The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

27 November 2008

Waiting for Advent

Advent is the time Catholics set aside to prepare themselves for Christmas - their homes, their families, and their interior disposition. It can be very challenging to stay in preparation mode while the world is already 'celebrating Christmas'. (I use finger-waggle-quotes, because I don't really mean the true definition of either word in that phrase, but now is not the time to unpack that further) With this being such a festive season, and with chocolate on offer everywhere, I often have to remind myself to attend to preparing for the spiritual truth of this Holy Day. (Much easier to do during Lent, because the bleak end to winter lends itself naturally to inner deprivation and sacrifice.)
This year, it seems particularly important to bring out the old traditional ways, to spend Advent in preparation, and then to really celebrate Christmas. I'm eager to clean everything, and bake scads of cookies, and cover every surface in bits of greenery (there will be no white artificial tree in this house!)
One of the familiar sights of Advent is the wreath. On each of the four Sundays before Christmas, another candle is lit, so that as Christmas approaches, the light from the wreath grows brighter. Which leads to what I want this Christmas: for my home, my family, my interior disposition to be suffused in the warm Light of Christ.
I am leaping ahead through time to leave you with one of the O Antiphons, the one meant for December 21:
O Dayspring, Brightness of the everlasting light, Son of justice, come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!
*from Isaiah 9:2. The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen.

26 November 2008

When laughter meets shoes

Two posts collided this morning, as I was folding laundry. I had Number Four Nephew balancing on one leg atop the overturned laundry basket, as I crouched over a stubborn shoe, trying to get it on a stubborn foot (or was I trying to get a stubborn foot into a stubborn shoe?) Little hands were clutching my hair as he tried to stay upright...and I was overcome by the picture we must have made, and dissolved into giggles I had no hope of controlling. He must have thought he was supposed to laugh too, but he obviously had no clue what his demented aunt thought was funny. The look on his face, and the tone of his laugh remined me so much of my dad, who has often been in the same situation over the years: bemused that I could find such a thing funny, but willing to humour me.

Laughter is such a beautiful thing.

25 November 2008

Shoes on

A good day for Number Four Nephew is being able to say goodbye to everyone…because he’s leaving. Usually he’s the one being left, and it makes him so sad. At the age of two, his world is bounded by the closed front door -- a fact not easily understood by his big, adventurous heart .
When he’s the one staying behind, he hovers nearby, beginning his goodbyes long before people are out the door; once they are outside, his cries of farewell become louder, and often include tears. He’ll stand at the open door, calling after them when they’re long out of sight. It tears at my heart every time.
So, it’s such a joy to be able to take him with me when I go out. Calling for him to get his shoes signals a treat and lights up his face like nothing else can. He’ll say it over and over again: “Get shoes on? Get shoes on?” And he’s reaching for the door handle long before I’m ready to head out.
He gives all he’s got to these goodbyes; he wants everyone to know he is going outside, it’s his turn, he is the one leaving this time. He holds my hand as we take the one little step down from porch to sidewalk, and, clutching my finger, he calls out “Bye, Mummy! Bye! Bye, Mummy!” From that point on, it doesn’t matter to him where we go: he’s outside!


Have you ever laughed so hard your abs ached? I hope you have. It means you have a sense of humour, which is, sadly, the overlooked sense. The best laughter is when you have the ability to let go of all reserve, to completely trust the person you're with, letting mirth and glee burst out of you... even when the cause makes no sense at all. Maybe you can't explain it to someone else; maybe you can't remember why you're laughing in the first place. It never works second-hand, so try to be in on it from the start.

My dad has a wonderful sense of humour. He's an intelligent man, vastly entertained by the silliness of silly people. He loves to share 'the latest' from his store of 'guess what they've done now' stories, usually involving engineers, or politicians. We've come to recognize the signs: the little head waggle, the finger tapping on the table top...his way of preparing us for a good one.

