Saturday, August 29, 2015


This is what Abby did the other day, in frustration and boredom at the computer getting turned off at bedtime:


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Desert

Picking up the blog has been an interesting journey for me. For starters, at one point, I felt the need to separate out my faith from my "other stuff", something which I now know is, at best short-sighted, and at worst self-deceiving. I cannot divorce my Catholicism from the rest of me, any more than I can remove the fact that I am a woman, or a mother, or a musician, or any other part if me. I am a whole, and ignoring part of it is akin to removing a limb.

It has been in rereading old entries such as this one that I realize the spiritual desert I am currently in.  The passage that really struck me was

I contemplated, looking around at the interior of the sanctuary, how connected we are, as Catholics, to the past. The continuity is startling to me at times. I am reminded by something said by the then-Monseigneur Fulton Sheen in a video of the Tridentine Mass: nothing in the Church is thrown away. Everything is build upon, preserved. 
It struck me very much during the singing of the Pange Lingua during the procession: here we are, centuries upon centuries later, singing the same words, the same tune, that our Catholic forbearers sang (it was penned by St. Thomas Aquinas from the 13th century). Many of the words we speak (the Kyrie, for example) date from the day of the early Church. Even our creed in some form or another dates from at least the 4th century. Gazing around the church, you can see the symbols and the elements that have remained with us for 2000 years... Even with the advent of Vatican II during the 1960's, the Catholicity of the Church is still very much intact.

I'm trying desperately to remember what that sense of peace and security felt like. I'm trying to remember how I felt so connected to the past, because I don't feel like that anymore. 

What changed? 

Well, I think things started to change for me when something oh-so-common in Catholic Churches occurred - we got a new priest. 

Movement of diocesan clergy is commonplace in most parishes, most staying for four to six years before moving somewhere else. I know there's a philosophy/social theory behind that, less years than that it's too hard to get things done but more years than that it becomes overwhelming, something like that. Father Y came to us shortly after Abby was born, in 2006, and left in 2012, moved to a different parish within the diocese. 

I loved Father Y. Under him, I felt a comfortable bridging between things that were old (i.e. tradition) and things that were new (the New Mass). Under him, there was a happy medium, those things coexisted relatively well. Under him, there were no girl altar servers, and yet there were always servers for every Mass. There was incense and bells, even as Mass was said versus populum as we sang some bad Dan Schutte or Carey Landry tune, so favoured by those of a certain age bracket. He had beautiful vestments, and not that polyester crap you see too often these days. He talked about things like Natural Family Planning and other tough topics. He was heavily invested in forming vocations, taking several young men under his wing including one that was just ordained this past summer. He took a special interest in helping a few select individuals, individuals mostly written off by the community, something I think largely influenced by his career pre-priesthood.

It was a comfortable place for me to be. When we talked about moving back to Winnipeg, neither me or my husband wanted to leave the parish. We had roots, dude. 

Now, I know not everyone loved Fr. Y like I did. People have criticized that he was not "good with youth", because he made the tough decision to cancel the unsustainable LifeTeen program (the volunteers had burnt out and attendance was dwindling, besides the fact the umbrella program for that was mired in controversy at the time) and he didn't allow girl altar servers. He was criticized for certain aspects of his spending on the restoration of the parish, splurging on some items (I feel that particular criticism has at least some merit). He was maybe not the most efficient or effective human resource manager, having numerous strong personalities in the office at that time needing leadership. 

But he was a good priest, and I was sure and happy in my faith. I had beautiful things on the outside, and they inspired beautiful things on my inside. 

Then we got a new priest. Now, I want to add that he was still a very good, faithful and holy priest - but he was fully invested in the New. There was no more incense (or at least, very rarely), there were polyester vestments, and homilies were more of the Church of Nice variety. He was "great with the youth" according to several parishioners, yet the remaining youth program was dissolved due to lack of kids? staff? (I'm not even sure at this point) and there often wasn't altar servers despite girls once more being allowed. He was beloved by those who loved the New, and regarded with suspicion by those of use who loved the Old. 

And then he got sick and had to leave. 

He left last Fall. I don't blame him, and I respect him tremendously for talking about his struggles and his determination to get well. I do not begrudge him in the least for that. But that set the stage for Father G. 

After Father Y left, I became increasingly interested in all things Trad. By Trad, I mean traditional Catholic. I had dabbled in it for several years at that point - Father Y facilitated TLM being said on occasion at our parish, usually on a Sunday afternoon, and I attended a few times. My curiousity initially was mostly academic. History fascinates me, and I found myself drawn to this archaic form of worship to understand where we came from. But once our parish became heavily invested in the New, I found myself asking lots of questions. Lots and lots of questions. Questions that had neither easy nor satisfying answers. 

In other words, Father G could not have re-entered my life at the worst time. 

I had met Father G some 15 years prior, before I really came back to the Church. I don't really want to go into the why and how right now, because that would be another long, drawn out, convoluted blog post. For our purposes, it suffices to say that Father G is beyond heavily invested in the New. 

He's for a New Order. 

There is, in both conservative Catholic and traditional Catholic circles, increasingly urgent whispers about the crisis in the Church. Conflict. Conspiracy. I never saw any of that first-hand, and didn't understand it. But sitting in the pews, listening to Father G say.... I can only describe them as outrageous... things every Sunday, and seeing all the nodding heads around me... 

I felt sick. 

