The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

30 December 2011


It doesn't seem possible, and yet here it is: the third anniversary of my dad's death.

What a stark word that is... third.  The first year was bemusing and focused on carrying on.  The second year knocked the stuffing out of us and really was about coping and figuring out who we were without him.  This third year has been cruel in its undeniable reality... and yet consoling in showing us our life does continue, and it is good.  Life is good. It has been altered in a way I never would have chosen, and yet I can't overlook the fact that it is good.

I miss him every day, but I'm not sad every day.  I am crying right now because I was writing a card for my mom, who will shortly be returning home from her Christmas visit here in Sohoe. That's when the realization hit: three; third; real. I'm going to allow myself to feel sad today, but then it's time to get on with it again.  I want to have wonderful things to tell him when I see him again.

I know there are others who have lost loved ones recently.  It's not easy, especially at this time of year.  My heart goes out to you.

A previous post about grief

28 December 2011


Christmas was green and I am content. It is a source of great satisfaction for those of us who have transplanted ourselves from more typically cold and blustery Canadian climes, to reach the end of December with only the meekest displays of winter.

Having reached the important milestone of a green grass Christmas day, I can now happily indulge in one of my favourite winter pass times: laying in bed in the small hours of the day, and watch lazy snowflakes drift past my window. At this point it is merely decorative, barely dusting the ground, instilling the feeling of warmth and well-being that comes from reading before an open fire, cozy sweaters, and hot cocoa.  Snow brings with it an intimacy in our homes as the outside world is slowed and hushed.

Peace on Earth, and good will to all men.

Read it

A friend introduced me to an interesting website called .  They offer the wonderful service of gathering Catholic stories, news, and articles from across the internet twice a day.  They are "A digest of the best Catholic punditry in the Catholic blogosphere." There, you will find pieces pulled from the Catholic Register, Crisis Magazine, The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, First Things, Time Magazine, and my own friend The Ordinary Catholic at Peter's Barque.

Be sure to add it to your bookmarks!

27 December 2011

In Bethlehem a Child was born

In Bethlehem a Child was born and changed the world.  The birth of a child often does; any new parent will tell you so.  This particular birth though, has impacted history – severing it into two portions: that which came before, and everything that followed His arrival. He is the central point from which we measure our years and centuries.

He not only divided time, He broke through the fabric of matter by uniting Divinity and humanity. He ruptured the boundaries of life and death. He confounded logic by teaching truth in paradoxes: the last shall be first; to gain life you must lose it; blessed are the poor.

 “Let the little children come to me ... for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt. 19:14) 

Is it possible that we can be such a child as He was? In Christ, we are born to new life and through Him we may approach the Father as His children. Even in that simple, childish state, God can work through us. If we trust Him, and abandon ourselves to Him like a child, He will use our hands to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, bind up the lame; our words to console the broken hearted. The innocence and vulnerability of a child can bring the strength and power of God into the world.

At this time of year it may be easier to feel capable of reaching out, being generous; easier, too, to have loving and cheerful attitudes. If only we could preserve the benevolence and forbearance that abounds during these days of glad tidings for when we’re feeling stretched beyond our limit during the ordinary, tedious days of February or July. We could dip into our store of comfort and joy to find the wherewithal to be patient with the children, forgiving of our spouse, tolerant toward our colleagues, helpful to our neighbours. We could have peace on earth and goodwill to all men. I didn’t find any of that advertised in the holiday fliers. Where I do see it is in depictions of the Nativity. In Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and angels giving praise to God for the fulfillment of a prophecy:

For a child will be born to us... and his name will be Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

25 December 2011


Now, as the world is still silently slumbering, I wish for you all a deep and abiding joy this Christmas season. May you be blessed with contentment in your family, your work, your friends, and given the grace of generosity.  Share the love you have with others you meet today... what you share will be multiplied and given back to you a hundredfold.

Contemplate the wonder of a new born child. Let Him, in His innocence and vulnerability enter into your heart.

God bless you!  And happy Christmas.

Nativity ~ Bloch

Unto us a child is born, a son is given; and His name shall be Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.~ Isaiah 9:6

15 December 2011

Preparation - reboot

Here is a previous post about preparing for Christmas

Claiming Christmas

14 December 2011

Remembering joy

Michael Coren’s column in this Catholic Register reminded me that I can be a cranky, cantankerous Catholic.  He actually wrote about holier-than-thou Catholics, but they do tend to be cranky and cantankerous, don’t they?

I have found myself – and maybe you have too – chatting with other Catholics about the state of the Church and how it needs to improve, whether by enforcing reverence at Mass, imposing a dress code (skirts for women, ties for men), policing the Bishops, or outlawing guitar music.  You know how it goes:  it begins with giggling about Fr. Distracted’s tendency to wander off topic during the homily, and the next thing I know, 
I’ve condemned every person in the pews for not being as pious as me.

It may be there are serious errors in my parish, and to be sure the Church must be vigilant against false teaching and laxity. To judge words or actions is not wrong. However, we cannot compromise fundamentals of the faith, and charity demands that when we spot error we should speak up, with love, and out of concern for the soul of the person in error.  Where I go wrong is when I judge the state of a person’s soul, and in fact it has dreadful repercussions because I am essentially inviting God to judge me in the same way.

Reading Coren’s column reminded me that I tend to pickle-up - become cranky and cantankerous - when I think that only I have it all figured out.  I turn into a miserable person, and that is no way to effect positive change within my parish community. Nobody was ever inspired by a sour-faced saint!

Joy is key to living a full Catholic life.  As Catholics, we believe in the death and resurrection of Christ.  Because of Him, we have the hope of eternal salvation – a life of unending glory in the presence of God. Through the great love and mercy of God, we have freedom from sin.  We have purpose in this life, and know it continues into the next.  We have the promise of being united with all our loved ones and the great host of saints in heaven.

