When I was little, I loved to watch Popeye the Sailor Man. There was something so good about the one-eyed spinach-eating sailor. He was gruff and marbled his raspy words. His body was disproportionate with massive forearms, and legs that bowed out in curvy clumps. He had a tattoo on his arm, a pipe in his twisted mouth, and Olive Oyl, his waif of a love interest, on his arm.
Wearing a white Navy outfit, he embodied the everyday hero. Maybe that was the draw to him. He wasn’t polished and refined like a prince. He wasn’t movie-star handsome. He didn’t speak eloquently. He ate food from a can. He was mostly bald. Occasionally, he even sported a bit of stubble as if he couldn’t bother with the vanity of beard-grooming. After all, he had bullies like Brutus to fight. In every episode, Popeye ensured that good triumphed over evil.
I grew up believing that people were good. Bad guys were just television entertainment to enforce the seemingly universal truth that we all want the same thing – for the good guy to win, order to exist, and happy endings to prevail. We certainly couldn’t accept the havoc brought by bullies such as Brutus. Read more
“Ashes to ashes and dust to dust” seems like such a dark way to portray death. Anyone who has ever lost a beloved knows that death is both cruelly final and endlessly enduring. The love, influence, and lessons the deceased impart doesn’t stop with their heartbeat.
Sprouting from the death of winter into the hope of spring is the fragile bloom of memories that remain in our hearts. It’s a beautiful gift that dulls the thorny sting of loss.
Recently, I attended the rosary of a friend who lost her mother. Comforting the sorrowful and burying the dead are important works of mercy. When my stepfather passed away, I remember well the people who attended the funeral or who stopped by with a meal. It was such a comfort to have our loss acknowledged. It reminds us that even though we lost a loved one, we had not lost love. It envelops us in our cocoon of grief promising life’s joy will reemerge like a butterfly. That’s a beautiful thing to be reminded of when you are grieving. Read more
I used to live in New Orleans where the celebration of Mardi Gras is as huge as one of those oversized floats wobbling down St. Charles Avenue skimming the canopy of oak trees as krewes throw plastic beads at enthusiastic revelers. Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday, is when Christians are encouraged to reflect on repentance before the solemn season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. I never had the impression that the people smushed together on Bourbon Street reflected anything other than how alcohol really, really lowers inhibitions. Still, I love a parade and feeling like Mr. T from the 1980s television series, The A-Team with 40 pounds of shine dangling from my neck.
Shrove Tuesday is like New Year’s Eve in the secular world. You celebrate, indulge, and imbibe. The next day you wake up pop some aspirin, chug water, and begin your resolutions. Lent isn’t as much about resolutions as it is a time to make restitution for ways we have failed God. Maybe that sounds like a buzz kill compared to the revelry of Mardi Gras or even the zeal of New Year’s resolutions, but I love the sobriety of Ash Wednesday. I love going to mass and seeing the community of believers line up to face mortality with the meekness of remorse and hope that is mercy. It’s not just lining up for ashes, it’s realigning ourselves with God. It’s committing to taking off the weight of sin, to stripping away anything that separates us from our Savior and preparing ourselves for the joy that resurrection brings.