Grapple

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Every day I try to learn a new word or expose myself to a random word. I started doing this a very long time ago. I remember reading a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt as a child. One of the things Eleanor did everyday was to pick up a dictionary and randomly shuffle through it and put her finger on a word. She would then use that word several times during the day. Thus, she added to her vocabulary. Today it’s rather easy for me to find a word of the day. Living with ALS, I have lots of electronic gadgets. One of those is Amazon Alexa. I just ask Alexa, “Hey Alexa, What’s my word of the day?” This week grapple was one of the words. It’s not a word that I did not know the meaning of but it is a word that has resounded with me this week. I even heard it at the Convocation Ceremony for my daughter yesterday. It was in Dr. Hass’s speech, the president of Rhodes College.

This past week has been harrowing and that is an understatement. This is the week that most college students take flight. They go to college to begin their new chapter. They leave behind the comforts of home. The times that seemed so aggravating are being reconsidered and light bulbs are going off in a lot of 18 year old students’ heads. They are beginning to understand that things don’t just happen. Parents annoyingly giving advice and doing all of the little things that magically happen in a household from keeping the bills paid to stocking the pantry packed with all of the best snacks. Granted, our little adventure trying to gather all of the necessities to help our little bird feel as comfortable as she possibly can should have began probably two months ago. Ah we have weeks, let’s just put it off for another day. As the time for departure crept ever so closer, we were in panic mode trying to get everything accomplished from paying tuition and deciding on which meal plan to choose and finishing learning modules that were required before she could enter campus and receive her dorm key. It had me grappling for my sanity. Needless to say, we were rolling down highway 51 toward campus while my little bird pecked away on her laptop trying to finish her module learning courses. Yes, she is an honor student, but boy oh boy, this past few weeks we were definitely learning challenged. We faced a learning curve together and hopefully next year this will all go so much smoother. Hopefully, there will not be much grappling next August when she returns to school.

My little bird is grappling, too. She has been in her new nest for the last two nights. She is surviving on black coffee with no creamer or sugar because yes you guessed it was overlooked. She is desperately searching for her group. She is grappling desperately. When you open up your phone and the text from your daughter says “I’m so lonely” your heart moves to your throat and forms a huge lump. What can you do or say to help your sweet little bird to be brave? First, you say a prayer. You asked God to give you the words. You know what? He does. It has to be from God because I couldn’t make this stuff up. Saturdays I spend studying the gospel for Sunday service. I teach the high school students so I want to be prepared and use the gospel within the lesson.

Here is part of what I read:

Ebed-melech, a court official, went there from the palace and said to him: “My lord king, these men have been at fault in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah, casting him into the cistern. He will die of famine on the spot, for there is no more food in the city.” Then the king ordered Ebed-melech the Cushite to take three men along with him, and draw the prophet Jeremiah out of the cistern before he should die.

Jeremiah was cast into a cistern into the muck. He was stranded, away from every comfort he had ever known, and left to die. I’m sure my little bird felt like Jeremiah when we left her. It was so hard for her to feel Jesus. Where was her Ebed-melech? As I typed positive messages I urged her to look around whatever she was at her PA group tonight and find more Ebed-melechs. I assured her they were there. They may not be similar in dress, ethnicity, or gender but they were there for her to discover. She will create with the help of God a new community or family circle. She’s always been such a shy bird with strong morals. She has always been mature for her age as well. I chuckled because I have always called her a granny. By the end of our conversation, she was ready to step out there and be brave. She said, “I am going to find people who like me for me. I am valuable. I can live my Faith. Come Holy Spirit, Let’s do this!” And I breathed a sigh of relief. I had got the words that she needed to hear. Of course, it was more than just the Bible verse. It was a lifetime of learning how to be myself as a Catholic Christian woman in the world. I am still a work in progress just as she is. But thanks be to God that He gives me the words and wisdom to help my precious daughter.

I know a lot of parents right now are grappling. Their nest at home maybe empty or have a few little birds left, but one thing is for sure if you look for your strength in the right places everything is going to be all right. I didn’t say you wouldn’t miss your birds like crazy and even shed tears often. I just say that the arrow from your bow will travel straighter if you have a bow created with the love of God. Those type of bows have a stupendous strength filled with morals, principles, and love. It will give them the accuracy and speed to hit the target of their goals they create for their lives.

