My thoughts and reflections on my Catholic Faith, Fulton Sheen, the problem of suffering, and books

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Caregiving: Death, Faith, and Bedside Commodes

(...or when a blog post you started months ago takes a totally different turn....)

I am a caregiver. For three-and-one-half years, I worked privately; then, almost a year ago, I got a job with an agency. I've cared for probably a dozen clients; and while some have been axasperating, on the whole, I've liked them.

I lost a client in December. I only had the privilege of caring for her for two days at the end of October. The shift was a last-minute one that needed to be filled; I accepted it because it was nearby...and then I read my client's assessment and found out that she was dying. I was terrified: what if she died on my shift? what if she needed more than I could give? what would I say [I'm an expert at sticking my foot in my mouth in delicate situations]? But then I accepted it, and found a charming woman--funny, kind, gentle, grateful...and I picked up a shift with her the next week as well. It was heart-breaking to see how much she had declined in just that one week; but she was still funny and kind and graceful. I tried to pick up more shifts with her, but they were filled; and then her family came, and she no longer needed my company's services.

In mid-December, in a middle-of-the-night moment (I have too many of those), I looked my client up online, and found that she had died ten days previously.

I had known she was dying; but even still, the news rattled me.

I went to my office's Candelighting Ceremony in January. None of my client's family members were able to be present; I was the only one of her caregivers who attended; and thus, I was privileged to light a candle in her memory and to take home a white rose. When the rose wilted, I pressed the petals, and put them in a box, so I can always remember Ms. L.

I can't tell you now what it was I loved about her...I've had other clients whom I've known I loved during the time I was caring for maybe it's just the fact that she's the first client I lost, that's made her stick with me.

I believe in God. I believe in the resurrection of the body. I believe in life everlasting.

How does someone who possesses no faith--someone with no belief in God, in a life after this one--perform a job as a companion to the elderly, or a Personal Care Assistant (my title), or a nurse, or a doctor?

When I first started with this company, this was my mindset:
I am not a saint by any stretch of the imagination; there most definitely is no halo around my head; and there is no way in heck I would do this job for free. (I'm no Mother Teresa!) This is my job right now--I need money in order to live, to pay bills, to buy food, etc. This is only a job, only something I'm doing "until something better comes along."
Thanks to a change in circumstances, the job has moved on from being merely a job, merely something I'm doing for the money, merely something I'm doing "until something better comes along," to something more.

I don't want to call it a "vocation"; I don't think God is calling me to spend the rest of my life caring for the elderly (I hope He's not!) but I'm beginning to find the joy in the job, rather than to let the job take away all the joy.

A few months ago, I was emptying a particularly foul bedside commode, and the thought came--I hope in the form of a prayer: "I want to empty this commode as if I were doing it for You, Lord."  Now, let me be clear that that thought does not cross my mind every time I have to perform that task; sometimes it's pressed out through gritted teeth, from a tired caregiver who's not sure she's making a difference in anyone's life; sometimes, in the normal human disgust at the task, the thought doesn't occur to me at all.

However, that is exactly what needs to be my motivation--the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning, that sends me into my clients' homes with a smile no matter how cranky I may feel.

Because this job is an opportunity to serve Christ in these elderly people. Because He's there. There is an opportunity for me to serve Christ in the lady with schizophrenia who does not seem to realize that "cleanliness is next to godliness." (Ms. B died in January...may she rest in peace.) I can serve Him by repeating myself three times as I try to have a conversation with the nearly-deaf ninety-seven year-old. And I can serve Him in the couple--both members of the Chosen People--whose request to go to the grocery store fills me with terror, because one of them walks extremely fast, and the other walks extremely slow, and somehow I have to keep an eye on both of them!

Christ is there. They're made in His Image and Likeness, so I have to remember, even on the most exasperating days, these words from Jan Karon's Mitford Series:

"Lord, make me a blessing to someone today."

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Song Review: "Thy Will," by Hillary Scott

A few weeks ago, I heard a song on the radio. It was one of those times where I had the radio on as background music while I did chores, so I wasn't paying much attention to the lyrics. Then some of the words did catch my ear, and I stopped what I was doing to really listen. I closed my eyes as the words sunk into my heart.

 The song became a prayer.

I'm so confused
I know I heard You loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here

These first lines can ring true for so many of us: we're confused. And this isn't confusion about the big things such as why there's evil in the world; this is personal, intimate confusion, the kind that we voice only to the Good Lord or to close friends.

We thought we heard God telling us to do this; so we did it. Except...we didn't end up where we thought we would. We're confused, we're lost, we're hurting.