He is amused by my sister and I: we riff off each other, and have routines and dialogues going back to the dawn of time. Mostly I think he is amused by how amusing we find ourselves. Mom, too, tickles his funny bone. He doesn't quite understand why, when you find a rock or a twig while on a walk, you bring it home...but after 40 years he's learned to accept it, and see the humour in it.

These things inspire a quiet chuckle, or amused disbelief: signs of an agile mind and quick wit. Real ab-aching laughter though, comes when he's watching Laurel and Hardy. When Stan stumbles, bemused, into some catastrophe, and Ollie, exasperated, has to set things to rights, the occasional chuckles become steady chuckles, becoming almost giggle-like and then tears actually fall. I love the sound he makes when it almost gets too much for him and he can barely contain it. At that point, I don't even know why I'm laughing anymore, I'm just joining in his delight, and enjoying being in on it with him.

24 November 2008

Rose explained

The Little Flower

Rose is not the real name of the woman in The Story of a Rose. I chose to call her Rose because Therese of Lisieux had a part to play in the story (she "showered roses"); because a florist made a providential mistake; and because yellow roses are her favourite flower.

At one particularly difficult time in her discernment, Rose asked a sign of Therese and was very specific: roses please, and they must be yellow. Receiving roses would be an encouragement to maintain courage, patience, and trust where this particular man was concerned. In a most random and unexpected fashion, roses - and yellow ones at that - were left for her in a refrigerator!

Rose placed an order with the local florist for enough yellow roses to compose her bouquets, boutonniers and Church arrangements. The day before The Blessed Event, she went to the florist to pick up the flowers, only to discover the order was not processed. Fortunately, the shop had sufficient yellow and white roses to meet her needs, and insisted on making a gift of them!

Don't you love it when little details fall into place like that? And so Rose's secret identity was born.


...meaning Cute Things Kids Say.
I have the great privelege of living in close proximity to 5 delightful, energetic, and interesting boys. I hope their wonderful mommy doesn't mind me appropriating their words.

  • You are the best mommy that ever survived.

  • I never had any patience, and I never will have. Get used to it!

  • Oh! I didn't hear you before; but this time you yelled just the right amount!

  • Don't chew your fingers! Your fingernails are there to protect your fingers [said wise mommy to little boy] No they're not! They're for chewing!

  • Go out and walk around the yard five times [said wrathful mommy to squirmy little boy] But that will take me hours!

    There will be future ctks posts...every day provides new material!

22 November 2008

Story of a Rose

The first time I met Rose was in the Church basement, clutching a styrofoam cup of black coffee. Our road to friendship was marked by her conviction I would come to like the Bitter Bean if only I would drink it black. I could never bring myself to see the matter her way, but we did become friends, roommates, and true spiritual sisters.
It didn't take long before Rose was at the heart of parish life. Her sincere love for God was reflected in her love for people. She didn't limit her time, service, or care for her contemporaries, being just as giving of herself with those more advanced in age, and always eager to hold the wee ones close to her heart. (It was a common joke to speculate how long it would take her to find and hold any baby in the room)
We are all unique and reflect different aspects of our Creator; it is worthwhile to uncover the particular way each person shows God to the world, as we can come to know the Real Presence of Him in our hearts if we're paying attention.
Rose is one of those rare and precious people for whom faith and life are seemless; there is no disconnect between what she believes, what she teaches, and how she lives. Knowing her is a catechesis on Christian charity, abandonment to God's Will, and forgetfullness of self.
Back in our days of being Young Adults, and gleefully speculating on our Future Life, a common word was 'vocation'. It seemed every conversation wound it's way around to the discussion of vocations, the merits of each, which was to be our particular call, and speculation as to when it would finally begin. We spent a lot of time waiting and lamenting, it seems.
While the question of vocation also occupied Rose's thoughts and conversations, she remained steadfast that for her it was marriage and family. From a very young age the desire of her heart was to have a family, to raise up Godly children, to establish a loving home of her own. She believed unwaveringly that this desire was itself a gift from God, and that as He is a faithful and generous Father, the cry of her heart would be answered.
Holding strong to this certainty, she was obedient as God appeared to lead her away from her desire, by sending her to an apostolate of celibates, and sincerely discerned whether she was to make her long-term stay permanent. She gave several years of service to a school of prayer and evangelization. There were several men along the way who may have tempted her to grasp for her own answer to prayer, but she resolved to place her trust completely in God, waiting for His gift.
It happened that once again her life underwent change, she moved away from friends and family and began a new undertaking with no clear promise of consolation. It was difficult and at times daunting. Several years passed, and Rose began to wonder if maybe it was time to move on, and make her own plans for her future.
Then it happened; her promised beloved arrived. With little fanfare he slipped into her life as if he'd always been there. Together they learned to negotiate the terrain of relationships; they discovered areas needing compromise, and learned that issues they thought were non-negotiable turned out to be unimportant. Most of all they learned what love looks like.
Less than eleven months after finding each other they were married. The day was wet, but every heart there witnessing the sacrament could see only the light of joy in husband and wife. They spoke their vows quietly, with conviction and dignity. Rose made a beautiful bride (as brides usually do) but in her case it came from the deep peace and delight that comes from witnessing first-hand the unbounded love and generosity of God the Father for His daughter.

