Pope's Tweets


Potato  Pa-tah-to

As we come to the midpoint of the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, there’s just one question uppermost on this girl’s mind…whose potato salad reigns supreme?

From the dawn of civilization—or at least as far back as the introduction of the backyard picnic—a  raging dispute has occurred in this great nation of ours.  Right up there with taxes, politics, and the incessant barking of the neighbor’s dog—there is perhaps no greater subject given to discussion this time of year than that of the great spud salad debate.

Mustard or mayonnaise?  Mayo or Miracle Whip?  Sweet relish or dill pickles? Reds or Russets?  The combinations are as endless as Congress’ inability to come to an agreement on, well, anything.

Growing up, I was one of those kids who lived in a bit of a bubble.  By that I mean until I was about 12 or so, I thought everyone came from big families, went to Mass on Sundays, and ate my Mom’s potato salad.  Which isn’t to say I thought my Mom was whipping up potato salad for the little ‘m’ masses, but rather, I just assumed that everyone made potato salad like my Mom.  Imagine my surprise then, when one summer while attending a family picnic of a friend, upon making our way through the buffet line and spying a large bowl of something that was lumpy and vaguely milky looking, I heard my friend excitedly say “Oh look!  Aunt Barb’s potato salad!” 

Now I’m not exactly saying it looked less than appealing, but the stuff that was in the bowl that day didn’t even remotely resemble what I knew to be potato salad.  First of all, real potato salad is far more mustard-y yellow than pallid white.  And everyone knows there should be plenty of hard boiled eggs added to the mix. But the worst offense of all?  Nary a single sprinkle of paprika could be found anywhere for that all important culinary pop of color to adorn the top.  And here all this time, I thought I knew this family.

Color discrepancies notwithstanding, I’m also aware this unsung hero of simple summer fare is not without its detractors.  While I wouldn’t wish salmonella on anyone, here again, if everyone made potato salad like my Mom, there’d be no need for worry as even the biggest batch of hers doesn’t last but a few fleeting moments before each and every perfectly diced potato-ey chunk of perfection is scooped up and thwapped onto the assorted Chinet plate of those blessed to be gathered. 

Bet you didn’t know the humble potato has loose biblical ties going all the way back to the book of Genesis.  If you go by the French translation for potato—pomme de terre or apple of the earth—it’s easy to imagine Eve falling to the temptation of seeking knowledge of the best potato salad recipe.  Generation upon generation later, people remain riveted on this very quest.  But hey—for a small fee, I might be persuaded to share my Mom’s  :)


No Scripture Scholar Here

Anytime I begin to think in terms of commenting on the scriptures, I immediately feel the need to      pre-empt what I’m about to say with:  “Caution: You are about to enter thee No-Scripture-Scholar Zone.”

Which is not to say I’m unfamiliar with scripture.  It just so happens for well over a dozen years now, part of my early morning routine has included padding out of bed, loading up a hot, fresh cup of coffee splashed with just the right amount of cream, then squirreling away to my prayer chair of choice to get up close and personal with the day’s readings. 

When I first began praying the daily scriptures, it meant sitting down with my (now) well-worn St. Joseph’s Missal.  You know.  An actual book.  With an actual hard cover filled with pages the thickness of a gnat’s eyelash--assuming gnats have eyelashes.  However, for the better part of the past several years, I’ve opted to go high tech and now access the readings via my smarter-than-me phone.  Talk about letting your fingers do the walking.  In less time than it takes to pin on a chapel veil, with one quick tap on a bookmark, you’re transported to a veritable string of scriptural pearls quicker than you can say “Jumpin’ Ja-hos-aphat.”

And once there, what’s not to love?  Particularly this time of year when we hear from the book of Acts on an almost daily basis.  Finding ourselves cradled between Christ’s Resurrection—complete with an account of an impromptu (you think?) grilled-to-order fish breakfast on the Tiberius seashore—and the oft copied, but never fully recreated Whoosh!/Hallelujah!/Attention Christian Shoppers! debut of the Holy Spirit at the feast of Pentecost—a plethora of events and emotions await. 

