Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ash Wednesday Truths

I haven't posted here forever, but I am dusting off the blog and posting something today.  Jason is preaching at two of our Spanish Ash Wednesday services today and when he showed me his homily, I was compelled to share it with anyone who cares to read it. 



My brothers and sisters, today we begin the journey of Lent: a journey to come closer to the God who loves us more than we could ask or imagine. Today is an opportunity to gather together to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and to recommit ourselves to being his disciples.
Yet, I feel that I have an obligation to share with you some bad news as well...an obligation as a minister of the Gospel to discuss with you a problem that has been weighing on my heart. I made a promise to the Lord to preach the truth both in season and out of season and so, for the good of our souls, I will share that problem with you.
Every year on Ash Wednesday, there is a great multitude of people come to the church to receive ashes. So many people come that we have to hold extra services here in the church hall. This would seem to be a good thing. However, on Sunday the crowds will be gone. There will be seats left in the Church.
Where have all these people gone? Why did they come in the first place?
Last year, I was assisting with one of the Masses on Ash Wednesday. During time for communion, many people thought that it was time to receive the ashes and came forward expecting to get their ashes and leave. I remember one woman in particular...as she approached me I held up Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and said “The Body of Christ.” She responded: “I don’t want that...I just want the ashes.”
What a great shame this is. The Lord has given us the miracle of his presence in the Holy Eucharist—offering himself to us freely in order to lift us up, to purify us, to share his own life with us. Yet we don’t want that...we only want some ashes. The true light has come into the world, yet we grasp at shadows.
Why? What good will these ashes do for us? They are merely a sign of our repentance, a sign that we desire to follow Christ more closely. I tell you today, with the authority of the Holy Roman Catholic Church and in the name of Jesus our Savior, that if we do not have a relationship with Christ the ashes are completely worthless...they will do us no good at all. The belief that somehow we have an obligation to receive them so that we can avoid bad luck, not die in the next year or for other superstitious reasons...this is not a teaching of the Church. This is not a Christian belief. This is from Satan and very dangerous to our souls. I ask you, for the love of Almighty God, to repent of these beliefs if you have them.
That is the ‘bad news’ that I felt I must share. Yet there is also good news.
Each and every one of you, regardless of the reason you came here tonight, are precious children of God. You have been chosen by him and have been called to be disciples through your baptism. The Lord Jesus loved you so completely and so deeply that he was willing to offer his own life on the cross rather than to give up on you. He died and rose from the dead so that you might have life and live it more abundantly.
He calls you again today, regardless of your situation, regardless of what your past has been. As St. Paul tells us in his second letter to the Corinthians: “Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” I invite you today to recommit yourself to this salvation in Christ. I invite you to ask the Holy Spirit to come into your life in power to help you take up your own crosses and follow Jesus on the way of truth. I invite you to quit grasping at shadows and embrace the Light of the World who comes to illuminate our darkness, Jesus Christ our Lord, and to build a new and stronger relationship with him this Lent.
This next forty days represents an opportunity to live out that relationship in a renewed way. The Lord makes himself available to you in the sacraments of confession and Holy Communion. There are numerous opportunities to gather with the community here for prayer: the many prayer groups, the Lenten mission, and the celebrations of the Stations of the Cross. Embrace this opportunity to begin living your own eternal life more fully as a disciple of Jesus. This is the only value of the ashes we receive tonight: that they are a visible sign of this new commitment.
This is my prayer and my hope for you this Lent: that you take this opportunity to repent and recommit yourselves to the Gospel more fully.
In this hope, then, I would like all of us together to renew the promises of our own baptism...to stand before Almighty God and profess our faith in Him. As I ask each one of these questions, if you desire this renewal in your life, please answer “I do.”
Please stand.
V. Do you reject Satan?
R. I do.
V. And all his works?
R. I do.
V. And all his empty promises?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
R. I do.
V. God, the all-powerful Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and forgiven all our sins. May he also keep us faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ for ever and ever.
R. Amen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The deepest pain

Right now my soul hurts so much I don't even know if I'll be able to write what I want to write.  I don't even know if it will end up making sense, but I will try.

Yesterday, I received a phone call.  One of those that I knew in the pit of my stomach just wasn't going to be good.  My beautiful 23 year old nephew, Zach, had been murdered.  Even just typing that *m* word in association with Zach feels wrong.  According to the police, to the news reports, he was stabbed multiple times in the chest by one of his roommates.  A roommate that, according to the other roommates, always got along with Zach.  He has since disappeared and the police are searching for him.  It just all seems to surreal to me.  The situation hasn't sunk in enough for me to be angry, I'm just sad and confused.  I know the anger will come and I trust that justice will be served one way or another, but right now all I can focus on is the pain.

