Monday, January 30, 2006

Different Roles in the Same World

I just finished reading the February/March issue of Pink Magazine, a new magazine for professional women. It is an intelligent magazine and I enjoyed it. I'm all for any magazine that profiles women who are intelligent and capable. Admittedly, I have very little in common with the women this magazine is targeted at. I have never made, nor am I likely to ever make, a six figure salary. While I have an advanced degree, it is in theology, not business or law. And while I run my own business, the entrepreneurs who founded this magazine would no doubt have fits of laughter examining my balance sheet! Still, I enjoy reading about successful women.

I think success can be defined many different ways. I used to read magazines such as "Working Mother" and wonder how these women could do it all. Reading their resumes gave me a serious case of self-loathing. After all, if so-and-so could have three children, a full-time job and finish up their doctoral degree, why can't I? The truth is, however, no one woman can do it all. We all make choices in life based on our own priorities and needs. Nobody can give 100% to every area of her life. So, I have made my choices and 99 days out of 100, I am happy with them.

I still enjoy reading about others who have made different choices, however, and who seem equally happy with them. We all have different roles in this world. If we pray every day and try to live our life in accordance with what God wants, we won't go wrong. So whether our role is a high-profile one or the much less visible but no less important role of a stay-at-home mom, we all have our part in the divine plan. Our different roles and different contributions all help the world be a better replace.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Wonder of "Why?"

My children, ages 4 1/2 and 3, love to ask questions. "Where does ham come from?" "How do you make paper?" "How are bowls made?" "How does the telephone work?" "Why is elbow macaroni curved?" "Why is Cookie Monster blue?" Each answer I give is generally followed by another "Why?" on their part.

Then, there are the questions about our faith. My older son David, by virtue of his name, has always had a fascination with the Biblical story of David and Goliath. "Why did David kill Goliath? We're not supposed to kill people." I told him it was part of God's plan, to which he replied, "But God made Goliath. Why would he want him to die?" Hmm . . .good question. At the consecration at mass today David heard the priest say "This is my blood. Take and drink it in memory of me." "Why would anyone want to drink blood? Yuck!" was my son's response. On the plus side, at least he was paying attention.

As much as I am sometimes exhausted by the constant barrage of questions that come my way, I find their inquiries fascinating. I have long since lost that high innate level of curiosity. Partly, that is because I know a great deal more than my children. Many of my questions have already been answered; to them, the world is still full of mystery. As far as they are concerned, there is so much to learn and they want to learn it now!

Alot of times, however, I just take things at face value. I have no burning desire to understand what makes my digital camera work or how Massachusetts (where we live) got its name. With these topics, I'm learning right along with my children, whether I want to or not. Thank goodness for the internet where I can look up the answers to these questions relatively easily!

Curiosity is one of those characteristics that makes us human. My husband and I recently watched the movie "The Island" about a group of human clones who have been grown and kept for their organs. The people who create and manage the clones have been able to keep them under control by depriving them of their curiosity but as some begin to exhibit that trait, all bets are off. They start to wonder what is outside their own safe secluded little world and set out to find out. Once they have curiosity, they want to discover. Each question leads to more.

Curiosity fuels learning. It also is the beginning of our relationship with God. What is out there that is greater than us? Where did we come from? Who made us? Why? What is our purpose here on Earth? Why do we die? What lies beyond? In life, there sometimes seem to be so many more questions than answers, but the questions are important in and of themselves. Through our questions, and our search for the answers, we continue to grow and develop. As my children (and I think God) would tell you, it is always important to ask "Why?" As one of my former teachers used to say, "We aren't going to discover anything God doesn't already know!"

Friday, January 27, 2006

Letting Go

This came to me in a ezine today and I thought it was good so I am passing it along. To subscribe to Janet Cassidy's newsletter, follow the instructions at the bottom.


Letting Go

I have a quote above my computer that reads: Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. The author is identified as Theodore Roosevelt.

