Corned beef dispensations. Seriously!


File this one in the “REALLY????” file. Bishops in the United States are making official statements on whether the faithful in their dioceses will be allowed to eat corned beef this St. Patrick’s Day. (St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday this year.) Word of Caution. This is not a nation wide dispensation, people!  Check your local listings for the rules and regulations in your area, or read this informative article from CNA (Catholic News Agency).

Where it’s OK to eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day this Lent

This is not the first article I read on the topic this week. I tried to avoid the discussion, knowing I had nothing to add except snark. But, after spending the day trying to wrap my head around deeper, more serious issues to write about, this topic was simply too delicious!

Obsessing over rules hearkens back to pre-Vatican II days. We laugh about some of them now. Remember when women pinned a kleenex on their head if they came to Mass without a hat? Silly, right? Not so silly if you were raised to give blind obedience to the church and her priests. Not so silly if you were told, over and over, that breaking these rules would put your soul in immortal danger.

The concept of fasting is good and holy. Jesus did it. It helps us to discipline our bodies. It’s a spiritual practice that can help focus the mind and body on prayer. Feeling physical hunger also unites us with those who are hungry every day, reminding us that those who have are called to share with those who don’t.

Fasting is a simple, biblical discipline.

Sadly, the church has too often taken simple biblical teachings and wrapped them up in increasingly complicated rules and regulations. The Communion fast is an excellent example of Catholic obsessive-compulsiveness at its best.

Fasting on Fridays became focused on not eating meat. More specifically, the flesh of warm-blooded animals. Hence, the ecclesial thumbs up to fish and all their shellfish cousins.

The absurdity of the fasting rule is obvious. A simple bowl of beef broth? Not fasting. A plate of fish and chips? Fasting. Weiners and beans? Not fasting. Coquilles St. Jacques? Fasting.

Years ago, I was attending a meeting in the States. We visited a local church in a wealthier neighbourhood for their Friday Lenten Fish Fry dinner. The menu selection rivalled Red Lobster! If this is fasting…bring it on!

I gave birth to baby #5 in the morning hours of a Good Friday. As we were heading to the hospital, hubby cheerfully pointed out the happy timing of our upcoming adventure.

“What a perfect way to spend Good Friday. With some pain and suffering!”

He’s still my husband.

Later in the day, my parents stopped by with our four older children to meet their new sister. My Mama, bless her heart, had packed a small basket filled with Easter kielbasa and pierogi. She knew her daughter well. I was always FAMISHED after giving birth! Did I think twice about eating the glorious, ham sausage? Did I fret about getting a bishop’s permission to break the Good Friday fast? Hell, no! Welcoming new life into our family overshadowed the gloom of Good Friday. And, I think Jesus understood. And smiled.

So, back to our St. Paddy’s Day corned beef.

The absurdity of the issue is shown in the inconsistency of the dispensation. Eat it in one diocese and no problem. Eat it in another diocese, as long as it’s part of a parish or diocesan event, again no problem. Eat corned beef this St. Patrick’s Day in Denver, Colorado or Lincoln Nebraska? Bad Catholic!





power of political satire

I like political satire. No. I LOVE political satire. When the daily news overwhelms, I find blessed relief in the wit and biting analyses of Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers. I still miss my daily dose of Jon Stewart yet am filled with gratitude that he introduced us to John Oliver.

Some might dismiss these rants as angry, left-wing political commentary masquerading as a stand-up comedy routine. But it is more. So much more.

Bee, Colbert, Meyers, Stewart and Oliver (and, of course, their writers) all exhibit a depth of intelligence and masterful vocabulary that is often missing from the 24-7 news cycle; and even more absent in the superficial, double-speak of many politicians today. Want some serious fact-checking? Check out Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Want some serious analyses of issues often over-looked by the media? Tune in to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Comedy intertwined with solid journalism is a winning recipe for bringing a message to the masses.

And then there’s Saturday Night Live.

The current cast of SNL, after an understandable period of post-election mourning, has stepped up to the plate and double-downed on its critique of the Trump administration. This past Saturday’s episode was satiric brilliance and Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of press secretary Sean Spicer stole the show.