Here’s what I have learned:
Complete your financial counseling early in the summer before the few weeks before classes begin.
Make list and do research of what not to take to college.
Find top ten lists of the essentials for college early and not two weeks before leaving; purchase them in a timely matter.
Be positive always even when you want to grapple them around the neck.
Be brave when you say goodbye even though you your heart is shredding inside of your chest and you are leaving a piece of it there.
Each time you think of them, whisper a prayer. I promise it is heard. Remember that birds are made to fly.

Sal the College Mom Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the day:

This quote reminded me of the speech made by the president of the college. We are all community.

“I hold that every poor man, every vagrant, every beggar is Christ carrying his cross. And as Christ, we must love and help him. We must treat him as a brother, a human being like ourselves.”

—St. Alberto Hurtado

“Walk your faith. Live it the way it should be lived. If you do you will march closer to the ideals of Rhodes College. Our Catholic faith is inclusive not exclusive.”
Sarah Anderson Alley

Tutti Fruitti

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Today I am thinking about fruit. Summers in the South give us lots of wonderful fruit: watermelon, cantaloupes, honeydew, peaches, grapes, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Each summer my heart leaps when I see the roadside stands full of fresh produce. Besides fruit there are the garden treasures of tomatoes, peppers, okra, and several squash varieties. Summers of the South are so bountiful. It reminds me of the manna from heaven that God provided as the Hebrews fled through the desert. The treasures of this Earth are miracles from God. From manna to black-eyed peas, it is all a beautiful gift from God. Miraculous indeed.

Just as the Hebrews travel years through the desert surviving on manna, quail, and Holy water from stones, we get complacent with our daily miracles. We really take them for granted until the season has passed only then do we realize the sweet, savory tastes of fresh fruit and veggies are gone until next summer. The fresh produce of the summer becomes a memory in the winter. The roadside Farmers go back to their homes and farms to prepare for the winter and to plan it next year’s harvest. The miracles of their fields become a statistic compared to years prior. They note lessons learned and begin again taking time to reflect now their fields are fallow. We should do the same.

I know being a human is busy work, but we really ought take time to reflect and meditate on all the miracles in lives. We should fight to be in every miracle of every season God gives us. We should be thankful that he gives us manna every Sunday we attend church. Just like the Hebrews received double portions on Saturday so as to enjoy the Sabbath, going to meet with all our brothers and sisters at mass we are fed with the spirit and the body of Christ to go forth and enjoy the fruit of God’s bountifulness in our daily lives. Is the soil of your soul surrounded by vices that steal the good works? Is the soil of your soul too hard to fertilize and nourish good deeds? Is the soil of your soul tangled with deciect, fears, hurt, and hate so no seed of goodness can grow? We are all the fruit of God but do we have the strength to allow the ultimate gardener to cleanse the soil of our souls?
Take time to realize, reflect, and meditate on the miracles in your life.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Tutti Fruitti Gal

Quotes of the day:

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.
Saint Basil

The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.
Henry David Thoreau

Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta aka Mother TeresaIMG951555

