Category Archives: Divine Hotlines
Direct(ish) communication between God and the human being.
Apparently there’s been a controversy in the local newspaper about gluten-free communion hosts for people with celiac disease. Since I don’t receive the local paper, I’ve been in ignorance . . . until my local Catholic Church provided a response in this week’s church bulletin. The response is basically a theological response that tells us why low-gluten communion hosts are inadmissible in Catholic liturgy, and why it doesn’t really matter.
The basic argument for how it doesn’t matter is pretty convincing: at our church we use a type of wafer with a celiac-safe gluten level (0.001%) specially developed by Benedictine nuns and considered glutenous enough to be theologically valid, as far as the Vatican is concerned. So we do have a lower-gluten host available, and we’re offering it. Nice and tidy little non-issue.
But then on the other hand, the argument for why a gluten-free host would be inadmissible doesn’t make a lot of sense at all.
Just a short post for now, because that’s probably all I can fit in between my 5pm ibuprofen fix (just past) and my 7pm dose of Tylenol-3. Yup, the random back pain that floored me last weekend finally caught up with me in a really big way last night. At three o’clock in the morning. With repetitious almost-screaming. Something I think sounded a bit like “Owowowowowowownonono!!!” Let’s just say I’ve seen my husband happier.
See, here’s the thing about pain. It hurts. A lot. I really don’t like it. Self-evident, no?
But the eternal optimist in me has this to say: I am learning from this pain. It seems meaningless and random, sure. But I am a person who is absolutely horrible at taking care of herself. I’ll put absolutely anybody before me, even total strangers. (While waiting to be seen in the ER last night, I kept wanting to go help the migraine sufferer next door, and I made a point of telling an absolute stranger I loved her shoes.) Maybe an apparently meaningless pain is the universe’s way of giving me a chance to practice asking myself what I need, and making sure it gets delivered.
And if you think that can’t possibly be effective, try bringing me my Tylenol-3 any later than 7pm on the dot.
As an aside, I noticed something interesting while waiting for my doctor’s visit and having a particularly difficult time concentrating on the book I brought. When the girl with the migraine had her most horrible peaks of pain, the nurses advised her to breathe deeply and focus on her breathing – the same techniques I learned while studying mindfulness meditation. As much as it may be good for your psyche and your soul, mindfulness meditation is also a good way to manage pain. That’s the entire philosophy behind the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, but apparently it’s also making its way into the best practices of standard medical care . . . or at least the care I witnessed around me last night. It’s not clear whether it’s actively taught to nurses in training or if it’s just something last night’s duty staff has picked up through experience, but it’s a pretty powerful recommendation for the healing power of breath work if it’s being used to manage pain and suffering at its most acute source.
Speaking of acute pain and suffering, back to bed with me. One hour and fifteen minutes until my next dose of Tylenol.
I’m not very good at loving-kindness. Not when loving-kindness starts with me. Oh, I can love anybody else with ease. Even people who probably don’t deserve it. I’m just full of love and forgiveness for other people. But I get down on myself like nobody’s business. The meanest thing anybody’s ever said to me can’t hold a candle to the meanest things I’ve said to myself. One time in a meditation class, the teacher tried to guide us through a loving-kindness meditation by Sharon Salzberg. I got frustrated and a little upset when she was guiding us to offer loving-kindness to the entire universe, and I still hadn’t been able to dredge up a scrap for myself. It was a bit like falling behind in math class – once you’ve missed that many interim steps, it’s not easy to get caught up.
So how do you have a relationship with the Divine when your relationship with yourself is so terrible? It seems to me that’s a good reason for practicing loving-kindness, a branch of Buddhist meditation that involves cherishing all living beings, including oneself. Okay, sure. I can cherish pretty much every other living thing. Maybe I’ll have a little problem with spiders, but I can work on that.
The problem is that, when it comes to making friends with myself, I don’t really know where to begin.
Wiccans, how do you do it?
Feeling the need for ritual, I had been considering a routine to cleanse the energy in my tarot deck. I believe that bad vibes can cling on after you’ve been in a bad place for a while, and I’ve been in a very shaky state the past few months. Having noticed on my trusty calendar that the moon would be full last night, I decided to do one of the energy-cleansing routines the tarot guide recommends last night on my back porch.
Now I’m not hugely well-versed in Wiccan ritual, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got the whole moon-phases aspect of earth-based belief figured out: rituals done during the waning of the moon help you to get rid of something you don’t want to keep around, and rituals done while the moon is growing fuller help you to grow more of something you want to increase. (Wiccans, pagans, and other earthy folks, please don’t take offense if I’ve got that wrong. Just set me straight with the minimum amount of bitterness reserved for somebody making bad assumptions about your religion.)
Anyway, I wanted to bring more spirituality and intelligent energy into my life, and I figured the symbolism of the waxing moon would be a good way to bring more of it into my life. And if I bring more of it into my tarot readings, I guess there’d have to be more of it in my daily life, right? To be fair, I’m not sure whether I think the state of the moon will have any effect on what sorts of tarot cards come up next time I do a spread. It’s about ritual. It’s about symbolism that can help me strengthen the qualities I want to see in me.
Problem: last night it was pouring rain.
Lately I’ve been feeling the impulse to pray – sometimes just at random or when I learn of someone else’s misfortune and want to send good wishes for them into the universe, and sometimes as a way to get through some of the more difficult moments of my daily life. I close my eyes, focus my thoughts, and search for the words that will put me in touch with the divine.
That’s when I run into a bit of a problem. All the prayers I know are Catholic.
So I’m packing my bags for our upcoming trip, trying to decide what I’ll wear to the cathedral for that Mass I promised I’d attend, and suddenly I realized that I’m not going. For work-related reasons (my husband’s, not mine) we’ll have to come home earlier than we first intended – meaning that by the time the first Mass at the cathedral starts, we’ll be loading up the car to head back home. (Or if you’re really optimistic, maybe we’ll already be on the highway.)
It could just be a coincidence. But I’m a big believer in looking for transcendent meaning in coincidences, especially ones that are this deeply related to spiritual matters. I’m not really sure on the spiritual or psychical underpinnings of those kinds of coincidences – the intervention of an infinite God in an individual life, giving me a hint? A facet of the Law of Attraction or some similar cosmic principle? Or just my own mysterious brain giving special significance to information that confirms or suggests what my subconscious already knows I need?
I was always the “prayer girl” in my family.
In addition to being the person everybody called on to pray in a time of crisis, I was the one who recited Grace Before Meals at our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners – or, alternatively, composed a special prayer or read one I pasted to the back of a paper plate decorated to look like a turkey when I was seven. (It looks nothing like an actual turkey, which is really quite an ugly animal.)
To honour that history, I’ve collected a few Thanksgiving prayers that really speak to me this Thanksgiving. It’s been a bitter few weeks, and at a casual glance it might seem like there’s not too much to be grateful for – lousy economy, tight financial straits, and way too much drama getting in the way of my continued sanity. But I found that just reading these prayers, just thinking about them, made me feel a little more blessed . . . and that made my problems look a little less overwhelming.
Let me know if you use any of these favourites for your own Thanksgiving celebrations!