Seriously.  You cannot make this stuff up.  One day the apostles are hunkered down in fear behind locked doors (I always picture a massive, rough-hewn, wood slab the thickness of two queen size mattresses stacked together) and the next, they’re out and about preaching the good news to every Parthian, Mede, and Elamite, with ears to hear.

I’m also quite taken with the stories found in the 4th chapter of Acts re: the total harmony seemingly present in those early days of the Church. “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any possessions were his own but they (held) everything in common.”  Although, to give equal time to both sides of the story, all was not well with quite everyone’s soul as witnessed one short chapter later in Acts 5 where we hear of the Apostles being flogged for speaking in the name of Jesus.  As it turns out however, even this was cause for rejoicing as “they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the (Lord’s) name.”  

That God.  Just when you think you know how a story’s going to end, He pulls the old switcher-oo and comes up with something way better. And with good reason.  After all, God is the consummate story teller, yes? ABC’s ‘Wide World of Sports’ just thinks they invented that whole thrill of victory/agony of defeat thing.  Hmmmm…  It’s almost enough to make some of you other non-scholar types consider nabbing  your own cup of coffee, tea, diet Mountain Dew or what have you, and quietly steal away to explore/discover/ponder Him in the scriptures for yourselves. 


Overlooking the Obvious….

It feels a bit like a Paul kind of day.  You know, as in the apostle Paul?  As in the man credited with saying “Oh that my body would do the good I wish it would vs. the considerably less than good it in fact, does do.” Which I just about guarantee will be as rudimentary a translation of Romans 7:19 as you’ll likely hear, but hopefully you get the gist.

Because yes! In light of the fact we are rapidly approaching the midway mark of Lent, today seems to be one of those days I very much would like to will my body to be doing any of a thousand good things.  Pray my rosary.  Walk on the treadmill.  Pray my rosary while walking on the treadmill.  All that would be left, it seems, would be to throw in some fasting and place a few coins in a Rice Bowl, then I’ll have hit the Lenten trifecta of prayer, fasting, & almsgiving—with a little physical activity thrown in for good measure.

Lest I sound casual or flip in this regard, I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth.  For in truth, perhaps like a few others, I often look right past the simplicity of the message this season so clearly and concisely offers us, defaulting instead to the ever convenient coulda/woulda/shoulda philosophy. Well I could do all those things if only I had the time. I would do all those things if only I had the time. I should do all those things… yada yada yada.

Back in the days when I seemingly had scads of time—between the ages of 6 through about  9—much of it was spent with kids in our neighborhood jumping rope to a variety of little ditties, one of which was called HELP. For those unfamiliar with such feats of athleticism, the object was to jump until such time as you missed, all the while continually calling out the letters H-E-L-P. Then, depending on which letter you messed up on (sometimes intentionally so, depending on your particular specialty) your ‘assignment’ was to jump the next series as follows: H for high waters, that is, jumping with the rope raised up so it did not touch the ground; E meant jumping with eyes closed; L for low waters—stooping down to touch the ground between each jump; or P – jumping to the speed of the ever popular hot peppers.

Not saying jump roping makes for the most reverent of Lenten activities, but what if a person were to take their Paul-ian intentions to do good and substitute the following:

L for Longing. I say I long for these spiritual exercises, but do I in fact follow up with…
E for Effort. No getting around it, it takes some of this. Not necessarily a lot, but definitely some.
N  for No excuses.  ‘Nuf said.  Which brings us to…
T for Time.  Speaking of which, it’s a’tickin’ as we speak, and something tells me even Paul would agree that oh-so elusive entity offers a port in the storm for those who truly seek to do good. Ahoy mate!

Strictly for the Birds

Growing up in a family of eight kids, we learned a lot from my parents.  As in a lot of things you don’t necessarily hear being taught much anymore. Or as some might say, old school kinds of things.

