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Rejoice and Restore


This morning I am working on setting the Entrance antiphon and verses for the third week of Advent.  Traditionally, that third Sunday is known as “Gaudete” Sunday and features pink vestments and candle in the Advent wreath.  Gaudete is the Latin word for “Rejoice,” and the antiphon of the day is Philippians 4: 4-5

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.
Indeed the Lord is near.”

I think that is a well known and beloved scripture line, but I love the wisdom of the ages that pared it with these verses from Psalm 84:

You once favored, LORD, your land,
restored the captives of Jacob.
You forgave the guilt of your people,
pardoned all their sins.

You withdrew all your wrath,
turned back from your burning anger.
Restore us, God of our salvation;
let go of your displeasure with us

Will you be angry with us forever,
prolong your anger for all generations?
Certainly you will again restore our life,
that your people may rejoice in you.

Show us, LORD, your mercy;
grant us your salvation.

Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning,
is now and will be forever, Amen.

What struck me about the psalm was God’s amazing mercy and love in the psalm.  Along with forgiving guilt and pardoning sins,  it uses the words “restore” three different times!  God is always there, always constant, and will restore us.   Maybe not in the exact way we were before, and maybe not like Dorothy tapping her ruby slippers together and saying “There is no place like home.”

Anyone who has restored an old piece of furniture, or a house, or a painting knows how much work goes into the process.  Some of it may be overall gutting the place, and big rough steps, as well as mundane things that are just part of it, and fine details.

Perhaps God will restore us, but we need to make difficult amends, or major changes in our lifestyle.  Perhaps we need to ask for help, or acknowledge failings.  We need to trust and believe that God can do these things, but then we need to do whatever we can to help accomplish them.

It is not time to sit back on our hands and wait for the magic to happen.

As the psalm says, “Show us your mercy, and grant us your salvation.”   Teach us O Lord the way we should act.

Great Books

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read. Tag other book nerds—and that would include me. I want to know who’s read what.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – X
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien – X
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte – X
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling – X 5 and 1/2
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee – X
6 The Bible – XXXXXXXX
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte – X
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell – X
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman –
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens – X
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott –
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy –
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller – X
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – Well some of em…
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier –
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien – X
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk –
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger – X
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger-
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot –
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell – X
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald – X
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens –
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy – X
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams – X
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky –
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck – X
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll- X
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame- X
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy – X
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens -x
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis – X
34 Emma-Jane Austen – X
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen – X
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis- X
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini – X Movie was good too.
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres – on my list
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden – X
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne – X
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell – X
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown – X
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez –
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving-X
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins –
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery- X
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy –
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood – X
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding – X
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan-
51 Life of Pi – Yann Marte-X-
52 Dune – Frank Herbert –
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons-
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen – X
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth –
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon –
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens – X
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley – X
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – Mark Haddon–
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez –
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck – X
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov-
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold – X
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas- X
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac –
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy –
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding- X
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie – X
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville – X
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens- X
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker –
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett – X
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson –
75 Ulysses – James Joyce – (and the Iliad) – X
76 The Inferno – Dante- X
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome –
78 Germinal – Emile Zola –
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray-
80 Possession – AS Byatt –
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens – X
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell –
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker- X
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro– X
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert –
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry –
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White – X
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom– X
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle- X
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton- X
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad –
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery – X
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks –
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams- X
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole –
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas – X
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare- X
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl – X
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo- X

A Mamma’s Heart

Sometimes it feels strange or bittersweet as I watch friends post pictures of the first day of school, or their grandbabies, or all the bragging rights that go with being a Mom. My life path didn’t include marriage or children. Perhaps that is part of why I am crazy cat lady too…

But today I think I got to feel a bit of a Mama’s heart. The young woman who is my housemate started college today and a new job this evening. Tomorrow morning I take her to the DMV to do her driving test. She is working so hard to get it all going and I am very proud of her.

