritual world?

No, I am not blaming God for our fallen choices.  Just for knowing in advance that we would make them. And knowing that his dying on the Cross to expiate their sin wouldn’t make living any less painful for us all.

I have always questioned what purgatory really means, if it really exists.  Perhaps this is it: knowing some of us are prey, and others hunters.

And screaming #MeToo doesn’t seem to change it very much at all.



New Beginnings

Today marks my first year anniversary of this blog site.

With just 7 hours left, I renewed the site for another year.

While I haven’t consistently blogged every day, I have built up a fairly large body of work this past year.

My content has been classified as Social/Political/Religious Commentary.

If you have read my writing, you will know I am:

  1.  No fan of Donald Trump.  From the beginning of his campaign, I did not see him as qualified by background, experience or temperament to be President. His Presidency has only further cemented my opinion, and I see him as an existential threat to the Republic, its democratic ideals and perhaps its existence.  The economy was already recovering without him, thanks. Any other Republican would have had his results.
  2. I am very disappointed by the GOP I once reliably voted for. In fact, I had planned to vote for Jeb Bush in 2016.  I would have settled for Rubio.  But my vote for Hillary had to be cast, because to vote any other way would have been a vote for Trump.  That I refused to do.
  3. I am not as politically complacent as I once was.  While I voted for McCain and Romney, my world did not come crashing down around me because Barack Obama was President. In fact, I have a better appreciation of him as President in hindsight.  But then, Trump projects a very large mirror in which to better admire Obama.
  4. I am a moderate voter. This is true whether I cast a Republican or a Democratic vote.  Our government was not designed for any one party to have too much power. It only works when there is bipartisan agreement. We are too large and diverse a country to operate on any other basis. I know “centrism” is not a popular political place to be.  But it is the only place that works in the long haul, IMHO.
  5. I am a Catholic convert.  I believe in a personal relationship with Christ made more intimate through the Eucharist.  I have learned to appreciate Mary’s role within that relationship.  The “Litany of Loreto ” and the “Divine Mercy Chaplet” are my favorite rosaries to pray.  I believe in Divine Mercy and Grace.  Mary Magdalene is my patron saint.  I do not worship the Pope, although I honor him as Vicar of Christ’s Church.  I am outraged and saddened by more revelations of sex abuse allegations.  But I am not surprised that priests are frail and human like I am. I can only do the good that I can personally do as a member of Christ’s Church.
  6. That said, I believe in a zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse or any other criminal activity on the part of clergy.  Anyone accused should be put on administrative leave until civil authorities either clear them or win prosecution.  If the latter, clergy should be defrocked and serve whatever punishment handed down. If the former, they should carry a presumption of innocence and be allowed to continue serving.
  7. I am very open about my life.  My family and friends think I am too candid and active on social media.  But this is who I have always been, and I don’t know how to be someone I am not.

So, if my political views are not to your liking; if my devotion to Jesus makes you uncomfortable; if my sharing is too intimate for your taste; I encourage you to find other bloggers on whose work you can follow and support. There are many wonderful writers on this platform, and they all have unique viewpoints and ways of expressing themselves.

For those who have enjoyed my blog this past year, thanks for reading and following. I will do my best to stay true to the things I have outlined above.

God bless and keep you all.

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90 Day Challenge: Third Interruption – Day I Give Up

If I have learned nothing else about myself in the past 40++ days of trying to follow this spiritual challenge, it is that I am not good at keeping a regimented schedule on anything.

In fact, I already knew this about myself. When I was younger and a newspaper reporter, I was always an adrenaline junkie thrilled more by the next breaking story than the piece still waiting to be written in my notes.

I can say the same for my time in PR and other admin jobs – the regular day-to-day stuff bored me. I thrived on the special projects that came my way. I was the Queen of Special Projects, even if it was something like creating a $1 million staff budget, something I had never before done.

For the past few years, I feel like I have been Queen of Special projects at Church , too, even if they were done through an established Ministry or as the work of a Special Committee.

As I have just joined the choir and am learning to be a cantor, there will be very few ministries I won’t have had some association with since becoming Catholic in 2008.

So I guess following a strict prayer routine not of my own creation had about as much chance of success as my following a pre-organized diet.  I have done the latter more times than pounds lost.