I don't wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of Your plan

We don't want to think too much about the situation, because we'll drive ourselves batty, or we'll end up frustrated and upset and in tears. The more people tell us, "Hang in there, God has a plan!" the more we want to scream: "But this situation/problem/ circumstance/whatever can this hurt, this pain, this frustration, be the plan of an all-good, all-loving God?  My heart is breaking; how is that Your plan, Lord?!"

And it's important to note that this song is a prayer; Hillary Scott is not talking about God; she's talking to Him. Sheen explains the difference in his poem "Complain" in Our Grounds for Hope: Enduring Words of Comfort and Assurance:

God does not frown on your complaint.
Did not His Mother in the Temple ask:
“Son! Why hast thou done so to us?”
And did not Christ on the Cross complain:
“My God! Why hast Thou abandoned Me?”
If the Son asked the Father,
And the Mother the Son – “Why?”
Why should not you?

But let your wails be to God,
And not to man,
Asking not, “Why does God do this to me?”
But: “Why, O God, dost Thou treat me so?”
Talk not about God, as Satan did to Eve:
“Why did God command you?”
But talk to God, as Christ to His Father.
(Emphasis added)

The song continues; we pray...or we try to pray...but all that we can find to say, the only words that come to mind, even if we're muttering them through gritted teeth, are the prayer of Our Lord in the Garden:

When I try to pray
All I've got is hurt and these four words
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

We recognize the goodness and omniscience of God; but because we're human and because our little finite minds can't see things as the infinite God does, we don't see how the goodness of God is manifest in this situation.

I know You're good
But this don't feel good right now
And I know You think
Of things I could never think about

As it says in Isaias 55:8-9:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. [9] For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts.
We struggle to follow James' admonition to "count it all joy, when you shall fall into divers temptations; Knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience. And patience hath a perfect work; that you may be perfect and entire, failing in nothing" (Jam. 1:2-4). The noise and the pain and the tears distract us from seeing the joy and seeing how God is keeping His promise to never abandon us (cf. Deut. 31:6):

It's hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all Your promises

What we need to remember during these times is that we're not God, we don't see the whole picture. He does; He knows where we'll be in twenty years and how we're going to get there. (Sometimes I'd like to know that ahead of time...or maybe not!)

Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that You're God
And I am not

When we return to the refrain, there is a new line: "Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is." From our earliest childhood, we learned to pray "Thy Will be done" in the Our Father; we learned it in the Bible story of Our Blessed Lord's Agony in the Garden. The "like a child" does not only refer to our childhood prayers, but to the childlike trust that we have to have in God to truly pray the words "Thy Will be done":

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will

The song continues with an act of faith and trust: we know that God sees our heartbreak, that He hears our plea...and that because He is all-good and all-merciful and all-loving, He wants to heal our broken hearts, answer our pleas, and dry our tears, whether in this life or in the next:

I know You see me
I know You hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness You have in store
I know You hear me
I know You see me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness You have in store

The song concludes with the refrain, the line about childlike faith, and a final act of faith:

So, Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
I know You see me
I know You hear me, Lord

Lyrics from

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Chores, Surveys, and other randomness

I had thought about a few posts the other day...but unfortunately, I have begun to look at this blog as a chore; my thought process goes something along these lines: "O dear, I sorta told my readers I would write a blog post. Now I have to do it, dagnabbitall."

I just checked the stats of the two surveys I'd posted on here....A Majority Vote and Favorites and saw that someone had answered the survey recently. If you haven't taken either survey, please take them! I know they're old, but they're still open! (Especially since I forgot they existed....)

It seems that y'all's least favorite thing about this blog is the infrequent posts...I'm sorry! I frequently forget I have a blog......

Since my last post, I went out to the ol' alma mater for the Fourth of July, had a good day with my adopted family. And I went out to a surprise party to bid farewell to my adopted younger brother as he heads off to seminary in Rome. It was a ton of fun!

I can't remember if I told y'all this or not, but I have a new job. Actually, it's the same job I've been doing (caregiver for seniors), just with an agency instead of privately with only one couple. It's going...ok, actually. My attitude toward it hasn't been the best, leading to a lot of anticipatory dread the night before a shift, or a new client...but the anticipation has been worse than the reality so far.

The cons: I'm putting a lot of miles on my car, my first real paycheck won't be until the end of the month. (I forgot to call the office to tell them I was going to pick up my first actual paycheck, so they mailed it to me; it'll probably be here Monday. But it will be small, because I only worked one day in June.)

