Tag Archives: Catholic Church

Our Lady

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During my years as a Catholic, the Blessed Virgin Mary was usually off to the side. She was the mother of Jesus, of course, but she only got attention during Christmas (happy) and Easter (sad) and in the story at the wedding where she tugged on her son’s robe and asked him to do something about the wine situation. Like most women in the Catholic Church, she was a helper who got second billing.

I hadn’t been in a Catholic church for years. It was the late 90s, and I was in a long-distance relationship with a Texan. The last time I’d been in a Catholic church had probably been six years earlier while on an art tour in Venice, Italy. The last mass I’d been to was probably the one for my cousin’s wedding a year or two before the trip to Europe. It had been a long time.

My Texan was an activist and during one of my infrequent visits, he was participating in a reenactment of a massacre of Zapatistas in Oaxaca, Mexico. I knew about the reenactment before my visit, but my Texan hadn’t told me it would take place on the grounds of a Catholic church, so the location was a surprise. Even more surprising was when the reenactment turned into a precession that proceeded into the church.

Oh yeah, my Texan’s comrade said to me with a shrug, there’s a mass.

A mass? I wasn’t prepared for a mass.

The comrade thought we should go inside and join the mass. Not knowing what else to do, I followed him in.

The priest was already in front of the congregation when we walked in. Someone was already doing the day’s first reading from the missal. Instead of slipping into the back pew as I would have done left to my own devices, the comrade walked all the way up the aisle to the very first pew. I could have ducked into a pew anywhere along the way, but for some reason that must have made sense at the time, I followed him all the way to the front.

He grew up Catholic, I reasoned. He knows what he’s doing.

He hadn’t grown up Catholic, I found out later. Sure, he’d grown up in Central America, but contrary to my assumptions, that didn’t mean he came from a family of practicing Catholics.

In my Catholic family, we did not show up late to mass. If we stood to arrive even a few minutes after the ceremony started, our plans would change abruptly to include a later mass. Had my mother ever arrived late for mass and been forced to enter the church, she would have scurried into the first available pew. Nothing could have made her walk all the way to the front, flaunting her tardiness in front of God and everyone.

I remember a few other things about the mass that day in Texas in addition to bringing shame on my mother by advertising my late arrival. I remember the priest (an ostensibly white man with white hair) speaking a mixture of English and Spanish to the congregation of predominately Mexican descent. I remember my Texan’s Irish comrade chastising me and the comrade I followed in for sitting when everyone else knelt, and I remember the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In every (and I mean every) other Catholic church I’ve been in, Jesus on the cross was front and center. Maybe Mary was on one side or the other, but often enough, she was in some little alcove in the back. In this church, Mary was up front, in the middle, larger than life and looking serenely on us all. Jesus on the cross was relegated to a supporting role presiding over where the choir usually sat.

I made this devotional called “Our Lady.” I can’t guarantee it will glow like this once you get it home.

I was shocked and pleased. I wondered what it would mean to attend a church where the Mother stood peacefully over the congregation week after week, where folks didn’t have to stare at bloody Jesus for an hour every weekend. How different my Catholicism might have been had I belonged to a church where the feminine was in the forefront.

Interior of “Our Lady of the Tiny Box”

Even though I haven’t been a practicing Catholic for decades, I still have a soft spot for the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the Catholic representation of the Mother after all. She loves us and takes our petitions to Jesus. There are no stories of Mary being wrathful, only stories of her being loving and kind and concerned.

Exterior of “Our Lady of the Tiny Box”

Recently, I made some art featuring the BVM. I guess I’m getting back to my roots. “Our Lady of the Tiny Box” was spoken for almost as soon as I posted a photo of it on Facebook, but “Our Lady,” a tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe made from an Altoids tin, is still available for purchase for only $18, including shipping. With this little devotional, you can bring the peace of the Mother into your life.

 

My Religious Upbringing

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Priest Holding HostiaI grew up Catholic. My parents were Catholic too, as were their parents before them. As far as I know, my ancestors were Catholic all the way back to France and were kicked out of Nova Scotia in 1755 at least partially due to their Catholicism.

I was baptized in a Catholic church by a Catholic priest when I was a few days old. I went to a Catholic school for prekindergarten and admired the older girls in kindergarten and first grade who wore pleated plaid skirts and white shirts with buttons. Preschoolers were too young for uniforms; we wore civilian clothes to class, but I hoped someday I could wear a cute school uniform too. Alas, my family moved, and I got the rest of my mandatory education in public schools.

