Monday, August 29, 2011

go by giving...

(click here to go by giving...)

Upon graduation, I spent a bit of time in Belize as a volunteer lay missionary with SOLT.  My good friend Gayle Ohrenberger actually surprised me and hopped on board a last-minute spring break mission trip and brought me coffee, peanut butter and much appreciated communio.

Gayle caught the mission bug and has since led several trips with the high school she is the campus minister for.  Truly a mission trip rock star, she has encountered everything from lost passports to broken bones to parasites and she not only keeps going back, she brings teenagers with her.  

Inspired by Gayle's courage, I'm hoping to join her on a mission trip she's leading for young adults to Mustard Seed Communities in Nicaragua.  There won't be teens on this trip...  This time I get to take the orders and do the dirty work.  I'm excited about it.  

The crazy part is that it takes place in November, over Thanksgiving.  While it only costs Mustard Seed about $100 to have me for the week, they wisely require that I raise about $1000 to contribute to the support of the mission and raise awareness for what they do.  I realize that these are difficult times and it was only a few weeks ago that I was begging support for my sister Martha, a FOCUS missionary.  I'm also shaking donations out of everyone locally to support Room at the Inn and their upcoming silent auction.  

I realize that asking people to throw a few dollars towards a trip to Nicaragua-- when there are so many other needs-- is pretty brazen of me.  However I can say, with confidence, that it's not to support me (I even pay for my own plane ticket and put down the $100 deposit to cover the cost of my visit)-- it's solely to support the children with disabilities that Mustard Seed cares for, as well as outreach to the poor who live and work at the local dump.  I have the freedom to skip town for a week at Thanksgiving, go hug children, clean toilets and dig ditches.  Maybe you wish you could too but for whatever reason can't.  As Martha just told everyone as she headed to Nebraska, "some give by going, others go by giving".  So, here I am, begging for your prayers and, if you can spare it, the $5.00 you'd spend on a latte.

I promise if I make it, the blogging will be phenomenal.  

Saturday, August 27, 2011

stuff my grandmother says

The other day I dropped by to visit my Grandmother who lives in a retirement home that is pretty much straight from the script of In Her Shoes, if you're familiar with the film (and that was a reference, NOT a recommendation, just to clarify).  She invited me to walk over to the clubhouse for a food sample fair.

It was pretty great-- imagine "sample day" at Sams or Costco, only without the shopping part.  And wine.  Whee!  In addition to food, there were some vendors with paper products.  The gentleman peddling napkins that were made from 100% sugar or corn products instead of trees (don't ask me how that works...) showed my grandmother his product and assured her, "they come in a pack of 1000".  She replied, matter-of-factly, "oh, I won't live that long".

I choked on my fried zucchini with wasabi sauce, but then caught myself.  It wasn't a pitiable or dramatic statement, she was just offering her opinion, like who might win the World Series or something.  Considering she'll be 90 in January, my grandmother's pretty healthy.  There's a good chance she'd use all 1000 napkins and some, but that's not the point.  I was just struck by how very aware my Grandmother was that she would die one day.  It's something that we all toss around, but when your initial reaction to a pack of 1000 napkins is that you probably won't be around long enough to use'em, it's a whole different story.

If I internalized the knowledge of my inevitable death to that point, I wonder how that would affect my actions.  I think if I really understood-- not just knew, but understood-- that I was going to die, I'd waste less time, pray more and treat people better.

But I'd still buy paper products in bulk.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Parents Know Best

Last night was the first night at Religious Ed. (or CCD or PSR...  or whatever the trend is these days...) at our parish. All the kiddos were in their classes while their parents were in a meeting.  I took this opportunity to talk to all the classes about getting involved in youth group.  For street cred, I brought along three teens to share their experiences (for the record, highlights included, "going to a real mall at the March for Life" and "CLI is the first time I sprained my ankle!" and me assuring the kids that we didn't just shop and get injured at youth group.)

En route to the different classes, they asked said, "hey, Miss Alison, what's going on in there".
"That's the parent's meeting".
"Can we talk to them?"
"you want to talk to parents?".
"Well, duh, Miss Alison.  They're the ones that take their kids to youth group.  They need to know how important it is."
Then the next one chimed in,   "I mean, I wouldn't have gone if my mom hadn't made me go the first time.  It's like, super important for them to know that they need to force their kids to go cause they won't want to at first.  But it's really important they they make them go, cause it changes everything."

Wow.  Wish the parent's meeting hadn't ended before we finished talking to the 6th graders.
These kids have figured a lot out.
Parents, never doubt your influence.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Confessions of a Reluctant Virtual Pilgrim

I admit, when I first started reading about making this past week a “virtual pilgrimage” with Pope Benedict XVI while he was at World Youth Day, I scoffed.  I was a “left behind Catholic”.  While the cool kids were sipping sangria and eating tapas, I was meeting students at Starbucks and finalizing the fall schedule.  So when @madrid11_en@BustedHalo , #CindyWithB16 and @CatholicNewsSvc@JackieFrancois and the whole bunch from @LifeTeen invited me to “follow them to Spain” I’m not going to lie, my reaction was less than Christian.

My tweets reflected as I schlepped through my Monday, stateside, saying things like, “going to Mass.  Just like all of you in Madrid.  #youarenotthatspecial”.  I don’t have EWTN and wasn’t watching the videos that were being uploaded, but as the week progressed, the candid 140 character updates of both friends and strangers made me start pray about, wonder and appreciate what Team Catholic in Madrid was up to. 

