Thursday, August 30, 2018

When you find it difficult to have faith...

I hope that the title of this post doesn't sound too dramatic (I bandied about with several different options before settling on this one), but I think that when you have a blog, it's important to be honest. That's what makes the content compelling, and that's what builds trust and community. I always keep it real here at Life of a Catholic Librarian, so this week I decided to write about the struggle I'm having right now. Of course, this isn't about ME at all, it's about a crisis in our Church (including my own diocese), but it has set off an emotional buildup within myself, to be sure.

I don't often refer to current events here in my posts, but this is one of those times wherein one simply has to. In my lifetime of being a Catholic, I've never felt the way that I do right now. I'm not going to leave the Church, but in all honesty, it hurts right now. It rather hurts my heart to be Catholic. I feel deeply upset at the way some of our spiritual leaders have abused their power and physically and emotionally abused others, both children and adults. It is quite easy for a person to think: "How can this be Christ's Church? How can I stay here?"

I know. I do.

I don't have any answers. I'm just trusting that given that it *is* Christ's Church (I firmly believe this), He will make all things new, and bring some good out of all this evil. We humans tend to screw things up royally, and need God to guide us. We need that more than ever right now.

When I went to Mass this weekend, I have to admit that I was feeling pretty low, based upon all of the above. And I did not have the best experience. Remember that whole bringing-up-the-gifts-too-early-debacle I detailed about a month ago? Well, I was once again back at the 8 am Mass because Henry was serving. This time, Anne was with me. That same sweet usher was looking for volunteers again, and this time, Anne eagerly volunteered us.


I mean, I like helping out, I'm just not my most awake and with it at 8 am on Sunday morning. So I was extra vigilant, keeping an eye on the ushers as they collected the envelopes, and then waited for them to definitely process up the aisle, bound for the small table with the gifts, before Anne and I got up to join them. Everything went great, and Anne bowed to the altar just like I taught her. I reflected on the Gospel reading after communion (which was right on point, btw. In fact, let's pop it in here):

"Many of Jesus' disciples who were listening said, 'This saying is hard; who can accept it?' Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, 'Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.'...As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve: 'Do you also want to leave?' Simon Peter answered him: 'Master, to whom small we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

For realsies, YES?! There could not have been a more perfect Gospel reading this week, but let's come back to that. Let's return to my traumatic experience at Mass. 😭 So,  everything was going soothingly well. Then Mass ended, and Anne and I waited for Henry to come back from the sacristy.


A man comes up to us. I recognize him from Mass, but I do not know him, or even his name. He comes up smiling at us, so I assume he's going to say something nice. Because that's just what I do, I assume the best of people. While still all smiley, he tells me that when *he* brings up the gifts, he gets up as soon as Father gets out of his chair, rather than waiting for the ushers the way that Anne and I did. Then he says:

"I heard the lady in front of me tsk, then say: 'amateurs!'"

And he bursts out laughing like this is the funniest thing he's ever heard.

Friends, I was not laughing. In fact, I said nothing while he laughed, until he got the hint and slunk away. I would not normally react like that; I would play along and pretend I got the "joke" so as to put the other person at ease. But I was really stung. I felt hurt by his words, and that he went out of his way to relay them to me. He couldn't have known that I was generally feeling low that day, upset about everything that we were all just finding out about, and that this would make me feel infinitely lonelier in my faith. But for the rest of the day, I felt terrible. I thought to myself: "what am I even doing here?"

And I'm glad that my thoughts took that turn, because that brings us full circle back to the Gospel reading: I'm here because of the Eucharist.

That's it, really. Although there are many close friends in my community (both locally and online) that I share my faith with, I'm not Catholic because of the people. I'm Catholic because of the Eucharist.