My family and I are not strangers to grief.  We have grieved together before, especially at the loss of my brother Gabe.  Yet to me, this feels like it hurts more, like the cut is deeper.  Maybe because I had scar tissue where the original cut was and now that scar has been ripped open, deeper and wider. 

There is this part of me that just wants to know why.  I want answers.  I know that there are no real answers to this, nothing that will satisfy me, nothing that can turn back the clock and fix it.  I know what I don't want to hear - all the platitudes that people spout.  The bullshit like he was too good and God had to take him, or it was his time, or now we have another angel in heaven.  F**k all that.  God didn't take him, evil took him.  Humanity took him.  A broken person making a bad decision is what took him.  God was there to pick up the pieces, I know that.  I firmly believe that he is with God now, but that is only a minor comfort to me right now because I am selfish and I want him here.  I want to hear his laugh and see his smile light up the room and hear him talking sports with my boys.  I don't want my sister and her husband to have to know the loss of losing a child.  I don't want to hear my fourteen year old sobbing in the next room because he will never be able to hang out with his cousin again. 

I think that's all I can handle for now.  Maybe in a few days I will be able to write again, share some memories.  There are so many happy, joy filled memories with him.  But right now they just hurt too much.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A resurrection, of sorts

As I woke up rather late on this beautiful Saturday morning, I was greatly inspired to attempt to resurrect this blog. Of course, this is kind of my last Saturday (or any day) of freedom for awhile, so we will just have to see how long it lives.

The last year has been full of, well, life. The life of a very involved mom, her four kids, and a busy, hardworking spouse. The kids were so excited that Diaconate Formation ended, because that meant we had free Saturdays. When you’re a kid, “free” Saturdays means sports. I immediately had two boys signing up for summer basketball through parks and rec. Once that was done, my youngest and my oldest signed up for fall/winter basketball. Once that finished, Sebastian wanted to do baseball, so we signed him up with little league. He loved it and did really well and played post season all stars. We had a fairly quiet summer, but we signed three kids up for baseball and one for soccer. My original hope was that Sebastian and Vibiana could be on the same team since they are technically both Farm Little League age. But, the opportunity came up to form a girls softball team and Vibiana really wanted to play that instead. So, I now have four kids on four different teams, some days practicing at the same time on different ends of town. But, since they are all loving every minute, I don’t complain. I drive them everywhere, sometimes it’s a drop off and Dad picks up, but I can’t deny them the joy they are finding in playing their sports. I just wish I could perfect bi/tri/quadri-location. It would make my life so much easier. But, no one ever said it would be easy and I truly to treasure all these moments that I get to experience with them.

So, if this resurrection is short lived, you will know why. If you need me, I will be at the school, at church, in the car, or at a random soccer/baseball/softball field somewhere in the Antelope Valley. Go Thunderbirds/Rays/Cubs/Astros!!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, etc, etc...

Looking back at this last year I can begin to see why I posted so little. I may have been a tad bit busy!  I didn't even get Christmas cards out this year!

By far, the biggest "accomplishment" of the year goes to Jason's ordination.  Not only did the months leading up to the big day take a lot of my mental energy, but finding our place post ordination has been interesting as well.  I have always loved volunteering at the school, but after ordination I have felt the need to dedicate myself to more parish ministries.  So, I have recently been commissioned a lector (a long time coming) and my biggest new joy in ministry has been with youth.  I was "dragged" into SOS (Sisters of Strength) by a friend and I haven't looked back.  I am really enjoying connecting with the teenage girls in the group and I am really looking forward to helping more in youth ministry in the coming year.  I am very excited to be not only going on one of the confirmation retreats, but I also get to chaperone Youth Day at Congress this year! I haven't been to Youth Day since I was a teenager so I am really looking forward to it. 

The other event that took a lot of my time was our move.  We finally moved into town! For the last 13 years we have lived in Lake Los Angeles, about a half hour drive from Lancaster/Palmdale.  With all the kids at our parish school and now more involvement in parish life, we decided it was time to make the move into civilization.  We couldn't be happier! We are in a great little neighborhood about five minutes from the church.  I am certainly happier not having to make the long drive twice a day!