At the risk of over-sentimentalizing a profound reality of our faith, we are the Body of Christ and despite my best efforts to ignore the graces overflowing from Madrid out of jealousy that I wasn’t experiencing it first-hand, I found the updates from the pilgrims about their encounters with each other, the Holy Father and, ultimately Christ to be quite moving.  By Friday, when #ViaCrucis was a world-wide trending topic, I was hooked and proud to know that my brothers and sisters in Christ—most of whom I would not meet until heaven—were, for a few moments, reminding the world what was really important.

Social Media has been blamed for a lot of problems—compromising people’s privacy, a skyrocketing in bullying, a shallowness in relationships based on 140 character spurts in communication—but this past week I begrudgingly admit that I was grateful for those who made my unexpected “virtual pilgrimage” possible, tweeting pictures, stories and quotes from Madrid.   This morning I was genuinely saddened to read all the “adios, Madrid” and “Gracias, B16” in my newsfeed, feeling that although I wasn’t drenched from the rain on Saturday or waking up for mass in a field this morning, social media had given a new dimension to World Youth Day and allowed me to be a prayerful observer across the Atlantic.  As if 1.5 million youth gathering to celebrate being Catholic wasn’t powerful enough, social media allowed so many more to follow and be inspired by their individual experiences.

I’m sure the apostles had no idea that Christ’s command to “make disciples of all nations” would include a digital component in 2011, but I this week, I think social media—especially Twitter—gave us a deeper appreciation for our Catholic—Universal—Church.

Monday, August 15, 2011

why you should go see "The Help"...

Taking advantage of the "Feast Day Three-Day" (yep...  Team Catholic's offices were closed for the feast of The Assumption of the Blessed Mother) I went to see The Help with my grandmothers this morning and learned a few things.  First of all, I bought tickets on-line ahead of time, and although I tried to explain, I think they think I somehow stole them, wikki-leaks style.  Second, when one of the entertainment weekly clips in the previews kept showing Bret Michaels, my grandmothers were quite confused as to why he was famous and "why does he wear that scarf on his head?".  Again, there are some things you can't explain.

"The Help", however, was phenomenal, a great story with a lot of spunk.  I won't even attempt to summarize, but the ugly reality of racism in Jackson, MS in the 1960s is portrayed in a way that makes you cringe and then think.  A lot.

What struck me the most was that this was all less than a hundred years ago.  The characters on the screen were driving cars and using telephones.  Sure, they hadn't realized smoking would kill you yet, but the events on the screen didn't feel like "history" as much as "stuff that happened when my grandmothers were even older than I am now".  This was not the distant past.

As I watched Skeeter's character thumb through the laws regarding segregation in Mississippi, the absurdity now so obvious, it made me wonder what my generation would look back on with shame.  The women of Jackson lobbied to build bathrooms for their hired help, thinking it would add value to their house when all they do is give a testimony to the gross injustices of the time.

What will my generation look back on, ashamed?  We gasp in horror as the bridge club quotes scripture to justify their actions...  but what atrocities is scripture tossed around to defend these days?

It's uncomfortable...  but worth thinking about.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tom MacDonald

I love everything about this story:  
This is why...

The other night on Facebook I stumbled across a note from one of those “friends” that you have that you really haven’t talked to in years but haven’t dropped because they’re kinda cool and plus you wanna keep your friend count up to save face.   But I digress.  This sorry doesn’t begin there.  It begins way back in 2006…

When I was in Belize with the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), my good friend Anne, a graduate of UMass Amherst (and an all-around awesome person) began to tell us that the mission we were working with would be in good hands when we left that summer because in the fall, her friend Tom MacDonald was coming to volunteer.  We would speculate, “who would plan retreats?” and Anne assured us, “Tom MacDonald!”.  “Who will plan masses?”  “Tom MacDonald!”  “who could help rebuild the rectory, perform heart surgery on the Church ladies and sew uniforms for children in need?”  Anne would roll her eyes and assure us that duh, Tom MacDonald would totally have this under control.  According to Anne, Tom MacDonald was basically the Old Spice Guy of Team Catholic.

We went home, began our post-Belize lives and I forgot about the man, the myth and the legend that was Tom MacDonald.  Then I ended up back in Belize on a short trip and found myself at a St. Patrick’s day party, drinking rum, imported Guinness and Belikin with the volunteers at the mission that year and suddenly, I remembered.  “Wait!  WHERE’S Tom MacDonald?”  A tall volunteer with crazy hair said, “he didn’t come”.  “You mean to the party?  But I have to meet him.  Will he be around campus tomorrow?”  “No,”  Tall-crazy-haired-volunteer said,  “he didn’t come to Belize.  I’m Zach, a friend of his.”  To make a long story short, Tom MacDonald never showed up, Zach had come to Belize after hearing about it from Tom and had even bravely taken on the role as the token non-Catholic at the mission (they showed up occasionally at Mt. Carmel) and I continued to see him, occasionally.  He was clearly a great teacher and committed to the mission, but I could never see him without wondering how and why someone would come to a random mission in Belize without Tom MacDonald.

Fast forward to last night when I found Zach's Blog: my facebook newsfeed.  His story of pursuing and being pursued by God and the Church is great, but my favorite part is reading about how he blames Tom MacDonald.  I literally laughed out loud when I saw the title, thinking back to 2006, and how Anne assured us that Tom’s impact on the mission would be legendary.  Reading Zach’s blog last night I realized that she was right.