Each morning when I've woken up this week, I think about that. I think about that Gospel reading from John. I downloaded a Kindle copy of the Liturgy of the Hours, and when I can, I pray Morning/Evening Prayer. Randomly, the one I've been able to pray every day is Night Prayer. I remind myself that my faith is about Christ and His True Presence in the Eucharist, and I don't need to feel particularly touchy feely about my bishop or about my fellow parishoners in order for my faith to be firm. Hopefully, that will all resolve eventually, but I don't need to force my feelings into anything. It's the way I feel right now, and that's OK.

It's all a little raw this week, do you agree, my friends? Do you have certain things that you do when you find that it's a challenge for your faith to thrive? Specific devotions or ways of focusing your thoughts and emotions? Perhaps we can all have a virtual group hug this week!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Back-to-school briskness and busyness, and school-related novenas...

St. Kateri is our back-to-school patron this year!
Anecdote of the day: Anne greets me first thing this morning outside our bedroom door, wearing her nightgown, tossled hair, and a frown:

"Mom. You have to come quick."

Uh oh.

She hustles me down to her little bedroom, where she has clearly *just* stepped out of bed, and points an accusing finger at a shelf:

"How did Peppers get up there?!"

Peppers is her new stuffed animal friend, a parrot. I actually have no idea how Peppers got up onto a shelf, as I tucked them into bed together last night, and that does seem a little scary, doesn't it? Did he fly up there?!


"Daddy probably put Peppers up there when he checked on you last night, Honey. Maybe he had fallen out of the bed."

"But why would he put Peppers up there and not back into bed with me?!"

Well, I don't know. But Anne was clearly outraged. :0 Poor Peppers.

In other news, we're in full on back-to-school prep over here. Although we're still getting flare ups of humidity around these parts, September is in the air. We're getting occasional cool nights, and the campus where I work is beginning to look different. Students are arriving for orientation, and there is a bustling sensation in the air. Classes start for them on Monday. I don't start teaching until week 3 due to the way our library lab is structured, so I still have some time to breathe, thankfully. My kids don't start school until the Wednesday following Labor Day.

It's kind of a big year for my Henry, because he's going into 8th grade. That's the highest level in his and Anne's Catholic school, and the whole thing is a bit emotional for me.


I'm struggling with/panicking about this quite a bit. Next year, he will start high school, and it does NOT seem like this is possible. I know, I know, I've whined about this before. :0 But I can't help it. This is big. I never pictured myself as old enough to have a child in high school, and here we are on the very precipice of that. I'll make it, but it isn't easy. At least I have Mike to share the journey with me. *heart*

As we move into the fall, Henry is facing the Catholic High School Entrance Exam. We don't know for certain that he will attend Catholic high school (i.e. whether we can afford it), but his top choice is the Catholic boys high school that is minutes away from our house. Assuming that the financial aid package is manageable, we'd love to send him there. But it's a big "if," to be sure.

Accordingly, given that the entrance exam is in early November, and sometime thereafter we would find out the financial information, Henry and I are going to pray a novena starting Sunday (August 26th) using this novena to St. Kateri.

Would anybody like to join us? This would mean that the last day of the novena would be Labor Day here in the U.S., and since my kids start school right after that, the timing seems apt. :) I asked Henry which saint he would like to ask to intercede for him, and he chose St. Kateri, isn't he precious? If you'll be joining us, let me know!

All right, I have a bunch of beginning-of-semester emails to send out, so I'd better get on that.


How is your back-to-school season going? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Books and Back-to-School on the feast of the Assumption...

Books still available for pre-order!
Well, happy feast of the Assumption, everybody! I'm going to be honest and admit that I was dragging a bit to get myself to Mass today. I had planned to go to the 8 am at my parish, and well...


