Book Review: Mission at Nuremberg by Tim Townsend

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“O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy.”  – Fatima Prayer.

We’ve all said this prayer during the Rosary, but have you ever stopped to think about what it means?  Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy:   Drug dealers.  Child molesters.  War criminals.

Mission at Nuremberg is the story of Henry Gerecke (rhymes with Cherokee), a Lutheran minister who enlisted as Army chaplain during World War II.  The first third or so of the book focuses on Gerecke’s life leading up to the war, his decision to enter military service at an advanced age (he was nearly fifty) and his role in post-D-Day Europe.  When V-E day finally arrived, Gerecke thought he’d get to return to St. Louis and his family; instead, he was sent to Nuremberg to minister to Hermann Goering, Wilhelm Keitel, and nineteen other infamous Nazi war criminals.

Gerecke, along with Catholic priest Sixtus O’Connor, held chapel services with the men on trial, prayed with them, read the Bible with them, and remained by their sides from the day he arrived at Nuremberg until the day of the executions.  (O’Connor’s activities are discussed, although in less detail; unlike Gerecke, he never spoke or wrote about his Nuremberg experience.)

This book is a difficult read, to put it mildly.  Both men were soldiers as well as clergymen, so neither could say that they didn’t know their flock’s crimes. Father O’Connor had been with the first American unit to come across Mauthausen concentration camp, where he buried the dead and ministered to the survivors.  (Pages 195-209 contain graphic descriptions of the horrors of Mauthausen which sensitive readers may want to avoid.)

Pastor Gerecke and Father O’Connor were two very different men, but they had one pivotal thing in common: they both understood the power of Divine Mercy and humanity’s desperate need for it.  The book ends on a relatively hopeful note and reminds us that “Jesus died for everybody” and “God can forgive everybody” aren’t just cliches for a 1970s felt banner.

Overall grade: Amazing.

7 Quick Takes – Bad News, Good News…

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1.  A few months back, I asked everybody to pray for my high school friend K, who is battling a rare and aggressive cancer.  The good news is that K recovered from her first surgery and got through a 2nd surgery to remove metastases with no difficulty.  The bad news is that after the 2nd surgery, her doctors found a metastasis that they hadn’t known about, so she has an extra procedure ahead of her.  Please pray for K and her continued recovery!

2.  Last month, I had a job interview with an employer in the state where BIL and SIL live.  The bad news is that they didn’t hire me (or at least, that’s what I’m assuming since I haven’t heard from them). Update: I did hear from them, and they did indeed hire someone else.  The good news is that next week I have a phone interview with another employer that’s about 1 hour closer to where they live!

3.  The good news is that it’s Friday.  The bad news is… wait, actually there’s no bad news about that.  I don’t know why that’s even on there.

4.  The bad news is that it’s been raining a lot.  The good news is that my garden is going crazy!

I swear this garlic is 2 feet tall.

I swear this garlic is 2 feet tall.

5. Hey, look everybody, there’s a decent photo on my blog and I actually took it!  With my iPhone, even! And here’s one more:

Flowers on my blackberry bush.

Flowers on my blackberry bush.

I got the bush in the above photo in May 2014, and it was barely a foot tall when I planted it. Now it’s 3 feet tall and probably 2.5-3 feet wide, and might actually produce some berries this year.  :)

6.  Also, thanks for the advice on Monday’s post.   Haven’t decided yet what I’m going to do, but I appreciate the feedback.  Percival annoys me for a great many other reasons, so it’s mostly a matter of deciding which hill to die on.

7.  It’s Friday, so we need a song!  This week’s song is “Soak Up the Sun” by Sheryl Crow.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

A Conundrum

I have this coworker who I’m not assigned to work with every day, but when I do, we’re in a big open office environment (kind of like the photo below).

Photo from afcfs.com

Photo from afcfs.com

Every time I’m scheduled to work with this guy, he gets on his soapbox about how same-sex marriage is a civil right, aren’t we all glad that the times are a-changin’, anybody who doesn’t support it is just like a segregationist, etc. Every. Single. Time.

He’s not good at letting it go, either.  Shortly after Michael Sam joined the NFL, he asked me what I thought about it, and I told him, “I’ll be honest with you, Percival, I don’t really care about football.”

“Well,” Percival* sniffed, “I don’t care about football either, but I do care about gay and lesbian rights!”  And then he went on another of his rants, which I mostly tuned out.