She came to stay with me for “a little while” when she was in a bind, and I was going to help her out for a bit. But that was eight months ago and for whatever reason, the odd combination works, and she is here. I often muse “so who was helping who?”

(I was not allowed to take a first day of school pic though.)

(Post script….the driving test didn’t go well… but there will be other days)

Stewards of the Earth

Pope Frances has declared today as the “world day of prayer for the care of creation.” I again find my self thinking of the lessons my parents taught me. When we would go camping on the Missouri River, kids would rush to carve their name in the white rocks. Dad was quick to tell us,”Fools names and Fools faces are always found in public places”.

I learned early on that fishing was about a lot more than catching fish. If you got “skunked” after taking the drive out to Ross’s reservoir there was no shame in that. The drive to the mountains was worth your trip.

My brothers and I still marvel at the lessons in perseverance and doing a job well done that were required to clean a hedge up to Pat Murdy standards.

Mother’s garden was a teeming example of beauty and function. The flowers there were just as important as the food. That garden fed is through out the year. Mother taught us to share generously, and we were always walking over to so and so’s with a bag of lettuce, tomatoes and cukes.

Nowadays organic and compost gardening and blah blah are such big terms. Nahhhh. You simply keep a plastic bucket under the sink. All the day’s coffee grounds, veggie peelings and dinner scraps (if such rare critters existed) were thrown in the bucket, and in part of doing the dishes was dumping the bucket out in the garden. Mom had the best soil around.

My brother would sell worms in yellow margarine cups at the local gas station. Not only were those little guys helping the garden, but they introduced Joel to the world of commerce.

Mother could run her household on a thin dime. To some it would appear chaotic, but for us it was a breeding ground for creativity and self respect, and constantly testing your own limits and life long learning.

We were taught to respect creation. The earth, the arts, and basic human dignity. I began making weekly nursing home visits in second grade, and later cut my musical teeth playing for the residents there.

Mother and Dad always mourned the infant death of their first born son, Timothy James. His tombstone and the few pictures were a thing of mystery to me as a child. I recall Mother weeping as she received a graduation announcements the year he would have graduated. There was no escaping the pain. This devastating loss as a young couple would stay with them throughout their lives, even though they were blessed to have four additional children. I learned that all of life was sacred.

Our household had a menagerie of cats and dogs, kids and frogs, snakes, guinea pigs, rabbits, gophers, and Lord knows what else. Yes our house was like Genesis, “teeming with life.”

From my dining table in town I could see cows in a field, walk 200 hundred yards and shimmy across an irrigation pipe to pick fresh asparagus. The wheat and Bear Paw mountains co existed side by side. There was no way NOT to respect creation.

In the Summer, we played outside until it was dark, and the rule was only that you had to stay “within hollering distance.” In the winter, it didn’t matter how freaking cold it was. You bundled up, and went outside and played. It may have taken you longer to put on gear then you were outside, but fresh air was important. There were no snowblowers and LOTS of snow, so you learned early how to dress for bitter cold, and how to function in it. You always did the neighbor’s walk. In a land where 20below/ 40 below wind chill was the norm, you respected the weather, and had the proper provisions.

Mother commuted 20 miles to Havre working nights. The car always had extra hats and mittens and she was always giving them away to college kids or someone down on their luck.

Some of our first pin money came from collecting aluminum cans, and I recall our grade school classes getting on a school bus, and going out along the highway picking up litter. A town cleanup day was a normal thing too. Now I laugh, thinking, “whose bright idea was to put an eight or nine year old me and a class of kids like me, out beside an open highway and moving cars?” Probably wouldn’t be legal now or would involve copious amounts of waivers and forms…..but we all survived.

On driver trips and camping trips we learned that garbage we brought in packed out. The goal was to always leave a site better than when we found it.

Nowadays we speak of “random acts of kindness” and “paying it forward.” Both are marvelous concepts, but you see, the thing is, those were just givens. That was just the way you showed respect to the people and the world around you.

