Grocery Store Contemplations

Is a weekly trip to the grocery store part of your routine?  There’s a store I visit on my way home from work each week.  As I walk up and down each aisle procuring items from the list, I’m often alone with my thoughts.  There’s a certain peaceful rhythm to this routine chore and at times the quiet lends itself to prayer, rather unexpectedly, I assure you.  I think about my husband, our children, their grandparents, and people I know who are going through all kinds of things. Once the cart is full and all the items on the list are checked off, I advance to the checkout area.  On a recent shopping trip, while standing in line, the woman in front of me turns and apologizes that she might take a while because she has WIC coupons (no need to apologize for feeding your children, I reply with a reassuring smile).  What I don’t tell her is that I can remember standing in a grocery store line twenty-three years ago with our two oldest children in the cart, hoping the amount in my wallet was going to cover the groceries and two packages of diapers. I know it’s not easy being a mom, I think to myself, and I hope she knows I really do not mind waiting for her transaction to finish.    

The WIC coupons do slow the line down, but that gives me even more time just to think and pray, adding a prayer for the young mother in front of me and for all mothers and fathers who worry about keeping their children fed and clothed.  When it’s time for me to hand my bags to the cashier and answer the weekly question of How heavy do you want me to fill your bags, I am surprised that the cashier has more to tell me.  She can’t be older than a high school teen or maybe a college freshman.  Her eyes get wide and she begins to tell me about how rude people have been in the store today.  She goes on to tell me about some of the unkind things people have said to her and just the general rude behavior that’s been going on in the store.  She asks me why people don’t use their manners anymore, this young, very wise cashier.  Inside I laugh because most of the rude people this young person has encountered are much older and should know better, right?

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.

 These lyrics are from Jackie DeShannon’s hit from 1965, penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  Don’t they still ring true today?  What about Jesus’ words in Matthew 22: 34-40 that we heard in yesterday’s gospel?  What makes it so hard to love our neighbor?  Is this something we can all work on together?  Let’s try, friends. Our world needs love NOW.


Jake Joy

We have a six-year-old German Shepherd rescue named Jacob, or Jake.  We adopted Jake at five months of age and he immediately stole our hearts with his lovable, goofy personality.  We did have to live through Jake’s puppy antics which at times were more annoying than endearing.  There were times I got a little tired of Jake using my arm as a chew toy or running through the house with shoes in his mouth, but the puppy days have passed, and our big dog is a cherished member of our family.

What I’ve come to notice over the past few years is that Jake is happiest when our entire family is home.  Now anyone with a dog will say that’s no surprise because dogs are pack animals.  But I am amazed at how completely content and even energized our Jake becomes when the entire family is gathered.  I’m talking about lie-on-your back while chewing on a bone content!

Yesterday at Mass, the church was full, and people were singing and fully engaged in the Liturgy.  An infant was baptized, and all the baby’s family and friends were gathered.  While I don’t know the baby’s parents, I can only imagine the joy they must have been feeling yesterday.  It looked like “Jake joy” to me!  I know I felt a moment of “Jake joy” with the church so full and so many members of our parish family present.  I want to hang on to that “Jake joy” feeling this week and hopefully be a source of joy or comfort to those I will see.

This week I will think about the words in Psalm 16:11 which say, “You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.”

 I wish you a “Jake joy” kind of day, friends!

Sunday Dinners, the Grinch, and Keeping Sabbath  

I recently walked past a grocery store display that sparked the idea for today’s blog.  The sign posted near the product suggests one can simply cook this item and have that Sunday dinner feeling ANYTIME.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not a hater…in fact I love the idea of people gathering around the dinner table.  I am skeptical, however, of the premise that any food can re-create Sunday.  Allow me to use the Grinch analogy to explain.

If you’ve ever read How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1957), you know that the Grinch learned an important lesson when his plan to prevent Christmas failed miserably:

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 

The Grinch discovered that the members of Whoville still gathered together and gave thanks despite their losses. The true wealth and strength of the community had not been broken, just changed, perhaps even strengthened in these moments of adversity.