Let's just say that didn't happen. 😂 Plus, I had a meeting at 9 am (that I had forgotten about, OOPS!) and so I would not have made it back for that on time. I was all rushy rushy, juggling my lunch, various morning beverages, and gigantic bag (Mike: "has this gotten bigger?! Me: "Well, yes. Didn't you see the big package that came yesterday with my new bag in it?" 😇) to get into the library and throw aforementioned stuff down before heading to the meeting. The meeting wrapped up at 11, and luckily there is a parish near campus with an 11:30 am Mass. Honesty time again: I did not feel like driving over there, but I did it anyway, because I knew that it was the right thing to do, and sure enough: BAM. Outstanding experience. I mean, the Eucharist is there, what more do we need, right? But the priest also had a beautiful homily about a statue that he had seen recently of Our Lady being assumed into heaven, and how it was different from other common images we see of Mary, wherein she is clasping her hands, or holding them extended downward. In this particular statue, she was holding her arms up, her gazed fixed upward towards heaven. He spoke of this posture reminding him of faith, hope and trust, and it really touched my heart. What an excellent feast day blessing.

In other news, I see from my Facebook feed that mid-August is officially back-to-school time. My kids don't go back until after Labor Day, but still, there is a definite back-to-school feeling in the air, yes? My piece for Catholic Mom this month reflects that this important change is very much on my mind this year (it's a focus on St. Vincent de Paul as a patron for our little back-to-schoolers!). My babies are going into 8th and 2nd grade, respectively. I mean:


I can't believe that this is really happening. Henry has just one more year in the same school as Anne, and then he will be off to high school. This does not seem possible. I mean, just yesterday, he was toddling into our bedroom in the morning in his footed sleeper, to curl up with me and watch that creepy show with the hands until he had to get dressed for daycare.


I guess I'm at that point in life that I just never foresaw. I saw myself getting married and having kids, by which I mean LITTLE KIDS. They are NOT SUPPOSED to get to be 13 years old and go to high school!

*blink blink*

I'll make it. Sometimes real life just seems a bit surreal.

Also this August, pre-orders for the Stay Connected journal series that I am a part of are open for only a few more days! I wanted to post about this again because the publisher decided on a final retail price for these initial 3 books, and they will be $14.95 each. The pre-order price of $9 per book, or $25 for the initial set of 3, is an INCREDIBLE bargain! You can also get my book in bulk quantities (3, 5 or 10 copies) for up to 50% off right now for a Bible study group, and now is the absolute best time to pull the trigger on that due to the price break. 10 copies for $60! My book focuses on spiritual reading, and pulls out excerpts from some classic works of Catholic literature for us to study together. Quick promo video for your leisure time! 😃

It's been such a pleasure to work with Allison Gingras on this series, and I am SO EXCITED about the full launch on October 1st (feast of St. Therese, she's featured in my book!) and doing some traveling to promote the book. Details to follow when I have them!


In the meantime, how is your back-to-school season going? Any fun plans for fall? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Adventures with swords and winged insects on a hill - more festival dancing, 2018...

You know, when I was a shy, mousey kid with glasses and an overbite in elementary school, I suppose that I didn't think my life would turn out in a particularly interesting way. I wanted to be quietly happy, and that is indeed how it turned out, but I will admit that my adult life includes some elements that I did not foresee all those decades ago. The librarian part is not a surprise. Nor is the wife and mother part (though I did fear at one point that that may never come to pass due to aforementioned shy, mousey, teeth situation I mentioned above). I guess I saw myself perpetually wearing a collared shirt and knee length skirt, my hair in a bun or braid, pushing a book cart around a small public library like Aurora Teagarden. I'd go home, make dinner for my husband and kids, and read a lot. That was pretty much it. :0

My belly dancing adventures have added a layer of excitement and fun to every arena of my life. It brings me unending creative inspiration, a beautiful community of women who support me emotionally, and events that I share with Mike and the kids. And the unexpected fun and laughter at some of the situations that we find ourselves in? Well, there's just no way I can ever put into words the joy it has brought me.

Friday night my troupe and I were slated to perform at an outdoor event memorializing a local musician who passed away a few years ago. After two full days of performing in the daytime heat last weekend, we were really looking forward to this much shorter, more informal gig. And indeed, it was a fun and wonderful adventure!