Lest I paint a picture of small town eutopia, sadly there were the shadow lands as well. I and many others knew the shame of abuse from a beloved individual who should have been our protector. He betrayed the trust of my parents and many others.

Or you knew exactly whose pickup was in front of the bar too many nights last week. But one learned to be grateful for the good moments and to use the pain of an experience to help others heal,………and to again heed the call to respect creation, respect life.

Later, as I would pray the Divine Office at Sacred Heart Monastery, one of the passages that would reach me most would be singing the “Canticle of Daniel.” The mode used was very ethereal, and one choir would sing the trips, but we would come together on the refrain, ” God of Creation, We Praise you Forever.” Or as this translation says “praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.

“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our ancestors,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.a
Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
praiseworthy and glorious above all forever.
Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
Blessed are you who look into the depths
from your throne upon the cherubim,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,
praiseworthy and glorious forever.
Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.
You heavens, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.
All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.
All you powers, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Sun and moon, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Stars of heaven, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Every shower and dew, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
All you winds, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Fire and heat, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Cold and chill, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Dew and rain, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Frost and chill, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Hoarfrost and snow, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Nights and days, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Light and darkness, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Let the earth bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Mountains and hills, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Everything growing on earth, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

You springs, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Seas and rivers, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
You sea monsters and all water creatures, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
All you birds of the air, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

All you mortals, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
O Israel, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Priests of the Lord, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Servants of the Lord, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Holy and humble of heart, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
For he has delivered us from Sheol,
and saved us from the power of death;
He has freed us from the raging flame
and delivered us from the fire.
Give thanks to the Lord, who is good,
whose mercy endures forever.
Bless the God of gods, all you who fear the Lord;
praise and give thanks,
for his mercy endures forever!

May that be the prayer on my lips today and every day.

Childhood Television

Memory Monday! Growing up in Northern Montana we got three TV channels. There was no cable in Chinook till we were in high school. ( and when the installed they started on Utah street. We lived on Minnesota so we’re some of first to have cable. ) “Cheech and chong up in smoke” and ” the music man” were on HBO that month. But in our childhood, we watched mostly Canadian shows. Like the Tommy zhunter show or kids like “” chez Helene”, “,Mr dressup” and ” the friendly Giant.” Picking the chair as described in this scene was something my brothers and I would even fight over!

My favourite tv show when I was a kid.


First of all,  God and I have a joke about 3:16.    You’ve seen all the sports events where someone holds up a  John 3:16 sign… to signify  “For God So Loved the World…”

Well, God  usually wakes me at 3:16 am,  and in the afternoon something usually happens to turn my head to the clock.

So riding the Amtrack was no exception…


3:16 am……..dear walt whitman
Forgive me for paraphrasing…..
But all i can think of is the glorious choral setting of your poem.

And that i am destroying it.

On the train between Devils Lake and Grand Forks
And it is way too hot to sleep.
However, it appears others are not having that same problem.

For “I hear America snoring, the varied buzzings I hear
Those of old men, long and deep with a stop before resuming again,
Those rapid raspy ones from the guy who had plenty of trips to the lounge car…….”
Airplanes and greyhound bus may be good for people watching,
But nothing like 24 hours in a quasi submarine on rails
In which to observe them….

But for that Wittman gets it right.
There is my seatmate, the music major headed to minnesota..
The lady riding the train from beginning to end because hitting all 50 states before she turns 50 is on her bucket list.
The Amish clan with tow-headed boys in identical bowl cuts.
The guy w ho loves the sound of his voice.

The giggling girls, flirting with the boy in the lounge car.
I hear multiple languages
And amazing questions and comments about a land i love so much.
It is a strange and wonderful cacophany.
And feels suprisingly alright.

It is middle of the night. I have closed my eyes, played games, read and prayed.
Now i am left to my own devices, and glad just to let the brain wander…
For a couple more days before i return to lists and deadlines.

I remember reading something in a freshman English course with a dr tunic many years ago.
I dont know it by heart, but essence was this :

Traveling is important…because it is there where we switch identities or prepare for who we will be to those we are traveling to. It makes sense. People know us differently as a friend, a sister, a daughter, a coworker. As a musician, a thinker, a writer, a cook, a goofball, a friend.

