Divine Mercy Sunday

Tomorrow is Divine Mercy Sunday.

That’s a relatively new celebration on the Catholic Church’s calendar, initiated in 2000 upon the canonization of Sr. Faustina, a Polish nun, who said Jesus Christ appeared to her in the early 1930s with a message of Mercy for the world.

Recited upon the beads of a Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet contains special prayers for nine days of intentions, beginning on Good Friday and ending on the Saturday before the second Sunday of Easter.

Among those prayed for are priests and religious, the faithful, those who don’t know God, the meek and humble, the souls in Purgatory, and those who have grown lukewarm in their faith.

Reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion on that feast day grants a plenary indulgence, complete forgiveness of sins and the punishment they deserve. You’re washed 100 percent clean — how great is that?!

Now there’s plenty of controversy over this feast. Some claim that Catholics, by honoring the image of the Risen Jesus that Sr. Faustina said she was told to prepare, are in essence idolizing a graven image.

Sure, we Catholics have statues in Church, but we don’t worship statues. They’re there merely to remind us of the people (and good deeds) they represent. Everybody knows a statue, in and of itself, can’t heal or help anybody!

Others claim that the “pyramid” on the Divine Mercy image is Satanic, likening it to Freemasonry, Scientology, and New Age occultism. Seriously?

Sr. Faustina said she asked Jesus what the pale and scarlet rays emanating from His Heart meant; He told her they signified His blood and water shed while hanging upon the Cross to His Death. Hardly sounds Satanic, does it? Nor does it look like a pyramid.

Still others claim that praying the Chaplet upon Rosary beads somehow lessens the meaning of the Rosary itself, or that it’s one more example of Catholics mindlessly repeating prayers.

Sorry, those arguments don’t fly either. Most people who have devotion to the Divine Mercy Chaplet don’t fail to have devotion to the Rosary; they honor both. Nor do devout Catholics “mindlessly” repeat prayers, any more than devout members of other religions “mindlessly” recite Scripture or their prayers or perform ritualistic washing.

Say what you will — an opportunity like this comes around only once a year, and everyone who can should take advantage of it.

Just think: having every sin you’ve ever committed being completely forgiven by Jesus, and every punishment deserved for those sins to be completely put aside!

Don’t Hold it Against Me, But…

I’m a murderer!

There, I said it. Confession is so good for the soul.

No, I didn’t kill a person, so don’t send over the sheriff. Nor did I spoil someone’s dreams, or slaughter a piece of writing, or even slay a dragon.

The object of my wrath was a garter snake, a striped green-and-gold beast slithering in my backyard yesterday afternoon. For anyone who hasn’t seen one, here’s a photo (thanks to Wild Wisconsin Web):

Garter Snake

Garter Snake

This isn’t the one I killed. Sorry, but I didn’t have presence of mind to grab my camera — I was too busy running for a murder weapon!

Let’s get this straight once and for all. I don’t like snakes, any kind of snake. But as long as they’re minding their own business, far from me and my business, I’ll leave them alone.

But let them threaten me or what’s mine, and we’ve got a whole new ballgame.

Snakey was curled up in the grass, taking advantage of a brief spell of sunshine. His head was raised so he could look around and enjoy the newly sprouting leaves and flowers.

Perhaps it would’ve been easier to chase him off, but then I’d never know when he’d come back, taunting me and my dog with his flickering tongue and shimmying tail.

So I raced to where we keep the hoe, grabbed it, and hurried back to where Snakey lay.

Oops, he’d slithered off!

No, you don’t, I thought, as I gingerly stepped off the patio and searched for his coiled body.

There!

As my Sheltie watched with interest, I pounded Snakey with the hoe.

Again and again.

The darn thing refused to die.

First one part, then the other, kept flopping around and trying to get away.

But I was determined.

Over and over, I chopped into Snakey’s body. When I saw blood spurt out, I knew I was succeeding at last (though I must confess, I felt more like throwing up than continuing the battle!).

At last, Snakey quit writhing. All was calm.

I scooped up as much of him as I could with the hoe and carried him across the yard to the back fence, where I dropped him most unceremoniously into an empty field.

Back where he probably came from.

Sheltie wanted to investigate the collateral damage to the grass — and see if any food happened to be left behind.

I merely wanted to vacate the scene and let my brain stop shaking in my head from all the pounding.

That, and find a way to get the hoe sharpened for the next time!

Because I’m sure there will be a next time.

Missing Home

My Favorite Domer is home for Easter Break, and I can’t help marveling at the reasons he gave for his visit.

1) Toilet paper. Notre Dame dorms get their bathrooms cleaned at least daily (if not more often!). Sad to say, my son doesn’t get that princely treatment at home. But home offers something his dorm doesn’t — cottony soft toilet paper. And MFD said all the guys like going home for that. Imagine, something they took for granted all those years through childhood and high school is now a prized commodity!