In first grade, my religious indoctrination began in earnest. Every week of the school year, I attended what my parents called “catechism” and the church referred to as “religious instruction.” Each week, the teacher (always a woman) taught us what we needed to know in order to grow up to be good Catholics.

In the town where I went to elementary and middle school, kids made their confirmation in tenth grade. Confirmation is the Catholic sacrament of choosing to be Catholic. Up until Confirmation, a kid’s parents and godparents make religious choices for him or her, but at Confirmation, the young person chooses to continue life as a Catholic. After accepting Catholicism and being confirmed, a person is seen as an adult in the eyes of the Church. It seems ridiculous to me that a 15-year-old could be capable of making an informed choice about something as important as religion, but that’s the way it worked in our community.

My family moved a few weeks into my tenth grade year. Somehow in the hubbub of my dad starting a new job and my mom getting me and my sibling enrolled in our new schools, our parents didn’t enroll us in religious training. Maybe they looked into it, and the new church didn’t want us starting late. Maybe money was tight and my parents couldn’t afford tuition. In any case, we sat out catechism that year.

Our family still went to mass, but it wasn’t the big deal it had been before we moved. In our old community, my Cathedral Interior Religious With Benches Empty in Backdad sang in the church choir; later, my parents sometimes read the Liturgy of the Word at mass. Even though my parents weren’t huge movers and shakers in the group, our family was part of the community. In the new, much larger parish, no one seemed to care if we attended mass.

I don’t know how we got the information, but we learned that in our new parish, kids made their confirmation and became adults in eighth grade instead of tenth. I was not only missing out on preparation for my confirmation, I was already behind.

I suppose the next school year, 16-year-old me could have joined the 12 and 13-year-olds in confirmation preparation, but my parents never pushed the issue. Perhaps because it was a sacrament of choosing, my parents were waiting for me to take the initiative and ask them to help me get confirmed. Perhaps their own doubts about our religion had crept in far enough to make them hesitant to insist I get with the Catholic program.

I had my own doubts about the Catholic Church. I wasn’t keen on the way men got to be movers and shakers (priests), while women were stuck in helper roles (nuns). No one had been able to give me a good reason why women couldn’t be priests too. At that point, I hadn’t decided to quit being Catholic, but I knew I didn’t want to make the adult decision of being all in.

In any case, I wasn’t confirmed that year; I wasn’t confirmed the next year; I wasn’t confirmed ever.

Our whole family attended mass less and less frequently. No one saw to it that I went to confession (or “the sacrament of reconciliation” as the Church had started calling it by the time I came along). My sibling and I were busy with school activities, and my parents’ marriage was crumbling. Maybe my parents felt getting everyone to church was no longer worth their energy. (I remember once dragging my feet as the family was getting ready to go to the new church, and my mother said, Fine! Stay home if you don’t want to go! Would I actually be allowed to skip church and stay home alone? I didn’t find out because I was scared of the passive-aggressive repercussions I might face if I took my mother up on her offer. )

I don’t remember the last time my family attended mass together. Somehow my life as a Catholic ended with a fizzle instead of a bang.

Imags courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/priest-holding-hostia-161081/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/cathedral-interior-religious-with-benches-empty-in-back-218480/.

Valentine to My Own Dear Heart

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Coyote Sue told me about the contest.

A local coffee shop was holding an art contest with the theme “Sacred Heart” just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Oh yeah, I thought. I can collage it up to that theme.

Wikipedia says,

The Sacred Heart is often depicted in Christian art as a flaming heart[3] shining with divine light, pierced by the lance-wound, encircled by the crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross, and bleeding. Sometimes the image is shown shining within the bosom of Christ with his wounded hands pointing at the heart. The wounds and crown of thorns allude to the manner of Jesus’ death, while the fire represents the transformative power of divine love.

I only had a vague idea of what I wanted to do when I started the project. I knew I wanted to make a collage, and I knew I wanted to profess the sacredness of my heart. As interesting as a heart pierced by a lance wound and surrounded by a crown of thorns may be, I decided not to go the Jesus route with my project. Yes, in the collage for the contest, I would make the sacred heart in question my own.

Most of my collages are small, usually about 4″ x 6″, postcard size. The minimum size accepted for this contest was 8″ x 10″. OH! This was going to be a big one.

I started gathering materials at my favorite purveyor of inspiration, the thrift store.

This is the original wall ornament I used in my project after I painted about half the border with red fingernail polish.