It is not that these identities are a mask or a facade, but we need time to make the switch. So it is as if the car, train plane is a virtual phonebooth for us to make that change.

My dad made a comment this week how Mother loved the 20 minute drive to work because it was a time that just belonged to her.

I Hear America Singing
Walt Whitman, 1819 – 1892

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the
deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing
as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the
morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at
work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young
fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.


Knowing the Land by Heart

“In the morning fill us with your love. We shall exult and rejoice all our days”

Praying Morning Office off my phone in the dark just past Fargo NoDak on the train. Thanks IBreviary. Somehow Psalm 90 seems right. Even n though I can’t yet see the terrain outside, I know it by heart.

I am singing Janèt Sullivan Whitakers “in Every Age” in my heart…

( not aloud…don’t want to be that crazy lady on the train)

O Lord, you have been our refuge *
from one generation to the next.
Before the mountains were born †
or the earth or the world brought forth, *
you are God, without beginning or end.

You turn men back into dust *
and say: “Go back, sons of men.”
To your eyes a thousand years †
are like yesterday, come and gone, *
no more than a watch in the night.

You sweep men away like a dream, *
like grass which springs up in the morning.
In the morning it springs up and flowers: *
by evening it withers and fades.

So we are destroyed in your anger, *
struck with terror in your fury.
Our guilt lies open before you; *
our secrets in the light of your face.

All our days pass away in your anger. *
Our life is over like a sigh.
Our span is seventy years *
or eighty for those who are strong.

And most of these are emptiness and pain. *
They pass swiftly and we are gone.
Who understands the power of your anger *
and fears the strength of your fury?

Make us know the shortness of our life *
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Lord, relent! Is your anger for ever? *
Show pity to your servants.

In the morning, fill us with your love; *
we shall exult and rejoice all our days.
Give us joy to balance our affliction *
for the years when we knew misfortune.

Show forth your work to your servants; *
let your glory shine on their children.
Let the favor of the Lord be upon us: †
give success to the work of our hands, *
give success to the work of our hands.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, *
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, *
and will be for ever. Amen.

Psalm Prayer

Eternal Father, you give us life despite our guilt and even add days and years to our lives in order to bring us wisdom. Make us love and obey you, so that the work of our hands may always display what your hands have done, until the day we gaze upon the beauty of your face.

Ant. Our years wither away like grass, but you, Lord God, are eternal.

In you is the source of life.
– In your light we see light itself.

Kitty Logic (or lack thereof)

Kitty logic. Inconceivable.
Yesterday I had somewhere important to be at 8:30 AM.Unfortunately the volume on my alarms was down and I didn’t wake up. I woke up naturally at 8:20 and scrambled KittyBoy was there smiling smugly saying “Look Mama. I let you sleep in!” and then he sort of snickered at my predicament.

This morning I could sleep in a bit, and I had a rough time falling asleep last night, so it would be a precious commodity today .

But ThugCatGeorge had other ideas. He declared Romper Room open at 4:30 am. He lunges in from the other room and pounces heavily on the bed then bounces across me to the window ledge whilst letting out a gutteral.”wake up!”. When I ignore him, he becomes incensed and makes an exasperated, exaggerated breathing sound telling me “I mean it.” as he runs and pounces again, and yells “Gimme a treat…NOW.” He wears me down by repeating this process three or four more times.

Finally I acquiesce. I get up and head towards bathroom. He snorts, “It’s about damn time,” and forges the way. When I stop to use the bathroom he stomps his feet, “Really?” I really “yes really. Just hold your horses.”