The Last shall be First

Happy Holy Thursday students! Today as I finished my readings, I imagined Jesus washing my feet. Why did he do this? Why did he, the son of God, wash the feet of his disciples? Peter resisted. Jesus told him unless he was allowed to wash his feet then he could not truly follow Jesus. I love the way we learn lessons from Jesus. He was the champion of Socratic thought and questioning. He continually flips the script. Think of God. God is at the top of all. He is the CEO of life. What are we? Well, we all have different stations and life. We are teachers, sanitation workers, doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks, stay-at-home moms, drug addicts, alcoholics, railroad conductors, relatives caring for other relatives who are sick, managers of small businesses, homeless people, mentally ill people, young people, elderly people, disabled people, and the list could go on forever. We all have a station. Which of the station’s do you think should be the feet washers? Aha! That’s right back row, you could never imagine a doctor or lawyer washing a homeless person’s feet. That’s exactly what we are supposed to do. Front row when you get your PhD you should not be haughty. You should still wash your brothers and sisters feet who are less fortunate than you. Not literally unless the chance arises, but you are called to put others first regardless of their station. This is exactly today’s lesson. We are called to love each other and serving each other to the end of our earthly lives.
Jesus understood that for something bigger to be born something had to die. Look at biblical history. Isaac was going to die at Abraham’s hand. Abraham understood his covenant with God had to be stronger than that with his own son. At Passover, remember all of the unblemished, male lambs and goats that were sacrificed for The Exodus out of Egypt? Something had to die to protect the Israelites. Have you ever had a chance to hold a baby lamb? It makes my stomach hurt to think of them being sacrificed. Today’s Gospel ask for us to die. Back-row do not get upset; I am not asking you to die literally. We are to die to ourselves. That means our egos are to die. We are to love each other as we love ourselves. This is so hard in a world that is so egocentric, so selfish. It takes constant practice. If we practice those virtues every single day eventually we will defeat our ego. We will begin to see Christ in others regardless of the station they have been given in this life. We can get there. I know we can. Your homework today is to think of your station in life. Make a plan to wash someone’s feet. If you see a homeless person, offer them your respect by looking them in the eyes and simply greet them with kindness. Let them know they are part of the one body. If you are of a more humble station like wheelchair Sal, hold your head up and smile. Greet all those you meet with the joy of Christ in your heart. You are very important, too. Remember students one bread, one body, and one Lord of all.
Sal the Sacrifice it All Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
“The washing of the feet and the sacrament of the Eucharist: two expressions of one and the same mystery of love entrusted to the disciples, so that, Jesus says, “as I have done… so also must you do.” (Jn 13: 15). Pope John Paul II
“When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.’”
Blessed Mother Teresa
This bread I break was once the oat,
This wine upon a foreign tree
Plunged in its fruit;
Man in the day or wine at night Laid the crops low, broke the grape’s joy.
Once in this time wine the summer blood
Knocked in the flesh that decked the vine,
Once in this bread
The oat was merry in the wind; Man broke the sun, pulled the wind down.
This flesh you break, this blood you let
 Make desolation in the vein,
Were oat and grape Born of the sensual root and sap; My wine you drink, my bread you snap.
Dylan Thomas

Triduum

Here we are students at Holy Week! Tomorrow we’ll begin our most sacred days of the year: The Triduum(Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Black Saturday.) I really love how our church walks the path that was created with the death of our savior. Tomorrow as we go to church we will relive The Last Supper. We listen as disciples promise to be loyal but fall short. Good Friday is celebrated alongside all other Christians. It is a holiday celebrated around the world. It is celebrating the crucifixion. I can’t imagine being at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified. It always brings tears to my eyes. Saturday is our Easter vigil. It starts at sundown in the dark. We are searching for the light of Christ. We proceeded into the dark church faithfully awaiting the light of Christ. This is when baptisms take place and new parishioners are added to our number. Those who have come to the faith through the rites of Christian initiation. It is so beautiful.
This Lent we have worked so very hard to become better Christians. We want to be better people. We don’t want it to end with Easter. Guess what students? It doesn’t have to end. We are called to grow every year. We are to get stronger in our faith. This may be a beginning for some of you but I ask you to open yourself up to whatever God is calling you to do. It may be simple like overlooking a slight given it to you by someone who was supposed to be your friend. It may be that you are to be more serious about your faith and get involved with church life. Start each day with a prayer asking God to use you. I did this long ago and boy am I ever busy. Try it.
Students have you ever noticed how busy each spring is? We have a new group about to graduate from high school. We have a new group about to graduate from college. We have children signing up to begin kindergarten next fall. We have flowers blooming and trees surging to life. The warm days begging us to come outside and forget all the things that need tied up at the end of the school year. Just like the song, “I think to myself, What a Wonderful World” and I do. In spring there is so much living to do and we feel it in our bones. Thanks be to God for Spring, Easter, and New Life. Yes you have homework. Try to attend a Good Friday service and also an Easter service. Find your place and begin your work!
Sal the Triduum Loving Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
“Let every man and woman count himself immortal. Let him catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection. Let him say not merely, ‘Christ is risen,’ but ‘I shall rise.”
Phillips Brooks
“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.”
Martin Luther
“Easter is very important to me. It’s a second chance.”
Reba McIntire

Hope

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah 7:23-28
This is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord God.