2) Comfy bed. Most of the dorms at Notre Dame feature twin-sized beds, twin-sized extra long, to be exact. Which makes it lots of fun buying sheets and mattress pads. But the beds themselves are thin. Not the extra-deep variety with a pillow top. Thus, sleeping (which most college kids seem to avoid while on campus) becomes a treat at home, and rousing a kid for a new day takes determination and steely resolve.

3) Hot water. To hear MFD tell it, Notre Dame must not have hot, running water in the dorm showers. I trust that’s not 100 percent true, as tuition and other fees are certainly sufficient to provide a warm bathing experience for our little dears! Still, there must be something about coming home and standing in the shower until the hot water tank runs cold! It’s like going to a swanky hotel, and you’ve even got Mom around to do laundry.

4) Roommates. By this time, even the best of friends are tired of each other. And when you’ve got four in a quad, there are four personalities to deal with, four people with their own quirks and mannerisms. Some like the dark; others have to have light. Some like total quiet; others surround themselves with music. Some study all the time; others barely crack open their textbooks. Yep, it’s a real challenge to remain on speaking terms with roommates who are so different, especially for an only child like MFD!

5) The dog. I’m convinced college dorms should each have a dog mascot, somebody the kids could run to for comfort, companionship, and total love. Cats are too independent; fish and turtles aren’t cuddly; rabbits are too fearful, and horses are too large. A dog would be perfect, bestowing generous kisses, lapping up the attention, and helping to ease the stresses of campus life. Why, the mere act of petting a dog lowers blood pressure and puts a smile in your heart! No wonder my son misses the Sheltie so much!

What was one thing you missed most when you were away at college?

Standing up for myself

I have so had it with people who demand private information before performing a service for me.

Take this afternoon, for example.

I went into one of our department stores — well, okay, I wasn’t going to say which store (to protect the “innocent”), but why not? It was JCPenney.

Anyway, I went in simply to pay my bill, 26 dollars and some cents (I know, last of the big spenders!). The catalog station was busy, so I found a customer service booth in the ladies section and proceeded to hand the cashier my payment stub and check.

As she was putting my check into the machine, she turned to me and asked, “Does your check have your driver’s license number on it?”

I replied, “Of course not!”

She said she’d need to see my driver’s license then.

I asked, “What for?”

She startled a bit before mumbling that it was “corporate policy.”

Now I fought this same beast a couple of years ago (same store, by the way) when a male cashier wanted my driver’s license. I obliged then but, arriving home in a hot tizzy, I called the corporate office and learned it was NOT their policy to do that.

Yes, if a person is making a purchase with a check, the clerks ask for a driver’s license for identification purposes, but not if someone is just paying a bill.

I explained all this to the girl and, seeing I wasn’t about to give in, she backed off.

Good thing. I was this close to yanking my card from my wallet, telling her to cut it up, and promising her I’d never darken their doors again!

At home, I called corporate in another fury, and they assured me I was within my rights. They also suggested I call the store manager, which I did, and she said she’d see that all the clerks are clear on their policies.

One can’t be too careful nowadays. Sensitive personal information — social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, birth date, height, weight, you name it — is too often used for identification and just as often, mis-used when it falls into the wrong hands.

And as I told that girl, “corporate” already has that information on file; they got it when they approved my application for a charge card years ago. She surely didn’t need it to process my payment.

An Era Comes to an End

Last night’s TV news announced that two ABC soaps, “All My Children” and “One Life to Live,” were going off the air after a 40-year run.

Now, I didn’t watch those soaps, but I know lots of people (mostly women) who did. Every day, they’d tune in hoping for a bit of romance, intrigue, or drama, as well as the enjoyment of seeing interesting people in interesting situations. They’d root for their favorite characters to get together, weep at touching scenes like weddings and funerals, ooh and aah over cute babies, gripe over storylines that didn’t go the way they thought they should, and hang onto every spoken word.

Then do it all again the following day.

So for them to hear that ABC is taking these shows off the air — well, it’s like they’re losing part of their family. A cherished tradition.

I feel for them. I mean, they’ve been on for practically my entire life, too!

The network blames a dwindling viewership on its move, noting that the folks who would have watched no longer did — because of jobs and other responsibilities.

That might be true, but women who dearly love their soaps will find a way to keep up with them. It might be via Websites; it might be via TiVo; it might be simple word-of-mouth with like-minded viewers.

And the network claims soaps as a TV genre are no longer relevant to today’s woman. Really? Who doesn’t want to occasionally escape into someone else’s fiction world, to fret over someone else’s problems for an hour or so?