When I come into the dining room, he swats at the empty plate where he gets his KittyCrack>aka “morning treat” saying “ITS….ABOUT…..FREAKING…..TIME” pausing to emphasize each word

Miraculously, a few minutes later what ever demon has possessed my boy is gone. SweetGeorge comes back to me and sweetly says “Morning Mamma, I think I’ll let you pet me! Wanna snuggle?” No more Alien Thugcat. Kittyboy is home. (Note…my spellcheck still turns parish to pariah, but know knows Kittyboy and KittyBoy)

Just as we can tiptoe or step slowly, run, or stamp our feet it never ceases to amaze me how much a 14 pound critter can put in his steps. He can come in a room so quietly that you don’t even know how he got there, or he can lunge so forcefully there is no way of missing it. Similarly a mew can appear to be a simple greeting, or a piteous yowl of woe, or an angry expletive. Cats can be as stubborn or aloof as anything, or as sensitive and tender as can be.

People talk about dogs and how happy they are to see their owners when they arrive. But one of the best parts of returning home for me is our nightly routine. He leads me to the bedroom, knowing I will change into pj’s or sweats and pet him as we talk about our days. That is more important to him then his dinner. If I feed him first he gets upset until he has had his daily scratching and petting.

Smiling and feeling a bit silly but ever grateful for the company of my feline friend. Amen.

Big E’s and Little E’s

An outdoor table
Warm sun, good coffee, great friend
Makes a perfect day

Moments of pure grace
Not to be taken lightly
Breathing earth’s goodness

These humble gestures
Are simple, sacred, holy
Now my heart is full

Many years ago a good friend taught me about the difference between big “E’s” and little “e’s”. Big E as in Eucharist. The sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ, of Sacrament and Sacrifice. When a group shares this together they are bound closer to Christ as ” koinonia”, a fellowship, a community of believers. In my faith tradition there is an opportunity to receive not only weekly Eucharist but daily.

Sometimes, because we are distracted by life, or become too lax in our routines, we can miss the significance of these moments, or not be as present to them as we should. Sometimes the availability and familiarity with the Sacrament can breed complacency, or just taking its Presence for granted.

This friend went on to explain to me that “little e’s” were those beautiful moments of grace and gift we can sometimes experience with family and friends. Just as Jesus took something as simple as a bit of bread and a cup of wine, and made it holy telling people “do this in remembrance of me,” so something as simple as sharing a cup of coffee, a spot of tea, a beer, a simple meal, etc can become a sacred moment, a sort of “eucharist with a little e….”when we pour out our lives with one another, are vulnerable…..these moments may be sacred.

They can happen through these gifted times of conversation, or as musicians come together, or as one becomes enthralled with a piece of art or nature. Athletes and others experience these in their own way. Young parents and a new baby know a sense of communion, of oneness that others cannot fathom. These moments are not limited by Creed.

These are not everyday occurrences. OR perhaps they are and we just miss the opportunity to see them most of the time. Personally, I think they are moments that are rich enough and rare enough that they can touch us….when we reconnect after a long time with someone, or when we don’t realize how much we needed that until after it is over. They can break through a void, snap us back into good humour, or give us the courage to face whatever happens next. These are the moments of the little e. They are sacred. They are gift. And they can bring me to my knees in glad thanksgiving. Eucharist and eucharist . I need them both in my life.

Jill Maria Murdy's photo.

Many Strong and Beautiful Women-Mother’s Day

When you walk into my living room, the first thing you see is a tapestry that my brother John gave me many years ago. It is called “Many Strong and Beautiful Women” by the artist KIKI. It is a bold, contemporary design that bears taking time to study deeply. One of my favorite scripture passages is Proverbs 31, which is often called “The Valiant Woman” or “The Worthy Wife”

As we recall Mother’s Day today, I am aware that my whole life, I have been surrounded by strong and beautiful women, and I pray in thanksgiving for the way they have shaped my life in the past and continue to do so.
Let me introduce you to a few of them.

First off there is my Mother, Rosemarie Murdy. Mom was sixty going on twenty five when she died, and there was little she couldn’t do! Mother was a registered nurse whose specialty was pediatrics. Long before there were things like neo-natal ICU, everybody knew they would call in Rose to special a sick baby, or to start an IV where no one could.

