My Hill to Die On

This morning I had an argument with my daughter before we left for church. She wanted to wear her converse high tops to church. I told her absolutely not. She said, “Everyone dresses down in church. I’m the only one that is dressier”. I said, “We are going to worship God in his house and you will dress accordingly”. Even my husband said my grandmothers would be going crazy in this conversation. I went a little further to post a funny Facebook status about my early morning battle of the wills with my daughter. My cousin commented, “Gosh, That’s your hill to die on?”.

I didn’t understand the meaning of what my cousin said so I had to google what “is that your hill to die on” really means. I found things like pick your battles, do you really want to insist on your point of view on this, you are making your stand, etc. After giving it more thought, the comment bugged me.

So here it is. Here’s my “Hill to die on” on the topic of church.

I frequently attended church with my grandmothers during my childhood, through my teenage years and into my early twenties. My grandmothers were devout Catholics. They attended church regularly, observed all of the Holy Days, recited prayers in Italian and English and knew the purpose of every saint. I always admired them for that. As a little girl when I would enter the church with one of them and get settled into the pew, they’d softly whisper in my ear, “This is God’s house and we have to behave in here”.  I did what I was told. I sat quietly and didn’t dare to act up because I was in God’s house.

As far as I am concerned, my grandmother’s were geniuses. Their lessons were simple, to the point and appropriate. Here’s what they said about being in church:

1.Dress respectfully. Remember you are in God’s house.

Lately I’ve noticed that people are really beginning to dress down in church. I’ve noticed athletic shoes, sports jerseys and sweat pants. Once I sat behind a man who’s cloths stunk as if he’d been out late, slept in his cloths and got up and went to church in the same cloths. Yucky! I realize that God probably doesn’t care what people wear to church as long as they go but what happened to Sunday Best? What happened looking your best for God?

2. Arrive on time.

I’ve seen some people arrive as late as the reading of the Gospel, which is about the half way point in an hour long Catholic Mass. I’d be ashamed beyond belief to walk in church that late. Walking into church late pulls the attention away from the person on the alter who is speaking, praying or reading.  It’s disruptive to the people who had the decency to arrive on time because now the on time people have to shift their attention from the Mass to whether the usher is going to ask them to move over to make room for the tardy ones. Traffic delays beyond our control do occur but if the delay is bad enough to make me 15 minutes late, out of respect for others, if I found myself that delayed on my way to church, I’d turn around and go home.

3. Don’t be disruptive to others.

Today I sat on the left side of the church at the isle in the back. There were multiple families that arrived late. Too many to count really. Well into the first reading this young family arrived and sat in my pew. The mother fumbled around in her bag crinkling plastic to open a snack and a find a toy for her toddler child. To make matters worse, they reeked of fried food. The toddler began to talk to his mother as if they were in a room alone and it was okay to be loud. The mother shhh’d him periodically but it was ineffective. It slowly began to wear on my nerves. I literally had to put my finger on my right ear so that I could tune this child out and focus on what the Priest was saying. The fact that I even had to do that made me angry. Thankfully his mother finally removed him.

Today’s mass was about getting epiphanies and revelations of God’s presence in our lives. I cherished every word of the Priest’s homily especially when he told us of a personal experience of his own. I felt God’s presence today, yet I struggled. I struggled to accept that people are going to arrive late and I have not control over it. I struggled to tolerate the noise of this family next to me. I struggled not to judge the people who couldn’t leave their football jerseys and sweat pants home until after church.

After church my husband and I took our daughter out for lunch and I explained to her why we don’t wear converse high tops to church. I told her the three basic principles of church etiquette that my grandmothers taught me. As she prepares for her Sacrament of Confirmation in May, I want her to keep these things in mind. She understood.

So what’s wrong with me? Am I turning into a fuddy duddy because I believe people should dress and behave a certain way in church? Have I lost my ability to accept others as they are even if they are late, improperly dressed and disruptive in a place of worship? There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s called having a set of beliefs. It’s only one of many hills that I will climb to die on during my lifetime. I’ll stand behind this one for the rest of my life. My grandmothers taught me well and I know they’d be proud to see me on this hill.




Luke 2:9-11

An angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified,

but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people.

Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’.

This is what I’ve been looking forward to throughout this Christmas season. I’ve endured the greed of others on many levels, traffic that makes me crazy, the rushing around, the insanity at work, the non stop go go go, knowing that I would attend Christmas Eve Mass with my family. To listen to the Priest read these words from the Scripture, use them in his beautiful homily, and to sing, rejoice and imagine the birth of Jesus Christ.  This is my gift to myself and my true meaning of Christmas.

It is now Christmas morning. We’ve opened presents and enjoyed one of our favorite Christmas breakfasts. At this moment I feel discouraged. I am trying to get past the silence and disappointment that one of my children is displaying. Each kid got things they asked for plus things they didn’t. I spent equal amounts of money on them but did not indulge them. No Red Ryder Bee Bee Gun type of gift this year. I made the mistake of telling this child I had one last thing for them in my car and gave it to them unwrapped. My husband made the mistake of wrapping the expensive item that the other child saved their money for and purchased themselves and saying it was from Santa when it really wasn’t. I think this disappointed child feels they haven’t gotten enough when in reality between my husband and I, our siblings and our parents, they have. My husband and I raised our children to be grateful for what they are given and to work for what they want so when they do get the Red Ryder Bee Bee Gun type gift, it is meaningful for them whether it was given to them or they purchased it themselves. We discourage greed. Yet sometimes this child never feels as if they never have enough and that makes me feel like I haven’t done enough as a parent to teach them.

