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Marching with saints

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We celebrate All Saints’ Day. All Saints’ Day is a Catholic holiday. In the past, it rivaled and even overshadowed Halloween with parades of children dressed as patron saints or their saintly namesakes. When I was a little girl, my parish celebrated the saints’ parade. I only remember taking part once. I was St. Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. My mom made my costume.  I felt a connection to St. Elizabeth for years so much that I chose her as my confirmation saint and alluded to her story in my fiction writing in later years.  When I became a mother, I reflected on this holiday and how I might celebrate it with my daughter.

Our neighborhood parish still celebrates a saints’ parade. The nuns at my parish organize the parade every year and often commission seamstresses to make various costumes.  You can, however, create your own costumes and that is what we have done. I had always wanted M to participate when she got older. We talked about it for a few years and did not follow through. Then we finally decided she would do it. The first year she participated, she paid tribute to our heritage. M was St Rose of Lima. She dressed as a Dominican nun wearing a crown of roses instead of the traditional (and gorier) crown of thorns.

12027202_10153862934977784_2746629336698459820_oLast year, she asked to be the Virgen of Guadalupe, again paying homage to our culture and her Mexican roots.

20161106_085010This year, we wanted to continue honoring our culture.  We chose St. Kateri.

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In creating her saints’ costumes, I do have to make time to research and also set aside money for expenses. I have spent between $50 and $60 for a few years. The first year, I purchased the nun’s habit. She already had the floral headband. Last year, I ordered a royal blue cape and ironed on the stars. It was difficult to find a plain pink nightgown.  I also purchased some black ribbon for the maternity sash.  This year, I wanted to keep the costume simple. We chose a soft brown shift dress with black leggings, gold sandals, and a bead necklace, all from M’s closet. Grandma did her braids. I already have a beautiful tree branch crucifix that hangs in our living room. The one thing we purchased was the silk tiger lily. This year, I only spent $10 since she had everything else.

All Saints has become a special holiday in our home. It’s a beautiful tradition celebrating our faith. It allows us to take joy in who we are.

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Gospel truths

On the First Friday of Lent (and Flashback Friday), as I listened to one of my favorite gospel music artists on my morning commute, I thought back to my discovery of gospel music.  I first heard Cliff Petty during the opening service at LA Congress in 2010. He was leading the psalm. My head snapped in that direction so quickly I almost fell over. I turned to my church sisters and repeatedly asked, “Who is that?” as I searched the program for his name.   I was so impressed by his voice that I listened for it during the remainder of the service. Immediately after wards, I went to the exhibit hall to look for his music company. I purchased his first CD and even spoke with him briefly. I’ve been following his career ever since. I went to his concert at LA Congress in 2013. I have taken music workshops he has presented including one in which the attendees were divided into choir sections. I was a “joyful noisemaker” as I don’t have a very good singing voice.  Cliff’s music really opened my heart to hearing the Word in a different way.

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My autographed CD; Cliff’s 2nd release

Part of being Catholic is the traditional aspect. The music is traditional and sacred-sounding such as masses in Latin, Gregorian chant and old hymns. The music is beautiful, formal, and ceremonial. Para ser franca, at times, it can be lacking in energy and joy. Gospel music has been a way to bring joy into my worship, faith life, and prayer life. The songs are based on scripture, psalms and on people’s reflections on their relationship with God. People sometimes associate gospel music with different denominations. That is silliness. Music is universal. I talk to many people who say Mass is boring and that they get nothing out of it. They are going out of obligation, not passion. Music enriches that experience. Even in the most boring of settings, I will sing. When I sing in church, I continue to reflect on the Word and my love of God. Singing allows me to do so in a way that is more creative and expressive. Because of my love for gospel music, I appreciate the liturgy and the songs chosen more.  I am familiar with different hymns. Gospel music has been a blessing which expands and enriches my faith life.

In the past when I have struggled with myself, even in those dark moments, my faith has sustained me. My faith has not been repressive, oppressive, or depressive. However,there are times when faith wavers; the busyness of life can shake me. A song can bring me back to myself. Gospel music has been both soothing and uplifting. It has been with me through times of poor health. When I’ve been so angry and I need to clear my head, gospel music has been the soundtrack. When work has been hectic, choosing the gospel station on Pandora has helped me to refocus. I’m grateful I have made listening to more gospel part of my prayer challenge.  I know it will give me more time to reflect and honor this sacred time.