I put this poster up for our kids, really. As we’ve homeschooled over the years, I thought it was an apt message for kids to take to heart. Too often children get frustrated when things don’t go smoothly or when they are feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities. It’s a good thing to remind them that all any of us can do is what we can do, where we are, right now.

Those words, of course, have had an impact on me as well. As each of us struggles with personal vs. professional goals, raising children, parenting decisions, reconciling, sustaining and nurturing healthy relationships, we must learn to accept the implication of these words: we have limitations. We cannot always fix everything. We cannot always have everything our way. And, primarily, we are in control only as far as we willingly cooperate with God’s plan. Beyond that, we must, in humility, let some things go.

It is in this letting go that we find our freedom. It is in this letting go that we find God and learn how to love as God calls us to do.

May God give you freedom and peace today—not apart from what troubles you, but within it.

God Bless!

Janet

Send an e-mail to cassidycomments@yahoo.com with the word “subscribe” in the subject line if you would like to receive future issues of Cassidy Comments.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Gifts for Cat or Horse Lover

Tonight I went to see my Spiritual Director. I always come home with such a light heart after my monthly session. In addition, I found out that my journaling workshop on February 23 already has a few people signed up! Yeah!

I have also been busy working on my signs-etcetera website. Tonight I put up a few really beautiful cat mugs and horse mugs, so if you are in need of a gift for a cat or horse lover, you might want to check these out:

Cat Mugs

Horse Mugs

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Why Creativity Matters

I was reading "Art in America" today and came across an ad for the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. It read

"Find divine passion at the end of your fingertips."

We are all called to create. God is the ultimate creator and we are all made in his image and likeness, therefore we also have creativity imprinted in our beings. Everyone may manifest that creativity a little bit differently. For example, some may pursue traditional creative pursuits such as painting or music, but others may express their creativity through cooking, knitting, writing, or the way they set up their home. The possibilities are endless, but it is so important that we nurture that part of us. Creation keeps us from being stagnant. It keeps life new and invigorating. It can provide us with a new perspective on the routine tasks we have to do every day.

For some ideas on jumpstarting your creativity, check out the Creativity section on my website.

Someday I would love to start or be part of a program combining art and spirituality, two of my deepest passions in life. I don't know if it will ever happen, but a girl can dream . . .

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Monday, January 23, 2006

In the Midst of Winter

It snowed today - that beautiful snow globe kind of snow that just makes you want to stay inside and curl up with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate. Ok, so at no point today did I do either of these things, but it was still a good day. David and I just got in from shoveling. Isaac, much like his father, wants nothing to do with snow. Thankfully, it wasn't too cold out and the chore was actually somewhat enjoyable.

This morning, I read an article in the paper how this was supposedly the most depressing day of the year for those of us who live in northern climates. The holidays are over, the bills have come in, we have failed at our new year's resolutions once again, and spring seems far in the distance.

It reminded me of a saying that used to hang in an office I worked in - "In the midst of winter, I learned there was in me an invincible summer." I think it was by Albert Camus. Winter is not always only a physical season, but also a state of mind - a time when everything seems bleak and sunshine is a rare commidity. Within us, however, is the hope for a better tomorrow, a tiny spark of sun that never goes out. That sun is the spirit of God within us. We are all children of God and if we trust in him, that light will never go out.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Tears from Heaven

"You have fed them with the bread of tears
and given them tears to drink in ample measure" Psalm 80:6

Joan Chittister, O.S.B., who coincidently enough was one of the women profiled in "Good Catholic Girls", wrote today's reflection in "Living Faith":

"Without tears, change may never come because the loss may never be acknowledged. Tears release us from the past. . . What gushes out of us in a torrent of tears has no more power to control us. . .Tears cleanse and rinse and irrigate our souls so that new life can flow."