Now, I want to make one thing clear: this dude is NOT gay. He’s married to a woman and has children.  I think he’s just trying to pick a fight with me for funsies.  I’ve never mentioned my feelings on the topic and to be blunt, I have zero interest in fighting with him.  If it was a social gathering, I might feel differently, but since it’s work, I’m trying to, you know, work and not get everybody derailed.  I just want him to find something else to talk about, or failing that, just shut his big yapper.  At this point, it’s less the content of his rants that bothers me, and more that it’s the same damn rant every frickin’ time.

So, my question to all y’all is:  How do I tell this guy to cut it the hell out without being the Office Bitch?

That's Miranda Priestly's job.

That’s Miranda Priestly’s job.

*Not his real name, but you probably already figured that out.

Mother’s Day Survival Strategies

The holiday we all hate to hate will soon be upon us.  Mother’s Day is an emotional minefield for those of us who don’t have kids, and while I can’t do anything to make it a happy day, after 11 years of being married without kids on Mother’s Day, I’ve learned some ways to make it suck less.

1.  Go to work.  This has been my strategy for the last few years.  My job requires occasional weekends, and you know who really does not want to work on Mother’s Day?  Mothers.  When they’re scheduled to work on the 2nd weekend in May, the working mothers in my department jump at the chance to trade weekends with me!  They get to spend the day with the fam and I get to focus on something other than “woe is me.”
epic-win

2. “But what about Mass?” The Catholic readers cry.  Darlin’, I hear ya.  Mother’s Day Mass and First Communion Masses are the most mascara-ruining Masses of the year for me.  (Luckily, they’re both in spring and I can tell people it’s just my allergies, but I digress.)  Anyway, here are some things that have worked for me:

  • Go to a really early Mass.  You know who really does not want to get up for a 7 AM Mass on Mother’s Day?  Mothers.
  • Go to a really late Mass.  You know who really does not want to drag everybody back out of the house after dinner on Mother’s Day? Mothers.  This one goes double if you…
  • Go to Mass at the Newman Center.  I’ve blogged before about how wonderful Newman Centers can be even if you’re not a college student.  No kids?  No problem.  Single?  No problem.  You’re the norm at the Newman Center, not the exception.
  • Go to Mass at a convent or monastery.  Reverent, quiet, and if they mention Mother’s Day at all, it’s because they’re praying for their own mothers.

3.  Spend time with the Blessed Mother.  Mary had only one child at a time when large families were the rule.  She became pregnant with Jesus before she was married at a time when pregnancy out of wedlock was an extreme disgrace.  She may not have carried your exact cross, but she certainly knows what it’s like to be left out and the subject of gossip.

You’ll notice I did not mention spending time with your mother.  I’m sure this will be great for some of you, but it won’t work for everybody.  Maybe, like me, your mother lives far away and spending time with her isn’t feasible, or maybe, like Donna, your mother is in Heaven.    Maybe you and your mother don’t have a good relationship and spending time with her would only upset you more.  Even if your own mother is unavailable or a letdown, the Blessed Mother is there.

She's got your back.

She’s got your back.

Do you have other suggestions?  Leave them in the comments.

Job Hunting Update

So, last week I had an interview at a town ~1.5 hours drive from where my BIL, SIL, and nephew live.   For those just joining us, DH and I live in the Midwest but that branch of the family tree lives in the Pacific Northwest.  While this job isn’t as close to them as I’d like to be, a 90 minute drive sure beats a whole day in an airplane.

I had a phone interview with this employer last month and they wanted to schedule an on-site interview right away – and since they offered to pay for my plane tickets and hotel, I figured, what the heck?  DH and I used it as an opportunity to see the family.

The job had a few drawbacks regarding the schedule and there would be a few things I enjoy at my current employer that I wouldn’t get to do as often there.  So when I walked in, I had these lines from I Love Lucy on my mind:

Desi: Lucy, there is one word that means the same thing in English, Spanish, and in French. You know what that word is?

Lucy: What?

Desi:  NO.

Once the interview started, it was a whole different ballgame.  It was probably the most laid-back interview I’ve ever attended, and while the stuff I don’t get to do is still an issue, they have concrete plans to add that to their activities in the next few years.  Plus, the setting is gorgeous, the town is nice, and I would get to see adorable toddler nephew more than once a year.  DH and I would like to be in Big City with the family, but the Big City employers won’t give me the time of day.  (I imagine they see where I live and wonder if we even walk erect.)  We agreed that if the employer in College Town makes me an offer, we could live there for a  year or two and then make the hop to Big City.