Mother decorated cakes for everyone in town, sewed every dress I had till 8th grade, and even burned a whole in one of my prom dresses while she was doing the final ironing. She was a marvelous cook, and had a huge garden that provided her family with plenty of wonderful things to eat through the winter seasons. Recently I had a few folks over for a big dinner. I spent a fortune in time and money preparing it, and was exhausted afterwards. Mother cooked like that a couple of times a day on a tight budget, while caring for four kids and working full time!

Mom taught Religious Ed Classes, helped with the Blood Drive, the Boy Scouts, the Cub Scouts; did a stint as Blaine County Republican Chair, and helped where ever needed. Mom definitely was a strong woman, in abilities and in personality. When she had an opinion on something she was not afraid to share it or stick up for it.

In a day when the folks didn’t have much, she was always willing to help someone else in need. I recall the camping trips where we took some poor kids under our wings, or the Thanksgiving the band in town to play for the dance the next night ended up at our place for dinner. Mother had many pieces of hand beaded Native American jewelry. Often someone came into the hospital with a sick child and need some money, so Mom would buy a necklace from them. A few folks would stop at the house to sell her beaded jewelry as well. She always kept extra gloves and hats in the car, and picked up plenty of hitchhikers, and made sure they had warm things when they left……just like they were another one of her kids. There was always an extra plate and place ready at our table.

She was a woman with a strong work ethic, and a deep faith. There is the story of the prophet Elisha asking to have “a double portion of Elijah’s spirit” I often think that if I could be half the woman my mother was, I would indeed be blessed Would that I were.


Grandmother Margaret Murdy was another strong soul. She was an art teacher for many years at Sacred Heart School in Miles City, Montana. My grandfather Lloyd Murdy often worked as a hired hand on for other ranchers and was away for months at a time. Grandmother had to make all the day to day decisions and discipline. From what my Father has told me, she was a master of reverse psychology. I don’t have many memories of her. One time we made a project together with flat stones and glue, making it into walls. She came to visit us the summer of 1970, and died on the 4th of July in the big gold chair in the living room. I have the picture of us playing Yahoo, but not a lot of other recollections.

I have little red cardinal knickknacks that were hers, and a few of the “How to” art books she loved. I recall getting a lemon custard cone at the “Penguin” Ice cream shop once when we visited.

I never met my grandmother Walburga Schmidt, but have always felt as if I was a bit of a kindred spirit with her. Grandpa Schmidt came over as an immigrant, and homesteaded in Eastern Montana. He returned to Europe and married my grandmother and brought her over to the US. She went from the beautiful, lush regions of Eichstatt, Bavaria to a dismal dugout in the barren regions of Eastern Montana. Mother told me she loved music, and when I was singing arias in college, she recalled hearing her mother sing some of them. It is amazing to look at pictures of the tar paper shack, and the harshness of that life, yet one can see she made curtains, turning it into a home. She was an excellent cook as well, and always found a way to provide for her family. She died in March of 1962 and I was born in April of 1963. I was lovingly called, “My grandmother’s child.”

A friend of mine has daily and weekly access to her grandchildren. The closest thing to this I had as a young child were a couple of neighbors. Grandma Grayce and Smokey Sandford lived next door, and they were as close to family as one could have without being flesh and blood. There was no fence between our yard and theirs, so our world and games stretched forth into both yards.

In the evenings we would all sit in the back yard and they would do stuff like humor me and time how long it took to run around the house. Grayce and Smokey knit us beautiful wool mittens, and taught me how to play Cat’s Cradle, and numerous card games. They helped keep an eye on us a lot as kids. Grayce made a paprika salad dressing that was simple but good. She was a teacher from Morris, Minnesota when she met Smokey. They spent most of their lives on a homestead on the Missouri River. My dad was always fascinated with the River, and learned much from them about it. When the family went to Grandma Murdy’s funeral, I stayed with Grandma Grayce. They drove a blue rambler with plastic bubbly vinyl seatcovers, and had those amazing bubbling tube Christmas decorations. (Years later, Grandpa Schmidt came to visit us and stayed for several years, so I did get an intense experience of live in Grandpa with him, but I was older then)

Grandma Morgan lived down the hill two blocks away. As a little girl, I heard her playing the pump organ and pretty much knocked on the door and made myself at home. With her we blew soap bubbles through wooden spools, played Old Maid and Crazy 8, and she made these cut out animals out of milk cartons. It was another regular place on my stops.