Find W.Clifford Petty on Facebook at Cliff Petty’s music

4 Challenges in 40 Days

“Long have I waited

For your coming home to me

And living deeply our new lives…” “Hosea” by John Michael Talbot.

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This Lent, I am taking on a 40 blogs for 40 days as part of the 4 Lenten challenges I will be completing.

One challenge is joining the now-viral  #40bagsin40days challenge to clear up clutter. This has been an ongoing challenge.  I have read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which had an impact on my wardrobe. I have also read numerous blogs and articles on thrift shopping and capsule closets which changed how I purchase and keep clothing and shoes. However it is a work in progress as clutter continues to consistently affect our home and my office at work. Purging daily, whether it is paper clutter or material items I don’t need, will clear space.  I don’t need much. What I need is love, family, discipline, and positive outlets. I have those blessings in place. It’s a matter of clearing space, energy, and time to truly enjoy them.

Rather than completely fasting from Facebook, I will be reducing my presence on social media. If I’m doing a 40 day writing challenge, social media is the best way to share my work. I will use social media purposefully.  I will post images and links related to my Lenten challenges and reflections. Another reason to revisit this traditional practice of reducing my time online is my actual enjoyment of this fast. Fasting from social media has gotten easier.  I don’t want my Lenten challenges to feel as if they are not sacrifices such as “Oh I’m giving up chocolate.” I moved away from that type of material sacrifice years ago because it doesn’t change me from within. Giving up Facebook and not posting status updates or sharing memes does not make me any less petty. Usually I get back online Easter Sunday and I’m posting a blog about how fulano de tal ruined my Lent. It’s not pure pettiness; there is some reflection involved.  Being off line is no easy fix.  I will move past venting through my writing over the course of these 40 days.

A challenge I began in therapy and within my immediate family is my commitment to stop being a mean mommy.(Can-do attitude)M  has always been articulate in expressing her opinions and feelings. While she is outwardly not thin-skinned, she’s much more sensitive than when she was 7. When I  hear her say, “you’re mad at me”, “you’re mean to me”  or use negative self-talk like “it’s my fault that…”, I cringe.  I am responsible for prompting my child to second-guess herself. In these 40 days, I will make a conscious effort to hold my tongue, monitor my body language and facial expressions, and modulate my tone of voice. I will be firm and tough but do it in a way that is nurturing, not demoralizing. Given our family’s histories, M is prone to anxiety. I will not be an additional stressor in her life. I want M to look at our relationship as one that strengthens her.

Finally, I will pray more in these 40 days. M and I will be praying the rosary during our commutes again. Instead of listening to New Edition during my morning drive to work(I’m not swearing off NE for 40 days! That blog is forthcoming), I will listen to gospel music.I will do some spiritual reading. I will participate in Best Lent Ever through Dynamic Catholic. This program has changed the way I experience Lent. Lent has become a beloved season  which I anticipate yearly.  I love what Lent offers my family, my prayer life, what it does for my relationship with myself and ultimately my relationship with God. God bless.

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To learn more about the #40bagsin40days, visit 40 bags in 40 days

To join Dynamic Catholic for the next 40 days, sign up at Best Lent Ever

 

Revolution of the Catholic Planet

In the last installment of the series, Ms. Grito had done battle to return to her beloved Catholic Planet, only to be seriously injured by a traitor.  In self-imposed exile, Ms. Grito recuperated  and also began a new life as a mother.  Yet her ties to her homeland remained strong. As her child grew physically and mentally, Ms. Grito realized the value of her faith. With her own mother as an ally, the trio revisited the Catholic Planet, prepared for new adventures. 
Faith endures. 

The seventh time’s the charm: LA Congress 2010

For a while, it was cute to compare the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress to an X-Men movie. I was cast as Ms.Grito, a superheroine with more moxie than muscles, a petite loudmouth with healing powers and a weakness for fixer-upper love interests/traitorous enemies. My friends were superheroes of many talents. Each year we embarked on a journey to the Catholic Planet, a world of harmony and uplifting celebrations. Then life changed.

