Thursday, July 29, 2010

Martha, Martha

I woke up a little before 4 this morning and began fretting about some work I should have finished a day or two ago. As I slowly fell back asleep, to capture one more minute, I actually had a dream about meeting with the person to whom I owe the work. I jumped up at 5:30 and knew I had to finish and send it off in an email. Then, His words appeared on the screen in front of me. I wanted to delve into work but I sat as usual with my Lady of Guadalupe mug of hot joe and I read the morning reading. "Julie, Julie, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing." Like clay in the potter's hands, He brought me back and transformed me. He tossed me back on the table and made me into someone completely different. He asked that I sit and listen before I rushed off to my work, just as He has asked me to do a million times with my children. He reminded me that, with Him, I am a different person. I have time to sit and to listen. I can choose the more important parts of life. I am relaxed and calm and He can use me more fully as His instrument. All will be well because we can say "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mustard Seeds and Grandparents

I see we have the Feast Day of Sts. Joachum and Ann along with the Parable of the Mustard seed today and I can't help but make a comment on the importance of our children spending time around their grandparents so those seeds of wisdom can be continually handed down through generations. I'm noticing this morning as I'm reading this parable (as if for the first time) just how much Jesus wants us to realize that the Kingdom of Heaven is in our midst. Now, please understand that this is just my interpretation today for my growth at this moment. I get something different every time I read His Word. But for today, the Kingdom is here and I'm helping to plant these tiny little seeds so that my area can expand and I can just dwell. Happily. And then along comes the idea that past generations have also planted their seeds, some aiding in growth and others aiding in destruction and I see that we have a long, long way to go in this process. You know, to build the Kingdom of Heaven. Here, in our midst. Every single day I can look back, reflect, and see where I have planted and that huge plant has started to become the "largest of plants" and then I have stunted it's growth by a word or a deed and it has shriveled back down to the tiniest seed, so tiny I can hardly see it some days. Today I thank God for my grandparents and my children' grandparents who have purposefully helped in the planting and the cultivating and the watering. I thank God for the journey and the growth and the work of our hands. And, I pray that I can help more in the growth of the Kingdom, here, in our midst so that we may all someday dwell in the branches. There is much work to be done. For every generation.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Big 5-0

Since I'm probably half way through my life, I'd just like to take this brief moment to thank God and all He has put in my path thus far. Longevity's in the genes on one side anyway, so it's possible this is my half life birthday and I am so grateful for all I have and all I have been refused. I must admit, if God had given all I've prayed for in the past, I'd probably be in trouble by now. But, since He does know better and only gives what is good, well... Yes, there have been disappointments and yes, there have been tragedies and yes, there have been tough times but I am so fortunate to have someone who loves me despite myself. I have a wonderful husband (he won't read this) and awesome kids (they will) and incredible parents and siblings (they might). It hasn't always been great but I am grateful, not always smooth but we have sailed, not easy but we've moved forward. And, most of all, it's included faith and love and tons of fun.
From a card I received, the year I was born, 1960, included the filming of West Side Story and the premier of My Three Sons. The cartoons that were most popular were Peanuts and Lil Abner. A movie ticket was .69, a stamp .04, a home $13,725, a gallon of milk $1.04, and bread .20. And the fact I truly love since I just refurbished a 1963 convertible, Ford's new Falcon became the top selling compact. God is good!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Consequence or love

Today we get the direct hit from Jesus tying the Old Testament story to the New Testament. I want to say that He tells us today to stop looking for the signs of when the end will come and start behaving properly because it's the right thing to do. There are a million times in my life that I can recall where I straightened up my act because I was worried I'd get caught and not because it was simply the right way to act. And, here in this Book, God gives us many stories of people who do the exact same thing and yet He still has to send His Son to get the point across. If I go to Mass to follow what the Law commands, then I attend. But if I go to Mass because I love Jesus and I want to participate more fully in His love for me, then I live. If I go to Confession to free myself of sin, then I am temporarily free. But if I go to Confession because I love Jesus and want to try to sin no more, then I live. How would it be to live our lives worried about the consequences, always looking for the sign that it's the end of time? Wouldn't it just be so much more enjoyable to live a life of love for one another? Today, this passage would bring to my friend Jennifer's mind her favorite Walmart blip. She heard a mom yell at her child, "Can't you just understand these two simple words 'be have'?" Always makes me laugh. Jesus wants us to live in His love. He wants us to enjoy are time here and to be examples to one another and to live fully. He does not want us to live by consequence, but by love. He wants us to behave so we do not have to constantly be looking for signs.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Helping Dad at Work

In the grueling heat, my children came to the bookstore and helped their dad unload 3 pallets of candles.