Like setting a birthday card out on the table for everyone  in the family to sign then putting it the mail to an out of town aunt, uncle, or cousin.  Or pausing an extra 20 seconds to hold a door open for someone.  Or how about something  as seemingly insignificant as feeding the birds in your backyard leftover bits of bread.

My Mom is almost 90 years-old and even though she’s not quite the spry spring chick she once was, for as long as I can remember, when it comes to feeding our winged friends, she has always set aside the heel pieces from sandwich bread, or the random hamburger bun past its prime, as well as the unavoidable collection of chips you find at the bottom of the bag no longer big enough to grab and munch—that is, unless you’re the type to hoist the bag and drain every last bit of salty goodness directly into your mouth akin to sinking the 8 ball in the corner pocket—not that I’ve ever done anything quite so uncouth myself…

But I digress because the flip side to collecting all those leftover morsels comes in the big payoff.  That being to sit back and quietly wait for said backyard birds to A) first discover their serendipitous bounty,  followed by B) observing  as they hesitantly, hop, hop, hop ever closer toward their unexpected treasure as if this culinary delight of aviary proportions might suddenly disappear like one of those watery highway mirages.

As we speak, I just repeated this time-tested family ritual for here I sit, in the comfort and relative obscurity of my screen porch, watching as the siren call of scattered bread brings first one, then two, then what seems like a veritable flock of birds as they come to a fluttery 3.0 landing so as to feast on the carba-palooza.

For my part, I find it fascinating to watch two birds lay claim to the same bit of bread, inevitably accompanied by loud squawking and territorial wing flapping—as if to say ‘Hey! I was here first.  Go find your own piece!’  Or the equally common experience of seeing one of them hip hop over to a dead leaf, peck at it a time or six in the hopes it will be the treasure they’re hoping for, while oblivious to the real thing laying just inches away fairly shouting ‘Woo hoo! Over here bird brain!’

Both scenarios invariably bring me to the same conclusion…  How like us as people to raise our voices and assert ourselves (sometimes to the point of great harm) when someone tries to horn in on what we deem to be rightfully ours.  How equally like us to search and search for our respective pot of gold only to trip over it in front of our very beak on our never-ending pursuit of that which we think will satisfy.  

Good thing some parents still pass down the simple things.  Better yet is knowing that God cares for even us sparrows.


May day! May day!

Is it just me, or did the month of May long ago become the new December?

If there's anything, and I mean anything, taking place, it happens this month.  From band concerts, to piano recitals, to award banquets, to graduations of all grades & degrees, to weddings and baby showers, to holiday weekend barbecues—to you name it.  It's enough to make a person go out and buy stock in Hallmark.

What a coincidence then that the term “May Day” should also come to mind. No, not the May Day that brings with it pictures of flower wreaths & maypoles festooned with ribbons bobbing in the breeze, but rather, the version that brings images of massive sea vessels stealthily speeding to the rescue of some poor, unfortunate boat in harm’s way.  In fact, a quick online search netted this explanation of the term saying  “…mayday is an anglicized version of the French m'aidez i.e. help me, or m'aider i.e. to render help to me.”

So how much more coincidental (ya think?) is the fact that almost smack dab square in the middle of all the activity this month brings, we celebrate Mother’s Day.  Mothers who are living, and mothers who have gone on.  Good mothers and perhaps not so good mothers.  We honor single mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and all those who are like a mother, including those with no biological children of their own but who lovingly guide and nurture someone, or several someones as the case may be, all the same.

In short, much like those sleek sailing ships, we celebrate mothers who render help.

Which brings us to perhaps the grandest coincidence of them all—that being this just also so happens to be the month we honor the mother all others are patterned after—Mother Mary.  And while she goes by more titles than the Vatican has statues, none seem more appropriate at this particular moment than that of our Mother of Perpetual Help.

Who among us can’t use a little perpetual help?  I for one am all about getting in that line.  In fact, were it not for my own incredible Mom who raised me with better manners than to do so, I might even be inclined to jostle my way to stand at the front of it!

In any event, be this month crazy or quiet, fleeting or floating—may it hold help at precisely the moment you need it.