Giving thanks

November 24, 2009 at 8:34 pm (Uncategorized)

Things are getting a little crazy around here…we’re preparing for the arrival of my in-laws tomorrow and then they, we and my folks will sit down to Thanksgiving dinner in my house Thursday afternoon. So just before complete madness descends as I bustle around trying to simultaneously clean, ensure that we have the correct number of place settings, (not to mention a place to put them all) get all the food made, collect everyone from the train station/airport/etc, I wanted to make sure I took a minute to actually say “thank you.”

So…for this incredibly beautiful life that I in no way deserve but that I will strive to be worthy of…for the love of my family and for our health and safety…for laughter and for music…for chocolate chip cookies…for Jane Austen…for these and the other innumerable blessings in my life, I give you thanks oh Lord.




Permalink Leave a Comment


November 23, 2009 at 7:30 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Henry had his first recital this past Saturday. He’s still not actually playing his violin, so he sang a song about the correct rest position to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. In fact, Henry led off the concert. He’s so self-possessed, he didn’t seem nervous at all as he sat in front of me waiting through the announcements until it was time for him to climb the stairs to the stage. As he started singing, he flushed deep red (sorry about those genes, kid!) so I know he was aware that it was a momentous occasion, but he did such a great job. My dad had asked Henry to make sure to sing loud so that he could hear him, and he did! Loud, in tune, with confidence…it was maybe the most wondrous thing I have ever heard. In fact, I’m bawling just writing about it, so you can imagine the Niagara Falls that occurred on the day. I couldn’t have been prouder or more delighted for him.

Note the tartan tie

Henry greets his adoring public

Here’s the weird thing though – I choked up as each kid performed. The girl that graduated her book and got a certificate. The kid that had to restart “Go Tell Aunt Rhody.” The boy on the cello who played a Breval piece that I still remember from my Suzuki days. Each performer caused a fresh wave of tears. And why shouldn’t I cry? Music itself is so inherently moving, and for these young kids – Henry’s only four, for pete’s sake – to get up on stage in front of a full audience, even a a supportive one, is so brave and beautiful…well, let’s just say I was not the only one dripping salt-water all over the place.

Permalink 3 Comments

Saint of the week – Sister Thea Bowman

November 19, 2009 at 8:05 pm (Uncategorized)

Yes, I know that we have passed multiple weeks without featuring a saint, and yes, I also know that Sister Thea has not yet been canonized. However, evidently everyone who ever met her would say she was already a saint, her life is being examined for canonization, and lastly, I think this is somebody you should know about.

Sister Thea Bowman

Sister Thea Bowman

“God’s glory is revealed because we love one another across the barriers and boundaries of race, culture and class.”

Born in 1937, the granddaughter of slaves, Bertha Bowman was a native of Mississippi. Frustrated by a miserable public school system that was failing their bright daughter, Bertha’s teacher mother and physician father sent her to a Catholic school run by the Franciscans. Following that, Bertha asked to become a Catholic. At age 15, Bertha joined a Franciscan community in La Crosse, Wisconsin and took the name Sister Thea (“of God”). She was the only black member of her community.

 Sr. Thea had a remarkable singing voice and used it to familiarize people with black and spiritual songs. One of her goals was to bring more of black traditions into the Catholic Church in the United States.

 After getting her doctorate in English, Sr. Thea worked in Mississippi and Louisiana.

She taught at every level from elementary to college until she became a consultant on intercultural awareness for the bishop of Jackon, Mississippi. In this role, she spoke throughout the country, giving presentations that combined singing, gospel preaching, prayer, and storytelling.

Sister Thea had this to say about women: “Sharing life and faith and love is all our business, but in a special way and by a special calling–giving life, sustaining life, sharing life have always been life for women.”

In 1984, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which soon spread to her bones. As the cancer progressed, she continued her mission in her wheelchair until she died.

She prayed “to live until I die — to live fully.” In 1989, the U.S. bishops invited her to be a key speaker at their conference on Black Catholics. At the end of the meeting, at Sister Thea’s invitation, the bishops stood and sang “We Shall Overcome.”

In 1989, a year before her death, she became the first African-American women to receive an honorary degree from Boston College. Part of the citation read:

In the glory of your ministry we witness the Franciscan ideal of joy rendered more radiant by a woman of lively, living faith, truly Black and authentically Catholic. To your lifetime of building the Kingdom of God, preaching the Good News in the language of your people, and reclaiming the virtues and values that are your inheritance, Boston College says an approving “Amen!” and proudly declares you Doctor of Religion.”

Sr. Thea died of cancer March 31, 1990. She was 52.

Sr. Thea, from a 60 Minutes interview: “I think the difference between me and some people is that I’m content to do my little bit. Sometimes people think they have to do big things in order to make change. But if each one would light a candle we’d have a tremendous light.”

Permalink 3 Comments

Unexpected graces

November 18, 2009 at 4:00 pm (Uncategorized)

Sigh. We’re having a Week, and it’s only Wednesday. So although I don’t think we can eliminate the negative, I AM choosing to accentuate the positive this morning.

1). Lucy singing “I like you Mommy!” at breakfast.

2). A lovely email from an old friend.

3). The strength and faith and devotion of another friend going through something hard. Hmmm, maybe I’ll ask her if I can share the details…it’s pretty inspiring.

Surely I can think of another one…oh, okay

4). I am shockingly good at loading the dishwasher.