Thankfully, Father G's stay was only temporary, for a season. We are now blessed with a more orthodox priest who will be (God-willing) remaining with us for several years. But the damage was done. I am shell-shocked. Empty. 

A husk. 

Gone is my prayer life. Gone is my ability to hear God's whisper in the stillness of my heart. Gone is my peace and assurance. Gone is my desire to even go through the motions. 

I am in the desert.

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar - T.S. Eliot



Tuesday, August 18, 2015


It started with a casual remark from Rachael. 

"You know, Mom," she said, "I wish I had Autism so I can have superpowers too."

Superpowers? Autism? 


Abby has, among other talents, bionic hearing. At least, it seems like she does. We live very close to the CP mainline, and freight trains rumble past our house a dozen or more times a day. Abby can hear them. I mean, we hear them too, but she hears them miles out, sometimes as much as five minutes before the rest of us can. She'll come up to you and say:

"Hear a train?" 

(Most of her statements are in the form of questions - echolalia I suppose from us asking her constant questions.)

To which we often will remark, "Do you hear a train? There's your superautismhearing again!" because 99% of the time, there will be train along shortly. 

Rachael has long been obsessed with superheros. For a year or more, she added to her prayers every night that God would make her a superhero when she grows up. So, not surprisingly, she might be a bit jealous that Abby has a "superpower". 

Too often, we read and hear about how our children on the Spectrum need to be "cured" or "fixed". I have questioned that philosophy for several years now. I questioned it waaaay back in ABA, and I question it still. Is my child actually broken? Or is she just differently-abled? 

Certainly, there are traits with Autism that make it difficult for her to function in our culture, but there are lots of things in our culture that I find dis-functional. Does Autism govern our family life? In many ways, it does. Will she need care for the rest of her life? Probably. 

But do all those things add up to a person being "broken"? After all, even Batman had a caregiver (Alfred), the Incredibles, well, they *were* a family of superheros, and guys like Peter Parker never seem to fit in anyway. Neither did the X-Men. And they were superheros. 

So what does that make Abby, with her superpowers?

Sunday, August 16, 2015



Mea culpa, it's been forever, hasn't it? Life is busy with four kids (yes, I did say four!), homeschooling, and renovating.

I keep saying I'm going to start blogging again, and I never seem to get around to it.

Mea culpa.

Today I want to write about nourishment, which is fitting seeing how today's Gospel reading was this, from the book of John:

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever." (6:51-58)

We, as Catholics, find in this passage one of the scriptural justifications for ancient Tradition, the doctrine of Transubstantiation. It is the belief that the bread and wine actually turn into the Body and Blood of Christ. Whenever Jesus prefaced a passage with "Very truly, I tell you,", which is also sometimes translated as "Verrily, verrily, I say unto you", Jesus is speaking literally. He tells us that we must literally eat the flesh and drink the blood. 

Some people will argue that Jesus didn't mean literally, but was speaking figuratively. But if that was the case, why did that statement cause such an uproar among the other Jews? They thought he was speaking literally! Besides, if you look back on the history of the Jews, and what sacrifices entailed and what happened to them, it makes perfect sense that Jesus - the sacrifice once and for all - needs to be consumed, as all sacrifices must be in some fashion. 

But enough of the theology. This is about food. 

I've been feeling really awful lately. The baby, at 10.5 months, sleeps like a newborn. Meaning, she's up every 45 to 90 minutes through the night. Her waking wakes up Abby, who sometimes struggles to go back to sleep. That means lots of sleepless night for this Momma, and my zombie-like state during the day means some of the daily household stuff does by the wayside. 

Meal-planning was basically non-existent this past week, since getting back from our sorjourn to Winnipeg for a bit of holidays and to attend the funeral Mass for my husband's grandmother. And my body paid the price. 

I didn't realize it until yesterday, after eating an honest-to-goodness real meal cooked from real food, with lots of veggies and good quality protein just how low I had been feeling, and how much of it was from the junk and processed food I had been feeding it. The difference was remarkable. 

Eating badly seems to be a self-perpetuating thing. You eat badly because you're too tired to prepare something decent. You feel worse because you didn't eat well, which makes you too tired for the next meal. It keeps going. 

We had relaxed Abby's food restrictions somewhat in recent months, and it makes a tremendous difference. Gluten, as it turns out, is still mostly off-limits. We can let her have some here and there (helpful for things like birthday parties), but we pay for it the next day in her behaviour. She's a good eater, however, and I can't complain. She loves foods like egg whites, broccoli (she can eat a 5 lb bag by herself in the course of 3 days), turnips, roasted chicken, carrots, salad greens, baked potatoes etc. Stuff that most parents dream of their kids eating, nevermind kids on the spectrum. Many of her classmates seem to survive on processed foods, which can't be helping their behaviour. 

Joseph can't have too much processed stuff either, or he's positively vibrating. He seems to need a diet of fresh air, good activities to keep his mind and body busy, plenty of fruits and raw veggies, and strict restrictions on things like TV and computer time (AKA screen time), as they seem to effect her weirdly and needs to detox from them once you turn them off. 

We need to be conscious of what we choose to nourish ourselves with. I think eating fresh, whole food is more important that choosing non-GMO, although I will chose non-GMO when I can. I think nourishing our minds with good books, good projects, and lifelong learning is paramount. I think nourishing our hearts with the companionship of family and good friends helps us lead balanced lives. And nourishing our soul with Christ, both literally when we receive the most Holy Eucharist, and spirituality within our devotions and liturgical practices, strengthens us in our daily lives.