We arrived about a half hour in advance of our 8:15 pm performance slot, all gussied up in our hot pink costume coverups. :0 There was a band playing on the grass beneath a tent cover. We've danced on a multitude of different surfaces, but grass was a first for us!

The event organizer greeted us warmly and, shouting over the neighboring band, told us that he was so excited we were there, and that we'd be performing on "the main stage." There was a beat of confusion, because we all assumed that we were standing next to the main stage. Then he pointed to the top of a hill.

Yep. The main stage was UP THERE. 😂

I had a hard time believing anybody would hike up that thing to watch us dance, but up we went, me wishing the entire time I had a decorative band for my Fitbit so that I could have captured those awesome steps. ;-) At the top, we found a sound system, and a couple making out. I am not making this up. :0 We discreetly made camp at the sound system, tried to find as even a spot as possible that we could dance on, and waited for the band to finish playing.

They did, and people actually hiked up that hill to watch us dance. :0 The evening was taking on a surreal feeling, but hey. That's part of the fun.

We organized ourselves as the sun set, swatting away mosquitoes all the while. This is officially the first performance wherein I wished that I had slathered myself with bug spray ahead of time. ALTHOUGH, the bug spray would have been a decidedly bad combination with the sheer volume of sweat that I accumulated on my face and hair. It was still quite warm and humid, even up on a hill. ;-) We danced several group pieces, and interspersed solos in-between. Sword and I had our big moment towards the end of the set:

Sword having his time in the spotlight ;-)
And Sword was a good boy. But I tell you, belly dancing, while balancing a sword on your sweaty head, up on an uneven hillside...well, it's not all it's cracked up to be. 😂 In the past, once I got Sword balanced, I was only taking him off my head in case of apocalypse, or maybe just moderate cataclysm. I was much more leery of re-balancing it, so would live with terrible sliding sensations and other crazy crooked concoctions while I danced. Now? Every professional gig I've ever done has requested that I balance the sword. So I do, and now have a lot more experience. Sword goes on and off my head with lightening efficiency depending upon the conditions and his stability up there. So after balancing him for a spell, I swooped him off my head and did a bunch of swirly things with him. Then when I heard my song nearing it's end, I re-balanced him like a champ and ended with the sword on my head. Sword did good. :0

By our final number, my hair was sticking to my back and we all had at least one bug bite. The crowd was lovely, though, and we all have a fun and wonderful time. The event organizer is of Middle Eastern descent, and was thrilled to have us there.To me, this is what being a belly dancer is all about. We are representing a culture, and we have a responsibility to do it correctly and authentically. We are proud to present Egyptian dance, and to do it with joy.

And we have fall belly adventures coming out way! More performances, a workshop weekend in Toronto, an exciting new class, and the semi-annual hafla. I also have lots of yarn crafting adventures on tap as well, so there will be updates on that front too! How is your August going, dear reader? Share at will in the comments!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Summer Book Club 2018 - Spotlight on Catholic apologetics, Part II...

This summer is really flying by, yes? Hard to believe, but it's our final installment in the 2018 Summer Book Club! This summer, we've been discussing Kevin Lowry's How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church, and last week we chatted about how how we all enjoyed his conversion story. Let's pick up where we left off!

So the second part of the book changes course, and Kevin then moves into a discussion of 8 "things" that were obstacles he had to overcome prior to becoming Catholic. I've seen discussions like this in many other conversion memoirs that I've read, and as a cradle Catholic who grew up in the Northeast, they have always been a source of fascination for me. Beliefs that I just took for granted (i.e. a devotion to Mary, that getting to heaven involves more than faith alone) were a huge source of controversy to others, and I had no idea until I was an adult!