For the second year in a row, the multigenerational trio of Mom, me, and baby hauled the car seat, stroller, and a pack of diapers onto a plane and headed to Anaheim for a long weekend. Energized by my Facebook fast and excited about the return of my favorite speakers, I literally danced to the airport. Then we realized the car seat had stayed strapped in the hybrid. Blues rushed it to us. We rushed to the gate. Then my daughter proceeded to make the blood rush to my head by being her usual wily self. Nothing was going to make her be still on my lap. Despite our DirecTV not including her favorite channel, we made it to Long Beach, a lovely 20 minute drive from our hotel.

We were treated to great weather. I enjoyed a great conference. The highlights included:
Fr. Ron Rolheiser.
Keynote speaker Mitch Albom, whose tearjerker presentation got a well-deserved standing O.
Matt Kelly.
The sweet sounds of Good Ground.
Barbara Coloroso, now seen through the eyes of a parent of a toddler(that would be me!)
Fr. Richard Leonard deconstructing Transformers and referring to The Exorcist as a comedy(with that lovely Aussie accent).
I cried my eyes out at Confession. I loved visiting the Blessed Sacrament.
I got an autograph and hug from my favorite gospel singer, Cliff Petty.
We took M to a park.
We tried fried green beans(yum!) and enjoyed a Sizzler buffet.
I ran 5 miles, partly along my Disneyland Half route, at dawn.
Blues called and texted constantly to say how much he missed us.
Okay, so M would not behave during Mass. But I’m quite sure God realizes that 18 month old toddlers are simply being the beings he has made.

I may not be as active at church as I’d like but LA Congress was exactly where I needed to be when I needed to be.

"The more things change…"

“Sal de mi camino..make way for the funky bilingual…” Latin Lingo, Cypress Hill

Over a decade ago, I had the power of women(or lack thereof) at my mental forefront. A self-proclaimed gritona, I took it as my personal responsibility to be a mouse that roared, to speak for all the women I knew and didn’t know about whatever issue I felt needed some thought. It was a role I embraced proudly and I weathered every criticism and controversy I sparked.

These days, I lead a quiet insurrection, much more personal in some ways, maybe a little more private than my days as a college journalist. My insurrection is still about a woman’s power but my role is now one of the greatest personal duty most humans can have, that of parent. As I make choices about my daughter’s future, I know I will be her guide in how to be a woman and a powerful one at that.

Already I can tell a lot about her personality. She is willful, assertive, energetic, responsive, aware. Whether she’s kicking and punching up a storm on ultrasound or samba dancing across my body, my little girl is her own person. Still she is protected from the world at large, both by my body and by her innocence. I’ll fight this first fight for her.

There are a few people who have cut off all contact with me. Sadly, they are associates I have met through my work in Catholic ministry. Most church friends have been compassionate and understanding. They realize that, dogma aside, I am a mature adult, completely capable of raising a moral child as a single mother. But I am ironically saddened to have been cast aside without so much as a well-intentioned lecture of cliches and warnings. I tend to be very aware of society’s shortcomings and parameters but I thought my friends might be above judging me. Most were. Some are not.

If I were a man, would it be different? Then I’d have the luxury of not telling anyone about this child’s imminent birth. Men don’t get pregnant out of wedlock. But given the choice between a shotgun wedding to save face and my current life, I’d choose my life as it is today. I am happily pregnant, happily looking forward to motherhood, ready to face the challenges of being unmarried and Catholic. No se como ser otra.

Highlights from LA Congress 2008

*sunshine as I cruised through Inglewood
*the old Irish priest who approached my predicament with compassion and common sense. I love how God always talks to me.
*how every meal tasted amazing
*3 full days without being sick
*Father J-Glenn Murray dancing out of the arena to us singing
*black Catholics and their joyous Mass
*listening to the great Fr. Richard Leonard, Fr. Ron Rolheiser, Matthew Kelly, and my new fave, Fr. Bryan Massingale
*buying something for my baby
*knowing my baby heard some of the greatest speakers and musicians American Catholicism has to offer
*discovering a mom and pop Peruvian restaurant, Mr. Pollo, in Garden Grove
*walking more than I have in weeks
*feeling God’s unwavering presence
*returning to the Catholic Planet!