When I grumble about ‘the state of things’, most of the time it comes from my devotion to the Church, and my sincere desire for everyone to know God’s love. It’s good to be reminded that more hearts will be won for Christ if I hold on to that joy, rather than the conviction that I am right about Fr. Distracted, the Bishops, and the guitars.

And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness ~ Ps. 104:43

12 December 2011

Of question marks and the reflex

This story is about a crazy ear-flap winter hat.

It takes place in Canada – the Great White North where winter is an
intimate reality. It gets up your nose and freezes the fine hair.  It
enters the ears and turns the little grey cells to braincicles. It
goes down the back of the neck or up the sleeves of the coat or,
somehow, through the toes of the boot and chills every pore in its
path. Clearly, in these conditions, a hat is an essential piece of
survival equipment.  In fact, the government should fund the purchase
of them. Except their hats would certainly be hideous, utilitarian,
and drab green.

The type of hat in question is one with the optional ear flaps.  The
flaps can either be tied up, or left down for extra warmth.  The sides
of the hat wrap along the cheeks and are secured under the chin. This
particular hat is fuzzy and furry, matched with fuzzy and furry mitts.
 As fuzzy and furry as you are thinking they are, imagine them even
fuzzier and furrier.

These bear-like accessories are the recent happy purchase of my
sister, who has reached that point in her life, finally, when it
doesn’t matter anymore what people think of what she’s wearing or how
she looks.  There had been too many brain frozen-hypothermic-amputated
toe winters. The fuzzier and furrier the hat, the better. She was
going to be warm, darn it, everyone else could do their worst.

She went to the bus stop one afternoon, to collect the Peanuts after
school. She noticed the other parents eyeing her hat, but it wasn’t
until the boys spilled off the bus and kept looking at her head
quizzically that she started to wonder if she had made the right
sartorial choice.

Then Number One helpfully pointed out, “Mom, you still have the hanger
tag on the top.”

She hadn’t removed the plastic hook the hat hangs from in the store.

“It looks like you have a question mark on your head!”

She was the answer with the question mark.

She was… the reflex.

11 December 2011

Gaudete - redux

Another rerun of a previous post.  Rejoice!


10 December 2011

And also within your spirit, you

I am a creature of habit. Here’s how I know:

For a year – a full year – I have been looking forward to change.  Not just any old change you understand, but specifically change to the language used in the (English) Catholic Mass.

For a year I have been in anticipation, reading about it, talking it over with friends.

Within a certain group of friends (you know who you are) we would giggle like school girls in delight for what was to come. This group would use words like Lo, and Anon with each other.  Of particular note, when pretending great piety, we were known to intone “And with your spirit” – words from the past being brought out of mothballs to replace the clunky post Vatican II “And also with you”.

As I said, I was excited.  I read a lot about what was coming. I was interested in the theological explanations for the changes – or rather, corrections – being made, and applauded them. I had seen pamphlets and graphs and timelines.  I’ve had conversations with priests and deacons and liturgy geeks in order to prepare myself. I bought a copy of the text myself (the St. Joseph Missal) so I could read along at Mass.  We have been well coached for weeks so we would know what to say and when.  In the pews are helpful cue cards with the new bits typed nice and bold.

I was ready!

I was proud to show how with it all I was.

And still, three weeks in, when the time comes, I can be counted on to say:

“And also with ... in your spirit”


09 December 2011


I haven't forgotten the lighthouse! There area few things on the go, but they need a little tweaking. T-w-e-a-k-ing.

Here is one of my favourite posts from way back at the beginning.  I hope you enjoy it the second time around.

Cookie Sheets

01 December 2011

Be golden tongued


When not tapping stories and articles out of my keyboard, I can often be found moderating a Catholic social networking site. It provides me an opportunity to serve, but in true (??) fashion, I get back 100 fold from what I give.  Besides meeting many interesting people, I have been challenged in my faith – to know it and be able to answer for it, as well as to live it out every day.

We often have visitors who want to know more about Catholicism or think they can educate us out of the Church. Both situations usually garner enthusiastic response from our regulars, and from them I have learned a lot about evangelization/teaching/reaching out on matters of faith.  Here are five of the best tips I’ve picked up:

Focus on love and hope, not doom and gloom. Be joyful!  Show the curious and contentious an example of a life fulfilled in faith.

Speak simply. Leave erudite theological concepts for fun dinner parties at home.  Don’t err on the other side though, and assume no knowledge at all.  Speak plainly.  Say what you mean without leaning on pat phrases which are our short hand cues when speaking with other knowledgeable Catholics.

Remember you are talking to a human being with their own story and circumstances. You may not see eye to eye, but they are also a Child of God whose dignity is worthy of respect.  Take time to get to know them. Show an interest in the person. You are addressing the human need in them to know and love God, not to win a victory over them.

Pray. You have been given an opportunity by God to share His love. Seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, then get out of the way. Pray also for protection against attack, against pride. 

Be responsible for your faith. Do you continue to grow in wisdom and knowledge? Do you know how to answer common questions about Catholicism? You don’t have to know a lot to share the faith – in fact it’s best to not be a know-it-all, but it’s important to know enough. Invest in good resource materials, and find sound websites for your own use and to share with newcomers to Catholicism.

Don’t be shy.  Remember, Moses didn’t think he was equipped to speak, but God used him anyway.  We all have a stutter to overcome, perhaps in the guise of shyness.  If we are willing to offer our tongue to the Lord, He will provide the words.  Love multiplies our efforts, and with time we will come to trust that God is always with us when we seek to serve Him.