My health has been mostly stable.  Certainly I have had some ups and downs, which is to be expected with any kind of autoimmune disease.  Every once in a while I get very frustrated with being dependent on my medications and I decide to wean off of them to see how I feel.  Inevitably I find I actually need the medications.  Imagine that! So, as long as I keep my wits about me and make sure I am on the right medication schedule, I am doing ok. 

The kids, of course, eat up most of my time and I love it.  I LOVE being a mom.  As they are getting older I am finding great joy and satisfaction in seeing the people they are becoming.  Darian is thirteen today and I love the relationship that I have with him.  Yes, he can drive me insane with teenage attitude, but for the most part he is a great kid.  I love that I can laugh and joke with him and I love that he still will come and voluntarily give me a hug and a kiss. Sophia is nine and she is, for the most part, a total sweetheart.  She is very sweet and loving and innocent.  However, hormones are starting to creep in, so we will see how we end up surviving each other.  Sebastian is seven and he is also a total sweetheart.  He is still young enough to want to snuggle with mommy and daddy.  He has the best, brightest smile! So full of joy!  Vibiana is six.  She is unique.  She is wicked smart.  Even though she is only in first grade she easily reads (and comprehends) books that her fourth grade sister is reading.  She is clever and funny and sneaky enough to really keep me on my toes.  I wouldn't change her for the world. 

Jason is, very happily, busy with his duties at church.  Masses, baptisms, holy hours, detention ministry, youth ministry, and RCIA are just a few of the things taking his time.  On top of his "regular" job, of course.  Somehow, he still finds time to be with us.  He continues to be a wonderful father and husband.  Overall, I would say we are pretty happy. 

The last year has certainly had its ups and downs for us, but as I look back most of what I recall is happy.  I have had the loss of a few friendships, but others have grown and been strengthened.  As we approach the new year tonight, I look forward to a year full of serving my family, my parish, and my community.  I know that it is in service that I find my joy.




Friday, August 16, 2013

A few words on grief



As many of you may know, this time of year is very difficult for my family.  A few weeks ago was the 14th anniversary of my brother Gabe’s death and yesterday would have been his 45th birthday.  Since his birthday is on the celebration of the Assumption, I always attend mass and it is always a little more emotional.  As I was discussing this with a friend, she talked about some of her personal difficulties attending mass since the unexpected death of a loved one.  She confided her anger at the loss and her anger at not knowing why her loved one was taken. WHY?? The unanswerable question.

Many Christians propose answers – it was their time, it’s all part of God’s plan, etc.  Yet none of those really help with the grieving.  None of those sufficiently explains why a faithful woman, a young healthy man, or an innocent little child leave us.  The truth is we live in a messed up world.  In this world, innocent children die every day in accidents, from disease, or at the hands of another.  In this world, killers roam free, addicts savor their next score and evil permeates the world.  As Christians, we know that this world is not our stopping point.  We will get a chance to live in a perfect world.  We have a chance at heaven if that is what we choose.  We have that chance to be with our loved ones again.

But that still doesn’t really answer why.  I have no answer.  I do know that at some point in my grief, the why stopped being as important.  Even if I knew why Gabe is gone, if I knew there was some great reason that he had to die when he did, it still wouldn’t bring him back.  I would still have that emptiness in my life.  Does that mean I stopped asking why?  Of course not! I still hurt, I still get angry, I still deny.  The cycle of grief is exactly that – a cycle.  It comes and goes, eases and intensifies.  There are times I am so angry I want to scream “Why him?” There are times I build a fantasy in my head that he never died and he calls me just to tease me and see how my kids are doing.  There are days when the sorrow and pain is so fresh that is drains everything from me.  I take comfort in knowing that the Lord knows my grief.

Nearing the tomb of Lazarus, scripture tells us “Jesus wept.”  Why did he weep? He knew what he was going to do, he knew he would raise Lazarus.  Yet still, he wept.  He grieved because those he loved grieved.  He wept because he felt the sorrow of Mary and the anger of Martha.  He knew their pain and he wept with them.  I know that in my pain, in my anger, through it all, that He is with me.  Sometimes, He is with me as I sit alone on my bed and cry.  Sometimes, He is with me through a friend who is there to offer understanding and commiseration.  Regardless, He is there.