Growing up in a small town, there are so many people than influence. Lucia Leeds, Nancy Inman, and Gladys Burkhartsmeyer were my introductions to music and vocal production as I sang with the church choir at a young age. Evelyn Schubert, Rita Langford, and Maggie Moffat were all some of my heroes from church choir, and women’s softball. JoAnn Meyer was the stay at home mother of six who moved into town about my 5th grade year. There were always fresh cookies there. She and Ruth Sowers were the adult friends that were not your Mom that you could talk to and ask questions.

Then there were the mothers of all my friends. Mary’s mom Mockie, Sue’s Mom Muriel, Teresa’s Mother Melinda, Micks’ mom Aurelia, Rob’s Mom Ruby…..and so many others…. They all had a hand in raising us. Anybody’s mom could kick your butt if you needed it when we were out playing. Betty Sattleen, Cora Hellman, or Jean Erickson would remind you how to behave too.
Let alone those influential teachers, Janet Olson (and her sister Elsa) Mildred Doney, Anne Dannis, Mrs. Kimball, Mrs. Obrien, Mrs. Jellum, Mrs. Perry, Miss Swant, Mrs. McKay, Mrs. McKivor, Becky Stuker,…. Carla Rask is the only person who ever made me feel like I could succeed when it came to sports, and was kind when my natural clutziness kicked instead.

The women I met during my years at Sacred Heart Monastery taught me so very much about faith, about religion, about life. Ruth, Brigid, Renee, and Annella were my spiritual Ammas. Emily and Jean were my guides. They had such deep devotion to our Lord, and such patience with me. They were so formative in my life, and I am always grateful for that time, and that whether I am inside a Monastery or not I still have the spirit of St. Benedict and the Sacred Heart of St. Gertrude. It has led me in my ministry and my whole life.

When I speak of Strong Women, one who need special mention is my Dad’s wife, Donna Neibauer. She lost her own beloved Neil at young age, and has been through many hardships with My Dad’s brain injury, Tom’s Accident, and Jodi’s illness and passing. She has ever been kind and generous, going out of her way to make us feel welcome in her home. On one side of the hallway hangs the Neibauer picture’s baby and graduation picture, and the other side has the Murdy kids. It is not easy to meld worlds and families when everybody has all moved away, but she has done a wonderful job, and has taken such good care of my Dad all these years.

My aunts and cousins are amazing too. Everyone has their own bit of wisdom and their own life experiences. I’ve been so grateful to live near my Aunt Donna, when the rest of family is so far away. She has been a strong voice of reason and compassion in my life, and a sounding board when life is complex. When I am near her, I feel close to my Mom. It has been amazing to watch my cousins become wives, mothers, grandmothers…….of course sometimes I think “How did they age when I have not?” for I still feel rather childish at times. It is amazing to see their families, and my brothers and my sister in laws too, and how proud I am as I watch the people my nieces and nephews are becoming.

Then there are those of you whom I have not named: My friends, my confidantes, those women I have walked through my life with: the grade school friends I still connect with, people I went to college with, choir and parish members with whom I worship, those whom I make music with, those I know professionally, those whom I have met through modern technology but have yet to hug in the flesh. It is these women that I have learned the sacredness of a cup of coffee or tea, the sharing of a quick bite, a simple text on a busy day, special moments of music, and of silence. Times of great joy, and great despair. The bonds of friendship can be just as strong as the ties of blood. I am ever grateful for you.

So yes, Mother, I love you and miss you this day, but I also celebrate with deep gratitude, You and all the strong women like you that have been a part of my life, and those I have yet to meet. You have formed me. May I draw upon your wisdom, and may I follow your examples today and every day. Amen