Trump is extremely thin skinned, a common characteristic of narcissists. He is known for ignoring more important issues of the day while spending time on Twitter attacking those who dare insult him. He is not a fan of SNL nor a fan of Alec Baldwin and his spot-on Trump impression. But, it seems, Trump watches SNL. Which gives SNL an enviable amount of power. They have the ear, the eye, and the attention of the president. Not too shabby!

What to do with this power?

Considering Trump’s misogynistic history, having a woman impersonate one of the president’s men had a surprisingly powerful effect. A deliciously tempting suggestion is circulating online this morning, calling out for other women actors to join Melissa McCarthy’s Spicer role on SNL. Meryl Streep as Trump? Rosie O’Donnell as Steve Bannon? Ellen Degeneres as Mike Pence?

Now that would be must see TV!

Back in 2011, Melissa Musick Nussbaum wrote a wonderful article for the National Catholic Reporter titled We laugh because we know who we are. She describes perfectly the power of humour over ego.

The dictator’s goal is to be recognized as God, even if God over only this little house, that small nation, or the most modest parish. Dictators work hard at building and maintaining the illusion of godhood. Laughter destroys the illusion. (Melissa Musick Nussbaum)


my immigrant story


I am an immigrant. My family moved to Canada from England in 1967. We arrived in time to celebrate our new country’s 100th birthday. This week will mark our 50th anniversary in Canada.

My parents were young when we came. I was 8 years old, my brothers were 6 and 12. We travelled with a suitcase each. We left behind many personal possessions and our entire extended family; grand-parents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

My father had a job waiting for him in Winnipeg, at Bristol Aerospace. The company was recruiting employees from Great Britain at the time. But, there was no family to welcome us. No house to go to.

The first shock was stepping off the plane into -30 degree weather. We were dressed for the damp cold of England, but not for the snow and bitter, “dry cold” of the prairies. We checked into a motel, and my parents spent a week walking up and down Portage Avenue looking for an apartment. Most apartments had “no children” policies. They finally found one, and scrambled to buy some basic furnishings and winter clothing for us all.

I remember those first weeks and months well. Food tasted awful. Even brands that we had in England somehow tasted “off”.

I was teased in school for my clothes and my accent. Once, my teacher asked me to share what school was like in England, I described how the early years were called Infants and Juniors.

“Infants???”, she said. “That’s what we call babies over here!”

Maybe teachers weren’t as attuned to children’s sensitive natures back then. I was crushed.

And then there was the home sickness. We try to convince ourselves that young children are resilient and able to adjust to new situations and surroundings. This may be true for some. It wasn’t for me. I missed my home, missed it terribly. I missed my friends. I missed my family, especially my grand-parents. I cried at night, and dreamed of being back in England. When I woke, I wished I could go back to sleep and return to my dreams.

I hated the immigrant experience. And yet, my parents freely chose to move us, during a time of peace, and to a country that generally shared a similar culture and language. They did it to improve our life, and for better opportunities. It was a good move.

My parents’ childhood was vastly different.

My mother and father were both born in Poland. Their families were exiled to Siberia during the Russian occupation at the start of WWII. When the USSR became allied with England against Germany, the Poles were free to leave Siberia. My grand-fathers joined the Polish army. My parents, their sisters (my two aunts) and my grand-mothers travelled south (a story all its own) to spend the rest of the war years in a refugee camp in Uganda.

After the war, because my grand-fathers had fought with the allied forces, the families were given the choice to emigrate to Canada, England, or Australia. Both families chose England, since it was closest to Poland. My parents spent their later school years in British schools, learning English as quickly as they could.

In England, we sometimes experienced the dual prejudice of culture and religion. Poles spoke with an accent, ate strange foods, and had unpronounceable names. Catholics were those families with too many children. Believe it or not, we were considered “that Catholic” family in our white, protestant neighbourhood, and we were only three children.

Being Polish in Canada in the 1970’s wasn’t always easy either. It was a time of Polak jokes and other racial slurs.

Today, I am proud of my Polish heritage. I am proud of the courage and sacrifices of my grand-parents and my own Mama and Tato. I am grateful for the life that they have given me, and continue to do so.

And, I am grateful to live in a country that strives to embrace diversity and celebrate multiculturalism. A country that continues to welcome immigrants and provide sanctuary for refugees.

I am grateful – and proud – to be a Canadian.