At the thrift store, I found an inspirational plaque with the saying “Home is Where the Heart Is.” I liked it because the words were written on a piece of heavy cardboard that projected from the frame. I also bought half a bottle of red fingernail polish which I used to paint a copper colored border. Finally, I found a big red cardboard heart to use as the focal point of the project.

After painting the border, I started collaging the areas within and outside the border. I used mostly images I had on hand. I also collaged the big red cardboard heart. I went back and forth between those two parts of the project.

Royalty Free Images Anatomical Heart Vintage

This is the royalty-free anatomical heart image I got used in my project.

I wanted my sacred heart to be somewhat realistic, so I found a royalty free image of an anatomical heart from “a Vintage Circa 1884 Science Book.” I used colored pencils to color the body of the heart red and the blood vessels a purply blue. Later, I used purple and red glass beads to accent the parts of the heart and the blood vessels.

My final touch on the anatomical heart was to add words of inspiration and aspiration next to the letters marking the different regions of the heart. For example, the letter H shows the part of my heart where “breathing with joy and ease” occurs. Part C of my heart is “joyous.” The letter I points to the area from where my compassion flows.

In addition to the images I cut from magazines and catalogs, I used real stones on my collage. I added turquoise (which is said to stimulate romantic love), rose quartz (the stone of unconditional love and infinite peace) and quartz crystals (a powerful healer and energy amplifier) I dug up in Arkansas. In the middle of the anatomical heart, I glued on a cubic zirconia a friend sent me last summer. The cubic zirconia and the self-stick “jewels” I bought at Wal-Mart give the whole project a bit of bling.

I pierced the representation of my heart with little skewers which once held tea bags from the shop sponsoring the contest. Those skewers sport little red hearts. I think the skewers evoke the piercing by the lance in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

I attached  metal spirals which I painted with glittery nail polish, as well as a large red glass heart which had been crookedly glued to my dash. (I used three different kinds of glue to make this collage! Is that some kind of a record?)

The queen of hearts represents me, and the pink image of Guanyin (or Guan Yin) represents the compassion and mercy I want to offer to myself and others. (For those who may not know, Wikipedia says Guanyin

is an East Asianbodhisattva associated with compassion as venerated by Mahayana Buddhists. She is commonly known as the “Goddess of Mercy” in English.)

Since I’m a word person, I couldn’t let the piece go without a written explanation.

My heart is sacred, fragile, and precious.

I used the definitions from an old dictionary Coyote Sue gave me to explain the meaings of the words “sacred,” “fragile,” and “precious.”

I call this collage “Valentine for My Own Dear Heart.” It’s a reminder to me that my heart needs to be treated with reverence and care. Anyone who gets close to my heart better be prepared to treat it kindly.

I took the photos in this post.

Monticello Christmas Eve

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My friend Belle gave me a wonderful Christmas last year. On Christmas morning she cooked a fantastic English breakfast for me and pulled presents from under her tree with my name on them. Before Christmas day, however, she gave me a wonderful Christmas Eve.

She drove us out to Monticello, New Mexico where friends of hers host a fabulous Christmas Eve potluck every year. Before the nice people and the delicious food, we went to a service at the tiny town’s Catholic Church.

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Sunset over San Ignacio Catholic Church in Monticello, NM

I’m what’s called a lapsed Catholic. I grew up Catholic, but haven’t practiced the religion since I was a teenager. I think prior to last year, my previous attendance at a mass was near the end of the 20th century. But on Christmas Eve 2015, I found myself attending mass in San Ignacio Catholic Church, a historic adobe built in 1867.

The place was packed. Everyone in the community seemed to be there.

When the priest took the pulpit for the sermon, he said he was going to read a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. WHAT? I can tell you, I never experienced a Catholic priest of my youth get up in front of a congregation and read the work of any bohemian poet. The poem the priest in Monticello read is called “Christ Climbed Down,” a crituque of the modern commercialization of Christmas.

The poem blew me away! What would Jesus do, indeed.

I wasn’t touched by the Lord or the Holy Spirit that night. I didn’t have a religious reawakening. I didn’t embrace my Catholic upbringing and run back into the arms of the church. I was touched by Ferlinghetti’s poem, was glad to hear it read in a church by a man of the cloth. I was also touched by the love and comradery exhibited by the people in the church when it came time to offer each other a sign of peace.

After mass we went to the potluck, where I was touched by the love and comradery of food. After stuffing ourselves with deliciousness, we rode off into a cold New Mexico night topped by a sky sprinkled with a million stars.

 

 

The Thrift Stores of T or C

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To close out this series on Truth or Consequences, NM, I will share my thoughts on the thrift stores in the commumity.