This guy's arms were a little sore the next day but he was happy to help.

Because of the heat, only the candles that could be delivered immediately could go in the van.

So it took quite a while to figure out where to store the rest of the candles inside the building.

But the kids seemed to have a good time together even though they were hot and tired.

1 Thessalonians 4:11
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you,

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

St. Henry

Amidst the craziness of the times, King Henry worked for peace in Europe and built a number of Churches and Monasteries. Working for peace. Building Churches. In 1957, Henry Neuhoff gave the Diocese of Nashville land to build a Church and School in the West Meade area of the city. In the 1960's, my family moved into one of the first houses built in the neighborhood and we attended the new St. Henry School run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia.
Early lessons of faith and values taught by my parents and at our school were duly noted but dodged. Stored but ignored so to speak. Along with Vatican II, the sixties brought us to this new neighborhood which for me meant a whole new world of possibilities. As Latin became English and altar rails were removed to welcome the flock more fully to the table, houses in our neighborhood were being completed and families were moving in weekly. As Pope John XXIII had opened the doors of the Vatican to other religions, I was knocking on doors meeting new families as soon as the moving vans rolled away. In a family of eight, soon to be ten, I took it upon myself to scout out new members of the hood, new possible classmates, and report back to my tribe. Open wide the doors became my motto also. I felt comfortable anywhere I landed.
The hood was my home. “Hello, my name is Julie Dortch and our family lives over on Vaughns Gap and I’d like to welcome you to the neighborhood.“ That was my line. I learned, I practiced, I delivered. Although I couldn’t separate people as religions but as possibilities of friendships or clients or attention, most of the families in our area seemed to be either Catholic or Jewish. Not too many years after we moved in, the Jewish Community Center was built on the back side of the St. Henry Church property with quite a stretch of land and trees in between. A huge swimming pool and tennis courts brought together the Old and New Testament kids without politics. We became a natural community before “communities” were in and the area was soon referred to as Vatican Valley.
Vatican Valley became my comfortable place. The place I sought opportunities and learned from mistakes and received a faith to carry throughout my life. Vatican Valley became that comfortable place I would return to with my children to pass on the many gifts of each day, the faith I learned and the hope promised in the Resurrection.
As my children trudge through the back and up St. Henry drive to school and back every day, I am grateful to those Henry's who fought for peace and helped to build churches and schools. I am grateful to be back in Vatican Valley and to have the same opportunities for my children that I had as a child. I am grateful for the sisters who still teach at our school and for the examples given to our children. Amidst the craziness, this is our comfortable place. Our place of peace. Our Church. Our school. Our neighborhood. We are blessed. St. Henry, pray for us.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Another Man on the Street

Saturday, I happened down the stairs from my work in the attic of the bookstore just in time to catch my semi-regular, extra tall, extra lean, Nigerian street guy in the Bible section on the second floor. He stood in front of a (dressed in full habit) Sister with his hand out as she poured the change from her small coin purse into his hand. I walked directly over to them as I heard Sister say now that is all I have but I want you to pray with me now. "Who is your favorite person to pray to?" "Mother Mary." And so we proceeded to pray the Hail Mary slowly together as the Sister reached over and put her hand on his hands. At the end she added, "St. Martin de Porres?" And the man responded, "Pray for us." Then I piped in, "Now give Sister back her money and let me take you to get something to eat." He laughed, "Oh no." And Sister agreed. She didn't want the change. She said, "Now remember. When you're yelling across the street, I can't understand who you're talking to." "I called mother, mother." "I'm not a mother, or a mama, I'm Sister." "Yes. Okay"
I walked down with the young man and out the front and asked him to let me take him to get something to eat. "No. No. I eat. I am fed at the Mission. Now I have money for my liquid!" He reached both hands across and patted the tops of my shoulders and let out a screeching laugh. "I know what you have money for and that's why I think I should take you for something to eat. You smell like you have had plenty to drink." "No. No. I am good." And he walked on down the street.
I am truly not judging and I know it is so much easier to get these people on the street to leave us alone by giving them a few dollars but my question today is, "Are we helping anyone?" Are we helping the next person who comes by and has to make the decision whether to give money or not to give? Are we helping the street guy? I give money to these guys oftentimes because I'm busy and I want them to move on. A lot! But here is a prime example to myself of why I should take the time to pray with them or for them as the good Sister did and to take them for food or water and not give them money. Seems I am paying for them to remain on the street. Jesus says today, "And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple – amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward." Only a cup of water? Is that all? Really? No money? Can a cup of cold water really change the world? The water, the gesture or the discipleship? Maybe all three.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