It's been awhile since I read a conversion story like this, so I was interested to see Kevin's list as well. It included:

(1) The Eucharist
(2) Confession
(3) The Mystical Body of Christ
(4) Mary
(5) Faith vs. Works
(6) Authority
(7) The Church's Imperfections
(8) Himself

No big surprises there. :) These are all things that are very different for non-Catholics coming from a Protestant background, and these individuals may have some biases worked up against the Catholic belief system on these issues. He touches upon this in #8. I think he also makes an excellent point about #7, which in our modern times is an increasing tragedy for all involved. 

Numbers 1 through 6 I have read about in just about every other conversion story I've encountered, so they are certainly poignant items for those looking into the Church. This is an educational list, to be sure, and his discussion is on point. I do feel like the discussion was a bit abbreviated in this section, as compared to other books like this that I have read. Beth Anne mentioned this issue last week as well, with regards to the latter part of his conversion story in part I, that suddenly we went from a more detailed-driven narrative, to it being more cursory. This discussion felt more cursory to me than its' peers in this genre. That's not a criticism, just an observation. Since I have in fact read a lot of conversion stories, I have explored extensively on all of these issues, but if this is the first book of this type that a person has picked up, they would likely be left wanting a lot more information about these doctrines. The amount of information provided here is not necessarily convincing, I don't think, as to why the author converted to Catholicism. Obviously, he did a lot more research that he simply chose not to include here, and he may have been going for a shorter book that is easier to read. I get it.

Those are my impressions of the second half of the book! What were yours? I'd love to hear them!

Thank you so much, friends, for spending July reading along with me on the topic of apologetics! Our next book club will be for Advent, and sometime in the late fall I'll post a list for us to vote from. That'll be super fun, won't it?! 😃

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Adventures with sweat and high powered wind - summer festival dancing, 2018 edition...

Hello all! I had time for a short dance post, and I promised last week that I'd get an update in prior to our last Summer Book Club installment.


And so here I am, reporting in for duty. On the whole, it went very well! We danced on both Saturday and Sunday, and they were definitely long days, no doubt about that. We danced in what we call "pop ups" around the festival in the early afternoons, and then danced in a stage show during the later afternoons. All numbers went well, but as is always the case during the last weekend of July every single year, it was hot, and so we get very, very hot and sweaty. That does not make for the most pleasant of costume situations, to be sure. ;-) And dancing down on the road during the pop ups is uneven and makes turns a tad precarious. Our drum solo tried to knock us off in this fashion one-by-one, but we managed to thwart it. :0

The stage shows were beautiful. I was tired, no doubt about that, but I was very happy with how all of the pieces went, both solo and group. It was windy though, which always makes veil work a bit dicey. I practiced veil entrances for both of my solo pieces, and well...

...let's just say that didn't work out exactly as I had planned. 😂 On Saturday, I stubbornly still entered with a veil, determined not to let the wind foil my beautiful swishing sequence. I got on stage, the veil flew over my face, and I beat it back behind me so that I could release it, pretending like I planned for that to happen. :0 I left it at the back of the stage so that I wouldn't accidentally step on it and slip, and it FOLLOWED ME ALL THE WAY UP TO THE FRONT, then blew right into the center of the space, slowly balled itself up and rolled around like a tumbleweed, before finally blowing right off and into the audience.

Sure. I meant for that to happen, as well. ;-)

Sunday, I gave up the ghost and entered without Veil. That went great, aside from the fact that sweat rolled into my right eye while I was dancing, causing my eyes to blink and water uncontrollably for the remainder of the piece.

All glamour, all the time, in the life of your belly dancing Catholic Librarian. 😎

And the group pieces were lovely as well. There were a lot of them, and thus a lot of quick costume changes, resulting in a bit of...:

"Wait. What dance are we doing?!"

...even as we were about to get on stage. :0 But hey, we're professionals. Which means we pull it off no matter what! And that we did.

It was a fun weekend, and I can't wait to do it again. Which we will. On Friday.


I haven't fully recovered from the last one yet, that's all. 😂 And guess who's coming along for the ride? Our good friend Sword.


I'll let you know how it all goes next week! How was your weekend, dear reader? Book Club post will be up tomorrow!