I have been known to shed a few tears. Bernie used to tell me that I "leaked." I cry less than I used to. Less to cry about mostly, but also the realization that tears don't change things as much as action does. However, there are times when tears provide a much-needed emotional release. There are situations I seemingly have no control over that bring me to tears. There are times when one needs to grieve, not only for people, but for situations and experiences. I'm glad that God gave us the ability to cry, to wash ourselves clean, to start again fresh.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Good Catholic Girls

I finally finished my review of "Good Catholic Girls: How Women are Leading the Fight to Change the Church." You can read the review on my site at Good Catholic Girls. That book just had so much controversial material in it. I certainly don't agree with everything she had to say, although in some areas I agree with her whole-heartedly. I think that most readers will feel that way. There will be portions of this book that you will love, and others that will raise your blood pressure to unhealthy levels!


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Does God get angry?

"Looking around at [the Pharisees] with anger, and grieved at their hardness of heart, [Jesus] said . . ." Mark 3:5

In reflecting on this gospel reading in "Living Faith," James E. Adams writes that "divine anger flows inevitably from God's radical holiness and goodness in the face of evil, sin or any gross distortion of the good. God could not not be angry with evil, sin and gross distortion any more than water can flow uphill."

In the past, God's anger was a common theme of sermons - think Jonathan Edward's classic "Sinners in the hands of an Angry God" or more recently the hell, fire and brimstone sermons so common in the pre-Vatican II days (a few holdouts continued to give them even when I was a child in the 1980s). Today, it almost seems like sin is a dirty word. We speak of a God who loves us (and indeed he does) no matter what we do. That is a good thing. It is important to emphasize that God loves us and that we should follow his precepts because of that love and not because of a fear of punishment.

However, God has often been compared to a loving Father or Mother. What parent doesn't discipline her children when they have done wrong? I don't think that God actually sets out to make our lives miserable in some way, but I think that God does allow us to experience the consequences of our own poor choices. If we make bad decisions that are not in keeping with God commands, at some point we are going to be unhappy. God uses such consequences to force us to reevaluate our lives and return to God.

On the other hand, I also believe that there is nothing so bad in our lives that God can't bring something positive out of it if we approach God with a contrite heart and a willingness to do God's will.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Journaling for the Soul

A spiritual journal offers a place for reflection and can be a useful tool in fostering your relationship with God. I will be offering a two hour hands-on workshop on how to utilize journals for spiritual purposes in one's life, goal setting, and exploring one's spiritual past on Thursday, February 23 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Center for Spiritual Direction in Holyoke, MA. The cost is $12. If you are interested in attending, please call them at (413) 538-9197 or email csd@the-spa.com.

If you can't attend and have any questions about using a journal for the soul, please read my article Journaling for the Soul or email me at pfmacarthur@comcast.net

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Here I am, Lord!

Today's first reading is from the book of Samuel (1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19). Samuel was a young boy living with the prophet Eli. Samuel heard a voice calling him. Thinking it was Eli, he went running to the older man who promptly told him that he did not call him. This scene repeats twice until Eli realizes that the Lord is calling Samuel and tells him that the next time he is called to say "Here I am, Lord!"

God calls us as well, and like Samuel, we sometimes fail to understand the call. Samuel was in luck - he had Eli to direct him, but even Eli took a little while to realize what was happening. Hearing God is not always as easy as it should be. Sometimes, God does indeed use the voice of others to help direct us. Who are the Eli's in your life, helping to point the way, helping you to listen a little more closely to what God might be pushing you to do? God has a mission for each of us, but it is up to us to discover what it might be, so that we, too, can say, "Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will!"

Friday, January 13, 2006

New Link for Animal Lovers

This is the website I have been working on lately to make some extra money. It is a work in progress, but if you like animals you might want to check it out:

www.signs-etcetera.com

Trying New Things

David started ice skating lessons last week. I'm not even sure how he got interested, but one day he told us he wanted to learn how to skate. Unfortunately, neither Bernie nor I know how so he was rather out of luck. I saw an ad in the paper a couple weeks ago for lessons for children ages 2 1/2 to 5 at a local rink. I asked him if he still wanted to learn and he gave an enthusiastic "yes!"