So, I’ll carry on and relax for a few more hours before it’s time for me to shower and cook dinner. Hopefully this child will do a self check and change their attitude or it will be a long day.

I wish all of you peace, love and joy on this Christmas Day.

Holiday Series Take 1

I sat in the straight backed, hard wooden pew of the Cathedral and inhaled deeply through my nose so that I could smell the  incense of the Catholic Church. It’s a scent that is familiar to all Catholics and one that I find comforting each time I enter the church. I quietly observed the beauty of this place, my eyes often shifting focus between the cement walls, the large cross in the center of the alter and the lights hanging from the ceiling. I wasn’t here for a Catholic Mass though. 

The audience was silent. Applause were forbidden until intermission. I remained in stillness, thankful to be cut off from the outside world for two hours. One by one the songs were played, each performed by different musicians and conductors who added their own magical touch. Chorus, brass, brass, brass, organs, bagpipes, percussion and a popular high school steel drum band. The music entered my ears, made my body tingle, filled my heart and touched my soul. It was so beautiful and spiritually moving it was almost hypnotic.

For years of my adult life, I find myself feeling grumpy during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Year after year the frustration of shopping, rushing, traffic, retail stores being open on Thanksgiving builds and brings me down because the birth of Jesus Christ in our society is lost to greed. Yes, we exchange Christmas gifts with our family. Yes there was a Santa Claus that came to our house when our kids were little. No, my husband and I do not go over board showering our little darlings with every toy and electronic device their little hearts desire. They get a few things and randomly every few years they get surprised with a Red Ryder Bee Bee Gun type of gift because they are deserving. Before any gift exchange occurs in our home on Christmas morning, the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ is observed and reflected upon.

So how do pull myself out of my pre-holiday funks? I look forward to a series of yearly festive rituals that make me feel good and fill me with holiday cheer. It began in December 2012, when my son was a freshman in high school. With his trombone held high in the air, I saw him march in his first holiday parade with his high school marching band as they escorted Santa Claus in. I wasn’t interested in seeing Santa that day, it was the sight of my son marching and playing holiday music that moved me. Miraculously I captured a perfect image of him marching by us. My son is now a young man who is seven inches taller than that kid in the picture and a freshman in college but that image remains with me on the home screen of my phone as a reminder and since that first parade, my list of yearly holiday rituals has grown.

The concert I attended last night, for a second year in a row was The 13th Annual Holiday Brass Concert, and it has officially begun my holiday season rituals. This post is the first in my Holiday Series. It is my hope that my readers who share similar holiday funks will be inspired by this and find their own rituals that give them a reason to exist during the holiday season.

Sunday Spiritual Bliss

This morning I sipped my coffee in my sun room. The sliding glass door was partially open and the curtains are dancing to a gentle breeze that passes through. Outside the sky is gloomy grey and the ground is still wet from all the rain we’ve had recently.

It would have been a perfect morning to go hiking. I pictured myself entering the woods just after dawn, inhaling through my nostrils the smell of the wet earth, the trees and plants and the river. I’d think to myself there’s no other place I’d rather be. The fact that I couldn’t get into the woods this morning made me feel like an animal being held in captivity. To me, going into the woods, in addition to exercise and walking in nature, is spiritual. I learn something each time I go in and come out uplifted and re-energized.

Today though, I had other obligations that kept me out of the woods and I’m extremely grateful for the experience. My daughter is on year two of a two year preparation for The Sacrament of Confirmation. Next May, my mother will stand behind my daughter, as her sponsor while the Bishop anoints my daughter’s forehead with Chrism, the oil used in Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. Confirmation for a Catholic means the Catholic will spend the rest of their lives as a Catholic.

Last year, my daughter was invited to join our church’s youth band. She graciously accepted the invitation to serve God through her music. The youth band performs on holidays and special occasions for the Parish and fills in during the 11AM Contemporary Mass when the Adult Contemporary Band is away. There are two flutes, two guitars, two vocalists, a pianist, a violinist, a percussionist and my daughter the trumpet girl. Imagine this group of 8th, 9th and 10th graders all from different schools playing music for our Lord in a full hour Catholic Mass! They play like professional musicians. Today’s mass was no different. In a Catholic Mass, after the Gospel is read, the Priest discusses the Gospel reading in his sermon. Today’s Gospel, Luke 17:5-10 discusses how God expects us to go above and beyond the minimum of what’s expected of us. The Youth Band was a fine example of meeting God’s expectations. Between the Priest’s sermon and the Youth Band’s music, I left church in a state of spiritual bliss. I couldn’t have been more thankful, more energized and spiritually uplifted.

The added bonus was after Mass, Father reminded us to bring our pets to the church parking lot at 5PM to celebrate The Feast of Saint Francis Assisi, the Patron Saints of Animals. My daughter and I happily brought our poodle. There were dogs, cats, and even a chicken and a goat! The Priest said a prayer and then walked around and sprinkled holy water on our animals. Yes, my dog was blessed with holy water. Yes he was. After a short visit with other members of the Parish, we returned home with our newly blessed dog, who’s been a blessing to our family and our home for over four years. The woods will be waiting for me on Thursday.

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