Easter across Europe

This Rick Steves’ special on how Easter is celebrated in Italy, Spain, Greece and Slovenia was wonderful. I had no idea of the colorful, heartfelt traditions that people have kept through the centuries.

He describes holidays and practices from Mardi Gras all the way through Easter Sunday.

I looked for some photos of these holiday practices, but soon learned that this year due to the CCP Virus, they’ve been canceled. My nephew was in Greece for a semester abroad, but had to come home. What a shame as Greece celebrates with lots of passion and color.

I pray next year will be normal and maybe I’ll have the good fortune to plan a trip.


Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I finished reading Kafka’s The Trial, which I liked, but I need to reread it or do some research so I understand it fully.

I completed my training to be an election judge for our primary election on March 17th. We’ve got new sleeker equipment, which should be easier to work with and quicker to set up and take down. Fingers crossed.

I am rather disappointed so many candidates dropped out just before Super Tuesday. It doesn’t give states that come later much voice in the matter. How can a state change when it holds its primary, I wonder.

Saturday I attended a Lenten Retreat organized for alumnae of my high school. My all girls’ school closed in the 1990s, but we still have alumni events. It was a small group of just 35 or so and no one else from my year was there. Still the program was a good start to Lent (though Lent started 10 days before. My former freshman homeroom teacher was one of the co-leaders and I did sit with two sisters of one of my classmates.

I’ve continued to work a lot and I am enjoying recruiting. This week I attended a nearby Toastmasters and not only did I get some people to apply, but I got to see a very active group, again of all ages and a mix of first languages.


Slow Work of God, a Prayer

In time for Lent

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

By Teihard de Chardain, SJ

Poem of the Week

Marked by Ashes

by Walter Brueggemann

Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . .
This day — a gift from you.
This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
halfway back to committees and memos,
halfway back to calls and appointments,
halfway on to next Sunday,
halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
half turned toward you, half rather not.

This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
of failed hope and broken promises,
of forgotten children and frightened women,
we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.

We are able to ponder our ashness with
some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.

On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
you Easter parade of newness.
Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
mercy and justice and peace and generosity.



It’s already lent and time for me to think about how I’ll make this a meaningful time of reflection and wise change. I like to find a good spiritual book to read and to commit to some changes in behavior. My friend Jennifer, who’s Protestant, actually taught me a lot about why we give things up for lent. For her, it’s not just to make life harder, but more about giving up those treats and comforts we reach for when we’ve had a tough day or are going through a crisis. These items tend to be cheap substitutes for God.

With that in mind I’ve chose two Bible devotions to do from YouVersion, a Bible app and I’d like to get a book, any book, by Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk. I also will observe not having meat on Fridays or Ash Wednesday. I plan to write 5 days a week at least as God’s pleased when we use the talents he gave us. Also, I plan to give up sweets, they’re what I grab when I get nervous or worry.

Finally, I’m taking a break from Twitter and Facebook for Lent. We’ll see how this works.

Here’s a poem by T.S. Eliot called Ash Wednesday.

Poem of the Week

I found this from an email about the end of lent.

Excerpt from “Four Quartets” by T.S. Eliot:

In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth
Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.
Houses live and die: there is a time for building
And a time for living and for generation
And a time for the wind to break the loosened pane
And to shake the wainscot where the field-mouse trots
And to shake the tattered arras woven with a silent motto.

A Lenten Refection from Laurence

I have to say this would be good for me to heed:

John the Solitary – the famous one – said that there are levels of silence. Our own daily practice of meditation will gradually reveal them. It doesn’t help to imagine or anticipate them but the small sketch that he gives can be useful and help us to persevere whenever we feel discouraged or that we have got stuck. It’s always good to be reminded that there is more to come.

The first kind of silence is that of the tongue. St James addresses this when he urges his early fellow-Christians to guard their speech. The tongue is a like a rudder, he says, very small but with a great influence on the direction we are going. It is obvious enough that we should control our speech when we feel like saying something violent, merely hurtful or spiteful whether it is direct or concealed in humour. It is hard then because we would like to get our angry feelings off our chest. But words spoken in anger and intended to hurt (because the other person deserves it) falls into the same trap as all violence. It never achieves what it promises and it always makes matter worse.

There is however another kind of restraint of speech. Most of our utterances are mindless, they don’t mean what they say, often their main meaning is to fill in the embarrassment of silence and are usually quite trivial. I don’t mean we should always be speaking about sublime realities; but we should always mean to communicate something helpful, meaningful or actual. Empty chatter is the verbal equivalent of promiscuity. Controlling the tongue, knowing when to start talking and when to stop is like being chaste.

When we sit to meditate the first and obvious step is to cease speaking, even not moving our lips or tongue as we say the mantra. With children we sometimes say the mantra aloud a few times with decreasing volume but they soon find they can go straight into reciting it interiorly and silently. This feels a great relief because we often don’t realise how undisciplined and superficial our manner of speaking can be, how often we slither into gossip or. Resting the tongue frees the mind to start moving heartwards.

But first we have to deal with what is disrupting the other level where silence has something more to teach us.

Remind Me Not to Do This Again

YesterdayI went to Lenten day of Reflection. I need to jump start my Lent as I’m not sure what to do, i.e. give something up, take some action. It really shouldn’t just be a time to go on a diet.

Well, it was pretty awful. There were 14 of us and the priest had all these rules. Mainly, you couldn’t use the word “you” and you couldn’t preach. His idea of preaching was hard to understand. At the beginning, a woman raised her hand and said, “Excuse me, but I work in logistics and I think the chairs would be arranged better if they were in a circle.”

The priest chastised her, “Don’t you think I know the chairs are arranged badly. I’ll take care of it. This is what I mean by preaching. Stop preaching.” Another man questioned his terms, “God has a ruthless love for us.” I don’t think anyone understood what that meant. He was told not to let one word trip him up. Well, all the words we were supposed to respond to were such gobbled gook that no one knew what to say. After lunch someone asked if the priest if he’d enjoyed his lunch and got snapped at. “You don’t have to worry about me. I am able to take care of myself. I’m here for you all.” (Right.)

Later one man really spoke from his heart describing how he’s come to a point where he felt that while he did all the things a good Catholic should, he was a hypocrite and his faith lacked depth. Every time he slipped and said “you know,” he was chastised. (You can be used to mean other people particularly or like the French use “on” as a generality, e.g. Where do you buy tickets?) This man was in no way offending anyone other than the priest with his use of “you.”

I decided 1) to never attend another event there and 2) not to share with the group.

One surprise of the day was that a woman I went to grade school with was there. She was the meanest terror of my class. I hope I get some points for having lunch and conversing with her husband and her. I was astonished that a seemingly really nice man married someone who’d been so vicious. I think that encounter was the blessing of the day. The program itself was an endurance test. I wound up leaving an hour early. I just couldn’t take any more. The priest is good when he gives homilies, but dealing with actual people is not his forte. How does the Catholic church march onward with these types as their leaders? Truly that’s the biggest miracle of all.