Isn’t that part of the magic of novels?

We all know you can only watch so many reality shows before you go nuts!

Wasn’t it up to the writers and editors and such to make the storylines relevant, to change with the times?

ABC says it plans on replacing these soaps with talk shows, one featuring a food-based theme.

Food? Talk?

Excuse me, but don’t we have entire networks already devoted to food programming?

Why do they think more food programming is what the viewing public wants to see?

And just how many talking head shows can the world endure?

Sigh.

So come September, “All My Children” will be no more. “One Life to Live” will cease in January. Only “General Hospital” will remain in the ABC lineup of daytime dramas.

It’s truly the end of an era.

Drinking after Other People

I’ve got a confession to make — I’m too squeamish to take Communion wine.

My sister, a Communion minister in another parish, regularly drains the cup after everyone has received; doesn’t bother her a bit.

Me? No can do.

In case you didn’t know, Catholics receive Holy Communion under both species, bread and wine. We believe these substances are consecrated by the priest during Mass and transubstantiated (changed) into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Himself.

I have no problem believing this and welcome Communion as often as possible.

What disturbs me is drinking wine from a communal cup.

Why? I can think of three reasons:

  • Back in the day, Catholics were permitted to receive Communion only under the bread species. Receiving the wine was reserved for special occasions (weddings, for instance), so it never became habitual for me.
  • I don’t like the taste or even the smell of wine — period.
  • My mother was a bacteriologist, someone who studied micro-organisms that cause illness. Growing up, I became a “germ-phobe,” or whatever a person is called when they’re afraid they’re going to “catch something” and get sick. In fact, I can remember as a child using my inner forearms to open the back door to let the dog out so I wouldn’t have to wash up again!

Truly, these reasons aren’t logical. “Habit” is a poor excuse for matters of faith. And I suppose I could develop a taste for a sip of wine, hoping I missed out on the alcoholic genes in my heritage. And God is infinitely powerful, certainly able to overcome a few cold viruses on the Communion cup.

After all, according to a devotional I read this morning, drinking Communion wine signifies our desire to share fully in Christ’s Passion, especially the suffering God isn’t quite ready to take away yet.

But what about those germs?

Sometimes church services sound like they’re held in a hospital ward, with all the hacking and wheezing going on. And I don’t eat or drink after my own family, much less casual acquaintances or strangers!

Thankfully, the Church makes allowances for people like me. Those who are allergic to the bread used in making Communion wafers can take only the wine. And those of us with germ issues can partake of the bread alone. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says even receiving Communion under only one species does not deprive one of the grace needed for salvation.

But wouldn’t it make more sense if we used little paper cups (kind of like the ketchup containers at fast food restaurants)?

I Do…or Maybe I Don’t

It was announced on the news yesterday that Britain’s Prince William doesn’t plan on wearing a wedding ring after he and Kate Middleton tie the knot later this month.

Now, we in the States have always been terribly fascinated by anything “royal” — their style of dress, their manner of speech, their day-to-day lives. But aren’t there more critical things taking place around the world today than whether this handsome young man chooses to wear a ring after he’s wed?

Maybe not.

The custom of both bride and groom exchanging rings is a relatively new one, according to my online research. Prior to WWII, men traditionally didn’t wear wedding bands. Apparently, it was enough that the woman publicly proclaim she was “unavailable.”

But servicemen during the Great War wanted the world to know it when they were taken. Double-ring ceremonies, spurred by an aggressive marketing campaign from the American jewelry industry, climbed to 80% of all weddings by the late 1940s (compared to just 15% before the Depression).

For women, a wedding band is typically preceded by an engagement ring (generally a diamond). Most women admit to loving jewelry of any kind — from playing dress-up with their mother’s gems to browsing through jewelry stores or online for their own.

Men, on the other hand, seem averse to jewelry. Some equate it with femininity; others, having never worn jewelry, don’t see any reason to start just because of a marriage ceremony. Many men view a wedding band as a “noose.” And some are in jobs where jewelry is banned for safety reasons.

Still, today’s male has more reasons to be accepting of rings. There are class rings for high school and college men, fraternity rings, and even rings for members of organizations like the Masons.

And wedding rings don’t have to be the traditional plain gold or silver band. There are enough innovative styles and materials for even the choosiest of couples.

In the end, wearing a wedding band comes down to personal preference. Most women today seem to feel that, if they’re going to wear one, their husband should, too.

It’s plain that Miss Middleton doesn’t feel that way. She’s given her prince the go-ahead not to wear a wedding band.

I don’t think we have any business judging them. We can’t know what goes on between them, and it’s certainly within their right to make this choice.

Besides, who in the world won’t know they’re married once April 29 rolls around?