My Chicago Home

My Chicago Home
How can we best live as modern, active contemplatives where prairie meets city?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

From New Year's to Lenten Resolutions

Good-bye Shire Breakfast,
hello, fasting...(no one could

eat this much in one sitting
anyway, right?)
A couple days before New Year's, my husband and I went out for a "Shire Breakfast." Denny's was featuring a menu with dishes spun off the "Hobbit," the newly-released movie based on J.R.R. Tolkien's classic tale. Saturday breakfast Bartholomew-style means heading out into pre-daylight. After 23 years of marriage, my husband has converted me. It's either roll out of bed around 5:30 AM and venture forth into that bleary-eyed world, or lose that breakfast connection with him.

I've been walking about 2 1/2 miles to and from Mass 
in all weather thanks to a New Year's Resolution.
On this particular day, we hid in a corner booth. The waitress chatted with us about "Shire" selections and our favorite Tolkien scenes from his novel, as she plied us with coffee. Continuing the epic flare of our conversation as we tucked away pumpkin pancakes and "Shire sausage," we discussed New Year's Resolutions. At one point, my husband said, "There's no reason why you can't go to daily Mass."

With his work downtown and needing to catch an early train, my husband hasn't chosen this option, but he challenged me.

"But every time I try to do that, I get sick," I protested. After about one week adding Mass to an already tight schedule, I usually find myself battling sore throats, sinus infections, etc.

I walk past this historic house connected 
with author Ernest Hemingway after Mass
on my way to town. A cheerful sight 
each morning!
"Well," he countered. "Maybe it's time you tried again."

After breakfast we headed to Home Depot, a peaceful destination at that hour and season. We rambled along together, until Ed got caught in the mousetrap aisle. An amazing end-of-season sale drew me to houseplants.

One tropical plant as tall as my waist beckoned. The price was ridiculously low. Amidst our winter's deep freeze, wouldn't some jungle-like foliage be welcome? Also, it would nicely remind me of my new connections in India (Pray the News in 2013).

The plant needed a larger pot, threatening to make the whole project too expensive. I lined up several plants in the aisle. Several pots. Crossed my arms. Frowned. A middle-aged woman in the orange Home Depot apron popped around the corner. "Can I help?"

I've been taking good care of my new
umbrella plant.
She joined my search, shuffling pots, checking price tags, climbing on all fours into the back of deep shelving units. She finally found a great deal.

"I'll pot your plant for you," she offered.



Thus began a lengthy process of emptying three new bags of soil into the pot, loosening my plant's root ball, and positioning it absolutely straight and centered, a task she approached like an interior decorator hanging wallpaper. 

There are master chefs and master painters. I was watching a master planter. She poured in several $6-7 bags of soil and tapped the pot gently onto the floor to disperse it gently around the rootball. She repeated the process once, twice, then again. She opened a $6 bag of sphagnum moss. I wondered how Home Depot was making money on this deal. 

"You're potting this for free, right?"

"Oh, yes."

I'm doing well with all my houseplants this winter.
For someone who loves gardening, I have a bad track
record with keeping indoor plants alive. Maybe 2013
will change all that. :)

The result? You judge, but we think our new "umbrella plant" looks great!

Over these past weeks, I've often thought about that Home Depot lady. She was professional but warm. She cheerfully crawled around the floor and dug in dirt to make customers happy. She treated that plant like her own. I hope I treat others with such care and dignity. I wouldn't have gotten the plant without her help, and it has become a nice reminder of a number of things: the impact of treating people well, the gift of cross-continental friendship and -- a reminder of a significant morning.

You see, that Shire Breakfast started me off in a new direction. The New Year's Resolution conversation was a watershed, launching me off like Tolkien's Frodo on a quest -- walking to and attending daily Mass each morning. How have I been doing?

Through January, I attended Mass every Sunday and weekday, taking off Saturdays to recover. Hurray! Now this brisk early-morning walk to Mass is so embedded in my daily schedule, I feel off keel on Saturdays when I miss the opportunity. 

But I can't get cocky.  February hit and I felt my energy dip, as I rolled out of bed just 20 minutes before departure. A few days ago, I started feeling under the weather, fighting off chills just in time for Lent. But I'm determined. I was healthy for six weeks of daily Mass attendance, and feeling great as I shuffled through snow to make that 6:15 AM appointment with God. I'm recognizing people in the pews and giving my own version of the papal wave as we all wish each other peace. 
My mom prayed this novena
when deciding whether or not
to marry my father -- a widow
15 years her senior with four
children, aged 9 and under.
She prayed it again to plead
heaven's aid in conceiving my
older brother.

Keeping in the flow of the liturgical year is so beautiful...noting daily saints and reflecting on the readings being offered in every Catholic church world-wide. But most importantly, receiving the daily Eucharist changes the whole focus of the day. As soon as I post this blog, I'm going to go get more Vitamin C! No, I can't let illness deter me...

As for Lenten Resolutions besides daily Mass? I may be choosing too many! I've added prayers to my routine over the past month, becoming better friends with Sts. Raphael and Jude, and the Blessed Mother (through her 54-day Rosary Novena). I'd like to continue with the prayers (posted below), keep up a daily rosary, go off desserts, and give up clutter in my house. And one more. As I go about my days, may I lavish others with the consideration and joy of a "master planter." 

Prayer to St. Raphael -- Patron of Travelers and Bearers of the Good News

St. Raphael, archangel, you protected young Tobiah as he journeyed to a distant land. Protect all travelers and most especially those who go about near and far preaching the Gospel. Guide and inspire modern apostles who use the communications media to bring the Good News of Christ to many souls. 

You also brought healing and joy to all you met. Help those who bring the Word of God to souls, that they may be as instruments in God's hands to draw many to lives of Christian holiness.

We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.

© Daughters of St. Paul

Prayer to St. Jude

Most holy apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honors and invokes you universally as the patron of hope. Pray for me when I feel helpless and alone. Please make use of that particular privelege given to you, to bring hope and comfort and help where they are needed most. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of heaven in my tribulations and sufferings, particularly (here make your request). I promise, blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you. Amen.

From National Shrine of St. Jude/Claretian Missionaries


  1. Thanks for all these good thoughts. I'll think of you on Monday morning...

    1. Thanks, Monica. Your prayer support is so appreciated!

  2. Nice new year resolutions. Waiting to hear lenten resolutions.

  3. Yes, my New Year's Resolution is blessing me, Rince. Lenten resolutions are buried at the bottom of the article, right above the St. Raphael prayer...