As Catholic Christians, we are familiar with The Fourth Commandment, Keep Holy the Sabbath.  On Saturdays instead of Sundays, our Jewish brothers and sisters also honor the sabbath in their faith tradition. An important part of keeping sabbath begins long before Sunday (or Saturday) dinner.  It’s the gathering as a faith community for Mass (or synagogue).  Sunday dinner for many of us is the endcap on a day that begins with prayer and thanksgiving.

Here’s a little Merciful Moments assignment for you.  Think back to your Sunday traditions as a child and compare them to your traditions now.  Are you doing something to make Sunday special?  It doesn’t have to be “Pinterest special,” but is there anything you do differently on Sunday to honor the sacredness of the sabbath?  I challenge you this fall to re-set your Sundays if necessary, to re-connect with sabbath.

This blogger has some fond memories of Sunday “family day” as a child.  I’ll bet others may remember Sundays beginning with church, an early Sunday dinner and Sunday drives often just for the scenery and nothing else.  The meals may or may not have been fancy, but there was some undisclosed ingredient baked right in that somehow made Sundays special.  Maybe that ingredient was love, or time, or hope?  I don’t know.  But what I do know is that I want to keep our Sundays special so that I never take sabbath for granted.  I don’t want to buy into an instant-gratification culture of having Sunday dinner when I want it and where I want it. I want Sunday just as it comes every seven days, gathered with our faith community at the start of the day and ending with family, together.








Morning News

I went to bed early last night and got up with the intention of sitting down to do some writing over the first cup of morning coffee.  After taking our dog outside and feeding him his breakfast, I ground the coffee beans as usual, filled the reservoir with clean cold water and then listened to the comforting drip drip drip sound that meant hot coffee was only moments away.  I settled onto the family room couch which is worn out, lumpy and covered with quilts and dog fur but still my favorite place on cold mornings to savor coffee, prayer time and the morning news.

The cozy feeling ended abruptly once I learned of yet another shooting, this time in Las Vegas, at a country music festival.  I waited until after I drove my teen to school before I had the energy to turn on the television for updates.  My husband texted from work, “Love you.  So sad about Las Vegas.”  I agreed, yes, so sad.  But my emotions are so much stronger than sadness as I write this today.  How can we, as humans created in God’s own image and likeness, inflict such pain and suffering on other human beings?  I was prepared to just post a photo on the blog of a single tear drop instead of an essay because I just don’t feel very hopeful or joyful this morning.

I proceeded to make meatballs for this week’s dinners and vegan-bread and fry some fairy tale eggplants that I’d picked up at a local farm stand a week ago.  With no early morning meetings scheduled today, I had the luxury of time this morning to seek refuge in our home kitchen, wiping tears away as I flipped the eggplant slices and watched the continuing news coverage on the little kitchen TV.  After everything cooled, and I packed the items away in the fridge, I knew I cannot hide in the safety of home all day.  I’ll have to go to work and put together a peace prayer for our teenagers who will meet for weekly faith formation classes later this evening.

The sad part is, none of this is new to me or you.   I remember putting together a peace prayer after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012 as if it were yesterday.  A year later, I was at the Boston Marathon celebrating our son’s Army team’s completion of a ruck march one hour earlier when we learned of the bombings there and were filled with fear and shock.  With all public transportation shut down as a safety precaution, we had to rely on the kindness of others to get back to our car parked miles away at a train station.  In 2015, a San Bernardino shooting occurred during a  Christmas event at a workplace. We remember the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016 and the Ariana Grande concert shooting last spring…too many shootings.  Senseless, horrible violence.

Yesterday our sixth and seventh graders prayed The Prayer of St. Francis, which begins, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…”  Today, and every day, Lord, help me seek to understand the people I encounter.  In learning about who they are and what they are about, help me to learn to love them, embracing not just our similarities but our differences as well.  Help me to lead others to peace and love and not to intensify hatred and ignorance and divisiveness.  We are better than this, Lord.  Please watch over us and guide us.  Pray for peace, friends.  Pray for peace.