21 November 2008


My dad is dying.

That's a rather bald statement. I'm not trying to garner sympathy; only, this fact is profoundly filling every aspect of my life. Anything I write now is going to be influenced by how he is doing, how mom is coping, and how the rest of us are holding up at any given moment.

At various times I have broken down on the shoulder of one friend or another; once I even inflicted rather embarrassingly personal grief on a virtual stranger - virtual in the cyber sense of the word. I wonder why I did this? I'm not usually one to share my life with people I don't know. I resent personal questions from any but my close friends, and have ready-made answers for when I find myself in those situations (such as a new job) where people want to know my story. So, to find myself now telling everyone this very awkward fact, and shamelessly leaking tears in public is...well...baffling.

Grief isn't meant to be kept private, I don't think. It can't be healthy to deny loss and sorrow and anger and all the other emotions that ride tandem with grief. Of course it wouldn't do to assume the fetal position while doing the marketing, or rage at the theatre usher; there is a proper time and place for public expression of grief.

I am a person of faith, by which I mean to say I am Catholic. I am fortunate to have faith, to believe in something much bigger than myself and my own small hopes, dreams and fears. I believe that God is loving and merciful; that He loves me and my father; that He has been preparing Pop for some time now for his final moment, to make a good and holy death. I know with all my heart that we go on to Something More, and that God promises eternal life with Him.

I thought having all that knowledge would be a consolation when faced with losing a loved one. It isn't, really. There is the grief on one side all by itself, and over there, somewhere separate and apart is the consolation. At this stage, anyway, I can't seem to hold on to both at the same time.

Looking at strangers, I find myself wondering if they, too, have a black hole of sorrow within? Does the human heart expand in order to contain all this emotion, or is that the purview of another organ? So many times in the past when friends and colleagues endured the death of a loved one, I would feel sorry for them, would pray for them and the dearly departed, but had no idea how very changed they were by the experience. From now on, I will want to envelop each one in a big hug...just holding on tight, so they can feel the constriction of me trying to keep them from falling apart.

As for the public expression of grief, we are far too clinical, cold, and puritanical in North America. I should say Canada, as I don't really know if we are the same as Americans in this issue. We ought not close ourselves in our homes, bearing up stoically and stiff-upper-lipped. We need a few days, at least, to really weep and wail and gnash and keen, without apology. After that we can be expected to conduct ourselves more seemly in public in order to not discommode others.

If you happen to see me in the store, can of tomato soup in hand with tears dripping off my chin, offer me a tissue and a smile, or just quietly walk away, but think kindly of me either way: a breaking heart is a painful thing.