Some people may be wondering, with the news about the Church these days, how I could stay devoted to it. After all, I had complete moral clarity when it came to leaving the GOP once Trump became its nominee.

Most assuredly I am angry and heartbroken about the criminality that has occurred in the past and been covered over through clericalism and with the imprimatur of the highest levels of the Vatican.

I believe in a universal, zero tolerance policy on child sexual and other clerical abuse.  I do not believe the Church should police itself on such matters. I believe anyone accused should be placed on administrative leave until such time as a civil investigation is done and a trial held. If a guilty verdict is reached, priests should be defrocked, nun laicized and civilian employees fired. It really is that simple.

The Church is not exempt from obeying the laws of society. In fact, it’s morality is supposed to be the basis for those very laws. We are a failed Church in this regard.

But I did not join this Church to worship the Pope or the priest on the altar; I joined to worship Jesus in the Eucharist and now, to console Him on the cross by bearing my own burdens with the same willingness he bore His.

You don’t get the joy of being with the resurrected Christ without walking the Way of the Cross. They are inextricably linked.

This is nothing you will hear in a Protestant Church. In fact, unless it is a mainline one, you are likely to hear any and everything, as there are over 633 Protestant sects in the U.S.

There is one Catholic Church, the one Jesus established at the Last Supper, when he said Peter would be the “rock” on which His Church would be built, the one to whom He gave His Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

It is this same Church that was reaffirmed by the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.

It is not perfect. It never has been. It never will be. That is the point of the Second Coming.  We will be judged, all of us, each according to our life led while on earth.

Because we are ALL the body of the Church-including those who have abused the very great power they have enjoyed in Christ’s name.

Jesus – like God – could see past, present and future.  Any priest or nun who caused a child in their care harm, any Bishop or Cardinal who covered it up, any Pope who did the same – Jesus saw you while He was nailed to the Cross, and His heart was swollen with sadness for your sin. And He couldn’t breathe under its weight and He died for it.

Just as He did for mine.

So I cannot abandon a Christ who so willingly died such a horrible death on my behalf. Or for fellow Catholics whose conduct I abhor.

And because whether it is comfortable in this moment or not, I am part of the body of the Church.  The same Church as they.

And while I can hate the sin, and I have complete moral clarity that I should stand up and speak against it, it is not my place to judge the sinner.

In a civil society, that is for the courts. In a heavenly one, that right is reserved for God.

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90 Day Challenge: Third Interruption, Day 2

I continue the interrupted stage of my spiritual challenge. It has been a hectic week, as weeks leading up to three-day holiday weekends tend to be, even for those of us in retirement. Your regular rhythms get rocked.

Of course, that is what this challenge is supposed to help you establish – a routine spiritual practice that doesn’t get rocked by your Labor Day weekend or any other plans. I am challenge-challenged, I guess.

It doesn’t help that at a time I am trying to deepen my Catholic practice, the Church again is embroiled in controversy.  Understandably you question your commitment to a Church that has failed spectacularly as an institution so many times throughout its history.

But I deeply believe in the theological underpinnings of the Church. I can no more turn my back on Jesus in the Eucharist now than I could disown my son.  It is never going to happen.  There is no going back on that for me.

This doesn’t mean I am not critical or saddened in the Church as an organization.  But perhaps because I am a convert, I have never had the “awe” of priests that those raised in the Church grew up with.

So the fact that they can be seriously flawed human beings capable of their own grave sin does not surprise.

Also I joined after the 2002 Boston Globe expose that so rattled the Church and began reforms and more inclusion of laity.  But I think the Church has far to go in transforming – not its theology or Tradition – but framing those things within a changing world.

And self-sufficient woman I have always been, yes, I think women should be able to play greater and more authoritative roles, including that of being Deacons. If we can train them in their formation (and we do), then it is indeed a failure that we cannot be Deacons.

Please, spare me the Apostolic heritage argument.  The risen Christ appeared first to a woman – my Patron Saint, Mary Magdalene.  If she can proclaim Christ’s resurrection to the original twelve Apostles, we women can proclaim the Gospel itself.  And give homilies.

In fact, I think the feminine view proclaimed from the Ambo would give new dimension, insight and depth to a Church too steeped in its patriarchy.