St. Maria Goretti

Today we remember the life of a young girl who upon the death of her father and a time of hardship for her family, cheerfully cared for her baby sister, cooked for her family, kept their house clean, prayed the rosary daily with her siblings and was a true example of holiness to everyone around her. Maria Goretti, at age 12, although attacked and stabbed 14 times, lived long enough to make a difference to her family, the people at the hospital, her confessor and the young man who killed her, Alessandro. Maria lived her life bringing others to Christ.
From today's readings we hear, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest." Through the example of Maria, we understand that we are never too young to labor for Christ. The time to persevere in difficult situations, the time to pray and to be an example to others, the time to work and the time to forgive is now. The harvest is abundant. May we and our children follow the examples of those who have gone before us. May we emulate the Saints and heroes of the Church and labor to produce good fruit. May we live long enough to make a difference in the lives we touch. And, like Maria, may we forgive, truly forgive, those who hurt and offend us.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

St. Thomas the Apostle, No Doubt

I must be careful about my lax way of saying, "Oh I'm so much like Thomas the Apostle, always doubting what God has planned for my life and always wanting to see to believe instead of just taking things on faith." One quick moment with his buddies and some remarks about the possibility of Jesus appearing to them and he's labeled for life "Doubting Thomas". But there's much more to Thomas then that moment of disbelief. His words when Jesus decides to return to Bethany for Lazarus, "Let us go along, to die with him" are words of loyalty. His words at the Last Discourse, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" lead us as we come to realize and to understand as Jesus reveals, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me." And finally, his words today upon seeing the Risen Jesus face to face, "My Lord and my God."
Today as I claim to "be just like" Thomas in my walk through this life, I must see beyond the doubt. As I want to hear His voice and to see His face and to understand clearly all He has put in front of me, I must also be willing to die with Him, to walk the long roads back into the possibilities of difficult situations. I must be able to lead others on the way, to the Truth, so they may have Life. And, I must be able to recognize Him in the smallest, most remote spaces, under the stress and anxiety of thinking He is no longer in our midst. I must be able to see His face and say, "My Lord and my God." No doubt today, there is much more to seeing and to believing.

Friday, July 2, 2010


"One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."

Every time I read the above Scripture quote I think of an old time favorite St. Mary's Bookstore street guy, Paul. He came in loaded one day, slouched at the rosary counter, and when asked just why he was so plastered, responded, "My dear, it's clear in Scripture, 'one does not live by bread alone.'"
Paul hung around Nashville for years and years. His days ranged from completely sober and attending daily Mass to completely out of his mind (sometimes still attending Mass). For years, my mother helped him through every day she possibly could. He was a self proclaimed artist, sketching portraits of Jesus, looking like, well, himself. How appropriate! He received oil dividends from his uncle in Louisiana which we cashed and tried to divide out so as to last him for longer periods of time on the street. When he cashed big ones and we did not help him make them last, he'd stay in hotels and ride in cabs and drink massive amounts all over the city, allowing other street people to steal from him. Difficult for us to understand and yet explained by another street person, "Most of us just want to be living on the streets. We love the freedom despite the danger. You just need to leave us be. You could never understand." And, SHE was right. But my mom accepted Paul's craziness and his wild talk and loved him for who he was, a man who did not live on bread alone and not merely on every Word that comes from God. She bought him a pair of glasses, clothes, shoes, Bibles and books, charcoal and drawing paper, and food. She gave him her time and attention. We learned as years passed that Paul was a very educated man who partied and messed with wild "new" drugs and who watched his girlfriend kill herself. Of course, he was never, ever the same. He was Catholic and we would often spot him out in the back parking lot offering his confession to a priest. He made many friends and we would see him all over the city depending on how much money he had at the time. He always talked about retreats and I assumed he meant those he attended in his mind until one day a customer remarked that he had seen him at Gethsemane. Now can you imagine? After 10 or 12 or 15 years of dealing with Paul off and on for weeks at a time, he disappeared. Occasionally I think I see him around town, only to get closer and find it's not him. I can only hope and pray that he has received the help he so longed for and yet never really wanted. I personally am better from watching my mother care for him and reprimand him and love him just as he was, one who did not live on bread alone. Paul, I hope you have somehow, somewhere, found peace.