The pros: no one has had a psychotic break and flailed a hammer near my head. ("Hammer-phobia"'s a thing. I invented it three years ago. I suffer from it. It is a fear of hammers being swung around wildly, or used for something other than their intended purpose.) So far, the elderly people I've met have been polite, kind, etc.

The cons: people telling me "O, you're just like Mother Teresa!" when I tell them what I do. No, I'm not. She was a saint, she took care of the poorest of the poor" without pay. I am not a saint. I need money to pay the bills (ugh, bills...), to put food on the table, to keep a roof over my head. I do not think I could do what I'm doing for nothing. Not that it's been that difficult yet...but this is not my ideal job.

The cons: I think my job is trying to steal my life away. Since I told them I'm available from 9 am - 4 pm Monday through Friday...then I have to be available. This past week, I was scheduled for a one-hour shift Thursday. So I thought I'd go meet up with a friend. Then I got a text Tuesday telling me that they had assigned me to a 6-hour shift. My life belongs to this senior care agency....must not have read all the fine print on all those papers I signed. "I, Emily C. Hurt, hereby sign my life away to your agency for 24 hours a week."

Which reminds me of a poem I've been looking for. It was in one of the readers from Seton Home Study School; I think it was about a totalitarian government. The only lines I remember are: "Patriot, we want you whole, your ~ body, your ~ soul!" and the patriot replies something along the lines of "My soul belongs to Christ alone." Does anyone know what poem I'm talking about?

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Random Five A.M. Musings

Hello, my dear, faithful readers. (Are any of you still left? I did notice that someone recently liked my blog's Facebook page, so I'm guessing someone still reads the Theological-Librarian...)

I'm sorry for not writing sooner; the past month or so has been crazy.

I accepted a job with a senior care agency...I'm really nervous about that, very afraid that I'm going to get burnt-out again, and I've barely even started! Plus, I'll be working on average of 7 hours per week in the month of July, so it would be ridiculous if I got burnt-out. Please pray that I can find ways to re-charge!

The day after that interview, I turned 27. My roommates made me cake at lunch, and then after I worked my evening shift for the elderly couple I care for privately, one of my roommates surprised me with a party at the local brewery! Five old college friends, plus a local friend, showed up. It was a total surprise, and tons of fun!!

Over that day of my birthday and the day after, I had a major disagreement with a friend. Thanks be to God, I can now say that that disagreement has been only took a month (sarcasm alert!)...a month full of stress, anger, jitters, and fear. I'm blaming St. Peter for the resolution, because it was on his feast-day earlier this week that I made the decision to drive out to where this friend works, sit down, and talk. We had a really good talk, and now everything's okay. (I really need to work on my tendency to hold a grudge... And my fear that my friends will get mad at me and never want to talk to me again when I stick my foot in my mouth.)

As of two weeks ago, I own a book autographed by Venerable Fulton Sheen. My roommate, who teaches at the Seton School in Manassas, found it in the library and showed it to me. I asked Mrs. Carroll if I could make a donation to Seton's chapel in exchange for the book, and she said "Yes." So, making book #27 in my ever-growing collection of books by Sheen, is his 1941 Declaration of Dependence, from which I hope to share some quotes over the next few days.

For now, feast your eyes on this picture:

Yesterday, I signed up for a free trial subscription to Because...if you can spend seven days finding and saving old newspaper articles regarding Ven. Fulton Sheen...why not?

The only other interesting things going on around here is that this is the second night in a row I've woken up at an ungodly hour (neither 4 a.m., nor 5 a.m. is a godly hour, just sayin') after nightmares regarding close college friends. You know, the kind where your friends are in danger and you can't save them?

So that's why I'm typing this blog post, which listening to this song:

Piano cover of "Good, Good Father" by Chris Tomlin

Bye for now, and God Love Y'All!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


Almost two years ago, I shared with y'all that Sheen's Cause had been suspended.

Now it is going to move forward again, thanks be to God.

Here's the Press Release from the Diocese of Peoria:


Friday, June 3, 2016

Jobs and Books

I am now in my twenty-eighth year of life, and so far it's off to an interesting start. I applied for a job that I didn't really want--the application was an act of desperation, as in "I need a job that will pay the bills and actually make me financially solvent"--got an interview, got offered the job, and accepted it. That same week, I got two other interview offers. I'm taking the interview offers, even though the jobs are part-time, because I would prefer either of those to the job I accepted.