Life happened again yesterday. I had too many obligations and not enough time. I hope you are staying strong and practicing your virtues. Today we are going to talk about the virtue of Hope. Hope can mean a lot of things in our culture. We hope we get into the college that we want when we graduate high school. We hope that we can get a good job to provide for our family. We hope that our students in class will behave and try to learn the objectives. As a Christian virtue hope takes on a different dimension. As a Christian hope it’s not based on our human desires. Hope is based on what God has promised us as Christians. We hope in the strength of our God and savior to fulfill his promise that he wants us to be happy, to have a good life, and to help us to fulfill our purpose in creating a better world for Him.

My first reading today was from Jeremiah. It was rather shocking. It said this is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord God. Think about that. We hope in the promises of God but are we doing our part? Are we listening to the voice of God through scriptures and prayer and other people that God places in our lives? What if we don’t hold up our end of the bargain? In order to cash in our rewards, we have to live morally, sound lives. This is very important. That’s why students I am taking so much time on virtues. In order for you to grow spiritually we have to run a good race.  You have to have a sound moral core. All of these virtues that we are discussing and learning are from God. Haven’t you always heard all things good come from God? I understand the argument of people not understanding creation and a creator, but all of the studying I have done I have come to the conclusion that this one makes the most sense. God is a god of love. All things from God should produce love. Think about the opposite of our virtues that we are building. We want to be strong . We want to be courageous, but the opposites of those are to be cowardly and weak in our faith. Think about the opposite of charity. That would to be very miserly and we all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. How did that work out?

Today I want you to work on your virtue of Hope. I want you too have faith and hope for the best. Hope for the plans that God has for you. If you’re reading this blog, you have been led here for a reason. There are three big aspects to being a human: our relationships with others, our relationship with ourselves chosing good and acting upon it, and our relationship with God. Right now we are focusing on our relationship with ourselves and trying to create a better person, a better heart, and a better understanding of why we are even here on Earth. I hope you understand that we are not here to horde as many resources as possible, to be lauded by our accomplishments, or be accepted into the “in” crowd. We are here to live a life of virtues. We are here to love each other and take care of one another on this earthly journey. Our treasures are not here. I really hope that our time together will open your ears to hear. Not like the ones in the Bible verse today from Jeremiah. It’s never too late to fight the vices of your life. We are called to listen and fight now to build up a Kingdom of God. Today I want you to read The Lord’s prayer. I want you to really think about each line of this perfect prayer. You all are growing! I feel it. Hope in this prayer, and most of all try to live this prayer today as you go through your day.

Sal the Thy Kingdom Come Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the day:
The great gift of Easter is hope – Christian hope which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake.
Basil Hume

I see so many people. They just seem to be hopeless. Being a Christian and being a pastor, the ultimate hope is in Jesus.
Richie Fury


The Christian experiences and lives a paradox. He possesses joy in sorrow, fulfillment in exile, light in darkness, peace in turmoil, consolation in dryness, contentment in pain and hope in desolation.
Mother Angelica

I hope the day that all the Christians are one. This is my dream.
Pope Theodoros II