I didn't know how it would go. David often gets very frustrated when he can't do something as well as he might like to. He doesn't have much in the way of balance (a trait he inherited from his mother) and thusfar hasn't exhibited any great signs of athletic ability. I really thought after a few times falling on his bottom he'd be ready to call it quits. Sure enough, last week, he couldn't even stay standing. His teacher was very kind and understanding, however, and David said he had a good time and wanted to come back this week.

This week, that kind teacher had a doctor's appointment, and her replacement, while certainly well-meaning had more in common with a drill sargeant than a pre-school teacher! The other kids seemed to catch on pretty quickly, but every time David fell down, she told him he was doing it on purpose. I felt so bad for the little boy. I wanted to cry sitting out in the stands with Isaac! On the plus side, at the very end of the lesson, she was able to get him standing for just a couple seconds and he slid his feet a little bit - enough to say that he actually skated!

When he got off the ice, he said that he hoped his other teacher would be back next week, but he said that he still liked skating. I'm so proud of him, for trying and for sticking with it. He knows that he is not doing as well as the others but he is enjoying himself and that is what matters. He says everyone falls down sometimes and that he is getting better!

Yes, it is hard to try new things, even when you are only four years old. Harder still when you are 30, or 40, or more. It is worth it, however, because trying new things gives us energy. It may be frustrating at first but once you learn a little bit you have a great sense of accomplishment. So, in this new year, try something new! You may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

"Catholic Prayer Book for Mothers"

I took a break from reading "Good Catholic Girls" to enjoy "Catholic Prayer Book for Mothers," a book sent to me to review by author Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle. What a wonderful little book! Prayer can be so hard for mothers and Cooper O'Boyle, who is a mother of 5, understands this. She writes of saying her rosary one decade at a time, on her fingers. I could so relate to that! When the boys were very small, I used to use the feeding time in the middle of the night to say my rosary using my fingers to keep track. She also tells of the importance of praying whenever you have the chance. Once you become a mom, you have to give up the illusion of having "quiet" prayer time. Quiet becomes a state of mind. I currently say my formal prayers and read my Bible in the morning while the kids watch 1/2 hour of television. Even at that, Isaac will routinely come in and ask "Are you done your prayers yet?" Even mass with small children becomes more of a challenge than a reverential experience. Yet, God knows we are there and that we are trying!

Cooper O'Boyle writes of praying while folding the laundry and tells how a life lived with the intention of serving God is a life lived in prayer. That is a good lesson for all of us, mothers or not. As I said, this was a great little book (and it is little both in physical size and length) perfect for a quick spiritual pick-me-up.

Read my review on the site: Catholic Prayer Book for Mothers

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

True Love Waits

I read an interesting article by Stephanie Rosenbloom of the New York Times on Chastity Rings today - part of an ongoing effort to get teens to wait for sex. Apparently, these rings are all the rage today and I am all for anything that will help teens wait to have a sexual relationship. These rings are used in conjunction with a chastity pledge. Tiffany Kelly, the current Miss Massachusetts, is one of the people promoting them. In the article, she is quoted as saying she has no intention of breaking her pledge: "I think of it as the ultimate wedding present. . .It's saying 'you're worth waiting my whole life for.'" I think that is awesome and I hope that she does keep her vow.

Some say that such a message promoting abstinence only sets teens up for failure. I agree that teens should be educated about birth control. I went to a Catholic high school and learned about contraception in biology class. They didn't tell us to go out and use it, but any reasonably educated person does need to know about such things, as well as about their failings. We learned facts - like 97% effectiveness means that 3% of the time you can get pregnant. We learned that sexual behavior can lead to sexual diseases and while a condom helps, it is not foolproof. Only abstinence is completely safe. In religion class we learned about sexual morality.