I've been doing a lot of reading lately. Last week, when I was at the library, I was trying to find something to read, and I thought of going over to the Reference section. I pulled this book off the shelves and flipped through it: Historical Fiction: A Guide to the Genre

Now, the disappointing thing about flipping through a reference bibliography of historical fiction is...the branch you're at might have very few, and perhaps none, of the books that you read about and say to yourself: "I want to read THAT ONE."

For instance, this book, A Far Better Rest, by Susanne Alleyn. It's Sydney Carton's story from his own point of view. That piqued my interest immediately, because I love Dickens' Tale of Two Cities. When I first began to read it in ninth grade, I thought I would hate it; it's about the French Revolution, people get their heads chopped off...I expected it to be gory and boring. Then I actually read it, and once I got through the "recalled to life" motif and met Sydney Carton...once he made his proclamation of love to Lucy...I fell in love. I choked up at the end of the book Now, this book by Susanne Alleyn does not look as well-written, at least from the preview on Amazon, but it's definitely one I would like to read. (If only the library had a copy....!)

I also discovered the Jewish author Chaim Potok. The title of the first book I checked out made me wince: Old Men at Midnight, but it was a good read, nothing scandalous. I just started The Chosen today, and am enjoying it almost as well.

O, and in exciting news: one of the interviews I have...two weeks from for an "on-call" position as Library Assistant for our local public library system. I don't know how I landed the interview, since the fourteen other applications I turned in were rejected in part because I didn't have enough hours, but I'm not complaining. It's a LIBRARY interviews, guys...that's kinda AWESOME! Please pray the interview goes well!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Saint Athanasius' "On the Incarnation"

Yesterday was the Feast of St. Athanasius. When a friend pointed that out to me, I realized that I had indeed read some of Athanasius' writing, and I dug through the box that contains ALL the THEOLOGY. (It's a cardboard box that used to hold computer paper and now holds most of my notes from the seventeen theology classes I took in college.)

The Spring of my Junior Year, I took a class called De Verbo Incarnato (On the Incarnate Word), taught by now-Dr. Eric Jenislawski.

We spent the first several days of De Verbo reading a little book by Athanasius called On the Incarnation.

It's a short book, only about fifty pages long, but it's very profound in its presentation of Christology. [An important note is that Athanasius wrote this to his friend Macarius; this is not a work of apologetics (defending the Faith against false teaching), but one friend telling a fellow-believer about doctrine.]

Athanasius states that the prime purpose of the Incarnation was the salvation of mankind:
He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men. (2)
[I]t was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us. It is we who were the cause of His taking human form, and for our salvation that in His great love He was both born and manifested in a human body. (4)
Athanasius addresses the question of why God did not just leave us in our fallen state:
It would, of course, have been unthinkable that God should go back upon His word and that man, having transgressed, should not die; but it was equally monstrous that beings which once had shared the nature of the Word should perish and turn back again into non-existence through corruption. (6)
The Word became man so that we might know God:
When God the Almighty was making mankind through His own Word, He perceived that they, owing to the limitation of their nature, could not of themselves have any knowledge of their Artificer, the Incorporeal and Uncreated. He took pity on them, therefore, and did not leave them destitute of the knowledge of Himself, lest their very existence should prove purposeless. For of what use is existence to the creature if it cannot know its Maker? How could men be reasonable beings if they had no knowledge of the Word and Reason of the Father, through Whom they had received their being? They would be no better than the beasts, had they no knowledge save of earthly things; and why should God have made them at all, if He had not intended them to know Him? But, in fact, the good God has given them a share in His own Image, that is, in our Lord Jesus Christ, and has made even themselves after the same Image and Likeness. Why? Simply in order that through this gift of God-likeness in themselves they may be able to perceive the Image Absolute, that is the Word Himself, and through Him to apprehend the Father; which knowledge of their Maker is for men the only really happy and blessed life. (11)
Because we are body-soul composites--because we learn through our senses, and not only in a spiritual manner, God became Man like us so we could experience Him through our senses. Think of the Eucharist--the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the God-Man, made apparent to our senses of touch, taste, smell, and sight. Athanasius writes:
The Savior of us all, the Word of God, in His great love took to Himself a body and moved as Man among men, meeting their senses, so to speak, half way. He became Himself an object for the senses, so that those who were seeking God in sensible things might apprehend the Father through the works which He, the Word of God, did in the body. (15)
There are many, many more paragraphs and quotes that I could share with y'all here, but I think this is enough for today. Maybe I'll pull out my De Verbo paper and explain how that paper, and how several other events, led ultimately to the writing of my Senior Thesis on the topic of suffering.

God Love Y'All!