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Fortitude

Good day students! I hope the world is treating you with Justice. I also hope that you are treating others with Justice. Today we are going to talk about fortitude. Fortitude is a very wonderful virtue. The only downside to fortitude is that you have to go through trials in your life in order for your fortitude to shine.
This morning I got a text from our youngest daughter. She is at the end of her high school career and is taking calculus. Today they did some example problems for the AP exam. She said, “Thank God that God will still love me even though I am going to fail this calculus AP exam.” What does she need to do students? That’s right front row, she needs to summon her fortitude or strength. It’s really hard to do that when you are at the end of something like your high school career. I know inside of her mind she is thinking what the heck? Does this test really matter that much? I also know my daughter. I know she will muster the strength to do her best. And as long as she does that, she will have peace because she knows God will love her anyway. That’s what fortitude is, try your hardest in the face of adversity to take the high road and do your best.
In my little small corner of the world, there have been a lot of life events: births, deaths, cancer, and dealing with the ebb and flow of the each day. Life is tough. Especially when you have to say goodbye to your soulmate and trust that there is another birth with their leaving this Earth. Trust that the love and memories that you have created will sustain you until you take that journey. Seeing the DNA of your family carry on. Wow! Life is a miracle. Watching beloved friends fight cancer and other diseases takes fortitude. Waking up and facing a new day takes fortitude. How can we help when so much is trying to snatch or our joy? Well students, you call on your other virtues to help you build fortitude in others. Help them to be strong and courageous. Pray for them. Take them meals. Mail a funny card or a heartfelt note. Visit them. Share a story about them to their loved ones.
Students, we need to be fortitudious. Be strong for your sisters and brothers on this planet. We are in this together. Believe me when I say there is strength in numbers. And that’s right back row, you do have homework. Here it is. I want you to flex your fortitude muscles. Use all of your lessons we have learned this far andd show your strength. Show the strength of faith that you have as a Christian. Let someone lean on you today. Hold them up with your spiritual strength. It doesn’t matter if you do a good deed or a simple prayer. Just do it.
Sal the Fortitudious Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
Courage is the most important of all the
virtues because without courage, you
can’t practice any other virtue
consistently.
Maya Angelou
       No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.
Orson F. Whitney
       True Christian fortitude consists in strength of mind, through grace, exerted in two things; in ruling and suppressing the evil and unruly passions and affections of the mind; and in steadfastly and freely exerting and following good affections and dispositions, without being hindered by sinful fear or the opposition of enemies… Though Christian fortitude appears in withstanding and counteracting the enemies that are without us; yet it much more appears in resisting and suppressing the enemies that are within us; because they are our worst and strongest enemies and have greatest advantage against us. The strength of the good soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing more than in steadfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness, and benevolence of his mind, amidst all the storms, injuries, strange behaviour, and surprising acts and events of this evil and unreasonable world.
Jonathan Edwards

Justice

Students do you remember that rhyme: “1,2 skip a few?” I promise that it’s not what’s happening with our 40 days together. It makes me think of a John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” This is exactly what happened to me. Life has been happening. We have been busy researching and visiting places that could be the next chapter for our youngest daughter. But now I am back ready to double up on our journey through our 40 days.
The last day we had class we talked about temperance. Temperance is very important as we live our lives. We need to show restraint with those things that tempt us and threaten to become idols in our lives. I hope you practiced using temperance this past weekend.
We are working on virtues. We are trying to right our ship and have smooth sailing toward our goal. These forty days we are working toward many goals: creating a pure heart, creating moments of kindness toward others, clearing out the clutter of our hearts, making our little corner of the world better, and practicing virtues. Today we will add another virtue. This virtue is called Justice.
When you hear the word justice, you think of fairness, court cases, and being slighted in some way or another. The virtue Justice is something that we as humans need. It is a check on ourselves. How do we use Justice in our lives? Justice is a balance between being selfish and selfless. There is a happy balance in the middle. It is very hard to walk this thin line in our daily lives.
Charity and Justice can be used synonymously. Are you charitable to others when everything is going their way? There are days when we wonder why did I not get what I wanted and the other person did. I told you that I had been busy. One of the things that happened this past week was our daughter did not get into a college that she picked as her top choice. Looking at her transcript and her community involvement it made no sense that she did not get into this college. So we all wanted to scream, “This is not fair!” Eating humble pie is very hard. It is one of the hardest things to do when things do not go your way. Even harder is being happy for those who have made it to a goal that you yearned for and have failed.
What should we do? How can we practice Charity or Justice when these things slap us in the face? First we should be firm with ourselves. We should not fall in the face of adversity but straighten our backbones and persevere. I believe everything happens for the good of all even if we do not get everything we want. This helps us practice humility and patience. We need to remain truthful and upright and be cautious not to slander others who have reached a goal that we so desperately wanted. We need to pray with gratitude the ability to run this race of life. Until you draw your last breath, the race is on. Embrace these times of hardship. These are the times you learn exponentially. They help you become a stronger, more faithful, and a virtuous person.
Think about a time when things didn’t go the way you wished. It may have been a job promotion or position on a sports team that you didn’t get. Did you handle it with Justice and Charity? I know many times in my life I did not. Thanks be to God I am still learning how to be a virtuous person. I hope the next time you and I are faced with a tough situation, we choose to be charitable and act out of Justice. Dry your eyes and blow those noses. Today is a new day and we have living to do!
Sal the Stiff Upper Lip Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
MLK Jr
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
Fredrick Douglass
Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triump.
Haile Selassie