Last evening, my friend contacted me with joyous news – a new baby was born in her family.  The significance of her birth on Gabe’s birthday didn’t escape me and I was happy to celebrate the wonderful news.  As we talked of when she would get to visit the baby, I asked which hospital the mom and baby were at.  When she told me, my immediate was response was that it was good that it wasn’t too far away.  Then it sank in.  The new baby that was bringing joy to my friend was born at the same hospital Gabe was born at 45 years ago.  Wow.  As my friend and I absorbed that, she said, “So this is how I feel…You lost a beautiful soul but now you know a new tiny little girl is here not to replace but to bring joy to this world…So a very special moment in time for both you and I.”  Very special indeed.  These miracles happen everywhere, every day.  And even though it doesn’t kill the grief, it is a tiny offer a tiny glimpse of “why”.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The beginning of a new normal

I debated what to title this blog post and after some thought decided "Holy Crap I'm a Deacon's Wife" maybe wasn't completely appropriate!
But, appropriate or not, it is certainly my feeling of the day.  Yesterday, after a LONG five year process, Jason was ordained.  Honestly, I am still a bit shell shocked.  The mass with the Archbishop was beautiful.  I have no pictures to post because we were told not to take pictures.  Msrg. Kostelnik told the wives to just focus on the mass and let someone else worry about taking pictures.  That seemed like a great idea at the time, but now I have no pictures to post! I am waiting on others to pass me some dvd's of the pictures they took, then I can post them here.
In the midst of all the congratulations we received, I had someone ask me if I felt any different.  My immediate thought was no, but I don't think that's totally true.  I do feel a bit different.  Certainly I feel relieved that our five years of formation are over.  I am glad to be done with leaving my kids for two Saturdays a month and I am really glad to be done with the 100 mile drive to class.  I am sad that I won't be seeing our classmates on a regular basis anymore; they have become a part of our family.  I am proud of my husband and his accomplishments.  And, of course, I have an overwhelming sense of joy knowing that we are following God's path for us.
One of our good friends told me today "Don't change!" He said that Jason and I are a great example of what it means to be married, what it means to be a family, and what it is to just be real.  He warned me not to let Jason fall into the clericalist part of being an ordained minister.  It is an especially good reminder for me because I have had some concern about being a "Deacon's Wife".  I need to remember to stay true to me since God called Jason knowing full well who he was married to! I know I have great friends and family to keep me in line. 
So, today starts the new adventures of the Schalow's as a Diaconal Family.  I am sure it will take some time for all of us to feel our way, see what works and what doesn't.  I get to be the one to keep Jason in line and make sure he doesn't put Church before Family.  I know that as long as we keep our focus on God and live out the Gospel, we will be able to stay joyous knowing that we are following wherever God is leading us next.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Still a proud Catholic

The last week here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has been disturbing, to say the very least.  I debated whether or not I wanted to post anything on this, whether or not I could contain my emotions enough to make sensible comments.  I probably can't, but I will write this anyway.

I, like everyone else, have been aware of the sexual abuse scandal for years now.  I have heard the news reports, read the articles, and read the church statements.  However, none of that fully prepared me for the actual documents.  It's one thing to "know" what was going on, it's quite another to read it in black and white, in the perpetrators own handwriting.  All the notes back and forth, discussing how to avoid letting the information out, how to avoid prosecution against the sick, perverted men that should have been rotting in a prison cell instead of an Arizona facility being counseled.  It broke my heart, made me sick, and in the end made me really angry. 

These leaders that we trusted failed us.  They not only didn't protect the least of us, they actively conspired to continue the farce.  The angry, vengeful part of me hopes that Rome strips them of any and all faculties and the Los Angeles DA is able to convict them on criminal charges.  Regardless of what earthly punishment may be brought forth, I know that eventually they will have to face God and answer for their sins.  Somehow, I don't think that the "no one told me any better" excuse will suffice. 

I held tight to my anger, even as I went to mass on Sunday.  I knew the Archbishop's letter would be read, and I was curious as to how our priest would handle it and how the people would react.  But first, the readings.  Paul trying to explain love to the Corinthians.  At first I mentally scoffed, thinking how inappropriate a reading about love was for the current situation.  But the more I listened, the more I thought about it, I realized it was absolutely appropriate.  Why? Because that is what our Church is.  It is Love.  It is not lies, deceit, cover-ups.  It is not the arrogance or perversions of men.  It is Love because it is Christ.  That is what our faith, our Church was founded upon - Truth and Love.  Men making sinful choices does not and should not change our faith.

Am I still angry? Heck yeah! I still want to see justice served.  My biggest hope is that people will understand that this is NOT a representation of our Church. I pray that people realize that these few disgusting individuals are the exception, not the rule.  I once allowed human failings to drive me from the Church and I will not make that mistake again.  I will not allow the humanity of the church dictate my spirituality. I remain a proud Catholic.