So, that’s where it stands.

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7 Quick Takes – Alleluia!

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1.  People ask me why I read mommy blogs when I’m childless.  The best explanation I’ve come up with is this:  Suppose I’ve always wanted to live in London, but because of reasons, I can’t.  Yes, the initial disappointment is terrible, and yes, for a long time I won’t be able to deal with hearing about other people’s trips to London.  But eventually that time will pass, and I will want to hear about your trips to theaters and museums, and even hear your complaints about the weather and the traffic and the Tube.  Sometimes I read about your life in London to get a glimpse into the life I wanted.  Other times, I read your blog and feel grateful for my own life.  Either way, I’m glad I read it.

2.  By the time you read this, I will be finished with my job interview on the West Coast.  When I wrote this on the morning of Holy Saturday, I had pretty strong feelings about the job.  If I still feel that way after the interview, then I know what my answer will be if I get an offer.  (Was that cryptic enough for you? :) )

3.   Is it me or is Holy Saturday the longest day of the liturgical year?   The Easter Vigil is my favorite liturgy of the year but it doesn’t start until evening, and I can’t do anything I gave up for Lent until after I get home from Vigil.  Since this year I decided to challenge myself by abstaining from Facebook and Twitter during Holy Week, that’s one less thing I could do to pass the time until the Vigil.

4. Next week is our last frost!  I’m planning to shake things up garden-wise this year, mainly because I realized that most of my garden beds had tomatoes in them last year and it would be unwise to grow tomatoes in them again.

5. Having said that, I’m not putting away my winter clothes yet!  I’ve lived in the Midwest long enough to know not to put away the winter stuff until Mother’s Day, because if you do, you are guaranteed to be snowed on.

6.  I promise I will be back to real content after this weekend!  I have another book review in the works, plus there will be photos of my baby plants after I bring them home from the greenhouse.

7.  It’s Friday, so we need a song!  This is “Shaolin Monk” by Glove and Boots.

For more Quick Takes from Kelly and others, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Lent 2015, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Divine Mercy Chaplet

So, now that I’ve suffered through my 40 days of Lenten observance, rejoiced on Easter Vigil, and feasted on Easter Sunday, it’s time to take a step back for a moment and reflect.  What did I learn this Lent?  Were these Lenten observances worth doing?  And will I keep them up now that Lent is over?

Discipline #1: Giving up fashion magazines.

Miranda Priestly does not approve.

Miranda Priestly does not approve.

I did this out of a sense that fashion magazines are Not Good For Me, however, it also wound up being a decluttering exercise –  I had a year’s worth of magazines in my bathrooms!  And once they were gone… I really didn’t notice.  I didn’t find myself wishing I could read them, didn’t wonder what I was missing when the April issue arrived, and didn’t wish I could dig them out of the recycle bin and find that eye makeup trick I’d been looking for.  On Easter, I enjoyed the April issue, but instead of letting it sit in my bathroom for a month, I’ll probably throw it away.  And maybe cancel my subscription.  (Maybe.)

Verdict: HUGE SUCCESS.

Discipline #2: The Divine Mercy Chaplet.

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I admitted at the beginning of Lent that I’ve never understood the Divine Mercy Chaplet, in part because I’ve never made the effort.  That includes the most basic effort – you know, praying it.  So, on Fat Tuesday, I downloaded this recording of the Divine Mercy Chaplet and played it in the car on my way to work throughout Lent.  I have grown somewhat in understanding this prayer in that it’s a beautiful way to ask for God’s mercy, not just for ourselves but for everyone else.  It’s also a lovely tool in forgiveness – remembering someone who has wronged you during this prayer and asking God to be merciful to them is a great penance.  What still troubles me about this prayer is the “I offer you the body and blood, soul and divinity…” part.  How can I offer that to God?  I know Jesus gave us all that at the Last Supper, but… I don’t know, it’s just odd to me.  I’m keeping it up for the Divine Mercy Novena, though.

Verdict: Work in Progress.

Discipine #3: Complain less about work.  The place I complain most about work is the car, and during Lent I listened to the Divine Mercy Chaplet on the way to work and the Rosary coming home, I did complain less there.  But I started complaining more at work (mentally, that is).

Verdict:
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