Allow Mary, our Mother, to proclaim through a female voice to the congregation “Do as he tells you.”

I am not suggesting this as a cure for child sexual abuse that has happened in the past. (Please God, let it be in the past.)

But I do think it could be a part of the balm that heals the Church going forward.

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90 Day Challenge: Day 38 – Semper Fi

“If we are faithless, he remains faithful-for he cannot deny himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

The Lord is faithful, even when I am not.

There are far too many days, too many times during any given day, when I fail to turn to him in my need.

Yet he is always there, waiting patiently for me to return, ever constant in his nature, ever and always the same.

Growing up in an alcoholic home, it is difficult for me to believe in the constancy of who people show themselves to be.

I loved my father a great deal.  But I never knew when he was going to be loving, when he was going to be mildly irritated or when he would be outright vicious and nasty-all over the exact same situation.

All depended on the time of day and how much beer he had consumed.

I was fortunate that I received mostly loving moments and mildly irritated ones.  The outright vicious and nasty he saved for my Mom.

Usually she bore them in stoic silence.  But once in a while, epic fights would break out.

I remember one summer night our neighbor boy, Tom, coming to our house, grabbing me and taking me outside to stand under the street light because my parent’s argument was so loud and heated it could be heard throughout the neighborhood.

Another time I remember we were driving in the car one night.  It got to the point that I couldn’t stand it any longer and I actually screamed at my parents to shut up.

I must have absolutely shocked them because they dropped into dead silence.

These episodes were few and far between, which is probably what makes them so memorable.

Still, with my Dad when he drank, you never knew exactly which side of his personality would show up.

I don’t mean to project my parental insecurities onto my relationship with God, the Father.  But maybe it is natural, because my human emotions are all I know.

Still, like many people, I sometimes have difficulty reconciling the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New Testament.

I want with all my heart to believe as Thomas Merton did that the nature of God is pure love.  I try to keep my focus there.

And there is plenty of Scripture that validates this vision of God.  Even in the Old Testament.

”But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15

”Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” Psalm 36:5 

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

No, it is not God who is unfaithful. It is I who in my weakness often lack faith.

Semper Fi.  Another name for the Lord our God.

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90 Day Challenge: Day 37 -Set The World Ablaze

“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!” St. Catherine of Sienna

From an early age, I have always struggled with this concept of who I was to be.

When I was young and day dreaming, in my head I was transformed from a fat, glasses wearing teen no one wanted to date into a beauty queen who could also argue the law like Perry Mason. ( I think Megyn Kelly got that gig.)

When I won a California Newspaper Publishers Association Award for my paper early in my career, I should have been destined for more than a six-year gig on a local paper.  Or so I tell myself looking back on my lack of courage to try for a fully realized career as a reporter.

When I was married, I was sure I was eventually supposed to lead some sort of “Please Don’t Eat The Daisies” kind of existence, where I was both the perfect mother who baked cookies every day and was the winner of a Nobel Prize for Literature on  the side.

Whatever the “label” I have worn in life, I was always sure I was supposed to be more than I was, and constantly disappointed in myself that I wasn’t.

The same is true of my Christian life.  No matter how many ministries I pour myself into, no matter what Christian counseling or teaching duties I take on, I always feel I was meant to be better than I turn out.

I am a gingerbread cookie whose form always seems to crumble when put to the ultimate tests.

Yet the Bible clearly tells me I am made in the image of God. If so, why have I not better reflected that in what I have tried to achieve?

Today’s First Reading is about the predicted downfall of the prince of Tyre, who had a haughty heart and said “A god am I.”

I think we all set ourselves up to be little “g” gods at times in our lives.  As you can see from my preceding account, I certainly have.  At least in my own mind.

But an “image” is a reflection of God, not God himself. It is not that we are supposed to be God, but that others see him in us.

What, precisely, does that mean?

Fr. Thomas Merton wrote: “To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.”

I still feel I am not all I was meant to be.  I am not completely loving, not totally selfless. My character is still in formation. At 65 years old, I still wonder who it is I truly am. Who I am meant to be in this last phase of my life.

I have one name – Cheryle.  It translates to “beloved.”

I still have work to do before I can be known as simply “love” itself.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for me.

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