And I will leave you with two thoughts from men in my life. From my late grandfather Maurice: “You can’t fall out of bed when you’re lying on the floor.” And from my dad: “Cheer up! Tomorrow might be worse!”

Permalink Leave a Comment

There’s a New Sheriff in Town

November 14, 2009 at 3:07 pm (Uncategorized)

Evidently we have a new archbishop. Bishop Jerome Edward Listecki of La Crosse has been named to the seat vacated by Timothy Dolan.
Read all about it here.

Certain aspects of this appointment make me apprehensive. According a source cited in the Journal Sentinel article, “He’s very strong in terms of Catholic identity, basic issues of pro life, gay marriage, stem cell research…[y]et not doing much on social justice, or global peace.” Um, isn’t social justice a massive part of the Catholic identity? Wasn’t Jesus Mr. Social Justice? And he’s not so good on peace? What does that even mean? Yikes. But people can be wrong, and people can change, and I’m going to just go ahead and put out the welcome mat. It’s good to have an archbishop again and we’ll just see about the other stuff.

New Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki

New Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki

Permalink Leave a Comment

Who do you think you are?

November 9, 2009 at 11:45 pm (Uncategorized)

There was a little article in the New York Times yesterday that caught my husband’s eye while he was at the coffee shop with our youngest child. (Me? I was at church with older two.)

Who is a Jew? Court Ruling in Britain Raises Question

It’s a great article which I hope you’ll read, but the nutshell version is as follows. An orthodox Jewish school in the UK which receives many more applications than it can place, rejected a boy’s application for admission because his mother converted in a “progressive” rather than an orthodox synagogue and was therefore “not Jewish.” The family sued, the lower court found in favor of the school but was reversed on appeal, and now the case is before the justices of the highest court in the UK, one of whom I’ve had lunch with, randomly, although I’m refraining (with great difficulty) from name-dropping.

I found this issue fascinating on so many levels: personally of course, it affected me because of my three “half Jewish, half Irish” children, as my oldest describes it. Sociologically or something, it raises all kinds of questions about what Judaism is. Is it really an ethnicity? just a religion? Would it be ok for a school to reject my kids because I hadn’t converted “the right way?” What’s the role for the government in moderating this kind of dispute? No answers tonight, I’m afraid. Just questions.

Permalink Leave a Comment

The communion of saints

November 3, 2009 at 4:03 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

When we say the Creed at Mass, that is, when we profess our faith, we Catholics say, among other things, that we believe in the “communion of saints.”

I have to tell you that I haven’t ever thought too much about what that means. I guess this is one of the problems with being a cradle Catholic…it’s just something I’ve been saying as long as I remember. However, today was the big day…St Monica School is celebrating All Saints day. The first graders dressed up as saints, including an especially adorable St. Rose of Lima, and marched into church, and I have that phrase stuck in my head.

The communion of saints

The communion of saints

So being the good librarian’s daughter that I am, I looked it up. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is online at the Holy See’s website, God bless ’em, and Part One, Section Two, Chapter Three, Article 9, Paragraph 5 appears to be what I’m looking for. (Do you think there are some lawyers over there? Just a guess.) And right there we have it. “The communion of saints is the Church.” I don’t have to just long to be in that number, I already AM in that number. By virtue of my belief in the Eucharist, I am joined to all of the holy men and women, living and dead, working for God’s kingdom.

Which is awfully good to know after a day like yesterday when I wasn’t too saintly. It’s good to know that on day like yesterday when I just could not carry the load, someone else is pitching in to help.

At children’s liturgy this past Sunday my friend Joanne defined a saint as a person who does ordinary things in an extraordinary way, and she told the kids that they all had the potential within them to be saints. I found it incredibly moving. I do mostly find children’s liturgy to be incredibly moving, it’s true, but this hit home to me…and it’s going to help me get through the week. Peace, friends.

Permalink 2 Comments

Keeping it real…

November 2, 2009 at 11:37 pm (Uncategorized)

Just so you know…all is not sunshine and light over here at Casa Belfry. You know those blogs where every dinner is like a Martha Stewart spread, the children are all smiling Gap models and all is harmony and beauty? We’re not quite like that. There are days where dinner here is frozen pizza and Halloween candy (hypothetically speaking), I would like to trade my children in for the non-whining, non-bawling kind, and I’m pretty sure that God is napping when I’m praying.

Permalink Leave a Comment

What a treat…

November 1, 2009 at 2:08 pm (Uncategorized)

I was feeling a little bit like a Halloween Grinch, but that was probably due to the fact that I had been working on the kids’ costumes up until the eleventh hour. Still, it explains a little bit why, as we got ready to go trick or treating, I wondered to myself why I was encouraging my children, especially my two-year-old, to walk up to strange doors and solicit candy. Nevertheless, as we walked from house to house in my neighborhood, I got the answer. And NO, it was not so I could steal all my children’s Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, although that is certainly a bonus.

Halloween, frozen tundra style

Halloween frozen tundra style

As Sam and I watched the kids walk up to the doors, say “Trick or treat,” get compliments on their costumes, say “Thank you,” and walk back to us, I realized that Halloween is actually a terrific lesson in community building not to mention the exercise of basic etiquette and social skills. And my kids got it, even the two year old. She started saying, “Twick oh tweat” at the end of each sidewalk, repeating it every other second until she got to the door and accepted the candy and compliments, then finished up by saying “tank you.” I was so proud and felt so lucky to live where I do, with the family that I have…Halloween Grinch begone!

Permalink 2 Comments