Yet even going to a Catholic school, it was hard to be a virgin by choice. It was hard to watch my friends make other choices and to feel left behind. It was hard to have boyfriends and always have to say "no" even though I was very fortunate to date guys who respected that "no." So, if chastity pledges and chastity rings can make it a little bit easier, I think that is a good thing.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Miscellaneous Musings

David as Cow

This is just a "has to make you smile" picture of my son David from the Three Kings Day pageant we had at mass yesterday. He played a cow and sat by Mary and Joseph in the stable. Unfortunately, he decided to sit up there with his tongue sticking out. He wasn't sticking it out at anyone - he just had it hanging out! You never can tell what children will do.


This was the quote on the front of the homeschooling newsletter I received today:

"Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you." - Carl Sandburg

As I have mentioned recently, I have been thinking alot about the passage of time lately. Compounding that issue is the amount of "stuff" I'm trying to get done in a very limited amount of time. I recently took on a part-time job creating a (non-spirituality related) website for a woman I have known and worked for a long time. It is a massive project and she wants it done yesterday. While I have scaled back my own website operations temporarily and ceased publication of my paper newsletter, I'm still trying to keep my spirituality focus because that is where my heart is at. I just feel so overwhelmed yet I felt like I had to take on the job because it will help pay David's tuition at Catholic School next year. I know somehow God will see me through.

Time is so precious, however, and I really try to make the most of the time I have. I know that it is important for me to be with my children - these days I will never get back. I also know it is important to do something for me and to serve the community at large. Finding a balance is always a challenge!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Thinking about Women in the Church

Due to budgetary limitations, the way I choose books to review for my site is one of two ways - either an author sends me a copy (I love this!) asking me to review it, or I pick something up from the "new" shelf at my local library. There have been times when I have read a book and found myself somewhat ambivalent and not gone on to write the review, but most of the time, I really find something of value in every book. We all hold the spirit of God within us and I am consistently amazed by the way that spirit manifests itself in various writings. It is like each person who commits herself or himself to following God has some kernels of truth about the mystery of God and if we put them all together we get a more full picture of who God is.

The most recent book I am reading, however, is giving me much heartache. It is not, however, a book about our relationship with God, but rather a book about our relationship with the institutional church. Angela Bonaviglia describes herself as an "itinerant Catholic." She still identifies with the faith, but like many, has been disheartened by the recent sex abuse scandal and the poor treatment of women by the male hierarchy. In "Good Catholic Girls," she profiles women who are working to change the Church.

Obviously the Church needs some changing. There is no place in the priesthood for child molesters or those who use their position of privilege and power to take advantage of women. Bonavoglia dedicates a chapter to discussing how the media has largely ignored the number of priests who have abused women sexually. All of the stories are truly troubling. I hurt that my church has done this. She makes the contention that had their been women priests, there wouldn't have been an "old boy's network" that shifted these priests from parish to parish. Women would have protected the children. That is a very interesting viewpoint and one I had not previously considered.

I know that women are not equal in our church. I would like to see women at the altar. I think women are needed to minister to other women in the sacrament of reconciliation. Much as women often prefer a women physician, one should not have to share sexual sins with a member of the opposite sex. While the priest stands in the place of God, he is still human. Bonavoglia tells of many women who went to confession to tell of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy and were told that their sins were forgiven!

While I can agree with much that Bonavoglia has issues with, I draw the line with some of it. For example, while she acknowledges that abortion is a difficult issue even among reformers, she seems to advocate for those who want it to be an option. I know that there are heart-wrenching circumstances - situations of rape, incest, etc in which one cannot throw stones at an already beaten woman choosing that option, but even then, it is still the taking of a life. I also acknowledge that if abortion were illegal, women would still get them, albeit under less safe circumstances. But I am a mother. I know what it is to carry a child and have them grow inside you. They are alive long before birth and I don't know how anyone can justify the taking of that life. Bonavoglia makes the argument that the Church allows murder in some instances - i.e. in war - that there are cases when life has a relative value. She is correct - there is inconsistency in that position but shouldn't the answer be to condemn war, not to take the lives of additional innocents. The Church should instead offer support to unwed pregnant women (and there are many organizations that do) so that abortion would not need to be an option.