I know of five thrift stores in T or C, which is an impressive number, considering there are only 6,246 people in the town (as of 2013, according to https://www.google.com/search?q=population+truth+or+consequences&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8) and only 11,572 in all of Sierra County (as of 2013, according to https://www.google.com/search?q=population+sierra+county+nm&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8).

From my first day in T or C, I’d seen the sign outside the Catholic church (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) on Date Street, the sign that said the thrift shop was open 10am to 2pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The problem was I couldn’t find the thrift shop. I walked around the group of church buildings in the vicinity of 515 N Date Street, but found no shop opened at the appointed hours. Finally, on my fourth visit to the town, during a Wednesday coffee klatch, I thought to ask Coyote Sue (another thrift store aficionado) about the location of the shop. It was on the same block as the church, she told me, but on Cedar Street instead of Date. IMG_4104

The mention of the Catholic thrift shop got the other coffee klatch ladies talking. It was too crowded, too cluttered, the other ladies said. Coyote Sue, however, said she’d had luck buying old-school religious figurines there, then selling them for a profit on Ebay. I was excited to see it for myself, now that I knew where to find it.

I tried at least twice to shop at the Catholic thrift store before I left town. The first time I went there, on the Saturday after learning its location, there was a funeral being held at the church, and a huge black funeral ribbon on the door of the store. The door was locked despite the sign in the window reading “open,” and there was no shopping for Catholic castoffs that day.   IMG_4102

I swung by the following Wednesday, and the “Sorry We’re CLOSED” sign was in the window. Unfortunately, all I can offer is the information that the store is on the 500 block of Cedar Street.

My least favorite of the T or C thrift stores I’ve shopped in is the Paws & Claws Thrift Shoppe at 109 East First Avenue (adjacent to the Family Dollar parking lot). I feel bad about not liking the Paws and Claws because, according to the store’s website (http://www.deserthavenanimalrefuge.com/paws__claws_thrift_shoppe),

Paws & Claws Thrift Shoppe is, by far, the most important fund-raiser for the Sierra County Humane Society. It covers a major part of Desert Haven Animal Refuge’s operating expenses. The organization would not survive as it is today without the monthly income from the shop.

IMG_4121Why don’t I like shopping at the Paws & Claws? Let me count the ways.

The merchandise is overpriced. On the rare occasion I find a piece of clothing I like which  might fit me, it’s typically priced at $4 to $6. I know for a lot of people that’s a good deal, but I don’t usually pay more than $1 for a piece of thrift store clothing. I currently have way too much clothing in a wardrobe stocked with items that only cost me a dollar.

The Paws & Claws never has sales. It’s never green-tag day or half-off day. There’s just no way to get a bargain. I see the same things in the store every time I browse there. Ladies in the coffee klatch said they’d been seeing the same items in the store for five years. In my opinion, these items are sitting around because they are overpriced to begin with and then never marked down.

Add in rumors of an unpleasant and difficult manager and moldy books for sale, and I have little desire to walk through the front door.

I don’t have much experience with the All That & More Thrift Store. IMG_4105I’ve only been in the shop a couple of times, but the last time I went in, I found what I was looking for (plastic drawers for van organization). All That & More is one of those unusual thrift stores that isn’t full of old clothes so ugly I wonder who wore them new. The store is small, but neat and clean, and the prices are reasonable. The store is located on 4th Street, a block or two off Date and not far from the library and convention center.

The SJOA (Sierra Joint Office on Aging) thrift store in the senior center complex at 360 W. 4th Street is one of my favorites.  IMG_4113The store is small, but the ladies who run it know they need to move merchandise, so the prices are great. Most items of clothing cost 50 cents or a dollar. I’ve gotten small balls of yarn for a quarter. There’s usually a small selection of free magazines outside the entrance door.

The final thrift store in T or C is also the biggest. The CHF (Community Health Foundation) thrift store is located at

In addition to cool merchandise and good prices, the CHF Thrift Store is one of the places to see and be seen in T or C. My friendship with Coyote Sue was forged in the CHF store’s old location, and if we’re both in town, we’re likely to run into each other in the CHF’s aisles.

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This photo shows the entrance to the CHF Thrift Store. The free table can be seen in the far right of the picture.

Thrift Stores in T or C tend to open early in the morning and close early in the afternoon. They are sometimes closed on strange days (Closed Wednesdays? Who does that?), and I think every one of them is closed on Sunday. Your best bet is to swing by the stores and see if a sign on the front tells you the hours and days they are open.

If you like thrift stores, you are going to love T or C.

I took all of the photos in this post.