On other less-divisive topics, I also find myself troubled. She discusses the Church ban on artificial contraception. I acknowledge a woman's right to choose contraception - although I myself use natural family planning and present that topic to pre-cana couples at my Church. I have difficulty with understanding a woman's fertility as a problem to be fixed rather than something to be understood and cooperated with. I also know that there are times when it is best not to conceive a child and that there are husbands who would not be willing to make the monthly sacrifices that NFP requires. It is a difficult situation.

Bonavoglia also discusses divorce and the annulment process. There are times when divorce is the only option. I'm not going to dispute that. She maintains that the annulment process is invasive and that women should not have to submit themselves and their former marriages to that level of scrutiny. I'm also compassionate to those who marry outside the Church after divorce and still seek to be a member of our faith. Pastorally sensitive practices should always be in place. But marriage should be forever. That is what the Bible tells us. The fact that it often doesn't work that way doesn't mean that the ideal should be tossed away.

I'm only about half way through and I must admit that this book has given me much to think about. I'll write more about it once I am done.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

"One Baby Rose" now available

Jim Bello, the author of "One Baby Rose" emailed me this week to let me know that his book is now available. I had reviewed it a month or so ago and enjoyed it very much. To read the original review, please visit: One Baby Rose Review. He also mentioned that he used my review as an introduction to get onto Dina Martinez's show "Celebrating Her Spirit" which is on Catholic Life Television. I think that is very exciting!



Tuesday, January 03, 2006

We are all Children of God

"See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God."
1 John 3:1

This passage from the first letter of John was in the first reading today. How appropriate it is that during the Christmas season when we celebrate the birth of God's Son, we also celebrate our own creation as children of God. And we are all children of God. God created each and every one of us.

It is so easy here on earth to get caught up in our differences, whether they be of color, religion, economic status, nationality, etc. But God sees us all as his children (unruly children, perhaps?) and we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord. So, we should treat each other as such. Now, this doesn't mean we will always get along - who among you gets along with your biological siblings all the time? - but we should treat each other with love and respect. The world would be a much better place for it.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Thank God for Friends

I wasn't sure what I was going to write about tonight, but I just put the kids to bed and the following was their Bible story. So I thought I would share it with you. Tonight, I thank God for friends.

Sirach 6: 5-8; 14-17

A kind mouth multiplies friends,
and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.

Let your acquaintances be many, but one in a thousand your confidant.

When you gain a friend, first test him, and be not too ready to trust him
For one sort of friend is a friend when it suits him,
but he will not be with you in times of distress.

A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a lifesaving remedy,
such as he who fears God finds;
For he who fears God behaves accordingly,
and his friend will be like himself.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

And so we mark another trip around the sun. Usually the new year finds me with some optimism, or at least curiosity of what the year holds - all those blank calendar pages just waiting to be filled. But this year, I feel somewhat melancholy, acutely aware of the passage of time. David will turn five in three months and will be starting school this September. I have to register him this month and already I feel a little ill. Where has all the time gone? I try to treasure all my moments with my boys, but I admit by 7:30 pm, I am often exhausted by them as well and only too happy to tuck them into bed. Yet all those days of getting up and changing them and cleaning bottoms and fixing meals and playing have passed in the blink of an eye.

My grandmother used to say that "life is like a dream" when you look back. I think she was right. All the memories sort of merge and you look back and wonder "Did that even happen?" I know that 2006 will bring new memories, hopefully more good than bad. I just hope that somehow the time will move just a little bit slower and that I will savor it just a little bit more.